Small Wins Equal Big Change

So if you remember, a couple of weeks ago, I posted about how much I love the service Betterment. Last week I decided to activate my Acorns account. It is still early to compare the two, but I am impressed by both of them. Mainly it is because once I set it up, I basically didn’t have to do anything other than sit back and relax.

The concept being used here is similar to Shawn Achor’s 20 Second principle from the Happiness Advantage. In this principle, you are setting things up in advance that will help to make good habits easier. The idea is that if you have to exert more than 20 seconds of energy to do something, you won’t do it. So make it easier on yourself to get started by using automation. In my above example, I have automated building a nest egg through the two micro investing services. Both invest my funds for me and rebalance when needed. I have Betterment set up to deposit every payday. My acorns account monitors my credit cards and bank account to deposit the rounded up change from all my transactions and invest every $5 it collects. This past week, it deposited over $12 from the rounded up change on my purchases. By not having to think about it, I am able to build a good savings habit to help protect my finances for those rainy days.

Another way to save money is using grocery lists when shopping. This is another way that I automate things to make it easier. I have an Amazon Alexa Dot right in my kitchen. When we are either out of something or running low, I just tell Alexa to add it to the grocery list. Then when I am in the store, I just pull up my list. This helps to curb the impulse buy instinct when you can’t remember what you need from the store. I keep saying that I wish I had an Alexa for my car so I could add things while driving, and I just found out that my husband’s car has Alexa built into it…hmmm…the possibilities.

The 20 second principle can also be applied to your time management. I plan out my work outfits the night before by using Alexa to check the weather for the next day. Then I pull the items I plan on wearing and hang them on my mirror. This way I am not rushing in the morning to find something to wear. In the morning, I set a timer on Alexa so I know when I need to start hustling with my hair or makeup. This gives me time to make my lunch and my coffee…again, ways to save some cash.

So what can you do to help build happy healthy habits to keep you on track? Have you used the 20 second principle?


Happiness and Cake

Did you know that March 20th is the International Day of Happiness? What makes it even doubly happy for me is that I will be defending my dissertation proposal. So fingers crossed!

Maybe because Happiness Day falls in March, but many refer to the month as Mindful March or Happiness Month. So for this month, I will be talking a lot about happiness. Happiness and creativity often go hand in hand. Last night was my first night without any homework, dissertation work, group work, or class meetings for a couple of weeks now…yes, it has been rough so far which is why this site has been empty of any updates. However, I left work in an awesome mood and I had energy last night, so I decided to put some everyday creativity to work. I baked!

Okay, so it might not look like much, but this Pineapple Upside Down Cake was the first one I ever tried to make and it was so yummy. I brought some with me to work today for lunch and it was even better the next day. I can’t wait until dinner tonight because I can have some more for dessert. Yum!

If you would like to make your own, here is what I did:


  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 can pineapple rings (keep the juice!)
  • 1 can pitted cherries
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs



  1. Pre-heat oven to 325.
  2. Drain your pineapple juice from the can into a measuring cup. You should get about 1 cup, but if not, add enough water to equal 1 cup.
  3. Dump your pineapple juice, oil, and eggs in the mixer. Mix until well combined.
  4. Add your cake mix, mix on medium speed for about 2min. Set Aside.
  5. Take your 13×9 pan and coat the bottom with the melted butter.
  6. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the butter evenly over the pan.
  7. Place your pineapple rings evenly over the bottom of the pan, on top of the butter/brown sugar combo.
  8. Place your cherries in any open spaces left on the bottom of your pan.
  9. Next, dump your cake batter evenly on top of the fruit.
  10. Bake for 45-50 min. Use a toothpick to check for doneness. If the toothpick, when poked in the middle, does not come out clean, put your cake in the oven for a few more minutes. Be careful not to burn the cake!
  11. Take out of the oven and let cool.
  12. Take a spatula and loosen the edges of the cake from the pan.
  13. Place parchment paper on top of the cake with a baking sheet on top of that and flip your cake pan so the cake is now upside down on the baking sheet.
  14. Enjoy!

Seriously, how can you not be happy when you have such a sweet dessert as a treat?

Creativity and Hygge

Wow, it has been a while since I posted anything. Basically, it has been a whirlwind since Thanksgiving since it was the end of the Fall term. I had a final exam and then a final paper to write…on top of editing my dissertation proposal for the umpteenth time. I am really excited today though because I just got the last of my grades. I was a little worried about my final creativity project because typically my professors find my projects to be too academic in nature…which how can you not when it requires you to write 20 pages?! This time was a win!

