I love to search for life lessons, especially lessons in wellbeing. We are meant to be healthy and well, to create a quality life and live it to its fullest, moment by moment. However, life is busy and stressful and full of challenges big and small. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the downs of life and forget that we can climb up and enjoy the peaks. That’s why it’s important to seize our moments and intentionally create calm and joy amidst the busyness.
I was doing precisely this recently—taking a break from work and simply watching the fish and frog in my aquarium—when my frog so graciously taught me eight lighthearted yet profound life lessons. (Okay, he reminded me of things that I knew already but are very easy to lose sight of in the daily chaos.) In the spirit of compassion and giving, I offer them to you.
Being Mindfully Present, Letting Go of Thoughts
First, I feel compelled to explain that I was truly taking an intentional break and spending it mindfully. I wasn’t trying to come up with life lessons in that moment or attempting to control my thoughts at all but was relaxed and immersed in the joy of watching darting fish, letting anxious and stressful thoughts come and go without getting hooked on them. (My rule around my aquarium is for the sake of the fish and for human viewers: No Hooks Allowed.)
In the moment, I just happened to notice and then pay attention to my frog, who happened to be playful. I realized that, if we “listen” to the world around us with open mind and heart, we can learn a great deal to help us thrive in our own daily lives.
My small aquatic frog had this to tell me that day.
8 Lessons in Wellbeing I Gleaned While Frog-Watching
- Enjoy bubbles (BREATHE!). My frog loves the aerator in the tank. It continually blows a wall of bubbles that he enjoys. Playing with bubbles can be a silly little indulgence for people, too—kids and adults alike. For us, blowing bubbles requires us to breathe properly. The more deeply and slowly we inhale and exhale, the bigger and more plentiful the bubbles. Deep breathing calms the sympathetic nervous system (the “fight-or-flight” one) and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” one).
- Play. Don’t just blow bubbles. Play in them. Dance, jump, twirl, or swim up and down like the frog did repeatedly and to my amusement.
- Disregard distractions. Focus on each moment and give your full attention to what you’re doing. That frog refused to be bothered by the other fish that continued to swim in his space and even poke him. Unflappable, he just kept doing what he was doing. We could all learn from that!
- Stay hydrated. Okay, here the frog didn’t have a choice. He’s an aquatic frog and doesn’t go on land. He constantly has water with him by default. It’s still a good lesson. We need to hydrate our brain and body with water to stay physically, cognitively, and emotionally healthy.
- Exercise. Sometimes, my frog can be downright lazy. He spends quite a bit of time sitting on the rocks or hiding in driftwood or plants. However, he diligently exercises every single day. Making time for intentional movement is good not just for frogs but for people, too.
- Let go and float. Humans tend to resist things. We bristle against change and resist being told what to do. We experience conflict in relationships and freqently balk at compromise. Often, we even find it too difficult to take measures to reduce stress. It’s exhausting. After countless minutes playing in the bubbles and swimming back and forth and up and down, the frog just spread out his arms and legs and floated on the current in the aquarium. It was as funny as it was a good lesson that we all need to let go and relax.
- Go with the flow. The frog appeared to be fully engaged in what he was doing, and he simply did his thing. For people, getting lost in an activity is crucial. It gives our thinking minds a break to be fully immersed in something enjoyable. In positive psychology, this is known as a state of flow.
- Be yourself. Moment by moment, be who you are and honor how you need to be. Maybe you want to play. Perhaps you want to let go and float. Maybe you want to plunge into a plant and be upside down for a while. (This is a favorite frog activity, at least for mine.) Whatever you like, boldly and unapologetically do it. Be mindfully you.
I wonder if my frog read my book 101 Ways to Stop Anxiety: Practical Exercises to Find Peace. These lessons in wellbeing are similar to some of the tips in this book for freeing yourself from anxiety’s trap that may be holding you back. He probably didn’t. I think these things come more naturally to aquatic frogs than to people. If you are interested, you can learn more about it on Amazon or your other favorite booksellers.