5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” 
― Pearl S. Buck

Finding things to do in a small town is often challenging. However, we live next to a larger town, which has abundant shopping centers, restaurants, and a movie theater. It also has a couple of thrift and consignment stores to help freshen the wardrobe or buy a few $3 DVDs. It’s even more challenging to buy food in a small town, as the only grocery store in town lacks variety and is very expensive. With a little hindsight, I try to plans my trips to avoid anxiety and overspending.

To assuage my anxiety, I shopped, as planned, in the early morning hours today. Like a pro, I dashed effortlessly through the aisles, never once becoming stymied over an unstocked necessity. I checked off all the items on my list and stayed under budget. The best part was having to only carry 3 bags into the house!

While unloading groceries, my cat greeted me and snuck under my feet to sit on the porch. She looked so happy at just sitting there. I paused to look and listen to my environment, as to capture some of the simple joy of existing. Often, we chase unattainable and superfluous things to achieve happiness. Humans have a gift of complex minds, unlike animals, but they might have us outwitted when it comes to being happy in the moment.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

After I tried to capture my cat being “one with nature”, I figured I’d do a few simple things outside. These simple things brought a little light into my life.

Creatures

The cat seemed so determined to get outside- I listened for a moment to the sounds of spring. It almost sounded like a rainforest outside, with all the birds chirping and other creature sounds. Suddenly, there was a woosh sound and the birds all flocked away from the beast below (my cat).

While driving to the towpath, I noticed hens and ducks, fenced in makeshift, backyard barns. Along the trail where my family and I walked, I could hear cows mooing up ahead. We turned just as one of their cowbells rang. There was also one peaceful pony, standing around in the small plot of land.

Many of the farms were vast, however, I did see a few smaller animal sanctuaries next to a children’s swing sets and toys.

Farmer’s Market

When I rolled into town to grocery shop,  I glanced over a parking lot full of cars to see the main attraction. Just a farmer’s market. Then I thought about my new diet that includes more fruits and vegetables. I hadn’t planned on stopping there, and since I was unable to quickly assess an easy parking spot, I drove past. There were swarms of older people, grey-haired grannies bedazzled with sunhats, while their husbands dawdled along in loafers and polo shirts. I felt out of place and intimidated. Also, I didn’t have cash on me and most of the vendors only accept cash.

The sight of such a grass-roots movement of people buying locally-grown veggies appealed to my desire to be healthier. The mere sight and thought of the farmer’s market kind of inspired me. Sadly, I only implemented my newfound attitude by slicing up oranges for my family’s lunch. I did go out in the yard and weed a little bit though.

Water

The sound of the water rushing over the rocks was very calming. I leaned my phone over the babbling brook to snap a photo of the simple scene. My thoughts drifted off to the time I bought a “Sounds of Nature” CD from Goodwill a few years ago. I remembered how the sounds of the storm and rain drowned out the Friday-night noises coming from next door.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

Convenience Stores

In between that long stretch of time from lunch to dinner, we venture to the corner gas station or convenience store. Since pre-packaged, snack-sized goodies are a pricey luxury, my family view such seldom excursions as “treats.” Little nuggets of indulgence and generosity to ourselves. The kids opt for the Icee and I grab a Frappe.

Plants, Trees and Other Scenery

The community works hard to maintain the towpath for both pedestrians and cyclists. The grass is neatly-trimmed, with a few plants scattered among various park benches and picnic tables. Vast, open and welcoming, I’ve never been so pleased to just be outside and breathing air.

I suppose that living with anxiety and depression and so many other negative elements has made me appreciate the good times. Hopefully, I can better learn to make good times out of more of my days.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

10 Reasons Why I Love The Simplicity of Weekends

10 Reasons Why I Love the Simplicity of Weekends

“Elegance is achieved when all that is superfluous has been discarded and the human being discovers simplicity and concentration: the simpler and more sober the posture, the more beautiful it will be.” -Paulo Coelho

During another arduous day at work, I was surrounded by a glimmer of hope. That hope came in the form of gazing out the open dock doors, which circulated a faintly sweet smell of fresh, spring air. Yes, that same air that plagues me with overwhelming allergies, also ushered in my delightful mood. I suppose the fact that it was Friday may have contributed much more than I give credit.

