I walked around Green Lake the other day. The early morning sky was filling with light as the sun reared up. It was quiet and mostly empty. The leaves on tall trees waved in the breeze. I saw ducks swim in circles, chewing on lake grasses. It was cool and pleasant.
When I got home, I meditated for an hour. My mind busily followed the ducks, swimming in circles, going nowhere. But at the end of the hour, I felt a deep sense of peace.
Afterward, I baked sourdough bread that rose overnight, enjoying the yeasty smell of fresh bread. I ate warm bread with melted butter, savoring the silky taste and texture.
I stretched on a yoga mat, releasing tight muscles. I Facetimed with my daughter and granddaughter for a long time, delighting in their faces, their smiles and their simple joy. My 3-year-old granddaughter showed me all of her stuffed animals.
My wife and I went to Discovery Park and walked to the beach, facing the Olympics with Mount Rainier in the distance. I took off my shoes and socks, and warmed them in the hot sand. I picked ripe blackberries on the path back, reaching high for the juiciest ones. Sleepy, when I got home, I took a nap.
For dinner that evening, we had roasted salmon. I sat on my deck, watching the sun set in the west, enjoying the cool dry air. The sky was red and orange. The tall trees around my house were silhouetted against the darkening sky — my perfect Northwest summer day.
In these dark times, with the ever-present specter of COVID, social unrest and an uncertain future, it’s especially important to look toward the light to make the best of every day. It’s easy to engage in “gloom scrolling” on the internet, reading all the gloom and doom reports of the day.
Here’s my recipe for making the best of each day:
Stick with wholesome ingredients. Adequate rest, healthy food, exercise, fresh air and outdoor activity are the building blocks of a better day.
Stir in one mind-body practice, if you like. What about an online yoga class? Sprinkle in a five-minute mindfulness break with a meditation app. For some, daily prayer opens up heart, mind and spirit.
Walk. Take a walk outside every day, rain or shine. Studies have shown that time in nature is mentally and physically restorative. This is especially important for those of us that are working from home.
Stretch. Modern adults spend too much time on their rear ends, in front of screens. Sitting makes our muscles weak and tight. Make sure to stretch stiff muscles, at least several times a week.
Add a measure of novelty every week. Our COVID lives are reminiscent of the movie “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray wakes up every morning to a repeat of the day before. Go for a walk somewhere new, try out a different restaurant’s takeout order, or pick up a new hobby.
Cultivate patience. In our “we want it now” culture, patience is in short supply. This is an excellent time to work on becoming more patient — with yourself, your family and your loved ones.
Nurture inner peace. In our world of conflict and uncertainty, finding inner harmony and peace is ever more important. Whether we want it or not, our nervous system responds to the distress in our world. Have fun, play and laugh. Always.
Be hopeful. In time, this too will pass. It will become a memory, like other memories. What did we learn? How did it shape us? Did it help us become the person we hope to be?
Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.