I got a call from THE ELF ON THE SHELF yesterday. The conversation went something like this:
Elf: Hi. Listen, I’m kind of in a hurry, so I’m hoping you can help me get something out to remind people of what’s important.
Me: Ok, what’s on your mind?
Elf: Well, let’s just say that lately everywhere I look there seems to be a lot more naughty than nice. People are rude; smiles are few and far between, and taking the time to help one another seems to be out of style! I’m just exhausted!
Me: What happened?
Elf: Well, I was up high on a shelf at the grocery store and constantly I saw people racing to get in front of others in the checkout line. Then I hung out at the new office building downtown (where there’s a shelf at the welcome desk with a great view), and I watched the people hurrying and purposely closing the elevator doors before anyone else could get in! And at night I was peeking around the merlot wines at your favorite restaurant, and I was really surprised to hear constant laughter as people made fun of other people as they walked by. I mean, seriously? What’s happened to NICE?
Just do this for me. And by the way … rather than your offering ‘9 steps’ or ‘4 tips’ or even ‘2 sure-fire ways’ to reduce stress this holiday season. Tell people to follow this advice and watch the changes.
I couldn’t help smiling. This guy made a lot of sense. And so I promised Elf that I would send out a memo. So, here goes:
MEMO TO EVERYONE!
From: Everyone Else
Date: Today and Every day
Subject: BE NICE
It has come to my attention that there has been a slacking off on BEING NICE. Somehow common courtesy has been pushed aside to make room for iPhones, multitasking, and always being in a hurry. This has caused a lot of hurt feelings and negative attitudes.
As a result, I am encouraging all people to slow down and take some time to be considerate and kind to each other. YOU be the one who smiles more often and treats people the way that you want to be treated.
Studies have shown that when people include random acts of kindness in their day, it gives the brain a serotonin boost and results in a feeling of well being and satisfaction. The doer feels great, and the recipient is overcome with a ‘pay-it-forward’ attitude. The entire atmosphere changes.
Put this suggestion into effect immediately and make it a prominent part of your daily routine. It will result in stronger friendships, more enjoyable activities and workplaces and may even increase your gifts at Holiday Time.
This is just a hint from someone in the know.
Thanks for your cooperation,
The Elf on the Shelf
Have a great Holiday Season regardless of how you celebrate. Just be sure that whatever you are doing and whomever you are with, remember to BE NICE.
Do it for yourself – and for the Elf.
P.S. If you want to share some ‘nice’ that either you’ve done or seen, send me a note. I’ll make sure it gets to the Elf.
Who Are You Going to Be?
Boo! It’s almost Halloween. Since mid September you’ve seen all the preparations, decorations, and merchandise. There are lights for your lawn, bags of trick-or-treat candies for your give-away bowl, and – of course - the Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice latte!
Now comes the big question. You are probably going to a Halloween party, so...
“Who are you going to be?”
I’ll bet you probably started planning for it far in advance. After all, you’ll need to think it through, get a costume, make sure it’s comfortable, and check that it looks good. Will you be someone scary? Someone cool? Someone funny? A gorilla? A princess? A Zombie? Such choices! And what fun to play and search, and be creative.
Which reminds me of …, RETIREMENT! So...
“Who are you going to be?”
Soon your old identity of “doctor,” “lawyer,” “businessman,” “teacher,” will be no longer applicable, so who are you going to be without that business card?
It’s a good idea to start planning now. Just like for Halloween, you’ll need to make some plans, decide how you want to spend your time, and then figure out how you will make it all happen. You can try on different costumes and take different paths towards the treats you so desire.
The special beauty of retirement is that you can always take off the costume if it becomes uncomfortable. Then you can change into something else!
Take Bob, for example. He knew when he retired, he was going to spend his time riding and grooming horses. He had a place to start.
He soon found that doing this all day every day was not really what he had in mind. So, he then cut back to going to the stables twice a week. And since he always liked writing, now he spends a lot of time writing mysteries set in the horseback riding world.
Emily’s love for taking photographs had to take a back seat to work and family responsibilities. Two years before she retired, she made some plans and signed up for a weekend course in photography to sharpen her skills. She loves going out in the early morning to walk along the lake, and her nature photographs are beautiful.
Recently, someone asked her to take photos of their son’s wedding and various other special events. That then turned into teaching photography as a continuing education course to adults at the local high school.
It all started with having a plan. That is the secret to success with most things, and it is really important in retirement. Sure, you might say you have your finances in order, but after all, retirement is about so much more than the money.
