October 31, 2010

How to Stop Worrying — Forever

Here’s my one-sentence prescription for how to put an end to worry: Stop living in non-reality and making up stories. Yes, I’m telling you to get present and get over it.

Whenever you worry, you are living in non-existence. And reality is STILL the only place to get a good ice cream cone.

Oh you worry-worts, ever making up horrible tales of the worst that can happen and believing they are true! You create a story about losing everything, and suddenly all you can think about is how horrible it WILL be to lose it all. Yet you’ve lost nothing. All you’ve done is created a cheap two-dimensional matte painting of your fears that wouldn’t even make it in an old C-grade horror film.

When you’re worrying, you’re spending all that time between your ears being afraid of something that does not exist. You have your head planted in the mist. Your feet are where they are and your mind is elsewhere, so your body tenses in response. You experience anxiety and panic disorders. You become ill and suffer from a variety of physical ailments that would disappear if only you would be where your feet are.

Be where your feet are, always. You cannot worry if you are always present. That’s the most practical advice I ever got.

Be where your feet are.

Tall order? Sure it is if you, like me, struggled with worry and anxiety for most of your life. But it’s only a habit, and habits can be changed IF you want to change them badly enough. If I can do it, you can, too.But, hey, they’re your fictions. Live there if you like what’s happening in your life.

Or stop living in non-reality.

Your move.

July 7, 2010

Sometimes Garbage In = Interesting Results

Image (c) Robby Michie

In the world of computing, the old saw goes, “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” or GIGO. Mind you, that’s consistently true for most programs and machines. After all, machines are built to perform specific functions in useful ways. A computer probably wouldn’t be very useful if you gave it a task to do expecting one sort of result but receiving another.

Or would it?

One powerful aspect of creative mind is its ability to make meaningful connections between disparate things. That’s called synectics, in case you were wondering, and it’s something computers cannot do.

Getting Geeky

But I can use a computer to randomize a set of inputs and present certain outputs to me that I can use to synectically create combinations and make crazy jumps into ideas and intuitions that might not otherwise occur to me.

I suppose that’s more “Mikey’s Mixed Bag In = Potentially Cool Things Out” rather than GIGO, but so what?

Here’s something potentially stimulating you can do with semi-sorta-randomized inputs: Grab your digital camera and go out exploring. Take pictures at a whim. Don’t think — snap. Turn off your camera’s auto-focus feature if you can to get some messier shots.

50 Pictures + Your Words = Unlimited Story Combinations

Shoot about 50 pictures. Go home and print the pictures, then cut them up and lay them out in any order you like. Sure, you could create a collage… but why not get your Imp on and make up a story using captions for each image. Once you’ve done that, rearrange them and do it again.

Be amazed at how your mind works. And say thanks to the little computer inside your camera for helping you kick your creativity up a few notches.

May 7, 2010

How to Lose All the Weight You Want

Welcome to a blissfully short and useful post.

The secret to losing all the weight you need to lose is the same secret that will give you a new outlook on life. You will feel better than you have ever felt before. Your mind will be clear and you will find it easy to eliminate negative thought patterns for once and all. You will free yourself from anxiety and depression. You will know peace.

I kid you not.

Why write about losing weight? Because a friend asked about it. The secret to losing weight and keeping it off is no secret. It’s just that people refuse to understand a simple premise:

How you feel and what you think
Arise from what you eat and drink.

I should probably toss something in there about getting off your butt and walking a bit, but I prefer the couplet.

Fact: All you need do to maintain a healthy mind and body is to eat well and walk every day.

What it all boils down to is this: Eliminate sugar and white flour from your diet. In fact, if it’s white, don’t eat it. Then walk for 30 minutes a day. If you’re confined to a wheelchair, wheel yourself around for 30 minutes a day. Seriously.

