For anyone who struggles with depression you know how difficult it can be to break the cycle of darkness. You nap to pass the time and avoid most activities especially the ones that involve leaving the house. The longer you remain in that survival zone the harder it is to break out of it.
I think it’s safe to assume at this point that everyone knows that physical activity promotes positive mental health and decreases symptoms of depression. Despite knowing the facts, breaking that cycle still seems insurmountable. Sometimes we need to accept a little motivational push from those around us.
Tonight I planned to join a new neighbourhood running group. Two of my least favourite things merged into one activity, meeting new people and running. Half an hour before the group was set to start I messaged a friend i know in the group to say I wasn’t going. No made up excuses, I just didn’t want to go. It was cold outside and warm inside, decision made. Fortunately this friend encouraged me to come out despite my lack of motivation. The annoying benefit of joining a group is that you become accountable to others. Often times my own desire to change is simply not enough, I need others to give me a gentle nudge in the right direction. We all have times in our lives when we need the nudge and when we are the nudger. That’s the wonderful thing about humanity isn’t it? We are all connected to help each other when we need it most.
The outcome of the run was completely predictable. I survived it and felt good about myself afterwards. I wish I could bottle that feeling of positive empowerment and spritz it on myself when I need it most. And by spritz I mean bathe in it.
I guess I’ve now committed to this couch to 5k thing and to my new running buddies. I’m going to be one of those healthy people that I see on weekend mornings running in the rain while I shovel pancakes into my mouth and judge them for being better than me.
There are countless scientific studies showing that creativity increases happiness. It has a positive effect on our feelings of well-being and attitudes. So why in an era of adult colouring books and Pinterest boards are we still struggling with being creative?
The answer is simple, we don’t have the time, we don’t have the equipment or we don’t have the skills. At least those are the excuses that we tell ourselves. The excuse I most frequently tell myself is that I’m just not in a creative mood. As it happens I haven’t been in a creative mood for years now. It’s not that I don’t want to create lovely things, I really do, but I just can’t feel ready. I can’t feel ready to give something of myself and to open up and allow the process to flow. So what next? Force. I decided today that if I can’t feel ready, I will simply just begin. Begin without a plan and allow my mind and my body to work as one.
Over the years I have spent more money on art supplies than I care to admit. They sit in a closet that I wish I went into more often, waiting anxiously to be used. Forcing myself to enter the closet and begin was the start to my day. I had no plan, only supplies. After a couple of hours with a large canvas and paints, here is the result:
Do I like it? No, not really. I can’t see myself ever hanging this on my wall but I truly enjoyed the process. I enjoyed selecting the colours and the long and painful process of blending them all together. I enjoyed the pain that my arm felt after the countless brushstrokes I made. I enjoyed the juxtaposition between the dark and light colours and my attempts to soften them. I enjoyed the time that I spent focused on one task.
I can always paint over it when the creative mood really strikes me but for now I am content in process of creation.
As an aside, my spouse feels that this painting looks like a buttocks. If your buttocks looks like this, please seek medical attention.
There is evidence based research which has emerged in the last 10 years to show the incredible benefits that positivity can have on our lives. Positivity is like a nutrient rich soil, it is the foundation for healthy growth be it for flowers or for building personal resilience. It’s easy to maintain a positive outlook when things are going well but when unexpected changes hit is, feeling positive seems like a daunting task.
My spouse was told this week that due to re-structuring he will be losing his job of 17 years. For individuals struggling with anxiety like me, stress and change can be triggers. I spent much of the first 24 hours in a mild panic attack. Constant heart palpitations, inability to sit still or sleep and a whole lot of fidgeting. Looking at the situation with a positive lense was completely out of the question, my brain was more interested in thinking about worst case scenarios.
After a day had passed, it provided me with some time to accept this news and to re-visit my reactions. Times of stress and change are when we need positivity the most. My feelings of anxiety were valid and appropriate but ultimately useless. Feeling anxious about a situation does not change the outcome, nor does it provide any helpful solutions. I have made a concious effort to re-frame the situation and focus on the positives. Here are the ones I’ve come up with so far:
- We are fortunate to have a connection to lawyers to review documentation (as luck would have it the lawyer we could connect with had a conflict because they represented the company that laid-off my spouse) so this is no longer a positive. Pretend you didn’t read this bullet point.
- We have good friends that check in with us and support us
- We have caring family that checks in and supports us
- The severance will provide my spouse the opportunity to pursue work that is more meaningful to him
- I am now the sole provider of financial stability for the family…. surely the jokes will be endless and the laundry regularly done.
Perhaps not the lengthiest of lists however one cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of finding work that provides meaning and value to our lives.
Re-framing our perspectives provides comfort and contentment to otherwise stressful situations. Change your mind, change the outcome.