There is a lot of talk about self care these days. And for good reason. I think as a society we are starting, very slowly, to realize that how important self care is and that “busyness” should not be a badge of honor.
Usually when we think of self care we think of exercise, spa treatments, meditation, sleep, etc. but Deepak asks us to think about where we put our attention. He explains that our creative energy come from joy. So, I asked myself “What brings me joy?” and do more of that. Pretty simple. It’s basically the same principle as The Happiness Project. (Read more on The Happiness Project here www.gretchenrubin.com. I knew I was on the right track. This lesson just reinforced what I already knew I had to continue doing.
It feels really good to value myself enough to make my own happiness a priority. As a mom, I put myself second. For everything. I lost myself so completely during my kids younger years I don’t remember doing anything for myself outside of the occasional trips to the salon. I never pursued my hobbies and interests, I didn’t read as often I as would have liked, I didn’t go out with friends very often and I didn’t volunteer outside of my children’s school. My world was small. It was all for them and that’s perfectly fine. I choose it and I WANTED it. But looking back, I could have stayed home with them and kept my sense of self by pursing some of these other options for myself. Maybe the build up of fear and anxiety wouldn’t have happen or at least not to the extreme that it did. Who knows. Lesson learned. The HARD way.
Are you finding joy in your every day life? Are you pursuing your interests and the things that give you the most joy? Try the following:
Try a Happiness Project! It’s a GREAT way to find and rediscover what you love. I have a series of posts about my Happiness Project. Check it out!
Please comment with your thoughts! Thank you for being here!
My last resolution was bringing back one of my favorite things to do which was reading. Reading had been put on the back burner because of my neck issues. Anytime I sat down to read for more than a few minutes, my neck would flare up. This was extremely depressing. It was one more thing taken from me during this time. And something that gave me so much joy. I knew I had to start slowly, like everything else. My resolution looked like this:
My Quotation: “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy books and that’s kind of the same thing.”
Read in the morning Take my book everywhere Set goals Schedule reading into my calendar
Let me start by saying I’ve ALWAYS loved to read. Since childhood. I went through phases when I read less (my teens and new motherhood for example) but the love was always there. There’s nothing like getting deeply lost in a book. It really made me dislike movies for awhile. You can get so deep into a character’s thoughts, that movies just seemed so superficial. But, I can respect them now as an artform. I’m just very selective about what I see and I tend to lean towards documentaries.
Reading in the morning when it’s quiet and no one else is up is one of the best parts of my day. I have my tea, I run through my phone to make sure nothing major is going on, I meditate and then, I read. Sometimes, that morning reading time is the only chance I get all day to read, other times I can pick up my book again and again. As long as I always read in the morning, I know I will get some reading time in no matter what the day has in store for me.
Having a book with me at all times results in a much better use of my time than scrolling around mindlessly on my phone. For example, I will read when I am waiting at an appointment, sitting at the car wash or just about anywhere. I just throw it into my bag before I leave for wherever I’m going that day.
I set reading goals two ways. I use the Goodreads app to track all of the books I’ve read. I also use it to set my yearly reading goals. My yearly goal for many years was 20. And a lot of times I didn’t hit that. But once I had more specific goals and most importantly stopped watching TV almost altogether, that’s when the real progress came. My yearly goal last year was 50 and I went a little over so this year I set it for 60 and currently I’ve past that goal by 10! Back to TV. Ok, I learned a little something from Laura VanderKam about time management. If you haven’t read her book, I highly recommend it. https://www.amazon.com/dp/159184410X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_RdxXDbKE9CRFTTV is a BIG time killer. All the things we think we don’t have time to do, can probably be done with the elimination of or the scheduling of TV watching. The first thing I did was stop TV as background noise. If I’m doing chores at home, I will have an audio book playing or a podcast. Both of which I enjoy so much more than TV. There ARE shows I do like! I record them, then I schedule time on my calendar once or twice a week to watch them. That’s it. No more hours and hours of whatever is on. My TV watching is PURPOSEFUL. This is a real game changer for time management. It’s allowed me to complete my online health coaching certification without any disruption to my life. It’s also allowed me to write this book! I’ve taken on many, many activities since my second happiness project, and I’m asked all the time how I have the energy and time to do everything I’m doing. And there’s a few reasons. One, of course is scheduling TV watching, two, I’m an Upholder as I’ve said before, so when I decide to do something, I jump in and do it, and three, I’m a planner. I love my calendar and I absolutely love filling it up with all my goals and to-do’s!