This morning, I wanted to “treat” myself to a day of not having to cook or clean dishes, so I pre-ordered a pizza. I like to think of buying fast-food as a legitimate cheat I can offer myself in times of crisis- kind of like “phone a friend” from “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” fame.

I often pontificate about the joy of the weekends. In a flash, the weekend whizzes by, yet anticipating the weekend are what often makes people happy.

What is it about my weekends that makes me so happy?

I Get To Decompress

Decompression to me is the gentle art of releasing the stressors that have been building. By releasing these pressure points regularly, I am better equipped to handle additional challenges. My mind has been fully recharged, so I now have sufficient resources to effectively deal with daily challenges, as well as having more resilience in the event of unexpected stress-inducing situations. The way I decompress may be different from the way you decompress, but the theory can be applied to anybody.

Doing Things On My Terms

Although I don’t have many complex projects abounding, I still find joy in doing the most mundane things on my own timeline. For instance, I get panic attacks when I go shopping at Walmart on Saturday afternoons, so I plan ahead to pick up my groceries. I feel kind of special when I can just pull up and have people load my groceries and wish me a great day. This is a far contrast to what I’d experience going inside to shop- crowded aisles, confused and rude shoppers, misplaced items, and long lines. I like that I can go shopping in the early morning hours, while everyone is still at home. It’s a tranquil scene to have an entire store devoid of the flurry of activity that often induces overwhelming anxiety.

Time To Shop More Consciously

When I shop early in the morning or arrange to pick up my groceries, not only do I avoid anxiety, but my mind can focus on making better food choices that are within my budget, instead of mindless shopping. Mindless shopping leaves my wallet empty and my conscious guilty because I have given in to fear and anxiety, instead of using my mind as a tool to provide resources for my family. To be governed by fear is at the heart of many poor choices.

Time To Organize and Declutter

When I bring in stuff, I have to be mindful of what I clear out of my pantry and my house. Again, the principle of mindfulness, as opposed to mindlessness, is one of simplicity. You can see it in the way somebody keeps their house- is this person concerned and mindful of their resources, or do they just view possessions as unimportant. Do they covet their possessions? I am enthralled by how some people are so mindful of their lives- especially, closely-knit groups of people, with strong cultural or religious beliefs.

More Quality Time and Quiet Time with Family

To wake up before my kids and get started a little ahead of them has always been something I’ve indulged in since they were very young. I was able to do this by going to sleep at a reasonable time. I let them sleep in a couple of hours after I wake up. Not everyone can do this, I understand. Some people are not morning people. In that case, there may be other ways to carve out a little time to get ahead of the day.

Sometimes we go to the movies on Saturday afternoons, when the price and crowds are minimal. Less energy is expended worrying about contending with crowded seating and noisy patrons. When it’s quiet and less-crowded, those simple moments with your family aren’t lost on other distracting elements.

Scenic Drives in Town and Country

Early-morning driving into town lends itself to some very peaceful moments for me. Sometimes I see a beautiful scene and I feel inclined to take a picture, but, of course, I don’t stop. There are moments to be shared, and there are moments meant for only you to enjoy. These times might impress something inspiration upon my mind.

Hiking, Being Outside In Nature

In Ohio, there are many scenic walking trails. My favorite park is about 5 miles away and it is home to equestrian trails, canoeing, fishing, and, in the summer, swimming. There is a small pond that is inhabited by the loudest bullfrogs. Just when I think I will be fast enough to spot one, it disappears into the water or beyond.

Reading Lots of Non-Fiction Books

When I pick out books at the library, I grab several because I know some of the books aren’t worth a read. However, I usually pick “winners” when I choose. These books are penned by PhDs, M.D.’s, and best-selling authors and speakers. Usually, my tastes lean towards psychology books, religion, and spirituality, emotional well-being, etc. Much of the information contained in the books is entertaining because the content is presented from a different and unique perspective.

10 Reasons Why I Love The Simplicity of Weekends

A pile of non-fiction books carefully selected at the local library.