Don’t give me any of that, “But I love my cookies” stuff. I love ice cream. I could eat it every single day. But I’d feel lousy. Feeling lousy is not one of my top priorities. Granted, I have ice cream every now and then, but I do so realizing that when I wake up the next day feeling crappy, I chose to feel that way.

Hey, maybe you like feeling lousy. Having aches and pains. Struggling with anxiety and depression. If that’s the case, off with you, then. Enjoy. You can help yourself to my share of that pie, too. I’ve been there and am unwilling to go back.

You will find that this weight-loss “secret” works. And it works quickly. You may have withdrawal symptoms for about seven days after quitting the sugar. So what? Isn’t it worth a little temporary discomfort knowing that you can feel wonderful every single day? Thank goodness you don’t have to be perfect at it. Do all that you can do as best you can do it every day. Forget about yesterday’s successes or failures, and pay no attention to tomorrow until it gets here.

Get mindful about choosing what you want from life. That’s the whole point of becoming the Maximum You. Take responsibility for what you want! Pay attention and choose well.

And lose that unwanted weight while you’re at it.

May 4, 2010

Nothing Excites Like Excitement

Yes, well, it is a silly title. But it’s what’s for writing just before bedtime after a long day at a dialogue mapping workshop, and I say stick with it.

Someone I know recently said that he couldn’t think of anything he was passionate about. Let’s get this straight right now: A statement like that is an outright challenge. “Okay,” I said, “you aren’t passionate about anything. Say, what did you do last Saturday?”

“I did a bunch of yard work. I hate yard work.” No surprises there. “It has to be done, I suppose.”

“Sure, I get that. But what did you do after you put all the implements of yardly torture away?”

“I went for a run,” says he.

“Wait. You did a bunch of yard work. Sweated your butt off. And then you went running?”

“”Well, yeah,” says he. “I’m working up to run a half marathon.”

Can you hear my eyebrows raising? I can’t wait to hear the answer to this. “Why in the world would you want to run a half marathon?”

“I like running.”

“Feels good, does it?”

“Yeah. I look forward to it, actually.”

“Oh. I see,” I say, grinning. “You get a little excited about it?”

He grins back. “Yeah, I guess I do.”

So much for mister ain’t-got-nothing-to-be-passionate about.

There’s Bound to Be Something That Gets Your Toes Wiggling

Babies say it all with their toes. Get them tickled and watch those tiny feets and toes wiggle as though they had minds of their own.

Do your toes wiggle when you get excited about something? Okay, sure, guys probably don’t get wiggly toes. It’s a “chick” thing, right? I don’t buy it. When I’m looking forward to something, I sometimes wiggle my toes just because.

I know I’m being silly, but frankly I don’t care. Neither should you, in my opinion. If you can’t be silly now and then, you’ve gotten yourself too bunched up in life.

So I challenge you, right now, to Dueling “Excites Me” lists. That’s right. Get out that pen and paper.

What’s in Your “Excites Me” List?

The fun part of this challenge is how easy it is. You just write the words “My Excites Me List” at the top of a page and have at it.

Here. I’ll have a go at it myself.

My Excites Me List:

Sex. Cigars. Facilitation. Singing. Writing music. Building information spaces. (Yes, I’m a geek. So what?) Dancing with my wife. Seeing my sons. Having a cat in my lap of a cold, early morning. Writing whatever I feel like writing. Helping people solve wicked problems. Silence. Good books. Turning the amplifier to 11. The idea that I can help others. Interesting problems. Getting a good night’s sleep. Sushi. Taking a nice long drive. Taking a nice long walk. Writing this list.

Hey, that feels pretty good.

Enough from me.

You try it. Off with you now. Write that list. Send a copy to me while you’re at it. Who knows — maybe I’ll have to add “reading other people’s Excites Me lists” to my own.

It’s time for a good night’s sleep.

