2018 Goals: Month Three Progress

IMG_20180222_124853_602.jpg

Hello Fellow Happiness-Seekers!

Quite obviously, it's been a hot minute since I've blogged over here, but since the end of the first quarter of 2018 has now passed us by (can you believe it?!), I thought it was about time to check in on how I'm doing on my 10 Resolutions for 2018. (Spoiler alert: it's a bit of a mixed bag so far.)

So how am I doing?

  1. Be able to carry a conversation in German: This is one of the goals I'm actually doing pretty well on. In addition to speaking German with my boyfriend every other night, I also started a twice-weekly class in early February. It's certainly challenging, but I can feel a tiny bit of progress sloooowly coming on. Next week, I'll actually be starting an intensive class, going four times per week instead of two, so we'll see if I can speed my progress up even more!
  2. Do the splits for the first time in my life: OMG, breakthrough alert! It happened! For the first time in my entire life! It may not be very pretty or perfectly-aligned yet, but February 22nd, 2018, will go down in my own personal history as the day I ticked something big off my bucket list! Now I need to work on the other side, finding more comfort in the pose, and - well, a whole list of other things. But still - first item successfully checked!
  3. Hold a freestanding handstand for 5 seconds without a wall: Yikes, this is something I need to drill much more consistently. While I think my shoulders have gotten stronger, my balance is still inexistent. I'm still not quite brave enough to try away from the wall, either.
  4. Sell 1,000 copies of Those Happy Moments, the book: Well, I've topped 100 now, so that is a start! It's been challenging getting visibility on this, but I have a few ideas to try... The challenge is to actually go from inspiration to action!
  5. Publish my first novel: I now have about 52,000 words written of a planned 70,000. (To say nothing of editing, etc., but that's another story!) Aiming to have a completed first draft by the end of May, so lots of work left to do here.
  6. Earn $20,000: Oh boy. It turns out nobody wants to pay me to study German and try new yoga poses. So I've got, like, 99% of this still to go.
  7. Visit at least three new countries: Nothing concrete to report yet, but we're planning a potential trip to South America for November, and since I've never even been to that entire continent - I think this could do it!
  8. Go on one solo trip: Squat to report here, sadly.
  9. Detox, detox, detox: This was something I did well on in January and February, but kind of forgot about for March. I'm still practicing conscious spending, but would like to find something else to detox as well. Hmm, social media? Soft drinks? Chocolate? 
  10. Move to Berlin: Still no exact date, but we're hoping for late July/early August, and I'm excited about it!

So, how am I doing after one quarter? I've ticked off #2, made pretty decent progress on #1 and #5, and varying amounts of progress on #3, #4, and #9. Which means #6, #7, #8, and #10 need a lot more attention than I've been giving them.

And again, I think it's useful to come back to the question of, "What did I do today to get myself closer to my goals?"

For example today, April 5th, I did my German homework (yay!), spent 20 minutes working on my novel (meh), daydreamed while I prematurely checked out some apartments in Berlin (not useful), and ... that's it. Everything else I did today wasn't really geared towards one of my top ten goals for the year.

Now I'm not saying that literally EVERYTHING you do has to be aimed at some greater purpose. I do think it's ok to go for a walk, veg in front of the TV, take a long shower, whatever. But can I look back on a day like today and be PROUD of myself? Well, probably not especially. Not because it's a bad day, but just because it's not a day where I particularly moved my life forward.

Something to think about, as 2018 continues to grow older.

Love,
Joëlle

10,000 Steps a Day - Harder than you think!

20180206_145528.jpg

I recently mentioned on my blog that one of the challenges I'm undertaking this February is to walk 10,000 steps a day.

It's now February 7th, and I'll confess it's been harder than I thought.

Don't get me wrong, I love to walk. Back when I lived in London, I walked to and from work every day. Back when I lived in Los Angeles, I'd go for ultra-long, leisurely walks year-round, oftentimes with no destination in mind.

But now that I live in Hamburg, and that I work from home, it's become more of a chore than ever before. Largely because I'm now trying to hit 10,000 steps in one go every day, rather than breaking them up into little chunks. This is basically in an effort to tick that "Yay, I did it!" daily box, rather than, say, going to the grocery store and then realizing after I get back that I still have 7,000 to go, and that I'll have to go out at least once more.

So this really is walking for the sake of walking. Not because there's anything to go. And definitely not just to enjoy the weather (it is February in Germany, after all). But just because I've made a commitment that I intend to honor. Have you ever just wanted to achieve something, just to see if you could? That's me so far in 2018! After Veganuary and Dry January last month, I'm now 10-stepping my way through this month: not only am I walking 10,000 steps a day, but I'm also attempting to spend less than €10 per day.

