January Ran Off!

One of my leading principles in becoming happier is “less whining”. I want to learn how to “let go” of things and usually complaining tends to make things only bigger in our eyes.

But I am still going to have to be honest and tell you why I wasn’t super-successful with my January resolutions. It’s propably healthy for any reader intrested in their own happiness project to understand that sometimes life just won’t flow the way you planned it to, but you still don’t have to throw in the towel!

Number 1 habit to track: play with kids.

I don’t know why this seems so hard to me. I love talking to my kids (especially our five-year-old has an amazing imagination and vocabulary to go with that), I love reading to them, going out with them… It’s not that I don’t spend time with the kids, but this type of playing that I mean here (think The incredible years) just does not come naturally to me.

Winter in Helsinki. You never know what you gonna get.

The goal is to spend at least fifteen minutes (minumum requirement) playing with the kids without interruptions, but especially on weekdays it just feels like a stretch. This is somewhat of a dilemma, because not playing with our kids makes me feel bad, but playing with them just feels like another day at work on top of the one I just came home from.

I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone – but playing with horses or cars or fairies just feels weird! At least I realize what the situation is like and try to answer “yes” more enthusiastically when either of our kids suggest playing something. Junior of course is sort of easy: he is two years old, not as verbal as his sister, and loves to play with cars. To him the best thing is, when mummy (or daddy) is laying on the sofa so he can use the legs as highways for his cars!

The weeks I was in bed rest though were of course not successful at all and might be one of the reasons this has not become a habit yet. I only wonder how on earth does one make oneself more playful, when one is just… Not? All tips on this are more than welcome.

I will be following Gretchen Rubin’s month of ‘be serious about play’ for sure…

Number 2: SLEEP

I think I was a bit arrogant when it comes to sleeping, thinking I have already taken all the necessary steps towards better sleep. I go to bed early and sleep for 8 hours. Of course the kids wake us up on a regular basis, but that is not something I can control.

What I realized I wasn’t doing: putting my phone away early enough. Even though I use a filter and try to avoid reading bad news in the evenings – I’m a worrier so reading those news stresses me out even during the best of days – you can get badly stuck in a flow of Instagram photos just to mention an example.

As a conclusion, for February, I will switch my phone peering nights to some breathing exercises and a book. A book always has a natural place where you can stop reading and continue later, whereas a social media feed is endless.

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Switching my Instagram browsing for an intresting book.

Number 4: Exercise

Being out of commission three out of four weeks didn’t exactly do much for furthering my exercise efforts. I had quite a steady rythm where I went to the gym twice a week and to aerial yoga once or twice a week.

I would be quite happy with those numbers, if I wasn’t doing an office job sitting on my bum most of the days eight hours a day. Well then. I hired me a personal trainer for 10 meetings! I met her last Friday and she already had a lot of amazing tips and hints. And she only worked with me for 50 minutes. Ten times 50 minutes = a lot of knowledge. Perhaps I was a bit arrogant on this point aswell, thinking I already had all the answers and only lacked the execution. I think the work with my  new personal trainer will merit a post of its own. We will wait and see.

Meanwhile I want to give you a reading tip: Ellen from being-change.com has written a thought-provoking piece on exercising right. I agree that when looking for ways to make exercise a routine that is actually fun we should think about what exercising right means for each and everyone of us.

Number 6: Last but not least. Write. 

I think in the past I might have just been upset about the fact I had to stay in bed for days on end not being able to do anything. Well this year I decided to be grateful for the fact that for once I had time to write, and ponder, and research andandand! I have trouble napping even when I’m really sick. So I always do something – watch the Netflix or read a book… But this time I spent a majority of my hours in bed writing things. On the blog, in my journal and so on. What can I say except even bed rest has it’s perks!

All in all I think it’s the mindshift from not actively thinking about what actually makes you happy, to actively trying to figure out what habits are the ones you need to change, that has made the  biggest impact during January.

Weekly Tip: Have a “Power Song”

I have two passions in my life that I have carried with me since the beginning of times. Sometimes closer to heart, sometimes further, but nevertheless, they were there.

In addition to my (perhaps obvious) passion in writing, I love music. Like, can’t understand how someone can go without listening to any. Like, does not fit in my head how someone could not get a kick out of listening to it. And it doesn’t have to be the top100 songs of today. I have gone through all kinds of phases looking for the music to fit my soul at any given moment.

