My 50th Birthday Celebration!

Today I am 50 years of age. Notice I did not say “old”.  I do not feel a day older than yesterday. I had a few minutes to reflect on the things I love about myself and what I have accomplished by age 50.

  • I love how healthy and physically fit I feel. I am in good shape and rarely have illnesses.
  • I love my new job, the people I interact with, the programs I am involved in coordinating, the hours I work and the people I work with.
  • I love that I am able to provide health insurance for my whole family.
  • I love that my daughter is quickly becoming an independent and responsible adult.
  • I love that my son has a sense of confidence and direction for his future.
  • I love that my husband is in good health and enjoying his retirement with fun activities that give him (and me) pleasure.
  • I love that we splurged on the new kitchen. Every day it gives me pleasure to cook healthy, delicious meals for family or friends.
  • I love how productive my garden has been this year. I enjoy harvesting bouquets of flowers, pints of raspberries, armloads of collard greens and bunches of fresh herbs.
  • I love the attention my dogs give me- especially on days when I return from work. Whether they want to go for a walk or just cuddle up for a snuggle, they are loyal companions.
  • I love all the outpouring of love and support from my greater family: parents, sisters, cousins, in-laws, who are always there to encourage my endeavors and cheer me up when I need it.
  • I love having the time to compose my thoughts and share my reflections with everyone who follows my blog.

In thinking about all these positive things that I love about being myself at age 50, all the negative things that I fear or hate- like grey hairs, wrinkles, age spots and reading glasses- seem so shallow and insignificant. Anyone who knows me, sees a much more positive picture. Going into my fifties, I still have the same spunk I had when I was in the single digits. This should be a really good decade.

LAURAS

Thanks to all my family who made me feel special!

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Using Sport Psychology for Real Life Situations

Smiley head happy

Image via Wikipedia

My son loves to play tennis. He is trying out for the JV team at his school. He played sixth singles last year and is hoping to move up the ladder. Obviously he is nervous about this challenge. When he worries about his game, he doesn’t play as well- losing focus on each point. By thinking he will lose, he is more likely to make that happen. With the goal of helping him, my husband read “The Best Tennis of Your Life” by sport psychologist and former tennis player Jeff Greenwald. Last night he reviewed some of the suggested mental strategies with our son. As I listened to him, I realized these strategies are not limited to sports but could be applicable to every day life.

One strategy is to use the feeling of gratitude. Greenwald says, ” It’s difficult to be worrying about the future…when you become aware of the bigger picture. ….Being grateful requires you to expand your perspective.”  (excerpt from Play with Gratitude)  I looked at the things I have been stressing over, planning our next vacation or losing a few pounds before I hit the beach, and realized how trivial these are in the big scheme of things. I took a deep breath and instead reflected how lucky I am to be able to afford a fun vacation. I am grateful that I am healthy enough to travel and participate in the exciting water or land sports we will do there-  snorkelling, swimming, tennis and hiking. I already feel calmer and more appreciative.

Obviously there are people with much more troubling worries than mine. People with real health concerns or financial difficulties may find it harder to find gratitude in their lives. In their cases, it is important to focus on the moment and not the woes of yesterday or tomorrow. If they can find something to be grateful for right now, even if it is only happiness that the sun is shining, it may help them to calm their minds and relieve some of their worries.

Another of Greenwald’s suggestions  was to recognize the difference between “productive worry” and “unproductive worry”. The first type involves something you can try to change. If you are worried you will miss a deadline at work, you can put in extra time or shift your priorities to meet it. If you can develop a strategy to combat your worry, you have handled it productively. Finding a way to cope with our problems, even in little baby steps, can give us more happiness and less worry.

The second type of worry is “about things that are outside your control”. Whether this is over travel plans or a long-term illness, there are some things over which we have no control. We can get ourselves to the airport early, but we can not decide when the plane takes off. We can follow our doctor’s protocol and look up information online, but every illness must run its course. Maybe there are some things we can improve, like packing snacks and a book if we get stuck or finding a remedy which relieves our symptoms temporarily, but that is where our control ends. The sooner we recognize our limits, the easier it will be to cast our worries aside.

