The Key to More Happiness is Water

Photo by Carol Stringer

While setting my coffee cup down on a coaster, I stopped midair, taking in the motivational inscription on it entitled “Advice from a Dragonfly.” The inspiration begins with the line “Spend time near the water.”

I’ve seen dragonflies zip in and around ponds, canals, and other forms of wetlands.  I get it. And it is not coincidental that I live in a cozy condo along Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway.

Photo by Carol Stringer

Wanting to discern precisely why humans, animals, and insects alike are so drawn to the water, I did some research. Ever heard of blue mind? Apparently, it’s a thing. According to marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, it’s a “mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity and a sense of general happiness with life in the moment.” Experiencing blue mind makes sense. Our brains are composed of 75% water, so no wonder we are enamored by flowing oceans, rivers, and streams.

Okay, ready for some geeky science stuff? Stay with me; this is interesting. According to scientists, the atmosphere near moving water contains elevated levels of negatively charged ions. Why is that important? Because these ions cause a brain reaction that emits the mood-enhancing serotonin helpful in lowering stress. Here’s another interesting fact, aquatic therapists are now treating PTSD, addiction, autism and anxiety disorders. And my favorite fun fact proclaimed by Nicols is one of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin, did much of his writing (yep, you guessed it) in the bathtub.

Establish Blue Mind

Okay, I realize not everyone can flit around water like a dragonfly or live alongside a body of water, or even spend a day at the beach. But do let this sink in; Nicols is spot-on when he states, blue mind is not going to be accomplished on Instagram.

So, make time to shut down all the screens, silence the chatter, log out and find some water, even if it’s a pond in the park or a fountain in front of city hall. Try getting creative. Any chance you can plan a day to go where the fish live, cast a line and perhaps catch a few? Or how about heading to the YMCA or gym with a pool and do some swimming.

Home Remedy

If all else fails, do what dear old Ben did. Fill your bathtub then slowly breathe in and breathe out as you contemplate the calming effect of water.

A quote by scientist Loren Eiseley neatly sums up the importance of this liquid elixor, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”

Advice From a Flamingo

My friend Carol gifted me with a coffee coaster adorned with  flamingos of the flamboyant pink variety wading in a wetland. As I gazed at the scene I identified with the key verb – wade. That’s how I feel about 2021. It’s January 13th and I am still not prepared to dive in and embrace the year head-on. In fact, I haven’t even created my goals for the next twelve months. Could be I’m looking for a softer entry, and wading into life this year sounds perfect.

Thinking about this bird prompted me to do some research. As I did, I realized a flamingo is a good role model for setting goals. Recalling the flamingo display I saw a few years back at the San Diego Zoo, I remembered they are fed a special pallet to keep them “in the pink.” Hmm, staying healthy both emotionally and physically is always a goal for any year.

Finding Balance

You probably know this top-heavy bird can balance on one leg for hours on end. Ah, another key word, balance. I want to stay grounded and keep this year in-balance which leads me to another interesting term – pivot – which I am making my word of the year. I want to excel in the art of the pivot. Yes, this does indicate change, but it’s a balancing act. When you execute a pivotal movement, one foot is kept fully grounded. I don’t need to be a change agent this year, but pivoting will keep me flexible. So sign me up for the flamingo balancing act.

Setting the Pace

Here’s another fun fact about our feathered friends. In order to fly, flamingos need to run a few paces to gather speed. Perfect! I’m not diving in or hitting the ground running this year, I shall gather momentum to get me moving in the desired direction.

Lastly, a flamingo nest is not fancy, just a mound of mud, maybe 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 centimeters) high. This speaks to the simplicity I want to keep in my life. Editing out the noise and focusing on only what is important, necessary and joyful is key here. My goal is to concentrate on activities that help me grow as a person, along with actions that bring kindness and caring to the forefront.

Be the CAO of Your Life

So, dear readers, seems like the flamingo’s advice helped me work through how to structure my life in the coming year. How about you? Anything resonate, like balance and simplicity? As my friend Joanne states it, you are the Chief Awesome Officer of your life, so plan accordingly.

I wish you all a year of living in the pink as you follow your dreams and make your dent on the universe.

Classic Life Lessons

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I learned recently the late beloved college basketball coach, John Wooden carried around a treasured gift from his father. On a tattered and aged piece of paper was the creed on which he based his life. I was so in awe of it I had to find out more about this Midwestern man who is touted as being “College basketball’s most successful coach” and named by ESPN “Coach of the Century.”

This amazing legend grew up on an Indiana farm. His childhood home had no electricity or indoor plumbing. As a high school basketball hero he led the home team to three consecutive finals. He married a lovely lady who played coronet in the school band. They were married for 53 years. Only death could separate them.

Okay, maybe you knew all that, but I didn’t. His “life list,” the creed his father bestowed upon him consists of seven simple sentences: “Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books especially the Bible.

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Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter for a rainy day. Pray for guidance, count and give thanks for your blessings every day.”

I now understand how this legendary coach could bring out of best in his players. He was authentic in a world where truly genuine human beings are rare. He role modeled wisdom, kindness, integrity and love. I also understand he had a very wise father who created a treasure map for his son. Somehow I think that trumps assets in a will. The life lessons teach if you follow the credo, your life will be rich and filled something more satisfying than wealth.

Wooden co-authored a book, “My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American Journey. I want him to coach me so I’m going to read it. But in the meantime, I’ve decided to create my own life list. I’ll borrow some belonging to the coach and add things I need to work on like: Give love completely without keeping score and practice patience daily.

Perspectives. Inspirational quote typed on an old typewriter.

How about you? Would now be a good time to create a life list? I think no matter what your chronological stage of life, it’s never too late to chart a course for the rest of your time on this planet. Invest some time in it this week. As Coach Wooden would remind us, “Never cease trying to be the best you can be. That’s in your power.”