Surely more to come…

April 25, 2010

What To Do When You’re Feeling All Washed Up

Isn’t that an interesting old expression? Being “all washed up” dates from the 1920s, and comes from the action of washing up after a day’s work. Originally used to indicate you were finished with something, it later came to refer to business failure or anything that has become obsolete. (See Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson.)

When I hear someone say, “He’s all washed up,” the first thing that comes to mind is the wreckage washed up on the shore of some remote beach. Disaster struck, the ship broke up against the rocks of a restless sea, and nothing remains but broken masts, scraps of deck wood, and perhaps a partially scorched life preserver with the vessel’s name stenciled in.

Have you ever felt all washed up?

Do you feel that way today? If so, this one’s for you.

Perhaps you’re one of those who lost a job during the most recent recession and has had difficulty finding another. Perhaps you ran a once-successful business that fell on hard times.

The thought that you’re all washed up is only that: A thought. It’s a victim thought, too, the worst sort of thinking there is. When you think victim thoughts you pull your attention into a world of unreality that locks you into the worst possible state.

The state of inaction.

Let’s Play Worst Case

Here’s a worst-case scenario: Let’s say you’ve lost your job or business. In fact, you’ve been having sporadic success for several years. You’ve tried your hand at career or business changes and it’s come to this: You have no 401k. No retirement. Perhaps $300 in checking and a few hundred in savings. You haven’t paid your mortgage in four months and foreclosure is imminent. You’ve been making enough to eat and pay for the bare necessities, but that’s it.

What are you going to do now? Take any job you can? Sure, that’s a reasonable short-term solution. When the boat is taking on water you have to mend the holes first before you can even consider where you want to go. You could certainly pack up and move to a less expensive location, though you must be careful not to relocate to a location with no prospects.

But the big question is this: What actions are you going to take now such that you reverse your own personal recession, clean up the wreckage of the past, and build a life that’s not only worth living, but that has some real excitement and passion in it? That’s not just a big question.

It’s THE big question.

And the answer begins between your ears.

You Are More Resourceful Than You Know

Fact: You are infinitely resourceful. I know this. I have been down and out, have had those dark and ugly thought that come when all seems lost and you’re sitting on a doorstep somewhere with empty pockets, feeling for all the world like a lone tattered soul on a solitary flag pole.

But even in those bleak days, I know I could rise back up.

You can rise back up again, too, because you are more resourceful than you know. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve “lost” your house — you can get another. It doesn’t matter that you have no money — you can get more money. The truth is that if anyone around you now is getting the life they want, then so can you. You are not too stupid or washed up to make it happen, You can create the life you want. You can be above fear. You can enjoy the fruits of a successful job or business once again.

The first step is profound in its simplicity.

Know that you will be able to respond to whatever happens. Know that nothing is out to keep you from getting a break. Not the universe, not God, not other people, not the government, and not the economy. If anyone is getting what he wants from life, you can, too.

I repeat: If anyone is getting what he or she wants from life, you can too. Write that your personal wailing wall and turn it into a mantra. You are the owner of your mind. You therefore do not have to rent space out to any external circumstance, person, place, or thing. In fact, if you do offer that head space up for lease to anything out there, you are performing an act of treachery against yourself.

Faith is not an accident. Faith is the recognition that, no matter what stray thoughts or head weasels may say, you are enough. You can create a better life, and all you have to do is take control of your mindset.

Faith in your ability to respond appropriately is a practice. It’s also a recognition that the Universe wants you to be successful. Life wants more life. Look at the sidewalk. see the grass forcing itself through the cracks? See the bulge in the road where the insistent root of a mighty oak or pine has so worked its will that the pavement couldn’t hold it back.

That’s you, my friend. That. Is. You.

Decide What You Want Right Now

The key in this moment of realization is to decide what you want for your life right now.

When you have been washed up on shore your focus must be on the necessities: Food. Shelter. Clothing. Focus with laser-like intensity on stabilizing your situation.

