Wholehearted living is a concept developed by writer and research professor, Dr. Brené Brown. Wholehearted living can be seen in behaviors that promote physical and emotional self-care, gratitude, compassion, mindfulness and connection. What are these behaviors? Well, there is no “one size fits all” list. What you can do is take the general concepts (self-care, connection etc.) and translate them into behaviors and actions that make sense for you. For this post, I'd like to focus on small behaviors that set the tone for how you go about the rest of your life; a sort of thermostat if you will. As Brown observes in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, "gifts like courage, compassion, and connection only work when they are exercised. Every day."
What does wholehearted living look like for me on a small scale? I park a few rows away so I have more time to walk. I never clean the house without great music on. I try to smile at everyone I pass by. I keep spare change when walking downtown and my car stocked with water, socks and snacks, so when I do encounter someone in need I can at the least offer a moment for connection. I get excited about going to sleep as I know it’s good for my body. I literally stop to smell the roses (or any other flower I pass). I exchange ridiculous snapchats with my friend in Charlotte. I keep plants for some natural beauty in my home and office (albeit the kind that are easiest to care for). I like to ask my fiancé to tell me about the best part of his day.
Here at the Work/Life Center, I call my coworkers “life experts”. It is their job to know as much as possible about every phase of life, every kind of need. They are kind, admirable people who you want to be around. They wouldn’t claim to be perfect but I think they have the practice of wholehearted living down pat. They inspire me to continue to develop my own practice. So I thought I’d ask what wholehearted living looks like for them. Meet the rest of my team...
What does wholehearted living look like for you?
I try not to take myself too seriously. I eat dinner with my family every night. I thank my husband for cooking every night (and he thanks me for cleaning the kitchen). I let my dog sleep at the foot of my bed, her puppy breathing is calming and she helps me wake up in the morning (I am not a morning person). I do not compare myself to my friends on Facebook, even when I wish I was on their vacation 🙂 . I take a minute to be grateful every day. I realize the value of laughter when it comes to my own stress management; I know which friends to text when I need an anchorman gif and some days putting my feet up at the end of the day and watching a couple episodes of 30 Rock is all I need.
I deliberately try to find something I have in common with everyone I meet. I order something different from my friends when we are out to dinner so we can all share and get to try more dishes. I engage my daughter's teenage friends in conversations about topics meaningful to them. I host slumber parties with my female friends where we stay up late playing games that make us laugh and eating whatever we want. I squat when I am introduced to children so they don't have to look up at me. I always invite friends and acquaintances without plans to my house for holidays and we experiment with fun foods that sometimes become traditions (Chinese dumplings for Christmas dinner). I always put on a bathing suit and play in the ocean even if I think I could "stand to lose a few pounds."
I walk with my husband over to the golf course and we pick up stray balls. I go to Morgan Imports to look at the funny cards and buy some outrageous ones for my cousins. I hand out granola bars to the neighbor kids every day and remind them to throw the wrapper in the trash can and not on the street. Sometimes I look at people in cars while driving to and from work and make up stories in my head about their lives. I make my 97 year old Dad a manhattan when I get home from work and we play gin rummy. I go to a spiritual direction group once a month and sit in silence for 3 hours. I update my funeral folder and remind my family where to find it if I kick the bucket. I write notes with a real ink pen to friends that I haven’t seen in a while. I watch The Voice and try to keep up with my favorites…like Sawyer Fredericks. I walk over to Regulator Bookstore with my granddaughter and we read lots of books together.
I connect frequently with people that I love. I make my son hug me every day. I try to be present with him and savor every moment before he goes off to college. I talk to one of my ‘people’ at least once a day. I bake frequently. I walk my dog every day. I read Jenny Lawson and Brene Brown and try to ‘Dare Greatly’. I go to church when I can, but don’t guilt myself when I don’t get there. I keep a gratitude journal (when I remember, but again, no guilting). I buy fresh bread from my favorite bakery every week.
As you can see each has their own practice, but the end results of self-care, gratitude, mindfulness and connection are the same. Maybe some actions spoke to you? Maybe you’ve been inspired to create your own list? Start a new practice? What does wholehearted living look like to you? Keep track of our Work/Life blog throughout the month of May as we dive deeper into wholehearted living.