What changes your outlook?

Sonoran desert view in Arizona.
View from my backyard.

I can’t tell you why, but the past few days I feel better. I didn’t feel bad before, but my attitude has improved. I wake up with more energy and passion for the day.

What have I done to change my outlook?

First, I restarted the “Three Blessings” exercise. In the evening I write down three things that I’m grateful for that happened in my day. And why. According to Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, he’s used this exercise at U Penn on his students and patients and found it to be as effective as anti-depressants.

So, it could be that.

Or, another change I’ve made this week is getting more exercise. I take my morning walk of about 45 minutes. When my walk is over, I either jump in the backyard pool and swim or I hop on my bike for a 20 minutes bike ride. I mix it up according to what I want to do. Yesterday after swimming laps, I treated myself to climbing on the float from Costco feeling the breeze on my wet skin and staring at the sky. It was heavenly.

Today, I biked and enjoyed the breeze and felt good about how much better I did climbing the hill to our house. Yes, I could feel my heart rate rise, but it wasn’t a struggle like it was earlier in the week. Also, I managed to stand up for a few pedals, which I couldn’t do last week. Those are tiny things, but the improvement felt monumental. On the bike, which I haven’t ridden in years, I feel like a kid. I’m not listening to headphones, I’m listening to nature. I get a bit smile as I coast down a hill, trying not to squeeze the brakes, but let myself fly.

Maybe it’s the hard labor I’ve been doing to fix up our rental house before the new tenants come in. Or, the good book I’m reading.

Whatever the reason is, which is most likely a combination of all the above, I like the way I’m feeling today.

woodpecker on a saguaro
I saw this woodpecker on a saguaro as I left my front door.

What improves your attitude? Have you noticed changes in how you’re feeling lately?

Striving for an attitude of gratitude

I woke up the other morning thinking I was in my old Palm Springs home. Have you ever woken up not sure where you are? It happened frequently when we first moved to Arizona but it hasn’t happened to me for months. But, I started to miss my old Spanish Colonial home that day. It was a very pretty and unique home. Filled with memories.

A view from the kitchen to the living room of our old house. The mirror is now in our master bedroom.

It had a good location, too. So why did we move? For many reasons. Although I loved living downtown Palm Springs, we were right behind a hotel. We constantly had to call the ABC or police when the hotel violated their restrictions on noise. Living next to a busy hotel when they violate their liquor license with outdoor amplified music in the middle of the night wasn’t fun. During 2020 the hotel closed. I’m glad we sold the house before it reopened.

rustic small kitchen

The house was stunning, but not that practical. The kitchen was tiny. We called it a one-butt kitchen, but it worked. I could unload the dishwasher, cook and open the fridge without taking a step. I’d rotate in place. I had more than one friend ask me how I dealt with such a tiny kitchen.

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The master bedroom of our old home.

Some of the things I didn’t like about the house was it had a carport, not a garage. The carport flooded every time it rained. It also got dusty and dirty, because the desert is dusty and dirty.

Another thing I didn’t like was the lack of storage because the house was built in the 1930s. Also, it was so cold in the winter that my fingers would go numb. And don’t get me started on the four-digit electric bill in the summer.

Another thing I don’t miss is the homeless man who peaked through our bedroom windows and slept in our yard. He terrified me. I’d spot him on our cameras every time we left town. He was watching us. I’d leave for my walk and return to find him in our yard.

Spanish colonial Movie Colony home.
View of our old home.

But we have tons of good memories. We raised our family for more than 28 years in that home. Yes, I’ll miss it even though our new house is so much more practical and less expensive to live in. My husband would like the ability to retire someday. Arizona makes that possible. I also feel like I’m living in luxury with a real garage and a kitchen with more cupboards than I can fill.

So I am grateful to be in Arizona. And I’m thankful for my friends, my cat and my family. You see, I’m practicing more gratitude. I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m going to start my gratitude journal and practice the three blessings before I go to bed at night.

The Three Blessings Exercise

This exercise was created by Dr. Martin Seligman and it is extremely easy to follow:

Before going to sleep every night, write down three things that went well that day. They don’t need to be big things. They can be little things that made you happy or that made you smile, or simply that had a positive impact on you. Then write why they went well.

By doing so you focus on the positive aspects of your day instead of the negatives. After a while, it becomes a habit and your mind gets wired to have a more optimistic approach to your daily life. Studies show that after months of doing this exercise, your well-being increases and you feel overall more optimistic.

http://warriorsnotworriers.com/three-blessings-well-being/
I have attempted to do this exercise in the past, but then I forget about it. I think it’s time to get back to it.
sunset view from the Old Movie Colony.
View at sunset from our old backyard.

What are you thankful for as we begin the Fourth of July weekend?

Working on an attitude of gratitude

brother and sister with red hair

I’m grateful for these two.

