Silence and Laughter
Party Plans? Nope.
In the months leading up to my BIG 4-0, so many people asked me how I planned to spend my birthday. For as friendly and as vibrant as I am, the last thing I wanted this year was to spend my birthday drinking in a whiskey bar downtown Toronto, while trying to talk with friends over loud music, and crashing in a hotel, at 2 am, completely exhausted. This is exactly what I did for my 39th birthday. Although my bestie showing up from 9 hours away was the best surprise ever, I don’t particularly like surprises and extravagant parties with extravagant gifts. I don’t have a lot of close friends. I have acquaintances and colleagues. Because when you run a business, you have four kids to take care of, and you are madly in love with your partner, you just seem to run out of time and room for much else. My best friend is my Operations Manager and rents a property from me across town, so I see her almost every day. And a little secret about me - I’m not into crowds. Costco is a nightmare because people touch me! Toronto traffic makes me rage, and I’m plagued with anxiety over having to always be available for those who need me. The idea of being social on my big day just sucked the life out of me.
But everyone said, “It’s your 40th! You have to do something epic!” So I did. I did ME.
This place is heaven for anyone needing to unplug. There isn’t even any wifi! We will be returning to this gem. My soul was singing the entire time there. We brought Good Food Box recipes for each night and spent the time away rejuvenating, cooking, sitting by the water drinking coffee, and throwing my heart into my reading and writing. It was a shut-off-work weekend and we only went out once on Friday night to get groceries and never left the cottage again.
Shhhhh – The Healing Properties of Silence
How often do you spend time sitting in silence? Watch the trees sway in the breeze. Listen to the birds' chirp. Stay completely in your present mind and just take in the serenity around you.
I tell myself that life doesn’t allow for much silence daily. But then again, how often do we all make excuses to not find time for the moments that are most important for our minds. Time is all we have. And then it’s gone. So don’t waste it.
Sitting by the pond, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. We had this ritual every morning of sitting outside, sipping our coffee and taking pleasure in the silence; silence from our minds. Even when it was raining we sat outside and took in the beauty of mother nature and the sounds of rain landing on the deck overhang. We watched hummingbirds gather food from a nearby feeder. We tried to guess names for the local birds flying about.
The silence isn’t easy at first. It takes practice.
Our active minds tell us when we sit still, that we are bored. I’m willing to bet you’ve heard that phrase a time or time from your children. It’s why meditation is so difficult for many people. They sit for ten seconds and their inner thoughts take over and tell them they should be doing something or they are wasting time. That’s what we teach children. We teach them that they have to always be doing something or they are wasting time, which equates to boredom. We should be teaching our children the art of sitting still and being mindful of the moment. It helps them be more aware of their surroundings and gives them the tools to stay out of their inner thoughts so much. This is the tragedy of living in a fast-paced society that doesn’t value sitting in silence. We cram stuff into every moment of the day and forget to acknowledge our partner’s small gestures and then wonder why our relationships suffer. We are too busy on our phones texting and scrolling Facebook feeds to notice the school painting our kids wave in our faces when they come home. I know this because I make these mistakes too. But being aware of it is the first step to breaking those habits.
Are you willing to try sitting in the silence? Even for 5 minutes a day.
Do it. Go find a spot outside and sit. Quiet the mind.
Listen to the sounds around you.
Be aware. Be in the moment.
It will change you. It will change your mood. It will slowly change how you see the world.
Harness The Power of Laughter
Remember the last time you had one of those guttural laughs that left your sides hurting? If it’s been more than a week, you need to listen up. I try to laugh every day. It’s not always a wet-my-pants kind of laugh, but the soul can heal with a smile. Laughing has the most basic chemical response in our bodies. It reduces stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. Endorphins are the ‘feel good’ hormone that everyone wants rushing through them. Laughter releases endorphins. Experts compare endorphins to opiates. I feel like chocolate can do the same thing for me too, but my waistline can’t handle the constant intake of chocolate. Laughter is a healthy and natural supplement to feel good. It’s that simple.
