The irony in writing this post is that not too long ago I was on the phone telling my mom, “I don’t even feel like blogging anymore.” I planned on starting the new year with a switch from written to video blogs but somewhere along the way, lost not only my motivation, but also began questioning my own happiness and life decisions. It was a huge deal considering I’ve kinda built my life around this subject. One could say, I had quite a few “coming to Jesus moments” these past few weeks that really required some heavy duty forgiveness. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
2014 is almost over and I don’t know about you, but for me, 2014 was amazing, liberating, frustrating and lot of other “-ings.” Here are a few ways to wrap a giant bow around 2014 and wish it well!
Disappointments can be major stumbling blocks because they’ve come to represent the antithesis to hope. When things don’t go as expected or planned or dreamed, we tend to think that we should lower our expectations, lose hope, expect less. I think this is wrong. Disappointment is a grey area. It’s neither black nor white. It’s an unexpected chapter in an otherwise really good book. When you read a book you think ahhh this story is getting really good. “Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who was good to everyone. One day she met a magic frog who said that because she was so good to everyone she could have three wishes. Two seconds before she uttered her first wish however, the frog croaked and died.” Shitty story….or is it? Skip ahead 5 chapters and the three wishes she planned on wishing for came true anyway. Here are some ways to manage those unexpected chapters.Read More »
I’ve come to the conclusion that finding the funny is the key to happiness. There are actual physical and mental benefits to humor. When you laugh you increase endorphins, decrease pain, lower stress, and boost your immune system. Laughter really is the best medicine. Here are seven ways to find the funny, build optimism, and elevate your mood.
1) Make Problems Funny
Whenever guys leave the toilet seat up in our office bathroom I’m always tempted to get a sharpie marker and write “Close Me Son!” on the lid. 1) It’s funny to think about and instantly decreases my irritation 2) It’s a friendly permanent reminder to put the damn lid down. When you think funny, you do funny. Humor actually boosts your problem-solving skills. There is a famous quote from Dwight Eisenhower that says, “a sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done” and it’s true when you think about it. The most effective problem-solvers and admired leaders have a good sense of humor. Find creative ways to diffuse tension and not only will it make you feel better, it will likely be the most effective way to solve the problem.
2) Get Someone to LOL
You ever notice that when someone cries or is really sad, your instinct is to make them laugh? That’s because laughter naturally causes your body to relax and is proven to decrease depression. Also, when you make someone laugh, you feel better as well. Next time you find yourself in a funk, make someone laugh. It will reorient your brain away from whatever is making you feel bad, build your optimism, and help you embrace a forward-looking attitude. Plus, when you make others laugh, they are more inclined to be there for you when you’re feeling down.
3) Turn Disappointments into Humorous Opportunities
I’m reminded of The Rolling Stones’ song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” whenever I face disappointments, because oftentimes when I face disappointments it’s only because I get what I need in the near future. Find ways to turn disappointments into funny moments for yourself. Maybe you didn’t get the job, guy, project, or achieve your goal, but I’m sure there is something slightly humorous about the situation. There always is. Find it and then build on it. Once you do that, associate your attitude with the funny in the situation as opposed to the failure. Every disappointment is an opportunity to dream about your future success. When you think positively you attract positivity into your life. In a way, by facing your missed opportunity with humor, when you finally get what you want, it will likely come in a funny way.
4) Spend Time With Fun People
Funny, optimistic people aren’t stupid or naive, they just understand the secret to building relationships. Most people, if given the choice, would choose to associate with people that make them feel good. Like attracts like. If you’re attracted to pessimism, you’re going to attract pessimistic people into your life. The key then is to hang out with people who see the glass half full. Even if you don’t naturally see life that way, if you surround yourself with people that do, you’re likely to gain a unique perspective and possibly change your own attitude. Optimism doesn’t make you less intelligent or less aware of the world’s problems, it makes you better able to tackle them with zeal. Build relationships with positive people and you’re likely to find joy, positivity, and a stronger network of friends and relationships.
5) Treat Life Like a Game
I think the movie “Life is Beautiful” hits the nail on the head. The movie is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. There will always be problems, there will always be challenges, and there will always be circumstances beyond our control, but the key is to find ways to change your perspective and approach challenges like a game. When we learn to see the humor in life, we’ll learn to win.