So here are my recommendations if you want to do the same:

1) On that rare sunny day, GET OUT THERE. Seize the day! Take pictures! Notice your beautiful surroundings, like I did just yesterday strolling around the Alster Lake. Be grateful that you have this wonderful time outside!

2) Never overestimate the importance of a comfortable pair of shoes. At the risk of sounding like a weakling, sport shoes and socks are your best friend when you're looking to walk about five miles all at once every day. Treat this as exercise and take it seriously!

3) Decide how you're going to occupy your mind. Do you like audiobooks? Are there any phone calls you can make? Do you simply want to go through your own thoughts and use this time to come up with ideas? Personally, I've been going crazy with podcasts. A few of my favorites these days: Side Hustle School; the Minimalists; and the James Altucher Show.

4) When the weather is blue, bundle up like gangbusters. Wrap yourself in so many layers as to be unrecognizable if necessary. And then get out there.

5) Walk in brand new directions. I'm lucky to live within a short walk from a gorgeous city park, and from a lake, but I know these already. The real fun - and surprises - have come from exploring the city in new directions.

Honestly, I'd encourage anyone to walk more. How many hours per day to we all spend sitting, or watching TV, or playing with our phones? What if we could channel just a little bit of that time and energy into a free activity that gets us fresh air and inspiration to boot!

Happy walking, my friends!

Love,
Joëlle

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 4.00.56 PM.png

2018 Goals: Month One Progress

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about my 10 Resolutions for 2018. And since today is the last day of January, it's time for our first check-in!

By the way, is it just me or did this month feel reeeeeeally long? I feel like 2018 has already been around for a while, and yet - fortunately - we still have 11 months to make it count!

In terms of my own progress, how am I doing?

  1. Be able to carry a conversation in German: This is going all right so far. I've started going to a weekly conversational group for expats, and my boyfriend and I speak German over dinner every other night. It's slow-going, but progressing nevertheless.
  2. Do the splits for the first time in my life: This is something I've been working on four or five days a week. About two inches to go on my good side (and, like, a nautical mile on my bad side.)
  3. Hold a freestanding handstand for 5 seconds without a wall: Also something I've been drilling several times a week. I've gotten the occasional two-second hold, but those are just flukes at this point. On the plus side, it's helping me to learn a whole lot about my own body. Tight shoulders, tight thoracic spine, weak abs...I hit the motherload!
  4. Sell 1,000 copies of Those Happy Moments, the bookOuch. 84 and counting. Book marketing does not come naturally to me. Still, lots of new tools I haven't tried yet!
  5. Publish my first novel: I started writing it on January 8th, and I'm 11,000 words in! It is alllll over the place right now, but a little bit of work every day does add up.
  6. Earn $20,000: This particular goal was dead in the water month one. So, nowhere to go but up!
  7. Visit at least three new countries: Again, no progress on this in month one, though I've certainly brainstormed quite a bit about where I'd LIKE to go. That counts, right?
  8. Go on one solo trip: Ditto. But I'm vaguely thinking of a two- or three-day trip to Krakow in the next few months. For some reason I'm feeling very drawn to Poland.
  9. Detox, detox, detox: Finally, a goal I was really successful at this month! I'm hours away from completing both Veganuary and Dry January. For February, I'm planning a month of conscious spending and a lot of looooong walks with my 10,000 steps challenge.
  10. Move to Berlin: We still don't have a date in mind, but personally I'm aiming for late summer.

So, how am I doing? Not TOO bad for the first month of the year, I'd say! I always find these types of check-ins so helpful. They help me not forget about my original resolutions, and to ask myself at the end of every day:

"What did I do today to get myself closer to my goals?"

I'm trying to have an answer to that question, every single day. 

How about you? What were your goals? What did you do to move closer to them this month? What was challenging for you? What could you do differently in February?

Month two is upon us: Let's do this.

Love,
Joëlle

10 Ideas for Your Next Monthly Challenge

challenge.jpg

I love a good monthly challenge. A month is long enough to see real changes in your habits, but not so long that it seems overwhelming in the "YOU MUST NEVER DO XYZ AGAIN" type of way. Completing one successfully can boost your mood and give you a sense of accomplishment, which is terrific if lasting happiness is one of your goals! And even if you fall a bit short, chances are you'll still accomplish more than you've ever done before.

Personally, I'm planning to tackle one or several challenges for every month in 2018, doing a combination of addition challenges (i.e., trying something you've never tried previously) and elimination challenges (removing something from your life to see how much you really miss it).

So without further ado, here are 10 Monthly Challenges for you to consider:

1) A Dry Month

I know, I know - it's the first one on the list and you're already telling me I've got to lay off the tequila? But actually - and I'm speaking from experience here - cutting out booze for a month is really, really easy. I'm currently participating in Dry January for the fourth year in a row (along with Veganuary, as you can read about here), and honestly, I'd recommend it to anyone.

