Communicating Happiness: A Work in Progress

They can’t all be ideal weeks, but that’s not to say I can’t find the positives in Week Four of the Happiness Challenge. First and foremost, I was reminded of my support system. I strongly believe that for any chance of happiness, you need your support system close, and you need to be honest with those who are in that circle. This does not mean you have to share every detail of what’s going on in your head and in your life with every single one of your friends; however, I have found that when I share what I’m able to, the true friends show up and do not leave.

Those in my support system have reminded me that as I make my way through life, I am a work in progress. As someone who tends to be pretty critical of herself, it’s important to have people who bring me back to the reality of how mistakes are meant to learn from–not to dwell on.

This is exactly what I needed to be reminded of during the past week of my Happiness Challenge. It’s not always going to be easy. Just because I continue to try and focus on all the positive aspects of my life, it doesn’t mean there aren’t moments, days, even weeks that are too hard to handle alone. Hence, the support system–the people that keep me happy when I’m not too good at it by myself.

I’m lucky I found my people. I’m lucky I have the family that I do. I wish nothing more than for every person who needs happiness reminders to have the same support.

This week’s Happiness Challenge post is basically a big thank you. It’s a thank you to anyone who has witnessed my not-so-happy moments, but stick with me through them until the happy moments come back around.

Thanks Fam.

-Rachel

 

 

 

Communicating Happiness: A Week Without Social Media

As a college senior, I do go out on the weekends with my friends; however, there are plenty of weekends where I choose to stay in–often curled up under the covers with Netflix on my screen and a mug of tea in my hands. Although I choose to spend my night like this, happily, I can never seem to avoid opening up Snapchat or Instagram and seeing friends and acquaintances having a “college” night out. This is at least what I did until I started my social media cleanse.

This past weekend made me remember what it was like before Snapchat–when I chose to do something with my life and didn’t worry about coming across a post shared by friends who must be having a better time than I am. This never really was the case though–others were never really having a better time because remember, I chose to stay in, or I chose to go home and spend time with my family. However, checking Snapchat was such an instinct to see what everyone else was up to, that I would disregard how it was impacting what I was up to.

For instance, this weekend I was able to be home to celebrate a late birthday dinner with my family. It was a Friday night, one where my closest friends were enjoying a night out at school. Without Snapchat, I had absolutely no idea what they were doing. What bar were they at? Were they having a good time? Was it more fun than we had the previous weekend?

These are all questions I could’ve had answered, or at least made assumptions of, had I been able to open up my Snapchat. And you know what this would have done? It would have distracted me from my mom, my grandma, my aunt and my brother who were right in front of me.

This may sound so trivial to someone who has never experienced insecurity over “missing out” after seeing something posted on social media. As a girl who lived through college with full access to social media, I experienced this too often over the past couple years, and I don’t believe it’s the healthiest use of social media. As much as I have tried convincing myself that what other people are doing doesn’t affect me–even though this has improved with age and maturity–I still realize it is easier said than done.

This is exactly why my 100 Happy Days begins with a social media cleanse. In order to focus on my happiness, I want to give myself the opportunity to really live for the now–to live for what’s right in front of me, not what I think is happening 100 miles away.

Without social media, I even decided to completely turn my phone off a few times this weekend, something I probably would not have done had I not deleted my apps. I went out to lunch with my mom and left my phone in my car. There was zero chance that I would even check my phone and become distracted from our conversations and delicious meal. This is something I hope I continue long after my cleanse finishes.

Yesterday, the sunset was beautiful and I didn’t once think to pull out my phone and send the image to someone else. Rather, I just took it all in. No social media post necessary.

With just a few days into the cleanse, I’ve remembered how life does not stop when you don’t have access to the internet for a few hours. I may have lost all my Snap Streaks with my best friends, but you know what I haven’t lost? Connection to my best friends. If I want to know how their weekend was, I make plans to meet up and hear all about it. If I want to show them a picture of something, I send it old school via text message (which my friends were witness to this weekend when the Snap withdrawals were real).

