Welcome to Tuesdays with Chel.
Each week Chel Micheline of gingerblue dot com will offer her perspectives on our Bliss Habits. Please enjoy the wisdom and clarity she offers.
“If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us.”
Sometime last year, I read something that jumped off the page and smacked me upside the head (but in the BEST way).
It was simply this: fall in love with life.
For some reason, I couldn’t wrap my brain around that suggestion. You didn’t fall in love with life, you dealt with life, right? Life wasn’t something you had a relationship with, (or was it?) Could life be something more than just… life?
The idea had never even occurred to me before. Life seemed to be something that wrapped around me, not something that I could wrap myself around.
I just couldn’t let the idea go. Even though I don’t consider myself a romantic person at all, the idea of falling in love with life enchanted me, even obsessed me a little bit. Waking up every morning, ready to charge into the day, eager to meet life in all areas, eager to jump in with both feet and create something amazing… I wanted it. I wanted it badly.
But I didn’t know how to get it. How, exactly, does one fall in love with life?
Over the past several months, I puzzled over it. Then I tried just pretending it was happening (which didn’t work).
Then I did what I always do when I get confused about something- I started looking at the science of it all. I thought maybe if I could figure out what happened in our brains to make that falling-in-love-feeling arise, maybe I could modify my behavior and sort of activate it.
It turns out that when a person “falls in love”, three chemicals in the brain are released and come together to creae a sort of crazy-magic-potion. The three chemicals are adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin- a very potent cocktail, to be sure.
So without being able to pop open my head and insert said chemicals, how could I achieve the same state, the same elation, in day-to-day life? You know- the high that comes when you first realize that *something* is waking up deep inside, and that something is whispering “what if…” I think we’ve all felt that, at some time or another.
For most people, the response to that feeling is a modification in behavior. Little things we do and experience that change our routines just enough so that we have a better chance at attracting the other person’s attention, and hopefully, love.
So if life hasn’t left any love letters by your door, what if we worked backwards?
What if by simply shifting our behaviors a bit, we could spark something in our brains that will inspire us to engage more fully with life, to feel intriqued and attracted us to all the aspects of our own day to day lives?
This is actually a tried and true method in neuroscience- “neurons that fire together wire together” is how it’s described. As James Baraz describes: “Each time you repeat a particular thought or action, you strengthen the connection between a set of brain cells, or neurons. This means that the more often you repeat a thought or action, the stronger the related neural pathways become, and the more easily that thought or action can recur.”
So, it’s worth a try, right? So here’s some behavior suggestions, mined from common experiences people go through when they are falling in love.
- 1. Get yourself out there.
Think about it- remember having a crush on that cute guy/girl when you were in high school? Even if you were too shy to connect with that person directly, you likely found yourself thinking about where he/she would be during the day and strategically placing yourself nearby. Any chance for any sort of interaction was ideal.How does that translate to “falling in love with life”? I think it simply means showing up for life. Getting out there a little bit. Putting on your favorite dress and going to where the action is – not the dating scene, but the part of life you want to be more in tune with (lectures, garden club, coffee shop, drum circles, book club, whatever).Shake up your normal routine *just enough* so that the possibility of engagement with life grows every time you go a little out of your comfort zone.
- 2. Take extra good care of yourself.
Whenever I found myself crushing on someone in high school or college, I remember the way my self-care would immediately shift. I started taking great pains to look my best, feel my best, and kind of put together the very best “me” that I could.And even if I wasn’t feeling great, I still looked like I felt fine.It’s not high school anymore, and I really don’t think that life cares if our hair is freshly blown out or if my jeans are skinny enough.But I do think life is more likely to have more for us if we are in good, healthy shape to receive what it has. Taking EXTRA-good care of ourselves is definitely a step in the right direction. For me, this can include getting more sleep, eating nourishing foods, staying hydrated, taking time to meditate every day, and not wearing myself out.Just generally paying attention to self-care and tweaking it enough to make a noticeable difference in the way I *feel* and, as a result, interact with life is a big deal. It gets those brain chemicals going, get the love potion stirring.
- 3. Indulge- make yourself feel special.
Remember when you got *any* positive sign that things were going in the right direction? It would make your heart soar. You’d re-read the notes (this was before the time of the internet and texting), you’d check the mail a zillion times a day, you’s ask your friends for fresh gossip about it. Every ounce of information was precious and analyzed and, if it was positive, it felt like a gift.It can be the same way with life. If life isn’t leaving you roses by the door or shining sunshine on your every step, do it for yourself. I’m serious- sometimes we have to take the reigns and work on life’s behalf!Send YOURSELF flowers (or buy a pretty bunch at the farmer’s market). Hand write a letter on beautiful paper and mail it to yourself. Take yourself to a fancy restaurant, a touring theater production, a walk around the new botanical park- go to places that FEEL like date spots.
I also encourage indulgence- simple things you can do to liven up the everyday- a different coffee drink at Starbucks (with extra foam!), ordering dessert when you go out to dinner, buying a new glossy magazine when you check out at the store, ordering a new scarf to liven up your winter coat, planting flower seeds when you usually only plant vegetables, purchasing a *really* good piece of chocolate and then eating it morsel by morsel while you are stretched out with a brand new novel, etc. Even an extra five minutes in the bathroom after you take your shower to just breathe and relax is something that will inspire small changes in brain chemical.Small things really *do* make a difference. And having something new to surprise our senses and give us something to look forward to can make a huge change on our outlook on life.
- 4. Dwell in possibility.
The thing about love (both a good thing and an incredibly maddening thing) is that there’s no rhyme or reason to it- no matter how practical it is to fall in love with a certain person, it happens whether you like it or not. And you find yourself entertaining ideas of a happy future with this person, everything working out and staying that way happily ever after.So when it comes to falling in love with life, why not take the same attitude? I’m not suggesting you go jump off a cliff while entertaining the possibility of sprouting wings and taking flight. What I am suggesting is opening yourself to positive things.Just like you might fantasize about a romantic future with your crush, imagine a happy future with life. Think about the good things that could happen, positive changes that might come into play.
Maybe it *is* possible to fall in love with life. I’m up for it, anyone else? (And I’d LOVE to hear your suggestions about “falling in love” behaviors we can add to this list!