I speak English. I pretend that I speak French and Spanish, and I am conversational in Pig Latin.
But I am fluent in Punga.
My son could be on the other end of the telephone, and based upon 1) the pitch of his cry, and 2) the distance between the sun and the horizon, I would know whether he A) is hungry, B) is tired, or C) just bumped his head on his fire truck.
When our babies are sad, we quickly run through a check-list in our heads. (Is he tired? Is he hungry? Does he have a messy diaper? Etc.)
But how often do we take our own emotional temperatures?
Let’s say, for example, you get frustrated with a customer service representative, and you end the conversation with, “Okay, STACY, next week, after I shop the many companies who WANT my business, I am going to call you personally to tell you I’m cancelling my policy.”
When you get off the phone, you think, “Jiminy Crickets. Now I have to cancel my policy. Or I have to hope Stacy never answers the phone again.”
But do you also think, “What is going on with me right now? Am I hungry? Am I tired? Have I exercised recently?”
If we don’t take three seconds for internal temperature checks throughout the day, we run the risk of driving down Misery Avenue all day long. Our families deserve more from us. We deserve more from ourselves.
In a recent post (“April Showers Bring Thanksgiving Dinner. Or Something.”), I proposed a “Spring Cleaning for the Brain” Campaign, a forum where we can all discuss tactics we use to achieve and maintain happiness.
This first tactic may be insultingly obvious. It is simple. And simply imperative.
We cannot improve our state of mind if we are not consistently aware of our state of mind.
When my freezer door is open, it makes a loud beeping noise. Essentially, the “beep” translates as, “Temperature rising. Problems imminent.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we had our own personal beeping mechanisms to alert us when we are about to combust? Well, good golly Miss Molly: we do!
When we drop a fork and call ourselves a “moron,” that is a beep. When someone cuts us off on the highway, and we throw our arms in the air and call them a “turkey” (or other expletive of choice), that is a beep. When we so aggressively want to kill the mosquito on our arm that we give ourselves a black-and-blue, that is most definitely a beep.
When I catch myself beeping, I try to give myself the same courtesy as I would give my child. I ask myself, am I tired? Am I hungry? What can I do to rectify this situation? If I can’t do anything about it now, what can I change so that tomorrow I am not this same way?
If you are tired and you don’t have time for a nap (I know you don’t), at least you are now aware of your state of mind, and can vow to keep your mouth shut when you are frustrated again in ten minutes. That’s empowering.
When you become accustomed to the self check-in’s, you may be surprised to see that your needs are not much different from your child’s needs. Here are the things that make a big difference in my moods:
Three Pillars to a Good Mood
The CDC recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night. You know how much you personally need. Prioritize this.
[Psst. Yes, I know that some of my readers are working night shifts so that they can afford to feed their children during the day. Frankly, I don’t know how they do it. When I say “prioritize this,” I am referring to those of us who are in such desperate need of “me” time that we stay up until the wee hours of the night playing on facebook or doing some other meaningless activity. Don’t do that.]
The frequency of our meals, and the quality of our meals, both play a role in our moods. Broccoli? Good. Snickers? Bad.
I’m going to dedicate a whole post to this one. I try to exercise every other day. Not for skinny jeans. For mental clarity.
And here are some Extra Credit Activities:
- Feeling productive
- Doing something nice for someone else
- Avoiding alcohol altogether (even one drink can depress you)
- Surrounding self with bright colors, positive people
- Taking five minutes on a busy day to close eyes, breathe deeply and “ground” self.
I’m not going to stick my nose in the air and pretend that I perfectly and religiously follow my own advice every day. Oh wait–yes I am going to pretend that, because this advice-giving blog post reads better that way.
If you take me aside, though, I will tell you that, yes, I am actually afraid that Stacy will answer the phone the next time I call my insurance company.
But if I had listened to the beeps that inevitably occurred before that phone call, I could have shut the freezer door–and my mouth–when Stacy told me they lost my payment again.
The moral of the blog post is: if you want to be happy, keep two fingers on the pulse of your emotional state. Capiche?
Our family has a very special reason to smile today.
Welcome to the world, C.R.F!!
What is your emotional thermometer telling you right now?
Do you have any “happiness techniques” you’d like to share?
I always love hearing from you!