Happy Thanksgiving week! I am changing this post up a bit, and rather than making a list of 5-10 things I am thankful for this year, I’m straying from my list format completely (it kind of hurts my type A tendencies a tad). I want to challenge you to put in the thinking with me. I know, you’re probably thinking well Lauren, that’s easy; I am thankful for my friends and family, my job, my smoking hot significant other, my house…etc. While that is probably a true statement for most (it is for me as well), those responses have become such a default that I feel it’s equivalent to saying “good” to the “how are you?” question. You all know how much I preach that it’s the little things in life that bring me joy- and I mean that quite literally. How about we deep dive to find what little things in your life make more than an impact than you know?…and feel free to change your “how are you?” answer while you’re at it to something more honest and interesting like “I’m actually doing pretty great today” or “I feel like I’ve watched the Sarah McLachlan Humane Society commercial one too many times aka not great.” But I digress…
Have you ever just sat and thought about what you’re thankful for? I mean that literally, just park it in the middle of your living room to think about what brings you more joy than it probably should for the average person. Psychology shows that taking the time out of your day to think of 3-5 things you’re thankful for leads to better mental health and life satisfaction- this is a component of Positive Psychology. I am not one to pass up a good psychology experiment, so I picked up this habit and now use my mornings accompanied with my coffee to actually stop, sit, and think before I start my 7-4 grind. This allows our minds to recognize that life ain’t so bad even when you’ve got a million things to do at work, you despise the thought of leg day later, or you back into a concrete pole in your parking garage (true story). Again as I always say, the little things can mean a lot more than you realize.
I think some people believe that being thankful for something has to mean it is this life-changing phenomenon, person, place, or something they are told they should be thankful for in their lives. While it’s definitely something to be thankful for if you met the peanut butter to your jelly, found out via alpaca the cause of your mysterious disease, or went on a memorable trip (try to guess which one of these is about me); being thankful for something doesn’t need to be big. Heck, most of what I jot down in my journal every morning sounds like I have nothing exciting going on in my life ever…but once you start to view those insignificant little things in life as a big deal, your perspective quickly changes. Then, the days where you feel like everything is going down the toilet…you’ll at least be thankful you have a toilet to flush things down (this is so true though, can you imagine how hard life would be without those things?)
Keeping things too broad won’t have the same positive psychological effect as getting into the little things- and companies know that, and use that against you. A good example of this is the body positivity movement. This preaches that in order to improve negative body image and accept what we look like right now, we must be thankful for our bodies no matter if we don’t feel great. While this all has good intentions, it doesn’t get into the WHY, which leaves people stranded still thinking they aren’t worthy because it’s more of a statement that tries to get you to convince yourself that you believe it, and to buy products to help you do so. On days that I don’t feel great about myself, I don’t write in my journal that I am thankful for my body; I write that I am thankful that I have muscular legs that allow me to jump up and reach high shelves because I am really short. I write that I am thankful for my eyeballs that allow me to watch the bachelorette every week. I write that I am thankful for my stomach that endured all the body slams as a gymnast (proof below). I write that I am thankful for my arms that allow me to show up every cocky body builder in the gym with a simple handstand. You get it- be specific about how it affects you, not just that something exists, because seeing that something serves a purpose to let you live the life you want is what leads to life satisfaction- not the concept itself.
So how do we deep dive to find the little things? Think about your routines throughout the day and what brings you joy. When I think about what brings me joy, I immediately think of coffee post rolling out of bed. The act of picking out my favorite mug, and the fact that it forces me to go slow for once in my life (going fast results in a scorched mouth), is a constant every morning that I look forward to. I’m thankful that I have this pause in my day no matter how hectic the day will be shortly after. What little things bring you joy? Maybe it’s a favorite outfit, goodnight texts, everything but the bagel seasoning, your favorite candle on a chilly morning, the dollar aisle at Target, a good hair day, warm showers, the Vikings aren’t as terrible as usual, a favorite playlist, sweatpants, when your man wears a backwards hat (ladies, you know), a new book, a free weeknight…the everyday things right in front of you that would put a damper on things if they weren’t there!
Next, what makes your life easier? I mean this in the most literal way possible. There’s no rules for what you feel thankful for- all needs are different for everyone at all times! This week, I have been extremely thankful for my bike shorts. Yes, my unattractive padded booty bike shorts. I could easily answer this question with something like: I am thankful for my friends, and the support they give me during a tough week…but that does absolutely nothing if what I need this week is rear end support so a bike seat doesn’t end up in a place I don’t want it to be (I mean I guess friends could help you out with that, but I don’t need to be THAT close with my gal pals).
I find it interesting that a lot of the time, when I ask people what they are thankful for, it isn’t something tangible or visible, it is something like “I am alive today” or “my family’s love.” Not that those aren’t valid answers, but come on people do you actually wake up every morning and the first thing you do is sit up in bed and think about how alive you are or how much your family loves you? No, you go get coffee, hop in the shower, or hit the snooze button etc. People never mention physical things in their lives they’re glad they have, probably because it feels silly, or totally forget about the mundane. So what in your life are you thankful for that makes life easier for you? Perhaps it’s online shopping, your husband’s love for driving you everywhere, your girlfriend’s weird interest in folding laundry, dating apps, dairy free butter (hallelujah), wireless earbuds, wrinkle free dress shirts, working from home, elevators,….you get what I mean. Being thankful is recognizing those little things that ultimately make you feel less strained, more relaxed, relieved, less like you want to cry in the shower, and saves you from climbing 27 flights of stairs to your office!
Now, think about what you dread. We have all heard the “change your thinking from I HAVE to, to I GET to” phrase, right? Practicing being thankful for the things you think you hate, but deep down appreciate because they benefit you greatly, is a prime way to make every day less like Terrible Tuesdays. For me, this is the Sunday Scaries and the daunting feeling of the work week ahead. I get so anxious thinking about all the future emails in my inbox, and how tired I am going to be by Friday…but I am thankful for the Sunday Scaries because that means I have a job to pay my rent, a purpose and a calling, and I have coworkers that appreciate me. What about you? Common things I know we all dread are going to the gym…but some people can’t! We dread going to work…but some out there wish to have a job or the job you have. Some despise grocery shopping, cleaning the house, shopping for a new outfit for a special occasion…you fill in the blank. There’s always a way to put a positive spin on the things we love to hate, we just don’t do it enough.
Well, that’s it folks. No giant list of paragraphs this time around (maybe you’re thankful for that). I truly, TRULY, challenge you to start a daily list of 3-5 of those little things you’re thankful for. I have enjoyed going back through my journal to see what simple pleasures did it for me depending on the stage of life I was in, and picking those simple pleasures back up if I forgot about them along the way. One honorable mention I wrote down during a stressful time in college was “I’m thankful for chairs that are short enough that my feet touch the ground so my calves don’t swell up during finals.” I’d love to hear some of the things that bring you joy, make your life easier, and what things you can learn to love on days you really don’t want to. What do you have to lose other than less stress in your life and less negativity?
Before I go…Here are 5 top things I am grateful for this year (did you really think I could resist my list?)
Free parking at work solely for the purpose that parallel parking downtown Minneapolis makes me want to cry.
Breweries- a lot of great beginnings started at these this year, and I am on a quest for the best sour.
Trader Joe’s because if you know, you know.
Taco salads. That’s it, that’s the sentence.
My step stool because I am short if you did not already notice that yourself.
Go eat all your favorite things this week, and be thankful for your fork!
A conversation I had this week inspired this post, and got me thinking about how technology has morphed the way we live today. Writing this as an IT consultant may seem a bit ironic since new technology and software is my job security, but the psychology nerd in me sees something different. As technology continues to become more capable than anything I could ever imagine, it’s also getting us farther away from the authentic and wholesome moments we probably all have experienced in the past. Technology is meant to make our lives easier, and it does in a physical sense, I mean who would go back to a typewriter? But from my perspective, it’s starting to go a bit too far and is making the unseen parts of our lives harder such as mental health, motivation, and emotional intelligence. Technology does a lot of things for us now; taking the full experience and effort out of what we used to do without the aid of a device. Call me old fashioned, but here’s 10 things I wish I could reverse back to how they were!
1. Capturing video footage
It is so easy nowadays to whip out your phone and Snapchat your dad running around the house cheering because your mom approved of the birthday gift he gave her…I did this just the other day if you couldn’t tell already this was a true story. The fact that we can Snapchat, Instagram story, Tik Tok, or simply just use smartphone video any time we want has made moments that used to be so special…kinda just a norm. We are able to video so much now, that we are just living through a lens rather than being present a majority of the time- videoing concerts and putting a whole song on your snap story is a great example of this, or taking videos of your dinner spread. I miss the giant chunky camcorder because the fact that it was a beast made it less attractive to bring it around everywhere, meaning, we were all present and not experiencing every single moment through a lens. Did your parents ever video what you were eating for dinner at a restaurant with an actual camera? How weird would that be? Yet now, it’s perfectly normal to make your McDonalds chicken nuggets be as famous as you used to be in your home videos.
Recently I dusted off (literally) the box of Casey camcorder home video footage. The fact that I had to dig them up, and go through the whole process of loading them into the DVD and actually watch the DVD rather than skip over parts made it more authentic. I came across one of my first gymnastics classes as a 4 year old, the age I coach now, and while all the skills (even the goodbye song) have stayed the same all these years, the one thing that’s changed is the parents Snapchatting their kids through the windows and staring at their phones editing the videos for half the class. Through watching my home videos, I’ve realized the best moments to look back on are the ones not edited out, such as my brother trying to jump in the kiddy pool and wiping out completely. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with documenting kids growing up on Instagram highlights or using social media to easily access memorable moments because that is just our world now, but it feels nice to rewind back to the past in more ways than one sometimes, and see all the unfiltered, unedited, raw footage.
There are just some things that really don’t need to be changed. Touch screen toasters, refrigerators, coffee makers…but the one that baffles me the most is touch screen elevators. I work in the SPS Tower on the 27th floor, and the first day I showed up to my new client, the elevator stumped the IT consultant. Answer this, would you ever imagine an elevator to not have buttons on the inside? Exactly. There’s NOTHING in there except the prayers and hope that I will not get stuck. So how does it work? There is a touch screen in the elevator lobby with every floor listed. I touch the 27th floor, and it will tell me which elevator to proceed to; I, H, K, L, O, or J -apparently A, B, C, D, E, F were taken that day. I have learned the hard way that these fancy tech ones don’t detect someone is in the doors if you try to hold the elevator for someone. I have been an elevator door Lauren sandwich several times already because those things don’t have any mercy for not walking fast enough. I decided to test out one day what would happen after I arrived at my floor and didn’t get out. The doors closed and I did not move. This led to me being stuck in the elevator for 10 minutes until someone queued it up again. This definitely is not more effective than the old way in my opinion, but it might be a great exposure therapy method.
