Turning Blue into Indigo and Finding Happiness in Simple Pleasures

Going Camping

I started this blog to help me in my quest for happiness. I have written about the bad things that happened in my life. Quitting the job which made me miserable is one example. So maybe it’s time to write about something positive now that I actually feel better. I came to learn that stressing about the things we cannot control is suffering in vain. I guess this conclusion comes with life experience, openness to learning, and improving yourself. 

Lately, I try to spend more time outside. I came to realize that the stale air in my room presents a problem for my general mood. It takes a lot of time to drift or clean the air from my room (which is why I’ve made the step towards an air purifier). Nevertheless, going outside is definitely beneficial for my spirit, so I spend time outside as much as I can. I like the woods and the wilderness. Walking through rivers, swimming in the lakes. I love setting a campfire with my husband and spending the nights under an open sky. There’s something divine in eating berries, catching fish, and eating in nature. Not to mention observing wildlife. I am fascinated by their survival instincts, the way animals move through the forest, the way they feast. It might sound a bit primal, but in today’s society, enjoying some free time in nature has become a luxury.

The reason why I’m writing this blog post is to share one magical weekend. Namely, my husband has a colleague with whom he has worked together for the last 7 years. He and his wife also like camping, so we decided to spend the weekend together. Tim is a middle-aged man, with long hair, a beard, and a young spirit. He has a lovely wife, Jessica, who, believe it or not, is a mycologist. If you are asking yourself what a mycologist is, then let me explain. Mycology is a branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi, including their genetic and biochemical properties, their taxonomy, and their use to humans. In short, she is a mushroom expert. So you’ve guessed it, we ate some tasty mushrooms. It was a lovely weekend forecast, with nice and sunny spring days ahead of us. We packed, hooped into the car, and off we went to the forest. Tim and Jessica were already waiting for us on the base of the hill. We took our bags and equipment and went for a 2-hour slow walk to the place where we set our camp. While my husband and his colleague were setting the camp next to the small water stream, Jessica and I went on a mushroom hunt. She knows this place like the back of her hand since she did some of her academic research in this forest. After an hour on our quest, we managed to collect several big and small mushrooms. The ones I really liked are called Boletus. I do not remember the names of the other mushrooms, because I don’t want half-knowledge to stay in my head. Anyways, when we got back, my husband and Tim had already set the camp and made a small barbecue where we cooked the mushrooms. All in all, it was a tasty and wonderful weekend. I can’t wait to do it again!

Feeling Vulnerable

When I quit work, I let go a boat load of anxiety and stress. Now I love staying at home for hours on end. I can do what I want when I feel the impulse go through me. I have taken up all kinds of extra interests and hobbies. Leaving work was the best move I ever made in my adult life. I was thoroughly done with pleasing others at my own expense and having to suffer fools. While I enjoyed some of my colleagues, there were as many that I detested. I miss the income and have had to find others ways to earn a living. Meanwhile, I am writing this blog to share what has happened in my life since my departure from work.

Sitting in the kitchen sipping a cup of hot coffee, it suddenly occurred to me that I have done nothing to protect myself from home invasion. I was never a fanatic about self-defense, but recently I have become concerned given the crime statistics in the surrounding area. While nothing has happened to date on my block, it could at any time and situations have been reported a few streets away. So what does a homeowner do? I have read online and talked with others and realize that first and foremost, we need a neighborhood watch. I don’t know if I want to run it, but I will certainly participate. It can be a very good method of protection if so many people are on the lookout for trouble. It may not be enough to ensure complete safety, but it will no doubt help immensely. At least the residents here will feel more confident and at peace. There is a lot to say for sleeping soundly at night and not fearing an intruder.

Beyond a neighborhood watch, you can buy a weapon but this gives me the shivers. I can’t imagine using it, but they say that people do in really tense cases where you feel threatened. I can install an alarm as an alternative. But how long do you have to wait for a response? I imagine it seems like hours while you cower in fear. Yikes. I am feeling very vulnerable. Looking up other tactics online at https://www.selfdefenseguide.org, I see that you can buy pepper spray, stun guns, Tasers, and the like. They add up to a great survival kit. Why not keep a small mace sprayer in your backpack or handbag and one in your nightstand. If I do this, will I calm down? I am getting panicky and worked up—it’s in my nature. I am not going to run out and learn a martial art, but I can prepare for the worst in other ways.

