Back in 2015 I filled a journal that prompted me daily to write about my goals, triumphs, and trials. The last two prompts on every page were “something that brightened my day” and “What I did to brighten someone else’s day.” My response to the latter was consistently ‘uhm… I think I complemented my sister on her outfit’ or ‘I helped Mom in the kitchen.’ Needless to say, I always had to dig pretty deep to answer that one. And often I left it blank.
At the time that I was writing in that journal, I was kind of in a box. Crippled by an undiagnosed brain tumor, I had withdrawn from the University, and I was stuck at home unable to drive, work, or go anywhere alone. I didn’t actually interact with many people except my family, doctors, and house visitors (a very common occurrence – my parent’s house is a revolving door). But that journal has had more of an effect on me now than ever before.
You’ll hear more about my journey to wellness over time, but for now we’ll just skip to the present: tumor free, driving, working, married, and still exploring this new lifestyle. Now that it seems I have the world at my feet, I’ve been prioritizing the concept of brightening other people’s lives in small, but significant ways. I don’t have much more than the average joe, but I have enough to influence society with a little more sunshine. Here’s how:
- I use my eyes. A very simple concept that takes more discipline than you might think. Example: After I drive to the grocery store, the walk from the car to the automatic doors is usually a time to check my phone to see if anyone texted me while I was driving. One day I accidentally left my phone at home, and I was marveled at the result. Because I wasn’t looking down at my phone, I scanned the parking lot while strolling in to pick up some peanut butter. My eyes latched on to an elderly lady whose grocery bags were caught in her cart. I quickly walked over and helped her untangle and get everything settled before continuing on inside. I’ll never forget the look of gratitude and relief on her face. So now, instead of checking for more notifications on a new picture I posted on Facebook, I look up. I would say 75% of the time I have an opportunity to help someone out.
- I use my cell phone. I have a lot of tasks to get done before noon. Between a workout, cleaning, showering, planning, etc, there’s one thing on my morning to-do list that doesn’t match. It takes about a minute to accomplish, and has lasting effects. I started at the top of my contacts and every day send out a personal text to the next two people on the list. A simple reminder of love and appreciation can add a lot of sunshine to someone’s day. It’s amazing how many times I get a response to the affect of “you have no idea how much I needed that today.”
- I use my mouth. My husband Michael and I love to laugh about an episode of The Office when Jim and Pam spend an entire day “acknowledging and appreciating” each other as part of their marriage counseling. We often use those words sarcastically throughout our day, but I’ve really made it a point to show my appreciation for people I don’t actually know. What does it look like? It’s easy. I make sure to tell a customer service representative, insurance agent, or bank teller that I appreciate their time answering my questions and solving problems. I can’t imagine how many frustrating conversations they must have to deal with throughout their day. And I often find that doing this brightens my day, not because I feel better about myself, but because I feel a true sense of thankfulness in my heart when I end every conversation with “Thank you, I really appreciate your time. Have a great day!” There are a millions ways to use your words to add a little sunshine to someone’s day — and they go a lot further than “you look really pretty in that dress!”
So those are just a few things that I have integrated into my daily life. There’s a multitude more, but these I find to be the most habitual and life-changing. If any of them sparked an interest to you, don’t delay! Start a new habit right now that will brighten your surroundings. You won’t be disappointed.
That’s all for now! Stay tuned for my next post on why I started this blog in the first place. 🙂