In 2016, I blogged about my experience with Dry January, saying in part, "Challenges like Dry January actually aren't nearly as hard as I might expect them to be. In fact, they're not hard at all! Think about it: under normal circumstances, if someone asks me whether I'd like a cocktail, a beer, etc., I have to think about it, determine whether I'm up for it/whether I'm driving/whether it's worth the price/hangover potential/etc. But in Dry January, I don't have to think about it--the answer's just a simple, 'no, thank you.'"

So surprise yourself and give it a whirl! If you're like me, you'll have more energy, sleep better, lose weight, and save money. And you'll prove to yourself that while you may enjoy the occasional tipple, you don't need it to have fun.

2) A Conscious-Spending Month

This is what I'll be attempting for the first time in February, when I plan to set a €10 per day spending limit on myself. (I'm using euros because I live in Germany, but obviously you should use the currency that works for where you are.)

The conscious-spending challenge isn't about what you're paying in rent, utilities, or any monthly recurring expenses that you're on the hook for. Rather, it's about the money you don't tend to think about as you're spending it. Going out to dinner. Groceries. Stocking up on household items. Shopping for clothes, buying gas, taking local transport, etc. You get the idea.

I'm choosing €10 because that's an amount that seems possible, but still extremely difficult to me (my average over the past few months is closer to €30). Hell, Elon Musk lived off $1 a day for a month when he was 17 to see if he had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. So have a think about what amount could work for you. How much do you usually spend? How much of that amount do you actually need to spend? How much could you save this month? (And, if you don't know how much you spend in a day, why not?) If my average holds, I'll save €560 in 28 days - not bad!

3) A Month of Something Bad, Something Glad

This is one my Dad used to play with my siblings and me whenever we'd go on vacation. At dinner every night, he'd ask each one of us in turn, "So, tell me something bad and something glad that happened today."

I love it because it's so simple. Every evening, all you have to do is ask yourself, first, what was the worst thing that happened to you today? And, was it really all that bad? Chances are, not really. Write that down, either using a journal next to your bed or the notes app on your phone.

Next, ask yourself, what was the best thing that happened to you today? And have a little moment of gratitude or celebration for that. Write that down too.

Often times when we're moody, we don't stop to think about why. We get it into our heads that things just aren't going our way, and this isn't our day, and so on. But if you can really distill a day down into its best and worst qualities, you'll find that life probably isn't that bad, and that maybe you'd like to make those something glads even better!

4) A Physical Fitness Month

This will obviously depend on your current level of fitness, but what could you do this month to push your boundaries a little?

For example, could you do the 7-minute workout 30 days in a row? Here's a video to follow along with. And don't act like you can't find 7 minutes in your day to do it because yes you can.

If that's not your thing, could you set a running goal? Maybe to run 30 miles in 30 days? Maybe 60 miles if you're a little more experienced? Or maybe a biking goal? Could you sign up at a new gym or studio for one month and go for 20 minutes every day (chances are, they may offer a free or sharply-discounted first month for newbies anyway)? 

And I'd bet you'll surprise yourself. I actually did that 7-minute workout 30 days in a row once, and on Day 1 - despite being relatively fit at the time - I wanted to curl up on the floor and die by the end of it. But by Day 30? It was nothing. Your body can do more than you think it can.

5) A Stretching Month

Now this is where you'll really see results you weren't expecting. Stretch every day for 30 days, and I guarantee your muscles will release tension. Want to work towards the splits, or open up your shoulders, or be able to touch your toes? Then 20 minutes a day: Go.

There's a bajillion free videos and channels on YouTube that can help with this. Try Sarahbethyoga (great for beginners/intermediate) or Flow with Adee (more advanced). Or just do your own search.

Take a picture of yourself on Day One at your edge, and again on Day 30 and see what the difference is. For example, here's a picture of my one-year progress in bridge. I HATE bridge. One year ago I could barely lift off the floor because my back and shoulders were so tight, and I hated it so much that I never, ever practiced it. I'd even skip it in yoga classes. And then, towards the very end of 2017, I finally gave in and started practicing every day. So I wouldn't be in the slightest bit surprised if you could achieve progress much faster than I did in any posture of your choice.

Screenshot_20180124-131735.jpg

6) A Walking Month

Don't want to commit to a monthlong fitness or stretching challenge? Fine. Then join me in the other challenge I'm planning to undertake in February: Walking! (Which is perfect to combine with my Conscious Spending Month, because walking is FREE!)

According to Fitbit, 10'000 steps a day adds up to about five miles for most people, which can be enough to hit the 150 minutes of weekly exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And how many steps do you tend to take in a typical day? Most people have no idea. I'll be honest: I know that I take waaaaaay fewer than that now that I work from home.

