Day 6 Stress Kills Happiness – Easy Ways to Destress

You already know it’s hard to be happy when you’re stressed. I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself. Think back on high stress situations like missing a flight to an important meeting or to go on vacation, or when you were planning your vacation and things got overwhelming and started to fall apart. Hopefully you were able to recover and enjoy your time away and that the meeting turned out just fine. Chances are that you weren’t too happy while you were stressed out. Stress sucks the happiness and joy right out of us.

It only makes sense then that one way to increase our happiness and our quality of life is to distress. Not only is it good for our soul, it’s also good for our overall health and wellbeing to reduce the stress in our lives. Here are some simple no-stress things you can do to distress.

Get Enough Sleep

An easy way to reduce stress is to make sure you get a good seven to eight hours of sleep at night. When we don’t sleep well or don’t sleep enough, it causes our bodies to be in a constant state of stress, trying to make up for the lack of sleep. Sleep helps us relax and gives our mind time to process everything that’s been happening. Stop burning the midnight oil and get some sleep. You’ll get more done when you’re fresh and rested and you’ll be less stressed out.

Move Around and Get Some Exercise

Without a doubt, the best stress reliever is exercise. Start moving around and burn that stress right out of your system. If you can get outside to workout, even better. The fresh air and sunshine will do wonders–really! No gym fee, either. Go for a run, or even just a short walk whenever you’re feeling stressed. For best results, work out regularly.

Take Some “Me” Time

There are times in our lives when we have to focus a lot of attention on others. Maybe you are raising a toddler, or maybe you’re working hard to get a new company off the ground. At busy times like these that take a lot of our attention and time, it’s easy to forget about ourselves, or put our own personal needs last. Try to spend at least a little bit of “me” time every day. It doesn’t have to be much. Even ten minutes spent relaxing and doing something completely for yourself can be a great way to decompress and distress.

Practice Meditation

Okay, one last technique that can keep stress at bay. Try meditating. Again, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on this. Sitting quietly while going through a short guided meditation once a day can do wonders. Once you get in the habit of practicing meditation daily, and get better at it, you can draw on the techniques you’ve learned whenever you encounter a particularly stressful situation. You can spend a minute or two in meditation, even at the most stressful time and allow your mind to relax. Trust me, this will come in very handy when life throws you a curve ball, or when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed.

Day 5 Happiness and Doing Stuff

We are hard wired to take action and get stuff done. It only makes sense, doesn’t it? Our survival as a society depends on the actions of lots of different people. We each do our part and everything runs smoothly. It only makes sense then that we have an internal mechanism in our brain that also rewards us for getting things done.

I’m sure you’ve seen this happening in your own life. It’s a great feeling when you finish a project  and it’s what drives us to get things done on a regular basis. It’s motivation to get to work and take action.

On the other hand, when we don’t have anything meaningful to do and maybe feel like we’re not contributing, we get depressed. People who don’t think they have a fulfilling job, or feel like the work they do doesn’t make a difference, are much more likely to feel down, tired, sad, and depressed.  It’s important to remember that you are not your job! Your job is like a jacket you put on over the person who is you. And YOU matter, you make a difference in the world just by being you. Rethink your job—what you do matters to someone or they wouldn’t be paying you to do it. Who benefits from what you do? Sometimes we need to take a long view.

If you are feeling insignificant or unproductive, try doing something that does make you feel productive. It doesn’t have to be a big thing—you don’t have to save the world. Just do one little productive thing. Write, draw, read a book. Or start with your home: Go clean the bathroom, organize your book shelves, or do a load of laundry. Use the accomplishments from those to motivate yourself to get something else done. Take note of how good it feels to create a little art or writing, to have a clean bathroom, freshly folded laundry, less clutter. Keep building on it, and before you know it you’ll notice your mood changing for the better.

If you want to supercharge this experience, go out and do something that also helps others. Go work at a soup kitchen for a couple of hours, or help at your local animal shelter. Offer to baby sit for a friend with little kids who hasn’t gotten out all week. Do something that benefits someone else and you’ll feel even better than before.

