I am right on track in my recovery from surgery. I have another three weeks to heal before I can resume my former activity level. It has been interesting for me to discover how restless I can become in a fairly stress-free, exercise-free environment, so today I gave myself a list of low-key, 15-minute-or-less tasks to keep me energized and engaged. One of the tasks was to create something cool from a remarkable-looking leaf that my 9-year-old son Scott found yesterday. I had fun thinking about where to take the pic and imagining the possible sources of quotes that might fit how I'm feeling and that would work with the leaf. I settled on a brick background and a Richard Bach quote. He was a big favorite with my dad, and thus a big favorite of mine.
Below is my creation. I share it with you for a couple of reasons.
1) Why not? It's kinda fun and I offer the sentiment to you as you need to hear it. It's from Bach's book Illusions. I wrote a paper about it (and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and A Gift of Wings) for my high school AP English class, and I re-read it every couple of years.
2) Steal the idea! Keep an eye out for hidden treasures and photograph them. I pretty much guarantee that if you look for cool stuff, you will find it. (That's the "allowing" part.) Share your creations with others. It'll make you happy. Or at least, happier.
At my Day Job we have four-hour-long meetings every Tuesday from 9 am - 1 pm. There are about 30 people who attend any given time. Some people say the meetings are soul-sucking. I usually find them unpleasant but take it as an opportunity to practice my meditative breathing. And catch up on email. Anyway.
The meetings typically leave me feeling rather unsettled, so I've taken to going for a walk immediately after, for as long as my schedule allows (which is usually an hour or less.) I'm lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's nearby, but I'm trying to find ways to soothe myself in ways that are free of calories and chemicals, so I avoid going there at times. Yesterday though, during my only free 20 minutes of the work day, I walked over to TJ's, had a free mini-cup of their coffee du jour and bought myself an $.85 bottle of raspberry lime seltzer. Since it was a beautiful sunny day, I took a little longer route back to the office, arriving just in time to get myself some ice and pour a tall bubbly refreshing beverage. It tasted like summer and was completely guilt free. I felt quite virtuous. I felt refreshed and renewed. And as I entered another 3 1/2 hours of back-to-back meetings, my day was just a bit brighter with the promise of better hours and days to come.
Take a walk. Get some seltzer. Find your happy place.
Take 12 minutes to watch this TedX presentation, The Happy Secret to Better Work, by Shawn Achor. Way better than a latte: It's free, I learned something, and It made me laugh out loud. Achor (in an very entertaining way) explains how most things in life are tailored to the average and not the extraordinary. Our gifts are ignored and become invisible as outliers. Instead of gearing everything to the average, we should learn what those who are gifted and extraordinary know and do and move the graph line representing average up rather than trying to pull them down to the average..
In his book The Happiness Advantage, he gives tips on improving your level of happiness. None of these things takes very long, but can make a world of difference in your outlook. Do one of these exercises a day for 21 days (the length of time it takes to build a habit):
1) Write down three new things you are grateful for each day
2) Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours
3) Exercise for 10 minutes a day
4) Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath
5) Write one quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone in your social support network (family member, friend, old teacher)
These activities exercise your brain and rewire it to look for the positive. Each one only takes a couple of minutes. Nothing to lose, right?
"Less than a Latte" is an idea I've been kicking around for a recurring blog theme. Research shows that happiness depends on ones ability to lead a pleasant, committed and engaged life. And though we are all born with a happiness "set point," there are things we can do to increase our level of happiness overall. One of the ways I get my happy on is to keep an eye out for really cool and fun things that boost my mood for less than I would spend at a Starbucks or any higher end coffee shop. Doing these things helps elevate the "pleasant" part of the equation, and frankly helps me turn a blah, yucky day into one in which I can find fun and promise.
One of my favorite ways to "manufacture" a happy mood in myself is to buy a single rose at the florist shop that I pass on my way to work. It costs me $3.25. I pick out the most perfect one there, the color chosen on a whim. They wrap it for me and I take it to work and put it in a vase on the table in my office. On especially trying days, I've been known to take my rose with me to the multitude of internal meetings I attend every day. My colleagues have come to know about my rose days. I freely share with them the research about how giving and receiving flowers can make you feel good for days. Regardless, they get to see a pretty flower on the meeting table for an hour or two during their workday.
At the end of the day, I carefully re-wrap the rose in the paper and ribbon I'd carefully saved in the morning. I take it home to share with my partner, so I get the triple boost of having the flower to enjoy throughout the day, sharing it with co-workers, then sharing it again with my partner and family for as long as it lasts. All for $3.25.