Her Savory Life

Refining the art of life, love and happiness

Want Inner Happiness? Lead a Value-Based Life

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For as long as the topic of happiness has been studied, there has been a corresponding theory that states one can only truly be satisfied with life if they are inwardly happy with themselves. To be happy with yourself individually without reliance on anything or anyone else, is a complex topic (and much of the inspo behind my career path!) Today, I am talking about one specific solution to leading a life of greater happiness.

This is known as living a ‘values-based life.’ Values are things that you believe are important in your life and work. The thoughts you think, the emotions you feel and the actions you take can all be more purposefully channeled to enhance your overall level of happiness. As simple as this sounds, this kind of life model takes focused effort to consciously and actively operate in a mode where each choice you make is fully aligned with your top priorities. I'm talking small, medium and large choices - even things as simple as accepting an invitation for drinks with a co-worker because every action we take has an impact on our wellbeing.

“Having a strong sense of what matters to you, and letting your values guide your actions can lead to greater happiness,” says psychologist Susan David. Values are things like fairness, accountability, faith, generosity, honesty, creativity, humility or being family-oriented. They are attributes or traits that lead to a sense of fulfillment, pride, happiness and satisfaction.

When we don’t live in a way that connects to our values, we behave in a way that will eventually lead to stress, conflict and dissatisfaction. An example: I’ve decided one of my top values is creativity. The act of being creative fulfills my soul, is a source of positive energy and makes me feel good. Accepting a co-workers invitation for drinks on the Wednesday night that I usually reserve for writing (the only night I have free for this activity), would most likely create inner conflict and contribute to some discontent later in the week.

Another example, if I value family, but I’m working 60-hour weeks, chances are I’ll feel stress and internal conflict for not having the autonomy to spend more time with my loved ones. 

Again, this heightened sense of living is a commitment and can be a mindset that takes willingness, time and practice to cultivate. There will definitely be those times when we are tempted to stray from our values – which is OK on occasion and treated with self-compassion.

Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing

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Two weeks ago I wrote about navigating the unknown and the importance of strengthening our ‘change muscle’ by sitting in discomfort. Speaking from experience and with research to support it, we know the more we proactively put ourselves outside our comfort zones, not only do we grow, but our brains are better trained to handle all the unknowns that life throws at us. And why wouldn’t we want to better equip ourselves for the only thing that is constant in life? Because the only thing we can really count on is change.

I am in the midst of taking more steps to build out my work in the positivity space, and there are elements of the unknown in every decision I make. As the human brain guarantees, along with that unknown, comes the unsolicited neurological reactions of worry and other mind-chatter. So I’ve been navigating through this using techniques from positive psychology.

And isn’t it interesting that when you need a good dose of perspective, the universe just seems to give it to you? Sometimes random things happen that allow you to connect dots that you knew you needed to connect, but just couldn’t get there with your conscious mind. And that dot can get connected by a something as simple as an encounter with a little kid.

This week, I was at a donor breakfast for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the 501c3 that matches adult mentors with kids in need. Before the program started, a children’s chorus made up of about a dozen 7-12 year olds walked in the room. You could only see the tops of their heads over the sea of business suit filled tables in the Union League ballroom. Their cute high-pitched voices proceeded to sing, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder.

It was just what I needed. My subconscious mind immediately generated a dose of perspective. There was something about a small group of innocent children with no understanding of the challenges of adult life – singing to a room full of adults not to worry. These children are in need – they come from broken homes with both or one parent absent and are really learning to deal with change. And their brains aren’t yet fully equipped to handle the emotional turbulence of a bad neighborhood or family situation. But they are, without knowing it, learning how to deal with change. And that innocence will help them get through it.

We forget what its like to come at the world from that perspective – bright eyed, curious, impressionable, honest and open. They may not have to convince themselves “not to worry about a thing” because they don’t yet have the adult gifts of cynicism, bias or expectation of how things and people should be. And in that moment, listening to those kids sing, I regained some perspective.

Every so often, it can be pretty inspirational to jolt yourself out of your autopilot mental narrative and come at the world with some of that child-like wonder. Replace your narrative with positive affirmations that things will turn out as they should, new things are meant to be tried, unknowns can be exiting, risks should be taken, life is meant to be lived, and there’s no need to worry. 

Showing Appreciation When the Calendar Doesn't Tell You To

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As Americans, we celebrate many things in a one-and-done format: a day for the earth, a day for love, a day for veterans, a day to give thanks, a day for mothers…today is one of those days. Today we celebrate all that our mothers are, and all that they have done for us.

There are so many different types of experiences people have on this specific 'holiday.' While some of us see our mothers everyday, every few weeks, or every few months; some of us don't have our mothers around anymore, or it has been decided there is no relationship, or there was never an opportunity to have a relationship, or any other variation of circumstance. 

Whatever the type of relationship, sometimes in our fast-paced lives, there can be a tendency to pencil this day in on our calendars, do the due diligence of calling, celebrating or sending flowers, and immediately getting back to into the weekly routine. If your mother is no longer around, it can be a more difficult experience filled with emotion.

For anyone with any type of experience, there is an opportunity to use the concept of acknowledgement, gratitude and selflessness - and make it an every day thing. To reframe your perspective on why we need a national reminder to show appreciation. This year for me, these types of commercial holidays are becoming reminders that I don’t need a special day to say thank you -- to anyone in my life.

