How To Have 365 Days of Happiness…Guaranteed

TAC-BH-3300_be_happyI’m one of those genuinely happy people but I also struggle with anxiety and ADHD in massive amounts. My life is not perfect. My obsessive thoughts and dark demons accompany me on most days, even when I try to silence them. A few years ago I developed a system called The Happiness Factor for tracking my daily ‘happy’ status. (I’m not going to go into that one here but just so you know my Happiness Factor is 88%.)

Anyway, I can usually dig deep into each days’ happenings and find something good. But, I’ve never tracked my happiness in concrete ways like I’m doing this year.

I don’t believe in making resolutions. But on the first day of the new 2013 year, I made one. It wasn’t one of the ones that I’m going to break after 3 days. This year I made a resolution to have 365 days of happiness

I got an empty big ole’ blue mason jar (aka My Happiness Jar) and some colored post its. I like color so for January I used yellow and white striped post-its. It sits on my nightstand so I don’t forget.

Every night, I capture the one thing that day that made my happy. Some days I’ve logged as many as 11, so I really have to sift down and find the one thing that made my soul sing for that day. Some days, finding even one has been a challenge. Makes you scratch your head at the end of those kind of days.

Anyway…here is Month 1’s happiest moments (January):

Day 1: Hearing Raul Minon sing “Listen to the Rain” on KCPT
Day 2: Buying “hot pink” running shoes
Day 3: Listening to Travis play his guitar in the living room
Day 4: Buying a corn dog, cheese popcorn, Heath bar and Diet Coke at Gibson’s General Store
Day 5: Seeing “Zero Dark Thirty” with Dennis, Rudee and Roy
Day 6: Addressing the Save the Date cards for Travis’ US Army commissioning ceremony
Day 7: Making chocolate chip cookies with Kelsey & Max in Candice’s kitchen
Day 8: Hot steamy shower under the skylight with rain hitting it
Day 9: Holding my Livi all Sunday afternoon
Day 10: Cleaning the Mercedes inside and out
Day 11: Sitting over lunch with Mary at her new bungalow in her pretty flowered sweater discussing life
Day 12: Buying the “Nest” pillow for Gavins new wife’s wedding shower
Day 13: Browsing around TJ Maxx looking for presents for Valentines Day
Day 14: Sitting in church with Den, Candice, Kelsey, Travis, Max, Kaylin and Kiley and singing “I Belong to the King” while I cradled Olivia in my arms
Day 15: Drinking “Comfort & Joy” hot tea at Cockrell Mercantile
Day 16: Working out with Dennis and doing our secret handshake
Day 17: Making biscuits and gravy with Max
Day 18: Weightlifting with Dennis and Kelsey
Day 19: Shopping for scarves with Helen and Max and making magic wishes in the waterfall pond
Day 20: Making my bucket list and sharing it with our old friends Mike & Mary
Day 21: Eating lunch with Kelsey at MiMi’s café (a chicken, walnut and strawberry salad) before I took her back to the airport to go back to Texas. She had a beautiful big mug of hot chocolate
Day 22: Driving to and from Warrensburg with Janece
Day 23: Reading “The Traveler’s Gift” in front of the fireplace with Dennis
Day 24: Long lovemaking session
Day 25: Reading Mickey Mouse to Max as he snuggles on my lap
Day 26: Holding Olivia for 2 hours
Day 27: Eating cheese corn and a big ole Diet Coke
Day 28: Having hot tea with Fawn Brents at the Whistlestop
Day 29: Making a big ole’ pot of vegetable soup/stew
Day 30: Shopping in the Crossroads district with Candice and Livi
Day 31: Walking in the park (2 miles) and saying hello to the sad-looking old man

These are the moments. 31 of them. There were thousands of other significant moments…happy things that made a difference. But these were the ones that at the end of the day, I knew the word ‘happiest’ was attached to each of them.

None had to do with goal setting. None had to do with conquering a huge struggle. None of them had to be broadcast over Facebook or captured in a photo. Most of them had to do with simply being. In 10 words or less.

