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Quarterlife Thriving

How to Be Happy

A simple way to improve your daily happiness.

Finding out how to be happy feels like one of life’s great and impossible missions. Whenever people ask me how I want to feel in life my first inclination is to cry out, “I just want to feel happy!” Doesn’t everyone?

Fortunately, there is no single answer to the happiness mystery. One of my many beefs with self-help books and lists of, “The Top 3 Ways to Be Happy” is that everyone is different and what works for you or me may not work for someone else. The uniqueness of us all is what makes life beautiful. Travelling and seeing the world makes me soooo happy. However, a homebody may dread the idea of hanging out in an airport for three hours.

Another thing that grinds my gears about “Top 3” lists is that they are often vague or quite difficult. For example, “Changing Your Thoughts” often appears on happiness guides. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a very effective method for changing your thoughts but it takes a lot of effort and willpower. One cannot simply stop thinking all negative thoughts at the drop of a dime. But when lists or guides say things like this, it can be so discouraging to someone who reads them and finds they cannot just change their thoughts.

If you have experienced this, you are not alone.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve tried to follow someone else’s list and failed only to feel worse off than when I started. Not to mention, bouncing around all of these different strategies without much success can feel very disenheartening. Finding what makes you feel best is so important to finding your way in this world.

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A Simple Way to Improve your Happiness

I prefer to view finding happiness as making small tweaks to my current state. On a scale of 1-10, if I’m currently feeling like a five, what is one small thing I can tweak to get myself to a six? Maybe, I can go out for a brisk walk while blasting angry rap music. And if continually doing that when I feel I need a burst of happiness almost always pulls me up a number on my happiness scale then I need to continue to do that. Sometimes it might take more than one small thing to pull yourself up. That is okay too.

If you’re feeling like a five and cuddling your cat pulls you up to a six then cuddle your cat when you need a dash of happiness in your life. There is no shame in anything that makes you feel a little bit better in your daily life. Personally, watching videos of cats knocking down children always makes me laugh (See no shame). What never fails to make you laugh?

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My trick to keeping track of what makes me happy is documenting it.

This year, I’ve started Bullet Journalling. I’m actually obsessed with it. The point being though is that in my journal I’ve dedicated two pages to things that make me happy. One is targeted for when I’m feeling low and the other is just things that I encounter in my life that make me feel happy. I find this helpful because it is my own personal guidepost to my own happiness.  Try it out! On days that I feel depressed or down it can very difficult to think of ways to get back up. However, if I have a list of my own ideas ready to go it feels much more hopeful. This is my happiness arsenal. If you find there are things that always make you feel happy, write them out and the next time you feel like you need to be pulled up a number on your happiness scale pull out the list. But make it your own. It is okay to seek inspiration from others but don’t feel pressure to be made happy by the same things.
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Clearly, I’m still working on my own list. They are also shaping up to be pretty similar.

Doing the things that make you happy in any way is a great way of finding yourself and creating a life you love. If saying affirmations works for you, do it! But if vacuuming your house works for you, do it! There is something reassuring about cleaning. For me at least. You might passionately despise housework. But it’s cool. You do you; I’ll do me. We can have different lists of how to be happy.

There is no foolproof way to create your happiness. You find out how to be happy for you. Let everyone else find out how to be happy for themselves.

As much as I hate how hokey this sounds, you really do have to look for ways to find it within.

as always arielle

How to Overcome Fear and Follow Your Dreams

Recently, I went bungee jumping for the first time off of a 160-foot bridge (I like to go extreme or not at all) and I convinced my little sister to join me. As the older sister, I went first. Of course, the jump was scary, it is a massive bridge. But she was watching me. I knew that if I hesitated she would see it and it might affect her confidence jumping after me. I had to look over the ledge, take a deep breath and jump. It was amazing. However, I had to take a moment to face my own fear in order to instill confidence in someone else. We often praise those who overcome their fears and achieve great things. In facing your own fears, you may become an inspiration to others. You will not only achieve your own dreams; you will help others achieve theirs. Overcome fear and follow your dreams.

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Fear is a fickle friend. It can both motivate but also paralyze. Everyone feels fear, even the bravest people have been afraid at some point. Working past that fear to face a challenge can be so liberating. What fears are limiting you? What is making you afraid?

I had a fear of starting this blog. I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough or that I wouldn’t have anything interesting and new to say. But I’ve been working past that fear to try something new.

