My One Year Blogiversary

Today marks one year since I launched my blog.  I’m not really an interesting or creative writer, but I’ve still enjoyed sharing my thoughts with those interested enough to read them.  Today, I went back and read my first blog post where I laid out the goals for what I wanted to accomplish.  I am continuing to meet those goals by sharing my positive thoughts and writing about experiences of things that make me happy.  I hope that at some point over the past year, I’ve helped someone to “look on the bright side.”

Over the course of this year, I’ve written something like 65 blog posts, which I’m pretty proud of.  I’ve written about products I like, faith, and books I’ve read.  I don’t blog about all the books I read, because I’m not that great at writing reviews.  But over the past year, I did blog about four different self-help/memoir style books.

a fave shirt of mine

I wrote a lot about travel, which is one of my favorite things in the world.  Over the past year, I was fortunate enough to visit and write about Jamaica, Biloxi, Montreal, Hot Springs, Walt Disney World, and even my hometown of New Orleans.

I wrote about music, movies, and plays that I loved and had the pleasure of experiencing this past year, including Disney movies, Broadway plays, and awesome concerts.  I am fortunate to have been able to enjoy so many of these things that bring me joy.

I’ve written about food, family life, and positive thinking.  I’ve reflected on quotes or sayings.  I’ve shared my thoughts on many different topics.

I hope you have enjoyed following along in my journey of positivity.  I wonder what will happen in year two?  It is already starting off very different since we’ve been social distancing for over a month now.  The adventures and fun this year may look different.  But I shall continue to find the joy in whatever God sends my way!

Choosing Joy (even when it’s difficult)

It’s been awhile since I last posted. The holidays are always busy, and I also went out of town. So there will be some Disney World posts forthcoming. Today’s post is about choosing joy. But it’s really about choosing joy when life is difficult.

I purchased a new Mantraband for 2020. My other Mantraband says “Be the Change.” Mantrabands are nice reminders to wear on your wrist of how you want to live your life. My new Mantraband says “Choose Joy.”

I’m already a positive thinker. But I also struggle with anxiety. “Choose Joy” is a reminder to make choices that bring joy into my life. Multiple people can be presented with the same situation, but have completely different reactions to it.

On New Year’s Eve, we had a short stop at the beach. It wasn’t a big beach trip. We weren’t dressed for the beach. It was a quick stop. My daughter had so much joy in her as she walked to the edge of the ocean. She splashed in the water with abandon. She danced and sang to the ocean. I wished I could have as much joy in that moment. Instead, I concentrated on not getting wet and messy. I did get joy from witnessing her joy, however.

The past few days, I have not been feeling great. I feel anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, and sad. I have been making an active effort to choose joy and am still coming up short. I’ve tried to change my thoughts. I’ve prayed. I’ve listened to inspiring music. And I still feel blah.

I know that one cannot be happy all of the time. Today at work, I flipped through a book that I bought to use in counseling called, “How to be Happy, or at least less Sad.” If you can decrease the sad feelings, then the happy feelings naturally increase. They may not currently be at the level that I would like. Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. I am not currently full of joy. But it is always the goal and baby steps count.

In the interest of taking those baby steps, my plan is to notice the small things that bring me joy, even if only briefly. Once I’ve identified that something brings me joy, I can concentrate on having more of that thing. Right now, I am struggling to change my thoughts. So my only option is to attempt to replace them. If I replace the anxious thoughts with joyful thoughts, I should make a little progress.

I added a layout to my bullet journal to encourage me to write down the little things I notice that bring me joy. Hopefully that and my Mantraband will help me be more cognizant of those things. And hopefully, I come out of this funk soon.

Gratitude

Practicing gratitude has many benefits, including improving our sleep, happiness, optimism, and connection to others. It decreases anxiety and stress. Practicing gratitude means taking the time to notice and reflect on the good things in life.

Just take a look at the name of this blog, and you will know that gratitude is something I try to cultivate in my life. In the past, I have kept a gratitude journal. I also use the A.C.T.S. format in my prayer life, which stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

A couple months ago, I decided to try a different type of gratitude journal. An art journal! I don’t write in it on a schedule. But when I have a little extra time, I try to draw something that I’m grateful for. I’m going to fill it up with my sketches. I am no artist, but that’s part of why I wanted to do it – to challenge myself. Here are a couple of my better pictures.

This year at school, I have been implementing the Jesse Lewis Choose Love curriculum with my students. The Choose Love curriculum has a four part equation to choosing love: courage + gratitude + forgiveness + compassion in action = choosing love. I’m spending one quarter on each ingredient of the equation. So I have spent the past couple months discussing gratitude with all of my students in grades k-12. I culminated the unit by having each student draw something they are grateful for on a paper square. I then put them together to make a “gratitude quilt” to hang outside my office and remind all of us that we have a lot to be grateful for.