The second reading goal I set was new to me in the last year or so. And when I mentioned it to my daughter she said “That’s how we do it in school!” I honestly don’t know where I picked up this tip, but it’s been very helpful in moving my reading along. I don’t set an amount of TIME to read, I set a page number goal. For example, I used to jot down that I would read for 30 minutes or an hour in my calendar for reading. Sometimes I would complete that time and sometimes I wouldn’t. But, when I changed the goal to “read 50 (or 100) pages” I always completed it. It didn’t matter how long it took to complete. When I made this change I started flying through books. Usually, I have a fiction and nonfiction book going at the same time. In addition, I also have a audio book I’m listening to as well. So, together, three books at once. This is how I hit my reading goals. I have an extremely long “to be read” list! And did I mention I work part time in a LIBRARY. Ahhh, surrounded by books that are calling my name and discovering books I may never have seeked out on my own. This is a huge happiness boost!
And my neck has becoming accustom to reading again. I will admit that I no longer have day long marathon reading days, that to be honest, I miss that. But I know that I would pay the price with neck pain if I read for entire day. It’s all about making it work. What I have set up for myself is working and has increased my happiness and that was the goal to start with!
Do you want to read more? Try the following:
Visit your local library. Libraries are WONDERFUL! So many books for you to choose from. Visit your local libraries website for all the ebooks and audio books to choose from. There truly is NO REASON to buy an audio book. I will still buy books if I know I’m going to have that book signed my the author (which I do often). Otherwise, everything else is from the library.
Try reading in the morning before your day gets going. If time is tight in the morning consider waking up 30 minutes early to fit it in.
Set your own personal goals. I’ll go back to Gretchen Rubin here and suggest you know your personality type. That will help you build your habits in the way that will work for your personality.
Let me know how it goes? What are you reading? Thanks for being here!
At this point, one thing was clear. I needed a jumpstart on my spirituality practice. Over the years my practice changed. As a child, I had no practice whatsoever, coming from a home of agnostics. Even that has changed as my parents and our personal journey has evolved. But I’m not here to tell their story, only mine. My husband was raised Catholic. We did not discuss religion much at all when we were dating. I was pretty clear about my agnostic ways, but there was no real discussion there. Until, we were expecting our first child. Suddenly it was very important to my husband that we raise our children Catholic and that I also convert. I agreed to take the classes. I actually found myself drawn to it. Looking back I probably would have been drawn to any spiritual practice at that point just because I was a little starved for it but didn’t realize what I was missing. So, for years we went to our local Catholic Church, enrolled the kids in CCD classes and I joined a playgroup with the moms of the church. There was a lot of good that came out of those years. I certainly needed the moms. As a new mom not knowing many women in my neighborhood (as I was working up until my pregnancy) I needed their help and support. I was the only new mom of the group. I got recommendations on preschools, advice on parenting and the friendship of seeing these women every week for about 2 years. Over time though, my husband and I came to have dissatisfaction with organization as a whole and could no longer stay. We then attended a local Methodist Church for a few years which all of us really liked. I found it VERY welcoming and even joined a ladies bible study. It was at this time that I began a daily spiritual practice of praying everyday, reflecting upon my day and bible readings. Over time, the leadership of that church changed and our kids were much older and slowly, we stopped going altogether. I continued my daily practice for a few years after we stopped attending church service. As I was suffering through all the pain of my situation, I continued this practice but I was craving so much more. With this in mind, I devoted a month to Spiritually.
My Quotation: “Spiritual growth involves giving up the stories of your past so the universe can write a new one.”
Pray Every Day
At the time, that was it. My practice would grow tremendously over time. I would now include my meditation under spirituality because I don’t feel like they should be separated. At the time though, this seemed right.
