What makes you say ‘Ahhh’? I'm not talking about when the dentist says "Open up and say...", I'm talking about that warm cozy feeling when, maybe just for a moment, all is good and right with the world. Times when you realize you're not holding your breath or doing mental gymnastics figuring out how to take care of the next chore, the next person, the next assignment - you're really in the moment and just enjoying; not trying to change anything. Now this is something you might really want to think about. It's those ‘ahhh’ moments that are rejuvenating, centering, care-taking of ourselves. What's that??? I'm supposed to take care of myself...hmmm. Here’s a suggestion: Take out a pen and paper. Think for a moment. Jot down what makes you say "ahhh" so you can have it at the ready.
For me, a good sweaty hour on the yoga mat, watching a movie with my family all cuddled up on the couch, a sublime meal that I didn’t have to cook or clean up from, a long walk in the woods on a perfect fall day, sitting at the piano and writing music are all flow moments - activities that I can engage in where I hardly notice time passing. All good, right? Yours might be similar or completely different (notice I didn’t say riding the rapids in a kayak or baking a cake… neither of them make me say ahhh). But how often can I just stop what I’m doing and go for a long walk in the woods… and who can just order up a perfect fall day? That’s why I keep these easy access ideas in my back pocket, metaphorically, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice; because there’s just some days where you need a little ‘ahhh’. And look… I’m writing them down! Feel free to give my ideas a whirl, but even better… figure out what you can do for just a few minutes that will get right into that gut cozy feeling and make you say ‘ahhh’.
Lowest Tech Option Ever: For the easiest ‘ahhh” hack ever I simply unplug, sidle up to the nearest window, and take a few minutes just to notice. Even if I am somewhere without a “beautiful” view just taking the time to notice the small things in my line of sight can be so de-stressing: a leaf being blown about by the wind, blades of grass swaying, the movements of a bird, the way the trees look against the sky, the clouds, the texture of the brick on a building, the gradations in the color of the sidewalk... Focusing on something outside of yourself can help you regain the calm and focus within yourself needed to get back to the task at hand.
Healing Touch: While leaving the office to go for an hour long massage might be ideal, it is usually a non-starter; however, taking just a few minutes to offer yourself an indulgent, healing touch is entirely possible. My favorites: jaw massage - I gently move my jaw around while massaging the hinge where my lower jaw meets my upper jaw, scalp and neck massage - with all my fingers I concentrate on massaging the back of my head (let’s be realistic - sometimes you can’t muss the ‘do’) my neck and the tops of my shoulders (‘ahhh’), foot massage - yeah, I’d rather someone else do it, but a good selfie-foot rub (really get in to that arch with your thumbs!) can feel much better than you’d imagine!
Just Breathe: Okay… so maybe this is the lowest tech option ever… but so incredibly helpful. When we get stressed or anxious one of the first things we do is restrict our breathing, taking shallow, non-oxygenating, breaths. That’s why we often yawn when stressed (dogs too by the way). It is the body’s way of getting a burst of oxygen into our bloodstream. When something is going on in my life and I stop to notice, I can actually feel the tension putting the squeeze on my breathing. Try this. Get comfortable in a seated or standing position. Breathe in slowly to a count of 4, pause, then breathe out slowly to a count of 6, pause, repeat several times. Spend a few minutes slowing down and focusing on your breath. It is an instant “ahhh” accessible any time. Bonus round: Add a seated chair twist: feet firmly planted while sitting in a chair, reach your right hand over your left thigh and hold the chair arm or seat, left hand holds the chair back, gently look over your left shoulder - repeat on other side.
Guided Meditation: If I were to choose one single thing that can be a help to anybody it would be meditation. With regular practice meditation produces a variety of physical and emotional changes related to increased happiness, health and well-being.
But with or without regular practice, guided meditations can be an instant ticket to ‘ahhh’s-ville’. There are many no cost apps that you can get online or on your phone that can help you meditate, and all give you access to a seemingly unlimited supply of guided meditations of any length (try Insight Timer, Head Space, or Calm). You have control over the duration and topic so you can get that ‘ahhh” exactly where you need it most!
A Cup of Tea and a Smile: I literally thank the universe daily when I take that first sip of my steaming hot, fragrant cup of happiness… I mean tea… in the morning. For some it’s coffee…. okay, whatever floats your boat (I often drink just hot water with a generous squeeze of lemon, lime or orange). A hot beverage break can happen any time of day. It’s warming qualities are like getting a hug from the inside. But to really amp up the ‘ahhh’ qualities, take the time when you are drinking your beverage of choice to stop everything else, sit quietly, enjoy the warming sensations in your mouth and down your throat, carefully notice all of the flavor profiles you can taste, inhale the aromas and generally be as present in the moment as possible. When you are finished… smile. From the ‘fake it till you make it’ school of thought… if you smile you can actually queue your brain to release happiness hormones and enhance your sense of well being.
Music: It is well documented that music soothes your soul. What each of us finds relaxing is deeply personal, but I am willing to let you in on my fail-safe secret weapon: