During quarantine I started to feel bogged down with the monotony of this situation. Wake up... eat… work… exercise…house project 2,534… lol… take care of dogs... clean house... etc...
Changing What I Focus on in this Situation Can Make a Difference in How I Experience it.
See, each of us has two inner trees. One is filled with anxiety, anger, irritability, and sadness. Another tree is full of hope, love, self-compassion, and forgiveness. Whichever tree we focus on is the one that grows, (similar to the Native American wolves metaphor). I often relate to this metaphor during therapy sessions and in my own life.
At first the quarantine created so much more time and space for me to create all the things that I have been wanting to create. I painted a room in my house and landscaped my front yard. Somewhere along the way, I felt exhausted by all this time, space, and projects. I was touching that tree of irritability and anxiety. So I took my own medicine.
Ways to Grow Your Happiness
Mindfulness = Acceptance + Letting go
I cannot change what feelings or thoughts flow through me. This a debate I have with my brother frequently. What I am trying to assert with him is that we can practice being "unattached" or hyper-focused on those thoughts and feelings, while simultaneously practicing not pushing them away. Letting these inner experiences float through us like clouds in the sky is healthy for us. It is a simplified definition of mindfulness.
So every time I felt caught up in my quarantine reality, I would stop and breathe and practice mindfulness. Just know that I am a reluctant participant. I have to struggle for a while to be willing to change my emotional states. My mom calls it strong-willed. I call it hard-headed.
This is another one of my favorite skills because it is so practical and provides step-by-step actions to "let go". ( I will provide steps later.)
We can grow gratitude through a daily practice of focusing on what we are thankful for. Much like mindfulness, this practice is not a way to hold onto positive thoughts or push away negative thoughts. It's a practice focused on noticing.
This is another DBT skill and it basically consists of participating in as many pleasant activities as you can each day.
I know what some of you guys are thinking… this Pollyanna positivism has got to go. I used to think the same way. My friends who were unrealistically positive would always come to mind and I would tell myself, "I am not going to be that way." I am not saying that is necessarily your way, but being willing to be more positive or point out the facts can have an amazing affect on our mental health.
A regular meditation practice teaches us to relax our minds and our bodies at any given moment. Basically we practice meditation so that when we need this skill, we can use it to manage our emotions and stress. Here is an EMDR meditation I like for letting go of feelings. I use one similar to this several times a week to release emotions. I love the concept of letting go.
Do you want to be HAPPY or do you want to be RIGHT?
Another point I bring up in therapy frequently is focusing on which of these is a priority for you. This question floated inside of me for many years and ultimately I chose to be happy. Feeling as though I needed to be right just kept me clinging to the walls of negativity; focused on every mistake, flaw, or unchangeable thing from the past. Choosing to be happy helped me let go.
All of these techniques snowball when used frequently or regularly. I think of it as a positive snowball of love and hope.
Let's take a leap and see what happens.
If you feel you cannot do any of these things you may be blocked from trauma, (big or small), from your past, so I encourage seeing a therapist to move through what is blocking you.