#25 Compete in Something

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.

#25

Compete in Something

Do you play cards? Tennis? Chess? Do you run marathons or are you part of a sports team? If you do/are… you are most likely engaging in competition which, as it turns out – is good for you. If not, think of something you can do that will offer you an opportunity to compete, to win because the dopamine rush that happens when we win – may be important to our happiness.

Chemical Reactions

It seems as if we are biologically designed to be rewarded for “coming out on top”… for winning. In fact, low serotonin levels are the result of denying ourselves the opportunity to win. If you find that you avoid competition or don’t try to succeed when given the chance, it may promote depressed feelings. Winning is one of the ways that we validate our power or knowledge.

When we win at something, our bodies produce a surge of testosterone – temporarily providing a rush of ‘strength’ in both men and women. In addition, dopamine – the happy chemical – courses through the area of our brain that is responsible for pleasure and positive emotions.

Is it no wonder that winning is the goal?

Winning isn’t Everything

Competition isn’t just about winning however. There are great benefits to being a part of a team when it comes to those competitions that require cooperation and coordination. Learning to share energy in an effort to accomplish a task is an important life skill.

Competitions tax our body and/or our minds. Whether we’re competing in a triathlon or playing Euchre, we are using some kind of energy in the pursuit of playing. Our brains are constantly at work in an effort to figure out how to maximize our performance. It also promotes creativity as we vie to ‘get out front’ and win.

Against Yourself

Some people have negative reactions to social competitions and some, broken perspectives from poor experiences in the past. In these cases, I recommend competition against one’s self. Beat your best at anything; strive to do it faster, or earlier, or bigger. Anything that you can do to promote the sense of “I did it!” will induce similar chemical responses in your body.

Competition is good for you so the next time you have a chance to play a game of anything or to personally challenge yourself… just do it. You’ll be giving yourself an opportunity for some great chemical rushes should you win. After all, the only way to win… is to…

Compete in something.

TTAH

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#113 Play a Practical Joke

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.

#113

Play a practical joke

Life is just better when there’s laughter, isn’t it? I know I am guilty of getting locked into a serious mood from time to time and a practical joke is just the thing to bring me out of it. Before we go much further though – perhaps we can take a moment to define ‘practical’ in the interest of keeping it funny.

Clarity on Intent

The literal definition of a practical joke is to “trick someone in order to make them look foolish or amuse them”. I strongly suggest we avoid the ‘looking foolish’ element and strive for amusement. Here, it may be important to understand how the person  you want to ‘trick’ – is amused. While some slight forms of discomfort or embarrassment can be funny – there is great variability on our perspectives of this. For the sake of this suggestion, the intent of a practical joke is to promote laughter and levity.

Candid Camera

Perhaps the epitome of the kind of stunts that may be considered ‘harmless’ are the kind used by the famed television show Candid Camera. The tricks of mind and eye – the ones that leave us wondering about our sanity; tricks of the mind.

Limitations

Because the goal is to create amusement and for everyone involved to have fun, there are particular limits that must be respected in the pursuit of practical joking. In particular, no physical harm. No property damage. No significant inconvenience (i.e., creating situations that may make someone late for work – their boss may not think your joke is funny). And remember, what you’re willing to tolerate may not be the same as your target so – keep it light.

Suggestions

I’ve included a bunch of photos that I, personally find funny and harmless for your enjoyment and thought stimulation.

boots in concrete prank looks like dead body

Laughter elevates the most necessary chemicals in our body required for a sense of well-being. It provides a dopamine rush and helps us feel better by pulling us into the present moment. Remember, have fun but be thoughtful as you …

Play a practical joke.

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

#146 Plan a Surprise for Someone You Love

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.

#146

Plan a Surprise for Someone You Love

This suggestions will elevate happiness for both you and someone special in your life. Surprising someone is always fun but planning a little (or big) surprise for someone you love is the best! For this particular post, the intent is to up your game romantically.

Dopamine Rush

A lot of us made this part of our early romantic life. We commonly offer the unexpected as a way of initiating romance. We love the dopamine rush when we pull off a surprise and many of us enjoy the experience of receiving these kinds of gestures. Coming home to an impromptu candlelight dinner… a hot drawn bubble bath with spa music… being whisked away for a steamy night in a local hotel room… These kinds of surprises turn up the ‘you’re special to me’ meter in any relationship and they are generally low cost; low effort.

Awareness

Keeping this type of energy alive in a relationship demands awareness and intent. An awareness of time and activity with the intent to keep our romantic partners needs and interest in the forefront of our mind regardless of the years that have passed.

Appreciation

Perhaps the surprise is being picked up from work and escorted to a coveted sporting event or a favorite restaurant. Perhaps it’s bringing in a cleaning team or scheduling a babysitter for a couple’s night out. It could be as simple as declaring it “Jane/John Appreciation Day” – and treating that person as if you would on a birthday or Mother’s/Father’s day – but for no special reason other than they are ‘appreciated’. Everyone receives an endorphin rush by being appreciated.

Keep Them in Mind

It’s important to specifically consider the individual you are wanting to surprise. The surprise needs to be something THEY would enjoy. Some people don’t like ‘surprises’ so the gesture needs to be softer and maybe less spontaneous. It may be important to have a random and casual conversation with your romantic partner to find out what kind of surprises they would enjoy and then write them down or commit them to memory.

Spice up your life, invest in your relationship, and elevate your mood by…

Planning a surprise for someone you love

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

#151 Send Postcards

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.

#151

Send Postcards

Remember when people would go on vacation and send us a postcard with the sentiment “wish you were here?” You’d get a little envious or jealous or just happy that someone you care about was in a place that looked amazing.

Today, with social media, the need for postcards is practically obsolete yet, they still adorn racks near the cashier of retail establishments in those places that are considered tourist attractions and exist mostly for the benefit of collections.

I’ve written about sending snail mail before and the cheer that it brings to most of us when we actually receive something significant in the mailbox. A postcard from a place you’ve been, a place that is meaningful to you, or a place that you may want to share with someone would be a great treat as well.

Postcards can be used as thinking of you cards’, ‘get well cards’, or even to send birthday wishes. In this age of image bombardment – the picture focus of Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest, the photo element of a postcard seems apropos.

No matter where you are, there’s likely to be a place that offers at least a small collection of postcards to choose from. Even in non-descript places off a major interstate may offer some depicting the best features of the state you’re travelling through.

You can save a little money too! Sending a postcard only costs $.35 today compared the the $.50 of a regular stamped card/envelope. The savings of $.15 adds up over time and those little cost savings is how the rich get richer!

The next time you’re at the shore, the lake, in the mountains, or on vacation… maybe even the next time you stop in a Cracker Barrel restaurant… pick up a few postcards and surprise your friends and family with a little mailbox treat! I’ve written extensively in this series about the benefits of doing nice things, surprising someone, and the effect of receiving good will. In each case, there is a shot of dopamine for both you and the receiver… increasing your happiness level just a tad with the quick and easy effort of…

Sending a postcard.

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

#195 Hug People

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.

#195

Hug people

Why do hugs feel so good? Have you ever wondered? Of course, as in many other things… hugging causes the body to emit oxytocin – the feel good chemical. In addition to producing feelings of calm and relaxation… it lowers blood pressure and and stress on your heart. Hugging is good for your stress level and your physical health.

Take a look at this video of a girl who handed out hugs to people in line for communion. Not only is she adorable but you can almost see the oxytocin production in the faces of people who approach her.

Security

Hugs help us feel safe. In addition to oxytocin, levels of serotonin and dopamine also increase when we are firmly hugged. Both of these body chemicals promote a sense of well-being; of belonging. When we experience a sense of safety and belonging, our entire world feels better. Our perspectives are balanced.

Balance

Hugs educate us about giving and receiving. They promote equilibrium in our day to day life. When we hug people there is an energy exchange. Some people believe that the interaction seeks to equalize the vibrations in the union… taking from one and giving to another. After a firm hug we may automatically feel more harmonious and peaceful.

Share

When you have a little extra energy, why not share a little? The hug you give someone may be just what they need to push through the rest of their day. If you notice a person with low energy and you feel comfortable – offer a hug. You’ll likely make a difference in that individuals day and all because you made a decision to …

Hug people.

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

#213 Snuggle

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.

#213

Snuggle

Who doesn’t love to snuggle? From the time we are born, one of the ways that we experience connection and belonging is to get our body up close and connected to another person. Snuggling is NOT sex… it’s sharing personal space with another warm body – human or animal friend. It’s connecting – heartbeat to heartbeat – with another being to remind us that we are not alone in the world, that we are more than just ourselves. It’s part of what keeps us grounded and produces sensations of ‘existential significance’ – a feeling of having a purpose.

Snuggling comes with benefits

Spending as little as FIVE minutes a day cuddling with another being will stimulate an increase in the three primary emotional health hormones: Oxytocin, Dopamine, & Serotonin. Between the three of them, benefits include prevention of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and high blood pressure. They improve your immune system, lower your heart rate, and stimulate your metabolism. All together, they relax you and induce smiling.

