Tales From A Hungry Life

March 27, 2017

Take 10 Steps Towards Happiness

by Maria Schulz

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately that tell me how to be happier, increase my productivity, and achieve nirvana. I haven’t gotten there yet, and I’m no yogi on the mountain, but here are some of the things I’ve learned so far.

#10: Don’t expect to find everything you need to be happy in the pages of your self-help books. Yeah, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for these kinds of books. I love the titles and I fall for the promises on the back every time. But here’s my advice: you know what you need to make you happy. Self-help books offer lots of great tips, but one of the first things you must do is: trust yourself.

Look! I’m happy

#9: Turn off the TV and go outside. There’s a great big world out there just waiting for you to participate in it. Go breathe some fresh air and meet some real people. Don’t expect the world to come to you. Go find it!

#8: Thank someone selfless that you know…and while you’re at it, thank someone selfless that serves the greater good. Kiss your mother/father. If you’re lucky enough to still have them, you should know to do this. Now get to it. In the same vein, thank a teacher, nurse, doctor, fireman, policeman (you get the idea) for their hard work and devotion.

Are all you kids on dope?

 

#7: Let go of petty grudges. I’m not talking about the horrible, unforgivable stuff. I mean this kind of thing: So-and-so told everyone I was a loser in the 10th grade and I’ll never forgive her. Little Johnny called me fat when I was 12 and I’ll hate him forever. Pardon me, but so what? That was then. Chances are that So-and-So and Little Johnny don’t remember this transgression and if they do, they probably realize they were idiots. Besides, doesn’t carrying around all that petty baggage weigh you down? Let it go, and lose 30 pounds of psychic fat.

#6: Get a dog. You will experience love and devotion unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Or, if you’re not ready for that level of intimacy, get a cat. (NOTE TO ALL OUTRAGED READERS: THAT WAS A JOKE! Lighten up people. I like cats).

Don’t you want to walk me?

#5: Find your passion. By this, I don’t mean rob a bank or have an affair. I mean get a hobby! Cook, paint, write, ski, bike ride, WHATEVER. Have fun doing something that makes you feel as gleeful as you did when you were 10 years old.

#4: Volunteer. Find a charity or cause that you feel strongly about and work for them. Raise money, help at events, and spread the word. National charities like the Multiple Sclerosis Society, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, The Alzheimer’s Association and charities like The Lexiebean Foundation (I volunteer for this pediatric cancer foundation that helps children with cancer and their families) make it super easy for you to participate. The MS Society even has a program that lets you raise money by swimming laps–in your own pool! You could help others and lose weight. Win/win. This is the kind of program that you can follow to find creative ways to help lots of worthy charities. It’s always good to put your focus outside of yourself. Too much navel-gazing is never a good thing.

Let’s read. And talk. And eat.

#3: Read a book. You know what? Read a thousand books! If you don’t like the first one, move on. Ask for suggestions. Everyone has a favorite book and will be happy to give you lots of options. Open your mind, explore different opinions, and do your research. Ignorance is not something to be celebrated.

Plus you can read whatever you want

#2: Verify your sources. In this polarized world we live in, it’s easy to get sucked into an information bubble where we only read news that supports our narrow belief system. Don’t get caught in that trap. Talk to other people and get their opinions. You may never agree with them, but you will also never understand them if you don’t do this. Learn to respect other people’s views. You will probably learn that you have more ideals, hopes, and dreams in common than you have differences.

Let’s have fun

#1: Be present. Don’t spend your precious time hoping to one day be happy. Make today someday. Find the thing that makes you happy and welcome it into your life as often as possible. Put down that phone, tablet, remote control (or whatever distraction you’re currently focused on) and really look into your spouse’s/child’s/parents’/family member’s/friend’s/pet’s eyes and appreciate them, warts and all. Live in this moment. You’ll be happy you did.

Recipe:

Chocolate and nuts make me happy

Here’s one more tip: include foods that make you happy every day! Here’s a fun article that lists 10 foods that will help boost your mood–including dark chocolate, oysters, clams, apricots, and more.

So, Hungry Lifers: what’s your favorite “happy” food? What tip would you give someone looking for happiness? What’s your favorite book? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and have a great day.

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August 24, 2016

8 Great Ways to Pursue Happiness

They look happy

They look happy

I just read an article about happiness that got me thinking.