They don’t teach you this stuff in school. Tucked between kindergarten coloring and 9th grade geometry, you learn to fit into the system. To be like everybody else. I like to think that the most important thing we can ever teach another is how to truly love life and be happy.

On to February. The journey of discovering what really makes you happy is soul-stirring. It makes you realize that perhaps doing less and being more really is a good life mantra. And it makes you realize that these are the moments that really matter.

(It’s not to late to start your own Happiness Jar. It’s perpetual. All you need is a jar, some colored scraps of paper and a pen. At the end of each day, simply jot down the one thing that made you the happiest that day. One moment. One thing. In 10 words or less. You’re on your way to 365 days of happiness. Guaranteed.)

Advertisements

The Angst of Anxiety

I used to take pills for my anxiety.  10 mg of Prozac, and a dose of Adderall.

The Prozac worked for about 6 years.  It added a sense of calmness.  The Adderall lasted less than 2 years.  If you’ve taken Adderall, you know there’s a sense of well-being that inhabits your being for about 2-3 hours after taking it.    My Dr. was happy.

I wasn’t bothering him about being anxious anymore.

I wasn’t really bothering him for anything.

But something was still bothering me.  I was still anxious.  My life wasn’t getting any better.

The pills weren’t working.  My goals were still out of reach.

I had the worst personal failures of my life while I was taking these pills.

I was impulsive and scattered and still having trouble connecting the dots (probably my ADHD).    I got fatter.

So I made a decision.  I weaned myself off the pills.  Because in reviewing my life progress…while I was on the pills I was actually WORSE as a person, rather than better.

The fact is…if you have anxiety, it’s because you’re supposed to be doing something different.  Your life will get better when you get better.  Anxiety is a clue.  Are you listening?

Michael Phelps’ Mom used to put him in the pool to quiet his energy (he won 8 gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics).  Extreme Home Makeover wouldn’t have been the huge success it was without over-the-top screamer host Ty Pennington.  Maneesh Sethi dropped out of Stanford, wrote 6 books including a bestseller, travels the world and creates online businesses that work while he plays.  What do they have in common?  ADD and ADHD.

Anxiety is part of the success formula.  Not the demon.

Now, I don’t take pills but I do spend at least 30 minutes a day on the treadmill.  I can wake up totally anxious and by the time I step off the treadmill 30 minutes later, I’m calmer, more collected.

My life isn’t perfect.  I haven’t reached my utopia of lifestyle design.  I’m still working on it.  Now, I write about my quests.  I blog about my angsts.  I set goals and fall short.   But I’m closer to my own definition of success than ever.  I’m human and proud of it.

Anxiety is a clue.  Use is for good.  It’s not evil.

Liability Disclaimer:  Cheryl Thompson and EncouragementToGo accepts no liability for decisions you make regarding your own well-being.  I am not a physician, a psychologist or an attorney.  Any advice I give is solely and purely for personal ingestion and should not be confused with a trained professional.  What works for me, is for me.  You have to take care of you.  This disclaimer absolves me from any liability in the event you do something stupid.

34 Things I’ve Learned About Life

Chris Guillebeau, world traveller, famous blogger and the author of The Art of Non-Conformity recently celebrated his 34th birthday with a post entitled “34 Things I’ve Learned About Life”.  He challenged bloggers to put together our own list of 34 Things.  Read Chris’ list by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

Wisdom is seldom learned in school.  As Chris celebrates his 34th birthday, I’m into the 50th round of my journey.  I should have 16 additional items to add to this post over what Chris did, but I’m sticking to 34.

1.  Everyone has something to teach you.  I just got off the treadmill at the gym where I met a couple who’d been married 58 years.  He was walking on the treadmill in his jeans, plaid shirt, straw hat and suspenders.  Within minutes he shared his love of Westerns and how “Lenore had saved him from sowing his wild oats when he cut the apron springs from his Mom at 16”.   He spent 30 years working at one company and then another 15 driving a schoolbus and still has junk he wants to get rid of in his garage.    He and Lenore traveled for 9 years in their 5th wheel before he had to have 5 stints put in last year.  All that from less than 20 minutes on the treadmill.