For the long run, make it a goal to work at a job, or build a business that helps fuel this feeling of contributing and giving back. Wouldn’t it be great if the hours you spent earning a living each week, also contributed to your overall happiness and a feeling of fulfillment? What can you do this week or this month to work towards this goal? That’s where you want to start and in the meantime, keep volunteering, keep taking action, and do things that make you feel happy and accomplished.

Day 4 Start Your Day with Gratefulness

Starting our day by thinking about all the good things and people we have in our lives is a great way to set a positive tone for the day.  Gratefulness is all about appreciating the good things in our lives. Practicing gratefulness makes us focus on all the good and pleasant things in our lives and that, in turn, improves our overall happiness. Really!

In other words, spending a few minutes early in the morning thinking about what we are grateful for can improve our mood and our feeling of being happy for the entire day. That’s something well worth doing and you don’t have to spend a lot of time on it.

As you are waking up, or while you’re sitting at your kitchen table sipping your first cup of coffee, think about all the things and people that you are happy to have in your life. Focus your mind on anything positive that has happened the day before, or that you anticipate happening today. You can be grateful for the smallest of things. I wake up grateful that I have a warm and comfortable bed to sleep in and for the rich cup of coffee that helps me wake up and get ready for my busy day. Think about the people in your life that you are grateful for including your parents, grandparents, spouse or significant other, children, friends, colleagues, a boss. Try to find something good about all important people in your life.

Another option is to just look around you. Look at your sunny kitchen, or the trees and birds that you can see outside your window. No matter what your living situation is right now, I’m sure you can think of things about it you are grateful for, even if it isn’t your ideal living space.

Make this part of your new morning ritual, practicing it at roughly the same time each morning and, if possible, in a similar setting. This will help you form a habit. And that’s the goal for the long run. You want to be able to practice being grateful effortlessly and without having to think about it. Getting to that point alone will have a huge impact on how happy and content you feel from here on out. Try it for a few weeks and take note of how your mental outlook changes by simply adding this little exercise of counting your blessings in the mornings. Before long, you will do it automatically and won’t want to miss this opportunity to acknowledge all the good things in your life.

Acknowledging you as one of the good things in the world! Karen

Day 3 What Makes You Happy?

In yesterday’s post we started talking about happiness and got started thinking about what makes you happy. It was part of our commitment to happiness. Today we’re going to dig a little deeper. There are a lot of things that make us happy on a regular basis. Think about the simple little things that put a smile on your face. It could be a person, a thing, an experience, an action, a song… the list goes on and on.

An easy way to increase our overall happiness and contentment is to simply do something that makes us happy every single day. Yesterday, I asked you to make a list of 10 people or things that make you happy. To make it easier for the remainder of this challenge, let’s come up with a bigger list of what makes us happy. This will obviously be different for each one of us. Let me give you a few ideas and some things to think about. Then I want you to grab a pen and a notebook, or a piece of paper, or if you prefer, open your laptop, and start typing away. I want you to make a list of things that make you happy. I also asked you to make a list of things that definitely don’t make you happy. Surprise! Don’t do the things that don’t make you happy or find a way to minimize them. What you focus on expands, so lets think and take action on the happy list, not the down side!

Don’t overthink this. Don’t try to come up with an organized and categorized list. Instead, simply start brainstorming and jot things down. Don’t feel pressured to come up with everything all at once. Feel free to add to the list as time goes by and get in the habit of noticing things that make you happy and then adding them to the list throughout this challenge and beyond.

Let’s start with the big ones that make us happy. What people in your life make you happy? What things that you own bring you joy? What activities and hobbies bring you lots of happiness? Think big here and pick what has the biggest impact on your mood. This could also include things like what gestures or actions put a big smile on your face. Places are another great addition. Maybe you’re happiest at the beach.

Then think about the little things that make you happy. Maybe it’s sipping that first cup of coffee in the morning, a pretty flower in your garden, or having five minutes to yourself. From there just become more aware of what makes you happy, or what brings a smile to your face. Stop and take notice anytime that happens, and keep adding to your list of happy. It will be a great resource to have throughout this challenge. Just looking at this long list of people and things that bring you happiness is cause to feel grateful!

You are on my Happy List! Karen

Day 2 Make a Commitment to Cultivating Happiness

Okay, time to get serious about happy! What does it mean to be totally committed to something? Often it means that you set a goal and then promise yourself that you will do what it takes to reach that goal. We commit to relationships, we commit to a job or a career, and maybe to a hobby. Today I want to focus on committing to cultivating happiness. Planting the seeds of contentment and tending their growth.

