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Relearning Happiness

One of the things I’ve spent a lot of time pondering over the last few months is happiness, and how I acquired it and them seemed to lose it again. The summer of 2011 was one of the most joyful times of my life, and not because everything in my life was perfect or was working out the way I wanted it to. I’d learned how to be happy, and once that knowledge was securely in place, it was easy to maintain until some big changes knocked them loose again.

After that, I told myself I was happy. I’d learned how to be happy, hadn’t I? I only struggled with anxiety and gloominess again because it was winter, right? As soon as spring came, I’d feel that joy again. All I had to do was wait. It wasn’t my fault.

Spring came. Summer passed. I never really felt spring or summer though. I felt like it just got hot. That anxiety and gloomy mood stayed with me. As much as I lied to myself, I wasn’t happy. That joy from the previous summer didn’t return with the sun.

That’s part of the reason why I decided to put everything on hold for awhile so I could figure everything out.

After a particularly overwhelming week, I decided that I wouldn’t lie to myself anymore. I wasn’t happy, but I knew happiness was possible because I’d achieved it before. I knew it didn’t depend on what job I had, how much money we were making, or anything outside of myself because I’d been happy in far less “ideal” situations.

So how did I do it? I spend the day reading my journals from that time, rereading blog posts from the spring and summer of 2011, and reading the book that introduced me to the ideas that turned everything around. If I could learn happiness once, I could do it again.

I realized that I just had to relearn everything.

The ideas and practices that brought me happiness before, I’d taken them for granted. I thought I knew them all, so I stopped practicing what I knew. I just expected that mindset to maintain itself, and I unconsciously let it slip away.  I felt humbled, because I realized that no matter how much I think I know, I will always have to practice and relearn these things. Gratitude, positive thought patterns, trust, affirmations, love…those things are practices rather than a permanent mindset that never goes away once it’s in place.

So now I do the things I used to do. I write things I’m thankful for in my journal every single day. I use affirmations and mantras to maintain positive thought patterns. I make an effort to appreciate others. I make a conscious effort to trust that things will work themselves out instead of fear that they won’t. I feel like a beginner again, but I actually feel happy and peaceful now even though there’s a foot of snow on the ground and the sun goes down earlier every night. I have less energy for sure and I get a little gloomy in the evenings, but overall, I can honestly say that I’m happy right now.

If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that happiness is both a choice and a practice, not a result of circumstances or luck. As humbling as that knowledge is, it’s comforting to know that I can always choose happiness.

I wish you all the joy and happiness you deserve. Have a wonderful Tuesday!

 

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How to Enjoy Paying Bills

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Happy Monday! That probably looks a lot more chipper than it feels. Mondays aren’t necessarily my favorite days, but I do tend to feel a bit refreshed from the weekend. I like to use that extra energy to tackle chores for the week. Today I’m planning on grocery shopping, preparing some food for the week, and paying bills. That last one is probably my least favorite because I tend to stress about money even if we’re doing fine financially, which thanks to me working more, we are. It’s still not fun, but I thought I’d share a trick that I use to make it more enjoyable. Yes, it’s probably really corny, but it works for me.

Two tips actually. The first one it to use Pixar stamps. Paying the gas bill is much more fun with a Wall-e stamp.

The second, more important tip is to pay bills with gratitude.

I vaguely recall something like this in The Secret, so that’s probably where I got the idea, but while I’m writing out checks or paying bills online, I think about what I’m really paying for and the value I received. Here’s a quick breakdown of how I think about my bills:

  • Rent-Thank you for giving me a place to live, for giving my studio and a kitchen to cook yummy food and a big window with a tree outside to look at while I sit on the couch and journal in the morning.
  • Gas and electric bills-Thank you for hot baths, a cozy home, for light to read and paint by, for powering my computer so I can write and connect with others.
  • Student loan payments-Thank you for helping me study in China and graduate on time. Thanks for helping me start my dream of travel.
  • Phone bill-Thank you for allowing me to call my mom, text my friends, get a hold of Sam when my computer does something stupid and send him cute little messages during the day, and for helping me feel safe because I always have a way to get help in an emergency.
  • Car insurance and fuel-Thank you for allowing me to visit my family and friends, for getting me to the library, grocery store, and art galleries. Thanks for allowing me to get to work in five minutes instead of tramping through the snow for a 25 minutes both ways.

It may seem silly, but I think gratitude is the key to a happy life. When we have gratitude, we see the good in the unpleasant things. We notice out blessings, and we just tend to be a lot more optimistic. This is a big deal for those of us that tend to be vulnerable to depression and anxiety.

