It's so nice to appreciated - especially when the source of that appreciation is a woman I so strongly admire. Phoenix is one of those people who simply inspires loyalty and love; she is thoughtful, warm, and truly one of the most serious-hearted human beings I've ever met.
Since I was part of the passing on portion of the program, I thought I would mention ten of the things I do to keep in joyful spirits.
1) Bake. There is nothing that brings a smile to my face like the smell of a delicious, naturally sweetened something baking in my oven; and the smiles on my friends' faces when I offer them healthy, yummy things only serves to brighten my day further.
2) Tell someone wonderful in my life how wonderful they are. (If you make a habit of this, they might eventually stop asking what you want in exchange.)
3) Meditate. I know it sounds corny, but sometimes all you need to get a brighter view of your situation is a few minutes of silent contemplation.
4) One of the things that gives me the warmest feeling is wearing my joyful green hat that my good friend Ben knitted for me. It's warm, it's cute, and every time I wear it, I think of how awesome my friends are.
5) Send someone you haven't spoken to in a while a letter or a note (and I don't mean e-note). I know that hand-written cards and letters have gone out of style in this age of bytes and sites, but sitting down with a pen and a card and writing an honest little note to someone actually has a really centering effect on me. Not to mention, I love thinking about how surprised and pleased they'll be when they open their mailbox to find real mail in addition to the usual bills and advertisements.
6) Exercise. I'm not crazy; exercise actually raises your endorphin levels because - guess what? - your body actually wants you to be healthy. So you get a nice, natural chemical buzz and you burn a few calories in the mix. (Which lets you go back and practice #1 again!)
7) Take a walk when you have nowhere to go. We get so wrapped up in goal-setting and getting to places these days. Americans are all workaholics in comparison to most other world cultures. So, for once, put on your walking shoes, go out in the sunshine, and just wander. Absorb how fascinating and functional (and dysfunctional) the world around you really is.
8) Read. There is little more satisfying than curling up with a mug of tea and a good book. When I'm feeling down, I go the children's book route. I swear, if you don't have the Winnie-the-Pooh chronicles or at least one other children's book or story in your home, you live in a dark place indeed. Aside from the wonders at Pooh corner, I'd recommend... a) Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulas (my go-to happy tale after Winnie). b) Shel Silverstein is simply the best. Of his works, my favorites are Runny Babbit, The Giving Tree, and The Missing Piece. c) Anything by Edward Gorey. I don't know why, but these macabre, illustrated tales titillate me to no end. d) And last but not least, my latest favorite - The Wee King o' the Midden, Manky Mingin Rhymes in Scots. Yeah, it's just wonderful.
9) I hit a speedbump on this one and asked my boyfriend what he does to feel happy. His response was that he doesn't try; he just does what he feels like and happiness generally follows. (You light up my life, B.) The lesson to be learned from this, I think, comes in two parts. Part 1: don't worry so much, be yourself in the moment, and just follow your instincts. Your heart knows, better than me or anyone else, what you need. And Part 2: ask someone who loves you what they do to feel happy. I'm still grinning like a loon from being first on that list.
10) Last, but not least by any means, if you're feeling down - friends. Friends and loved ones have been the cures to every major setback, disappointment, misery, and terror I've experienced in my life. Talk. Open. Sometimes it's hard, but I swear to you, the worst thing is to be alone with a dark feeling. Even sharing it with one person you trust will lift some of the pressure from your shoulders and move you towards a proactive, brighter tomorrow.
Thanks again, Phoenix, for making me think about all the shimmering, wonderful things in my life. :)