Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

Years ago, I read an article that posed the following question, “If your house was on fire and you could only save half of your wardrobe, which items would you pick?”  Although the premise is somewhat morbid, the question is quite thought-provoking. Back when I was writing Recovering Shopaholic, I considered creating a challenge based upon this question, but I never quite got around to doing it. However, my mounting frustration with my burgeoning wardrobe brought this concept top of mind once again.

In today’s post, I introduce the start of what I’m terming the “Half Project.”  I explain why I decided to take it on, what I’m hoping to accomplish through this effort, and the rules that I will be following over the course of the challenge. The “Half Project” will last for one year and I will post periodic updates between now and its close on April 30, 2020.  As with my previous challenges, including Project 333 and LIWI, you’re welcome to join in – the more the merrier! I always love when others are doing the same challenge as I am, and I enjoy reading about what everyone is learning along the way.

less is more wardrobe

I’m doing the “Half Project” as part of my freedom theme for 2019. I want to do more with less! 

Why I Decided to Do the “Half Project”

Back in January, I shared that my theme for 2019 is “freedom.” There are many ways in which my life doesn’t feel free and I’m going to address as many of them as possible over the course of this year. It pains me to say that more than six years after I started writing about my struggles with my shopping and wardrobe, I continue to experience difficulties in these areas. In fact, I definitely have to admit that I have backslid since I stopped writing Recovering Shopaholic. While I’m not back to square one by any means in terms of how much I spend and own, my closet is too full and I’m feeling overwhelmed by my wardrobe.

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I recently concluded a three-part series on essentials for happiness and peace (see HERE, HERE, and HERE), and I continue to give a lot of thought to practices that help us to experience more calm and fulfillment in our lives. In my last post, I included the following brief reader comment on the importance of novelty for her personal happiness:

“One thing that jumps out to me that I would add as a helpful practice/concept is novelty, which I view as seeing, trying, doing and thinking new things.”

The concept of novelty wasn’t something I considered when putting together my own list of helpful practices, but it has come into play for me at least twice in the past couple of weeks. In today’s post, I explain why novelty can help us to be happier while also mitigating the all too common phenomenon of time “speeding by” as we age. I will also share two novel experiences I’ve had this month, highlighted by some of my favorite photos taken to commemorate those times (you can see many of my previous photos HERE).

Why Does Time “Fly”?

As you look at your calendar, do you find yourself thinking, “I can’t believe it’s almost May! Where did the time go?” I know that I have had such thoughts many times, and the incidence of these sentiments has increased for me as I’ve gotten older. It often feels like my life is virtually racing by. This both scares me and gives me pause, but I never really understood why time seems to have sped up as I entered into my forties and fifties (I’ll be 53 in August). It wasn’t until I heard a podcast interview with time management expert Laura Vanderkam that I had any inkling as to what was going on.

It turns out that our experience of time going by faster has to do with a lack of novelty in our lives. Most people become very set in their ways as they age and they develop hard and fast routines that are followed on a daily basis. We tend to become comfortable with the way we live our lives and don’t often try new things or vary how we spend our time. Because of the way our brains work, this leads to the subjective feeling of time going by fast.

As Laura Vanderkam explains in the second chapter of her book, Off the Clock (which I’m currently reading and am finding fascinating…), as powerful as our brains are, it’s too unwieldy to catalog every single data point from our daily 16 to 18 waking hours. Consequently, the brain decides which information is useful to remember at a later date and it culls out all repetitive data. If we do the same thing every day, we won’t actually remember most of those days. For example, if we drive the same exact route each workday, those hundreds of trips will be “telescoped” into our memory as one single trip. If we do many types of repetitive activities each day or week, we’ll have a lot of telescoped memories, and this lack of distinct memories leads to the feeling that time is going by rapidly. We’re simply not remembering all that much of our days, weeks, months, and years due to this “sameness.”

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This post is the final installment of a three-part series. In the first part, I wrote about my longtime struggles with anxiety and depression. The second part highlighted nine practices I’ve found that are helping me to better cope with these issues. This third installment includes tips from readers for what has been helpful to them, as well as some additional resources you can access for guidance and inspiration, such as websites, books, articles, and even an app.

happiness and peace essentials part three

We can cultivate more peace and happiness into our lives through mindful practices. 

I did my best to organize the tips into meaningful sections by topic. Although some of the tips were mentioned in comments on the previous two posts, others were sent to me directly. In order to maintain the anonymity of those who shared their thoughts with me privately, names are not mentioned below. Whenever possible, I have included readers’ comments in full, although some have been edited for the sake of either brevity or clarity.

While the information in this post is far from an exhaustive list, my hope is that it can point those who are struggling to resources that they may not have been aware of previously. I’m appreciative of all those who contributed their suggestions on how to cultivate happiness and peace in the midst of both internal and external chaos. As always, you’re welcome to offer additional feedback and discuss the contents of this post in the comments section.

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Late last year, I wrote an essay in which I revealed my longtime – and ongoing – struggles with depression and anxiety. In concluding that post, I asked for suggestions from readers about how to stay sane in the midst of chaos and how to experience more happiness, peace, and fulfillment on a daily basis. Quite a few readers chimed in, either in the comments section or via email. I will share what they had to say in my next post (and will also include responses to this article), as well as links to some helpful resources you may be interested in checking out.

Today’s post includes some of my personal “essentials” that I use to help keep myself on solid ground in terms of my mood and sense of overall well-being. These essentials are practices that may seem quite simple at first glance. However, they are also powerful in that they are helping me to manage crippling anxiety and preventing me from falling into the abyss of depression.

practices for happiness and peace

Regular practices can help us cultivate more happiness and peace in our lives. 

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It’s been over four months since I last shared my thoughts and progress with my gray hair transition, so I thought I would give you another update today. As I revealed in my “Best of Full Life Reflections 2018” wrap-up, gray hair transition posts are the most popular on the site, so there is clearly a lot of interest in this topic. If you’re a new reader and want to check out my gray hair-related essays, you can find them all here.

Some Background Information

Those who have been following along for a while may remember that I first started to transition to my natural salt-and-pepper hair back in 2016, shortly before I turned 50.  I had grown weary of having to touch up my roots every four weeks and had also become increasingly unhappy with how my color looked. At that time, my hair was very dry and damaged and my color often skewed too warm-toned and wasn’t uniform enough from roots to ends. Gray hair can be stubborn to color and because I’ve always had wiry and porous hair, my hair was even more unpredictable in its reaction to hair dye. So as I neared my milestone birthday, I decided to embrace my natural shade, no matter how gray it might be.

Shiny Silver Hair

In 2016, I decided to embrace my natural gray hair.

What I didn’t realize when I made that landmark decision was how difficult the process would be for me emotionally. It was easy in the beginning because I could easily hide my gray roots using an effective cover-up powder (which I recommend for extending the time between dye jobs or in the early days of transitioning to gray).  Such products are designed to be used for just a few weeks, but I managed to cover up my roots for close to six months! It didn’t look so great towards the end, but I mitigated that effect by wearing headbands, hats, and scarves.

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