Author: Debra Mary

The Essential Seven: Creating Habits That Lead to Happiness

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you’ve likely picked up on the fact that I am a big fan of the author Gretchen Rubin and her best-selling book The Happiness Project. Since the success of The Happiness Project, Gretchen released a handful of other books that touch on happiness, habits and understanding the way your personality and the way you’re wired impacts your happiness.

Along with her sister Elizabeth, Gretchen also hosts a podcast called Happier that I’ve mentioned on the blog a time or two. It’s awesome and the episodes are short, easy to listen to and often leave me with a little tip or trick I want to apply to my life to try to increase my personal happiness. Gretchen approaches achieving happiness in an easy yet methodical way and gives insight into seemingly small things we can do or implement in our lives that may result in a surprising amount of joy.

Earlier this week, I listened to the Happier podcast (episode 90 if you want to check it out) and Gretchen and Elizabeth discussed what Gretchen deems “The Essential Seven,” or seven habits that most impact our happiness.


Gretchen is HUGE into creating good habits and firmly believes that creating positive, lasting habits is essential when it comes to living a happier life. She says, “We can use decision-making to choose the habits we want to form, use willpower to get the habit started, then—and this is the best part—we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. At that point, we’re free from the need to decide and the need to use willpower.”

We all know the habits we WANT to have in our lives. Healthy habits, responsible habits, habits that make us feel more connected, valued and successful. Gretchen breaks down habits into seven categories and in Episode 90 of the Happier podcast, she and her sister speak about something they want to change or begin doing related to each of The Essential Seven habits to increase joy in their lives. I found myself thinking about what I wanted to change or focus on in my life after they discussed each of The Essential Seven habits and ended up creating a mental list in my mind that I thought might make an interesting blog post.

The Essential Seven

Here are The Essential Seven, taken directly from the Happier podcast notes:

  1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)
  2. Exercise regularly
  3. Save and spend wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, make purchases that contribute to happiness or habits, pay taxes, stay current with expense reports)
  4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (pursue a hobby instead of cruising the internet, enjoy the moment, stop checking email, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car, take time for myself)
  5. Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress (practice an instrument, set aside two hours daily for uninterrupted work, learn a language, maintain a blog, keep a gratitude journal)
  6. Simplify, clear, and organize (make the bed every day, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle, give away unused clothing)
  7. Engage more deeply—with other people, with God, with yourself, with the world (call family members, read the Bible every day, volunteer, spend time with friends, observe the Sabbath, spend time alone in nature)

Now let’s discuss! Below I’m breaking down The Essential Seven and sharing a little bit about one tangible thing I’m planning to do in my life to address the habit and hopefully increase happiness.

Using The Essential Seven to Create Habits that Lead to Happiness

  • Eat and Drink More Healthfully

My goal: Reduce consumption of refined sugar by limiting dessert to once or twice a week

Paleo Lemon Cupcakes

When Gretchen and Elizabeth discussed this habit, Elizabeth identified nighttime snacking as her biggest health-hindering issue. For me, it’s sugar. I know this without a doubt. I’ve mentioned it briefly on the blog before, but sugar is something I struggle with because I tend to not only crave it every day, but I also use it as a way to celebrate, connect (Ryan and I LOVE picking out new ice cream flavors to try together), distract (I’m totally guilty of baking as a form of procrastination), make myself feel better (my sugar consumption definitely goes up when I’m feeling more emotional) and the list goes on and on. I have zero desire to completely give up sugar because I like it and things like ice cream, cake and cookies make me happy. The pitfall is when I find myself eating too much sugar so it negatively impacts my happiness.

I’m sure some of you know the feeling of the sugar crash that comes when you’re left feeling tired, blah, bloated and just plain crappy. This tends to happen to me more when I eat larger amounts of sugar many days in a row. I don’t usually feel bad if I eat a bowl of ice cream one night but when I eat ice cream one night followed by more ice cream the next night and a cookie at lunch, etc., I begin to feel the negative effects. My current goal of reducing sugar consumption by limiting dessert to once or twice a week seems attainable to me and doesn’t make me feel sad the way I would if I think about eliminating the treats I love so much from my diet completely.  I actually really like the idea of trying to get a handle on my sugar cravings by trying Whole30 at some point (SO many of you highly recommended it when I last talked about sugar cravings) but right now I think this is a good smaller step for me.