Eliminate the tricks; make way for the treats! Happy Halloween this week! And start planning now for your Happy Retirement!
Loretta Saff is a Certified Professional Retirement Coach and can be reached at www.coachingwithloretta.com.
Yikes! I just read a statistic that 28% of adults age 50 and older are ‘physically inactive.’ Hmmm… let’s just call that ‘do not exercise.’
One of the most important ‘musts’ for people–retired or not–is exercise. That is, of course, assuming you want better heart health, mental sharpness and reduced risk for chronic diseases.
If you think you should get a pass because of various excuses, forget it. I know them all, including:
"I'm too busy/tired." We all know you can find time if something is a priority. So think of it this way - call it 'doing something for my heart' or 'for my mental sharpness'. I assume those are priorities. And by the way, remember that exercise gives you more energy and gets you ready to meet busy schedules.
"I hate to exercise." There are lots of things that come under the heading of exercise. Dancing?Gardening? Hide and go seek with your grandkids? Believe it or not, even walking with purpose around the park or the mall will give you credit-if done on a regular basis. Convinced yet?
"I'm too old." My aerobics instructor just told the class that one of her students in another class will be 90 next week! There is not an age restriction on exercising. Obviously, you can choose what kind of exercise works for you. Just choose one. But forget the 'too old' whine. The only person you are fooling is yourself.
For those who have never really had an exercise routine – other than saying, “I’m going to start exercising, next week”-here are 3 simple hints to move you forward:
1–Ask yourself WHY you never seem to get to ‘next week.’ Try to be honest about what is stopping you from starting. Write it down.
2–Make an exercise plan keeping in mind your answers from #1.
Include your WHERE:
3–On your Mark...,Get Set...,GO! Buy some shoes (not like Barbie's!) and a comfortable outfit. Don't talk about your size, shape or weight. Those things don't matter. Repeat after me: “Heart health, mental sharpness, reduced risk for chronic diseases.
Let’s talk travel. I hear it from seniors all the time.
“I want more time to travel.”
“When I retire, I intend to travel.”
“Finally I will be able to explore and travel.
As I write this blog, I am sitting in a hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte was not my destination; it was a connecting city for my trip overseas. So, why am I here?
Because: I left home and everything was go. The airport was not very crowded, security did not flag me for an extra look, and the flight out was on time. There were storms in the area but they did not seem to be too threatening.
Then: Twenty minutes out of Charlotte, the pilot announced that there was a ‘popup’ storm that included lightening, and the tower asked us to circle for a bit. The storm intensified, and soon our fuel was running low. We had to be diverted to a nearby airport to wait out the storm.
At first, we all thought it was a quick mover. You know summer storms, they come and they go. However, it was more than three hours later that we were finally able to make the 20 minute flight to Charlotte.
Upon arrival we were greeted with the chaos of missed and cancelled flights, and certainly the maybe of “Oh, if I run to the gate, I still may be able to get on and get out.” Long story short, the doors to my flight were closed, and along with several other people I was turned away and told to make other plan.
That is why I am sitting in a hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. My message? Travel is fun; travel is interesting; travel is educational, and travel can be hard.
How to best deal with travel at any stage – especially in the retirement years? Here are a few hints:
Those are just a few hints. That said, even with my delays and rescheduling, here is why I am grateful.
So, as summer and retirement and vacation time comes your way, you'll have smoother sailing when you come mentally and physically prepared to go with the flow and be a travel champion.
Who isn’t looking for ways to be more motivated? Who isn’t a little annoyed at yourself for not following through on all those things you really want to do?
Here’s an idea that will help. I call it “Dear Me,”. Based on a study done at Columbia Business School, this activity not only encouraged futuristic thinking, but it also proved to be a real motivational tool.
Here are the three simple steps:
That’s it. Sounds pretty simple, right? The results at Columbia were very impressive. The professors found that people really started to care more when they became more connected to their future selves. The participants exercised more often, thought about more fulfilling ways to spend their free time, and actually began to take better care of their relationships.
The interesting part here is that not only are you thinking about your future, you are actually planning based what you really want. And you are writing it all down.
Need a little help? Here's a sample:
I’m so glad to see myself healthy and happy as I fill my time enjoying the community-wide activities I always loved. The neighborhood book club I started is a huge success (even if Emily keeps insisting on bringing wine!), and becoming a docent at the gallery was genius. Now not only do I have to learn about each new exhibit that arrives but I also get to interact with the public!
