The Secret Ingredient

     The grocery lady’s eyes lit up as she surveyed my batch of items. Perceptively she inquired if I was on a mission to bake chocolate chip cookies. I smiled shyly and told her truthfully that I am a decent cook, but baking eludes me. Honestly, if faced with a baking 101 final exam, I would fail miserably. At that point, my new best friend leaned in and asked if I would like the secret to baking world-class cookies.

     Before I share the magical ingredient with you, here’s a bit of background. My friend, Carol (excellent cook and baker), gave me the recipe for “Salty Oats Oatmeal Cookies,” She adds chocolate chips, walnuts, craisins, and raisins. When Carol pops these out of the oven, the end result is round, crunchy, sweet, and salty, bits of heaven. Yum!

Chocolate Cookie Isolated On White Background

My goal is to learn how to master this recipe. So, in the still of an early sunny Saturday morning, I asked Alexa to play some sultry music, carefully assembled all the ingredients, collected the appropriate tools, including a hot pink spatula my friend Jeanette gifted me with (where would I be without my friends?) and after whispering up a little prayer, revisited what the lady at Walmart shared.

     Can you guess the secret ingredient? Okay, maybe you’re thinking it’s love, close, but that’s not it. Ready? Drum roll, please. What makes a cookie great is patience. You see, before learning the secret, my grocery lady friend confessed to zipping around the kitchen baking cookies for her grandchildren. Her goal being, “just get it done” until one day she tapped the breaks and performed the task mindfully.

     I don’t know about you, but I am often guilty of a “just get it done” mentality. I rush a task, mind elsewhere, and end up tripping over my own feet, sometimes literally.

     Let’s drill down on patience for a bit. First off, it’s considered a virtue, which of course, is a good thing showing high moral standards. Keep reading as there is more upside. For example, studies show patient people suffer less depression and negative emotions. They have more satisfying relationships due to the ability to be more empathic and forgiving. These individuals are less demanding and more understanding of the world around them. 

Patient people maintain a positive attitude making life’s speed bumps and curveballs easier to navigate and field. As I can attest, the ability to slow things down and not skimp on details is rewarded with a better end product.

Oh, about my “patient” baking experience. Adding the secret ingredient to the mix worked in a rather interesting way. When I accidentally splattered batter all over the backsplash of my countertop, refrigerator, and cabinets (yeah, I’m rather clumsy with a hand mixer), I laughed with abandon. Thanks to the Walmart grocery lady, my laid-back demeanor helped keep my cool as I buffed and polished the glass tiles and other affected areas. Final note: Not only did my cookies look and taste great (well, maybe not a good as Carol’s), but I enjoyed the process of being a messy but happy baker.

Majoring in Happiness

It happened again last week. While volunteering at a conference, I met Coach Valerie Alexander selling her book, “Happiness …as a Second Language.” One glance at the cover and I was hooked. As I rummaged through my purse for cash, Valerie presented me with a bright lemon-yellow motivational wristband declaring, “Speak Happiness.”  I offered up my most gracious smile. In my book an inspirational band beats a gold bangle.

Full disclosure: I am a junkie, to be specific, a happiness junkie. Whenever I find myself near a book about happiness, I must take it home and add it to my library. Sure, I knowingly practice joy and bliss. On most days, that comes naturally.  But I delight in the study of happiness and aspire to one day earn an honorary degree in the subject.

As a life and career coach, it is sometimes my responsibility to guide clients back on the path to their happy zone.

beautiful girl holds two face masks with happy and angry emotion

Let’s face it, life happens and when discord enters our lives like an unwanted guest, feelings of contentment vanish. Gloomy days turn into dark nights. Unless we make a concerted effort to get back to the light, depression sets in. Mood disorders gone unchecked can influence chronic health conditions. Consequently, happiness is strongly linked to good health thus the popular cliché, “laughter is the best medicine.”

In her book, Alexander writes about achieving permanent happiness. I’m not certain we can always achieve an everlasting buoyant frame of mind, but I do believe a solid understanding of happiness techniques help negate our blue moods.

So when stuck in reverse, what are some activities that pull us out of the doldrums? My first “go to” is to focus on finding one positive in a negative situation. Stay with it until you can find one.

Positive thinking

Next, shift to something that needs your attention. Glimmers of happiness return we when take our minds off our troubles by getting productive. As so aptly professed by the Dalai Lama, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

The Dalai quote brings me to another strategy to blow away the blues. In a word, kindness. Did you know practicing daily acts of kindness generates a physical reaction?

kindness word inside love cloud blue sky only

Your brain produces serotonin bringing a content, almost blissful feeling. A friend of mine refers to it as a “kindness kick.

When time permits, get on the move. Thrust those endorphins into gear by a solid workout. Or, immerse yourself in nature. Head out the door with a notepad or camera. Jot down or photograph any sign of surrounding beauty.

sunset

Want an activity more energizing? Turn up the music and rock out with your favorite playlist.

This week invest some time into understanding how to create and cultivate a positive mindset. Get serious about the study of happiness. The happiest people on the planet are probably individuals who did homework on the subject.