What makes you happy 2.0

Puerto Penasco sunset
Sunset in Mexico in the Gulf of California.

A year ago today I wrote a blog post “What Makes You Happy.” You can read it HERE. You’ll notice a link to one of our favorite bloggers, LA.

In last year’s post, I included a list of things that made me happy. I thought I’d take a look and see if I can add to it this year. This is what I wrote last year.

This morning I was writing my daily morning pages and I wrote a long list of things that make me happy. I woke up feeling a little down, so my brilliant idea was to focus on what brings me joy and incorporate the things on my list in my daily life — or at least weekly. I had quite a list.

A few of the items were:

A trip to the ocean

A good night’s sleep

Working on a project I’m proud of

Spending time with family and friends

Swimming in the nearby lake

Swimming laps at the city pool

Reading a good book

Catching up with friends via the phone

Hiking

What can I add to the list? Here’s What Makes Me Happy 2.0:

Visits from my kids

Inviting friends over for dinner

Cooking

The Desert Botanical Garden

Musical Instrument Museum

Going to Costco with my husband and stocking up

Watching baby quail

Morning walks

Sunsets and sunrises

Reading blogs from my blogging community

Watching Olive the cat play

What makes you happy?

Do you find time to incorporate these treats into your weekly lives?

Olive playing with her catnip mouse.

Be worthy

US Flag
This is the flag a the entrance to our neighborhood. It was donated by one of the residents.

Memorial Weekend I heard the phrase “Be worthy” repeated several times. It was in response to those who have sacrificed for our freedom. That hit a note with me. Am I worthy?

When my son was in eighth grade, his class traveled to Washington D.C. I was lucky to get one of the chaperone spots. I had never been to D.C. and felt so much emotion visiting the War Memorials and the Arlington Cemetery. If you’ve been there, you’ll understand. If you haven’t been there, you should plan a trip.

I wondered. Am I worthy? I try to be a kind person. I help my neighbors and volunteer in the community. I have for decades. I try to be a parent and wife who is supportive and understanding. I have my shortcomings. But have I done anything worthy of someone sacrificing their life for my freedom?

What do you think the phrase “Be worthy” means? How do you try to be worthy?

A few sights around the neighborhood

white blooms of a yucca
Yucca in bloom by our park.

I never grow tired of the desert sights. It’s such a different desert than the manicured lawns, hedges and golf courses of Palm Springs — yet it’s technically the same desert. The Sonoran Desert.

hatched quail eggs
My husband spotted these quail eggs in a planter under a bush. Talk about an effective nest. Now we know where the babies came from.

planter with quail eggs
This is the planter where the quail made a nest! It’s in the side yard right outside where the trash bins are stored.
I’ve been watching this century plant grow.
century plant ready to bloom.
A few weeks later. It’s grown so fast, you can stand still for a few minutes it seems like you can watch it grow.
I wonder if it will bloom?
Sunset in the Desert.
Sunset view with ocotillo.

Have a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by. What are your plans for the weekend?

Unintended consequences of mindfulness

The baby quail are growing up. Bird watching, especially the babies, helps me relax.

I have two mindfulness apps on my phone. They are supposed to help me with anxiety and stress. One is called Mindfulness, the other Headspace. I’m not very good about using them. I’ll go through a phase where at the end of the day, I’ll sit down and turn on the app for a five minute mindfulness session. Then the next week, I forget about them.

I saw a headline in the Washington Post that caught my eye:

An unintended consequence of mindfulness

Sometimes it pays to contemplate other people’s feelings — not merely your own by Andrew C. Hafenbrack

Here’s an excerpt:

You’ve had a stressful day at work, so, like millions of other people, you open up Calm or Headspace on your smartphone and do some mindful meditation — concentrating on your bodily sensations, “observing” your thoughts in the moment. Research has shown that this is likely to have benefits: Mindful meditation reduces anxiety, depression and stress; more pragmatically, it can also improve sleep, decision-making, focus and self-control. This helps to explain why so many companies have jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon, incorporating it in corporate wellness programs (and why Calm was valued at $2 billion in 2020). But what if, in the course of your stressful day, you acted like a jerk toward a colleague at a meeting? Could all of that inward focus cause you to downplay the harm you caused that person, letting it float away like a leaf on a stream?

That’s exactly what my research colleagues Matthew LaPalme and Isabelle Solal and I found in a series of eight studies, involving more than 1,400 participants in the United States and Portugal, slated to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Across a range of laboratory scenarios and online experiments, we found that asking people to engage in a single session of 8 or 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation — focusing their attention on the physical sensations of breathing — reduced their self-reported levels of guilt (about incidents warranting guilt). It also reduced their willingness to take “prosocial” steps to remedy harms they’d done. The research suggests that people ought to be careful about when they use mindfulness meditation, lest the comfort they derive from it come at the cost of their connections with other human beings.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/05/18/mindful-meditation-guilt-amends/

The writer is an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. In his studies he discovered that Meditation led feelings of guilt to subside, along with the desire to rectify the situation.

