On my way to work, there is one double road that leads out of a roundabout, and I often find myself cussing when someone from the right lane is trying to squeeze their way past into my lane, because he wanted (my early morning grumpy-mood interpretation of course) to gain time and wait until the last second to change into the right lane. I mostly let them past. Sometimes not, when they’re too annoying, and especially if it’s a huge expensive car. (yes, I’m superficial like that) But then, every once in a while, a person will put on the four signaling lights shortly, signaling a thank you, in the only way you can while being stuck in traffic when it’s pitch black outside. And I smile. And I have to admit, that I’ve noticed this happening quite often these days to me, like, a few times over the week. It so surprised me, that I even talked to my husband about it, wondering whether I was just being lucky or whether there was a monumental change in how people were acting in public now.
It turns out he hadn’t noticed it, although he is on the road a lot, but I suspect that it’s something we just haven’t paid attention to. And that’s a shame. Because once I started paying attention to this, it made me smile every single time someone thanked me politely for letting them pass. It’s nice getting a sort of thank you sign from a random stranger, isn’t it?
And this started me thinking of these small tiny things, actions, signs that brighten your day. They don’t cost any energy, or little, and yet they mean so much in their simplicity. So I tried to put together a few of these small everyday simple things that I try to do, and that I think that might help in making your day and that of the people around you a teeny tiny bit shinier and friendlier.
“I just called, to say …”
With everyone leading mostly a frenzy life, full of deadlines, of schedules, of kids, parents, dogs to take care of, and the monopoly of social media, I feel like time spent with friends someone is the loser of this scheme. At least it is in my life. I can follow quite easily what everyone is doing around me, by checking out their latest pictures on the web, even for people living in the States or in Australia or Canada. But I haven’t talked to them in at least 2 to 5 years.
So one of the things I’ve tried to do from time to time, partly to get rid of the bad feeling of never getting back to people and while I think of them quite often, I never do anything about it, is to send them small messages. If I have more time, I’ll send a longer Email, just to tell them what is happening in my life right now, and to see what they’re up to. For no real reason, just like that. Or I’ll send someone a physical card or letter (yeah, weird, right?) Or a call, while I’m walking through the shopping street, and using this time for something way more valuable, such as catching up with a good friend. When I still had Bluetooth in my car and was living at 45 minute distance from my work, I used that time to call friends.
Sometimes I will send friends that live further away a small gift box, with something I stumbled upon and that made me think of them. Just random acts of catching up, out of the blue, to say “Hey, I might not be around often, but I’m still there and am glad to have you as a friend.”
If you want to be more attentive at this point, you might set yourself a task to at least catch up with one friend a month, or a week if you’re feeling crazy. A short mail, a message via whatsapp or messenger is fine, or a card.
I think it is even more important when you have not talked to someone in a long while, and that you care about. people tend to avoid this, because they have a bad conscience for not giving any sign of life in a long time, but honestly, it’s always better to do something, a small thing, than nothing at all. And in most cases, people will be really really happy and surprised about the message and it will brighten they day. Isn’t that what it is all about?
This is even more true in awkward situations and something that you see very often when you are confronted with a situation of someone passing away. People rarely know how to respond and what to do, often ending up in not doing anything at all.
A friend told me of the situation of a man, whose wife suddenly passed away, and where a couple they had been befriended with for ages, and that they met often for lunches and dinners, simply stopped any contact at all. I’m certain they didn’t mean any harm, but that they simply didn’t know how to act, and what to do. That is human, and we all feel uncertain in such situations. But it is always better to do something than nothing at all. You can always send a note, and tell people you’re there when they need you, and sometimes ask if they want to join you on some outing or other. They might say “no” 9 times, but maybe the tenth time, they’ll feel ready for it. Don’t get offended if they decline.
I have acted like that quite many times myself – less when it comes to death because at one point in my life, that one came around quite often and it had become a part of my life – but more when it just comes to the routine every day life. I try to get through my day, my work schedule, the chores at home, getting the kids to brush their teeth and pick up their dirty clothes, and then in the evening when I’m done, I’ll think “Oh my god, please don’t let any call me now!” I’ve even gone so far as to not pick up the phone when it was ringing. It’s awful, but it just feels impossible to be social at that point of the day.
