Welcome to the middle path

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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Resolution of the Day: PERSEVERE

Some things never change. In August, maybe even July, our neighbors gave us a bag of tomatoes from their garden.  Included was this gem, about the size of a slightly flattened softball.  There was some mention of it being an unusual variety that would turn greener as it ripened.   It's still sitting on my counter, six some months later, as the crocuses start to bloom around town.   Far as I can tell, it's the same color, heft and firmness it was last summer. I don't know what sort of tomato it is, besides a real genetic freak, and extremely persistent. To what end?
At least it can serve as an example for me-- an example of hanging in there despite odds.  Seasons change, the news gets grimmer and yet we get up in the morning and do what needs to be done. Love wins out.  Or hope.  Or tomatoes.

Song of the day:  Hang On, Little Tomato:  Pink Martini
Book of the day:  The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollen (a history of adaptation and the perseverance of genes)
Movie of the day:  Away We Go (2009)-- holding on to love in spite of evidence to the contrary
Quote of the day:  "Fall seven times, get up eight".  --Japanese proverb
Quote redux: "If you are facing the right direction, all you need do is keep walking."  --Buddhist proverb

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Resolution of the Day: OBSERVE

Photo:  Carbon antlers ( Xylaria hypozylon) McDonald Forest, Corvallis, OR

Yeah, yeah, yeah-- I know I fell down on the job for a few days--

Today's quote:  "The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."  --Marcel Proust

Five things I saw today I would have missed had I not walked to work:
1)  The yellow and purple crocus buds that I at first mistook for plastic trash--  what are they doing here, in Janary?
2)  The beautiful pink elephant painted on a wooden board, nailed to a telephone pole.
3)  The miniature Chinese gardens of mosses and lichens on the tree bases
4)  The homeless man sleeping in the doorway
5)  The single lonely boot by the gutter

Take some time today to pay attention to what normally would be background.  For inspiration, read this article from last Sunday's Bew York Times:  "In a City of Renters, the Theater of Life on a 27-Minute Cycle."

Are you, as my parents often said of me, "of the world, but not in it"?  What will you miss, if you aren't paying attention?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Resolution of the Day: GRIEVE

Today we said goodbye to our sweet Labrador, Jetta.  She's been an uncomplicated, devoted companion and a bonding part of my family's history for 15 years.  A couple of weeks ago she started wandering out under the sheltering cypress.  A few days ago she began refusing her food.  It took us a week or two longer than it took her to accept that she was ready to go.
   I work to hold gratitude for all our time together in the same heart as my sadness for the loss.  As much as I wish we could have avoided the pain of this day, it is a bargain for all gained from her.

Three benefits of crying:

--Releases stress (both psychologically and physiologically)
--Communicates distress and our need for comfort
--Communicates connection and compassion for others in grief

My Cup
They tell me I am going to die.
Why don't I seem to care?
My cup is full. Let it spill.
   --Robert Friend

Song of the day: You Can Close Your Eyes (James Taylor song covered by William Fitzsimmons)
It's a repeat, although I originally planned to use it on this post.  We had a reprieve, and I didn't need it yet.  Thanks for the extra time, Jetta...rest now.

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."  --Kahlil Gibran

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Resolution of the Day: VOTE

Your vote is your voice.  Use it.  We mostly think of voting as being about elections, and here in Corvallis there is a very important one on the horizon.  If you are registered, use your ballot to support your values.  There are other ways we vote, though.  We vote with our wallet-- every time we pay a little more to buy at the independent bookstore or coffeehouse, we vote to keep those people and the services they provide in our community.  When we buy organic or avoid caged hen eggs, we vote about what's likely to be more available at our stores as well what we value and desire in our food supply.  When we show up at a local event, we vote to keep events like that coming in our community.  When we donate to the food or blood bank, we vote that these needs are important and should be met. What do you value?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Resolution of the Day: WALK

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.  Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.  I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.  --Soren Kierkegaard
Ten good reasons to walk, by Wendy Bumgardner.  Live longer, lose weight, prevent diabetes, and more.  "When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the shoe leather has passed into the fiber of your body.  I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out".  --Ralph Waldo Emerson
And there's also
1.  Time to think.  "Thoughts come clearly while one walks".  --Thomas Mann
2.  Savings in time and money:  See the math here.  
3.  Carbon load reduction: Each gallon of gas used equals 19.5 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions according to US Department of Energy.
4.  A chance to observe things you would otherwise never see.  "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."  --John Muir
5.  Community building:  chat up your neighbors, get to know your town.
 See you 'round the block--

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Resolution of the Day: RELAX

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." Ovid               OK, I admit, this is sort of a cheat.  Not that much different from the resolution on REST.  I also admit that I am exercising my already well established imperfection by giving up on getting thirty of these in thirty days. It was worth a try...  But meanwhile, about that relaxing... I'm going to argue (in a really relaxed way) that it's a bit different than resting.  I'm not that great at sitting still.  Sometimes I relax best by shutting up my chattering monkey via occupying another channel, say by writing limericks or doing a crossword.  Walking in the woods always works.  This time of year in the Wet North West, strolling the streets and checking out the rambunctious growth of mosses and lichens is a good salve for my soul.  Listening to music, writing a short story, folding laundry--I'm easily entertained when I am relaxing.  What works for you? 

Great website:  Take Back Your Time.  They are even more relaxed about deadlines than me, considering they are still talking about the October 2009 celebration.

Quote for the day:  "For fast acting relief, try slowing down."  Lily Tomlin

Today's song:  You Can Close Your Eyes, James Taylor tune as covered by William Fitzsimmons

Monday, January 18, 2010

Resolution of the Day: Remember

Quote of the day:  "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it".  --George Santayana

Happy Martin Luther King Day!
When my kids were little and attending preschool in SE Texas, I asked the teacher why there was nothing on the monthly curriculum outline about MLK day.  She informed me that nothing was planned and when I pressed her, said "We already have a plan that week to study community helpers, like policemen and mailmen."  I replied first, that MLK most certainly met my criteria as a community helper, and secondly, not all police or letter carriers were men. That fell on deaf ears, but I felt it important to say.  We pulled our kids out of school that day and with some friends, had our first MLK party.  We made a big banner for the front of the house honoring Dr. King.  The kids reenacted Rosa Lee Park's historic bus ride, and learned songs about civil rights.  Then we made cookies (gingerbread, chocolate and sugar) cut out to people shape and distributed them to firefighters and others who did not get a holiday that year.
   Not all resistance has to be violent, or even disagreeable.  Resolve today to stand up, in a kind but firm way, to dismissals of inherent worth and dignity of all people.  It doesn't have to be a grand gesture to be part of the positive tide.  

Further reading:  Xenophobia door number two blog

Song of the day:  Sister Rosa, by the Neville Brothers

Video of the day:  

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Resolution of the Day: ACCEPT

"God, give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other."
  --from the original Serenity Prayer
     Reinhold Neibuhr, 1892-1971

Psychotherapist Thom Rutledge says the mathematical equation for pain equals the difference between expectation and performance over time.  Although the tenets of Buddhism suggest that suffering is inevitable, it is notable that suffering increases in reaction to our resistance to reality as it is, rather than as we wish it would be.  While we cannot avoid all suffering, we can choose acceptance as a path to reduce some degree of pain. 

Acceptance does not mean approval. It means relinquishing resistance to a reality you cannot change.  Then, possibly, the energy that is freed can be used to bring changes where you can.  For example, one’s suffering for the suffering of others does not aid them, unless it is transformed into direct action to ease that original suffering.

Today, experiment with accepting at least the minor realities, and use your efforts to affect what is within your power .  Rather than griping about the rain, bring an umbrella.  Rather than lamenting others' bad behaviors, contribute where you can to the general good.

Today's website:   When It is Hot, Be Completely Hot; When it is Cold, Be Completely Cold, by Rev. Kenrei Bassis
 Today's song:  Willy Porter: Unconditional Love

Friday, January 15, 2010

Resolution of the Day: PLAY

 If you've noticed the 30 day resolution is getting a bit less resolute-- you're observant. Life sometimes interferes with intentions, and I've been occupied with it.  So while I wait for inspiration and time, here's a rerun from earlier. 

Plays Well With Others

"Life is Mysterious
Don't Take it Serious
(quote on an old rubber stamp)
In several of these blogs, I've talked about the inevitability of suffering.
Enough of that. Let's talk about the power of playfulness.

