WEEK IN REVIEW: MINDFULNESS PROGRAM: WEEK SEVEN: BALANCING OUR LIVES

I really appreciated the author’s intent this week. It was a week of review. We were asked to pick two meditations of our choice for the week that either really resonated with us, or that we felt we needed to work on longer.

Of course I chose the “befriending meditation” as one of the two. It was probably the most mindset-changing revelatory meditations for me from the entire program. The meditation encourages us to give ourselves permission to be kind to ourselves, to tell ourselves that it’s okay to be the way that we are, and all of the other affirmations you can think of. I needed to hear and experience that to grow.

The other meditation I chose was the “Sounds & Thoughts” meditation because to me it was the most clarifying as far as seeing myself as an observer of my thoughts and not their victim or servant.

We continued to expand on the “3-Minute Breath & Body” meditation. I understand its usefulness, and appreciate getting to broaden its scope.

There was a lot of content in the book for us to learn this week. I love the complete exploration of the mind’s inner working, and how those processes we’re learning about are both helping and hindering our lives. Often I find myself being frustrated at myself because of an old mental trap I’ve fallen back into, or an intuition that was completely off base. I’m quickly learning in this book that it’s not just me. My mind isn’t deficient in any way. These processes and foils are typical to all people. I’m glad they’re getting this information out there so we can all work on improving our overall well-being.

I want to share with you what I’ve learned during week seven.

THE EXHAUSTION FUNNEL

Most people, when they start to feel stressed, automatically start narrowing their focus. They have the misbelief that if they cut out the things from their lives that they consider fun, or nourishing, and focus harder on the source of their stress that they’ll be better able to conquer it. In fact, it doesn’t work. They simply serve to concentrate the misery in their life, because they’ve removed the sources of their joy and happiness, and are less able to concentrate, function, and succeed. Ultimately what we succeed in doing is exhausting ourselves emotionally and physically, leading to depression and detachment.

Science has also proven that when you cut out the nourishing activities from your day and heighten you’re anxiety you are actually worse at solving even simple stressful situations. Where you think your sharp focus makes you better at dealing with your issues, it actually makes it worse.

OUR FIRST INSTINCT WHEN WE’RE STRESSED IS TO CUT OUT FROM OUR LIVES THE THINGS WE ENJOY THAT NOURISH US. WE THINK THIS WILL HELP US CONQUER THE SOURCE OF OUR STRESS BETTER. WE’RE WRONG.

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WHEN OUR MOOD IS LOW, OUR USUAL MOTIVATION PROCESS IS REVERSED

Usually in daily life, you are motivated to do something, then you do it. But when our mood is low, you have to do something BEFORE the motivation comes. Motivation follows action, rather than the other way around.

While you may have experienced this truth many times, it’s difficult to learn from it because our low mood blocks our memory from accessing specific memories that would help us remember.

WHEN MOOD IS LOW, MOTIVATION FOLLOWS ACTION, RATHER THAN THE OTHER WAY AROUND. WHEN YOU PUT THE ACTION FIRST, MOTIVATION FOLLOWS.

HELPLESSNESS VIRUS

When you feel out of control in one area of your life, this can spread like a virus affecting other areas too. You end up feeling inexplicably helpless.

When this “helplessness virus” kicks in it is extremely powerful, affecting even little things. So you can end up feeling like little things, like posting the mail, paying bills or bathing, are beyond your ability in the moment.

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HOW TO GET OUT OF THAT HELPLESSNESS TRAP

In gradual steps, select tiny actions that CAN be done, and once done, they communicate with the deepest aspects of yourself that you are not as helpless as you thought.

Remember when your mood is low, you have zero motivation until after the action.

So force yourself to… mail that letter, pay that bill, and take that shower. Be gentle but forceful.

The truth is that often, tiny changes in what you do – whether you feel like doing them or not – can fundamentally alter the way you feel. You can become reenergized, destressed or have your spirits lifted by taking a few baby steps forward.

TINY ACTIONS CAN FUNDAMENTALLY ALTER YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD FOR THE BETTER.

REBALANCING YOUR DAILY LIFE

Write out a snapshot of your day. It can be big things, or little things. When you’re through go back and next to each activity write whether it’s an activity that’s nourishing to your soul and happiness, or an activity that’s depleting.

The point is to make sure that we’re keeping a balance between things that nourish us, and things that deplete us.

Nourishing activities may be something as simple as: a bath, reading a book, going for a walk, or indulging in a favorite hobby.

Now spend a few minutes reflecting on how you can begin to redress the balance between the nourishing and depleting activities in your days.

If there are situations that you cannot fundamentally change, then you have 2 options.

  1. You can try, as best as you can, to increase the time and gentle effort you devote to nourishing activities and to decrease the time and effort you give to depleting ones.
  2. You could try to approach the depleting ones in a different way, to practice mindfulness during them, being present in the moment, even if you find them boring or unpleasant.

Your aim is to become progressively more accepting of the good and bad points of your day so that their emotional and lasting impact on your well-being and happiness are mediated.

Take the time to write out an action plan on paper. What are a few actions you can do right now to rebalance the nourishing vs depleting activities in your day? Nobody will have a day that’s all nourishing, but you definitely do not want a day that’s entirely depleting either.

LOOKING AHEAD

Week eight is the last week of the program and I’ve come to it with a heavy heart. I am surprised by the magnitude and resiliency of the positive changes that have occurred in my life since I started this program. Of course the work that earned those changes was mine own. The authors of this book and program, however, have really put together a tool that anyone can use to illuminate the ways their minds are sabotaging their happiness, and defines ways in which they can grow into more happiness. They’ve given us a solid tool to strengthen our focus and enhance our well-being. Ultimately the point of the program and what I believe they’re achieving deftly is teaching us to appreciate our lives RIGHT NOW in this moment. Goodbye autopilot. Hello conscious living.

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