My first week of Communicating Happiness did not have any major life-changing moments in it, but it was a great reminder that this project is going to be positive. I’ve been journaling in my Happiness Planner every night and have focused on becoming more aware of how I am reacting to life around me. One item it asks everyday is to write down what I am grateful for. Every single day I have written: my family and my support system. I’m pretty sure this is going to be repeated another 93 more times too. Just another reminder that no matter what circumstances occur next, I have a pretty cool group of people around me to keep me smiling when I need it.

-Rachel

Communicating Happiness: We Were on a Social Media Break

To jumpstart 100 Happy Days and my #CommunicatingHappiness blog series, I decided I would participate in a “social media cleanse” beginning tomorrow, April 13th. This may seem strange that someone who is building a career centered on digital media wants to remove herself from social media. I am choosing to do this, something I have attempted in the past, because I believe part of my 100 Happy Days needs to focus on being in the present. Being in the present is something we hear so often, I know at least I do; however, I can never seem to fully grasp it.

I’m not saying social media is the root of all evil when it comes to happiness, but I am saying that I often find myself in an endless scroll on so many platforms–opening and re-opening apps–yet never really feeling any sense of joy after finally closing out of them.

I stand corrected on that comment actually, because my friends do know how to crack me up with a good, relatable meme.

The point though, is that as much as I love sharing images and life moments on platforms like Instagram, I still find myself feeling more negative than positive feelings as I lock my phone. And this is coming from someone who is an honest advocate in not sharing photos just “for likes,” but rather for the love of the photo or the moment. Even with this mentality on sharing posts on my own profile, it’s still as if this system with a sole purpose of “connecting,” disconnects me from my own life.

I’m attempting just 21 days (not 100) of closing my apps because let’s be real, social media is still a huge part of my life and the industry I am beginning a career in. I do hope that taking a break will allow me to refresh and connect more with myself and support system, rather than trying to connect with the lives of strangers on digital media.

I just want to reiterate that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with social media, although I do believe there are plenty of misuses and abuses to the digital world. I think this break will be a nice chance to focus on the backbone of communication. Communication is not only done through digital forms, even though this has become the new norm. The foundation of communication is the same as it’s always been, no matter what new tech apps launch next. It is sharing stories, speaking with people, listening and being fully engaged, writing, and emphasizing physical, authentic relationships.

I must place a disclaimer on this “cleanse” because I will continue using Facebook as the sharing platform for my blog and keeping up with events on my campus, and obviously I’ll be on LinkedIn as well for professional reasons. Additionally, I’m going to be taking the same pictures I always do over the course of the next month, so be prepared for plenty of #latergrams coming your way on May 13th.

And if you try to contact me via social in the next month please remember:

-Rachel

Communicating Happiness: 100 Happy Days

Tomorrow marks my 22nd birthday, a little horrifying to say this because 22 is that mark of reality–the year college ends and life as an “adult” begins. As much as I say I’m ready to start my post-grad life, this doesn’t mean I’m not a little weary of graduation, especially after this past year. It’s been hard to be happy and optimistic during my time in college just due to circumstances out of my control; however, I do want to be happy and optimistic. And I want to be happy and optimistic before the stresses of the “real world” begin to unfold. This is because I want to be prepared for whatever comes my way, strong enough to face whatever is next, and not obsess over how I have handled adversity in the past.

With this being said, tomorrow begins my “100 Happy Days.” You may have seen people do this on social media over the past couple years; however, my 100 Happy Days is a reaction to a birthday gift I received from one of my best friends. Called a “Happiness Planner,” this gift is a tool designed to help its owner (me) “reshape the way I think and to shift my focus to the positive.”

