Finding Happiness in Hobbies

I attended a wedding this weekend and during the reception I watched 2 sisters dance together. One was 18 and the other 12, and the PURE JOY they had dancing was so fun to watch. I felt happy watching them be happy.

I want to talk to you more about this idea of “happy.” What is it, what does it feel like, how do you get it, and better yet – how do you KEEP it?

First, What It Is Not

Media makes it seem like happiness is something everyone should strive to feel on a regular, consistent basis. I have found this to not be realistic nor sustainable. I only know a few people whose neutral state is effusive happiness. And even then, I wonder if I know them well enough to see their true self.

Please don’t hear that when I encourage you to find things that make you happy, that means that you should fake happiness to be palatable to society.

Not. At. All. You deserve more. You deserve a life you don’t need to escape.

Redefining Happiness

Instead of trying to eliminate unpleasant feelings and situations, a more Sustainably Productive (SusPro) way of living is to identify situations, activities, and people who bring that happiness. This is where the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity comes in: Hobbies.

The Pittsburgh Mind Body Center study about how leisure activities impact mental and physical health demonstrates the value of hobbies for sustainable productivity.

Higher participant score on leisure time activity showed the following improvements:

  • Lowered levels of blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, body mass index, and levels of depression
  • Additionally, it showed raised levels of positive psychosocial states, life satisfaction, life engagement, quality of sleep, exercise outcomes, and perceptions of better physical function {even when they factored out sports as hobbies)

Getting Started

What if you don’t know what makes you happy? What if you don’t even know what hobby you might want to try? I would like to suggest you begin by simply noticing what you notice.

  1. Identify the feeling of happiness, what does that literally feel like? When I was watching the sisters joy at dancing, my heart felt full, my stomach and mind were both calm, my face was smiling, and I just felt present.
  2. Once you know what happy might feel like, start to notice when those feelings are present at other times in your day. Does your stomach unclench when you left your phone at home and had silence in the car ride to the grocery store? Does the smile come back with internet cat videos? What smells, tastes or feelings are around you when your monkey mind finally settles?
  3. Now find out what activities can help you find more of these moments. If it is a certain smell, could you take up a hobby making bath and body products. If music makes you smile, maybe a dance class, singing lessons, or just making play lists is the hobby to make time for.
  4. Quit if it isn’t working. It does not mean it was wrong, it just means you have data points to try something new. I thought I wanted to learn to sing and did a few duets with Bixby on acoustic guitar. Turns out I don’t want to learn to sing, I want to do more karaoke. Subtle shift, but I never would have figured that out if I had not tried.

Your Turn

Each of us will have different feelings that indicate happiness. I would love to hear what yours are and what hobbies bring that out in your life!

By |2021-07-26T20:39:19-04:00July 27th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Burnout of Busyness

Are you drowning under the weight of your to do list? When people ask how you have been, is your default response, “Busy!”

Have you stopped to ask yourself why you are filling every nook and cranny of your days – of your kids’ days?

I hear your defensive exclamations: “There is no time in the schedule for asking nonsense questions like that?!”

Let me float another one by you – how does it feel to be so on the run that you cannot check in with yourself.

Or is it the inverse – you stay so busy on purpose so you don’t have to consider those feelings.

To consider the voice in your head nudging you to slow down…

..to wait…

..to breathe.

By |2021-07-18T14:13:26-04:00July 20th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Birth of Fitness Without a Finish Line

Once upon a time, the only thing people knew to ask me about was what race I was training for. Between running and triathlon, there was always something on the calendar. No matter the weather or the state of my body and mind, I NEVER forfeited an entry fee. Even if it meant literally or proverbially limping across the finish line.

This was not sustainable, nor productive.

So in my early 40’s I set out to define Sustainably Productive fitness for myself. This is how the idea of Fitness without a Finish Line was born.

Step One – Identify What Isn’t Working

The first step was to identify what was not working for me. This fell into two main areas.

How I exercised. I was always trying to go faster or longer. When I finished an Olympic distance tri, I had to go for half Ironman distance. I knew I would never win so I had to try to impress people with the distances I was able to go. Even if “able” meant nerve pain sending streaks of pain through my foot or chronic headaches after every swim.

I also stuck to the schedule NO MATTER WHAT. I biked in storms, barely able to find old barns for shelter from lightning. I ran across icy roads barely able to keep from sliding. I swam in lakes in early morning dark hours when I could only hear (not see) the nearest person to me (I keep telling myself it was a person I was hearing).

I am lucky to have come out the other side of such poor choices as unscathed as I have.

Why I exercised. The short story is I needed approval (the long story is for my therapist). Whether it was wows over the distances or societal approval over my appearance, I exercised hard to bring in all the gold stars.

Running burns lots of calories quickly so I stuck to races that incorporated some kind of running. Even though I have exercised-induced asthma, I would run through colds, often pushing them over the edge into bronchitis – just so I could maximize the energy expenditure.

