We have less than a week left before Christmas?! I cannot believe it. 2017 has absolutely flown by, especially the past month or two. And although I hope you have plenty of things to look forward to, this time of year is so busy for everyone with all the preparation, parties, shopping, and traveling that it is very easy to become frustrated or too caught up in it all. And as s someone who thrives on routine and schedule (understatement), the extra time and effort that all the holiday festivities and activities require can honestly make me feel a little stressed or even grinch-like at times. Knowing this about myself, I am trying to address that this month with my Happiness Project which is focused on fun, energy, and enthusiasm. I knew that December would be chaotic leading up to my travel back to the States and then I will be away from home and the usual schedule, so there was no point in reaching for the stars in terms of majorly task-y type resolutions this month. And although, I deliberately avoided productivity and clearly objective aims, I think that that those I set are actually quite effective in terms of boosting happiness given the research and my personal experience thus far:
- Jump in and get involved
- Plan a weekly fun event/adventure
- Make someone smile
Sadly, I cannot remember the exact place that I read about the tremendous impact that getting more deeply involved in something has on happiness, but in general it makes sense. When we stay on the periphery of something, we are less likely to experience the fullness of the activity and less likely to forge strong connections (one of the most important predictors of life satisfaction). I, like many others, keep a quite full calendar and the thought of increasing my investment or commitments makes me a little uneasy. So instead of broadening the number of activities and organizations I am a part of, I have tried to make a conscious effort to go deeper in those that I am already involved in. I value the relationships that I have formed both at the studio and at my church here in Cork and I try continually to make an effort to get to know the people there better. And it is deeply rewarding – as I was just discussing with someone at the Flex in the City Christmas party this weekend, it is very interesting to see how much in common each of us have in terms of our interests, our struggles and various other aspects of our lives outside of a strong dislike for thigh dancing or short box on the Reformer! Putting yourself out there to make introductions or conversation usually only leads to good things. At Grace Church, I am thrilled to have an opportunity to serve and connect more deeply with people there as a “barista” in their Café Church cheerfully serving up Americanos and Cappuccinos to be sipped on during service. I was also happy that we made time to attend the holiday party there last week – although I had a million things that I would have liked to accomplish that evening, putting the to do list on hold to relax and spend more time connecting with people was well worth it. Jumping in, offering to do more, or signing up in the first place can feel daunting, but it does make life and the things you do so much richer.
Plan a weekly fun event/adventure:
At first blush, you may not understand why this is something I would actually need to resolve to do. It seems obvious that we should want to do something for enjoyment or pleasure on our days off, but as someone who loves to work and be productive, this is often an area where I struggle. I usually count on Jonathan to be the Weekend Fun Director to ensure that we do at least one thing that he wants to do rather than just run errands, do housework, or fall into general “Get Stuff Done Mode.” But especially around the holidays, there are a lot of opportunities to go new places or do different things and I wanted to make sure that I was able to cheerfully make time for Christmas traditions as well as just enjoyment in general. So we did – we hosted our second annual Irish Friendsgiving, we went to the pantomime at the Everyman Theatre, we decorated the house, we threw the first of many Flex in the City Christmas parties, and we tucked along to the infamous “Holiday House Barre Playlist.”
Make someone smile:
Again, this is not/should not be hard. But making a conscious effort to make a positive impact on someone else’s day with a genuine compliment or word of encouragement or a small act of service or kindness is worth focusing on for me. I have said before, but of all my Happiness resolutions thus far, those which help me to focus on others and being thankful – like being generous, giving thanks, and now making someone smile really seem to boost my subjective wellbeing most. It takes but a fraction of my time and usually no cost at all to brighten up someone else’s day. But looking at it on my Resolutions tracking spreadsheet at the end of each day raises my level of awareness and concerted efforts in this area. It’s rewarding for both me and the one smiling.
Another fun thing I have been doing a lot of lately is baking! Making and decorating Christmas cookies and treats has always been a fun and favorite tradition of mine. And although the types of ingredients I am using these days may not be exactly like those I might have used years ago, I love the opportunity to recreate some of the classics minus the dairy, grains or refined sugars. Including these Paleo Mint Chocolate Cookies which are as easy and quick as they are delicious!
- Egg 1 each
- Smooth Almond Butter 1 cup (250 g)
- Raw Cacao Powder .25 cup (25 g)
- Coconut Sugar .75 cup (110 g)
- Apple Cider Vinegar 1 TSP
- Baking Soda .5 TSP
- Peppermint Flavor/Extract (Check labels to ensure no weird ingredients, mine has just peppermint oil and sunflower oil) .25 TSP
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- Dark Chocolate Chips or Chunks (70% or higher) .5 cup (90 g)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add all ingredients (except chocolate chips/chunks) to your blender or mixing bowl and mix to combine well.
- Stir in the chocolate chips/chunks.
- Scoop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, leaving some room to rise (although they won't expand too much). Flatten or round into desired shape - there should be roughly 20 cookies in total.
- Bake for about 10 minutes so that the outside looks slightly dry/cooked and then remove from the oven.
- Leave on the baking sheets to cool and then enjoy!
- As with most paleo baked goods, these will last longer if kept refrigerated (up to a week or two).