IAmNotBritish, episode twenty-nine
Happy Brunch Sunday! Let's raise our mimosas or mugs and clink a cheers to a bit of connection between work, notices and ads in our inbox. Written with a Gillian Anderson accent in my head. Reading with an accent is completely your (next best) decision. Are you ready for it? Da da-da dah! The golden email--It's like a golden birthday.
Do not be alarmed. Put the phone down; this is not a mental emergency. I know, things have been pretty heavy lately. Brother-in-law passed away, marital separation, national chaos to distract from actually voting in your state and local election. Don't think that's not calculated. Yes, people we love die. That is hard. Yes, relationships morph. That is hard. Yes, conspiracies have some truth to them. That is reality. When we fight against the reality--"this _____ SHOULD not be happening" our entire body goes into resistance, caused by emotions of NO, NO, NO. Adrenaline and cortisol rushing. And that physical anguish created by intense thinking builds and causes physical illness. REALITY ACCEPTED. Which allows me to celebrate.
When I was in my younger twenties, I had what I called a Smile Book: a little 3" X 5" memo notebook that fit into the palm of my hand or in my funky little purses. They were usually Mead brand, with a green or yellow cover. You can still find them, especially now with back-to-school supplies. I found my current one at Walgreens--in purple! (They also had tiny composition notebooks which I was sorely tempted by, but having the spiral at the top allows better usage of the entire page. Personal choice, no judgement.) These notebooks are reserved for writing down anything that makes me smile. Or, in the past, something I did that made someone else smile--though that fostered years of pleasing others for my own self-esteem. I strongly advise against pleasing. Let's decide to stick to things that make us happy--it's a new world! Here's a run down of Friday's smiles: The pool guy I hired is doing an amazing job cleaning the pool. I smiled both inside the pool, and reading next to it. That is technically 3 smiles. With the notebook, you can't really do sentences--the page is too tiny. So: Happy with my decision to hire this man. Happy with the clean pool I get to use every day. Happy with the book I read with the calming waterfall feature in the background. Hmm, still not enough space... pool guy decision clean pool book by pool Optional is to doodle smiley faces on the cover and in any white space left on your pages, preferably in colored pens or markers. Expectation #1: being this positive about everyday life will impact not just your own mood, but the moods of those around you. People may be drawn to you, just to let some of that joy rub off onto them. Beware the covid-forgetter who approaches to hug you spontaneously. I did this, hand out for a handshake, with the pool guy. He backed away like I had lost my mind, and stuck out his elbow. Please be aware of the increase in compassion, joy, bliss, gratitude and general love for this planet and all of humanity. Note: you can love all humans, but create boundaries around what they say, do, enjoy, foster and allow. Next stop: boundaries. Expectation #2: expect that this micro-burst of joy (or sadness) will settle back to a baseline of hedonic adaptation. The brain can't maintain those extremes. Our brain's baseline lies somewhere between joy and extreme sadness. Hormones affect this normalcy greatly. If practiced with consistency, the smile book is one way to slightly elevate the baseline without medicine. And that, my friends, is why it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Today's Deep Breath: (Here's a practical juju nugget, a collective Next Best Decision.) Fill this out: I am grateful for _____, _____ and ______. What 3 things would make today great? Choose a daily affirmation to practice (write or record on video) for a month. Mine this month is: "I am figuring this out and am looking forward to my future." Record these three things every morning. Then at the end of the day, ask yourself this big-ass question: How can I make tomorrow better? (Blown-mind emoji) If covid-back-to-school has got you down, or corporate governments, or personal issues, don't worry. Seriously. The brain acts like this horribleness will last forever... It won't. You'll feel it, and it'll pass. I'm not making it up to make you and me feel better. Counter to that, employ a few practical nuggets that elevate your mood. Here's a summarized short list from my Yale class, The Science of Well-Being, taught by Laurie Santos: Gratitude listing Kindness to others and social connection Exercise and sleep Meditation Share your jottings with someone else, and how good you felt. Write a letter or a post or a message. Practice goal setting to manage your happiness behaviors. Tell someone about the things you want to do to practice joy. Burst: Reread your smile book for 8 minutes a day for three days. I hope this helps you. It has certainly helped me to bubble back up. Until next time, Tami Lowe