Throughout the years I have started many habits that, at this point, almost unconsciously allow me to live a positive and amazing life. I encourage you to do the same. Yours will not be the same as mine, but that is the fun of it. There are little things that only you may know about, that will bring a smile to your face. The goal is to add so many to your life that on any given day you are doing several of them. I realize this may seem a bit vague, so allow me to give you a few of my personal examples and it may help you get the ball rolling.
Like many of the tools that I use and teach, many of these “Little things” came to me by accident. One of the first ones that I can remember doing involved working at the post office. One of the busiest times we had when I worked up front with the customers was tax filing time. Unlike the holiday season, when people usually have a little joy in their heart for what they are mailing, tax time has very little of that joy. One elderly lady was giving me a personal history of how the government took advantage of her. This may or may not have been exaggerated on her behalf. The government does a lot of strange things. Whether they focus on elderly women in the village of Greendale Wisconsin is hard to say. After listening to this our entire transaction, the time came to affix the postage. I looked in straight in the eye and asked with a serious expression, “Would you like to me use love stamps on this?” I thought this would be a fun and sarcastic form of silent protest. She, however, was not in on the joke. She suggested several suggestive drawings that I would not have guessed would come out of the mouth of an elderly woman. I mentioned this might lead to being audited and we left it at that. The idea of putting love stamps on bills seemed so ironic and silly, I started doing it. The few bills I mail now would get one.
Whether your “little things” involve throwing coins in a wishing well, or saying hello to a large statue of a rooster (things I may or may not admit to doing) you should find small things that bring you joy. In my first book, I mention I used to say hello to a heard of cows as I drove to the rural office I was postmaster of. Of course the cows did not understand me, but that was not the point. It was a “little thing” that I did that brought me joy. For myself, little things involving nature seemed to bring an extra amount of joy. You don’t have to do these out loud if you are worried about people questioning your sanity. At this point I am far from worrying about such a thing, so I say “Hello” to animals I meet, and have other fun actions that make me smile.
If you have enough of these in life, you are always doing something that makes you smile inside. Another thing that is almost guaranteed to work, is to make someone else smile. Even if they do not appreciate your attempts, knowing you did your best to bring a smile to the face of someone else will put a smile in your heart. It also has a funny way of coming back to you. In addition to finding the people you are nice to return the favor, people around you will begin to see how you treat others and this will begin to spread. Find your “little things” and start doing them today. If it brings you joy and does not harm others, do it as often as you can!
Isn’t it rough when 2 tough days seem to come back to back? That is what happened to me the other day. Nothing too tragic, just feeling worn out and life putting me through the ringer. We have all had that sort of run of luck. One of the things I do in that situation is refer to my list of things that fill me with energy and joy. The day prior to this one, I had gone for a walk with my mother in the park. We usually see plenty of natural beauty and get a little fitness in as well. The day prior, for some reason, we did not see a single animal. I also seemed to have a tough time with the fitness part. My body seemed to ache everywhere. The weather here is up and down this time of year and I am sure that played into it.
I also love grocery shopping when I am in a funk. For some reason, that seems to lift my spirits. My mother and I had been meaning to stop by this small grocery store for a few months and both decided that this day would be a good one to do so. On the drive there is was raining and traffic was understandably slow due to the weather. No sunshine was to be had. It seemed even a trip to one of my favorite stores would be a trying journey. As we shopped, I did my best to be in the moment. I looked for fun new items to put into the cart to bring home to Margie for us to try. Slowly, the funk of the last 2 days lifted. I pushed the cart out of the store hoping the rain was not too bad. To my surprise, I saw the image above – a double rainbow! The mood started to lift even more. We stopped to take several pictures; as you can see. That had us feeling a little more cheery.
The next day when we decided to try our luck walking in the park, we saw 4 Blue Herons. This is my favorite local bird. Some sightings were rather close and they seemed generally unconcerned by our appearance. We both got to take pictures and spend some time gazing at this wonderful bird. We went on to see some green herons, a muskrat and two deer that seemed just as interested in watching us as we were in watching them! Just the day before, it had seemed if every animal had left the park and now we were able to see several! Proof if you stick out the tough storms in life there will eventually be a double rainbow (or a Blue Heron) to brighten your day. This also had me thinking of another factor. The day before, it was cool and gloomy and our mood was not the best. Did that have something to do with our luck? I am not sure. It does seem when you are in a good emotional state, more wonderful things seem attracted to you.
