Living with joy is a daily effort and it starts with M&M’s. Nope, not the chocolate kind, though those are good too. I’m talking about M&M’s that will feed more than your taste buds – that will nourish your mind, body, and spirit! Think of it as more substantial road food for your journey of life because real joy is possible when you take care of YOU!
To encourage a happy mind, I try to fill it with positive music and mental highs. A mental high is when you feel light, carefree, and hopeful because your thoughts are uplifting. I find it easier to get to this place mentally when I allow myself to slow down and be present with my family and friends. I have to make myself slow down sometimes and squeeze these magic moments in, but as I’ve practiced it’s become easier. Peace can’t be rushed. By making these moments a priority, they become part of the patterns in my life and their positive influence on me becomes more powerful. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it!
A mental high could happen simply by seeing the positive, doing something special with a loved one, finding a problem and solving it, thinking about all the qualities I love about someone, or looking back on everything we’ve made it through. They are my S.M.I.L.E. thoughts which you can learn about here. These special moments are magnified when enjoyed with great music. So, these M&M’s involve singing while we clean, cranking up the tunes when I drive, and keeping a good song in my heart as I spend time with the people I love. Truly, a great song or fun day with friends has done more for me than any counseling session or medication.
To ensure a healthy body, I try to incorporate some movement and nourishing meals each day. I’m not perfect at it, but every little bit helps. Sometimes I dance with my kids or do Pilates while I watch a favorite show. I might go through some sun salutations while I listen to some scriptures or a positive talk. This is something I do to help reduce my anxiety and keep depression away. I also eat fresh fruits and veggies for my snacks and try to do more meatless meals. Again, I’m not perfect but I know every little choice for my physical health makes a big difference for my emotional health.
Sometimes I get discouraged because I’m not as toned or thin as I want to be. But that doesn’t really matter! This isn’t about looking good. It’s about feeling good! And I know when I exercise and eat well, I feel better, think faster, and am more present. It’s a struggle, but it’s important! I’m important! And doing anything else will only lead to my feeling worse, so I might as well try a healthier lifestyle. Truly, movement and meals matter!
Finally, to foster a hopeful spirit I try to make time for meditation and mental breaks. Quiet time – even five minutes – for scripture study, prayer, and pondering can ease my burdens in ways no other activity can. I know it’s hard to make time to do these things, but it’s essential! Even if it’s just a quick silent prayer as I head out of my bedroom to help dress a child, or listening to some scriptures as I make breakfast or run an errand, being consistent in my efforts to connect with what’s sacred is soul-saving.
All that focus and effort can be exhausting too, so it’s just as important to take mental breaks. We’re only human! We can’t be in go-mode all the time. So relax, let go, and take a break from “performance mode.” Whether it’s playing Mario Kart and not caring if my little car drives off the bridge over and over again (that’s really fun, by the way!) or watching a favorite movie with one of our cats, breaks rejuvenate me so I can have the strength to carry the heavier burdens of life. Meditation does the same, just in a different way. Honestly, these M&M’s are probably the easiest to neglect, but I think they’re the most important because they help you be mentally rested so you can enjoy and get through everything else.
So those are my M&M’s: movement, meals, music, mental highs, meditation, and mental breaks. By taking a little time for each, I do a better job of staying upbeat, positive, and hopeful. Sinking and feeling depressed will always be an option, but I don’t have to go there. When I’m worried and want to stress eat some chocolate, I give these M&M’s a go instead (or at least in addition to the morsel kind!) As President Gordon B. Hinckley said, I truly believe that, “Life is meant to enjoyed, not just endured.” Taking care of our wonderful bodies, minds, and spirits will help us all enjoy life to its fullest!