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The Enchanted Outlook

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positive psychology

Investing in Helpful Thoughts (Investment Charms Series)

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Last week, I talked about investing in decisions that will lead to less stress and better outcomes in the future. This week, I would like to talk about a different kind of investment: our thoughts.

Thoughts may be a bit more difficult to change than decisions. While we can see the external result of the decisions we make, we may not be as aware of our thought processes. Still, I think there is a lot of value in taking the time to invest in our way of thinking. So often, we work to exercise our bodies, but we neglect to exercise our minds.

What I have done in the past and have found to be helpful is to start with one thought process to work on first. Maybe you would like to change a certain language usage or pay closer attention to the way you treat yourself internally.  It helps to take some time to first be mindful and present with your current thought process. That way, you know where your starting point is and what you would like to change. Consider journaling, meditating, or talking things over with a friend to get started. Pay attention to the way you talk to yourself or to what you think about when you try to make plans or set goals.

Consider also having an external reminder of the change you would like to make, whether that be a written goal, a quote that speaks to your desired change, or even something symbolic, like a piece of art or jewelry. Strange as it may seem, I have used rings before to represent certain goals because I tend to look at my hands frequently as I type or write. I have one ring that I use to represent mindfulness and another that I use to represent self-care. Regardless, it helps for it be be something you notice regularly. Consider setting a reminder on your phone if you would like, or choosing a particular time of day with which to reflect on your goal.

The idea behind this is that changing our way of thinking takes practice and repetition, but it can have huge benefits in the long-run. With some time and effort, you may find yourself feeling better, having a more positive outlook, or finding it easier to meet your goals. Finally, if you are struggling to identify your thought patterns or make the changes you would like to make, consider seeing a licensed counselor, who can help identify any thought patterns that may be maladaptive and offer alternatives.

Is there something you have invested in that you found to be particularly helpful? If so, feel free to share!

Investing in Decisions (Investment Charm Series)

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Welcome to my new series on investment! In this series, I want to expand the meaning of the term investment beyond just finances and look into the power of making life choices that encourage growth. Looking at my life choices in the framework of this word for the past year-and-a-half has really changed my perspective and helped me to grow as a person.

I have lately been suffering from some major decision fatigue. I think it has been a combination of a lot of life changes in a short time and a job that requires minute-by-minute decision changes. One thing I have learned from working in the mental health field is that when we are very stressed, we tend to make the choices that seem the easiest in the moment. Our brains struggle to put in the extra effort and energy to find the best overall long-term solution. And it can feel like a relief to have made the decision, even if that decision is an unhealthy or maladaptive one.

So, one thing I have been doing lately is investing a little more time on the upfront on many of my decisions in order to consider what will be easiest and/or best for me long-term. For instance, I put in some extra research when considering buying new make-up because I couldn’t find a make-up company that really worked for me and that I was passionate about. I have now found Elate Cosmetics* and am super excited to be building an eco-friendly capsule make-up collection that I hope to use as my go-to for years to come.

I’ve also invested in many reusable products lately. While the cost is sometimes bigger upfront, it has saved me time and money to only purchase a product once, rather than purchasing the same things repeatedly. This gives me more mental energy to prioritize my other life purchases.

Another example would be going back to school. This was a big choice, and one that I had been considering, but putting off, for years. In part, my hesitancy was due to the expense and not wanting to have debt. Last June, I buckled down and really did my research. Little did I know that, for the program I had interest in, the city where I lived had the cheapest in the country and was also well-ranked nationally.

Obviously, if we took this kind of consideration with every single decision our lives, our brains would be exhausted. But maybe pick an area to start. I started with purchasing products because I was exploring using less waste, but you may wish to start with relationships or big life decisions. Ask yourself:

1. Does this decision align with my values? Will I feel good about the decision in the long-term? Does it make me happy to make this decision? Does it feel right? Is it healthy?

