Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the most satisfying. Like right now. I have the house to myself, I’m watching a movie that I chose to watch without having to compromise with anyone else in order to watch it, and I have a stash of Kit Kats and Twizzlers that I don’t have to share with anyone.
Life can be sweet when you choose to notice the little things that bring you joy. Today, as you move through life, make a point of noticing the simple moments that lift your heart. Here are a few ideas to get you going.
- Waking up on Monday and realizing it’s a long weekend
- Beads of condensation forming on the sides of a cold drink on a hot, summer day
- Climbing into a bed with fresh sheets
- A quiet backyard on a windless morning
- Lying in the sun on the living room carpet
- A hotel room to myself
- Finding the chocolate bar you had hidden away and had forgotten about
- The cotton candy-pink clouds of a prairie sunset
- Your kids finally being old enough to read the books you loved when you were younger
- A clean table
- Staying in the tub so long that your toes turn wrinkly
- Waking up before the alarm goes off
- Getting into your own bed for the first time after being on vacation for a couple of weeks
- Your kids telling you that you’re the best mom ever
- Eating the first cookie off the cookie sheet when it’s still warm from the oven
- Taking off your shoes and especially socks after a long, hot day at an amusement park
- Coming across your must-watch-if-it’s-on rom com when you’re flipping through the channels (e.g., The American President) and there’s nothing good on
- Slipping your feet into the water after crossing the scorching sand of the beach
- Realizing that you have 20 bucks tucked away in your nightstand and can use that to pay for delivery
What’s on your list of joyful things?
This weekend, did bury yourself in a novel while parked on the couch, spending your weekend in a lethargic fog? Or perhaps you found yourself binge-watching Season 5 of The Good Wife? Just me?
I’m all for honouring your body and listening to what it’s saying, but sometimes, it’s not really a tired body you’re listening to: it’s your mind being tricksy.
Now, if you’ve been skimping on sleep because you’ve had work deadlines to meet or dance competitions to run your kids to, then the answer is likely that you’re in need of a little extra shut-eye. You deserve a good night’s rest. Tonight, treat yourself the way you would your sleep-deprived child and be firm about your bedtime. Plan for an excellent night’s sleep by powering down your electronics at least an hour before bedtime, taking time to write out everything you have on your mind so that it won’t keep you awake, making sure your bedroom is nice and cool, and listening to a sleep meditation or some relaxing music at bedtime. If you’re using your phone for meditation or music, set it to “Do Not Disturb” and make sure that you won’t be disturbed by light from the screen by flipping it upside down.
If you’ve been getting some solid zzz’s in that 7 to 9 hour range and know that your lack of energy isn’t so much due to tiredness as it is Couch Potato Syndrome, be honest with yourself about it, but be kind to yourself, too. Take some time to ask yourself why you’ve been slack about physical activity. No calling yourself names or making nasty comments about your body. Be honest with yourself, and be your own friend.
Once you’ve sorted yourself out, and maybe said a few nice things to it, like, “I feel energetic when I move my body,” “My body gets stronger when I exercise,” or “I always make time to take care of my body,” take action to overcome your inertia and get moving.
Easy Ideas for Physical Activity
1. Commit to 10 minutes of physical activity. If you want to stop after those 10 minutes, give yourself permission to stop. It’s really okay. Once you’re done your workout, whether it’s 10 minutes or more, pat yourself on the back.
2. Pick an activity you enjoy. It’s been really windy around here lately and I feel sandblasted every time I go for a walk outside, so I’ve been avoiding my walks (and choosing the couch). It’s okay to do something different and play. Dig out an exercise DVD, ride your old stationary bike, climb the stairs in your house, find some free yoga or other fitness videos online, throw on your favourite music and dance around your living room, pretend it’s the ’80s and do some Jane Fonda-style aerobics to a Songza playlist, head to the gym, lift some free weights. Whatever it is, choose something that you’ll find fun.
3. Go for a walk around the block. How much simpler can you get? Turn your face to the sun, listen to your iPod, focus on how good it feels to be outside. If your feet take you farther than a block, that’s great. If not, that’s cool, too.
4. Reward yourself for working out. Hey, I’m not above bribery. Treat yourself to something lovely after your workout. It might be a hot bath with those citrus bath salts you’ve been saving, that episode of Outlander you’ve got on your PVR, or fresh polish on your nails. Whatever floats your boat and makes seems worthwhile to you.