You may have heard the expression that "Kid's play is kid's work." Play is where kids learn to deal with roles and other people, fine tune communicating their ideas and needs, exercise their bodies and widen their imaginations. Why would we want to give that up as adults? Yet many groan-ups (yes, that was deliberate) see life as one unending have-to-do list. I'm not advocating shirking responsibilities, though I am admittedly expert at it. I'm encouraging righting priorities. Play, laughter, positive thinking, joy have their own rafts of research supporting the idea that a good time is good for you. Laughter really IS good medicine-- it reduces stress hormones that havoc the body and soul. Researchers in Loma Linda found cortisol and epiniphrine levels drop, while human growth hormones and beta-endorphins rise when people experience, or even anticipate big fun. Other research shows laughter improves relationships, immunity, increases oxygenation, is cardioprotective, and helps us be more alert and creative.

At least twice a year, I go away to play with my pals at WAR (women's art retreat), where we hold theme dinners in dress up (wedding in Vegas, Beauty Pageant, Circus Night) and write ridiculous bits. For years I participated in an on-line salon where we exchanged thematic haikus, limericks, tom swifties and wrote bad country songs. There's lots of ways to make the ridiculous sublime. A few minutes a day softens the heart and sharpens the brain.

A few links for you:
Laughing Yoga
Laughing Yoga was started by a physician in India who to promote the healing benefits of laughter for the body and soul. Here John Cleese provides a 3 minute intro to the practice.

Global Belly Laugh Day
We're a few months off from the official Day (Jan. 24th), but we can start practicing. This site is also offers a wealth of research and related links.

Positivity research and tools for its practice can be found at Dr. Segilman's site on Authentic Happiness

Want to shop local in Corvallis?
Our own Happy Guru Jean Bonifas offers Right-Brain Fitness and more and is a member of the World Laughter Tour

Even if all the movies that week are dramas or documentaries, a look around the eclectic decor at Darkside Cinema holds grins for most of us. While you're there, pick up one of owner Paul Turner's books of essays or a Prancing Lavender Bunny T-shirt sporting one bad-ass buff biker bunny.

Grassroots Books has the latest McSweeney's
collection of public weirdness, humorist/scientist Mary Roach's sex research book "BONK" and other sources of inspiration.

Dancing like a maniac always cheers me up, and there are plenty of opportunities at River Rhythms, contra dances, and our summer festivals (Cherry Poppin' Daddies this Friday!).

And don't forget next week's daVinci Days! The Saturday morning kinetic sculpture parade always brings smiles.

Watch the website for announcements about a Play Weekend during the dark days of winter. We'll need it.

Now, go out there and don't come back until you've had some fun.

importance of balance

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Resolution of the Day: SEE

Quote of the day:  The act of compassion begins with full attention, just as rapport does. You have to really see the person. If you see the person, then naturally, empathy arises. If you tune into the other person, you feel with them. If empathy arises, and if that person is in dire need, then empathic concern can come. You want to help them, and then that begins a compassionate act. So I'd say that compassion begins with attention.  --Daniel Goleman

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Resolution of the day: GIVE

Today's quotes:  "The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.  ~Oscar Wilde
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.  ~Winston Churchill
If you cannot feed a hundred people, then just feed one.  --Mother Teresa

“If you have much, give of your wealth; If you have little, give of your heart.”  -Arab proverb

Where there is life and consciousness, there is suffering.  Sometimes we are the one that suffers, and sometimes we are the witness.  When we are able to ease another's suffering, we give to ourselves as well.  Giving is good for you.  In this article summarizing generosity research, giving was shown to improve immunity, speed healing and lower pain perception.  There's much evidence that acts of service benefit the giver as well as the community, by improving self-esteem, and the giver's feeling of agency, purpose and happiness. 
Resolve today to make a difference, no matter how small.  Donate clothing, furniture, food, or time.  Offer your knowledge, your smile, or your listening ear to someone who needs it.  For information on local charities that will pass on your offerings, click here.

Today in Haiti there is enormous need for your generosity.  There are many agencies you can trust.  Here are three that will make good use of your money:  The cost of a missed latte may mean medical help or shelter for someone there.
Mercy Corps
Doctors Without Borders
American Red Cross

Song of the day:   Lean on Me, by Bill Withers

Video of the day:  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Resolution of the Day: WRITE

I used to write. A lot. Not so much these days, until January. I made a resolution (you may have noticed) to write every day for a month. It's not been easy. My muse done fled, mostly. But I figure with some encouragement, it may come back. And writing feels good, even when the writing is-- well, not so much. Writing is a way, someone probably famous said, of living twice. It helps me think things through.