Intellectual Stimulation

During the week, I only have time to read news-bites. When I stumble upon important issues, I further research and study them online. If I’m really interested, I find some videos on the subject matter. The weekends are a time in which I can expand my horizons by taking free online courses. Some are interesting enough that I take the time to complete each assignment. (Remember that thing about bipolar? Sometimes it impairs my concentration, so I have to be very selective about what I am willing to commit).

Candles, Aesthetic Design, and Discovering Interesting Blogs

Candles are such a simple way to indulge the senses and create a home filled with warmth. Yes, I’m trying to intellectualize my affinity for Vanilla-scented candles. After I’ve decluttered the pantry, I open up the mail from each day and discard the junk mail, tack-up the important bills and notices, or file in another suitable location.

When the house is organized and decluttered, and the aroma of vanilla-candle is wafting throughout the house, I feel inspired to cast a few glances at the lifestyle blogs at Bloglovin’. My own blog has recently been verified and I’m discovering some other wellness and mental health blogs. While Bloglovin’ is largely known for its Pinterest-like aesthetic filled with beauty blogs, it is very much fertile ground for the unique types of blogs that are featured on WordPress.com. 

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Overcoming Negative Thoughts To Achieve Your Dreams

Overcoming Negative Thoughts to Achieve Your Dreams

“Negative thoughts stick around because we believe them, not because we want them or choose them.” -Andrew J. Bernstein

Imperfections And Negative Self-Talk

My problem is not that I have these flaws, but rather, my dilemma is that I am always finding something “flawed” about myself. Why do flaws have to have a negative connotation? Is it because I envy what somebody else has in appearance, talents, or popularity? My problem is not them- the problem is in the sinful, negative thought pattern of envy. The bitterness takes root and grows uncontrollably, like some weeds in my yard. I carefully weed the yard, but I neglect my mind and emotions.

My mind connects me to everything- my family, friends, co-workers. It connects me to how I think about myself. Imperfections, physical, mental, or otherwise, are most certainly problems at times. Having positive thoughts help me get past those issues to focus on other important things in life. Negative thoughts about myself or others will only magnify meaningless, temporal things. It keeps me away from God and others.

How To Reframe Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts never generate a positive outcome. While it is important to be self-aware, it’s more important to not dwell on our imperfections. When you enter an art museum to see the vast display of work, you wouldn’t just hang around in one spot? You would probably acknowledge certain attributes, then move on to the next piece, knowing that you want to make the best use of your time. To stand around and disparage some of the artwork would be insulting to their creator.

Be Strong and Question The Status Quo

So easy to say when I am a grown woman. I know it is much more difficult for younger people to not think about their flaws. Parents, family, friends, in a perfect world, should help “buffer” some of the negative messages offered in popular culture. Often, it is the very people looked upon for acceptance that let us down and we are “unprotected” from hurtful, negative messages. When I say “messages”, I am referring to a broad term that represents advertising, social media, peers, school, and work. Messages from popular culture that push us into accepting a photoshopped version of how we should look, dress, act, and think. A culture that essentially shuns independent thinkers. Independent thinkers may or may not look ideal, but they are not consumed by appearances alone.

Find Your Place in The World & Be Content

When you can accept how you were made, you will pick better friends. You will not hurt all the time because you are trying to be something you are not meant to be. Be content, you have a future ahead.

Have you ever known somebody who is self-loathing? I lived much of my life not caring too much about myself. As a result, I did many foolish things. Foolishness never filled a void, it merely distracted me. I guess everyone is entitled to make mistakes. If I hadn’t hated myself for so many years, I might have achieved more, but I also have time now to fulfill my dreams.

It’s Never Too Late To Dream!

In fact, it’s probably better to start working on your dreams once you’ve been exposed to the realities of life, family, and work. College degrees can help you make more money, but no amount of education can provide you with wisdom and insight that are learned through mistakes and real-world experience.

Chasing after your dreams once you’ve been an adult for some time is ideal for people that were not guided and disciplined properly in life. Perhaps life events prevented you from realizing your full potential. The extra benefit to gaining real-life experience before chasing your dreams is this: you remain well-grounded and have desirable characteristics that make people want to see you succeed.

Give your dreams the attention they deserve! Start taking them seriously. Devise an attention plan to achieve your dreams.