If you find yourself in a funk, do these 2 things. First, hang in there. The storms of life will come and go. Make sure you do not come and go with them. Stay strong and know the sun will return eventually. Also, do your best to find something to be grateful for and feel good about. Even if it is a little thing, it will begin to change your state. This will open the door to even more good!
I had the most amazing day, the other day. The picture above gives the answer why. It is not only that I really like Winnie-the-Pooh and his attitude towards life. There was much more that went into this amazing day. Have you ever had a moment that changes your whole day? I had one of those. Normally, this would have to occur early for this to happen. That is one of the many things that made this day different. It happened late at night. Still, it transformed the entire day. The other different thing about this day was that it involved the three things mentioned in the title. Parks, pizza, and weed killer are normally not the recipe for success. Please allow me to explain.
My day began at 4:45am, as it does most weekdays. I woke up to my alarm and prepared to go to my day job at the post office. Once there, I went through my normal routine. Towards the end of the day, I noticed the weeds were getting out of hand and decided to take care of the matter. There were some containers of weed killer. This particular kind had a sprayer that allowed for a continuous spray. I walked around the entire post office taking care of all the weeds. This took roughly an hour. It was nice out and there were plenty of birds to keep me company. I listened to an audiobook as I sprayed.
Later in the day, my mom and I went on one of our nature walks. We choose a path that we both enjoy, but had somehow avoided the entire year. The weather was perfect. There was green growth everywhere. Plenty of birds of all different kinds. Everywhere we looked, nature seemed to be providing a scene that could be turned into a jigsaw puzzle. The picture above is just one example of what we saw as we walked along. We ended up doing a little more than 4 miles when neither one of us thought we would be able to walk very far when we started. My mother even mentioned just doing a mile. We were so caught up in enjoying the scenery we forgot to stop.
After our walk in the park, we stopped at the grocery store. Margie had found a good sale and my mom and I were going to pick up some things we needed. It ended up being more than just a few things. This often happens when you go to the grocery store with an appetite worked up by a 4 mile walk. By the time our shopping trip was done and I returned home, it was a little to late to prepare the delicious meal that Margie had been planning. I was a little disappointed until we settled on ordering….a pizza! Little not so secret about me – I could eat pizza every meal, every day of the week if given the chance.
As we both sat enjoying our delicious pizza and salad, it happened. I was thinking how delicious the pizza was. It was fresh, the perfect temperature and had all the ingredients I love on it. Then, I looked up and thought how delicious the lady next to me was. She looked so beautiful, has all the ingredients I enjoy and is always hot. I thought how lucky I was to be enjoying such a moment. Then, I thought about the walk through the park. I literally was beauty in every direction. My mother and I shared some great conversation and got some exercise in as well. Even the trip to the grocery store was fun. I saved a lot of money and got some good deals. I was grateful I could afford to do so. I pushed back even further and thought about the morning spent with the weed killer, the birds and the audiobook (another possible title for this blog) and thought what a wonderful day this had been.
The feeling that overcame me was one of extreme gratitude. Not everything worked out as I was hoping. I would have liked to be able to sleep in and not have to go to work. I would have liked to have seem some deer on the walk. I would have enjoyed the wonderful meal Margie and I had been planning. If I had thought about all of that, the day would have felt like a miserable failure. What changed everything, was focusing on what I was grateful for. I had a nice day at work that included time outside to myself. We had a great walk that included beautiful scenery and plenty of birds. I was able to afford the groceries I did get. We did end up eating pizza which I love and I have that amazing meal to look forward to tonight. Plus, I get to enjoy them both with the most beautiful woman.
