Learning How to Be Better


27 Mar
27Mar

Aloha is....learning how to be better than you were yesterday.

“We have all made mistakes. We have all thought, said, did or even were something we regretted. But that was yesterday. We have the power to embrace the hope of tomorrow, where we are all given the opportunity to think, say, do, and even be better. This is the magic and true beauty of yesterday – her ability to teach us the hard lessons and to give us the gift of tomorrow.” – C.T. McGee

What have you learned from this pandemic so far?

Let’s see. Perhaps you’ve learned how many days you can go without showering before even you notice your own funk. Maybe you’ve figured out how many days in a row you can spend in the same pair of pajamas or that eating cereal for dinner is kinda fun. You might have learned how to manage your professional responsibilities while working from home, where your children could be climbing the walls or wrecking havoc at this very moment. Maybe you’ve had to get out of your comfort zone and conquer technology in a way you hadn’t before, such as learning how to use Skype, Zoom or other video conferencing techniques to help conduct work meetings, teach your students, check in on loved ones, or arrange for a “social distancing” happy hour with your friends.

Today, I heard from a friend who said she’s busier and more stressed than ever with this pandemic-enforced house arrest. She’s had to manage her time down to the second with regards to studying, working and teaching from home using video conferencing, something she had never done before and something she was forced to learn. It was definitely a stretch out of her comfort zone.

Life is not all butterflies and rainbows. Just turn on the news at any given moment these days and you’ll be reminded of it pretty quickly. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, the media reports that the number of coronavirus disease cases and coronavirus-related deaths are climbing by the day. It can be enough to drive you into a tizzy of worry, anxiety and stress.

Just from watching the news, Life appears to be full of uncertainty more than ever. At the same time, Life is full of possibilities. It all depends on how you look at it.

These possibilities lie in what you've learned so far.  So, what have you learned so far?  Do you think you would have learned it if we didn’t have this pandemic?

While Life may look pretty bleak and while we may feel like so much is out of our control – not knowing where we’re headed and not knowing what we’re going to do next – there are still plenty of things that are in our control. And, it all starts with our attitudes and actions. This is how you see and create possibilities in your life.

Even if you cannot seem to adopt the best attitude right now, I encourage you to take some action steps in that direction by following a few practices in control, connection and comfort to help you think, say, do, and be better for tomorrow.

TAKE CONTROL

Practice media distancing. Limit your exposure to the news! At maximum, watch it once in the morning and once in the evening so that you are informed but not too overwhelmed. Watching it too often, constantly hearing about the death tolls and the unemployment rates rising or the economy sinking, will only negatively impact your mental health and keep you stagnant in fear.

Detox from negative people. If possible, stay away or limit your exposure to people who constantly complain, vent or worry out of fear. Misery loves company, but it doesn't solve problems.  In fact, it can make matters worse.

Detox your body. Watch your eating habits. While now seems like the best time to binge on your favorite snacks all day or during a binge-fest of your favorite Netflix series, keep in mind that too much sugar and lack of nutrients can affect how you think and feel. Too much sugar can alter your mood, making you cranky and creating a rollercoaster ride of high’s and low’s.  I'm not suggesting going on a diet, but I do recommend keeping your sugar intake to a minimum.  I also recommend drinking 8-10 cups of water daily (herbal teas count) and eating at least two servings of green vegetables, as well as other foods rich in protein, fiber and nutrients. This is my minimum recommendation to help maintain a clear mind, stable mood, proper digestion and good health overall.

Declutter your home. To think more clearly, keep your environment clean and clear of clutter. If your house is a mess, your headspace will be a mess! Now would be a great time to purge your closets, junk drawers and pantry and give the house a good spring cleaning.

BUILD CONNECTIONS

Besides the obvious ways of connecting with others through phone, text or video chats, I wanted to offer two other ideas:

Practice nature therapy. Connecting with nature is a great way to boost your mental health. Exposure to nature while practicing mindfulness -the act of being in the present - can help quiet the scary thoughts that run through your mind on a loop. Depending on where you live, it may still be possible to sit or exercise outdoors and ingest all the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Listen for the birds, watch the squirrels run this way and that, smell the flowers in bloom, and feel their petals with your fingers or the blades of grass under your bare feet.

If going outside is not possible, consider looking for pictures of nature on the computer. Looking at images on a screen can be just as therapeutic. Search for photos or videos of animals, plants or landscapes that you enjoy most. I would do this every day – even a few times per day. You can also YouTube a time-lapse video of blooming flowers set to relaxing piano music! You might find it to be very calming, soothing and beautiful. There are all kinds of time-lapse videos you can find that will help interrupt the flow of negative thoughts.