If obstacles feel insurmountable, it simply means you have to work harder. If you feel you’re not moving ahead fast enough, perhaps you have to devote some more energy into understanding and managing your obstacles before proceeding. It’s is not a license to give up!

 

A Simple Lesson on Nurturing Ourselves

Lessons On Nurturing

I believe many people regard taking care of themselves as a frivolity, or an act of selfishness. Unhealthy demonstrations, disguised as “self-care” are, indeed, selfish and even destructive. Unhinged shopping sprees may give me a temporary lift, but it isn’t the soulful lift I need to manage myself and others. However, taking the time to replace the drawer of missing and tattered socks isn’t selfish. Not all acts of shopping for myself are selfish.

Bad Lessons

  • The quality of love and care that one gives is circumstantial and conditional.
  • Nutrition is unimportant- grab some junk food and soda.
  • If somebody is behaving badly, keep out of their way or behave badly in return (watch for signals).

Not Trained To Think of Myself As Important

As children, my sister and I never got new clothes or even used clothes very often. Sometimes we got a bag of clothes from an aunt or grandparent. I’m quite sure I never considered the bag of bell-bottom corduroys as a gift or a curse. I got through my high school years wearing jeans and t-shirts- black t-shirts, concert t-shirts, one-size-fits-all shirts. I was happy wearing those clothes and it was very low-maintenance. I still do not treat myself by way of buying clothes, although I am very much in need of the most essential of clothing, jeans, and t-shirts. I long for some dressy clothes sometimes but never make the effort to buy myself such things.

Diet & Nutrition- Taking Care of The Physical Body

Those who lack a strong support system especially need to manage self-care in a balanced fashion. We should not turn to mere substitutes or addictions, no matter how benign they may appear. I am guilty of using caffeine as a crutch. This is probably a factor in my erratic moods and weak food choices (carbs, lots of carbs). A steady stream of caffeine and a depletion of vital, cleansing water leads to an abundance of empty calories and garbage in the body. Perhaps my mood swings are the only way my body can adapt to balancing all the garbage I eat and all the mindless clutter I am consumed by each day? This is something I will explore further.

Leisure Time

Let’s face it- men have their “man-caves”, and some ladies like to get manicures. And then we have the rest of the world. These are ordinary people taking care of their families, working a job, attending school, etc. They may lack the means- time, energy or money- to enjoy “leisure” activities. It is essential to carve out even a little bit of time for yourself each day, whether you have to stay up after the kids go to bed, or get up earlier to go for a walk, read, or whatever else feeds your soul.

Being busy in life sometimes makes us lose ourselves, which can cause us to feel bitter, devoid and empty. Often, it is not until a crisis or conflict when it becomes apparent that self-care is as important as the care we provide for others.

Unpacking the Baggage of the Past

Issues from “the past”, people from our past and messages from the past continue to plague us subconsciously. Both solitude and good company can help us “recharge” and make sense of the world around us. I have suffered frequent episodes of depression in my life, which has made me more isolated at the very times I needed support. I was taught it was embarrassing and “weak” to cry or have emotional needs. As a child, others were told to “not baby me” when I needed to talk or receive encouragement (not criticism). My achievements were not validated by my mother, I wasn’t “validated”. Today, I still battle with such feelings of inadequacies.

My first job as a production artist proved challenging for many reasons- my depressed moods, adjustment to medications, and the stressful work environment (my supervisor didn’t like me, our boss came into work intoxicated, and he and my supervisor had a “love/hate” relationship). In the past decade, I have settled for a more mundane job, but one that provides my family with stability nonetheless. My job does not (always) subject me to harsh attitudes or very much dysfunction, and I have great co-workers.

I’ve had very little training in thinking of myself as important as those around me. Even as I write this, I justify the reasons to take better care of myself so that I can be able to provide a better life for my family. Often, when I project my well-being to others, I’m deeply disappointed when I become depressed or sick.

Today, I will make an effort to ask for help when needed.

There’s nobody to ask- I will pray for strength and endurance.

I’m a weak person and often a weak follower, but I am a believer.