Sometimes, taking the full plunge all at once might be too scary. Necessary for bungee jumping but not always necessary for other areas of life. If this is the case and fully jumping into something all at once is too much then take it in smaller steps.

A common treatment for phobias is exposure-based therapy. This is essentially, gradual exposure to the feared object. While a phobia is an irrational, extreme fear of something, this concept of gradual exposure can be utilized in coping with other fears as well. If jumping all in at once feels too unattainable for you then try breaking down your fear into smaller pieces and slowly build your way up to overcoming it.

In my blog example, it took me forever to actually start it. I slowly brainstormed my concept and researched and researched. I bought my web address but did nothing with it. Then I designed my site but didn’t make it public. But eventually you do just have to take the plunge. Accept the fear, acknowledge the feeling, and do it anyway. 

When I planned my recent trip to Spain I often found myself being asked about how I feel going to Europe with all of the terrorism happening. This frustrated me because I’m not going to change my life based on the idea that something might happen. I can’t stay home and live my life in fear. The city in which I live in has a mall that was called out as a possible attack site. I’m just as at risk at home as I am there. Letting fear take over can prevent you from having incredible opportunities.  Please, don’t let fear of what could go wrong stop you from following a dream (That being said, if there is a true and actual risk to your safety then don’t do it).

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Ways to Tackle Fear:

  1. Accept the feeling. It is okay that it scares you.
  2. Explore the fear. What is causing you to feel afraid? Truly. Be open and honest with yourself. Brainstorm what the possible causes might be. Figure out where this fear is coming from. If you don’t know the true reason why you’re feeling afraid then you can’t truly address it and change it. If the fear is that you won’t be successful in your endeavor, then know that any step in the direction of your dreams is a learning experience. It’s possible that you might not be successful by your standards but you learned something along the way that will make your next endeavor more successful.
  3. Face the fear. Whether it’s in small increments or all at once. Face the fear. You have to take that plunge. Trust me, it feels amazing.
  4. Live Your Dreams.

Please join me in the comments with some of your fears and how you have overcome them!

 

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The Number One Reason You Need to Start an Emergency Fund in your 20s

Uncertainty. You need to start an emergency fund in your 20s because life is so full of uncertainties and unknowns. Even when you think that you have planned for everything, those unknowns can rear their ugly head and ruin everything. Having an emergency fund is the perfect antidote to uncertainty. As we go through our 20s, many things will affect our financial situation. Be it job loss, a car breaking down, or some other incidental expense that you didn’t see coming. Some people may have parents who can bail them out of a tough spot, but what if you don’t? An emergency fund will save the day.

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I normally don’t tell many personal anecdotes but for this I will. This week I was hit with an unexpected vet bill (my cats are my children). The first vet I took my cat to told me that they think he has a blockage and if this is the case then he will need a $2000 surgery immediately to remove it or his bladder will explode in less than 24 hours. If you’re an animal lover you can imagine how hard this hit me.

One of the reasons this hit me so hard was because I am currently trying to stretch $500 over the next 12 days before my next pay check. I thought I was going to have to put down my beloved pet because I am financially unstable. (Luckily, I took him to a second vet and everything turned out okay).

Like many millennials, I am strapped with student loans and credit card debt. Somehow student loan has come to be known as “good debt” as if any kind of debt is actually good. When we have debt, big or small, it limits our options in life. It eats away at our financial freedom and stability. In my low point, I started to attack myself, “If I wasn’t in debt I could pay this vet bill no problem.”

We never like to think that things will go wrong. I enjoy my ignorant bliss that my cats are invincible. But what if something does? An emergency fund will make you so much more prepared to handle that incidental expense. Now sometimes it might be that you do have the money to fix the emergency but choose not too because you realize that it isn’t as important as you thought it was. That’s fair, but at least you were able to make that decision for yourself. The option wasn’t taken away from you due to poor financial planning.

As I sit with my cat lovingly beside me, I don’t regret spending the $400 it ended up costing to get him the care he needed. I just wish I could have done it in a more financially secure way.

So how do you start saving an emergency fund?

Figure out what an amount that you can save is per month and then have your bank set up an automatic withdrawal to your savings. If you make saving as effortless as possible the more effective you will be at it. I have been successfully saving $200 a month for the last year using this method. My savings account is one that cannot be easily accessed. Taking money out of it can have a processing time of up to 24 hours. This prevents me from making rash decisions. As someone who has always struggled to save, this has really helped me out a lot. Plus, I’ve been able to watch my progress grow. Having those savings has given me such a peace of mind. Even without something bad happening, simply knowing that there is money ready for me if needed is reassuring.