I keep on promising to write in my gratitude journal. But somehow this crazy 2020 leaves me less than grateful. That’s probably why I need to commit to it more than ever. There’s an exercise known as “Three Blessings” that I should complete every evening for months on end. This is the plan: every evening write three things I’m thankful for that happened during the day. They may be little things, like something beautiful I saw on a walk, or bigger like a new writing job referral. Then after each, I explain why the moment happened. It’s an exercise I learned about from a book called “Flourish” by Martin E.P. Seligman. He says in his book that this exercise has been proven to be just as effective as taking anti-depressants in fighting depression! I find it as a nice way to get grounded after a busy day and reflect on everything that is going well.

I try to have an attitude of gratitude. I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say:

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children at dinner or bedtime to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. By the way, I gave my husband a journal of gratitude and he’s enjoying writing a few things each day.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. It’s that time of year!

What are you most grateful for in your life?

How do we return to civility?

Olive in an uncivil mood.

Olive in an uncivil mood.

 I wrote the following story in 2015. I can only say that rather than improving since then, things seem far worse. This week shows how bad things can get. I wish I had a solution or could offer suggestions about how to unite our society, but I can’t. I can only be conscious of my own actions and be grateful for what I have and try to set an example for my kids.

I’m trying very hard to not get caught up in all the over-reacting that’s floating around. Have you noticed a lot of intolerance and anger lately? People seem to get upset and outraged over the littlest things. Like waiting in line. Political opinions. Slow drivers.

Read about how I got yelled at by a total stranger here

How we handle little things and disappointments in life in a positive way can help us become better role models for our kids. It can also change our outlook and make a frustrating day, a better one.

imgres-4I think email, texting, twitter and other social media, in general, can lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings. First of all, by emailing rather than having a conversation, a person can unload in ways they wouldn’t in person. He or she isn’t picking up on verbal and non-verbal cues. The conversation is totally one-sided without any give or take. We don’t have to bother with a discussion or to hear another person’s side of the story.

Online, have you read comment sections on a news or political story? If people can leave comments anonymously, look out! A snarky comment looks like an attaboy compared to the filth and nastiness you’ll read. People don’t tolerate differences of opinions and resort to name calling rather than debate issues. The anonymity of hiding behind a computer rather than facing someone is unleashing hostility and words that quite frankly are better left unsaid

imgres-3Have you ever texted someone or sent an email you didn’t mean to? Or, it went to the wrong person? How about thinking you hung up the iPhone, and you didn’t or pocket dialed the person, and they can hear your subsequent conversation?

It’s hard enough when you’re the one committing the faux pas and even harder when you’re on the receiving end.  Yikes. If this happens to you, take a minute and breathe. Realize you have a choice—how to react. You could get upset. You could make a big deal out of it and be confrontational.  Or, make the choice that it was a mistake and no ill will was intended. 

I believe it’s a choice we can make on a daily basis. Take a deep breath when you’re behind a slow driver. When you’re waiting behind an elderly person trying to work the ATM or checking out at the grocery store. Don’t automatically jump on the uber outrage. We don’t have a choice on what is happening, but we do have a choice on how we react.

Baby Olive.

Baby Olive.

I think the best choice is to be “merciful.” This word popped up on my iPad yesterday. It’s not a word we hear spoken out loud these days—unless we’re sitting in a pew. In the everyday world, it sounds old-fashioned and is not practiced much. I wasn’t quite sure of the exact meaning of “merciful” so I looked it up online at Merriam Webster:

Merciful: treating people with kindness and forgiveness : not cruel or harsh : having or showing mercy: giving relief from suffering

I’m going to incorporate it into my everyday life when I feel the adrenalin or upset feelings start. I think if a lot more of us practiced mercy, our world would be a whole lot better.

We also need to keep in mind that our kids learn from our behavior. How we react to stress is most likely how they will deal with situations as they grow up.

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How about reaching out to those around you?

 

How do you make each day a friendlier and more civil place?

It’s the little things that count

Prior to COVID-19 and the weirdness of today — pre my ski accident and subsequent knee surgery — I wrote about the little things in life that matter the most. These thoughts are important today. What I wouldn’t give to get up and go to practice at 5:30 a.m. or have lunch with a friend. If anything these two months sheltering place have taught me to appreciate what I have and love the most. My family and friends — and pets.

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The view from our pool makes me happy.

I’m proud of myself today, because I started off the week with 5:30 a.m. practice. I’ve been trying to get up, half-heartedly I’ll admit, for the past month but the comfort of bed is just too much for me at 5 a.m. An extra hour of sleep usually wins out. But, today I did it. I made it to practice on time, began my workout in the dark and found joy in watching the views of the sunrise and pink-hued mountain change color during my workout.

I find a lot of happiness and excitement in the little things in my days. Our lives are made of small moments strung together and if we spend too much time worrying or focusing on the past or future, we miss the little bits of joy in the present. 

