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Archive for November, 2007

A quick search on the web reveals many sites that are dedicated to long-term, ’round the world travel. Now most of us aren’t planning a massive sojourn such as this, but the article inspired me to start calculating the costs of the next trip I’m planning: the summer Italian honeymoon.

Unless you’re Bill Gates, cost will always be a factor in planning your trip. So, after you’ve decided on a destination and duration, I recommend taking an inventory of your anticipated expenses. Open up your favorite word processor or spreadsheet program and make a list of all the places at which you want to stay, the sites you wish to see, and the food and drink you wish to consume. Tally up your costs, airfare, and any pre-trip purchases (books, gear, and rail-passes) and voila–you’ve established your preliminary budget.

Either this exercise will relieve you of your monetary worries or open your eyes to cut costs. I recommend listing not one but multiple places of accommodation so you can easily compare prices. If your anticipated spending exceeds your funds, perhaps cutting back on expensive dinners or downgrading to a cheaper B&B will suffice.

As for me, I’m trying to cram a two-week Italian honeymoon with a decent budget without a) overnighting in airports or seedy street alleys and b) not busting the bank. My wife-to-be and I want to at least experience Italy’s big three destinations: Rome, Florence, and Venice. I’d especially like to encounter the ruins at Pompeii and the Roman Coliseum. My fiance is an art history buff so she’ll appreciate the art galleries in Florence. And I’m sure we’ll both embrace Venice as we romantically glide through the city’s narrow canals. Indeed, budget planning is in order.

Or, one can simplify the process by enrolling in those tour packages. Though I think half the fun is in planning the trip on our own terms.

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How to Practice Optimism

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness provides some excellent advice on improving positive moods. A social psychologist, Lyubomirsky writes with authenticity and with logical prose more fitting of a scientific journal than a New Age spiritualist. Still, her exercise are backed by scientific study to help improve individual happiness. Here are three of them:

Create an ideal lifestyle diary

Every day, take 20-30 minutes (even less if you’re time-strapped) to think of your ideal future. What does your life look like 5 – 10 years down the road? Research indicates that people who regularly conduct this simple exercise become more optimistic, which then lead to happier lives. Is it hokey? Yes, a little. Do you want to improve your positive thinking? If yes, then do it. If you’re too self-conscious, then keep it a secret.

Keep goals and subgoals

An outgrowth of the ideal lifestyle diary is to periodically list your goals and subgoals. Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10? Okay, that’s pretty far off but what can you do today to strengthen those goals? What action can you take now? In a sense, combining your thoughts of the future with your capabilities in the present is a similar message advocated by Eckhart Tolle.

Identify negative thoughts

Negative thoughts can kill your optimism and your goals. Learn to recognize when you’re thinking them. Lyubomirsky recommends dumping coinage in a jar every time you think a negative thought but I recommend the rubber band method. Keep a rubber band tight around your wrist. Every time a negative thought pops in your head, pull back on the band as hard as you can and let go. Hurts, right? Hopefully the pain will motivate you to keep the negative thoughts out of your mind.

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I’m currently reading The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. Unlike previous personal development books that I’ve read, this one is penned not by a spiritual leader but by a social psychologist. Blending New Age principles with scientific study, Lyubomirsky shows that up to 40% of our happiness can be controlled by our own thoughts and perceptions.

I’ll post a more-detailed book review in the near future, but one of the most intriguing studies Lyubomirsky and her colleagues discovered is that the more someone wrote about his or her future in a positive light, the happier that person will become. By spending only 20 minutes each day over the course of several weeks you can improve your happiness simply by jotting down your fantasies or dreams.

Having said that, I recommend that all who read this should, as part of one’s daily routine, jot down your ideal future. Your notes could be in a journal, a notepad, or even in a blog (hey look at me!). If we aim at positive well-being and an enlightened mindset, we might just hit it.

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