For today, try one of these possibilities:

Write a poem. It can be a bad poem. When I used to write poetry more regularly, if I got stuck I would deliberately write a bad poem, just to get it out of the way. Here's a resource if you need inspiration: Very Bad Poetry. If you are hoping for something better, trying writing ten poems in twenty minutes. Get some random titles by eavesdropping on conversation or opening random pages in a book. If you end up with one little poem you like some-- well, hey. Gravy. If not, you just wasted less time then you would've on one rerun of Seinfeld.

Write a letter. A real one. With ink or pencil, and paper, and a stamp. It can be a letter of appreciation (THANK) or a reconnection with friend or family (CONNECT). What a treat it is to receive a handwritten communication with complete sentences.

Write yourself. Remind yourself what you are thinking, grieving, loving. Review your day.

Write down a dream. A real one. Jung says dreams are letters from our unconscious. Even if it doesn't make sense now, it often does later.

Write a list. For inspiration, visit McSweeney's.

Write a letter from your future self. Be reassuring.

Write your obituary. Be honest.

Write on--
P.S. The photo is of an inspirational writer in my life-- my dad.

Quotes of the day: The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium. ~Norbet Platt
There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith
It is helpful to get the wound out of the body and onto the page. Marjorie Sandor
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Song of the day: Elvis Costello, Everyday I Write the Book

Website of the day: Language is a Virus
Read of the day: My pal Hal, who also happens to do a bang-up job of mastering my work website.

Resolution of the day: LEARN

Are you an old dog?  You can still learn a few tricks.  Set out this year to gain a new skill or go deep into something you find fascinating.  Take a class on wine pairing, conversational Italian, mushroom identification.  My very inspiring friend Chareane seems to add to her repertoire of wisdom and talent each year:  so far since hitting a landmark birthday she's taken up accordion and samba, among other arts.
    To bind two birds with one story (killing birds seems a little harsh), practice last week's resolve of connection by looking for a mentor.  Know someone who can make a great pie crust or loaf of bread?  Ask them to share the wisdom.  Know how to tune up a bike or tailor?  Make a trade.
  Pick something new this year to investigate.  There are great community classes through parks and rec and LBCC to teach you everything from Tai Chi to making a webpage.  Get going!  Lifelong learning is good for the brain and good for the health.  It can keep your memory sharp, increase your connections to others or create them, provide cheap entertainment, and depending on what you learn, even save you money as you learn to do for yourself.

Today's quote:  "The wisest mind has something yet to learn."  --George Santayana
Today's good read:   Mushrooming Without Fear:  The Beginner's Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms, by Alexander Schwab
Today's website: Parks and Rec Classes-- from Art to Zumba
How to do almost anything videos:  howcast.com
Song of the day:   OK, I'm stumped.  Anyone have a suggestion for today's song?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Resolution of the day: TASTE (updated!)

OK, maybe not a banana slug.  My photos on my work computer are limited-- we work with what we got.

Today's resolution:  Explore the sense of taste.  Losing weight is in the top three of all resolutions Americans tend to make.  But most of us gulp our food so fast we don't even taste what we're eating.  Mindful eating offers a chance to slow down and experience our food in an entirely different way.  Put your fork down between bites.  Notice textures and that big compadre of taste, odor.  See if you can identify the six known types of taste sensation:  salty, sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and that tricky new one, umami (savory).  Notice how the sensations change as you chew, and the food moves from the front to the back of the mouth.  Have a taste-off:  get three or more samples of one type of food-- say, three species of apples-- and really pay attention to the differences. Plan a meal of very small portions each dedicated to a different taste element.
Update:  Went to Grassroots Books over my lunch hour to get a new calendar.  While I was there I spoke to the owner, the thoughtful Jack Wolcott, and told him about today's blog.  He enthused on the importance of slow eating:  "It gives your body a chance to ready for the food, know when you're full, and appreciate what you eat".  As a result, he notes he makes much better choices about what he eats-- because bad food tastes, well, bad.