Yesterday, I shared how at least part of how happy we are is directly related to a choice we make. I also shared my goal of running this 30 Day Happiness Habit Challenge to help us make a conscious decision to be happier and create a new habit of having a more positive outlook. The first step to making that happen is to make a commitment to this challenge and to happiness. This holds true for any new habit you want to create. The first step is always to commit to it. From there, it’s a matter of daily practice until the new behavior or action has become a true habit—something you do without conscious thought or effort.

Our journey toward a happier version of ourselves is no different. We must commit to happiness. Of course, it isn’t as easy as saying to yourself that you will be happier from now on. While that’s certainly helpful, it isn’t quite as simple as that. I am always surprised to find that some people do not know what makes them happy. Before we can truly commit to happiness we have to figure out what makes us happy.

Spend some time today to reflect on what makes you happy and what doesn’t make you happy. Dig deep. For example, if curling up on the couch with a good book makes you happy, think about why that is. Is it because it gives you a chance to escape and forget about your own life for a while? If so, try to pin-point what you’re hiding from when you dive into a book and what you can do about that. If getting up at 6am to go to work makes you unhappy, and changing to a later schedule isn’t an option, think about the positive things about getting up early. You get to see the sun rise, you get to come home at a decent hour and have time to relax with your kids or spouse before bedtime. Something as simple as implementing a relaxing bed-time routine and going to bed a little earlier may make it much easier to get up at 6am and improve your whole outlook on workday mornings.

We’ll dig a little deeper into what makes us happy and how we can go about creating more happiness in future posts. For now, what is your own personal definition of happiness? Make a list of at least 10 different things or people that make you feel happy. Then commit to using the coming days to work on finding ways to do more of what creates happiness for you. You won’t regret it.

Cheers! Karen

Welcome! Happiness Is a Choice You Can Make Every Day

Our current culture does not teach us to be happy—it teaches us to consume and to want things. Media begins to train you to not be happy with who are or what you have at a very early age. The word New! is a siren call to the shiny object seekers, many of whom think that by buying new things they will be happy. Advertising aims everything at the illusion of happiness by consumption. And advertising is everywhere—you can’t escape it.

That’s why I decided to do this Journey/Challenge for the coming 30 Days. I believe that happiness is a choice,  a choice we can make every single day. I believe happiness comes from within, not from outside yourself. I want to challenge you to make it a habit. Over the coming days, I want to inspire and encourage you to make a choice each morning to be happier.

Take a look at this glass.

Is it half full or half empty? This is a great example to illustrate that there are often two sides to any story and that you have a choice in how you view things. And that choice in turn determines how happy you feel. Happiness then becomes a choice you can make every single day.

So let’s say you have a delicious glass of amazing iced tea that you are about half done drinking. You can choose to see the glass as half empty, focus on the fact that you’re almost done drinking that nice glass of ice tea. With that attitude, you’re more likely to feel a little depressed about your tea. If on the other hand you focus on the fact that the glass is still half full and you have plenty of yummy ice-cold tea to sip on, your mood improves and you’re feeling more positive.

When you look at it that way, happiness really is a conscious choice you make, at least to a point. From what I’ve been reading 40% off your happiness is directly affected by how you think and how you choose to feel. And that’s what the next 30 days is all about. Over the coming days I will post here on the blog every day with tips, advice, and strategies to help you make a conscious decision to be happier. Ready to join me?

Join our awesome Happiness Habit Challenge Facebook group here.

It takes time and daily conscious decisions to change habits and how we approach life. That’s where the challenge comes into play. The idea is that you have a daily reminder here on the blog and via email each day to help you remember to make that choice. Of course, there will also be plenty of helpful content on the topic of happiness in the form of a new daily blog post. At the end of the challenge, I hope you have formed new habits, new ways of thinking, and new ways to look at each situation as it arises. With a little shift in thinking and perception, you can design a happier, more fulfilling life for yourself. I hope this challenge will help you get there.

See you tomorrow! Karen

Day 7  Review Your Morning Routine Regularly

Our last post for this series! I have enjoyed bringing these ideas to you, and hope they were of benefit to you.