The fact here is that the power of focus and the power of gratitude can transform any day. Had my focus been on what the day lacked, it would have turned a great day into one that felt like a failure. By focusing on gratitude, it transformed my day into one of the greatest I have had in a long time. It also allowed me to enjoy everything and everyone in the day more. I wrapped my arms around Margie and slept more peaceful than I can remember doing in quite some time. Now, thinking about that, I am already looking forward to today! It is amazing how powerful gratitude and focus can be. I am grateful for this reminder!
In the past, I have written a good deal about the walks in nature that I enjoy so much. It not only provides a good source of exercise, but stress relief, entertainment and spiritual fulfillment as well. In this post I would like to share with you the story of a few of these walks and the things I noticed they all had in common as well as what makes each on a unique adventure in its own right. I have noticed each walk contained four of the same elements. They each had people, places, exercise and conversation.
The first adventure in our story came on a Monday morning. There is a park that I drive past daily on my way to work. It is called Falk Park. It looks quite small from the side of the road. As with most natural areas I pass, there was a voice in my head saying “That looks like fun. I really should explore there.” I contacted my regular fellow explorer, who also happens to play the role of my mother. She wasn’t quite sold on the idea of exploring what could be a small park. Weeks went by and I kept driving past thinking the same thought. I eventually looked up the park on a map only to discover that there seemed to be a healthy bit of green behind that roadside entrance. I looked at a few photos and saw wooden bridges, creeks and a host of other interesting views. As I relayed this information to my traveling companion we decided to venture out that Monday, which is my off day from the Postal Service.
When it comes to walking with my mother, exercise is generally the main facet focused upon. We walk at a good clip not shying away from hills and valleys. This is good as it keeps us healthy and able to walk further. The sad part is that often we miss some things due to the speed. On this day it was a new place and we were both excited to walk. As we set out the scenery changed often from woods to prairie and back again. We discovered one trail ended up right behind an Ikea store. Soon, there was an unscheduled break for personal relief and refueling. Stopping by our local Valentine coffee shop, we were caffeinated and ready to explore some more. The conversation consisted mainly of observing all of the new scenes we were taking in. This included a stop and comparing of notes with a fellow hiker. Four and a half miles later we returned to the car having exhausted most of the trail possibilities.
The second walk happened the following day. I was joined by my good friend Nick. The journey again began at a coffee shop on the east side of Milwaukee. Regretfully, we were on a limited time frame because of Nick’s professional responsibilities. That was just fine as any time with a good friend is time well spent. We both grabbed a delicious beverage and began what was certainly a more leisurely stroll towards the shoreline of lake Michigan. As we walked the conversation consisted a great deal of ways of improving ourselves and the state of my next book. We strolled down to the lake and the turned and walked through the neighborhood surrounding it. Nick saw several people he knew and we exchanged pleasantries. The great thing about walking with Nick is the conversation is always positive and free flowing. I leave with a great deal of inspiration and ideas for writing. I do so hope he is as least half as blessed with the situation as I am.
Our third adventure took place the next day. I had such a good time with Nick, I decided to suggest the lake front for a walk with my mom. She was up for the stroll as she had just done ten miles the day before in a state park. I picked her up and we began our journey at the same coffee shop as Nick and I had. Carrying a full cup of coffee tended to slow our travel speed a little. As we began to walk the lake front we noticed people availing themselves to the brew pub and its refreshments. It was an unexpectedly warm day in early November and it appeared that everyone was trying to make the most of it. There seemed to be an aura of joy and easy-going nature in the air.
As we walked along the lakefront we took in visions of the downtown skyline, spoke with people walking dogs, noticed how many more people we enjoying this trail than the ones in the woods that we usually travel on. The pace was still brisk, but the conversation was plentiful. We talked about other places we have walked, the weather and were we should go next. There were brief strolls through areas covered by trees, but most of the time we found ourselves on paved paths shared by walkers, joggers and bicyclists alike. It was quite a different vibe than our walks in the woods, but still a very nice one. We walked along the shoreline for a little over two miles until it ended at the Milwaukee location of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We watched and marveled at the wonderful security measures in place outside the building and then turned around to make our way back.