2.  Life is about people and experiences.    For Valentines Day I bought 6 tickets to Lady Antebellum for my husband and I, my daughter and her husband and my son and a date.  My 21-year old  son invited his Grandma.  We spent the evening with 3 generations jammin’ to the tunes of Thompson Squared, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.    Watching everyone’s faces was priceless as Grandma rocked on.   People don’t need stuff, people need people.

3.  Traditions change.  My daughter Kelsey and her husband live in Texas and are no longer a regular part of our family get-togethers and celebrations.  I thought about blowing up a doll or having a life-size poster made of her, because my heart hurts when she’s not here.  I’ve resolved to stop crying (it’s been 5 years) and appreciate what I do have.  I wanted us to be the Walton’s.

4.  Evil exists.  I hate to think this is true and have spent the good majority of my life refuting it with my own quotes…people want to do the right thing, follow your heart, do good.  But, evil does exist.  So far Kansas City, Missouri has logged 33 murders in 2012 and it’s only 1/4 of the way into the year.

5.  Joy is simple.  Tag along with a 2-year old as he hunts for Easter eggs or notices the moon or follows a spider.  Today he (my grandson) saw ‘sunny clouds.’  Take note when the 300-pound man at Easter morning celebration service has tears streaming down his face because his Savior lives.

6.  If you think your life is bad, take an itty-bitty look around.  From my personal vantage point I see a child of 3 fighting cancer whose amazing parents were fostering 2 children and had to return them to the State when their 3-year old got sick, a friend whose son is in prison and a couple I know married half a century and she can’t remember his name because of Alzheimer’s.    Your life isn’t as bad as you think.

7.  Challenge nonsense.  Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers is charging for cheese you don’t get when you order a hamburger because they’ve bundled the cheese price in with the hamburger price.   It costs 40 cents.    I was outraged.   I called their Customer Feedback Line at 1-888-624-8140.  No resolution.  (If Wendy’s sells a million burgers a day and keeps 40 cents on a product that the customer doesn’t want but pays for, they earn $400,000.)  I went to Change.org and started a petition called WendysMilkstheCheese.  If 22-year old Molly Katchpole can start one and get Bank of America to repeal their $5 debit card charge, we all have the capability to effect change.    Start a movement.

8.  Babies need their Moms.  Raising children is a gift and being a Mom is one of the most important jobs you’ll ever have.    You can’t be a great Mom if you’re not there.  I rationalized this into my working girl mind the first 7 years I had kids.  It wasn’t until I was 32 with a $36,000 a year salary, a 9’x9′ cubicle, 2 weeks vacation and a life filled with chaos that I realized my babies aged 2, 4 and 7 deserved better.  They needed me.  They hadn’t ordered a screaming, irritated, rushed Mother who only had time for maintenance tasks like bathing and feeding at the McDonald’s drive-thru.     Without a plan, I fired my boss and ended up being rewarded by tripling my income and getting to eat mac and cheese with my kids for lunch.    My only regret…that it took me seven years to figure it out.

9.  Show up.  This is the number one requirement of true friendship.  I call this the Moving Day and Funerals rule.  The real friends you have (regardless of how many Facebook friends you have) are the ones who show up on moving day with their truck and blue jeans and who help you throw the dirt in at funerals.    Friendship requires face time.

10.  Marriage is sacred.    I’ve been married 30 years to my best friend, my soul mate and my Prince Charming.  He’s not perfect…he clips his toenails on my new couch and farts with the best of’em but he’s absolutely perfect for me.   Marriage is a covenant and a sacred institution.  No matter what the divorce rate is or how many people say marriage is outdated, I believe it’s the one true thing that every human being wants more than anything else.  Love is an amazing thing to watch grow and mature over time.  Celebrate marriage every chance you get.

