To Journal: A Perfect Day?

A beautiful summer walk led us to a bench overlooking hills and forest at a nearby park. I turned to my significant other and asked “What would you perfect day in the city look like?”. I was so surprised to learn it involved bike riding and exploring new neighbourhoods… things we never do. Why didn’t we pay $50 for bike rack access in our building? Why hadn’t we used Toronto’s BlogTO website to scout out new favorite coffee shops? It seems a shame to make perfect days once-in-awhile days.

My Perfect Day

  • 6am, cup of tea, big ol’ sweatshirt and some time alone with my thoughts
  • Waking my significant other up with rubs and snuggles (one of my favorite parts of any day!)
  • A nice long relaxing shower
  • Brunch
  • Reading an engrossing book and napping in the sun
  • Go exploring: afternoon pub beers or coffee indulgences
  • Making a healthy dinner together
  • Snuggling up on the couch with my significant other to watch a favorite show
  • Cup of tea & book in bed after a long and fulfilling day

Try to incorporate these moments in to your every day.

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Can Money Buy Happiness?

As I prepare myself for a job search post-thesis in the fall, I’m guilty of falling in to day dreams about all the things I will buy and how much happier I’ll be with my new found wealth. I’ve researched the happiness vs. income paradox quite a bit (I even thought about writing my thesis on it at one point), and this article from the Globe and Mail is a great summary. The only thing I think it leaves out is a discussion about how happiness has been shown to increase gradually with income gains but only up to about 60k, after that the gains are superficial,

A good reminder that a happy life is built on relationships, mental and physical health, and the environment I surround myself in. While it will be a relief to quell my student debt anxiety, bathing in money is not as important as a job that brings satisfaction.

Money can buy happiness – but only so much of it
The Globe and Mail, July 23rd, 2013
Ronald Hirshhorn

“Can money buy happiness? This question, long pondered by philosophers, psychologists, sociologists and theologians, has more recently become a subject for empirical study by economists. Testing has been made possible by the accumulation over time and in many countries of survey data on happiness or life satisfaction, along with the discovery that individuals’ subjective responses correlate with objective measures of happiness such as left-hand side brain activity and independent assessments by relatives and friends.

Evidence that happiness increases as incomes rise would justify the major focus economic policy gives to promoting long-term growth and achieving higher material living standards. The results of available research, however, are not reassuring.

While income is clearly important to the well-being of those struggling to finance the basics of life, a popular view has held that, for most individuals in developed economies, it is relative rather than absolute income that counts. According to the so-called “Easterlin paradox,” individuals are primarily concerned with how their living standard compares with others and so, raising the incomes of everyone does not increase overall happiness. Increased income will also have less influence to the extent a psychological process known as adaptation occurs. In this case, individuals’ initial excitement from income gains fades as they adapt to their new circumstances.

The view that increasing average income will not improve a society’s average well-being is challenged in a recent study. Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, two Wharton School professors, found that there is a significant link between income and happiness both within and across countries. Their results suggest that improvements in a society’s material standards will lead to increases in subjective well-being, although the impact gradually diminishes so that gains are successively smaller as average income increases.

Care is needed in trying to apply data to a complex phenomenon like happiness. The results of cross-country comparisons may be affected by the difficulties of controlling for the factors besides income that affect happiness. Moreover, while Ms. Stevenson and Mr. Wolfers show that there is a correlation between income and happiness, their analysis does not establish that more income causes greater happiness. Within countries, the results may partly reflect the greater productivity and higher earning power of individuals with a happier disposition and a more positive outlook. It is also possible that a partial source of the increased happiness of higher-income individuals is their more fulfilling work experience. Higher earners are more likely to have careers or callings, as opposed to “jobs,” and more liable to enjoy the positive “flow” psychologists have identified in individuals who are completely absorbed in their work.

Still, economic growth provides some clear benefits, and these extend beyond enabling the purchase of more consumer goods. Over the past several decades, average life expectancies have risen with improvements in economic conditions around the world. Economic growth has made possible reductions in poverty, improvements in health care, the upgrading of public infrastructure, and the availability of more supports and services for those in need. Over the coming years, economic growth is needed to help industrial countries cover the rising costs of medical care and income support for their aging populations.

Nevertheless, a striking finding from survey results going back to the 1950s is that in the United States, a country that has achieved impressive technological progress and economic growth, reported happiness has not increased. It may be that respondents are not fully aware of how conditions in their country have truly improved over the years. But it is also likely that these results reflect the influence of some undesirable developments that, in a relatively affluent country, may offset, and possibly outweigh, the benefits from increases in average income.