2. Does this decision help to curb future decision-making? Is it a re-usable or long-lasting choice? Does it have an aspect of versatility to it? Will I continue to love this decision long-term? Am I only making the decision “for now” only to confront it later or is it a choice that is “settled” and clears my mind to focus on other things?

3. Is this decision an investment? Did I make the choice that will help me to grow as a person? Will it make my life easier long-term? Will this decision bring more wealth into my life, whether that be a wealth of good relationships, morals, materials, or happiness? Will this decision blossom?

You might find other questions to be helpful in your life as well, but these three were a good place for me to start. I would also add to not be afraid to think outside the box. You may find the decision that best fits you and your life is an unconventional one- I certainly have from time to time. So, I wish you a happy decision-making process, and may your choices bring you joy and help you to thrive!

*This post was not sponsored by Elate Cosmetics; I’m just excited to share a new product I am passionate about!

My current buzzword is investment. Is there a word or phrase that you like to use that has brought a bit of “charm” into your life? If so, I would love to hear it!

Why I Ditched my Travel Bucket List

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When I was younger, I had a dream of visiting all seven continents. Ambitious? Maybe. But truth be told, I was very fortunate to be off to a good start. I had already visited Africa and Europe and I live in North America. Since my husband is Korean American, there was a good chance that we would visit Asia at some point in our lifetimes as well. I’d had a good friend who had already accomplished this goal of visiting every continent in her early twenties, which made it seem even more achievable.

Despite the fact that I was farther along with this goal than many people my age, I realized it wasn’t making me happy. The reason was that I was focusing on this one big goal rather than traveling with intention. I have talked about before the impact that daily intentional activities have on our happiness. Trips that didn’t help me reach that goal felt insignificant, rather than the gifts that they were. Furthermore, I worried how disappointed I would feel if I never met my goal, rather than feeling gratitude that I had the ability to travel, a privilege denied to many.

As I have grown older, I have focused less on big life goals and more on living with daily intention. While going through this change, I came across this quote:

Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.

This quote is often falsely attributed to the Dalai Lama and I can’t find its originator, but nevertheless, it stuck with me. To me, this became a much more proactive, intentional way to vacation than focusing on one big bucket list. Moreover, it depended much less on how much time I had because the trip could be the next town over or a cross-country road trip. It depended less on how much money I had, because I could camp out in a tent or splurge on a five-star hotel. It also depended less on personal limitations, like who would watch my dog or if I had a physical condition later in life that limited travel.

The main reason I like this philosophy of travel better, though, is that I had four continents left, but *hopefully* I could have 60+ years. That is potentially 56 more opportunities to get excited, to plan, to daydream about my upcoming trips, than if I was focusing on reaching the remaining continents. It means every year I will go somewhere new! I think that’s pretty exciting! And hey, maybe I will still get to visit every continent, but if I do, my mindset for going will be, in my opinion, more healthy.

I even keep this philosophy in mind on a weekly or even daily basis. Since I have recently moved to a new city, I have ample opportunity to explore new places regularly, whether it be a new grocery store or a park down the road. When given the choice, nine times out of ten I will choose a novel choice over a familiar one because novelty has been shown to be correlated with happiness.

The first year I started this new plan was the year of our honeymoon; we went on a cruise, so I got to visit three new places: Haiti, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman. Last year, we didn’t go on any big trips (though we attended two out-of-town weddings at locations we had been before), but we did go to Cherokee Casino, and I had never been to Cherokee, NC before. And this year we are going to… Raleigh, NC!

I’ve stopped in a mall in Raleigh, once, and spent some time in Durham, but I haven’t spent time in Raleigh Proper, so I’m pretty excited. Pictures and details to come!

Have you ever had a time when you re-evaluated a life goal because it wasn’t making you happy?

