Friday, January 20, 2017

Improving Life: An Eternal Principle

Last night I attended an activity at church where we ba ba baaa.....The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. For all those who have read my blog in the past, I read this book a while ago, and fell in love with some of the key ideas - particularly her approach to goal setting and sticking to it.

Before I attended the event, I read last year's blog post, of the only blog posts from last year, about how I felt about goals in general. In my blog Resolutions, Goals, and Happiness Project Commitment, I discussed how I felt about New Year's resolutions. After review, I found myself in the trap again...of thinking how silly it is to make them, and dreaded last night for fear that I would let myself down AGAIN.

But then it dawned on 13 Commandments (something that Gretchen talks about in her book). One of my commandments is "Let it Go!" and another one is "It is part of life's learning experience to fail - what is failure anyway?"

Just a reminder:

My 13 Commandments
1. It is what it is, embrace it, be grateful for it
2. Ask "Am I Being a Lady?"
3. Optimism is a force multiplier
4. By small and simple things, great things come to pass 
5. Don't rehearse unhappiness
6. Let it go
7. Be true to my God and myself
8. It is part of life's learning experience to fail - what is failure anyway?
9. Acknowledge and be OK with what I don't encompass, and what others don't encompass (borrowed from a Gretchen passage: Paradoxes of Happiness)
10. Don't be so hard on yourself
11. Remember you are of great worth 
12. All in the Lord's time
13. Everyone has agency because everyone is a child of God 
So, the fact I didn't report on my Happiness Project last year is OK. In fact, it is great! Because life is great, and the importance of believing my commandments is that I will not beat myself up for what I am unable to accomplish. I felt that last year was fantastic. 
Lots of good things last year, loved my job, remarkable relationship with My Sweetheart, had the best Snugs in the world, moved into a house, saw my family A LOT (for which I am extremely grateful), made and have amazing friendships, created things, made amazing food, learned from mistakes - it was a good year.
I digress.
I admit, I am still wary of making goals, but came away from the activity last night with hope in new commitments and goals. This post is to put to memory some of the things we discussed that inspired me.
Mental Health
Mental health is related to several healthy habits primarily revolving around:
  • Nutrition
  • Use of natural supplements
  • Lifestyle
    • What is your sleep and exercise patterns, etc
  • The benefits of detoxing your home and body for things that are more natural
  • Thoughts 
    • Discovering what kind of thinker you are. 
      • Are you a glass is half full or glass is half empty?
    • Recognition of how and where your thoughts turn when you are unoccupied is a huge part of knowing how you will respond to various goal setting items within mental health
  • Self-care
  • Spiritual 
During our conversation about mental health, we focused on nutrition. 

Foods to avoid to help with mental health: 
  1. Sugar
  2. Fried food (any trans fats, altered fats)
  3. White flour
  4. Caffeine
  5. Fake sugar - the instructor gave an example of if you are going to drink soda, it is actually better NOT to drink a diet soda. It is more damaging to your nervous system than people think. I don't have research to back this up, but I believe it.
Throughout the conversation, all I could think about was pizza. I haven't been able to eat anything solid for one week because I had my wisdom teeth pulled last Friday. My recovery has been slow...and all I can think about are the things I can't eat. Last night, all I wanted was pizza....well, and a big fatty ribeye.

I admire people who eat healthy all the time. I used to detox by eliminating sugar, except for one day a week. I feel like this was a good goal for me...but you know what, I am also of the belief that LIFE IS MEANT TO BE ENJOYED! And if I like sugar, I should eat it....with the motto in mind: Moderation in all things. I came to this conclusion a while ago. Every once in a while I will detox from certain foods, but for the most part, I feel good about what we eat as a family. I am sure that will change as Snugs gets older and starts eating solids. But until then, nutrition is wonderful - but not something I can spend time worrying about right now.

One other concept we talked about that I want to learn more about was when we discussed self-care. There are some new articles circulating on Facebook about Family Minding - which was loosely defined by my group as when you are minding your family so much out of obligation that it actually does more damage to spirit than good. This is something I want to look into later...and sounds fascinating.


We discussed what it would be like if the Savior stood beside us, how would we be or act. Our team discussion leader told us about how she committed to try an experiment where she would pretend He was standing beside her for 5 minutes. At first, in her meditation and prayer, she found it hard to keep up. With practice though, she was able to hold prayerful conversations with her Father in Heaven that impacted the rest of her day. I liked the idea and am wondering the goal I want to set.

One quote I loved from the last General Conference, "Please believe, and please take hope and comfort from this eternal truth. Our Heavenly Father intends for us to make it. That is His work and His Glory."


My favorite example of the night was when our team discussion leader shared an example. 

More or less in her words: "At Christmas, I received a gift from my husband. We don't typically do gifts for one another, so I was shocked and felt a little guilty - feeling like I needed to get him something. When I opened it, it was this beautiful red, leather purse that he bought when he was on a business trip to Paris, France. I was in love with it...and carried it around with me all day. 

The next day, I thought - well this is too nice for what I would use it for (because I am a mom with kids and carried diapers, snacks, and suckers - and didn't want to ruin my purse). So, I stuck it back in the box it came in and put it at the top of my closet. My husband asked me one day if I was ever going to use it. I told him I didn't want to ruin it, but he reminded me that he spent a lot of good, hard-earned money, and would appreciate if I used it. So, I started using it, and, as predicted, it got scuffed, dirty on the inside, and I felt terrible. When I went to clean it though, because it was made of good material, the scuffs came out, and it was immaculate again."

She likened this to the Atonement. Are we putting the Atonement on the top shelf because 'it is too good' or because we don't feel like we should use it or else we will ruin it? We have been given this beautiful gift that is meant to be used. The beauty of the Atonement is that we can become clean again - every Sunday through the Sacrament.

She gave some tips about developing lasting familial relationships:
  • One PhD, who was writing a book about universal truths said it was so hard to find universal truths due to the fact that everyone has different belief systems
    • The one universal truth that he found in all his research is the ability all of us have to choose
  • Before acting, ask yourself "Will the choice I make help me become who I want to become?" "Will the choice I make provide a desired outcome?"
  • Others in the group gave the example of how hard it is to read scriptures as a family, and how it is easier to choose not to read them
    • The point is that often our choices become habit forming and do not produce or contribute to the outcome we were originally shooting for
  • Becoming = Begin to be
  • We need to choose to be participants in our own development
  • Being actively engaged and not just letting choices happen is also a universal truth that we talk about all the time at church - to act and not be acted upon
  • When times get tough, consistency is key
    • If we stick to our goal, regardless of how small it seems, it will work out
    • The Lord will not let us down as we try to anchor ourselves to Him

The whole evening was full of moments for me. It was invigorating to be surrounded by other women who are doing the best they can and who are bright, intelligent, beautiful, and engaging. It was a night of reflection for what goals I want to set and those that I am still clinging to from year's past. 

Today, I had additional insight and really have a deeper testimony that goal setting and commitment to things improve our lives, and are eternal principles that will bring us one step closer to becoming like our Father in Heaven. 

I am excited for what this new year will bring.

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