Creating routines and habits for your mornings allows you to do what you need to do to move ahead without having to spend a lot of energy and time thinking about it. That’s a good thing. It can also be a dangerous thing when you’ve focusing on the wrong things and are in the habit of doing things that don’t help you reach your goals.

When we get into a routine, it’s hard to stop and ask ourselves if it’s working as well as it could be. Even more importantly, with a routine and a set of habits firmly established, it’s easy to keep going even when the circumstances changes. That’s why it’s important to take some time every now and again to review our routine and habits, including the new morning routine.

Set aside a little time every couple of weeks or so to review your routine. Put it on the calendar and make sure you do it. It won’t take long and it will be a very valuable exercise in the long run. Our lives and circumstances change. Our routines should change with it. Just because something has worked well over the past few weeks and months, doesn’t mean it will continue to do so. Which brings up a good point…

When you sit down to review your morning routine (or any routine or habit you’ve been working on for that matter), ask yourself this:

Is it working? Is it working really well?

If it is, simply carry on! If it isn’t, it may be time to make some changes and tweak it until you find something that works well for you and gives you the result you are looking for.

Another way to look at it is to find what you love and what you hate about the new morning routine. Change it accordingly until you get as close as possible to loving everything about it and still getting the results you want.

Remember, this morning routine will change and evolve over time as you, your circumstances, and the people in your life change and evolve. Embrace the changes and look at them as an indication that you’re making progress.

Keep tweaking and improving your morning routine and don’t be afraid to mix up your goals for it. Maybe you started out by making exercise a priority first thing in the day. As time goes by maybe you want to make time for it later in the day, your focus may shift to meditation, or working on your business first thing. Keep evolving, keep changing, and keep using those precious first few hours of each day to establish some positive changes in yourself. Let me know how this works out for you!

Watch for my 30 Day Happiness Habit program, coming soon!

Here’s to happy mornings and delightful days,

Karen Karsten

Day 6 Habits and Routines are Important  

With your new morning game plan figured out, it’s time to not only put it into action, but make it your new morning routine. Why is this important? Because you want to make sure your new plan happens every morning without fail and creating a routine is the best way to make sure that happens.

Before something becomes a habit or a routine, it takes a lot of willpower to make things happen. That’s energy that you will need for other things throughout your morning and busy rest of the day. Yes, it will take some willpower, mental energy, and drive at first to create the new morning habits, but once they are set, it will become automatic like brushing your teeth before bed.

Once you come up with a good working morning routine, stick to it for a few weeks. That’s the best way to turn it into a strong habit. Before long, it will feel like the new normal and you no longer have to remind yourself to do each thing along the way. It will have become a habit and a routine you’ll follow automatically. It will take a lot less effort and mental pep-talk to get things done… even if your new routine includes a 30-minute run, or getting up at the crack of dawn to work on your most important business task for an hour.

Watch out for moments when you slip back into your old habits and routines. It’s going to happen. The key is to catch it early and get back on track as quickly as possible. For example, let’s say you’ve been doing well with waking up 30 minutes earlier and going for a run before you start your day. Then one day you oversleep and can’t make it out there. Or the weather turns too bad, you get sick or hurt, or something else pops up that keeps you from going on that run. That’s life. It happens. What’s important is what you decide to do the next morning.

Your most important job whenever life gets in the way of your new morning routine is to get back on track as quickly as possible. Do what you can as soon as you notice the disruption. If the weather is bad, do a quick workout at home, or head to the gym to run on the treadmill instead. If you overslept, try to squeeze in a few minutes of meditation or doing something to grow your business before you get back to the rest of your day. Most importantly get back on track with your regular morning routine as soon as possible. Get back into your new habits the next morning if at all possible. Actively remind yourself to get back on track for a few days until your routine is firmly back in place. You’ll be glad you did when you start to see the results you’ve been hoping for.

Have a wonderful day! Karen

Day 5 What’s Your New Morning Game Plan?

Now that you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do in the morning, what you don’t want to or need to do, and where to find the extra time needed, it’s time to put it all together in a new morning game plan.