The course was focusing on Global Perspectives of Creativity and for our final assignment, we had to focus on one of the countries we read about and their approach to creativity. Since it is the holidays I decided to pick Scandinavia and write about how creativity is connected to hygge. The whole paper would probably bore you, but here is an excerpt that particularly talks about the connection between hygge and creativity:

The Hygge Connection

According to author Marie Tourell Soderberg (2016), at one time Denmark claimed much of northern Europe, even parts of Britain, as part of their territories. However, after losing the last bit which consisted of Norway in 1814, Denmark was left with nothing more than a small, flat landscape of a country. Therefore, they promoted a strong sense of community among people with shared interests. The characteristics of hygge are the epitome of the Scandinavian welfare state and Danish identity. Demark ranks as number two on the current World Happiness Report (2017) and was previously rated as number one in the world. Many researchers have pointed to hygge being the reason for this high rating (Soderberg, 2016).

Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a term that somewhat defies translation into English. In a sense, it is a feeling of family and friends, conversation, openness, and warmth (Soderberg, 2016). According to Bjornskov (Soderberg, 2016):

In hygge we also find a sincerity and comfort that means that we dare to express ourselves when we disagree. And when we, in a respectful and relaxed way, dare to discuss the bigger questions in life, we get the opportunity to see ourselves and the life we lead with a new perspective, becoming more aware of what makes us happy. At the same time this new perspective opens our eyes to what we are able to change in order to improve our wellbeing (pg.33).

This aligns to what Runco (2014) states about the creative environment being one that allows for a freedom to express ideas without a fear of negativity. It is also similar to Sahlin’s (2013) description of the creative environment being one where people come together as well as Ekvall’s Climate Dimensions with the two dimensions of debate and challenge (Puccio, Mance, & Murdock; 2011).

According to Brits (2017), hygge can be considered as a framework to support our needs, desires, and habits. These can be practical needs like shelter and safety; or more immaterial needs like comfort and togetherness. Author Meik Wiking (2017) makes the comparison to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that a person’s unmet needs serves as motivators of behavior; however, a person must first satisfy their basic needs before they can move beyond to higher-levels (Evans & Ward, 2007). After meeting the basic needs of food and shelter, the individual can then move on to the second level of this hierarchy which includes the needs of safety. However, if a person feels unsafe or not secure, then they will not be able to move on to the higher levels of self-actualization where creativity and innovation live (Huber & Potter, 2015). Safety includes more than just a physical protection from danger as it can also include morale, a stability, predictability, and understanding one’s place in the world (Evans & Ward, 2007).

Hygge and Mindfulness

Mindfulness often has a place in conversations about creativity (Runco, 2014; Sternberg, 2010). Sometimes it is referred to as Zen (Runco, 2014). It is this feeling of being aware and yet distant, here but not here, connected yet separate. This is a feeling that can also be attributed to hygge. Brits (2017) has identified three salient themes present in the hygge experience. These themes are as follows:

Hygge Themes


This is an awareness of both inner and outer space. When the individual is aware of their surroundings and boundaries while also valuing this quiet stability. The focus is inside-out.


There is a sense of distance between the individual and the outside world. However, there exist still an awareness of the outside world around the individual.


In hygge, this is an environment that produces a feeling of warmth and a mood of contentment. There is harmony present.

(Brits, 2017)

As seen in the table above, the three themes have an almost mindfulness quality to them. According to Frauman (2010):

Mindfulness is expressed by actively processing information within one’s surrounding context, and it is more likely to become manifest when a setting or situation is varied, interactive, and involving; facilitates perceptions of control; appears relevant to one’s interests; and is perceived as unique, new, or different (Langer, 1989, 1997). According to Moscardo (1999), mindfulness is associated with greater learning, satisfaction, and thinking about new ways to behave in recreation and leisure settings. Langer and Moldoveanu (2000) suggested that the “feel” of mindfulness is that of a lively awareness and involvement in the present moment where consequences include an enhanced awareness that multiple perspectives are possible when interpreting one’s environment and when receiving new information (pg.226).

So if hygge is about processing the environment around you as well as looking at things from the perspective of others through discussions, then the connection to mindfulness seems to be present. If as Runco (2014) states that mindfulness can have profound effects on creativity, then with this comparison, so too can hygge.

