Days of Happiness: Day Twenty-Three

Days of Happiness: Day Twenty-Three

The 30 days of Happy Thoughts series is inspired by the International Day of Happiness (March 20th, 2017).

Today’s Motivational Video

Today’s Happy Thought


National Nutrition Month® Tidbits

March is also National Nutrition Month®! Eating healthy is important to your happiness too!

Check out this week’s game here.

Check out this week’s NNM video here.

Day of Happiness Celebrations: Q&A

Happiness means different things to different people, what does Happiness mean to you?

To me happiness means being comfortable with who I am and being able to find joy in small everyday things.


Do you believe happiness is an emotion or more of a state of mind?

I believe that happiness is a choice we make and is strongly influenced by how we approach our lives – both the good and the bad. However, I think that our decision to be happy (even when things aren’t going as well as we may want) definitely influences how we end up feeling. So although they are definitely related, at least for me it is far easier to feel happy once I have made up my mind to be happy. In some ways happiness is like a muscle, so the more we practice the easier it becomes.


Do you consider being happy important to you? Why?

I haven’t always actively thought much about my happiness. However, in the last year or so I have become more interested in understanding what makes me happy. In fact, I am in the third month of my year-long Sustainably Happy Project. I started this project because I wanted to focus on the different areas of my life that influence my happiness in the hopes that I would finally figure out how to more consistently create a better balance in my life. For example, the month of January was focused on my home, February was focused on my marriage, and March is now focused on work (though not work in the sense of my day job). Basically after watching many of peers allow their careers to consume their lives (often at the cost of their health and relationships), I wanted to avoid this same trap. Therefore, achieving sustainable happiness in my day-to-day life has become very important for me.


What do you consider a fundamental barrier to Happiness in your life?

Making comparisons is probably my biggest barrier to happiness. And I’m not talking about the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that often leads us to make decisions that are intended to please others rather than ourselves. In general, I’m pretty good at identifying what it is that I want in my life and not paying too much attention to social norms that I don’t agree with.

However, I still find myself making comparisons with others regarding my abilities or skills. A great example of this is my blog, which is about a year and a half old at this point. Before starting my own site I had no experience with creating a website or even engaging with social media (I am a bit of a technology Luddite). So even though I feel proud of the progress I have made and continue to enjoy learning as I go, I still find it hard not to make comparisons with more established bloggers. Usually my sense of disappoint is short-lived (especially as I become more mindful of what is happening), but initially I still struggle with this comparison-based happiness stumbling block.


How important is wealth and money to your own happiness?

Being wealthy or having a bunch of money has never been very important to me. And I say that even though I am actively pursuing financial independence. For me I’ve instead focused on having enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle. As a naturally frugal person, I discovered early on that I value experiences over material possessions. Also, I know that beyond a certain level of income, more money doesn’t usually translate into more happiness. And since my happiness is not dependent on acquiring more stuff, it has been easier for me to avoid lifestyle inflation as I’ve started earning more in my career (thus I also need less to reach financial independence).

My views on this matter have been strongly influenced by a few key experiences from my decade in higher education. The first is that I learned to live quite happily on far less money than my peers who had started working after completing their undergraduate degrees. So I’ve carried this mindset forward even though I make far more than I did even as a funded graduate student.

The second and more influential experiences came from my time working in South America for my graduate research. Over a six year period I was exposed to a different level of poverty than I had ever seen in the US. However, it wasn’t the poverty that helped me learn to better appreciate what I already have in my life. Rather it was interacting with people who had very little by US standards but appeared to be far happier (including having stronger family and community ties) than many wealthier people back home.

So overall, I know that having a certain level of wealth and money is important to my happiness. But beyond that point there are many other factors that I feel are far more important (hence starting my Sustainably Happy Project).


How important is health and wellness to happiness?

The short answer is very important.

All we have in life is our health. Unfortunately we often ignore our health and wellbeing during our working years and I think that is a big mistake. I’m a big fan of functional exercise, which basically means finding opportunities in our daily lives to get exercise without needing to carve out any extra time or pay for a gym membership. For example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or biking to run errands that are within 1-3 miles, raking leaves instead of using a leaf blower, and/or finding active hobbies that get us outside and moving.