And when it comes to music, I like pretty much it all (except perhaps the Finnish national gem: metal, sorry folks). I have had a Snoop Dogg phase, I have had a Mozart phase, a Beatles, a Madonna, a techno, a jazz, an african rythms phase, a… Well, you get the point.

The only tv shows I really watch anymore are singing contests. E.g. watched every season of American Idol that ever aired in Finland (oh yes, I am a huge country fan too!) and that was a lot of years.

Because of my instantly switching taste in music, my power songs vary through the years aswell. But I always have a few. For example I have realized that when my head is full of things to remember, I tend to navigate towards up-beat popsongs (a genre I usually don’t care that much for). 

A power song is the song that instantly lifts your mood and makes you feel better (not necessarily up-beat songs always!). The song that you do not get tired of, even if you listen to it on repeat for a year.

My power songs of late are:

Paula Vesala – Älä droppaa mun tunnelmaa https://open.spotify.com/track/69swdPHM0bC1zPRrFhvEI5

Daughtry – Waiting for Superman – https://open.spotify.com/track/4AU7z13HYmPMetlWbq1mys

Enter Shikari – Gandhi Mate, Gandhi – https://open.spotify.com/track/45dDchfPSB5zfTtFf7yTJ5

Sofia Zida – Guerrera https://open.spotify.com/track/07hxHONV6ExTwpqqqIGnBJ

Want to share your own power songs? I’m always intrested in finding new artists!

Organizing the Apartment to Achieve Structure in My Head

At least that’s where I started from. I mean organizing our stuff. Donating, selling, throwing out. In the end we even sold two massive bookcases.

There you can see one of the bookcases that went. Child in picture was not for sale.

It started with me stumbling upon our then neighbor’s web page. She happens to be a professional organizer. She was just about to start hosting a minimalism game (more on the origin of the game can be found here), I think it was in October 2015. 

You look at that date way over a year ago and think: Why is she not done by now? Well…. We moved twice during last year and having two small kids really does complicate things somewhat! We bought an apartment that was just about to go through four months of plumbing reno. So we moved all our furniture and most of our belongings into storage and took shelter at my parents home (how lucky we didn’t have to pay extra rent!). 

A Toyota Verso is surprisingly large

I think I made somewhat of a rookie mistake and propably saved many such things that should’ve been sold / donated / trashed before the move. I mean we got rid of heaps and heaps of stuff! But obviously my konmari days just were not behind me. 

And that is how January resolution Number 5 became: Organize your living space. 

I had planned to tackle a few things: finish setting up our walk-in closet, get the “office” wallpapered and organized and with some luck, also stick some wallpaper on our bedroom wall.

I got to a good start with our walk-in closet. This one needed a trip to IKEA though (I know, I know –  but even Konmari doesn’t ban buying boxes and stuff, if you have finished cleaning out. And in case of clothes, we’re doing ok). But even here it’s still somewhat of a work in progress. 

It’s supposed to be the white boxes only. You can imagine it, right?
As I’ve told, January was a time of sickness in our household so that was pretty much where I ended up with my resolution. January is almost over so no massive changes will take place. 

But!! I’m only slightly sad (for missing my opportunity of a renovating weekend – I love to be home alone for that purpose!) that January wasn’t the month to tie the loose ends, because of my new found understanding of time:

Not everything has to be accomplished today. You will have your moment!

I always have next month to try and tackle this:

Office / junk yard

I have some approaches to suggest if you want to clean out your apartment:

Read Konmari for inspiration even if you can’t really follow her method to the point. She won’t know. Her way of giving thanks to each item given away has made me think, how much material and effort goes to making a simple t-shirt for example. When you are finished with tidying up, I encourage you to think hard if you really need to buy something new.

– Clean in alphabetical order (method I learned from my neighbour). So tackle for example books, magazines, sheets, pens, tools etc. This approach is usually doable even if you can only spare moments of time here and there.

– If you have decided (like me) that you really don’t want to hold on to a piece of furniture anymore, start making space. Two ways to do that: get rid of the stuff that is in that said piece of furniture, or start making space elsewhere (by getting rid of stuff! Not organizing ;))

– find additional tips on pinterest

– Try Gretchen Rubin’s one-minute-rule (amazing, really! Thanks again Gretchen!)