I feel like prayer comes in a different form for me today. Every morning I start my day with a 10-20 mediation. Sometimes it’s another gratitude practice. Thanking the universe for what I have. Prayer can be my walking meditation in nature or the quiet moments in yoga when everything is coming together and I’m being extremely mindful. These are all spiritual practices to me. I will go much deeper into this later when I began to grow in my journey.
I’m sure you have heard the miraculous changes that occur with a regular gratitude practice. I desperately needed this. When I sit down every night to write my five things I’m grateful for that day, it is nearly impossible to be upset or wallow in my own misery. There are ALWAYS things to be grateful for. Even when things aren’t going well. There is always something. Some days are harder than others to find those things I’ll admit, but they are there. Even if it’s just the beautiful birds at my feeder. I don’t find myself wanting more stuff anymore. That desire is gone. I have plenty. When you start to be grateful for what you have everything shifts.
Do you have a spiritual practice? If you would like to begin I suggest the following. This is not a one size fits all situation. It’s very personal, so do what you feel is best for you. Some things to explore.
Your local church
Daily Gratitude Practice
Please feel free to comment below! Thanks for being here!
I have always been a patron of the arts. As far back as I can remember, I was
and remain an enormous music fan.
I bought my first 45 at 8 years old (yes, I’m showing my age here) and
my love of music and live performances just grew from there. As a child, my parents regularly took
me to museums, foreign and independent films, art exhibits and festivals. These adventures stuck with me through
adulthood. I spend a lot of time
seeking these things out for myself and my family. It wasn’t and isn’t unusual for me to plan an entire trip to
another city just to see an exhibit.
We have done this as a family countless times. I don’t know if my kids will retain this love of the arts I
have. I can only hope!
During the time when I was not functional, all the fun stuff
was off the table. I could not
even entertain the thought of traipsing through a museum or going to a
concert. So, while working on my
happiness project, I thought I need start getting back to doing what I love as
soon as possible.
My Quotation: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls”
Attend live performances
Find a craft I can learn
Listen to music everyday
Seek out exhibits
First up, Attend Live Performances! Well, I certainly have done that! I started with a few concerts and other live events and to be honest sitting in those chairs for hours was brutal on my neck at first. And it was frustrating and depressing. But, I had enjoyed getting out to do what I loved so much that I kept going. And kept getting therapy to get myself through. And eventually, that didn’t happen anymore. It took awhile. Probably 8 months. Now I don’t even think about it, I just go and have a good time. Did you know that people who attend concerts live longer!! Just saying…
Oh, finding a craft was a tough one. I love being crafty, but I’m not exactly good at it. The ladies from my exercise group invited me to an art class to and I thought, “Yay! This is exactly what I’ve been looking to do!” I’m not going to say I created a masterpiece. It was pretty rough. But the experience of doing it made me so happy. That was the first of MANY outings we did together! We have a standing date once a month now. I’m always looking forward to our time together! And for the record I’m still searching for a craft that I enjoy. I tried drawing and sketching, but got bored with it. I do bullet journal and that can be crafty. I’m still on the hunt.
Listening to music everyday came in the form of Spotify. I was an Itunes user until my son explained to me how much music I could have access to with Spotify. He could NOT understand why I was not using Spotify! Once I got used to it I was sold! Now I’m not sure how I did without it! Listening to music is the ultimate distraction. I listen in the car, while I’m cooking or doing laundry. Anytime I can, just because it makes me so HAPPY.
I’m lucky to live near the nation’s capital and you could not ask for a better place to Seek Out Exhibits. There is CONSTANTLY something wonderful to see! Really, it’s just a matter of having the time to get there to see it. I would say I head to the city at least once a month to see an exhibit or a show. DC is just full of museums, most of which are free. I get so excited to see the Arts Preview section of the newspaper every season, sitting down with my cup of tea and circling all the things I want to attend over the next few months! It’s the best!
How about you?
What do you love doing?
Maybe it’s not the arts.