The last of our adventures for this blog finds me joined by a very familiar companion – me. In other words, I was walking by myself. It was again an unseasonably warm day and I could not pass the opportunity to enjoy some time outside. Just about ten blocks from my house in West Allis Wisconsin, is a small park that has a very ‘neighborhood’ vibe to it. I decided that a quick walk around there is just what was needed. As I set out I started my health app to track my distance and pace to make sure I got a small amount of exercise out of this walk. It was indeed the slowest pace of all four walks. I have a tendency to stop and take in different scenes as well as explore different things just off the beaten path. On this day I discovered a wonderful painted rock that was places by a local rock-painting club that Margie and I belong to. Fittingly, it was painted with the word ‘Love’ as I was loving this stroll. (walk may have been a little bit ambitious on this day)
The conversation on this day was mostly internal sans a few greetings to passing neighbors. I noticed that while walking by myself I tend to be very introspective. I tend to be that way in general, but something about walking by myself in nature brings it out even more so. The idea for this very blog came about as I was overlooking the lagoon. As I continued on I was struck by how many of my community were enjoying the park on that afternoon. Then I recalled that living in a place where the weather can be described as nine months of winter and three months of very poor sledding, they were probably equally as excited to enjoy the day as I. The sun made every glance look like a scene from a jigsaw puzzle. I captured a few of the ones that I thought were the best and sent them to Margie who was busy at home.
The interesting point out of all of this is that you can do the same activity and have a completely different adventure. The people you share it with, the conversations you have and the places you go can make all of the difference. Even if they are completely different, they all serve their own purpose. You can get a good workout one day. You can stop and marvel at nature the next. Perhaps even ponder life and its great mysteries as you walk with a good friend. As for the conclusion of my last walk, I found myself a little disheveled, but very relaxed. If you happen to see me and any of my walking companions out on an adventure, feel free to say hello or even join us for a few paces. You might end up in my next blog post.
Last post we discussed lists and how valuable they can be. Today we are going to focus on one of those lists and how a strange side effect of keeping that list can add an unexpected positive element to your life. This list will change your life for the better quicker than almost anything else I know. It is a list that I recommend to everyone. It is also one of the first steps that I advise making to your life to increase your happiness and improve your outlook on your life. It also has what seems to be a magical effect on the lives of all who try it. In my own life, it completely changed the person I was for the better! All of this may sound like hyperbole, but it is 100% true. This list? A list of things you are grateful for every day and why.
I recommend everyone try making a list of 3 things they are grateful for and why each night and then read that list the following day 3 times a day – morning, noon and night. Do this for 30 days and I promise you life will never have felt more amazing. You add the why to make it more compelling. You are grateful for the sunshine, that is fine, but why? Maybe the sunshine gives you feelings of hope? Perhaps it reminds you of pleasant vacations taken with family and friends? You were grateful for the good service you received. Wonderful! Why was that so important to you? Did the kindness and courtesy of a stranger lighten the load of a stressful day? Did it reaffirm for you that there are good people in the world? I promise you reading and remembering these moments will change the way you experience life.
Here is something fun and interesting that I did not notice before. Not only will utilizing this secret to an amazing life change your mindset to one of living life in a state of gratitude, but it will also give you a great look at what you tend to focus on. This side effect can be very enlightening. If I review my entries in my gratitude journal, I see that there are several references to things in nature. The afore mentioned sunshine. Going for a walk in a new and exciting natural area, the smell of spring in the air, passing a herd of deer on the way home and several others. I discovered that nature and natural things not only instill a feeling of gratitude in my heart, but bring me a great deal of joy.
The same can be said for thoughtful actions of others. When Margie knew I was going to write at home today as all of the coffee shops are closed, she prepared a little area for me including plugging in my ‘happy lamp’ because it was a very gloomy day. I was very grateful for this. If she had bought me a pizza or a bottle of rum I would have been grateful for that. Not because of the material aspect, but because of the thought behind it. When strangers hold doors for me or smile and share a kind word, these things mean a great deal to me.
Learning these facts were useful because I could now make it a plan to spend more time in nature and with thoughtful people. It is ironic because I learned this by keeping track of what I was grateful for, but by putting these two items into action it will make it easier for me to achieve and maintain my grateful mindset. An interesting, but very helpful side effect I never noticed!