5. Ask for help to be accountable for your workout. Sometimes it feels really hard to get moving and you feel like you want a little extra motivation to make sure you accomplish what you say you want to do. Talk to your husband, call your sister, or e-mail your co-worker and let her know that you plan to workout today (bonus points if you’re specific about what you’re doing, for how long, and at what time). Tell her you’ll let her know once you’ve finished your workout, and then ask her to follow up with you if you haven’t contacted her by, say, 9pm. Heck, you can even leave a comment on this blog and I’ll follow up with you, if you want.
Whatever your obstacles to working out, know that you are not alone. I definitely get into slumps (like right now) where exercising feels like the last thing I want to do, even though I know that I will feel better after I do it. Our brains are funny that way.
Do you have a go-to workout for when you just don’t feel like working out?
My life is so full right now. I’m working on a blogging course and a business course, and my work schedule has been back-to-back, which is awesome. My kids were with my parents for a few days, so I got in a yoga class, went out for dinner with my husband, and enjoyed a movie date with my favourite man another night (although, truly, I did not enjoy Insurgent, which is what we saw. It was that or Furious 7, which I’m sure would have been worse).
I don’t think I’ve watched T.V. for about 5 days, which is pretty awesome, and I haven’t spent more than 15 minutes a day on Facebook. This has definitely helped me make room in my life for the stuff that I’ve been doing, which has been infinitely more energizing than whatever it is that I could have found to watch on Netflix.
What I have neglected – and it’s a pattern for me – is exercise. I absolutely know I feel better when I’m moving my body, and I absolutely had time to engage in fitness activities, but I chose instead to work through my courses.
The question I have to ask myself is why have I avoided exercise? What thoughts are coming up when I consider going for a walk or practicing some yoga? What feelings have I been experiencing when I think about fitting in some fitness?
When I examined my thoughts, I realized that I think that developing my mind is more important than working out and working on my body, that worrying about how fit I am or how my body looks is frivolous. Plus, I’ve had so much trouble maintaining a healthy weight in the past, I’ve had the thought that by avoiding exercise by increasing my knowledge, I can justify being heavier and not being successful in losing weight because learning is always worthwhile. I fear that I will put effort into working out and will not lose weight yet again, and this will support the idea that I’m a failure, which creates a feeling of shame. I also have the thought that working out won’t be worth as much to me as learning something new, because fitness doesn’t really pay off from a financial perspective. (Except it can if it affects my health and ability to work.)
This is interesting, because I realize that my identity is wrapped up in the idea that I’m smart and know a lot. I have underlying insecurity related to my intelligence, even though by pretty much any measure, I am a full-on smarty pants. I feel like I have to be smart to be worthy and to get approval – from my parents (yes, I am approaching 40 and still care about approval from my parents). Huh, who knew those thoughts were all in there?
As I let these thoughts roll around in my mind, I’m considering what thoughts I’d prefer to think when it comes to working out and being fit.
- Fitness is important to me (this is true)
- I make time for those things that are important to me (this is true)
- I want to make fitness a bigger part of my life (also true)
- Fitness increases my health and sense of well-being (yes)
- Choosing to exercise instead of developing my mind will benefit me in the long run because I will live longer, be healthier, and have a better quality of life, which will allow me to have better mental functioning (makes sense)
- I can choose to develop my mind when I’m exercising – thought I don’t have to – by listening to educational podcasts (absolutely)
- It is okay to put my physical fitness ahead of my knowledge and education, because my health and fitness are currently a greater priority than how much I know, and because the time I require to work out still allows me the time to pursue my intellectual interests (you bet)
- I can care about how my body feels and looks without it being shallow or vain (truth)
I’m going to let these thoughts – all of them – percolate for awhile and I’ll be curious about what other anti-exercise thoughts I might have tucked away in my mighty mind.
Do you struggle to fit in fitness? What thoughts are holding you back? Or, conversely, what thoughts make it easy for you to make fitness a priority? Please let me know in the comments section below. I really want to hear your exercise-related stories.
Everyone wants a strong core.
Well, that’s a generalization. There may be people out there who don’t actually consider whether or not they want a strong core.
I am not one of those people.
I’m not talking about six-pack abs, here. I want better posture when I’m working, sitting on the couch, going for a walk. I want to prevent back pain and ensure I can practice dentistry for the long-term, and I know that a strong core is key for achieving these goals.
1. Spend a minimum of one minute in forearm plank position per day.
2. Record the total number of seconds I’m able to stay in plank, while maintaining good form, daily.
3. Do this for the next forty days.
Have you ever tried any fitness challenges?
