Over the years I have found that the best way for me to enter the day is to sit quietly with my coffee and simply be with the silence. This has not always been possible due to a career that has taken me on the road for over thirty years. Some of the individuals I traveled with loved to start their day by flicking on the TV so they could be informed about the latest happenings around the globe, or they would start chatting on the phone. After all they might be missing an announcement about the end of the world. I would try desperately not to have a rise in blood pressure, but it was very difficult. I desperately needed to give myself time to get ready for the day which was often filled with lots of talking, book signing and more travel, all of which can be very stressful. Yes, I believe in different strokes for different folks, but the latest greatest research on how we can navigate our lives without feeling crazy by the end of the day, states that getting your brain in the right zone starts by how you greet the day. I know this can be very difficult when you have kids and they begin their “woodpecker drills” as soon as they open their eyes. But it is possible to set your alarm to go off a few minutes early so you can lie awake in bed and allow your thoughts to focus on how grateful you are for what you have and not what you need to do. In fact I believe this could be a great lesson to teach your children. Today’s kids are suffering from stress overload. If you allow yourself to be led by the incessant inner chatter you will leave your house feeling like a whirling dervish and your body will be in a vigilant state ready to slay a dragon. There was a time when we could put things off and get away with it. But with the advent of e-mail, texting and cell phones, you are pretty much at the mercy of ASAP. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can’t hide from the technology that demands immediacy. Your only defense is to learn to create good mental habits that allow your brain to have mini-vacations from the cacophony of daily life. The ultimate irony is that productivity increases when we take time out to refresh ourselves. Lily Tomlin said it best” The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat”.
I am absolutely amazed and awed by the animal kingdom. Many a night I prefer to watch National Geographic Wild than any other shows. Over the last few years I have learned so much about how animals interact and how much smarter and compassionate they are. Therefore, I am increasingly appalled by how a percentage of humans still consider animals to not have any mental reactions when they are held captive or physically abused. Studies in animal behavior are showing more and more that psychological damage suffered by dogs living in puppy mills is profound and exists long after they’ve been rescued. Even when placed in loving homes with individuals who take great care to handle them with love and tenderness, many still have elevated levels of fears and phobias, and an inability to respond to affection. Anecdotal evidence has long shown that the dogs, lacking normal human contact and living predominately in cages often suffer from post-traumatic depression. When I took Psychology 101 in college they discussed something called Hospitalism which was a diagnosis used in the 1930s to describe infants who wasted away while in hospitals from lack of human contact. The symptoms could include retarded physical and mental development, and disruption of perceptual-motor skills and language. Many soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. The sounds and images of war and the actual involvement in being in a constant state of “fight or flight” leaves the brain more vulnerable and often unable to integrate into their former lives counseling and the love and understanding of friends and family. Many of the articles I have read about war and the toll it takes on mind/body and spirit seem so obvious. How could you not be influenced by being the witness to death and destruction? All of the above whether it involves animals, babies, children or adults continues to show us that our brains hold on to memories long after they have passed. We cannot simply erase them for they become who we are. I often wish I could remove thoughts that seem to have minds of their own. Round and round they go and they create feelings that can be positive or negative. Perhaps the day will come when there will be a global epiphany that realizes that kindness, respect, and compassion towards each other and our animal friends is the only way to live.