So meditation is good at making us feel calm, but it may get rid of guilt when we hurt someone else’s feelings. Sometimes feeling guilty is good, especially if it’s warranted. The emotion of guilt can prompt us to do the right thing like apologize. The inward trend of mindfulness can lessen our empathy to those around us.

I had never heard this perspective before and I found it interesting.

What are your thoughts about mindfulness? Do you find it helpful? Do you think it alleviates feelings of guilt or not?

cardinal in Arizona back yard
Cardinal in my backyard.

The perils of pickleball

Olive the cat
Olive doesn’t play pickleball. She’d rather sit in the sun.

Friday I opted out of barre class to try beginning pickleball. Since it was Good Friday, I realized my husband didn’t have to work so I took him along.

I was nervous when we walked into the gym and asked if this was beginning pickleball lessons.

“There are no lessons,” a woman answered.

“But I was told that beginning lessons were on Fridays” I said.

“This is beginning pickleball. We just play.”

Yikes.

Then two more couples walked in and said they had never played before either. We were all relieved to not be the only newbies.

A woman and man suggested each first-time couple go to one of the three courts and experienced players would play with us. My husband and I got Bill, who turned out to be an amazing coach. He said he’d been a coach for 30 years of different sports.

Bill had us practice serving over and over. He went through the rules and told us where to stand. He helped me with technique and after one hour, he said we were ready to play. He was patient and encouraging. Without Bill I don’t know if I would ever play again.

We played games or matches for the next hour. Yes! Two full hours of pickleball.

The next day I couldn’t move. Even after four weeks of swimming and barre classes my body was in shock after pickleball.

Easter Sunday my husband and I practiced at our neighborhood tennis court. We had ordered removable lines and markers to turn the tennis court into a pickleball court. A pickleball court is much smaller than a tennis court. After measuring and placing the markers down, we were ready.

A few serves later, I reached down for a ball and pulled a muscle. I’m currently sitting on an ice pack.

My kids told me I shouldn’t have gone from zero workouts to four in one week, but should have built up slowly. They said they knew I would get hurt. A good friend told me that, too. My question is this. Why didn’t they tell me before? Or did they and I didn’t listen?

What activity have you started and stopped and started again? Have you ever done too much too soon and gotten injured? What happened? Is this just the side effect of old age?

Spring has sprung!

There is a warmth in the air along with the delicious scent of jasmine. Looking around, I see signs that the cold winds of winter have left us. I see blooms and buds on my daily walks. Each day brings something new.

Purple lupine flowers growing through a crack in the concrete.
Purple flowers are finding their way through the concrete. I believe this is lupine.
Bright red cardinal
This cardinal hung outside our casita yesterday. We also have a gray brown female and their reddish brown juvenile. He will get redder as he matures. I read that female cardinals choose their mates based on the brilliance of their feathers. Bright red feathers means the cardinal is finding nutritious food.
Toumey's Century Plant.
I can’t wait for this agave known as a Century Plant to bloom. This one is in a neighbor’s front yard. It looks like it will be impressive.
hedgehodge cactus im bloom
A hedgehog cactus beginning to bloom. The color of the flowers are stunning.
Mule deer hanging out at a friend's house.
I spotted this mule deer next to a friend’s home because its ears moved.
I passed it on the start and end of my 45-minute walk.

What signs are telling you Spring is in the air? Do you see more birds? Blooming plants?

Gratitude has health benefits

Sunset in the Arizona desert.

I started an evening gratitude journal, which includes an exercise known as “Three Blessings.” Every evening, I write three things I’m thankful for that happened during the day. They may be little things, like something beautiful I saw on a walk, or bigger like a new writing job referral. Then after each, I explain why the moment happened. It’s an exercise I learned about from a book called “Flourish” by Martin E.P. Seligman. In his book, Seligman said that this exercise has been proven to be just as effective as taking anti-depressants in fighting depression! I find it as a nice way to get grounded after a busy day and reflect on everything that is going well.

Unfortunately I’m not consistent with the gratitude journal. I’ll start it up for several weeks, and it goes by the wayside.

I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say in an article published in December 2018. Even though it’s dated, it has some good stuff in it.

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. Reading about the benefits of gratitude makes me want to be more consistent with my journaling.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. How grateful we are to have them in our lives.

What are you most grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my family, friends and the pets and beauty surrounding me. I’m grateful for my new blogging friends.