Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Happiness Project Resolution Area #1: Did I Manage to Be Mindful?

You can click here to read my post about why I am pursuing a Happiness Project.

As anticipated, the hardest part of my Happiness Project has been keeping up with my accountability chart.  In fact, I stopped trying to check off my resolutions almost immediately.  While Gretchen says more than once in The Happiness Project that holding herself accountable through the chart was KEY to keeping her on track, I decided that my project is more informal than hers, and I could let myself off the hook.
But I DO think of my resolutions on a daily basis; none has fallen by the wayside. 

I have faithfully said a morning prayer that has helped me greet the day with a positive and grateful attitude, as well as greet the girls cheerfully, even when they wake up a little bit whiny.  I’ve started including prayers for others as I’m making the bed or brushing my teeth, sometimes with specific people and needs in mind, and sometimes simply a general prayer for all those busy households trying to get everyone launched to work and to school.

The second most successful resolution has been deep breathing.  I use it whenever I feel irritation or anger begin to flare, and I would say that 9 times out of 10 it calms me enough to prevent yelling or any words I might regret.  I’d like to incorporate it regularly throughout the day—proactively rather than reactively—to see if it keeps irritation at bay, before it even rears up.
I’ve learned in the interim this little trick to make sure I am reaching my full “breathing potential”:  Place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest.  When you breathe deeply, the hand on your belly should rise, while the hand on your chest should not. 

I also received the tip to say a word on your exhale—some state of mind you would like to achieve perhaps, such as “calmer” or “serene” or “peaceful.”  And I read about a basic meditation that simply calls for counting as you breathe:  1 on the inhale, 2 on the exhale, 3 on the inhale, 4 on the exhale, etc.  Doing this keeps me focused on the breathing and less likely to get distracted until I’ve replenished plenty of oxygen.
I never ended up incorporating the pebble in my pocket; most of the pants or skirts I wore in the early days of this resolution had no pockets in them, so the pebble never became a habit for me.  I don’t consider this a problem, since I never really forgot about the breathing I had resolved to do.

I’ve done less with “eat well, eat less, eat mindfully.”  At LEAST once a meal, I do pause to remember to slow down, chew more thoroughly, and really think about what I’m eating.  I know I’m successful to a certain extent because I’m always the last one eating! 
One of the first days I tried doing this, we were celebrating my husband’s birthday.  The girls were excited to get through dinner in order to enjoy a piece of German chocolate cake.  Everyone had finished their entire meal, and I hadn’t even started my salad.  They were all looking at me expectantly—I have to light the candles and bring the cake over, after all!—so I found myself scarfing spinach leaves so as not to hold things up any further!   I definitely understand how eating slowly and chewing more thoroughly leads you to eat less, so that you don’t end up staying at the dining table all day to get finished!

I am definitely a carnivore—I love a good filet mignon, pork chops have always been one of my favorites, and I eat more chicken than anything else.  But I’ve noticed that I have little interest in thinking too deeply as I chew a mouthful of meat.  It would be enough to turn me into a vegetarian if I made it an everyday practice.  I find it a little distasteful to think too specifically about the animal’s flesh I am consuming.  (See what I mean?  Kind of gross!)
I was just reading An Altar in the World, by Barbara Brown Taylor, and she was reflecting on the fact that moving to rural north Georgia, near the chicken farms, put her in touch with the source of her food.  She would pass the chicken barns and drive behind the chicken trucks, feathers flying against her windshield.  “I saw what dies so that I may live,” she writes, and explains that, while she did not become a vegetarian, she “began cooking it and eating it with unprecedented reverence.”  I like the sentiment of an increased reverence for the animals that gave up their lives that I might be nourished by them, but I’m not sure it would help my appetite very much!

“Eating better” has taken the form of trying new recipes that I’ve clipped from magazines and tucked away in file folders for months, if not years.  They don’t necessarily represent better, healthier, or more wholesome/organic eating, but they make me feel good about cooking and trying new things, not wasting ideas by filing them away.  I still want to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables from Produce Junction, as well as explore some interesting ingredients from Whole Foods or The Fresh Market.
I’ll be posting very soon with my second set of Happiness Project resolutions!

I’ve read on a lot of people’s blogs lately that they view September (with its “back-to-school” associations) as much as a “new beginning” and a time for resolutions as January.  Have you been trying to do something differently this month to make yourself happier, healthier, or more productive?


Janet said...

I enjoyed reading this post.... especially the part about eating. I'm a vegetarian although I do occasionally eat some fish. Long a go when I began "thinking" about what I was doing while eating meat, it no longer appealed to me.

Good for you for keeping up with your plan.

Shari said...

I just came across your blog through your post on Gretchen's site. I am excited to follow your posts as you begin your own Happiness Project. I actually spent the summer reading over and taking notes on all of Gretchen's posts starting from the beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot about myself as well. Enjoy the journey.

lee said...

I to like janet, enjoyed the post, I liked the eating part as well. I have been trying to mindful about what I put in my month and why I am is it because I am hungry or another reason. Enjoying your journey

Barbara England said...

I am new to your site, and after reading the post put The Happiness Project on reserve at the library. It is similar to the mindfulness that I have been trying to "grow" this summer -- a real challenge, but terrifically rewarding when I follow the path. I've been reading Robert Wick's book about prayerful living. Perhaps you, too, would enjoy it. Godspeed.

Carin Winkelman said...

I love how you keep us posted on your own happiness project and how it's working for you. I had to smile about that meat eating thing and the woman who got more thoughtful about eating meat by moving to the country. I was born in the country on a farm and for me it is the opposite. It has made me a lot less oversensitive to eating meat than some people I know. ;-)

Andria said...

Janet, I will be interested to see if I follow a similar path!

Shari, thank you for visiting my blog and expressing interest in my Project.

Lee, thinking about WHY you are eating is powerful for weight loss, isn't it? A lot of times I realize I'm shoving in crackers just because I'm bored, and it has nothing to do with hunger at all!

Queen of Arts, thank you for the book recommendation; I will check out Wick's work. I look forward to hearing from you after you read Rubin's book, too!

Caatje, that's funny about living in the country leading you to the complete opposite perspective on eating meat! I can see it working both ways.