6 Simple Life Lessons To Be Learned From Spoon Theory…

picture of colorful blue plastic spoons                                                                              If you’re like most people you’ve probably found yourself repeating that there aren’t enough hours in the day. But what if when you woke up every morning you had fewer to work with than everyone else? What if instead of 24 hours you had only 12 Or 16? How would you compartmentalize your day? What would you prioritize and what would you set aside?

What if time wasn’t an issue but the time-saving tools available to you were? I’m not talking about smartphones, tablets, and the other electronic devices that simplify tasks, I’m talking about your own body. Imagine going about your day—cooking breakfast, driving to work, sending emails—with only one hand or without the ability to see or hear. There might be as many hours in the day for you as for everyone else but you suddenly feel like you need twice as many, because every task you complete (major or minor) takes twice as long.

As impossible as it might seem, millions of people living with chronic illness or disability cope with these challenges every day. As a person with a visual impairment I often find myself struggling to explain the daily challenges that living with a disability present in a way that doesn’t evoke pity. Instead I aim educate and motivate others to face their own challenges, because to suggest that so-called able-bodied, healthy people don’t face challenges is unfair. However the key I’ve learned is perspective. It could be worse: you could be dead.

Recently several friends and I were discussing the day-to-day challenges of living with a disability or chronic illness: from the minor inconvenience of asking a friend to drive you to the grocery store, to the sometimes incapacitating exhaustion that can make getting out of bed and brushing your teeth seem insurmountable. In reflecting on how to articulate these challenges, a friend helpfully directed me to Kristine Miserandino’s “Spoon Theory” article. Miserandino (who has Lupus) created Spoon Theory to describe the way that people with chronic illness or disability have to measure out the energy it takes for them to function. The idea struck her one night while at a diner with a college friend, when her friend suddenly asked her what it was really like to live with Lupus. Miserandino grabbed up all of the spoons on the table, handed them to her friend and directed her to imagine beginning the day with a certain number of spoons (twelve in this case). As she listed the tasks she performed each day (from dressing for work to cooking dinner) Miserandino took away one spoon. The game became a useful way for Miserandino to walk people through the myriad of obstacles she faces daily. Spoon Theory has become shorthand in the discourse to express the overwhelming exhaustion and frustration of running low on energy. “I don’t have enough spoons” can mean anything from “I’m too tired to cook” to “do I really have to get out of bed today?”

As I read Miserandino’s article I started thinking about how transferable Spoon Theory can be for anyone because it speaks to the importance of prioritizing life’s responsibilities and placing things in a practical perspective when the to-do list seems intimidatingly long. Here are six simple things Spoon Theory can teach us about the role that mindfulness plays in taking each day as it comes.

1. You can’t do everything: deal with it

In a world where smartphones, tablets, and digital assistants allow us to schedule every moment of our days, we’ve created an illusion of endless opportunity. Nothing gives me a thrill more than ticking off an item in my iPhone’s to-do list – but more often than not, I’m still left lying in bed frowning at the boxes still unticked. Part of this has to do with the practical reality of living with a disability; certain things just take twice as long. A fifteen-minute run to the grocery store might turn into a two-hour long adventure depending on public transit, cabs, and friends with licenses. This doesn’t stop me from filling my daily diary with a list of items that would make even Wonder Woman run for the nearest mountain retreat. I always wake up thinking I’ll have time to clean my house, run errands, work both of my jobs, solve the problem of world hunger, cure Ebola, and cook a meatloaf. The truth is even the most active, able-bodied, time-efficient person still winds up with the same number of hours in a day as anyone, and everyone needs to pause and recharge occasionally when we run out of spoons. Learn a lesson from T.S. Eliot: Measure your life in coffee spoons, not ice-cream scoops. Take time for yourself and
accept your limitations.

2. Accept help when you need it

We’re not meant to journey through life alone and sometimes we make our lives more complicated when we pretend we have superpowers. This is actually one of the hardest lessons for people with disabilities and chronic illness to learn, because we live each day trying to prove to the world that we can achieve independence. When I feel overwhelmed my friends will point out that I’d make my life a lot easier if I’d stop being stubborn and accept help will ease my burdens rather than be an admission of defeat. It’s a lot easier to cart a sick guide dog to the vet in a friend’s car than in a cab. When someone offers to help you, let them. You’re not being weak. You’re being human.

