Joy in Action: How to feel better about almost anything


"Sitting around is stressful."

I heard someone say that the other day, and I laughed. Everything stresses people out these days, I thought. But then I gave it a little consideration, and I agreed that few things are as stressful as doing nothing.

Here's an example: Think about the familiar inner debate about whether you can fit in a workout. You know how good you'll feel afterwards. You know how much your body wants it. Needs it.

I know I need a good run when my head starts feeling fuzzy. Thoughts come and go, but there's nothing important going on up there. I know what I could do to make the blurriness go away, but I just don't want to.

It's like trying to find something without my glasses on. I know what I could do to make it better-I know the solution is really simple-but it's somehow too much. I don't want to go get my glasses. I'd rather bump around the world for awhile.

And when I finally break free of that and go do something, there comes the clarity. The drama of it always strikes me. It rushes in like I've opened the drapes.

Once I'm running or biking or doing whatever it is I decide to do, really hard, the sheer joy of movement breaks me out of that fuzzy, stagnant state of mind. I feel the hair flopping on my head. My heartbeat in my face. Something comes in and sweeps out my head, and I look back to the blurry world of 30 minutes before, and I thank
God I found the motivation.

When you get your body moving, you suddenly become clear on what needs to be done. All at once, fresh ideas and a renewed energy and creativity tumble in.
The same thing happens when you get your mind and soul moving.

The antidote to anxiety
We've heard it again and again in the past few weeks. The antidote to anxiety is some kind of action. When we feel scared or worried, we've got to get up and regain control, even if it feels like too much at first. We have to disarm the paralyzing nature of fear by doing something. Anything.

If we can just get moving, we'll find the energy to help those in need. We'll connect to something larger than ourselves, and then we'll tap its energy.

It doesn't have to be a big world-sweeping movement. In Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav says it well: "If you wish the world to become loving and compassionate, become loving and compassionate yourself. If you wish to diminish fear in the world, diminish your own. These are the gifts you can give."

It's simple, but you've got to be the one to get up and deliver the gift. Tell a friend how much you appreciate her. Pray, however you define it. Be kind. Volunteer. (link) Find a problem that you want to help solve, and do an Internet search for ways you can help.

"Don't just sit there like you're getting a perm."
We talk a lot about "baby steps." Each time I hear that phrase I think of my oldest daughter learning to walk. She was so bowlegged that, standing, she looked like she was attempting the splits. Every few steps, she'd topple over and, seconds later, up would come her little bottom and she'd push up with her hands, lean forward and try to keep her feet moving as fast as her head. Her determination was inspiring.

To me, baby steps are about breaking something big into manageable chunks, but it's also about the will to just keep moving, no matter what.
And that brings to mind my high school English teacher, Mrs. Wasserstein. There are two things I remember about her: lots of clumpy black mascara and a writing tip on which I have based a career.

She offered the revolutionary idea that you can erase what you start with. The key is to just get started, and, once you get in the groove, the product is usually pretty good.

She must have gotten along well with my Algebra teacher, who once scrawled on his classroom wall with a red Marks-a-Lot, "Don't just sit there like you're getting a perm. Do something. Even it's wrong."

Granted, he was no Gary Zukav, but there's some wisdom there.

It's the same wisdom Dr. Seuss employs in his description of The Waiting Place:
"for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go,
or the mail to come, or the rain to go…
Everyone is just waiting…
NO!
That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape
All that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing."

How? Take a tip from a tot. Lean your head forward and try to keep up with your feet. That's when you'll discover the joy in action. That's when you'll become joy in action.