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This week’s Truth Thursday is on things that make me happy – a bit simple, yes, but absolutely essential. Whenever I’m down, these things have the power to bring me back up.

1. Otters – I had a rough weekend last weekend for no extreme reason. When boyfriend noticed me getting sad, he entered “otters” or “curious otters” into the Google Images and pulled up a picture. Immediately, I lit up. He also posted a picture of a mama otter on my FB wall this week, and last week, he randomly changed my desktop picture to an otter. Boyfriend knows me well. Anyway, the point of all this otter picture rhetoric is that I FREAKING LOVE OTTERS. Although if you didn’t already know that, you probably haven’t been reading my blog.

I should not have looked up otters at work. Cannot...contain...squees...

2. Berries – I love most fruit, but I especially love berries. Strawberries and raspberries are some of my very favorite foods. I have been known to purchase 2 lbs. of strawberries and go through them in less than 48 hours. I would say the same about raspberries except that they’re so expensive that I’ve never tried. I also love a lot of food with strawberries and raspberries, like pancakes with strawberries on top. Yum. Okay, I’ve made myself hungry. Moving on.

Oh. My. God. What are you and why are you not here in front of me?

3. Farmers markets – I knew about farmers markets way back when. I didn’t really go that often, but they seemed pretty cool. When I moved out to California, however, I truly discovered the joy of farmers markets. California has these markets everywhere year round and the locals present the most amazing food. You have to pick and choose what you get – some are overpriced or picked over – but you can almost always walk away with some great, tasty finds. I cannot wait until my city’s farmer’s market opens up next week! Damn Minnesota and its winter ruining my farmers markets.

4. Thunderstorms – I love thunderstorms. I like rain in general, and I sure love sunshine, but nothing beats a good thunderstorm. There’s just nothing like waking up to the sound of rain. I usually open my window or my patio door when it’s raining at night just so I can hear it. Any water sound is calming to me, but particularly rain does the trick. I do NOT like tornadoes, however – they scare the hell out of me. Sending good thoughts to the people in north Minneapolis, Missouri, and Kansas right now.

5. Finishing a good book – Reading a good book is great, absolutely. But finishing a good book? Only that can give you the mixed feelings of satisfaction, sadness, loss, joy, fulfillment, and confusion about the mixed feelings in general. After I finished reading “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” for instance, I cried for at least 15 minutes and could not shake my mood for the rest of the day. Something in that book resonated with me, and that’s pretty powerful.

What simple things make you happy?


The lovely Kate passed along a great image to me and I felt the need to share it.

See the original post here.

You may recall that I talked about the Happiness Project in a previous post – today’s newsletter asked the questions, “Whom do I envy? Why?” That question brings up a lot of thoughts for me. Let’s face it, we all envy something about someone. I’m not ashamed to admit that I envy a lot about other people. I want to be skinny, have money, be able to travel around the world, work in a job where it’s more like play than work, have a perfect relationship, see my boyfriend whenever I want, live where I want, own hundreds of pairs of shoes.

Photo: DramyJohnson

I could probably go on for much longer, but the point isn’t what you envy, the point is why do you envy people for these things? Generally, people want what they don’t have or haven’t had – for example, I’ve never been near affluent, so I see the ease of having money and it makes me wish I had that ease. In some cases, such as with body image, it relates back to self-esteem – if we had more self-confidence, it wouldn’t matter as much what we look like. Sometimes all we need to break ourselves out of the pity party is realizing that no one has the perfect situation. What may look like an ideal relationship may be falling apart at the seams, or perhaps a couple does have the perfect relationship but is struggling financially. No one’s life is perfect and everyone’s life has positives.
The goal in asking these questions is that you pinpoint things that make you unhappy and work to avoid them, while trying to better appreciate the good in your life. The next time I start feeling sorry for myself and jealous of what someone else has, I promise that I’ll try to think about the good in my own life.

Whom do you envy and why?

I had a rough start to the morning (yeah, again) so I decided to post some prettiness.

Fairly Lights: Star Bokeh

I found this picture while looking into a photography challenge and just love it. It’s my phone’s background.

Can I be there now? That just looks so calming and energizing at the same time.

I saw this when I was staying in New York City for a month. I actually was riding a city bus when I saw the “graffiti” on a wall and rode the bus again just to find it. What a simple way to bring a little love to the city.

Photo from Smashing Magazine

I find this to be really pretty in an interesting way. I love the dynamics of it.

Photo from the Ocean World Observatory

This is simply gorgeous. Wow. I miss being near here.

Any favorite photos you’d like to share?

Everyone has heard the claim, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Well, that might not necessarily be true.

