I was standing in my classroom this week waiting for the next group to arrive, a mere ten-second pause in the day. I was tired and in a slightly cranky mood as one of my year 9 pupils had really annoyed me by lying to my face. A thought occurred to me. I could stay fuming or I could smile.
So I grinned the biggest, most ridiculous grin I could muster, pushing up all my facial muscles, and widening my eyes. If anyone had been looking through the window they probably would have called for some help from the school nurse; but in those few seconds the tension I had felt seeped out and I walked out to greet my next class happy and smiling (normally).
Evidence has shown that having feel-good experiences every day is beneficial for us, both mentally and physically. And they can be ones you create for yourself, even force on yourself as I did this week. That grotesque grin turned my mood around and my approach to my next class and those after gave me a week's worth of happiness points. Points in the bank to use up when things take a tumble.
I also use this approach when doing something physically tough. Telling myself "This is brilliant!" as I run into gale-like winds or smiling strangely at dog walkers as I battle a hill make the whole experience that much better, easier... and happier.
Another thing to ease rampant minds and get a lot of perspective in a little time is having some powerful thoughts. These, like moments of joy and happiness can be built up. They work for me by distracting me to greater, more wondrous or perplexing things. They take my mind away from the (often) petty now that is preoccupying me to something my mind can't quite grasp, so that it sits and ponders in awe. They are things I have read and remembered for this very reason: the how, the why, the wow, Wow, WOW.
I'll share a few of the types of thoughts I wonder about, but before I do I am reminded of a line from my favourite Shakespeare play, Othello. Even if you've lost, you still have your smile.
"The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief."
Some of my Helpfully Distracting Thoughts
- Every single one of those snowflakes falling outside is different, like a trillion fingerprints flying through the sky.
- Forty years ago there was over 70,000 elephants in the Central African Republic. Now there are just 200 individual survivors.
- The sun is "middle-aged" at 4 and half billion years old.
- Sitting at the ruins of Winaywayna along the Inca Trail was one of the most peaceful and spiritual moments in my life.
- Most of the Kyrgyz nomads of the Wakan region in Afghanistan have never and will never see a tree.