11.   You don’t have to sort laundry into colors and whites.   I know.  Technology and fabrics have evolved.  I combine colors and whites and jeans and blankets and anything else that needs to be washed into my washer and throw in the detergent.  I wash everything on cold.  Quit wasting time sorting.  It’s kind of like the old adage of why Mom and Grandma and Great Grandma cut the end of the ham off.  When the 4th generation asked why you cut the end off, Mom and Grandma didn’t have the answer.   They just did what Great Grandma had done.  Great Grandma replied that she couldn’t afford a pan big enough for the ham when she was a young wife so she had to cut some off to make it fit.  So many of the things we do in life aren’t questioned simply because we’ve always done them this way.    Question things.

12.  It’s never to late to start.    I weighed 207.4 pounds on my 50th birthday and I’m only 5’6″ tall.    I was at least 7.4 pounds over the weight I said I’d never go over and at least 50 pounds over the height and weight charts.   (Why this magical 200 number was burned in my brain I’ll never know.)    I’d been battling my weight for 21 years, since I’d finished having kids always jokingly blaming it on the 50 pounds I’d gained 3 times while I’d been birthing my babies.    The fact is…I ate too much and moved too little.  I joined Weight Watchers and started walking on the treadmill 30 minutes a day.  5 months later I just weighed in at 184.0, 24 pounds lighter.    I feel amazing even though I still have 30 pounds to lose.  Starting was my biggest hurdle.

13.  Reading is essential to growth.  Reading is the reason I’m a writer.  I spent decades taking things in, so much so, that I had to start writing to clear what had accumulated in my brain.  Some of my favorite books include Timothy Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek, David Schwarz’ The Magic of Thinking Big and David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  My spiritual guidebook is the good ole’ Bible.

14.  Say e-nough.  Technology is good but there are times when you need to unplug, unhook and uncomplicate your life.  You know you’re addicted to the machines when you can’t get through the day without your phone or your anxiety level rises when you’re forced to turn it off.

15.   People will disappoint you.  I don’t share this one to be like Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live but they will.  My own Mother sued me and disowned me.  Humans are human.  They make mistakes, speak too soon and fall short.

16.    Never grow old.  I’m not talking about staying young or botox or anti-aging.  I’m talking about living.  Each day should include sleep, work, play and learning.   Read Richard Bolles’ 3 Boxes of Life.  You shouldn’t have to wait for retirement to travel, you don’t have to graduate before you can play and working 16 hour days doesn’t make you a hero.   Getting less than 7-8 hours sleep every night will shorten your life.  Society has compartmentalized life into learning (school for 16 years), working fo the next 30-40, then playing the last 10-20.   The old model of life is broken.  Many don’t make it to retirement (the average age of a widow is 56).  Doing work you love isn’t really work.  Learning should be lifelong if you want to continue growing (check out Masterpiece Living).    Do a little bit of all 3 every day (work, play, learn) and your life will be rich and full.  Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury to be had when everything else is done.

17.  Read Dr. Seuss’ Oh! The Places You’ll Go when you’re struggling.  We all have dark places and dark times in our life.   It’s not a children’s book even though Dr. Seuss is a children’s author.   This book will give you hope.

18.  Make your home your sanctuary.  Your home should be your one safe place in the world.  It’s a place to relax, to make love, and to make amends.   It’s where you refuel your body, refurbish your spirit and launch your big dreams.   It should reflect  you.  Fill it with things you love…that make you smile when you look at them.  Light the candles.   Paint the walls.   Cuddle under cozy blankets.  Hang a chandalier.  Forget being practical.  Let your home be you.

19.  Focus on the things you like about your body.  Everyone has something they don’t like.   I weigh too much.  My hands have age spots.  My neck looks like a turkey.  My legs are dry and prickly.  My feet itch.   But, the things I do like is longer.    I have a great smile.  My muscle tone is good.  I look like I weigh 30 pounds less than I actually do.    My skin is clear.    I don’t have stretch marks despite having 3 kids and gaining 150 pounds.    My body is strong and my mind is quick.  Be grateful for the good.

