#41 Practice a Ritual

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#41

Practice a Ritual

Sometimes, practicing a ritual can be an extremely healthy way to manage anxiety or stress. By definition, a ritual is “a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to a set sequence”. For the purposes of this discussion, I’d like to expand the idea of ritual a bit and allow for it to be something we do the same way each time with intention and purpose.

Focus & Intention

A Catholic Mass falls into the category of a ritual and while unless you are a priest, you won’t be in the act of practicing the mass itself… you may find that attending mass and engaging in the mass ritual offers the same benefit. Going to the gym at the same time everyday and moving through the equipment in the same way with the same motivational music in our earbuds – is a ritual as long as there focus and intention with the movements. Rituals differ from routines with that focus and intention.

Conscious Energy

A ritual allows us to engage in an action consciously. Whether we are holding our hand over our heart and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or kneeling in prayer at bedtime, they often signify meaning. Many brotherhoods, fraternities, and sororities practice rituals as a way of bringing their membership together; strengthening the sense of belonging. Some families have the ritual of a family dinner on Sundays or in our house… it’s Mimosa’s and Monkey Bread on Christmas morning. They can be those things that unite and remind us of what’s good. Mr. Fred Rogers share his ritual of putting on slippers and changing into a cardigan as a way of getting comfortable each day; allowing us to feel as though we were at home with him.

Energy & Pleasure

Engaging in a regular ritual may energize you and create space for happy feelings. The demand focus and intention which, allows you to immerse yourself in your life. Routines that are mundane can be elevated to ritual status by engaging in them differently. Being deliberately present in those things that take little thought and experiencing them completely – change them from an unconscious pattern of movement to something that serves a positive function and something from which you may experience great pleasure.

Get Started

If you don’t yet have one, think of an action that is meaningful, intentional, and can be achieved on a regular basis. Perhaps it’s sitting down with a journal every evening or meditation before you get out of bed in the morning. It could even be a Friday evening happy hour or date night with someone special. Self-care rituals may be the perfect starting point for those of you with busy lives and never enough time. A ritual can reduce anxiety by providing a period of certainty in your day or week.

No matter the details, your life can be enriched greatly with the simple act of …

Practicing a ritual.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#45 Make Eye Contact

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#45

Make Eye Contact

How did you feel the last time you talked with someone who didn’t make eye contact with you? Were you left wanting more? Suspicious? Disbelieving? It turns out that making eye contact during conversations is a type of communication in and of itself.

Positive characteristics

It’s a social skill. It’s good manners. It’s a sign of interest and attention. Indeed, according to the research, people who are able to make and sustain eye contact are perceived as more dominant, powerful, warm and personable, qualified, trustworthy, honest, confident and emotionally stable. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with those characteristics?

Positive Consequences

People who engage in direct eye contact make more sales, date more frequently, and report more satisfactory interpersonal interactions. Each one of these consequences can improve the quality of our lives. It’s postulated that our eyes are have evolved specifically to assist in our ability to communicate.

Communication

Indeed, they contribute individually and specifically to non-verbal communication. “I saw it in his eyes” or “Her eyes told the story”…. Statements that describe a ‘look’ we can all relate to. Our eyes convey attention. We are more apt to listen to people who are looking directly at us and we will feel more intimately connected when making eye contact with other people. Intimate connections convey trust and belonging.

Difficulties

People who find it hard to make direct eye contact with others may be challenged in a variety of areas. It’s very difficult to keep a gaze when we are being dishonest. Darting eyes can be an indication of a false story. People who are fearful of being judged may also find it hard to make eye contact. And, because our eyes communicate so much information, people who are masking emotion may not allow themselves to make eye contact for fear that their eyes will disclose too much information.

Work on It

If you find it difficult to make eye contact – ask yourself why. Perhaps it would be helpful to seek guidance for any insecurities or fear. If you realize that your effort to avert a gaze is simply a bad habit, make a conscious effort to work on it. Eye contact can be overdone, it’s not natural to stare constantly at someone so practice moving your eyes aside from time to time; side to side movement is the least disruptive to communication.

