Happier

Things that make me happy?  Hiking, dog smiles, and dog hugs!

Things that make me happy? Hiking, dog smiles, and dog hugs!

Have you heard about Happier?  It’s a social media website that focuses on positivity – not a bunch of ads, political rants, or inflammatory comments.  Like any other social media site, you can create a profile, and then post about moments that make you happy.  You can also read happy moments shared by other users and “smile” at them (as opposed to Facebook “likes”).

I joined a few months ago, and I love it.  I definitely don’t use it as often as I would like, but I’m trying to change that.  When I’m stressed, a dose of positivity from other people can really help.  Plus, research has shown that focusing on small happy moments instead of chasing after an ideal of happiness can actually improve overall mood and life satisfaction.

I’m not affiliated with the site at all – I just love the idea of focusing on positive thoughts.  One of my favorite features of the site (and the iPhone app) is that it reminds me to be grateful for the little things.  Since I’m feeling so busy/overwhelmed right now, taking a few minutes each day to use the app gives me just the pick-me-up that I need!  Check it out!

A day at the aquarium

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I can’t believe my vacation is halfway over!  Sigh…  As much as I love my program, I’m not sure that one week is long enough to give my brain a true rest!  Ah well.  I’m making the most of things this week, trying to balance some work with some fun stuff.

One of my fun activities this week was a trip to the Mystic Aquarium!  I’ve wanted to go there for years, but it’s about 2 hours away and the New England Aquarium in Boston (much closer!) is usually enough to satisfy my need to periodically see penguins, rays, and colorful fish!

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Let me tell you – it was worth the trip!  Since it was a weekday, the crowds were minimal (in fact, we were often able to enjoy the exhibits alone or with only 1-2 other people).  The facility was clean and the staff seemed eager to share their knowledge about the various animals/exhibits.  The exhibits are mature enough for adults to enjoy, but they are also very kid-friendly.  Some have crawl spaces under the tanks for kids to climb inside (for a unique view!).  There are also some tanks close to the ground, and all of the tanks extend down nearly to floor level – the kiddos can get a great view without help!  The only downside to our trip was that we didn’t realize how much of the aquarium was actually outside – there’s a large area with Beluga whales, sea lions, and penguins.  While I loved getting to see those animals, I felt like I didn’t get to enjoy them as much as I would have liked since I left my coat in the car.  Whoops.  As the weather gets warmer, I’d like to go again and spend a little more time at the outdoor exhibits.

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Like most aquariums, the Mystic Aquarium is clearly focused on conservation and species survival.  There are signs throughout the facility that explain some of the aquarium’s conservation efforts, and the staff seemed enthusiastic about these types of causes.

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Jeb and I will definitely return to the aquarium – especially as the weather warms up, and definitely with Talia!  I tried to take some photos, but, as you can see, it is hard to get clear shots through thick acrylic!  Ah well.  :)

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Prioritizing

She keeps an eye on me!

She keeps an eye on me!

Continuing on my thoughts about having realistic expectations for myself…

I’ve realized that I can’t do it all (at least not within the confines of my current commitments)!  I suppose we all come to this realization at some point, but I’ve spent a lot of time working on work-life balance over the past few years, so I’m a bit frustrated that things have gotten SO unbalanced again.  This frustration is not conducive to productivity – if anything, it leads to more stress and I find myself in that vicious spiral where I can’t seem to get anything done.

So, instead of stressing about this, I need to break things down and figure out the best way to maximize my time.  School and work are obviously top priorities, so those commitments have to pretty much stay as they are.  I also need to keep sleep and exercise as a priority.  However, instead of trying to drastically improve strength or speed, I think I should focus instead on maintaining my strength and building my running endurance.

Of equal importance (though certainly less tangible) is my family time, both with Jeb and with my parents/sisters/niece.  The time passes so quickly and I sometimes forget (during my marathon homework sessions) how much time has passed since I spent time with my family.  I’m much better about this with Jeb than anyone else, but that might be largely because he lives with me! :)

Then, I have to allow some time to enjoy life and recharge my brain.  As hard as it is to find the time, I’ve learned that I actually am more productive if I’ve set aside time to take a complete break.  This downtime includes time with my dogs (which has the added benefit of being motivating on its own – I feel a responsibility to make them happy and, in doing so, I get a little recharge).

So, in general, my priorities are school/work, family, sleep, REALISTIC workouts, and downtime (with dogs).  Now, I just have to figure out how to fit all of that into a 24-hour day!

On being realistic…

Yes, I know it's winter right now, but this shot reminds me of a fun and relaxing day before my life got nutty!

Yes, I know it’s winter right now, but this shot reminds me of a fun and relaxing day before my life got nutty!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a WEE bit busy (read: overwhelmed) right now.  As much as I’ve tried juggling everything, I think it is time to reassess and re-prioritize before I return to school.  In an ideal world, I would like to continue to do well in school and at work, lift 3x a week, run 3x a week, sleep 7-8 hours/night, and still have time for photography and cooking/finding new recipes.  Clearly, this is unrealistic.  

Obviously, I will continue to do well at school and work – these are non-negotiable, and will set me up for future happiness.  Lifting and running should be happening – for both my mental and physical health, though maybe the intense programs that I’ve been trying to follow are a bit much right now.  My schedule makes it tough to get out for a run, especially since I’m not home during daylight hours.  Plus, I need some downtime to give my brain a rest!  Normally, running or lifting can help with this, but it’s not cutting the mustard right now… :)

So, what to do?  It’s hard to not feel frustrated and ineffectual when I can’t seem to fit everything into my schedule.  I worry that I’m sabotaging something, and don’t want to look back on this time of my life and feel like I’ve wasted opportunities.

Being realistic about my time and capabilities is really hard.  But, so is overcommitting and feeling completely overwhelmed.  I’m on break this week, and plan to use this time as an opportunity to start to figure this out… (and to recharge!)

Stay tuned…

Dreaming of Spring

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It’s Spring Break!  Granted, it doesn’t feel like spring around here – in fact, my weather app tells me that it currently feels like 5º F.  Awesome.  This winter has been long and brutal, and I’m definitely starting to get the itch for warmer weather.

Since I’m the proud new owner of a macro lens, I bought some flowers and decided to play around and get comfortable with it!  I definitely have some work to do, but the exercise was fun and helped to brighten my day.  Spring doesn’t feel so far away after all!

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Meet Duke

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I can’t believe I never introduced this little guy!  (Seriously, I thought I wrote about him ages ago!)  This is Duke.  We got him about 9 years ago – before we were even married!  He’s a Cairn terrier, and his zest for life is matched only by his enormous underbite!  Duke has been my steadfast companion through all kinds of ups and downs.  This little guy has a lot of personality – he’s super outgoing, greeting every guest and playing with every dog he meets!

I don’t take him running, since his legs are awfully short and he’s getting a bit of arthritis now that he’s getting a little bit older.  We do take him out and about, though.  He loves to run on the beach and through the woods.  And, after a long day of adventuring, he wants nothing more than to snuggle up on my lap!