There were several tipping points to bring about my need for change. Once I identified that I needed to make some changes, I started with small adjustments.

Step Two – Make Small Adjustments

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. SusPro methodology identifies value in what you are doing and encourages doing more of what works while you make adjustments in what is not working. Here are a few adjustments that I made.

  1. Racing sabbatical – no race entries for 6 months to see how it felt. The weirdest thing was that I did not have any quick conversation topics. Needless to say, this felt like a whole different problem that what we are talking about today. By calling it a sabbatical, I did not have to dramatically declare that I was never going to race again. I was just trying on this non-racing identity to see how it felt. Spoiler: I have not entered a race in about 5 years.
  2. Increased emphasis on pre-hab. Instead of waiting for injury to strike and cause another round of physical therapy rehab, I now have a pre-hab PT routine that helps to prevent those injuries. I added in some body weight exercises to boost my bone density where I can. Over the course of about 6 months I have gradually increased my pushups and can now do 100 military pushups in a day’s worth of strength training / pre-hab.
  3. Challenging yoga. My yoga studio closed during COVID forcing me to find another hot home for yoga. Never in a million years did I think I would land in power yoga classes in a hot studio. This is power yoga in 95-100 degree rooms. And I love it. This is for sure a COVID silver lining.

Step Three – Evaluate Progress

I track various fitness components in a spreadsheet. Here is a sneak peek from yesteryear (2018 I had knee surgery so the whole year was a bit of an outlier). Some days it feels useless to mark that I walked 1 mile, but over several months, it sure adds up.

And to be able to look back over YEARS is also pretty cool! Don’t try to recreate the past – just start today. You can download the Sustainable You Habit Tracker here for free!

As you are evaluating this progress, you just return to step 1 and evaluate what is not working and make more adjustments. You might have different seasons where schedules, weather, and interests impact your exercise routine. That is ok as long as you keep going. Be heartened that there is no finish line. You are never last, you can never fail as long as you keep trying.

Your Turn

Tell me about your exercise routine, choices, fears, and habits!

By |2021-07-12T13:36:15-04:00July 13th, 2021|Health & Fitness|0 Comments

Home.

When is the last time you felt at home?

At home in your body?

At home in your environmental surroundings?

At home in your relationships?

What does “at home” even mean or feel like for you? Here is what the internet says home means:

“Home” can mean so many things and is a base of creating a life you don’t need to escape. It is when we are uncomfortable in our own skin, unable to exhale, have no safe place to fall that we are desperate to numb the discomfort to avoid feeling un-homed.

The concept of home certainly apply to all three pillars of Sustainable Productivity. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Environmental Surroundings

Your environment is the easy definition of home. What you surround yourself with. The furniture, art, music, clothes, images, colors and everything else that you take in  directly and indirectly.

Sometimes it is easier to define what is not making your surroundings feel like home. If something is not serving your surroundings in a way that makes you exhale when you enter the space, get rid of it.

  1. Friends or groups in your social media draining you – block, mute, unfriend and delete.
  2. Beige walls make you feel like you are institutionalized? Paint is an easy fix. If you don’t like the color, try again. Wall paper is even making a comeback – although after removing as much wallpaper as I have in my day I cannot in good conscience recommend THAT!
  3. Do you have outdated knickknacks, photos, and accessories around that just feel cluttered? Refreshing small things can transform your space quickly and inexpensively.

If you want to explore what is out there to try to find out how to make your home a Home, try making boards on Pinterest or combing through magazines, or even browsing furniture stores to see what strikes you. What fabrics, colors, shapes, and overall aesthetics are you drawn to? Start small, but start somewhere.

Health & Fitness

There can be may reasons you don’t feel at home in your body. Usually acceptance is at the core of whatever is blocking that feeling of home. As we age it can be hard to embrace the body you are in, instead of wanting the body you used to have.

  • What if you focused on stats related to your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar instead of stats related to the scale and calorie intake?
  • Could you be more accepting of the body you are in if you embraced intuitive eating instead of restricting calories?
  • Would you feel at home in your body pursuing physical activity that felt good – even if you were not part of the “norm”?

Mental Well-being

The component I most want to talk about here is relationships. There have been lots of discussions about friendships among adult women lately. You can find a few of my favorites here and here and here. I sometimes think as an introvert I don’t need friends or are somehow exempt from this section of Maslow’s hierarchy. Oh, how wrong that is. I was reminded of that this weekend when I spent a couple days with my long-time friend and her family at the beach.

I think I laughed more with her and her family that I have all of 2021 combined. We talked for hours as we sat on the beach watching her 4 kids play in the ocean. There is something about someone who has known you for 35 years who can cut through questions to ask QUESTIONS and understands the unspoken things in the answers. I felt seen and understood. I felt at home.

By |2021-07-05T15:06:21-04:00July 6th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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