happiness hacks 2017 books

Happiness Hacks: July 2017 To Bring More Gratitude Into Your Life

Do you have to intentionally make yourself happier? Some people, like me, need ‘happiness hacks’ to remind themselves every day of what a blessing it is to be alive each day – what great fortune we have to be living for one more extraordinary, ordinary moment.

Years ago I started a gratitude journal – just a daily addition to my morning pages that documented the ordinary things that I was grateful for – simple things that made me happy.

During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here. 
Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

Cover via Amazon

 

In June I started with my first set of ‘happiness hacks’, and loved the responses I received on the post and on social media. Turns out, you do things to make yourselves happy, too – especially when it comes to listening to podcasts to get inspired!  My Inner Chick says she wants to start listening to podcasts to make her happy, too. Tren says she loves her gratitude journal and recommends the podcast from The Simply Luxurious Life website – I’m loving it now, too! Thanks to both of you for the awesome happiness hacks!

You can read my first “happiness hacks” post here:

Happiness Hacks: June 2017

And now, my Happiness Hacks for July 2017!

Happiness Hack #1:  Google Keep

Have you tried Google Keep yet? It’s my new obsession app on my phone – and it’s available for your desktop, too. Google Keep is a way to keep track of everything – you can make lists, copy links, save photos, just about anything you can think of that you want to quickly and easily keep handy for future reference!

I’ve written before about how I love podcasts and use walking for meditation time…well, I also use walking and podcasts for getting ideas to write about. My struggle has been that while I was walking I’d come up with these connections I wanted to explore, but couldn’t stop and write anything down. I’m super visual, so I have a hard time remembering things I hear and would have to rush home and replay the podcast while I was at the computer. I tried using notes but it wasn’t the same. Now with Google Keep, I just start a note with the topic as a title, and I can either type my ideas or voice record them right into the app. I can set reminders, archive, and even add photos right to it that I want to use in my blog posts. Google Keep will save right into a Google Doc, too. I even used it in the mountains of Nicaragua when I was inspired to tears by a speech I was listening to in Spanish…stay tuned for an upcoming post inspired by that one! A secret: I started a ‘happiness hacks’ note on Google keep and write ideas down as I’m doing the things that make me happy! Double dip win-win! Check it out at keep.google.com, or you can watch this video to get even more inspired!

Happiness Hack #2: Making the bed

You know those things that your mother told you that run through your head as a grown person despite how much you try to stop them?

One of those ‘mom-isms’ that repeats on a daily basis is ‘You always have enough time to make your bed’.

I guess on some level I’ve gotten used to that little voice telling me to take two minutes and straighten the covers and fluff the pillows because just last week my husband sweetly commented that one thing he really loves about me is that I always make the bed every single day.I brought this up to one of my friends recently, and

Not sure if that’s the secret to our 32-year romance, but it couldn’t hurt…I brought this up to one of my friends recently, and she laughed a little and said she NEVER makes her bed – she doesn’t see the point. I understand that perspective, but for me, taking the time to smooth the sheets, to pull up my red paisley spread and adjust the throw blanket on the edge just gives me a little lift. By no means am I a compulsive home decorator, but just that little ordinary ritual of straightening up before I start the day just makes me smile.

Do you make your bed every day?

happiness hacks 2017 bed
Happiness hack #2: a made up bed and a doggie to cuddle!

Happiness Hack #3: Used books.

As a writer, I probably shouldn’t admit my obsession with buying used books. I DO spend money on buying new titles by my favorite writers, but more often I find myself searching out new books in second-hand stores. I read a lot, but my mom reads even more, so whenever I see a title that looks interesting I grab it, check the ratings on Goodreads, and take it home. To assuage my guilt I try to tweet and blog about the titles that really grab me, and I’ve met the most interesting writers that way! When I wrote about Susan Perabo’s title The Fall of Lisa Bellow recently, she connected with me on Twitter and offered to answer questions about my book if any of my students read it next year! How awesome is that? One unhappy issue my used book obsession is causing me is my lack of space – I have certain ways I make my ‘shelfies’ to indicate which books are ‘to read’, which are my ‘read and want to share’, and which books I just want to keep forever. You can imagine the chaos…and to my rescue comes my friend and blogger Jennifer Lyn King, with her own happiness hack post “How to build a built in bookcase without any carpentry skills”. What a badass! I’m definitely doing this as soon as my last child vacates the house next year… You can check out her post here: http://www.jenniferlynking.com/2017/07/12/how-to-build-a-built-in-bookcase-without-any-carpentry-skills/ – and be sure to follow her blog. She’s an amazing writer, photographer, and carpenter!