If you want to improve your connections, your communication, and ultimately your confidence…

Make eye contact.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#47 Ask More Open-ended Questions

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#47

Ask More Open-ended Questions

How many times have you asked the question “Did you have a good day?” – receive a “yes” and then felt disappointed because you got a one word answer? Frankly, you asked a one work question and set yourself up for the disappointment. Getting in the habit of changing the way you ask questions will most likely dramatically change the answers – and therefore, the information – you receive; giving depth to your conversations.

“Tell me about your day, what was good about it?”

“What was the best part of your day?”

“What are you plans tomorrow?”

“Why are you irritated?”

Asking questions that start with who, what, where, when, why, & how are always going to require more than a one word answer and will generally give you the information you seek. They are conversation questions and when you keep them going, so too… does the conversation.

Depth

Open-ended questions require more thought to answer and generally elicit responses that move beyond the surface, deepening the connection between those who are speaking or at least, providing more detail. They are one of the keys to better communication and feelings of belonging.

Dinner Convo

I find this helpful when talking with kids – especially teens – who are short on describing activities, thoughts, and feelings; especially with parents. Dinner conversations are much more interesting when we ask “If you could redo any part of your day – what would it be?” or “What are you looking forward to tomorrow?”

We may feel as though our conversations aren’t fulfilling without conscious regard to the way we are asking questions.  A quick and simple effort to ask for information differently will dynamically change the way you interact; all because you…

Ask more open-ended questions.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#54 Host A PJ Party

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#54

Host a PJ Party

One of the best parts of a girls weekend getaway is the opportunity to slip into PJ’s, grab a glass of wine, and giggle with our besties until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer. Well, you don’t have to ‘getaway’ in order for that to happen! Host a PJ party at home.

Sleepovers

I don’t know many kids who grow up without the experience of looking forward to the weekends for their opportunities to invite friends over to spend the night. Girls may do this more often than boys but the allure is always the experience of spending as much time with your friends as you can. We may reach the pinnacle of this in college as couches and floor space are dominated by friends who can’t or shouldn’t be driving home. Once we step into adulting, our friends sleepovers give way to sleepovers of a different nature.

Belonging

One of the most elementary benefits of this kind of comradery is the sense of belonging that it instills. Strong feelings of belonging are helpful to us in so many different ways. When we feel as though we ‘belong’ to a group, our self-esteem is higher; our sense of trust is stronger; our immune systems work better; we sleep more effectively; and the benefits continue…

When we spend quality – stress free – time with our friends, it strengthens our bond; our sense of belonging. Overnight visits are a wonderful way to make this happen.

Self-care

Hosting a one, or a group of friends and taking the time to truly interact with them in a carefree manner is a great way to practice self-care. It’s gathering your tribe; lifting yourself up; and surrounding yourself in love. It’s a wonderful healing exercise, even if you aren’t actively thinking about ‘healing’.

Friendship is to emotional stress what the ocean is to mosquito bites – an organic healer.

If you need a friendship boost or if you are aware of a friend that does – I highly recommend getting back to basics, employing some self-care and…

Host a PJ party!

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#60 Start a Collection

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#60

Start a Collection

Today’s suggestion may seem counter-intuitive or even contradictory to yesterday’s position of ‘Keep It Simple’, yet having a collection of something has been demonstrated to promote happiness for some people and it doesn’t seem to matter ‘what’ is collected.

Motivation

From Coca Cola paraphernalia to cars and beanie babies to rare tins, a collection is generally something that has emotional rather than monetary value to the collector. Perhaps it’s representative of a hobby (cars), a fond memory (beanie babies) or time spent with a loved one (Coca Cola). It may also be something that stimulates our winning reflex – the thrill of the hunt (finding rare tins). Other’s still may be inclined to collect based solely on the social aspect, a shared interest either with a friend or a larger group (Boy Scout or Military items).

Meeting Needs

A collection can meet many of our psychological needs. It can be comforting and relieve anxiety. It can help us feel a sense of belonging. It can induce fond memories. Moreover, it may function as a hobby which, is important from the perspective of broadening our interests and offering distraction from daily stressors. A collection can be a statement of who we are; introducing us to the world in a non-verbal manner.