It’s funny how this idea of “happiness” has been popping up in so many facets of my life. In one of my communications courses, I contributed to a presentation on the book The Happiness Advantage, which shares principles that can guide a person to create happiness. The Happiness Planner that I was gifted just this week, is the perfect complementary tool for practicing the principles I just studied in my class. It’s as if now is the time I’m meant to reevaluate how I react to this life, and regain control of the single thing I do have control over: my attitude.

Returning to the concept of my own 100 Happy Days, I plan to document my next 100 days in my planner and also within this blog through what I’m calling “Communicating Happiness.” Don’t worry though, it’s a weekly blog series not daily! I’m going to take readers on the journey with me as I make my way through the next few months. A lot is about to happen in 100 days–birthdays, senior events, graduation, wedding fun (Maid of Honor duties!), a trip to Disney, moving in with my grandma for the summer, calling NYC my work home for a couple months, starting a career in PR and communications, and of course spending as much time as possible with my family.

I didn’t realize how much actually happens in 100 days until I looked at my calendar and wrote that list out. I know there are going to be plenty more bumps in the road, and plenty in those next 100 days; however, my focus in this blog series isn’t going to be on the bumps. Rather, it’s going to be how I can grow from any falls I may have and plan for the happiness that’s coming next.

Here’s to Day One of #CommunicatingHappiness.

-Rachel

 

A Few Deep Breaths

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

I can hear my dad’s voice now. In order to explain what this means I have a short, well semi-short, story to share.

I used to be a basketball player. Pretty amusing to think about as I am 5 foot 2 with zero capability of sprinting up and down a court at the moment. Basketball was never my favorite sport. Soccer held that role in my life; however, for a while prior to a few injuries, I played all the sports my friends played. Basketball happened to be included on that list. I was usually a point guard, shockingly not a post I know. Before almost every game I would get rather worked up with nerves. Who knows why I was so scared to go out and play a sport for my high school; nevertheless, it happened.

I recall when I would get this worked up, my dad would occasionally hit me with the “you need to relax, Rachie.” My parents were never competitive when it came to my sports, only supportive, so I never felt forced play them. This is why there was zero pushback on their end when I did choose to prematurely quit basketball and forgo my inevitable WNBA career.

As I mentioned, my dad would tell me on many pregame car rides, “you need to relax.” He always told me, “just breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” He would repeat it until I was actually back on track, breathing calmly.

This was one of my dad’s “phrases.” Whenever I would get anxious whether for my school assignments, sporting events or theatre performances, I could always hear him saying “breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” It never mattered if he was actually reciting it to me, I always heard it.

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Now, in February of 2017, I still hear it. When I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I hear my dad’s voice in my head: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. I may not be instantly relaxed, but I definitely get on my way to it.

It is something I know that I will hear forever. And forever in his voice.

Okay, so I occasionally overreact to situations. I over think far too much, and with that comes anxiety at times. When I reach these moments, Dad’s voice will always be there to calm me down: Rachie, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. And of course when I actually am overreacting to a minor situation I’ll hear the just chill out, you need to relax. It will remind me to breathe. Because what I am making into a big deal, is really no big deal at all. At least not something that cannot be fixed with a few deep breaths.

-Rachel

When Beyond Stressed, I Write.

The past few weeks have definitely taken a toll on me. Surprisingly not about my personal life, but all with college. When you are deep in group projects, applying to jobs, preparing for internships and traveling to a conference out of state, it gets a little hard to breathe. Let alone enjoy the final semester of college. 

This week was one where I saw the downfalls of being a perfectionist with my work; however, as I have recently told many people, it is because I truly pride myself on the work I produce. This can be difficult when it comes to working on so many group projects in our communication major. Everyone has different perspectives, different motivation levels, and different styles for producing their own work. None of this is necessarily bad, but it definitely is important to understand that work and leadership styles vary from person to person. This is why the past few weeks, and few days in particular, were a great learning experience because I was able to take away personal notes for improvement. I understand what my strengths are, but I realize what my weaknesses in group dynamics are as well, and how I can better cope under stress.

