Today’s world is filled with many acts of beauty and kindness. There are the numerous examples of nature we pass everyday. Birds flying by our windows, even squirrels stealing from the birdfeeders with their comical gestures. The trees in the park, sun dappled paths. There is the smile or a kind word from a stranger. A beautiful painting we can notice as we are sitting writing a blog in a coffee shop. All of these things can make our world so much more enjoyable to be in.
WARNING!!!! All of these things can be taken away from us if we are not careful. If you recall from a few posts ago, we spoke of seeds of knowledge taking root in our hearts and minds and blossoming at different times in our life. We also mentioned these seeds need to find fertile ground to land on. It is here where we can run into trouble. In addition to all of the things that I just mentioned, the world provides plenty of things that will harden our heart if we are not careful. We see news of conflicts near and far. We hear about how this group of people may not want our group of people to succeed. We can even hear less than inspiring lyrics on the radio. If you work in retail, or with the public, there are plenty of things that can leave you feeling less than inspired about people and the world in general.
Even those of us who do our best to live a positive and rewarding life, can be, on occasion, overwhelmed by negative influences. Have you ever found yourself a victim of someone else’s creative driving? On top of that, this person who must have used a bribe to obtain their drivers license, waves at you…with one finger! Sometimes you are having a great day, but are witness to others that are not having such a great day. I recall stopping to write at my local coffee shop and listening to the person ahead of me berate the barista because, and I would not have believed this if I didn’t witness it myself, they had 5 ice cubes in their coffee instead of the 6 they asked for. If you open your coffee and count the ice cubes to look for something to be upset about, it may be time to reconsider some priorities. Maybe it is just turning on the news to witness people being attacked and harmed or even killed just because of what they look like or believe?
One of these events may not be overwhelming in themselves, but you experience a few of them together and it can really sour your disposition. It may be that you experience a few of them day after day. Your heart can begin to grow hard. Our opinion of the world and the people in it may begin to take a negative turn. We may begin to feel discouraged and lose the sense of hope that keeps a smile on our face and in our heart. We may not be so eager to let others in emotionally for fear of being hurt. These would all be understandable reactions. After all, I will be the first to admit there is much in the world that could use improving. That is why I write these blogs and go around speaking at different events.
The question then becomes “What can we do about this?” How do we prevent our hearts from growing hard? If they have, how can we soften them up again? The answer, in short, is in what you are reading. We cannot help many of the things I mentioned. We can’t teach people to drive with courtesy. We can’t teach people how to have respect when one less ice cube shows up in their hot coffee. We certainly can’t help what a foreign power does to their people. That is why filling our lives with as many positive influences and self-care is so vitally important. These are not things we should wait to employ until our life is going south. They are a good form of preventative medicine. If you fill your life with positive influences and practice a healthy amount of self-care and nothing goes wrong, you will just end up happier and that will spill over onto the way you treat others. If, however, you run into some of the negative examples above, you will be better equipped to understand this is only a small portion of the world, no matter how it may seem, and that there are plenty of other positive people and beauty to be enjoyed.
To put it another way, our emotional well-being is much like our physical well-being. If you just wait to think of your health until you are sick and then take medicine, you will be sick more often. The negative emotional experiences we are exposed to can be compared to the many germs and viruses our bodies are exposed to. Occasionally, they may get the best of us and we get physically overwhelmed and need to take a break or some medicine. What do we do to limit that? We strengthen our immune system. Incorporated emotional self-care and positive influences can strengthen our mental immune system. Think of positive influences and bouts of self-care you can put into your life and prevent your heart from hardening.