I watched a video of a friend celebrating her young son’s birthday. Just her family of three around a cake, still in the cake pan. Nonetheless, that smiling little boy blew his three little candles out one by one after singing every word of “Happy Birthday.”
These aren’t the moments, memories, or lives we expected, but all we can do is solve one problem at a time – and try to find small moments of normal in the mix.
For example, today I put on pants.
Let me explain: these aren’t regular pants, these are the kind that existed before yoga pants. The kind with a button, a zipper and a waistband. The act of stepping in, jumping from one foot to the other a couple of times (skinny jeans) and zipping myself in created a sense of boundary between “personal me” and “work me.”
So as we look for “normal” in our up-ended lives, these are the moments to work in.
Schedule a fancy night
This applies to all living situations – kids, roommates, romantic partners. Turn off the TV, light a candle and create a fancy meal or moment.
Think about all of the ways that you can make it fancier. Can you dress up? Can you do your hair? Do you have a bottle of wine you’ve been saving for something special? This is that something special. Heck, put on something that smells good and a cocktail attire!
Clothing can change your mood, Elle reported – also noting that your mood can change your clothing choices too.
“Clothing doesn’t just influence others, it reflects and influences the wearer’s mood,” Dr. Karen Pine said regarding her 2012 University of Hertfordshire study that examined the connection between women’s emotional states and what they wore. “Many of the women felt they could alter their mood by changing what they wore.”
Translation: if you want to feel like someone who’s going out for a night on the town, dress up like someone who’s going out. Your fancy pants might not dance in the moonlight, but you sure will feel like they did.
Rearrange your physical space
Move a piece of furniture, a chair or a pillow to signify that that you’re shifting modes. Your home is your gym, your office, your restaurant, your nightlife, and – well – your home. And while you won’t be physically moving from space-to-space, you can make choices and little tweaks to your home to give it a new glow that match each use.
At my house, my living room doubles as my gym. To signify the shift between “home studio” and sexy little love den (no one has ever called it that) a chair moves and a mat rolls out.
And, it just so happens that being able to move, shake things up and choose where and how you start your day will make you like your job more too. Even if your employer didn’t mean to give you that gift, it’s yours now.
A study by the design firm Gensler was detailed in Harvard Business Review, and based on its survey of 2,035 randomly sampled knowledge workers nationwide, your happiness at work is linked to one thing: choice.
“We found that knowledge workers whose companies allow them to help decide when, where, and how they work were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, performed better, and viewed their company as more innovative than competitors that didn’t offer such choices.”
Create a schedule that includes self care
It’s easy to live in one long grey area from morning to bedtime again. Use your calendar to force you into normalcy. Sure, use it to schedule the projects you want to complete, but also block off tiny moments of self care in your day, too. Wear a moisturizing face mask while you walk your dog – I can assure you, no one will bother you about it.
And most importantly, check in on your calendar at the end of the day, analyzing how you actually did spend your day. It will help you to feel more satisfied with your use of time in general. It’s science.
Friend of aSweatLife and expert in managing and tracking time, Laura Vanderkam has written the book – or books, rather – on the topic of seizing the day.
When you look at your schedule at the end of the day, Vanderkam told us, that you’re able to give yourself a positive visual cue when you see all of the work you’ve done, rather than fixating on what you didn’t do. “Our brains have the tendency to remember the negative over the positive,” Vanderkam told us. And as a result, you’ll feel more satisfaction in general.
Put on some pants (but only if you’re feeling it)
If the idea of getting ready for the day just like you’re going somewhere resonates with you, do it. Shower, do your hair, apply whatever you usually put on your face – really go to town.
“‘Putting on formal clothes makes us feel powerful, and that changes the basic way we see the world,’ says Abraham Rutchick, an author of the study and a professor of psychology at California State University, Northridge. Rutchick and his co-authors found that wearing clothing that’s more formal than usual makes people think more broadly and holistically, rather than narrowly and about fine-grained details.”
In other words, science shows that you see the big picture when you put on your big-kid pants.
But there are no “shoulds” in #livingaSweatLife (especially not right now), so if wearing the comfiest things you can get your little germ-free mitts on brings you joy, lean into that. If watching Cheers makes you smile, by all means, say “Hey!” to Norm.
Set the boundaries that make you happy, do the things that keep you and those around you healthy – and try to celebrate when you normally would. Because even a birthday party of three is still a party, friends.