Seven Reasons I Only Buy One Product a Week (Little Life Charms Series)

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It’s time for more Little Life Charms! After taking a bit of a hiatus, I recently went back to my method of purchasing only one item a week. This includes everything from soap to car parts to clothing and makeup, but not food or medication (I see those two as absolute needs and don’t find value in restricting them, personally.) It also does not include gifts. While I am glad that I took time to try other means of budgeting and loosening the reins a bit, re-starting this method really reminded me how much I love- and truly enjoy, only purchasing one item a week.

  1. It saves me money.  I had no idea how many small, thoughtless items I purchased on a regular basis before changing to this method. If you haven’t ever counted or made a list of your day-to-day purchases, I’d encourage you to do so at least once. It’s enlightening! I generally find that, barring some kind of last-minute unexpected emergency, purchasing one item a week still gives me all my needs and then some. In purchasing only one item a week, I can put additional income from items I would have purchased, but didn’t need, into savings. It also allows me to invest more in experiences, which research has shown leads to greater happiness.
  2. I enjoy what I purchase to the same extent. Happiness research shows that part of the reason we enjoy making purchases is because we get a burst of dopamine when we make a purchase. I don’t like buying a bunch of things at once because I have realized that I have the same “zing” in my brain whether I purchase one thing or one hundred. Better to space them out, I feel. I also feel more gratitude towards being able to purchase some of my needs, and have realized that some things I had considered “needs” are actually “wants.”
  3. It keeps my space tidier. Not only do I bring less items into my life, but I am more likely to use up things that I already have. I recently was running low on foundation. I decided to use up one I wasn’t too keen on, but that worked just fine, before purchasing the new one.
  4. It helps me to be more eco-friendly. Purchasing one item a week allows me to really prioritize what I need and not buy things in excess. If I only want a new tshirt but I need a new shampoo, I will only purchase the shampoo that week and save the tshirt for later. And you know what- I find that I really look forward to using the shampoo in a way that I maybe wouldn’t have before. It also helps me to think about how long the product I am purchasing will really last, and I find that I lean more towards reusable products and towards quality products that will last a long time.
  5. It is easier to make better, more ethical purchases. Because I purchase less, I tend to think through every purchase more. I will think about where the pants I purchased were made, or if it might be better to try to find them secondhand. Slowing down my purchases allows me to really think about quality and to use that mental energy I might have been focusing on multiple items I wanted to buy and hone it towards that one item.
  6. It saves me time. Despite spending a little more time considering each item up-front, I still don’t spend as much time shopping as I used to. I turn that part of my brain off after deciding what my purchase will be for the week and I focus on other things. And again, an emphasis on re-usable, more durable, or bulk products means that I have less decision fatigue.
  7. It allows me to be creative. I was recently going to purchase some re-usable cleaning cloths, but then I realized that I could make some instead out of some used fabric. I’ve also made my own cleaning products and found new uses for old pieces of furniture. In short, I find a lot more joy and gratitude in what I already have, rather than focusing on what I don’t have.

What about you? Do you have little spending “charms” or rules that help you to feel happier or to better meet your goals? Or, do you find those types of things restrictive? Are you a hard-liner when it comes to the rules, or do you allow yourself a little wiggle room?

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.

 

Featured post

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?

5 Commuting Tips: Work Charms Series

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I have recently embarked on my first real “city rush hour” commute, and oh boy, I haven’t been missing out on anything. The experience, however, has given me some opportunities to reflect on how I can make my commute more Enchanted, so I thought I would bring it up as part of the Work Charms series. I’m by no means a commuting expert, but I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way. Feel free to share your own tips with me as well; I could certainly use them!

1. Be mindful. Of course, we should be mindful of other commuters, but what I actually mean by this is to consider our commute as part of our day, rather than just a transition time between here and there. Our time is valuable and I find that I am much more content if I am appreciating what I am doing in and of itself, rather than just treating it as something that will bring me to the next thing on my to-do list.

2. Explore the senses. Keep your eyes on the road, of course, but being considerate of your senses can be a nice thing. I recently cleaned my car out and got some new air freshener, which smells nice. I also have some new music. I like to bring tea or coffee with me. If you commute by bus, walking, or bike, you may not have as much control over your environment but maybe you can take the time to look around you and explore something you hadn’t noticed before.

