Today is one of those days when I feel like I don’t know anything about anything. It feels like the world is a little tilted and I’m spending too much time just trying to walk upright. The day started with worry about a comment my cousin posted on Facebook and then jumped into guilt because I didn’t get up early to look at my finances and write as I planned the night before. If the worry and guilt weren’t enough, when I got to the office one of the first things I noticed was the friendly chit-chat between two women there. And then I noticed a rising feeling of shame because I have a non-speaking relationship with one of those women.
Thankfully, this too shall pass.
Just 5 days ago I was on a high, feeling smart and adored and important. That day Ten to Twenty Parenting (It’s An Age, Not a Sentence) featured a piece I wrote and I got appreciative feedback from loved ones near and far about the article. Earlier that week I succeeded in managing a difficult conversation with my boyfriend, I rode bikes with my son and shot photos together, I met with my best friend in our mini money support group, played some rowdy card games with my next door neighbs, and spent lots of time outside on the weekend.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – F.Bueller
Feelings change pretty fast too. You’ve probably heard the one about emotions being ‘in motion’, and the more you allow yourself to actively feel and experience your emotions, the more they move and shift as they get processed. I have found this to be true.
A string of ‘good’ days will invariably be followed by a string of ‘bad’ days. And what is our measure of good or bad anyway? Paul Simon sang, “a good day ain’t got no rain; a bad day’s when I lie in bed and think of things that might have been.”
When I feel sad, discouraged, disappointed, angry, or exhausted, it might be a ‘bad’ day. But I can have extreme highs and lows within a single morning, never mind a whole day! Anyone with kids knows how this one goes. As I pass The Boy’s bedroom in the morning I knock on his door and say, “are you awake yet?” to which he sweetly replies, “Come in here.” And he invites me to sit on his bed so he can tell me his dream from last night and we have a little cuddle and talk about his plan to work on the dirt jumps with his friends after school. But wouldn’t you know it, half an hour later he raises his voice at me in frustration when we are out of the pizza pretzels he wants to pack in his lunch and then he huffs around the apartment looking for his keys that he can’t remember where he left and as he runs off he ignores me when I say goodbye and slams the door on the way out.
Leaning towards happiness
For 10 years I’ve had a daily gratitude practice. The first couple of years I spent time at the end of every day writing down 10 things I was grateful for. Then for the next 7 years I created a mental list at the end of each day, but it was no longer restricted to what I felt grateful for; it could be anything that I felt was a win that day, or that I was pleased about, or proud of. It became a pleasant bedtime meditation ritual; I would build my mental list in bed or in the bath tub and spend more than a minute visualizing and savouring every single item. This year I went back to writing my list when I climb into bed at night in a journal so that I can review it down the road.
Want to know my secret weapon when I’m in the middle of a crappy day? Right there, as soon as I realize I feel like shit, I make a list of 10 things I’m grateful for. Even if it’s 9:30 in the morning and it seems like nothing has gone well since I woke. I don’t let myself off the hook until I come up with 10 genuine items. Sometimes it can take a while. Every time I feel better when I’m done.
Other go-to weapons include: text/call a friend, move my body, put on a song I like, and/or cry for a few minutes. These all help me feel better too.
No need to re-invent the wheel
Smart people everywhere are practicing daily gratitude to amp up their happiness. A friend of mine was just telling me the other day how she writes a list of 15 things in a notebook every night, and she considers this to be her pre-eminent practice for success. She writes 5 victories from the day, 5 things she is grateful for that day, and 5 things she will accomplish the next day.
I completely believe in the power of journaling for productivity, as a human and as a parent. Flying by the seat of one’s pants is messy and anxiety-producing. I’m all for strategic planning.
There are lots of other options too. In my early 20’s I did morning pages for close to 3 years, and I also spent a year on the 365 daily lessons/meditations contained within A Course in Miracles. 10 years ago I wrote one haiku a day for a year, and I loved it so much I continued the practice for an extra 8 months. For the last 20 years I have committed to the project of Re-Evaluation Counseling and used that as my major tool for growth and empowerment.
I recommend reading 15 Epic Changes I’m Making In My Life This Summer and 28 Of The Best Things I Ever Did – From My Bedroom To My Business to get your juices going. Another one I heard about last week is the practice of starting meetings with a go-around, getting each participant to say one brag, one thing they are grateful for, and one desire.
What are some of the tools you use for personal growth and grounding? Tell me in the comments below!