Well-Being: Self Exploration Pt. 1

Over the past couple of months, I have posted on social media and written a blog mentioning Laurie Santos Science of Well-Being course.  I have completed the first two weeks of the 10-week course. I plan to share my experiences as I move through the course. The first part of the course provides opportunities to examine and probe personal viewpoints on happiness and habits.  The second part of the course provides opportunities to apply knowledge gained.  

As someone who is data driven week one of the course provided insight in current level of happiness and strengths identification. Week two began the process of delving deeper into the meaning of the week one results. The question “How Do You Know” has not only been a part of my professional life but also key to my personal development.  Certainly, numerical data (such as finding your current score of happiness) is an important snapshot of life however I am drawn to the ways to measure abstract concepts and apply to self.  You can see a description of “How Do You Know” in my website resources.

While my specific outcomes are not the focus of this post from a broad scope, I found the results to confirm my perspectives of self AND provided insights on areas to pursue with more effort.

“Savoring and Gratitude” is the reading for week two.  Does gratitude alone lead to complacency without further insight into the deeper appreciation of life experiences?  After reading the course materials, watching the course videos, and taking part in the discussions forums I found that I am a grateful person BUT do I really savor the moments of life.  Santos discusses how gratitude can enhance and expand well-being by taking time to savor and think about (realize) why you are thankful. Savoring is finding the beauty of the moment and being grateful. Savoring is the “simple act of stepping out of your experience, to review it, and really appreciate it while it’s happening”.  

A few days ago, after a thunderstorm, while it was still raining (no threat of severe weather), I went for a run. Due to the “stay at home” policy there were hardly any cars and I only saw one other person walking a dog.  While the stay at home policy for the past several weeks has been a bit challenging, I am trying to keep my glass half full and savor the moments of each day.  Sure, I want life to get back to normal, but I did savor the peacefulness of a light rain and the solitude of my run. 

I have always been grateful for my runs (good, bad, or indifferent). I have learned through this experience is to be more aware of the meaning my day-to-day activities. This awareness will have an influence on uplifting my well-being.  

Chowdhury (n.d.) depicts the relationship
between gratitude and well-being.

Bryant and Veroff (2006) Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience provides a conceptual definition of savoring “people have the capacities to attend to, appreciate, and enhance the positive experiences in their lives” (p. 2).  Below I share a summary of their savoring strategies outlined by Kennelly (2012).

Be ready to experience every moment,
don’t let any of it pass you by
because you can only truly live the life
you have embraced.   

While my running example above is just one aspect of my life, I am grateful for every time I run.  After week 2 of The Science of Well-Being I have learned to look at the details, sensations, positives, and enjoyment of my day-to-day activities. I hope to express my joy and happiness more often…life is meant to be savored.

Gratitude + Savoring = Joy/Happiness

Savor every moment slowly.
As these will be your
long lasting memories

Reading: A Path to Wellness

“I read because one life isn’t enough,
and in the page of a book I can be anybody;
I read because the words that build the story
become mine, to build my life…”
Richard Peck (partial quote)  American Novelist (1934-2018)

I have always been an avid reader and I still am.  I typically have 2-3 books in progress at the same time (different genres/topics).  Over the last few weeks, with extra time at home, I have been reading even more.  There are many reasons why I like to read, and I give credit to mom and dad for instilling the love of reading in me.  We did not have a school reading list common to the current educational setting.  We had weekly trips to the library and there were always books in the house.  I remember enjoying the trips to the library with mom and dad.  We only had one rule…we had to select a variety of topics.  

I am sure we would all agree with the statement that “reading has a powerful effect on learning, development, and growth.”  The purpose of my blog is to share a perspective on striving toward a balanced life…training the body and the mind.  

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.   Addison

I believe reading and books are a key part of the path to wellness, lifelong learning, and personal development.

Pew Charitable Trust (2012) completed a two-part study on reading.  The Rise of E-Reading and Why People Like to Read.  The list below from the Pew research are reasons people like to read…my connection to wellness follows.

  • 26% of those who had read a book in the past 12 months said that what they enjoyed most was learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information.
  • 15% cited the pleasures of escaping reality, becoming immersed in another world, and the enjoyment they got from using their imaginations.
  • 12% said they liked the entertainment value of reading, the drama of good stories, the suspense of watching a good plot unfold.
  • 12% said they enjoyed relaxing while reading and having quiet time.
  • 6% liked the variety of topics they could access via reading and how they could find books that particularly interested them.
  • 4% said they enjoy finding spiritual enrichment through reading and expanding their worldview.
  • 3% said they like being mentally challenged by books.
  • 2% cited the physical properties of books – their feel and smell – as a primary pleasure.

Wellness encompasses a balance of the multidimensional journey that each of us takes at one time or another. Each of our journeys is unique and different. We all strive to succeed as individuals who create our own paths in life.

  • Emotional Wellness….positive self-esteem, awareness and acceptance of thoughts and feelings
  • Intellectual Wellness…continual learning, creativity, curiosity, self-development
  • Physical Wellness….increase in life span
  • Social Wellness…ability to communicate with and connect with others, social network, 
  • Spiritual Wellness…adds to the meaning and purpose of life, open to others’ beliefs and values
Pew Charitable Trust image

What am I reading now?

Joy of Movement…I have always been a believer that there is more to exercise than just the physical act of moving.  This book expands on that idea and connects to concepts I have shared and plan to share in my blog.

Elm Creek Quilt series…I just started book #10 and there are at least 11 more to go.  I like to read series to follow a story from beginning to end.