I’ve mentioned this to a few people jokingly, but recently I took a personality test. Yes, it was online, but it was quite a substantial test for something I found shared online. Anyway, the test showed me that I have a pretty high level of anxiousness; however, that level also matched my high level of orderliness. I joked about this finding in that I may get a little anxious, well a lot anxious, during times of stress; however, the project is going to get done, and it is going to get done with 100% of my effort.

Hence, the blessing and the curse of being a perfectionist, and why I have learned over the past few years to not overcommit, to say no, and to remove myself from situations which are not positively contributing to my life.

Mental, emotional, and physical health should always come first. When I have high expectations for myself and others I am working with, it is sometimes hard to distinguish when these three forms of health may be taking a toll because I am so focused on the end product.

What’s cool about understanding all this at my age is that I’ve been able to really narrow down where my passions lie, and what pieces of my life I choose to commit 100% to. Although I’m a little sleep deprived right now, I chose to commit everything to this project because it’s a project that will honestly benefit my passion in the long run. It was a creative project, based on branding and design and I had a leadership role. Although I was not a perfect leader, as I mentioned earlier, I learned a lot about myself during this short project which I can take with me as I move forward in my career. I know you may be wondering why I put so much thought into a silly group assignment in college. Well, this project is just a small glimpse of the type of content, style of project, and leadership situation I hope to see myself in for many years to come, on a larger scale of course.

It’s just another reminder that I’m entering a career field I’m supposed to work in, one that I’ll enjoy working in. 

-Rachel

“Work Where Your Passion Is”

I know what you’re thinking — long time no blog, huh? My last post dated back to May 13th. For someone who used to love writing constantly, it is sad to see that I didn’t find time this summer to do so. Between work, family, and personal times, it just did not cross my mind to put my thoughts down into words.

What did I do this summer that kept me so busy? I had a rewarding internship working on the corporate communications team for a company that only reaffirmed my career goals. It made me positive that I can find a solid job in the communications field, I can work extremely hard doing what I love, and yet still enjoy life outside of work as well.

I cannot begin to explain everything I learned the past few months, but I can focus on a couple things.

Work where your passion is.”

This summer, I followed my passion. Those that follow me on social media know I worked for Constellation Brands Inc., a company that produces, sells and markets alcohol. Is my passion alcohol? Not by any means.

My passion is communicating. My passion is people. My passion is laughing. And my passion is learning.

My summer involved all of this, and that is why I am not worried about my life come graduation (now a short nine months away). I know that my future will be rewarding because I do not intend to settle for a job, a life, or a career I am not passionate about.

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“Working.”

Throughout the internship, as I began building relationships with several people, there were moments when I did not necessarily feel confident in who I am. What I’ve come to realize though, is that my personality is what contributes to the work I produce. I am a communicator who creates projects. Along with this personality, I am sometimes too loud, I am sometimes too clumsy, and I sometimes go on tangents. However, as long as who I am allows me to continue to work passionately and remain professional—then there is nothing to worry about, and no reason to second guess myself.

Truth be told, I’m learning who I am. I am building the confidence to make it through life without losing my self-assurance. It is so easy to focus on your own misfortunes or insecurities when in reality life is whole lot happier after you accept each piece of your personality, your body, and your intelligence for what it is, and make the most of the life you’ve been blessed to live.

The past few months have not been an easy time in my personal life; however, working at my internship has been such a bright light in those rougher times. I met amazing people, laughed a lot, built new relationships, and of course worked harder than ever to create and design several communications projects. If I did not enjoy coming into work each day, then I’m not sure how I would’ve handled this summer. I learned that if you love what you do, it can become a creative outlet to focus your attention on producing high-quality work, rather than focusing on things in life you just cannot control.

I encourage everyone to find a job, a hobby, exercise, or an activity that allows you to do the same. It really makes all the difference. I know moving forward in my final year of college, I’m going to remember to find those creative outlets that allow me to decompress and to relax in between all the serious moments life sends my way.

-Rachel