Do less. Give more.

One of my dearest friends had a birthday on December 11th. She lives in New York and we have a tradition to send each other gifts for our birthdays. Usually a part of the gift is hand-made — we’re both the creative kind, you could say.

The past few months have had me in a whirlwind in every possible way — emotionally, logistically, physically, you name it — so the first time I remembered my friend’s birthday was on December 11th.

I felt like crap. What kind of a friend was I if I hadn’t remembered earlier and hadn’t even thought about her gift?

I sent her a Facebook message to wish her a happy birthday and to apologize for being so late with my card and gift. Here’s what she replied with:

“Thank you! Anytime things become too much we can just send love – no pressure!”

I started to think of all the times I’ve stressed about being late with gifts or running around trying to get a good gift for someone. Sure, my intentions are good when I do this but somewhere in the middle of all the busy and hectic, the intention fades and it all boils down to a to-do.

The gift might be a good one, but I have a lot less love to give with it. Instead I’m filled with stress and some strange sense of accomplishment for getting “it” done.

So here’s a thought: Can we do less and give more?

Maybe instead of putting together a fancy beautiful holiday card to mail, you can send your family and friends a warm email instead?

If the thought of trying to organize a holiday party — at home or at your company, especially if it’s a start-up where no one ever has enough time — raises your blood pressure, why not just get some take out to share together?

If life is feeling too overwhelming, how about skipping that big family vacation you were thinking about and taking some time to chill out at home together instead, maybe planning some local easy trips?

Do less (things, to-dos, stuffs). Give more (love, kindness, yourself, your beautiful inner energy).

Believe me, I am reading the advice I am writing and part of me feels like my mind has been taken over by aliens. I used to be the person who would have all the holiday gifts wrapped weeks in advance, whose parties — at work or at home — would be super awesomely creative, with tons of preparations and fun elements, who would think that only losers would choose to stay home if they could explore a new place they’ve never been.

But the thing is, all that stuff is just dressing. It’s pretty sprinkles, that yes, are fun and good and bring you and the people you share them with some joy, but only if they come on top of something a lot more important:

The joy you feel and share. The kindness and love you feel and share. The ease and light you feel and share.

A few years ago I put together this over-the-top 5 course dinner together at my house — I forget the occasion, but my parents and grandparents came over. The women in my family are amazing cooks and I’m pretty good, but there’s always that bar I’m trying to reach, you know? So I really outdid myself, including printing out menus and decorating them together with kiddo.

By the time everyone came over I wasn’t simply exhausted, I was on empty. Of course it was awesome to hear how everyone enjoyed the meal and to get the “oh, wow!” validation, but I had no joy of my own left to share. I’d put it all into the cooking and preparing and organizing!

At some point, I was in the kitchen getting dessert ready, when my mom walked in. She asked me why I looked so upset, so stressed out — was anything wrong?

“I wish you could relax with us a little,” she said.

It wasn’t a criticism — this I realized a few days after, because of course my initial reaction is the knee-jerk “How could I possibly relax when I was doing all this stuff?!!!” It was a wish that I could have traded one of the ultra-complicated dishes for a little time to give myself to rest before everyone came over.

During these holiday weeks can you have an an intention to do a little less and give more of what we actually want from one another:

Love. Kindness. Smiles. Hugs. Ease. Happiness. Gratitude. Cheer.

And bonus: You don’t even need to wrap any of it.

Dolessgivemore

 

 

 

 

This is the absolute best way to deal with stress. Seriously.

Ever have one of those days when your mind is spinning in a loop of stress or worry or anxiety or negative talk? Of course do, we all do.

I’ve tried a bunch of different coping mechanisms over the years:

Do something creative to get my mind into a different mode.

Meditate or do some yoga to try to calm the mind and create a little space between the negative or painful thoughts running into each other.

Indulge (overindulge?) in a food I love.

Drink too much red wine.

Go for a long walk outside.