Sleep is also very important to our happiness, but is something else that we don’t always make time for. For me, I am a much happier and more energetic person when I am getting a minimum amount of daily exercise, sleeping 7-8 hours each night, and eating well. When I don’t do those things, my body has a way of forcing me to slow down because I end up getting sick. And it doesn’t make me happy to take time off of work to be sick. Instead I would rather take a day off of work to have fun or just relax!


What has been the happiest moment in your life?

This is a tricky one. Oddly, I don’t have one happiest moment in my life. However, some of my happiest moments share common attributes. For example, they usually involve me spending time with family or friends, usually outdoors, and completely disconnected from the demands or stresses of my daily life (i.e., places with no cell phone service or internet). So as a college student these included spending hours with my friends riding mountain bike trails. But more recently these have included trips to the Galapagos Islands and to Norway.


Do you have any specific goals or resolutions for 2017?  If so, would your share your top two that directly relate to your own Pursuit of Happiness?

Yes! As part of my Sustainably Happy Project I have set monthly goals related to 12 specific topics. The ones that relate to my pursuit of happiness include this past month of February that I devoted to my marriage and this coming December when I will focus on happiness and gratitude.

For my marriage, I set the following resolutions: 1) develop the habit of greeting my husband warmly each day, 2) spend more quality time with my husband, 3) show daily appreciation, and 4) make the positive argument (i.e., instead of allowing myself to make negative arguments when my husband did something I didn’t like, I would first try to think of a positive counter-argument).

For my month dedicated to happiness and gratitude, I have currently identified the following resolutions: 1) keep a daily journal, 2) celebrate the winter solstice, 3) practice “paying it forward”, and 4) donate 10% of my income.


Do you consider giving to others or charity work an important part of your own Pursuit and why?

Definitely. Research has shown that we are happier when we are helping others. And although I didn’t start donating my time or money to causes I support because I thought it would help me, I think it is important to recognize that there are so many positive benefits for everyone involved. I also find it valuable to volunteer because it exposes to different people and experiences than we may encounter in our normal everyday lives. This has helped me become more mindful and appreciative of what I already have in my own life.


What 2 things have you learned in your own pursuit that you would like to share with others?

I recently wrote about this topic in a post called Happy Partner, Happy Life. But essentially the two main lessons I have learned about happiness include 1) remembering that happiness is a daily choice and 2) the importance of taking ownership of our own happiness. So when it comes to our relationships (whether with a significant other, family, or friends), basically become the person you want to be with.


If you could recommend only three websites/books/articles to anyone reading this, what would they be, and why?

I would recommend two books and one website that many people have probably already heard of before:

The concepts in Your Money or Your Life are pretty simple, but I really appreciated reading this book shortly after I started my career since it helped me better understand the true value of my time. After reading this book I started viewing my time as a non-renewable resource in my life. This is what really spurred my initial interest in pursuing financial independence because I wanted more freedom to decide how my time was spent.

Shortly after I read Your Money or Your Life, I discovered Mr. Money Mustache’s blog, which really resonated with me. For one thing, he has a no BS way of talking about the often silly social norms that we follow, but that make us miserable, unhealthy, broke, and/or stressed. I also really appreciated how he and his wife knew what they wanted and worked for it – even though it was quite unconventional at the time. So even for those that don’t want to retire early, I’ve found this site to be fun to read and also great for providing a unique perspective on a variety of topics that are very relative to our everyday lives and our pursuit of happiness.

I had to recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle since this is what helped spur my interest in creating an urban homestead and supporting local growers in my community, both of which bring me a lot of joy! Even if you have no interest in gardening or homesteading, Barbara Kingsolver is a great author and this book is often funny (especially her story about mating ducks – just trust me!) and easy to read. As discussed above, maintaining my health and wellbeing is very important to my happiness and this book highlights the importance our connection with our food.


What is your blog/website address and theme (if you want to share) for 2017?

You can find me at where I write about all aspects of sustainability (including my interests in car-free living and my attempts at urban homesteading). Essentially I like to write about fun, frugal, and eco-friendly practices that we can all start implementing today to have a positive impact in our lives and to reduce the impact on our planet. You can also check out my Sustainably Happy Project (and follow along with your own happiness project!).


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