The Reflection Pool

My Secret: Adjusting to New

I wish I’d brought my ball chair home from the office. It’s pleasantly bouncy, keeps my posture upright and my core engaged. I like it a lot. It may seem like a small, insignificant wish in the global pandemic, nonetheless, I miss my chair.

My “home office” is set up on a collapsible table we usually use for picnics, covered with a beautiful blue tablecloth that my mom made. It’s wedged in a small upstairs room, alongside bookcases and phys.ed equipment and one of my collections of shoes (don’t ask). I’ve added my “I’m not Bossy, I’m the Boss” sign and important office supplies like my staple free stapler and the particular black Sharpie pens I like best. I brought up a dining chair from downstairs. All in all, it’s pretty comfortable. And yet, after two weeks of working from home, my lower back is killing me. Oh for my ball chair.

Of course, I’m very happy to still have a job, especially a meaningful, interesting one. The work I’m doing every day supports others in this truly challenging and extraordinary time. Even so, there have been surprising adjustments I’ve had to make working from home.

In Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin writes that one of the keys to happiness is knowing yourself. I’m using my hard won self knowledge to decide what to do when so many things are new. I know that to be happy, I need a regular routine that structures my time so I can be productive. That means I’m getting up at the usual time, doing some exercise, having a shower, doing my hair (so important!) and getting dressed. I’m “shopping my closet” and putting together outfits. I even cleaned off the soles of some of my shoes so I can wear them inside and feel more put together. These actions may seem trivial, but they’re more than that. They let me take a little control over the only thing I can control. I feel more like myself.

Once I’m at “the office” in my little room upstairs, working equals most of the day spent online and on screen. Figuring out virtual meetings and a new workflow is more exhausting that I thought possible, and even though it’s going well, my brain is drained. Articles about working from home advise people to take regular breaks and lunch, with a walk or something active to recharge. In the last two weeks, that’s become very important. I’m telling colleagues that I’m on lunch and encouraging them to do the same. Setting boundaries ensures that no one part of my life takes over another.

And here’s the secret: what’s really getting me through this new world we’re living in are all these small things. These strategies I use and other little celebrations like a happy wave in a virtual meeting, the sight of encouraging words chalked on a sidewalk or a friend sending me a wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert quote. Not to mention the comfort of a good book that lifts me above the everyday.

I think I’ll be OK without my chair.

Five Reasons to Smile More

Photo Credit: Marwa Morgan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Marwa Morgan via Compfight cc

I’ve been thinking a lot about smiling lately. I read Sue Stephenson’s new book, Kidding Around: Connecting Kids to Happiness, Laughter and Humour.  She talks about helping the children and teens in your life find happiness. Being mindful about all that is good is an important component. Smiling and laughing is just as important. Children tend to smile a lot more than adults, and we need to nurture that. We also need to nurture it in ourselves.

Have you noticed that a lot of people don’t smile that much? Look around next time you’re in a meeting or walking down the street.  Maybe we are aren’t aware of how important it is to smile, or maybe we feel there aren’t too many reasons to do it. I love to smile and laugh, so I’ve got lots of reasons! Here are five reasons for you to smile more.

1)  Researchers have found that the act of smiling can actually make you feel better and happier. So even when you’re feeling bad, try a big smile, and let it reach your eyes!

2) Watch The Hidden Power of Smiling, a Ted Talk by Ron Gutman.  Fascinating. And, it will make you smile!

3) The education business is about making schools and other learning spaces safe, welcoming and inclusive.  Take the time to stop, smile and say hello to students, parents and colleagues. Do it every day. You’ll notice a difference in how people treat you right away.

4) Smiling leads to laughter.  When was the last time you laughed so much that your stomach hurt? Find a way to get there. Start with a smile.

5) We all crave caring and a sense of belonging.  Try “eye hugs”. What’s that? A smile that reaches the eyes and is just for the person on the other end.  We may not be able to hug kids in schools, but we can sure give eye hugs!

Happy smiling! 🙂