Surely that’s self-evident. Yet thoughts of despair and of giving up can overwhelm you. I know that from personal experience. Do not be tempted by such thinking. Ask not, “How am I going to survive?” but instead, “How about if I try this, and this, and this?” until you find what works.

See the difference?

It means you take any job you can get. Move to that less expensive location. Disregard all thoughts about what others might think. This is no time to concern yourself with trivialities. Stabilization is your first priority.

But don’t give up on what you do best. Hold onto the work that excites you. Clean off the rust. Hone that special skill or talent until it cuts through every obstacle. Because you will next find the way to put that skill or talent to work for yourself again and with it create the life you truly desire.

In the meantime, do the work needed to reground yourself. Do not accept victimhood. Be faithful to yourself. Know that you are infinitely resourceful. Give more in service than you’re paid in cash. Be bigger than your position. Not bigger between your ears, mind you, but bigger in service. And live simply that you may see clearly the life you want to create.

Once Stable, What’s Next?

It will take 90 to 120 days to stabilize your life. Once stable, you can afford to look ahead into the next 120 days and think about where you want your life to be.

The progression might go like this: Reduce your lifestyle requirements to match your income. Then, once grounded, decide what you want to have and do and be over the coming 120 days. Mindfully calculate the income required to achieve your desires, then persistently work with the image of what you want clear in your mind. Act in the now and let your vision of the next 120 days be the fuel that drives the work.

That image, that “definite purpose,” will inform your actions so long as you work to give more than your present position can hold.

Once again: You are enough. You possess infinite resourcefulness. Practice faith in your resourcefulness today and know that, as you do so, you create the life you truly want.

March 30, 2010

Faith and Changes

Faith. Ask a dozen people about it, you’ll get a dozen different answers. I don’t worry much about faith in the hereafter, unless that hereafter has to do with what I’m doing here, after I’m done typing this blog (going to bed, that’s what). Not that faith in the hereafter is bad or good. It simply takes all my attention to be where my feet are and live the sort of life I believe I should be living. The Creative Moment is within you and without you. That’s as here and now as it gets.

My family and I have been through challenging times these past 24 months. No need to bore you with the details here other than to say oof, wish we hadn’t made the decision to get into an ARM at the same time most of my business was shipped out of the country. We went through the stages of anxiety, depression, grief, and anger, deciding at last to move clear across the country.

What’s happened with me as a result is that I decided to practice having faith in my ability to respond appropriately to whatever happens… and the faith that says in this moment, I’m doing okay… and the faith that, if weeds can sprout so abundantly even in the desert, I probably can, too.

Learning About Having Faith the Hard Way

Is there some other method?

What I’ve been learning about faith in business could fill a book, but I didn’t learn about it from reading one. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are some very good business books out there from which I learned a lot. But I suppose the most valuable lessons I’ve had to learn came about from standing back up every time I fell. Brothers and sisters, I have fallen. A lot. Repeatedly, in fact. I imagine I will fall again. Maybe even soon. The theme that keeps coming up is that in every fall, in every failure, lurks the nucleus of an opportunity to develop greater faith in myself and in what I do best.

Don’t ever abandon what you do best. I know, “Duh, Michael.” But bear with me for a moment, because I did precisely that. I failed to trust the inner voice that was always nudging me, tugging at my shirttails, whispering ,”Hey, pal, over here — if you’d practice a little faith in what you can really do you wouldn’t be worried about paying your mortgage right now.” Trusting myself is what faith is all about for me these days.

How Having Faith Works

There is nothing mystical about faith. Magical thinking isn’t required. In fact, faith works regardless of your spiritual beliefs (or lack of them). That’s what I like about faith. It’s scientific because the results are repeatable.

Here’s how having faith works in my life: I trust without question that I will be able to respond appropriately to whatever happens. I came to believe that I am above fear, and that I can create any lifestyle I choose. Then — and this was the key for me — I acted with complete certainty that this was so. As soon as I took that knew belief and made it my daily practice, accepting it into my system as fact, strange things started happening. They were strange to me, anyway. New consulting and coaching opportunities arose both from networks I’d been a part of for years and from places I could never have predicted. All by themselves.

