Life is complex, isn’t it? Or is it possible that you and I add unnecessary layers to life, bury the easy in favor of the challenging, see complex systems where simple patterns will do? OMG, what if life really is easy and simple? Years ago, I purchased an ‘easy button’ from Staples. I am not sure if this is familiar to you. It sits on my desk still and when you push it a male voice simply says, “that was easy”. There it is in plain sight reminding that really life is easy. It is human intervention that messes things up.
As I begin writing this column, I am determined to explore the simple pleasures of life, the things that can keep you and I grounded in living easy and free of the unnecessary encumbrances we typically impose on ourselves.
Here is a topic that has been given a great deal of attention, one which the gurus and pundits have made so much more complex that necessary. Mindfulness is breathing, taking time to be quiet, clearing your head and paying attention. But you must practice MINDFULNESS spout the experts. Yes, and simply said this can be achieved by simply looking before leaping into your day. It truly is one of life’s simple pleasures. Lingering for a moment before you get out of bed. Asking yourself a couple of questions regarding the day ahead: what is it I want to experience today? How do I want to be in the world, in my interactions with others, in whatever I touch? Breathe it in.
If anything can de declared a ‘simple pleasure’ it certainly is gratitude. There is so much in life that we, as Canadians, take for granted. A few examples: a warm bed to sleep in, running water, hot showers, food in your fridge, safe streets to walk on, light at the flick of a switch, air conditioning or heat, cars. Easy access to food. The list continues. In many countries the things that are part of your daily life simply do not exist. This is not to suggest that you don’t enjoy them, it is simply to be mindful that your life is abundant in ways that you might not recognize.
Gratitude in its truest form is a mindfulness practice. Simple and cost free, a gratitude practice is the discipline of recalling 4-5 things daily for which you are grateful. Your can write them down, share them with someone else over dinner, or review your day as you go to sleep. I am sure there are other ways as well. Introduced into conversations, gratitude is an amazing way to shift attitudes and energy. When you encounter someone who is going down a rabbit hole of negativity you can interrupt and ask them to share one thing, they are grateful for. They may not like it in the moment. I suggest you pursue it though as research tells us that the brain can not hold onto negativity when forced to shift to positivity. In addition, research regarding gratitude practices and those who embrace them shows that gratitude has a significant impact on our sense of wellbeing. A simple pleasure indeed, one that is good for our health.
Random Acts of Kindness
The random acts of kindness movement began in 1995. It is celebrated annually in February. Suggestions posted for this year’s random Acts of Kindness Day were:
·Offer a sincere and genuine compliment at least 5 people.
·Let the person in line behind you go ahead of you at a coffee shop or grocery store.
·Leave happy notes around town, your house, your office.
·Babysit for a single mom for free or offer to relieve a caregiver for a few hours.
·Sit next to someone who is sitting alone at lunch and engage them in a conversation. Learn about them.
·Help an elderly neighbor take out the trash or mow their lawn.
To this list I would add: smile as you walk down the street and say Good Morning, be attentive to people around you and offer support when you see that it is required, lend a listening judgment free ear to someone who simply needs a shoulder. The list as you can see is endless as kindness has no boundaries.
Most importantly be kind to yourself. Oh that! Yep! Any act of kindness will seem inauthentic if inwardly you are being unkind to yourself. You know what I mean, that ugly vocal self-critic who sits on your shoulder and reminds you the many ways in which you screwed up, or that you are not good enough or smart enough, whatever.
This brings us full circle. Random acts of kindness through what I refer to as mindful self-acknowledgement is the highest form of gratitude. Pause for a moment and think about this. How often do you truly see who you are and examine what you bring to your days? What strengths do you possess that you bring to your work and relationships? What talents and gifts do you possess that improve the world? In what ways do you honor these aspects of yourself?
Self-acknowledgment is the practice of taking time everyday to recognize the difference you made that day in the lives of others, in the work you performed, in simply being present in any situation. Rather than offering the stage to your self-critic, you give the space to your personal cheerleader and coach. It is the ultimate act of kindness and gratitude, a thank you note to your creator who gave you these gifts and strengths. Simple – YES! Easy – with practice.
Life’s simple pleasures: cost $0.00; value priceless.
Enjoy the rest of the summer. Be present to your days. Be kind to yourself and others. Lean into gratitude.
Until next time,