Why You Should Start A Joy Journal

Why should you start a joy journal?  Joy and gratitude are connected and our focus on one will always bring the other.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m caught in a rut.  The day to day routine of life has been getting to me.  My kids have been driving me up the wall and I find myself annoyed by my own voice some days.  By the time my husband comes home, all I want to do is push the kids towards him and lock myself in a room.  Little things the kids do that might have been funny if I were in a better mood just come across as irritating.  I haven’t liked the grumpy person that’s been taking over my life and I came to the realization the other day that I needed to do something to stop the cycle.  No one else was going to be able to change my attitude.

Chances are, you’ve heard of a gratitude journal.  Maybe you even have one.  Or maybe you started one a while back and haven’t written in it in a while.  As for me, I have one that I started a few years ago, did great for a while, stopped for a bit, picked it back up again, stopped, and the cycle continues.  Over and over I’ve heard the benefits of writing down the things you’re grateful for and how it helps you become more grateful.  But in my case, trying to write down 3-5 things I’m grateful for each day felt more like a chore.  It felt repetitive.  Even in the times that I had a whole list of things to choose from to write down, it still felt a little insincere to simply write a few words to try and convey my gratitude. 

Why should you start a joy journal?  Joy and gratitude are connected and our focus on one will always bring the other.

To help improve my overall attitude, I thought about picking up my gratitude journal again, but it just didn’t feel like quite the right solution, especially knowing how my attempts to maintain a gratitude journal never seemed to stick.  That’s when the thought came to me that I needed to focus on joy rather than gratitude.  Both are connected to each other, but I felt that by focusing on joy that I would be better able to focus on moments of my day that brought me joy.  As many of you can probably agree, the days where everything is wonderful and full of happiness and joy are few and far between.  Most days are just normal days with sunshine scattered throughout it.  Those pieces of sunshine are what I wanted to think about.  At the end of the day, I wanted to write down those moments that brought me joy.

When I was at the store earlier this week, I happened to pass by a little aisle stand that had some journals on it.  One that caught my eye said “Make something good today”.  I picked it up and put it in my cart.  That night before climbing into bed, I wrote a little paragraph on the first page about the purpose of the journal and what I hoped to gain from it.  Earlier that day, I’d found a quote that said, “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”  I knew that if I could commit myself to writing at least three things each day that brought me joy and why I was thankful for those things, that eventually I would feel more gratitude and my overall attitude would improve.

Why should you start a joy journal?  Joy and gratitude are connected and our focus on one will always bring the other.

I’m only on day 3 of writing in my joy journal, but I can already tell that it’s making a difference.  By treating each moment of joy as a separate experience in the day, I can basically write a mini-story about each joyful moment.  This is so much more effective for me than simply writing a list of what I’m grateful for.  I get to share a piece of my day with a focus on joy, which in turn, makes me feel more grateful.  Additionally, I’m either looking for joyful things during the day to include in my joy journal, or I make an effort to create joy so that I have something to write about.

So why should you start a joy journal?  Or maybe the better question is, what do you have to lose by starting a joy journal?  I don’t care who you are, you will have days, weeks, months or maybe even longer when life just isn’t going the way you wanted or hoped it would.  The only thing you have control over is your attitude and what you choose to focus on. 

I encourage you to take a few minutes at some point during your day and just pause.  Think about what has brought you joy and write it down.  Write it in a journal.  Send someone a card or leave a note.  Write down and record the joy and on the days when you need a little boost, go back to the things you’ve written down and read them.  Take a step back from whatever hard thing you are facing and remember the joy.  Use it to encourage and uplift you and those around you.  Joy is meant to be shared.  And don’t we all need a little more joy in our lives?

Book Review: Bucket of Awesome + A Giveaway

Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

For many years I’ve used writing as a way to help me work through and remember things.  I have poems written after a challenging break-up.  A stack of diaries and journals from elementary school all the way through today detailing whatever I was/am going through at the time.  Even this blog is a way for me to put my thoughts down and organize them in a way that makes sense.  Writing helps me unlock memories and remember details in a way that nothing else can.  I wonder, how often do we take the time to think back on the experiences in our life that shaped us and made us who we are today?  Are they positive or negative?  Which would you rather focus on?

