Small Life, Slow Life: The Quickest, Fail-Proof Bad Mood Banisher (aka the “Kickass Stuff I Like in My Life Journal”)

My gratitude list from today!

Trust me, I roll my eyes as much as you do when I hear the overly-shared advice for living a longer, happier life. Sometimes I wish Oprah and Deepak and Dr. Oz would just stuff it already. Confession: I’ve even been known to completely close a webpage when I get to oodles of “feel better” advice that I’ve heard before. You know exactly what I’m talking about here. Most of it feels downright icky, but the advice that really makes me squirm?

– Meditate for 20 minutes every day
– Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
– Bless your food before eating it
– Silently thank every person you come across for enriching your experience
– Keep a gratitude journal

After a while, it all begins to sound like “Before you leave the table, drink your milk and finish your vegetables.” It’s like, Yeah, yeah, yeah – we get it already! Thanks, Dad! Now can I go?

We know these things are good for us, so why do we rebel against them so strongly?

Laurie Gerber of The Handel Group calls that inner rebel “The Brat.” We all know who The Brat is inside of us – the person who knows the bedroom is a mess but “doesn’t feel like” cleaning it up; the one who drives through fast food even though we’re on a diet because we “just need it;” the jerk who avoids calling our mothers as a way of withholding affection because she made a comment about our job/weight/spouse last week.

I don’t know if anyone fully conquers the inner brat – I know my brat certainly rears her ugly head every once in a while. (Okay, maybe more than once in a while.)

I find it even more interesting that we often roll our eyes at the idea of taking 20 minutes to slow down or 30 minutes to exercise exactly when we need those things the most. It’s always true – the more bleh and down I feel, the less inclined I am to do absolutely anything that would make me feel better. Sound familiar?

When I moved to Japan, I had a lot of unresolved issues to work through, and living by myself in the countryside was the perfect place to do it. I read incredible books, listened to podcasts on walks and took advice that I’d always been too busy or too important to take while I lived in Los Angeles. I even kept a gratitude journal (cue eye roll) and wrote in it daily.

(A thought that just occurred to me – maybe we resist it because “gratitude journal” just sounds so icky? Maybe we could call it “Kickass Stuff I Like in My Life Journal” and be more inclined to take part in it!)

I won’t lie to you here – that journal seriously changed my life. It made me so much happier and I got a total buzz every time I wrote in it. No one knew I did it – it was an indulgent exercise just for me. It’s no one else’s biznass.

This kind of exercise, though it makes you want to sigh because you’ve heard it a trillion times, can truly improve your life and mood. Where else can you be thankful for puppies that look like small bears or how much you like the sound of a can opening? Only in a Kickass Stuff I Like in My Life Journal! But like everyone else, my brat took over at some point and I stopped the exercise.

Until today.

We’re having really weird weather in Los Angeles recently – it’s really humid and it actually rained last night. Rain in the middle of July gets filed under the category of “super-weird” in LA – it just doesn’t happen. I drove home last night with the windows open, smelling wet pavement while I listened to Twin Shadow’s latest album (in a word: awesome).

Rain is great, but I don’t like humidity. During the day, I’ve been feeling really blah  and disinclined to move. To get myself out of my funk this morning (anytime I reach Day 3 of a funk, I know it’s time for desperate measures), I pulled out my pink moleskin and did something I haven’t done in a while: wrote about stuff I’m thankful for. The photo above is my actual list from this morning.

I think that most people resist a Kickass Stuff I Like in My Life Journal because we think we have to be thankful for stuff like “good will among men” and the roof over our heads. Gag! Not so, and how boring! To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a selection of what I was thankful for today:

– pink fountain pens
– incredible blogs with free content – galadarling, Danielle LaPorte, A Beautiful Mess
– new fab 80s-ish music (Twin Shadow)
– finally understanding old relationship dynamics (whew)
– the new Sailor Moon anime being released next year (dream come true!)
– pretty slender girls at Whole Foods wearing all black with super chic sunglasses
– stripper movies with my girlfriends (hello, Magic Mike tonight @ 8pm!)
– my well-working car (though it’s very dirty currently)
– Teen Wolf marathons with my sister
– mornings alone like this
– flattering lululemon pants

See? Nothing high-and-mighty here. And after I wrote down my list (forty-two Kickass things in all), I felt so  good, so  alive and totally rejuvenated.

Stuff I’m regularly thankful for: Flip flops, hippos, staplers, DIY teddy bears.

Gala Darling does this every week in her “Things I Love Thursday” column. Even though it’s her list, I always get a kick out of reading it. People being cheerful is like, contagious or something. Other bloggers have even followed suit and post their own thankful lists on their pages. I would do the same thing, but the truth is that I don’t think anyone really cares how much I like washing my face with goat milk soap or that I still like to play Animal Crossing on my Nintendo DS. Right?

So here’s my advice for when you’re down in the dumps:

Take out a notebook (or the back of a receipt will do) and write down five things in your life that you like. They could be anything. (Something that always appears on my list is “The first sip of coffee.”) There is no need to be altruistic or even a decent human being here.

When you’re poised to write, let The Brat get all moody and huffy about it. Say to him/her, “I know, this is lame. It won’t take long, it’s only five things.” Telling The Brat that something will be quick is usually a good tactic to get him/her to shut up.

Once you’ve written five, look at the list and notice how you feel just a bit better. (It’s fail-proof. For serious.)

Write five more.

And if you still feel good, write another five.  You’ll know when you’re done – you’ll feel tingly, bouncy, and much, much happier.

This is the quickest trick I know to banishing any bad mood. Roll your eyes to high heaven, but it works every time. Let me know how it works for you!

(Aren’t you glad I didn’t tell you to meditate for 20 minutes?)

What kickass stuff in your life do you really like? 

2 thoughts on “Small Life, Slow Life: The Quickest, Fail-Proof Bad Mood Banisher (aka the “Kickass Stuff I Like in My Life Journal”)

  1. Pingback: Small Life, Slow Life: Stuck in the Waiting Room (aka How to Get Yourself out of a Funk) « small life, slow life

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