I was recently helping a six-year-old read a book. The book was entitled Alive or Not Alive and went through an array of people, animals, and objects, categorizing them as either “Alive” or “Not Alive.” I.E. “The man is alive. The hat is not alive.”
The boy I was working with took one look at the book cover and closed his eyes thoughtfully. “Oh man,” he said. “You gotta live! I mean, you really gotta LIVE!”
I tried my hardest to keep from laughing as we worked through the remainder of the lesson. Later, I shared this humorous moment with a few friends and coworkers.
Slowly, though, what started as a funny moment in my day became a new mantra.
Friend was worried about taking time off? “You gotta live!”
Husband worried about splurging on something he’s been wanting for a long time? “You gotta live!”
I’m worried about spending my Saturday relaxing instead of tackling my to-do list? “Stacey, you gotta live!”
It’s too easy to get caught up in the the day-to-day drama, the stress, the never-ending list of things that could be done. But- living with intention means we have to be deliberate about stepping out of the rat-race every single day, even if just for a moment. It’s an exercise that takes practice. It means learning to swim against the current. It means prioritizing our dreams.
Life is short. It’s even shorter when we forget to live it.
I hope you are enjoying the Wellness Spells series so far.
I would like to talk about our inner dialogue this week. Have you ever had a moment where an unexpected thought crept into your inner dialogue and surprised you? After seeing a photo of myself recently in the height of my dancing years in high school when I was thin and toned, I found myself inadvertently thinking, “I should focus more on weight loss and less on health.” When I realized this thought passed through my mind, I was stunned. I’m a huge advocate of health. Furthermore, I’m in a healthy weight range, have good blood pressure, good sugar levels, eat well, and exercise regularly. There is no problem with my weight, but in that moment, I perceived a problem.
Now, I’m not someone who ordinarily thinks things like this about weight, but I think that made it all the more shocking. I would be willing to bet that a lot of us -and especially women- have a thought that slips into our minds like this from time to time. It’s just a sign of how pervasive this kind of rhetoric is in our society that even with the best of intentions, it still creeps in.
This week, I would invite you to take close notice of the things you tell yourself. Are you practicing self-kindness? Does this kindness extend to your innermost thoughts? Or are some thoughts intruding that are unkind? You spend more time with yourself than you do with anyone else, so you might as well try to be a good friend to yourself. Would you want to be around someone who is unkind to you? Who tells you that you need to lose weight when you are healthy? Or that you have done a poor job at what you do? Or that you should try much harder when you are already trying? We don’t often think about the things we tell ourselves, but they can be harmful, especially if we don’t acknowledge them and let them have their way, so to speak.
I don’t know about you, but I try not to be around people who say things like that and treat me that way. And yet, if I’m being honest, I sometimes find myself being that kind of friend to me. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this (ahem, perfectionists of the world, I’m looking at you). There is a big difference between encouraging ourselves to grow and improve and being hard on ourselves. It takes a very conscious awareness of our own inner dialogue to be able to improve our own self-talk.
So, if you haven’t done this before, I invite you to listen to the inner dialogue you tell yourself and make sure you are being a good friend to the most central person in your life: you.
Today’s Wellness Spell is:
Be your own friend.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking something unkind about you?
It’s five days after you have opened your holiday gifts. The new bike has been ridden. You’ve eaten all the candy. You totally forgot about the scarf your sister gave you, which has been lost in the back of your closet. Your bath fizzies may still have fizz, but you have already lost yours.
Has this ever happened to you? Even the joy from your very favorite gift of all time doesn’t last forever. This is because of something called Hedonic Adaptation, also known as the Hedonic Treadmill. Hedonic Adaptation means that our brains adjust to new situations, both good and bad. It means that, even when really terrible things happen to us, our brains have a chance to be able to cope. Unfortunately, it also means that even if we were to win the lottery, we would not have unending happiness. We would just become accustomed to our new life circumstances. In this case, it means that it doesn’t take you long for you to adjust to your new presents, even if you have been given a great abundance.
Instead, what can be helpful to lasting happiness is participating in small intentional activities on a more regular basis. I touched on this concept when I talked about “Little Treasures,” small useful items I purchase weekly. With this in mind, instead of enjoying my gifts all at once, I keep them in bags and take out one thing a day. I like to start with the stocking stuffers unless there is something else I really need. So far, I have enjoyed two pieces of candy, a bath bomb, and a ring. Think of it like a reverse advent calendar. I have done this for the past three years.
Savored like this, my gifts last well into January; sometimes even February. Every time I take out a little something, I am reminded of the person who gave it to me and how they care about me. This gives me a deep feeling of gratitude. So, if you are a person who finds your holiday gifts losing their color after a few short days, consider giving this a try. It may seem a little odd if you are used to the euphoria of swimming in a sea of gifts right off the bat, but it will make perfect sense to your brain’s happiness in the long-run.