Maybe it’s sporting events, or dog shows, or car shows? Think about what
you love to do and make a plan to do MORE OF IT. I promise it will make you
If you do start seeking out things you love comment
below! I’d love to hear about
After reading Learned Optimism and understanding how to use the ABCDE method to start changing my pessimistic views and to overcome fears, I wanted to continue with this theme and made it my next resolution, which was:
My Quotation: “You
can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.”
Pick a Time of Day to Think
Listen to the Happier Podcast
So, the first action was to problem solve. Not my strong suit. It was rare that I actually would attack a problem going on in my life. I would skirt around it or make small changes but never the big sweeping action steps it would take to actually solve a problem all the way. If you remember, problem solving was part of my “How to Improve Coping Skills” list as well. Here’s more on why problem solving is important. “Work out what you need to do now to get over what is happened to you. Talk to people and think about taking practical steps, such as finding a support group. Sympathy feels good, and sometimes it’s tempting to be a victim and tell people how bad your troubles are, but problem-solving will be more constructive in the long run.” This sounds very much like something a child should have learned. Something I should have learned along the way at some point. But, I did not. I have notes written next to this action that say “budgeting – research in the fall.” Money was at the forefront of my mind. We’ve always had plenty of money. My husband works very hard and is very successful, which we in turn thought the money never ended so we could spend and charge as we please. Not the case. That does catch up with you. I also had MOUNTING medical bills. Thousands of dollars with no end in site. It was incredibly stressful. These notes, were the very first time I ever thought about taking control of our money situation. My son would be leaving for college the next year and there was money put away for him but not enough. And the thought of taking on any additional debt just made my stomach turn. Even though I did not take action on this immediately, I eventually did. I woke up to the fact that we could not continue this path. And I was adamant that no one was going to have debt, not my kids with student loans and not us either. So for the first time in my life I started a budget. I did my research, found a few extremely helpful podcasts such as HerMoney with Jean Chatzky and How to Money. I took it all in, started my budget, attacked the debt, and started seriously saving not just for college for my kids, but for everything that would be coming our way in the next 5 years. I sold a ton of stuff, I cut expenses, but mostly I PAID ATTENTION to where the money was going. I discovered we were wasting money EVERYWHERE. Literally throwing it away. Having a budget, at first, seems restrictive, but it’s not. I’ve never felt so free to spend in my life. Not an ounce of guilt with any purchase, because it’s all accounted for. I’m happy to say we are just about debt free now and the college savings are building.
Until I had this project in writing and actually wrote down my resolution and took action, I would have never started this process. It just would have been another source of stress in my life, which was the LAST thing I needed at the time.
My third action was to Listen to the Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin. When I started this Happiness Project, I started looking into the work Gretchen Rubin had done since I had read the original Happiness Project eight years early. I found she had written several more books! (yay!) and had a weekly podcast (also yay!). I DEVOURED these episodes. I had about two years worth to listen to. So to catch up, I listened whenever I could. So many fun tips and hacks that I will go into more later. But for the most part just having this in podcast in my ear all the time kept some of my priorities in order and kept me on track. I can say the same about the personal finance podcasts. Podcasts are my new favorite thing! I rarely watch tv anymore. Podcasts are where it’s at. Any niche you are into, there is a podcast for it I promise. I’ve learned SO much. I can’t recommend them enough. Also, it’s just so easy to have them on while I’m getting ready in the morning, doing chores around the house or driving.
One more note about becoming an optimist. I just want to share another piece from
Learned Optimism. Here Seligman
provides the case against pessimism:
Pessimism promotes depression.
Pessimism produces inertia rather than activity in the face
Pessimism feels bad subjectively (blue, down, worried,
Pessimism is self-fulfilling. Pessimists don’t persist in the face of challenges, and therefore
fail more frequently – even when success is attainable.
Pessimism is associated with poor physical health.
Even when pessimist are right and things turn out badly,
they still feel worse. Their
explanatory style now converts the predicted setback into a disaster, a
disaster into a catastrophe.
Who would want to live this way? Not me. I decided I never wanted to live like this again. My health was and is my number one priority and this was part of being healthy.
Do you feel like you are a pessimist? Try the following:
Start problem solving.
Pick a time of day to think.
Find a podcast that will keep you on track that align with your goals.
I can’t wait to hear all about your progress! Thanks for being here!
