It’s a hot summer day and the swim moms are standing under the umbrellas as we do each morning, watching our kids lap it. Some days the conversation is lively, other days intense, and some days there is NO conversation. This seems to be the way it goes when you are in the throws of the activity phase of raising children.
Moms and dads always running, competing for the “busiest schedule trophy”, to longing for a few minutes to stop and smell the roses, to just too darn tired to speak.
It was one of those, “I wish I could stop and smell the roses moments” that I remember a friend’s reflection that stopped me. With coffee mug, keys and phone in hand, on a short break from running her very busy “Mom” taxi service, she lamented that one day…yes one day, she hoped to have the time to be thoughtful again.
I thought, must we really wait? How old will I be when I stop running? What about all those years, and all those chances I would have missed?
I didn’t make a plan for being more thoughtful at the time, but I tucked her reflections away. They weren’t far away, as I figuratively put them in my back pocket. I would take them out occasionally, like an old school note, read them and fold them back up and tuck them away again.
It was several years later that I took them out (again figuratively!)…ironed them like a wrinkled shirt and decided to put them on.
I decided to make thoughtfulness a part of my life. A conscious part of who I wanted to be. I didn’t think it would take much extra time and the benefit would be huge. Not only for me, my heart…my soul, but for my family too. Don’t get me wrong, I am far, far from perfect and not always thoughtful, but finding time in my head (more than hours on the clock), I have started weaving thoughtfulness into my every day.
Here are 10 tips and ideas to help you move to a more thoughtful place:
1. Work on your mind. Thoughtfulness is really finding a bit of “mind” time. Making a conscious effort and becoming aware of what others are experiencing. Ask yourself the question each day, “what have I done today?” or “what will I do today to make a difference?”
2. Put thoughtfulness on your to-do list. Write it down. You don’t have to know exactly what it will be at that moment, but writing it down makes you aware and more likely to take an opportunity to be kind.
3. Purchase note cards and stamps. Leave them in places where you find you often have downtime. I think a great place is in the car. How many times during the week do you wait in a carpool line or at a child’s event or at a doctor’s appointment? Keep a list of friends/family with you so you can address and mail them. I love the art of letter writing, but if time is tight and letters are not your thing, send a caring email or text.
4. Set aside a very specific time each week to do something thoughtful. Perhaps it is Wednesday mornings for 15 minutes, you reach out to friends, family or neighbors you noticed needed a little extra kindness that week.
5. Gather like-minded friends and form an informal group. Trade off and schedule to do something kind each month. Volunteer at a shelter, make a meal for a firehouse, help a local family in need, pick up trash at a local park…
6. When you cook or bake, make a double batch. Give it away, or freeze it and when the opportunity presents itself you will have something from the heart ready to give.
7. When you see items on sale or clearance that would make a great little gifts of kindness, stock up and stock away. Again having items on hand takes the “work” out of being kind. Good suggestions would be note cards, cards, candles, small frames, healthy snacks or foods, gift cards, teas and coffees.
8. Save magazines or articles you think a friend or family member would be interested in. Attach a kind note and deliver to them. If you have finished reading a great book, pass it on to someone else who would enjoy.
9. When you are out doing errands and just living your life, make a conscious effort to thank those who do a good job or share a positive thought you might have in your head, but never thought to share…ie.. “you seem to really love your job, you make it nice to shop here.” Hold the door, help a senior with their groceries, slip a few quarters in the gumball or drink machine, some other simple daily kindnesses.
10. What are you good at? What do you love doing? Are you a photographer, an artist, an exercise or diet enthusiast, a gardener or pet lover? Use your passion and skills to help others, when it is something that comes naturally to you, it makes it easier to do.
I would love to hear your ideas and stories- it is only through others that we become our best selves, so please share.
Until next time-