This Week: Five Ingredient Happy


It was a long (but mostly good) four-days-that-felt-like-one, and something had to give. One thing that cracked, for me, this week, was creativity. I even ate dully...healthfully, and well, but un-adventurously. No experiments. Not even the idea of experiments, till today, when time opened up again. A privileged complaint--to evaluate the vibrancy and variation of weekly meals. Just thinking about how privileged makes me feel guiltily chastised, especially in light of the fact that I began the week swimming in a throwback to middle school. I'll call it PMS, but it was mostly regression. Monday, tired from a hard long run last weekend and weary from anticipated weariness (of parent-teacher conference week, which is actually enjoyable, useful and enlightening just tiring), every little thing caused internal whining and diatribes of the puerile sort. From people on the street not making eye contact to imagined tensions and terseness, I chose to be a brat that day. That night, I decided to put the brat to bed for the week by giving myself some homework: personalize a recipe for "Happy" and try to take it to heart. Here's what I've worked out, for now.

You will need:

1. Balance.  Balance and moderation can seem boring in our culture today, but if there's any one-size-fits-all secret to health and happiness, I'd say that's the golden one. Achieving better balance might just be as easy as picking a bedtime. I've told myself year after year that sleeping is more important than planning and trying after a point, and I'm finally giving in. Sleep brings patience, quick thinking, and humor, and bam, you get to amaze yourself with your own productivity.

Balance is something I've always admired enormously and found personally difficult to attain. Yet once grasped, it means peace of mind and  security. Speaking of which, Dave and I were thinking back this week to how, even when we were living in England on such a beans-and-toast budget the buskers didn't even bother when we walked by, we still had life insurance. Remembering this jolted my brain off the hamster wheel it wanted to cycle away at. Because, at the end of the day, we have one life, and it's not a dress rehearsal. The other thing we have of value, really, is each other.  Invest in both.

2. Adventure. I've decided it's just foolish to argue with Eleanor. Do something everyday that scares you. Granted, this is most fun when you can afford the time and resources to accomplish it by wandering far and away. But even when confined in a rigid schedule, I'm discovering it's healthy to let in a little uncertainty, open up a realm of unknown.

On a fitness note, we've been working on re-framing our approach to races recently. Forcing ourselves to accept this place called "middle life", I'm realizing pretty keenly that these endeavors we sign up for are not worth throwing up over (darn nerves). We can still shoot for PRs...and we've got our sights set on a growing string where they're much longed for and also possible...but we have to learn not to take ourselves quite so seriously; choose new challenges, including those wherein we may fall short, yet revel in the fun of it all, from the atmosphere to the uniqueness.

Dave has taken the adventurous outlook a little too far, potentially, in my opinion, but I'm excited for him. He has a guy's trip in the works to do this wild cowboy's ultra event. Check it out, and when you do, let me know whether bravery outweighs crazy for a guy who has been on a horse once, and walked funny for a week thereafter.

3. Gratitude. Data has been released over the last month that there are now a record 46.7 million Americans on food stamps, which represents a startling 15 per cent of the U.S. population. There are those who choose to make this political, of course, but no matter where your political allegiances are, the important thing to focus on is what can be done to help the situation. As I understand it, food stamps benefits are roughly $130 for a family of four per month! I fleetingly thought of experimenting for one week to stretch what that budget would be as healthfully as possible, but the picture was so bleak I couldn't begin to fathom what I would do.  More on this another time...

There is so much to be grateful for, but gratitude and granted being two very similar words, I think the latter attempts to stand in for the former too often, at least in my world. Also, when I focus on gratitude, I often allow my wayward brain to embark on a fearful journey of how painful it will be when something I am grateful for is threatened. This week, a focus on gratitude needed to be on the now.

4. Laughter.  You know how "they" say that laughing out loud is good for your health, even if it's fake? Think infectious scene from Mary Poppins. I always thought it would be really funny to try fake-laughing to bring on real laughing with a friend, completely randomly, and so I made Dave try with me, and I know I'm a big nerd, but it was honestly fun! I guess there's a risk that you will find the situation so pathetic you’ll start crying instead, but if that happens, chances are you needed that emotional release anyway.

5. Gentleness.  With yourself.  Especially when you lapse, in commitment, resolve, patience, diet, pace, or strength. Give yourself the benefit of all the self-talk you are so confident at giving others, and do your best, knowing that's all that you can do.

Not to play philosopher, and most definitely not preacher, but this week, this worked, for me. Maybe it will help turn a future bratty day around for  you, too. Add color and spice as you like, and be happy!