Take minute gratitude vacations to free yourself from stress and anger.
Through serendipity, while listening to Andrea Bocelli singing an Elvis Presley tune, I found myself in Portofino bliss. After discovering a quiet oasis of serenity at a nearby North End hair salon, I took a bit of a vacation. There one can listen to love songs instead of jarring tunes and I found myself singing along: “Take my hand. Take my whole life too, but I can’t help falling in love with you.” Lost to the music, I was able to set aside deadline stress and my To Do list and just relax.
Letting my mind wander, for a brief moment I was reaching for the hand of Prince Charming. We were waltzing on a terrace overlooking the water in Portofino. With gratitude to Emilio, who found a way to squeeze me in, my day went from frazzled to calm. Gratitude is scientifically based. From research presented at the Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley, we know that gratitude can be restorative.
When we are sad, sometimes gratitude becomes elusive. Yet we need its power in order to bring back our smile. I wonder how my day would have progressed if I had not made the call and taken time to unwind. Just as my sister felt a need to clean her attic before her trip to Barcelona this week, I felt a need to get through my To Do—which included cleaning out two file cabinets—before the 4th of July holiday and another birthday.
Expectations, Dr. James Ellison
It seems that with each task on our To Do lists we set up expectations for ourselves and, at the same time, set ourselves up for what might be a letdown. I remembered the words of James M. Ellison, MD, MPH, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School when I asked him about holiday stress and sadness. He said:
“We build magical expectations of the holidays in our minds. When experience fails to match our hopes, as it often does, we become stressed and even depressed. Each holiday season resonates with past holidays. If we have a history of happy holidays, the current ones benefit. But if loss, sadness, or disappointment were prominent in the past, these feelings color our present experience.”
The 4th of July is a time for celebrating freedom and the world is aglow with fireworks. Each year I have expectations of beautiful skies and happy moments. I remember that as a child, we sat on our grandparents’ lawn overlooking the water watching the fireworks. “These are just for you,” said my dad. Independence Day is a good time to rethink ways for alleviating stress and finding your bliss.
12 Bliss Tips
By focusing on the positive, we keep our minds centered and away from petty and harmful anger.
- Make time in your day to express gratitude even if you really do not feel like doing so. Gratitude is an attitude not feeling. Send a note. Make a phone call. Professor Robert Emmons has documented the scientific foundation of gratitude and Dr. Jeffrey Froh has studied the effects of gratitude on children (Emmons, 2007) (Froh, 2008).
- Be generous with your words. Pay a compliment to someone today, instead of waiting until the next time you see them.
- Maintain positive illusions about those whom you love. Marcel Zentner, PhD, of the University of Geneva, says this is a way to encourage life-long love (Zenter, 2005).
- Practice mindfulness. Focus on what you are doing, what you are saying. There are many books on the topic, but a short reminder was in the Special Report of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter, October 2013.
- Guard your time and be grateful for every moment in the day. Learn the power of No. Practice saying, “I wish I could, but I am not able to do so at this time.” And make no excuses when pressed.
- Develop time management techniques to help you from becoming overwhelmed with too many demands on yourself.
- Forgive freely and be wary of anger. Clear your mind of negative thoughts that weigh you down, especially past hurts. Redford B. Williams, MD, of Duke University, has long advocated letting go of anger for your health. He is Chief of the Division of Behavioral Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and author of “Anger Kills.”
- Appreciate the importance of sleep. Carl Bazil, MD, at Columbia University Sleep Disorders Center has cautioned that losing even one hour of sleep can affect cognition. (Bazil interview, 2014)
- Stop and think about someone you love and wish blessings and happiness. It will help to build up a reserve of joy. In fact, wish blessings for those who try your patience, those who hurt you, deceive you, betray you.
- Seek out the best in others and avoid friends who drain your energy—they are serenity stealers.
- Take minute gratitude vacations. Stop throughout the day to smell the roses, to take a walk, to gaze at the sunshine or clouds, to dream about love whether at home, in Paris, or Portofino.
- At the end of the day, listen to music that relaxes you. Researchers tell us that television at the end of the day can interfere with a peaceful sleep.
As for my waltz in Italy, for many women today Prince Charming has come and gone. But happiness does not come to us because of another person, we find it within ourselves. Perhaps these bliss tips will help bring about joy in your life. The key is to focus on the positive energy that surrounds us, absorb it, and then release it back to the universe.
Copyright 2015 Rita Watson