3. Invest in yourself. I am currently listening to some sociology and psychology books I had on Audible that I never had a chance to listen to before. After that, I plan to listen to a Korean language series. Consider how much time you have on your commute. Now, imagine that you have that much time every day to take a class or to learn something new. What would you invest in for that amount of time?

4. Practice compassion. It’s easy to find ourselves angry when people cut us off or drive recklessly. There is a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh I like to remember when I’m not feeling compassionate, which is: “When a person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over.” This reminds me that another person’s careless behavior says more about their own emotional state than it does about me personally. So, I can empathize with their sense of stress or urgency and let my own anger go.

5. What happens on the commute stays on the commute. By that I mean, don’t let a bad commute ruin your whole day. You can treat the time that you arrive at your workplace as a new day and a fresh chance to start over. Take a moment after you arrive at your destination to take some deep breaths, have a little tea or coffee, and start your day anew when you enter your workplace.

Do you have any tips for how to make a commute more pleasant?

5 Morning Routine Tips: Work Charms Series

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Hello all. If I’ve been a bit quiet as of late, it’s because I just completed an intensive training for a new job. I’m currently working for a children’s literacy nonprofit, which as you might imagine is a dream come true for me.

All this time navigating a new work environment has had me thinking a lot about how I can apply an Enchanted Outlook to the workplace. Now, I’m not a workplace guru by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d like to share a thing or two I’ve been thinking about in a new series called Work Charms. And no, this is not about impressing your coworkers with your charming charisma, but rather little tweaks or “charms” we can make in our day to make for a happier work life.

So, let’s start with morning. Here are a few things I have been working on doing before I even step foot in the car.

1. Don’t press snooze. I have, historically, been the worst about this, even after a full night’s sleep. I am not the kind of person to want to hop out of bed. In fact, I tend to hit the snooze button until the last possible minute. Science does say, though, that hitting snooze isn’t great for us. Lately, I have decided that if I’m not jumping up to start my day, I can at least be upright. I will grab a blanket and the mug of water on my bedside table and sit on my yoga mat for five to ten minutes, until I have woken up more. (A chair works too; I just don’t have room for one in my bedroom.) This quiet time allows me to transition from sleep to wakefulness without being too grumpy.

2. Practice gratitude. This time I am slowly waking up is a good time to practice gratitude. Truth be told, I had some genetic testing done last year for a potentially life-threatening condition and was fortunate that the results were negative. Ever since that time, I have practiced gratitude for every day that I am alive. I have realized that every day is not something that is owed to me, but rather a gift I can be grateful to have. Along those lines, I reflect on how to make the most out of my day.

3. Capsule wardrobe. I know, they’re everywhere lately. Mine isn’t a true “capsule” with strict rules, but rather I try to stick primarily to neutral solids (black, brown, camel, navy, cream) for the majority of my clothes, and add a pop of pattern or color here and there. I set out my clothes the night before, but if I ever forget, it’s not too hard to pull something together quickly.

4. Rule of 3. I usually don’t do more than three makeup items (like foundation, eye liner, mascara) and usually don’t do more than three accessories (like glasses, belt, necklace). That’s just a personal preference, but I like to keep it simple.

5. Simple nutrition. I’m passionate about wellness, but lazy about breakfast. Since I know that about myself, I did some research into the healthiest breakfast bars. My favorite are Lara Bars, but I also like Kind bars and Kashi bars. It’s probably healthier and cheaper to make overnight oats or have a banana with peanut butter or something, but “Morning Stacey” seems to just want to grab a breakfast bar and go. So, I at least try to make sure it’s a somewhat healthy one.

There you have it. If it isn’t obvious, I’m NOT a morning person. Kudos to those who go about their mornings with flair. For the rest of us, I hope one of these tips was helpful.

Is there something you have added to your morning routine that is particularly helpful?

 

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