3. Cell Phones
This is probably a very unpopular opinion, but I hate smart phones. While they give us access to so much online, they take away from everything else going on outside of the tiny little screen. Having a flip phone was one of the best things ever because all I did was text, take low quality pictures, and feel really cool when my “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz ring tone went off. I liked the fact that people weren’t glued to their phones all the time. I remember getting my first smart phone, and my interests suddenly shifted. I no longer went outside much in my free time, didn’t touch board games anymore, stopped reading books because Temple Run was life, never went anywhere without it, and all my attention was now on that little screen when I was with my friends or family. Having a smartphone definitely affected my mood a lot more, too, and created more stress in my life than there needed to be. The fact that I had to wait to get a flip phone until 7th grade I now see as a great move in hindsight. It gave me the childhood that kids should have, and protected me from a lot of crappy things in the world.
Now, elementary school kids are getting better iPhones than I am and the number of iPhones is starting to sound a lot like Kidz Bop- you don’t know if they will ever end. I miss the days where we weren’t checking our phones every minute for notifications, Facebook and email could only be checked on the computer, and finding the perfect emoji wasn’t a thing. The only options were colon + parentheses faces or a semi colon parentheses if you were flirting with your middle school crush. Emojis are a part of our vocabulary now, and middle schoolers won’t every understand the gravity of finally getting an old school smiley back from the cutie in homeroom signifying they liked you back.
Call me an old lady, but I miss the days of digital alarm clocks that sat on nightstands, and having to physically get up to find which button would turn it off otherwise it would just keep going. The heart attack that my clock gave me every morning was way more effective than my iPhone alarm that I only hear half the time. By the time I finally got up for school to turn the darn thing off, I’d be awake enough that snooze would be pointless, whereas that is not the case anymore since it is so much easier to justify sleeping 10 more minutes five times when the snooze button is right in front of your face, or the “twinkle” sound isn’t as jolting. The alarm clock also eliminated the habit of sitting on my phone in the morning for a solid 5-10 minutes. When your alarm is on your phone; it only makes sense to go check every social media platform, email account, Target cartwheel discounts of the week, stalk your second cousin on Facebook, look through your whole camera roll, and order your mom’s birthday gift after turning your alarm off, right? For something that is supposed to make our lives easier and productive, making the phone alarm a norm certainly did not achieve that.
5. Social Media
I am a total hypocrite when it comes to this one since I use it daily, but I wish all social media beyond Facebook were never invented- specifically Instagram and Tik Tok. Everyone is so caught up with trying to make it look like they’re living their best lives that it has detrimental effects on mental and physical health. I wrote my senior capstone on how social media directly affects mental health, specifically body dysmorphia and eating disorders in both men and women, and that self compassion and positive psychology are a key to eliminating that. This is a legit finding, not just a correlation. The issue is that social media instills in us automatic negative thoughts (ANTs), and that’s the opposite of self compassion. There is so much comparison that it creates unrealistic expectations, and negative affirmations that our brains recite to us daily. I can even attest and confess to this. I remember having no body image issues or concerns about my life before I got Instagram, but once I did, I started to feel insecure about my looks, thought others didn’t like me if I didn’t get enough likes, and felt bad about not having perfect Pinterest moments. Not to mention, it wastes so much time, yet we all know it and still do it! Even the content that people are posting nowadays has changed. In 9th grade I was posting gymnastics pictures or pictures with my family. Now, I see 9th graders posting questionable selfies, and stories I wouldn’t dare post even as a 23 year old. The impact social media has on people’s decision making skills and emotions is astounding, and I only foresee it to get worse as Instagram will cause more disordered eating due to diet culture, hidden snap stories will promote lying/sneaking around, and Tik Tok will probably lead to even more cringey dancing in public.
I used to wear a watch everyday as a kid because that is how I would check the time…hence what it was made for. Now, Apple Watches are actually making the word “watch” literal- as in – watching our watches for move rings, calorie goals, weather updates, texting, and almost everything but the time. I do believe they are amazing little creations and can be helpful for a lot of things, but they also can be harmful to mental health and productivity. This past month my Apple Watch broke for a solid week, and I felt a lot of anxiety the first few days because I didn’t know how many calories I burned, what my heart rate was, how many steps I took at work, and a whole lot of other anxiety inducing things. It made me stop and think I lived 20 years without one, why is it so hard to go back tonot relying on having this information and just going about my dayagain? Watches were not made to create anxiety except to tell you that you’re about to be late for work again. After the first few days passed without my Apple Watch, my mental health actually improved. I no longer was as concerned about closing my move ring, didn’t think about what I was able to eat during the day based on how many calories my watch told me I burned, I was a lot more present at work and with friends, and I didn’t walk into the clear wall at work again due to scrolling through watch notifications. Let’s go back to glancing at our watch rather than walking into walls shall we?
7. “Ok Google”
My family will full on be able to tell you how much this one bugs me. I am so annoyed by any and all Google Homes, Google Minis, Google lightbulbs, and any other Google device that is not the search engine (no hard feelings against the OG Google). My whole family has converted to talking to Google to do easy things like turn on lights, turn on music, etc…when it actually takes more time for Google to do it since it malfunctions or doesn’t understand half the time. What was so difficult about standing up and walking over to turn on a lamp? To this day, I still refuse to use the 4+ Googles in my parents house and will go out of my way to manually turn on the lights because I can. Yes, it is cool that technology can automate things like that for us, especially for those who may have a disability, that’s where I see technology being beneficial and it should be implemented. But for things that just make things easier simply because we may be lazy or the task takes 5 seconds longer…I can’t justify that quite yet.
8. Watching a movie
When it comes to movies, they’ve kind of lost their pizazz since they’re so easily accessible, and don’t have a “return by” date on them. One of my favorite things to do growing up was Friday night movie runs to Blockbuster. My brother and I would roam the aisles looking for the perfect movie to watch, and argue over which one to get since apparently princesses weren’t doing it for him. When we got home, we’d have a routine of being the “movie hosts” by setting up all the comfy chairs with blankets and pillows, taking popcorn orders, aka, my brother writing on a piece of paper what kind of seasoning wanted, drink options, and crushed or cubed ice then making our parents check the box and return their selections to me (I was the waitress, he was the chef). We would get so excited over this and when the movie started, we were glued to the TV. When Red Box came out, we thought that was the latest and greatest technology that would make Blockbuster go out of business. Still, we loved picking out movies at McDonalds for our Kentucky road trips to watch in the car, and being able to return them to any Red Box across the nation was groundbreaking. Something about getting to pick out a movie that could physically be held was so special. Now, I can’t tell you how many times I have flipped through Netflix, picked a movie, and barely even watched it because I don’t have the urgency to pay attention. There’s nothing ritualistic or special about hitting play on Netflix, knowing you can watch it every single day if you wanted to.
9. Cooking Gadgets
Most people would jump at the offer if someone willingly said they wanted to get you and Instant Pot or Air Fryer, but not me. My family has tried to hard to get me to cave into jumping on the kitchen gadget bandwagon because apparently it cooks lentils and mashed cauliflower like a charm, but I refuse to get on that wagon, because I don’t think I’ve touched a lentil in my life and my pre made frozen mash tastes delightful heated up in the microwave. Plus, I have a perfectly good stove, oven, microwave, and toaster in my apartment! Sure, maybe it can cook my chicken 12 minutes faster than it would in the oven, but honestly, I am not in a rush, and all the different cooking mediums are starting to stress me out! Psychology says that when you are presented with too many choices, it actually causes more stress. In my case, the fact that I would have so many options to cook a potato would make me want to give up and run to the frozen aisle at Trader Joe’s. The thought of all the dozens of cookbooks made for each device, all for different diets, makes me want to pull my hair out. I like to keep things simple, and am a bit of a minimalist if you couldn’t tell. The day everyone stops saying “Insta Pot” instead of Instant Pot will be the day I cave, which will probably be nowhere in the near future.
10. Music Medium
When I think back to how I used to listen to music, man has it changed. I never would’ve imagined that Spotify would have become so big after I spent years buying songs off iTunes that I heard on the radio. Even though the radio is still around, I rarely ever listen to it anymore because I kind of forget it is there. While I have the freedom to listen to anything any time I want on Spotify, I have to say, I get sick of my same old playlists all the time, and even when I do hit shuffle, I find myself skipping songs until I find one that I want to listen to. I definitely get tired of Spotify by the end of my work day. With the radio, I never knew what I would get next, was forced to listen to a whole song, enjoyed the talk shows, and honestly, I miss hearing the Shane Co ad every once in a while (494 and Hopkins crossroad…you finish the rest). The debut of a brand new song on the radio was a lot more exciting and hyped up than new songs on streaming methods. Would I want to get rid of Spotify at this point? No, I don’t know if I could do that now that I am instantly gratified by Thomas Rhett whenever I want, but I miss the presence of the radio a lot more now than I used to…except when the severe weather warnings would cut into the middle of the song causing me to run out of the shower mid shampoo due to fear that I would get sucked into a tornado at that instant.
Dealing with change can be hard, and I have found through my job that this is true for all ages. Even I (as you can see) have a hard time adopting changes when I am attached to how I’m used to doing things, and don’t see the need for making my chicken a little bit crispier in an air fryer. There is a whole career dedicated to helping people adjust to change in the business world; but there’s nothing out there to help us adjust to change outside the business realm such as social media platforms, streaming services, making a cake in anything other than an oven, your watch telling you when to breathe, using elevators without buttons, or turning lightbulbs off with our voices. Part of getting others to adopt change is showing why it is beneficial and how it will improve the current process…and I just can’t see that yet myself. I do believe that what technology can do now is amazing, I will not debate against that, but it makes me sad to think that future generations will never get to experience things the way I have growing up, and the simplicity of life before turning a TV on required 5 remotes. If I had one wish, I would make society go back to seeing technology as a luxury rather than a necessity. Would you?
I think most of you know by now that I am a proud psychology geek from the references I sneak into almost every post I make. Psychology, to most, is simply the study of human behavior and why we do what we do; but have you ever stopped to think about what affects our decisions, mood, motives, etc beyond the fact that our brains tells us to do or feel something? Sometimes we get so used to everyday life that we don’t stop and think about how we came to our decision to impulse buy the cereal we haven’t eaten since we were five, or why we chose to wear all black instead of a brighter color on a rainy day. Unlike math, psychology applies to literally everything, and I do mean that literally (do you use derivatives to decide what you want for lunch? Didn’t think so). While I could make a much bigger list than what I am about to explain, here are 10 places that you see or use psychology every single day.