A Harvard psychologist says that too many people have got this happiness thing all wrong. Instead of sitting around thinking up ways to be happier, the researchers say that you should just go out and live your life. Stop thinking about it! It’s okay to be unhappy, just don’t sit around worrying about how to be happier. The key finding was: in order to find happiness, you have to be okay with being unhappy sometimes. Just accept it. Sometimes, you’re not going to be happy. Embrace it, man! It’s okay. Don’t sweep those bad feelings under the rug. Apparently, the key to a happier life is being emotionally agile and becoming your true, authentic self.

Um…what?

I am no psychologist. I don’t even play one on TV. But I have to ask…do we really need to research this kind of thing? I thought everyone was basically unhappy anyway. To paraphrase another Seinfeld episode (substituting the word happiness for humor) “happiness is like gossamer. One does not dissect gossamer.”

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

So, in the interests of helping the unhappy be more authentic and tap into their happier selves, I’m going to offer my:

8 Great Ways to Pursue Happiness…Or At Least My Version of It

  1. Laugh. A lot. Life can be frustrating, energy draining, infuriating, and disappointing. So what? If you can’t find something to laugh at in the idiocy all around you, you’re just not trying hard enough.
  2. Feed Your Soul. Whether you like to paint waterlilies or sing the entire soundtrack of Grease, do it. You don’t have to be perfect. Just do what you love and that happiness thing will come a’calling.

    Just have fun

    Just have fun

  3. Feed Your Face. Yeah, I’m going there. I’m not suggesting you bury your emotions in a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but if you’ve had a rough day and all you want in the whole world is some Chunky Monkey, HAVE IT. Don’t make it bigger than it already is. And the key to not making yourself bigger than you already are is Portion Control. The key word here is control. You’re in charge.
  4. Remember: You’re In Charge. That’s right. No one else is responsible for your happiness. It’s all on you, baby. Own your mistakes. Own your disappointments. Only you can change what makes you unhappy, and only you can identify what you need in your life. So what are you waiting for?
  5. Don’t Ignore Your Inner Cynic. Listen to what he/she has to say, because you will probably learn what you really need from him or her. But by the same token, don’t always listen. Your Inner Cynic is a jerk sometimes.

    Hello, I'm your Inner Cynic

    Hello, I’m your Inner Cynic

  6. Get Out of Your House. And while you’re at it, get out of your head. Want to meet people? Tired of being lonely? Think everyone but you is having a good time? Leave the house! Unless you live in Grand Central Station, chances are all the fun stuff is going on elsewhere. Get out there and find it. Join a bicycle club, running club, baking club, whatever. Don’t go there with the thought: I have to meet my one true love! Go there thinking: I’m sick of watching The Bachelor. Que sera, sera. Just go with it.
  7. Volunteer. It’s true: doing things for others is a really great way to find happiness. Walk dogs at the local shelter (they’re always desperate for help); attend a Special Olympics event and cheer on people who are competing; help the local food pantry stock their shelves. There are a million ways to help other people. Go find one that is meaningful to you and reap the rewards.

    Don't you want to walk me?

    Don’t you want to walk me?

  8. Change the World. Or at least your corner of it. Campaign for a worthy candidate. Raise funds for your school at the next bake sale. Go down the block and clear trash out of your local park. Don’t just sit there waiting for love, romance, happiness, and meaning to come to you. Go find it while you’re not looking for it.

If none of these suggestions work for you, that’s okay. I never said I was a Happiness Guru. It all goes back to #4 (see above). You need to figure out what you can do for YOURSELF. You don’t need to read about ways to make yourself happier. Get lost in pursuing your dreams or making life better for others and that happiness thing will naturally take care of itself.

So good!

So good!

Recipes:

Chunky Monkey Ice Cream

Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Get that monkey off your back and have some of this delicious ice cream! You can follow these recipes from allrecipes.com as is or make modifications based on reader comments–less sugar, more ripe bananas, etc. Follow your taste buds and I bet you’ll be happy!

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite way to be happy? Are you in touch with your authentic self? What comfort food makes you smile from ear to ear? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

July 20, 2016

Finding Beauty

by Maria Schulz

The world can be ugly sometimes. The news is filled with stories of murder,  bloodshed, hatred, racial injustice, cops killing innocent people, people killing innocent cops, despair, lies, plagiarism and politicians. It can really drag you down.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find beauty if you just open your eyes and look for it.

There’s a song that I learned way, way back in my folk group days in grammar school. It’s an adaptation of the Prayer of St. Francis, and some of the words go like this:

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

O Master grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.”

No matter what your religious persuasion may be, I think those are some pretty fantastic words to live by. So, in that spirit, I’m going to post some photos that brought me happiness, hope, and joy despite all of the sadness, backbiting, and darkness in the world around us.