 

woman walking near brown wooden door during daytime

Why You Should Take a Break From Technology

“Technology is, of course, a double edged sword. Fire can cook our food but also burn us.” -Jason Silva

Mobile phones and other electronic devices offer access to an array of entertainment and information. We can access information about anything at any time. We can watch movies, listen to music, and read books with a sleight of hand. But these things are nothing more than distractions. In some regards, distractions can be helpful. When we need to move at a quick pace, listening to music on our iPhones provides that rush of adrenaline we need to hustle.

A diverse group of people who are distracted by cell phones and tasks.

Distractions Are Nothing New

For many years, people have turned to mindless entertainment. Such entertainment is usually wrought little redeeming qualities, but audiences tune in anyway. There’s the stereotypical image of the 1950s, where the man of the house retreats to his den to skim the local newspaper. Women turned to soap operas and television dramas to “escape” their ordinary lives.

In the 1980s, music videos and video games were rolled out to the masses. When people were not watching TV, playing games, or listening to the radio, they passed the time using the phone. Although technology has changed, the concepts are relatively the same. We seek distraction. We seek an escape from reality and our problems. By immersing ourselves in technology, we can feel “engaged” without fully participating in life.

Artificial Happiness

In my experience, I’ve learned that electronics and the various means of communications via electronics (i.e., my phone, laptop, blog, email, social media) provide me with an artificial “high”. Who isn’t delighted to get a new friend request or find some illuminating, esoteric information?

Promises of Opportunity

I was recently seduced by an email invite from a notable online community. I accepted the offer, which involved writing, and realized it amounted to pennies if it amounted to anything at all. Money for impressions, eyeballs, and clicks. The next day I vowed that I wouldn’t let the desire for success or money to cause me to accept such offers.

For others, they may be chasing other promises. The promise of fulfillment, success, friendship, beauty. Advertisers and publishers study our habits and know our desires. Before cell phones and computers, there were magazines, billboards, newspapers, and radio. Now, it is much easier for people to be swept away by advertising.

The Natural Tendency Towards Selfishness And Sin

One could say that greed, not a technology in general, was my flaw. Humans all have a tendency towards sin, whether it’s the promise of easy money (sloth, greed), or the envy of a celebrity, the feeling of adoration (pride), and even gluttony (casually, mindlessly eating while sitting in front of the TV.

Technology, in itself, isn’t inherently good or bad. It is a tool that we use. Unlike “functional” tools, such as an eating utensil, the “tool” of technology lends itself well to human weakness. We love to share our lives with others, yet technology can easily be misused. It also robs us of face-to-face interactions and “real” friends. Too much time online can make people feel lonely and depressed.

Teens Especially Vulnerable To Technology’s Vices

In an article from the Chicago Tribune, titled, “Mobile Phones Linked To Anxiety And Severe Depression In Teens” studies show that feelings of hopelessness and suicide increased by 12% between 2010-2015.

“As smart as phones may be these days, they simply don’t know when to quit. To protect your mental health, experts say you must develop ways of outsmarting them – and often that involves simply turning them off.” (https://yp.scmp.com/news/features/article/108242/mobile-phones-linked-anxiety-and-severe-depression-teens).

For teens, who on average spend 9 hours each day online (Common Sense Research), the use of electronics and technology is especially pervasive. When teens interact on social media, technology can cause harm when they feel excluded from social groups. Additionally, it’s easy to take offense to what others post on Instagram or any of the other myriad of social media.

The Addictive Nature of Technology

It’s important to consider the “feel good” effects of technology, and how we can become addicted to the “reward” our brain receives when we spend too much time online.

“Dopamine is a feel-good neurochemical messenger that carries signals across brain synapses, responsible for motivation and reward-seeking behavior, and essential to neuroplastic change.  Neuroplastic change is what allows a habit or addiction to form in the first place.” (thebestbrainpossible.com).

“All of our technology is completely unnecessary to a happy life.” -Tom Hodgkinson, (British writer)

The Minimalist Approach

In an article featured at Becoming Minimalist “7 Important Reasons To Unplug And Find Space” by Joshua Becker, we can discover some interesting reasons to avoid technology. The reason that resonated with me was  “Powering-down promotes creation over consumption.” Joshua points out that we spend our time in one of two ways: consuming or creating. We spend time reading, watching, playing or browsing. He advises us to power-down so that we can recharge our battery. In doing so, we can inspire the world around us, instead of simply taking in so many distractions.