  • Exercise Regularly

My goal: Take 10 minutes to stretch every day

I feel fortunate to really enjoy exercising and it’s already a part of my routine but I know I could always benefit from more stretching. Whether it be taking myself through some of my favorite hip stretches at the end of the day, foam rolling, doing a 20-minute yoga flow at home or simply carving out 10 minutes after my workout to stretch, I know my body (and mind!) would benefit from a little extra stretching. I’m setting 10 minutes as a goal for myself because it feels realistic.

  • Save and Spend Wisely

My goal: Get back into meal planning and grocery shop with a list and a plan

Favorite Easy Cookbooks

My finance-savvy husband tracks our monthly spending in various categories which is something I personally find incredibly tedious but SO interesting. I’m glad he does it because it makes it easy to see when certain categories jump on a month-to-month basis. Food is one of our biggest areas of spending and the difference in our monthly food expenditures when I take the time to meal plan versus when I don’t is more dramatic than I would’ve anticipated.

Multiple trips to the grocery store add up, especially when you factor in impulse buys or take-out on nights when you feel like you don’t have anything good at home to eat.  When I shop with a plan, I spend less, feel more organized through the week and our food waste goes down. It’s a win-win situation and a habit I’m actually looking forward to getting back into, as you may have seen in yesterday’s blog post! Quite a few of you requested more meal planning/dinner ideas in future blog posts which I was excited to see not only because they’re fun to write but I think they’ll also keep me accountable.

  • Rest, Relax and Enjoy

My goal: Take Sadie on a solo walk once a week

Julie Sadie 9

Last week, I took Sadie on a walk by myself and it was amazing how much better I felt after our walk around the neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely LOVE family walks – but Chase is getting more and more restless in the stroller these days so walks with him and Sadie often feel a little hectic as I try to find a snack, a book or something to point at along the way to keep him happy/entertained. Walking alone with Sadie felt peaceful and allowed me to focus on the beautiful weather and how good it felt to simply move my body while I listened to my favorite podcast (Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me). I’ve said it many times before but watching Sadie have a blast on a walk and seeing her get the biggest kick out of simple things like sticks and squirrels also serves as the perfect reminder to me to enjoy the little things in life.

  • Stop Procrastinating, Make Consistent Progress

My goal: Work first, email second

My email completely overwhelms me. My inbox is horrifying and I struggle to keep up with the number of emails (literally hundreds) I receive every day. I could easily spend my entire work time on emails every day but that’s not the best use of my time, nor is it fun or productive. When I sit down at my computer first thing in the morning or during Chase’s naptime, I will often open up Gmail and begin sorting through emails. While I’m responding, deleting and sorting through everything, I can practically feel my creative energy dying a slow death. I’m hoping that by making myself work before I check my emails, I’ll be more productive and excited about the tasks at hand rather than beginning my workday feeling behind and drained.

  • Simplify, Clear and Organize

My goal (personal): Organize, sort and store Chase’s baby clothes

0-3 Month Baby Clothes

This one is haunting me every time I open Chase’s closet in his nursery. I need to carve out some time to sort his clothes and box everything up that’s too small so his baby clothes are no longer mocking me from a giant folded heap in the corner of his closet.

My goal (work): Create an “Upcoming Partnerships” bin and a “Completed Partnerships/Invoice Due” bin in a visible spot in my home office

Through the blog,  I feel fortunate to work with a myriad of companies and brands but since I’m just a one-woman show, it can feel very overwhelming at times to keep all of my partnerships in line. I work with brands a variety of ways (sponsored posts, social media shares, freelance content, etc.) and while I have all of my deadlines in front of me on my desk every day, once I’ve completed the task at hand, I find myself looking toward the next deadline and occasionally forgetting to invoice a company in a timely manner. I need a good organizational system in place for keeping track of what I need to do for upcoming partnerships and who I still need to follow up with once a deadline is met and a partnership is complete.

  • Engage More Deeply

My goal: Write down my prayers

All too often I’ll find myself praying at the end of the day and my brain feels like a jumbled mess. My mind will wander and I want to get better at being more intentional with my prayers. Since writing is something I love and something that immensely helps me work through my thoughts and feelings, I want to begin writing out my prayers to God. I am already enjoying spending some time in the morning with my devotional and think writing out prayers in the morning may be a good way to deepen my relationship with God and help me feel more focused in my prayers.

More Happiness Related Posts

Question of the Day

Pick one or two of The Essential Seven habits and tell me about a goal you’d like to create for yourself to help yourself feel happier in that specific area of your life.

