I was walking down the street in the cold of winter - Australian winter - going to the train station three years ago in Adelaide. The cold and I have never been great friends, but on that particular day, it felt even worse. So by nature, I was walking with my head down, minding my own business, counting steps to keep my mind from wandering when suddenly I heard someone yelled at me.
"I HOPE YOU'LL HAVE A NICE DAY!!"
I looked to my right, and it was this girl, around seven or eight, shouting from the backseat of the car as they drove by. I instantly stopped, smiled and waved at her. She waved back smiling as they turned around the corner. And that moment, I felt better, and I knew it would be a good day indeed.
It was as if my energy shifted and around me, things changed as well. The sky was clear, so the warmth of the sun made the cold bearable - comfortable even. People seemed kinder everywhere I went, even my cup of flat white was tastier - my senses heightened in some way. And as I walked down the busy Rundle Street, I heard someone called my name. An old friend, one I have not seen for more than five years! We sat down and caught each other up with what went on in our lives for hours. The day was incredible. The girl's hope came true.
I never really thought about that feeling for years now, until today. I have not been feeling like myself for a couple of weeks now. The uncertain times we are all experiencing globally, have finally caught up to me in more ways than I anticipated. Today I felt so anxious.
Somehow I remember that girl's high pitched voice, full of joy, full of life, exuberant, "Hope you'll have a nice day!", a simple statement that turned my day around before. As I sat writing this, I try to reimagine how I felt that day and relive it, changing my energy to reclaim my day, away from the anxiety that has taken control of my life recently. Did it work? It did, not at full-blown force as before, but it lifted my spirit a bit. And I'll take whatever I can to shove that anxiety away.
But how can a simple statement like that have such a tremendous impact on me? How can a stranger made me feel better? If she can do that, how can I pay it forward with others? Will people react or feel the same way?
It's About Gratitude, Maybe?
One of my favourite podcast channels discussed the practice of gratitude on one of the shows where they invited two friends to write a short letter for each other about how grateful they are for one another - simple sentences of gratitude. The host then asked them to rate what would be their reaction be from a scale of one to ten, both rated each other at around six or seven. Then they exchanged letters, read them out loud, and they were laughing their asses off, and they were feeling happier, better - for nearly a month. Imagine that, the impact of a humble thank you note, making people contented for one freaking month!
I guess that girl felt gratitude that day, and she decided to give it freely to other people, myself included, and change the course of their day for the better. Sounds like some hippy-dippy nonsense? Yeah, I thought so too. Until one day I tried doing that to a friend - if you're reading this, please accept my apology for making you a guinea pig for this practice.
"Hey, how's it going?"
"Uh, same old. What's up?"
"Um, nothing. I want to call to say that you are a wonderful person, you are fucking beautiful, successful and I hope you will have a great day ahead. I love you, girl."
Well, we chatted on, she thanked me for the call, went about her day and texted me that night telling me how her day went. It was great. Sounds like BS? I wish it is. But this does prove that through the power of kind words, you can make a change in someone's day, spread the gratitude. If you are contented, happy about yourself, experience gratitude, you tend to want to pay it forward to other people. Good energy spreads. Sounds hippy-dippy, huh? Trust me. If you know me at all, you would also know that I'm not into this kind of thing.
BUT, and that's a big but, I cannot deny the fact, that after going through a series of unfortunate events in the past few months, I have a different point of view on things. The more I practice gratitude - even when facing a bad day (see the previous post) - the less I become bitter, and it helped me feel more at ease. And speaking of gratitude, can we teach ourselves to be in a 'good mood' and embrace that state of mindfulness?
You might have heard of affirmation then, remember that? It went viral years ago when Oprah reviewed the book "The Secret" during one of her shows. The book became all the rave in the world of self-improvement, and everyone was practising it to some extent. Thank you, Oprah! Well, you get a copy! You get a copy! Everybody gets a copy!
Today people practise it religiously still, sending positive thoughts to oneself, messages of motivation, inspiration and other hoo-has. It does work, well for me at least. I think the reason it worked is that affirmation is personal. You identify your needs, you set the affirmation messages, and you change it ever so often to fit your situations. It varies between one person to the other. If you want to give it a go, the internet offers loads of guided affirmations from self-love, forgiveness, anxiety, name it, they pretty much got it. Mine? It's a little shallow, but it helped me survived several rough days. It goes somewhat like this:
"I am beautiful. I am strong. I am successful. I am positive. I am enough."
I chant this every morning as I commute to work or when I'm not listening to podcasts, or as I bathe, or as I jog, and lately, before going to bed as well. Did it change my mood? Not every time, sometimes it made me feel worse because these were not the words of affirmation I needed at the time, but as it is so versatile, I change them as necessary to fit into the situation. And right now? I'm listening to affirmations for health and, wait for it, weight loss. Don't try to deny it, most of us are now packing a few extra pounds here and there. But that's okay. Practising gratitude helped me to be thankful that at the very least, I'm still alive, have a roof over my head, food on my table, a job.
Be Mindful of Your Words
Ever heard the phrase "Words are mightier than swords"? That's how powerful words are, and I do believe that.
Try this. Think back to the most hurtful thing someone ever said to you. Does it still hurt? Even if it happened five, ten or maybe twenty years ago (if you're my age), those exact words still hurt you. If someone cut you or slashed you, the scar will be there, but it won't hurt you as much as words. Thus, the phrase.
I still run scenarios in my mind of the past. Words said to me by my father, my teacher, friends, exes, bosses - some of them still hurt me the way it did on the day I heard them. But the most difficult ones to hear came from someone I am closest to, myself. Well, we tend to be the harshest to ourselves, self-criticism - that's quite normal, I think. Even if you speak to the happiest person on earth, he will tell you that he does that too.
A teacher of mine asked us one day to list down things we love and hate about ourselves. The result? Our list of things we hate is longer than what we love - most of us do. But often what we think of ourselves are not necessarily true. "Your thoughts are not your truth", just because you feel a certain way about yourself, does not mean that others see you like that.
This theory was put to the test by a trainer I was so honoured to have met. It was a simple practice, but impactful. She gave each of us three sticky notes and a pen. We had to write down three personality traits (or first impression) about people we know - or don't know - in the room, and placed the sticky note on their backs. I had five sticky notes on my back from people I know, and one person that I have just met that day. I still keep those notes today. That's how powerful words are. They can tear you down or lift you up.
In the library of my mind, there are several shelves of hurtful words that I still keep as well as my personal archives. As I grow older (and somewhat wiser), I view those things with a new set of eyes and mind. Those hurtful words now have different meanings. They were words that propelled me to be better, stronger, more resilient, and made me grow a thicker skin - and perhaps less emotionally sensitive. Although, this does not mean that I am not mindful of others when it comes to my words.
Experiencing both spectrums of its power, truthfully speaking, I am scared of what I could potentially say. I know one slip of the tongue can hurt someone, so I decided to embark on this new journey to be more mindful with my words, choose them carefully, edit them and run them through my mind and heart - before asking myself, "Are these words necessary to be said?"
But I know I can say the following words without holding them back nor think them through.
I wish you happiness.
I wish you good health.
I wish you will take care of yourself, with joy.
And I wish you are safe.
Oh, by the way, you look damn stunning today!