Enjoying the Outdoors

Nature has a way of bringing happiness. It actually has a physical effect on people. The lack of sunshine, like in the winter, can have negative effects on your mood. Getting more sunshine, while making sure that you wear sunscreen of course, can help you feel better. Fresh air also has a nice refreshing effect. Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit lazy or just not like doing much, going on a short walk outside will give me some more motivation.

I’ve never thought of myself as a very outdoorsy person, but I still enjoy spending time outdoors. I like reading outdoors with a nice breeze. Going on a walk in the sunshine can help lift up my spirits if I’ve been feeling a bit low. Sometimes even just closing my eyes and standing with my face turned towards the sun will help improve my mood. One of my favorite things is to have my windows open in my apartment. It helps to air out my apartment, and I’ve found that I tend to sleep better with the window open. I love falling asleep to the sound of rain. It’s very soothing to have the window open with a light rain.

One of the main ways that I tend to enjoy the outdoors is when I’m camping. I can sit around the campfire at night, listening to the crickets and frogs and watching the flames. Somehow even though I’m not sleeping in my own bed, I sleep very soundly when I’m camping. Then the birds wake me up in the morning with their chirping. I love to go on a walk by myself in the woods in the morning when it’s still quiet, being able to fully enjoy everything. I like feeling like I’m connecting with nature when I’m out there by myself. I can leave my phone and have no distractions. There’s no Facebook or Snapchat. No taking pictures of things that I see rather than actually making the effort to stop and pay attention to them. I am, as the saying goes “stopping to smell the roses”. Granted, there are no roses in the woods, but I’m stopping to pay attention to the world around me and to appreciate it.

It’s not quite warm enough in Minnesota to go camping yet, but it will be in about a month. I’m looking forward to being about to go camping with my family, to enjoy nature and also enjoy some quality time with the people that I love. It’s not a fancy weekend getaway, but it’s what makes me happy, and really that’s all that matters in this quest for happiness.




Getting Excited for Spring

It’s starting to feel like spring here in central Minnesota. We’ve had some warm spells earlier this year, but usually they would only last a couple days and then it would get cold again. However, it looks like spring might actually be here. The snow piles are almost all gone, the ice is starting to move out of the lakes, and the geese are back. It doesn’t hurt when you breathe outside, and you don’t have to bundle up in your down coats, hats, and mittens before going outside.

Spring is my favorite season. I love the change of the weather, and the hope for warmer weather. It’s the only time of year when 40ºF can feel like a heat wave and you decide it’s time to break out the spring shoes and stop wearing socks. I frequently start to switch over to my spring wardrobe slightly too early, usually because I’m so excited for spring and because I want to wear my new spring clothes. Then I’ll suffer through about a month of being too cold, but too stubborn to go back to my winter clothes. It happens every year, but I always enjoy it. I do the same thing with my bed, switching out my winter flannel sheets and warm quilts for normal sheets and a normal blanket. I’ll have to throw an extra blanket on my bed for a while until it gets warm enough.

Spring makes me happy. I feel better when the days are longer, with it getting lighter early in the morning and staying light later into the evening. I love being able to start to open my windows and get some fresh air. Usually it’s a bit brisk, but it’s still refreshing and very nice to be able to air out my apartment. I love to hear the birds chirping. It always reminds me of my childhood and hearing the birds through my grandma’s open windows. Driving around town with my car window open is truly delightful. I look forward to the first time in the late winter when I hear the geese flying overhead. While I frequently get annoyed with the geese once they all come back and are everywhere around any small body of water, I still like when the geese return. It means that winter is ending.

Spring means that it’s almost time to go camping. One year we went camping the first weekend in May when the campground first opened for the year, and it snowed on us. While it was very cold, it was still nice to get out in nature. The woods always smell fresh and clean. It’s cool to be able to see the new buds on the trees and to see flowers start to come up in the woods. I love the peace and quiet you get in the woods. Sitting by the campfire can be very calming, feeling the warmth on my face and watching the flickering of the flames. It’s a simple thing that brings me happiness.