But we can do better! Start by finding out how many steps it is between two places you go every day (for example, between your home and your office, or from your desk to the lobby). See? You've already learned something. Now add in steps wherever you can. You don't even need a Fitbit - chances are, your cell phone is already tracking your steps without you even realizing.

And push yourself! Can you take an extra walk around the block? Can you walk to the grocery store instead of driving? How can you snag an extra 500 or 1'000 steps? Yes, even if it's raining. I live in northern Germany and I'm still going to try to hit this in February. So join me, won't you?

7) A Minimization Month

Confession: I'm slightly obsessed with Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn from the Minimalists. I love their blog, I love their podcast, I love their books, and most of all, I love their message that it is possible to live a more meaningful life with less. 

Play along with them, and many, many other people, on the Minimalism Game! How it works is, on Day One, you must get rid of one thing in your house that you no longer need. That shirt you never wear, the plate with a cracked edge, a book you've already read, whatever. On Day Two, you must get rid of two things. On Day Three, three things. And so on. And at first, it's easy! It's freeing! It's validating!

By about Week Two, though, when you're getting rid of 12 items one day, 13 the next, and 14 the day after that, it gets tough. If you make it all the way to Day 30, you'll have released a total of 465 things that weren't adding joy to your life, making space instead for things that will.

And if this feels reeeeeally impossible, then start small: Commit to getting rid of just ONE thing per day for 30 days. I bet you'll end up with much more than 30 items by the end of it.

Bonus tip: follow the hashtag #minsgame on social media for more inspiration!

8) A Home-Cooked Month

This is for those of us who can probably find our way around the kitchen, but who honestly prefer to keep things easy. But what if for just one month we didn't have to? I came across this idea in Women's Health Magazine to cook 31 meals in 31 days, and I love it!

And what's great is they don't have to be mega-sophisticated meals. Did you stir in some fresh fruit to your morning porridge? Did you sprinkle some sesame seeds onto your store-bought salad? BOOM! You, my friend, are on your way to successfully completing this challenge.

It's all about experimentation, little tweaks you'd never thought of before, and just maybe trying out a full dish at home once or twice that you otherwise wouldn't have. After one month, how much more comfortable and conscious might you be about what you're eating?

9) A Language Month

Who among us hasn't wanted to learn a new language? And I'm not implying that you'll be conversing fluently in 30 days (oh, if only that were all it took for me to learn Germany!) But you can pick up more than you think!

Find a conversation group you can go to four times in one month. Or download the free app Duolingo and do two five-minute exercises every day for 30 days. Or try out a playlist from Language Transfer. By the end of the month, I'd wager you'll be able to order a meal at a restaurant, read a few signs to get yourself around town in Barcelona, Berlin, or Brussels, and maybe even have set yourself on the path to conversing!

10) Insert YOUR Monthly Challenge Here

What have you always wanted to do, but never tried? Play the guitar? Write a book? Do a handstand? Paint? Learn about the Second World War? What lights you up?

So try this: For Week One (Days 1-7), work on your new hobby very deliberately for five minutes a day. That's it! Just five minutes. Set a timer for it.

Then in Week Two (Days 8-14), do ten focused minutes a day.

In Week Three (Days 15-21), do 15 minutes a day.

For Week Four (Days 22-28), 20 minutes a day.

And in Days 27-28, wind down with just five minutes a day again.

When you add all that together, that's 360 minutes. That's six hours you've spent on something you never, ever did before. Are you great at it now? Well, probably not. But are you a gazillion times better than if you'd never started? And do you have a much better understanding of what it's about, and why it interested you in the first place, and whether it still does? Probably yes!

So from that point on, you can either keep going because it does still interest you, or you can thank yourself for your efforts and move on because it no longer does. What could YOU learn about in the next month? 

And by the way, don't miss this awesome TED Talk by Josh Kaufman on "The First 20 Hours - How to Learn Anything." As he says, people get good at things with just a little practice - you get really good really quick!


So, which of these monthly challenges spoke to you? Any others you've tried that I missed? 

Trust me, 30 days is longer than you think (says the girl who hasn't had a drink in 24). You can get a lot done, make smashing progress, and be incredibly proud of yourself when it's all over. Now go have fun with it!

Love,
Joëlle

P.S. Unabashed plug: For more on this very concept, and how challenges and positive habits can make a difference for lasting happiness, pick up my book, Those Happy Moments!

The Top 10 Quotes About Happiness

If you happen to write a blog called Those Happy Moments, chances are, everyone you encounter is going to expect you to be, well, happy all the time.

And while it's absolutely true that I've become an exponentially happier person since starting this journey way back in January 2016, it's also true that I still enjoy a little inspiration from others on a regular basis.

Quotes and mantras are funny things, and words themselves have power: the way we use them, with one another and with ourselves, can make a huge difference in how happy we actually end up feeling.

And so, to bring a little bit of happiness inspiration into one place, here are my.....

TOP TEN QUOTES ABOUT HAPPINESS

1) Notice When You're Happy

22iurgeyoutopleasenotice0awhenyouarehappy2candexclaim0aormurmurorthinkatsome0apoint2c27ifthisisn27tn-default.png

Preach it, Kurt! This is what my book Those Happy Moments is all about: Happiness is all around us, and your Happy Moments are just waiting for you to notice them. And isn't it nice to be able to pause and murmur sweet nothings to ourselves when things are nice?


2) Don't Be That Guy

somecausehappinesswherever0atheygo3botherswhenever0atheygo0a-default.png

Oh Oscar, you rascal. But isn't he right? Which one of us doesn't know that one person who lights up a room? And which one of us hasn't felt relief at some point when someone else left the room, or walked away from a conversation? 

So it's up to each one of us to decide: Which type of person am I going to be?


3) Let Me Just Put My Face On

isweartogod2chappinessisthebestmakeup0a0a28flower29-default.png

This one I love because it's memorable, cutesy, and real. We've all heard that true beauty comes from within, we've all read that money can't buy happiness, and I hope we can all agree that no amount of bronzer, lip gloss, or eyeliner can mask when someone is feeling down.

When I started feeling happier, people who knew me could tell. That's how I knew it wasn't all just in my head! When I back to visit the friends I've moved away from the year before, I got the same comment over and over: "Wow, you look so much better! You look so happy! You look like a different person!"

So the next time you look in a mirror, ask yourself what you see. Look past the wrinkles and blemishes, the concealer and foundation. What do you see? I hope you'll find happiness looking back out at you.


4) WTF Are You Waiting For?

behappyforthismoment0a0athismomentisyourlife-default.png

When was the last time you made an excuse to not do something? The last time you put something off? 

"Oh, I'll do this once I feel better / graduate / get married / have $1,000,000 in the bank / the next full moon rolls around." Sound familiar?

I did this alllll the time to justify why I wasn't happier. And the worst part was, I'd feel guilty about it afterwards for not doing the thing I was making excuses about! And you know what was happening in the meantime? Time was ticking, and I was getting older, better at making excuses, and more disappointed in myself.

This moment is YOURS. You will never, ever have another moment or chance just like it. So ask yourself: What are YOU waiting for?


5) Get Yourself a Violin

atable2cachair2cabowl0aoffruitandaviolin3b0a0awhatelsedoesamanneed0atobehappy3f-default.png

This makes me look at Albert Einstein in a different light! And obviously, this isn't literal, because not everyone is going to have the same reaction to a bowl of fruit and a violin. Chapter 2 of my book is all about "What Makes YOU Happy?" In other words, what are the personal quirks that make you who you are, and that make you smile when someone else might not?

After all, one man's violin is another man's frisbee. One woman's solitary walk is another woman's fireplace. We laugh at different jokes, enjoy different stories, and all have our individual ticks and tricks. What are yours?


6) Once Again, I Agree With Kanye West

irefusetoacceptother0apeople27sideasofhappiness0aforme0aasifthere27sa27onesize0afitsall27forhappines-default (1).png

I cannot believe I am agreeing with Kanye West againBut he's right! Ask 100 people to define what 'happiness' is, and chances are, you'd get 100 different answers.

So everybody, turn on those defiant Kanye attitudes of yours just for one brief moment and REFUSE to accept anyone else's opinion of what you SHOULD do, or be, or feel. Be you. And figure out what makes YOU happy.


7) Where DID I Leave My Keys?

oneofthekeystohappinessis0aabadmemory0a28lamp29-default.png

Ok, I know, haha. But what I think Rita Mae Brown is saying here is this: let the past be the past. Things didn't go your way? You didn't get what you wanted / achieve what you'd hoped / win the lottery / etc.? 

No matter. Let whatever it is go. Tune in to the present and forgive yourself for what you cannot change. Remember the Good without eternally dwelling in the Bad. (Hint: That's what Happy Moments are all about!)


8) Because Life Should Never Be Boring

theoppositeofhappiness0aisnotsadness0ait27sboredom-default.png

Sooooo true. We all deal with Sad Days, inevitably. But boring days are worse. Boring days are comfortable because they all look alike and we usually know what to do with them. And the more boring days we have in a row, the less likely we are to be leading a happy, fulfilling life.

Were you bored today? If so, why? Do you think you'll be bored again tomorrow? If so, why? And what can you do about it?

Promise yourself to strive for better than boredom. Do something different. Get uncomfortable once in a while. Ring the changes. Be random. Learn to tell one day apart from another, no matter what it takes.


9) Do Not Be Like J. D. Salinger

iamakindofparanoidin0areverse0aisuspectpeople0aoftryingtomakemehappy0a28cloud29-default.png

Ok, this is likely to be an unpopular opinion, but: J. D. Salinger sucks. I'm not questioning the quality of his writing, nor the impact of his creativity, but does this sound to you like the words of a happy person? 

Don't go around life being paranoid and suspicious of others. If others make efforts to bring happiness into your life, welcome it and be grateful for them - even when it doesn't always work out. 

Because you know where paranoia and suspicions got J. D. Salinger? Family discord, repeated legal conflicts, psychological scarring, and a lonely death.

A reminder: Do not be like J. D. Salinger.


10) You Don't Need To Look Far

asmileishappinessyou27ll0afindrightunderyournose210a28heart29-default.png

Because seriously, happiness is everywhere. Your Happy Moments are waiting to be noticed. So go out and find them!

10 Things I've Learned in 10 Days of Veganism

images (1).jpeg

Ever heard of Veganuary (aka Vegan January)?

Until a few months ago, I hadn't. But the worldwide charity campaign, which encourages participants to forgo all meat, fish, eggs, and dairy for the first month of the year, apparently attracted 50,000 to take part in 2017. And I do love a good challenge, so when I first heard about the concept this past October, I wanted in!

Now, full disclosure, I've already been a pescetarian - meaning I eat fish, but not meat - for close to 20 years. Meaning this probably wouldn't be as drastic of a challenge for me as it would be for someone who's used to eating steak every other night. With that said, I eat a LOT of cheese on a regular basis, I love sushi, and I've never met a bar of chocolate that didn't seem like it had my name on it. So this was never going to be a walk in the park, either.

So now that I'm 10 days in, what's a so-called "real-world eater" likely to experience by trying out a vegan diet?

1) You'll get really curious. If you're like me and love to dive down the rabbit hole of YouTube, Wikipedia, and the like, you'll find that there's a Hell of a lot of information out there. Watching the "Vegan 2017" documentary is a great place to start, and that might lead you to videos by Mic the Vegan, or "101 Reasons to Go Vegan." You'll get faced with some pretty gross facts that we'd all rather not know about, like how eggs are really the menstruation cycle discharge of a hen, honey is really bee vomit, and dairy products are only produced by mother cows who've recently given birth and had their babies immediately taken from them. Or even the fact that humans are the only species on earth who consume the milk from another animal, and who continue to drink milk after infancy.

2) You'll become more accepting. Up until a few months ago, if I'm honest, part of me had sort of always assumed that vegans were hippy-type people who lived in vans and looked down on the rest of us who dared to eat burgers and pastries. But now that I've dipped even just a toe into the water, I don't think I could ever really judge someone who aims to minimize the suffering of others through their actions.

3) You'll think twice about everything you put into your body. My initial impression from these 10 days is that veganism is not really all that hard, and --wait, what? I can't eat gummy bears because they have gelatin? I can't eat German pretzels because they're dipped in butter? I can't eat my favorite paprika crisps because they inexplicably contain traces of lactose? Never have I obsessed over lists of ingredients like I have in the past 10 days. Seriously - and because I live in Germany, but don't speak fluent German yet, I am now literally that girl in the supermarket aisle holding a box of pasta in one hand, and a cell phone in the other, google-translating every other ingredient. It's annoying, and it's also so eye-opening to realize just how many food products are actually made with animals. Oh, and going out to eat? That's even worse - unless you're lucky enough to land at a restaurant that labels its menus with handy "vgn" labels, you're likely to be awfully limited. The other day I went to brunch with my boyfriend, and there wasn't a single item on the menu that didn't have either eggs, or cheese, or ham. I ended up having to send the waitress to the kitchen to see what they could make me, and I felt sort of guilty about it. (Although, the pumpkin gnocchi I ended up with was pretty tasty.)

4) You'll realize it's totally possible to be an unhealthy vegan. Again, my prior assumption had always been that vegans ate nothing but wheatgrass and lentils and flaxseed, with fresh fruit for dessert. But nowadays, you can get vegan anything. Vegan pizza. Vegan chocolate. Vegan cheese. Vegan ice cream. And some of those options may be even less healthy than their non-vegan counterparts. Vegan definitely does not, in and of itself, equal healthy. 

5) You'll struggle with guilt. Just think about it for a second: Why is your desire for, say, a chocolate chip cookie, more important to you than allowing a newborn calf to drink its mother's milk? Or why is your craving for bacon more important to you than protecting the life of a sentient living being? At the moment, I don't personally have a good answer to questions like these. And yet, if you told me I could never have a fondue again, I'd probably never forgive you. How are you supposed to reconcile that?

6) You'll feel frustrated. Because, you guys, I really kind of feel like a handful of M&M's right now. And while it's empowering to know that I can resist that craving, it doesn't make it any less frustrating in the short-term.