This month was really about habit change. Our environments really do influence our productivity and mood. My favorite Gretchen Rubin quote ever is “Outer order leads to inner calm.” So true. Many people talk about the small act of making a bed having a big impact on their day. We feel it. I certainly do. When did I stop making my bed? And why? It takes almost no time and is incredibly satisfying. I feel like the day is starting off well. One accomplishment done.
When I was stuck in my cycle of pain the last thing I felt like doing was chores around the house. Everything got done, trust me and to an outsider it probably wasn’t noticeable. But I noticed and I didn’t like it. So this month’s resolution would be Improving My Home Life. Which looked like this:
Improving My Home
My Quotation: “Being
organized isn’t about getting rid of everything you own or trying to become a
different person, it’s about living the way you want, but better.”
Never having dishes in the sink makes the entire kitchen look clean and gives me a happiness boost. Maybe you don’t have a lot of dishes being used everyday, but I actually run my dishwasher three times a day. I cook a lot and I have two teenagers who are constantly eating and one who enjoys cooking herself. The dishes get out of control quickly. My goal was to take care of them immediately. Same with the trash. In our house trash needs to be taken down a flight of stairs to go out, so it’s a little inconvenient. I got a little lazy about it. “I’ll take it later” I’d say to myself. And you might be asking why isn’t anyone else in my household doing this chore? Well, to be honest I’m the one that is here most of the time during the day. They are not. It doesn’t make sense to wait around for someone else to do a chore when I can just get it done myself.
And I already talked about making the bed. I love a made bed!! It just screams “I’m ready for the day!” Overall I just needed to get my house back in order after ignoring it for so long. Like I said, it was always clean but just not organized the way it had been in the past and I missed that. The goal here was happiness and the way things were looking around my house was not making me happy. These resolutions were not difficult, but important to my overall happiness. And I’m still working on this all the time. I have a home project notebook that has all my organizing ideas and repairs that need to be done around the house. There is always SOMETHING to improve at home. The other day I decided to redecorate with items I already I have. This is one of my favorite things to do when I get the shopping bug or the urge to do big redecorating. I will move some furniture around, hang pictures or move existing pictures to other parts of the house. Or I’ll rearrange knick-knacks, and bring things out of closets and cabinets to let them see light of day and find a place for them to bring life into our home. It always does the trick for me. When I’m done I stand back and smile.
Are you thinking about decluttering your home? Try the following:
If you don’t already, make your bed every day and see how it
makes you feel.
Keep living areas decluttered by taking care of messes as
they happen. Don’t’
procrastinate! You will be
surprised at how little time this takes.
Another little tip is to listen to an audio book or podcast when doing
these types of chores.
I’d love to hear how your decluttering goes! Please comment below. Thanks for being here!
Needless to say, I was not getting outside much during this time in my life. Taking a walk was out of the question. Even sitting in particular chairs was a problem. I tried to sit out on my patio as much as I could, but where I lived that is not a year round activity. Everything had stopped. I wasn’t able to attend my children’s activities and events for a long while and I was rarely doing anything social with friends or even family. By the time I got to my Happiness Project, I had read enough to know that managing stress was key to good mental and physical health. So, my next monthly resolution would be Get Outside. This would include being in nature and actual people! Did you know that social interaction is a HUGE boost to your longevity? Being disconnected from community is worse for your health than smoking or obesity. It’s a killer in it’s own right. No wonder I was feeling so awful. I was spending a ton of time alone. Doctor visits and seeing my family was the extend of my social time. Up until I started my exercise classes. Those classes were the beginning and I will talk more about that later. To read more about how being outside and social interaction affects our health click here: https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7. The second month of my Happiness Project looked like this:
Resolution: Get Outside
My Quotation: “Be Active, Be Healthy, BeHappy”
Plan Bird Walk
Be a Local Tourist
Attend First Friday
Find Nature Events
Birding was an activity that I discovered when moving to the east coast from California. I was suddenly seeing birds I’d never seen before which got me interested in bird watching. Since we’ve moved here I’ve always had multiple feeders and bird baths. I would take guided bird walks in local parks to see more and different birds. I decided that I wanted to get back to these walks for a couple of reasons. One, I enjoyed them so much when I was doing them, all the different birds, having a guide to help you find said birds and the com-moratory of the group. Second, it would be an opportunity to be in nature. I have to admit I’m still working on this one. I was hesitating for a long time for a couple of reasons. One, the walking, which I have control of now. And two, the concern about looking up for two hours and the affect on my neck. This sounds like an ABCDE moment. I actually feel like this is doable this year!