Any goal is always more attainable when you have a clear end point (My post on bucket lists, relates to this concept). Start small and slowly build your way up to 3-6 months worth of wages. For example, you could start by only wanting $500. This is much more attainable that starting off with aiming for $5000. With an emergency fund you will be well on your way to financial freedom and security. Being prepared for an emergency that may never happen is far better than being struck down by an emergency that you were never prepared for. 

Uncertainty can strike at any age; however, building up this emergency fund in your 20s lays a solid foundation for a financially secure future.

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The Ultimate San Sebastian Tapas Pub Crawl

Donostia San Sebastian is jam packed with crowded tapas bars. This makes it a perfect place for the ultimate San Sebastian Tapas Pub Crawl. Everywhere you turn in the old town you are greeted by delectable options. In other words, the only way to maximize the tapas and bar experience is with a tapa bar crawl. To save you the effort, we have prepared an epic tapas crawl experience for your savoury pleasure. San Sebastian will give you the true tapas experience, the tapas are on display around the counter and you must elbow your way in amongst the wall of people surrounding the bar to make your order. We often found that in San Sebastian knowing a little Spanish went a long way as English was not as commonly spoken.

 Without Further Ado, The Ultimate San Sebastian Tapas Pub Crawl

Stop Number 1:

First, head over to Paco Bueno and sample the prawns or calamari with a glass of white wine. For a grand total of 5.50 euro we enjoyed two glasses of wine and two tapas. Despite the low price, the food was excellent. We actually both started and finished our own pub-crawl with this place because we were so impressed. The second time we visited that night we got to bear witness to the bartender’s frustration over the football game, it felt so Spanish.

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Paco Bueno prawns and calamari. Muy bien

Stop Number 2:

Nagusia Lau is located right next door to Paco Bueno and does excellent sangria. There are a variety of tapas spread out on the bar to choose from. You can’t go wrong as they all looked wonderful. The prices were all around 3 euros a tapa. The atmosphere of this place is less fast paced. Other tapas bars make you feel a rush of adrenalin trying to squeeze up to the bar to get your order. But, at Nagusia Lau, you can casually saunter up to the bar to make your selection and peacefully sit at a nearby table. Hence, this is great for first timers.

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Do not be fooled by the lack of a crowd. The tapas were delectable.

Stop Number 3:

Located close to Paco Bueno, we next hit up Atari. Here, we did not end up going for tapas. Instead, we ordered a plate of palatable calamari and two gin tonics. This place is “famous” for its gin tonics. Not that we get how a place can be famous for gin tonics. You take gin, you take tonic and voila! You have a gin tonic. Sadly, we do not even like gin tonics but ordered them anyway just to try the “famous” version. The glass was massive and freely poured to half a glass full of Tanquery gin. And drumroll….. it tasted like every other gin tonic. We struggled to finish them. However, if you are into gin tonics then this place is for you!

Atari was a little bit more highly priced than some of the other tapas bars we explored. Fortunately, there is a lot more seating. Since we ordered a meal not a tapa we got bread which we promptly pocketed as the massive gin tonics went straight to our heads.

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This is the most gin tonic I have ever drank in my life.

Stop Number 4:

Karrika Taberna looks like a hole in the wall, as do most of the San Sebastian tapas bars. But, once inside, they offer well-priced white wine at 1.30 euro and a relaxed ordering experience. Above the bar you can see ham or jamon hanging. It was by this point that I got more drunkenly confident in my Spanish and attempted to both ask and then order the bartenders favourite tapa. “Tu favorito?” I ended up with a sausage with an egg on top. I actually highly recommend this! If you see an item that looks like this, try it. It was mouthwatering.

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This is what the bartender’s favourite was and it was an unexpected delight.

Stop Number 5:

Bar Restaurante Gandarias was another tapas bar stuffed to the brim of people where you really need to work your way through the crowd to order. Do it though! Their selection was hard to choose from as it was all so enticing.

Stop Number 6:

Bar-Goiz-Argi is known for its prawns. This place was again a little more expensive, we paid about 9.50 euro for our tapas. However, we really enjoyed the prawns and all of the other food that came out looked equally as scrumptious.

5205579A-002D-4A5A-9498-94408F4E3CE0         This post is making me crave tapas.

After our tapas crawl we staggered back to our hostel, Urban House, while our taste buds sighed with delight.

