The Joy of Play

526375_friendsSomething bizarre happens to us as we enter adulthood. We are transformed from carefree youths into serious adults, believing that’s what society expects of us. Yet, it if we set aside time every day or a few times each week to play, what a difference that would make in our attitude and our overall well-being. The National Institute for Play says that play can, in essence, make us smarter. Have you played Frisbee lately? When was the last time you played shuffleboard, squash, badminton or croquet? Blown bubbles? Played a word game like Boggle or Scrabble?

The historic “Northeast Blackout” power outage in August, 2003 affected more than 55 million people in eight U.S. Northeastern and Midwestern states and the Canadian province of Ontario. This forced my husband Mark and me to play the word game Boggle by candlelight. It was so much fun. The game had remained in our closet untouched for years. Now, we pull out the Boggle game from the bookshelf regularly and spend time playing it. We also enjoy joining our friend John at his regularly scheduled Game Nights at his home.

Richard Tait, co-founder of the popular game Cranium, says, “Play is a basic need, just like air, water, and the five food groups.” When was the last time you played? Gazed at the stars? Looked at clouds and figured out what they could be? Find a way to play every day (even if it’s for five or ten minutes) and you will experience a positive difference in your attitude and health.

The Meaning Behind the Message

617094_melting_hearts_3A chance encounter with a stranger can have a tremendous impact on our lives. One such encounter happened this past weekend.

My husband Mark and I attended a cultural event and struck up a conversation with a man whom we did not know. I commented about how beautiful – and perfect – the weather was this past weekend. He replied with a big smile, “Any day above ground is a good day for me!” His bright blue eyes sparkled as we laughed together and agreed how wonderful life is.

Dinner was about to begin, so we began walking together toward the dining room. Along the way, I began talking to another guest and her daughter. Mark continued talking with the man. Once in the dining room, Mark and I left our conversation partners to find our respective tables. We enjoyed a wonderful evening.

While driving home, Mark told me that during his one-on-one conversation with the man, he shared with Mark an important piece of information: During a recent medical check-up, his doctor confirmed that his cancer had returned, and that he has just four to five years left to live. His words, “Any day above ground is a good day for me!” were interpreted very differently now. The meaning behind the message had changed.

In our hurried lives, we rarely take the time to stop and talk to a stranger. On Sunday evening, Mark and I enjoyed a chance encounter with a man who changed our perspective, a man who is now no longer a stranger. We are grateful for that meeting. Who can you connect with to deepen your level of communication and relationship? Life is short. Do it now.

Reflective Action Enhances Your Attitude

629903_autumnWhen the walls of negativity are closing in, take the time for reflective action, to activate your senses with your mind and body to enhance your well-being and become more positive. Here are three tips to get you started:

  1. Retreat! Imagine getting away from everything that is familiar to you, allowing yourself to experience something new. In the process, you get to know yourself at a much deeper level. That, in essence, is what a retreat is designed to do. Focused quiet time can change your perspective. Some retreats are self-directed; others are organized for you. When you plan a retreat, do it with an open mind and open heart. You will return home feeling rejuvenated and more focused.
  2. Be inspired by other people’s stories. From time to time, you may have “down” days – those gray days when you just don’t feel like yourself. Negative thoughts can take over, and before you know it, you feel inadequate. Reading about other people’s stories of struggle turned to celebration will inspire you. I keep a file of inspirational stories from articles that I have read about people who have overcome difficult obstacles in their lives. Two of my favorites are about the lives of Mattie Stepanek and Kyle Maynard. Seek out their stories on the internet and reflect on what is possible in your life.
  3. Bring beauty into your life every day. Beauty almost defies description because its definition is so subjective. I define beauty as anything that enriches your life or that stops you and beckons you to take the time to absorb, embrace, or admire it. Adding beauty to your life can be admiring a beautiful morning, listening to relaxing music, or examining the intricate weaving of a dew-covered spider’s web. Don’t turn your back on beauty. It is all around you. Take the time to invite it into your life.

Reflective actions like these will give you a fresh perspective on what exists and what is possible in your life.

Want More Positivity In Your Life? Get Physical!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen negativity tugs at your spirits, take physical action, which activates your body to change your behavior and reduce stress. Here are three of my favorite tips to maintain a positive attitude:

  1. Go outside every day. Being in nature has a way of giving you perspective. As you look at the ever-changing sky, clouds, trees, flowers, birds, even tiny insects, you will transport yourself outside of your boxed in world and expand your mind. If you live near the mountains, the ocean, a lake, the desert, a park or forest, interesting rock formations, or an open prairie, admire the majestic beauty of nature. For me, I do my best thinking, my clearest thinking, while walking in the woods.
  2. Smile! A smile is one of the most universal forms of communication. It is also one of the easiest things to do. The more often that you smile, your face will tell your brain that you feel better. Before you know it, you will feel better. When you enter a room, or pass someone on the street, how do you say, “Welcome” or “Hello” or “I’d like to get to know you”? Think about how you look to other people as they meet you. Are you frowning or smiling? A smile is much more inviting. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, slowly turn the corners of your mouth up to form a gentle smile. You will begin to feel more positive.
  3. Nap. Economist Frank Knight got it right when he said, “Never waste any time you could spend sleeping.” He knew the value of 40 winks. The world would be a much better place if more people took short 10- to 15-minute naps to ease their mind, rest their eyes and refresh their spirit. Once your body gets accustomed to taking short naps, you will wonder why you lived without them for so long.

The next time you feel negativity creeping into your life, get physical and change your perspective.

Positive Attitude? It’s All In Your Head

superdude copyYou can choose to be either positive or negative.  When life gives you lemons, embrace a positive attitude by taking psychological action, which activates your mind to change your behavior. Here are three tips to get you started:

  1. Begin and end every day in a positive way. At the beginning, and again at the end, of each day, do something that will leave you feeling refreshed, energized or relaxed, like a walk or jog, stretching, prayer or meditation, deep breathing, reading, singing, listening to music or telling family members you love them.
  2. Rid yourself of poison people. Create a magic toxic buffer zone. Imagine a glowing energy bubble around you that fiercely wards off negative energy from other people. Believe their toxicity cannot and will not penetrate your positive mindset.
  3. Send and receive positive thoughts. What type of energy are you sending out to people? They can feel your vibrations. You want them to be positive. Think to yourself, “I am sending you…” Your list could contain words like positive energy, peace, loving kindness, support, appreciation, strength, abundance, etc. Whatever you believe that other people need from you right now, send those thoughts to them.

The late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “If you can think it in your mind, you can think it into actuality.” When you make small adjustments through psychological action, you will become more positive. The result? People will be drawn to you. And isn’t that a much better way to go through life?