Begin keeping a gratitude journal today! Write 3 things you are grateful for every day and why. Then review those things at least 3 times the following day, morning, noon and night. Do this for 30 days. At the end of those 30 days, go back and see if you can see any patterns of things, people or situations that have you feeling grateful. Do your best to put more of those into your life and before long you will be walking around with a grateful heart!
In these days where we are rightfully concerned about our physical well-being and making sure that we take care of our immune system getting enough sleep is a very important aspect of that. Considering that last statement, how do we find ourselves beginning a post titled “When you are tired, go for a walk”? That is a great question. We are going to explore several reasons for doing just that as I share both a story and pictures of a recent walk that I went on. This walk itself followed an eight-hour work day that began at 5 am and followed a night of little or no sleep. As you can imagine, I was very tired. What would prompt me to take that time to go for a walk?
My mother and I routinely go for walks through nature. Being that the period for good weather here in Wisconsin, where we live, is short, we do our best to take advantage of every good day. As I write this, the temperature has dropped and Autumn is setting in. Soon, the snow will fall and walking will become more of an adventure and less of a relaxing stroll. Back to our day in question. I had just completed a shift at my day job working 5am to 1pm. This was day 10 of working 13 in a row. Although I was certainly feeling tired, the sunshine and pleasant late summer weather was calling me. On my way home I spoke with my mother by telephone. She informed me she planned on going for a walk through the woods on a new path she had discovered.
My mother agreed to pick me up, as she knew where this path was to be found. A short drive later we arrived at our starting point behind a large hospital complex. This space was formerly used as the Milwaukee County Asylum/Hospital for the Insane as it was called. It was shuttered in 1914 in light of questionable practices as well as a more modern venue with updated treatments for those with mental health conditions. Knowing this, the woods often take on a somewhat haunting ambience. Not in a bad way, but as if they have secrets to be shared that can only be discovered by exploring their sun-dappled paths. There is even a marker letting you know that buried in the grounds are the remains of over 200 souls that had no friends or family to claim them. Before we left, my mother and I stopped at this marker to offer thoughts and prayers for the souls of these individuals.
We enjoy walking for its many health benefits. When it comes to a good walk, there are a multitude of physical benefits. It is great for your heart. By walking you bring up your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and help circulation. Walking can also help you shore up your bones, lose weight, strengthen your muscles, improve your sleep and help your joints. Certainly, all of these are great reasons to walk and are some of the benefits we are chasing. However, by choosing this path and others in nature there are other reasons we are walking. Back to more reasons for walking this fine day. Often, our feelings of physical exhaustion can really be an outward display of emotional and spiritual exhaustion.
Walking in nature has many additional emotional as well as health benefits you cannot even find walking at the gym or throughout the city. That is because different parts of our brain are activated when we walk in nature. Some of the benefits you can see are helps control depression, reduces anxiety, helps battle cold and flu, speeds recovery time after sickness and makes you happy. Why is this? Science is still working to discover exact answers. In a 2015 study researchers compared the brains of healthy people who walked 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found significantly lower activity in the prefrontal cortex of those who walked in nature. That is the part of the brain that is active during rumination or repetitive focus on negative thoughts.
As if all of these benefits were not enough, there is even more. Nature sounds such as frogs, birds and just the sound of the wind through the trees help reduce blood pressure as well as cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. In addition, visual focus on greenery and natural settings seem to distract your mind from focus on negative thoughts. How much nature is enough, you may ask. It is recommended to try for 30 minutes in nature 3 days a week. This can be trip to the beach, a walk through the local park or even a camping trip on the weekend. Combining the physical health benefits of walking and the emotional and spiritual benefits of nature, you will find yourself feeling tired but refreshed at the conclusion of your journey.
I hope you enjoyed the photos I shared with you in this post from my walk with my mother through Sanctuary Woods as they are called. I encourage you to find a natural place near you to explore a few days a week. You will find rewards of both the spiritual as well as physical. What if you are unable to escape due to factors beyond your control? Science tell us that by listening to nature sounds and looking at pictures of natural settings can help offer some of the benefits you may get from being in the environment itself. You would lose the physical benefits of walking as well as the fresh air you can smell in the woods, but something is better than nothing. I encourage you to share picture or stories of your escapes into nature.