Final Words

These are the six places we visited when we went out on our pub-crawl. You cannot go wrong though. If you see a place that look tasty or interesting, pop in there. Most of the time the tapas and drinks are fairly cheap so it does not hurt to sample. We stopped at six because that is where we got too full.

Things You Must Do In San Sebastian, Spain

If I had to choose one word to describe San Sebastian I would have to go with stunning. There are many things you must do in San Sebastian.

One of the things that you need to do in San Sebastian is hike Mount Urgull. The top of the mountain can be reached in two ways. One is by walking past the aquarium. You should be following the castle signs as the Jesus statue is located on top of an old castle.

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Jesus from atop the hill.

The alternative is to take the stairs next to the San Telmo Museoa. What we ended up doing was starting at the aquariam and finishing at the San Telmo Museoa. This your best bet because you will be able to catch a variety of different view points. Trying to actually selfie with the Jesus statue results in very unflattering angles but you can definitely try it out. Taking the exit towards the museum gives a viewpoint of Zurriola Surf Beach; however, it was not particularly wavy during our visit.

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Zurriola Surf Beach from the Museum exit. Does life get any better?  

Near the Zurriola Surf Beach you can board either a little red train tour or a hop on hop off bus.

We opted for the small red train as it only cost 5 euro. This has no stops but does provide an audio tour lasting about a half an hour of San Sebastian. We liked the opportunity to see more of the city.

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The view from atop Mount Igueldo. The larger mountain behind us is Mount Urgull.

Another mountain that you must visit in San Sebastian is Mount Igueldo.

Whereas Mount Urgull involves a hike, this gem can be reached by taking a funicular up the mountain. The funicular is a little hard to spot but it is essentially a cable car that you take you up to unbelievable viewpoints of the entire city. For only a few euro it was well worth it. There is a little café up here if you are a sucker for a meal with a view, which I am.

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I’ll take my morning coffee with a view any day.

Finally, the tapas of San Sebastian make this a must see for any trip to Spain.

Is Being Single Really That Bad?

There is a lot of societal pressure to get married and settle down. This in turn, can make people who are single with no prospects feel lonelier. I can’t count how many times I have heard women make self-depreciating comments about how they might as well get ten cats now because they will never find anyone. I don’t even know how cats became the poster animal for single life; they are actually wonderful. But is being single really that bad? I don’t actually think it is.

When you are single you can work on yourself. The quest to find the perfect mate becomes a lot easier when you know your own values, passions, and goals in life. Knowing yourself makes it so much easier to know what you need to get out of a relationship. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who is chronically single, I do get lonely and I do sometimes find myself wishing that I had someone. But by the same token, I know that being in a relationship right now would be a barrier to me truly working on myself the way that I want to.

If anything, being single when you are young leaves you more open to opportunity. As a single woman, I don’t need to stop and pause to think about whether a decision to travel to South America for three months would impact my relationship. I could just do it. How wonderful is it that we can explore our own lives and create stories to tell our future partners someday? Being single, you can job hop, city hop and go after whatever it is you want freely. Not that I’m suggesting that you can’t do these things with a partner but for some this might make the decision more difficult.

I’ve seen so many people bounce from relationship to relationship without truly being happy. Many of these relationships lack quality and depth. Often, they aren’t getting what they need out of their partner. The idea of dating many people or cycling through relationships has never appealed to me. Being single, means that you can think about what you want. If you need a relationship to feel whole, that may be a sign that not everything is right.

Successful relationships happen when both parties have their own passions and goals. Healthy relationships look more like a Venn diagram. We each have our own circle and sometimes we overlap. I hate the expression, “They complete me.” No, you alone can complete yourself. A partner should equal you or complement you. Relationships should help you grow.

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My Venn diagram of love. The intersection in the middle is beautiful.

If you are single, trust me, it is perfectly okay. Take this as an opportunity to learn about yourself and what you want. Instead of fretting, seek opportunities.

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Stop the Excuses. Start Life Now.

Don’t let excuses stop you from living a life in which you thrive.

If you are waiting for the opportune moment to create a life you love then you will die miserable or unfulfilled. Too often I hear twenty-somethings make excuses for not carving out their lives on their own terms. They vary from reasons such as student loans, uncertainties about what to do, or prioritizing a relationship over themselves. And this is just some of the excuses I’ve heard. This is not okay! Start life now.

You are the most important person in your life and you need to treat yourself as such. One of the ways to value you is to drop the excuses.

Start Life Now!