7) You'll get defensive. For example, why stop at veganism? Why not eat only raw food? Or only fruits and vegetables that have fallen from the tree? Or only local, in-season produce? It's easy to come up with attack-ready arguments to justify why we eat/dress/do things the way we do, and they typically will boil down to: "because it's easier this way and I don't want to change." That's an uncomfortable thought. 

8) You'll look towards the future. Because 10 days in, I really am not at all ready to commit to veganism for the long run. Part of me wishes I could, but for whatever reason, I'm not there yet. Maybe because 10 days isn't long enough to cure a lifelong addiction. But what I am ready to commit to is doing something a little bit differently in the future. And maybe - even if you never even dabble in veganism - you can too! Think about it: Could you only buy cosmetics that don't test on animals? Could you go meatless one day a week? Could your next leather handbag be purchased second-hand? How can you make a difference?

9) You'll get to know yourself better. I do think, at the very least, if we ARE going to continue consuming animal products, we should at least be willing to face the reality of what we're putting in our bodies, and determine what we can or cannot justify to ourselves. What is YOUR soul ok with? What are your values and desires, and how can you reconcile the two? 

10) There's really something to this. It's probably too early to tell how my body will actually react to this. I've read it takes about 21 days to clear addictive toxins out, so I'm only about halfway there. Still, I feel great. My stomach is flatter. I'm enjoying the curiosity of trying new things to eat and challenging myself in a new way. I'm enjoying improvising in my cooking at home. I'm feeling proud about doing some small piece to reduce suffering and slaughter. And I've got a newfound awareness and respect for a lifestyle I'd never experienced before. So call it what you will, but that's already a win in my book!

And no matter what happens, you can already sign me up for Veganuary 2019.

Love,
Joëlle

2018 is Here: Top Ten List of Resolutions!

2018.jpg

Can you believe it's a whole new year?

It's that time of year when we all have to get used to crossing out 7's and replacing them with 8's in our dated correspondence. It's the time of year when dozens of sad-looking Christmas trees line the streets, reminding us that the festive season is over.

And... it's that time of year for resolutions! 

Supposedly, only 8% of New Year's resolutions are actually kept. But hey, that's no reason not to try! After all, even a small minority still has somebody in that bucket, and this year, I want us all to be telling ourselves, "That somebody is going to be ME."

I've tried quite a few approaches to New Year's resolutions over the years - most notoriously, I started this blog on January 1st, 2016! - and I've tried tips and tricks like categorizing them in various ways (e.g., Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Mental), emailing them to myself as a reminder, scribbling them in journeys, using my best friend as an accountability partner, and more. And I'll be honest: Most of these ways haven't worked terribly well in the past. 

But while writing my book Those Happy Moments, I delved into the topic of "Forming Happy Habits" in Chapter 7, which streamlines the importance of

  • Taking daily baby steps; 
  • Staying focused; and
  • Forgiving yourself for not doing this sooner

It really is that simple!

So this year, in order to do just that, I'm creating a Top Ten List of 2018 Resolutions, which you'll find below, along with an accompanying vision board to help my focus along the way. Some of these have already made it onto my list of resolutions in prior years, but that's ok because, again: I forgive myself for not doing them sooner.

Tip: Don't just focus on resolutions that sound "pretty" or "impressive" to you - focus on WHY you want to achieve them, and write that down too!

So without further ado, here are my ten:

  1. Be able to carry a conversation in German: I moved to Hamburg in September 2017, and while I know enough of the language to get by, I want to be able to actually meet people, get to know them, and embrace my new country.
  2. Do the splits for the first time in my life: When I did my Yoga Teacher Training, we were discouraged from setting goals like this. And this is one of those aforementioned constants on my annual list of resolutions. But you know what? I'm turning 37 this year, and I believe consistent positive work on my body is something I can do better on this year, so setting a goal can help me focus on this!
  3. Hold a freestanding handstand for 5 seconds without a wall: Ditto to #2, this aims to help make me a more balanced, committed, self-challenging person. I can currently hold a handstand for zero seconds, so there's honestly nowhere to go but up! (Literally, in this case!)
  4. Sell 1,000 copies of Those Happy Moments, the bookThis is almost a hilariously high stretch goal, considering that in the two weeks since it was released, I've so far sold 59. And I was originally going to put this goal down as 500. But then I read a quote on Facebook to "Set a goal... then double your ambition and cut your deadline in half." And you know what, why not set an ambitious goal for something you believe in? Even if you don't get all the way there, might you not get closer than if you hadn't tried?
  5. Publish my first novel: Now that I've published one book, there's no reason I can't publish another, right? Because, surprise: everything gets easier the second time around! Can you still call yourself a writer even if you've only written one book? Of course you can. Same way you can call yourself a runner after a one-time jog: if you believe in yourself and keep doing the thing you've already done, then you've earned that title.
  6. Earn $20,000: I should start by saying that this is a totally arbitrary number that simply sounds good to me. I've just left my solid, safe corporate job as of December 31st, 2017, where i was earning a lot more than that. I'm incredibly lucky that I have a roof over my head and savings in the bank, but I'm going to have to figure out where to make that $20K come from, and that will take work. It might mean taking my fancy-pants-MBA self down to work at a coffee shop or tutor English or sell clothes, but I'm betting I may find more value in doing that this year than I've found in earning vastly more by sitting in a cubicle in years past.
  7. Visit at least three new countries: Anyone who knows me - or who's read Chapter 5 of my book -  knows that I loooooove going on adventures. And while adventures don't have to be far from home, I get a definite "yay, yay, yay!" feeling when seeing new places. Plus I'm lucky to live in Germany now, which means a simple train ride or cheap flight opens up so many possibilities. But whether you too love travel or not, what could your next adventure be?
  8. Go on one solo trip: Now that I won't have any more business travel, I don't want to let myself forget just how fulfilling it can be get away by myself. No imposed activities, no friends/partners insisting on the things they want to see, just me doing my thing! I'd encourage anyone - again, whether or not you enjoy traveling far from home - to try a day trip or weekend alone somewhere.
  9. Detox, detox, detox: I mean detox in every sense of the word. I'm currently detoxing from all the junk I ate (and drank) over the holidays by participating in both Dry January and Veganuary, for instance. But I also want to detox from my time wasters. I cannot tell you how much time I shriveled away in 2017 on checking Facebook 20 times a day, reading articles on People.com, or even just mindlessly skimming news headlines that didn't add value to my life. And you know what happened since then? I got a year older, and I have that much less time left to add value to anyone's life, including my own. This year, that's got to change.
  10. Move to Berlin: This is a bit of a weirdly-specific outlier on the list, but it's something my boyfriend and I are targeting for later in the year, and I want to make the most of planning it successfully, accomplishing it, and enjoying a new home together! And in the meantime, I also want to make the absolute most of my remaining time in Hamburg in this first part of 2018.

So there you have it: My Top Ten for 2018! I've mocked up a little Vision Board below to remind me of these, along with general words and feelings I'd like to describe my attitude towards life, like: "I am happy" (a must!), "Freedom," "Create," and "Seek Magic Every Day." Each of these represents the essence of why I started Those Happy Moments, why it's worked so well for me and my overall happiness, and what I hope others can get from it too.

I'll be posting monthly updates on how I'm doing on these resolutions, so please check back in throughout the year!

So now it's your turn: What are YOUR resolutions for this year? WHY are they your resolutions? How will you incorporate daily baby steps, focus, and forgiveness into getting closer to realizing them?

I'd love to hear from you at any point on your journey, as we all tackle this new year with a smile a wink, and a renewed desire to make things happen.

Love,
Joëlle

2018 Vision Board.jpg

Welcome (Back) to Those Happy Moments!

Joëlle horizontal.jpg

Welcome (back) to Those Happy Moments!

I can't believe it's now been a whole two years since my very first blog post, back when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and definitely had no idea where this adventure would lead me.

If you're new to this blog, or need a refresher, here's a quick recap:

  • I started this blog on January 1st, 2016, because I simply wanted to do a little something for myself, and wanted to bring more happiness to a life I felt sure was missing something.
  • Somehow, against my own expectations, I wrote a blog post for every single day in 2016: Every day, I found something to be happy about! I wrote about travel, about food, about exercise, about trying new things, movies, taking a walk, overcoming injury, celebrating holidays, dealing with sadness, certifying as a yoga teacher, that time I was stalked by a pigeon, and so much more.
  • The result? A full 366 days' worth of Happy Moments ... which meant that - like it or not - there was no way I couldn't look back and see an incredibly happy year. And THAT, in turn, meant that I must have become a much, much happier person than I'd ever given myself credit for before along the way.
  • In 2017, I took a break from blogging, but was thrilled to find that the additional happiness stuck with me! I was still finding, noticing, and creating Happy Moments left and right - it had really become second nature to me.
  • So I started to think: Was it possible this might help someone else? 
  • And so, in the second half of 2017, I wrote a book about it! It lays out how you too can find, notice, and create your own Happy Moments! It's organized into 10 chapters laying out the 10 most common themes I encountered during my one-year experiment. Each chapter has examples, humorous stories, insights, and practical exercises for you to challenge yourself with.

Which brings us full circle to January 2018, and now you're all caught up! This year, I'll be taking a slightly different tack: I won't be blogging every single day, but I'll still be looking for new ways to bring Happy Moments to the forefront of my own life, while hopefully inspiring you to do the same! I look forward to sharing the experience with you along the way, and hope you will share some of your own Happy Moments with our community, too!

Now let's do this: Let's have our happiest year ever.

Love,
Joëlle

This is my excited face.jpg