This summer, my husband and I decided to turn an empty corner of our yard into a small garden. So we dug up the sod, added some potting soil and then planted a bunch of colorful flowers, roses and green bushes. We watered the garden a lot, and it did amazingly well.
We did NOT add some weed seeds to the garden. In fact, over the summer, we pulled weeds that showed up, especially the ones that grew quickly. And while our garden wasn't perfect, it gave us a lot of beautiful colors and made us happy when we looked at it.
Life is a garden
One day, I realized that life is a lot like that garden. Sometimes, lots of weeds threaten to take over and drown out the good things and the beauty in life. That means we need to protect ourselves from things that pull us down (weeds) and instead, keep watering life with good thoughts and positive things.
That's not easy to do, especially when you are battered by the storms of the Covid virus, hurricanes, and huge fires. But to stay emotionally strong and healthy, you have to create ways to manage the challenges.
Food seems to fix it
The past six months have been hard for everyone, especially mentally and emotionally. Personally, I slid back into some old habits around food and eating. Many days I wanted comfort, nurturing, entertainment and connection. So I ate cookies, ice cream and desserts. And I felt better.
Unfortunately, an hour later as well as the next day, I needed all of those things again. Over time, I realized I had to go back to a lot of the lessons I've shared with you. That meant I had to take care of my emotional needs in healthier ways than reaching for cookies.
There was no easy road for this, and it took me a while to figure out what to do. Interestingly, my biggest change happened when I realized I had to stop thinking about myself so much and start focusing on other people. Here are a couple things I did that helped me feel stronger again and more able to manage my weight.
Acts of kindness
A few houses down from us, a single mom named Amber had a medium-sized tree in her yard that died. She cut off many of the branches and dragged them to the edge of the street, but she left them in a large pile. I knew that our city won't pick branches up unless they are cut into lengths of four feet or less, as well as tied into small bundles.
After the city trucks had ignored her pile of branches for several weeks, I decide to help her out. So I drove to her home with a saw, a pair of big clippers and a roll of string. I also brought a yard bag the city requires for leaves and smaller sticks. I spent a couple hours cutting the branches and organizing them into bundles that I tied with string. I also swept the cement where the pile had been and took the large bag of leaves and loose debris home with me so I could put it out for our city to pick up.
I never saw Amber while I was working, and I assumed she wasn't home. That was fine with me because I just wanted to help without her knowing who took care of the trees branches.
A couple weeks later, I was walking my dog past her house and I saw her pulling weeds in her front yard. I said hello and planned to keep walking. But she stopped me and said, "Wait! I know what you did with my branches and I want to thank you for doing that."
I responded, "You are welcome. I didn't think you knew who did it." But as she got teary-eyed, she said, " I was watching you out my window the whole time. I couldn't come out and say anything because I was crying too hard. I couldn't believe that someone I don't even know was doing something so nice for me. Life has been really hard lately, and you doing that work was such a gift to me."
Then she offered to pay me for it but I said, "Absolutely not. Instead, please pay it forward by helping someone else who is having a hard time." She promised she would and I'm sure she has followed through with doing that.
Somehow, that experience gave me a renewed emotional energy that carried over into my self care and helped me improve my eating patterns. It might seem silly, but those events reminded me there are many ways to feel comforted and nurtured.
Since then, I have looked for more ways to offer kindness to others. I have sent "I'm thinking of you" cards and email notes to many people I can't see in person. I've asked how they are doing, and once I heard from them, I responded back with encouraging notes and ideas.
Today is a good day!
I also started saying the phrase "Today is a good day" a few times throughout each day. Then I follow it with a reminder that it will be good because I'm going to make it a good day.
It's interesting how repeating that simple phrase and then thinking about ways I can make it a good day has pulled my spirits up over and over. The virus is still there, many of my friends and family members are facing hard challenges, and I still want cookies.
But I'm doing much better with managing my emotional eating and food cravings, simply by changing my thoughts and my attitude.
As you go through the weeks ahead, keep your focus on the flowers in your life, not the weeds. And every single day, tell yourself, "Today is a good day! And that's because I'm going to make it a good day!"