3. Celebrate your body

As Baz Lurhman tells us in Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, “It’s the only one you have.” Be grateful it works. Just pausing to admire a sunset or jogging on a crisp, autumn morning might seem mundane, but it’s a luxury that many with chronic illness or disability don’t have. You won’t always have the energy to revel in your body, because you’re not a superhero. Just as you need to learn to accept your limitations, you must also learn to see your strengths for the gifts they are.

4. Help others when you can

Sometimes there’s nothing quite as frustrating as looking for help and finding none. Even something as simple as holding the door for someone whose arms are full of packages is a gesture that acknowledges the fact that we all need a hand sometimes. If you find at some point during the day that you have a spoon to spare, share it with someone who could use another one.

When I was in college, I lived on the top floor of a walk-up apartment and I used to walk to the grocery store regularly with my guide dog. While I enjoyed the independence, I sometimes forgot that I could only buy as much as I could carry. Plus, what I could carry was limited to one hand since the other was a full keeping a hold on my eager-to-please Labrador. One afternoon I returned to my apartment (weighed down with bags) to cook dinner for myself and my roommate, and It only occurred to me as I approached the stairway that I wasn’t going to make it safely up three flights of stairs unless I made several trips. I needed the exercise, but I’d already walked home. I was sweaty, my dog needed water, and my shoulders were aching. After resignedly setting down several packages, I made my first trip upstairs only to discover on my way back down that one of my neighbors was on his way upstairs with the rest of my groceries. “You looked like you could use a hand,” he said simply. It might seem insignificant, but he gave me back fifteen minutes of my life that I could spend casually sipping my wine and chatting with my roommate while I chopped vegetables – and I’ve never forgotten that.

5. Make time for loved ones

Miserandino points out in her article that sometimes the simple pleasure of going out to dinner with friends after a long day will cost her a spoon. A spoon she might need to clean her house or go to the store. She writes that Spoon Theory forces you to think about everything you do. Relating the story of her first use of Spoon Theory with her best friend, she recalls saying “I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted spoons, and I chose to spend this time with you.” We all have to make choices about how we spend our time. A wasted spoon is a wasted opportunity. Choose your spoons wisely and if you have the time and the energy for others, take advantage of it.

6. Do at least one thing every day that makes you smile

In the same way that our hours are numbered, so are our days. The difference of is that we know how many hours we have left in a day but we don’t know how many days we have left of our lives. Whether it’s sending your best friend a selfie you took of yourself in a silly hat, reading your favorite book on your morning commute, or pausing in your work to give your dog a five-minute belly rub, take the time to make yourself smile. Every time you smile or laugh, your brain releases endorphins which are basically the body’s natural opiate for reducing stress and pain. This is how we recharge our batteries. Watch a hilarious movie. Have a chat with a friend. Click through pictures of cats on Instagram. Ultimately, do whatever it takes to replenish your supply of spoons.

11 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Stop Caring What Other People Think…

Where would you be if you learned how to stop caring what other people think?

Would you be fulfilling your childhood dream of being a garbage man?

Would you be traveling the globe, helping out those in need?

Would you become a rapper?

As humans, we have a primal need to fit in. In order to be initiated into the tribe, we try to come across as “normal” people. We often express ourselves conservatively, in order to not come across as weird or awkward.

The truth is everyone is normal (average) until you really get to know them. Owning your actions and making yourself vulnerable in front of others can be incredibly difficult at times but in the end it is healthier for you and for those around you. Here are 12 reasons why you should stop caring what other people think.

1. You use less energy filtering your words and actions, and expend more energy on creating relationships

If interacting with others is like driving a car, then filtering your words and actions is like putting speed bumps all over your highway of interaction. The more speed bumps you have, the slower you have to go to avoid losing control of your car. It becomes incredibly difficult to gain momentum, and takes a long time to reach your final destination (making an emotional connection and mutually benefiting each other). Isn’t that why we interact with people?

