No one needs to tell you how stress can take its toll.
Yet there seems no easy way to ramp down the stress factor. If anything, we seem to be more stressed than ever before. The news closes in on us on all sides and we seem trapped.
However, there's a way that can ease that stress considerably. It could even be considered a form of meditation. It's called “writing down what delights you”.
Let's find out how easy it can be to be delighted and decrease our stress considerably.
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I hate house hunting, and yet when we moved to New Zealand, one of the first things that we did was look for a house.
About three months after we moved to New Zealand, we decided that we needed to buy some property. In India, we had never rented any place. We had lived with our parents or then we had a place of our own.
But in New Zealand, for the first time in our lives, we were renting someone else's place. And we were keen to get out of that situation. However, we had a problem that a lot of immigrants have, and that is not enough money.
When you grow up in a country, you earn in that currency and of course you spend in that currency. But when you move from a different country, and especially a country where the currency is much lower, then the conversion doesn't end up being favorable for you.
Renuka and I had been working for almost 10 years and yet our cumulative savings had amounted to just around 70 000 dollars. All of those years of going back and forth to work, It just amounted to a little over a year's income for a lot of people in New Zealand.
That amount soon started getting whittled down because we had to buy furniture, a car, and all of those things that you don't think of until you move to a new country and you have absolutely nothing around.
I remember spilling some water on the floor and realizing I didn't have a mop. The last thing that we wanted to do was to waste money renting some kind of property.
That was not the way that we were brought up.
We were taught early on that you needed to invest in your house and then pay off that house. The cool thing was that in India you lived in a tiny flat with an almost invisible balcony, but here in New Zealand there were all of these houses with gardens and it cost around 150,000.
I'd just got a job as a web designer and based on that meager income, the bank was willing to give us a loan of that amount. And then we started on the thing that I hated the most, which was house hunting.
We'd go from one house to another every weekend with this real estate agent who drove us around. Finally, it didn't take us very long to find some houses that we liked and within our budget because we were looking for these houses in our neighborhood.
However, because we were new in New Zealand, I relied on the help of a friend, someone I had just met, and his name was Chris Parkinson. Chris would show up at the house that we had chosen, look around, check all the taps, do all the stuff because he had bought houses before.
But none of the houses met with his approval. And we were puzzled because the houses looked really good to us, but Chris wasn't satisfied. I asked him, “Why are you rejecting these houses?”
He said, “There's nothing wrong with the houses. It's just that you're in the wrong neighborhood.” “But you live in this neighborhood,” I said to him.
He said, “Yes, exactly. When you look around, you can see the grass growing pretty tall. You can see the cars being parked on the road. And that gives you a sense of what type of neighborhood you are in. And this is not the neighborhood that you need to settle down in.”
There was another problem by this point.
The real estate agent was local to that area and she had shown us everything that was within our budget. When we switched real estate agents, the new agent took us around to some of the houses that she had on her dossier, but they weren't to our liking.
Then one day for no reason she decided that she was going to drive about 25 minutes away. So we went over the hill, down, then across the motorway and we landed at this house.
This is the house that you will like the most, she said to us. We walked in, everything was perfect. All the taps were glistening, everything had been redone and refinished. It was just the house that we were looking for.
Except it was about 50% over our budget.
The cool thing about house hunting is that I hate it. And I was not prepared to spend another weekend going around looking at more houses. So we decided 50% more, yes, but we will take it.
What we didn't realize at that point in time was that we weren't buying just a house. We were buying a neighborhood. The house was located near several schools, several supermarkets.
The beach is just five minutes away. And there's every kind of store that you can imagine, whether you want to fix your car, whether you want to buy some bicycle, pretty much anything that you can think of is within a five-minute radius, including, by the way, the local hospital.
And if you're wondering, why am I giving you all these details about how we bought our first house? Well, it's not so much to do with the house itself. It's more so to do with my sense of delight.
Earlier this week I had been listening to a podcast and they talked about a professor and how he decided to write down what delighted him and he was going to keep a record of it for the entire year.
So he'd get out a book and he'd make sure that it was short but he'd write down every single day what delighted him.
And as my mother-in-law went to the hospital last week because of a fall, I realized how lucky we were because we're just five minutes away from the hospital and we can visit her and we could stay as long as we want.
We don't have to fight traffic.
And the only reason I came to this conclusion was because of that podcast. I had been listening to it and I decided I'm going to write down what delights me every single day as well.
And when you start looking for delights, it's so cool because everything in the news is the opposite of that. Nothing in the news has always been the opposite of it, whether you go 100 years ago, 200 years ago, 500 years ago.
There's always misery in the news. And yet delight is completely the opposite of all the news that you've ever read or will ever read. For instance, I was driving the car.
I'd just been to the supermarket and I knew I'd forgotten something. And I'm trying to remember, what did I forget? And I thought, oh yeah, coconut. Two seconds later, on the podcast that I was listening to, they said, “Coconut.”
And that was a sense of delight. And so I started making a list. Washing dishes may do nothing for you, but I love it. I love the hot water running through my fingers.
And I can wash an endless mountain of dishes. Not that we have a mountain of dishes, but I could wash a mountain of dishes just because of hot water.
And here's another example, and this is from our travel to Spain.
When we were in Granada, Spain recently, I had a dessert that had almonds and honey. When serving it, the almonds, and these are crushed almonds, they are at the bottom of the glass and it has honey there.
And then there's yogurt, and then at the top there are almonds and honey. And it brought me so much delight that we wouldn't eat at the restaurant, but I'd go there just for the almonds and the honey and the yogurt.
And we've all grown up knowing that laughter is the best medicine, but we never explored delight. And Robert A. Emmons, a psychologist, led a study about 20 years ago, and they looked at this concept of delight, of gratitude.
Just writing down these moments of delight reduces anxiety.
It helps with depression. And definitely brings down stress to a great extent. Suddenly you are looking forward to writing down what's delightful. And little things make a big difference when you are writing about delight.
I can't tell you how many things I can think of as I go through the day. And the studies show that you don't have to have this delight right through the day. Some people just write it down before they turn on their computer.
Some people just before they go to bed at night. It's a small thing. You have to have a piece of paper, you have to have a pen, and if you can draw, then you can draw a cartoon as well. But that's all it takes.
I mean, even just having a record of all the things that make you happy, that delight you, that itself is a delight. You may never read it again, but if you do, then you're reliving the things that make you happy.
So yes, this is a short podcast, but it's probably a very important one.
You know people who are very stressed out, and you probably are as well. And this sounds bizarre. I mean, why should a piece of paper and a pen make so much of a difference?
Can't you just hold it in your head? Can't you just put it on your computer somewhere? Maybe in Evernote or something like that? No, that's not what's recommended. Somehow that piece of paper and that pen makes a difference to your life.
So that's the one thing that you can do today.
You can open a book, maybe an old book, or just keep a notepad and then write one little thing that delights you. Maybe it'll take just a few minutes or maybe a few seconds or maybe you'll decide you want to write a paragraph or two.
But do it for a week. Do it for a couple of weeks and see how you look forward to all of that. Just writing things down every day and how it dramatically changes your life because it will change your life.
Renuka does it as well and so do I every day. And you have to have that piece of paper in front of your desk or wherever you're going to sit down. Otherwise it's not going to happen.
You're not going to suddenly remember, “Oh wait, I have to do this.” There has to be some point where you can just sit down and do it. And that's when you write down all the things that delight you.