Friends say that I am on the right track because once you are super prepared, nothing ever happens. I like that idea. In the meantime, I have to stop reading about local crime and put away those police reports that scare me to death.

A Real Break

I have devoted my blogs to finding happiness. I have written about what goes wrong in life as well as how to make it right. I have touted nutrition and exercise and giving yourself a treat like some home-care. Today I want to talk about a surefire way to life the spirits. For me, this means spending some quality time outdoors. If you don’t have time to getaway, you can simply take a walk in the park and feed the ducks in the lake. These little guys always cheer me up.

If you have a spare weekend, I recommend a short vacation. My husband and I like to go camping by the river. Whether we hike, fish, cook over an open fire, or just sit and listen to music, it is a real break from ordinary life. I think we all need a respite now and then. Let me tell you why I like camping. When you have to fend for yourself, your mind takes a detour from your troubles. There is a lot of self-satisfaction in setting up a tent, building a campfire, or preparing fresh-caught fish for dinner. When the weather is nice and there is a subtle breeze, I am in heaven. I never go when it is either freezing cold or super hot.

When you take precautions, nothing can go wrong. For example, we always bring our trusty portable generator to keep our phones charged. If you want night lights, to work on your laptop (why would you?), or play music, you might find this gadget pretty handy. You don’t need it most of the time, but it is comforting knowing it is there. It is small and generates enough power for a short period of time. I wouldn’t want to lug a huge fellow like the ones on My Gen Set. This one fits nicely in the back of the van. You use propane fuel to make it run. It also does double duty at home should you experience a blackout. It won’t operate all your electricity, but it could be useful for small appliances. I recommend them highly.

After a weekend of camping, my mood is always restored. I enjoy the scenery and taking innumerable photos for Facebook and Instagram. I want to share the magic of nature. There is nothing so revitalizing. If you have never ventured into the woods or wilderness, you have a unique experience coming. I don’t even mind the appearance of assorted wildlife. We don’t get anything threatening like a wolf or a bear. It is usually just my husband and me relaxing against an enormous rock, a can of beer in hand. When we get motivated, a jump in the river cools us off.

A portable generator is a part of being in survival mode. If you prefer to rough it, then leave it home. There are many techniques to ensure you are safe and well cared for while camping. I like to have a little of each: modern luxury and down-to-earth fun.

Small Self-Care Idea

I have a message to impart. Happiness is the ultimate quest in life, whether you have suffered for a time or in your prime. I am seeking ways of sharing my personal experiences in the hopes of instigating good feeling. If I send it out to my readers, I hope to get some back. We all have ups and downs and knowing how we cope can help others. You may hate your job, are in a failing relationship, have poor health. There is hope at the end of the tunnel. It takes the form of a symbolic rainbow that beckons us to behold its glory. I have developed a more positive attitude toward life as you can see having overcome many obstacles.

My purpose in this blog is to show you how I found liberation by walking away from the negative. It takes self-confidence and motivation. Believe me, the relief is worth the pain. It was particularly tough for me to walk out of a miserable job that was crushing my soul. I imagine many of you have experienced this kind of feeling. No matter what income you are earning, it is far better to take a pay cut and find peace and freedom.

I learned very fast that happiness dwells in the small day-to-day things that bring humor and enjoyment to your life. Above all, it meets other people who are supportive of your journey. No matter how trivial the issue, I love to get advice. An example was the day I was feeling down and a girlfriend offered to take me to a salon for a pedicure. I go barefoot all the time and it isn’t a pretty picture. She promised me that I would get a big boost from the experience. In fact, I would like it so much that I would make it a regular habit.