The more you filter yourself, the less people will truly get to know you. You might be a Mercedes Benz in your head, but as you constantly filter yourself, you’re going to come across as an old, beat-up Ford Pinto.

2. You become much more attractive

There is something inherently attractive about someone who doesn’t care what other people think. I’m not saying that more people will like you; there is a difference between being likeable and being attractive. Having an indifferent, carefree attitude is refreshing and contagious, and is a great way to help others break out of their “autopilot”.

Think of it this way. If you’re confident and don’t care what others think, people are going to want to be noticed by you, not use you to feel better about themselves.

3. You attract people that are good for you, and eliminate the ones that aren’t

Having a mindset of not caring what others think is a self-weeding garden. The people that appreciate your opinions and enjoy your company will stick with you, while the people that don’t like you will stay away from you.

The feeling of being well-liked is great, but having too many “friends” can be stressful and difficult to manage. You have to ask yourself if you want a wide array of shallow relationships with acquaintances, or a more concentrated group of deep and meaningful friendships.

4. You don’t feel obligated to change yourself for people

You don’t have to wear a ton of hats for all your different social situations. Trying to fit into a variety of groups can be exhausting, and is not a worthwhile endeavor. It is healthier and less stressful to simply be respected for being who you want to be.

5. You please yourself instead of trying to please everyone

Who are you really living for? It’s not selfish to please yourself at times, because after all, you are at the center of your own universe. Doing things for others is a great way to boost your self-esteem, but you have to ask yourself: am I getting what I want out of life?

6. You feel free

When was the last time you truly felt free as a bird? Free from the fear of failure? Free from the bondage to a life chosen for you by others? Free from social constructs that prevent you from doing what you want to do?

Not caring what other people think is a great first step on your way to this nirvana.

7. You start enjoying interactions more

It is easiest to get the most out of interactions with others when you are outcome-independent. When you aren’t trying to convince others that you are a really cool person or trying to sway their opinion on something, you can spend time basking in the beauty of a mentally-stimulating interaction.

When you genuinely don’t care whether someone likes you or not, it is easiest to be yourself and paradoxically this makes it easier to connect with people!

8. You rely more on yourself for happiness, not others

When you look inward to gain happiness as opposed to judging your own value based on others, it is significantly easier to obtain a sustainable happiness that stays with you, regardless of how other people’s lives affect you. Other people’s happiness comes and goes, and it is not healthy to rely on others when trying to maximize your own happiness.

9. People will feel more comfortable around you

Living with an intense fear of social judgement can lead some people to a shy demeanor that severely limits their social contributions. Being more of a quiet type is not a negative thing, but it can cause some apprehension at times.

According to recent studies, we have about 50000 thoughts per day. If you don’t share any of these thoughts, people can get nervous. If you never share anything, how do they know you aren’t an ax murderer? How do they know you don’t run science experiments on small animals in your free time?

These examples are a bit extreme, but the fact is you feel more comfortable around people that you know and understand. When you live silently, you may know that you aren’t a crazy person, but others may be left with an uncomfortable apprehension about you.

10. You subconsciously allow other people to stop caring what other people think

Emotional contagion is a powerful tool.

When you have the mindset of not caring what other people think, it is easy for that mindset to become contagious and be adopted by others. When people know that they aren’t being silently judged, they can feel more comfortable in their own skin, and they anchor that feeling to the person who allows them to obtain that feeling – You.

11. You can fall in love

One of the greatest ways to bond with members of the opposite sex is to so show not only confidence, but vulnerability. A 1997 study on love at Stony Brook University found that: “Escalating reciprocal self-disclosure under conditions of mutual vulnerability can have rapid, dramatic, long term romantic consequences.”

In other words: when you share and escalate embarrassing stories/details about your life to a member of the opposite sex, you can actually fall in love. By sharing intimate details about yourself, you show that you don’t fear their judgement and are not overly concerned with their opinion of you, which is an incredibly attractive trait.