1. Psychology is in your sandwich
Psychology has a lot to do with what foods we make and decide to eat on a given day. We base what we eat on texture, flavor, how long it takes to prepare, etc…but why does that even matter? If there was no psychological aspect to eating we would be fine with eating piles of lettuce every meal because it quiets hunger. Our decisions come from a motive…that motive being our mood and the context of our day. We’ve all heard of emotional eating, but it goes beyond that because psychology dictates what foods we eat on days where we aren’t drowning our sorrows in chocolate, too. Eating is not an act to fulfill physical needs, it also feeds us mentally, and sometimes spiritually. Have you ever noticed how comforting a warm bowl of soup is on a gloomy/cold day, but you wouldn’t dare eat some scorching bowl of chicken noodle poolside in the middle of summer? (I mean if you do, all power to you). On the converse, an ice cold lemonade by the pool is a lot more mood boosting than an ice cold lemonade watching the first snowfall. There’s a reason some foods are called comfort foods, because we eat them to feel good or connected to something. This could be along the lines of choosing a category of food that aligns with your mood (taco Tuesday is definitely a mood), toasting with a glass of champagne, or maybe eating your grandma’s famous broccoli casserole when you miss her since she lives halfway across the country. Next time you decide what you want for dinner, notice what’s happening in your life around you and how it affects what choice you make.
2. Psychology keeps you efficient
Engineering Psychology exists to essentially predict how humans will mess up. Why isn’t the reverse gear next to drive? Why is technology made the way it is? Why is “Hot” up and “Cold” down in the shower? Why does your microwave have a “popcorn” setting but not a “hot pocket” setting (still probably would be cold on the inside). It is important to involve psychology in the design of building houses, cars, new technology, and machines in order to make sure that our human tendency to mess up under pressure doesn’t put anyone at risk. But also, because our brains interact with things in a certain way, and humans resort to doing a lot of the same things. For instance, we associate two non-related things with each other such as hot with up, and cold with down which is why showers are the way they are. I can guarantee you that there was a psychologist on call for the design of the iPhone, and that there is a reason the home button was placed on the bottom rather than on the back or side (and a reason the home button is no longer there anymore). Have you ever seen some ridiculous rule or law somewhere and thought “why on earth does this need to be said?” It’s probably because some bonehead did that stupid thing, and that’s what engineering psychologists try to predict in order to prevent. I instantly think of the law in Kentucky stating “no carrying an ice cream cone in your back pocket” …someone set the precedence, and maybe that’s why women’s jeans are now designed with little to no pockets at all!
3. Psychology makes you buy blue things
We all know that the main point of marketing is to get us to buy something, or positively promote. But as I will keep saying in this post, HOW do we suddenly go from only needing to pick up shampoo at Target, to coming out with 7 new cheesy decorative pillows, 5 bags of flavored popcorn, and all the products marked “new”? Consumer Psychologists work to study consumer behavior and patterns, and psychology is the base of marketing because it kick starts the feeling centers of our brains (Amygdala) which tampers with the frontal lobes that are in charge of reasoning and decision making. First, the psychology of color. Studies show that blue is the most attractive color because it makes us feel calm, and productive- now think of all the brands that are blue; Oreos, Culvers, Pillsbury, Pop Tarts, Pepsi, etc. You are more likely to buy a product if it is blue, rather than red, since red according to studies is the least attractive color (maybe that’s why everyone hates Valentine’s Day). Color is used to both make us feel a certain way, but also to catch our attention, and make the executive decision making parts of our brains temporarily turn into the reasoning of a two year old’s.
Second, loss aversion and the scarcity mindset. Psychology says that you are more likely to buy something if you think you’re going to lose it, or never get it again. This is why seasonal products like pumpkin spice make us impulse buy nasty pumpkin spice things that should not be pumpkin spice in the first place. This is also why “on sale” signs work so well even though it’s discounted 2 cents. Humans don’t want to miss out on a good deal, even if we are spending more money just to get the stale pretzels on sale. Next time you go to Target, pay attention to the colors and notice how there’s not much black, white, or brown. Notice what items are placed on end caps and what they are (seasonal, new, or clearance, typically), and actually look at the on sale sign and evaluate if those giant tub of cheese balls that are 50 cents off will make you feel more fulfilled in life.
4. Psychology prevents road rage
Don’t laugh, but there are psychologists out there with a career solely dedicated to traffic. Before you think traffic psychology is a weird career, it is a rising career track, and how great would it be to just people watch to see what people do in their cars when they think no one is looking? Traffic psychologists evaluate driver behavior and whether it’s planned, impulsive, or habitual. Based on this, they help to determine where road signs should be placed based on where the optimal attention point will be, what the signs should say, predict road rage based on how frustrating certain intersections will be, and evaluate traffic patterns. A huge reason that traffic happens in the first place is because human curiosity is too powerful, and we need to be nosy and look at that person who got pulled over by a cop to see what they look like, of course. Traffic psychologists study why this is and how to resolve it.
Traffic psychologists help to ease any commotion, and try to eliminate negative behaviors by setting up construction sites a certain way or putting directional detour signs in the perfect spot to eliminate confusion. What goes on road signs is just as important because that is how you get people to obey them. This is where color, word placement, word size etc, is important. You’re more likely to actually read a road sign if it has a snarky/sarcastic saying than if it is your everyday “slow down” sign. Many places are seeing these new electric signs that are doing just that, and that is the kind of thing that people remember. I don’t know about you, but the one sign that read “slow down, moron” worked a lot better on me than a regular slow down sign.
5. Psychology belongs in business
This one may not be a huge surprise, but even though it’s already known that psychology exists here, people don’t actually use it to their advantage. Psychology can do some powerful things in Change Management, Employee Retention, User Experience, Business Analyzation, Recruiting, and Human Resources. This is what I have dedicated my career to, and have been trying to sneak into my daily work whether that be wording an email in a certain way to help someone be more comfortable with change, sneaking in jokes at the bottom of my meeting recap emails so people actually read them, recognizing what category someone falls in for the DISC assessment and using the communication style they respond most positively to, or working on new initiatives to make employees feel like they can be their authentic selves in the workplace.
Psychology goes all the way to the beginning: recruiting. Building a killer company starts with finding the best talent, and you get people at their best when they aren’t nervous, and can be themselves. Every time I have had to interview someone, or have been interviewed, I don’t hesitate to crack a joke or have an actual conversation with the person because that is really how it should be. Believe it or not, recruiters actually like to hear how you’re doing when they ask you instead of “good” all the time! While this is a known fact that it’s better to tailor interviews to make people feel more at ease, companies still keep interviews pretty routine and static. Fear may be a great tactic to scare people into getting things done or to see how they do under pressure, but that is the worst idea ever if you’re trying to get people to stay long term and actually want to work. I could make this a huge paragraph and explain why a good company needs an executive leadership team that uses psychology to make their employees feel safe, seen, and valued…but it seems self explanatory, right? You’d be surprised how many companies are lacking this. Psychology is still seen as a luxury rather than a necessity in the business world, and in my totally biased but actually factual opinion, putting psychology into how a company manages change, making employees feel like they matter, and having good leadership is where companies should be focusing more of their time instead of more razzle dazzle benefits or a couple more hundred dollars in a bonus.
6. Psychology predicts if not eating marshmallows leads to better money managing
Psychology is important when it comes to how you manage your money. Those who invest and see the benefit of saving their money rather than buying that new car or stupidly expensive purse probably also would have passed the famous instant gratification test done in 1972 by Stanford. This measured how well children could delay the immediate gratification of eating 1 marshmallow to receive greater rewards in the future aka 2-3 marshmallows. The longer they waited, the more marshmallows they got. This ability at a young age predicts success later in life by having the ability to be patient rather than need to feel satisfied right away.
The way you spend your money can also tell others a lot about you. Those who buy extravagant things for others or for themselves may be trying to boost low self-esteem, and money is their way of gaining status or trying to get others to like them. Money can actually buy happiness for some if they believe negatively about most aspects in their life, and their wealth is part of their identity. Additionally, extroverts are more likely to take risks with their money than introverts when it comes to investing, but also as we know, money can make people do some crazy things like doing weird jobs for a couple bucks or staying with a job you despise just for the salary. While money is just a piece of paper, it is the psychology around it that makes it come alive.
7. Psychology connects ice cream sales and homicides
Meteorologists can provide forecasts for so much more than weather if they’d tap into the psychology of weather. There is a lot of research out there saying that ice cream sales and homicides are positively correlated on hot day. The glue that binds this innocent topic to this not so innocent act is the weather. Studies show people are more likely to lose their temper when it is a hot day. In this case, ice cream shops should see a 90 degree day, and know to not give a beefy sweaty customer butter pecan when they asked for unicorn swirl because that may end more badly than if it were a chill sunny and 75. Think about it, when you’re sweating when you’re not actually trying to sweat, or trying to do something but starting to get hot, don’t you feel flustered? This goes for other moods too. Vitamin D is no happy pill, and the sun is not the reason we are happy on sunny days. It is the sunny day itself that is making us happy, calm, and content with the world. When people feel like this, there will be less homicides and more acts of kindness.
On the converse, gloomy/rainy days also have an effect on us. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real thing (in psychology, affect means mood). Studies show that our moods lower on doom and gloom days, so when we go from sunny summer to dull fall with less hours of light, it is no wonder that there are more cases of depression and low motivation. But, some people may thrive on depressing looking days, and I am one of those people. While studies show that gray days lowers moods, it also shows that it increases deep thinking and improves memory. I love a good, gross looking day, it is prime blogging weather. The darkness of the sky comforts me and makes me feel secure and safe inside in order to get everything I needed done without feeling guilty for being inside on a sunny day. Weather and fear of missing out can be tied together for some people. Other weather psychology phenomenons are the tie between those who live in natural disaster prone areas and mental health problems, low pressure days and suicide, and how strong the wind blows leading to road rage. Why only predict the weather when you can predict when your best chance is to remember all your test answers, too?
8. Psychology can help you flip on a wood plank
Sports psychology has been a love of mine since middle school because I have seen the fascinating effects that it produces. If I were not in business, I would be on my way to being Dr. Lauren Casey, sports psychologist. Psychology is hard to believe because you cannot see it, but really, sports are a great way to show that psychology actually does work. Sports psych helps athletes get out of their heads, hone into positive energy, visualize performance, and helps to solve any issues going on outside of the sport that may be transferring to the court. You become what you believe; so if you think that you have the worst fast ball, are going to miss your free throws, your crush came to watch you play and you’re going to mess up, or have the worlds worst goalie skills, your brain will start to make your body follow that.
Back in 6th grade, I had a mental block trying to learn to do my backhandspring on the high beam. No matter how many times I told myself to go, my body would not move (my brain doing its job and keeping me safe by refusing to do a flip on a wood plank? How terrible!) I would get a cold shock through my brain if I was about to chuck the skill which made me even more freaked out. It was like there was a brick wall behind me not allowing myself to flip, but really my mind was in the way creating a wall of fear with all the bad outcomes that I pictured in my head. My coach brought in a sports psychologist for the team that week and we did an exercise where we visualized ourselves doing the one thing we were scared of perfectly over and over. After that, I walked over to beam and threw that backhandspring with no hesitation. Athletes tend to only picture the bad outcome, but when we focus on the good, and believe we can reach new heights, that’s when we get GOAT athletes!