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Happiness is my daughter with her puppy.

Here’s a list of moments that make me truly happy:

Hearing the birds sing early in the morning.

My fourth flip turn during my second 200 at practice this morning. I nailed it.

Having lunch yesterday with a good friend and spending a few hours catching up with our lives.

Noticing that a family member got their dish off the table, into the sink and miracle of miracles—into the dishwasher.

Olive the cat honoring me with her presence and stretching out for a cat nap while I’m laying on my side. I have to be careful not to move, so she doesn’t fall off.

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Olive the cat in our back yard.

 

My kids calling just to talk. They aren’t asking for anything and there’s nothing big going on.

Sitting under an orange tree in my back yard reading a really good book.

Walking with my husband and marveling at the beauty surrounding us on a weekend morning.

Reading a positive comment on one of my articles.

Checking things off my to-do list and feeling productive.

What little things in your life make your day?

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Beautiful views of bougainvillea.

 

 

Day 46: Shelter in Place

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Morning views.

Where has the time gone? The days melt into each other, literally with temperatures above 100 degrees. We’re getting up earlier and earlier so we can beat the heat for our morning walks and bike rides.

It’s hard to remember what day of the week it is. I’m trying to stick to a routine as I’ve practiced for years based on Julia Cameron and her books beginning with The Artists’s Way. I think it helps to have a routine in the best of times, and with the oddness of staying home it’s more important.

A couple months ago, I received a few emails from two swim moms asking me for advice because their teen sons were burned out on swimming and wanted to quit. They were both so sad that their sons wanted to give up when they were so close to finishing their age group/ high school careers and could go on to swim in college. As a swim parent it’s easy to go all in and make the pool the center of our family lives, too. It’s thrilling to watch our kids compete, we make friends with the other parents and coaches. Volunteering at meets and supporting the team in numerous other ways takes up hours of our time.

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Our home pool at sunset.

Then poof! Out of the blue, your child decides they’re done. But funny thing is, you’re not! Then the Coronavirus hit and all the teams are out of the water. There isn’t any practice to go to. I heard from one of the moms who wrote me earlier. Now that her son can’t go to practice — he wants to. He’s been given a taste of what it’s like to not have his teammates and coach in his daily life. He also doesn’t get to substitute the swim practice hours with anything else. Plus, our school age kids aren’t in school or with their friends.

I guess the lesson is, “Hey it’s not that bad!” The complaints we all had before this shut down seem petty and small compared to loss of life, loss of jobs, income and activities. Another reason to be grateful for what we do have and realize that our lives can change with our next breath.

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Me and my swim buddies with the Masters’ T-shirts we created.

What have you found you miss the most during the Coronavirus shut down? Is there something you weren’t thrilled about that you’d like to do, now that you can’t?

 

Day 14: Shelter in Place

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Waffles heard he had to shelter in place for another month.

I’m a little disappointed. I was doing fine with shelter in place and we made it for two weeks without much of a hitch. Then today, when I thought we’d have a couple more weeks to go, we hear on the news that it will be another month. At least.

Truly, I’m thankful for so many things. My daughter is home with Waffles. We have our health, so far. I did have a fever and sore throat for a couple days which led to some scary thoughts. My imagination and worry had me taking my temperature every hour and waking up in the night to take its some more. I’m never one to slow down when I’m sick. But I went to bed and stayed there for the better part of two days. So, maybe bed rest is a good thing when you’re not feeling well? Who knew?

I also read two books during my hours or rest that I can highly recommend: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand. 

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I’m going to be here for how long?

The weather is gorgeous. We’re all thankfully working and able to do so from home. Things are not that bad. The news is scary and the unknown is worse. How long will this last? How many people will get sick or die? Is it going to hit us personally with our friends and loved ones?

In the meantime, I will share a few pet peeves about Sheltering in Place. One, we lost the garage clicker and one fob for a car complete with necessary keys. We have no idea where they are. They disappeared around Day Two of Shelter in Place.

Next, I have a relatives and friends who are thankfully keeping me up-to-date on how everyone in Washington state is doing with Coronavirus. But every message includes a political swipe. I also see this on Facebook from friends and on Twitter from complete strangers. I don’t like the constant complaining and griping during such scary times of a global pandemic. I think we need to take this time to be grateful for each other, realize what we do have — and try to come together. Maybe it’s because people are angry and fearful in these uncertain times and they need to vent their frustrations. Just my penny’s worth.

One other thing, I’m jealous of my friends who are sheltering in place but not working. They are clearing out their homes like there’s no tomorrow. Literally. I’m working everyday and only get to clean out the occasional cupboard or two. If I can get my writing assignments done soon, I’ll be clearing out junk and organizing with the best of them.

How are you getting through the Coronavirus? Have you been sheltering in place and for how long?