FebUp! Basic Idea.
Each day in February, I am posting a pic and some practices on Instagram (@gottasecond) that are designed to up your mood, relieve some heaviness, and increase your flourishing (about a one minute read). At the end of each week, I am putting seven of them together with some links to articles and research. This is Week Two’s offering. Check here for the first fab seven.
What are some small things you could do to add a flicker of sensory goodness to your life? We’re not aiming for ‘joy, joy, joy’, happy-clappy here (although, if that happens embrace it, obviously). Practice: discover some pleasurable activities that are very sensorial (taste, touch, scent, texture) and then go do one. Make a list and add to it on happier days so you don’t have to think up that helpful idea in the midst of a heavy brain fog.
Pause to really listen to yourself. Ask some challenging questions about how you are interacting with and living in the world and how you are spending your days/resources/talents. Not in a gritty resolution-ish way but with a compassionate, generous, and grounded gaze inward and outward. Ensure the listening happens within a framework that upholds health, healing, and deliberate attention to what’s working well. Skip over negativity and nihilism that wants to dominate this conversation. Practice: stop and look for glimpses of joy and becoming and awakening and believing. Then, begin to deepen what you hear through small choices and acts of courage.
Who or what are you thankful for and why? Gratitude is the feeling of thankfulness but giving thanks has an object (a person or thing) and a reason. Ruminate on who/what delights, beautifies, and restores your vitality. Meditate on the hope and goodness you’ve received from others. Who could receive your thanks and appreciation (including yourself)? Practice: Write down 3 or more things you could give thanks for and why. Do this every day for the rest of the month. Also, be vulnerable—tell people how they’ve made a difference in your life. And receive the blessing from others deeply.
Finding peace, justice, beauty, generosity, and kindness in the public parlance is not easy; they’re not the themes relentlessly bloating your social media and news. It’s not exactly the natural default of your brain either. But, disengaging from the barrage of ideas that offer neither an informed opinion nor a viable solution is possible. You can control the flow of information. Practice: do some subtraction and addition. Add a few feeds that support healing, hope, and a focus on what is going well. Meanwhile, work toward changing what isn’t going well. Catch people (and yourself) doing things right.
Many of us have unresolved hurts, disappointments, and regrets skulking around the edges of our hearts and minds. Some can be resolved; others require perpetual renegotiation. But most could use a different kind of emotional catch and release. Practices: Start working through some pain patches with a trusted friend or counsellor. Forgive yourself. Forgive others when you can. Reconcile with others when you can. Courageously grieve what can’t be changed or undone. Lay some of those heavy burdens down and leave. Hurt people hurt people but healed people heal people.
Depression can feel like being untethered and stuck at the same time—restless, angsty yet, paradoxically, immobilized and lethargic. Deep breathing reduces cortisol production and calms your limbic system, which can act like there’s a five-alarm fire in your brain. Breathing deeply situates you into the present moment/experience, which helps moderate big emotions and ennui. It energizes you in a different way. Practice: Diaphragmatic breathing for a few minutes a couple times a day. Put a sticker on a screen to remind you to shake out your shoulders and make some big belly balloon breaths.
Today, adopt a beginner’s mind (fresh thinking and openness to learning). Lay down your weariness and wariness and favour of a more scenic vista. Engage in calming rituals to encourage different ways of thinking, noticing, and believing (e.g., Tai Chi, contemplation, prayer). Sleep more. Delete more. And, as my Manitoban friend used to say, “Sometimes you gotta weed out the fly-crap from the pepper.” Hold onto the peppy, seasoned parts of your life (the meaning and purpose) and leave the rest to fertilize what’s behind you. Learn your rest.
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, MC, RCC, CCC
©2018 Shari van Spronsen and Second Story Counselling