Earlier this week my dear friend Randy Hyde announced his plan for the month of September — Filling My Soul Hole: An Experiment in Happiness. For 30 days, starting on Sunday, September 1st, he’s committing to do “5 things every day would train the mind to see the world differently.” He was inspired by Shawn Achor’s Ted talk “The Happy Secret To Better Work,” where Achor lays out the reason for why these 5 things work, and says after 21 days most humans will see results. Randy is doing him one better and extending the challenge to 30 days. He’s also inspiring dozens of others to participate, including myself.

I’ve been feeling a bit low all summer, a mixture of: an ankle injury, the inability to start my new business while waiting on a license approval, excessive amounts of rain this year, and missing my friends I left in January to start off on my new life. My body and brain are also probably still recovering from the life stresses of the past year and a half — even though most of them are positive, they still top the list of the psychological stressors. I’ve been a bit numb and only able to be present in various joys and delights for a few fleeting seconds. I know there are many ways to adjust this, but I haven’t felt compelled to make the effort until reading Randy’s post and feeling the collective effort of so many folks joining in. It’s quite simple, even if it probably won’t always be easy, but every day in September we will do the following:

  1. Meditate
  2. Identify 3 new things you’re grateful for
  3. One random act of kindness
  4. Journal about one good thing that happened
  5. Exercise

I’m sure everyone can look at this list and right away see a step that they love and one they hate.

The first one, meditating, is something I’ve been doing off and on since I was 13 years old. I absolutely believe in it, but I also kinda hate it — just being real. If that one is tripping you up, try to simply take 25 deep breaths (in a row) while not doing anything else involving screens, people, or sounds. It can be while standing in the kitchen waiting for the coffee to finish. Make sure each deep breath is slow and filling your lungs to capacity, pushing your belly out fully, stretching your diaphragm muscle. There are lots of physical benefits to this you can read about, but really, you won’t believe it until you try it. Seriously, sometimes I resent how well it works.

The second and fourth ones are related for me, I will probably commit both of them to paper, each day writing down the 3 different things I’m grateful for and then putting down the story of one good thing that happened. While I do believe somewhat in ‘the power of positive thinking’, I also believe that a lot of people are full of isht when they talk about using The Secret or other mental mind games to battle intense problems like grief, PTSD, terminal illness, un(der)employment, poverty, etc. But there is a grey area of truth to the process — keeping a gratitude journal won’t pay the bills or bring about social justice, but it can help release some of the negative stress we hold onto and replace that with rejuvenating energy that will help us keep battling the big problems in life. Little things do matter.

The random acts of kindness can also be tricky, as I live in a somewhat isolated area and work from home, but Achor suggests that sending an e-mail to someone telling them how important and valued they are counts, and seeing as I have so many friends in other cities, I think I can find a way to reach out to folks, if I’m not filling up strangers parking meters or carrying someone’s groceries to the car. (Also, I’m not sure I can pull off the latter part without coming across as creepy.)

Exercise would ideally be for me getting up early and starting the day with stretching and qi gong, but trying to be realistic about this so it will also mean physical therapy exercise for my ankle, or long walks with the dog, or on rainy days, doing as many push-ups as possible. It might sometimes mean a solo dance party while alone in the house. Anything that gets me 100% in my body for at least 20 minutes a day will count.

Along the way I’ll also be reading Randy’s brilliant stick-figure updates and chiming in on the comments section when I need some support. September starts on Sunday. Want to join us?