She was right. It isn’t that expensive and well worth the small cost for the level of pleasure it gives. There is nothing like soaking your feet in lemon water and having them scrubbed with an abrasive soap. They even used one of these foot callus removers to truly clean up my feet. A lot of wear and tear is remedied in a few minutes. Then there is the fun of selecting your perfect color. Clear means you are not very daring. Red means you like to have a good time. Pink is for the sassy and yellow for the young at heart. Blue might reflect your low spirits so avoid it like the plague. Green is for personal growth and white for purity of soul.

Now I am convinced that a little bit of self-care now and then can make a difference in your mood and outlook. It doesn’t have to cost a lot for the degree of return. Plus, it doesn’t take much time out of your busy day. You don’t even have to go to a salon. Giving yourself a pedicure and painting your toes a pretty color can go a long way toward feeling good!

Finally Have Time to Cook

There is an equation that is very important to me. Happiness = good health. If I break this down a bit further for you, good health = nutrition and exercise. It is a simple formula that yields success if followed to the letter. It means not indulging yourself in bad food such as processed vegetables in a can or anything fried. It means learning how to cook with the right oils and procedures. Steaming and grilling are tops with fitness buffs. They counsel that you can’t eat too many fruits and veggies. Go easy on red meat and when you do partake, make sure it is lean. The rest of the time should be spent enjoying fish and chicken. These rules are easy to follow. The hard part is getting to the gym on a regular basis.

I hadn’t cooked for a very long time when I realized that I was not eating right most of the time. I would have a meal on the run, usually calorie-laden fast food. Fortunately, many franchises now serve salads. I believe that to lose some weight and feel my best, I should start to cook. Then I can make the necessary choices. I have some old recipe books that haven’t seen the light of day for a while. Down from the shelves they come. It will be fun to read through them and select the healthiest examples. I can always get more online, but it is a nostalgia trip to look at what I used to make. I suppose a lot will be outdated. We have changed our eating habits in this country due to rampant obesity. Beware!

I couldn’t wait to get started. Having left a grueling and disappointing job, I am home more often so that I can make sure of the quality of what I eat. I like the idea of laying out a week’s worth of ideas on the kitchen counter so I can shop for all the ingredients at once. I won’t buy too far in advance to ensure that everything in my basket is super fresh. We have a health food chain nearby known for the best produce and meats. They have packaged foods but I don’t go this route unless I want pasta, which is only now and then.

Getting back into cooking has made me realize how old my appliances are. I think a trip to the discount kitchen mart is in order. I know I can’t live without a blender to make smoothies and a hand mixer like the ones on this web site for sauces. While I need assorted small things like a grater for cheese and a garlic press, I need larger items like a toaster oven and a coffee maker. I have really neglected this room of the house. Everything has a frayed cord and looks worn out. This is because so many of the appliances were hand-me-downs. If I spend a decent amount, the new stuff should last for many years. Onward to the store.

It’s not Old, It’s Vintage

Not long ago, I left a promising career. It wasn’t meeting my expectations or needs. One of the advantages of quitting a nasty job is not having to buy a lot of new work clothes. You are no longer a victim of the dress for success code. You don’t have to care what other people think. I never found it fun to go shopping once every fall like clockwork. It helps that you can do most of it online, but frankly I don’t like returning things that don’t fit. While I have a good old sewing machine that my mother handed down to me as a wedding present, I am not much for alternations. I want to buy something ready to wear with no fuss.

I recently discovered the old machine as I suddenly found a willingness to mend my worn clothes. It is a frugal and practical approach that appeals to me; plus I have newfound time. Mending is a lot less work that converting a dress in the wrong size. I have learned not to trust the sizes of most clothing websites. Those dimensions they give don’t work. I haven’t operated this old boy in so long that I wasn’t sure I could remember how anymore given the years that have passed. In that it is not one of those ultra-modern computerized models, it shouldn’t take long to relearn my former skills. When I found it languishing and neglected in the hall closet, I was happy to dust it off and set it up on my work table—a converted desk. If you saw the machine, you would gasp: it’s so out of date. I would reply in a heartbeat: it’s not old, it’s vintage.