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are 100% mine.  This post contains affiliate links, which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

When I was presented with the opportunity to review the book Bucket of Awesome, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect.  As I opened it up to the introduction and started reading, I became excited.  Kathryn Thompson, the author of the book, explains that choosing to tell your life story from a perspective of joy, triumph, love, growth and overcoming will help you shift your focus.  This is not to say that we should only focus on the happy moments.  She suggests that we can find the good even in the bad experiences because many times those are the same things that help us become who we are today.  I love this quote: “You get to decide if your mistakes were dismal failures or learning opportunities.  You choose to focus on how you grew from your trials or how they hurt you.”

Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

There are many days when I feel like one day just melts into another.  I’m doing the same things, having the same conversations or arguments with my kids, taking the same routes as I run errands.  It all feels very boring and mundane and I wonder why I’d want to record that.  Who in the future is going to want to read about that?  Bucket of Awesome is laid out in a way that allows you to see things from a different perspective.  Kathryn points out that “your unique life has something worth sharing with the world, whether it’s a world of your thirty grandchildren or a neighbor or a friend who needs to hear what you have to say.”  Have you ever had someone come up to you and tell you about a time you said or did something that made a huge impact on them and you don’t remember it at all?  We all have the ability to influence others, whether we know it or not.  I would even say that we might even influence our future self with words that seem common at the time we write them, but come to mean something special later on in life.

Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

When I started working through the book, it felt a little awkward.  Some of the questions I didn’t have anything to write about.  Others I could have gone on for a couple of pages once the memories started flowing.  The book is designed for you to go through it at your own pace and to be flexible.  If you want to skip a question, skip it.  Come back later, or don’t.  Kathryn reminds the reader throughout the book that if writing about a certain question or topic added negativity, then don’t include it in your Bucket of Awesome.  Again, the purpose of the book is to shift focus to the positive.

I haven’t made it all the way through the book yet.  I think that is something that is going to take a little bit of time.  But I believe that by sticking with it, I’ll get in a more positive mindset both about my life in the past, my present and also my future.  I don’t want that to sound cliche or that I’m trying to be deep.  I know from personal experience that the more I focus on the positive or things that are going right, the more I see of it and the less I see the negative. 

If you’ve been feeling like you should write your life story down, but feel totally overwhelmed, Bucket of Awesome is for you.  It’s divided up into sections and takes the guesswork out of what to include.  This could also be a great gift for the journal writer in your life, or even something you could go through with a parent or grandparent to help them get their own life story written.

The author finishes the introduction with these words: “You are about to embark on an amazing journey to uncover the best of what makes you who you are.  Your journey is unique.  Tell it with patience.  Tell it with love.  Tell it with Awesome.”

Bucket of Awesome: this is journaling with a twist!  Tell your life story from a positive and uplifting perspective.

Lastly, I have one copy of Bucket of Awesome up for grabs to one lucky winner!  To enter, you will need to do the following:

  • Visit Sunshine & Munchkins on Facebook (required)
  • Follow Sunshine & Munchkins on Pinterest (required)
  • Comment below on what interests you most about Bucket of Awesome (required)
  • Follow Sunshine & Munchkins on Instagram (optional, extra entry)

The giveaway will run from today, March 8, 2017 thru Sunday, March 12, 2017 at midnight MST.  The winner will be announced on Facebook on March 13, 2017.

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Please feel free to share this post with anyone you think would be interested in learning more about Bucket of Awesome or entering the giveaway.

Mid-Year New Years Resolutions Check-Up

Mid-Year New Years Resolutions Check-Up

6 months into 2016.  The time has been absolutely flying for me, especially now that we are into summer and have so many activities going on.  When I was looking at my plans for my posts this week, I couldn’t believe that it was already time to review my new years resolutions and evaluate my progress.

And I have to say that sharing my goals and progress with you every three months has been interesting.  Part of me really likes the accountability, but the other part of me feels like I’m letting you down when I don’t accomplish my goals or work on them like I know I should (even though they are all personal goals).

So without further adieu, here’s my progress:
Goal: Be more charitable
Progress: Being charitable is such a hard thing to measure, especially without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn.  However, I can say that there have been some wonderful opportunities to serve others and give of myself over the last few months that I am grateful for.  When I have an attitude of charity and a willingness to give of my time or talents, I feel better about life.
Room for Improvement: There is always room for improvement in this area.  I hope that I can work towards keeping other people’s needs in my mind and look for ways to serve them.

Goal: Exercise regularly
Progress: As mentioned in my last review, I started attending a weekly dance class last fall and have been going each week.  Recently the class ended and won’t resume until the fall.  I have felt very proud of myself for going, even on nights when I didn’t want to or had a million other things to do.  When I dance, I feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.
Room for Improvement: Since the class ended, I haven’t been attending any other fitness classes or established a routine for myself at home.  However, I’ve been out on walk with my kids, gone hiking, played in the yard, etc.  So I feel that while I could do more, I’m not doing too bad.

Challenge yourself, change yourself.

Goal: Spend more one-on-one time with each member of my family
Progress: My one-on-one time with my daughter has increased a little since she finished preschool, but my one-on-one time with my son has decreased a little because we used to do things together while big sister was at preschool.
Room for Improvement: This summer, I’m trying to plan activities better with my kids and husband so we can each have time together to build our relationships.

Goal: Keep up on my personal journal writing
Progress: Sadly, I don’t think I’ve made any progress on this since last time I wrote.  I was getting into a routine with my days and nights, but got a little thrown off and just haven’t picked it back up.
Room for Improvement: Lots of room to improve here!  I know I need to do this, but sometimes other things take over and this gets pushed to the back burner.  I know myself and if I can establish a routine and incorporate this, I will be better at it.

Goal: Tell family and friends that I love and appreciate them more often
Progress: I’ve been working on this one more.  Mostly it’s been by stopping and taking time to give my kids a hug and say “I love you” or “thank you for {fill in the blank}”.  I’ve noticed that my daughter absolutely flourishes under compliments and her overall behavior and attitude improves when she is receiving them regularly.
Room for Improvement: I think there is always room to grow in this area.  The key is just being aware of others and telling them how I feel in the moment.  Thinking a kind thought and saying it right away.

Goal: Choose happiness
Progress: With the coming of spring and summer, this has been easier for me.  I am not someone who does well with cloudy, rainy/snowy, cold weather.  I love the sunshine and warmth.  Even my husband says I’m a happier person in the warm months.  I’ve had some bad days of course, but I feel so much lighter when I have a positive, happy attitude about life, even when it’s not going exactly how I’d like.
Room for Improvement: Definitely.  On days when I’m feeling sad or frustrated, I seem to have a harder time shaking it off than I used to as a kid/teenager/young adult.  Sometimes I want to feel frustrated or mad, but all this does is make me impatient and unhappy.  I want to snap out of my funks easier and I know I can do it because I’ve done it before.

How are you doing on your goals?  Do you feel good about the progress you’ve made, no matter how small?  Have you made new goals partway through this year?  I’d love to hear about how you’re doing!

Mod Podge Notebook

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

If you are anything like me, you like notebooks.  Big, small, patterned, solid.  I’ve got them scattered around my house and at least three in my diaper bag.  You never know when you’re going to need to make a note or a list.  I’m also one of those people who really likes to write things down and I still have a daily planner.  (My husband buys me a new one every year at Christmas.)

And while deep down I know the purpose of a notebook is just to write things down, another part of me just loves pretty notebooks.  However, I don’t like spending an extra couple dollars just to have a pretty print or a cute quote on the front.  Do you feel the same?

So to make my notebooks cuter, I take advantage of my scrapbook paper fetish and use up some of it on an inexpensive notebook.  I’m sure you’ve seen the composition notebooks at the store.  I found mine at the local dollar store (Dollar Tree).  The front isn’t all that cute and they have these formulas and all sorts of random information on the inside covers that I don’t find useful or pretty.  So I just cover them up and personalize them.   

