Running on Green

Running on Green

Years ago, I wrote a blog by this same title, and I came across my original post as I was cleaning out old files recently. How fun to see one of my original posts! How relevant the topic remains, hence my rewrite today on the same topic.  

I had the pleasure of meeting famed neuropsychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson, and doing some consulting with him in 2011. At that time, I had a few major stressors on my plate, and during one of our meetings, he reflected that I appeared to be depleted. He wondered if I had been “running on red” for too long.  He used a metaphor, derived from engines and driving (ever seen that little indicator on your dash about your engine temperature?) to describe a way of living life. From his perspective, running on green frequently, on yellow occasionally and almost never dipping into the red zone is a way of making sure life doesn’t feel too stressful, and leaves you with enough reserve energy to handle crises when they arise. He reflected that many in our current culture are spending much of their time “running on red,” and encouraged a gentler, easier approach to living a good life. Rather than constant pressure to achieve more, buy more, improve constantly and compete better, he suggested a more balanced version of living: drive without constant push, achievement while simultaneously enjoying what is, care of self without all the competition to do it more or better than others.

At the time Dr. Hanson noticed my depletion, he was spot on. I had been experiencing too much stress and not enough sustained self-care. A vacation was needed, and as luck would have it, I had one scheduled. I had the pleasure of visiting a fellow psychologist and we did an experiment for the week of “running on green.” We had lovely conversations, great connections. We ate fabulous food and walked more than we drove. Reading with cats on our laps happened, a lot. We slept in, disconnected from electronics, saw historical places, explored and had spontaneous fun.  It was truly a great trip.

Coming home, I wanted to bring with some of that green energy with me. Now at home, I tend to have a high level of responsibilities, and a tight schedule. However, I learned from my trip and brought home a few tips to apply, that I have been practicing ever since. I try to leave some blank space in my calendar, say no more often to unnecessary plans and tasks, nourish myself with rest, time with friends, good food, exercise outside and plan in regular fun time. There are sadly no cats in my life, but I have dogs that love to curl up with me when I read. Most importantly, I try to cut myself some slack, and track what zone I’m running in on a regular basis. Mostly green when I’m doing things well, a little yellow at times and, of course, the occasional red zone.  

How are you running? Mostly green or mostly red? How much are you yellow? What can you do to bring yourself back into the green zone? How soon would you like to apply the concept? I hope you can enjoy the benefit and reap the rewards of running on green much, much more often.