The 2:30 Feeling

In our society, we often pathologize low feelings, like gloom or lethargy. But in reality, all of these feelings fit into the regular flux of human emotions. It only becomes a mental health concern if these feelings are pervasive and long-lasting. But sometimes thinking such emotions aren’t meant to be there at all can cause us to fixate on them and create a story around them, turning them into a bigger issue. How can we approach some of the harder emotions we face healthily? Take, for example, the 2:30 feeling. Many people get into a slump a couple hours after lunch. Science shows that this is in part due to our circadian rhythms. Because you probably woke up early for work or to get your kids to school, your body naturally wants to take a rest around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. Some countries, such as Spain, actually incorporate a nap into their work days around this time for that very reason. If you start to feel fatigued or dismal around this time every day, and you don’t know this is fairly normal, you might critique yourself for being lazy or unambitious. Then maybe you start feeling bad about yourself, which can actually cause the low feelings to stick around, and could even hurt your self-esteem in the long run. However, if you know that this little slump is natural, you might instead get up and take a bathroom break or a short walk if your situation allows for it, and just tell yourself “this is just a midday lull, I’ll feel better soon,” or “all states of consciousness pass.” Or think of something you’re excited about once work is over, such as what you’re eating for dinner, or the movie you’re going to watch with your kids. And remember, this doesn’t only apply to the 2:30 feeling. Hard emotions can come at any time. What we can do is remind ourselves that it is normal and okay for hard emotions to arise, change our relationship to these feelings and what stories we tell about ourselves because of them, and know that they will pass and happier feelings are on the way!

Living in the Moment

You’ve probably heard many versions of the phrase, “Live in the Moment.” Sometimes, we like to reminisce about the “good old days,” recalling fond memories of a distant time. Taking a trip down memory lane is natural, but clinging to the past can prevent you from being fully engaged with the present. It can be hard to get excited about your current reality. Maybe you’re holding onto a past failed relationship, or you can’t forgive yourself for a mistake. Whatever it is, it is important to recognize what that barrier is for you and address it so you can start enjoying the present moment. One step you can take to stop feeling stuck is to talk to someone who loves you and can celebrate your strengths and dreams. You could also write gratitude lists to stretch your mindset beyond your interpretation of the past. Lastly — and this can feel unnatural to some — move your body! Getting in touch with your body, whether by dancing, running or taking a spin class, can physically help you shake the sensation of feeling stuck in the past days. If you do any of these three things with intention, they will prevent you from missing out on the life that you deserve! 

Routine vs Ritual

What is the difference between a routine and a ritual? A routine is a regularly followed sequence of actions. Many of us go through our daily and nightly routines mindlessly, or on autopilot.  A ritual is a practice that is done for a higher purpose, so rituals are often approached more mindfully and respectfully. What if we started treating our routines more like rituals? Afterall, everything we do is ultimately for a higher purpose. We don’t just prepare and eat dinner for the heck of it, we do it to take care of ourselves, to nourish our bodies, and to experience pleasure. In your morning routine, notice all the little things you do to take care of yourself. You brush your teeth for your lifelong health, you dress to feel comfortable or confident, maybe you drink a cup of tea or coffee to feel alert and energized. Routines are stock full of things that you are doing to contribute to your own well-being and optimal fulfillment. And if you treat these actions with more respect and mindfulness, they will ultimately serve you even more. 

Thought Ladders

Have you tried repeating affirmations, only to end up disappointed? Affirmations are a new trend in pop psychology that can be really helpful—if done correctly. Take, for example, you are struggling with depression. You constantly think “I am sad ” or “it’s not possible to be happy,” and you want to change that. Maybe you came up with the affirmation “I am happy,” and you try to replace the sad thoughts with that phrase. You can repeat that phrase all day long, but if you don’t believe it, it won’t do the trick. Instead, you should choose an affirmation that you can actually believe, such as “it is possible to be happy” or “in time I will grow to be happy.”  Or, maybe it’s easier to remove yourself from the affirmation all together, and say something like “it is possible for people to be happy” or “people can change from being depressed to being happy over time.” Now, when you have a sad thought, you can replace it with that phrase, and actually believe it. With practice, your brain will start going to that thought more naturally than the sad thought, and your belief in your potential for happiness will expand. Then, from there, you can come up with a more happy thought, like “I am happy sometimes” or “happiness comes easily to me in certain situations.” Eventually, perhaps along with some positive life changes, you can get to affirmations such as “I am often happy” or “I am a generally happy person.” It’s like climbing up the rungs of a ladder, from mildly happy thoughts to powerfully happy thoughts, until you get to the place you want to be. And remember, be patient and kind to yourself along the way.