The post The Essential Seven: Creating Habits That Lead to Happiness appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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Bielers Vegetable Broth Recipe (For Detox & Cleansing)

How to Make Bielers Vegetable Broth -For Detox & Cleansing

A few times a year, when the kids grow or the seasons change (as they inevitably do), I have to climb into the dark abyss of our attic to find the next sizes of clothes for their capsule wardrobes. Two hours later they all have neatly organized new (hand me down) wardrobes and I’m sneezing…

Continue Reading…Bielers Vegetable Broth Recipe (For Detox & Cleansing)

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This Week’s Meal Plan: 5 Healthy Weeknight Dinners

I’ve been a little off my meal planning game lately which means I’ve found myself running to the grocery store multiple times a week for odds and ends I need to feed our family. This translates to spending more than I would like to at the grocery store and also less healthy eating in general, two things I try to be mindful of in my day-to-day life.

In an effort to jump back into healthier eating,  I took some time to plan out our meals for the week yesterday morning and took Chase along for a much more organized trip to the grocery store in the early evening. I figured this week’s meal plan might make a decent blog post just in case you are anything like me and are always looking for healthy and easy dinner ideas. This meal plan is comprised of recipes I’ve made in the past so I can vouch for them and assure you they’re all delicious, clean and quite nutritious, too!

5 Easy and Healthy Weeknight Dinners

Meal Plan: 5 Healthy Weeknight Dinners

  • Monday: Rotisserie Chicken with Green Beans and Leftover Lentils

rotisserie chicken lentils green beans

Since we were running out to do our grocery store shopping immediately before dinner yesterday, I was tempted to grab a frozen pizza and call it a night but thankfully the meal planner in me knew I’d be tempted by convenient food, so I planned to make Monday night’s dinner a ready-to-go rotisserie chicken. I paired it with Brittany’s easy green beans and leftover lentils and garbanzo beans we had in the fridge from a weekend cookout.

meatloaf asparagus sweet potatoes

When Ryan and I first moved in together, we ate SO MUCH meat loaf. We’d often let it cook in the oven while we took Sadie on a walk after work and loved coming home to a hot and tasty dinner that was ready for us to eat! BBQ meatloaf is both of our favorite and I love this easy BBQ meatloaf recipe since it makes it easy to incorporate veggies into the mix as well. I’m planning to pair the meatloaf with asparagus and roasted sweet potatoes topped with a little butter and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Paleo Spaghetti Squash Casserole

In my blog post about Healthy Meals to Make For Others, I mentioned this recipe because it’s a go-to for me to bring to someone after they had a baby. I’m bringing my friend Lauren dinner on  Wednesday and since I know her family tries to eat healthy, I am hoping this will be a welcomed dish for them to enjoy as they adjust to life as a family of four. Since I’m already planning to make this dish for Lauren’s family, doubling the recipe will be easy and we’ll have the same thing for dinner in our house that night, too!

crock pot pork potatoes carrots

I made this dinner last week on a rainy day and it was the ultimate comfort food! I altered the recipe quite a bit from the original and added a chopped onion, potato and carrots to the crock pot with additional broth and it was SO good. I’m already excited to make it again this week, especially since it was so easy.

Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

There’s something about Friday nights that often cause me to crave pizza, spaghetti and lasagna. Anything with red sauce and lots of cheese! I’m already looking forward to digging into a big bowl of spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and love Gina’s delicious lightened-up sauce recipe which is easy to adapt to your own preferences (I love adding sweet peppers to mine). I’m planning to serve this topped with freshly-grated parmesan cheese and side salads. An added bonus: Chase LOVES Bolognese sauce so this one is almost always a hit with our toddler!

Question of the Day

What is one thing on the menu for dinner at your house this week?

The post This Week’s Meal Plan: 5 Healthy Weeknight Dinners appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

from Health & Wellness

How to Make Lavender Mint Bath Salts (Recipe)

Lavender Mint Bath Salts Recipe

I used to love taking relaxing salt baths when I first got married. Now, most days, bath time just involves me washing many tiny fingers, toes and heads of hair. No complaints, but definitely not as relaxing! Benefits of Salt Baths Salt baths are great for much more than just relaxation. Of course, a soothing salt…

Continue Reading…How to Make Lavender Mint Bath Salts (Recipe)

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106: Why to Stop Doing Kegels & Squat Instead with Katy Bowman

Why to Stop Doing Kegels & Squat Instead with Katy Bowman

I’m excited to say that Katy Bowman is here today! In fact I think she’s the most-requested guest to date, so many of you listening will be especially interested in today’s episode. Katy is the movement mastermind behind the award-winning blog and podcast Nutritious Movement (formerly Katy Says) that reaches thousands of people every month….