The word vintage now gives some cachet to the appliances of yesteryear. I wouldn’t trade this relic for anything else now. The new models are too complicated. You must read, and reread, a huge manual. I don’t need more stress in my life. With this model, I can mend most anything from a delicate blouse to sturdy jeans. It involves a simple change of setting. It is all manual unlike what is required these days with the upgraded styles. I suddenly enjoy the relaxation of sewing. When you concentrate on the task at hand, you can clear your mind completely. Sewing is absorbing like few other hobbies.

Over time, I have been pleased with my results and have even taught a friend or two how to sew. Most want to make curtains, repair a torn bedsheet, fix a hem, or restore a torn seam. I have gotten much farther along. After a bit of ordinary mending, I am now making some items from scratch. I have also fashioned a garment or two for my husband. He enjoys going with me to pick the perfect fabric. Necessity has enriched our lives. We now have something to do together once in a while.

Take a Vacation

What do you consider a great vacation? A theme park filled with thrill rides and fun? A relaxing time on the beach, with a cold drink in one hand and a book in the other? An adventurous tour of a brand new place? A spectacular cruise with a fantastic chef onboard? Whatever your idea of a great vacation is, my question to you is this: have you taken it? Have you ever been on the kind of vacation you’ve always wanted?

If you are like most people, the answer is: probably not. We don’t take most of our vacation time. It all just sits there, often unused and lost. But why? Why aren’t we taking the time that we have been given? We’re pretty good at coming up with excuses. Sometimes we convince ourselves that work just couldn’t survive without us. Sometimes we tell ourselves that it is too expensive, or we don’t have somebody to go with us. Sometimes we let our fears get the better of us—fear of flying, fear of new places, or the fear of trying something new.

But you know what? Studies have shown that experiences—much more than objects—make us happier. It’s time we stop coming up with excuses and start actually taking vacations!

I don’t mean you have to take a month off from work and go into debt just so you can spend time on some island in Fiji. Vacations aren’t solely about where you go, it’s about taking a break from your regular life and doing something you might not have done otherwise. It is about making lasting memories for yourself (and maybe those worth sharing those memories with, like a significant other or your family). It is a time for you to indulge in a passion, learn something new, or simply just take a break. You don’t need to fly half a world away or spend lots of money to do that.

Do some research into places you are interested in going, even if it is only in the next town over (or even something even closer to you that you have always wanted to check out but haven’t). Set a budget. Look online and see if you can find free events or discount codes. Figure out how much time you can get away. And then GO.

Once you’re actually on vacation, don’t think about what’s going on at work—it will all be there waiting for you when you get back and you can deal with it then. Try not to let hiccups derail you, and don’t obsess about all the little things that could go wrong with your trip. You’re not trying to have the perfect vacation; there is no such thing. Instead, try to stay in the moment as much as possible. Look at the way the sunlight hits the water. Savor the way your meal tastes. Enjoy every new experience, even if it doesn’t go the way you expected. Take mental notes so that you can relive the good experiences once you’ve gone home and are having a tough time. Use a camera, even if it’s just the one on your phone. Print out your favorite shots and hang them up at home or at work for when you need a little bit of a pick me up. It will remind you of how much fun you had and for you to keep finding the time to get away.

Confronting an Old Fear

There comes a time in your life when you must overcome your fears. Many of these are from childhood and are due to bad memories. I remember when I was learning how to swim, my head went under the water for the first time and I panicked. I didn’t have the right instinct for it and stopped dead in my tracks. My mother was mortified and begged me to give it another try. The same thing happened and the panic was even worse. Because of my long-time fear of the water, I now can’t go with friends when they want to snorkel and steer a kayak. They have vacations in the sun without me. I regret missing out to this day. I am cut out of a great part of their water world. I envy those people who grew up swimming and diving in the backyard. They can surf at the beach or enjoy a hotel pool. The most I do is sit quietly and sip a soda as I watch others frolic about.

My friends haven’t given up asking me to come along, hoping that I will overcome my phobia eventually. I am tired of refusing. As a result, I have decided to take swimming lessons once and for all. It is hard for an adult, but it must be better than when I was a tot. This assumption turned out to be correct. I had a very patient instructor who was used to dealing with adult fears. We worked slowly step by step. I waded in the water, then dunked my head, then learned how to tread water and dog paddle. So far so good. I progressed quickly to performing the crawl. When that was mastered I moved on to the backstroke. There will be more in due time, but I was satisfied enough at this point. I practiced for a few days on my own and my teacher was impressed. Before I knew it, I was a true Salty Dog.