I’ll let you know how this works on taxes. 😉

Have a wonderful week!

A Year of Gratitude

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On Saturday morning, I went for an extra long walk. I didn’t take my hat or scarf, though I should have. It was the kind of weather that fools you into thinking it’s warm even though it’s freezing. Sunshine does something for my soul, it stirs up some deep happiness that I forget sometimes when it’s been cloudy for awhile.

I veered off my normal route and walked down the hill a little further so I could get a better view of Utah Lake. It was so beautiful for some reason. I stopped and looked at it for a minute, and then a feeling of gratitude came over me as I thought about where I was a year ago and where I am now.

Last February, I would have never imagined that my life would be like it is now in such a short time. A year ago, I was depressed, sick, my stress and anxiety were through the roof, and overweight because my compulsive eating was out of control. I lived in a tiny studio above my uncle’s garage and worked as a nanny, and I had no idea what to do about my future. I had no social life. I was so creatively stuck that I started to believe that I wasn’t meant to be an artist and writer after all, that I had nothing to say. I felt stuck, and I was miserable.

Now, standing on that hill looking over the lake, I have a clear vision of my future and a path to get there, but I also have the faith to let things unfold as they must. I have a great job that’s actually related to my degree, my body is maintaining a happy weight and though I’m still tweaking my self-care, I’m much healthier. I have an apartment I love, and I’m making art and writing all the time.  I’m actually selling my work, and I have plans for growing my career from this little seed I’ve planted.

I’m so thankful for this past year and how incredibly far I’ve come. I’m so blessed. I’m amazed how I’ve been led to everything I need whether it’s tools, signs, opportunities, friends, or ideas. I’m grateful for my new outlook on the world, that I understand that struggles are important opportunities to learn, and therefore blessings. I could have never learned how to be truly happy without being truly miserable first. I couldn’t learn how to grow if I couldn’t experience being stuck. I couldn’t have acquired the new tools and knowledge I have without the situations that prompted me to seek them.

I hope that you all are well and that you’re experiencing some wonderful growth right now. Have a wonderful week. 🙂

When Life is Rough

Some days are just rough. That’s how life is, because without the rough days, the great days wouldn’t be so wonderful.

Sometimes the darkness and cold of winter sinks into your bones and you forget that spring is just a few months away. You forget to let yourself settle into the slower time, to admire the landscape, and to appreciate the contrast from the hot, busy days of summer that seemed like only yesterday.

Sometimes it feels like your career will never get off the ground, that no one will ever want what you have to offer. You forget that the struggle to create your career is what makes you a stronger business person, and that the fact that your passion drives you forward anyway is a sign that you’re on the right track.

Sometimes it seems like you’ll never get out of debt or have enough money. Sometimes things get so tight that you don’t want to turn on the lights or drive to the library, but things won’t always be this way. It may be a sign that you need to be more conscious of the way you spend, or that you need to explore some unopened income channels.

Sometimes life isn’t fun, but things always change. As cheesy as it sounds, a positive attitude and a bit of patience makes all the difference. Appreciate the moment, be grateful for it, and learn what you can from the current situation, and let go of the outcome.

Everything will turn out all right.

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving Handprint Soul readers!

I am so thankful for all of you, your wonderful comments and your readership. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you have much to be thankful for.

My November Gratitude Project

Before I jump in today, I’d like to announce that several of my paintings are now available on Etsy! Also, for the time being I’ve decided to showcase my art and life as an artist here on Handprint Soul, because this is my cozy little online home and it feels right. Will this change the blog? Slightly. Many  of my posts will be more creativity and art oriented, but that is the place I’m in right now. I feel that this will only enhance Handprint Soul, and I’m excited!

Every year around this time, my energy and mood takes a noted drop. I wrote about this last year as I tried to accept and appreciate the coming of winter. This year, I’ve decided to celebrate the inevitable as well. I plan on writing a post about my plan for dealing with winter blues later, but for now I want to share with you the little ritual I’ve created for myself this November.

Premature Christmas displays aside, November is the month in which we typically give thanks for what we have. I believe that gratitude is one of the keys to happiness, and changing my mindset to one of gratitude is what truly lifted me out of years  of depression.

I wanted to make gratitude a more conscious act this month instead of just waiting for Thanksgiving, so I created a ritual to celebrate both the seasons and the many things in my life that fill my heart with thanks.