Watch a marathon of whatever TV series I am into at the moment. Or Thomas Crown Affair, aka the greatest distraction movie made in recent history. (This coping mechanism usually leads to a secondary one: Shopping for something that looks like one of the beautiful outfits Rene Russo wears in the movie. This method is expensive, be warned.)

These all work to some degree, although some come with undesirable side effects. You can figure those out.

But I’ve discovered that there is one way to deal with overwhelming stress, pain, sadness, negative talk, or anxiety that works better than all of the above, combined:

Blast your stress with kindness.

For real.

We’ve all read studies that show how doing something kind for someone else helps you feel happier because it increases your levels of serotonin (as well as serotonin levels in the recipient of your kindness act). There is also research that shows that the impact of being kind increases as you do your kind acts in clusters — one every day for a week is better than one every once in a while.

But what if you take this up another notch? What if you became a concentrated-kindness giving machine precisely when you were losing your mind to a loop of stress?

I’ve been doing this for a while now and I can tell you that there is no better way I’ve found to deal with those days when the world seems out to make you want to cry. When I feel that way, I stop whatever I am doing and try to think of as many kind things I can do.

Many are really simple and not world changing:

Text a friend I’ve not talked to for a while and see how she is doing.

Call my mom and ask if she needs anything at the store.

Get something for my daughter for dinner that I know she will really love.

Send a useful or inspiring article to a work colleague.

Hold doors for people wherever I go, let people go ahead of me in traffic, say thank you and actually look at the woman handing me my coffee, pay a genuine compliment to someone I run into during the day.

I literally blast my stress with kindness. Does it all go away? No, usually not. But do I feel a bajillion times more alive, energized and in control of my runaway emotions? For sure.

Try it. Seriously, try it — there are so many super-easy kind things you can do at work, at home, with friends.

Blast your stress with kindness. As a big bonus, you’ll be blasting someone’s world with love.

 

What does kindness have to do with getting stuff done?

I have this big speaking gig coming up in a few weeks.

I’m really excited about it and wrote a brand new talk for the occasion. It’s a talk that took me a week and 39 years to write, approximately. I’ve given a lot of talks and I’m proud of all of them all. But this one is the most genuine expression of what I have learned during my 39 years (yes I am turning 40 in a few months OMG!) of dark times and bright times and learning how to come out of dark times and into bright times, paired with my study of happiness, yoga, Buddhism, mindfulness, and more.

What I’m trying to say is that it was kind of a big deal.

When I sent it off to the organizers of this event, I felt this enormous sense of accomplishment and joy — it feels pretty incredible to write something which I feel is so true to what I want to share with the world. I was flying high.

So when I got the email with my “slightly edited presentation to fit better with the format of the event” and saw how different it looked, my heart sank. The content was there, but the look and feel was so different. Was the format I came up with — full of bright colors and bold words and images — not as impactful as I thought? Would I be able to change it back? Can I be OK with it as is?

I wrote back to the person in charge of working with me on my presentation and expressed my concern as gently and kindly as I could. We ended up going back and forth for days, with him at times spending more than an hour making changes.

I felt bad about all this extra work on his part, but I’d just read Wayne Dyer’s memoir, in which he talks about the times he didn’t see his work all the way through and make sure that his authenticity and intention were truly carried out, and I felt it paramount that the slides for my talk reflect both the content and the feeling I wanted to leave with the audience.

This morning I got the final presentation from the organizers and felt it was in a place that truly reflected the spirit I had intended. We found solutions to the few concerns they had and the person working with me even went to extra trouble to figure out how to embed a video link in a more elegant way than I’d planned.

I thanked him for all of his extra work and he told me: “You were always so kind and agreeable, I’m more than happy to do it.”

There are so many times when I am reminded that when we are kinder to each other, magic happens. People go out of the way to help you, including work extra hours on your presentation to help you get it done. The world seems less harsh and in a hurry. Annoying or painful things, like traffic or long lines at the coffee shop seems less so.

What if we could be a little kinder than we feel we need to be? What kind of magic would happen then?IMG_5110