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Have you ever noticed that when you are busy on a project, your mind is relaxed and happy as you get it done?
Human beings are hard-wired for taking action and getting things done.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Our survival as a society depends on the actions of lots of different people. Everyone does their part and everything runs smoothly. It only makes sense then that our minds are programmed to reward us when we satisfactorily complete something.
You’ve seen this in action in your own life.
You feel proud, accomplished, and happy when you wrap up a big work project, or finish reorganizing your closet. We reward these accomplishments because we are acknowledging that we have done something worthwhile. It might be a celebratory dinner and drinks with coworkers or the simple satisfaction that has you standing and smiling at the neatly arranged clothing on perfectly lined up hangers.
It’s a great feeling and it’s what drives us to get things done on a regular basis. It’s motivation to get to work and take action.
On the other hand, when we don’t have anything meaningful to do and we don’t feel like we’re contributing anything, we get depressed. People who don’t have a fulfilling job, or feel like the work they do is useless, are much more likely to feel down, tired, sad, and depressed.
When we empty nesters see our children off to their new lives, a very big part of what held meaning for us ends. We are still parents, but we are parents who are not doing anything meaningful for our children. Or at least it seems that way.
The best way to turn that around is to find something, anything we can do to make us feel productive.
If we feel like we’re contributing to others and having a positive impact on their lives, all the better.
The next time you feel down, force yourself to do one little productive thing.
Go clean the bathroom, organize your book shelf, or do a load of laundry. Then use the accomplishment from that to motivate yourself to get something else done.
Keep building on it, and before you know it you’ll notice your mood changing for the better
If you want to supercharge this experience, go out and do something productive that helps others.
Go work at a soup kitchen for a couple of hours, or help out at your local animal shelter.
Offer to baby sit for a friend with small children who hasn’t gotten out all week. After all, you have all this parenting experience to share!
Do something that benefits someone else and you’ll feel even better than before.
If you’ve been a stay at home mom, consider setting a goal to find something new and fulfilling to fill your day. We’ll explore possibilities on Plotting A New Course, but ask yourself what you’d have loved to do if you weren’t raising your family? What friend’s career do you envy?
Dream beyond the boring job you may have right now.
Wouldn’t it be great if the hours you spent earning a living each week also contributed to your overall happiness and a feeling of fulfillment?
What can you do this week or this month to work towards this goal?
Dreaming leads to action.
For now, keep volunteering, keep taking action, and do things that make you feel happy and accomplished.