It’s like a water faucet. When I’m in self-doubt, opportunities just seem to dry up. Tap’s off. When I’m operating in faith, taking action from a determined and purposeful position, opportunities fill me up. Tap’s on.

I’m telling you, I was flabbergasted. Still am. How can this possibly be? I don’t know. It’s far too easy for me to intellectualize this entire process and start that ridiculous self-doubt vibration shuddering down my spine. No thank you. What causes faith to work the way it does? Insert your own explanation here. The explanation for the power of faith in my life is irrelevant to me. All I need to know is that it works.

How crazy is that?

March 17, 2010

Getting Back into the Rhythm of Life

There’s nothing like rhythm in your life to energize and ground you.

Rhythm went missing in my life for awhile recently. It happens to all of us. The only way to get life’s rhythm back is to keep dancing even though you can’t hear the tune.

How did I lose my rhythm? Pretty simple, really. As is the case with many people these days, my wife and I faced some big financial challenges over the past two years. Some of those challenges came from choices we made. Some from an unexpected downturn in my communication consulting business. Certainly there were external circumstances beyond our control, but I prefer to own my situation and take complete responsibility for it.

Someone, in an effort to offer some support, told me that times are hard right now, that life is a struggle, and that I shouldn’t beat myself up too much over our situation. That’s not quite right. Truth is, I started struggling with life. I lost my rhythm.

So what’s a guy to do when he loses his rhythm?

Sometimes the Only Way Through is Paying Attention While You Ride It Out

Have you ever watched a rodeo cowboy ride a bull? I have. The rider settles himself onto a restless, 2000 pound animal and grabs hold of a thick, braided rope. Then the bucking chute opens and the bull charges out into the arena, bucking and kicking for all it’s worth in an enraged attempt to dislodge the man riding on its back. The goal? Stay on that bucking bull for at least eight seconds.

The rider is either thrown off or dismounts more or less under his own power. What amazes me is the way the best riders match the bull’s rhythm, remaining on the massive creature until that eight seconds has lapsed.

Muscles tire. The rider is ever in danger of losing his single-handed grip on the rope. Then the ride is over — but not before he manages to become one with one of the great forces of nature.

Not a rodeo fan? Neither am I. But I appreciate the metaphor.

Life Has Rhythm. Ignore It At Your Peril.

Life has a rhythm we can choose to match or ignore. But every time I let my attention get distracted from that rhythm, I’m thrown to the dirt.

Okay, so if I’m working to the rhythm of life, how do I express myself? What about my own rhythm? Good question. When I’m tuned into life’s rhythm, I’m improvising around the beat. I can sing to it, dance to it, slide, glide, whoop, or play my guitar until my fingers ache.

You have to find your uniqueness and express yourself through it. That’s what I do, anyway, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever found that consistently works. I’ve lost my focus and abandoned my uniqueness more than once in this lifetime, and paid a heavy price as a result. My uniqueness manifests itself in writing, in sharing my experiences with anxiety and depression, and helping people and organizations collaborate to solve high-stakes problems. From time to time I also help people choose and use technology without doing something dumb.

Somehow I got sidetracked again these past couple of years. Yet as soon as I returned to expressing my uniqueness, started dancing my dance and matching the rhythm of life again, something shifted. And though we’re still picking up the pieces — including a move in the next couple of months to who knows where — we’re in a much better position now.

What’s your dance? What makes you unique? Find your dance and shake that money-maker.

Surely more to come…

February 21, 2010

How to Have All the Success You Want

Where would you store 104,445 books?

If you were to purchase every book on success available at Amazon.com right now, that’s how many you’d have. Seems as though success is a pretty hot topic, and why not? Everyone wants success. No surprise, right? After all, you want success for your life.