To make your own notebook, you will need the following:

  • composition notebook
  • mod podge
  • foam brush
  • scissors or paper trimmer
  • 12×12 scrapbook paper
  • vinyl (optional)
  • embellishments (optional)

The first step is to find the scrapbook paper you want to use.  If you’re doing this with a big group, I’d recommend either having everyone bring their own paper or to buy a big pad of 12×12 paper that has coordinating patterns and colors to take some of the guesswork out of it.  (I generally stick to 2-3 pieces of patterned paper.)  Decide which paper you want to use for your main pattern and which will be your accent for the binding.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Cut the main paper in half so you have (2) 6×12 pieces.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Lay the paper on the front of the notebook so there is about 1/2″ overhang on the far right side.  Crease the top and sides so you can see about where to place the paper once you get the mod podge on the notebook.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Using a foam brush, spread the mod podge out on the front of the notebook only covering the area that the 6×12 will cover.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Place the 6×12 paper on top of the notebook.  Be sure to smooth out the bubbles, working from the middle outward.  I have a little plastic tool I use, but you could also use a credit card/gift card to smooth it out.

From here you can do one of two things: 1) cut off the extra paper around the edges, or 2) fold the extra paper around the sides and mod podge it to the inside of the notebook.  I prefer the second option because I think it gives a cleaner look.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Once the front is finished, repeat on the back cover of the notebook.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

For the binding, you will need to take the second paper you chose and fold it around the binding, making sure to overlap the main paper by about 1/4-1/2″.  Crease or mark the paper, then trim it to size.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Brush the mod podge on the back of the notebook binding and the front of the notebook.  Then place the binding of the notebook on the paper first, then roll it onto the front.  This will help you center it.  Then mod podge the back of the notebook and fold the paper onto the back.  Again, make sure to press out the bubbles.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Trim the overhanging paper on the top and bottom of the binding using scissors.  It’s easier to trim it if you open up the notebook.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

If the inside of your notebook has random formulas and grammar rules like mine did, you can cover those up by mod podging some plain white (or coordinating) cardstock onto the inside.  Easy peasy.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

From here, you can be done if you like how it looks, or you can add more embellishments.

I thought it looked a little plain so I just cut out a couple of words from vinyl using my Silhouette and I think it added just the right touch.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

These would make great gifts for family or friends to use as journal or to-do list notebooks.  Another cute idea is to use it as a notebook to pass back and forth between you and your child, writing letters or notes to each other.  You could make these for a craft night with your friends or local church group or even a girls camp craft.  Super easy and super inexpensive.

What would you use your notebook for?

New Years Resolutions Check Up

New Years Resolutions Check Up

Can you believe we are already three months into the new year?  Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter have all come and gone.  Spring is here.  Time seems to go by more quickly every year and sometimes I just want to yell for it to STOP !  Do you feel the same?

At the end of last year, I shared some of the goals I had set for myself for this coming year.  Then, at the beginning of the year, I gave some tips for improving success in reaching those goals.  Now that we are 3 months into the new year, I wanted to do a little check up on how those goals are going for me.  Maybe it will help you reflect on your own goals as well.

Goal: Be more charitable
Progress: This goal isn’t as easy to show progress on.  I feel like I’ve had situations or even days where I’m able to view people with more love and charity.  But I also know there are times when charity hasn’t been a part of my reaction to someone or something.
Room for Improvement: In my original post, I shared a quote that inspired me to make this a more consistent part of my life.  The very end says, “Charity is expecting the best of each other.”  To improve on this goal, I need to remember this overarching statement and not get too caught up in specifics.  If you are expecting the best of someone, your perspective will change too.

Goal: Exercise regularly
Progress: Starting in the fall of last year, I started going to a weekly dance class.  I’ve continued going to this class on a weekly basis, but haven’t increased my exercise.
Room for Improvement: So technically, I am exercising regularly, but I feel like I could increase my exercise to at least a couple of times a week.  This should be a little easier to do now that the weather is improving and I can go on more walks with my kids around the neighborhood.

New Years Resolutions Check Up

Goal: Spend more one-on-one time with each member of my family
Progress: I don’t feel much progress has been made on this goal.  I do get one-on-one time with each member of my family, but it’s usually doing things that have to be done, such as reading lessons with my daughter, running errands with my son or folding laundry with my husband.  They aren’t things that necessarily build our relationship.
Room for Improvement: When I originally made this goal, it was with the intent to set up specific activities with each person that would help us grow closer.  I think in order to make this work better, I need to plan out a time each week to do something with each person, even if it’s just painting fingernails and toenails with my daughter.