Every day on my walk, I pick up a leaf. I usually go for the pretty, colorful, well-shaped ones. When I get home, I use a marker to write something I’m grateful for on the leaf, and I save it it a box. So far I’ve given thanks for my husband, my body, the seasons, education, and even gratitude itself because it’s like Miracle Grow for the soul. On Thanksgiving Day, I plan to cap this project in a special way. It’s a secret. And by secret, I also mean that I haven’t completely decided what to do with them yet. I have a few ideas, but I’ll wait until the time is right to decide.

How do you give thanks? Do you have any gratitude rituals?

Thank you Dad

Happy Father’s Day! Last month, I thanked my mom for all her awesomeness, but now it’s time to thank my equally incredible Dad.

1-Thank you Dad for working so hard to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly, while still finding time to take me fishing.

2-Thank you for always making the best spaghetti, burgers, salsa, and steaks I’ve ever had.

Yes, that would be me lovin' some b'sketti.

3-Thank you for growing the most amazing vegetables and letting me raid your garden and chicken coop every time I visit.

4- Thank you for endowing me with your blue eyes, artistic talent and off-kilter sense of humor.

5-Thank you for teaching to love Jim Henson, The Three Stooges, Benny Hill, and The Beatles.

6-Thank you for teaching me to work hard, be respectful and pick my battles, and that a sense of humor is one the greatest coping tools a person can have.

Especially when we get rained out of Disney World.

7-Thank you for faithfully reading every blog post I’ve ever written, liking nearly every Facebook update, and believing in me even when I don’t.

8-Thank you for saying I’m still your little girl even though I’m well into my 20’s.

9-Thank you for making me laugh all the time and for getting my weird brand up humor. ‘Cause it’s just like yours.

10-Thank you for trying to teach me to drive a stick shift. Sorry it didn’t work 🙂

11-Thank you for striking the perfect balance between protecting me and letting me grow.

12-Thank you for going with us to Disney World and stuff like that, even though you’d rather be fishing.

13-Thank you for being my best friend. I know I’ve said that Mom and Sam are my best friends, but you’re my best friend too, because you’re my dad.

I love you Daddy!

23 Lessons in 23 Years

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At 11:30 tomorrow night, I will turn 23.  I’m pretty stoked about it and I have a fun day planned involving tigers, an art museum and sushi.

I thought I’d share with you 23 gems of wisdom I’ve gleaned from the last 23 years, lessons I’ve learned that have made an impact in my life.

Without further ado:

  1. Gratitude is key to happiness
  2. Stay connected to your creative spirit, and you’ll never feel uninspired
  3. Never ever neglect self-care
  4. Stand up for yourself. You deserve it.
  5. If it doesn’t taste good, add either more cheese or more chocolate.
  6. My body knows what I need. Listen to it.
  7. Depression is a sign that something needs to change.
  8. Trials lead to learning, which leads to meaning, which leads to joy.
  9. Know my priorities, and align my life with them.
  10. It’s ok to change my mind. Six times. In one hour.
  11. If I tell myself I can’t, I can’t. If I tell myself I can, I can.
  12. Know thy limits. Respect them.
  13. Happiness is a mindset, not a situation.
  14. Assume the best of everyone. Even if you’re wrong, you’ll feel good  about it.
  15. Seasons of life come and go. Enjoy them.
  16. Always ask “why?”
  17. Make time for fun.
  18. Food doesn’t solve problems, it only solves hunger.
  19. Don’t let one bad day become two.
  20. Make time for stillness, to make sense of everything and carry that feeling.
  21. Bar Keeper’s Friend is the best cleaner in the world.
  22. Know thyself.
  23. Life is beautiful.
What lessons could you add to this list? 

Thank you Mom

Happy Mother’s Day! Sadly, I won’t be able to see my Mommy today, but I just wanted to publicly thank my Mom for being so amazing and always taking such good care of me. I love to make lists, I thought I’d list some things I’d love to thank her for, then I’ll call her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and remind her to check the blog 🙂

Ready, set, go!

1-Thank you Mom, first of all for bringing 10 pound, 2 ounce me into the world. I know that wasn’t easy, but thanks a lot of doing it. Being born means a lot to me.

2-On a less ridiculous note, thank you for meticulously documenting every inch of my life in the form of scrapbooks and journals. I love reading them.

3-Thank you for always telling me I’m beautiful and amazing no matter what.

Even when I do this.

4-Thank you for teaching me to make the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure all my friends and neighbors thank you too.

