Notice the good around you and feel better
Picture someone who is having a hard day. What do they look like? Slumped posture, downcast eyes, small.
Now picture someone who is feeling great. What do they look like? Head thrown back, upright posture, smiling, dancing eyes.
You are a whole person: body, mind, spirit, nutrition, and environment. All aspects impact the others. How you feel inside impacts your body, as you could so easily identify in the above exercise.
Because you are whole, you can use small changes in one area of your whole health to transform others. One simple way to impact your overall health is through noticing the good around you.
What you focus on determines how you are.
Dr. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania had people write down three things they were grateful for each evening. After 3 weeks of doing this, they were happier people overall. Amazing! They didn’t change anything except 10 minutes of gratitude focus each evening. (The process of writing is more powerful than just speaking, so it was important that these be written out.)
There is a small area in your brain that is one of the most powerful things about your whole body and mind. It’s called the Reticular Activating System (RAS.) The RAS is about the size of your pinkie and it controls your law of attraction. Every single second you have millions of signals vying for attention in your brain. Your RAS decides what gets through.
How is your left big toe at this very second? What do you feel touching your toe? Your sock? The floor? Is it warm or cool? Is there a breeze hitting it? I bet you can answer all those questions right now, but were not aware of any of it just a minute ago. Because your RAS didn’t believe it was worth focusing on. Now that I asked, you are aware of your big toe.
Your RAS had decided that how your big toe feels was not important. It’s not going to let those signals through to your brain. The RAS is the gatekeeper. It is always filtering. Its job is to take what you want to focus on and help you do that.
When you implement a gratitude practice such as writing down three things each night, you tell your reticular activating system that you want to focus on the good things around you. Because your RAS knows that you will be recalling and writing these down, it will focus on them.
As you notice the good around you, you also become a happier person. When you are happier, your body is releasing chemicals and hormones that let your immune system work better. When your immune system is working well, you are healthier. Everything is interconnected: the whole you!
This goes for people, too. What you look for, you will find. Paula Creed-Smith is the owner of Ceh Flora. Her expertise is in gift-giving. She told me that there are two simple ways to improve the relationships in your life. The first is to look at people from the heart. When you look with your eyes, you just see the physical. When you look from the heart, you “see” their gifts, talents, desires, and goals. She states, “during my time in social work, I learned how to serve people. To put aside my own perspective and really listen.”
The second tip Paula had to improve relationships was to remember what is important to each person. This isn’t just listening well, it is listening well with intention. When you hear something that is important (whether an upcoming event, a life-change, or a hobby) tuck it away in your memory. Later, you can inquire about it. They will feel valued when they realize you were interested in them enough to remember this important thing.
Lay down the ideology and pick up the humanity
Everyone is a person first. You might not share a common religion, background, political leanings, or other life philosophies, but you both are human beings. One of the most powerful things Paula said was to lay down the ideology and pick up the humanity. You can be amazing friends even with different ideologies. (Paula’s best friend is a devout atheist and Paula is a devout Christian.)
Viewing people as people instead of a viewpoint will improve all of your relationships and thus your whole health.
More Tips for Feeling Better
- Write down 3 things you are grateful for.
- Tip: If you have kids at home try doing this orally at the supper table or at bedtime. Each person can say the best thing about their day and something they tried and failed at. The gratitude practice helps everyone notice the good in the world around them. The failure part helps build resilience and courage. They will try more things in life when they are not afraid of failure.
- Take 10 minutes at the close of each day to write down three things that went well and why. This is slightly different than tip #1. It isn’t noticing the good around you, it is noticing what you did or things that happened.
- Try a gratitude visit. Think of someone who has been especially kind to you. Write them a letter. Then, instead of mailing it to them, visit them and read it out loud to them. This gratitude visit can impact you for years!
- When someone gives you good news or is excited about something, prolong that interaction. Encourage them to tell others, or celebrate with them.
- Allow time each day to find something that makes you laugh.
- Exercise! If you are not physically active, you cannot be at your emotional best.
- Fill someone else’s bucket. This powerful concept is simple enough to teach to kindergartners, but applicable to every single age. When you help others, you also help yourself. You might get some ideas from the bucket-filling list we keep on our kitchen wall.
How are you doing in this area of emotional health? Are you focusing on things that build or drain your emotional health and positivity?