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positively present picks: june 28, 2013


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"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world."

Ada Louise Huxtable 


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Calm : guided relaxation (I need to go to this site daily!)

Nicely Noted : a subscription to beautiful letterpress cards

Fourth of July Nails : so cute! if only I wasn't such a nail-biter...

Feminist TSwift : this Twitterfeed is so brilliant (and hilarious!)

Read for Rescues : such a great thing for kids + summer reading

50 Life Hacks : you'll thank yourself for reading this!

Radical Self Love Bible : such inspring + beautiful self-love journals

Dog Teasing a Deer : an adorable + funny little video

Who Made That : a great NYT interactive site for discovering inventors

Skillshare : this seems like an awesome way to learn new skills

Tattly : a great round-up of summertime temporary tattoos

Interview on Brent Smith Lifestyle : was so great to chat with these guys!


Check out this week's Positively Present playlist on YouTube


"Rain of Gold" — Young Empires
"Ten-Twenty-Ten" — Generationals
"Never Say Never" — Tristan Prettyman
"Simply Simple" — Mother Mother
"World on Fire" — The Royal Concepts
"I Wanna Go" — Yuna
"Zimbabawe" — New Navy
"Sunlight" — Bag Raiders
"Movie Loves a Screen" — April Smith
"July Flame" — Laura Veirs
"Sunshine" — Josh Rouse
"Beach Side"  — Kings of Leon


The Ten-Year Nap  
Meg Wolitzer

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know   
Alexandra Horowitz


7 benefits of having a hobby



For years, Positively Present was my hobby. I spent hours and hours on the weekends drafting posts, searching for images, and envisioning how I wanted the site to look. When I took my hobby and made it my full-time job, there was a hole of sorts in my life. While I still worked on Positively Present on the weekends, it was now in the category of "doing work" instead of "just for fun." Even though I still consider it a pleasurable experience, and a great emotional release, it's no longer a hobby. 

Though I left my job over a year ago, only recently did I realize that something was missing. I can still find myself in a state of flow (check out Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's concept of "flow") when I'm working on Positively Present, but there's definitely something different about it now. And it wasn't until I started a new hobby—completely by accident!—that I realized how much I'd needed to partake in something simply for the sake of enjoyment. 

It started when I came across Nicole's Classes and decided to take a course to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator, a program I'd had on my computer for months but had never even opened. As soon as I started the class, I was instantly in love with the online format, seemingly geared exactly toward the things I wanted to learn. I'd never considered myself an artist—I'm more Ed Emberly than Vincent Van Gogh—but I'd always loved to draw (just ask those I used to work with who saw see me constantly doodling daily on my to-do lists!). 

After quite a few classes, illustrating has become own of my favorite things to do. It's my new-found hobby. Hobbies are often something we think of as something for people who have tons of free time, but there are many, many benefits to having a hobby. Even if you think you don't have the time, having a hobby is worth making time for because of the many emotional, mental, and physical benefits, many of which I've experienced first hand recently. Here are some of the reasons why having a hobby can be a wonderful thing: 



1. Hobbies encourage taking a break.
Hobbies offer an opportunity to take a break—but a break with a purpose. If you're like me, you might like to feel productive while you're engaging in an activity and a hobby gives you that. You are doing something while still having fun. Hobbies are great ways to take a break from your busy life while still having a sense of purpose. 


2. Hobbies promote eustress. Eustress is that positive kind of stress, the kind that makes you feel excited about what you're doing and about life. Hobbies, I've found, are one of the greatest ways to access that kind of stress. When you're doing something you love—something you don't have to do for any other reason other than the fact that you love it—you feel a rush of excitement and joy. 


3. Hobbies offer a new challenge. Hobbies break up routine sand challenge you in new ways, ways that are different from work, ways that are positive. The great thing about picking up a new hobby is that it provides an excellent outlet for challenging yourself without the negative stress that comes from a work-related challenge. The new challenge can also open your mind to new ways of seeing the world. 


4. Hobbies unite you with others. Even if you engage in a solo activity, like illustrating, you're exposing yourself to a new world of people, people who find the same thing enjoyable that you do. Though I don't talk much about illustrating in the "real world," online I find myself connecting with all kinds of people who are passionate about what I too feel excited about.  