Thoughts Aren’t Facts

It is important to trust yourself, but it is equally important not to trust yourself in certain situations. Do you constantly hear a nagging voice in your head? It is important to realize that that voice is not you. It is just your stream of thoughts. You are not your thoughts—they are temporary, and they change. Rather, you are the conscious observer of your thoughts. Your brain spits out thoughts all the time, and some of them can be lovely, and some of them can be ugly. It is your job to decipher which ones serve you and which ones do not. When a thought arises that is critical, you don’t have to believe it. You also don’t have to push it away and ignore it. You can approach it with curiosity and gently accept it, and then say to yourself, “no, thank you, not for me.” Say, for example, you think “I am not good enough to have this job.” You can react by saying to yourself “it is interesting that that thought arose for me, but I actually do not want to accept that as truth.” Scary thoughts don’t have to be threatening—you can simply say to them, “thanks, but no thanks.”

Everything is Temporary

Sometimes, when we’re going through a hard time, we fear that it will last forever. But the reality is that brain-states come and go, like waves in the ocean. Sometimes we don’t see how we’ll reach the calm after the storm or the light at the end of the tunnel. But, instead of getting disheartened by that, you can put deep trust into the fact that everything is temporary, because that is one of the conditions of being a human. Our situations change, and even if there are certain things we can’t change, our brains are built to adapt. It’s in our biology to shift and grow. We can savor the beautiful moments in life, and when we’re in a hard time, hold out for the peace we are bound to feel eventually.

Be Kind to Yourself!

Are you hard on yourself whenever you make a mistake? Do you focus on your shortcomings rather than your accomplishments? The next time you find yourself beating yourself down, try speaking to yourself as if you are your best friend. If your best friend got a C on a test, you’d console her and remind her that a C won’t ruin her life. If your other friend felt bad about not exercising for a week, you would assure him that missing one week won’t diminish his progress. Sometimes it’s easy to be especially hard on ourselves. As we all know, mistakes are something everyone makes. They are necessary to learn about life. However, we tend to have higher expectations for ourselves than other people. When you notice the self-criticism rising, take a step back, breathe, and tell yourself what you would tell your friend.

Powerful Emotions

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

A quote from the late Maya Angelou that describes the longevity of feeling within the human experience. Despite everything we experience in life, the most lasting memories are the ones associated with intense emotion (whether positive or negative). With this knowledge, be mindful of the strength your thoughts, words, and actions can have on others. Adversity can be the greatest teacher of our capabilities and potential. While the “light at the end of the tunnel” can be hard to see, once we reach it, it’s important to reflect on how we got there. Appreciating our path to success can prepare us for the next obstacle that stands between us and our goals.

Stopping the Happiness Treadmill

Have you ever found yourself jumping for joy after hearing great news but felt the feeling dissipate quickly? Positive psychologists refer to this as the “hedonic” or “happiness” treadmill. Unfortunately, happiness does not usually last, but do not fret, there are ways to combat this process… by incorporating a variety of new experiences into your daily life and, most importantly, appreciating them. Savoring your positive experiences and the happiness you already have can make a world of difference.

2020 Is Coming to an End!!!

“I want you to know that you are not alone in your being alone.” – Stephen Fry 2020 has been a crazy rollercoaster of a year for the entire world. Literally. COVID-19 has affected billions of people in various ways. COVID-19 has caused many people to feel alone, unmotivated, and downcast. Human interaction is incredibly important but has been taken away from us for health reasons, for the most part. However, with all of the negativity this year has brought, it’s important to remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. People in your family, community, state, country, continent, and planet are all trying to handle this change at the same time you are. In a way, our world has never been more connected, as we all have to work together to overcome this obstacle. It’s important to try and stay in touch with your family and friends as COVID-19 continues to be an issue. Additionally, try to look at the situation as a glass half full. There’s an FDA approved vaccine that has already started to be administered to people in the USA! Imagine how much more you’ll enjoy eating inside at a restaurant. Every hug after 2020 will feel a tiny bit more important. We won’t have to obsessively use hand sanitizer every waking moment until our hands are as dry as the desert. Even breathing normally and comfortably (without a mask) will be appreciated after this virus is gone. Additionally (tongue in cheek humour to come), you could use this story as a potential guilt-tripping method for any future children or grandchildren who complain about everyday things that we didn’t have for an entire year! This year has been incredibly tough, but we got through it successfully and will continue to overcome future challenges together!