Day 5: Whistle While You Work!

27 Dec

I was thinking this morning about how as a society we assess a person’s general mental wellness– if they’re leading a happy, healthy, and balanced life. For me when I get sad or depressed I shut down. My productivity tanks and I have an increased propensity to be found in closets or other dark solitary places like under the bed (though my preference is definitely for closets). I’m working on strengthening my reaction to be more robust and healthier, but left to my natural devices this is what happens.

By contrast my friend A, when he gets sad or unhappy, he doesn’t lose productivity. In fact he never really admits to ever losing steam. I think he belongs to a handful of individuals who actually could, quite possibly work themselves to death: their “something’s wrong” reflex is squashed by their “I can do this” mentality. On paper it seems obvious that this too is not a robust or healthy mentality. But in application, I’m not sure we recognize it that way.

There is an old adage (okay maybe it was a Disney song) that you should “whistle while you work.”

I think for me, very broadly speaking, my spectrum consists of “I whistle while I work” OR “I don’t work.”

For my friend A, his spectrum is more along the lines of “I whistle while I work” OR “I work.”

Society does not reward “I don’t work,” so when I get unhappy I tend to feel ashamed (which is its own rabbit hole adventure) but it’s also easy to recognize that something is not right and I have to address it. Society, however, very much does reward both “I whistle while I work” AND “I work,” which can be confusing. Especially because it’s easy to chalk away the lack of whistling to small little bumps in the road, after all other commonly held beliefs (though interestingly no Disney song equivalents) are “we can’t always be happy” and “nothing is gained without sacrifice” (the beauty=pain mentality).

Shawn Achor’s Ted Talk (the one that inspired my 21 days of compassion challenge) says that only 10% of our happiness is due to external factors, making the other 90% based on perspective. If that’s true, what happens when your life’s structure doesn’t give you the space necessary to develop and practice positive thinking? Today is only Day 5 and I can definitely say that exercise, meditation, writing, thinking, and reflecting all takes time and commitment. Not as much as I think I make it seem in my head, where the tasks have the visual resemblance of a dark and stormy abominable snowman, but they still do take time and commitment. So if your life is always on the go and your job is very demanding and you happen to be that person who will keep toiling away even if no one is whistling, even if you’re unhappy, and society’s reward structures are telling you that you’re doing great– the promotions, money, glamorous traveling, awards, fancy college diplomas, the ever closer carrot—then what instigator is there to reevaluate? Where are the red flags? How do you even realize that you’re unhappy and it’s more than just a bump in the road, it’s significant and worth listening to?

I jury is still out on whether happiness is the ultimate goal. I am, however, settling on the conclusion that day to day positivity– happiness in the moment– is a very worthwhile goal and also achievable. I think though that it takes work and practice, as most good things, and prioritizing those efforts can ultimately lead to some big choices and reevaluation, if we want to whistle while we work that is.

21 Days of Compassion Check List Day 5:

  1. Three Sources of Gratitude:
    1. My Sister: I woke up excited today because she getting into town and that’s very exciting! Oh the infallible logic of that statement 🙂 I love my sister more than anything. We fight a lot. But we play nice a lot too. Sometimes it’s nice knowing there is one person that you would defend to the death. That if someone tried to hurt them, you’d kick the sh*t out of them with all regard for the law and non-violence thrown out the window. I don’t have kids so for me that’s my sister (sorry rents!).
    2. Maya Angelous’ Poem Phenomenal WomanI enjoy poetry. Every so often I come across a poem where the words, my feelings in that moment, and my struggles in life all crash together and create a moment of awe. That is Maya Angelous’ Phenomenal Woman. I love this poem. This poem is how I got through high school. This poem is what I try to channel when I’m not feeling enough. I love this poem.
    3. The Sunday Comics: It’s not Sunday and I no longer get the newspaper but I have so many warm memories from the Sunday comics. My mom still, to this day, saves each one of them for me for when I visit. I clip out the ones I really like. And I’d always read the funniest ones to my mom. Pickles, Red and Rover, Bizarro, Rose is Rose….love ’em all!
  2. Exercise: I did a hulu workout with my Mom on her fancy AppleTV. Unfortunately it turned to be a little too sculpt intensive for my mom, but hey we got off our butts for 21 minutes, props for effort right? Tomorrow I’m going to try and find an online zumba class instead. We’ll get the whole family involved 🙂
  3. Journaling One Positive Experience: So this isn’t actually my experience and it’s also not from the past 24 hours but I loved it so much I really wanted to share. My friend S decided she wanted to do something to give back in the spirit of the holidays. So she baked some cookies and after her family had finished unwrapping their presents, her and her mom and the family pooch went over to their local fire department to drop off the treats. She said that all the firemen were very welcoming and seemed genuinely touched and happy to receive the homemade goodies. I just thought it was such a simple and generous way to get connected with the surrounding community. Her story has definitely planted a seed!
  4. Random Acts of Kindness: So I wrote the e-mail to my mom (leftover homework from yesterday) but after that I find myself uninspired on who to select for the next e-mail. This is not to say that I’ve run out of people to thank (far from it), I think I just crossed off the easiest people to thank (in business speak this is the “low hanging fruit”). Rather then push myself to write something sub par, I’m going to make a list of all the people I’d like to thank and just jot down a few words to describe what for. I think this will help get the creative juices flowing a bit.
  5. Meditation: Does the above post count as meditation and reflection? I think so. CHECK- DONE!

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