Just as we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what is possible over the long run, it can also be challenging to objectively measure or recognize our progress even when we are consistent. It’s like watching a plant grow every day or bringing water to boil. We can kind of tell things are headed in the right direction, but when we wake up each day with ourselves, it’s often hard to see the small and slow changes that are being accumulated. I recently realized that I am over halfway through my year long Happiness Project and therefore stopped to consider whether or not I am in fact happier. And while discussing my progress with Jon the other day, I realized (with glee) that I am indeed. Of course there are still many ups and downs and days when I just #can’teven or become snappish, but cumulatively I would argue I have definitely made some significant, and seemingly sustainable, progress. Moving abroad required some time to adjust and being more settled and developing friendships and a life here was integral of course, but I can definitively point to some of my ongoing resolutions and areas of focus which have also contributed positively. Practicing gratitude, giving proofs of love, finding ways to be generous, recognizing what’s important to me and prioritizing it, and studying topics of interest intently have actually changed my life for the better (and not in a hyperbolic or trite way in the least). But as I described to my husband, something that seems to have disproportionately impacted me has been those activities which involve writing, and more specifically journaling. By focusing my attention on happy memories, I often feel a surge of positive affect in the present.
I mentioned the other day that my Happiness Project for the month of January was focused on memories and learning how to savor. Savoring is not something which comes naturally to me, or apparently many of us, but I was encouraged when reading that it is something which we can learn with a bit of effort and I can personally attest to its power. For this reason alone, I can see now why journaling about things I am thankful for or happy memories has helped so much. I would argue that I tend to have a pretty strong capacity for remembering facts and information, but that is not necessarily always true of events and stories. Although we might think that an event is so special or momentous as it unfolds, our recollection tends to fade off into the distance as time passes. A study conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky showed that “replaying your happiest life events serves to prolong and reinforce positive emotions and make you happier.” Not to be confused with over-analyzing the day, those who replayed and reveled in their happy memories for only eight minutes per day on three consecutive days felt more intense positive emotions even four weeks later!
This year in place of the open-ended one sentence gratitude journal I started last July, I am using a guided Positive Journal each day which has a one to two sentence quote, fact, or idea for consideration. Sometimes these journal prompts help me to consider alternative and more constructive interpretations of current events and sometimes they remind me of good times in the past. For example, I was recently prompted to write about a moment when I felt pure joy. Immediately, I thought of a very special summer day a few years ago when my husband and I were dating. We had recently moved to Boston and the adjustment to the higher standard of living and costs was at times almost crushing, therefore I had been working a few extra hours at a part time job to help out. Unfortunately, this meant that we had very limited time together and I seldom had a full day off so eventually we decided I had to resign. On that first Saturday we had to ourselves, we went to Revere Beach just outside the city. As we walked around in the sun and collected seashells, I remember him beaming ear-to-ear, absolutely ecstatic in his own usual quiet way, at the opportunity to truly spend time relaxing and together for the weekend. It was an unforgettable smile and a simple, but precious day which instantly came flooding back and warming me as I wrote. Reminiscing about this, and other similar experiences while writing about happy memories, helped me to relive those feelings in the present and also invoked all kinds of good feelings about my most important relationship.
For many people, certain foods have the same ability to conjure up happy memories – your grandmother’s “famous” pie, that exquisite dinner out while on vacation, or the traditional foods of the holidays often add up to a sum greater than its parts. There are many foods which invoke nostalgia or comfort for me, one of which I used to enjoy often when I worked from home in Boston. I usually started my day with an early morning barre class (duh) and then headed to a nearby coffee shop or café to get started on my work. If my schedule permitted, I considered it a wonderful indulgence to work there remotely until lunchtime, just so I could have a cup of the delicious broccoli cheese soup, before I headed home to work for the rest of the day. It was a good treat for me back then, but also probably not very good for me. I have since then recreated my own version which is completely dairy-free, Whole30, and Paleo. It’s easy to make and enjoy throughout the week and brings back those happy memories of my life in Boston, except now I can enjoy it from the comfort of my own home and without any less than desirable ingredients. #winning
- Raw Cashews 1 cup
- Ghee 2 TBSP
- Medium Yellow Onion, Diced 1 each
- Garlic Cloves, Minced 3 each
- Bone Broth/Chicken Stock 2 cups (475 ml)
- Medium Carrot, Shredded 2 each
- Medium Heads of Broccoli, cut into 1" florets 2 each
- Nutritional Yeast .5 cup (30 g)
- Full Fat, Unsweetened Coconut Milk .25 cup (60 ml)
- Ground Mustard 1 TSP
- Cayenne 1 TSP
- Sea Salt .5 TSP
- Black Pepper .5 TSP
- Place the cashews in a bowl with just enough water to fully cover and allow to soak for 4-6 hours or up to 24 hours. The longer you go, the creamier the final result tends to be.
- In a large stockpot, melt the ghee over medium-high heat and then add the onions and garlic to saute until slightly softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
- Then reduce the heat to medium and add the bone broth, carrots, and broccoli florets, allowing to reach a simmer and then cooking until the broccoli is steamed/softened which should be about 10 minutes.
- While the soup is cooking, drain the cashews and mix them along with all remaining ingredients (nutritional yeast, coconut milk, mustard, cayenne, black pepper and sea salt) in a blender at high speed. Blend until you reach a smooth, creamy consistency.
- Then add the cashew mixture to the stockpot and allow to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to heat through.
- ENJOY! This soup should be kept in the fridge in an airtight container and will last up to about 5 days. I have not tried freezing and reheating later, although it should probably work. Let me know if you try - I'll probably never have enough left over to do so 🙂