I got angry this week. A person who had been a friend of mine, and then became an employee of mine, quit without notice and did so in a way that severed our friendship. While she said in her resignation e-mail that she didn’t want hard feelings, she turned quitting into a personal issue and made several comments that attacked me personally, ensuring that there would be no chance for any further relationship.
I’m still dealing with my thoughts and feeling around the situation, but I’m generally feeling good about it. In fact, one feeling stands out to me: relief.
I was trying to gracefully back out of the friendship I had started with this person because I had come to the realization that she was an energy vampire. Being with her inevitably left me feeling drained. Conversations had devolved into one-sided sessions of streaming complaints coming from her. The negativity went on and on and on. Team members approached me about her attitude and how her extensive complaints about her home life were inappropriate in the work place and her behaviour was making work an unpleasant place to be. Not cool.
I was severely limiting the amount of time we spent communicating outside of the office. Gone were the days where we went to yoga classes together. She and her family were no longer invited to my home for get togethers. I was shutting down the friendship because it wasn’t working for me.
I wasn’t really feeling good about that, despite several conversations with my life coach about letting this friend go for my well-being. I had the idea that you should stand by your friends, no matter what. I can see, though, that this thought isn’t serving me well here. When your “friends” are bringing you down, making your relationship all about their issues, and don’t listen to or value what you have to say, well…it’s time to disentangle yourself from the relationship and make room for people who are good for – and to – you. And, really, if all someone is doing is making you a dumping ground for their problems, without caring about your feelings and without ever listening to what you have to say, then is that person really a friend?
Shaking it Off
I find myself in a place where I haven’t quite been able to let it go. My anger has mostly subsided, but my sense of resentment lingers. Really, the only person this feeling is hurting is me, and I’ve had enough of that.
I’ve got a few ideas on how to shake off this incident once and for all.
1. Write a letter.
Part of my frustration with the whole incident is that I didn’t really get to share my thoughts. She vented in her e-mails, dumped out her feelings, and I took the high road and didn’t stoop to her level.
It was the right thing to do, but sometimes, don’t you just want to rub someone’s face in it? Make them listen to your point of view? Vent your own frustrations? It may not be very “high road,” but it is how I feel.
I decided that the best thing to do would be to take pen to paper and get it all out. Every counterpoint, every objection to the accusations she made, every nasty thought.
And then burn it. Release.
2. Really feel the feelings.
When I was first dealing with this situation, I moved really quickly to thinking my way through it and feeling better about it. I cultivated appreciation for the situation and for the person who was creating drama in my world. I was able to spin my thoughts to help dissipate my anger, but I didn’t take the time to really experience being mad.
Sometimes, you need to sit down and just roll around in the muck of your feelings. Feel the anger burn, feel the resentment eating away, feel the guilt and shame that the accusations bring up. Don’t try to avoid them. Just feel them. See if you can feel even worse. Know you can survive them.
And then you can let them go.
3. Practice yoga and meditate.
I’ve been practicing yoga quite regularly since December, and started meditating over the past month and a half. I consider them part of my self-care, and yet, this past week, I haven’t been taking care of myself as much. I suspect that it relates to the dip in my mental well-being that has arisen as a result of dealing with ending this relationship.
Now, it’s time to really show myself how much I care. Stuff happens, for sure, but it’s important to treat myself with kindness, and yoga and meditation are key.
4. Accept that it takes time.
Sometimes, it takes time to fully process your emotions. That’s not a bad thing. It simply…is. And that’s okay. Fighting against what you’re feeling and thinking isn’t going to get you to that place of letting go any faster. Recognize your feelings without judgement. One day, you will be able to fully let go.
5. Practice gratitude.
If you can see the good in an uncomfortable situation, you’re one step closer to feeling good about it. Take a few moments to write down what you appreciate about the situation you’ve found yourself in and, if you want to be a superstar, what you appreciate about the person who triggered your emotions. What’s there to appreciate in a kinda crappy situation? You’ve probably learned about yourself, about the other person involved, and about what changes you can make in your life to experience more happiness. It may be a stretch at first, but soon, it’ll get easier. It’s a practice.
What do you do to let go of things?
Last night, one of my employees quit. It was Sunday. She sent an e-mail. AN E-MAIL. At 8pm. The kicker is that she was a friend and is married to my cousin.
The quitting process started Friday evening, when she sent me an e-mail at 5pm about her view on her position in the office, and it was pretty negative. I finish work at 3:30pm on Friday and consider my weekends a work-free zone, but apparently I had not made that clear enough (I have an issue with establishing boundaries).
I thought it was best to call her back and discuss, because I don’t believe that work discussions of this nature should be conducted via e-mail, and it was not a great discussion. Apparently, I am the sole cause of the issues she’s having and there is no sense from her that she has any part in how she’s doing.
She definitely got personal with her comments, so it was a difficult conversation. I really tried to keep my cool, owned the behaviours that were causing her distress, and laid out what I saw as the issues. A lot of the issues were caused by the fact that I had avoided dealing with her performance issues sooner and I had failed to set boundaries about bringing negativity into the office. I could have got personal, too, but went with the high road, though I could have been more graceful in how I handled a couple of the issues we’ve had with her attitude and behaviour.
Sunday, I spent a couple of hours preparing to do a formal performance evaluation with her. I laid out the steps I would be taking to address what she saw as deficiencies on my part, set up for a discussion of expectations, and had a plan to improve her performance. I finished the work feeling really good about the situation, and had come to appreciate that she had come forward – even by e-mail – so that it clarified all of the issues surrounding her work at the office.
Then, the Sunday night e-mail.
Again, her e-mail got personal. I will admit that I was felt angry, defensive, and disappointed.
Since then, I’ve talked to my husband and my other staff members and got their perspectives, and it has been so enlightening. I was able to turn this situation around in my head completely and, instead of seeing it as a negative one, I am seeing it as a good one. Really.
Here’s what I learned from this situation:
1. Avoid hiring family and friends (actually, I knew this one, but ignored it)
Honestly, I had reservations about this from the beginning. Yes, I didn’t know her that well, so it wasn’t like working with your aunt or something, but I already have trouble providing feedback to employees, and it becomes even harder when it’s someone you know from outside. Next time, I can listen to that little voice saying, “Don’t do it!”
2. Learning how to set boundaries is important
I have a tendency to let issues go too far and then close myself off and avoid people to deal. By establishing boundaries and being clear up front, I can catch issues early, I could avoid the discomfort I experience when someone breaches my boundaries, and there would be some feelings spared in the long run.
3. Sorting through my thoughts and changing them can totally change my feelings
Like I said, I was feeling angry, defensive, and disappointed after I received the email announcing that my employee quit. Thoughts were coming up, like, “I’m a bad boss, ” “I am a bad friend,” “I should have done something different to prevent this,” and “I am a terrible communicator.” And, you know what, I took a look at those thoughts, recognized that they were not truth, and came up with some new ones. “I am a pretty good boss and recognize that I have areas in which I can develop.” “I want friends who understand I have boundaries and honour them. ” “I did the best I could to help this employee be a functioning employee. Her thoughts and feelings are not in my control and are her responsibility, not mine.” “I am excellent at written communication and am developing more grace in my face-to-face communications.” These more positive thoughts totally shifted my feelings. Heck, I even hit joy, because I was able to realize just how far I’ve come in dealing with problems.
4. By focusing on my feelings of appreciation for someone, I can move from anger to full-out happy
I stewed a bit in my feelings of anger and defensiveness, and then I started to practice gratitude. I could appreciate the work that this person has done in the time she’s been in my office. I could appreciate that being in this situation reinforced that boundary-setting and avoidance are really important areas for me in which to develop, and this was totally in keeping with The Desire Map process. I could appreciate that, in leaving our team, the employee freed up a spot for someone who is a fantastic fit for our office. I could appreciate that I have reached a point where I could coach myself through a difficult situation and actually feel joy. I could appreciate that I could look at how this person behaved, identify how she projected her thoughts and feelings onto me, and not feel responsible for those thoughts and feelings. THIS WAS AWESOME!!!
5. Other people’s problems are just that: their own
I am responsible for what I think and feel. Other people can blame me for their thoughts and feelings all they want, but they choose to feel what they feel and think what they think, and that is within their sphere of responsibility. And if they are insecure (I am, too), they can try to take those feeling and project them onto me, but that doesn’t make them truth. I still care about other people, and I still care about their feelings, but I am not taking responsibility for them.
I have a touch of underlying bitterness, which is clear from this post, but, man, am I ever in a better space about this now than I was right after I read the quitting e-mail. A touch of bitterness is something that I can work through, and it’s a whole lot better than the level of anger I was at before.
How are you with setting boundaries? Have you ever had to give or receive negative feedback at work?