Dysfunctional

Collecting things with intent and purpose is generally a healthy activity. It becomes unhealthy when either of those elements disappears. When we accumulate things out of a fear of letting go or a fear of not having enough, we may be approaching or experiencing unhealthy behavior. Hoarding is a good example of what people may describe as a collection but without intent or purpose. Also potentially dysfunctional is when we become ‘too’ attached to the ‘things’ that we’ve collected; if/when we identify through the material elements. These are the ‘dark side’ conditions of collecting but are much more often the exception rather than the norm.

In most cases, having a collection of something meaningful is a rational, healthy, and potentially helpful past time. What would you collect if you were to …

Start a Collection

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#69 Send a Card of Connection

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#69

Send a Card of Connection

Several years ago I befriended – via an interesting set of circumstances – a resident of a nursing home who had no known living relatives. She is a sweet old lady (now 92) with a very simple life who dedicated her career to pediatric nursing. Today, her memory isn’t very sharp and she sometimes receives cards from people who have passed through the nursing home; prior roommate family members, employees who came to love her, or strangers who’ve heard of her story through the Facebook page I made for her years ago. It is the highlight of her day. She calls me with sheer delight to ask me who the person is that sent the card. Even if I don’t know, she pins it to her bulletin board and adds the address to her little book so she can send a Christmas card the following year.

This tiny little act of kindness impacts the entire day in the most positive way by connecting her to the outside world.

There are thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands, like my friend who would love to get something in the mail even if they don’t know you. Some of our relatives, our neighbors, and our friends may also fall into this category; people who could use a little pick-me-up. Churches and nursing homes know of dozens of people who could benefit from receiving a little sunshine in the form of a card. If you don’t want to be identified, it could be an anonymous message: “Here’s hoping your day is filled with light.~ a caring stranger”.

This idea isn’t so creepy or strange. It is in line with the program that encourages us to send Christmas cards to soldiers or care packages serving overseas. This act of kindness sends the message that “the world hasn’t forgotten about you”, “someone cares that you’re still here’, and/or “you still matter”. Who can’t benefit from that kind of reminder?

Doing something nice – positively affecting the life of another – offering a little encouragement… These things make a difference for you and the receiving person. The energy behind kindness is long lasting on both ends. The effort is small, the cost is minimal, yet the reward is great when you…

Send a card of connection.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#89 Host a Game Night

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#89

Host a Game Night

Do you or your friends get together for Poker, Bunko, Caton, or D&D? Have you spent any time at a board game cafe? Are you a Monopoly fanatic? Board games are making a comeback and Game Night is a ‘thing’ in many twenty-something circles. What is your favorite game?

Family

Gathering the family for a night of gaming can be a great break from electronics and television. New York Magazine recently published a great list of popular board games – among them, several of our favorites; Codenames, Sequence, Ticket to Ride, and Telestrations. Telestrations in particular is great for a crowd and we are always left belly laughing the night away. When the kids are gathered (adults now), they love Ticket to Ride and have lovingly called it the ‘train game’.

 It can be serious and committed or routy, fun, and lighthearted.

By planning and arranging a game night, you’ll be connecting with like-minded people. You’ll be creating opportunities for belonging and laughter, and you’ll be making memories. All of these things lead to feelings of happiness and well-being.

If you don’t have a favorite game, experiment a bit or visit a local game store to get recommendations, or ask friends for their suggestions. Get your family together and involved with one another more often by …

Hosting a game night.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#91 Host a Party – Just Because

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#91

Host a Party

The days of dinner parties for the sole purpose of spending time with people we enjoy seems to be a thing of the past. Granted, some of us may invite friends over for a barbeque or pizza night but in my world it most often meant the kids too and was the only way we made the effort to socialize at home. I’m making this recommendation to bring the party back home – just because.