– Believe when the organizing guru’s say that you’re not doing yourself any favors by holding on to something, “because it cost me so much”

– Limit your options: 

If a food item does not fit in here something has to go

Phew! That was a long one. 

Any great organizational tips you would like me try? Just let me know in the comments!

January Resolutions: The Lowdown on Eating

What a strange month it has been. The happiness project has been very present in my thoughts for the past month, but like I hinted, things haven’t exactly been going according to my original plan. The original plan being our family pretty much stays healthy.

Still, I have learned a lot by just observing my thoughts. I am giving myself a pat on the back for realizing, that I am doing this happiness project really for life. Not only this month, not even only this year.

If you are like me and tend to be very impatient and by rule like to finish projects before having a rest, you may have the same epiphany. Others might wonder if I really  needed to start a happiness project to figure that one out! Your revelations will be of another kind, but I’m quite positive they will happen.

My number 3 resolution for January was: Eat better.

May I confess? It honestly shouldn’t be this hard! I know everything I’m supposed to do to eat better. I could propably lead a course on the subject for all the knowledge I’ve gathered through the years. I know which foods make me feel ill, and the ones that give me the boost. So why on earth do I steer towards the bag of candy or white bread or french fries when I know perfectly well, it is not going to be a solution to anything. I’ve struggled with my eating more than anything this month. Not being able to exercise only makes it worse. Unfortunately my body reacts to a flu in a very strange manner and seems to be telling me to eat garlic bread and ice cream, not fruit and veggies.

What are the things I include in eating better then? For one thing, no meat (one of my guidelines is “be kind”). No weird diets (I have been on and off diets since I was 13, and it hasn’t made me happy so far!). For the rest, just eat anything that makes me feel good. And sometimes break the rules.

When I was still breastfeeding Junior (it’s a fairly common practice in Finland) and he had pretty major allergy issues, I decided to follow an elimination diet to make him feel better. It is not something the docs suggested, but it seemed to work, so I didn’t really care. (Loosing sleep for 8 months will make even the most obedient personality go a little rebel!)

During that time my diet included nearly zero sugar, because wheat was the worse thing for Junior. And there is wheat in nearly everything that has sugar in it, so… When it came to carbohydrates I ate vegetables, berries, some fruit, rice and a moderate amount of barley and millet. At that time I was still eating meat, so I ate that in addition to eggs and some dairy products, like cheese. It was all about smoothie bowls, omelettes and some gluten-free vegan desserts, like this perfection. And boy was I feeling good!

So, why, oh why, did I go back to my bad old habits? I’ve tried answering that question myself during this month of realisation and have come up with this:

  1. Obviously I care more for the well-being of our baby (or others in general), because I was totally able to limit my eating when I was doing it for him. Time to start caring more about myself too (yup, check guidelines and you’ll find “Must love myself” there)
  2. I am still looking to food to have a quick fix. I turn to the crappy choices especially when I am sick, tired, stressed, in a bad mood… You name it.

Hopefully I will get better in loving me during my happiness project. That is what I’m aiming at anyway. But number two still needs some looking into. I need to find my other quick fixes that will not lead my steps to the refrigerator door.

I have joined before in some online courses that have honestly been very good in keeping me on track with my eating. But when they end, I have trouble focusing on healthy eating without the constant reminder to do so. I did just start another 10 weeks with  Kaisa Jaakkola, so let’s see where that takes me. The point is after all to keep tracking the January resolutions alongside the new ones, so there’s still hope!

If you’re intrested in checking out the online courses I’ve attended, here are some suggestions in Finland:

  1. Kaisa Jaakkolan hyvän olon hormonidieetti: http://www.optimalperformance.fi/hyvan-olon-hormonidieetti/
  2. Hanna-Kaisa Ranisen eroon makeanhimosta: http://www.hannakaisaraninen.com/eroon-makeanhimosta/?gclid=CIvNrJ6p29ECFRjgGQodJ-sHPQ
  3. Elisa Mattilan kuningattaren korsetti: http://www.kuningattarenkorsetti.fi/

They usually start regularly, so if you just missed the boat, another one will arrive later.