Being a local tourist is something I’ve ALWAYS loved to do. And living in near the nation’s capital allows me access to SO many activities and things to do. This was an easy one. I’m a planner by nature. I’d just do what I had always done. Look for local events and attractions and go!
Attend my local area’s First Friday event was something I always had penciled in on my calendar but didn’t go. I was fearful of all the walking and what it would do to my back. But I needed to start getting out there, so I did it. My husband and I attended a First Friday event where we visited local galleries, had a light dinner outside, listened to live music and just chatted as we roamed the streets. It was wonderful. A nice, normal evening. Yes, my back and neck flared up some, but it was worth it and I was exposing myself slowly to allowing my brain to realize this was going to be the new normal.
Being in nature was never a priority for me before. Ever. I wasn’t a camper, hiker, or sporty or outdoorsy in any way. But now I realized the power of nature and being outside on my mental health along with the physical, so on the list it went. When I say “Find Nature Events”, that meant anything that took place outside. I went to local fairs and festivals, plant sales, anything I could find that took place outdoors.
Did you ever say no to an invitation without any real reason to? I did this all the time. I am lucky enough to have many friends in this great community I live in and over the years I am positive I said no more than yes to invitations that came my way. Not to say I wasn’t social, but I could have been doing SO MUCH MORE. So, this was a big one, and one that made an impact on my life. I started saying yes to every invitation. I also became that person who actually nails down a day and time when ideas of getting together were floated about. You know how it goes. You are chatting with friends and someone says “we should do that sometime!” or “we should all go to ..fill in the place!” It all sounds great, and then nothing happens. I became the person who would immediately send a text or an email to get the “thing” organized so it would happen. So, with combination of saying yes to what was coming in with being the organizer of the ideas, I suddenly I had a full social life again. And it was GREAT. Saying yes is still an affirmation I use in meditation sometimes. It’s easy for me to slip into “I don’t feel like it.” Even when I’ve made plans with someone and then don’t feel like going, I remember my reasons (my why) and force myself to go. And guess what? I never regret it. It’s always so energizing to be social. I’m learning a lot of these lessons later in life, well, mid-life, but I thank God I’m learning them at all. Life can be so much better.
Would you like to get outside more often? Try the finding local events (a lot of which are free), go for a walk in nature at a local park, and SAY YES to those invites you get!
In one of my previous posts I talked about finding strategies for good mental health. One of them if you remember, was Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself. That really caught my attention and was very different from the other strategies. It went on to say “Get to know who you are, what makes you really happy and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.” This was aha moment for me. Immediately, out of nowhere, I remembered that eight years earlier I had done a Happiness Project after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. I ran to my bookshelf for it and there it was. Just waiting for me. The goal of The Happiness Project is the same as the strategy I was working on. Get to know who you are and what makes you happy! In addition to finding what truly makes you happy the other side of that is to STOP with all the things that other people find fun and you don’t. For me, I don’t find any of the of following fun; Skiing or any cold weather activity, watching sports, and more recently drinking alcohol (gasp!) and going out to eat. One of the big lessons of that book was just because someone else finds something fun doesn’t mean I have to. I don’t let people talk me into things I know I won’t enjoy. That doesn’t mean I don’t try new things. I just am way more in touch with myself. I know now what I consider fun and honestly, I’ve always known, but now I’m being AUTHENTIC. I love going to concerts and music in general, I love reading, cooking, planning, hot sunny weather, fitness and exercise, going to museums, and the arts in general. There’s more but those are the big ones. And guess what, not everyone will find those things fun either and that’s ok. It’s all about knowing what makes you happy and doing that. Years ago, when The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin was first published I jumped right in. I was 39 years old, loved the book and thought “that looks fun”. Fast forward to 2017, I’m 47 years old and a mess and looking at another Happiness Project for completely different reasons. So, this Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself strategy struck a cord immediately. In my wellness notebook I wrote next to it “Consider doing another happiness project?” And that’s what I did.