I’ve been listening to a lot of French music lately (hence the title) which got me thinking a lot about language and the evolution of meaning. Not to get too abstract, but I’ve come to the conclusion that cultivating joie de vivre (the joyous life) requires that you master its structure. The sentence “ashley name my is” doesn’t make sense, but luckily it has all of the parts to make it correct. Similarly, you have all of the parts to cultivate the good life, you just have to learn how to construct the right sentence.
Step One: Know Who You Are
Yes, I know, so broad, very cliché, and where the hell do you begin? With a battery of personality tests of course. Similar to the way you approach your career, approach self-understanding like a career assessment. Truly understanding yourself and your motivations is pretty much a career in and of itself. No test can truly measure your personality, but personality tests can help you assess your values, communication style, interactions with others, and your way of interpreting the world. I’m a big fan of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and StrengthsFinder because they really hone in on the positive aspects of your personality and character while still highlighting areas of growth. There are tons of tests out there, but it’s what you do with the results that matter. Just like a career, once you’ve found areas of interest, research, analyze, and reevaluate. It might feel uncomfortable, but in the end when you truly know yourself, you’ll be in tune with the world around you and be able to put steps in place to achieve your goals, live passionately, and be open to others.
Step Two: Fall In Love With Your Authentic Self
Have you ever had an in-depth conversation with a retiree or an old couple? They don’t give a fuck about social graces. They know what they like and don’t like. They know their strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, they’ve learned to accept themselves and others where they are. I think the key to falling in love with life is falling in love with your authentic self. When you really know yourself, you know your strengths and your weaknesses and you accept them. To me, the easiest way to accept your weaknesses is to build on your strengths and supplement your weaknesses with those strengths. I got teased enough in high school to develop a sense of humor. Oddly enough, it was through teasing that I learned that humor was one of my strengths. Granted, it wasn’t until much later that I learned to capitalize on this strength, but sometimes you learn your strengths through unexpected moments or times in your life. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be the person you think others want you to be or the way you think you should be, love who you are. Be authentic and live authentically. Once you do, you’ll start to fall in love with your life.
Step Three: Be A Magnet of Positivity
Once you start knowing and loving yourself, you’ll start becoming a person you want to hang out with. You’ll be happy alone in your own company and in the company of others. Most importantly, you’ll start attracting good things into your life. Think back on your life. When you felt down on yourself did you find yourself continuously attracting negative people or circumstances into your life? Now think about the times you felt confident and good about yourself. Did good things happen? No one can feel happy 100% of the time, but everyone has the potential to feel good about themselves. You can work to cultivate the best version of yourself. Get to know yourself and start doing things that make you happy. Everything will start falling into place once you do.
Step Four: Express Gratitude
Express gratitude for people, things, and life in general. Express gratitude for continuing to know yourself. There is always a reason to be thankful. Say it out loud, write it down, tell someone. Make it a point to express gratitude daily. Always say thank you and let others know you’re thankful. Your gratitude could completely change someone’s day, maybe even your own.
Step Five: Repeat.
You’ll constantly learn about yourself, need to fall back in love with yourself, and work to attract positivity into your mind and heart. The beauty about life is knowing that the more you repeat, the more beautiful your sentences will become.
A few days ago I was in a bit of a funk. I started the new year with a lot of goals, but found myself lacking enthusiasm and feeling rather blah about my progress. One negative thought led to another negative thought until I was in a certifiably bad mood. Fed up with being fed up, I treated my happiness like an underdog in basketball; I applied the full-court press. Instead of focusing on trying to be happy, I grilled my unhappiness. Here’s how.
Pause. Are You Ruminating?
Ruminating never solves anything. Here’s an analogy. If you’re stuck in an elevator you’re probably not going to sit there and focus on how you’re stuck in the elevator, you’re probably going to focus on how the hell you’re gonna get out of there. It’s the same with negative thoughts. When you find yourself spiraling into them, take a pause, and ask yourself, am I solving anything by thinking about this or just digging deeper into the problem?
