Take A Vacation
Today is another full day, and I almost switched this exercise out for another one. Then I realized how crazy that is. It’s precisely on these kinds of days that I need to make space for a small vacation, or more than likely I’ll dash through the entire day without a break.
I can’t foresee a good time to pause until after dinner, so I’m making plans now to go out to the garden for fifteen minutes or so, and have some quiet time by myself. I don’t think I’ll need to do anything special — even pulling a few weeds will probably feel relaxing after a busy day.
Today’s happiness quote is from The Positivity Blog:
There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
Today’s TED talk is by Emma Seppälä: The Power & Science of Social Connection.
Repeat and Recharge
I’m repeating the Three Good Things exercise today, which I suspect won’t be difficult because I have a busy, interesting day planned. On that note, my recharge for the day is also easy: I have a meeting scheduled with two people that I always enjoy talking to. Every time we get together I end up with new ideas and books to look into.
I have been thinking lately about my response to days like this (generally positive) vs. days when we’re home with no real plans. The latter feel more challenging to me. I suspect it’s because I tend to second-guess myself: out of the vast list of things I ought to be getting done, am I *really* doing the most important one? I may need to spend some time addressing that tendency.
Most Moments Are Positive
I think I should make this my wallpaper. My day is better when I start with this reminder.
Today I am particularly noticing those moments which could go either way. My second son, for example, has a habit of telling me long, involved stories that involve acting out a lot of fighting, or random snippets of video games, and honestly I sometimes tire of it. There’s no context and no real plot, and although I don’t say this to him, I just don’t really care.
But there are other ways I can see it. I can appreciate his imagination, his lack of inhibition, or just the fact that he likes me and trusts me enough to want to share this with me. It takes just a tiny bit of effort to nudge myself in this direction, but if I manage it, I am so much happier with life.
Write An Admiration Letter
I wanted to try something different today, and dug this out of my happiness file. My exercise today is to write a letter (alternately, I can imagine doing a few comments online) in support of a cause or person I admire. I notice that I often admire things silently, but that means that the individuals involved may never know what I think; and getting that kind of support can be so great for people.
The letter that comes to mind is one to Garfield High School, which I saw featured in a film called Beyond Measure, about education reform. The teachers in that school took a real stand against some of absurdities of the modern educational system and began to look for better ways to support their students, and the film didn’t shy away from the difficulty of that choice.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Scrolling through this page of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ideas, I ran into a section entitled “Pleasant Activity Scheduling.” I noticed it for multiple reasons: because it reminded me of my “Take A Vacation” exercise; because it seemed so ordinary compared to some of the sections; and also because it reminded me of an incident that occurred while I was struggling with serious depression. I was in a particularly dark place at the time, and I read an article suggesting that people should make sure to plan at least one really fun thing every day, to have something to look forward to. This was when I unable to enjoy almost anything, and for weeks afterwards I’d wake up in the morning, remember that article, try to find something in my day that I was looking forward to, and come up empty. It really didn’t help.
But I’m not there now, thank goodness. However, this idea got me thinking about how I approach my days currently. I can’t say that I dislike most of what I do during the day (with the possible exception of fighting with the two-year-old over brushing teeth), but I’m also not in the habit of planning things that I expect to really enjoy. Most of life seems composed of activities that I can enjoy if I try, and most of the trick is to remember to savor small successes and pleasures. It’s relatively rare that I wake up thinking Oh, today’s the day that I get to…
It’s worth noting that the discussion of “Pleasant Activity Scheduling” suggested, alternately, focusing activities that promoted a sense of mastery or accomplishment, instead of simple pleasure. With that in mind, I’ve decided to try this idea out, but to look at it partly as a matter of reframing. Looking over my schedule for the next couple of weeks, there are several activities I’ve already planned that I could probably enjoy more by deliberately focusing on looking forward to them. On the other days, I’ll try to come up with a specific small activity geared either toward pleasure or mastery. The trick — the thing I’m really testing — is to have it planned beforehand so that I can wake up anticipating it. I’ll just have to see if this impacts my enjoyment of life.
There’s a brief description of this exercise here.
I poked around on YouTube a bit for a gratitude meditation, but just couldn’t find one that mirrored how I’m feeling today — I wanted something calmer, more quietly joyful than what I was finding. So I’ll do my own today, using the meditation timer that I often use for my morning meditations. (I like the sound of the gong.) Today I want to focus on the abundance of creative ideas and energy I have. It’s something that I typically take for granted, but it’s truly wonderful that I’ve had the luxury of time and energy in my life to focus on creativity.
Three Good Things
As much as I like the variety of exercises I do, there are certain ones that I think I could stand to do every single day, and this is one of them. (I also wish I could work out how to get my kids to do this one; so far they’ve been mostly uninterested.) My resistance to doing so is mainly one of time — some days just adding one more little thing to my to-do list feels like too much, and I’m trying hard not to let these exercises feel like just another chore to be done.
So I’ve decided to compromise. I’ve been working off a list of exercises where each one appears exactly once in the list. Why not have my favorites appear more often? I can be just as arbitrary as I want, after all — it’s my list.
My three good things for today:
- I took time yesterday to do an ink-and-watercolor piece for a friend who’s leaving the state for a couple of years. The fact that she’s leaving isn’t a good thing, but the pleasure of drawing definitely is.
- We have strawberries, raspberries, and black raspberries coming from the garden! Feeding my children home-grown strawberries for breakfast feels like a major win.
- I had a wonderful conversation with my best friend the other day about (among other things) educational politics and Nietzsche. I know that sounds strange, but in a time of my life dominated by children’s books and “I’m hungry!”, I sometimes really enjoy a conversation from the adult world.
Today’s happiness quote is from The Fresh Quotes:
Act the way you want to feel.
Today’s TED talk is by Michelle Charfen: Unconditional positive regard — the power of self acceptance.
Repeat and Recharge
After much debate, I decided to repeat the mindfulness meditation from this week. It’s a busy day today, and if I’m honest, I chose that one mainly because it felt straightforward and of nicely limited duration.
I really struggled with finding a way to recharge today. Eventually I decided to play a bit of a video game with one of my sons, just because it sounded utterly frivolous and fun. Letting myself “waste time” that way seemed just right for today.