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Learning to be Happy: Part 2

Continued from Learning to be Happy: Part 1

Yesterday, I finished The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Seriously, this is a life-changing book and everyone should read it. In the end of the book, Gretchen invites the reader to create their own happiness project. Visit her happiness project website and toolbox.

I love projects, and I want to learn to be happier, so of course, I skipped out of the library and got to work in my notebook.

The first step of my happiness project was to set my “Happiness Commandments” as Gretchen calls them. These are like little mantras, meant to remind you of the things you want to change. I borrowed a few of hers, but eventually I came up with ten little reminders to help keep me on track.

1-God First- My religion is important to me, so I want to recognize God’s hand in my own life. As, I need to get better about reading my scriptures. And not zoning out in church.

2-Think about the long run- Will this matter in a month? A year? A decade? Will I be glad I didn’t do this? Hopefully, this will help with exercise and eating choices, conflicts with other people, and maybe even bigger decisions.

3- Act the way I want to feel- (I borrowed this one from Gretchen) Whoever said “Fake it until you make it” knew what they were talking about. Smile. Dress well. Exercise anyway. Do my hair.

4-Be here now- 90% of the time, my mind is either off in the future (i.e., worrying) or lingering on the past. Notice the clouds more. Have a tea party with my 3-year-old cousin. See the colors in the flower beds. Don’t want to be anywhere else.

5- Say yes- Some people have a hard time saying no. Not me, I’m more of the party-pooper persuasion. Instead, I’ll go to that party. Try something new. Help with that service project.

6-Do it now- Again, I’m a terrible procrastinator, even with things I like to do because I “save them for later”. Instead: Write down that transaction. Wipe up that drip. Call her. Pay that bill. Start that story.

7- Don’t be a loner- Studies show that social interaction is crucial to happiness, even in introverts like yours truly.  So instead of hiding in the corner with my nose in a book, I’ll talk to people. Call a friend to go to lunch. Email someone I haven’t talked to in awhile. Accept when someone invites me to a movie I didn’t really want to see.

8- There is only love- Instead of doing things begrudgingly, out of obligation or because I’m paid to, I’ll do it because I care. Go above and beyond my nanny duties and be a big sister. Do something special for Sam.

9- Consistency is everything- A little every day adds up to a lot.

10- Connect with something real Limit web-surfing. Talk to someone face-to-face. Play with the dogs more. Exercise outside. Smell flowers. Play Barbies with Sophie.

What are your happiness commandments?


The Handprint List

The bucket list. 101 things to do before I die. The Barefoot List. I’ve heard it called different things, but it’s essentially the same and everyone has one whether they’ve written it down or not. They give us something to strive for and look forward to.

I call it my Handprint List, because it’s who I am, who I hope to become, and the mark I want to leave on the world, and it inspired this blog. I doubt I’ll actually accomplish all these things, but it’s a list of things I can do. It reminds me to aim high and keep an open mind. I add and remove things all the time, and I think everyone should have one of these. So here’s mine, and I hope it will inspire you to create your own. (The bold items are the ones I’ve done)

McKella’s Handprint List


  1. Work, teach, or volunteer in a foreign country
  2. India
  3. Japan
  4. Thailand
  5. 5. China
  6. Indonesia
  7. Do a family history tour through England, Ireland, and Denmark
  8. Italy
  9. The Vatican

10.  Germany

11.  Spain

12.  Greece

13.  Turkey

14.  France

15.  Scotland

16.  Eastern Europe (Romania, Ukraine, Etc.)

17.  Visit the Galapagos Islands to see wildlife up close.

18.  Egypt

19.  Hike to Macchu Picchu

20.  Visit Mayan ruins

21.  Australia

United States

22.  Road trip across America (On a bike if I want to get really brave)

23.  New England during the fall

24.  Visit Roden Crater

25.  Visit the Sacred Grove

26. New York

27.  Ferry on the Mississippi River

28.  Salem

29.  Washinton DC, to learn about our county’s history.

30.  Visit Native American pueblos

31.  Visit the Muppet stuff in the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia.


  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
  2. Speak Spanish fluently.
  3. Learn to belly dance
  4. Learn to surf
  5. Improve my piano playing
  6. Learn to play chess
  7. Improve my singing
  8. Juggling
  9. Sewing (enough to actually alter and design my own clothes)

10.  Photography

11.  Guitar

12.  Ice skating

13.  Bookmaking

14. Study abroad

15.  Learn to survive in the wilderness and test my skills

16.  Learn a martial art

17.  Learn to place Linus and Lucy in full

18.  Origami

19.  Bread making

20.  Learn to use a pottery wheel

21.  Make my own ravioli

22.  Meditation

23.  Study psychology

24.  Learn to not throw like a girl

25. Skip rocks


26.  Publish novels…I don’t know how many.

27.  Publish at least one non-fiction book

28.  Become financially independent and debt-free while doing something I love

29.  Write and publish a children’s book

30.  Create a whole body of art work and have a gallery show, even a private one.


31.  Sell a piece of art

32.  Change a tire all by myself

33.  Be vegan for a year

34.  Try African dance

35.  High-raw vegan for a month

36.  Name a star

37.  See the Spiral Jetty

38.  See Halley’s Comet

39.  Shower in a waterfall or in the rain

40.  Spend the night on a beach

41.  Scuba dive in a coral reef

42.  See the northern lights

43.  Touch a whale

44.  Watch a caterpillar emerge from it’s chrysalis

45.  Do 50 push-ups in a row

46.  Go an entire day without speaking

47.  Pet a tiger

48.  Archery

49.  Learn to live simply

50.  Skinny dip

51. Make a two-headed snowman, Calvin and Hobbes style

52.  Swim with dolphins

53.  Volunteer in an animal shelter

54.  Volunteer to help abused women and children

55.  Reduce my carbon footprint

56.  Throw a surprise party for someone

57.  Create a new holiday just for my family

58.  Plant a tree

59. Dance in a foreign country

60.  Ride a camel

61.  Get a golden retriever

62.  Try bikram yoga

63.  Reach my natural ideal weight through intuitive eating and enjoyable movement.

64.  Eat at a raw vegan restaurant, just to try.

65.  See Tears for Fears live.

66.  Run a half-marathon

67.  Run a race for charity

68.  Master the scorpion pose

69.  Ride a horse sidesaddle

70.  Try showjumping.

71.  Do a headstand

72.  Go rock climbing

73.  Ride in a hot air balloon

74.  Live without a car for a year

75.  Win first place in something

76.  Live by the ocean

77.  Go sailing

78.  Celebrate a non-materialist Christmas

79.  See a whale in the wild

80.  Grow my own food

81.  Do the splits

82.  Sing in a rock band

83.  Live a full-blown yogini lifestyle for six months. Asanas, cleansing practices, etc.

84.  Try fencing

85.  Get a pet pig

86.  Watch a meteor shower

87.  Own a home

88.  Trek through a jungle

89.  Write, play and sing a song


90. Get married in the Temple

91.  Become a mother

92.  Homeschool my kids through elementary

93.  At least try natural childbirth…this is a big maybe, I don’t know, I don’t know.

94.  Research my geneology

95.  Do temple work for my family members


96.  Conquer my depression and anxiety

97.  Learn to truly manage stress

98.  Conquer fear (driving, being away from my family, offending people, etc.)

99.  Learn to be happy no matter what my circumstances

100. Age gracefully. None of this wrinkle fighting or hair-dyeing stuff.

101. Finally, make an amazing scrapbook of all this

I plan on making a separate tab to post photos of these things as I accomplish them, a sort of visual “checklist.”

If you have a blog, consider yourself tagged! Post your own handprint list and send me a link. I’d love to see it! If you don’t have a blog, squeeze whatever you can into the comments.


What Intuitive Eating did for me.

A school counselor recommended the Intuitive Eating book to me in October 2008 after I’d appeared in her office, yet again struggling with restrictive eating and self-hatred that tainted everything I did.

So I bought the book and read it. I read it again like I was reading the final Harry Potter book, and my mind opened to the novel idea that I could actually rely on my body to tell me what it needs.  I was intrigued, but at first I treated it like every other diet book, with the same obsessive hope “This is the one. This one will set me free.” So I threw myself a little donut and cheesecake party, followed by a Reese’s and Lucky Charms party that lasted a few months and I got frustrated that things weren’t happening just as the book said they would. Wasn’t my initial experimentation with forbidden food supposed to taper off, then shrink to a minimum while I intuitively chose to eat salad and oatmeal? After about a year and a half, I realized Intuitive eating is not a linear process. I know the book mentioned that somewhere, but my brain just said “yeah yeah, whatever, now get to the part where I don’t diet anymore and I still lose weight.”

I’ve “started over” a bunch of times, because took me awhile to let go of the dieting mindset and make peace with food, and I still struggle, but finally I learned that IE is more to me than learning how to eat again. It created a spiderweb affect in my mind, connecting to a hundred  other things I needed to deal with that I had no idea were there, such as my issues with fear and anxiety, my deep-seated self-esteem issues, my resistance to change and my inability to let go.

IE was the first domino that set me on my journey of putting myself back together and building myself up, thinking for myself and learning who I really am. It was the first step in learning to love myself and my body the way I am. I haven’t gotten any smaller since starting IE, and I never weigh myself, but weight doesn’t matter that much to me anymore.  IE was the beginning of my new life, because I learned that I can trust myself and that change is in my own hands.

Have you ever had a turning point like this in your life? I’d love to hear about it.