Breaking the Downward Spiral
Many of you know how tough it is to break a downward spiral. But did you know there is a way to reprogram your brain? Did you know that some simple mind games can trick your happy factor to wake up?
Goodbye Darkness, my false friend
I’m happy as I write this, but I’ve not always been. In fact, there were times that despair was actually comfortable. Yeah, we all have down days, but the darkness for a time was my friend. Just like the song, I’d fall into a funk that could easily be sung …”hello, darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you gain…” Yep, we all have those times. No one is fully immune. But I learned .. I learned after dealing with the darkness that it truly is all about me. How I think. How I perceive. Whatever is going on, I can focus my thoughts. I can train my brain — and so can YOU. Yes. YOU.
Certain Useless Emotions…
First of all, guilt and shame are about the most useless emotions on the planet. If you feel guilty, do something about it. If you feel shame, you’ve got some inner work to do. You need to first own it, but then you need to delete it. Shame is what other people put on you. Shame is what you were told you should feel when you didn’t meet some one’s expectations — even if they were constantly changing. Shame wreaks havoc in you inner world. And you need to eradicate it. Shame is absolutely useless. It gives your power to those who wish to dominate you. Most often, you have nothing to feel ashamed about. Guilt, maybe. Shame is purely a way of validating those who chose to make you feel inferior – even if it is yourself. But when you let yourself feel shameful about things that happen, you are adding to your despair.
Every time you think about shameful beliefs, you add fuel to the pile of despair. It’s like taking a bite out the pity pie. It makes you feel worse. Every time!
Enough of that. A friend said it best: Shame is just a false sense of guilt turned towards oneself .
How do you get rid of it? You’ve got to answer the hard questions. What did you do? Anything? Could you do something differently? Can you really control what other people think? Probably NOT.
Part of my Reality: How I know this stuff works
For a time, after an estrangement from my loved ones, I was feeling hopeless and depressed. I’d learned that my family no longer wished to do family holidays. I delivered 2 large bags of gifts – gifts that stretched my budget – and it was then I was informed that this family had decided we would no longer exchange gifts either. OUCH! Thanks for telling me! I suddenly got it! It wasn’t just that year they were going out of town. They were flat out done with family holidays. In some ways, they were done with extended family gatherings. Hold on – there is a gift in this, else why would I bring it up? I was faced with a choice. I could stay miserable — or I could fight my way out of the despair.
What I did with the pain actually created miracle after miracle. Eventually. No one is immune to this kind of pain. Once I learned the gifts I received from this, everything changed.
That’s why I write today. These tips will take you from despair to happiness, maybe even bliss. It’s not about food or exercise. It’s about mind games that flip your switch.
We are going to hammer your happy track into a habit. And just like any new habit, you need to commit to 5 weeks to make it real.
The message to me set off on a spiral downwards that was extremely hard. Wouldn’t it do the same to you? I have a small family. I have one brother. His family decided they no longer wanted to do family holidays.
Guess what? It was such a gift! It was hard to get my heart and my head around it, but it was a true gift. Freedom to create that which makes me happy! Freedom to have a life without judgement. Freedom to be me, accept those who cherish me, and stay away from those who sneer at me. Yes — a gift.
NO Pollyanna Here
Before I go off on what you might think is a Pollyanna Puff of superficial happiness, let me explain. Seriously, I am the last person to pull the Pollyanna crap on people. But I do believe there is always a gift inside pain. Something that causes us to go forward to become a better person. And I am not talking about getting sober, quitting drinking or other destructive habits that change one’s true persona. I am talking about finding an inner source of reality.
What I learned from that painful episode stays with me now, some 14 years later. It had already been an acrimonious situation where several times, I felt excluded and hurt, but the mixed messages made me question my sanity. Yes, they are family, but their actions are entirely different than their words. The questions I used to ask myself are telling, but more important was what I finally did! That’s where we really start!
What do you want?
Why do you keep going back, expecting different results?
Why did you accept invitations, show up where you felt uncomfortable, do caregiving, buy gifts, do things for others instead of taking care of yourself?
What’s really behind all your hurt? What you wanted, what you wanted to give, why you felt so hurt or humiliated when those you loved turned you away.
Isn’t it always about wanting to be valued? Wanting to feel worthwhile? Wanting to be a part of a unit? So what can you do today, to build that for yourself in your world?
Sure this stuff hurts, but it teaches you to value YOU.
It might be old stuff. It might be going on now. As the holidays approach, it all comes back. It always comes back, right? And even when it’s not just in your head – say you get a phone call or an email – or someone dies and the funeral is packed with family triggers. It always comes back because you are a human being not a robot.
You can’t reason this one out, folks. You can’t find logic where there is none. In my experience, I can not find anything in my behavior or history that would cause me to deserve such treatment, but I continued to look. For years, I self examined. In other words, I ripped myself apart trying to figure out why. The bottom line: THERE IS NO WHY.
But that leads to the Quick Tips to eradicate the negative thoughts, self flagellation, chronic pain, and emotional self destruction. That’s just what it is. Self destructive thoughts designed to create answers where there is none. Now, I know many folks out there have some amends to make for actual harm they have done to others. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
Tips to Create Your Own Habit of Healthy Real Happiness
- Focus on what you do well
- Learn something new
- Be present in the now
- Look for ways to add value
- Look in Your EYES and SMILE at yourself with Love
- Go Outside and Play
- Make some art or craft
- Do something you enjoy (and don’t I CAN’T yourself out of it. – JUST DO IT AS BEST YOU CAN TODAY )
- Do something for yourself
- Do something for a friend or a neighbor
- Be mindful: If you get a stinking thought creeping in, notice, say ERASE and REPLACE it with something good.
- Daily Gratitude List to start each morning
- Daily Happy List each night
CRAWL OUT OF THE PAPER BAG
If you are feeling stuck, like you can’t crawl your way out of a wet paper bag, you’ve got some inner work to do. Really, if you are totally depressed, you might see a counselor. And on top of that, you might start your own personal rewiring program to retrain your brain. Some is unconscious. Some are conscious. All day, every day, watch your thoughts. Keep looking for what is good, and keep reminding yourself of the value you have added to the day, you create a stronger foundation for long term survival of the darkness.
Sure living healthy is a huge part of this. Daily exercise, daily nourishment for the body, mind and spirit is essential.
No amount of stinking thinking can be overcome by good food, enough sleep and exercise alone. You’ve got to want it. You’ve got to make the decision to change your mind in order to kick it into happy factor. It’s up to you.
The Long and Short of it is it’s up to you. You have to fight your way out of the cavern, claw by claw to a place where you come to love yourself no matter what anyone else says or does. Love YOU no matter what happens in your life. Stop berating yourself for anything. Start loving yourself. Stand up for yourself when the stinking thinking kick’s into gear.
In my coaching practice, the one thing I can’t fix is what you say to yourself. I can give you all kinds of ideas. I can share what I have done to retrain my brain. I can be honest that I am far from perfect. We can talk weekly or more often about how to change your life. If you are a caregiver, you know the ups and downs that are the emotional rollercoaster of your daily life. The downs are devastating and the moments of bliss are fleeting. But you know you will ride the wave. We all do. It’s how well we master it that makes the difference.
These tips make it work. For me, a daily glimpse of things I do well and enjoy, a daily review of gratitude notes, and a daily dose of getting outside all serve to fuel the flame of happiness.