From now through Labor Day, I’m challenging myself to find beauty, laughter, kindness, and joy in the world around me. I may not change the world, but I can change the way I perceive it. For the next month and a half, I’ll focus on the things that lift us up and not the things that tear us down.

Recipes:

Beautiful and delicious

Beautiful and delicious

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint Recipe by Jacques Pepin

Watermelon and Feta Salad from PBS

Watermelon and Feta Salad is one of those things that can turn an ordinary, ho-hum meal into an extraordinary, highlight-reel-kind-of-meal. I’ve seen recipes that included olives (like Jacques Pepin’s), blueberries for another hit of color, and even balsamic vinaigrette. The possibilities are endless!

So, Hungry Lifers…what makes you happy? Where do you go to find beauty? What have you seen around you that brings you joy? Please post a comment and let us all know. Thanks! Have a great day.

March 2, 2016

Play Nice

by Maria Schulz

Just the other day, I read an article in The New York Times called “What Google Learned In Its Quest To Build The Perfect Team.” It describes the years of research, and millions of dollars spent, basically pondering the question: “why do some teams thrive while other teams die on the vine?”

There's no "I" in team

There’s no “I” in team

So what was the outcome of their research? Well, the research team discovered the ups and downs of both the teams that failed and the teams that thrived.

The teams that failed were usually led by people who talked over everyone else, had internal power struggles, didn’t know and didn’t care about their teammates’ personal lives, and never felt safe sharing their ideas. Most members of those teams couldn’t wait to get out of their team meetings and back to their desks. Very little was accomplished.

blah blah blah

blah blah blah

On the other hand, successful teams listened to each other. They didn’t talk over one another. They felt safe in their surroundings and could share information about themselves. They were creative and inspired to contribute. The people in the group took turns, joked around, and had leaders who didn’t demean them.

They look happy

They look happy

Wow…did Google really spend all that money on this research? I know that Google is the kind of place that wants to quantify everything, but are we really so socially inept that we don’t already know this?

This is the sort of thing that people should not just apply to work, but to every area of their lives. Who wants to be around someone who just talks over you, never gives you the room to have an idea or share it, and attacks you? The answer is no one, and yet in our society, we seem to value the big bully who “gets the job done,” even if he leaves a trail of discontented and angry people in his wake.

It’s real simple: whether you’re looking for a successful workplace team, spouse, circle of friends, or leader of the free world, most people will say they want someone who creates a safe place for them. They want a person who understands what their needs are and listens to their concerns and ideas. That should be the goal, right?

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

It’s like what every kindergarten teacher, everywhere, used to tell us.

  • Let others get a word in edgewise.
  • Take turns.
  • Don’t hog the toys.
  • Don’t say mean things.
  • Stop yelling.
  • Say you’re sorry.
  • Forgive and forget.
  • Pay attention
  • Share the crayons.
  • Everybody likes different things.
  • You’re not the only one whose opinion matters.
  • Listen to each other.
  • Learn something new about each other every day.
    Surprise yourself

    Teamwork pays off

  • Don’t put up walls. Build bridges.
  • Work together.
  • Be considerate.
  • If someone forgets their snack, give them some of yours.
  • Play nice.
  • Remember: we’re all in this together.

It’s not rocket science. Empathy, consideration, and compassion can create teams that thrive. It’s not enough to have smart people running things. You have to have smart people with people skills. Short of that, you have to have smart people who realize they have no people skills, but work at it.

Recipe: Cupcakes!

Delicious!

Delicious!

Here are 12 of the top-rated cupcake recipes from Cooking Light magazine. You’ll find Lemon-Scented Blueberry Cupcakes, Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting, Chocolate Chip Angel Cupcakes with Fluffy Frosting, Amaretto Apple Streusel Cupcakes, and more. They are less caloric and delicious, so you can have your cupcake and eat it too.

One of the best jobs I ever had was with a group of people that celebrated birthdays. Every day, someone had a special sign created for him or her by our very talented artist (named Rich) and hung on his or her cubicle. Then, everyone would bring in some home-baked goodies and leave them on tables under the sign, so everyone could celebrate with the birthday boy or girl.

Birthday cake

Of course, everyone put on about 15 pounds once they started working there, but it was always fun. It made people feel valued, respected, and appreciated. Our teams were filled with creative, compassionate, thoughtful people who did great work together.

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your take on Google’s million dollar baby? What would you tell someone who wanted to know how to make their work group/marriage/circle of friends/politicians work well together? What’s your favorite birthday goodie? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!