A report for a 2012 United Nations conference on happiness, edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs, provides some useful perspective. The study found that differences in income account for only about one-eighth of the variation in happiness among countries (and even less of the variation within countries) that could be explained statistically. The rest is accounted for by personal factors, such as mental and physical health, family relationships and education; and social factors, including job stability and quality, networks of social support, the degree of corruption in government and business, and the extent of personal freedom and security. While influencing happiness, some of the identified factors, such as health and education, are, at the same time, influenced by individuals’ happiness.

The failure of reported happiness to keep pace with economic growth in the U.S. has been partly attributed to the unequal distribution of the gains from growth. Most of these gains have gone to the top income groups, whose well-being is least affected by income increases. Lower-income households that would most benefit have experienced relatively modest gains, and, by some measures (since the early 1970s), actual declines in real income.

In addition, researchers have pointed to indicators for the U.S. that suggest all is not well among several key personal and social determinants of happiness. Disturbing developments include the increase in obesity, the higher incidence of type 2 diabetes, the greater prevalence of mental distress, the rise in divorce rates, the decline in organizational participation, and the loss in social trust.

The message from U.S. experience is not that economic growth is unimportant, but that a society’s well-being also depends on the route by which countries strive to achieve economic progress. What is called for is a balanced strategy in which governments recognize (as a number of Northern European countries, which rank high on international comparisons of well-being, apparently have) that some policies to promote growth are undesirable because of the losses they would inflict on low-income households or the harm they would cause to other sources of well-being – and that policies outside the growth agenda are also needed to advance the personal and social factors that contribute to a society’s happiness.”

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Recipes to try: Week of July 22nd, 2013

Down the Internet rabbit hole I went, and so I find myself making a deal with the health-trend devil to eat low-carb. It started when I stopped off at the Happiness Project Blog one morning, and suddenly found myself borrowing Why We Get Fat from the library. It rattles on about our physiology, and explains how the body can only process so much sugar at one time so when an excess is consumed the energy/glucose is stored as fat – thus we should limit high carb/sugar in our diet. Not an uncommon argument, nice to read it from a scientific source, and I’d suggest a free browse through from the library if you’re interested. When mulling it over with my significant other, a science nerd, he says “there’s no doubt you’ll lose weight on a low-carb diet, but if its the healthiest diet overall… I have no idea”. And so, the search for life’s diet answers will continue. My soul hasn’t been dominated by the bread gods for quite some time (except a good croissant or loaf of French bread…mmm), so I thought I might try to see what a low carb, lean meat, high veggie diet might look/feel like.

Here are some recipes for next week:
Chipotle-Lime Chicken
Sour Cream and Cheddar Mashed Cauliflower
Chicken Fajita Roll
Lemon-Tahini Chickpea Salad
Green Curry
Spring Berry Salad
Tomato and fried egg with goat cheese

To Journal: Small Moments of Happiness

I’m having a great morning sitting outside on my balcony. It’s a cool mid-summer day and the sun has that gorgeous just risen light that makes everything seem misty and romantic. It’s just the wind, the birds, and my thoughts.

As I went to get my second cup of tea, I found myself craving the comfort of a bowl of oatmeal: melty brown sugar and sweet milk. It made me think of Mom who would often prepare it for me in the morning, and brisk fall days. It brought a smile to my face (and so did eating a bowl all curled up in my sweatshirt and jammies).

It made me think of other small pleasures that create daily contentedness. When one of these moments next comes around, I’ll be better able to pause and truly appreciate the moment. Plus, what a great way to start this day: reflecting on what life can offer.

My List

  • Climbing in to a freshly laundered bed
  • The softness of newly shaved legs
  • Listening to rain patter while I’m snuggled inside
  • The post-yoga glow and feeling like you can take on the world
  • First snow fall
  • The quiet of 6am
  • A new book
  • A glass of wine after a long day
  • Lazy Saturday mornings spent in bed
  • Naps in sunbeams
  • Getting a card in the mail
  • Dancing in my living room
  • Finding a new favourite recipe
  • Sitting back pensively and enjoying listening to my friends enjoy themselves
  • Completing a puzzle
  • Letting myself paint/draw without worrying about the outcome
  • Browsing through bookstores, mocha in hand
  • Being a part/watching my loved ones succeed
  • My Waterloo reading nook: tea & academic papers
  • Finding the perfect gift for someone
  • Feeling loved
  • Movie nights with indulgent snacks
  • A long, warm, misty shower
  • Trying something new
  • Being snuggled
  • Dinners that continue long into the night
  • Themes in my life

    Again, my anal retentive list making roars its ugly head.  This time not about topics I’d like to learn about or work on, but themes in my life. I value a Healthy, Happy and Responsible life… but what contributes to these values?

