It was a dark and rainy night…well, actually, afternoon…and it’s happening today. Typical mid-January weather, exactly what we need to stay motivated, get a bunch of stuff done and feel super good about what we’ve done so far this year, right? Did my little pep talk pep you up? I’m guessing not.
It’s almost impossible to talk (or think) your way into a new way acting.
What works better? Act your way into a new way of thinking.
Except it’s very difficult to do when it’s a dark and rainy afternoon, all your good intentions for the year seem to be out the window and you feel kind of blah.
Good. Now it’s time to let the good intentions and resolutions go by the wayside and get to work. How? With Tools, in this case, specifically with Tools that are regular practices.
In this case, I’m using the word practice as a noun, as in a discipline, something you do regularly. One of the practices that I’m continually honing as a new pilot is the pre-flight check of the airplane I’m about to fly. It’s something I NEVER do with my car, and yet, no pilot worth her salt will take a plane up that she hasn’t thoroughly checked over to make sure everything is in good working order. Just yesterday, we almost didn’t fly because one of our fuel gauges was not working initially. We reset it, and also checked it against the visible measure of the tank. When the gauge worked, we were able to continue to the next step. At every step, we have a practice of following a checklist to assure that we are effectively managing fuel, power, altitude, heading and more.
So what kind of practices can help you act your way into a new way of thinking? I’ve got three “S’s” to get you started.
- Skip. You read that right. Remember skipping as a child? I believe it’s impossible to skip and stay in a bad mood. Furthermore, for me, skipping takes me to a more whimsical, open hearted place. When we first moved to Lake Lure, one of my coaches had suggested skipping. My first thought was “I’ll look so stupid.” She said do it anyway. I solved the dilemma by finding a place on my road out of sight of any other houses. I came to call it the skipping zone. On most of my walks, I skip for a few minutes and still marvel at what a beautiful shift occurs. And it lasts!
- Sigh. No, not a sigh of resignation or frustration. I’m talking about a “physiological sigh”. I learned this one from Andrew Huberman, a Stanford professor in Neuroscience. You simply take a really deep breath in, pause, take in a little more air and then release the breath quickly. There’s a science behind it, where this resets the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your body. This is one I do often and wish I could remember to do more often. Try a few and you will see why I’m recommending it. You can find out more at hubermanlab.com.
- Smile. Specifically, smile first. Have you ever been walking through an airport, the grocery or park and noticed how often people fail to make eye contact, they look away or keep a straight face? There are settings where that’s probably a good thing. But in my experience, all too often we walk around in a disconnected state. It wears on the part of us that is hard-wired for connection. So next time you are in a place where it’s safe to throw a smile towards someone, try it. You might light up their day; I guarantee you will light up YOUR day.
Here's a bonus practice: On the days when the sun does come out, make a point to turn your face to the sun for a few minutes. It does wonders!
In the middle of the January doldrums, it’s helpful to have a few practices to shift from allowing the season to control our mood, to allowing the season to be the season. We have a lot more control over how we feel than we often realize.
When is the last time you skipped? Smiled first? Allowed yourself to take a really, really deep breath? What is your favorite way to shift your mood? What practices allow you to run your life, rather than having your life run you?
Share in the comments on the blog.