Now it was my turn to suggest a water recreation outing for my friends. As the weather was glorious, we made plans to go in a few days. It was vacation time and I splurged by joining them on a flight to Hawaii. The reefs are magnificent for snorkeling. I rented a facemask and some fins and I was all set. The water was shallow and not at all threatening and I had a marvelous time. I said I would be willing to go deeper to test my new skills. You will soon see a picture of me in all my regalia on Instagram so I can prove to the world that I have arrived. I can swim with ease and dive when needed. I am no pro but a good amateur. The moral of this blog is that you can overcome fears as I have shown and that it takes willingness and a pinch of moxie.

Another Positive Effect

Nothing is more depressing than being overweight and having to continually face the world with all those extra pounds. Every time you look in the mirror (if you dare to do it), you probably groan. Given the rampant obesity in this country, I am surprised there is not more mental illness about. Some people have been this way all their lives and it doesn’t appear to affect their mood. In my case, it does. I am not often seriously fat, but I have been known to pack on the pounds when I am in a real funk. It just makes it worse. When you start to see negative old patterns recur, it is time to call a halt to overeating.

One day, I stepped on the scales and nearly fainted. When did this weight gain start to happen? It does creep up on you to be sure. I am sure many of you know this. It is wise to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control, if only we could. My method most of the time is session after session in the gym. This has a definite positive effect. Another way that works well is to jog or walk on the local nature trail. It is one of my favorite pastimes and becomes ever more important when I need to trim my figure. When I am in my normal range, setting about for a long jaunt is just a form of exercise for basic health and fitness. As a part of a weight loss program, it has been unbeatable for me.

Here is why I know this for a fact. After I had been hitting the path for over a week, I thought I would check the scale as it had been a while. I normally don’t flinch, but this time I jumped for joy. I had lost five pounds. I was so surprised that I assumed that the appliance was broken. It had to be. And then I read here – http://www.myweighin.net/find-accurate-scales/ – that scales have an accuracy level, and mine weren’t too accurate. I was eating the same food as before. Nothing but the walking had changed. I expected the exercise to help, but I didn’t know it would be so fast. It can come back in a second, or so it seems, so I am not ending my trail time just yet.

When you discover that something you do really works, you want to crow about it to the world. Fortunately, I started this blog about coping with depression. If you don’t have a nature trail in your vicinity, try running the outdoor track at the local high school. Set yourself a daily goal of at least a mile. If you run fast, you won’t have to go so far. You won’t have the scenery I enjoy out in nature, but the method will work. When it rains, I resort to the treadmill at the gym. It will record your heartbeat and calories burned. When I see the numbers, I get hooked.

Maybe I Should Leave Some Things to the Pros

Chores. I hate them with a passion. Who doesn’t? If I don’t do them around the house and the yard, no one else will. My husband has more than his share of tasks with emptying the trash, cleaning the garage, and taking care of the cars. To wash the latter, he bought a power washer which I find very handy for my own work. I never used to do much in the way of dusting and vacuuming when I was working and limited my time to tidying up in the kitchen. Upon rare occasion, I would clean the interior of the stove, microwave, and refrigerator. That was enough! Now things have changed. Not working at the moment, I didn’t have an excuse to back out.

Now I see the grime on the windows that has built up over the rainy winter months. While I Pressure Cleaned the exterior of the house, which shows almost as much dirt, I will tackle the windows at the same time. When I turn on that blast of water, I expect to get results. In one afternoon, I can accomplish a lot. If you have never used one, by all means, try it. It is a miracle worker for the garage floor, the back patio, the driveway and sidewalks. The intensity of the spray will obliterate the effects of time and weather.

