“Spread Your Wings”
Mixed Media on Canvas 39 x 78 inches
The experience of creating this month’s Featured Art has been one of the most abiding and uplifting ways to outsmart stress that I have ever experienced. It is an amazing art project that I was blessed to participate in at Dell Children’s Hospital, “Art of Giving” event. You can read all about it here but if you want to apply the principle and outsmart stress right now, pause, and ask yourself this question: “When have I felt the very best as a human being?”
I don’t mean physically – I mean emotionally and/or spiritually. I can pretty much guarantee that you were either helping someone through something, participating in a wonderful event of some kind or being creative in any way. Even (and especially) if you felt your very best while taking care of yourself in some form or another, it all comes down to Sharing Love, AKA compassion.
While the literal definition of compassion is, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others,” I really prefer the synonyms: empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern and sensitivity, and my own definition, Sharing Love. There are infinite ways to do this – and, according to the latest science, compassionate action triggers the brain’s pleasure center, in a similar way to when we eat chocolate.
I wrote Soul Models: Transformative Stories of Courage and Compassion specifically on this topic. I interviewed individuals who had survived challenges I can’t even imagine: losing a child, having AIDS, being homeless, surviving the Holocaust and more. The “Soulution,” as I named it, was the same across the board – compassion. Reaching out, instead of caving in. Living a life that includes purposeful caring about others, beginning with yourself. Living this way did transform the lives of the Soul Models in my book; allowing them not just to “survive,” but to thrive. And, by modeling their behavior in any way I could, I became happier and my life became much more meaningful, enabling me to “outsmart stress” on a dime.
This is because when you reach out instead of caving in, you get out of your own head. You have a break from your own issues, as you listen to someone else’s. You feel good that you are “there” for someone. Or, you feel good because you are joining others in something joyful and inspiring. And, as a dear friend so wisely said, “You don’t have to start a non-profit to help another person – go over to your neighbor’s house when she is sick and walk her dog.” That’s Sharing Love.
So, if you want to Outsmart Stress right now, pick up the phone and call five people you know to see how they are. Write five emails of gratitude to people in your life. Or, simply indulge yourself in a walk outside. Daily.