It is important to note that not caring what other people think is NOT the same thing as being selfish or self-centered. It’s about being self-confident and owning yourself, and not fearing the social judgement of others.

As soon as you realize that people’s judgements of you are not going to harm you, it is much easier to feel free and become your best self.

10 Free Ways To Feel Happy Right Now…

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Many of us have grown up to believe that happiness is an outside force we can’t control. We go about our lives waiting for happiness to happen to us! We believe if we perhaps find the right partner, wear the right kind of clothes, have the dream job, or go on vacation, we will achieve the happiness we long for. However, the reality is that happiness is a choice, a decision you can make to take control of your well being, and enjoy life to the fullest. They say money can’t buy you happiness and that is absolutely true! Here is a short list of 10 free things you can do to turn that frown upside down and start embracing happiness in your life!

1. Soak up some sun

Not only will you look radiant as your skin takes in sun rays, but you will literally be increasing the “happy hormone” aka Serotonin levels in your body. You will be left feeling giddy and energized, ready to face whatever comes your way!

2. Enjoy a delicious chocolate bar (or a square at least)

Yes! You read correctly. You now have one more (very legitimate) excuse to eat that yummy chocolate bar you love. Eating chocolate releases neurotransmitters in the brain that absolutely lift your spirits. One of these neurotransmitters is Phenylethylamine aka “the love drug” which arouses the same feelings you experience when you are in love and who isn’t happy when they are feeling in love?! Enjoy a guiltless treat but remember, everything in moderation!

3. Acknowledge your higher power

Humans have this insatiable need to live for something greater than themselves. Take the time to appreciate and trust that your life is being guided by something greater than yourself. Understand that every stage of your life is part of a stunning master plan that will work for the greater good of those around you. How can you not feel beyond happy when you embrace the idea you are contributing to the greater good?!

4. Make a motivational play list

Music has the power to life your spirits like nothing else! Just make sure the songs you include are full of hope and inspirational messages. Here are three to get you started:

Brave by Josh Groban

Feeling Good by Michael Buble

Amazing by Jem

5. Exercise

When you log in time at the gym or on a run, your brain releases endorphins which are responsible for fighting stress and lifting your mood. In addition to making you feel better, the benefits are most definitely long lasting. Researchers at the University of Vermont found that “mood benefits of 2 hours of exercise can last up to 12 hours!” But, if you do not want to believe research, then at least listen to the lovely Elle Woods: “Exercise gives you endorphins…endorphins make you happy!”

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6. Write it down!

Feeling overwhelmed with life? Take the time to write it down. Having clarity of mind can most definitely lower stress levels, allowing you to enjoy yourself and embrace happiness in your life. Next time you are utterly frustrated take a piece of paper, pen and write everything that comes to mind. You are literally taking a brain dump, but it will leave you feeling rested and with some additional space in your brain for happy thoughts!

7. Go on a date…

With yourself! Really, pack a little basket with some yummy strawberries, perhaps some chocolate, head over to the nearest park and take yourself on a picnic.  While sitting there, embrace the purity of the moment. Enjoy how the wind plays with your hair, and watch how dogs walk their owners. Take in all that is around you and feel grateful for the opportunity of being alive and having all your senses intact. Make a conscientious effort to choose happiness for your life at that very moment, own your feelings and emotions. Get high on life!

8. Listen to a good motivational talk

Listen to Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, Kevin Snyder, Lisa Nichols, really, the list is endless! Nothing like a good motivational talk to lift your spirits and teach you to enjoy the little things in life. You will learn you have the capacity to alter your attitude and embrace happiness despite your circumstances.

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9. Do something nice for a stranger

Bake a batch of cookies and hand it to a homeless mother and child. Smile at the taxi driver. Greet the people in the elevator enthusiastically. Embrace everyone around you, strive to make everyone feel alive, and you will most definitely feel happier.

10. Don’t give up

Don’t ever give up on happiness. Despite how difficult life may get, it is still a precious gift. Even if living gets tough, happiness is just a choice away. Always smile and know that you are in fact, the master of your joy!