After the hard labor, I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments until my husband took a closer look. “Hey, Marcia,” he called out to me. “You missed a few spots…more than a few.” I didn’t believe him. I walked around the house and noticed that the window ledges were still caked with debris and that the eaves below the roof were laden with leaves. No, I hadn’t done a good job. For my sincere efforts, the results weren’t very good. “I am not going to do it now,” I sighed with fatigue. “I will attend to it later.” My husband nodded and said he felt sorry for me. “Why not leave it to the pros,” he offered. I agreed but felt guilty about the cost. How much elbow grease does it take to clean perfectly? “It is all in the amount of pressure and the way you hold the hose,” he counseled. He showed me how. My eyes glazed over as I needed a nap. He grabbed the power washer and ran off to finish what I had started.

He did a great job and I felt even worse than before. It wasn’t the fault of the hose, but my inadequacy. Next time, if I don’t leave things to the pros as a gift to him, I will do a more thorough job. I will practice the different settings and learn what works in particular areas. At least, we don’t have to do this huge job for one more year. The power washer, however, stays visible for the monthly car dousing.

Is it Too Much to Ask?

Yikes! I jumped into the shower and in minutes the water turned icy cold. It was a shock that woke me up in a very unpleasant manner. I wanted a steamy hot shower to ease my aching muscles (which happens when your mattress is a bit stiff) and instead I got a disappointing spray of gelid water. This is a most unpleasant way to wake up in the morning and it ruins the entire day. If you are like me and subject to foul moods, this is not a good plan.

Obviously, the hot water heater is down and it is time to call a plumber. I hope he doesn’t tell me I need a new one. Knowing I am hesitant to plunk down a lot of money for a mere appliance, he proceeded to fix the old unit and said it would probably last for another year or two if I was lucky. I might get another episode of cold water from time to time. I dream of the day when I can save up enough to replace it. Is it too much to ask?

Maybe I am jumping the gun, but I am already checking out new models and prices. I never want to see an old metal tank again. It is going to be tankless from http://www.homewatercenter.org/best-tankless-water-heater-reviews/ and pure efficiency all the way. When you replace an old system with a state-of-the-art model, you immediately save space that you can now use for storage. I am already planning what to do with it. Plus, your utility bills are lower every month. This means you are paying for the new water heater over time. It is so impressive a benefit that I might go for it now rather than wait until later. I never want to subject myself to shocking gold water again. My skin is too sensitive for this kind of onslaught.

I asked around and found that 50% of my friends have the tankless variety and they love it. You get strength, reliability, better flow and satisfying water temperature all the time. They like the use of electricity and not gas to get more control. No one likes a system that generates noxious fumes that must be vented. They counsel me to just get the right size for your space. Why get a large, expensive model for a small apartment? It is all about energy efficiency, which I knew. You aren’t heating up dozens of gallons unnecessarily. I like to have this benefit confirmed. Why have water sitting there waiting to be used?

I also read that you can buy a water heater that turns itself off when it becomes overheated. I suppose that is important. I also like the idea of a maximum range of temperature settings. These tankless babies are “on demand” units that provide precise control. I do believe that I have talked myself into a new one.

Beauty is All Around Me

One thing that I have discovered now that I have time off is a nature trail by my house. I guess technically I always knew it was there but I never actually had time to explore it until now. It’s amazing. Weather permitting, I try to get out there at least once a day.Each time I get to experience something new and amazing. I have heard the songs of lots of different birds and am starting to learn which are which. It helps when I can see them! This week alone, I spotted two cardinals, a woodpecker, and even a bluebird.There’s also a mockingbird I see some mornings who has a car alarm sound down pat! I’ve also seen butterflies in all different colors. My favorite was the yellow swallowtail I saw drinking from a puddle. There areflowers and bamboo growing everywhere I look, and even some wild strawberries along the edges of the trail. The other day, I even saw a deer—I came around a curve and there she was! She must be used to people because she didn’t seem startled at all. Just turned and gracefully made her way up a slight hill and into the trees. It was magical. I was so spellbound that I forgot to breathe.

