Tag Archives: relaxation

A Morning Pledge…to Myself

Well, it is only 9:15am on a Saturday but I woke up this morning at 7am and have been trying to either sleep more or figure out something to do that would be relaxing. I tried watching a show on Netflix, but it was making me more anxious. I tried surfing the internet for some research for my novel but I couldn’t focus. I tried reading, tried just laying down…

So since I couldn’t find anything to do to help me relax, I figured it must not be time for that yet. I guess right now it is time for me to get some writing done. I normally don’t get started till the afternoon, but since I’m up early and my brain is hyperactive, I suppose it makes sense for me to do my writing in the morning today.

That will also give me more time to work. The last couple days I had to quit before I was really ready to do so because I had other things I needed to do. Today, however, I really only have one other errand to do, and the rest of the day I am free to work.

I have also been working on getting myself back in shape so that my exercise becomes easier. At the moment it is tough for me to get on the treadmill. I’m not starting completely from scratch this time the way I did with Wellness Quest 1.0, but I am coming out of almost two months of illness where I was unable to exercise, so there’s been some muscle atrophy.

I get tired more easily, and I have had to really push myself just to do my Tai Chi every day. But that’s where I started before, and I quickly got up to speed. So I imagine that I will be able to achieve the same or even better results this time around.

Results, as always, are the product of a very simple equation. They are equal to the effort exerted divided by the time invested. In other words, if you don’t put in a whole lot of effort but you spend a whole lot of time on something, you’ll get some results. If you put a lot of effort in but don’t spend a lot of time, you’ll get some results too. But to get optimum results, it requires a significant effort and significant time expenditure.

That is the main reason why my wellness quest has stalled in the past. Because I have either stopped putting in the effort or I haven’t made the time. And so, I stopped getting the results I wanted.

It almost sounds too simple, but I’m sure everyone reading this knows that making a significant effort and spending a significant amount of time on anything is easier said than done.

Usually I write this blog in the afternoon or at night so I can reflect on my day. However, since I am writing this early in the morning, today I get to make a commitment to myself. Today, I pledge to do my meds twice. I pledge to go through my Tai Chi routine at least twice. I pledge to get my errands done, and I pledge to write at least five pages for my novel.

That probably doesn’t sound like a lot, and really, compared to what I was doing daily back in September, it isn’t. But I have to start somewhere, and right now, this is enough for me.

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Laughter – Yes, it’s Good for You

So the last few days…ok, in reality almost every post I’ve made so far has been pretty serious. Tonight I have a more lighthearted topic: laughter.

I think anyone who has struggled with illness, mental health issues, or addiction will remember pretty clearly the point in their recovery when they were first able to truly laugh again. One thing about being sick, depressed, or addicted (and many other things, or, as in my case, all of those together) is that it becomes very difficult to laugh. You may fake a laugh or give a little false chuckle. But a really deep, body shaking, soul lifting, cheek straining laugh….that just doesn’t happen.

You’ve all heard the saying, “laughter is the best medicine”. Whoever first spoke those words was more right than they knew. Because studies have shown that laughter really is medicine. It touches a part of our brains that is older and deeper than conscious thought. We don’t really know why laughter developed. But we know it is good for us. Here’s a quote from a Psychology Today article (Click here to link to the full article):

“Laughter, it’s said, is the best medicine. And there’s lots of evidence that laughter does lots of good things for us.

It reduces pain and allows us to tolerate discomfort.

It reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics alike.

It improves your job performance, especially if your work depends on creativity and solving complex problems. Its role in intimate relationships is vastly underestimated and it really is the glue of good marriages. It synchronizes the brains of speaker and listener so that they are emotionally attuned.

Laughter establishes — or restores — a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people, In fact, some researchers believe that the major function of laughter is to bring people together. And all the health benefits of laughter may simply result from the social support that laughter stimulates.

New evidence shows that laughter helps your blood vessels function better. It acts on the inner lining of blood vessels, called the endothelium, causing vessels to relax and expand, increasing blood flow. In other words, it’s good for your heart and brain, two organs that require the steady flow of oxygen carried in the blood.”

Wow. If only coffee did all that for us! Coffee you can make with coffee beans and water. Laughter can’t be poured into your cup from a French Press. It can’t be grown on a tree and cultivated. In my opinion, laughter is one of the most purely spontaneous human experiences. You can’t force true laughter. No matter how “funny” something might be, it doesn’t always make you laugh. In addition to being spontaneous, laughter is also a communal experience. Think about it. When was the last time you were sitting by yourself, watching a silly movie, and you laughed out loud? Doesn’t happen too often does it? (this is one of the reasons the internet slang LOL irritates me…but don’t let me get off track..) On the other hand, watching that same movie three days later with your best friend, you both burst out laughing. Strange isn’t it? I don’t think so. I think that the nature of laughter is to produce and deepen the communal bond between members of our human species. Check out the quote from Psychology Today again. See where it talks about laughter being the “glue of successful marriages”? That is because it stimulates production of hormones and neurochemicals that promote bonding, trust, and pleasure.

In my own experience, I know that many of the women I have dated made me laugh early on in our relationship. Something they did or said made me burst out into the strange physical and vocal act we call laughter. And after that, I felt a greater connection to them.

Think about your best friends. They are your friends for a lot of reasons, I’m sure, but one thing that I am certain of (without knowing you or them) is that there have been times in your friendship, and probably more than a few, when you have laughed together. At a movie, at a comedy show, at a television show, at a joke you told or at something odd one of you did…it doesn’t matter why. What matters is that you laughed. And through that laughter your brain and body became more connected to that of your friend, and he/she to you.