The best place to start is to take a close look at the new things you decided are most important to you. Figure out a preliminary time during which you want to get them accomplished. If your goal is to go for a run in the morning, you may decide to do that first thing–before taking a shower and having breakfast.  If your goal is to meditate every morning, you may decide it would work best after you’ve had a cup of coffee. If your goal is to find some time for reading or your favorite hobby in the morning, you could carve out some time before everyone else gets up and while you enjoy that first coffee. The same goes for wanting time in the morning to work on your business or learn something new.

Then work the rest of your morning tasks around these new plans. Make sure you share your game plan with your family! It may take some shuffling around and mixing up of your current routine, but with a little creative thinking and a bit of flexibility, I’m sure you can come up with a working plan.

Making over your morning and turning it into a new routine isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. Getting into a new groove takes a little getting used to! We’ll look at this in a little more detail tomorrow. For right now, my suggestion is that you write your new morning game plan down. Here is a  New game plan worksheet –it’s easy to forget what you’re planning to do. Writing it down will not only give you a reference to refer to, it also solidifies your new plan in your mind.

Put your new plan on your night table or somewhere else where you’ll see it first thing in the morning. Having a physical reminder of what you’re intending to do differently now is important. Stickers, doodling and glitter are optional decorations, but I definitely encourage it!

Even though you’ve written your plan down, it’s important to realize it’s not written in stone. Even well-thought out plans don’t always work when put into action. Adjust and make changes as needed until you come up with a new morning game plan that works well for you and the rest of your family. Mix things up, switch them around to create your new routine! We will talk more about habits and routines tomorrow.

Congratulations for staying in the game! Here’s your gold star! 

 

See you tomorrow, Karen

Day 4 Determining What You Should Be Doing Is Crucial

Yesterday we talked about finding the time in your busy morning to do the things that are important to you. Today I want you to think about what you should and what you shouldn’t be doing in those first few hours of the day. Now, as a coach, I don’t usually say “should” but it is critical to set your boundaries. That’s an important idea to ponder. So often we get stuck in a rut or a routine and do things because that’s what we’ve always done. We do it without really thinking about whether or not it’s the best use of our time. Sometimes taking time for ourselves feels selfish, but it isn’t! You deserve time for yourself.

Cramming More Things into Less Time isn’t the Answer!

Making over your morning isn’t about figuring out how to cram more tasks into fewer hours. Years ago, I taught time management for a large planner company. I remember when they changed the daily page format and added more hours to the day. Well, okay, not really more hours—they expanded the schedule. But yup, some people took that as permission to add more items to their day! Doing more is often the main message in books and articles on productivity and time management. While it can help in the short term, it isn’t a good long-term strategy for meaningful change. Very soon you’ll hit the that nasty wall. You know the one–the limit of how much faster and how much more efficient you can get. This also adds to your stress level because you might think you should be doing more.

Shift your thinking and don’t try to add to what you do in the morning. If you want 15 minutes for bible study, meditation, or exercise, don’t just think about getting up 15 minutes earlier, or shaving 15 minutes off your morning routine by showering faster, getting dressed in record time, and rushing through breakfast. In other words, don’t add to your already long list of stuff that needs (?) to get done. You’ll only feel more rushed and stressed if you do.

Make Smart Choices About Using Your Time

Instead, think about the best use of your time in the morning. Compare your perfect morning with your current morning routine. What aren’t you doing on your ideal morning? If you can start by cutting things out, finding time to do what’s important to you becomes much easier.

There are two great ways to find things you can stop doing.

  • The first is to look for busy work. This is something you do out of habit that doesn’t necessarily need doing every day. Maybe it’s checking your email first thing in the morning or playing around on Facebook for half an hour while you drink your coffee. If that’s how you choose to spend your time, that’s perfectly fine, but if you’re doing it out of habit it may be time to rethink it.
  • The second way to quickly earn back time is to see if you’re doing things for others that they can do themselves. Kids are the perfect example. When they are very small, we have to do these things, for them. All too often we continue to do them long after they’re perfectly able to do things on their own. Do you do things for your partner? Maybe it’s time to lighten your load and get help from your partner. A few small changes may be all it takes to make the time in your busy morning for what’s important to you.

NOTE: Getting to bed earlier is VERY important! If you want extra time in the morning, you should adjust the time you get to bed as well. You still need the same amount of rest!!

Here’s to a great day–Karen