Sometimes it’s finding the simple things that bring you happiness, and the small things that come with spring make me happy.



Letting Annoyances Go

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the obstacles in my quest towards happiness. One of my main issues is that I get annoyed at things very easily. I get annoyed at things that I shouldn’t even get annoyed at and that aren’t worth my time and energy. I’ll get annoyed at geese who are standing in the parking lot, making me wait for them to move on my way to work. I get annoyed if a sports game ran long on tv and messed up the tv schedule, causing my Tivo to only end up recording part of my show. I’ll get annoyed if I only have two frozen taquitos left in the package, but I usually eat three for supper.

These things may be annoying, but they really shouldn’t bother me that much. There is nothing that I can do to make one more taquito suddenly appear in the freezer, so why let it put me in a bad mood? There are seriously so many other bad things that could happen, and the worst thing that may be happening that day is that I have to also eat half a bowl of cereal for supper because I didn’t have enough taquitos? That’s really not bad at all.

I also find myself getting annoyed at people. It can be very frustrating when I have been talking about a problem at work, and a co-worker decides that he also needs to comment on the problem even though it doesn’t involve him at all. However, I have been actively working on trying to pay attention to myself and noticing when I find myself getting annoyed. When I do, I try to remember that it really isn’t important and to just let it go. Keeping a calm attitude at work makes me much more able to handle problems as they arise  and to be trusted to fix them.

The whole act of just being aware of my thoughts and if I’m feeling annoyed about something has started to change the way that I feel. I still get annoyed at things, but I am quick to think about it, decide if it is truly worth my time, and usually let it go. This is a very freeing and uplifting feeling and I have quite been enjoying it.

This quest to happiness isn’t just about finding a path towards being truly happy, it’s also about finding thing things that are standing in my path towards happiness. While it is often times more fun to start doing more happy things, it’s also very important to think about the less happy things and figure out how you can start to lessen their impact on your life. You can either add to the positive, or take away from the negative, but all in all, you’re still working towards the same goal.



Being Thankful

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about being thankful and the “reflecting in gratitude” item that is in the 10 things you should do every day before 10 AM. I have been very fortunate to have a relatively easy life with a lot of opportunities. This is something that I know that I’ve taken for granted, and I’ve decided that I should start to think more about being thankful for the good things that have happened to me already.

I’m thankful that I am so close to my family. Even now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I still go on family vacations with my parents and younger brother. I’ll come home on weekends to go camping with them. I genuinely enjoy spending time with both of my parents and my brother, and I feel very lucky that I have those relationships. While I may have not always gotten along with my brother when we were growing up, I now consider him to be my best friend. We have very similar senses of humor, probably from growing up in the same environment. He’ll be talking to me and say “You remember that guy from that thing?” and I’ll know exactly what guy from what thing. Sometimes people think that we’re weird together because we frequently just start making odd noises and laughing, but that’s what makes our relationship fun.

I’m thankful that I’ve done so much traveling. Throughout my life, my family didn’t go on the traditional family vacations. We never went on big road trips. I’ve never been to a theme park. The only time that my family went to Florida was to visit Kennedy Space Center. We’ve also visited Johnson Space Center, in Houston, TX, in case you were wondering. A lot of our vacations either involved visiting family, who have lived in Northern California, Boston, and Alabama, or have been to National Parks. I’ve seen mountains, oceans, deserts, volcanoes, and forests. I’ve seen huge metropolitan cities and places where you drive for miles and miles and don’t see another car. I’ve gotten to experience all those things with my family, which made those vacations even more special.

I’m thankful for books. I’ve loved reading ever since I learned in 1st grade. I devoured every book that the teacher would give me, and the teacher would even let me borrow books from her own bookshelf. I started reading Agatha Christie books in 5th grade because they were a good murder mystery but appropriate for an 11 year old. By the time I was in middle school, I was reading at a college level. Reading has always been an escape for me. I can be in the 18th century, or in the 22nd century. I can be trying to find a cure for a pending epidemic, or fighting in a medieval battle. When I’m sad, books can cheer me up. When I’m happy, books will keep me happy. Reading will always be there for me.

