Bonjour, Happiness!

During my week off, maman gave me some France-related books to start reading; this was one of them. I had to endure a 10 hour round-trip bus ride to Minneapolis, so I brought the book along to read.

“French women didn’t invent happiness. But they know a thing or two about joie de vivre–being alive to each delicious moment. As a young girl, Jamie Cat Callan was fascinated by her French grandmother. Though she had little money, Jamie’s grand-mère ate well, dressed well, and took joy in simple, everyday pleasures. As Jamie journeyed through France as an adult, she gained more insight into the differences between French and American women. French women–whether doctors, shop owners, or housewives–don’t worry about being thin enough, young enough, or accomplished enough. They age gracefully and celebrate their bodies. They know how to balance their lives–to love food without overeating, to work hard but not too much, to relish friends and family, and still make time for themselves. Now Jamie draws on everything French women have taught her and shows you how to: Buy and consume less–and enjoy more,” (Callen, 2011).

I was truly inspired by this book. Ever since I started college (4 years ago- gasp) I have realized that I have always been mildly to moderately unhappy about myself in one aspect or another. I hated my weight, my body, and I would beat myself up for eating sweets or drinking soda. I was never content or okay with myself or where I was in life, and always had the “shoulda, woulda, coulda kind of attitude. This is still something I struggle with every single day. This year I have vowed to make some positive changes in my life, and although we are only a month into the year, I am already experiencing positive results.  However, it’s not yet enough. I still struggle to find my joie de vivre. Thankfully with the help of Jamie Cat Callan, I have  been making simple day-today adjustments, taking daily stresses and twisting them into a positive event. She describes Americans as rushed, lazy, and always wanting more, more, MORE! I could not agree more, because she described me almost to the pin. Americans see success like a ladder, you MUST keep climbing. However, at some point isn’t it okay to just be happy with who or where you are? Can’t you just find your joie de vivre in everyday things?

One of the first things Jamie discussed was the differences in French and American eating and food. Oh, how true I found this section of the book. In America, we take that weekly trip to the grocery store, stock up on food and then drag it all home, in our cars of course. The French however take pride in walking to their local boulangerie every morning and buying a baguette. The French go out of their way to walk to the local market every week or day, and buy the day’s essentials. Why? do we ask as Americans, because this takes so much more time? Well, as Jamie explained, this is one way of getting  joie de vivre. Enjoying the great outdoors, chatting with your local fisherman or fruit person, seeing the excitement the daily market has to offer. I mean, doesn’t that sound more fun than a mundane trip to Walmart to pick up the week’s essentials, and then carting them in your car back home to who-knows-where? (YES!)

Here are some other ways in which to enhance your joie de vivre, selon Jamie.

1. Sit down and enjoy your meal. I’m serious. How many of us are guilty for skipping breakfast all together, or worse, scarfing down cereal so we can make the bus or our next class? How many of us take our coffee to go, chugging it down as we drive 60 miles to our next destination? How cool would it be if we could sit down and enjoy our breakfast, read the newspaper, and give ourselves time to digest? What about lunch? How many of us scarf down our lunch in between our lunch hour and forget we ate? How many of us eat dinner in front of the TV, separate from family? Not the French. The French take their mealtimes very seriously. Dinner takes usually 3 hours, as it did when I was living in France. We sat down together and enjoyed a minimum of 5 courses. We talked and enjoyed each other’s company. Since coming back to the states my family doesn’t do that much anymore, and it’s something that I miss dearly, and will always cherish.

2. Wear something that makes you feel good, every day. You can go out your day all day long, strut your stuff, and know that you look good.

3. Dry your clothes on the clothes line. Not only do you save money, water, and electricity, but you keep your clothes nicer for longer. (You have nothing to be embarrassed about hanging on the line if you’re wearing lingerie every day– am I right!?)

4. If you’re saving a piece of clothing for a special occasion, now is the time to wear it. Seriously, if you’re waiting for the special occasion, it’s never going to come. Take out that scarlet scarf or hot pair of heels and strut your stuff.

