How I’ll Find Happiness in 2011: Increasing Flow Experiences

In my eighth month of exploring The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky as a part of my journey on finding happiness in 2011, the month of August was dedicated to the act of increasing flow experiences: Doing more activities that truly engage you, where you completely “lose” yourself, which are challenging and absorbing.

As I discussed last month as I struggled to deal with coping, my new life intention of “I  AM PRESENT” came into existence and at the perfect time. Trying to embrace the current moment has been a joy which I’ve been working on doing in a variety of ways:

  • running: as the mileage increases on the half marathon schedule, there’s been more hours spent in my running shoes. In the past, that meant overthinking during a run about what I wasn’t doing. Instead, I’ve been focusing on my breathing and pacing – and making huge strides because of it.
  • working: instead of letting my to-do list overwhelm me, I’m embracing it, realizing that I am working on something very special and very unique to Cleveland.
  • unplugging at night: this has been hard, but I’m doing my best to put down the electronic devices at an earlier time. Some days I’m more successful than others – and I notice a difference when I do.

But the strategy that I’ve enjoyed the most?

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Getting my bike ride on.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time recently with @BikeCLE. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting pre-half marathon jitters. Perhaps it’s because Hans and I had a fabulous Saturday afternoon ride a few weekends ago where we caught up after a busy week.  But I’ve been lovin’ on my bicycle recently.

On Sunday morning, I took off on my bike on the towpath by myself. I was worried to go alone, but I took my cell as back up. I started on a familiar path:

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I had a ten mile long run on the schedule the next day, so I said to myself “ride for five miles or thirty minutes – whichever comes first – then turn around and head back to the start”. No speed expectations, no goals – just a chance to enjoy what’s available to me.

Whom did I see? People enjoying that present moment:

  • Folks on cruisers, leisurely pedaling along.
  • Cyclists intensely focused as I attempted to stay out of their way
  • Fisherman fly fishing along the canal
  • Runners with fuel belts and determined looks on their faces
  • Couples walking pair by pair, perhaps after a group brunch at the nearby Yours Truly
  • Families with kids of all ages, biking along at a variety of speeds
  • Pups on walks – some behaving, some not!

What did I see? Parts of our national parks system that I had never seen before.

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Perhaps previously I was too distracted to look around and really embrace it all – distracted by overthinking, by over processing. But that day, I was wide open to all the experiences around me. And it was glorious.

Before I knew it, I was back at the start – the Canal Visitor Center.

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I made it back a bit faster than anticipated.

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That might have been one mile more and four minutes less than my bike ride the week before with the hubby. I got home, showed him my Garmin and he said “I slow you down!” Once this half-marathon is over, I foresee a lot more time on the towpath in my future. Anyone have any fall biathlons to recommend?

LONG STORY SHORT: I thought I was just headed out for a nice easy bike ride that morning, but it was so much more. I left the park feeling as light as I do after a yoga class – all because I took a moment to appreciate what was around me. So shut off those thoughts and open your eyes, kids. BE PRESENT. Beautiful things are all around.

How I’ll Find Happiness in 2011: Developing Strategies for Coping

In my sixth month of exploring The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky as a part of my journey on finding happiness in 2011, the month of June was dedicated to the act of developing strategies for coping: practicing ways to endure or surmount a recent stress, hardship or trauma.

This post is a month late. And I am grateful for that.

I was not looking forward to June or July in relation to this book project. The book notes the sixth and seventh strategies focus on facing the stress, adversity and crisis that occurs in your life. Coping is what people do to alleviate the stress or suffering caused by a negative situation. You can cope by using:.

  • Problem-focused coping, or solving your problems by setting goals, making a plan and making it a priority.
  • Emotion-focused coping, which include behavioral strategies (like reaching out to a friend, going for a walk, finding distraction) as well as cognitive ones (like reinterpreting the situation, acceptance or turning to religion).

I didn’t take long for me to realize my tendency to deal with stress by finding distraction. I don’t like unhappiness. I don’t like arguments. I don’t like being uncomfortable. If it’s not the status quo, I am uneasy and am always doing one of two things: trying to fix it or ignoring it.

My original plan for this post was to share my thoughts on two days of workouts without music: one Friday morning 3.5 mile maintenance run around my neighborhood, The other, about a Saturday morning yoga session. Then my grandfather was admitted into the hospital. He had been fading since July 2nd, but – surprise, surprise – I was pretending that it wasn’t happening. He continued to deteriorate, I continued to disassociate until his very last days.

On Sunday the 17th, my grandfather passed away. In my last effort to ignore reality, my cell phone was charging upstairs, away from where I was blogging that morning. But you can only hide for so long. This came true when my dad arrived at my house to tell me the news first hand. No more avoiding reality. Time to face it head on.

On Monday the 18th, I could have gone into the kitchen, kept busy and pretended like it was another day. Instead, I worked from home where I was constantly reminded of my grandfather. In that day spent crying in between emails, phone calls and research at my kitchen table, I decided to make it a priority to find acceptance with the situation. 

I took some time to remember him and all the wonderful things he taught me.  In that day, I wrote the post sharing those lessons, which I would eventually read at his service. Those words, that post and this blog allowed me to come to peace with his passing.

I previously said my grandfather would never want me sitting around, moping the day away. At the same time, I believe he would have wanted me to face my issues head on. In that, I’ve realized my new form of coping has a more problem-focused approach. Instead of ignoring or distraction, I can solve my problems by setting goals, making a plan and making it a priority.

That new view also comes with a  new intention: I AM PRESENT. It’s a primary lesson in yoga: to stay on your mat, in the moment. To not think about what stressed you out before walking in the room or worrying about what you have to do when you leave. To really feel at peace, you need to continue that practice off the mat and into your everyday life.

I’m trying to embrace being present at all times in a few ways – including some of the tips that Angela recently shared on her blog. Funny how just remembering to BREATHE brings you back into the present moment! Am I the only one who forgets to breathe on a regular basis?! It’s not an overnight change, but I see it slowly making a difference in the management of my anxiety and the progress of increasing happiness in my life.

What does the next month have in store? July was pretty heavy, so we’re going to skip that scheduled strategy for now – I promise to come back to forgiveness!  I will focus on August’s task of Increasing Flow Experiences: Doing more activities that truly engage you, where you completely “lose” yourself, which are challenging and absorbing.  This should go well with my new mantra!

How do you stay present in this crazy life?

feeling gratitude on this Saturday

…for all of your love and support after my grandfather’s passing. After a comment from Jolene, I was inspired to share Wednesday’s post during his burial service. It was a honor to do so.

…for the kind cashier at Trader Joe’s in Woodmere who gave me a bouquet of flowers on my first day of work at my new job:

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…for the array of great friends that have come to visit me at my new place of employment, including Bite Buff, finishing firsts, Healthy Heddleston and my IRL friend Danielle (happy birthday to you today!). The “Long Distance Award” goes to Julie at Wearing Mascara. Love having you in the CLE, lady!

…for my brother making a special stop at Mustard Seed Market to pick up four bags of Udi’s gluten free hamburger buns. I might have gone through the first two bags in a week. My birthday present from him this year is turning into a year’s supply of bread:

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…for blog posts like “Social Media is Turning Us Into Assholes” from Railbird J. Slim. Seriously folks, give up the snark – it’s not good for your karma.

…for air conditioning. Enough said.

…for a husband who picks up ice cream and roses on the ride home, just because:

So in return I bring him one of these:

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…most importantly, I’m grateful for being here: in Northeast Ohio, in blog land, everywhere. It’s good to be alive. Now go hug a loved one, get out there and do something fabulous.

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