November 14, 2013

Show of Hands: Who wants to Feel Good?


It seems that when the school year starts, my family and I go on automatic pilot and stay there throughout the year.

Every weekday is the same thing. Every weekend is almost the same. While routine can be comfortable and efficient, it can also be, well, boring. Like the adage goes: If you always do the same thing, you will always get the same thing. Why not kick it up a notch?

Cat and I are working together again on an experiment, but this time we tried something new every day for a week. Changing up routine and trying something different can not only boost creativity but can lessen depression. When we constantly perform the same activities day after day, our brains become bored and dull and this seemed like a great challenge to counteract the monotony.

For my week of trying something new every day, I first made breakfast for dinner. My kids were pretty surprised and to be honest, a little put off. The responses I heard were “Mom! I wanted real dinner!” “Why are we eating pancakes?” “Are we out of real food?” I explained we were trying something new for fun and they went along but requested a traditional dinner for the next day. Apparently, not everyone likes their routine switched, and I guess I can understand. I know I get frustrated when my day takes a surprise turn unexpectedly.

My next adventure was to get up really early. I know there are a ton of people who get up early and I am one of them. My oldest daughter goes to a school that is a half-hour drive away so she takes a school van to get there. Every day she gets up at 5:45 to get ready and I get up around 6:15 to take her to the van. I usually get home, put on some coffee and start waking up my other children which is one chaotic moment after another.

By the time I get everyone to school, take the dog out, eat and get myself ready, I’m ready to lay back down. It seems from the minute my feet hit the floor in the morning I’m running and never have a second of peace. So this time I set my alarm to get up at 5:00. This was tough, because I really didn’t want to get out of bed. I forced myself anyway and was really happy that I did because I was able to put on some soft music, light a few candles, drink some coffee and quietly fold laundry without any interruption. I liked it so much that I’ve done that again a few times.

The following day I chose to drive a different way to work. This was much simpler, but still changed my day a little nonetheless. It also made me realize how we can become more mindful of our surroundings when we change our routines. How many times do we drive to work and don’t even realize how quickly we got there because we are so lost in our heads? By changing my route, I was a little more focused which not only benefitted me but everyone around me because I was probably driving more safely.

After this I took on a tough one. I pledged to not utter one single negative comment the entire day. I couldn’t complain about the weather, or that my son was taking too long to get ready for school, or that the traffic was bad—nothing. Surprisingly, I did fairly well by paying attention and being mindful of what I said before I spoke. This wasn’t easy, but I found that I listened better to people and chose my words carefully.

I think this is great to practice any time—we all know the positive effects of a simple smile from a stranger or a kind word from a friend.

I do have to admit that I messed up, though. At the very end of the night, an announcement was made on our editing page for elephant journal that we were changing the way we would be doing something. It wasn’t a huge change, but it meant there would be extra work in the beginning of the change and the whole thing would take some getting used to.

I responded with a half-hearted joking complaint and when I closed out of the page and walked away, I realized what I had done and felt terrible. I not only felt bad for messing up my positive streak for the day, but by being mindful all day, I realized the harshness of a complaint and how it can reverberate. This was quite a lesson and I was glad I chose this one.

Finally, on my last day, two of my children were off from school. Instead of going shopping, seeing a movie or staying home, we decided to go to the Art Museum. It’s been a long time since I had been there and it was a 45 minute drive so I used my GPS. Once we arrived in the area, I noticed there was a lot of construction and I wasn’t able to find the parking garage. After circling the area, I quickly pulled into the Botanical Gardens instead. “Oh well, kids, we are doing something different.” I told them.

This turned out to be a happy mistake because we had the opportunity to see a butterfly release, an amazing group of ants that carry leaves to their home, and I ran into an old friend of mine!

Not only did I find I was less bored this past week, but I feel like I acted more positively.

Try it out for yourself. Do something different, sleep on the other side of the bed, let the kids make dinner; whatever you can think of, try. Life is short, so why not make the best of it! (And have fun in the process!)




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Dana Gornall