If you are unfamiliar with the book, I suggest giving it a read whether you choose to do the project or not. You can find it here. https://amzn.to/2LwcApU Basically once you come up with your resolutions, you choose a quote to keep you motivated and then break the resolution down into actions you will do daily or weekly, for the entire month. My first Resolution, which I started in November of 2017 (again, so thankful for my journaling) looked like this:
This Month’s Resolution: Conquer Fears (take control)
My quotation: “Don’t let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen”
Progress with different shoes
Take timed baths
Rebute Fears in Writing (see previous post on ABCDE model)
Get back on my Computer
Taking timed walks and rebuting my fears in writing I’ve talked about already. So, you know where I was headed on those resolutions. Let’s talk about the shoes! Ah, the shoes! I only wore one pair for at least for a year and a half. I’m sure you can guess why! Fear that any other shoes would hurt my back! I couldn’t even wear what you would call regular athletic shoes. All the technology going on in the bed of shoe would throw my neck out of whack. I still don’t wear them. I’ll admit I’m not wearing heels (yet!) but I wear whatever flats I want. This may seem small and trivial to you, but to me it was a REAL fear. I was afraid of more pain. Period. So, retraining my brain was the goal.
For the next few weeks I will continue to post more about my second Happiness Project going month by month. Hope you will join me!
Have you done a Happiness Project? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below! Thanks for being here!
Once I finished reading Explain Pain and saw my story on the pages, I decided I MUST do what it takes to correct this or I will never feel the way I wanted to. I needed to change my mindset and retrain my brain immediately. Four things were clear in the reading I had done. Those four things were:
Work out the threats
Work on mindfulness and coping skills
Let’s start with working out the threats. According to the authors “Fear or
anticipation of pain may be enough to prevent changes in returning to
normal.” Well, at that time I most
certainly had fears over many things and I was avoiding them like the
plague. Here is a my list from
some of the fears listed in the book that were spot on for me:
The seriousness of my situation
Making it worse
Not being able to work
Not being able to look after my parents
So, in addition to my daily pain, I was constantly thinking and worrying about all of the above. This made my brain think I was under threats all the time, which just increased the pain. It’s a truly vicious cycle. To avoid that cycle I needed to do the following:
Confront my fears
Which is what I set out to do. And still do! Most recently I tried a new exercise class. This falls under the “making it worse” category. I used to get so worked up over new movements. For example, after about one year of exercises class at my therapy center, my trainer added a sculpt class using kettle bells. I wanted to do it, but fear took over. I said “I can’t do that. My back and neck will hurt.” My trainer told me to come and just do the exercises without the kettle bells, just to get used to the movement and get over my fear. And that actually worked. Once I did pick up the weights, there were many tears. I would stand in that class, holding my kettle bell with tears of fear coming down my face. But I did it. Over and over again. Until my brain realized there was no threat, and I realized I wasn’t going to hurt myself. The trick is mental. Let me be clear, I DID feel worse initially. But as my trainer explained to me, this was because I was doing something “new” and my body had to get used to it. It took a long time, but she was right. I thank God she came into my life! No doctor or physical therapist ever explained this to me before and it was exactly what I needed to hear. The combination of reading Explain Pain, then practicing it in class was magical. It was like therapy, not for my body, but for my mind. I was truly retraining my brain. And I could see it was working. And I saw it a year or so later when I started Yoga as well, or anytime I do something new. Remembering, it’s new and it’s ok. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Next was Taking Control. For the longest time I would go from doctor, to physical therapist, to massage therapist, to my trainer and would be sent down a hundred different roads. They would contradict each other in their advice. It was incredibly confusing. At some point I had to take control of the situation and listen to my body. I grew up believing doctors knew everything. I did exactly what they told me to the letter. (Upholder behavior again) I never questioned them, ever. This is one of those not so great traits of being an Upholder. I should have asked more questions of those who were helping me. I should have made my own decisions about my care EARLIER instead of sitting around waiting for one of them to magically cure me.
