This Stress Management class is gonna keep me writing, and writing, and WRITING this semester. Haha! This rusty old blog could probably use it, though.
Our assignments in Stress Management are really cool. One was to make a list of 20 things we genuinely love about ourselves (harder than it sounds, but happy to do). Another was to spend thirty minutes in an extremely stressful environment (ex: Costco on a Saturday… hahah) and observe others and their body language/observe ourselves, and then spend thirty minutes in a relaxing space and observe the differences in others and ourselves. Another required us to take ourselves on a date. It couldn’t be to run errands or do anything task-related. We genuinely had to take ourselves to do a just-for-fun activity completely alone. Like a sit-down restaurant, or a movie, or a sporting event, etc., and just be with ourselves. TREAT YO’ SELF.
They’re all kind of mind-blowing because on paper, you’re like, BOOM, easy, done, greatest assignment ever. But in actual practice, they require something of yourself and take much more brain-power and energy than I ever anticipate.
This month, she assigned us to spend three hours of time devoted to happiness, and then write what we learned. And I was all, “Cool, I like being happy. This will be easy.”
It was stressful, man! Everyone in my class agreed. We all struggled to block out the time in our schedules, and quickly, the three hours of happiness became daunting. Our teacher let us block out the hours in chunks or altogether, which did help. But then the common theme became that it was easy to overthink creating three hours of happiness. One mistake we all started to make was thinking that happiness was this event, which my teacher taught us is the most common reason for unhappiness and dissatisfaction. She taught us that we tend to think, “When I graduate, I’ll be happy. Or when I have kids, I’ll be happy. Or when I’m in a relationship, I’ll be happy. Or when this class is over, I’ll be happy. When I live closer to family, I’ll be happy. If I have a different job, I’ll be happy. When ____, I’ll be happy.”
And don’t misinterpret – milestones/events are good, and she encouraged us to make changes to reduce stress and increase happiness and reach our goals. But she reminded us that we pass milestones all the time, and if we’re not careful, we’re never actually happy and inside them- we’re always just chasing happiness. Reflecting on that lecture made it a little easier to orchestrate three hours of happiness. I just picked things that were already a typical part of my days/weeks/and months, and gave myself permission to really enjoy them as they happened, in the moment, not thinking about the next “when” myth.
So since this is my journal of sorts, I guess I just want to remember that, and remember how I spent my three hours of happiness.
For one of my hours, I made and decorated cookies with my sister Brittany and my mom. If you follow Alison Faulkner of Party With Alison, you know about Alison’s Cookie Party – her video course for making the perfect sugar cookie with royal icing, so you can do crazy detailed and intricate designs. First of all, worth the money. Second of all, it’s definitely going to take a few tries before we really nail it. (Or at least have the self-control to not eat half the unfrosted cookies before we get the chance to practice on them. Ha!) But it was so much fun – to spend time with my favorite people, to try something new without fear of failure or judgment, to just be together.
For another, I went to my morning class at Orange Theory! We’ve been going for about two months, and… I LOVE it. I feel like I’ve really tried to like working out… like really tried. I’ve tried just straight running, I’ve done BBG, Jillian Michaels, etc. and I always hit a point where I just get bored. Cody’s family got into Orange Theory and raved about it so much that we finally called and did a few free sessions. And I was in LOVE. Haha! I think Cody was pretty shocked. I love that the workout is different each time, I love the environment, I love the coaches, I love the people, and I love the confidence I feel when I finish a hard workout. I feel like I can freakin’ take on the world! Cody tells me it is just as hard as high school football conditioning. (insert muscle arm emoji here) Really, it just feels good to do hard things.
I’ve noticed a HUGE decrease in negative-self-talk and anxiety after starting our mornings this way. I also love that instead of starting our day heading to work/school and barely interacting, Cody and I get quality time doing something together. So even though we’ve done lots of classes at Orange Theory, this particular class, I told myself over and over how much I loved it and how happy it made me. And I was smiling (and beet-red and soaking wet like I’d just gone swimming hahah) the whole time. I was happy inside of the moment.
And for maybe my favorite hour of the assignment, I spent some time in the mountains earlier this month looking at fall leaves and laughing with Cody. We took lots of pictures, but didn’t check them to worry about composition or wonky-smiles or anything. Just snapped some for the memories. And they actually turned out to be some of my favorites we’ve ever taken together. It was just easy, and happy, and I felt connected to myself and to my best friend and to the beautiful world we live in.
When I wrote my reflection paper about the assignment and our lecture, I realized it would have been easy, had I not been consciously focused on being present, to fall into the “when” trap in all these scenarios. I could have let the desire to move and be closer to home color the time with my family, but instead, I just felt happy and grateful to be there. I could easily let comparison over someone else’s body or visible progress or greater strength, dull the joy I feel at Orange Theory. And I could definitely find reasons to worry away even the most gorgeous fall day in the mountains – homework waiting at home, wishing for a time of life when we have more free weekends to be spontaneous, etc. etc.
But I think what we all learned doing this assignment is that happiness is simply doing something you love, fully in the moment, with people you love. Happiness doesn’t have to be a big production. It’s something you can mine from purposeful living of everyday opportunities. You can be happy every day. You can fall in love with little moments, and tiny details, and simple pleasures deeply and repeatedly. You can live well, and live happily. REALLY. It really has nothing to do with being graduated or not (let me just repeat that to myself five times a day) or having or not having all we think we want. We aren’t victims of circumstance, and the universe doesn’t decide our level of joy like it’s the weekly weather. It’s about purposeful living exactly where we are.
To quote Russel M. Nelson, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and has everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
I really want to remember that, and this assignment. I also want to remember these pictures of Cody, caught mid-air falling from a tree… because we laugh hysterically every time we look at them.
It started, “Hey Shelby, take a picture of me climbing this tree. SO HARDCORE.”
And we laughed.
Then he started to scramble for footing.
Now note the fact that the branch is STILL in his hand… but no longer still attached to the tree. We still die of laughter that we captured this moment. Like. Let’s have a zoom on that face.
HAHAHA. He makes me the happiest.