Of course you do. So I’m going save you the trouble of purchasing 104,445 books and tell you exactly how to have all the success you want.

It starts where you are right now.

Deliver Effective, Purposeful Action  in Service of Others

Well, now, that’s simple enough. Performing that one activity — I call it EPASO for short — from the right perspective will guarantee all the success you can possibly stand. The results of EPASO are far-reaching. When performed from the right perspective, thousands and even millions of people benefit from doing it as effectively and as inoffensively as you possibly can.

So what’s the right perspective all about? The right perspective for success is about knowing what you want for you life, doing what you want in life, and delivering to others what they need to help them get what THEY want. Success is creative, never competitive. Success is large, not small. Success is always seeking alternatives. Success is doing what works.

The right perspective of success is built on personal certainty, the faith that you will be able to respond appropriately to whatever life brings your way.

Know Specifically What You Want for Your Life

Success is knowing specifically what you want from life. If you are vague about what you want, all you’ll receive is vapor. When you can clearly imagine what you want for your life, in every aspect and with ever-increasing detail, you have made the first step toward it.

But imagination is not enough. You must act where you are right now with a certainty of mind that the life you want is coming to you. It’s within your grasp right now. It is as real as the last dime in your pocket. Life is always reaching for greater and fuller expression, so you must honor the natural urge to grow and become all of what you were born to be. Keep always the specific image of what you want in your mind as you go about your day. Then do what you can do as completely and as successfully as possible each day.

As you get specific about what you want for your life, identify the things you want to have, do, and be in your life and calculate the income require to bring what you want to fruition. Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, provides a great way of getting specific about what you want in a process he calls dreamlining. It’s a simple process and an effective focusing agent. In essence: Add up the cost of the things you want and what you need to be and do what you want, then determine the income you must generate to have them. Once you know that number, act in your present situation in such a way that you generate that income.

Easier said than done? Maybe. But my own experience has been that when I focus myself specifically and act with certainty and faith in service of others, remarkable things happen that seem to come out of nowhere. That’s success in life.

Feed Your Mind Well

Never look back at past  mistakes except to extract information about what not to do. When something doesn’t work, add that to your “things that don’t work” database, just as Thomas Edison did. Never beat yourself up for the missteps of your past.

Keep your attention focused on the idea of increase, and act so as to insure increase for all with whom you interact.

Disregard all “news” of a negative or derogatory nature. The fate of celebrities or of someone two cities over is of no importance in your life. Bringing your attention to death and mayhem only feeds a lower vision of life. Be mindful about what you consume. It’s all well and good to know what’s going on in the world, but look always for examples of increase and opportunities to give increase to all.

Never Abandon What You Do Best

Be faithful to what you do best, for when you align what you do best with the purpose to serve you will always enjoy the greatest success. In fact, by keeping the image of what you want and how you want to live clear in your mind as you do what you do best, you find a new freedom and greater energy in your life. Magical thinking is not required. And what’s wonderful about this process is that it works when applied with certainty through EPASO (see above).

Success is simple, perhaps even easy. Success requires consistent faith and gratitude as you act with certainty in what you do best each day. Success in life demands your complete attention and your unwillingness to settle for anything less than what you want from it.

Stop now. Take a long, hard look at your life. Do you have the enjoyment and excitement you want? If you want more from life, then write down the specific details of what you want. See it clearly in your mind’s eye. See yourself living that life NOW. See yourself having, doing, and being what you want. Then bring the attention of your action to bear about helping others get what they want.

You will find the success you desire. No one can keep you from it.

January 30, 2010

The Most Powerful Tool for Overcoming Anxiety and Depression — Ever

Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all. — Norman Vincent Peale

Through years of walking through anxiety attacks and depression, I found a single imperative that always restored my sanity and gave me a new focus for the future. Action was the key. And though, as Peale wrote, any action is better than no action at all, there is one type of action that consistently brings clarity to the mind.