Anytime I found myself ruminating I would literally stop whatever I was doing and ask myself. Really Ashley? Do you really want to keep thinking about that? Are you going to draw some prolific conclusions? Nope. You’re just going to keep digging and digging into nothing. So, just pause and tell yourself, nope, not this time when you find yourself spiraling into negative thoughts. Your brain will eventually get tired and you’ll stop thinking about them.
Meditation. It’s Not just for Hipsters
Falling asleep at night is probably one of the most challenging things to do when your brain is playing like a No. 1 seed in the tournament of stress. I find that meditation really helps. I know, I know, meditation sounds super new agey and weird. I thought the same thing until I started doing it before going to sleep. I like to think of meditation as a way of training your brain to be a great athlete. Discipline, focus, and practice are the keys to successful meditation. You’re essentially learning how to exercise your focus muscle. Plus you want to fall asleep right?
When you first start meditating it might feel a little unnatural, I recommend downloading the Smiling Mind app, it’s like a training camp for your mind. I recommend doing the “Breath and Thoughts” and “Breath and Emotions” exercises. It walks you through everything and you’ll be a pro at managing nighttime stress before you know it. I promise once you complete one of their exercises you’ll feel so much calmer and more relaxed.
Talk it Out.
Humans are designed to socialize. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s important to build relationships with people. Talk out the bad stuff with people you trust BUT maintain solution-focused energy and, if possible, a sense of humor. Doing these two things will make your conversations with them more pleasant and productive. If you find yourself spiraling into further negativity while talking it out, redirect the conversation. Ask for advice. Ask the person to tell you a story about their experience with the problem and how they solved it or overcame it. Anytime I’ve done this I’ve felt better, especially if the other person’s story was funny. Humans are great storytellers. So talk it out.
Listen to the Full-Court Press Playlist. I narrowed it down to 10 (most of which have great music videos) but message me for some other great ones.
Elevate – St. Lucia
Rescue – Yuna
Happy – Pharrell
A Little Opus – Little Comets
Ali in the Jungle – The Hours
Strong Will Continue – Damian Marley & Nas
Silhouettes – Avicii
Demarco – I Love My Life
Forca – Nelly Furtado
Michael Jackson – Every Song He Ever Created
Vision Boards, Motivation Walls, and Other Free Therapy
When I first heard of vision boards I laughed. It sounded like an elementary school art project, but a few days ago (coincidentally during my bad mood) I heard about people creating and sharing them on Pinterest and I have to admit, I’m intrigued. It’s like an awesome college mascot but for you. You look at it and think, hell yea, I’m gonna win! So this weekend I’m rounding up inspiration for my board on Pinterest.
Overall, my bad mood didn’t last long. There’s always that one unstoppable Cinderella in the tournament. Be the Cinderella story of your life.
Your new year’s resolutions should feel like music thumping, streamer flowing, horn sounding New Year’s Eve parties, not the hangover the next day. Here are some ways to make your resolutions fun for the rest of the year.
Keep Saying “Yes and”
There is a rule in improv and comedy in general that you always take a “yes and” approach to a scene. If your scene partner says, “hey look at that sexy poster of so-and-so,” you run up to that poster and make out with it. That’s how you should frame your resolutions. Take them to the next level. Don’t resolve to quit eating sweets, stop stressing out, or lose weight. Instead, resolve to eat mind-blowing healthy snacks, channel your inner Bob Marley, or love your body. By erasing quit, stop, and lose from your resolution vocabulary, you’ll be less likely to quit, stop, or lose your resolve. Fuel your resolutions with positive words and funny details. Your brain will recognize them positively and you will be more motivated to keep and think of creative ways to achieve them.
Weave Them Into Larger Goals
Weave your resolutions into bigger dreams or goals. If you have a dream of retiring at 45, why not make 2014 the year to take some actionable steps? Making progress on your dreams is a real motivator.
Humor, Humor, Humor
Sometimes you slip up. It happens. Maybe you were on a roll and then three weeks in you start losing your resolve. Shake it off and find a funny way to get back on track. You have all year to get it right. The movie Happy-Go-Lucky hits the nail on the head. Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. Loosen up and keep moving. So you missed a week? So what?