The third strategy I would like to compare is the use of body language. Greenwald points out the difference on players’ stances, walks and facial expressions when they are winning versus losing. The same holds true in real life situations. When we are confident, we hold our heads up; when we are nervous, we slouch or avert our eyes. He suggests making a note of how you feel when things are going well and try to imitate that behaviour when they are not. By forcing yourself to act happy or calm, you can trick yourself into feeling that way too. Kind of like a body over mind power struggle. I know if I smile and make eye contact with a stranger when I am out walking, I feel a little happier. Even if I was deep in thought, diverting my attention to someone else, helps me to not dwell on my concerns too much.

I am not sure which of these tips my son will put into use on the courts. If he could appreciate that he loves this game and that worrying whether he wins or loses is unproductive, remember to focus on the individual points and not the outcome, and to smile and look at his opponent with confidence, then he will have incorporated the most important strategies which will benefit him throughout his life.

A smiley cup on a yellow ball.. =)

Note: All quotes are taken from “The Best Tennis of Your Life:50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance” by Jeff Greewald, Kindle edition ISBN 1558708448, Jan.1,2012.

“Me” Time

These days it is rare to get much time to myself, other than working on this blog. The rest of my days are spent attending to my house  (including errands), my dogs or my family. Someone or something always seems to need my attention. But this is not a whinefest, I am happy to do all those things. Instead, this is a reminder to us all to take time for ourselves. As they say, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. And that is what I did last week…

Let me say, my husband was very supportive and I could never have given myself this break without his help, knowing he would do his best to take care of things in my absence. So with his blessing, I boarded a plane a week ago, to fly from the Northeast US to the Northwest CA. It was a long trip, but I was going out to spend time with my sister. Even though we had been together for the cruise last summer, it was not the same intimate time that we both wanted. This was going to be a special visit for us to really catch up.

At first it was a big adjustment for me… not having to think about what everyone else needed, only being responsible for myself. When we went out, I only had to bring what I needed- not organizing a group.  Often all I went out with was a water bottle and my camera. How enlightening! (mentally and physically)

I actually had time to stroll along the beaches   with Sis and Dog  .

I had time to take some glorious hikes over the hills and through the woods which lined the shore, coming out to rocky overlooks and beautiful panoramic views.

           

I even had time to take photos of the algae or wildlife that caught my eye…

                

Over the weekend, we took a ferry to one of the islands, checking out the cormorants on the way…

We stopped at the local farmers market, where I bought thoughtful gifts to take home. But that was really the last thing on my mind. I was in no rush to return. The wares everyone was selling were so colorful and creative. My sister and brother-in-law bought cheeses and fresh vegetables so they could continue feeding me well. I focused on taking in the sights, such as these chili peppers…

 Then we headed to the Grape Stomp at one of the local wineries. BIL and I took off our shoes, rolled up our pants and gave it a go. The green grapes were cold and slippery. We hung on to each other for balance while we squished the juicy fruit between our toes and under our heels.

                                     

After that excitement, we deserved some wine. We went to the wine tasting bar and sampled several varieties. They were offering oysters to go along with it, but the line was too long so we bought a few bottles to bring home.   

It was liberating  to not have a schedule to follow, these spontaneous activities were so much fun. However, we did have Dog in the car and we all wanted to take a hike, so we headed out to the trailhead. We were able to get a great view from one of the beaches, and Dog had a long swim- her favorite activity, even in the frigid waters!

We returned home on the ferry at sunset and caught the lingering sunlight as it reflected off the snow-capped mountains!

During the week, Sis and I took the time to sit and talk over meals. Time to connect with where we are at in our lives, to share concerns or offer support to each other. We enjoyed our meditations together during our walks or in an evening yoga session on her deck. And most of all, we were able to drop everything and rush down to the point at the end of her street to observe the beautiful sunsets (we were never up early enough to catch the sunrise- but that is a good thing). On the last night I was there, we watched the best sunset of the whole week.

                  

It was a spectacular celebration of our connection to nature, and to each other, and a good reminder that we all need to have a “pause” button on our busy lives. It is important to take some time to free ourselves up from our daily routines and responsibilities. If we don’t refresh our minds and bodies every now and then, we only become clogged with stress and desensitized to the joys of life. I know it is hard to do; I was very fortunate and I don’t expect this to happen again any time soon. But what I will do, is try to carve out an hour or two of “me” time every week- whether it is for a facial or a trip to a local museum or art gallery. I will make time where I can relax or think about something other than what my next task will be. And if I need inspiration, all I have to do is look at these photos to remind me of how great that time with my sister was! Thanks, Sis.