I’m thankful for countless other things, but these are just a few things that I’m particularly thankful for today. I have found that it’s good to remember these things, especially when continuing on this quest to happiness.



Finding Happiness in the Small Things

Today, March 20th, is the International Day of Happiness. Now I’ve always thought these “International Day of…” were a bit silly, and the “National Day of…” even more so. They’re just an excuse to eat pancakes on “National Pancake Day” (March 7th) or talk like you’re Captain Jack Sparrow on “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” (September 19th). However, this International Day of Happiness seems to me to be a bit more worthwhile. It’s on the first day of spring, and already that makes me feel a bit happier. The days will start to be longer than the nights, the birds are all returning from the south, the big snow piles have melted down to their dirty mounds. It feels like all we really need is a good long rain and the world will look fresh and ready for spring.

Today has reminded me to find happiness in the small things. I was happy that it was sunny and I could wear my favorite new sunglasses on my way home from work. I was happy that it was warm enough that I could wear a light spring jacket and didn’t need to wear my winter coat. I was even happy that I had leftovers from the night before to have for supper so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time and effort trying to decide what to eat.

I have also started looking forward to this coming weekend. My parents and brother will be coming to stay with me for the weekend, and my brother will then continue to stay with me that whole next week. While there are a lot of things that I need to do to prepare for their arrival, such as making beds, cleaning the bathroom, planning meals and buying the required groceries, and figuring out how to entertain them for the weekend, I’m still very excited for them to come visit.

I see my family almost every other weekend, but it’s always when I go back home and stay with them for the weekend. It’s the same as when I was in college, and not even too different to high school. We do the same things, go the same places, eat the same foods. I love it, but it’s always the same. When they come to visit me, however, it’s different. They are coming to my new life, where I live in an apartment and not a house, where I live in a small town with different stores and restaurants. They get to experience what it’s like for me, and I like that. Most of the time

It can sometimes be hard suddenly having three extra people in your two bedroom apartment, all wanting to sit on your couch, watch what they want on the TV, eat the foods they want, and put your dishes back in the cupboard where they think they should go. However, this next time that my family comes to visit, I plan on trying to just enjoy the trip. I will make the effort not to feel like they are inserting themselves into my life. They instead love me so much that they will leave the comfort of their own bed, home, city with many options of restaurants and stores, and will drive over two hours to come see me. That’s pretty great.



Daily Intention

If you read my previous post about 10 things you should do before 10 AM, you’ll know that one of the items is to set a daily intention. The article says that you should set three goals for yourself each day, but I don’t follow that. I tend to think just one goal for the day. Most of the time it isn’t even a goal in the traditional sense, it’s just something that I want to change for that day.

I feel like it’s easy to say that my intention/goal for the day is to finish some project at work, or to clean the bathroom. However, I don’t feel like that is meaningful to me. I already keep a simplified bullet journal where I write down my to-do items for the day, but I am good at not overloading myself with too many things to do each day. What I prefer to do with the daily intention is to make it about how I want to feel for that day.

I might choose to think of something positive every time I might think of something as being negative. Or I might remind myself that day to not get annoyed about small things, such as not finding a close parking spot to the door at work or if I don’t agree with something that someone says. Changing your entire viewpoint can often be difficult and hard to break out of old habits, but I have found that changing something for just one day makes it a lot easier. If I gently remind myself to not get annoyed with things one day, then it tends to follow me to other days. Even though it may no longer be my intention for that day, I’ll still find myself trying to let go of annoyance and move on.

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I have never felt that I had anything that I majorly wanted to change. Also, I always felt that it was a bit silly to wait until one day a year to start a resolution. Fortunately I do feel that way, otherwise I would have had to wait about 9 months to start this quest for happiness, rather than starting it whenever I decided it was the right time for me, which happened to be the middle of March. Anyway, these daily intentions almost feel like mini resolutions to me, where you only have to keep them for one day and can change them up to fit how you’re feeling. That’s what I really like about them. There is no long term commitment to something that I’m not sure I’ll want in a couple months. If I have been feeling annoyed lately, I can tailor them to try to curb that annoyance. If I feel that I need a reminder to be positive or remember that I’m a great person, then I can do that too. It just works for me.