Yet, I’m willing to bet that many of you reading this can’t remember the last time you laughed so hard that the memory of it stuck with you. For me, the ability to find laughter within came with being unapologetically real. I fart when I have to. And yes there is something seriously hilarious about farts even as an adult. Especially when my partner Will is around.
His response to me farting is gut-wrenchingly hilarious. That’s because laughter is contagious.
Try to not laugh in a room with someone else busting a gut. Okay farts aside, I have tapped into a part of me that is authentic. I’m real. I’m powerful. And with that awareness comes an appreciation for the obvious opportunities daily to laugh. I make silly voices and accents when I read to the kids at bedtime. I play music a lot in my home. Music is another endorphin-inducing property.
Dance Like Nobody is Watching – and if they are, who cares!
Here is a perfect example of how to thwart the next negative downpour in your home. Ever had one of your kids come home grumpy from school when you’ve had a super kind of day that fills you with energy? I have. And it’s easy to just let their grumpiness get you down and ruin your vibe. But try this next time… in the middle of their rant about how their friend so and so didn’t play with them at recess and how upsetting that is for them four hours later, turn the music up full blast. Put on one of their favourite songs and or a Disney duet tune. I love ‘Let It Go’, from the famous Frozen movie. I know all the lyrics, as do most parents. Now dance like a crazy chicken. Or whatever spirit animal you most relate to. Dance and sing. Exaggerate the words and movements. Scoop up your child and twirl in the room with them in your arms. If they are teenagers, just grab their hand and whisk them away. Don’t let them push you away. Sweep them up into your happiness; into your vibrant energy.
Now soak up the change that happens to them. I can’t imagine a child who wouldn’t be lifted into your presence and not laugh at the silliness of what you’ve created. Add in some tickling while you sing.
Watch the worries and stress of the day melt away and see the healing power of laughter and fun engulf them.
I have done this many times and every single time, my kid's laugh. My chicken dance isn’t special. It’s just real. Be real. Show them how to let things go and live in the moment. At that moment you’ve shown them it’s more important to use your energy and happiness to change their mood. You’ve shown them the power to choose positive emotions over negative ones.
Now you might say, but Angela, aren’t you just deflecting from their emotions and their need to talk about their day? The short answer is no. There are times when your kids come home and serious conversations need to happen. You’ll know the difference. But when our kids are little, they learn too early that one small action from one of their peers can derail their entire day. You aren’t avoiding talking about their feelings. Their perception of events is very real to them. You are teaching them that they don’t have to give that person power over their entire day. If we thought this way as adults more often, our work environments would be happier, not to mention more productive.
Be Silly! Never Miss An Opportunity for Laughs
Will and I laugh daily. Sometimes it isn’t until late in the evening when we crawl into bed and I find a moment to snuggle with my head on his tummy – only for me to break into a blowfish that sounds like the best wet fart ever. It leaves us both feeling like the world has come full circle before sleep. I’m a pretty funny gal, so I suppose it comes naturally. But sometimes when we have rough days and we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of it, we need to rely on the people we love around us to lift us out of our funk. Laughter causes physiological changes in our bodies. Be aware of how your mood can affect other people in the room. Negative energy can cause great damage to ourselves and others, but positive energy has a greater power to make a change when someone needs it most – through laughter.
On that note, I’ve shared with you a video to make you laugh today. If you don’t laugh, I’ll buy you ice cream for a year. While at the cabin for my birthday, Will and I dared each other to jump in the pond. It was May and not very warm yet. The water certainly wasn’t for swimming. But we were on vacation and I can’t turn down a dare. And oh, how we laughed. Guttural laughing that warms the soul. Will had set up the video camera because he thought it would be fun to show the kids. Of course, after watching the play by play later, there was no way I wasn’t sharing it in this blog. So I hope this lightens your day, encourages you to go do something silly tonight, cheer someone up, and or be the beacon of laughter and love to someone else.