I had just argued with Nicholas for the umpteenth time. I was reacting poorly to situations at work and constantly burdening my friends with the everyday throes of my life. I was fed up and inexplicably tired of the pangs of irritation that constantly knocked on our door. It didn't make sense. I had been exercising, eating better, getting healthier and becoming stronger. Why couldn't I change the way I felt about my problems and other people? It was heart-wrenching, but one day I just decided, enough is enough. The way I view myself paves the way for how others view me. What I saw was not going to change without some work. Here's what I did. I made myself accountable. I decided to smile at EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. I'm not kidding. So here are the seven things I decided to be mindful of.
1. Even though I laugh at pretty much everything, I began to add laughter into my life.
No, that doesn't mean I was doing stand up routines in the mirror. This meant that when my husband, Nicholas, made a witty remark and looked at me for a reaction, I reacted in a pleasant way! The first couple of times it felt silly because I hadn’t been used to interacting with him this way. But after a few quips, I was genuinely laughing with and at him. He says it made his mood better, too. It also helped that we binge-watched a season of Parks and Recreation, hands down one of my top five tv shows to watch in this short, humble life.
2. I told myself that I was enough. Me, right now, I'm okay how I am.
How many times do we criticize how we look, what mistakes we've made, or what we could be doing better? I mean seriously, we are in a constant state of over-analyzing every single thing we do. We fail to realize how great we are at this point in ourselves and how much we've accomplished. I believe in reflecting, but not to dissect what we’ve built up. So even though I know I have places to improve myself, I don’t get hung up on where I should be. I appreciate the journey God’s led me on so far.
3. Instead of sorry, I said, "Thank you."
And believe me, it was NOT easy. I'm very quick to apologize--probably too quick if you ask around. But that's how I perceive politeness. This shifted the focus onto others’ politeness and grace to enable me to be grateful. Being grateful takes up so much room that it's hard to be upset or angry with a frustrating situation. You start to look at what actually is going right instead of having tunnel vision for what’s wrong. And there are enough outside influences focusing on what’s wrong for a lifetime.
4. I didn't take myself too seriously.
Seriously, I didn't. I don't get irritated easily but I am definitely a recovering "i see red and only red" type of person. I felt like I could not help myself when it came to being angry. Even if I felt my anger was warranted, I wasn’t satisfied in that absolute feeling of sheer rage over what I now believe to be some of the smallest things (running late, traffic, long lines, disappointment, lack of leadership, the list goes on and on) that take up my day. I’m just one person, and I know everyone else is too. Most of us are just doing the best we can and the best reaction is to just love on people in their hard moments.
5. Surrounded myself with the people who make me laugh.
I believe our lives are all about balance. I had to experience some of the most terrible people to meet some of the best people in my life. And these are the kind of people that make your stomach ache from laughter, your eyes foggy with tears, and your breathing short--they're the kind of friendships for which you truly wait a lifetime. I selfishly surround myself with these kind of folks because I know that I'm a better human when I'm laughing than I am when I scowl. So I packed them into my life and increased my mood ten-fold.
6. I wrote Thank You cards.
Most people don't know I do this, but every so often I take an hour and appreciate the people that affect my life in a positive way whether they know it or not with handwritten cards. I have an ever-growing collection of thank you cards, plus we never sent thank you's from our wedding three years ago (whoops, our bad) so we always have stamps, too. It probably doesn't help that the post office is always enticing with the cuteness of the stamps. I really can't refuse Chinese New Year stamps or Disney Villains. The United State Postal Service just gets me.
7. Took 15 minutes a day to just be present in my home, on my couch, without my phone, the television or any other distractions.
This was the hardest to do. When I go, go, go all the time, I begin to lose the feeling of relaxation. Even with my extroverted self being fueled by loving on people, I need this time to center and focus myself. But I hadn’t been doing this and I had a giant case of the grumps as a result. I made some coffee some days, or tea other days and just took the time to be thankful for our home, an absence of needing anything, for the grace of God, and for my relationships. I seriously start my day with such a healthy perspective after doing this.
Not every day is a win in my book, to be honest. It does not mean everything was terribly wrong, it just means that I could have done better. I try to reflect on my day and figure out where I could have reacted out of love instead of reacting out of self-intention. This is my goal every day, to bring smiles to everyone around me and make moments with me a little brighter.