3 Tips for Increasing Productivity

Staying energized and productive during the winter months can sometimes feel like an upward battle. When daylight dwindles and temperatures drop, the desire to curl up and get cozy can be hard to resist.

As tempting as this urge to hibernate can be, I know that the happiness it will bring will only be temporary. And although periodically indulging in some relaxing moments is great for balance and self-care, I would hate if it got in the way of my productivity goals. So this November, I’ve put in a little extra effort and tried out some new systems — and the results have been really gratifying! Read More »

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Know Yourself: What’s Your Love Language?

“Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved in a primary human emotional need. For love, we will climb mountains, cross seas, traverse desert sands, and endure untold hardships. Without love, mountains become unclimbable, seas uncrossable, deserts unbearable, and hardship our lot in life.”
— Dr. Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages

tall-image_knowyourself_lovelanguagesTime and again, I return to the idea that our lives are defined by the meaningful relationships we cultivate. Call me a sap if you want to, but I believe it deeply. Both in times of despair and in moments of joy, I’ve always had one consistent underlying feeling: gratitude for the people I love, and for the people who love me.

Good, loving relationships require conscious work, and work can be hard. There are times you may not feel like making the effort — especially when your friend, partner or colleague doesn’t seem to be trying either. But when both parties become disengaged or resentful, whose job is it to put in the work then? Read More »

Book Review: The Power of Habit

“To modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it” — Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

I often talk about the importance of mindfulness: living in the now, savoring new experiences, pulling yourself out of autopilot in order to be present in the current moment. Some people go so far as to claim that practicing mindfulness is the best approach for a happier life. Yet, others claim what seems like the opposite: that autopilot can be our friend, and that habits can make our lives simpler and happier.

My philosophy is currently floating somewhere in the middle. I think both mindfulness and routines are necessary for the pursuit of happiness. We can use our mindfulness practice to become more aware of our personal habits, which can help us eliminate unnecessary decisions and leave us more energy for things that will make us happier.

ThePowerOfHabitNew York Times investigative journalist Charles Duhigg agrees (although his point of view definitely focuses a bit more on the habits side of things). In his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Duhigg unpacks how harnessing our habits can transform our lives, businesses, and communities for the better.

The transformation starts with understanding the mechanics of a habit. The “habit loop” structure is pretty simple: First, there is a cue, which triggers a routine, which is validated by a reward.Read More »

Cooking with Friends: Epic Sushi Night!

2016-04-29 21.19.19One of my favorite things to do is to get together and cook with friends. (If you haven’t already, check out my 5 reasons why getting together with friends over food is a great happiness-booster.)

I am absolutely thrilled to bring you the second installation of my Cooking with Friends series. In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know to have your own epic home-made sushi night with friends!

Sushi is one of my favorite things to eat (and make!). Not only is it delicious, but the omega-3 fatty acids in raw fish are good for your heart and your circulation, and rice is an excellent source of protein. Be careful, though — if you eat too much sushi you can easily carb overload! Everything in moderation.

Making your own sushi can be a lot of work by yourself, but with a group of friends, it’s really easy to split up the responsibilities. Everyone can bring a different ingredient, from the rice to the fish to the veggies.Read More »

Tip of the Week: Listen to Yourself

Stop-and-ListenThis week’s tip: Practice your internal listening skills.

I’m not sure if anyone ever really taught me how to be a good listener. I learned phonics and comprehension in school, sure. But interpersonal communication skills were something I had to learn through practice — and internal communication was something I hadn’t really ever thought about until recently!

Personally, I know I am nowhere near an expert listener. That said, I have figured out that it is possible to improve my listening skills by turning on a little bit of mindfulness and clueing into a few straightforward tips: Read More »

Tip of the Week: Remember Your Wings

FacebookQuote_WeatherTheWaves_031516This week’s tip: Stop dwelling on the wind and the waves. Start focusing on your wings.

Life got a little turbulent for me over the past couple of days. I came down with a little bug that had me flat on my back for most of yesterday. I felt exhausted. All I wanted to do was work on some writing or do something fun with Eric, but all I could manage to do was sleep, nap, and lie there.

I had considered staying home from work today, but I had a few meetings in the morning, so I figured I’d go in for my meetings, grab my computer, and then work from home in the afternoon. This morning I felt a little bit better, so heading to work didn’t actually seem so bad.

Life can be groundless, though. Read More »

Tip of the Week: Begin to Declutter Your Life

2016-04-18 10.31.44This week’s tip: Experience the joy of tidying up.

Everyone is talking about the life-changing magic of tidying up. I experienced it today. Have you heard about it?

It’s an internationally best-selling self-help book, written by Japanese decluttering and organization consultant, Marie Kondo. She calls her tidying process the “KonMari method”, and it’s pretty simple:

  • Tidy by category, not by place. Kondo suggests first tackling your clothes, then books, papers, Komono (miscellany), and finally, mementos. She suggests making subcategories if it is helpful.
  • Start by discarding. To decide what action to take for a particular item, ask yourself “Does this spark joy?” Trust your intuition. If the answer is yes, you can set the item aside to store. If the answer is no, it should be discarded or donated.
  • Next, decide where to store things. Kondo urges you to keep your storage strategies simple. Everything should have its own place, and similar items should be stored together. She also teaches a particular method for folding your clothes.
  • Start the next category, and repeat.

This minimalist idea of surrounding yourself with only possessions that bring you joy is not unique to Marie Kondo. Happiness Guru Gretchen Rubin often preaches that “outer order contributes to inner calm,” emphasizing that seemingly small things like an over-crowded closet can weigh us down more than we realize. Read More »

Tip of the Week: Spread Seven Smiles

PA160453_squareThis week’s tip: Give a random gift every day!

Yesterday was my 28th birthday. Birthdays are great, aren’t they? Leading up to my birthday this year, I started to anticipate the warm, happy feelings that my birthday tends to bring, and I got to wondering — why is that birthdays make us feel so good?

Is it the fact that we are a year older? Probably not. (Unless we’re under 21 — and then it’s still really exciting.)

Is it the fact that all of our acquaintances came out of the woodwork to wish us a happy birthday on Facebook? Alright, I’ll admit… that does make me feel kinda good.

Is it the fact that we receive lots of gifts? Ooh! Bingo! I like presents! 😉

In all seriousness, though — this is the perfect time of year for me to tell you from personal experience that receiving a gift can make you feel appreciated, grateful, and happy. But why do we only tend to give each other gifts on birthdays, anniversaries and special holidays? Why not spread appreciation, gratitude and happiness on a day when someone least expects it? Read More »

Tip of the Week: Stand at Your Desk

This week’s tip: Stand up!
StandingDesk

Have you heard that “sitting is the new smoking”? Sure, it seems a little extreme at first, but if you read up on the research, it’s true: too much sitting can correlate with major health risks. In an informative blog post, James A. Levine, MD, PhD (of the Mayo Clinic) outlines a variety of sound reasons why sitting too much is probably impacting your overall health. Too much sitting can cause:

  • Sluggish nervous systems, which can lead to fatigue
  • Weakened muscles, which can increase risk of back and joint pain
  • Stagnant fat-burning enzymes, which can lead to weight gain
  • Poor blood sugar and blood fat levels, which can increase heart risks

Fortunately, there is no nicotine involved in your sitting habit, so it’s pretty easy to quit! For many of us, our desk jobs are the major culprit for promoting our bad sitting habits. But there is a really easy solution: just stand up!Read More »