My bubble of happy thoughts

The last few weeks have seen depression creeping up on me again. It culminated on the weekend when I complained that ‘nothing felt exciting anymore’.

Last night, after watching ‘Under the Dome’, my partner said I needed my own personal dome, with only me and my happy thoughts in it.

This morning, after finally getting a decent night’s sleep, I realised he was right.

Over the summer holidays I was feeling good. I’d managed to get my first book (which I see as more of a personal project) out into the world, and was working on the launch of the next one. I was enjoying my days and was generally in a good place. I looked forward to the future.

It was me and my happy thoughts. The thoughts that told me life was good, and would get even better. The thoughts that told me I am enough; that I am and will continue to be successful. The thoughts that were, perhaps, slightly delusional but kept me going.

Time to bring the bubble back 😉

Self-Discovery Course with Amy Pearce-Hayden

Friend and writer Amanda Staley suggested an e-course for me (run by Amy Pearce-Hayden) near the end of last year. I clicked the link and it sounded good, so I signed up. The course started at the start of 2015, and looked at the 5 kleshas – obstacles – in yoga theory.

It was a task of mindfulness. Each day we had to notice when our thoughts reflected one of the kleshas. In simplified terms, these were worry, judgement, self-judgement, avoidance, and expectation. Each time we noticed a thought of that klesha, we were to switch bracelets.

We started with worry, and I found it easy because it was something I’d looked at with my counsellor.  This was a really good day, because the worries or anxieties I noticed this year, were far fewer than the worries I’d noticed when I first went for counselling. Go me!

The klesha that made the most difference was that of avoidance, or pain. Just the fact that I noticed when I was avoiding doing something made me consider why I was avoiding that task. It was usually because I’d felt bad that I had put it off for so long, or (quite frankly) I was being lazy.

Once I recognised the reason, I’d think, “Well that’s a silly reason,” and found it hard to keep avoiding it, because I’m better than that. It was the same realisation I had when I started consciously noticing anxious thoughts with my counsellor – just noticing thoughts was enough to trigger action.

For the rest of the month, I’m challenging myself to be mindful of ‘avoidance’ thoughts. I’m not putting myself under the intensity of doing it for every waking minute, but I am aiming to be aware of avoidance thoughts at least half of the time. I’m not requiring myself to take action – just to notice.

It’s been an interesting month!

 

Why Aren’t We Awesomer? TEDtalk on thoughts vs reality

“Just because a thought is in your head, doesn’t mean it’s true… you’re NEVER more than one thought away from a whole new experience of being alive.”

This last year, after reading ‘Super Brain’ by Chopra & Tanzi, I started referring to my brain as being separate to myself. I did this because sometimes I  would think things like I’m worthless, or I can’t do anything right, or everyone’s lives would be better off without me.

But it wasn’t really me thinking that. I didn’t actually believe that I was a worthless person – I don’t believe that at all. I know I’m not perfect – but I’m not terrible, either.

So why do these thoughts exist?

That’s what this post – and the TEDtalk – is all about. I started referring to these false thoughts as my brain’s thoughts. I wasn’t thinking it, my brain had learned these negative habits over time, they’d been reinforced, and so it had begun to think the thoughts were true.

I came across this TEDtalk last week, and it helped reinforce the idea of my brain vs myself, or my thoughts vs reality. Truth is, no one really knows what reality is, because we all experience it so differently. Once we can accept that there’s really no absolute truth; no absolute reality, we can screw everything and just do whatever the hell we believe in.

Sounds good to me 🙂

wblake

A short reflection on 2014

At the start of the year, my goals were to be healthier and happier. I intended to do this through daily habits: reading, writing, meditation and yoga.

While I am much happier and healthier, I didn’t stick to my daily habits. I’m actually okay with this, as I have sporadically been doing yoga and meditation, as well as walking to get my physical fitness back. This is definitely something I’ll be working on more in the new year – something I’ve begun to work on more in the last month, actually.

Technically, I’ve written and read everyday (well, close enough) but I’d like to get more fiction in next year.

My one word for 2014 was balance, and I’m happy with the balance I’ve achieved. This doesn’t mean equal parts work and play, but that I feel balanced, and my priorities are reflected in my choices, big and small.

Celebrating Yourself with Poetry: Biopems

At work yesterday, one of my students said she’s doing Biopems at school. When I asked her what they were, she said she didn’t know (with a slightly sheepish look) and so we turned to Google.

how to write a biopoem
Source: readwritethink.org

We found these instructions for a Biopoem,with an example of Rosa Parks, and she wrote one about herself. When she was done, she was able to look back on the poem and think, “Wow. I’m kinda awesome.”

I liked the biopoem so much that I offered the activity to my next group of students. One had already been doing them in school, and my other students had a go.

It was interesting to note that every single student found line seven the hardest when writing about themselves – the line that asks for their accomplishments; their achievements; what they are proud of about themselves.