Continue Reading…106: Why to Stop Doing Kegels & Squat Instead with Katy Bowman

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Weekend Highlights + Kevin and Chandra’s Visit

I’m sitting down at the computer this morning feeling groggy and not very chipper, but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping the hot mug of coffee I’m sipping will do its job and I’ll feel a little more human by the time I’m done typing up this blog post. We just said our (very early) goodbyes to our friends Kevin, Chandra and their baby boy this morning before they hit the road and headed back home to Arkansas.

There’s something about spending uninterrupted time with good friends who live out of the state that makes me both happy and sad since our time together reminds me just how much we love them but also brings just how much we miss them to the forefront of my mind. Kevin and Chandra were some of the first people Ryan and I truly clicked with when we moved to the Charlotte area and they quickly became some of our closest friends. They’re so kind, thoughtful, funny and just plain FUN to be around and we were so excited when they planned a visit.

We filled our weekend with good times, good food and good friends!

I don’t have too many pictures from the weekend (this seems to happen whenever we host people in our home – too much on my mind, I guess!) but I wanted to share the small number of pictures I did take in a “One Sentence Per Picture” recap style I’ve seen all over blogs for a while now… but then I realized I’m much too wordy, so I figured a “Short Paragraph Per Picture” recap might work better for me. (And after typing that last paragraph I’m left thinking “Ummm when is that coffee going to start kicking in!?” Yikes.)

Let’s get to it!

  • Chase’s First Day of Soccer

soccer kids

A couple of weeks ago, I signed Chase up for soccer with some of his friends which I realize is probably going to look like several consecutive weeks of (adorable!) toddler mayhem on a soccer field.  Unfortunately a scheduling mistake meant his coach didn’t show up (and they apologized profusely) but I am really looking forward to watching a bunch of two-year-olds attempt to kick soccer balls around and do anything remotely athletic and organized together. I think it may be even more fun for the parents to observe than the kids to play! One thing is for sure: Seeing a bunch of tiny two-year-olds in oversized soccer jerseys was just about the cutest thing in the world.

  • Big Kid Chase

chase jackson

Chase was officially the big kid all weekend and it was so neat for us to see him loving the big boy role! He was very into knowing where Baby Jackson was at all times, loved showing him his toys, making silly faces at him and checking on him on the baby monitor when he was napping. Chase really loves babies right now and always points to them when we’re out and about and talks about his friends’ baby brothers a lot. Ryan and I hope and pray that if/when we have another baby, his love for babies will still be strong because it’s so sweet to see a calmer, more cautiously curious side of him emerge whenever babies are around. 

  • Upper Body Workout

Triple Set Upper Body Workout

Since our guests didn’t arrive at our place until Saturday afternoon, Ryan and I had enough time to fit in a quick workout in the morning. We took Chase to our gym’s childcare and then worked up a sweat which felt great! I did an upper body workout that really kept things moving. The workout was a triple set format that focused on bodyweight upper body exercises, a burst of cardio and a dumbbell strength exercise (in that order). It’s a workout I figured was worth saving and sharing so I typed it up in the Notes section of my phone to share on Instagram Stories as well. Loved this one!

  • Beautiful Trio

kevin chandra jackson

I couldn’t resist snapping this beautiful picture of Kevin, Chandra and Jackson when we were at the park together yesterday morning. Chandra and I commiserated over the fact that family pictures of us with our husbands and boys are hard to come by (but we have billions of pictures of our kids and our husbands) so I had to take a few of their family while I had my camera out and I just love this one. Jackson was a total pro and looked right at the camera – not an easy feat for a seven month old!

  • Improving Gums

Clean Juice Double One

I am so, so happy to report that Chase’s gums seem to be doing much better. When we tried to brush his teeth on Saturday (which our dentist told us to hold off on through Friday), his gums started to bleed so he’s not completely healed, but he’s eating many of his favorite foods without wincing and crying. We still loaded him up on soft foods and smoothies over the weekend but I think he’ll be back to eating some of his hard food favorites (we share a huge love for pistachios) today. Hooray!

Questions of the Day

What was the most fun thing you did this weekend? What was the most delicious thing you ate?

Most fun: Laughing and catching up with Kevin and Chandra

Most delicious thing I ate: PaleOMG’s Breakfast Casserole and Mint Moose Tracks Ice Cream

The post Weekend Highlights + Kevin and Chandra’s Visit appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

from Health & Wellness

Things I’m Loving Friday #201

The weekend is here and I am READY FOR IT. We have zero plans this evening but our weekend kicks up a notch on Saturday when our friends Kevin and Chandra will be staying with us on Saturday and Sunday night! They were some of the first friends we made when we moved to Charlotte and we were so bummed when they moved away a little more than a year ago. Chandra actually got pregnant not long after they moved and gave birth to a sweet little boy in February and I cannot wait to meet him!!! I’ll be sure to recap our weekend adventures on the blog next week but until then, let’s stick to the usual around here and dive into my weekly Things I’m Loving Friday blog post.

