Today’s happiness quote is from Inc.com:
“You never regret being kind.”
Today’s TED talk is from Jon Jandai: Life is easy. Why do we make it so hard?
I lucked out today: most of the day is expected to be free of rain. Even better, the packets of seeds I ordered for my garden arrived a few days ago.
I am aware of a possible difficulty, though. Being outside is good; being outside with other people is even better; working in the garden is (for me) better still. But working in the garden with other people is also potentially problematic — if those other people are younger than four years old.
I know this from experience.
I’ve fairly often gotten myself in trouble by not planning ahead to manage activities, and then feeling stymied when children end up being more involved than is convenient. Today I’ll try to be intelligent about our outdoor activities. A nice long after-dinner walk might be good for everyone, and still leave time afterward for me to slip out to the garden while my two-year-old is distracted.
I have been extremely dubious about the idea of affirmations. I am not, as a rule, much interested in mysticism, and I think that I’ve generally seen affirmations discussed in mystical terms. So although I’ve recognized that affirmations don’t need to be associated with mysticism (there are perfectly mundane reasons why cultivating positive self-talk can positively impact one’s life), I’ve still shied away from them.
But recently I had an experience that has me looking at them again. I’d watched a TED talk in which the speaker mentioned the concept of someone liking their life. Shortly afterward, when I felt myself beginning to react with annoyance to something in my life, I suddenly told myself “I like this life.”
It wasn’t premeditated, but the effect was immediate and powerful. It was as though my brain stopped working on its previous project (Reasons To Be Annoyed) and switched over to the new project I’d just given it (Reasons I Like My Life). The mere act of consciously thinking those words generated a feeling, almost immediately, that I did like my life, just the way it was.
So today I’m starting an experiment: I’ll identify a few (not more than three) statements that might help move my thoughts in a more positive direction, and decide how I intend to use those statements.
Take A Vacation
The key to this exercise seems to be turning off the must-get-things-done part of my brain, which is undoubtedly why it’s so hard. There was a time in my life when I did that routinely, but like so many things, it seems to have slipped away over the years without my noticing.
Fortunately I have three teachers in my house. My children never suffer from the need to be productive, and although that drives me crazy sometimes, I also recognize how precious it is.
Unable to think of any other way to take a vacation, I eventually settled on lying down with my two-year-old when she took her nap. Giving myself permission to just lie there and doze was wonderful; and I found that my mind began to wander in fun, creative directions.
Most Moments Are Positive
There’s a brief description of this exercise here.
Sometimes these exercises seem to almost uncannily line up with my life. I already had this one scheduled, and then was awakened early this morning by a seven-year-old telling me tearfully that he was going to throw up. Which he promptly did. The good news was that he got nearly all of it into the bathroom; the bad news was that he hit nearly every surface therein.
Most moments are positive, I remembered midway through the cleanup process. (Thinking about my exercise for the day soon after waking up is becoming a habit for me, which is in itself a good sign.) And honestly, most moments are positive. When I helped my miserable son settle again, it felt warm and caring. Cleaning up in the middle of the night wasn’t exactly fun, but if I opened myself I could find satisfaction in it, as well as compassion for the little boy whose body had betrayed him. And there was immense pleasure in getting everything taken care of and snuggling back into my still-warm bed.
There’s a brief description of this exercise here.
I focused today on the feeling of satisfaction (more specifically, according to Rick Hanson, that of “accomplishment and agency”). This is a big one for me because my negativity bias is particularly powerful around Things To Be Done. I am big on having lists, and I get great satisfaction from checking things off them. This works well as long as I can keep up. But the dark side of this is that when things linger on my list too long, they start to weigh on me. Eventually my lists can turn into tyrants that are constantly nagging me about the things I haven’t done, and I stop feeling any satisfaction in actually accomplishing things; I’m too busy worrying about what hasn’t been accomplished.
I think that phase began to predominate roughly at the point I had children.
So today I’m trying to pause and notice whenever I accomplish something, even something as simple as loading the dishwasher or driving somewhere, and encourage a feeling of satisfaction in myself. And on that note… ah, I just finished a blog post.
Last time I did this exercise, I made sure to schedule it on a day that I expected to be nice. Today I had no such forethought, and it was predicted to rain off and on all day. Fortunately the weather can be a bit flippant at this time of year, and I awoke to blue skies.
Better yet, I was able to slip in some time in the garden. This may not have the benefits of social interaction, but it was immensely enjoyable to make progress against the weeds. In fact, this simple act – slipping out in the relative hush of morning to pull some weeds – was nearly as calming as a meditation. It was still chilly, but the sun and air against my bare arms felt freeing.