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The Benefits of Different

The Benefits of Different

A couple of weeks ago, we had a bout of rain and cold that lasted for what felt like forever. It was a surprise after a season of drought and seemed far too abrupt a transition from summer.

What surprised me even more, though, was how low I felt during that time. I hadn’t emotionally battened down my hatches yet for the colder weather, perpetual gray skies, and having to stay shut away.

That’s when I realized it—this summer, more than most, I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors…which is not my usual preference. And yet, intuitively, I realized that being outside was what I needed to feel better.


After the deluge, I took the opportunity to rent a bike downtown from Bcycle and spent a couple hours exploring streets and blocks of the city I didn’t even know existed. I chatted with people at the park, worked my legs and lungs going up hills, and enjoyed the warm sunshine. The escape from everyday activity was a breath of fresh air that helped lift my spirits. The experience solidified for me that in order to make it this winter, I’ll need to do things that break with routine to combat that low-grade depression that comes on during the winter months.

Humans feed on habit, both good and bad. Our brain prefers habit because its less taxing to mentally process. No planning, no weighing options, just familiar action.

And when we diverge from habit, it requires more mental energy and disrupts the usual channels of thought. Doing something different, even something small, can jostle our attention, however—usually in a good way—and, thus, shift our mood.

You may not be able to decipher the “why” of a low mood, but by taking a little action you can help counter it. Particularly as we slide into the fall weather, if you struggle with winter, prepare your plan now for 2020/2021 to combat the cold weather doldrums.


I’ve come up with a short list of things to do that break with my usual winter behavior to force myself into something fresh or new anytime I try to become too insular. See what you would add to this list, too:

  • Take daily short winter walks: It goes against my grain to head outside, but this autumn I’ll dress warm and give it a try more often.
  • Take video of yourself doing something healthy and share it: My daughter Alexandra provided this idea, and I’ve enjoyed and found it useful. Video yourself doing your daily exercise commitment and share it at high speed with your accountability partners. Not only does this keep you on your toes, but it’s fun—and downright silly.
  • Walk someone’s dog: We personally can’t have a dog in our home due to allergies, but it is comforting to pet a pup. Ask to share a friend’s dog now and then and help out with taking it for a walk if they’re game.
  • Actively try something you’ve not tried or done…ever! For me, this will be snow shoeing and ice skating. What have you never, ever tried before that is simple and small enough to do without a huge purchase or commitment? Go for it.
  • Spend time saying kind things: Social media gets a bad rap, and for good reason. But lately I’ve gone out of my way to find positive content and leave positive comments. It means so much more to someone who shares if you engage with something kind in response, and I’ve noted the lift in my mood by making that my focus on social media.
  • Take a class: This is especially useful to shift your thinking if you pick something you know little to nothing about, so select a subject that challenges your usual interests.
  • Volunteer: Look for ways to give to others that are different than your typical channels. Volunteer Match is a source to check out. I’ve joined my neighborhood association (after living in my neighborhood for 30 years, mind you) this past year and have truly enjoy the time working with others.


We have so many examples of human misbehavior and misfortune in the news these days. As humans, it seems productive to acknowledge our capacity to do terrible things to each other. But at the same time, we have plenty of examples of humans doing good and extraordinary things. How can we tap into positive examples to inspire our capacity for good?

We’ve started a focus at Storied Gifts on History Heroes. We will be identifying those from our past, particularly lesser-known individuals, who exhibited admirable qualities and achieved worthwhile endeavors.

Our first history hero is Bessie Coleman, the legendary aviatrix. She was the first African American female pilot of the 20th century. You can find out more about her story and accomplishments here.

Our resident artist David Borzo has created the initial piece of art in a series we are calling #historyherocutouts. You can download her here, and place her on display to help you channel your tenacity.

What do you do to lift your spirits? Please share your ideas.

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