I read a really interesting research article today on money’s effect on happiness called “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy,” by Elizabeth W. Dunn, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson. The study claims that money DOES buy happiness, but only in certain ways. The authors propose eight suggestions for getting more happiness from your buck:

Specifically, we suggest that consumers should (1) buy more experiences and fewer material goods; (2) use their money to benefit others rather than themselves; (3) buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones; (4) eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance; (5) delay consumption; (6) consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives; (7) beware of comparison shopping; and (8) pay close attention to the happiness of others.

Let me break each one down a bit.

1. Buy more experiences and fewer material goods: When you spend money on experiential things (a.k.a. things that provide an experience – a vacation, a dinner, a party), you get more happiness than if you spend money on material things. This stems from the idea that things lose value as you adapt to them whereas experiential spending can be remembered and cherished. The authors use the following example: “After devoting days to selecting the perfect hardwood floor to install in a new condo, homebuyers find their once beloved Brazilian cherry floors quickly become nothing more than the unnoticed ground beneath their feet. In contrast, their memory of seeing a baby cheetah at dawn on an African safari continues to provide delight.” They also state that living in the moment shows greater happiness – studies have shown that mind-wandering can actually be a sign of discontent in the present – thus, creating more memorable experiences helps people retain happiness.

2. Use money to benefit others rather than themselves: Many studies have been done to compare the happiness effects of giving to another (money, gifts, charitable donations, etc.) vs. spending money on yourself. These studies have all indicated that you receive greater happiness from giving the money away – regardless of whether or not you were forced to do so! Because humans are distinctly social beings, giving money or gifts to others positively affects our emotional self. This contradicts most traditional thinking that spending money on yourself makes you happier.

3. Buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones: I found this one to be particularly interesting. The authors state, “Happiness is more strongly associated with the frequency than the intensity of people’s positive affective experiences.” This is largely due to the fact that we adapt so quickly to our purchases. Therefore, buying a new car does not necessarily bring the same level of happiness as buying lattes or good-quality socks – over an extended amount of time, of course. There are a few reasons frequent buying helps: “Novelty (we’ve never experienced the event before), surprise (we didn’t expect it to happen), uncertainty (we’re not entirely sure what the event is), and variability (the event keeps changing)….Because frequent small pleasures are different each time they occur, they forestall adaptation.”

4. Eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance: In case you’re like me and had to remind yourself what “eschew” means, it means “to avoid.” Now, the article isn’t saying don’t buy any insurance and live carefree; rather, they’re saying that many forms of insurance are overpriced and unnecessary. For example, when you a buy a plasma TV, chances are quite good that you will never need to use the warranty, so buying an extended warranty isn’t really necessary – it’s just emotional protection. But you know what? Our psychological minds are built to protect ourselves against that, so we don’t need emotional protection. We’re already insured against that. Related to that, things like return policies (i.e., return within 30 days for a full refund) may actually reduce emotional attachment, and therefore, happiness with a purchase.

5. Delay consumption: We’re used to credit card mentality – “Consume now, pay later!” – but studies show that paying up front actually may increase happiness in a product. You buy something and then anticipate its arrival, as opposed to “buying” something, adapting to it, and then having to pay for it after the fact. Would you rather look forward to something exciting or have to worry about paying for something that maybe isn’t so exciting anymore? Or as the authors say, “Anticipation is the Batman to the Robin of reminiscence.” Perhaps Walmart’s layaway plan isn’t such a bad idea (don’t worry, I still dislike Walmart). Interestingly, delaying consumption also seems to affect healthier buying. In a study where people were offered apples, bananas, paprika-flavored crisps, and Snickers bars, people chose the unhealthier options if they were to eat them quickly and the healthier options if they were to eat them later.

6. Consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives: Think about what you’re not thinking about. Imagine your dream vacation: relaxing on the beach, dining at your favorite restaurants…but what is inevitable about every vacation? You get sunburned at the beach, you stand in long lines at your favorite restaurant, etc. Overlooking these little facts-of-life can actually decrease happiness in purchases, but being prepared for them cause increase happiness. Or as the authors express, “Happiness is in the details.” Knowing those details will also help you make more realistic purchases.

7. Beware of comparison shopping: By comparing one product’s features to similar products’ features, you may actually lose sight of the features of the product that make provide happiness. It may also persuade buyers to choose the best deal rather than the best option. Unfortunately, this one is difficult because our minds naturally compare items on a somewhat subconscious level. Basically, just be aware when you’re shopping that the features you’re comparing may not matter when you’re actually consuming.

8. Pay close attention to the happiness of others: This is pretty straightforward – what makes other people happy will often also make you happy.

I realize this is a long summary of the article, but I really valued the research presented here, especially considering my only long-term goal: to be happy. Those who know me know that money is a consistent frustration for me, so reading this was very enlightening. I hope you all found something of value as well!

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