I also love my blogs! They bring me both joy and insight each time I post. My Facebook group, “Make Happy a Habit,” is encouraging and positive. It causes people to stop and think how they, too, can bring happiness into their lives. Yay for me!
I’m proud of myself and send hugs.
Now when you actually have a picture of yourself focusing on what you think you want to do – and feel how it makes you feel – it becomes more real.
These results are not really surprising. After all, once you realize that you are the one making today’s decisions to reach tomorrow’s dreams, it can make all the difference.
So, go ahead… Whether you send yourself an email or actually use pen and paper, write that “Dear Me…” letter today. And let me know how it makes you feel.
ARE YOU READY TO MAKE HAPPY A HABIT?
Get ready…, Get set…, Go! It’s almost March 20th, the United Nations-sanctioned International Day of Happiness. This is the day we make sure to not only do what makes us happy but also to spread happiness by encouraging all around us to do the same. But what if you just don’t feel happy? What if you call yourself more of a ‘glass half-empty’ kind of person?
Assuming that you really don’t enjoy being that way, I challenge you to take the next 30 days to MAKE HAPPY A HABIT! I’ll give you the steps so you become empowered to look at the world differently and feel the joy and contentment you deserve. The #makehappyahabitcampaign begins March 20th. You’ll see daily support on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and anywhere else you can help me ‘share’ it.
There is real science behind the emotions of happiness and love. Dr. Barbara Frederickson, Psychologist and Neuroscience Professor at UNC, Chapel Hill said, “The ways that we feel happiness and well-being are actually showing up in the cells of our immune system and supporting our health.” What a great testimonial! Why wouldn’t we want to Make Happy a Habit?
My challenge to you is based on the work of psychologist and happiness researcher, Shawn Achor. Surprising as it sounds, he says that it is possible to re-wire your brain to be happier.
You don’t have to wear a smiley-face hat or tell funny jokes. Simply doing the following five activities daily can rewire your brain towards happiness. (I include my order to just give you some idea of fitting it into your day. You organize it however it is convenient for you.)
1 – THINK OF THREE THINGS YOU’RE GRATEFUL FOR.
I like to do this – out loud – in the morning when I get up. I encourage those around me to join in. It’s a good family tradition.
2 – WRITE ABOUT A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE FROM THE PAST 24 HOURS.
I do this in the evening. I keep a notebook on my nightstand. This simple activity has the amazing power of changing your entire mindset. You will comb through the day, tossing aside the negative and focusing on the positive. Guaranteed to make you smile.
3 – EXERCISE (AT LEAST 20 MIN)
I am a morning person, so I make time before breakfast to get in my exercise. Whether it is a brisk walk, time at the gym, or climbing stairs, give yourself 20 minutes and increase your activity. I’m including four short videos of easy five-minute exercises on my website. Do all four in a day and you’ll have your 20 minutes!
4 – MEDITATE (5-7 MIN)
I find that meditating mid-afternoon works for me. No need to think mantras or posing cross-legged on the carpet. The simplest meditation can be sitting quietly listening to soothing music (no words) – and focusing on either the music, your breathing, or a body scan from head toe. If you want some guidance, I like the free app HEADSPACE, which you can use with your earphones while sitting at your desk. Meditation calms and centers, helping you focus and better handle whatever comes your way.
5 – PERFORM ONE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS.
All day every day is a good time for a random act of kindness. Performing a selfless act that helps, compliments, or encourages someone has an amazing effect on all involved. You’ll enjoy every minute. To help get you started, I’ll post of list of suggestions on my website,
YOU CAN DO THIS! In fact, YOU CAN GET YOUR KIDS TO DO THIS!!! Encourage everyone around you to get involved.
Check out my Instagram for 30 days of inspiration for your 30-day MAKE HAPPY A HABIT! Challenge on social media. You keep count of your 30 days.
Please leave a note on one of the platforms below or comment on this blog post to let me know how you are doing. Post some pictures of what you are grateful for and what makes you happy. I want to know how your random acts of kindness and writing about your positive experiences made you feel. Tell me about your time in meditation. And be sure to tell me when you start feeling like HAPPY is becoming a habit.
Good luck! And get your camera ready – you’ll be finding yourself smiling a lot more.
SHARE YOUR PROGRESS BY:
Don’t forget to include #makehappyahabit in your posts
Loretta Saff, M.A., CPC, CPRC