Again, it was my trainer who started to have me think differently. She was not only physically strong, but mentally, and she built me up to be confident in myself and my decision making to a point I never had before. Just one practitioner saying to me “I don’t know why you are feeling that way.” Or, ” I don’t know why you aren’t getting better.” would send me off the deep end of worry. Now I don’t do that anymore. I’m in control. I realize that practitioners don’t know everything. They are making their best guess but ultimately I’M IN CHARGE of my body and health. This is so freeing!! I no longer am fearful of doctors! Because I don’t look at them like the be all end all that I used to. I listen, I think it through, THEN I act.
Moving on to Having Goals. Hey, there’s a concept!! Did you grow up having goals? I didn’t. Never, of any kind whatsoever. Not academically, not personally, not financially. I didn’t understand how life changing having goals can be. Having goals is how we move through life and get what we want. Otherwise everything just happens “to you”. That’s how I lived the first 44 years of my life. So, I made small goals to start (this will be a huge focus for me later on). For now, my first goal was to take short walks without flare ups to my back or neck. I started with 3 minutes. That’s it. Then I added a minute or two until I worked my way up. I now do regular walks of 30-40 minutes without a problem. I recently walked ALL DAY in New York City and I did have a flare up, but after two days it was gone. And to me, that is still a win.
And the fourth was Becoming Mindful and Learning Coping Skills. Two more things I never had done. My trainer asked me if I ever meditated and I said I had not but I’ve been told many times over the years that I should meditate or “do something about your anxiety”. I never did until having this conversation one on one, with someone I completely trusted and knew was in my corner, 100%. I did a quick google search and found the following article that I printed, cut and pasted into my new wellness notebook that I started when I started my privates with my personal trainer. Little did I know what this notebook would be become over the next two years.
I found “Strategies for Good Mental Health Wellness”. The following are coping skills suggested in dealing with stressful situations.
Time to yourself
It was glaringly obvious the ones I needed to work on. Friendship, Humor, Hobbies, Spirituality. All the others needed some tweaking, but those four were non existent at the time. Those were all things I had in my life before all this happen to me, but had let slide.
The second article I found was “Ten Tips for Better Mental Health” by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Richmond, BC. Here’s the ten:
Make time for family and friends
Give and accept support
Create a meaningful budget
Find strength in numbers
Identify and deal with moods
Learn to be at peace with yourself
I had SO MUCH to work on here. All but Accept Compliments and Find Strength in Numbers were areas that needed VAST improvement.
One more list I found on coping skills that was extremely
helpful. Here we go:
Remember it’s you life
Be proud of surviving
Be realistic, not dramatic
Don’t look for blame
Whoa.. Some big aha’s were in this list for me. Most definitely problem solving, be realistic, not dramatic, develop insight and DO SOMETHING. Yes, this was an important list too. And a lot of these skills I would work on after reading yet another book, but I will get to that later. So, I read Explain Pain, I found out what I needed to do to fix what was happening to me and now I had a jumping off place.
When I look at my notebook from this time in my life it’s like looking at another person as I read what I wrote. But I also see how clear it is, that I am where I am today because of it. Here are my first notes and goals I gave myself.
Find volunteer opportunities
Spend more time with parents
Pay attention to spending
Rekindle friendships/make lunch dates
Read every day
Focus on problem solving
Find humor in my situation
Meditate every day
Maybe get back into gardening and cooking
Consider doing another Happiness Project?
All roads lead to Gretchen Rubin! Ha! I had done a Happiness Project probably eight or so years earlier. I thought maybe I’ll do another because this would be the time. This was the beginning. It would be my starting point of everything that would change my life in the next two years. I’m always still working on myself. As I sit here typing I still occasionally think, “is this going to hurt my neck?” Still fighting the “making it worse” threat. But the difference now is I think it, but I do it anyway and guess what? I’m fine. Maybe a little stiff but fine. In my next few posts I will talk about how I did my Happiness Project and the next book that helped me through this time of learning and healing.