The funniest thing happened this week, more than once: I was not completely hideous in a social situation.
I’m exaggerating (about it being the funniest thing, not about my level of un-hideousness), but only because I have an inclination to be less-than-compassionate. I get tired and cranky, I get snippy and eye-roll-y. But on more than one occasion this week I appeared to have made some progress in my life-long quest to become a better person.
If you are like me and are trying your darndest to be nicer, more patient, and more loving, maybe these tips that I try to follow will help you find the peace of mind that has moved me closer to those goals.
Stop for a minute
When I get in the car, before I rush off to wherever I’m going next, I often take a moment to close my eyes and take a deep breath. It both clears my head and reminds me that nothing is as urgent as I think it might be.
Maybe when you get in the car there is a kid kicking the back of your chair or it’s 20-below-zero. If that’s not the time that works for you, perhaps you can find another. It may only be when you’re locked in the bathroom, in which case you might have all the more reason to close your eyes and breathe.
Turn your body
A great sin of mine is that I am often too short with people, because can’t you see how busy and important I am??? I know in my heart it is not going to ruin my entire day for me to stop and listen carefully to someone. In fact, it will probably improve my day.
The simplest way I’ve found to get myself listening better is to turn my body toward the person I’m talking to. If they pass me in a hallway, help me in a store, or approach my desk, I am much more likely to give them the attention and care they deserve if I turn and face them. Simple stuff, really.
Fuel yourself well
I come back to the issue of eating and drinking well over and over because it has so transformed my life. We can’t all eat locally-sourced organic superfoods all the time, or drink gallons of artisinal water before breakfast, but I bet each one of you knows which foods trigger good or bad moods.
For me, it is sweets in the morning that ruin my day. My mind races and my body feels as if I am sweating donut glaze. (NB: If you need something from me before noon, do not try to tempt me with munchkins).
Get outside of yourself
Preferably into reality, or good fiction. Lately for me it’s reading that reminds me there is a world outside my silly complaints and concerns, and I emerge more open to others. Sometimes a walk does the trick, or getting out of your office. Volunteering is another great way to do this, though not always as practical for people in very busy seasons of our lives.
One thing that rarely improves my interactions with others is excessive television or trashy reading. If I’m going into an imaginary world, it needs to be written, and rendered with a little bit of class.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
The only thing worse than being busy and frazzled is being busy, frazzled, and then beating yourself up. If I beat myself up every time I said the wrong thing I would never get anything done.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t evaluate our behavior with a clear eye, nor does it mean we don’t have to make amends when our slips of the tongue are egregious. But we always have another chance to do the right thing, and we should give more attention to our next opportunity for compassion than to our latest mistake.
Ideally prayer also meets our needs for quiet time, deep breathing, etc. But even when that is not the case, our frantic, stressed-out prayers can be just as helpful..
When I was in a particularly prickly phase, angry and immature and often very sad, I would ask every night for God to help me be more loving. And by jove, in time I became more loving, and left that phase behind. I’m still not perfect, but I’m closer to who I want to be than I was before.
Decide ahead of time how you are going to be
Earlier this week I had a doctor’s appointment, which can be a stressful situation. As I was leaving the house I kept imagining things that could go wrong – maybe my referral would be expired, maybe I’d get yelled at for having to cancel previous appointments (which some of the staff has done before, leaving me in tears). I was geared up to either yell or cry.
So before I went in I tried a little of everything: deep breathing, prayer, healthy smoothie for breakfast. I was still riled up as I deep-breathed my way into the waiting room.
I was as charming as I could be to the receptionist. I complimented her shirt, I made small talk, I smiled. Part of this was my poor attempt at cunning: if anything went wrong with my referral I wanted her on my side. But nothing went wrong, and my decision to be pleasant had another consequence: I felt better.
Sometime the easiest way to make myself nicer is just to be nicer.
What do you do to put yourself in a state where you can be the best version of yourself?
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!