9. Psychology is a sleeping pill
Sleeping is a time for our bodies to finally chill out and recover after a long day, but nowadays, I am starting to hear of more sleeping problems as if sleeping is a chore. There really is a pill for everything, but sleep is something that can be fixed without a pill. The psychology of sleep is truly fascinating because our subconscious mind is just as active as our conscious mind when we give it the chance. Sleeping conditions can be a reason that you aren’t sleeping well; maybe the door open freaks you out more than you think, you’re almost asleep and then you remember your leg is hanging off the bed for the monster under the bed to get (I can’t be the only one, still), or maybe your room is too hot causing you to have some wacky dreams. Sleep psychology gets down to the bottom of why you wake up during a certain sleep cycle, helps to calm the anxieties in your head that yell at you at night, and can even help with sleep breathing disorders by working to get the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in. Next time you have a hard time falling asleep, keep in mind that the reason behind it is often psychological and you just need to listen to your mind or your body to figure out what is wrong.
10. Psychology allows you to change others’ behavior
Growing up, we were taught to never play with people’s emotions….but there was never anything said about playing with people’s behavior! The psychology of gamification can be applicable and helpful to pretty much every area of life- but especially the work world, or parenting. It can be hard to get people to do what you want if you simply ask them sometimes, but once that same thing is turned into a contest or a game, it magically gets done very quickly. Kids will respond much better to doing chores if there is a point system or a prize at the end. Employees will pass phishing tests more frequently if there’s a contest for who can pass the most tests. Why do you think snapchat is doing so well? Because of the streak concept, and the need to keep up with the task in order to not lose the “game.” Additionally, it can even work on yourself! New Years Resolutions are the most open ended initiative ever, but if your goals were turned into a game or contest, you’d be a lot more motivated to complete them. Many people struggle to work out more, eat better, etc…but that’s because motivation and willpower isn’t enough. The key to success is making everything a competition because humans are naturally wired to want to win! We all have experienced the race to finish a task before the microwave buzzer goes off, don’t deny it.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of you already knew of these, but you probably forgot just how much psychology affects you in day to day life. I challenge you to pay attention to the decisions you make at the grocery store, the thoughts you have while driving, the actions you take when it is rainy out, and how you respond to things and others at work this week. You will be fascinated at how it all ties together!
Each year my birthday rolls around, I like to look back and see all the new milestones and misfortunes I’ve encountered in previous years. This year is the iconic “golden birthday” for me, which gives me a reason to make a big deal out of turning a random age of 23. Psychology says that you remember significant moments the best because of how feelings associate with memory stores. While I don’t remember much before the age of 4; there are a few recollections I randomly have that I don’t understand the significance of at all. It’s interesting to look back at each year of your life and try to figure out why the moment that stood out the most did, because for a lot of mine, there definitely were a lot more important things going on in my life at the same time. With that, here’s a look into a memory that stood out from each year of my life (and perhaps a mini child psychology lesson on how the mind and memories change as we get older!)
1. Tantrums in public places are effective
I have always had a little bit of a stubborn side, even back to diapers. My location of choice to be stubborn has not always been the most convenient…for my parents. On this day in particular, shopping was not what I wanted on my agenda so I decided to crawl under a department store display table and started kicking and screaming and flailing my limbs. I wouldn’t let my mom get me out from under the table, it was my fortress, and no pacifier was working that day. I was just not having it with Macy’s new spring inventory I guess. I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish, but if the goal was to get out of there it worked. If the goal was to embarrass my mom, that worked too.
2. Stubby legs are a hazard
It doesn’t seem like a slide would be dangerous, but when you take a two year old wth stubby legs down a curvy carnival slide at the county fair, we learned that’s a problem. My mom put me in her lap to go down the slide, not knowing that when we approached a turn my leg wouldn’t go the same way as hers which resulted in my little leg jamming into the side of the slide. I wasn’t quite at the conversational age yet, but I did manage to repeat “leg” over and over again to confirm my mom’s worst thoughts as she felt my leg do things it wasn’t supposed to.
3. Best friends go to the bathroom together
I don’t quite remember much from being three, except for Anna. Our parents may have been what brought us together, but it was our own doing of being the dynamic duo by being each other’s plus ones to our brothers’ birthday parties, ordering the same thing at restaurants when our families went to Red Robin, making up songs, wearing matching outfits every time we saw each other, and we even hopped on the trend of girls going to the bathroom together at an early age. This is the age that I learned what having a best friend looks like, and to this day, our friendship sets the bar very high and sets my expectations. Over the years, not much has changed except for the fact that her growth spurt started when mine stopped.
4. Gymnastics is not a french toast sticks eating contest
The day I entered TAGS gymnastics will always be one of the most monumental moments to me, which is why I probably remember this. When my mom told me I was going to be starting gymnastics, for some odd reason the “stics” part translated to french toast sticks in my mind. I liked my breakfast foods so I was excited to start this new competitive hobby. When she brought me into the building for the first time, I remember looking around and through the windows at all the mats and colorful obstacles to climb on everywhere. While I did not see any french toast sticks anywhere, I was still overjoyed by what I saw instead. The rest is history.
5. I do know my address, I swear
For those who read my embarrassing stories post that included the time I submitted “how to toast a pop-tart” to my kindergarten cookbook, this memory is a close second for memories that still haunt me from kindergarten. 5 year old Lauren was painfully shy to the point where I did not like to speak to adults on my own, let alone sing. I remember this moment because it was the first time I ever felt regret for not speaking up. We were given the assignment to memorize our address to recite to our teacher. My mom helped me at home to make up a song and I was really good at it! When the time came to recite it to Mrs. Tan, I got nervous and told her I forgot, even though I didn’t. I was too shy to sing my song in front of someone, and I could have spoken it, but I had never practiced it like that before. I was all or nothing back then, too. I took the L on that one, and my mom was not happy when I got home.
6. Small people propel easily
Throwback to Mother’s Day in first grade. It was also my next door neighbors grad party. We were only going to stay 20 minutes, but it only took 5 minutes for me to be propelled out of a tiny hole in the net, which sent me flying through the air onto the ground. My left arm broke the fall, and broke itself. The 5 minute bounce session resulted in 2 pins put in my arm and I remember ending the night sitting in the hospital bed apologizing for ruining Mother’s Day. I got a stuffed pink bunny from the hospital so it was obviously worth it all.
7. I’m not the best pet owner
Back in 2nd grade, we were given the chance to take are of a mealworm as a little pet to watch it grow. We got a few minutes each day to take our mealworm out and set it on a paper plate to see it move around. I on the other hand, had different ideas. I would hang my mealworm off the edge of the paper plate with the reasoning that I was training it to be on bars like I was at gymnastics. My mealworms (yeah my teacher gave me a few tries at it) did not live long.
8. When in doubt, run killers
In 3rd grade, I was no Simone Biles that was born with natural talent. I worked hard to do what some of my other teammates easily completed. I remember clearly being called out in a team huddle one day that I wasn’t good enough and probably wouldn’t make it as a gymnast. That lit the fire in me to use what I did have- my competitiveness, and the ability to push myself. That day, I out ran everyone in killers by a landslide, and finished first in the conditioning contest. That same coach came up to me after conditioning and told me “you surprised me Casey, way to go.” I truly believe this grit mentality that was created in me since then was why I did make it so far in gymnastics.
9. I’m a poet and I didn’t know it
What I remember most about 4th grade, is that it was the year I knew I liked to write. My love for writing did not wait to surface until high school, it started in Mrs. Angermeyr’s 4th grade poetry unit. I don’t know what it was that drew me to it; the freedom she gave us to write about whatever we wanted, or the fact that we got to print it on pretty stationary. That year, our whole class wrote poems to submit to a poetry book to be published. I thought that was so cool, and the fact that my poem was in a book gave me the confidence to keep writing. Who knew a poem called “July” could have been the reason I loved AP Lit, CIS composition, and started my blog!
10. I chose my college major in 5th grade
For those who regularly read my posts, you already know my FND story and that it started at the age of 10. While most of my 5th grade year was filled with a lot of traumatizing memories, my love for psychology stemmed from it. When people ask me how I was so confident declaring my major September of my freshman year at a liberal arts college; I tell them it originates from having to learning neurology since 5th grade (that I ended up learning again in college psych). I liked hearing new theories and new facts, and I think my love for the brain made the fact that I wasn’t living the life as a typical 5th grader a lot easier to handle.
11. Life is better without bangs
By the time I got to 6th grade, I was till mourning the loss of my “signature look.” I soon came to realize that my life greatly improved by growing my bangs out since thick headbands, sparkly butt jeans and Aeropostale shirts was the “in look” to be cool at middle school. It also made life easier when I didn’t have to deal with sweaty bangs back in the day of having gym class smack dab in the middle of the school day, or blowing them out of my face at gymnastics practice.
12. Stress leads to my success
I am sure a lot of important things happened in 7th grade, but at this time in my life, gymnastics was my life. I needed to learn how to do a cast handstand on bars in order to move up to Level 7. I had every other skill, but that one. If there was not a skill I could conquer at practice, I would spend all day at school stressing about practicing drills at home, and visualizing it in bed until I got to practice to try it again. One random Tuesday night, my coach told me it was time to pack up my grips and go home after spending all of the hour bar rotation trying to do it. He insisted I could try it again tomorrow, but I didn’t get off the bar. He stood there with his arms crossed trying to coax me to go home, but I told him I could do it. I somehow casted right to handstand and he looked at me shocked. I moved up to level 7 the following week.
13. There is such thing as too many back bends
In 8th grade, out of fear of learning to do a backwalkover backhandspring for my tumbling series on beam (silly me, scared to do a flip on a wood plank), I settled with a backwalkover-backwalkover which resulted in a stress fracture in my back from so many reps. It landed me in a brace for 3 months that I could only take off to shower, and took me out of more than half of my season only giving me 1 week to learn how to swing 360 degrees around the high bar in order to qualify for state (I did it). That’s what I get for trying to go the easy way out.
14. Representing my region
9th grade was my busiest year. My balancing act between all honors classes in school, and all the time working towards my goal of qualifying for Regionals didn’t leave much time for a social life. When I couldn’t go to my friends, they came to me and cheered me on at my meets. There were many nights spent eating Culver’s cheeseburgers or leftovers from dinner at 9 PM and finishing my homework at midnight because of my daily 4:30-8:30 practices, but I didn’t mind. I learned a new backhandspring-backhandspring tumbling series to avoid literally breaking my back again, and a new bar dismount that no one had competed at state, except me. My hard work paid off and I got to represent Minnesota at regionals in St. Louis that year which was the peak of my club gymnastics career, and my last hurrah which I wasn’t aware of yet.
