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How Being More Open-Minded Can Make You Happier

How Saying "Yes" to (Most) Things Has Changed My Life

Thinking back on how different things are in my life now compared to when I first moved to San Francisco after graduating college last year is pretty crazy. I was still with my then-boyfriend of four years. I was just starting out at my job at POPSUGAR, and basically starting over in a new city. Minus a couple acquaintences who lived in the Bay Area, most of my friends and family were all back home in LA. It was only a week in when I left our apartment and our relationship; only a week in when I was truly alone. Today I can honestly say that I'm the happiest that I've ever been and it's all thanks to saying one simple word: "yes."

My first day on the job, our Fitness editor extended a press invite to a gin-tasting tour around the best spots in the city. Although fresh out of college, I wasn't much of a drinker. But I thought, "what better way to familiarize myself with San Francisco and my new co-workers than getting drunk on a private trolley?" So I said "yes" and happily took her offer. Not only was it a great way to bond with my colleagues but it was also an experience I'll never forget.

We received yet another invite from our editor later in the year, which required flying to Newport Beach, CA to a weekend fitness retreat. I was probably the least qualified person to have represented our Fitness team among 400 Tone It Up women. And to those who know me, the thought of this trip was laughable. Regardless of being the ambassador of junk-food binging and always opting for the elevator over stairs anyday, I said "yes." Little did I know that that would've been the start of my slightly more active life. I don't remember the last time I ran a mile let alone an entire 5K. But immediately after surprising myself at the finish line, we spent the first afternoon surfing (which I've only done once in my life for 10 minutes at age eight) followed by some standup paddleboarding — also totally new to me at the time. Needless to say, I had the most amazing couple days. I left the retreat feeling inspired to continue this healthy lifestyle, and I do still continue to take weekly dance classes and try to tag along on to as many fitness classes with friends as I can.

Rewind to when I was apartment hunting for myself after my breakup, when the rest of my social life in San Francisco really came to be. I fell in love with the first place I saw and went over after work one day to pick up the lease. As we were about to part ways, the tenant who I'd be taking over for said, "Hey, I swear this wasn't some ploy to get girls but do you want to grab drinks sometime?" I hadn't dated anyone in college besides my ex nor have I ever agreed to an invitation from a complete stranger. But he was cute and terribly sweet so I said "yes." And since then, he's become one of my closest friends as well as the reason why I know what I know about this city today. I got well acquainted with his roommates and amazing circle of friends who've easily become my own and who've introduced me to more things than any travel guidebook ever could. In the beginning, I realized how difficult it was to make friends as an adult. Thankfully, because we grabbed drinks, that problem quickly dissolved.

Before moving out here, I didn't care much for nightlife either. I had never gone to a bar, or a club, and I was always content with hanging out at home on weekends as I still am. But new friends equaled new experiences and I was open to (most) plans I was invited to. "Want to go see (insert band or DJ here)?" My music predominantly consists of hip-hop, which is surprisingly scarce in San Francisco in comparison to the thriving electronic scene. "I have no idea who that is but yes!" And it almost always turns out to be one of the best nights of my life.

I was walking home with a girl I had met in dance class one evening and during our talk, she told me that she leads the San Francisco chapter of something called One Salon, a social and intellectual gathering where people discuss a different topic each week. She said that next week's meeting would cover the idea of happiness and the science behind it. You can probably guess what I replied. Yup — I said "yes." The following week when it took place, I walked into a common room filled with total strangers. Aside from a couple previous attendees, it turned out that no one else knew each other. As she explained on our walk home, it was a safe space where all ideas and perspectives were welcome. Listening to everyone's personal antecdotes and thoughts on happiness was eye-opening and I sat fascinated by these differing opinions. I left feeling more inspired than ever and immediately had to call my dad to talk about the amazing, electic group of people I had just met. I've been terrible at returning to the Salon since, but even if I never go back, I'm so glad I was able to experience it at least once.

If you haven't caught on yet, the moral of the story is to step out of your comfort zone when you can. Your social life and overall wellbeing will reap the benefits of this kind of attitude. It doesn't stop there either — being more open to challenges and opportunities at work will help you grow and standout as an employee, too. Taking initiative and being enthusiastic and willing to tackle whatever comes your way can only result in good. And equally inside the workplace as outside, fear can inhibit so much more than you realize. No one enjoys being uncomfortable, it's a feeling we all try to combat by saying "no." But the second you own that sense of foreignness and view it as a new experience or opportunity, your entire outlook will shift for the better. In addition to the amazing experiences and people I've come to know, that same sense of fulfillment and joy has extended to my daily life and I don't have to do something life-altering everyday to acheive that. Harnessing a go-for-it attitude can allow positivity to reach the corners of your everyday.

So the next time you're hesitant about accepting an invitation, take the plunge and go for it. What do you have to lose?

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sisilia Piring
Product Credit: Current/Elliott jacket, Lanston tank top, Olivia von Halle silk shorts, Iconery rings
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