5. Have 10 essential items in your wardrobe, no more, no less. Now, if you live in a 4-season climate like I do, you can definitely have a 10-item fall/winter wardrobe and a 10-item summer/spring wardrobe. Let’s be honest, no one needs more clothes than this. Now, your 10-essential items do not count as layering tops, camisoles, jewelry, scarves, socks, accessories, etc. Your 10 essential items should be key things that can be paired with other things. ie: a great pair of jeans, a suede jacket, versatile boots, a great cardigan. Ask yourself these questions: Why do you need 10 pairs of jeans when you already have 1 pair that fits you great? Why are you keeping that shirt you never wear just because it was a gift? GET RID OF IT!!

6. Have a Secret Garden: Have a place you love to go to distress, whether it’s the bathtub, your apartment, the local park, or a local cafe. Go there to relieve your stress and to take a few minutes to yourself (you deserve it!)

7. Exercise, and push yourself to do something physical everyday. Take the stairs. Park further away. Walk to the store instead of driving, or take your bike. Garden. Clean the blinds. Many, many French apartments do not come equipped with elevators. Many take the five flights of stairs up every single day, multiple times. And they do not think twice about it- it’s exercise!

8. Eat! One of the biggest problems people have in this country is weight. People diet and starve themselves, and then they engorge on everything they’ve been deprived of, then feel like failures, and then restart the cycle. It never ends. Here’s an idea: Don’t beat yourself up for having a piece of cake, or a cookie. Or two glasses of wine. Just think of it like this. You can have the cheese, or you can have the sausage, but you cannot have both (Callen, 2011). You can have a cookie, or you can have a brownie, but you can’t have both. You can have a serving of Doritos, or you can have a serving of Potato chips, but you cannot have both. Working on portion control is the number one thing when getting the correct amount of calories.

9. Dress up and look nice every day! How much better do you feel about yourself when you’re walking around in your favorite jeans and awesome top than in your sweat pants or pajamas? (The French would NEVER even consider leaving the house in their pajamas.)

10. Sleep. Sleep is so underrated in this country, and it’s actually a shame. How many stress-related illnesses do doctor’s see nowadays? Turn off your computer, TV, and video games and get at least 8 hours of zzz’s.

Here are some of things that I do personally in order to find my joie de vivre (in no particular order):

  • I exercise: Even if it is only for 20 minutes, I push myself to go. Because even if I only do 20 minutes, at least I did 20 minutes. And usually, once I get going, I end up going longer!
  • I listen to music: Depending on my mood, I play Broadway, Glee, etc. Something I would like to do in the near future is create different playlists! Also I sing aloud, and badly!
  • I dress nice. I feel better if I look good. Plus, I look good.
  • I follow blogs. I think blogging has become a new hobby, and nothing gives me more joy than reading blogs from people with whom I relate, or from whom I am inspired.
  • I try to watch one thing that makes me laugh, or smile: Gilmore Girls, Sex & the City, or a You Tube saga. 
  • I watch Glee
  • I read Harry Potter, or I watch one of the Harry Potter Movies
  • I take a bubble bath
  • I sleep, on a consistent sleep schedule
  • I go get coffee with my friends
  • I travel whenever I get the chance, even if it only means to the next town.
  • I clean. Believe it or not, cleaning and organizing = major stress reliever
  • I read books
  • I go out with my friends.
  • I go shopping. It’s fun to go to my downtown and discover the boutiques and fun quirks of my city

What do you do to find your joie de vivre?

Works Cited:

Callen, J.C.  (2011). Bonjour, Happiness!: Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre. New York, NY: CITADEL Press.

2 thoughts on “Bonjour, Happiness!

  1. Love this! It is all so true! I have noticed that although France and Spain are very different, many of the values are similar. We have siesta from a bit after 2 until almost 5 where all the stores closed. During this time people have lunch, nap, and relax. Joie de vivre. People in Spain are super fit because they walk everywhere and because they only eat during mealtimes; there is no snacking. They dress nice and hang their clothes out to dry. Everything makes more sense here!

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