Some sites simplify this line to ‘who gives’, but I think it’s more of a challenge to consider your accomplishments. To make it personal, I interpreted the line as, ‘anything you’re proud of, even if it’s not something that other people celebrate’.

Shining our own light only helps others to shine brighter.

Anyway, I could feel the downward spiral beginning this morning so I decided to pause in my painting and have a go at a biopoem:

Zenobia – 

Spiritual. Creative. Pensive.
Human of Shadow.
Who loves equality, open-mindedness and our world.
Who has felt depression, frustration and peace.
Who fears loss, closed-mindedness and that we will never change.
Who follows her heart, trusts herself and inspires others.
Born in Kanpur, India and living in New Zealand.

– Southcombe.

Write a Biopem, and leave it in the comments, or write it on your blog / social media and leave a link. I’d love to read them.

Week that Was: Admitting Defeat

No, no – I’m not giving up. But, I’ve reached the point where I can no longer deny that I am in the midst of a depressive funk.

It’s been chewing away at my brain for the better part of the year and I have been in all sorts of denial about it.

I realised last year that actually admitting I was in a bad place, mentally and emotionally, is absolutely the first step to moving forward. So here I am, admitting defeat and (hopefully) moving forward.

There are a number of reasons for this. I’ve been quite ‘closed, for various reasons, and found it easier to deal with life that way: close off from people, restrict emotions, don’t get depressed.

This works, but while I’m not feeling completely hopeless all the time, I’m also not feeling much else. You know, like happiness, or excitement, or good old Capricornian drive.

And I’m so, completely over it. I want to feel excited about my life again! To feel passionate about my stories (whether they be written with words or with a paintbrush), and to really, truly feel alive.

I have no idea how I’m going to do this, but I know I need to.

Admitting it is the first step. The next step?

I don’t know. But I feel a little bit better already 🙂

Dealing with Anxiety: Short Term Strategies

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with depression & anxiety last year. It’s something that goes way back, but I was able to address a lot of the core issues last year.

I definitely still have lapses, and like any other person on the planet, I have good days and bad days as well.

I was talking to a student of mine the other day about exam anxiety and thought I’d share some things I do to help in that moment of stress. Some of these I have talked about in previous posts, but they’re worth mentioning again in.

BREATHE

Catherine Mede reminds me of this one whrn I’m having a bad day. A few deep breaths take us out of ‘fight or flight’ mode by giving oxygen to the brain and physically calming our body.

When I take these breaths, I visualise the breaths going through my body, calming down my whole physical self.

VISUALISATION

This leads pretty clearly to visualisation. I blogged about this one last year, as it was a key strategy to my progress.

One of my biggest issues is self-esteem, and allowing others’ words and actions to affect my already frail sense of self-worth.

My counsellor suggested a visualisation on this basis. You imagine your heart, and then imagine a shield around it. When I visualise, my heart is a lotus, and it’s shielded by a glowing white sphere.

A SAFE PLACE

This is also a form of visualisation. For me, a safe place is my counsellor’s room, even though I haven’t been to see her for over a year.

Her room was peaceful and healing, and she was a role model for me.

Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly low, I imagine I am in her room. It sounds weird, but I kind of super-impose her room over the place I am in.

OPPOSITE EMOTION

This is one I read in a meditation book, but I can’t remember which one! It’s effective but you do need to really focus.

Start by identifying the emotion you are feeling, then identify a time when you felt the opposite of that emotion. Be specific.

For example, if I was feeling inadequate at teaching, I would think of a time when I had felt proud & confident in my students’ progress.

Next, you take a few big belly-breaths, and imagine you are back in that scenario. Remember how you felt, and what your body was like. Were you full of energy? Relaxed? Creative? You’ll find yourself shifting from a state of anxiety to replicating the emotions from your chosen scenario.

The above are strategies that still use, and I still need to utilise these at least once a week at the moment. I know I can rely on these to carry me through rough moments.

What strategies would you add to this list?

Urbane Naturale Link Up

“This post is shared at Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop”

Week that Was: Getting Excited Again

Sometimes we need those backward steps in order to make the changes we need to make. Because when things are going well, we don’t really think about changing anything, right?

Well, I had that this past week. It was a bottom of the barrel week, and I felt like I couldn’t get out of it. I knew I could get myself out of it, but I felt helpless. Things I usually love doing just didn’t seem appealing. This time, the feelings won, and I spent Sunday gorging on Tim Tams and playing Warcraft. Escapism at its finest!

But not today. I’ve been making an effort to exercise more, as I know that’s at the root of things. I’m also bringing back my affirmations, because low self-esteem is a big part of my lowness. Today, I’m going to spend some time reviewing where I’m at, where I want to go, and getting excited about my goals again.

So my goals this week? Set shiny, new goals!