At first, it was only the really obvious stuff that I saw, like the things I talked about before on the nature trail. Things that you can pick up without much observation. However, once I started looking, I’m finding beauty in other places, too. The way a patch of sunlight comes through my living room window and makes the hardwood floor glow. The patterns on the surface of my morning cup of tea.A kind expression on someone’s face when I smile at them and they smile back. The graceful bend in the stem of a tulip I picked from the yard and placed in a vase on the dining room table. If you’re looking, really looking, you’ll be surprised at what a beautiful place the world can be.

This has been a great way for me to be more mindful and to appreciate what is going on around me at any given moment. It has been relaxing and surprisingly fun. Even when I’m driving and I am stressed, I can appreciate the beauty in the nice breeze coming through the window or maybe a great song on the radio. It only takes a moment but it has been beneficial so far.

I don’t have to go to a museum or spend a lot of money on a piece of art. There is so much beauty in the world, and we’ve gotten so good at tuning it out to focus on more “important” things that we don’t know how to turn it back on when we need a moment of peace. I’m going to continue practicing this. After missing out for so long, I want to see all those lovely things that would have passed me by like I had blinders on. I am so thankful every day that the entire pace of my life has shifted and I am able to do this. I will keep up the hard work.


Learning to be in the Moment

There is a lot going around lately about being more mindful. It’s more than simply stopping to smell the roses. It is a real psychological technique to help you take a step back and see things for what they really are, instead of seeing them through your faulty perspective—by removing your opinions and prejudices from a situation, you are open to more experiences.

Part of the problem we all have is that we’re always doing something. When we’re working, we’re also trying to figure out what we’re having for dinner or wishing we were anywhere else. While we’re eating a meal, we’re watching a show or reading email because we can’t leave work behind. We dwellon past mistakes. We stress about the future. It’s no wonder we’re always stressed and exhausted.So what I’m trying to do now is learning how to focus all the energy I used to spend stressing and struggling on what is actually happening right in front of me at any given moment. —

The first step is to stop that constant narration that is going on in my head. Now when I feel my thoughts racing, I stop and focus on something—anything—in front of me. It can be as simple as a picture on my desk or the song playing on the radio. It helps pull me out of my own head and separates me from all those thoughts. The next step is to acknowledge a moment when everything is just right. When I eat a great meal or listen to a favorite song, I try to focus on it for a moment. It’s hard to stop and find the time to appreciate something but it really makes me feel happier when I savor that moment.Another thing I am trying is to stop multitasking. Rather than trying to do too many things at the same time, I want to focus on the task that I am actually working on before I move on. I thought it would slow me down, but it turns out that I am able to concentrate more and do things right the first time when I am not distracted by all the other things I am trying to accomplish as I go along. I’m actually more productive than before!

I’m also trying to stop ‘losing time.’ These are those moments where, for example, you’re driving and you have no idea how you got to your destination. Or maybe you find yourself reading the same sentence over and over. It is also those internet wormholes that you find yourself in when you’re supposed to be working. Instead, I am trying to stay focused on the activity I am engaged in and be aware of my surroundings.

The last thing I am working on is to accept my emotions. This one has been especially difficult. Like most people, I try to avoid pain and painful experiences. However, pain is impossible to avoid. Rather than trying to wish it away or distract myself, I am trying to allow myself to feel whatever emotion I’m feeling. This one is something I am really struggling with. It goes against my very nature to acknowledge a difficult situation. But accepting the pain that my old job was bringing me was part of what made me realize that it was the job that was having such a negative impact on my life. Once I was able to separate the two, I realized there was something I could do about it and left.

It has been challenging but very worth it, and I am going to continue to try being mindful. What about you? Have you heard about this or are you interested in trying it?

Really Experience a Meal

One thing that we don’t always take the time to fully appreciate is food.Sure it’s something that’s necessary for us to survive, but we often opt for what’s quick or eat mindlessly instead of choosing something healthy and paying attention while we eat. Food activates so many of our senses that a little effort can go a long way.Think about it: you notice two things right away about food: how it looks and how it smells. If it looks good visually, we start to think it is going to taste good, too. The more colors you have on a plate, the more appealing it will be—again, making us think it will taste better. The same thing goes for smells. If something smells terrible, no matter how delicious it might be, we aren’t going near it. The texture is important, too. We’ve all got foods that we avoid because of the way it feels—whether it be mushy bananas or slimy okra, there’s something that makes you gag just thinking about having to put it in your mouth. There are sounds that we look for, too, when we are cooking—the snap of spaghetti when it is broken so it fits in a pot, the crunch of a crispy potato chip or a ripe apple. But the most important sense involved with food is taste; the better something tastes, the more likely we are going to be to eat it.