Where do you get your books most often?

happiness hacks 2017 books
Happiness hack #3: used books!

Happiness Hack #4: Silence

When I was reviewing my Google Keep notes for this post, the word ‘silence’ came up FOUR times! I’ll take that as a reminder that I need at least one – sometimes multiple – daily moments of silence to keep me happy.

It’s not easy to find those moments – during the school year I have to intentionally lock myself into my classroom alone at lunch sometimes, or stay late in the evening after everyone has gone home, just to find those precious moments of quiet. At home, my garden and my upstairs writing room are my best silent spaces – in fact, my husband has to find creative ways to interrupt my quiet time without me being startled into a heart attack. This summer he has been most successful putting his hand in front of the fan to stop the air flow, or texting me from the next room that he’ll be entering my space.

He’s a good guy.

Where do you find your silence in a busy life?

happiness hacks 2017 silence
Happiness hack #4: silence, view from my writing room into the garden.

So there you have my four happiness hacks for July 2017. I sure hope these gave you some ideas – and please, let me know if you try them – or better yet, what your favorite happiness hacks are! I’d love to include them in my August Happiness Hacks post!

Until next time, be good to yourself and spread some happiness into the world – we need it now more than ever.

happiness hack 2017

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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happiness hack june 2017

Happiness Hacks: June 2017

I LOVE podcasts. They fit my Type-A personality, my need to always feel like I’m satisfying the hungry curiosity that runs at warp speed through my brain. I love all sorts of podcasts, from political to storytelling to teaching tips to personal growth.

This month I’ve been plowing through the podcast “Happier With Gretchen Rubin”. 

You should check it out. She publishes two types of podcasts: one that is super short ‘happiness’ tips often in the form of a quote or anecdote to give you something to think about. She calls these “A Little Happier” – you might like this one called “We Don’t Always Know When Children Are Wasting Their Time”.

The second type of podcast she publishes is her longer series (she’s up to podcast #121, so you have some to look forward to!) – for example, I just listened to this one about how to get more reading done, and an interview with Sam Walker: http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2017/06/podcast-121-reading-sam-walker/

Gretchen’s name might sound familiar to you because several years ago she wrote the best-selling books The Happiness Project and Happier At Home. You can read my essay inspired by Happier At Home here.

Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...
Cover via Amazon

Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too.

Happiness Hacks June 2017:

Biking to work

happiness hack june 2017
Ummmm…yeah. My students/family thought I was hilarious. I thought I was a blue and gold Viking!

Last year a teacher/friend/neighbor and I started a biking to work challenge. We decided that we would commit to trying to bike to work every day. Now, biking to work is something I did regularly anyways, but I was noticing I was finding more and more excuses to take the car. I’d arrive home tired/hot/stressed, and completely unmotivated to exercise. Even my little doggie couldn’t always get me going after a long day.

The biking to work challenge worked, mainly because I love a challenge and when I start something I don’t like to give up. I started to notice how relaxed I felt when I got to work and got home after a 15-minute bike ride. I found I was listening to more podcasts, and taking home less work. Once I started I couldn’t stop – even when northern California experienced one of the rainiest winters ever! I simply bought a bike poncho and kept on pedaling.

I know not everyone can bike to work, but if you’re looking for more relaxation and exercise, is there a way you could commit to 15 minutes once (or twice) a day?

Happiness Hacks June 2017

Cleaning the fridge and freezer

Stay with me here: I love to organize my refrigerator and freezer. I can’t say that I love it when the juice has spilled and stuck in a gooey mess all the way down the side, or when I discover that package of fancy Brie molding in the cheese drawer. No one loves the smell or rotten kale or moldy sour cream, right?

