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Healthy Desserts: They Just Make Me Happy


I have been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about what makes me happy. In fact, I am taking this so seriously, I enrolled in an online course through Yale University that focuses on the science and importance of being happy. I am doing this for a few reasons:

1. When Covid shut everything down and changed my routine drastically, my predominant emotion was “blah”. I felt tired and sluggish most of the day, everything seemed monotonous and I wasn’t smiling as much as I used to. Sometimes, my day seemed pointless and boring. I felt like I was merely going through the motions, just to wake up and do it all over again. I knew I had so much to be thankful for and proud of, but mustering up those emotions was just too darn hard.

2. I like to feel that I have control over my environment, but I started to go overboard. I was getting irritated and annoyed at things that used to roll off my back. I was actling like it was a criminal offense when my kids didn’t fold their clean clothes before they stuffed them in their dressers, or more likely, dropped them in piles on the floor. Did it really matter if my husband walked through the kitchen in his muddy sneakers and left a few pieces of dirt on the floor? Did it really make a difference if the kids did their chores on Monday instead of Sunday? I felt put upon and acted like I was the only one in my family that could do anything “right”. It became evident to me that I was trying to control daily life inside of our home because I couldn’t control daily life outside of our home. The byproduct from this thinking was that my need for predictability and order was making me a tough person to be around.

3. I felt myself avoiding social situations with people I love and enjoy spending time with. While I tend to lean more towards an introvert rather an extrovert, I truly enjoy being around people. In the right social setting, I often come home with my proverbial cup overflowing. But over the past 6-8 months, I felt as though I didn’t have the energy or the desire to leave my house and actually engage in conversations…with people. People that aren’t in my family. When did it become a Herculian effort to get out of my pajamas, put on a bra and leave my house? How had I become the type of person that would opt to stay home and do a puzzle or watch a cooking show rather than spend time with friends?

After a candid and honest conversation with my husband I knew that things needed to change. Would today’s sense of melancholy turn into tomorrow’s full blown depression? More importantly, I felt as though I wasn’t doing right by my kids. They deserved a better example of how to deal with life when it throws you lemons. They didn’t need me nagging them relentlessly and they didn’t need to see me lose my sh#t when they didn’t actually vacuum their rooms, they only picked up the “really big chunks of gross stuff” (actual quote).

A couple of months ago, my husband sent me two articles that changed everything. According to the New York Times, my emotions weren’t abnormal, they were actually quite common. There was a name for what I was feeling and in some strange way, this made me feel a lot better. I (like so many others) was languishing, Was I feeling an overall sense of dullness? Check. Did I have a lack of motivation? Check. Was I feeling unfocused? Check. Languishing, it turns out is just another side effect of Covid 19, whether we got the virus or not.

The follow up article explained that the opposite of languishing is flourishing and thankfully, we can flourish again! I used to flourish, I missed flourishing. I wanted to flourish again. While reading this article, I learned about Yale’s course on happiness. I have almost completed the course and I can honestly say that I am feeling a lot better. I have learned how to identify what makes me happy and how to decipher between what actually makes me happy and what I think will make me happy. Turns out, there is data that proves that landing the “perfect” job, having the “perfect” body and getting “perfect” grades won’t make us happy. Finding passion and purpose in life starts with being happy and what makes me happy might not even register for you. Am I flourishing every day? Nope. But I know on the days that I slip back into languishing, it doesn’t have last for long. I can and will find reasons to be happy. Afterall, I can happily say that I will be a Yale Graduate. 😜

Here’s a sampling of things makes me happy (in no particular order):

  • Going to be early and reading a good book

  • Seeing my kids with their friends

  • Eating a huge, healthy salad for lunch and/or dinner

  • Tulips

  • Playing cards with my husband

  • Going for a walk just as the sun rises and no one else is on the road

  • Finding really good vegan food at small, local markets

  • Good hair days

  • Exercising

  • Listening to music in the car and singing along with my daughter

  • Getting a pedicure

  • How much my kids love my black bean burgers

  • Riding my pink beach bike with the basket in front

  • Walking on the beach

  • Doing puzzles

  • Giving others a hug

  • My dogs

  • Holding babies

  • My healthy and decadent recipe for Oat, Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars (see below)

  • A clean kitchen sink

  • Walking barefoot on a rug that has just been vacuumed (really vacuumed, not just picking up the big gross chunks)

OAT, CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER BARS:

(makes about 9 squares)

  • 1 cup peanut butter (or favorite nut butter)

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, agave syrup or brown rice syrup

  • 3 1/2 cups of old-fashioned, rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

  • 1 cup roasted peanuts

  • 1 cup chocolate chips (vegan or traditional)

  • 3 TBSP ground flax meal

  • pinch of kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

  2. In a large saucepan, heat the peanut butter and maple syrup (or substitutions) over medium low heat. Careful not to burn.

  3. Turn heat off, and add all remaining ingredients.

  4. Line an 8 x 8 tin baking dish with parchment paper and dump the batter in. Using wet hands, spread the mixture evenly.

  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 3 months.

With love and HAPPINESS,

Jane


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