The other night as my daughter Zoey showered (because, as she says, baths are so last year), I stood in the laundry room, surrounded by a pile of laundry. It had somehow missed the memo that learning to fold itself would be greatly appreciated; though in its defense, if I remember correctly, it had been washed and dried twice prior to me finally getting around to pulling it out of the dryer, so it was most likely tired from all that work…
And like that laundry, I, too, was tired. I was tired from a day of dropping off and picking up and sitting in traffic, of meetings and deadlines, of cooking and cleaning and dishes, and from the knowledge that after I put Zoey to bed, there would still be more work to do.
Down the hallway, I could hear the sound of Zoey’s soft, lilting voice. She was singing a song I wasn’t familiar with, and given the nonsensical lyrics the song contained, I was pretty sure she was making it up as she went along. Smiling, I began tackling the clothes, towels, and sheets.
As I folded a towel, the combination of the running water, the softness of the fabric, and the sound of childhood brought back a flood of distant memories: laying in my nightly bath, submerged in a sea of bubbles, the tips of my knees the only skin in sight. The wrinkles that would take over my fingertips, how the water would cool down enough that I’d finally get out, and the way my mom would be there with a freshly warmed up towel open wide.
“Mom! How much longer do I have?”
Zoey’s question snapped me back to the present, and as I stood there in my laundry room now, I couldn’t believe I had forgotten such a nostalgic part of of my childhood. But the memory gave me an idea, because I realized that the reason I’d loved those moments as a child was because I had been able to share them with someone else.
“Three minutes, Z!” I called back, tossing one of the towels I’d just folded back into the dryer and turning it on. The gentle rumble of the machine provided the perfect baseline to Zoey’s silly song that was still dancing its way toward me.
I pulled out the towel and walked down the hall as I heard the water turn off. Zoey stepped out and into the towel I offerered, her eyes lighting up in surprise at the unexpected warmth. I wrapped her up, sat down, and pulled her onto my lap.
“It’s so warm,” she whispered into my collarbone. And then a phrase I love hearing: “I’m so happy right now.”
Her happiness was contagious, but I couldn’t tell if I was happy and warm from the heat that radiated from her body or from the light of her smile. Zoey snuggled up closer, her bones fitting perfectly against my own. I bowed my head over hers, letting her warm, wet, fresh, clean locks tickle my cheeks. And then, although a thousand other things needed to be done, we sat there on the floor of the bathroom, basking in the gift of the warmth we shared.
* * *
If you’ve been following my Everyday Nostalgia journey, you may know that each month I’ve focused on a different theme to help you incorporate nostalgia into your everyday lives to create better days today. January was all about New Beginnings. February is all about Warmth. And that nostalgia-induced moment Zoey and I shared together the other night inspired the message behind today’s post: 10 simple ways to spread warmth and love around you. Most of these basic gestures, thoughts, and values we learned as children. And while we still probably put many of these into practice in our adult lives, it’s always good to have some reminders every now and then.
1) Be kind.
One of the easiest ways to spread warmth to others is to practice kindness. Even if you don’t feel like being kind, be kind in your thoughts, words, and deeds. Our world has too much hate, too much anger, too much self-centered apathy; we are the only ones who can change that.
Despite all the forwarded emails and greeting cards that suggest otherwise, it takes one more muscle to smile than it does to frown. But here at the Nostalgia Diaries, we’ve never shyed away from a little extra work. Science schmience, we say. Because the benefits of smiling far outweigh those of frowning (I mean, are there any benefits to frowning? Doubtful.)
3) Give someone your full attention.
Think about the last time you gave someone your undivided attention. No, no, not just part of it, or even most of it, but all of it. Our lives are filled with so many distractions — work, technology, chores, other obligations pulling us in all different directions — that it takes extra effort to really give someone all of your focus. But it’s so worth it. Put down your phone, step away from your email, and sit down for a minute with someone and ask, “How are you? What’s going on in your world?”
My favorite time to do this with my daughter is at the dinner table. The act of eating and being anchored to that table makes it hard to do anything else other than listen, and it’s always surprising to me just how much she opens up when she knows I’m really paying attention to what she has to say. I love that by focusing on her, we are able to connect on a deeper, more meaningful level. And during that process, I get to learn more and more amazing things about her and who she is becoming.
4) Make your thoughts good ones.
Your thoughts become your words and actions, so be aware of them. You can spread positivity or negativity — it’s your choice, so choose wisely.
5) Be complimentary.
Even the simplest of compliments can change the course of someone’s day. Regardless of what you say, when you give someone a compliment, what they really hear is: I see you. And being noticed always makes everyone feel good about themselves.
6) Create rituals and traditions.
A few months back, I wrote a post all about how rituals can help spread love. Establishing rituals and traditions can help give our lives meaning, allow us to deepen our relationships with one another, connect us to our past, and provide our days with stability and order.
7) Give more hugs.
The other day as I was leaving work, I ran into one of my friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I impulsively gave her a hug as I walked by, and the unexpected gesture made us both smile.
Perhaps we sometimes forget just how powerful a hug can be, regardless of whether it is shared between couples, family, or friends. When I walk into my daughter’s school to pick her up after having not seen her for a few days, I’m always filled with the sweet anticipation of wrapping my arms around her as an easy way to say, I’ve missed you. And without fail, I’m only about five steps into the building before I hear her footsteps running toward me, her arms outstretched, the promise of that hug warming her little soul, too.
So open your arms and pull someone in close today. That hug has the potential to change your life.
8) Use your words.
I understand you.
I believe in you.
I trust you.
I love you.
Words are powerful. Use them lovingly, and use them often.
9) Be generous.
You know how the act of giving a gift feels just as good as receiving one? Giving to others benefits you, too. So be generous with your time, your words, your charity, your hugs, your attention, your kindness, your smile, your everything. It feels good — I promise.
10) Make your home warm, comfortable, and inviting.
I know what you’re thinking: how can making my own home warm make others warm? Well, when you’re happier at home, you’re more likely to be more patient and compassionate with other people in your own life. That’s a win – win if I’ve ever heard one. So go on: get cozy. (And get some big, thick towels that are perfect for wrapping up in — preferably warm and fresh out of the dryer, of course.)
* * *
As for Zoey and me, we couldn’t stay on the floor of the bathroom all night, because the night would turn into tomorrow, and that tomorrow held school and work and, well, life, so we finally got up and went about our evening. But the next night, after I turned on the faucet for her shower, a hopeful little request cut through the sound of the spraying water:
“Can you warm up my towel again tonight?”
Of course, my answer was yes, and just like that, a ritual I had once had as a child — a ritual that I shared with my mother — manifested itself in my life today with my daughter. And this ritual — like all the other things that we do in our lives to try to establish deep, meaningful connections with one another — has sparked a warmth in our hearts that only love can create.
So tell us: What are your go-to ways to warm the hearts of your friends and loved ones? And what can you do today that spreads warmth and love just a little bit more? Because a little more love and a little more warmth always makes everything better. I think everyone else would agree — especially Zoey.
Week 6 Suggested Reading
In Love As a Way of Life, relationship expert Gary Chapman (bestselling author of The Five Love Languages) shows how genuine love can change your life and the lives of others. He shows how the seven traits of love–kindness, patience, forgiveness, courtesy, humility, generosity, and honesty–work together to transform your interactions with others. Chapman offers real-life stories, self-assessments, and practical exercises to help you live out authentic love, which leads to success in all areas of your life.
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Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.