15 Minutes Happier: Your Best Friend is Write

Happiness Exercise #3: Best Friend Correspondence

When to use: When you’re stressed, you’re working through something difficult or being harsh with yourself.
Supplies: a journal or paper, your favorite pen or pencil
· Carve out 15 minutes that will be interruption-free
· Write a honest-to-goodness old-fashioned letter, as if your best friend was in your shoes, dealing with your stress
· Start with a greeting: “Hey, sweetie!” and “Hello, friend” work for me
· Close your letter: “Hugs”, “Love”, “Call me”
· Take a few minutes to re-read what you wrote, underlining or circling the kind words, encouragement and compassion you’ve likely given your best friend and may have been withholding from yourself

Why it works:
· Self-talk is powerful! What we tell ourselves and what we tell those we love are often very different messages. We are harsh and unkind to ourselves in ways we would never be to our friends.

· Your thoughts shape your experiences. If you’re telling yourself you’re failing, rather than learning, or showing grit, or trying something new, your experience is framed as failure. How you talk to yourself is the cornerstone for shaping how you experience life.

· Writing on paper rather than typing your letter strengthens the connection between what your mind is saying and what your mind is hearing.

Pro-tip: If there are words of compassion or encouragement that came through in your letter that you really need to hear, write those words out several times separately as an approach to more positive affirmations and self-talk.

About 15 minutes happier exercises
Why 15 minutes? Because anyone can find at least 15 minutes in the day for themselves.
Why be happier? Well, why not? To make a business case for this investment of your time, several studies have shown happiness drives success, not the other way around. If we want to succeed in building fulfilling and purpose-driven lives, a good place to start is to make sure we’re doing things to make ourselves happy. Each exercise is designed to be done anywhere and at any time. I like to actually leave my desk for a lunch break a few times a week – not too much to ask! Find 15 minutes in your schedule, and let’s get started. Let me know how your 15 minutes went in the comments – or if you have an idea for a future happiness exercise.

A Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard

When was the last time you received a hand-written thank you note? A love letter? A holiday card that wasn’t a printed family newsletter? What about the last time you wrote a postcard from vacation? Or tucked a note into a family member’s lunch box?

Something experiential happens when we write with pen and paper that gets lost in our digital world. Your thoughts slow down when your hand, the ink and your brain need to get in sync. You are more deliberate and engaged in your writing, and less likely to become distracted. You are directing an activity with your own thoughts; bringing new ideas and information into existence. There is something tangible and tactile in writing longhand that just isn’t the same in the repetition of typing

I’ve always been a fan of journal and taking notes longhand. I collect blank notebooks, hoard stationary and keep a paper calendar. I write out goals and dreams in lists, plan vacation packing lists and activities with a clipboard and blank paper. Carving out the time to sit down, to think and engage with what you want to say elevates an activity from a task to something of importance.

How does this make a difference at work? Imagine a one line thank you email to a team compared to a handwritten note acknowledging your unique contributions to a specific piece of work. They might take about the same time, but have exponentially different impacts.

Not sure the lost art of cursive really matters? Try this simple exercise: think of a word you’d like others to use as a way to describe you. Compassionate. Adaptable. Strong. Badass. Now write it down, with a pen or pencil, on paper.

· I am compassionate.
· I am adaptable.
· I am strong.
· I am a badass.

Hopefully, you felt a confidence boost that comes from your brain telling your hand to write those sentences. Now imagine writing down your goals and dreams. There’s a commitment that comes from writing something in ink, a promise to yourself to take action, to think about how to go get what you want. The pen is mightier than the sword, and thinking about what you’re communicating – and how you do it – can have impacts lasting much longer than today’s typical group text messages.

Book Review: The Happiness Of Pursuit

The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest that Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
Author: Chris Guillebeau, Published September 2014, Random House Harmony 

If you’re looking for a little inspiration to dream again, to think big and then take action to make things happen, The Pursuit of Happiness is a great place to start.
Chris Guillebeau’s subtitle promises a lot. Quests sound like something from a whimsical airy tale, not something in reach of by every day people. As goal-oriented list maker, I was drawn to the stories hinted at on the back cover: ordinary people on extraordinary quests, expanding their happiness and clarifying their purpose.
The book was sparked by the author’s own travel-focused quest to visit all the countries in the world. On his travels, he met others also undertaking sweeping passion projects. This book explores not only the quests and questers themselves; it also includes insights into why working towards a big goal – a dream! – makes people happier, why documentation is important to overall success, and what happens once a quest is finished.
I found The Happiness of Pursuit to be an inspiring read. Most of the quests are not work-related: there’s no documentation here of someone moving up the corporate ladder. The stories are small and human, driven by individual interests, circumstances and talents. The possibility in each story kicked my imagination into overdrive. It is possible to do amazing things in small, incremental steps over a period of time.
Since reading this book, the framework I use to think about my hobbies has shifted. A quest is by its nature, BIG, requiring commitment. What am I willing to commit to doing, big or small? On the smaller end, I’ve committed to knitting a holiday sweater a la Molly Weasley for my son every year. That may not seem like a quest at first glance, but it makes thinking about a new project, working to be sure it’s done by Christmas and imagining decades worth of sweaters seem more important somehow.  My wife and I are going to try to see all the covered bridges of New England – ten down so far! Mapping, photographing and documenting the bridges isn’t something that will be done any time soon, but it’s fun and we have a purpose in exploring a little bit more.
Are you on a quest? I’d love to hear more about your extraordinary, ordinary pursuits.