But on the other hand, it is a very dangerous way to act. I’m very lucky to have friends who know I’m bad at socializing and that are never in the least bit annoyed or disappointed when I don’t respond to a message or mail (for a few months…), but one day that might change. And that’ll be my fault entirely. So in order to make up for this, I’ll do some extra effort when I’m feeling in the mood. Share the good vibes and send little notes around, or share a funny fact, something that made me think of them. A recipe that I think someone will love. Or a show that I think they’d like to see.
These are all very small things, but this little effort on your part will brighten someone’s day, and make you feel positive and good about it as well.
This is an important one. Smile.
Try to smile at least at one person that you don’t know, at a stranger, every day. You’ll be surprised that mostly, they smile back. The more you smile, the much better the mood will be around you. It is simply an automatism. If you smile, your body relaxes a bit, and you’ll instantly feel better. It’s free. It takes a millisecond. And it’s good for your health.
I’d like to say : try to have at least one laughing fit a day, but that one might be hard to accomplish. But when it happens, enjoy the moment to the fullest!
By smiling, you’re also automatically being simply polite. (ok, so this doesn’t apply to when you smile at a random stranger) Hold open the door for someone. Say thank you for a nice gesture. Smile even when you’re on the phone, people can hear it in your voice and most often, they’ll be less aggressive and complicated, if you treat them with politeness and respect.
This goes a bit hand in hand with a self-destructive habit, that is complaining about everybody and everything. I have a tendency to rant about people that annoy me, or someone who was especially aggressive on the phone, or a very tedious task. And in my deepest self I know very well, that I’m being utterly childish. That it doesn’t need much for me to stand up and stamp my foot on the floor. (Ok, so I’ve done that as well already, in real life. In the office. Yes, I know…I’ve even jumped up and down on both feet, like in the comics)
So this one is a very important for me, because I’ve realized that it becomes a nasty habit, one that drags you down and makes you feel worse and worse about everything. Your job. The people surrounding you. Just everything. And you become part of that scary part of society that simply complain about everything, yet have everything to be happy. I hate it, and I hate the tendency I have to slip into that pattern. That I preach to my kids to not talk bad about anyone, no matter how much you dislike them, and then, the first moment that I encounter a difficult situation or person, I’ll do exactly the same.
It’s just no use. And it’s a vicious circle. You’ll feel worse and worse about everything, pessimistic, and that everyone around you is behaving badly and doing a bad job, and that you’re the only one doing the right thing. Once you’ve reached that point, you’re almost always wrong.
I don’t say that sometimes it does some good to rant about something or to yell when you’ve put down the receiver, and that you should keep all the bad stuff inside yourself, because obviously, we can’t be super grown up all the time and neutral. That’s just supernatural. But what I do feel you need to do is to break down the tendency to ramble about everything, because it puts you in a nasty mindset and a very dangerous, self-destructive road to engage on. And, most certainly, won’t make you smile.
ENJOY THE SMALL THINGS IN LIFE
This needs some training, I’ll admit. But increasingly, as the kids grow older and I fear, with it, the complications of our family life, I try to catch the good moments in the day and enjoy them. It takes some effort, but if you try to see the positive in the small things in the day, it really makes it much better.
For instance, when I run late in the morning, because one of the kids woke up too early and upon realizing that I was on my way out, yells:” No mommy, don’t leave!”, I’ll just go and see them, and enjoy these few moments of cuddling and talking. I’ve trained myself to not act and sound irritated, but to think to myself: “Yes, I’ll run late. I’ll be stuck in traffic and lose at least half an hour on my work plan. But it is so worth it.” These micro-moments, which weren’t planned, are like small pearls to me, and I collect them. I keep them in my pocket and take them out when I need them.
One day, the kids won’t need me. Noone will be calling after me when I’m on my way to work. They’ll be grown and have moved out of our home and I know I’ll miss these moments so much, just like I did the feeling of them swimming around in my belly, when I was pregnant. Of course, I was always happy when they were finally out, but still… I’d grown used to that comforting feeling of someone pushing and kicking inside my belly, and I felt like I’d lost a friend.
