Do Good, Be Good… ?

Christmas is over now for real. Generally, that means we stop giving presents and focus on our New Year’s resolutions. But sometimes a wee bit of ‘giving’ sneaks in to this list of goals that we abandon before February begins – we want to volunteer or be nicer to others to make ourselves feel better.

Instinctively, we frown upon this ‘selfish altruism’. But isn’t altruism always also selfish? Anyone who had biology at school learned that animals show altruistic because ultimately it benefits them (I’m thinking vampire bats and boobies). And even those who don’t believe in evolution¬†and instead call upon God(s) for answers do good in order that they get away pleasantly after death.

So, as you might have guessed, especially if you have been following my Happiness Project, I have a personal reason for all this philosophy: It will be part of my resolution. ‘Doing good’ is a broad field, though. And we all have a different image of what it means. My definition, I must admit, is a bit cloudy. This will not be an obstacle, I have simply narrowed it down, following the example of Gretchen Rubin.

I want to be generous. This is something that, in some situations, comes natural to me. I love to give gifts, I love to share music I love with the people I love, and all that. In other respects, it is harder. Especially when I am in a bad mood, I find it hard to give other people their due and ideally a bit more than that. But, fake it till you make it has always been my strategy, which also coincides with on of Rubin’s truths: Act like it till you feel like it (or something like that). Now I am not aiming to just donate some money and make a tick on my resolutions chart, I want it to make me happier and improve my relationships. As a consequence, I will have to learn to let people in the supermarket go first, listen to my friend when all she talks about is her boyfriend (who is lovely and makes her really happy), stop resenting people for changing and moving on and try to think of what I can do to make the lives of the people around me more pleasant.

As you see, trying to be more generous sounds like an excellent exercise for me to be more empathetic, pleasant and kind. When I call it an exercise, it is really an experiment: Will my conscious effort to be more generous have an effect on my unconscious behaviour?

We shall see.

B x

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Death by Exercise

Today I did an incredibly stupid thing. I went to the gym to do an aerobics class. That is the worst decision I made since signing that gym membership (which easily classifies as the worst choice of the year 2014).

Let me tell you why: I despise exercise, and aerobics is the worst possible kind. I hate everything about it. I hate the sweating, the way you are on constantly on display and the horrible pump up music. Oh, and why do there have to be mirrors everywhere? Apart from this general dislike, I am also astonishingly bad at it. My coordination is a disaster in itself.¬† Even with that walking on one spot that they always do in the beginning I get confused, but as soon as I’m meant to do this with my legs in that direction and that with my arms in this direction, I am completely and utterly lost. Sports in general just tend to make me less attractive: I sweat like crazy and my face, neck and chest adopt a colour that can only be described as ‘cholesterol magenta’ (not my word, science’s – okay, I may not have the copyright for both these last phrases). Not to forget, I also feel physically sick as a result of exercising. These delightful side effects, in case you were wondering, aren’t just a brief sensation. They (the sweat, the magenta, the sickness)just remain calmly in place for the next two to three hours after exercising. How is it possible that half an hour of aerobics leaves me in a worse shape than six shots of tequila?? It is literally my personal incarnation of hell (not sure this metaphor holds up in its full religious context) .

And though I am generally aware of this, I sometimes feel guilt creeping in. For having paid the gym membership without ever going. And for not being one of those people who enjoy movement in general. I would really really like to be someone like that. I’d join a beach volleyball team, I’d go for a run three times a week in fancy running gear, my ponytail swinging from side to side (also, I’d ace games like beer pong and flunky ball*). Anyway, I’m really not that kind of person. I most likely never will be. Also, why should I spend time doing something that makes me feel this miserable? Realizing this gave me the courage to just walk out of there (after dutifully putting back the stepper, the mat, and the various weights and thanking the overly enthusiastic but super lovely instructor, of course). I still feel a tiny bit miserable though. For once, the three hours that my body requires to make my complexions go from the colour of an overripe strawberry to a general face tone aren’t over, and also I know that the desire to be “one of those people” will probably return at least twice annually in the next few years. Who knows, maybe one of those times I’ll realise that Pilates totally is my thing and all this trying will finally be rewarded. Even if not, at least I don’t have to feel guilty about not trying for the time being.

Please, if you have had any related experiences or feelings, do share that in the comments. I could really need some kindred spirits.

B x

*very popular drinking game in Germany, major bonding experience at any festival. Click here to read very amusingly (and accurately) illustrated instructions on how to play it by an American studying in Germany