As always, please feel free to join me and share a little bit about something you’re loving in the comments section of this post.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Things I’m Loving Friday

Simply Balanced

I am low-key worried that the watermelon flavor of Target’s Simply Balanced sparkling water is a seasonal summer thing, so I’ve been buying a case of it every time I pop into Target these days. It’s so refreshing and I’m also a huge sucker for the beautiful turquoise slim can and minimal design. Just call me a marketer’s dream! I also love the sparkling black cherry flavor and actually first purchased these cans when I was shopping for drinks to have on hand for my friend Carrie’s baby sprinkle back in July.  They’re pretty, refreshing and a great alternative to soda when you want something flavorful and fizzy.

Oh! And I also love the stainless steel straw you see in my can in the above picture! I bought a pack of the straws months ago (before I discovered my beloved Koffie Straw) and was hoping to use them in my morning coffee. Apparently I wasn’t bright enough to realize that hot coffee + stainless steel = HOT STRAW… So now these straws are my go-to cold beverage straws and they’re great!

  • Strength Train Together

strength train together

Yesterday morning I finally got around to trying Strength Train Together, a barbell-based strength class offered at a bunch of different YMCAs in the area. It’s been on my radar for months, mainly because what I heard about the format reminded me a lot of BodyPump and I’ve been a huge fan of BodyPump for years. The class was awesome and flew by and while I really liked it and would absolutely go back, it was impossible for me not to compare it to BodyPump which still has my heart. The room was completely slammed so clearly the class has a huge following and I loved the way it delivered a total body strength workout in only 50 minutes. I felt like the class was lacking some of the excitement of BodyPump (this doesn’t have anything to do with the instructor who taught my class because she was awesome) and I attribute this to BodyPump’s ability to consistently select great music that makes me want to dig deep during any given class. I missed some of those awesome jams yesterday!! Buuuut, when I strip away the BodyPump comparison, I can only say good things about this class. It felt like a great workout for people of all different fitness levels and the pace was easy to follow without feeling boring or overwhelming. I’ll definitely be back!

beneath a scarlet sky

My love for historical fiction (specifically WWII historical fiction) meant I couldn’t resist downloading this book on my Kindle when I scanned the summary after it popped up as a recommended read for me. The book is based on the true story of Pino Lella, an Italian teenager who enlisted as a German soldier at the urging of his parents to help ensure his safety. Pino ended up as a spy for the Allies during his assignment as the personal driver for Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers. I am only about a third of the way through but already super into this one and cannot wait to get in bed early tonight and continue reading. The book has fantastic reviews on both GoodReads and Amazon, so I’m hoping it will end as great as it’s beginning.

  • What’s for Sale? With a View on Netflix

whats for sale with a view netflix

Keep this show on your radar if you love shows like House Hunters and basically any kind of reality TV show that lets you peek into another person’s home. Ryan discovered this show on Netflix a while back and we’ll occasionally put it on at the end of the day when we don’t want to commit to a long show (episodes are around 20 minutes) but still want to watch something we both enjoy. It’s great because it’s the kind of show you can talk about while you watch it because you don’t really need to pay attention. It’s also oddly calming because the focus of the show is on homes with views that are absolutely stunning and it’s fun to see different areas of North America that are absolutely gorgeous.

  • Around the Web

Food: 3-Ingredient Sweet Potato Pizza Crust / How To Build a Nourishing Bowl / Buffalo Cauliflower Wings / Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Fitness: 20 Minute Home Cardio Barre Workout / 300 Rep Workout / Sprint + Bodyweight Leg Day Workout

Extras: You Can Have Hard Days (Love Lindsay’s post following my post about sharing one of “those” days) / Living In Charlotte (Jen’s breakdown of what it’s like to live in Charlotte is a great resource for anyone considering living here)

  • Friday Flashbacks

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Fudge (A low-sugar way to enjoy a rich and creamy sweet treat. Simple to make and a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth, each piece of fudge contains a punch of protein, too!)

Protein Fudge Recipe

Walking Workouts (A compilation of walking workouts with everything from incline to interval workouts.)

walking workouts

Question of the Day

What is one thing that is making you smile this week?

The post Things I’m Loving Friday #201 appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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