I think I might have figured something out that’s been a huge mystery to me.
How to be in a good mood
I was folding laundry and as my mind wandered, I realized I wasn’t hating doing the chore. I don’t hate laundry, but in my mind, I am continually assessing and planning and moving on to the next thing while I am doing the current thing. In the absence of my normal pattern, I felt an ease inside. That got my attention.
This year has been a booger. Too many things to list. Let’s just say, I have been scattered and weighed down more times than not. As I arrived in August, I noticed my mood was negative. Again. This is the 4th year I experienced this mind state in August.
I am not happy.
Its summer and its almost my birthday and yet, I am not happy. I’ve done all the “fun” summer stuff and still, I am angry, resentful and irritable.
I had a feeling this was coming. I study patterns for a living and mine are scrutinized daily. However, I denied this could happen again. In January I had grand expectations about routines, boundaries and finally paying attention to priorities. And…things change. Eight months into the year, here I am…really tired. I noticed I was hoping, wishing and strongly desiring for a pattern to change in my life without me doing much to foster it along. I was waiting for something miraculous to happen to me to feel refreshed and happy eight months into the year.
But I am on to myself! I started some serious pattern changes months ago and it is paying off. I just got tired of feeling irritated. And as Elizabeth Gilbert says, “You have to get tired enough of your bullshit for things to change.” Bingo. Every day was an exercise in attempting to corral my emotions, so I didn’t feel jerked around by normal life stuff. I am a therapist for goodness sake. I should know how to surf the waves of life.
See emotions are one thing. Mood is another. Sad is an emotion. Anxious is a mood. Emotions make up your mood. And unattended to, non-processed, calcified emotions will come together in a great recipe for a consistently shitty mood. But it wasn’t that I was ignoring my emotions. Hell, I live in the world of emotions. I can name an emotion and the body sensation accompanying it in a flash. I know myself. Well.
And yet, my emotions were intense. The waves keep coming when a family member has cancer. The waves are big when you lose close friends. The waves are deep when you are mid-career and taking stock of where you have been and where you want to go. The waves are intimate when you sit in a 7-day meditation retreat.
I was tired. But no one was going to lead the charge to change but me.
Could I really take care of myself?
Could I follow through for once?
Could I cut back on trainings to make me feel like a better therapist?
Could I cut back on people pleasing my way through interactions?
Could I really cut back on complaining?
No more podcasts or books or even talking about it! I needed to take action.
I had ever been in a place like that before.
It was my TIPPING POINT.
The UNDERSTANDING and CLARITY of seeing how I create my own suffering.
And the true DESIRE to make change.
I share some ideas with you in the hopes that you will end your suffering sooner than I did. That these ideas will spark something in you to take action. I know you have your own path. Own timing. Own circumstantial factors to work with. Take this with the intent in which it is shared…to say, “Hey! I see you. I am you. I feel ya sister. Here’s some rope to help you get a little further up out of that damn hole! Use it as you wish.”
Vicki’s non-fool proof plan for being in a good mood
Slow the fuck down
Arguably the hardest step. Taken 100 times a day if needed. But we can’t change stuff at warp speed. We can’t even see what we are doing when we are moving so fast.
If you don’t slow down on your own, your body will do it for you. Trust me on this one.
What life is like for you? Not what you want it to be. What it is. Like, in R E A L I T Y.
Who are the players? Friends, family, coworkers, neighbors.
What is your daily schedule like?
If you had a magic wand, what would you have it look like?
Truly and realistically, what is keeping you from creating (albeit slowly) this life?
You are the one putting all that shit on your calendar. You get to decide what you spend your time and energy on. Hard truth for sure
Take inventory of your peeps
Notice the people you hang around.
Who is in your tribe?
Are they supportive of you?
Do they call you?
Are they making you laugh?
Do they tell you the truth?
Do you trust them?
Do they confide in you? Vise versa.
Do you talk to them and see them often enough for you? Is it just a texting relationship?
Do you feel fulfilled after being with them?
People are important to us. They help us navigate our experiences. Without them, we are often rambling around in our own skewed perceptions. Taking inventory of who is around you, whose energy you share, and what you expect and get from being in the relationship…that takes some courage. But the space we share with people is sacred. Notice who you are when you are with people and how you feel around them. If it’s really scary to start cutting people off, don’t. This is just an exercise in taking note of what your relationships are offering you.
Stoke your interests
What lights you up? You might not be great at it at first. Or ever. That is okay.
