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The Enchanted Outlook

Enchantment in Light and Darkness

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I have been studying the concept of magic and its connection to the concept of happiness for about four years now.  It has been an incredible journey so far and has lead me down all sorts of paths I never thought I would travel. I would like to revisit one aspect of the subject today and clarify an opinion that has… not so much changed, but has lately been easier to put into words.

I have defined enchantment in relation to how the term is used in fantasy literature. In fantasy, an enchantment is a type of magic that alters the perception of the individual, rather than altering the world around them. When a person is enchanted, they see things differently. In this way, The Enchanted Outlook is a term I made up for the concept of learning how to alter our perspectives to see things in a more imaginative and positive way. In other words, it’s about cognitive re-framing.

However, because  I have spent my career working in settings where I see social injustice on a daily basis, one concept that I have personally grappled with is where cognitive re-framing fits in with inequality and injustice. Certainly, to suggest that any person suffering from an external cause would have their problems disappear by simply shifting their perspective is irresponsible and blames the wrong source. Trust me: I’ve been given this advice myself during times of grief and loss and it wasn’t comforting. Changing how we view the world does not make the world change, and it does not make the monsters go away.

I turn, instead, to one of my favorite passages, from G. K. Chesterson about the power of fairy tales for children:

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

You may have seen this condensed as the quote, “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

I don’t present the concept of an Enchanted Outlook because I don’t know the world can be ugly or because I want to blame those who suffer at its expense. Rather, I present this concept because I DO know that it can be an ugly place. I hope that the Enchanted Outlook serves as inspiration to defeat whatever monsters may be out there through offering hope.

And so, with this blog, I offer a shift in perspective that I hope will provide courage to face the world with a renewed spirit, regardless of your circumstances or your beliefs. For, whether you are trying to make small changes in your life, or you are going through a terrible darkness that feels completely out of your control, we all need a spark of hope and happiness in order to fight our own dragons.

 

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You Gotta Live

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I was recently helping a six-year-old read a book. The book was entitled Alive or Not Alive and went through an array of people, animals, and objects, categorizing them as either “Alive” or “Not Alive.” I.E. “The man is alive. The hat is not alive.”

The boy I was working with took one look at the book cover and closed his eyes thoughtfully. “Oh man,” he said. “You gotta live! I mean, you really gotta LIVE!”

I tried my hardest to keep from laughing as we worked through the remainder of the lesson. Later, I shared this humorous moment with a few friends and coworkers.

Slowly, though, what started as a funny moment in my day became a new mantra.

Friend was worried about taking time off? “You gotta live!”

Husband worried about splurging on something he’s been wanting for a long time? “You gotta live!”

I’m worried about spending my Saturday relaxing instead of tackling my to-do list? “Stacey, you gotta live!”

It’s too easy to get caught up in the the day-to-day drama, the stress, the never-ending list of things that could be done. But- living with intention means we have to be deliberate about stepping out of the rat-race every single day, even if just for a moment. It’s an exercise that takes practice. It means learning to swim against the current. It means prioritizing our dreams.

Life is short. It’s even shorter when we forget to live it.

She Woke Up

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Hello Again!

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Greetings blog world! I’ve missed you! It’s been a while, so I thought I’d update you on a few of the things I’ve been up to while I’ve been, ahem… not blogging.

  • I’ve been getting to know my new city and taking in all the sights.
  • I’ve finished four grad school applications, with a fifth one in-progress. I should hear back in March-April, so fingers crossed!
  • I’m halfway through my year of service with a local literacy nonprofit, and am helping nearly fifty students in an under-served school meet their literacy needs.
  • I’ve lost seven pounds! I wish I could give you some tips and tricks, but it’s been mostly burning calories shuttling children around at work. Bad cold (or flu?) and stomach bug also contributed, unfortunately.
  • I’ve been on a book binge! Books on tape driving to and from work, reading books all day to kids, and a small book club with my high school friends. (New favorites blog post coming soon!)
  • I’ve been learning a little Korean. Or, at least how to read it. Work in progress on that one.
  • I’ve been on a minimalism/zero waste/plant-based food kick. These are all works in progress too, but I’ve really been enjoying watching Youtube videos and making small changes. I bought almost an entire new work wardrobe second-hand from Clothes Mentor and Thred-up and saved a ton of money in the process.

Now, confession time, I HATE life transitions. I mean, absolutely hate them. Big life changes make me terribly nervous and I have a tendency to want to avoid them. This year, though, changes were thrust upon me, and I just accepted that I was going to be anxious about them. Accepting that aspect of myself somehow made things a lot easier because I was kind to myself throughout the process rather than trying to be hard on myself. I practiced self-care and self-acceptance rather than trying to perfect the process. I also treated the whole thing as an adventure and decided to be grateful for new opportunities, because every life experience is temporary anyway. I’m still in a very transitional place in my life right now, but I’m learning to enjoy that more and to live in the moment.

So, now that grad school apps are almost done and I’m past the half-way mark with my year of service, I’m hoping to be blogging more often. I’ve got a few new ideas, but also let me know if there is anything you would like to hear from me!

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25 Science-Backed Ways to Feel Happier

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Check out this list of scientifically proven ways to feel happier. I’ve mentioned a few of these before, but some of them were new to me!

Check it out here!

5 Tips to Start the Work Day Right: Work Charms Series

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Today’s Work Charm is all about starting the day off on the right foot. I’ve added a few tips that I find helpful to make sure my workday is a success.

1. Practice acceptance. In any workday, there will be things that are out of our control. We can accept this and focus on what is within our power to change. There is no point in getting upset over things outside of our control. A little self-love goes a long way.

2. Make a list. Focus on the things that are the most important and the most urgent first. Check out this quadrant from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People if you haven’t already. It will keep you from getting stuck in the rut of email-checking for hours on end.

3. Eat your frogs first. This means do that difficult task that you know you will be dreading all day first so that the rest of your day you won’t be stressing over it. For more information, check out this post.

4. Consider flow. Flow is a state when we are “in the zone” that has been shown to increase our happiness. In order to achieve flow, your task needs to be engaging, challenging but not TOO challenging, and have clearly defined goals.

5. Find your challenge. In the book, SuperbetterJane McGonagal talks about viewing obstacles as a challenge, rather than a threat. Threats trigger your cortisol, making you feel stressed and leading to myriad health problems. Challenges, in contrast, trigger the reward center of your brain, releasing dopamine, which is correlated with happiness. So, the next time you have a difficult task ahead of you, try to view it as a challenge, rather than as a threat.

How to you make sure you start your work day off right?

Self-Care Charms

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A friend sent me a link to some simple life-hacks (or, as I call them, “life charms”) about self-care. I thought they would be perfect to share now because not only are they brilliant, but most of them go with both the Wellness Spells Series and the Work Charms Series.

Check them out here!

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