Wednesday, February 24, 2016


“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure”- William Feather

When was the last time you did something on a whim? If you’re like most adults, it’s probably been awhile since you did something unplanned, simply for the fun of it. As we get older and responsibilities increase, it becomes harder to do things spur of the moment. Unfortunately, many people equate adulthood/marriage/kids with no longer being able to go out and have fun any longer. Rather than resigning to a rigidly scheduled life, I suggest compromising. This is a sort of “How to have your cake and eat it, too” blog post on creating space for adventure while balancing your responsibilities.

50% planning. When it comes to balancing daily responsibilities (kids, work, etc.), you probably have 95% of the day planned out (the other 5% being the inevitable unexpected). The 50% rule is a way of carving out a spontaneous getaway that requires 50% of usual planning. This means reserving time in advance for being unavailable, even if you aren’t entirely sure what you’re doing. This way, people (employers/employees, for example) can go about their own week without being disrupted by you being gone. Another element of 50% planning is preparation. Bring anything that might be useful, like money, water, food, blankets, extra clothes-this is especially important when you’re involving children in the spontaneity. And that’s all there is to it. Once you’ve gathered supplies and blocked off some time, be it a weekend or long week, you have 50% planned. The rest is for figuring out as you go.

Dedicated times. One of my friends is overcommitted, to the point where I am not entirely convinced that she has time to sleep at night. Frustrated that she never got to do anything off the cuff, she finally analyzed her schedule and carved out 1-2 hours every Wednesday evening to do something spontaneous. Scheduling spontaneity seems counterintuitive, but if you have other schedules to juggle in addition to your own, it’s a compromise of sorts. If you have an hour a week where nothing else is going on, when the kids are all at various practices or schools or you can actually leave work on time, make it a time for something spontaneous. Go hang out at a coffee shop you’ve never been to before, take a walk, try to teach yourself a dance by watching YouTube tutorials- anything you can think of.

Being in the moment. Spontaneity doesn’t have to be a grand ordeal. You can incorporate smaller, bite-sized bits of whimsy into your everyday life. The key to this is being present. Opportunities arise when you start paying attention to what is surrounding you. For instance, maybe your morning routine involves going out and getting a coffee at the same spot. Why not try out a new place one day a week? Noticing little parts of your routine that are opportunities for something new can keep things interesting without being overwhelming.

Growing up and accepting new responsibilities requires us to change our lifestyle. While we may not be able to travel or even go out to dinner at the drop of a hat, it doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun. Our adventures change shape and direction, but they aren’t lost forever: “Adventure is not outside man; it is within” (George Eliot).

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


 “Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine” Lord Byron

Laughing is one of the best things you can do for your body.

According to a study by Dr. Robin Dunbar a few years ago, there is something about the physical action of laughing that triggers endorphin release, even to the point of creating resistance to pain. Matt LeBlanc refers to it as “nature’s Neosporin.” It has also been proven to lower stress. Perhaps you’ve heard that if you’re upset, the act of smiling will make you feel happier. Well, laughing has a similar effect, but it’s like using a jetpack to get there. I can’t say that it burns a certain number of calories or that you’ll get 6-pack abs by laughing for 8 hours straight (which is more appealing than crunches), it does cause a significant mood boost. There’s no quicker cure for a case of the blues like a good belly-laugh.

Laughter is also universal, transcending language and cultural barriers. In fact, some believe that it’s a form of communication- in sharing laughter with someone, we’re expressing approval. History, race, culture, language, and everything else melts away: “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people” (Victor Borge). Ever gotten in a ridiculous giggling fit with a friend? Most of the time, you probably don’t even remember what you’re laughing about. Laughter is contagious, especially when it’s a friend or loved one. According to BBC News, we are “30 times more likely to laugh at something when we’re with other people.”

Not only is laughter contagious, it acts as a bonding agent. How often is laughter used to alleviate tension in an awkward situation? Another example is inside jokes among friends. Inside jokes are like glue to friendship. In fact, many of the friendships I’ve built over the years were born in laughter. It is probably a combination of shared experience and the ever powerful endorphin release that gets associated with those particular people. These jokes usually aren’t funny on their own merit without context. When you try to share with someone else, it results in you saying “Oh, maybe you had to be there…” The BBC study mentioned above maintains that “The science of laughter is telling us that laughter has less to do with jokes and more a social behavior which we use to show people that we like them and that we understand them.”

Finally, “If you are too busy to laugh, you are too busy.” In addition to being cheap medicine, laughter has the benefit of being readily available. Even if you just laugh to yourself in your car, it’s a guaranteed to make you feel better (although it might seem strange to any potential onlookers). You can always find people to laugh with, something to laugh about, and a little bit of time in your day to sprinkle in some laughter. As Charlie Chaplin famously said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” So take some time to laugh a little (or a lot) today, and share it with someone else if you can. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


This isn’t your typical New Year’s blog.

Of course, you probably gathered that based on the fact that it’s now almost 3 weeks into 2016, after all the usual hubbub around the topic has died down and the gym is leveling off to it’s usual number of attendees. Do you feel yourself loosening your grip on those goals you made for yourself in December? Why has your resolve eased up? I have a few theories about why resolutions fall through in the first part of the year.

Sometimes, our New Year’s Resolutions are overly ambitious or reflect long-term changes. When the end of January rolls around and we haven’t noticed any progress, it’s discouraging. Slowly but surely, we slip back into our old habits and patterns, back into the comfort zone of old patterns and behaviors. Part of the problem is modern society’s need for instant gratification. If your goals were something along the lines of lose weight or save money, you aren’t going to see leaps and bounds of progress in only one month (at least, not if you are using a healthy approach). Keep your timeline in perspective- New Year’s Resolutions aren’t supposed to be resolved in the first month or two of the year!

Maybe you started off the new year with a bang, and are now petering off. Instead of feeling guilty about this loss of zeal, it might be possible that your approach wasn’t sustainable. Remember to be relentless (and realistic) about your goals, but flexible about your methods. Life is going to throw you curveballs, so let your plans go with the flow (without losing sight of your goal, of course)!
Another common New Year’s Resolution rut comes from making goals that are a bit too ambitious. There’s a fine line between challenging yourself and creating an impossible task. Your goals don’t have to be dramatic, like “run a 5 minute mile” or “make a million dollars.” As long as you’re actively attempting to increase your health and happiness, your goals are just fine. Benjamin Franklin once said “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better person.” As long as you can look at yourself a year from now and be able to see and appreciate the personal growth that has taken place, let that be enough. “Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending” (Carl Bard).

So what if you missed the mark on January 1st? It’s just a date, after all- now is the perfect time to start!

Whatever you do, don’t give up! So what if you already stopped going to the gym for a week or missed your budget mark by going to the movies last week. You slipped, you fell down, but it doesn’t mean you should give up on the rest of the game. You might have to do some recalculating, either readjusting your mindset (instant gratification syndrome), your methods, or your goals (if they are overreaching) are some places to start.