Each day in February, I have posted a pic and some practices (IG: @gottasecond) designed to up your mood, relieve some heaviness, and increase your flourishing.
They are doable (even if exhausted and stressed).
They are informed by research and real life.
They will require a bit of work on your part. Not too much, though. You can handle it.
Do one or 28.
Do what prompts vitality and leave the rest. (But more is probably more.)
Do them as consistently as you can.
Do them by practicing, not by perfecting or performing.
Ready To Begin?
This is the summary for Week 4 of the practices. You can also read through the other weeks on this blog or follow along on:
You know this one, but it bears repeating; stay away from the crap you NEED to gobble or guzzle RIGHT! NOW! If you really, really want that sugary, boozy, or salty thing, find the most nutritionally dense option you can. Everything in moderation, including common pain relievers like alcohol and weed. Sloooowwly eat that ice cream you want to shovel in your hungry belly (or soul or spirit). Be present to what is actually giving you life. If there doesn’t seem to be anything on your ‘love my life’ list, start with things that used to give you pleasure. Look for a spark of the old interest: hobbies, crafts, interests, learning, meet-ups, cooking, art, reading, etc. Practice: Enjoy life; savor life. (Savor means slowing things down to a satisficing or umami level of enjoyment.) Eat and drink to be merry (not numb and sad). Embrace the sensorial delights that are still all around you—with Italian gusto and flourish.
Sometimes all you can do is to just keep working through the day as best you can and then, finally, you get to go to bed. Hopefully, your room is peaceful, dark, comfortable, and cool. If not, make that a priority for tomorrow (sleep hygiene). Good sleep is all about training your brain through rhythms, routines, and calming your body (sleep conditioning). Practices: Manage or eliminate common sleep-blockers such as alcohol, stress, lack of exercise, screens in bed, hunger, etc. If sleep doesn’t come in 30 minutes, get out of bed and do some non-stimmy projects/hobbies so you will feel productive while waiting to get sleepy-tired. Don’t go back to bed until you are tired enough to sleep right away. Repeat this if necessary. If you’re sleeping too much, set an alarm for the same time every morning and get up when it buzzes, regardless of how little sleep you’ve had. Sleep like a baby (same techniques).
Contrary to popular opinion, mindless screen viewing doesn’t actually alleviate a down mood or anxiety. Mindless anything is not that helpful, checking out is not the same as distraction, and “a-musement” (not-thinking-ment) creates mental cavities, not relief from what’s bothering you. If you are to fully live into a healthier life, it will necessarily begin with your full attention and the disruption of what’s not working—by engaging in something else that has meaning, purpose, pleasure, and/or a point. Practice: What could you bring into this day that engages your whole being and reduces the restless boredom common to depression? Need ideas? How about mindfulness meditation, creating flow or beauty, snuggling a pet or a baby, doing some bodywork, such as yoga or Tai Chi, or creating some future-dreaming plans with a counsellor?
Adding light is a powerful resource to anyone with winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder. As is increasing your exposure to other kinds of light. There are a few things that can help even if it is dark outside, although 15 minutes under the rainy skies is underrated but still very helpful. Practice: Turn on all the lights in your space at night. If you live or work under fluorescent bulbs, replace them with the full spectrum kind. Or buy some OTT bulbs for your lamps and sit under them every day. Wear colorful clothes or scarves. Cook with red, orange and yellow veggies. Buy something bright and place it directly in your line of sight. When it’s sunny—you are out there soaking up all the Vitamin D, right!
We need to hear each other into speech into having a voice that’s valued. Our life narratives hold a great deal of power. What we say about ourselves colours every part of our living and being in the world. When we listen to others intently, notice how they open up and how this creates the deep connection we all crave. When soul and story meet, our isolation and separateness drop by the wayside. We are now joined together to bear up under the pressures and problems of life; it creates conditions for health and wholeness because you have bonded your humanity with another. Practice: Craft a couple of stories about your resilience, strengths, character…write them down and soak up their positivity. Once in a while let them become the dominant narrative. Or, at least let them take up some space in your thought life. Also, start drafting the narrative you want to live into. What is your opening paragraph?
One of the best ways to stabilize moods is to richly sprinkle your life with rituals, habits, and rhythms. Think: traditions, routines, regular times ways, patterns, and favourites. From a meta perspective: rhythms either embrace or exclude our priorities and purposes in life, whether consciously or unconsciously. Practice: Draft/look back to a schedule of your last week or month. Include or notice all of the regular stuff of life. Then, notice where the following showed up: steps in following your dreams, restorative practices, reflection, non-screen time, celebrations, comforting rituals, and connection points. Anything missing? Have no clues as to what you did with your time last week? Take some time to conduct a macro or micro survey of how you regularly move through the world. When chaos rules, bring in order. When order rules, bring in chaos.
Build onto all the good practices you’ve begun. Add habits to habits and break them all every now and then. Live into generous spaces. Thomas Merton states:
I no longer believe that our life’s task is to change or even improve “self”.
Instead, I see it as a turning toward, a graced movement bringing us more and more into congruence with the person we were meant to be.
If this was true and you could fully live into this evolution of self today, would that change anything in your life…or maybe everything? Change may be less about striving and gritting your teeth to do, do, do, and more about a “graced movement” or simple orientation toward health.
I hope FebUP! Has encouraged or empowered you in some way. This is the last post in the series but I hope you stick around. Next UP!? Some quotes from people on the street (#overherd) and more resources for anxiety and depression. You can always contact me with comments or questions via this website.
You are unique. Not everything that can be done should be done by every person. Not everything has a singular cause; not everything has a singular effect. Always confer with your doctor or a health professional before starting any new health initiative.
Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, RCC, CCC
©2018 Shari van Spronsen and Second Story Counselling