    For me, at this point in time, it’s the following:

    Healthy Living

    • Exercise (specifically Yoga)
    • Food
    • Managing stress & anxiety
    • Managing my energy levels & mood swings
    • Managing migraines
    • Anti-aging

    Responsible Living

    • Purchasing Decisions
    • Reduce & Reuse
    • Volunteering & Activism
    • Monetary Donations
    • Kindness

    Happy Living

    • Relationships
    • Gratitude & Mindfulness
    • Managing my introversion
    • Seizing the day… in what ever form that may take
    • Acceptance

    To Research

    I like order. I learned it from my Mom. I can’t help it. My name is Jenn, and I am a slave to lists. All the life ponderings I have that I’d like to learn more about will be posted here. I’ll draw inspiration from this list when I have time on my hands to do a bit of academic digging (nerd alert!).

    Healthy Living

    • Is organic worth the price tag?
    • What’s all the buzz about coconut oil about?
    • Is this gluten free, sugar is the devil, inflammation trend based in sound science?
    • Should I take multivitamins/supplements?
    • Fighting back: migraines & anxiety
    • Anti-aging in my 20s
    • Brain/Bone development in my 20s
    • Quick, Healthy, Delicious and Cheap Recipes – the holy grail

    Responsible Living

    • Is recycling worth the energy consumed during reprocessing?
    • Is organic food more environmentally sound?
    • How much more environmentally sound is local food?

    Happy Living

    • Life of an introvert: How to get my ass outside and talking to people
    • Inexpensive Summer Thrills
    • How to be knowledgeable with what’s going on in my city
    • Relationship Wars: A no nagging, yet effective approach at a clean house (am I dreaming!?)


    Why Happy Living?

    One of my favorite sayings is “The days are long, but the years are short”. Some days can seem torturously long, but in the blink of the eye I’m welcoming in a new year and thinking “where on earth did the time go?”. I’m not particularly philosophical, but it seems to me that life is a series of moments. You experience each moment vividly, and you can’t fast forward or rewind. It only makes sense to me that I would try to enjoy every moment, not so i’m able to reflect happily on my life at 95, but because in this moment I’d much rather be feeling happiness than sadness. But i’m prone to mood swings, anxiety, and being a shut in – and I don’t always lead my life based on this principle. I’d like to find out how to do this, and I’m hoping recording my attempts here will help.

    Here are some quotes that also speak to me:
    “When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, I told them they didn’t understand life.”
    – John Lennon

    “To notice your joys instead of minimizing or discounting them is to become joyous. Notice joy, nourish joy, consciously take advantage of your opportunities to experience joy. Joy known over a long period of time takes you beyond yourself, deepening and expanding your mind beyond the boundaries of your disconnections.”
    – Paul Martin on his life with disability

    “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
    – Guillaume Apollinaire

    Why Responsible Living?

    “CARE …a species activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life- sustaining web.” – Fisher and Tronto (1993)

    I came across this quote while doing some readings for my masters degree, and it’s kind of stuck with me. It defines my intentions when faced with the (seemingly obvious question) Why should I care about others? Why should I care about the state of the planet? I want everyone to have the opportunities and quality of life that I’ve been offered. I want to ensure that my impact does not impede future generations from the same. I hope you do too.

    But it’s confusing, and a bit daunting to make responsible choices. There’s so much misinformation out there, and it seems like you do one thing at the expense of something else. I’d like to educate myself as much as possible, and try to live by my findings.

    Why Healthy Living?

    Here’s the short of it: I want to be doing downward facing dogs when I’m 95 (like this woman). I want to ensure that I am around and able to enjoy life for as long as possible. I’m told this is done through exercise and healthy eating habits (what a drag!).

    Sometimes (let’s be kind and say 10% of the time) I find it so hard to drag my sorry ass out of bed to do anything… let alone exert myself physically. And often I’m so lazy at the end of the day that boiling an egg seems like my personal everest. So here are my attempts to find quick, mmm-inducing food that is good for me, attempts at finding an exercise routine that sticks, and other findings on how to feel and look good.