5. Hobbies provide an outlet for stress. Adding another activity to your to-do list might seem like a way to create more stress, but I've found that engaging in a new hobby actually provides a great outlet for releasing stress. By focusing on a non-work-related task, you're giving your mind something else to focus on. And when you really get in the flow, all of your worries and stresses seem to fade away. 


6. Hobbies promote staying present. If you really love what you're doing, you tend to get in the flow or zone and really, truly focus on the moment. When I'm working on an illustration, hours can magically fly by because I'm so intensely focused on what I'm doing. Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, I'm completely and undeniably in the present. 


7. Hobbies have physical health benefits. Research has found that engaging in enjoyable activities during down time were associated with lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index. Engaging in these activities also correlated to higher levels of positive psychosocial states and lower levels of depression and negative affect. Hobbies are good for your mind and your body.  


Finding a new hobby isn't always easy. You can't just force yourself to like something; it has to come naturally. If you don't already have something you're interested in (or might be interested in), try new things. Sign up for a class that sounds interesting or ask your friends what kinds of hobbies they enjoy doing. The key to finding a new hobby—and falling in love with it—is keeping an open mind and being willing to give new things a try. You never know what might become your next favorite past-time! 

positively present picks: june 21, 2013


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"Now and then its good to pause
in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy"

Guillaume Apollinaire


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5 Tips for Living in the Present : you can never have too many tips

Bitchy Resting Face PSA : I could totally relate to this, ha!

The Internet IS Real Life : great article about online/offline time

You Are Allowed : a great way to think of a new habit

Living the Courage : this documentary looks so inspiring!

Vending Gone Postal : get a free candy bar with the code POSITIVE

The Secret Language of Birthdays : this was spot-on for me

Custom Pet Pillow : I wonder what Barkley would think of this?!

5 Tips to Make Friends as an Adult : the trick is to act like a kid

How to Say No : such an imporatant skill for a happy life

Illustration Inspiration : I'm obsessed with stalking beautiful illustration

Check out this week's Positively Present playlist on YouTube


"June on the West Coast" — Bright Eyes
"The Right Thing to Do" — SBTRKT ft. Jessie Ware
"Open Road" — Roo Panes
"Time of My Life" — MR MS
"Counting Stars" — OneRepublic
"You Are Enough" — Sleeping at Last
"Nunca" — Trails and Ways
"Blueprint" — Eden Mulholland
"Live Your Life" — MIKA
"Favorite Song" — Kaiser Cartel
"Resolution" — Matt Corby
"Wandering"  — Radical Face
"Past Present Future" — Oliver Tank


Girls in White Dresses  
Jennifer Close

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom   
Jonathan Haidt


the packaging vs. the present phenomenon



I recently ordered a ton of toys with the hope of keeping my crazy little puppy Barkley entertained (and if anyone has any tips for keeping a puppy busy, let me know!). When the box arrived, Barkley was pleased with some of her new playthings, but she was obsessed with the big piece of cardboard they arrived in. (You can see the same thing happening in this old Mastercard commercial.) Babies and puppies tend to find packaging just as exciting (if not more so!) than the items they encase. And even as an adult I've experienced this—receiving a gift wrapped in a box or gift wrap that I liked even better than the gift itself. 

I call this the Packaging vs. Present Phenomenon, a situation very common in kids (and pups!) in which they appreciate the packaging more than the present. As we get older, it seems less and less common for us to be thrilled by the box a gift came in, mostly because we've become so trained to look past the outer wrapping to see what's inside. While watching Barkley play endlessly with a cardboard box while ignoring the new toys scattered around her, I realized there's a lot we can learn from this Packaging vs. Present Phenomenon...




1. Appreciate the simple things. 

The box and wrapping, such simple things, are what babies and puppies are drawn to when they receive a gift. They appreciate the basics—some colorful paper and a hearty slab of cardboard—and will happily play with just one item without even realizing there are other objects around them. We could learn a lot from their focused appreciation. With so much to see and do these days (just a little online time has me lengthening my wish list like crazy!), it's tough to remember how valuable each little simple thing is. Whether it's a neatly wrapped gift or simply a quiet moment alone, it's worthwhile to acknowledge (and enjoy!) life's little pleasures. 