The opportune moment will never occur because there will always be something standing in your way. A life in which you thrive, starts when you stop letting excuses run your life. Even the smallest step towards your goals is still a step in the right direction. Start life now!

Identify your excuses or barriers.

Definitely student loans or any sort of debt can be a barrier to pursuing dreams. Trust me, this is often one of my excuses or barriers. There are times when I lament that my parents couldn’t afford to pay for my schooling. However, at the end of the day, I’m glad it’s on me because now I have to work that much harder. If it is debt/money that is holding you back then what steps can you take to get out of debt or save money? If your dreams include travelling or buying a home, try carving out the absolute minimum you can afford to save a month and put it aside. It could even be $20. The progress will be slow but once it gets rolling it can feel so good which may motivate you.

When it comes to paying off my debt, I often feel like I am staring at an insurmountable hole that I can’t climb out of. But I can get a second job and put that income towards paying off my debt. I could also reduce my spending. I know that I can do it if I stop looking at the whole picture and cheering for my small progresses (like not buying that really cute top).

What are some small steps you can take to overcome those excuses?

Sure, not knowing what you want to do is valid. But, if you keep saying that you don’t know what you want to do without experimenting or trying different things then you will stay stagnate. There are ways to explore options for yourself. One of my favourite is volunteering. Volunteer positions are often a small time commitment, in many cases add back to the community, and provide you with a way of exploring interests (volunteering is also a great way of building a resume to help with finding a job). With volunteering, it is okay to change your mind after a few months if you realize it wasn’t for you. After all, it was your free time.

Or if volunteering isn’t for you, which is fair, many universities offer both online or in person open studies. This would allow you to take a few courses without fully committing to a degree. Later, if you did find a passion, these credits could count towards a degree. If there’s something else you’ve always wanted to do, find a small way to try it out. Start life now!

Often, I find myself expecting an “Aha” moment of clarity for what my next direction will be. The trouble with this is “Aha” moments don’t always just happen organically. A lot of that clarity comes from experimentation or placing yourself in the conditions to create that “Aha.” If I have been doing the same thing for months or even years without gaining clarity, then maybe it is time for change.

What are some small steps you could take towards discovering what you want to do?

The only thing that I can say about relationships or significant others is that those people need to be supportive of you. If your significant other isn’t supporting a decision to take some time to explore what would make you thrive in life, then is this really the person that you want to spend that life with? For anyone that has been on an airplane, at the beginning of a flight they always talk about what will happen if cabin pressure drops. Air masks will descend but make sure to put your own on before helping anyone else or you may have two people down. The same goes for life. You can’t be the best support or the best help for the people you care about if you aren’t prioritizing yourself. And you aren’t prioritizing yourself if you aren’t pursuing your goals. Start life now! I know how much I’ve said it in this post but I really want the message to stick with you! Start living for you!

 Please join me in the comments with some of your barriers and brainstorm some of the small steps you could take to surmount them?

Start where you are. But you have to start life now.

Why I Started Quarter Life Thriving

Dear Reader,

My name is Arielle and I’m a 25 year old living in Edmonton, Alberta. I started Quarter Life Thriving because ever since I was a young child I had dreams of being a writer. However, I suppressed these in favour of something more practical. I ended up completing a degree in psychology two years ago with the intent of pursuing a Ph.D. Throughout the course of my degree I ended a six year relationship with someone who was not the best fit to say the least. Ultimately, I realized that I didn’t have to follow the streamlined pattern laid out for me. I did not have to finish high school, get higher education, and settle down. Hell, I haven’t even had a meaningful relationship in three years.

As powerful as this realization was, I no longer know what I wish to do. Plus, I now have student debt (I don’t regret my degree though as it laid a strong foundation for all other pursuits). Part of me does want to go for the masters/Ph.D. that I built my university life around; however, part of me wants to gallivant around the world.

For a long time, I thought I was alone in my turmoil. Everyone seemed so much more put together than me. But, then I realized that this is something that so many other 20-somethings can relate to. It took me a long time to start a blog because I worried that my ideas would have been done already or that I just wouldn’t be good enough. Then I realized that I can do this.

Since finishing my degree I have travelled at every opportunity. I have said, “Yes” to so many different things. And I have completely grown as a person.

I don’t even recognize myself from who I was four years ago.

This is why I started Quarter Life Thriving. I hope to share this journey with you, my reader, and provide you with the tips that I have learned along my transformation so that you too can join me in Quarter Life Thriving.

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