Ok, enough science/philosophy stuff.

I was prompted to write about laughter tonight because my aunt, uncle and I were sitting watching a new ABC show called “Trust Us With Your Life”. The premise of the show is that improvisational comedians act out scenes from the lives of famous people who come on the show as guests. Tonight we had Serena Williams first, then Jack and Kelly Osborne. Several of the improv artists used to be on Whose Line Is It Anyway, including Wayne Brady (yeah, he’s taken a lot of flak lately, but I still think he’s a great improv comedian). What really cracked us up, however, was a bit where the actors are filmed from above, while doing the scene lying down on the ground. So the floor becomes the rear wall. It might not make sense with me explaining that way. So try and imagine this: you get up from wherever you are sitting and lay down on the ground. Lay on your side, with your feet straight and your arms out in front of you. Now, imagine that someone on the ceiling has a camera and is filming you straight down. Imagine there is a white line the runs beneath your feet that symbolizes the floor, and the floor on which you are lying is the wall. Let me just tell you, it is hysterical when you actually see it done. The actors were acting out a tennis game with Serena vs. some unknown Russian opponent with a grumpy umpire. They had tennis rackets and tennis balls. At the very beginning, the “Russian player” tossed the ball up to serve, but to do that he had to literally roll the ball across the floor in the direction that was now “up”. But he rolled it too hard so it disappeared off-screen. And the reaction and expression of the “tennis players” was so hilarious that my aunt, uncle and I could barely stop laughing through the rest of the skit.

I have read a lot about why we find things funny. Out of all the things I have read, the one that I think makes the most sense is the idea that it is the surprise, or the unexpected, that is funny to most people. Of course, different cultures and age groups and socioeconomic classes have different “senses of humor”. But one thing that seems to stay the same regardless of where you are or who you are is that a novel or unanticipated twist is funny. Sometimes, things are funny vicariously. For example, dramatic irony. When the audience knows something is going to happen to a character but the character doesn’t. The audience laughs because they are anticipating the surprise of the character onscreen. Inhabiting the surprise of someone else is apparently just as funny as being surprised yourself.

But the question I find myself asking tonight is this: what does this stuff about laughter say about the experience of being human? And furthermore, what does this information about laughter say about the experience of being me?

I don’t have a concrete answer for you (or for myself) yet. What I do know is that I love to laugh, and that I can feel the power of a really good laugh deep inside my body and my spirit. People tell jokes sometimes to “lighten the mood” or to “ease the tension” because true laughter does just that: it lightens the energy within us, it forces our bodies to tense, but to ultimately relax. It makes people feel more connected to one another. And that lightening, that relaxing, and that connecting…they are vital components of a healthy life.

I challenge you to a contest: post the funniest joke, video, link or whatever on the comment section of this post. The one that is the funniest (according to some relatively impartial judging method which I will develop later) will win a prize (which I will also decide on at a later date).

Thank you for reading, and thank you, in advance, for your funny comments. I’m sure they will provoke much laughter, and we will all be that much healthier because of it.

Goodnight, and happy laughing,

-Nathan

When Have I Done Enough?

So today is day one. And already I am tired. I realized today as I was just trying to get this site set up so that I could, with good conscience, post tonight was exhausting. I wrote the equivalent of about 5 pages and I did most of it within one sitting. I haven’t done that probably since I graduated from college four years back. And my wrists are actually sore from sitting at the keyboard all afternoon.

So its almost 8:30pm and I’m sitting down to write this post and I’m thinking back on my day and the question that comes to my mind is “when have I done enough?”. The concept of “enough” is strange, in and of itself. “Enough” doesn’t mean doing everything, exhausting all possible angles, working until every ounce of energy you have is expended……or does it? The reality is that I don’t know what is “enough”.

All my life, I have worked on the principle that if something needs to get done, I’ll get it done. Whether it is a week early or with a minute to spare, or a day late, it will get done. I have lived by this principle, putting off anything that I didn’t want to do, or that wasn’t engaging, or that didn’t seem pressing or urgent.

The problem has been that this attitude has made my life a series of short periods of relative calm punctuated by crisis after crisis. Yeah, if you ignore your mail, you don’t have to pay your bills. But eventually, the creditors come after you, and won’t let you ignore it anymore. If you ignore the law, you might have some fun at first, but eventually you’ll end up getting arrested. (Trust me, I’ve been there, in both situations I just described)

So what does this concept of “enough” have to do with my day today?

Well, during the whole time I was writing for this blog and getting it set up earlier, I kept thinking, have I done enough yet? When can I quit and move on to something else, something easier, something that doesn’t seem like “work”.

And I had the same thought later in the afternoon as I went with my aunt to my parents’ house where most of my stuff is stored so that we could pick up some things I needed. I was packing things into my aunt’s car and stuffing them into bags and I just kept thinking, is this enough yet?

And I had the same thought when unpacking and putting those things away – have I done enough yet? Does my room look good enough?

And when putting food on my plate during dinner – is this enough to satisfy me? Am I hungry enough to eat all this?

And even this instant as I’m writing – have I given enough examples of enough yet?

Wow. Ok, so even I hadn’t realized how many situations were relevant to this idea.

This post is asking a question to which I do not have the answer. The only thing I know is that, for me,  enough doesn’t mean exhausting every bit of energy I have on every task. It is somewhere between there and not doing something at all. And that is really all I know. I suppose it is different for everyone. But for me, today, the things I have are enough. The place I am in is enough. And this post is good enough  for me to post on the internet!

Goodnight everyone, and good luck on your own quest.

-Nathan