2. Explore objects from another point of view. 

One of the cool things about watching a puppy or a baby with a box is seeing all of the silly things they'll do with it. It certainly never occurred to me to put a flap of the box in my mouth and chew on it, but Barkley sure seemed to enjoy nibbling on the cardboard corners. (Then again, I'm not a teething puppy so it's probably no surprise that this didn't occur to me...) When a puppy encounters something new, she explores it. Pushing it with her nose, biting it, and pawing at it. While I wouldn't recommend biting into newly discovered things (unless they're edible, of course!), there's something to be gained from really taking the time to look at something in a variety of different ways. 


3. Find value in what matters to you

Puppies don't care that a toy cost $10 while the box it came in was (relatively) free. All they care about is what grabs their attention and seems like fun. What they value isn't based on status symbols or the latest trends. They focus on what's important to them, right in that moment. If the box seems like more fun, the box has more value (regardless of how many times a human squeaks a new toy right in front of them). We, too, should value not what we're "supposed" to value, but what actually matters to us. We shouldn't be held back by what we should value; instead, we should be inspired by all that we could value. 


4. Use your imagination like a kid. 

Apparently one of the reasons little kids like boxes so much is that they are absolute wonderlands for their imaginations. For an adult, a box is just a box. But for a kid, a box can be anything—a castle, a dungeon, a boat! (I can't speak for a puppies imagination, but I'd like to believe that Barkley has some creative ideas for what exactly a box's purpose is.) The more we try to see things the way a kid would, the more we open ourselves up to new and more creative ways of thinking. In fact, I saw proof of this in this episode of Brain Games. The more we try to think like a kid, the more creative we get. And the more creative we are, the more exciting (and positive!) life becomes. 


5. Focus on the inner and the outer. 

Eventually, after playing with the box for some time, Barkley got around to investigating her new toys (some of which have been lifesavers for me!). While the box seemed to be a favorite, she also appreciated new toys to play with. Seeing how she reacted positively to both what was in a box and the actual box itself reminded me of how important it is to focus on both the inner and outer aspects of our lives. For example, it's essential to focus on creating a great relationship with yourself—and it's equally as important to create great relationships with others. We all tend to focus more on one than the other, but don't forget to spread the love to both the packaging and the present. 


Pretty funny how much I got from watching a little pup play with a cardboard box, huh? Perhaps it's just my overanalytical mind at work, but I'd like to think that the five lessons I wrote about above show how even the simplest things can have value, can teach us things, and can make us appreciate not only the moments we experience, but the lessons those moments come packaged in.  

positively present picks: june 14, 2013


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"In the end, what you do
isn't going to be nearly as imporant
as who you do it with."

John Green


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10 Ways to Make This the Best Summer Ever : woo-hoo for summertime!

Washi Tape for Walls : so perfect for temporary changes to your walls

Words Dance Book Boxes : can't wait to see the rest of this cute series

Mean Disney Girls : this mash-up of Mean Girls cracks me up

Nicole's Classes Feature : my illustration was featured on the blog! yay!

6 Things Optimists Do Differently : all six of these are so important

Dang Gurl : this card is so incredibly perfect + adorable

Numerology : I've always been intrigued by this and just found out I'm a 7

YAY! Magnets : I need Dogs, Halloween, Fall, Pizza, Reading, Wolves : this amazing resource just launched this week!

Canoe : just came across this shop + I'm in heaven


Check out this week's Positively Present playlist on YouTube


"The World Is Ours" — Catcall
"Take Off Your Sunglasses" — Ezra Furman + the Harpoons
"Falling" — Haim
"The Walker" — Fitz and the Tantrums
"Sunrise Sunset" — We Are Trees
"Float" — Pacific Air
"Belly of June" — Horse Feathers
"The Summer of the Sun" — Marble Sounds
"Young and Beautiful" — Lana Del Ray
"Everything Has Changed" — Taylor Swift + Ed Sheeran
"Fever Dream" — Young Summer
"I Am Whole"  — Jillian Jensen
"Sunshine" — Court Yard Hounds


The Summer We Read Gatsby  
Danielle Ganek