So take a little time today (and hopefully every day) to reflect on the things you are grateful for. This is especially important when things in life are challenging.

Planting Seeds

A year or so ago, I printed out the following quote and hung it above my desk at work.

This is a necessary reminder for me. You see, I have the tendency to allow small successes or failures to dictate my mood for the day. I am a school counselor. My days are unpredictable, and of course, some are better than others.

Some days I get that compliment from a parent or I see a change in that student, and I think to myself, “wow, I am doing a good job!”

But then the opposite is also true. Students don’t listen to me, a parent gets angry, and my mood goes south. My self-talk starts to look like, “maybe i should find a different career. I’m no good at this.”

I have to consciously remind myself to look at the big picture. Especially when it comes to children, we may not always see the influence we have. Today it may seem that little Johnny just doesn’t get the truths I’m trying to teach such as the importance of treating others with respect or that we as individuals control how we react to a situation. But the reality is that I am planting seeds. Eventually the cumulative effect of all the things his teachers, parents, and others have taught him will start to bloom.

And so, I keep that reminder above my desk. So that in the moments of frustration, I can remember – I am planting seeds!

The Power of Words and Positive Thoughts

The title of this blog is “Looking on the Bright Side” so I am obviously a proponent of the power of positive thinking. Every now and then, I see a post about depression that seems to fuss at those of us who promote positive thinking. I understand the sentiment behind the post, but don’t agree with the execution. I think the general sentiment is that it is not helpful to tell someone with clinical depression to just “think happy thoughts.” And that is true – complex issues require complex solutions. Other treatments are usually indicated, including medication and counseling. And while positive thinking is not the only nor a simple answer, that does not mean it is not part of the solution.

Cognitive behavior therapy is a popular treatment modality for many mental health conditions. It is based on the idea that if one changes their thoughts, it will have an impact on feelings and behaviors. Restructuring our thoughts and cognitive distortions is clinical talk for the same concept that I am referring to when I personally refer to positive thinking.

This past week, I attended the Louisiana Counseling Association annual conference. I love conferences! I love learning, and I always feel super inspired to get better at my job when I’m surrounded by awesome colleagues who are all doing awesome things.

Always ready to get my learning on!

One of the keynote speeches was on a really interesting concept that I had not learned much about before. Dr. Clifton Mitchell was an extremely dynamic and entertaining speaker. He spoke about “priming” and the power and influence of our words.

The research has shown that our minds naturally move toward the dominant thought in a sentence regardless of whether it is stated in the positive or the negative.

For example, if I tell myself, “don’t eat that cake,” the dominant thought is “eat that cake.” The don’ts, shouldn’ts, won’ts, etc. don’t matter to our brain. Our brain is sensitive and picking up on certain stimuli.

Much of our behavior is controlled by our unconscious mind. Every behavior is preceded by thoughts, whether we are aware of them or not. We don’t have the power to consciously delete a thought from our brain. The only way to get rid of it is to override it with a new thought.

Basically, Dr. Mitchell was saying that we should always word things precisely, in the positive, and in the present tense if we want to move toward meaningful change. This is the same concept as reciting affirmations. If I’m feeling sad, I tell myself “I am content and satisfied with my life” until it becomes true.

This power of the positive thought is backed up by research. Part of my job as a counselor is to help my students re-frame their thoughts to assist them in becoming the best version of themselves.

Words have power. Thoughts have power. Remember that the next time you feel tempted to downplay someone’s positive and cheery outlook.

Introduction

“Looking on the bright side” is one of the mantras I use to approach this thing we call life.  I consider myself a positive thinker and truly believe that it helps to make each and every day more enjoyable.  I am a licensed professional counselor who works in a school setting. One of the basic tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy is that our thoughts control our feelings which then control our actions.  Thoughts have power, so let’s make them positive ones!

Journaling and reflection are powerful therapeutic tools.  I am often hesitant to put my thoughts to paper, but would like to work both on my writing skills and spend more time intentionally reflecting on all of the wonderful things in life, both big and small.  I am also challenging myself to put some of my thoughts out there in the public eye. I am choosing to blog, rather than journal. Allowing others to read my writing has always been something that I have been hesitant to do.  I hope that by sharing some of my positive thoughts, they can trickle out and maybe, just maybe, encourage someone else to think positively.

I plan to blog about my everyday life and the things that I enjoy-travel, food, books, parenting, and more.  This blog will not have a specific focus, but rather be a reflection of all the enjoyable things in life. I recognize that compared to some, my life is pretty comfortable and happy.  There are definitely situations that make it harder for people to “look on the bright side,” such as sickness, depression, and personal tragedies. I never want to come across as someone who claims to have all the answers or for my readers to think that I am saying that a positive outlook is an easy solution to every problem.  This blog can only reflect my experiences and my outlook, as that is what I know. So join me, as I think happy thoughts!