I told him about eating a piece of local cheese and how much I enjoyed it as I thought about the cow, the dairy farmer, the grasses, the sun-- all that went into what was now going into me.  He thought I might appreciate local physician Mary Ann Wallace's new book  "Mindful Eating, Mindful Life:  How to Change the Habits that Sabotage Your Health."  An outcome of the classes she has taught through Heartsprings Wellness, the book includes a CD with journaling and meditation exercises.  I am looking forward to reading it.   We have such wonderful resources in our community-- check them out.

Song of the day:  Guy Clark's Home Grown Tomatoes
Quote of the day:  "For each mouth, a different soup." --Portuguese proverb
Book of the day:  A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman
Updated Book Bonus:  "Mindful Eating, Mindful Life", by Mary Ann Wallace, MD
Website of the day:  The Ark of Taste, Slow Food USA's project to reclaim 200 heritage foods on the verge of cultural extinction
Website Bonus:   Mary Ann Wallace on mindful eating

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Resolution of the day: REST

Sunday:  day of rest.  Today I took a nap.
I love the idea of Sabbath.  Americans now are working (those of us lucky to have jobs, anyway) more hours than the last four generations.  Take
time to pause in your life, rest, and just be a human being, instead of a human doing.

Today's quote:  “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time”.  --John Lubbock

Today's book:  SABBATH:  Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest and Delight, by Wayne Muller

Today's song:  "Feelin' Groovy", by Simon and Garfunkel

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Resolution of the Day: DANCE!

Not much time to get this one in today, because I'm off to practice what I'm preaching.  But I hated to break my one-a-day-resolution resolution.
Local resource of the day: Contra dancing in Corvallis
Local resource redux:  Cedar and Fir Studio
Quote of the day:  "If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution."  --Emma Goldman (alleged)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Resolution of the Day: CONNECT

We have the illusion we are separate from another, but we spring from one source.  Nonetheless, in this age of hyper-virtual-connectedness, people report being lonelier than in previous generations.   A 2006 Duke study found that in two decades, Americans reported one third less confidantes, and the number who had no one at all they felt they could confide in more than doubled. There are serious implications to our epidemic of loneliness. The longitudinal Harvard Nurses' Study found the effects of not having close friends to confide in were as detrimental to physical health as smoking or excessive weight.

For me, viewing this video was an intense reminder that we are all in this together-- and that we spring from the same source.  We are all capable of suffering, and also of joy and love.  But we concentrate on the differences, and we feel alone.  My resolution for today is to look for that place of connection with the people I see-- to focus on where we are together in the world..

Quote for the day: “Let there be such oneness between us, that when one cries, the other tastes salt.”  (author unknown)

Website of the day:  bettertogether.org

Song of the day:  You've Got a Friend-- James Taylor

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Resolution of the day: BREATHE

To one who has been long in city pent,
'Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, - to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.

~John Keats, Sonnet XIV

Tension can result in a chronic half-breath habit, which means you're not fully emptying your lungs of waste (carbon dioxide) or getting your fill of oxygen.  The next time you're stuck at a red light, waiting in line or on hold, use the moment to notice your breathing.   Take two or three breaths that are a bit slower and deeper than usual.  Allow for a natural pause between the exhale and inhale.  Let your belly rise with each breath.   It's a quick and simple way to still your mind and relax.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart:  I am, I am, I am
.  ~Sylvia Plath

Song of the day:  Breathe, by Willy Porter
Book of the day:  Perfect Breathing:  Transform your Life One Breath at a Time by AL Lee and Don Campbell
Video of the day:  Bellying Breathing on Anxietycoach.com
Three breathing exercises (Dr. Weil)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Resolution of the Day: READ

Want to get lost in an alternate reality?  Find new ways to live in this one?  Understand how corn intersected with politics to shape food prices in the 70s?  See Cajun culture through the eyes of a literate detective? Learn how to make artisan bread? 

Do all that without spending any money?

Head to your local library.

A mega study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that reading, especially reading for pleasure, was on a steady decline in the first several years of the millennium.  Less than half of 18-24 year olds had read a single book for pleasure the year of the study.  While they may be mixing apples and oranges, the NEA also noted a correlation between lack of reading and many negative outcomes such as lower employment levels, poorer writing skills, and less involvement in civic life, especially activities such as voting and volunteering.

I'm a print surfer. I typically have a dozen books going at once, and they range from escapist novels to lengthy single-subject dives.  It keeps my mind growing and provides relaxation.  I love going to our local library and browsing the New Reads section.  I end up reading books I never would have considered, and all for free. (I do garner the regular overdue fine-- and make an additional yearly donation-- but they don't require that).