Another great example of a picture is worth 1000 words. I will do my best to expand on this picture and keep the word count below 1000. Everyone blooms in their own way reads the caption of the photo. Represented here is someone playing music, someone walking in nature, someone being greeted by a dog and lastly, it appears and adult holding a child. Each of these experiences are causing that person to bloom. What exactly does that mean? I interpret blooming to mean allowing more of themselves to show. Having the self-confidence or happiness to cause us to reveal more of our true nature to the world.
I particularly enjoy the last photo of the adult and the child. As you can see the love exchanged between them is causing both of them to bloom. I wonder if the same could be said of the dog, or the people hearing the music the person in the first photo is playing. Becoming more of ourselves is the greatest gift we can give the world. Living a life that feeds your soul is about the most important thing you can do, not only for yourself, but for others as well. What the world needs most is individuals whose souls are on fire.
To that end, my challenge for you is to find what causes you to bloom. Do more of that. How do you know what causes you to bloom? It is whatever makes your soul feel on fire. Ask yourself if you woke up tomorrow with no financial worries, what would you do? How about the next day? In my case, I love going out for coffee with friends, listening to some classic jazz, reading and learning things I can do to improve my life and those that I care about, and sharing what I have learned with all of you who follow this blog. At the end of each day what feeds my soul the most is laying next to the woman I love and falling asleep in each others arms.
One more important element to consider is what feeds the souls of those around you. Encourage them to not only discover that, but devote time to it as well. When those around you are living from a place of fulfillment and are fully in bloom you will certainly notice a difference. This is also another reason in a long list of reasons to be kind and encouraging to others. You never know what inspires them. If you see a local musician playing encourage and support them and their passion. See another person out enjoying nature? Pass on a smile and a quick hello. Let people pet your dog while you are out walking them. Also make sure to love not only your children, but everyone in your life. By doing so we will all bloom. Like a garden full of flowers in bloom, the earth will become a truly magical place.
Welcome back to our celebration of 30 days of gratitude. Each day we will focus on one area of our life to be grateful for. If this is your first day doing this I invite you to go back and do the days before this. You can do them in your head, write them down and home, but it is my hope you decide to share what you are grateful for with our community here on Secret2anamazinglife.com. There are no rules. Do one day or do all 30. Let us now look at today’s area of gratitude.
This is a bit tricky for me as I love nature in general. I will try to narrow down some of my favorite aspects for sake of this post. Without a doubt, sunshine leads the way here. I love the feel of sun on my skin. I find it both relaxing and energizing at the same time. The fact that I live in a city that was recently named one of the 10 gloomiest cities in the United States, means it is also rare here. That makes me even more grateful when it does arrive. I really enjoying seeingdeer grazing along the side of the road as Margie and I drive through the park. I love green, which again is rare this time of year. I like watching fish in fish tanks. I find it kind of sounding and hypnotic. I love a good summer thunderstorm. I find it so primal and moving. The smell of the earth after a spring rain is amazing. The sound of leaves rustling in the breeze.
Nature, like so many of these topics we are highlighting in these 30 days, has so many things to be grateful for. We are only on day #6 and I have already learned something and had a profound insight. Once we begin to focus on being grateful for a certain subject, it seems to expand. You may try to pick your favorite thing in nature to be grateful for, and then one thing leads to another and then another. I could literally spend an afternoon thinking of things I am grateful for in nature.
How about you? What in nature inspires you to feel gratitude? I have friends that are runners, cyclists, campers, hunters and fisherman. I am sure they all love nature and would probably have a different thing they are most thankful for. I look forward to hearing yours. Whether you live near the redwoods, the Amazon or even on the coast of Greenland, nature is all around us and very beautiful.
