Yesterday, I posted about the dark feelings I woke up with – the dread floating around in my brain as I started my day.
Today, I thought I’d follow up. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve learned what works for me when those feelings threaten to overtake me, and as soon as the post was published, I set about doing as many of them as I could.
I had already begun by writing yesterday’s blog post and once it was finished, I continued on with feeding and brushing Dinah Dog, petting the neighbors’ two cats, and getting out for a walk. I just put one foot in front of the other, doing one thing after another, and by noon, just several hours after waking up to the dread, it was gone, replaced with feelings of lightness, happiness, “all is right with the world” contentment, peace. The rest of the day was a much happier place in my brain (and my body) than the day I started out with.
What I want to know is this: is there a switch I could flip to make that transition faster? Is there a switch I could flip to make the darkness not happen at all? I don’t know. But I do know this: if I’m consumed with dread and overwhelmed with hopelessness, there are steps I can take to get my “happy feelings” back on track. I listed some of the ones I do yesterday but today I wanted to share with you my five steps to getting back to the sunshine so if you’re one of those people like me who gets those feelings once in awhile, maybe it can help.
Here’s my way of side-tracking the dread and actively pursuing the lightness:
- First of all, when you aren’t having those feelings, take a few minutes and think about the things that make you feel happy, feel joyous, feel right with the world. What is it that makes you smile? It doesn’t have to be anything big – it can be things like listening to the birds sing, petting your dog or cat, reading to a child, taking a walk on a nature path, listening to your favorite music, riding your bicycle, drinking a cup of your favorite tea or coffee or juice, writing down what’s happening with your day. Get a sticky and write a note to yourself; keep it in a handy place where you can find it in a flash.
- When you’re first aware of the dark feelings, acknowledge them. It’s kind of like letting them know you know they’re there, kind of like talking to yourself. Remember that they’re feelings; they aren’t you. Remember that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, there’s something you can do to minimize the impact or the length of time those feelings stick around.
- Go find that sticky note. If you didn’t write anything down, try to remember what makes you happy and makes you smile. (It’s much easier to do if you’ve written something down.)
- Pick an item from that list and go do it. Pick something easy to do, that’s convenient to do right now, that can be done quickly and soon. This isn’t something you want to put off for very long. For me, the longer I allow those dark feelings to sit in my conscious thoughts, the longer they seem to like it there and stick around. You, and I, want them to leave as soon as possible.
- Keep doing things from your list until you feel the little speck of happiness in your gut. At least, that’s where I feel it first – then my brain kicks in and lets me know that the darkness is receding and the lightness is taking over. The day looks brighter, the birds sing louder, and if I had kids around, they wouldn’t be quite so cranky.
These things work for me. It’s an easily adjustable list: if you work, and have to go to work while the dark feelings are still there, add things to your list that you can do at work. Perhaps it’s having the cup of tea or coffee, or the walk around the block at break-time, or being able to open a window and hear the birds sing. Each person’s list is going to be personalized just for them – what makes you smile might be different than what makes me smile. I just know this: if I do nothing to flip the switch and turn the dark feelings to light ones, I just sink deeper into the muck and it’s harder and takes longer to get out. I’d rather do what I can to get back to the sunshine and I’ve found out what works for me. I’m not an expert, not a doctor, not a therapist. I hope this works for you, too.
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I found this little video on Facebook yesterday afternoon of an older woman, someone’s “nana.” She's the perfect example to me of what I strive for: not letting my circumstances dictate my feelings and attitude. Rock on, nana!