Hygge and Mindset

According to Kaufman (2006), creativity from a Scandinavian perspective is understood to be an attitude toward life and a way to understand the problems of existence. Instead of focusing on the creative product, Scandinavians focus instead on the creativity within the system, or rather the creativity within the community. Brits (2017) states that, at least in Denmark, life is rooted to the community. There is a strong connection to home, community, and country. So hygge is their way to reflect that sense of interconnection to not only each other, but also to place. There is a certain mindset that the Danish people have when they gather together. Pera (2013) describes this social creative mindset best when describing the act of small c creative tasks:

Mini-c creativity highlights an important relationship between learning and creativity. Knowledge development (Popescu, 2013) and later forms of creative expression have their genesis in mini-c interpretations. All contributions judged to be creative by others have their genesis in mini-c. Mini-c creativity focuses on the individual creative processes involved in student knowledge construction and development of new understanding. (Beghetto and Kaufman, 2007) Significant creations are almost always the result of complex collaborations. Distributed creativity refers to situations where collaborating groups of individuals collectively generate a shared creative product: the distributed creativity perspective locates creativity in the symbolic social interactions (Paraschiv, 2013) among members of a group. In collaborating creative groups, creativity is an ongoing social process. (pgs. 208-209)

This mindset that everything is connected extends beyond the home and can also be seen in the Scandinavian workplace. Brits (2017) describes a working environment that promotes open communication, collaboration, and a flat hierarchy. There is a sense of belonging and acknowledgement that every individual has a place on the team. This mindset promotes the freedom of self-expression, and a knowledge that every individual on the team will have a voice and their opinion will be taken seriously. These elements of hygge in the workplace are also important markers when it comes to promoting creativity in the workplace. The debate over the importance of creative industries to the Scandinavian economy is a much discussed one. At one point, it was even part of the Swedish cultural policy that the creative industries should be fostered:

to safeguard freedom of expression and create real opportunities for all to use it; to work towards ensuring that all have the opportunity to participate in cultural life and cultural experiences as well as their own creativity; to promote cultural diversity, artistic innovation and quality and thereby discourage the adverse effects of commercialism; to allow culture the conditions to be a dynamic, challenging and independent force in society. (Power, 2009, pg.447).

Certainly, there is something to be said of promoting a cultural policy with its roots in creativity. As the economist article stated, the Scandinavian region is experiencing a cultural revolution and part of that is rooted in their creative approaches to their participation in these cultural experiences (“Cultural revolution”. 2013). In many ways, it embraces the creativity component of adaption (Runco, 2014).


Hygge is a practice that is commonplace for the Danes; however, it is rarely taken for granted (Brits, 2017). It is the meals that are eaten together, the routines that make up our days at work, the conversations that are had with our children. Hygge is the everyday atmosphere or the environment that we create when we promote that concept of creative environment.


Brits, L.T. (2017). The book of hygge. New York, NY: Plume.

“Cultural revolution”. (2013 February 2). In Economist. Retrieved from

Evans, G.E. & Ward, P.L. (2007). Management basics for information professionals (2nd edition). New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Frauman, E. (2010). Incorporating the concept of mindfulness in informal outdoor education settings. The Journal of Experiential Education, 33(3), 225-238. Retrieved from

Kaufman, J.C. & Sternberg, R.J. (2006). The international handbook of creativity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Pera, A. (2013). The role of social factors in the creative process. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, 5(2), 207-212. Retrieved from

Power, D. (2009). Culture, creativity and experience in Nordic and Scandinavian cultural policy. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 15:4, 445-460, DOI: 10.1080/10286630902893690

Puccio, G.J.; Mance, M.; & Murdock, M.C. (2011). Creative leadership: skills that drive change (2 Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Runco, M.A. (2014). Creativity. Theories and themes: research, development, and practice (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Sahlin, N. E. (2013). Creating Creative Environments [PDF]. Kungl. vitterhets historie och antikvitetsakademien. Konferenser, 80-87. Retrived from

Soderberg, M. T. (2016). Hygge: the Danish art of happiness. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Wiking, M. (2017). The little book of hygge: Danish secrets to happy living. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

World Happiness Report. (2017). Retrieved from .

‘Tis the Season for Giving

Today I received an interesting email…from my electric company. Apparently, there is a program in my area where you can add $1, $5, or $10 to your bill each month and that money will be donated to a program that provides assistance for neighbors who may be having trouble paying there bills. Our finances may be back on track right now, but I am fully aware that we are only one disaster away from derailing. So, yes, I signed up to donate. It got me thinking about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

October-December are three of my favorite months. I love the feeling you get seeing everything decorated each month. Halloween is exciting because of all the kids in costumes and whole neighborhoods getting in on the fun. Here in my neighborhood, we have neighbors who set up popcorn stands, spooky music, and some even sit out on chairs around the cul-de-sac passing out treats. Even the teens still trick-or-treat– in costume! Then in November, it starts to get colder, but it is so pretty. You can smell the wood smoke in the air which further creates a cozy atmosphere. Pretty soon after the turkey has been digested, it is time for all the holiday lights. There is a farm down here that sets up a free light display for people to drive through too. Our plans this year include attending a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert and a trip to see the holiday lights at the zoo. It is truly a magical time of year!

So what does that have to do with thanks and gratitude? Because like the example with my electric company, people are also more giving during this time of year. They give to the Salvation Army Santas outside the Walmart, donate canned goods to the Boy Scouts, leave snacks or gift cards for their mail carrier, etc. But why do we only do it during this time of year? Do people only go hungry in the winter? Last summer, one of my colleagues realized that she had a lot of kids hanging out in the library all day because there was no school, parents were at work, and the library has lots of stuff to do (books, programs, Internet, air condition!). She also realized that these kids had no food while they were there. There was a summer lunch program at the local public school, but there was a gap between when school ended and the summer lunch program started the next month. So she had coworkers and friends donate snacks that she would pass out each day during the summer. Then this past summer, her library system partnered with the school system to provided boxed lunches, funded through a grant, during that in-between time when the school wasn’t running their regular summer lunch program. A church group also passed out bottles of water to cars at one of our busier intersections. Both of these were during the summer…yet many people don’t think of these types of things outside of the season where giving and selflessness comes more naturally.

Research shows that we are happier when we give to others. It doesn’t have to be money or things either. The research actually shows that people who volunteer show increased benefits to their mental health. You may have heard of random acts of kindness, but the key here is that they shouldn’t be truly random. They should be intentional acts of kindness. If you want to find out more, check out the work by Shawn Achor or Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD. So this holiday season, don’t stop with the acts of kindness when the clock strikes midnight on that last day of the year. Keep it up and not only will you make others happier, you might make yourself happier as well.

Pop Art Self Portraits 

Back when I was a youth services librarian, I created the following instructions for a program about creating artwork using sharpies.  As I was browsing through my computer files today, I came across the instructions. I immediately had the thought that this could be a threefold project. First, we have the Doubler which is a concept introduced in the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. The Doubler is when you look back on a journal entry and relive the experience. Finding this file had a similar effect for me. I remember how relaxing it was to create my example piece for my teen group. That leads me to my second pieces: mindfulness. This is a small “c” creative activity that can lead to a clam state of mind and therefore reduce stress. The last part is that, depending on the final product, this could be a great low-cost activity that could become a gift for the grandparents when done with kids or artwork to display on any blank wall space. My main focus is of course stress reduction, but, hey, my son likes to draw!


• Photograph

• Copy Machine

• Paper

• Pencil/Charcoal

• Popsicle Stick

• Black Sharpie

• Colored Markers

• Ruler

Take photographs of portraits blown up on a copy machine. Make a charcoal transfer by rubbing the back of the copies with charcoal. Place the photocopy charcoal side down on a sheet of white paper. Using a sharp pencil, trace the outline of the image on the photocopy. Make sure to press hard when tracing as this will transfer an outline of the image onto the other paper using the chalk. After the transfer is complete, use a marker to trace the chalk outline. Another alternative to chalk is to trace the outline of the photocopy image with thick heavy dark pencil. Place the penciled photocopy face down on a clean sheet of white paper. Using a popsicle stick, rub at the paper so the pencil lines transfer to the back of the top sheet of paper.

Once your transfer is complete, use a dark marker to outline all your pencil or chalk outlines on the white paper. (If you want clean images, it is best to use the pencil technique as any unwanted pencil marks are easier to erase than the charcoal technique). Use a ruler to add a line of dots to the face of your image, the face should be filled with dots similar to artwork by Roy Lichtenstein or early comic strip prints. Bold colors can be used to fill in other areas like hair or clothes.

Reading Suggestions:

Hendrickson, Janis. Roy Lichtenstein, 1923-1997. (2001)

Metzger, Phil. The Art of Perspective: The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium. (2007)

Osterwold, Tilman. Pop Art. (2007)

Rubin, Susan. Whaam! The Art and Life of Roy Lichtenstein. (2008)

Here is a quick example I created using an app called Art Rage for iOS… hopefully you have better luck with your portraits, but it was fun creating it! — yes, I drew those dots free hand. That is why you need the ruler. It will look better, trust me!