I think it’s a useful reminder for everyone that goals don’t always have to be about completing tasks. They can also be about changing how you think for the better, so that you’re a happier person overall.



First Steps

One of the first things that I’m doing on this quest for happiness is something that I once read an article about online. It was about 10 things that you should do before 10 AM every day (https://www.powerofpositivity.com/10-things-you-should-do-every-day-before-10-am/). They are things that are supposed to make you feel better, feel more productive, and be a better and happier person.

It’s been pretty easy to incorporate these things into my everyday routine.  When my alarm used to go off in the morning, I would turn it off and then lie in bed for about 5 minutes before actually getting up. Now, I use a guided meditation app to meditate for 5 minutes before getting out of bed. I feel relaxed at the start of my day, but also more awake than if I had just spent that extra 5 minutes lying in bed.

I do some light stretching while standing in front of my closet, looking at my clothes before I get dressed. While getting ready in the bathroom, I have started listening to classical music, which I find relaxing, drink a glass of water, and also thinking about three things every days for which I’m grateful. I always wash and put away my breakfast dishes before I go to work, and make sure that I smile at people when I’m walking to my desk at work.

The last three things are a bit more difficult for me. One of them is to pad your schedule, which doesn’t always relate to me. If I have a lot of meetings one day, there isn’t really anything I can do about it. Most days I don’t have too much scheduled and don’t feel like it’s especially necessary to pad my schedule. I have been trying to do my hardest task first, and some days I like that because it feels good to tackle the project and I feel good when it’s finally accomplished. However, sometimes I feel like it would be more productive to work on multiple easier tasks and get those done in the same amount of time that it would take for me to finish the hardest task.

The final task, and the one that usually takes me the longest, is to set my daily intention. I’m not sure if I do it the same way that most people do it, and I don’t do it the same every day. Mostly I just decide how I want to feel that day and what I need to do to make it happen. Some days it’ll be as simple as trying to think positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts, and other days it’ll be reminding myself that I’m an awesome person.

I have a little notebook that I write down the task list each day, check off each item as I complete it, and also record my daily intention. It was helpful in the beginning to remember all 10 items to do, and now I just like being able to feel like I’ve completed something every morning. It may not be a big step in my quest towards happiness, but I feel like it’s something, and that’s what counts.



KT and the Quest for Happiness

I have decided to start on a quest for happiness. The term “quest for happiness” may be a bit extravagant, but it sounds a lot better than “trying a bunch of stuff so that I don’t spiral into a pit of despair.” Yikes, that sounds dark. It’s maybe not so bad, but I’ve been in a rut since, well, probably years, and I want to change that before it’s too late.

If I had to describe my life, I’d say it was mediocre. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s not really anything special. I am a manufacturing engineer at an industrial plant in central Minnesota. It’s a good job, but again, nothing special. I live by myself in an apartment and am financially comfortable. My parents and brother live about 2 hours away and I still go home about every other weekend to visit them.

My life is filled with routines. I wake up at the same time each day, have cereal for breakfast, go to work, eat lunch at my desk, come home, watch TV and eat dinner on the couch, then watch some more TV and go to bed. On week days, the only variety I get is if I decide between Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms for breakfast. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture. I like routine, I like knowing exactly what’s going to happen and being comfortable with knowing the outcome.

However, I am beginning to find that routines can be boring. Routines can be lonely. Routines can make it so that over 2.5 years have gone by at the same job and you feel like nothing has changed except that you’re older and still single. You can feel yourself slipping into a sort of half-life, where you’re not truly living your life to the fullest.

That’s why I’ve decided to go on this quest for happiness. I want to be able to look back on my life and feel like I accomplished things, that I made memories. I hope to document my journey in this blog, to help remind myself on the hard days what I’m working towards, and to share this quest with anyone who decides to read it. Quests can sometimes seem long and daunting, but they always start with one step. This is my first step. Wish me luck.