Recently, I have had some conversation with a new friend of mine about some stress they have been going through. Most of their stress had focused around an aspect of their job, but had been affecting both their family and their relationship. This happens quite often and can happen to all of us and at some point usually does. This is quite often referred to as taking your job/work home with you. I have even known some people who have changed their entire essence of who they are based on working in a negative environment. This can especially hold true for those working in law enforcement, first responders, teachers, the courts and any other job that exposes you to less than desirable people. It is not limited to these careers, however. You can experience stress in retail, food and beverage industry or the travel industry. It is not only costumers, but coworkers that can cause us stress. I recall early in my postal career this being true. The post office can be a stressful and negative work environment more often than not.
What helped me and what did I share with my friend to help them? I am going to share some of that with you in hopes that you too can use it or share it with someone you know who might be going through some great deal of stress. There are a few basic things I would recommend starting today, whether you are under stress or feeling good about how your life is going. Being proactive can make dealing with stress a lot easier. The time to learn to swim is on the shore and not when you are in a boat that is sinking. Remember I speak from experience. If I had known about or used some of what I am going to share with you when I began working at the post office I could have saved myself and those I care about a lot of stress and hurt feelings.
The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. According to a study done by Forbes magazine up to 70% of us are going to jobs we do not like. In our culture we have put a priority on things like money and benefits to the detriment of our own happiness. Insurance is important, but choosing one job or position you may not like because it has better benefits may end up causing you to experience more trips to the doctor than it will help you reducing your medical costs. How can that be? According to a study done by Stanford University, 80% of visits to a primary care doctor are stress related. Stress has been found to be a common denominator in nearly all medical conditions. Even if stress was not related to the onset of the condition, continued stress will only worsen every medical malady.
Great, we are all a bunch of stressed out individuals. Knowing such information can lead to little comfort, but do little to help alleviate the actual stress itself. For that we must create and use some tools to help us. One of the first things I have recommended in both my book as well as seminars is creating a happy playlist. This is exactly what is sounds like. A list of songs that put you in a good mood. I don’t care if it is the song don’t worry be happy, or the theme to the Jefferson’s television show, whatever makes you happy put it on the list. Now create a playlist on your iPod or other MP3 player. I actually have created a happy playlist on YouTube so I can listen to it anywhere I have my cell phone. Now when you encounter a particularly bad day at the office we can listen to our happy playlist on our way home so we arrive in a better state of mind. If the situation is really bad, you can find yourself in the restroom with an ear bud in. This will not do anything to directly change the situation, but put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with whatever challenge is facing you.
In addition to music, which I believe provides the quickest boost in mood, you can apply this to other media as well. Create a list of movies you enjoy watching, books you enjoy reading or places you enjoy going to eat. If at all possible, do this while you are in a good mood. Once again it is easier to think of what makes you happy when you are not already stressed out. Then when stress comes knocking, pull out your list, or just push ‘play’ on your happy playlist. I recall listening to Bob Marley’s Legend cd every lunch hour while working for a telemarking concern. I think that saved my sanity more than once.
The other thing I recommend is keeping a journal. For those of you who follow my work even a little I am sure you have heard me mention keeping a journal quite often. The benefits are many and I can’t possibly list them all here. A few worth mentioning in regards to work place stress and how to reduce it are as follows. First, writing your feelings and the facts of the situation down on paper can offer a lot more clarity than trying to figure it all out in your head. It also removes a great deal of stress from keeping all in your head. Second, it provides a great place to vent. Quite often those we love, even those closest to us, can reach a point when being a sounding board becomes too much. We must remember they are dealing with their own stresses as well. Writing in our journal can be a relieving and safe place to vent. Finally, seeing everything in black and white can bring to light solutions we may not have considered when we were in the middle of the emotional whirlwind. Reading back it can show us patterns that we go through that routinely create stress in our lives. By recording how we feel at the moment and being able to go back and reread it when we are in a better mental state can be enlightening too.
As an added bonus, I recommend doing as many of these things as you can out in nature. Being outside in the fresh air can serve as its own therapy. Add some physical exercise and you multiply the stress reliving benefits. It can be anything from an intense run, to a leisurely stroll. Motion helps emotion. Do yourself a favor and get outside and get moving. You can listen to your playlist as you do so. When you stop to rest, you could pull out your journal and write. Before you know it you will create a shield around you that no workplace stress can get through.
By all means, if you have any other great stress reduction tips to add please do so in the comments below.