Our interests make our lives rich and fulfilling. They plug us into to feeling alive. They resource us. And they give us something else besides work to focus on!
Hobbies can be all consuming. In a good way. They allow us to be present and they engage other parts of our brains besides just analyzing and strategizing and planning.
Move your physical body
You’ve heard this before. It’s not a load of crap.
If this is one of the things your magic wand would change in your life, then begin to use your keen intelligence to find some places to move.
Don’t make this hard friend. It’s not.
Say “Enough is enough!”
Maybe this should read, “You Are Enough!” We do so much to distract us from our feelings and to strive to prove we are acceptable.
We have got to stop coming up with extra stuff to improve on.
We are okay. We really are. We might not be great. We might not even be our best self (freaking hate that term). We are just doing our days like every other human. Start looking for ways to give yourself some grace. Some leeway. Some understanding. Perfectionism really isn’t an option for us. We will not get “there”. Wherever that is. But we are HERE NOW. Why not enjoy this moment?
Notice what you consume
Food choices. Yep. Old news here being dusted off to remind you that food contributes to mood. Lots of articles out there now regarding gut health and mood. Go do some research for yourself.
Slow down and stop being on autopilot when you eat. Tune in to what you feel like after you eat your meals. And try not to ignore the data. I love bread, but gluten kills me. My mood is HORRIBLE if I override this data. #nolongerworthit.
This is the fuel you are putting in your machine. It’s not rocket science.
The actual changing of food choice is rocket science. It takes Support. Food is emotional. Shifting food patterns is an intense project. Don’t do it alone. Do it. Just not alone.
Media consumption. Lots of research lately showing the toll our emotional bodies take while on social media. Twitter causes rage. Facebook causes jealousy, comparison and depression and Instagram creates vanity and competition. Just be aware. Take breaks for days and then weeks at a time. It’s an experiment.
Okay, moving on!
When all of this started clicking for me, it was too late. I was so freaking tired and emotionally-mentally drained that I was wrestling with every part of my life. I thought I was doing all the things I needed to do to take care of myself, and yet I was miserable. That is when I realized I was doing too much.
Through podcasts and friends and ranting to myself in my journal, I knew I needed a change. Being at my personal edge tipped me into changing stuff. Instead of going full throttle and multitasking my recovery, I adopted the 12 Step motto One freaking thing at a time. It’s been a two-steps-forward-one-step-back process, but IT IS PAYING OFF.
Here is how it unfolded for me (in case it helps):
I started committing to a meditation practice. 5 days a week. Even for 10 mins.
I started looking at my food as a way of “feeding myself” and not just getting through a meal.
I committed to going to CrossFit twice a week. Now I am a bad ass. Well, kinda.
I started playing drums in a band of talented and gracious women. I love rock ‘n roll!
I finally, after like 20 years of this awful pattern of sleeping later than any sane adult should, began getting up earlier.
I got a massage, went to acupuncture and the chiropractor. You’re welcome physical body!
I went back to therapy.
I set boundaries around work hours and policies. And remind myself of them ALL THE TIME.
I stopped watching the news and following political activists on social media. I stopped Twitter altogether.
I listened to podcasts to enjoy them, not to compare myself and hustle to achieve what the guest had already achieved.
I started watching comedy specials on Netflix. I put myself in a position to laugh.
I traveled with friends to places that I’d always wanted to go. I had a blast.
I filled my mind and heart with inspirational podcasts and YouTube videos.
I worried less about what other people thought of my hair and clothes. (Yes, I am still in junior high.)
I started saying more of what I thought. I started being truthful. And not just in my own head.
I cut way way back on people pleasing.
I let some friends go. I am still grieving the loss. But I released my emotional ties to people that didn’t consider me as much as I did them.
I stopped wishing my family members acted differently. They are who they are. If I want them to give me that luxury, I can practice doing that for them.
I set out to search for my happiness.
I didn’t wait for my outside world to make me happy.
In reflection, what stands out most is I began to be kinder to myself. I wanted to be with me and not run away so much. I wanted to take care of myself in a way that wasn’t a self-improvement project. I started to listen and love myself.
And I realized, as I was folding laundry, that some of these things happened faster than I imagined, but not because I pushed them on myself. They were just ready to step in and take up the space they were always allotted.
And more of them are fledgling habits that will take a while to root. And I am really okay with that. The lightness I feel inside when I do small steps many times is what I am looking for. It’s the inner peace I have craved. I am actually kind of happy for more noticeable moments during my day.
Thank God this is possible.