Snuggle buddy

If you wake up next to someone each day – try to commit to 5 min either in the morning or the evening to cuddle together (without anticipation of sex) and no conversation. This is just time for the two of you to experience the life force of one another, to feel connected, and to be present with one another. If you sleep alone most of the time, then take 5 min a day to snuggle with a child (yours or someone in your care) or an animal friend. Cats and dogs are great snugglers (well… some cats.) and the living energy that exists in them can still mingle with yours for the existential benefit of realizing that you are not here alone.

Being present

In addition to all of the ‘connection’ elements associated with snuggling and their benefits, the ability for us to be still and present for 5 minutes a day has its own associated perks. In that small allotted time, nothing else matters and we are able to feel centered in our space. For those few moments, the pressures of the world are quiet. Breathe in the stillness and allow it to settle in your soul. Allow yourself to take the time to…

Snuggle.

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

#228 Buy Coffee for the Person Behind You

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.

#228

Buy coffee for the person behind you.

I’m sure you’ve heard of, perhaps even acutely aware of the ‘random act of kindness’ movement (#RAK).  You may even have performed one recently. What I’d like to suggest is that the next time you get in line to buy coffee, a latte, or a frappe – please consider paying for the drink that the person behind you has ordered (assuming you are in a drive through line). You could do it for the car behind you in an drive through that pre-orders (fast food, etc.).

We know that ‘kindness begets kindness’… when people are the receiver of a random act of kindness, they are more likely to perform one but it has to start somewhere. Why not be the one to initiate?

When you are kind, pleasure centers in your brain are activated. Your dopamine levels increase and you feel happier. When we are surprised, (by receiving a random act of kindness) we also have surges in dopamine, again feeling happier. It’s a win – win situation.

When I make this suggestion I sometimes hear objections of how difficult it is to find an extra $5 but really… it’s only $5 and it might mean that your coffee tomorrow is forgone but knowing that you’ve impacted the life of another in a positive way will override any deficiency.

It’s a simple suggestion, spending a few dollars on someone you don’t even know to promote happiness for you both. Why don’t you consider, the next time you are sitting in line at a drive through… promoting happiness by taking the time to …

Buy a coffee for the person behind you.

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

#230 Give the Gift of Your Favorite Book

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.

#230

Give the Gift of Your Favorite Book

Yesterday I suggested that you re-read your favorite book and if you take me up on that suggestion…. Great! I hope you enjoy. Afterwards – or in the event that you don’t want to re-read it – write a note about why the book stands out in your mind, tuck it inside and give it to a friend (without giving away the ending).

Sharing Is Good

You might share why you are giving this particular book to that particular person. Is there something about the story that reminds you of her/him, or the relationship  you have with them? Is there something else that you think resonates within the story? Sharing things we love is good for our spirit. When we give away something we enjoy, we share a bit of ourselves as we hand over the material item.

Connections

This gesture is a small example of how we might foster social connections. Sharing is an integral part of connecting with others. Research tells us that when we share, the pleasure centers of our brain are activated – the same areas that turn on when we eat food that we enjoy or have sex. Because we take time to step outside of ourselves – out of our selfish perspective – we may also improve elements of depression or anxiety.

Kindness

Perhaps the best benefit of all is that we promote kindness which, is known to be one of those things that create forward ripples; kindness begets kindness. Not to mention that the gesture promotes reading. You may never know what goodness happens after you…

Give the gift of your favorite book.

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

#273 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#273

Write down a favorite childhood memory.

Close your eyes for a minute and allow yourself to go back in time – back to when you were a child. Allow yourself to remember a moment of laughter, of comfort, or fun. What was happening then? Who was there? What were you thinking and feeling? What about that particular memory stands out?

Go ahead and write down the details – the answer to the above questions – for this memory and then do it again, and again.

Take the time to cherish, even savor, each of those memories as you write them. The act of writing will refresh your memory even more (perhaps stimulating additional details). Remembering pleasant times stimulates those pleasure areas in our brain and while they don’t spur the same level of chemicals that the actual even does, there is some dopamine production with the remembering.

Writing down the fun times helps to honor the experiences so that they balance our perspectives more evenly. Our brains are still wired to be noticing everything that is wrong (survival instinct) and so when we take time to reflect on the positives, we appreciate the true balance that typically exists in our overall existence.

If nothing else, writing down these memories captures them for our later reflection or maybe even more importantly, for the people who love us. My children are always intrigued about my childhood and how I spent time before video games and electronics. They find it interesting to imagine how we lived in a time that they’ve only read about or seen represented on television. The world is continuing to change, so capturing this little slice of history may be impactful to all of our future generations. How fun for all when we sit around and remember that time when Granny…

Write down a favorite childhood memory (or two).

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

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash