In Grow your Luck, I talked about the idea that you can affect your own luck by taking certain actions that make you more likely to find and grasp opportunities. I said I’d give you some practical ways to do this. So, here they are, three more of the 52 Ways to Wellbeing and all ways in which you can make good things happen and look forward with optimism – not vacuous positivity, but realistic optimism.
#18 Sow Seeds
Gardening is one of my favourite hobbies but I realise not everyone enjoys it and not everyone has the space for a garden. But everyone can grow seeds! Some seeds can be grown in pots or trays on a windowsill or balcony or outside a back door.
What’s the point? Psychologically, sowing seeds and nurturing them has benefits because it allows us to create something; it makes us focus on the tiny delicate act of sowing seeds for a few minutes and it gives us something to look forward to. Seeds are, basically, magic: a tiny object grows into something spectacular. I’m constantly amazed by how seeds vary, whether tiny flat paper-like pepper or chilli seeds or robust spheres of coriander or big courgette plates or even bigger beans. How one small dried pea can produce dozens of gorgeous vibrant pods, each with up to ten or twelve perfect juicy, crunchy peas that you can eat from the pod.
Sowing seeds is easy, cheap and takes a few minutes. All you need to do is follow the instructions on the packet and then keep them sufficiently watered. The instructions will say whether they need to be indoors or outdoors and whether the time of year is important, as it sometimes is. If you are doing pots or tray on a windowsill or maybe planting them out in a small yard or garden later, consider any of these:
- rocket, any herbs, mixed salad leaves
- tomatoes (eventually each plant will need its own large pot so don’t do too many and do select a variety that does well in a small space – the packet should say)
- a chilli plant
- mustard and cress – these grow in just a few days and you don’t even need soil
- microgreens – lots of veg can be microgreens, which just means that you eat them before they grow beyond the seedling stage: broccoli, lettuce, rocket, sprouting beans, coriander
#19 Go on an Adventure
Opportunities rarely come to people who spend all day at home and never go anywhere, or people who never do anything new or bold, or people who think they can’t do things so they won’t try. Luck and success follow the risk-takers, the adventurers in life. Worried you might not enjoy something? How will you know till you try? Worried you won’t be good at it? But you might be! And you might want to do it again. You might meet someone, make a new friendship, have a new idea, feel good about yourself, become fitter.
So, get out there and have an adventure, on your own or with others. Try geo-caching or a new sport – check out your local library for ideas. Go for a long cycle or a long walk – plan it properly, with sensible precautions and let adults know what you’re doing. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Suggest a camping expedition with your family or friends. Or any of the many adventure places that there are around the country – monkey trails, escapology, climbing, cross-country.
#20 Learn a new skill
I recently learnt to run. OK, I know, everyone can run – you just put one leg in front of the other a bit faster. But “being a runner” is about learning to run far enough without stopping and without dying in the process. It’s about becoming better at it and fitter and being able to run further. There are skills and techniques involved. You have to build it up. (I’m going to write about this another time, as it’s been a revelation for me. Life-changing.)
I’m also learning to cycle. Again, OK, I know I can already cycle – most people can. But I haven’t cycled since I was a student and believe me: things have changed since then. There are now more than three gears! YES! I KNOW! And there’s a whole new language (and things to buy – unlike running, cycling is not a cheap hobby…)
Learning to do new things is brilliant for well-being. It wakes us up. It exercises different parts of the brain. (And body. Ouch – cycle seats are not comfortable. But padded cycle shorts… Wahhhhh.)
And it’s hugely satisfying. It makes us feel good about ourselves: I’m 56 and now I can run, which I couldn’t do when I was 55. And now I know what disc brakes and gravel bikes are and I have a neon green jacket. And padded shorts.
Learning new skills brings us more chances of success and of luck coming our way. In the case of running and cycling, I’m increasing my physical fitness as well as mental health and that makes me better at working and functioning and it gives me energy. It is likely to make me better able to do what I want to do.
Lucky? Well, of course I’m lucky to have the necessary limbs and health to even start this. I know. I have several friends who are physically prevented from running and I have a cycling friend who is now forced to stop. That’s unlucky, I know. But what I’m saying is that there are choices for all of us – not the same ones for all of us but choices all the same – and grasping opportunities, whether sowing seeds, going on an adventure or learning a new skill, is what helps keep us alive and learning and well. Those things help us control our own luck.
They are genuinely Ways to Well-being.
Positively Teenage is published on May 24th. It has many ways to well-being, aimed at teenagers but most of them applicable to all. Keep an eye out for news later this week of a fab competition for schools and lots of giveaways.