Last night I opted to stay home rather than attend a party for the parents of my son’s hockey team. It’s sort of a parent wind-up to the 6 months of hockey season. And then today I opted to go for a 5 mile walk – in the bright sunshine, I might add – rather than attending my son’s hockey wind-up with my husband and kids. I thought both of these choices were fantastic. I avoided social interactions that would only drain my energy while I took care of myself by getting a good night’s sleep last night and plenty of exercise today. Win-win.
After lunch today, my husband and kids headed off for an afternoon of fun activities and treats at the aforementioned hockey windup while I headed out for a solo walk. I listened to a couple of Brooke Castillo podcasts, an upbeat indie playlist on Songza, and experienced pure happiness as I basked in the warm spring sunlight. As I entered the house after my walk, the phone was ringing. It was my husband asking if I wouldn’t mind bringing a few items to the soccer centre where the wind-up was being held. No sweat. I gathered the items and headed on over.
When I dropped off the computer cable and clothing items requested, my husband suggested that I shouldn’t have posted on Facebook that he and the kids were going to the wind-up while I went out for a walk. Guess he thought it looked bad that I did what I wanted to do rather than what I should do.
I have been avoiding the shoulds lately, upon the advice of my life coach, and I am much happier for it. I think everyone would be happier if they examined their expectations and discard those that don’t work for them. I believe that’s a should right there… Sorry about that.
I absolutely do not regret the choice I made to take these legs for a walk this fine spring Sunday. Further, I do not feel mom guilt over not going to this event. One of the intentions that I set for the year as a result of The Desire Map process was choosing to live an authentic life, and to me, that means opting for activities that I like, and opting out of events that I feel obligated to participate in and that create a sense of dread, not enjoyment. That doesn’t mean that opting out is necessarily the right thing in every case, but today, it was right for me.
Here’s what I thought about before declining this event:
1. Is the event about me?
In this case, absolutely not. The event is about my son as a member of his hockey team, and, to a lesser extent, my husband, as an assistant coach on the team. My son will be hanging with his friends, playing ball hockey, as will by daughter. They will not notice that I’m not there because they’re having fun. My husband, an extrovert, would probably appreciate that I’m there, but honestly would not be spending his time at the event with me anyway and really won’t miss me.
2. Do I enjoy spending time with the people involved?
I really dislike the coach of this team and want nothing to do with kissing his ass, which is what the team treasurer tends to turn the wind-ups into (this is our fourth year my son has played on this coach’s team, so I’m speaking from experience). There are a lot of great parents on this team, and while I do enjoy spending time with them in smaller groups, I’m not friends with any of them outside of hockey, and they’ll be just as happy hanging with each other with me not there. No one is missing me, and I am okay with that.
3. How do I want to spend my time and energy?
I am making a concerted effort to manage my energy in a way that maximizes it. I am an introvert, so interacting with people drains my energy. I will still choose to go to get togethers, but I am becoming increasingly selective in which events I attend. A hockey wind-up with people that I only know casually, where kids are running around, making tons of noise, and I have to celebrate a coach who I think is not particularly good, not for the fact that he volunteered – which is totally awesome and I appreciate his time – but for how great he is at developing character in the kids on the team – which, he is not great at. He has asked kids on the ice why they are smiling, because, “This is not supposed to be fun.” I want to spend my time doing something that makes me feel good.
4.What activities do I want to participate in?
I am signed up for a 10k at the beginning of May and had a 5 mile walk/run on my schedule today. With the forecast being amazing for this afternoon, I wanted to go out there and feel joy at being outside rather than choosing a time that would be cooler and simply not as fun for me. I choose something that got me outside, got me moving, brought me closer to the healthy life that I want to live, and gave me the opportunity to listen to podcasts on growing as a person. This is awesome! Attending an event where I eat junk food and make small talk is not so enlivening to me.
Hey, we all have the opportunity to make choices that make us feel good and help us achieve our goals every day. Those choices may not be in line with what other people expect, and I’m okay with with that. A little flak from my husband or acquaintances about making choices that don’t meet their expectations is worth it because I’m committed to living a life where I am happy more often.
What choices have you made that people may have not agreed with? In this vein, check out Jolene’s post on her non-traditional wedding. This could have been a decision that others didn’t support, but it sounds like she is surrounded with people who get her, and that is pretty wonderful. Kat also seems have figured out that you want to be surrounded by your people and that it’s okay to embrace the relationships that work and let go of the ones that don’t.