5-Thanks for always listening to me and guiding me through life’s twists and turns. I couldn’t have made it this far without you!

6-Thank you for driving me all over kingdom come to music lessons, art classes and play practices.

7-Thanks for teaching me to eat healthy and exercise, but to also enjoy ice cream.

8-Thanks for sacrificing so much so you could be a stay-at-home mom for me. A lot of kids these days don’t have that, but I’m glad I did.

9-Thanks for trying to teach me to balance my checkbook and do my own tax returns. It’s not your fault that I hate doing them, but thanks for teaching me how.

10-Thank you for nineteen years of meals, laundry, a roof, and a whole teenage career of stealing your clothes and raiding your jewelry box. And thanks for still letting me.

11-For always telling me I can be whatever I want and for encouraging my creative dreams, “unrealistic” as they may be.

12-For always “getting me” when no one else seems to.

13-Most of all, thanks for always being my best friend. I love  you so much Mom!

Love, Kella

The Jewel in the Ashes

It’s finally Spring! The daffy-dills are up, fresh asparagus dominates the produce section and here in Utah, we’re almost to the end of the late-winter blizzards! (I say almost, we’re expecting one tomorrow, when I’m supposed to be moving. Sigh)

I feel a little silly writing what I want to share with you today, but I think I’ve discovered the secret to everything. To being happy, calm, to feeling closer to God and to recovering from stress and illness. Not that it’s a secret or anything, but I’ve never let it in before now. I can’t believe it’s so simple and so radical at the same time.

Before I rip the curtain off this one, here’s what brought me to this point:

All my life, I’ve felt robustly healthy, even when I was overweight or stressed. Lately, I can’t concentrate, my head hurts, I have no energy even though I get my eight hours. I can’t stop eating, my creative output is near zilch (and, uh, sorry about the whole not posting thing) and my depression and anxiety were getting out of control.

I don’t feel like myself.

I visited a doctor who’s an MD, but also a naturopathic doctor who synchronizes physical and emotional healing. After a bunch of lovely blood tests including a glucose test (by far the worst experience I’ve ever had in a doctor’s office, gynecologist included.) In addition to the emotional stuff I already knew about, it looks like I have a couple nutritional deficiencies, a dairy allergy (waaaaah!) and extremely low glucose levels. Apparently, I should have gone into a coma before that test was over, but because I didn’t, my body’s probably been struggling with this for a long time. Sam even called me in the middle of the test and asked if I was drugged.

The bottom line is, my glucose levels and other symptoms are signs of adrenal insufficiency, which means the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of the necessary hormones to cope with stress, which explains why I feel so…depleted.

While working with this awesome doctor and reflecting on the chronic stress that brought me to this point, I had an epiphany:

Gratitude

When we think of the things we’re thankful for, what are the first things to pop into our minds? Friends, family, freedom, food (wow, that’s a lot of f words), but do we ever think of being grateful for the seemingly bad things in our lives? Believe me, I’ve never been very good at this. I don’t do well with change or pressure and I tend to yell “Uncle” at the first sign of discomfort, but when I stop, who would I be without my trials? The most important lessons I’ve learned were the results of struggle. Life is difficult for a reason. I’ve never before mentioned religion in the blog, but as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (it’s a mouthful, I know) I believe we were put upon this earth to gain knowledge, experience and the wisdom that it brings, and honestly, how wise would we be if we were never tested? How can we know love, happiness, or progress if we’ve never experienced the opposite?

I had a hard time wrapping my brain around this, so I wrote them down in my journal. Be grateful for the unpleasant things.

I’m thankful for the people who were cruel to me, so I could learn to love them anyway.

I’m thankful for stress, because I can now learn to slow down.

I’m thankful for weight gain, because I’ve learned to love my body.

I’m thankful for my newly-realized food intolerances, because I can learn to keep food in its’ proper place.

I’m thankful for illness, because now I can learn to be healthy

I’m thankful for winter, because I can feel the difference of spring

I’m thankful for tight finances, because I can learn to love the simple things that cost nothing

I’m thankful for depression, because now I can learn to be happy.

I’m thankful that God didn’t remove these trials when I asked him to, so I could learn all these lessons, plus patience.

I’ts amazing how my perspective has changed just from learning this one truth. This really isn’t something someone can learn until they’re truly ready, and even though I grew up hearing about the importance of gratitude and learning that life is a test, or a school as my doctor puts it, I’ve never truly comprehended that until now, but it’s true. It really is true.

McKella