For those who have positive relationships with their mothers, perhaps you can channel that same energy you bring to Mother’s Day to your mom when it isn’t on the calendar. This extends beyond a typical phone call - because this mindset isn't about checking the box, its about the content and the quality of the interaction. The same effort that is put forth by so many on Mothers Day, can easily be done in a shorter but meaningful action every day of the year.

For those who do not have positive relationships or no longer have their moms around, there are ways to bring intentional appreciation to the lives of other people who have made an impact on you. The holiday is about showing other people they matter, so perhaps there is someone who embodies qualities that you admire as you would those of a mother. Or someone who has simply been a major influence in your life. Choose a time today and everyday, to show your appreciation for their existence.

This article by Troy Campbell reminds us that there is proven psychological benefits of sustained positive emotions. So rather than giving thanks in short spurts like what Mothers Day kind of forces us to do - we should consider propelling forward continuous acts of appreciation - things like regularly spending quality time over coffee or telling someone how much they mean to you, or helping them work through a difficult problem. Research shows these sustained acts of gratitude and kindness lead to greater well being.

If you are reading this and don't completely disagree, try using today not as only a one-and-done, but a catalyst to treating the people in your life with that same kind of purposeful attention on a more regular basis. 

Thank you, mom - for everything.

Thank you, mom - for everything.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

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This will be a strategy for life.

Humans don’t like to sit in discomfort. We get uncomfortable when faced with thoughts, people, events or experiences that make us feel unprepared, unsafe or awkward. This response is built into our brain from the cave man era. Centuries ago when there was a looming shadow in the bushes, humans perceived that unknown shadow as a threat and thus reacted by fighting, flying or fleeing. That automated brain functionality still exists today so naturally our our brain not only triggers a threat response if we see something grey in the shadows (literally) but it also triggers that same response when we encounter ambiguous grey areas (figuratively) in our lives.

In this decade, those ambiguous grey areas can include every day occurrences like working for a new boss, going to an event alone, going on a blind date, public speaking, or starting a new project. Grey areas are also typical with bigger life changes like quitting your job, moving to a new place, starting a business or trying a new career. Any of these scenarios have an element of the unknown and therefore elicit a nervousness within us. Most of us can't even tolerate being uncomfortable for short periods of time.

Finding ways to deal with discomfort is not a subject overtly taught in schools but is a skill needed to navigate life. So as adults, how do we hack the fear, insecurity, self-doubt and worry that comes up during times of uncertainty? How can we shift our perspective to see uncertainty as an attractive prospect? Since I have been pushing myself out of my zone for the last two years, I have three pieces of advice:

1. Change your mindset.

Certainty is actually a myth. Is there ever really a time when you know exactly how things will unfold? Even with thorough preparation and planning, nothing is guaranteed. Your opinion on change and uncertainty is actually all controlled by the way you choose to see it. We all wear a pair of invisible lenses that filter what happens around us to fit how we want those experiences, people or things to be. So why not use that biological habit to control the way we talk to ourselves about uncertainty? We should be able to explain to ourselves that no matter what uncomfortable situation we are about to enter, we can and will get through it. The message we send to ourselves should be pretty direct so we don’t let our minds spiral into a fear/anxiety speculation-marathon. If not controlled, the 'what ifs' can create serious harm to our sanity and wellbeing. Instead, this flip in mindset can help us foster positive and optimistic feelings about the potential of the unknown and the inevitable learning experience that comes with it.

2. Purposely go outside of your comfort zone to raise your ‘comfort threshold.’

The term ‘get out of your comfort zone’ might have become watered down, but it’s a meaningful reminder that life can be missed when we allow ourselves to get too comfortable. You can probably think of at least one good thing that came out of the last uncomfortable experience you went through. Because when we navigate the grey area of the unknown, and sacrifice the comfort of the expected, we have the potential to learn, grow, create and influence. The ultimate reward comes after we have made it through that experience – our threshold for discomfort increases and we are more prepared and more likely to embrace the next uncomfortable situation. This is because our brains can reference that example as proof that we can persevere through the next difficult or uncomfortable task ahead. 

3. Redefine the definition of success.

Taking a risk by getting out of our comfort zone won’t always yield a “good” result by societal standards. Say you quit your job to start a business that can’t get off the ground and you’re constantly in discomfort about finances. Or you join a volunteer organization overseas and are constantly in discomfort with a new language, living situation, lack of friends and new surroundings. Its during these moments that it can be helpful to say, "who cares about the traditional definition of success? I've taken risks and I'm learning how to deal with adversity." Because honestly, life isn’t as rosy as your social media feed portrays. Any ‘failure’ or less than ideal situation might just translate to a 'good' result by another definition – good for your personal growth, for your confidence, for your resilience. Besides, what is the worst that could happen? In an extreme case, being uncomfortable and taking risks could cost you a job, material possessions, your status/reputation, money, a friend or your lifestyle. But you’ll still have your mind, your body and an opportunity to begin again, try something new and stay true to yourself. Bringing your perspective back to the basics and reminding yourself to be thankful for what exists in the present is always a great strategy to help us exist in discomfort.

As John F. Kennedy once said, "nothing worthwhile has ever been accomplished with a guarantee of success." Make life worthwhile.