Taking structured, even outrageous purposeful action in service of others.

Outrageous Purposeful Action in Service of Others

There’s a mnemonic posted on my office wall. “OPASO” reminds me to seek ways I can take Outrageous Purposeful Action in Service of Others. Why outrageous? Because it focuses the mind on seeking unique ways to serve others. That word reminds me to go the extra mile, to over-deliver, to serve others with open hand, open mind, and open heart.

For action to be purposeful, it must actually help people get what they want. Not what I think they want, but what helps them get more of what they want from life. How do you make sure you’re taking purposeful action? Start by observing the sorts of problems people struggle with. You will automatically be attracted to the problems you’re best suited to serve. When you identify a need, fill it to the best of your ability. It really is that simple.

Deliver More Value Than You Receive in Every Exchange

Here’s something that works wonders: Over-delivery on your promise in every exchange.

You see, every time you enter into a transaction with a person or business, you’re exchanging value. If you are the provider of a product or service, then that beneficial value exchange is the key to attracting more good business. When you deliver more than someone asks — something of measurably greater value in the planned exchange — you plant the seeds for future growth. That goes true not only for business, but for every interaction you have in this world.

Over-deliver to your spouse. Over-deliver to your children. Over-deliver to your cats. Over-deliver to your friends. And to your enemies. Especially to those you consider your enemies.

“But Michael, Doesn’t That Make Me a Sucker?”

No. Anyone who tells you to do just enough to get by is no doubt barely getting by themselves. Don’t fall into the trap of doing “just enough.” I know of no relationship in which “just enough” has ever worked. I’ve been in a few partnerships over the years, and the ones that failed are the ones in which one of us committed only to doing “just enough.”

“Just enough” doesn’t cut it.

Be one of those who does more than “just enough.” Give more than you receive, and you’ll receive more than you can possibly imagine.

Try it. You have absolutely nothing to lose.

January 17, 2010

Get Dirty, Feel Better: Anxiety and Depression Would Rather Be Superclean

Just getting back into the swing of posting this year, and I came across a mention of dirt that can make people happy.

Yes, gardeners, you’ve always known it was true! No wonder children love getting dirty so much.

An article in the December/January issue of The Economist — “The Joy of Dirt” — mentioned a study at Bristol University showing that certain bacteria found in soil stimulate neurons in the brain that produce serotonin. Dig into the subject a bit further if you like in the Discover Magazine article “Is Dirt the New Prozaz?

Remember the last time you took a good walk? Cast your mind back to your experience of it: Fresh air invigorating the mind and refreshing the skin… the rhythmic motion of every step creating greater blood flow and filling every cell of  your body with goodness. A good walk produces a clarity of thought that’s hardly accessible any other way.

When did you take that last, good walk?

Put a Little Dirt in Your Life

How much time do you spend indoors? Granted, it’s the dead of winter and frigid in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Who wants to get out for a nice stroll when the thermometer drops below freezing? Could our tendency to remain indoors in the winter months contribute to a greater sense of depression simply because we aren’t getting enough dirt in our lives?

Oh, there’s much more to seasonal-affective disorder than lower levels of light. We’re less active overall. We hole up in our dens and offices too much, and we suffer for the lack of activity and interaction with the world. Yes, and our bodies miss the connection with the great outdoors.

Bring a Little Life into Your Home

One little thing you might consider doing this week is to bring a new plant into your home. Pick up some potting soil and a beautiful pot, then get your hands a little dirty and move the plant into that new pot and the fresh soil. Let the dirt get up under your fingernails. Smell that little bit of earthiness and watch your spirits lift.

It’s funny how simple things can cause a shift that puts us into a new and better frame of mind.

Perhaps you’ll even plant the seeds for a new project that grows and bears wonderful fruit against the so-called dead of winter. Marvelous!