This is the eighth of a 12-part series titled “Baby Steps.” On the first of each month, I post 1 tiny step toward better health that you can take every day for that month – practically without trying. Soon, that tiny step will be part of your daily routine, and you won’t even remember you never did it before. The next month, add the next baby step. By the end of 2016, you’ll have accumulated 12 new healthy habits, and you’ll notice a difference – not day to day, perhaps, but definitely between any before and after photos you might take and any journal entries you might make. Check in during each month with a comment below and/or on Facebook – I’d love to hear about your progress!
If you’re new to the Baby Step series, you can catch up on the first 7 months by following the links below:
- starting your day with lemon water
- pausing to breathe
- eating your greens daily,
- turning off all screens at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime
- switching to sea salt in your kitchen.
- asking yourself, “Why is this happening for me (as opposed to to me)?”
- curing the sugar blues
If you’ve been following along all year, how’s that all going? We’re half way through the year and the series: what’s been easy? what’s been more difficult? Last month’s baby step, “curing the sugar blues,” had three levels of difficulty – if you made progress on one, try to level up this month in addition to adding in this month’s step.
I’m back home in Vermont, dropping my son off for summer camp – hard to imagine that it’s his third year! (You can see his first letter home from year 1 in an earlier post.) One of our friends, who is a truly talented gift-giver, brought him a book for entertainment at camp – The MAD Bathroom Companion: The Mother Load, complete with the picture of a swirling toilet bowl. (“You’ll be really popular!” he promised.) As the adults all commented that MAD Magazine used to crack them up at 13, but now it just wasn’t that funny, Nikolai pored over the pages, laughing out loud. After the dinner guests were gone, he read page after page to me, giggling all the way.
One section featured “looking on the bright side,” and in it were a bunch of comics, such as a judge telling a convicted criminal something like, “Well, you won’t have to pay room and board for 20 years!”
My first reaction was, this is rather sick in light of the current discussions around life sentences, privatization of prisons, how much we spend on prisons vs. education, etc. Then again, that’s what MAD is – kinda sick!
Putting my adult overthinking aside, I realize that the comics actually encourage people to think about negative situations in a different light, rather the way I do with my clients when I ask them, “Why is this happening for you (as opposed to to you)?” This month’s baby step is somewhat similar to that one – a little reinforcement in flipping the way you look at a situation.
Have you ever noticed how many times in a day you think or say, “I have to [fill in a dreaded task here]”? Once you’ve noticed, try to reframe the statement using the words “I get to…” instead. It sounds a little naive, a little simplistic…and it’s a great exercise that will help you look for the positives!
“I have to drive 13 hours to get my son to camp” becomes “I get to spend 13 hours with this charming guy!” We had a great stopover at a favorite hotel, a lovely dinner for 2, listened to a fabulous audiobook (Brian Jacques’s Loamhedge), watched Animal Planet on TV (we don’t have TV at home, so this is a rare treat), and spent 4 days with Grandma + Grandpa (with a cameo appearance by the world’s best Uncle) before I had to (oops – got to!) release him to the camp.
“I have to drive 13 hours home” becomes “I get to listen to my audiobook (Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time) without interruption, spend a night all by myself at a hotel, and get 36 hours of ‘me time’ in.” You see, although my family was away for 3 weeks this summer, that “me time” was spent at home, where there were myriad closets I got to declutter and lots of deep cleaning I got to do in addition to the fact that I wasn’t technically on vacation!)
And when I get stuck in parking lot traffic behind a tipped over gasoline tanker for an hour and a half on the way home? I get to listen to that audiobook for an extra hour and a half – which means I almost finish it on the trip home!
At first it will feel a bit artificial. As with any other habit, it takes practice to perfect it. And over time, you may just notice yourself more able to find the positive in any situation, which will likely up your overall optimism and happiness! (For more on positive psychology and happiness, see The Pursuit of Happiness.)
And now…you get to check in on the comments and let me know how it’s going! 😉