Shut-Down Technology, Renew Your Soul

Why should anybody fast from electronics and technology? The same reason we should fast from anything in life. Moderation is key. Mindfulness and discipline to keep track of our precious energy and time, and so we don’t become so consumed by worldly pleasures and fleeting things.

Benefits To Your Well-Being

More time for face-to-face interactions.

More Time to create instead of consuming.

More time for personal reflection.

Less time spent clicking unnecessary pages.

Less time worrying about other people’s lives and dramas.

Less time comparing yourself to others.

 

 

white surfboard beside white wall white wooden cube bookshelf inside the room

How Simplicity and Mindful Living Can Spark Joy

Recently, I watched the Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and I also purchased her book, “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.” This book is the companion to Marie’s #1 New York Times best-selling, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

The substance and design of her best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” appealed to me more than the companion book. Nevertheless, I still value the concepts presented by Marie Kondo, and I will spend time reading everything she espouses. Each chapter is filled with clarity and mindfulness. For instance, tidying experts advise keeping some items in a “grey zone.” This grey zone signifies that you have a degree of uncertainty on the value of the item. Keep it there for 3 months. If after that time, you have no use for it, you may discard it.

Marie tried this method but had little success. The guilt of getting rids of items just because they didn’t make her happy in the allotted time frame, was something she wanted to change. “There are only two choices: keep it or chuck it. And if you’re going to keep it, make sure you take care of it,” responds Kondo.

I believe it’s logical to place things in a “grey zone” (Ms. Kondo refers to this grey zone as a “detention” zone). I never put sentimental items in a grey zone- only things that have utility. I use 3 clear plastic boxes that store under my bed or can fit on top of my closet shelf (and I often shuffle where I place the plastic boxes, depending on if I have been recently sorting the contents).

Items of Sentimental Value (Children’s Things)

  • Box 1- (Flat mementos) school projects and artwork, report cards, and award certificates.
  • Box 2- (Flat, oversized artwork) Flat artwork that is larger than 8.5” x 11” (usually 11” x 17”).
  • Box 3- (Dimensional) Bulky, odd-shaped and dimensional mementos. In this box, I have an odd assortment of hand-made pasta bracelets, origami sculptures, magnets adorned with sequins, and a few baby teeth. I also have newspaper clippings in this box because they don’t go in Box 1.

I struggled with getting rid of some of my children’s projects, especially ones that won awards at the fair. My son was very proud of his 8th-grade lamp project, so that made the cut. My daughter made some figures out of coffee cans that a folk-art vibe. I had painted some of the cans to get her started. The ones I made were discarded because hers hold more value. Mine was simply used to guide her. She was proud of her final creations. I was disappointed in how weird my coffee can sculpture looked! It was not my project anyway, so they lacked value.

When I organize mindfully, there is less guilt.

Although my methods are somewhat different from Marie Kondo’s, I find dignity and clarity in how she organizes.

By contrast,  I have often purged things as a means to an end- that end being an end to my anxiety. Decluttering or purging out of compulsion or anxiety never leaves me refreshed. I enjoy discovering the mindful and meditative ways in which others handle material things.

“The challenge is coming to grips with the fact that, often times, material things have an emotional connection and attachment.”http://www.thrive-mindful.blog

Be healthy. Train yourself how to handle emotional attachments. Detach from unhealthy “things”. Not all outwardly-beautiful things have a need in our homes or lives. Sometimes they are just taking away mental energy that could be used for utilitarian purposes. And other times, they are benign and serve only to be admired by the world.

Assorted wall decor with an organic theme.

Decorative items, although not particularly useful, serve to define the style and set the tone for the things valued by an individual.

What is YOUR personal style? Do you crave utility and function, with a little bit of glamour? Or do you see your living space as something to be used to impress others? Maybe right now, your desires have little control over how your home appears. Whatever style you embrace, whatever you determine sparks joy, just be thoughtful. Give careful thought to the value and placement of the things in your home AND your life.