But I do love knowing what I have and where it is because it makes life so much easier. Cooking and baking are relaxing to me, but not when I don’t have the right ingredients or something has expired. Plus, I love being able to open the doors, have the cold air hit my face and see the neatly arranged frozen bags of fruit, the containers of extra sauce or meatballs, and the easily accessible Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel gelato staring back at me.

For that, I’ll gladly clean the fridge and freezer at least every other month!

Happiness Hacks June 2017

Upcycled children’s books into journals

I recently took a trip to Salt Lake City to have a ‘staycation’ at my daughter’s college apartment. I love just hanging out in SLC, checking out the cool spots to eat and drink (coffee), walking through the beautifully landscaped neighborhoods, and shopping at a few of my favorite places: the Sundance outlet and Uptown Cheapskate.

One of the best parts of Salt Lake City on a Saturday is going to the HUGE downtown Farmer’s Market. I love the yummy food trucks, the produce vendors, and the beautiful homemade craft booths.

happiness hack June 2017
I went back for a second year in a row to this awesome food truck!

This year I discovered the breathtaking book journals made by Red Barn Collections. you can follow them on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/redbarncollections/  I got so excited to see how they cleverly upcycled books into journals that I posted this video on my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BVc4n1jhL8F/?taken-by=mamawolfeto2

I can see how they would make awesome graduation gifts, birthday presents, new baby gifts, recipe books, or just to write in! And I hear they do a “Christmas in August” sale, so be sure to check them out.

happiness hack June 2017
I forgot to mention that Red Barn Collection does adorable light switch covers, too! Recognize this guy?

Happiness Hacks June 2017

Finding and using gift cards

My last happiness hack for June 2017 is finding and using gift cards. This will take some upfront time – you’ll need to go through your purses, wallets, drawers, mail – anywhere you have stashed gift cards. Put them all together in an envelope or just slap a rubber band on them, and take them on your next shopping trip or vacation. I’ve done this two years in a row with my Salt Lake City trip, and am amazed at how much fun it is to try to pay for everything with a gift card! Consider it a way of ‘forced saving’ if you want – but I was able to indulge us with new clothes, books, frozen yogurt, burgers and a mani-pedi without forking out any cash!

Taking this happiness hack a step further, consider looking for sales on gift cards – sometimes the grocery store has a special deal or card resale sites like Gift Card Granny.  You could but a card every now and again and tuck them away for next summer!

I sure hope these happiness hacks from June 2017 gave you some ideas – and please, let me know if you try them – or better yet, what your favorite happiness hacks are! I’d love to include them in my July Happiness Hacks post!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Happier At Home: The “Safe”, Parent Approved Track

“I know many people who started out on a “safe”, parent-approved track, only to leave it – voluntarily or involuntarily-after they’d spent a lot of time, effort, and money to pursue a course that had never attracted them…it’s painful to see your children risk failure or disappointment, or pursue activities that seem like a waste of time, effort and money. But we parents don’t really know what’s safe, or a waste of time.” – from Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

It started about nine months ago, the persistent questioning (sometimes to the point of nagging, in fact) that let us know he wanted a change. At first we hardly listened, brushing him off with a ‘we’ll see’ in hopes that it was just another spur of the moment idea. The persistence continued, growing more intense each day until we gave in to his request to ‘sit down and talk’ and we heard what he was saying: he wanted to move to a ski academy.

Sugar Bowl AcademyI don’t know why this surprised me, really. My kids have never really taken the ‘safe’ track for much in their lives; they push themselves with extreme, risky sports and always try to live life as an adventure. They love risk – so different from my childhood.

As parents, I think many times we make decisions based on what feels right and how the decision will effect our children – which sometimes is the right way to go. We check movie reviews, investigate song lyrics, evaluate safety ratings on our cars and determine our decision based on really concrete facts. But other times, I’ve found, we make decisions based simply on how it will effect us – will we be inconvenienced by getting up early for a practice, will we be bored waiting at the shopping mall, or will we just simply. miss. them. too. much. when. they’re. gone?