20.  Tell people how much you love them.  You may not get a second chance.  My friend’s Dad died  while he was sitting in the recliner watching Monday night football and reading the Wall Street journal.  Dinner that night had seemed normal for him and his wife.  2 hours later he was gone.

21.  Stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves.   If you say nothing, you might as well be doing the ______________ (fill-in-the-blank…bullying, goading, teasing, hurting, hitting, conniving, backstabbing) yourself.

22.  Argue in person.  If at all possible, never fight over the phone or by email or text.  Over 55% of all communication is non-verbal…how you say it, not what you say.   And remember the phrase ‘keep calm and carry on.”  Most things won’t matter in a week or a month or a year.

23.   Your self-worth should not equal your net worth.  Money does not make you valuable.   Money is simply an exchange.

24.  Confidence is the inner faith that casts an outer glow.  Confidence is one of those “it” factor intangibles.  You know it when you see it but describing it is sometimes difficult.  A confident woman knows what she wants and makes the decision to go after it.  Confidence is sexy. 

25.  Expect miracles.  Miracles surround us but we rarely look up.  Albert Einstein said “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

26.  Take care of details, or they’ll take care of you.  When a bill arrives, pay it.  When you say you’ll do something, do it.  When the grass needs mowed, mow it.  Follow through.

27.  Never label anyone.  I have ADHD.  Rampant ADHD.  I was lucky.  When I was in school they didn’t medicate children and I was simply seen as an energetic and enthusiastic girl.   I even received the coveted Spirit Award from the high school pep club.   It wasn’t until I got much older (perhaps around 40) that I realized how bad my ADHD was and how many decisions it had affected in my life negatively.    I am NOT my ADHD and I consider having it one of my life’s greatest gifts.    Not knowing I had it saved me from being defined by it.

28.  Creativity grows the more you use it.    Just like your muscles get longer and leaner and stronger the more they’re used, your brain reacts in much the same way.    I always thought of myself as a singer.  I could sing.  I loved singing.  I believed that was the extent of my creative abilities.  Then I got older and started writing.  The more I wrote the better I got.  Now, I create art  or perhaps it could be better said that I produce art.  I’m not actually the artist but I see the vision and have others who help me create what I see in my head.   The more I do, the more that seems to flow out of me.

29.  Character is amplified during tragedy or failure.  How you act during the bad times is the truest reflection of your character, NOT how you handle success.  I had over 25 amazing years of success as an adult, before my one biggest failure that I almost let define me.  My husband Dennis and I lost nearly everything we owned, downsized our home 4 times and racked up debt of over $2.4 million.     Who I was in character and what I valued during this time was much more telling of who I was on the inside than my previous 25 years had.

30.  Choose adoption, not abortion.   Life begins at conception.  You can debate it, call it a fetus, protest, look the other way or intellectualize the abortion debate to your heart’s content but the fact is, we are killing babies when we choose abortion.  We women do have a choice.   The choice…say yes or no to sex.  When we decide to be sexually active, we are making the choice to choose life.    If you don’t want babies, don’t have unprotected sex.

31.  Say Yes!    Participate in life whenever possible.   The biggest part of saying yes is also knowing when to say no.  Say no to things and people that take you farther away from your dreams.  Say no when you’re too tired.  Say no when you immediately feel uncomfortable.  Trust your gut.

32.  Everyone needs at least one good friend.

33.  Music is an instant mood booster.    Play it.  My favorites are Adele, Cheryl Lyn (from the 60’s), Katy Perry and oldies like Frank Sinatra and retro from the 70’s.

34.  Every day is a do-over.  At the end of the day, you’re done.  You can put the “Today is Over” sign up on your bedroom door and look forward to a fresh start the next day.  The only requirement to make a change is action.  And that’s totally and completely all up to you.

***

Chris Guillebeau is the author of The Art of Non-Conformity.  You can link to his site to read his own prolific 34 Things simply by clicking here.  http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/34-things/?awt_l=LrZXF&awt_m=J6aCm5hVhsnt7W

What’s the One Thing You Wish You Could’ve Changed About Your Life?