As you can see, cooking and eating is a much bigger sensory experience than you might have realized. We should acknowledge that and spend more time appreciating the experience. I’m not saying that you have to stop and take pictures of everything that you ever cook or eat in your entire life, but I am sure you can find some middle ground between that and what you’re doing now. Maybe instead of eating as fast as possible while you’re sitting at your desk at work, you can take that 10 extra minutes and go sit in the break room.Even if you just take a moment to consciously appreciate the food and the nourishment that you are providing for yourself, it helps to shift your mind to a more positive place before you start eating. You can put a little energy into making your meal look appealing, even if it’s just leftovers.This does not require fancy arrangements, china plates or gold-plated silverware. Maybe just getting a reusable lunch bag in a pattern you like or a special glass for your drink is enough to elevate the experience for you.

f you’re cooking a dish, try not to think of it as just a hassle or chore. Listen to the sounds of the kitchen: a boiling pot or the sizzle and pop of hot oil in a pan. Take time to smell the different ingredients and watch them change as you interact with them—things like cutting, heating, roasting, seasoning. Appreciate the fact that you are creating something nourishing for yourself and your loved ones. Try to enjoy it as often as you can. I know I’m going to try to as well.

Being Kinder to Myself

There is something that I’ve been wrestling with that I’m sure a lot of other people can relate to, which is why I thought it would make a really good post. I have a hard time being kind to myself. I realized that I am nicer to strangers than I am to myself. And I’m sure that there’s a part of me that can justify this behavior by saying, “Well, I don’t know those people; they seem perfectly fine. But I’m around myself all the time, so of course I know every single one of my flaws and every single mistake that I have ever made.” The truth of the matter is, I’m sure they’ve got the same thoughts in their head. Nobody’s perfect. I have to remember that everyone has done things they aren’t proud of or wish they could have done differently.

I am sure that I am also not alone in taking responsibility for things that have nothing to do with me. It’s my fault that the place I wanted to have a picnic lunch was so crowded that we ended up leaving instead of eating. It’s my fault that a birthday card got lost in the mail, because if I had just mailed it earlier it would have gotten there on time.

As much as I’d like to think I am the center of the universe, I’m not. I’m not responsible for every single thing that happens. Some things just happen because that’s the way it is. The other thing, and this is really important, is that no amount of dwelling or fixating on the past is going to change anything. The only thing that I can do is apologize to people if I think that will help bring some closure to a situation. Hopefully, the person will forgive me and we can put the issue to rest; but since I know I cannot make someone accept my apology, I have to be prepared to accept that as a resolution in itself and make my peace with it that way. I can learn from my mistakes and make an effort not to repeat them. Just beating myself up over and over is not being kind to myself. It accomplishes nothing other than making me feel bad about myself.

I also realized that some of the stuff that I’ve been carrying around with me seemed kind of dumb. We’ve all accidentally cut someone off or said something accidentally offensive. Or maybe we forgot somebody’s birthday–maybe the reason wasn’t malicious, maybe it was just that you were caught up in something else. The point is, a lot of this stuff is unintentional. We do a lot of dumb things. We aren’t usually trying to be hurtful or nasty, it just happens sometimes. And the more I examine these things I continually beat myself up over, the more I realize that I’m human. We all do these things sometimes. It’s the only way we learn sometimes.

By reminding myself that everyone else finds themselves in the same boat now and again, it’s harder to get so upset by my mistakes. Dwelling on them doesn’t have the same effect as before. I can accept the situation as something I can actively try to make better or I have to make peace with it and move on. Doing so has been hard but it has allowed me to exercise much more self-compassion and kindness toward myself. This is definitely something I am going to continue to work on.