I also love it when one of them crawls into bed at night after a nightmare. Of course it means I’ll spend a bad night, with feet and arms kicking at me, but I still love every second of it.
And what this sums up to, is on one hand showing people that you care for them, by really meaning it, and also telling them. Tell your kids, your partner, cat, dog, goldfish or whoever you care for, that you love them. Tell them to have a great day. Ask them about their day in the evening, or whenever you see them. You don’t know how many of these tiny good moments you’ll have with them, so enjoy every second of it.
JAR OF HAPPY MOMENTS
I’ve seen something that I haven’t done myself but that I like a lot the idea of, of what I would call : “The jar of happy moments.” The idea is to take some time every week, day or month (I’d go for the week, in my case), and jot down one thing that made you very happy that week. Or one thing that you are grateful for. Or an accomplishment, something that you are proud for.
I think that this is an especially interesting solution if you are having a hard time seeing the postiive things in life, soething that all of us have gone through at one point in your life. It is especially in these moments, that small things matter the most, to see you out of the maze.
If for example this is the case with your job, you could of course first try to change what you dislike about it, try to find another job, or then again make an attempt at focusing on what you like about it and what you’re good about and make that the center of your attention. But you could also use this jar to try and focus on these good and positive actions or moments.
Then, at the end of the year (or whatever period of time you’ve set yourself), open the jar and read your notes. You’ll realize, I think, that many of these notes will be about small events or things that you had forgotten all about. And it’ll remind you of the good things and make you feel more grateful for the life you’re having.
I’m actually thinking one could do it also for keeping track of the writing experience. As I’ve decided this year to avoid any crazy projects and try and work on my pieces step by step, but constantly, it might be helpful to remember the small progresses I’ve made over time. For example, I’m having a really hard time moving on with this editing job of my novel. Maybe, the fact of focusing on the small tasks and progresses and see how these baby steps got me to some better point at one moment, are going to help me see through that tedious task?
do it with your kids, with your spouse, ask “how was your day?” I do this everyday, and in the evening with the kids, especially when they’re having emotionally tough and stressful times, I try to get them to focus on the best and worst things that happened in that day. it is certainly not any new idea that I’m bringing up here, but it is a very easy thing to implement, and to help yourself and your kids to focus on the good things in life, especially when they’re a bit down. they tend – as we do too – to focus on the one bad thing that made their day terrible, and block off the rest of the day.
when you see them in the morning, or like me, in the evening before going to bed, I’ll tell them to have a super duper great day the next day and that I love them. it’s not something that I was used to from my family, not because they didn’t care or didn’t love me, not at all. It’s just not sth we did.
sometimes you think these things but you don’t do anything about them. if you don’t say it’s a pity. do the good things now, ewhy not? not wait for days or months or years for the perfect timing to come, it will never come.
A PEACEFUL SOUL AND MIND
One last little task I can only strongly recommend is one that goes with training to have a thankful and positive mindset. I did this one for a long time, then stopped because simply I was too tired in the evenings and drop into a comatose state into bed. But I’ve recently taking it up again, as a means to feel more balanced especially in stressed times like right now.
I will sit down in my bed, just minutes before then really dropping down into heavy sleep, into an improvised and lazy version of a lotus position, put my hands on my knees, close my eyes and focus on my breathing. I’ll let the events of the day pass through my mind, and try – really really try – not to judge them. I’ll see what was good, what I am grateful for or even proud of (doesn’t happen every day, I assure you), and the ones that were less pleasing. Hurtful moments. Moments were I acted wrong with a colleague, with a friend or anything like that. I’ll think it through, find what bugs me about it, and set my mind to doing better the next time. As I’ve dealt with it in my thoughts, I can put it at rest in a drawer and put a closure to the day.
Mostly, I’m so dazzled by that time that I really drop dead into my cushion and sleep heavily.
What this small routine does is that it helps to put a closure to my day, and to make my mind and soul ready for the next day, with the storng belief that it will be a good day, no matter what happens. It helps to keep up some balance, and to be more forgiving with oneself, and thus – this is where we once again arrive at the beginning – make you wake up with a smile.