15. Hockey breezers are great for beam
The most significant moment of my sophomore year was making the decision to stop eating Culvers cheeseburgers at 9 PM. By this, I mean I left club gymnastics to find more balance in my life in high school gymnastics. In the gymnastics world, this is a huge change. But to my surprise, I loved the shift. I was able to spend more time with friends and be more of a typical high schooler, all while still trying to reach my dream of college gymnastics. Competing in the varsity lineup for my high school was so much more rewarding than competing for myself. I’ll never forget the time I used random hockey breezers I found outside the gym one day to conquer my fear of missing both feet while learning a front handspring on beam and breaking the fall with my crotch. I ended up competing the fronthandspring as part of my tumbling series through college.
16. No coughing during floor routines
Most people’s most memorable moment at 16 is getting their drivers license. While that is still significant for me, sections junior year is even more memorable to me. On the morning of sections I woke up sick as a dog. I had myself convinced that I was not going to compete that day, but what kind of captain doesn’t show up to sections? I remember being in the middle of my floor routine trying not to cough, then wondering if I would get a deduction if I did cough. Surely there is a deduction for coughing if there is one for your underwear involuntarily popping out. By the end of the meet I was at a fever of 102 and to this day I still have no clue how I made it through.
17. Go for comfort not fashion
I am pretty basic in the sense that Senior Prom night was my favorite part of senior year. It was the last time to be together before we all parted different directions for college. So with this, I wanted to look stunning for the big night and I wanted it to be memorable. I got brand new black heels that were taller than any pair I have owned because my date was a solid foot taller than me, and they matched my black number of a dress perfectly along with the tan I went to Wisconsin for every week since tanning under 18 is illegal in MN (I was dedicated). The night’s lineup included the dance hosted at International Market Square featuring the Johnny Holm Band, and a party bus for the night. While all of this lived up to my high school musical expectations, the pain from being in the tall heels is what I remember most, and I only lasted an hour in them. I haven’t touched them since.
18. Dreams don’t only come true at Disney
My goal to be a college gymnast began when I was 8, and seeing my name on the Gustavus gymnastics roster freshman year was a moment I will never forget, as well as the feeling as being mildly disappointed that I was second shortest on the team rather than the front runner. A lot happened freshman year, including having to quit gymnastics from injury; but being able to say that I made it, even if it was for a little bit, overpowered it all. I loved the team dinners, high energy meets, brunches at coach’s house, and dressing up as a Taco Bell hot sauce packet (I was short and spicy) for halloween with the rest of the freshmen specifically stands out to be during this time, because why wouldn’t it?
19. Everyone could use sisters
Starting out sophomore year with no gymnastics was really hard on me, but I found a new community to devote myself to and found more time to do other things such as going to France over J-Term. While France was awesome, the biggest highlight this year was being a Tri Sigma because it is when I met my Big, Perry. This sorority filled a lot of voids that I didn’t know needed filling once I had to stop gymnastics, and Perry was my biggest role model all throughout college. The day the sorority knocked on my door and sang loudly in my face to let me know I was a part of the sisterhood was something I didn’t know I needed until that moment.
20. Eggs are in everything
Junior year was not the greatest for me; I lived in an office (only could fit a bed and a small dresser in there), dealt with more health and mental health issues than ever before, and had to cut out gluten, dairy, soy, and egg from my diet to heal gut issues. I really thought that gluten and dairy would be the hardest ones to avoid, but there is egg in literally every food I wanted to eat at the caf except for the salad bar. My nickname that year was “rabbit girl” by the cafeteria ladies. Junior year was kind of a blur for me, but I was pretty great at throwing sorority picnic potlucks despite the fact I couldn’t indulge in any of it.
21. Work perks work
My favorite and most significant memory from senior year was my internship with the VP of HR at Gustavus that landed me my job at Boom lab in October 2019 before Covid kicked me out of school. I was sent on a quest to network with 15 different people at 15 different companies all over the cities. Most of my semester was a big field trip to check out the culture and what kind of company/role I could see myself in. I would not have guessed that Post had a wall of cereal and a cereal and milk bar for their employees, Cantel had a full sized basketball court, QBP encouraged bringing your dogs to work, and Boom Lab had a fridge specifically stocked with all Bubbly to go with their rooftop patio area. Psychology never said that bribing your employees doesn’t work!
22. Any year after 2020 is an improvement
Everything about being 22 was great. There wasn’t one moment that stood out more than the rest (except Covid, finding out I’ve had Lyme for 16 years, and finally having commencement), but rather, who made those moments great.
23. The golden year
While it literally is my golden year, something about this year feels more “golden” than most. I am creating a career path that I love, started up a young adult community at my church, am almost done with my Lyme Disease treatment that will hopefully complete the birthday wish I’ve made since I was 10 that my FND would get better, but most importantly, I discovered Trader Joe’s. I don’t want to speak too soon, but this golden year might just be the year that I overcome all the things I have been enduring and working towards for years….and maybe learn how to cook after saying I would for a year now!
As I was writing this and I started to write about my more recent years, I started to realize a shift and I felt like I was going off topic from the title of this blog. As I tried to reel it in, I realized that I couldn’t because my last few years were filled with a lot of milestones, but it’s more of a collective effort that makes the year memorable, and WHO I was with. Adult Development Psychology says that as we get older, the things we start to remember more have to do with people rather than specific things we did. This is along the same lines as “it’s not about what you did for someone, it’s how you made them feel.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I realized that as I’ve gotten older, my focus has broadened more, and I am not thinking about gymnastics (or french toast sticks), being perfect in school, achieving things for my own advantage, or bad events that happened to me like breaking a bone. Now, I’m focused on connecting with my coworkers to make a difference in someone’s day, who I want to spend my time with, and what moments have made me into the best version of myself. I have no clue what this next year holds for me, but as long as it doesn’t involve any more pandemics, ticks, department store tantrums, back bends, or singing my address- I think I am on the right track.
Let me set the tone right off the bat here: this post has absolutely nothing to do with Covid because I would like to keep Christmas untouched by it on this blog even though in reality, Covid has invaded Christmas’ personal space entirely. Instead, this post has everything to do with holiday norms and traditions when we were youngins versus the adult versions now because I have come to learn over the years that it slowly drifts away from what it used to be without even realizing it. This isn’t to say it is totally a bad thing…it’s just different. Most of you can probably relate to some of these things I’m about to share, but if not, think about your then versus now. I hope this brings you some laughter and a solid five minutes without thinking about the disease that shall not be named.
Making Christmas Cookies
Back in the good old days of Barbies and cartwheels; my mom, Christopher, and I dedicated one night to turn the kitchen into a mess of dough, flour, and sprinkles. My mom would make the dough, while my brother and I suited up in our aprons with our mini rolling pins and cookie cutters at the counter ready to fill the special Christmas cookie jar with cookies from our family’s secret sugar cookie recipe. While Christopher was pretty tidy and good at his job, I on the other hand, got flour everywhere it shouldn’t be, ate probably way too much dough, made blue trees, yellow mistletoes, and angels that were too thin and burned alive in the oven. I loved the quality time with my mom and my brother and was so proud of my ugly looking cookies. I protected them so no one else could eat them but me. The best part about it back then, was that my definition of making cookies was doing nothing except the decorating.
I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make cookies this year because I realized the ingredients, sprinkles, and cookie cutters still lived at my parent’s house and I would actually have to make the dough myself rather than have it magically appear before me like it used to. I convinced myself to follow through with my mission and made it happen by roping Jeff into helping me, and going grocery shopping at Casa de Casey for the ingredients-where everything is free. While pulling the cookies out of the oven definitely was a lot more anti climactic and less magical than it used to be, it was still a lot of fun sharing one of my favorite childhood experiences with Jeff, and proving to myself that I can make something edible. As much as I hate to say it, the dazzle of this experience has dimmed since I’ve gotten older, and I now make my Christmas trees green rather than blue which is the true indicator that I have reached adulthood.
As a kid I loved Christmas Eve, and honestly, probably more than Christmas. The anticipation of all that was to come was one of the best feelings. I was giddy knowing Santa was coming that night, imagining waking up to all the amazing gifts I would get, seeing half eaten carrots as proof that Rudolph was actually in my house, and knowing we were leaving for Kentucky to see all my family- it made me too excited to sleep. Because of that, I would make myself stay up super late (11 was midnight to me back then), and I would try to catch Santa in the act by sneaking around the house without my parents seeing me, which I never found out if they knew I did that or not. The naivety of it all back then made being a kid so much fun. My biggest concerns were if I would get all the gymnastics equipment or sparkly new leotards that I wanted. Somewhere along the way, the grinch must have bitten me or something because that giddy feeling of anticipation slowly started to fade.
Now that I am officially an adult, I gotta say, I am a little confused on how everything is supposed to play out. There is no Santa rulebook that declares what age or stage of life you should stop correcting your kids that Santa got it and not the parents when they call it out. It definitely will have a different feel this year since Christmas Break isn’t a thing in the work world, and I won’t be with the Sparrow side of the family because of it. I feel everything from my childhood is starting to become permanently a memory rather than a reality as deep and sad as that sounds. I mean, I definitely could lay out the carrots at my apartment, but I am pretty sure they won’t eat themselves now that I know Rudolph never did make it into my house. I could stay up late trying to watch for Santa out my window, but the only thing I would find is the sunrise the next morning and no Santa. I could lay my shoes out by the front door for Saint Nick to fill up but I’d still have a chocolate-less empty shoe, but rather, a full reminder to work out. You get it, at some point, special days that we had as kids become regular days as an adult, and for that, I whole heartedly wish I could zap myself into Little Lauren again who was excited over half eaten carrots. But hey, at least I still have the Disney Princess tree to blast me to the past.
The Christmas List:
Oh the joy of the Toys R Us , GK, and Target catalogs. I would spend so much time flipping through the pages with a pen and circling everything I wanted as well as putting a bunch of stars around what I REALLY wanted. My list back then was filled with anything and everything from American Girl, gadgets I’d see in commercials between my episodes of “Spongebob,” or crafts which ended up on the shelf (and still are there). It later turned into gymnastics equipment to fulfill my dream of a home gym, and ITunes gift cards for the days I used to spend hours downloading songs to my brand new Ipod nano. Clothes were no where to be found on my list unless they had “gymnast” on it. I hated getting clothes back then, specifically “church clothes” that I had to pose with every time I opened them, or anything fancy that was farthest away from a leotard. I didn’t care how expensive or ridiculous my asks were, even the 9 ft tall uneven bar set that I figured we’d just put it in the basement with an 8 ft tall ceiling and call it good.
Now that I am paying for my rent, groceries, car, gas, and all the other things I wish I didn’t have to pay for; my list has changed. If it was socially acceptable to put my grocery list, a few months of car payments, or a month of rent on my Christmas List, I would, and I am not kidding. I’d be overjoyed if I unwrapped a brand new bottle of laundry detergent and toilet paper, or pulled out of my stocking a giant roll of trash bags or shampoo, because that stuff is expensive! I’ve reached the age where clothes are the most exciting thing on my list, followed by kitchen cookware, bed sheets, replacements for things that broke, and car mats. Since starting my job and living on my own, I have learned that every dollar truly counts, and I now see holidays as chances to get what I want rather than need because my salary goes to all the things I need rather than want…except at Target. I miss the days where I was too embarrassed to unwrap a bra, fancy underwear, or pull razors out of my stocking in front of my family and they’d all go “ohhhhh Lauren what’s that for?” as my face turned the color of Rudolph’s nose.
One of my favorite things about Christmas was all the good food I got to scoop onto my plate that my Gram made and ultimately did not eat because my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Back then; I didn’t know what food allergies were or that I had them, calories were not in my vocabulary, and Instagram was not a thing which meant diet culture was not all up in my face 24/7. Christmas dinner at Gram’s is quite a sight to see for all those who aren’t accustomed to it – it is like Thanksgiving on steroids. This was the one time a year I got to eat all my favorite southern dishes such as broccoli casserole, Gram’s homemade mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, banana croquettes, “cranberry fluff”, pineapple pretzel salad, her fluffy mashed potatoes with a pool of butter, cornbread dressing, and of course there was turkey and country ham but I didn’t like those because they weren’t carbs. If you thought that was a lot, dessert was so overwhelming and I never knew where to start! Rum cake, chess pie, Japanese fruit pie, carrot cake, peanut butter fudge, Gram’s christmas cookies, chocolate cherries, white chocolate pretzels, five versions of cookies and donuts from the famous Burkes Bakery, and boiled custard all made an appearance. I miss the days where I ate everything I wanted, and as much as I wanted, with no worries at all about how I’d feel, both physically and emotionally the next day. I also miss the days of getting my own gingerbread man to bite the head off of.
Everything I have listed above has not changed. The Christmas dinner table still is full from edge to edge with all my favorites, but now, my body has decided to reject dairy which eliminates all my favorites except the country ham and turkey which I never touched back then. That right there is karma. On top of that, it’s hard to ignore all the social media posts about new years resolution weight loss, calories in your Christmas dinner meal, making healthier versions of everything, and all the other hooey that Instagram and Facebook nail into our minds. It causes us to look at things subjectively rather than objectively- one meal will not make you gain 10 lbs like we all think, people! Yeah, it’s important to watch how much you eat in a meal, but more for the reason of not upchucking while opening gifts after dinner, not because calories are the devil. It’s been a battle the past couple years learning to enjoy the moment and not stress over food due to calorie counting and my dairy dilemma, but I have gotten used to my new “now” and have found other ways to enjoy myself like wearing questionable sweaters. I definitely will miss even the sight of the Christmas table spread this year since I will be stuck in MN, but I know my mom will snapchat me some broccoli casserole- same thing, right?…
Christopher and Lauren’s Button Factory
For those of you who have not seen or received buttons over the years, they are a grid pretzel with a melted Hershey Hug topped with a holiday M&M. They really should come with a warning label because they are highly addictive. Back in the day, my parents would take one night a year to get Christopher and I all set up to make buttons so they could escape and go on a Christmas shopping sprint since we kept them too busy on weekends with all day gymnastics meets, basketball tournaments, and math help for those dang word problems about marbles or oranges that made me cry. Christopher and I would make these for hours on hours straight, and never got tired of it. He was head chef, aka, was in charge of handling all things in the oven, and I was his sidekick. We cranked up the Christmas tunes and the hours flew by as I unwrapped hundreds of hershey hugs while standing on my step stool so I could reach the counter. I have always looked up to my brother, and I loved this time with him because I thought he was so cool for knowing how to use the oven. We would give our finished products to all our extended family, friends, and of course, fill our Christmas treat bowl with them so I could eat them before dinner when my mom wasn’t looking.
The button factory unfortunately lost a partner once we got to the age where we were old enough to be without a babysitter or needed to stay entertained while there was no parental supervision. Instead, I have kept the tradition running all by myself and still have loyal consumers. I gave them to all my friends, and sorority sisters in college, as well as professors and staff at Gustavus because the way to a person’s heart is always chocolate. This year, I made them in my apartment for my family, friends, and Jeff to get him addicted, too. It was nice to have a sliver of normalcy even though everything around me is different, including the fact that this was the first year I made them anywhere other than my childhood home, and burned myself on a different oven than the one I’m used to burning myself on once I got to the age where I could reach it without a step stool. While I still enjoy making them every year, and still probably will for as long as my fingers are able to unwrap that finicky foil, I miss the days where my brother was right there beside me yelling at me to not go near the oven.
I think it is pretty obvious that as an elementary school kid, I did not have an income except for the cash I’d get in my holiday cards or the penny I’d find in the Target parking lot. With that, my definition of gift giving was picking out something my mom bought to put my name on and say I got it for them. Half the time, I didn’t even know what I was giving people and was just as surprised as they were when they opened it. Christmas was about receiving and not giving….the closest I ever got to giving a gift was wrapping (badly) to help out. As much as I don’t like admitting it, I bypassed the true meaning of Christmas, and as they say on “The Bachelor”: I was in it for all the wrong reasons- being getting as many presents as possible.
There’s this thing in psychology called buyers remorse: buying something and once the act is done, instantly regretting it. I experience this every time I get anything for myself, but never when I get something for others. This is not a good thing for my bank account, and I have realized that this year more than ever now that I pay for my own things to help me survive. Even knowing that I was on a budget and didn’t have to go all out for my family, I still chose to buy the perfect gifts rather than make sure I had enough money for groceries this month (whoops). It’s hard to refrain from buying more or nicer things for the people in my life who have already given me so much. I’m now at the point where I would rather give than receive anything at all (unless it’s my groceries, you can buy me toothpaste any time you’d like) because watching the look on my friend’s and family’s face as they receive the gift they didn’t know they needed or wanted is enough satisfaction for me, such as, much needed fashion upgrades, or pjs with my face all over them. Eventually, the goal is that my whole family and friends will be hit with Lauren face socks.
This isn’t exactly Christmas related, but society has seemed to pair Christmas with snowmen and snowflakes. When I was little, I was a snow bunny. I was out there for hours sledding and launching myself off homemade sketchy and totally unsafe ramps with the neighborhood crew, making elaborate connecting igloo forts, and fancy snow KY wildcats and MN gophers. I’d bring my snowpants to school everyday because our elementary school had a giant hill that we could sled down at recess or body slide down the one part of pure ice. I didn’t care how frostbitten I got (except for the one time my mom found a scream crying Lauren at the back door in the dark because I could’t get my glove back on and my hand was traumatized). As nerdy as it may be, shoveling snow was one of my favorite things to do, and after I got done with our driveway with my mini shovel, I would go do the neighbors’ just for the heck of it. Maybe the key to getting kids to do chores is to make all things miniature, because it would not have been as fun for me if I had to use something other than a “Lauren sized” shovel. By the end of 4+ hours outside; my hair would have icicles on it, my snowpants would be soaked, and every part of my body would be frozen, but it was all worth the hot chocolate with mini marshmallows (See? Mini is better!).
I now have turned into one of those people that takes in the first snowfall from the comfort of the great indoors; warm cup of coffee in hand, the fireplace going (I don’t have one so I pretend my candle makes up for it), and all the other cozy vibe things that millennials do. I can safely say I have outgrown my purple overall snowpants, and my answer to Frozen’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is a big no. It makes no sense as to why I love Minnesota and don’t want to move anywhere else because I hate being cold. The last time I went sledding was at Gustavus my freshman year on a cafeteria tray down the hill of Old Main. I must admit, I liked the rush I got from trying to dodge the concrete benches on the way down, and it was the same rush I got when I was trying to dodge trees when I was little. While I can definitely live without skiing, tubing and sledding- the one thing that I will sacrifice my warmth for is ice skating, and hopefully Lake Harriet and Centennial freeze over soon!
This one has always been a love hate relationship. Every year we have made the 13-15 hour (the hours got shorter because we got better at getting our bladders on the same schedule as we got older) trek down south, which is always an adventure in itself. Over the years, we have gotten stuck overnight on the interstate, found out what “homeless week” was for colleges leading to all hotels being booked all the way to MN, I got into the wrong van at the rest stop, have gotten stuck in Chicago traffic, caught stomach flu mid trip, and put Gracie in a beach bag with a bunch of other stuffed animals to sneak her into hotels. The part I enjoyed about the drive years ago was getting to do all the things I never got to do which was text my friends and current crush all day long on my new flip phone, watch movies on my portable DVD player, and pick out my favorite snacks at our favorite gas stations (Yes, we did have our staple gas stations. No, they were not Casey’s). What I disliked about it back then was being stuck with my family for a day – sorry, guys, your talk radio and adult conversations annoyed me – and the fact that I couldn’t do cartwheels whenever I wanted because I was strapped to a seat for longer than my legs wanted to be.
Everything has seemed to flip. I now love being stuck with my family for a day because that rarely ever happens anymore, and it’s like one giant catch up session that usually leads to a vent sesh, love life gossip, life advice, or reminiscing on the good old days. I love getting to sit there with my butt glued to the seat and do absolutely nothing until my legs go numb rather than feel the need to go do something because nowadays, my body and brain never get to rest as I am on the go all the time. It’s the perfect excuse to have 0 responsibilities (especially since I have never been asked to drive since I got my license 6 years ago…should I be offended?) It actually makes me sad that I won’t be able to go with the rest of my family this year because I like the quality time with them and the FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. On the bright side: Gracie will finally get a seat to put her doggie car seat in this year rather than putting her dog bed in the middle of the seats on a cardboard box!
Christmas with the Caseys
With half my family in the north, and half in the south, we alternate years for where we will be on Christmas Eve. But before we head on down to Kentucky, we always have a Casey get together. Being the youngest cousin, it always took me a solid hour to “warm up” and get the nerve to go interact with the older cousins, or honestly anyone, without my brother or mom being there to hide behind them. Once I finally did come out of my shell, I’d show them all my new gymnastics tricks (in full Christmas attire, not sure how I made that work). Casey celebrations were my favorite to go to because they never failed to make me laugh, especially during the Yankee Swap. For those who don’t know what a Yankee Swap is; there is a gift bank and each person takes turns trying to roll dice to get doubles. Once you get doubles, you can either pick a gift from the bank, or steal someone else’s. One of the perks from being the youngest, was that no one wanted to steal from me since there seemed to be an unwritten rule that it was illegal to steal from “cute little Lauren.” During this madness, you best believe there was full on family roasting going on, bartering, sarcastic comments, and weird gifts that began to appear in Yankee Swaps years to follow such as the magic head scratcher. While I did not say much during the entire night, I did occasionally like to drop my one liners that made the whole room burst out laughing.
Thankfully I’ve gotten past the stage of being too shy to say hi to anyone without my mom’s help. Since the days of tumbling in my Christmas dress; more Caseys have been added to the family, all cousins are out of college, and significant others have joined the madness making for an even more eventful Yankee Swap that still lives on. I now get my own stupidly practical gifts to contribute to the pile instead of piggy backing off my parents and ending up with our gift because I liked it for myself. Other than that, things haven’t really changed and when it comes to Caseys, and I’m not sure if it ever will which is comforting in a weird way. Dylan and Sam still sarcastically show their appreciation for the hand soaps they got but don’t want, Uncle Chip still tries to persuade everyone to take the fuzzy socks, and the unwritten rule of “don’t steal from little Lauren” is still alive. I’m excited to bring Jeff to his first Casey yankee swap because the 80th birthday party that included unnecessarily competitive croquet was just a warm up.
Christmas in the South
As long as I can remember, I have always had a green Christmas. Being in Danville, Kentucky for Christmas was always a non-negotiable no matter what was going on during the year, how much homework I had, if I was sick (one year the stomach flu led to upchucking on the curb at a McDonalds in the rain), or if I had a gymnastics meet coming up and missed a chunk of practices. This was the one time a year where schedules always lined up for everyone since the kiddos of the family were all on break. It was one of my favorite times of the year because I got to see all my family that I rarely see, sit on Grandad’s lap in his favorite chair while he read the paper, scooter or run around the Centre College campus, help Gram make “Big Breakfast” (by help I mean supervise), eat the best donuts in the world from Burke’s Bakery, play home run derby in the yard with my dad an brother only to lose the ball over the fence because the neighbors had a scary dog, wear my new matching “something” with my cousin Fielden, and drive the electric red toy jeep around the cul de sac with a cousin riding shot gun. This is how it went every single year until the whole getting older thing happened.
I told myself back then that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about things changing until I was “old and 20 something.” Well, that time that I never thought would come, has came, and my seven year old self would now consider me an old lady. This year, I won’t be going to Kentucky because I have this new addition to my life called a job, and unfortunately life insurance does not have a Christmas Break. But even then; things have, and are, still changing around me and will continue to as Grandad has been gone for several years now, family has moved, and my “little cousin” as I’d always say is in college which makes me feel like the old lady my seven year old self believes I am. I also now have someone to kiss at New Years instead of Gracie! This adds to the mix having more than my family to gladly share the holidays with which changes the who, what, and where to celebrate every year. As time goes on, work will probably continue to get even busier, and schedules aligning like they did when we were kids will become even less common. I’ve accepted that it just comes with adulthood as our lives become less intertwined.
Psychology says: we are less stressed, and we succeed, when we anticipate change rather than trying to keep everything the same. This has held true this year more than ever because of you know what, but also the fact that a lot of us are just experiencing normal life changes! As a kid, there was no way I could anticipate the fact I’d start to date some dude from a town I’d never heard of in my life in the middle of a pandemic, or that I would be an IT consultant rather than a sport psychologist and D1 college gymnastics coach like I thought I would be. I find it so weird how things can change right before our eyes and we don’t even realize it until hindsight. My dad told me a few years ago that circumstances would change once jobs and significant others entered the picture, and that it is OK that things will change, and still is OK that not everything works out like it used to. Hearing that has made the transition from childhood to adulthood a lot easier and less stressful with less feelings of guilt. The one thing I am still trying to cope with? The ugly after effects of believing that my dairy issues have magically gone away for a day and fully participating in a dairy loaded Christmas dinner despite the fact that I know that’s probably not the case!
Happy Christmas, y’all, and I sincerely wish everyone in the entire world a happy NEW year! May 2021 bring you more time with friends, family, maskless trips to public places, ample toilet paper supply, less Terrible Tuesdays, fulfilled resolutions, happy hours with coworkers, and whatever the heck normal is supposed to be now!
Here is a question for you: how many fixable things are you “putting up with” on the daily that could be easily taken away? There are tiny sources of stress everywhere that seem so small and we endure them everyday, but even the tiniest source of stress like that one picture on the wall that never seems to hang straight is valid. A lot of our stressors and anxieties as we get older come from losing sight to how simple some things in life should be. I know personally I increase my stress by going about things all wrong and not believing that some things truly are THAT simple! While all of these tips may not apply to you- think creatively to see how they could, or pick and choose the ones you want to try to make your life less like one big terrible Tuesday.
1. Write your own rules and boundaries
Usually when hearing the importance of creating boundaries, it has nothing to do with creating boundaries with yourself. This is a simple way to make your life a lot easier on your mental and physical health. We are great at setting rules for others, and rules being set for us, but the concept of writing a rule for yourself and actually following it is a foreign concept to most. Additionally, a lot of people forget that rules include what you will do instead of all the things you won’t do. I created a rule for myself that I won’t log onto my work computer after I have shut the lid at 5 that day. Instead, I will use that time for myself to do something I enjoy (not that staring at a computer screen for 8 hours straight isn’t exhilarating enough.) Before this rule I’d find myself scrolling through my work emails while watching a movie before bed, which in turn ramped up my stress all over again when I should have been winding down for the day. Here’s a few more examples:
I will not do housework while dinner is in the oven- but instead- give myself that time for self-care.
I will watch one episode of a show on Netflix without any distractions- no phone or scrolling through Insta.
I will do a workout while the clothes are in the wash and will not waste an hour of my day with my butt glued to the couch more.
If it takes less than 2 minutes to do something, I will do it instead of procrastinate (another one I live by).
I will pack my gym bag the night before and put it in my car.
While my kid is napping I will take that time to relax, too.
I will use this one hour before *insert least favorite college class* to take a mental break instead of do more homework.
I will invest $100 of the leftover money from my paycheck into a Roth IRA account every month instead of blow it all in the Target dollar isle (it is a black hole in there, folks).
Declaring something to be a rule takes away the indecision from choosing what you should do and what you want to do. Our brains are wired to make it harder for us to follow rules we make for ourselves because evolutionarily, following rules set by others increases our chance of them liking us more and therefore they will not kill us (the brain is still very primal as you can see). So, make the decision once, and practice living by it. Having a hard time thinking of one? Look at how you are spending your time, energy, and money- what boundaries do you want to put in place in order to increase better habits and health? Find areas of your life where you feel those pangs of guilt and indecision, and choose what you could change to rid yourself of that unnecessary stressor. Remember, personal rules aren’t selfish!
2. Simplify Mealtime
Meal time should be enjoyable; a time to rest and digest, but our inability to simplify this process does the exact opposite of that as the innocent “what do you want to eat?” conversation turns into an actual argument for more people than it should. Psychology says that having too many choices can actually lead to a lot of distress, and humans thrive when they are given up to three choices. If mealtime is a source of stress for you or your family, this one is important because it is a waste of brainpower and time (it takes my family 15 minutes before my dad makes the executive decision since my mom and I will say we don’t care yet turn down everything he picks). A few ways to simplify could be looking into one of those meal kit subscriptions, meal plan every Sunday and write it on one of those Pinterest-esque chalkboards, or meal delivery services. Can’t decide what you want? Write meals on popsicle sticks and pull a random one, make meals according to what will go bad first in the fridge (no wasted money either!), or designate a theme for each day of the week. The key here, is to let something else decide for you so you don’t have to put your brain power towards deciding something not important. Who knows, maybe that energy you’ll save from trying to decide pancakes or waffles will be used to find the cure for covid!
3. Practice “Pause”
This is one super easy tip to do…but not so easy tip to remember to do. There are countless times in life where we should take a “pause,” but don’t, because society is so used to instant gratification. Taking these pauses saves potential time, money, and energy. I have learned to “press pause” before I make a purchase, decide what to eat, say yes to an invite, etc. In a world of online shopping, social media, and everything at the reach of our fingers, it is so easy to be impulsive which could lead to instant regret. The few seconds I take before I do something has saved me from wasting my money on something stupid, using too much of my energy and going out with friends when I should’ve stayed home, and living with little pangs of regret that add up to eat at you after a while! These pauses lead to a more intentional lifestyle and creates a habit of making a quick pros and cons list in your head. It teaches you to focus on values and priorities, and if what you are about to do aligns with your goals and intentions.
Another kind of pause is to literally take a break. This may sound weird, but I LOVE to sit in my car after I have parked. I could sit there for hours. It feels like I am in a bubble where the rest of the world can’t touch me for a few moments and the silence is loudest in there. Another great pause place is the bathroom, I mean honestly, it is one of the few places where someone can’t try to hurry you up without making a very awkward situation. There is nothing wrong with sitting there for a few more moments, washing your hands longer (you should be with covid anyways), touching up your makeup, or using it as a safe haven like I did when I was little because it was the only room that had a lock on it when my brother liked to chase after me. A bathroom is the epitome of self care ( I will let your mind take you where it wants with that), why not add a mental/emotional break to the list of all the things a bathroom can accomplish? Taking these short pauses allows you to feel more in control of your life rather than your life controlling you.
4. Go to Bed Early (at least) Once a Week
I don’t know if you know this, but life is better when you aren’t tired. It is amazing what happens when you are well rested: remembering driving to work rather than your zombie auto pilot self somehow making it there, not having eyelids that weigh 100 lbs while sitting at your desk after lunch, being able to have a solid workout, actually enjoying time with your significant other because you are mentally there, and being productive! Not only does sleep help you this way, but it also improves physiological processes in your body. Your hunger hormones level out which lead to not consuming all and any carbs in sight because your brain is looking for an energy source to keep you going (sugar and carbs are the quickest way for your brain to get energy, hence, cravings when you’re tired). Your cortisol levels start to balance because being rested is less of a stress on your brain and body. Your mood heightens because you have the energy to do let it. Not only is an earlier bed time good for you, but also everyone around you that has to put up with you everyday! On whatever day you designate this to be- make it happen and make it a priority. If making dinner or cleaning up prevents you from that early bedtime, allow yourself to leave it until the next day or order takeout. This can be a hard task for those with night shifts, kids, etc…just try your best!
5. Audit Yourself
The key to making your life easier is to see if your financial records conform to the law.
Just kidding, sorry to any accountants out there. This goes along with something we psychology nerds call “pain points.” The first step is being able to pay attention to the parts of your everyday life that cause stress, or friction. These can be pet peeves, things you ruminating on, or irritabilities. Insignificant little nuggets that don’t seem like they should stress you out are just as important as the big things, because eventually if you ignore the little things enough, you will blow your top. Examples of these little things, for me, are my car keys are never in the same spot, always having to find my phone charger, and having to climb on the counters to get a plate everyday. Even ridiculous stressors need to be taken into account, and for me those would be stressing over showing favoritism to certain coffee mugs rather than using them all equally, and paranoia about my greek yogurt going past its expiration date before I can eat it even though it is perfectly fine a week or two after (can you tell I am a bit OCD yet?). Next, think about the easiest possible way to get rid of these problems. For me, I hung a command hook for my keys, have multiple chargers around my apartment, got a step stool, created a weekly rotational mug system, and I buy and eat my yogurts in order of expiration date. It is literally that easy and I feel so relieved not having those naggy stupid things on my brain anymore! What little obstacles bug the heck out of you that you actually could do something about instead of living with it? Audit yourself for that feeling of friction in your mind/body, and physical feelings of stress…after you find all your pain points, remember to regularly audit for more because little things that piss you off never go away.
