5 ways to change your perspective

Yesterday I attended a Quaker meeting in deep-shaded woods. After a stressful week of work and the usual personal woes, it was there on a wooden bench surrounded by the cacophony of forest sounds that the truly important things hit me like a ton of bricks. The knowledge of what really matters is inside all of us all the time, of course, but sometimes the buzzing of daily life drowns these truisms out. It's a luxury to step out of your routine long enough to get some perspective on it, but you don't have to take a trip out of town. Changing your perspective is often a matter of just looking at your life from a different angle. Here are five ideas how to do it:

1. Go outside. There's a community garden a block away from my house. I'm usually rushing by it on my way hither and yon, but when I take even 10 minutes to step inside and sit in the shade of the gazebo, I can feel my lungs fill with green air and my shoulders unfurl. A hike in the woods is great, but for the everyday, how about sitting under a tree, lying down in the grass, or enjoying your own backyard.

2. Take a yoga class. It's probably all the focus on the breath, the chanting, the sitting in silence, but yoga has a powerful ability to make you leave a 90-minute workout with a beatific smile. Go to the style of class that best suits your needs.

3. Remember what's bigger than you. Some people pray, some meditate, some, even though they're not religious, like sitting inside the cool quiet of a church and being filled with awe. Visiting a museum to sit in front of a painting can fill you with a reverence for the mysteries at work in the world. Even a trip to the planetarium can do the trick. The point is to fill yourself with wonder at all you don't know.

4. Help someone else. There's nothing like someone else's problems to give you perspective on your own (this is one reason people are so gaga about reality tv). But how about helping out? Lending a hand to someone who needs it will not only remind you that the lady sitting next to you in traffic is struggling with her own problems, it will likely fill you with a sense of goodness.

5. Read something inspirational. If you're slogging through life's challenges, true stories of tenacity and bravery can give you the oomph you need to keep going. Or how about a book of prayers, meditations, or inspirational quotes? All can help you tune out the din of the "urgency" of the day-to-day and tap into the great wide yonder.

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