Some time ago I saw a reprinted Peanuts cartoon in the newspaper. One of the kids asks “What do you do when you feel that life is treating you unfairly?” Snoopy responds “Learn to bake your own cookies.”
There’s a lot of truth in that. After all, what are cookies except the ultimate comfort food? When we were kids, we learned to comfort ourselves with a blanket. We all need engaging and distracting activities to keep our lives balanced. As grown-ups we need to find our own blankets (or blanket substitutes).
When we take the time to stop and consider it, life is a continuing series of actions and reactions, constantly intertwining and affecting each other. When we don’t stop to think about it–when we let the events of life begin to overwhelm us–we begin to view things as “me against the world.”
When we start down that path, we begin to see life as a series of events that happen to us rather than a set of things we can influence and control.
When the world comes crushing down (when life treats you unfairly), the solution is a little perspective. Taking time to bake cookies might be just what you need. Or gardening, or reading, or any other “puttering” activity.
When you pick an activity, remember that it must be engaging and distracting. It should be something that keeps you from focusing on the problems and worries of life. Doing one kind of work to keep yourself from focusing on another kind of work is not the answer. You need to do non-work in order to keep yourself from focusing on any work.
It’s fine if your work is also your hobby. You’re lucky if that’s the case. But you still need something else to do to when the worries of work start to grow too large.
Exercise is a great distraction. Running, bicycling, lifting weights, aerobics, swimming, or whatever you enjoy. In addition to helping you get some perspective on life, it will help you live longer! Even non-aerobic exercise is proving to be extremely beneficial for your health. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to get benefits from exercise. You just have to do something.
And let’s not forget the final element of baking cookies (or whatever distraction you choose): comforting yourself. If you hang around new parents you may hear them discussing whether a child has discovered a way to “comfort himself.” Very often this means thumb-sucking or some other very simple activity.
When a baby learns to comfort himself, then he can calm himself and go back to sleep after being startled or waking up and realizing that he’s alone. This is a wonderful skill. Unfortunately, many of us seem to have lost the skill of comforting ourselves as we get older. Sometimes we just never try. We ignore or avoid uncomfortable situations.
At other times we simply react to the situation at hand without thinking about it. We’re frustrated, so we respond with frustration. We think the service is bad and we respond with anger. Traffic is tied up and we respond with rage.
The traits of self control and “think before you speak” seem to have been lost by modern society. We’re always going and never stopping. We need to give ourselves that minute to think.
We need to feel comfortable slowing down and taking in life.
We need to slow down just enough to process things and decide how to react. That way we participate in life rather than merely react to it. Slowing down and processing events are habits that need to be cultivated.
Start today. Take a few minutes to spend quiet time thinking about how you react to the world–especially when you feel a great deal of pressure. Do you react the way you’d like to? If not, why not?
Work slowly. Don’t worry. You don’t need to be perfect (soon or ever). But the process of working on yourself automatically makes you happier and more in control. It’s like making your own cookies.