To see  the reads that rocked the worlds of a few friends and acquaintances, check out the lists in the August Door Number Two blogs.  Ask people you know about their Top Ten.  Then go get lost in a book.

Quote of the day:  She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.  Louisa May Alcott, 1873

Web-read of the day:  10-benefits-of-reading
Song of the day:  Paperback Writer --the Beatles

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Resolution of the day: FORGIVE

 There's a church near my house that posts little aphorisms on its bulletin board.  One of my favorites:  "Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die."
Make a resolution to let go of an old hurt.  You don't have to forget to forgive, and you don't have to allow another to continuing hurting you in the same way.  It's fine to set limits, but it's also good to acknowledge that at some point, carrying the burden of the hurt is doing more damage than good.  It's sometimes impossible and often unnecessary to offer forgiveness directly to the one that hurt you.  You still benefit by acknowledging the pain and the lesson and then allowing the resentment to recede.

(Click on embedded links for more information)

Book of the day:  Why Forgive? by Joseph Christopher Arnold
Song of the day:  Not Angry Anymore  by Ani DiFranco
Website of the day:   Campaign for Love and Forgiveness
Movie of the day:  Dead Man Walking (1995)
Letting Go ritual courtesy of loveandforgive.org

Monday, January 4, 2010

Resolution of the Day: THANK


Send a note to someone who made a difference in your life.  If you can, make it real mail-- it's nice to get something besides bills and sales ads in the box.  It doesn't have to be eloquent or grand.  I've sent thank yous to cashiers for being patient, to old teachers for inciting my curiosity, and to restaurants for having good biscuits.  

Book of the day:  Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Everyday of Your Life, by MJ Ryan

Song of the day: Thank you for Hearing Me-- Sinead O'Conner

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Resolution of the day: Smile

In keeping with my nature of perfection of imperfection, I'm already two days behind my scenario of posting a daily resolution.  I figure if I get ten in this month, I'll be doing great..
Resolution for 1/03/09:  Smile more.
Our brain has a "facial feedback feature":  when we make purposefully imitate faces associated with certain emotions, such as anger, sadness or happiness, our brains start cranking in ways similar to when we feel those emotions in real life.  By smiling-- a real smile, eyes included, not a grimace-- we activate the beginnings of pleasurable feelings.  Even imagining ourselves smiling in this way causes similar brain activity. 

Book of the day: A Brief History of the Smile, by Aussie art historian Angus Trumble

Song of the day:  Smile  Nat King Cole

Saturday, January 2, 2010

30 Resolutions in 30 days-- Day one: RESOLVE!

A new year, a new decade-- talk about your clean slates.  Seems like a big crowd will be happy to put this one to rest.  And like millions of Americans, I will be reflecting on the past and making some decisions and commitments to do some things differently in the future.  Research says over half of us make such resolutions, and we mostly make the same ones each year: do some things less or not at all, and others more or for the first time.  We want to lose weight, save money or at least stop spending so much, clean up our dirty habits, be generally Better.  There is evidence the resolving is worth something.  In one popular study, 46% of the "resolvers" were still at it at 6 months, compared to 4% of those who didn't make resolutions but had vague ideas about self-improvement.  To up the possibility of making it work, here are some tips.
    Keep it measurable:  Set goals that are specific and concrete, and have a time line for checking progress.  You can have a goal of "Increase health", but break it down into short term objectives that lead to it. You'll have a sense of progress and success this way. 
    Write it down, and check back in:  It's better to get it in writing than offer yourself vague intentions.  Set short term objectives to your longer term goal, and devise a method to keep you reminded.  some computers and cell phones let you calander an alarm with a note to periodically cue you.  Journal about progress made and blocks you encounter-- and possible solutions.
    Tell a friend:  Letting someone know your plan increases your accountibility and support.  You are writing yourself a new story-- get a good audience for it, and keep them posted.  Set up a coach trade and do the same for them.
     Get some tools:  There are lots of community, written and web resources available to help you meet your goals.  Parks and Rec, Good Sam and the community college offer classes on everything from organization skills to mindful eating.  Take a class or read a book for support and inspiration.  Even uncle Sam wants to help out:  visit New_Years_Resolutions for more.

Here's to fresh starts-- and may the New Year bring you much love and learning.