Last week our family got hit with the stomach bug, and we all went down like dominoes- first me, then my husband, then our older daughter and even my poor mother who was in town visiting. Somehow my younger daughter and father were spared our misery, but it was not a fun week for the rest of us…or for our washer and dryer for that matter. I especially had impeccable timing with my illness as I got sick on my husband’s birthday. I had originally planned an entire itinerary to celebrate his special day. The girls and I were going to make him breakfast. We booked him a massage, and afterwards we were going to go on a family hike and picnic. And to top it all off, he and I were going to go on a dinner date together. It all sounded like an awesome plan, until I got really sick and couldn’t get out of bed and we had to cancel everything.
As soon as I got sick, my husband immediately went into action mode as Nurse Dad to take care of me and watch the girls all day. And despite the fact that it was his birthday, he didn’t even flinch, had his usual smile on his face and wanted to just make sure that I was okay. As I lay in bed, I thought about how lucky I was that I had such a supportive spouse. I know many spouses are like him, and if the roles were reversed, I would have done exactly the same for him. But just by appreciating him and my family for a few moments, I managed to feel a bit better even as I lay in agony.
During that moment of awareness, I realized that I had an opportunity to talk to my older daughter who was crying earlier because we could no longer participate in any of our originally planned birthday activities for her father. I told her I was sorry I was so sick but how grateful I was that my family had stopped in their tracks to take care of me and how kind that was. And then we brainstormed on ways we could still make her father’s birthday special that day. My girls decided that since their father missed his massage that they could give him a massage at home. They laid out blankets, put flowers next to the blankets and gave their dad a special back rub. They also drew homemade birthday cards, and the three of them went out for a daddy-daughter picnic lunch. And what started off as a miserable day was a little less miserable for all of us.
Often times it’s just having perspective about kindness or the good stuff that can shift how we view our connections to others and how we view our situations, even the super crummy ones. That’s why things like the Family Kindness Jar can be such a powerful teaching tool to build awareness, as it’s a deliberate reminder of small kind acts that happen organically throughout our day. And just bringing awareness to these unsolicited kind deeds can become a #WeeklyKindnessProject in and of itself.
Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, has done research on how to wire our brains for happiness, and he states that “People don’t recognize the hidden power of everyday experiences. We’re surrounded by opportunities — 10 seconds here or 20 seconds there — to just register useful experiences and learn from them. People don’t do that when they could.” Hanson says that we tend to fixate on the negative stuff and instead if we paid attention to the tiny, joyful moments that we would have a “sense of being filled up already inside, or already feeling safe inside, or already feeling loved and liked and respected.” Over time, as we focus and take in our positive experiences with greater frequency, we can literally “hardwire happiness” into our brains.
Now if only recognizing kindness or the positive moments could help prevent the spread of stomach bugs from one family member to another…wouldn’t that be amazing?! 🙂