One of my favorite self-help YouTube channels is Healthy Gamer, and I had recently come across a video of his called The Struggle for Control in Today’s World. He articulated nearly everything I struggled with from anxiety about the world to feeling paralyzed or ill equipped to be able to do anything about it.
He talked about how control in a macro sense is impossible, but we do have control in micro-sense: “Anything you can feel, you can control.” We cannot solve the world’s problems, especially on an individual level. But, we can wake up every day and conquer a minor task.
Taking small actions is the key to happiness if not contentment with one’s own situation.
He had me thinking: what are five everyday things that bring me happiness? How can I create happiness with my hands and feet?
1. Walks in Nature
I recently began a new habit: weekly walks among nature. It all started when I had to deal with three hour gaps between work and union meetings, or work and townhall meetings. It didn’t make sense for me to go home between obligations, and I still wanted to get a workout in, so a walk in my local nature trail seemed to be the best way to “kill time.”
However, something interesting started to happen: I was astounded at how these idle walks seemed to cleanse my “brain palette.” I go to this particular trail all of the time to jog or workout, but never did I just stroll…. No music, but for the sounds of the shifting trees, red cardinals, ducks, and streams.
I suddenly began to use these walks as a way to clear my mind, and I look forward to them after work. I can rethink my situation and future with clarity and resolve, and focus on how to gain some sort of control in a world that is changing at such a terrifying pace. Idle time to think has been invaluable to my sanity.
And after I am done thinking, I observe all of the things in the environment that I never noticed until I began walking: that I lived near mulberry trees; that the colors in the woods give me a sense of peace; that the lake nearby looks like a mirror on a warm spring day; that there are so many different beautiful textures in oak, adder, and birch. I no longer “kill time,” but meditate between the trees.
I have always kept a journal. I have every journal I have ever written in since the age of nine (whoa!).
However, my writing has undergone a transformation since the beginning. I went from only writing about the daily goings-on to now also including streams of consciousness, ideas, and emotions. As I age, my thoughts are becoming more complicated and now require time to sort, assess, and process.
I feel more at peace after transcribing my thoughts on paper, even if my ideas and positions might change over time. It is nice to remind yourself that you are human.
3. Homemade Food
It is no secret that I love to cook and bake. I was fortunate enough to have a mom that cooked all of the time, including packing a lunch box with beautiful sandwiches, juice, and a cookies and cream granola bar.
Even when I moved out, I cooked a lot at home because homemade food sings health and comfort. My body feels less energetic whenever I have a busy work week that prompts me to eat out.
On my first evening in my first apartment, I cooked salmon teriyaki for both my best friend and my boyfriend (now hubby). I made a decent sauce and the rice was made in the microwave since my gas had not been turned on yet. The three of us ate it up and enjoyed a lot of laughs after that hard day of moving.
To this day, a good homemade meal, whether alone or with friends and family, keeps my spirits high. When I cook for myself, it is me showing love for myself. When I cook for others, I show love to others.
4. Growing Plants
Like many, I began gardening during the pandemic in the tiny plot in front of my house. I kept up the hobby, and now I appreciate the beauty that nature provides.
Whether it is flowers, vegetables, or herbs, growing plants gives me a sense of peace. I enjoy walking outside on mild mornings and smelling the rosemary, dill, and geraniums. I enjoy walking outside in the evening to pick bay laurel, thyme, and marjoram to season the night’s dinner.
When stress lives rent free in our bodies, it might surprise you how soothing a plant can be.
5. Creating Art
I am not one to have many regrets, but one of my greatest regrets is neglecting my art.
For over ten years, I had an on-again off-again relationship with painting and drawing, and allowed my knack for art to rust. I managed to use my crafting to design cakes, but it is also nice to see it on canvas.
After making a career change during the pandemic, I am excited to have more personal time to devote to my art. The Great Resignation allowed me to reassess my life and shift my priorities to benefit my personal wants and needs as opposed to a company’s wants and needs.
I perform my best when I feel my best and have time for me!