Operating in harmony with the universe does not come naturally to me. There are key elements I’ve tuned into over the years that ground me, give me joy, expand my creativity, cultivate peace, foster (and maintain!) good, healthy relationships. Here are a few that I find essential to living a full-bodied existence.
I need to spend at least an hour in nature on a daily basis, whether it’s a run, a leisurely walk through the neighborhood, a hike either solo or with friends, or camping along the beach. Sometimes I’ll listen to my favorite podcasts or music, however lately I’ve enjoyed immersing myself in the sounds and sights around me. Little things like noticing how the figs are ripening on the trees in the neighborhood, discovering a great blue heron rookery, watching sea snails scooting along the sand, seals swimming in the distance, or marveling at that California blue sky that never fails to intoxicate me. The benefits of being outdoors has actually been quantified! Research led by the University of Exeter, published in Scientific Reports and funded by NIHR, found that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who don’t visit nature at all during an average week.
Traveling reminds me that there is literally a whole world out there to explore. It helps shape perspective by stretching oneself out of her comfort zone. Traveling is the antidote for getting caught up in the microcosm of my universe. Experiencing other cultures, navigating the terrain, appreciating the architecture, landscape and natural beauty; not to mention, the food! It helps me become more culturally aware. It helps in cultivating respect and reverence for the world around me, and it helps shape how I engage with people back home. I love to hear and share stories about travel, or listen to an acquaintance share how life is/was experienced growing up in another region of world. An added benefit: travel exposes us to different environments and microbes, thereby creating stronger antibodies and an ultimately more resilient immune system. It’s good for your health!
A daily (well…most days-TBH) meditation practice is something I’ve embraced as one of the most important acts to increase my overall well-being. It helps with stabilizing my emotions, finding respite from an overactive mind, and increasing awareness and presence throughout the day. I credit meditation for the moments in my day where things are feeling a bit out of control and I have the ability to pause, connect with my body and experience a more rational and harmonious existence.
We are not meant to navigate this world alone. For years I thought self-sufficiency was empowering, and vulnerability a weakness. Now I find it my saving grace. Having people in my corner, and me in theirs, has been strengthening to my soul. Being open to new friendships, or nurturing existing relationships is key. How this shows up in my life is myriad: something simple like enjoying a little one-on-one time with a dear one, or sharing a meal with my daughter and talking/listening without distraction, or maintaining good social relationships by calling a friend (vs sending a text) to let them know I’m thinking about them. Remembering little details that I can follow up on later to show that I care. Research has demonstrated that engaging in joyful activities such as love may activate areas in the brain responsible for emotion, attention, motivation and memory, as well as reduce stress.
When I’m feeling tapped energetically, engaging in a creative project always pulls me out. Baking and pastry-making are extremely special to me. I dream about dessert most days! When I bake, I get lost in the moment, pouring love into something beautiful and delicious that family and friends can enjoy. I take pride what I create, and am not afraid to experiment, which means that things don’t always turn out the way I anticipate. On those infrequent occasions, I have a good laugh and then usually serve it anyway, with my head held high, making no excuses. I know that I set incredibly high standards for myself and have been working on this! I have the honor of making treats every week for my book study and I honestly obtain as much joy out of making these special deserts as they do eating them. Leftovers are always a bonus.
Above all, cultivating gratitude and appreciation every day helps to bring in the joy. That, and a good night’s rest! Thanks for reading.