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency…another series; I’m reading book #5 of 21

I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited AND of course have a library card so I can read magazines and books for “free” and listen to audiobooks.

Since starting my blog, I read about a variety of topics in journals through the library and online.

I read to be entertained, learn, image, explore, and relax.  
How about you???

Visual Happiness

Recently a couple friends sent me messages about the Yale online course The Science of Well-Being.  They thought I would be interested in the course for a variety of reasons. The main reason is the topic fits with the intent of my blog.  It is interesting that they contacted me as I have mentioned this course a few months ago on Facebook. Last week the Today Show aired a segment with Happiness Lab’s professor Laurie Santos. In the interview she shares 5 ways to feel better.

In the interview Santos discusses 5 tips that can help elevate your mood and help you feel better during this stressful time.

Learning to draw and sketch has been on my “wish I knew how to” list for a couple of years now.  I had an idea!!

Disclaimer: Drawings below are suitable for all audiences…HA…however, they may not be worthy of posting on your refrigerator…HA!!

My idea:
Share some of my “drawings” that depict Santos’ tips

Santos Tip #1: Belly Breathing – to deactivate (sympathetic nervous system or fight or flight mode).

Calming breathes, yoga, taking a walk, sitting outside are ways to stop and refresh.

Santos Tip #2: Kindness – in addition to self-care, do an act of kindness or helping someone.

Be kind to yourself,
then let your kindness fill the world.

Santos Tip #3: Focus on what you can control – actively try to be healthy and mindful of your well-being.

Time with family (for me that’s my husband and our cats) keeps me focused on our well-being.

Time spent with cats is never wasted.
S. Freud

Santos Tip #4: Exercise, eat healthy, sleep enough – back to the basics

At the end of the 19th century
“an apple a day keeps the doctor away” 
became a popular phrase.
A good start toward getting back to basics.

Santos Tip #5: Actively practice gratitude – mood and resilience improves when you focus on blessings.

The oak tree symbolizes strength, knowledge and resilience.
We should all be grateful for the strength, knowledge and resilience
of ourselves and each other.

Her current course “The Science of Well-Being” starts TODAY…I’m enrolled!!

In this course you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits. As preparation for these tasks, Professor Laurie Santos reveals misconceptions about happiness, annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do, and the research that can help us change. You will ultimately be prepared to successfully incorporate a specific wellness activity into your life.

Another friend sent this to me last week. I hoped I’ve passed along a little kindness and love to my readers.

Breathe, be kind, stay focused, be healthy, be grateful.

Unlocking Your Potential in Solitude

Being alone is much different than being lonely; perspective is the key.  Quality time alone can be beneficial to well-being. Cherry (2020, para. 2) acknowledges that social connectivity and solitude are both virtues of a healthy life.  She discusses the benefits of findings things to do by yourself by stating, “Doing things by yourself allows you to enjoy activities you love at your own pace and in your own way. Through solitary pursuits, you learn more about yourself and reflect on your experiences.”  

Thrive Global is an online magazine launched by Arianna Huffington (2007).  The goal is to “create something real and tangible that would help individuals, companies and communities improve their well-being and performance and unlock their greatest potential.” The magazine’s Stories section includes topics on Well-Being, Wisdom, Wonder, Purpose, Sleep, Special Sections, and Community.

Some of the topics included in the Special Sections are mental health, meditative stories, work-life balance, wellbeing, social change, and never stop learning. Freelance writers, myself included, publish articles to Thrive’s Community section.

As I mentioned last week, “I am actually someone who likes to stay at home however it has been a bit challenging when the decisions to stay at home is not solely my own.”  I initially found the solitude of social-distance/stay at home situation to be a bit challenging but have now embraced the opportunities provided by this time. Last week there were a couple Thrive articles I thought would be worth sharing.  These are timely based on the current social-distancing guidelines/stay in place policy and the isolation some may be feeling.  

Swantkoski’s (2020)  article, 4 Lessons I’ve Learned From Social Distancing: Adjusting my mindset has allowed me to stay optimistic during this time, discusses the following four key points.

**Now is a great time to think about priorities.
**We always say we don’t have time, but the truth is, we don’t make the time.
**You cannot control what happens, but you can control how you react to it.
**You won’t ever get this time back, so make the most of it – whatever that means to you.

Most of us are finding ourselves having more free time than we’ve ever had and may ever have again. Time is the only thing we can never get back, and we should make the most of it. For some, this will be a season full of extra rest. Others may want to be productive either personally or professionally. Some will develop new hobbies and interests during this time. No matter how you choose to spend this time, do in your heart what’s best for you and don’t forget to make the most of it.

Friedrich (1822)  The framework of the window links proximity and distance and evokes a longing for the unknown.  The outward gaze, contemplating nature, also turns inwards towards the individual’s own spiritual center.

Leon’s (2020) article Why I’m Focusing on Seeing the Upside: The pandemic is making me take a step back and appreciate small moments of positivity, discusses the following five key points.


I’ve found that in my fifty years of life, optimism has never prevented me from hard times and heartache. But like with faith, it helps me rise up and find a way to live a life worth living after I’ve fallen. This crisis is huge and hard and sad, but I’m positive we will get through it together, laughing, changing, innovating, being real, and spreading cheer all the while.

Friedrich (1818) Standing in contemplation and self-reflection the wanderer considers moments about the unforeseen future. By placing his back toward the viewer he is not shutting them out – rather he enables them to see the world through his own eyes, to share and convey his personal experience.

Cherry (2020) concludes by stating, “Alone time is for focusing on you—for cultivating your passions, finding new inspirations, getting to know yourself better, or even engaging in some much-needed rest and relaxation.”