If you are interested in similar knowledge in English, at least Sarah Wilson preaches the same type of eating (no calorie counting, fresh food, no white sugar and so on). But she appears to be quite meat-oriented (judging by her book I read), so I’m not aware if she gives a vegetarian alternative on her courses. If you have suggestions for other books in English to read on this subject, please give a shout! If your sweet tooth is aching, I definetly recommend checking out vanelja.com and her cookbooks.

What are your “quick fixes” that do not include eating? Have you managed to quit your habit of stress eating and how did you do it?

(And in case anyone is wondering, I’m not getting paid for mentioning these providers ;))

The Makings of Happiness Project Guidelines

The Makings of Happiness Project Guidelines

More like guidelines for life, I hope!

In her book (and blog: Gretchen’s tips on writing commandments) Gretchen Rubin has listed her 12 commandments.

I like her idea very much and encourage you to check her post out too, if it so happens you stumble on my blog first.

I listed a lot of things in my bullet journal about why I want to do a happiness project anyway. What it is that I hope to become at the end of my project. What kind of person I want to be. For example I tried answering this list of questions to start off with: Get started by Gretchen Rubin.

The first thing I wanted to do was to change the headline.

Perhaps it has something to do with the very protestant work ethic in my country (I for one relate commandments with the bible and I wasn’t too happy about that) or just the translation of the word “commandment” in Finnish, I just thought it too harsh a word to be associated with my happiness project.

So I call mine “guidelines“. I find it to be an encouraging word, so that I can choose each day to follow my guidelines (or not, but propably yes, because I think they really represent me). I wouldn’t be surprised if over time these guidelines will change. Some will become obsolete. I will figure out new things. But for now, I’m happy with my list.

I found that figuring these guidelines out wasn’t at all an easy task to tackle. I think I got the idea a bit wrong initially. But as I kept thinking about what is the whole point of me embarking on this happiness journey, the guidelines started appearing.

Some are straight from Gretchen’s book, like “Let it go”. But there just wasn’t a better way to describe how I want to get over things faster. I am quite an elephant when it comes to forgiving and forgetting. And I have found that being stuck on feelings, past events, failures, negative thoughts in general does nothing for my well-being.

I won’t explain all my guidelines here, because I’m sure they will play a part in my blog posts throughout the year. But as “be kind” is surfacing in January, I’ll go a bit into detail about that one.

I (like many others) felt there was a lot of negativity going on in the world last year. I admit that sometimes I felt like I wanted to punch something. But as Martin Luther King, Jr put it:

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

So I’m determined to be kind; not only to the people around me, but to any service personnel, random people on buses, to people who annoy me, to nature, to animals…

Another important one that is going to fuel my whole project and that has been somewhat of an inspirational “quote” in my life for some time:

Be an Optimist Prime.

Weekly Tip: Gratitude Journal

Weekly Tip: Gratitude Journal

If you do nothing else. If you can’t do anything else. Do this: 

write a gratitude journal.

I have been doing it everyday now since the beginning of January. I have tried before, but like with everything I have done in the past, took it too far. Tried to write a page full of things. In pretty handwriting. BIG things. It doesn’t work like that (well, not for me anyway.)

In my bullet journal I have a really teeny tiny slot to write down three things everyday I was grateful about. And for the first time yesterday it really paid off! 

It had been quite an exhausting week (and weekend), mainly because I was still not completely recovered from my flu and suddenly my hubby got a gout attack in his foot. If you are familiar with gout, you’ll know the  infection will make a person completely immobile until it’s cured. I missed some nice appointments I had made with friends and so on. 

In the past the clear signs of a sinus infection that appeared last night would’ve been the last straw.

Instead I did this:

I took out my bullet journal and wrote my three lines (and I will make an exception sharing these with you now):

– My sister-in-law took our daughter to a friend’s birthday party (so I saved a trip on the subway and bus with two kids). 

– My goddaughter (in lack of a better word) came over to play and the girls played so sweetly together it was a joy to watch

– Hubby’s foot is possibly on the mend (as he can actually sit for some time and bear SOME weight on the foot). 

And as I was writing my list I was filled with joy from the past day’s events and actually had a good and worry free night of sleep.

Concentrate on the good, do not dwell on the bad. 

One of my guidelines for the year will be the same as Gretchen Rubin’s: “Let it go”. Applies perfectly here too.