"Nancy Gets Link-Happy"
This post started out being about finding/making my own happiness (and that is pretty much the whole point of everything I'm finally doing lately) but (as my posts often do) it sort of morphed into a list of some of the cool ways I've discovered that other people are working to make the world a happier place. While some are a bit hokey, I generally admire these efforts. They're contagious; you can't help but smile or giggle or wonder and even want to be a part of whatever crazy thing it is that they're doing. And I find that these little episodes start to have a cumulative effect, sometimes one, in particular, keeps cropping up again and again. The video goes viral and 13 different people send you the link. The website for the lady who ran that workshop pops up on a friend-of-a-friend's blog. Or you pick one thing to latch onto and then discover 6 other ideas that all nicely mesh together....
These are some of the things that have been "meshing" for me lately:
Running (obviously) is a really big part of the phenomenon for me. I think it's the thing that's tying it all together. Or maybe it's the lens through which I'm evaluating everything. Whatever you call it, our new household phrase is "and it all comes back to Running". Through this new-found fascination, I have discovered a whole bunch of runner-bloggers who provide advice, inspiration, and reassurance that I'm not the only one who feels the way I do. And blogs are like that 1980's shampoo commercial: one blog leads to another, and so on, and so on.... I meet people and discover we have running in common, or I discover I have running in common with people I've known a long time. I'm connecting with my body in a way I haven't experienced for years. I've found a new connection with my husband as we scour the internet and the latest Runner's World for new and interesting tidbits and compare run times, aches & pains, and the building excitement for our upcoming Half Marathon (86 days and counting!). I'm connecting with my kids on a platform of fitness and goal-setting and developing good habits for life. Crazy talk! My favorite blogs so far are: onemominmaine (the famous Emilie), DareToBecome, TallMomOnTheRun, and AndSoIRan.....
Quite a while ago, while doing research for my training programs at work, I happened on a movement called A Complaint Free World. A minister tried something new with his parish, it caught on with surprising results and he wrote a book about it. While some of the stories leave me a little incredulous, the premises are solid: complaining is a habit that you can stop, not complaining is a habit you can form, and if you stop physically complaining and you will feel better, at least emotionally, and maybe even physically. You're supposed to wear a purple bracelet (yes, I admit the color was half the appeal for me!) and when (not if) you complain about something you switch it to the other wrist. When you can go 21 days without switching it then you have developed a new habit, the habit of not complaining. For me, the big take-away was the lesson about how we form a new habit through four stages:
1. "unconscious non-compliance" (you don't do it and don't even notice),
2. "conscious non-compliance" (you don't do it but at least you're aware of that fact),
3. "conscious compliance" (you intentionally do the desired thing) and
4. "unconscious compliance" (you do the good new thing without even thinking about it).
You can use that understanding of the cognitive process to form any new habit. Our bad habits are habits because we are so used to doing them we don't even realize we are doing them. But we can re-train ourselves to stop complaining, take our vitamins, smile to everyone we see, blog every morning, or whatever. We just have to apply ourselves to it and stick with it for 3 weeks in order to form the new habit. Yes, it is easier said than done: my bracelet moves daily, and I still forget to take my iron pills....
SuddenlyReallyHappy--This is a facebook group that a young friend of mine started. I never really thought of Colleen as "Gidget happy" (you know, like Sally Field on a beach with Moon Doggie, I mean, who wouldn't have perma-grin?!?) but it turns out, she's a little bit of a hippie-chic-of-the-new-millenium and she and some friends started this group which is essentially about the fact that we've all been trained to get on facebook and twitter and whine about the tiny, trivial, inconsequential inconveniences of our everyday lives, instead of celebrating being alive in the first place. So become a "fan" of her group and at least get a kick out of her antics, or better yet, join in and go give flowers out to random strangers.
Which brings me to Random Acts of Kindness. I don't even know the origin of this one, but like Pay it Forward (see below), the phrase has become a part of our vocabulary. Unfortunately, for many (myself included) it has not exactly become a part of our repertoire. How many of us do completed unsolicited, un-selfish acts of true kindness on a regular basis? Hmmm...a new habit to form, perhaps...? Anyway, it turns out there's a whole RAK Foundation. Who knew?