Some friends have called me brave for letting my son move away to pursue his dream. I’m sure some friends have called me crazy, irresponsible, or said “I-can’t-believe-she’s-letting-him-go-away-on-his-own.” Funny-I never considered it an act of bravery on my part – he’s the one who deserves the bravery award. My son is doing exactly what I raised him to do. He’s setting goals, believing in himself, evaluating risks, and taking action. He’s walking the talk. He’s just doing it 120 miles from home.

So when I dried my tears (the first time) and watched him walk into his dorm room on that first day, I realized that maybe this wasn’t a ‘safe’ decision for me, but it was safe for him. It’s his path to walk in life, not mine. It’s the ultimate in mother’s love. And while I’d be a lot happier to have him home every night, I know he’s on his own, parent approved track. And it’s fabulous.

This post was inspired by Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life. Join From Left to Write on January 6 we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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My Best Life, December 2013

December….always a month full of contradictions for me. Try as I might to keep it simple, stay centered and enjoy the moment, I must admit that it often pushes me to my limits. There are still a few things that I loved this December; I hope you enjoy them, too.

Best View:

Moonscape in CA

As much time as I spend outdoors, I struggle to capture the perfect sunrise, sunset or moonscape. This month I focused on looking up, literally a and figuratively. I love this image that I captured one night as I was walking home from a late work meeting. It was definitely the best part of my day!

Best Recipes:

Baking DOES reduce stress!

My daughter was on a baking frenzy this month…it went far beyond her ritual Wednesday afternoon baking sessions, and morphed into marathons of molasses cookies during finals week, intricately decorated sugar cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes, loads and loads of peppermint bark, peanut butter balls, and delicious cream cheese frosted Candy Cane Kisses bars. I managed to squeeze in a new recipe for Saltine Toffee…I know, I thought it was weird too until I tried it!

Candy Cane Kisses Bars
Candy Cane Kisses Bars

Best Book:

Sad to say, I didn’t finish a book in its entirety this month. I’ve started several, and am in the midst of six…I’m currently enjoying Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin . She’s the writer who published The Happiness Project, and with this book she’s looking at how to “kiss more, jump more, abandon self-control, and other experiments in everyday life.” The chapters are organized by month, and cover topics like ‘Possessions’,Marriage”, “Parenthood”, and “Family”. I’ll let you know what I think when I finally finish it!

Best Blog Reads:

“The Map”, was written by my friend and neighbor Beth, who writes with such honesty about the journey of parenthood. Please do yourself a favor and click over to her blog, “Grace in the Ordinary”. http://grace-in-the-ordinary.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-map.html.

The holiday season brings out all sorts of emotions. This year, I experienced my version of the blues, but when I read “Some Times”, by Progressive Parent, I couldn’t help the tears for all that she’s going through dealing with the loss of her child. Just feel her grief…http://theprogressiveparent.org/2013/12/14/some-times/.

Best Moment:

Candlelight Christmas Eve

This month was full of elation and a bit of despair, change and (modified) tradition. I tried to hold it all together, keeping Christmas as it always has been, but finally gave in and realized we’d just be having a different kind of Christmas. One of my best moments came on Christmas Eve, as we breathlessly scurried (late) into the pew of our church, just in time for the candlelight service. I cherish the moments when I can wrap myself between my children, breathe down to my core, and feel a complete sense of peace and security. Turns out, it’s one of my kids’ favorite moments of Christmas, too.

Best Quotes:

Looking back at the quotes I save each month, I always get a surprising sense of cohesion-even when my month has felt less than connected. For me, December was about change, reflection, quiet, emotion and reaching out…

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”
~Sydney J. Harris

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
~Anais Nin

“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Best Photo:

This photo just squeaked in at the last minute, lovingly posted by my ‘little’ sister post-Christmas. I love the reminder that there were days when we didn’t mind looking alike – of course, this is long before my mother lifted the ban on us wearing all-black! Thanks, sis.

Christmas throwback, 1970s-style

Thanks for sharing My Best December, 2013. I hope your month concludes on a peaceful note, and I look forward to an amazing adventure with you in 2014!

~Jennifer

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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