This week, I had the extreme good fortune of spending a few days in a gorgeous hotel on the beach in Cancun, Mexico. The sun was hot, the water a dazzling aqua blue, I was there with my man, and the swim-up bar was OPEN. It was a rare 4-day stretch of bliss.
This morning, as I prepared to leave paradise and my boyfriend behind (he still had a few days left of his conference), I found myself actually feeling sorry for myself. As I walked through the surf one last time, powder-soft sand underfoot, I lamented that I didn’t book my return flight for later in the week. After all, the kids and my clients would have been fine without me for an additional day or two, right?!? WHY OH WHY must I leave so soooooon??? All I could focus on was the injustice of having to leave Fantasy Island by myself for the below- freezing temps of Northeast Ohio.
Time for a metaphorical kick in the butt! For Pete’s sake, why focus on the regret of an early departure when I could be bathing in gratitude for the divine four days I had been given?? I mean REALLY! That sharp shift in perspective improved my mood, my sense of wellbeing, and even my posture, I think. I went from pity party to fiesta in a matter of moments. And it struck me (again) how truly in charge of our own state of mind we are. Our happiness is indeed our own responsibility. For some it comes quite naturally, and for others it is a conscious exercise.
One of the components of mid-life weight control is stress management. Stress lowering techniques help to keep stress hormones from persuading our fat cells to hold on to fat tissue. We all know about the importance of finding healthy ways to wind down (whether we actually do it is another story, of course) – meditate, take baths, do yoga, spend time outdoors, make sure you have enough “me time”, etc. All those things are fantastic, and when done regularly, they will certainly have a positive effect on your stress level.
But happy is also a decision. I mean, shit happens, but ultimately WE are responsible for our mood and general outlook. It sometimes takes time to identify what (or who) brings us peace, joy and meaning, and what (or who) has the opposite effect. It also may take time to learn to lift ourselves out of a habitual negative mindset. For some of us, happiness requires practice. But it is indeed within our power to create the environment, the relationships, and the experiences that will take us there.
It’s funny to say, but we must put “Happy Making” near the top of our priority lists. I’m not suggesting that we should try to eliminate sadness, anger and frustration from our lives – there is a place for those emotions. For one thing, we need them to help us identify what works for us and what doesn’t. I’m saying that choosing a positive mindset most of the time will benefit your physical and emotional health significantly. It’s a habit that will pay back HUGE dividends for yourself and those around you. And that’s the best stress management I can think of.
I write this on my Southwest flight to Baltimore, where I’ll make the connection to Cleveland. I am alone, missing Mark, and wishing I was sitting with him by the hotel pool … but I am deeply grateful that I was given the experience at all. And I am happy.