A Christmas Gift to Yourself

I’m sitting around a table with other couples, all in their 30’s and 40’s.  As we talk about the different activities we’re encouraging our children to try–voice lessons, dance, musical instruments, acting–one mother suddenly announces how much she wishes she could take ballet lessons. 

“Why don’t you!?” we all exclaim just as another mother confesses her desire to learn ballet.  And then, the whole table erupts in a discussion of the classes we wish we were taking.  We go around the room and answer the question: “What class do you secretly wish you could take?” 

Painting, photography, guitar, voice, history, Spanish, piano. . . the list goes on as we share the things we still–even at our age–want to learn and do.  But is it too late?  I had just finished reading a chapter about neuroscience and the importance of novelty for brain health.  Novelty–fresh ideas, fresh experiences, fresh activities–strengthens the brain as it ages.

It’s not too late.  It’s never too late. 

We commit to it as a group, encouraging one another in our desires.  The gift we might give ourselves this Christmas for 2011 is novelty.  Then, by Christmas of next year, we’ll have another interest to pursue.

Living with flair means I give myself the gift of novelty.  Who cares if you’re the oldest ballerina in the room or if your arthritic fingers hesitate over the piano keys?   You’ll inspire the rest of us with your courage, your enthusiasm, and your flair.  Is there something you secretly wish you could learn?  I’d love to hear it! 

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Some Science Behind Happiness

The more I read about the brain, the more I have to admit I sabotage my own happiness on most days.

If you knew how lazy I really am, if you knew how much I detest exercise, and if you knew how my arms are really flabby noodles pretending to be arms, you’d be amazed right now.  Collective flair bells would ring all over the world.

I’ve never been able to do push-ups.  I’ve tried.  I can maybe do 4 on my absolute best days.

But with Jillian Michaels encouraging (yelling) at me from my basement television screen, I get down (in girl style on my knees), and start to lower myself only to push myself back up with the strength of my little frail arms.

It hurt.  It hurt, hurt, hurt.   But I did it.  And then I did it again and again. 

Here’s the story I told myself as I suffered through it:

“Do this, Heather.  Do this because you are investing in your future happiness.  You are gathering in happiness by changing brain chemistry right this very minute.  You wouldn’t forget to take your thyroid medication, right?  Swallowing that pill makes your body work for the whole day.  This next push up is your medication for mood control.  Do it, Heather.  You are earning 48 hours of elevated mood, scientifically proven, confirmed by neuroscience and brain scans.  There’s no getting out of this.  You have no choice, here.  You know the science.  Exercise trumps nearly everything else when it comes to long-term elevated mood.  You can’t ignore the science, girl.  Do it.”

And so I did it.  It didn’t feel like flair while I was in the thick of it, but the fact that I was investing in a future mood pay-off mattered so much.  We aren’t used to future returns.  We want immediate.  But living with flair means I don’t always have the luxury of automatic happiness.

Maybe it means understanding the science behind happiness.

I have to invest in mood-control activities that, scientifically, will change brain chemistry–maybe not right now, but soon.  The more neuroscience I read, the more I’m amazed with how much I sabotage myself every day.  The brain works best with certain foods and certain activities (keeping a flair journal is one of those things for me).  I don’t have a choice when it comes to this kind of living with flair.

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