Create A Few ‘Easy A’ Resolutions
Resolve to do something you’ll not only achieve, but achieve in a big way. By creating a few easy resolutions you’ll stay motivated for the bigger ones.
Chunk It Up
No one said you had to work on your resolutions all at once or all year. Make them manageable and fun. I made a quick 2014 calendar with space for your resolutions. Each month is notecard size so you can cut them out and put them on your desk as little reminders. Maybe you have a few fun resolutions one month and one continuous one for the rest of the year? Even if you don’t have any resolutions, free calendar right? 🙂
Here’s to 2014 being the best year ever!
So a lot of people ask me how I stay optimistic and positive and I always wish I had some awesome proverbial response. Most of the time my answer is that I just try really, really hard. Maintaining a positive attitude is essentially like learning a new language. It’s really hard to become fluent in a difficult, constantly evolving language overnight, but you find yourself getting better at it every day. The best thing about learning how to speak happiness, is that the more you practice, the better you feel. I certainly can’t say that about any other language I’ve tried to learn. Here are some things that have helped me beat the blues and build my optimistic fluency.
Approach Your Happiness Like a Basketball Game
Play ball, ow! Imagine Dave Chappelle as Prince saying this to you everyday, Literally create that visual in your head and then get to work. Hustle and challenge your blues to one-on-one. When you’re down, realize that there is still time left in the game and approach your happiness with Chappelle as Prince-like confidence that you’re gonna win, because you will. Never underestimate your abilities or assume that your sad mood is permanent. As Charlie Murphy says, “I dare you to challenge Prince to a game of one-on-one, challenge him!” The same goes for blues v. happiness.
I have to say lists are kinda the shit. When I say lists, I don’t mean reminders of things you need to do (ie: buy toothpaste, pay bills, do laundry), I mean fuck yea I love my life kinda stuff. For example, if you’re big into travel, create a list of the places you are going to visit–not want to visit, but going to visit. Even if you don’t have the money or time or resources, program your brain to believe that you are in fact going to those places as if you were simply buying toothpaste or laundry detergent. If you’re feeling really adventurous, write the month/year you plan to go. Whenever you’re feeling down channel that energy into a new list and program it into your brain. Go back and read the list when you need to and you’ll start to find that you’re suddenly checking things off one by one. Lists can power your positive thinking because they are little reminders that there are still so many things to do or look forward to in life. Listen to some Curtis Mayfield while you write it.
Dig, Mine, Tow, and Other Verbs
Some days you will have to try really hard, but you’ve done so many things that were hard. Think back on those things. Maybe this is something harder or unexpected but never underestimate your own resilience. Remember that mom who lifted the car off of her child? We all have that inner strength. You learned algebra, you forgave someone, you overcame an obstacle, you were born! Remember that. Just keep digging on the tough days. Find a reason to smile. Mine the happiness. And once you strike a little gold, savor it as though there is a mountain of it.
Improv the Shit Out of It
When things don’t go your way, just roll with it. Life is a perpetual skit. Find a way to make something that aggravates you funny or mildly entertaining to yourself. I find that creating hashtags for people/things that are annoying fun and hilarious to say out loud. Get creative.
Ignore the Haters
Don’t go passive-aggressive Facebook status rant, just cut haters/negativity out of your life. Simple as that. No words necessary. Don’t fuel negativity with your good energy. Delete. Delete. Delete.
Find Your Shortcuts
I call them shortcuts because that’s what they are. Find things that give you a small boost when you’re having a tough day. Literally, right now while you’re thinking about it, think of some small boosts. I personally love Hello Kitty, Panda Cam, and Pharrell’s Happy video.
The best way to make yourself happy is to make someone else happy. Think Amelie. Tell yourself that you are a ball of positivity energy waiting to burst and share that energy with someone else. Yours will most certainly grow as a result.
I watched the documentary Inocente this weekend and was inspired by her resilience, spirit, and the positive impact A Reason to Survive (A.R.T.S) had on her life. Here is the Trailer: It made me reflect on how much I have to be thankful for this holiday season and led me to brainstorm creative ways that I could give back. […]
1) You Can Change Your Life For the Better 2) There Are Great People In The World