December Happiness Hotline

My apologies for not sending out a Happiness Hotline for a little while.  For the past 3 months I’ve been mostly off the technological grid.  A random conversation with a stranger on a bus as I headed into the city turned into a workshop request, which led to an invitation to present at a number of corporate retreats.  I practice and encourage connection, either through something as simple as a smile, saying a simple hello or striking up a random conversation.  Over the years I’ve randomly connected with some amazing people, random conversations have lead to more than one shared morning or afternoon tea and the odd workshop invitation, but a series of corporate retreats?  This was truly a first, and what a first it was.

The retreats were aimed at young professionals, the young achievers that the media might call the millennial generation.  At the final retreat there was one guest participant who was not a millenial.  Her name is Edith, and she’s 92 years old.  I wondered what her connection to the company was, had she worked there in here younger days?  Was she a mentor to some of the younger staff?  I don’t make assumptions about people so I asked.  No, she had never worked for the company, infact she’d never had a paid job in here entire life, she, like me was there because she struck up a random conversation with a stranger, hers was in a coffee shop.

Edith, it turned out was a force to be reckoned with, a gentle and humble force but a force no less.  She shared that she’d spent her life first as a carer for her mother who suffered depression when Edith’s father was killed in a car accident, then as a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother  and more recently a great great grandmother.  When she was 82 she had what she called a bit of a heart issue, and as she lay in her hospital bed she realised that time really was ticking away, so, when she was given the all clear by her doctor she took a deep breath, put a smile on her face, pushed her shoulders back, and in her own words took life by the shoulders and began giving it a good hard shake. It turned out that rather than be invited to the retreat, when Brandon, the employee she’d started a random conversation with in the coffee shop, had mentioned he was going to a retreat she’d said ‘count me in, I haven’t been to one of those yet’, and he was so taken with her energy he invited her back to the office to meet the boss.  Edith was there to bring some elder experience to the group and then she laughed and said ‘really don’t have much experience but you never know’.

At one of the Happiness sessions our conversation turned to de-stressing at Christmas time.  Edith laughed and shared that to her Christmas is no different to any other time of the year, except for the decorations, fancier meals, expectations of gifts and, because it’s an annual event, it’s the time where a lot of people review what they did and didn’t acheive in the year which, she said, can be hard for some people. 

I thought I’d share some of Edith’s ideas, and in Ediths own words ‘just like a puppy, these ideas aren’t just for Christmas’.   

Breathe, smile and stand tall  – take time to simply stop, take a deep breath, gently push those shoulders back and smile.  The streets are crowded, the shops can be overwhelming, deadlines can seem intense, if you’re me you have no idea what gift to get for at least one child.   Taking time to stop, take a deep breath or 3, stand tall and smile creates a mini mindfulness break that will re-engergise and relax you.   Edith added that if she often finishes the exercise with a positive affirmation, something along the lines of “right - you can do this!” or “ let’s get this done!” 

Find the fun - Enid shared that she has a box of games that she keeps handy for when people visit.  She laughed and said it might be a grandma thing, and then she added that often the adults have more fun with the games than the kids.  Her box contains simple games from her childhood, stacking games (like Jenga or a Junkart), board games, bubble blowers, quoits, things that are simple to set up and easy to play can be played while conversations are being held.  Returning to our childhood, or introducing the younger members of our groups to a bit of non-screen based fun, can lead to loads of laughter and actually be very mindful.  Edith told us that last year she put small wind-up toys in the Christmas crackers and then set up a race track on the Christmas table and everyone had loads of fun racing them from the starter gate at the water jug to the finish line at her place mat!  She said that we mightn't be game type of people and that in reality we should always be on the look out for the fun, we should all learn to play more where ever we are.  Then she reached into her bag and pulled out 2 wind up toys and added that you never know when a serious moment needs a bit of wind up race to calm things down.  

Keep it simple and ask for help -  Enid admitted that at 92 you don’t need to ask for help, people are usually only too happy to offer it, even when it isn’t needed, but, she added, she treats every request with respect for the person who offered.  She shared that we should also ‘never be backward in coming forward’, that we should never be too shy to ask for help.  Asking, she told us, is actually a sign of self confidence, and compassion.  Perhaps the other person might actually enjoy being asked, and often it takes a bigger person to admit that they might need a little help or support.     

Be the joy –  Edith was infectiously joyous, she really just made you smile, but she added it’s a learned skill.  Practice smiling at people, make random comments to strangers about the weather or whatever’s going on in your immediate surroundings, start that random conversation.  Give your mind a rest from the serious thoughts that it’s so often filled with and practice some joy.  Edith reminded us that emotions are contagious and if others are going to catch something off you let it be your joy. 

Be present  -  Edith said this goes with be the joy.  Often, our minds aren’t where our bodies are.  We should practice, and she added it does take some practice, being in the moment, mind and body in the same place.  She said, if you have to think about work you should stop what you’re doing and give it your full attention, be honest about it, stop pretending to be in one place when your mind is in another.  She added that to her it was about respect for those you’re with.  If you are with someone, be with them, if you are experiencing something, experience it.   

Edith sighed and said it took her 82 years and heart attack to realise the huge impact these simple ideas can have.  She added that too many people wait until something happens, we wait until we’re shocked into the reality that our time is limited, and that we shouldn’t wait.  We should all breathe deeply, smile more, find the fun, ask for help, be the joy and be present.  She told us to give the ideas a try, to test them out as stress relievers and resilience builders for Christmas and then, if we like then, we should practice them right throughout the year, that they should become a part of who we are because in her experience, and if years count she had a lot of experience, life really is worth living.  Then she wished us all a joyous Christmas and then she asked if any of us wanted to join us for some yoga.  She told us that she'd graduated as a Hatha Yoga teacher in June, and added that she was only 91 then.  

Before we headed out Edith added that it's never to late to start learning new things, to take life by the shoulders and shake it up a bit, to live the best life we can live, and then she added, 'and it's never to early to start either".    

I wish you and all who share your world a wonderfully joyous Christmas and may the new year be amazing.  

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Tailoring inspirational workshops and presentations that increase passion, purpose and profit by building health, well-being, resilience and team cohesion through laughter, humour, Laughter Yoga and Power Break Meditation.

 

 

 

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