Beating the Doldrums

by Patricia Spadaro

P1050957Put a little wind in your sails…

The dreaded doldrums. We’ve all been there—feeling stagnant or stuck, down and out or depressed.

Did you know that that word doldrums also describes an area of the world just north of the equator where the trade winds meet. It’s a place that can be either very calm or have very severe weather. In the still weather, with no wind, the progress of sailors can be delayed for days or weeks—sending captain and crew into the doldrums.

Whereas those sailors can do little but wait, fortunately we can do something about our own case of the boring doldrums. That’s especially true if you just don’t have a clue why you’re in a slump.

Of course, I’m not saying there is, or should be, a quick fix for the deep problems that throw us into a funk. But sometimes when we’re feeling gloomy or down or uninspired, it’s just a matter of giving ourselves a little self-prescribed kick in the pants. And it’s often completely counterintuitive. Here’s what I mean:

If you have a serious job with lots of responsibilities, push yourself to be playful. Go take a break where there are lots of children. Play some games. Watch a kid’s movie and let yourself laugh.

If you are constantly around a lot of people, schedule a solitude date—with yourself, by yourself—in a quiet place.

If you tend to sit a lot (in front of a desk or the TV), force yourself to move. Take your friend up on their invitation for a free guest pass to their zumba class at the gym. Or just turn on your favorite radio station and dance your heart out.

Lost your taste for life? Tickle your taste buds. Treat yourself to a totally different kind of food than you normally eat. Try some Indian tikka masala or a Thai curry (grocery stores often have jars of premade ethnic sauces, so it’s not hard to do).

If you’re a literature enthusiast, pick up a copy of Popular Science or Field and Stream. Soak your brain in something entirely new—something that is the very opposite of what you are habitually attracted to.

You get the idea.

If you want to sail out of the doldrums—or even to stimulate your creativity during a dry spell—you need to give yourself a jump-start. You have to jump out of the molds you find yourself in day after day, night after night. You have to get yourself into a new groove.

When you’re in the doldrums, you have to be daring.

Put some wind in your sails by choosing to do something completely different today. What will it be?

For your inspiration:
Here’s some advice on getting unstuck from the ever-wise Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Nature abhors the old. . . . In nature every moment is new; the past is always swallowed and forgotten; the coming only is sacred. Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. . . . People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”

Keeping Your Life Fresh and Fun

by Patricia Spadaro

At a book signing for my new book Honor Yourself last summer, I met a special young lady who taught me to appreciate the “firsts” in life—no matter what age we are.

She was about 5 or 6 years old, and she told me about a trip she would be making in a few months to Virginia for a wedding.With just a touch of timidity and a heart full of excitement, she explained to me that it was the first time ever she would be flying on an airplane. As we talked, we realized that it was also the first wedding she would be attending, the first time she would be a flower girl, the first visit she would be making to  Virginia, and the first time she would be in the spotlight, walking down the aisle in front of a lot of people. I watched her eyes open wider and wider as it dawned on her how many new experiences she was going to have.

Come to think of it, her life is chock full of “firsts.” It was probably the first summer she had ever gotten her face painted and even the first time she had ever stopped by a book signing. It was certainly the first time she was able to read the words off the pages of my new book (she really is reading in that picture!).

Running through all those “firsts” with her was refreshing. After all, that’s what puts the sparkle into life, isn’t it—experiencing new things, or at least doing the things we do as if we are touching, feeling, tasting, and seeing them for the first time?

As I started the new year and pondered the goals I would set for myself, my mind wandered back to my new friend. I asked myself: How many simple and joyful “firsts” had entered my life last year? How many was I banking on this year?

Opening Up to the New and Wonderful

I realized in that moment that we don’t have to be a little child to keep counting our “firsts.” Our new experiences don’t have to stop when we’re 10 years old or 30 or 60 or even 90. In fact, whether it’s biting into a juicy, new kind of fruit we’ve never tasted before or sharing a moment of laughter with a chance acquaintance, it’s the “firsts” that keep the excitement in our eyes and the skip in our step.

I suspect that’s part of what the sages of East and West meant when they talked about “becoming as a little child.” You’ve heard those famous lines from Jesus before: “Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” and “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”

As it turns out, Taoists sages use similar language as they inspire us to become like an “infant” or “the uncarved block.” Those images are ideals for living life as it is meant to be. The infant is a model for returning to simplicity and being fully receptive, exploring life anew without preconceived notions—being childlike in the most beautiful and sensitive sense of the word. Continuing to delight in new “firsts” helps us to hold on to our sense of wonder and delicious expectation. To experiment, open up, and see things in new ways.

Cultivating that refreshing sense of newness and adventure may take some deliberate effort. It’s all too easy to fall into the sameness of our  habits. But if you think about it, there are a myriad of ways to invite new experiences into your life.

You can listen to a different kind of music, paint a brand-new piece of pottery, or watch an entirely new genre of movie or a foreign film. You can try your hand at a new sport or game, intentionally tune in to a program with a different political slant than you usually listen to,  or invite a new acquaintance over for dinner. How about cooking an exotic food you’ve never tasted before or taking a short trip to a nearby town or wilderness area you’ve never visited, slowly savoring the new sights, sounds, and smells. Or simply bite into an ice cream cone with a zany new flavor you never imagined possible.

As for me, I’m not quite ready for skydiving, but learning some Spanish and some new dance steps sounds like a lot of fun! Hola!

Honor yourself—your childlike self—by trying this:

Without holding yourself back or filtering out any possibilities that come to mind, write down a list of “firsts” you’d like to savor.

Ask yourself what new acquaintances you want to spend time with and write that down too.

Add a new “first” to your to-do list each week or month. Instead of collapsing on the weekend into your usual routine, spice things up.

Take some time after your new “first” to reflect on what you experienced, how it made you feel, what you learned.

Put a reminder on your calendar in two months to revisit your list of “firsts” and add to it.

What are the “firsts” on your list this week/month/year? I’d love to hear about them. If you have a moment, share them with us by leaving a comment!

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