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

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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Silence Is Not An Absence Of Sound – Reflections on Gordon Hempton

I had just slipped out the front door in silence early one morning, hoping to squeeze in a quick walk-the-dog, when I realized I’d forgotten the library book I wanted to return. Quickly I turned around, and as I walked up to my driveway, my husband shouted ‘Jen” from the upstairs window.

I screamed.

Breathing deeply, I tried to recover from his startling interruption, all the while scowling at his hysterically laughing face in the window. “OMG – what if you’d been carrying groceries!” he managed to squeak out between bursts of laughter. “You’re so jumpy!”

Annoyed that my silence had been so rudely squelched, I slipped quietly inside, gathered my book, and headed back out. Jumpy? I guess so. I prefer to think of it as my Zen Jen mode that flows so naturally whenever I am by myself.

My family thinks it’s hilarious to make me scream while I’m gardening, or washing dishes, or writing. I think someday it’s going to give me a heart attack.

I’ve crafted a fine art of sinking into silence. It’s a coping mechanism, a centering tool, and most of all, a state of absolute bliss. Silence, you see, is not merely an absence of sound.

I’ve written before about how walking is my meditation. I’ve put hundreds of thousands of miles in during my lifetime, always preferring to walk instead of run, to go slow instead of fast. On a recent walk, I was delighted to listen to Gordon Hempton talk about silence on one of my favorite podcasts, Krista Tippett’s On Being.

I don’t always listen to podcasts or music when I walk; often I prefer to just listen to what’s going on around me, or the thoughts that are floating in my head from a busy day of teaching and mothering. But this day, a blue-sky January morning, I was mesmerized by his words. Hempton, an acoustic ecologist and founder and VP or The One Square Inch of Silence Foundation, blew open my mind with his explanation that silence is an absence of noise, not an absence of sound. His definition precisely named what I’m searching for when I walk, or sit in my garden, or stand on a snow covered mountainside – a way to cancel out the noise in my life in favor of a way to truly hear what is happening around me.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Aldous Huxley (Music at Night and Other Essays)

It turns out, finding silence isn’t so easy. Music, Hempton says, is a reflection of who we are, and who we are is a reflection of what we hear. As a kid, I remember my sister constantly wanting me to turn down the radio, to be quiet. Growing up, my parents listened to Simon and Garfunkel and country music. In my teens, I became immersed in Goth music, lulled by the almost hypnotic, soothing sounds and emotional lyrics. I met my husband at a punk show – he was the singer in a band, I was hanging out backstage after the show. As an English major, I spent hours in my Berkeley apartment crafting my senior thesis to a background of Chopin and Rachmaninoff.  Hempton’s claim fits me like a glove.

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”

Lawrence Durrell (Justine (The Alexandria Quartet #1))

Intrigued by this idea about silence as an absence of noise, I asked my family what their favorite sounds were. At first, my son replied, “crazy bass”, reflecting his place in the teenage culture of rap and urban music. But on second thought, he shared ”wind howling through the tall pines in a snowstorm far from any other source of noise”. I wonder if he knew that the whisper of pine trees is mine?

Hempton says true silence doesn’t exist; rather, we search for silence from modern life. Judging from the responses of my family, I’d agree. Rain, waves, water rushing, the absence of sound, and the cry of a raven were all sounds that my family loves, and to me, represent what it means to be in a place – of nature’s ‘acoustic system’, as Hempton shares.

Strangely enough, my middle school students are loving nature’s acoustics, too. My last period of the day is a remedial reading class – just imagine, for a minute, trying to get 12,13, and 14-year-olds who have below grade level reading ability to actually READ for 50 minutes.

It’s no small task.

Early on, I decided that my number one goal would be to help them develop a love for reading by learning that reading is relaxing. Every day, one student gets to choose where we ‘go’ for our relax and read time – to the ocean, by a foggy stream, in a sunny meadow, by a crackling fire – and for our ten minutes of quiet reading, we listen to nature sounds. And they love it. Curled up in a beanbag, hearing the sounds of rain trickling down the window (even on a sunny afternoon) helps them to relax and let their bodies and brains travel to another world. Spending time in a quiet environment helps them to calm down, and when they feel safe and secure I can start to help them become better readers. It works.

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

Chaim Potok (The Chosen)

Finally, Hempton shares that silence is an endangered species. He believes that we must take our children away from human-constructed noise and experience spaces and times of silence. We should go into nature, to allow them to experience and feel their body, and to meet the sounds of wildlife. We are born listeners, he states, and as we age we are ‘taught’ how to listen. He believes that it is in nature where we are truly able to notice the darkness of night and an empty our thoughts. I wholeheartedly agree.

As I grow older, I grow more comfortable with the vulnerability of silence. When I’m walking, I feel a shedding of all that troubles me, the burdens of balancing life and the fears about the future slide into the dirt beneath my sneakers. It is in the absence of noise, in the silence, surrounded by the sounds of the world, that I feel most secure, where I find my center and can just be

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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The Teacher’s Summer To-Do List

Some people think teachers like me shouldn’t complain. They think that summers off mean three months of party time, ninety days of freedom to lie around and do absolutely nothing.

Someone, please show me that teacher.

The teachers I know definitely earn their summer ‘vacation’. If you think about it, most teachers work so much overtime during the school year that it equals the time we have off in the summer. And most of us use our vacation time to catch up on our life to-do list -medical appointments, chores, reading, and mostly for me, being Mom.

Honestly, motherhood never feels like a to-do for me; I’ve always cherished my summer free time with my kids.

to-do
Summer at Cecret Lake

In my summer,  June finds me coming down off the adrenaline crazed end-of-the-school year, and when August comes around I start having those terrifying teacher dreams where I’m not at all prepared for my classroom of terrifying students :). July is the time when I can try to completely forget about school and remember what makes me me, where I find solace, where I can recharge.

to-do
One summer ‘shelfie’ pile to-read

This poem certainly spoke to me this July; I, too, find myself pushing through the list of ‘must-do-before-the-end-of-summer’. I’ve been to the eye doctor and the dentist, I’ve visited my daughter, I’ve weeded and laundered and decluttered and cleaned. Now I find myself much more inclined to sink into that novel that’s been haunting me from my shelf, or to take a long walk with a friend. I’m realizing that July really is the time when I need to remind myself to pencil in pleasure not just in the present, but all through the school year. Thank you, Tony Hoagland, for the gentle reminder that the kingdom still exists.

Down near the bottom of the crossed-out list of things you have to do today,
between “green thread” and “broccoli” you find that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word is beautiful.

It touches you as if you had a friend and sunlight were a present

he had sent you from some place distant as this morning—to cheer you up
and to remind you that,

among your duties, pleasure is a thing
that also needs accomplishing.

Do you remember that time and light are kinds
of love,

and love is no less practical than a coffee grinder
or a safe spare tire?

Tomorrow you may be utterly without a clue
but today you get a telegram,

from the heart in exile proclaiming that the kingdom still exists,

the king and queen alive, still speaking to their children,
— to any one among them

 who can find the time to sit out in the sun and listen.

~ Tony Hoagland

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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Let Us Be Silent

“Let us be silent,

that we may hear

the whispers of the gods.”

 

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

silent
One of my favorite views in Nicaragua to remember the beauty of silence.

Thank you to First Sip for reminding me of the importance of quiet, of solitude, and of listening to messages from the Universe.

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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