These next two I think work really well together:
Smile and Move is a cute little website I found totally by accident just recently. It perfectly describes what running does for me. I find myself moving, and smiling while I do it. It might be a chicken-and-egg thing: I don't think it matters which one you do first, as long as you do them both. Am I utterly delighted every minute of every run? Well, no, but most of the time, running puts a smile on my face. And I do find that it's a lot easier to get moving in general, if you're smiling first. So maybe the first step to getting off the couch is not lacing up the sneakers, but rather putting on a smile. Anyway, I like the sentiments and the fact that they have downloadable materials so it isn't entirely about buying stuff. I loved their word "SMOVE"...until Alan likened it to "Smurf". My running binder now says "I SMILE AND MOVE" on the cover.
I heard about The Levity Project when I attended a professional development day here on campus that featured "Laughter Yoga". I thought maybe I'd done this already when I tried to do yoga in the family room with 3 small kids and we ended up falling all over each other and giggling way more than finding balance and inner peace, but I was wrong! Laughter yoga is based on the idea that your body does not distinguish between real, spontaneous laughter and fake laughter. The physical act has physical and emotional benefits that are real and tangible. And of course, if you spend enough time in a room with a bunch of strangers who are all milling around fake laughing together, you will eventually get the uncontrollable giggles and even develop a few hearty guffaws. The facilitator is also part of the Levity Project which is a movement that organizes various events where people go out in groups and do funny things and try to have a positive effect on a portion of the unsuspecting public.
Have you seen this Youtube video? It takes the age-old musical comedy concept that in times of great emotion people spontaneously break into song-and-dance and plops it right smack in the middle of a real life train station in Antwerp. I think it's the kind of thing the Leviity Project is striving for. A friend of mine (who met her husband through Up With People), was talking about cooking up something like this in our area and I totally want to be a part of it! Maybe sometime after her recently-fused ankle is healed?? Just say the word, Stephanie, and I am there!
Pay It Forward--Have you seen this movie? Recently?? This was one of the first things I got when we joined Netflix because the phrase has become a part of our culture but I couldn't really remember the story. I had thought maybe we'd watch it with the kids and turn it into a nice teaching moment, but then we watched it and even though I'd seen it before, seeing it again was like being punched in the stomach, it's so gut-wrenchingly depressing. I couldn't bear to watch it with the kids--my babies!--who I couldn't imagine losing and yet, as a parent, you have nightmares regularly about just that sort of thing. The Pay it Forward concept is beautiful and simple, though, and has become a cultural trademark. It's the new "do unto others" tagline that parents and teachers are trying desperately to instill into our youth, a truly worthwhile endeavor, but I think I'll do it some other way than through the movie, at least for now. As it turns out, there's a Pay It Forward Foundation, too.
Have you seen Volkswagon's The Fun Theory videos? They're behaviour-modification experiments that ask, Will people do the right thing if the right thing is fun? There's one involving stairs that play notes, and one about a trash bin.
Why does that work? Why did the youtube video of the people dancing in the train station go viral so fast?
Why is a huge portion of the population addicted to facebook, and twitter and texting, and blogging?
Because we crave amusement, happiness, levity, joy, connection, response.... Humanity.
Strangely, the internet has become the delivery method of choice for human connection.
Just don't forget to take it off-screen: actually smile at someone, tell a joke instead of forwarding it, go hug your kid.
Honorable mentions go to Habitat for Humanity (if I had a bucket list, doing a build would definitely be on it), Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (I get teary every time I see a show so I don't watch too regularly, but I love what my kids learn from it and I love that big corporations and local businesses alike give so generously to literally move the earth for those less fortunate and yet so deserving. I guess this is my Pay It Forward teaching tool), Guerilla Gardening (not really my thing since I don't live in an urban location and I haven't even pulled any weeds in my own yard this year, but I love this slightly wild, I'll-do-good-whether-you-like-it-or-not mentality), Trash Running (another one that doesn't really apply but amuses me, particularly the associated jargon such as "trashlek"), and finally Biggest Loser (which is totally inspiring and so much more about finding happiness within yourself than it is about numbers on a scale. I think my first real piece of self-discipline came with the resolution to NotEatJunkfoodWhileWatchingBL. I tried to ramp it up to exercising while watching, but usually now I've already exercised for the day and can relax and enjoy the show guilt-free. Stll, no cookie dough allowed.).
So, have a happy day, everyone.
Birds get away with everything.
15 hours ago