You know, the one thing that if you could’ve changed it would’ve made an epic difference in your psyche?

Mine is this.

My Mother has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). It R-U-L-E-D our life. It crippled my Dad. It wreaked havoc on any happiness that ever tried to enter our front door because it was the MONSTER of the house. It turned two little girls (me and my sister) into enemies. It made me super strong and super fake because I was so busy pretending that everything was a-ok. It destroyed our family.

I was the happiest girl you could ever meet. Still am.

For the most part (oh, 85%), it’s true. I am happy.

The other 15% is a mask that I wear to hide the torment, the gut-wrenching pain, the all-encompassing fear and the pretense wanting to make my life ‘normal.’ (It’s not.)
Lest you think I’m trying to be Miss Perfect, I have ADD and am borderline bi-polar (I lean more to the manic phases than the depressive) and those are both deemed mental illnesses. (Yes, Mom, I said the word mental illness about myself.)

I danced the people-pleasing dance so suavely for the first 45 years of my life. Then, I crashed, burned out and failed big. Let my impulsiveness and my ADD take me to places and projects I shouldn’t have touched and lost everything I ever owned in a misguided and underfunded real-estate business.

I wish my Mother would’ve gotten help for her OCD. When I was a little girl. When she still read me my favorite book “Madeline” and yelled pedal-pedal-pedal as I learned to ride my little red bike. When change was still possible and the imprint of craziness wasn’t imprinted on my mind and my heart and my soul and my life.

Yes, I said craziness. Because now I’m 50 and this angst still lurks in my soul each and every day. I fight it. I fight hard. Most of the time I win, but sometime I’m simply and utterly too tired.

I wish my Mother would’ve gotten help for her OCD. I wish I could’ve helped her, but as a child I didn’t know how. I tried to be the good girl. I believed that if I worked hard enough and pleased enough people, everything might turn out all right.

It didn’t.

Here are the 10 gems of wisdom I learned from the “One Thing I Wished I Could’ve Changed”:

#1)
OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is a mental illness. It is a disease. The disease was not my Mom. She is as much a casualty of her own disease as I was. SO SAD

#2: The Monster is the mental illness. The Monster is not my Mom. GET HELP

#3: My Mom’s responsibility was in taking care of her children. She did not. She left us mentally bruised, emotionally battered, and spiritually scarred for life because of her own selfishness. TAKE CARE OF YOUR CHILDREN

#4: My future is not dependent on my past. The choices I make today determine the path I will take. CHOOSE A BETTER PATH FOR YOURSELF

#5: My Father was as responsible for my shattered psyche as my Mom was. For decades I viewed him as a hero and just within the past couple of years did I understand that he was an accomplice to the abuse. I know that his intentions were pure and that he believed keeping the family together was paramount, but it crippled us. Parents are responsible for keeping their children safe…no matter what. IF YOU SAY OR DO NOTHING TO PROTECT A CHILD, YOU ARE THE PERPETRATOR

#6: Pleasing people is futile. Treat people with kindness. That’s all you can do. Not everyone is going to like you or want to be your friend. It doesn’t matter. GET OVER BEING LIKED

#7: My fake happiness worked. I am happy. Secrets pervaded my entire childhood. No one knew what was going on in my home. Secrets rarely are good. It has only been in telling the cold hard truths that I have felt liberated and cleansed. DON’T KEEP SECRETS THAT HURT

#8: Not all endings are happy ones. Sometimes they are devastating. LIFE WILL GO ON

#9: Family is ultra-important but there are some circumstances in life that can’t be changed. If your blood family leaves you, make your own. Sometimes friends can be closer than family…and they actually like you just the way you. FAMILY ARE THE PEOPLE YOU CHOOSE

#10: If you can’t control something, can’t change something and didn’t cause something then you have absolutely NO power in making it better. USE YOUR OWN POWER FOR GOOD

Life is a tough teacher. This lesson took 45 years for me to learn.

Challenge:Write your own story. Excavate your own lessons. Teach them to someone else so that what touched you, won’t hurt another. Use your own power for good.