Whew! August has been a whirlwind. I’m sure I’m the only one who has had a month that just flew by with seemingly little to show for it…right? Oh, wait…you know what I’m talking about?

Sometimes it is hard to tell if we are expecting too much from ourselves, or if we really let the whole ball drop. The entire ball, you know? Not just like…part of a ball. Anyway. Family obligations, household duties, civic and social requirements, and so many other things can chip away at our days until POOF…a month has gone by. Now, that’s not to say that we didn’t do important and valuable things. This isn’t a time to beat ourselves up for not accomplishing GREAT THINGS. Rather, let’s calmly and compassionately look at how our time was spent, how we feel we should have spent the time (careful here), and what tone we’d like to set for the next month.

Start off with a glance at your calendar for the past month. I’m sure you’re all super organized and each and every thing you did is accounted for on your calendar in an organized fashion. What? You mean that you spent most of your time on things not listed on the “grand register of important things?” Me, too. So Self-Compassion Step One is to realize that and to give yourself a pat on the back for working so hard. Yay, you! You fed the family, did the job, made the beds, walked the dogs, called the relatives, did the volunteer thing, and still managed to keep going. That’s a lot! That’s also why you are tired and feel like you can’t recall what you actually DID last month.

So, what SHOULD you have done in order to feel better? Caution: self-judgment imminent. Let’s replace “should” with “may have” instead. What may you have done that would have left you invigorated and satisfied rather than exhausted and stressed? Have you been meaning to visit that state park, or read that book, or get together with friends you haven’t seen in a while? Is there a creative project languishing in your basement or studio because you just can’t seem to get to it? Identify the inspiring things that come to mind. These are your real “may haves,” and they are just as important as any “shoulds” you can come up with. Like painting the garage, or re-grouting the bathroom. Ugh. Why make time for ughs without also making time for yays?

Next is the toughest one, but also the bestest. What are you going to do with next month? Yes! This will be fun, I mean it! When you look back on September (or whatever month it is when you read this), how do you want to feel about it? How about motivated, energized, and joyful? It isn’t that hard to achieve, and you don’t have to give up your job, let dishes pile up, or spend every day in your pajamas (but you may). Try this fun exercise, just for this month. If you like it, keep doing it and if not, well gimme a shout and we’ll find another way.

Step One: write down five things that bring you joy or boost your self-image and post them someplace you’ll see them every day, throughout the day. This is your Merriment Menu. Make it appealing: use pictures, or colors, or something that makes you want to look at it every day.

Step Two: choose one item from the Merriment Menu each day and “nibble” on it (do it!). Sometimes you’ll reach the end of the day without the nibble, so just make sure to do it the next day instead. This is supposed to be fun, not stressful! You can do more than one a day, too…that’s the idea.

Step Three: when you have nibbled all the items at the end of the week, notice which ones you liked best. Add those to the list for week two, dropping any that you never felt like doing. Add new ones until you have another five for the week, and repeat Step Two. Do this each week for the rest of the month.

Before you know it, you will have made joy a regular part of your life and you won’t feel like a hamster endlessly spinning in its wheel. So don’t wait – make your Merriment Menu now and tell me how it’s going this month. I’ll do the same!