“Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
I hear Garrison Keillor say this every day as the sign-off to A Prairie Home Companion.
Sometimes it is comforting and makes perfect sense, but when I am stuck in a rut, the fatherly command tends to piss me off.
But there could not be a more succinct, simple and direct set of instructions for being happy.
For me, just being in the mountains alone or with a loved one brings me the most happiness and gets me out of ruts that make me feel tired, fat, lazy, fatigued, bored, etc.
But unfortunately, I can’t spend my entire day frolicking in meadows or galavanting around on mountain single track. I–we–have all these other realities that need to be attended to (i.e. work, family, errands). And on top of all our worldly obligations, we have another responsibility: Our physical and emotional wellbeing.
Fortunately, the physical and emotional side of things may be more intertwined than you think. This list consists of things that I have found to make me feel better and feel more confident in myself. I have gathered them from spiritual teachings, holistic health books, issues of Shape Magazine that I have read and liked over the years, advice from pro athletes I know, and my own findings.
Here is how you “be well, do good work, and stay in touch”:
My number one will always be exercise. No matter how shitty things are, I always feel at least a little better after running up a hill. I don’t know what exercising means for you, but for me, it means running, mountain biking, skate skiing or lifting weights. When I exercise, I make a dedicated effort to wear myself out and make myself tired. And it doesn’t have to be running for you; maybe swimming feels better on your joints. Exercising, over time, will always make you feel better about yourself and it will make you glow with a beautiful, endorphin-caused sheen.
2. Read & Write.
Sometimes, intellectual stimulation is what we need to gain perspective and to feel some sort of efficacy. I like to read biographies about artists I like because it gives me the inspiration I need to paint, sing, dance, etc. If I don’t have time to sit down and read chapters from a novel, I read a poem and think about it or a single word or line from it all day. When I see an image or a color or a creature that I like, I find a way to paint it or write about it. I journal in the form of my blogging and photography, but sometimes I like to write things down the old-fashioned way too. The important thing is to exercise your mind.
3. Drink tea.
Sometimes I find myself eating weird snacks out of boredom. Drinking tea offers a low-calorie alternative that is yummy and warm, especially in the winter. Try chai, black tea, green tea or peppermint tea with a bit of milk (rice milk, normal, whatever) and some honey. Sometimes I drink 10 cups of tea a day if I am hermiting, which brings me to my next point…
It’s okay to spend a day (or a few days) away from the world. I am an extreme introvert, so it is easy for me to spend a week without talking to anyone. When I spend time alone, I derive more joy from seeing others and spending time in social settings. When I am by myself, I have more time to think, create my art, and enjoy the solitude and peace of my own home. If you are someone who suffers from anxiety or stress, taking a couple days off of it all and retreating into hermitage may be a good idea!
I have a hard time going to yoga sometimes, especially if it is nice outside. But I never regret going when I force myself to do so! Most of the time, I do my yoga practice by myself or with the guidance of a podcast or YouTube class. If I am stuck down in the doldrums, I always make myself go to the studio to practice with others. Instant fix! And yoga isn’t a cookie-cutter type of thing; you can pick the type of yoga you need for your body and emotional needs, too. I think any time spent on your yoga mat, even if you are just lying there and thinking or meditating, is productive time spent.
Being somewhat new to formal meditation practices, I am constantly learning about new ways to train my mind. While a lot of people like to meditate in the morning, I like to do it in the middle of the day–away from the lunchtime rush and commotion. Buy or borrow some books by Pema Chodron to learn about more ways to train your mind and think in stillness. I like to think about things that bother me or circumstances that were troubling, contemplate them, and then picture the negative thoughts growing beautiful wings and flying away. You can try mine, but meditation is different for everyone, so figure out what works for you!
7. Wander & Take Pictures.
I like to go up into the foothills or onto plateaus or mountains to wander. There are a lot of beautiful nooks and crannies–vistas–in our world. I like to go to places where I can see the places I inhabit from above. I usually take my Canon camera up with me and take pictures of the things I see; I learned about this from my father, who suffered from a traumatic head injury a few years back and used walking in nature and photography to heal. If you look at the collection of photos he took, you will notice that over time and in the process of healing, his perspective shifted–widened–dramatically. As a person, you will grow, suffer, rejoice and change—and your photos will reflect that change as well.
8. Walk in the Morning & Drink Coffee.
Lately I’ve been sleeping in, but one of my favorite things to do is to wake up while it is still dark out, brew some coffee, and go on a walk. It doesn’t have to be a long one…maybe you just go around the block. But if you do this before work, it will set you up to have a happier, more productive day. I don’t really know why. It just does.
9. Clean Your House & Love Those Who Live in It.
And put artwork that you like on the walls. People generally feel less stressed if their laundry is put away, the floors are clean, and the dishes are sparkling and ready to be used. Taking care of your things makes them last longer and having a clean home makes you want to be there more. I enjoy my time at home with family or with my lover more when everything is tidy!
10. Cook Food at Home.
Sometimes it is fun to go out to eat. But you will look better, save money and feel better if you cook at home. I like to look at healthy recipes from cookinglight.com, go to the store to get fresh ingredients and make the food at home with loved ones. I always use vegetables and fruits that are in season, and I usually make food that is way better than restaurant food. I always feel better and healthier when I choose foods that were grown in the ground and cooked in a low-fat manner.
11. The Most Important One… Volunteer.
Be compassionate. If you stop focusing on the things that are wrong in your life and help someone whose problems are worse than your own, you’ll find a route out of dissatisfaction with your lot in life. Help someone grow a garden. Go run with a pound puppy. Serve some food at the Salvation Army. I have never regretted spending a few hours doing something that didn’t immediately benefit me. Get off your couch, stop crying and go help someone who needs it.
12. Do Good Work.
Don’t do a job that you hate doing. Find a way to follow your dreams and make your passion your livelihood. You may not make more money, but you’ll be happier when you come home if you find ways to live a fulfilling life within your means. Set goals so that you have a timeline and a path to follow on the way to your dreams. If you want to be a baker, learn how to do that. If you want to be a surgeon, find a way to go to school so that you can do that. If you want to be a professional violinist, then start playing more violin! But always do the work that is good.
There you go. That’s pretty much all I know about being happy. Most of all, if you are feeling bad about yourself, then get up and do something about it!
Be well, do good work and keep in touch.
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Ed: Sara Crolick