Hosting

Back in the day of dinner parties, people used their best china, set out the crystal and sterling, and donned a string of pearls when they hosted friends. I’m not recommending that kind of formality as it also – has gone by the wayside in most urban homesteads. A ‘party’ for this reference is any gathering of people for the enjoyment of one another company and not for a special occasion. It can mean dinner, or not. It can mean decorations, or not. It can include alcohol, or not. And it can be formal, or not. Hosting means that you decide, you plan, you do the work (or delegate), and it’s at a location of your choice, preferably your home where you can relax and enjoy.

Doing the Work

I know. Hosting a party can be a lot of work but … it doesn’t have to be! Learning to keep it simple and allowing the pleasure of one another’s company to be the center focus is easier than one would think IF, you can learn to let go of a few things. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be creative. It doesn’t have to be homemade. Giving the bathroom a wipe-over and running the vacuum will help others feel less germ-o-phobic but no one is going to be looking at your baseboards or inside your kitchen cabinets. Asking people to bring a dish to share eliminates a day of cooking and introduces you to different culinary options. Chill out and stay focused on the laughter you’ll generate as you play a round of Cards Against Humanity or belt out a few Karaoke songs.

Theme

Since the goal is to have a party “just because” get-togethers for exchanging something (ornaments, cookies) don’t count; nor do demonstrations like Pampered Chef or Lularoe. The goal is not ‘thing’ related – it’s ‘doing’ related. Get together and engage in comradery. If you absolutely need something to go on – create a theme:

  • Ask people to bring their favorite bottle of wine and do a wine tasting.
  • Ask people to bring a board game and try to play them all.
  • Ask people to bring their favorite dip and snack all night.
  • Ask people to bring a taco topping – provide shells and protein.

Benefits

If you’ve been reading this blog for the last 270 days or so, you’ve no doubt read about the benefits of friendship, laughter, belonging, and doing… hosting a party combines some of the best criteria for positive mental health outcomes so go ahead and look at your calendar … sometime around the middle of January when nothing else is prevalent and …

Host a party… just because.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#107 Have a Girls/Guys Weekend

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#107

Have a Girls/Guys Weekend

Yesterday’s post – recommending that we occasionally ask for a hug – spoke to the importance of feeling connected – to  having a sense of belonging. This suggestion is another that will help foster the sensation of ‘belonging’ by bringing together those people that constitute our tribe.

Early Start

We may start developing the need to surround ourselves with favorite peeps as early as those playgroups that mom drug us to. For others, that desire began in daycare or school but either way – it only blossoms. Soon, we are asking for sleepovers and ‘hanging out’; we want to be encircled by other like-minded souls as often as possible. This is especially true through adolescence when we begin discovering how we are different from our family of origin and downright ‘need’ the sense of sameness.

Grown-up Play Dates

Our need for friendship and belonging doesn’t change as we mature. It does however, become more difficult to get those needs met as we marry, have children, full-time jobs and the daily responsibilities of home life. Our giggling late night conversations with our best friends are few and far between. Those nights that metaphorically ‘fill our gas tank’ are rare unless we make them happen. Hence, the need to have a girls or guys weekend.

Keep it Simple

While it’s great to get out and ‘do’ things while you’re with friends, some of the best parts of a friend weekend is to keep it simple. Life is busy enough as it is so a getaway weekend may best be served by taking it easy next to a beach, swimming pool, or fireplace with a bottle of wine or a bowl of popcorn. If there is too much planned activity, there may not be room for the conversations and connection for which the weekend was designed.

Likewise, the goal is friendship and bond strengthening so it can be short and inexpensive – one night at a campground; or longer and deluxe – a long weekend in Cabo. It can be just one friend or a dozen as long as drama, personality differences, and complaints stay home.

Gender differences

Generally, men like to ‘do’ things and can find comradery in building a barn, hunting, skiing, or gaming. Indeed – plenty of gents splurge on annual outings for many of those reasons and for some, it’s the only real ‘friend’ time they get during the year as family responsibilities prevail. Women seem to be better at planning short and sweet visits together more often, saving the long and expensive trips to enjoy with their significant others.

No matter the style, budget, or program – fostering, building, and strengthening a sense of belonging is the ultimate goal when you make plans to …

Have a Girls/Guys Weekend

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.