Practice hug therapy. Hugging is medicine. Hugs can provide emotional comfort and healing. Research shows that hugging stimulates oxytocin, known as the cuddle hormone, which can be effective at treating stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness and certain medical conditions. The benefits come from the power of touch. Hugging releases oxytocin, calming your nervous system and boosting positive emotions. It’s also been linked to lowering heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Research also shows that oxytocin is what makes males better at social bonding and affectionate.**

So, go on, hug it out!  Hug your pets and your loved ones often. If you live alone, hug yourself! Yes, wrap your arms around your body and give yourself a good, long squeeze.

CREATE COMFORT

What did you do in the past to comfort yourself in times of stress or change?  Consider anything that made you feel peaceful or joyful.

Here are some ideas you may or may not have tried:

  • Get comfortable. Wear comfortable clothes down to your socks.  Wrap yourself in a warm, fuzzy blanket or surround yourself with pillows.
  • Create a beautiful environment.  Fill your home or workspace with your favorite photos, images or belongings that make you feel safe and connected.
  • Practice laughter therapy.  Not only can you watch funny movies or TV programs, but you can also YouTube comedy skits, outtakes or stand-up comedy acts.  Watching anything that makes you smile or laugh helps to reduce stress and anxiety.  You can also sit around the dinner table with your family and tell your favorite jokes.
  • Learn something.  Watch programs that teach about history, culture, art, nature or how to do something. Learning new things or learning about something in a new way is another opportunity to engage your brain in a positive manner.
  • Read.  From books, Bible passages, magazine articles to blogs, find something that feeds your mind or nourishes your soul. Read something that makes you smile, feel good or helps you to escape to a better place.
  • Listen to your favorite music.  Listen to anything soothing or energizing that lifts your spirits, motivates you to move or makes you happy.  YouTube binaural beats, often used in meditation practice.  They are said to help reduce anxiety, increase focus and concentration, increase relaxation, foster positive moods, lower stress and boost creativity.  
  • Take hot showers or baths using aromatherapy.  Aromatherapy, sometimes called essential oil therapy, is a holistic healing treatment that can help improve sleep quality; reduce stress anxiety and agitation; manage pain and ease ailments such as headaches and sore joints. Everyone loves a hot shower, but adding aromatherapy takes it to the next level.  You can find essential oils in a number of products from shower gels, bath bombs, aromatic spritzers, bath salts and clay masks to body oils, creams and lotions.  
  • Eat warm foodsComfort foods don’t all have to be unhealthy. Eating any warm home-cooked meal or even your favorite take-out can nourish your body and your spirits. It can also give you that sense of feeling full, known as satiety. Feeling satiated is another way to feel comforted.  I know some people are using this time to go on a “cleanse” or diet. While that is a smart strategy for some people who are familiar with cleansing to help promote better health and well-being, it is not the best move for others who might not be. Restricting food intake can leave you feeling hungry and deprived, which can have negative effects on your mood. If you are already feeling extremely anxious, nervous and overwhelmed, going on a diet may not be the best strategy for promoting your mental health.
  • Practice kindness. Give a compliment to someone everyday. You can even give one to yourself. Just say it out loud, like a mantra or daily affirmation. Check up on others and offer them reassurance. Say a prayer for someone else and let him or her know you are doing so. Repeat kind, positive, optimistic and reassuring words as much as possible. Read an inspiring quote to someone. Share an inspirational article or song you’ve heard to help lift someone’s spirits. Anything that works for you, may also work for them.

These are several ways to make the most of this time. Please consider any or all of them to think, say, do or be better for tomorrow.

Someday you will look back and ask yourself, “What did I learn from this experience? What did this worldwide crisis teach me?  Did the pandemic of 2020 teach me how to be better?”

These are questions we all should be asking ourselves:  Did this pandemic teach me to be more resourceful, brave, spontaneous, adventurous, open-minded, diligent, conscientious, kind, loving, generous, patient, compassionate, forgiving, tolerant, resilient, determined, positive, optimistic, present, still, calm, encouraging and supportive of others? Did I learn something new about others or myself? Did I use my time wisely or squander it away with worry?

These are the questions you will be asking tomorrow. I hope you prepare with some good answers today.

If you are able to say yes to any of these questions already, then you have embraced the magic and true beauty of today – no matter how dark and gloomy it may appear. You will have conquered this crisis after all.

No doubt, there will be another challenge or crisis of sorts that you will have to face in your lifetime. I hope that you can apply the hard lessons you’re learning today to them.

So, learn your lessons now. C’mon, be better. You got this.  Take some deep breaths, lean on others for support and take it one day at a time.

Choose to be your own butterfly. Create your own rainbow.  Embrace the hope of tomorrow.

Let's hope this pandemic teaches us all to be better than we were yesterday, so that we can all enjoy the gift of tomorrow. 

Live, Love and Lead with Aloha.

 

**Source: “Hug Therapy: 6 Little-Known Benefits of Hugging” (Mellowed.com)

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