6. Everything Needs a Home
While sometimes it seems easier to just throw your keys on the counter, hang up your shirt in a random part of your closet, or put all your notes in one giant folder; it will not be easier for you when you have 30 seconds to find that one piece of paper within 100000000 other white papers in your folder. Think about it, what if you were trying to drive to a friend’s house and instead of them giving you their exact address they gave you the general area of their house instead? Sure, you’d probably find them if you knocked on every door along the way, but it would save you so much time and energy not doing that. The same goes for your pile of clothes sitting in the corner of your room or a random chair right now (yeah, I am looking at you). Any energy you spend is energy spent (no duh), but this obvious statement is so true! Ripping your closet apart, thinking real hard about where something was last time you saw it, stressing over losing your phone even though you’re holding it, spending 10 minutes looking for lost nail clippers when in reality you put them in a different spot than usual (me yesterday), and walking in circles looking for an earring is all energy that could have been put towards something a lot more important. So please, for me, go put that nasty cup that has been sitting on your desk for way too long where it belongs.
7. Repeat as Much as Possible
How much variety do we actually need in our lives? For some odd reason, I think we overshoot the need for variety from day to day. Who ever said we had to eat different meals everyday? Who said we can’t wear the same exact thing two days in a row even if we like it? Why do we need to constantly find new recipes, workouts, outfits, products, etc? The feeling of needing to avoid doing the same thing everyday causes more difficulty than needed. Instead of actively looking for ways to make things that already work for you different, spend your time an energy looking for what things in your life you can continue to repeat.
Have some staple basics in your wardrobe and find ways to tweak them a bit rather than buy all new things, or, embrace wearing the same things from week to week. It is not a crime!
Have the same meal theme on each night week to week (taco Tuesdays, breakfast for dinner Wednesdays, etc..)
Use canned responses to reply to FAQs over email at work
Find a workout circuit you love and feel free to use it everyday
Eat the same breakfast everyday
All in all, look for areas of your life where you are trying to solve problems that don’t need to be solved. This will save you so much time and energy, and will preserve the joy of actually looking for a new recipe, outfit etc. rather than feeling the need to.
This seems pretty obvious, but when you own less stuff, that means there’s less of it to clean up and care for. And when there’s less stuff to clean and take care for, there’s more time in your day to do things that are more fun than scrubbing sauce off your 15 dinner plates even though you live by yourself. Decluttering is one of my favorite things to do because it often leads to more money! I am a big fan of selling my hardly used clothes and items on Poshmark or Facebook marketplace. Minimalism is all about making your life more simple by making everything around you more simple. As they say, less is more: more time, more energy, more space, more money, and more appreciation for what you already have.
9. “Why am I doing this?”
Get in the habit of asking yourself “why am I doing this?” because it leads to better decision making, and can call you out on your stupidity in a nanosecond. If you have no explanation to why you are doing something, it is a great indicator that you need to reconsider whatever the heck you are doing. In most cases, good ideas have answers: if an accountant asks “why am I interviewing for this auditing job?” – so I can be responsible for earning my own income , and because I like the job and can picture myself sitting at this desk auditing financial reports to conform to the law for the rest of my life while wearing a boring beige suit and eating a boring cheese sandwich everyday. That seems like a pretty well and thought out reason to spend time and energy on it. But if I ask myself “why am I interviewing for this auditing job?” I would reply with “I need money.” This would then be a terrible use of my time, energy, and I’d probably only last an hour with that mindset. I could have used that time to do something with purpose. The reason we need this self check is because habits or goals can start out beneficial, but as time goes on, those habits or everyday things turn into a “I should be doing this” type deal rather than a “get to” mindset. A common example we see is “why am I working out?” To get skinny and then I’ll finally be happy” – terrible reasoning because it is for all the wrong reasons and is not enjoyable! Correct answer: to better my overall health to live the life I want. To sum it up, this wakes up the PURPOSE of actions and decisions. If there is none, just do yourself a favor and stop.
10. Create a Flow in Your Schedule
You probably already do some of this because it is common sense. For example, the gas station is right next to my gym, and while my tank is not quite empty, by the time it will be I will have to go out of my way to fill up, so I go ahead and fill up on my way out. This whole idea is hitting two birds with one stone. Save yourself time by picking up your groceries at the store next door to your kid’s soccer practice while waiting for them to get done. Stop in and see a friend on your way home from your parent’s house. Pick up dinner on the way home from work. This one is pretty self explanatory but it will save you both time, energy, and gas money.
It is also important to align your to do list with your energy levels. There is no use in putting something in your schedule to do if you wake up with only enough energy to walk to the coffee maker. I have a whole to do list on my wall, but I don’t go in order because sometimes it makes no sense to. If I feel more productive, I will choose the items on my list that require more physical or brain power. For me, I am most productive in the morning- it’s not uncommon for me to get back from the gym and clean the entire apartment, change my sheets, do all loads of laundry, do a few handstands, and then write a whole blog post in half an hour. If you checked back in with me around 3 PM, the only thing I could manage on the to do list would be to sort laundry- and I do this while watching TV to ease the pain. No one ever said there was a correct way to get things done, so do them when you’re literally able to.
11. Create Morning and Evening Routines
Life gets so much easier with routine. For all you night owls/early birds out there, mornings/nights can be hard without a routine. I like to think that my morning and nightly routine allows me to be like a Tesla- on autopilot but still going places without crashing and little effort. My morning routine of wake up, coffee, journal, and read allows my brain to wake up a bit before I put it to work for a solid 8 hours. Similarly at night after my brain is fried, my nightly routine of dinner, shower, netflix, fall asleep watching netflix while trying not to fall asleep watching netflix allows my brain to shut off. The best routines are the ones that you look forward to and don’t require a lot from you.
12. Transform Difficult Tasks
This whole post thus far has promoted getting out of hard things that you don’t want to do. Well, I am here to tell you that life doesn’t work like that. You will still be faced with situations where you have to do the dang thing and there is no way around it. While there is no way to change the task, there can be ways to reframe. Example A: traffic. There is no way, even for a Tesla, to hit a button in your car and make you fly over all the cars on 494. But, there is a way to make the time “fly” by. Find a good podcast, create a flow in your schedule to call your grandma since that is on your to do list, or play some good tunes! Example B: work emails will not reply by themselves; so go sit outside if it is nice out, get your favorite snack or drink, or even bribe yourself with something to get the job done. Each of us have a “thing” we hate doing, but think about what can make it more bearable and less terrible. If all else fails, the “fake it till you make it” phrase is an actual thing in psychology so might as well try to trick yourself into thinking scrubbing the toilet is the most fun you’ve had all week.
13. Set daily goals
Every morning, I grab my journal and ask myself “what goals do I want to accomplish today to have a good day?” These goals are not anything huge like “cure the common cold” or “find a million bucks in my parking garage,” but more like “start my new blog post,” “feel good about my workout,” or “eat three meals today. “Yeah, this may seem like some fluffy psychologist type exercise, but psychology does say if you write something down, you are more likely to do it, so I’ll take fluffy psych method over lost productivity any day.
But for real, this question is so important for several reasons. 1. it helps to find the priorities in your day instead of trying to get everything done, not finishing everything, then beating yourself up for not getting through all 127 items on the to do list. This allows you to knock out what will make the biggest difference for you right now.
2. It reminds you to think about your wellbeing. I’ve always been a go go go kind of gal, so setting a goal to take care of myself rather than add another to do list item goal seemed like a waste of my time until I realized I could get a lot more out of my days when I felt like I wasn’t dead! I now make sure to have at least one health related goal for the day because I have not been so great at that realm in the past. It’s hard to believe that writing “don’t forget lunch” on a piece of paper can magically change your habits- but it does, it’s accountability. After all is said and done, it feels great to look back and see all the cumulative goals you have achieved over time, even if they’re just loads of laundry or go to the store.
14. Simplify “Money Stuff”
“Money stuff” is what I say when I am referring to anything related to economics and finance (this is why the accounting job makes no sense for me). It goes in one ear and out the other- my brain can’t hold onto much of what it all means. That being said, dumbing down the process of managing my money has made my life much less stressful and has saved me brain power rather than expending it on comprehending investing in international stocks. Here’s a few ways to refrain from pulling your hair out:
Make a budget– I use the app “Mint” since I am no expert in budgeting, but something I am pretty darn good at is making a plan and following it. It’s important to be realistic, this means, admitting to yourself that you have a spend happy problem. Once you have adjusted to your budget and have seen your cash flow, this allows for you to either give yourself some more slack in some areas, or, learn that you need to tone down the shopping on Amazon. Mint makes categories for your spending and recommends a budget for each one depending on your income each month. The visual of a pie chart diagram helps tremendously for seeing where your money goes each month, and bar graphs for how much you have left in each category, and gives you warnings for when you’re spending a bit too much at Target. The truth can hurt sometimes.
Automate– A lot of subscriptions and monthly payments allow for an automated monthly transaction- this comes in handy when you have a billion monthly payments, but struggle to remember them all which can lead to late fees! Set that automated payment up and forget about it.
Use your money– there’s so much talk about saving every penny and growing your bank all the time, but there is nothing wrong with using your money to make your life easier, and putting an ease on your mental health. Hire a babysitter, hire a cleaner, nanny, therapist, massage session, or whatever else you need!
15. Be at Peace with Pace
My last and overarching point of this post is to be at peace with slow progress. All of this will be pointless if you think you’ll wake up tomorrow stress free because you took one action to sit in your car 10 seconds longer than usual. Wanting and wishing for things to change instantly, and seeing no change, can cause so much distress for some people- but once you expect that the process will take time, it is less daunting. This is a lesson that has been hard for me to learn- I like to see instant results, and my expectations for some things are 100% unrealistic yet are realistic in my mind. They always say to “enjoy the journey” and as cheesy as it sounds it is true. I spent so many years laser focused from getting from point A to B that the years in between seems like a negative hazy blur. It is important to remember that you can only do so much in a given day, and we have limits. Give yourself the gift of going slower to enjoy all that comes with it rather than beating yourself up for the one thing you didn’t do. In my experience, trying to speed a process up only stressed me out more and backfired rather than if I allowed myself to go at a slower pace. It also led to more stress and unhappiness. Fast is not always better, and truly ask yourself what you’re trying to rush for. Allow yourself to let your life be more stress free because every day shouldn’t be a chore.
I get it, sometimes things like these can be so easy that we just forget to even do them or that they are there. That’s why we aren’t all living stress free lives with no worries all the time. It can be so easy to overlook the simple act of getting a hook for your constantly misplaced keys, stop for groceries after the gym, use your money to help you relax, take time to pause after parking, reaching for your journal rather than your phone upon waking up, making easy rules for yourself, going to bed just an hour earlier, giving yourself permission to make the choice without guilt, and asking yourself why the heck you are doing what you are doing. These are all mindful tips to take in a world where there seems to be none. I hope you choose to pick one to practice, I mean, what do you have to lose other than stress, fatigue, and more stress?