Goal: Keep up on my personal journal writing
Progress: I didn’t start working on this goal until recently.  I’ve been trying to be realistic about how often I can actually write in my journal.  I found a cute, new journal and set it next to my bed so that I can write a summary of how the day went.
Room for Improvement: I started out strong, but have slowly tapered off.  I think to make this work better, I will need to create an evening routine that allows enough time to reflect on the day and write about it.

Goal: Tell family and friends that I love and appreciate them more often
Progress: This is another hard one to qualify, but I think it’s safe to say that there is always room for improvement in this area.
Room for Improvement: In order to incorporate this more into my life and way of being, I need to be specific about what I love and appreciate about a person.  I can tell my daughter thank you for putting away her clothes without being asked.  I can tell my son that I love when he shares his toys.  I can tell my husband thank you for doing the dishes every night.

Goal: Choose happiness
Progress: Due to some difficult things I’ve been dealing with over the last few months, this particular goal has been a real challenge for me.  I’ve had some very sad days.  The kind of days that finding the desire to be happy can only be reached with real effort.
Room for Improvement: Because of some of the things I’ve been facing, I almost feel afraid to be too happy sometimes.  However, I am going to renew my goal to choose happiness because there is always something good to be seen.

How are you doing on your new years resolutions?

My New Years Resolutions

2015 is coming to a close and we’ll be celebrating a new year in less than 48 hours.  Crazy!  It’s hard to believe how much can happen in a year’s time and yet feel like it went entirely too fast and you didn’t get to do all the things you would have liked.  Time definitely speeds up as you get older and life gets busier.

Here are a few things that happened in my life during 2015:

  • My daughter turned 3.
  • My son turned 1.
  • We finished our basement.
  • My husband quit his job and started a new one.
  • My husband graduated with his MBA.
  • We went to Disneyland.
  • I started this blog.

Along with the new year comes the opportunity to start fresh.  Obviously, this could be done at any time of year, but it seems most common for people to take a step back and evaluate the current year and create new hopes, dreams and goals for the new one ahead.  I include myself as one of these people and I get excited to think of new ways to grow and stretch myself in various aspects of my life.  I think there are basically two types of goals: the kind with a foreseeable end (ie. train to run a marathon) and the kind that are more long-term (ie. be more forgiving).  Both types are necessary if you are serious about improving yourself.

My brother-in-law is a comedian/motivational speaker and he’s always throwing this out there in regards to goals: “I don’t like to set goals.  I like to create a lifestyle.” Keeping this thought in mind, I’ve been doing some thinking about the goals/lifestyle changes I want to set this year and wanted to share a few of them with you.

Be more charitable  I was inspired to set this as a goal, and essentially adopt it as a lifestyle, when I read this quote:

“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.” – Marvin J. Ashton, 1992
Exercise regularly  Isn’t this a goal most people set for the new year?  Regardless, it’s one I’m setting for myself.

Spend more one-on-one time with each member of my family  I want to make sure that even though I see my family every day, that I make the time to do specific activities with them where we can play and talk and create memories to grow and strengthen our relationship.  This might include going out for ice cream or bowling with my daughter, playing a game in the backyard with my son or doing a planned activity with my husband (at home or out on the town).

Keep up on my personal journal writing  I love going back and reading about past events, feelings and experiences.  They make me laugh.  They make me cry.  They help me see where I’ve grown and the lessons I’ve learned.  This is a goal I have to set for myself every year.  Some years I do better than others, but I’m always glad when I take the time to do it.
Tell family and friends that I love and appreciate them more often  I’ve never met anyone, myself included, who doesn’t like to be told that they are loved, appreciated and that they matter.  It can be hard to remember to do because it’s so easy to take those we love and the things they do for us for granted.
While these aren’t all the goals I’m setting for myself this year,  I think it’s important to share our goals with other people so we remember them and so we are held accountable to them.
What are your goals for the new year?