Saturday, Apr 15th

Repeat And Recharge

I decided to repeat Hardwiring this week, with an emphasis on feeling compassion and kindness — I can sometimes lose track of those when I’m around the children all day. In practice this seems to mean not only noticing moments of compassion and kindness, but also reminding myself to try to see the world through that lens.

To recharge, I read fiction. I almost never read fiction anymore; there’s just too much nonfiction I want to read, and too little reading time. But my friend recommended a book, and I gave myself the luxury of diving into it today.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, Apr 14th

Most Moments Are Positive

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Sometimes these exercises seem to almost uncannily line up with my life. I already had this one scheduled, and then was awakened early this morning by a seven-year-old telling me tearfully that he was going to throw up. Which he promptly did. The good news was that he got nearly all of it into the bathroom; the bad news was that he hit nearly every surface therein.

Most moments are positive, I remembered midway through the cleanup process. (Thinking about my exercise for the day soon after waking up is becoming a habit for me, which is in itself a good sign.) And honestly, most moments are positive. When I helped my miserable son settle again, it felt warm and caring. Cleaning up in the middle of the night wasn’t exactly fun, but if I opened myself I could find satisfaction in it, as well as compassion for the little boy whose body had betrayed him. And there was immense pleasure in getting everything taken care of and snuggling back into my still-warm bed.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, Apr 13th

Pay It Foward

I vividly remember the days after my first child was born. It was exciting and amazing… and terrifying. Suddenly our entire lives had shifted to be focused around this tiny baby, and despite all the preparations we felt unprepared.

I was reminded of that recently when I got a second-hand report about a cousin, whose first baby was just born. “We have no idea what we’re doing,” he told his mother, and I felt that down to my bones.

I think it’s an excellent time to pass on some of the support that we received when we were first wading into that new territory. If we lived closer I would drop by with dinner; since that isn’t feasible, I’ve put together a small care package of books and baby clothes and good wishes for them.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, Apr 12th

Gratitude Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Recently I watched a TED talk called Happy Brain, in which Amit Sood talked about positive psychology and gave some recommendations for short exercises. One of them was to spend a few minutes upon waking each day feeling gratitude toward five people in your life.

When he ran through the exercise in his talk, though, he surprised me. He left the first four people up to the participants, but for the fifth he specified being grateful for “your eight-year-old self.” This really struck me; I have a difficult time with self-compassion, and it had never occurred to me to try a gratitude practice aimed at my younger self.

So today for my gratitude meditation, I tried to skip through my life, generating a sense of “the person I was” at various points, and feeling gratitude for that person. At times the meditation began to edge into being more about compassion than gratitude, but that seemed OK.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, Apr 11th

CBT An Anxiety

One of the techniques in The Feeling Good Handbook is a Cost Benefit Analysis. This one is fairly simple: You start with a belief or attitude that you want to change; you list the pros and cons of believing it; and then you try to come up with a revised attitude that is more useful.

This may seem mechanistic, but I’ve found it helpful at times. When I was deep in the pit of depression, I found it very difficult to argue with some of my thoughts. “I’m a horrible person,” I would think, and it seemed so obviously true, and my brain was so good at storing up evidence for that perspective, that arguing against that thought felt impossible. But even at my worst, I could still recognize that the thought wasn’t useful — it did not, in fact, make my life or anyone else’s life better. I developed a heuristic that sometimes usefulness trumps truth.

Today, inspired by my work yesterday, I’m going to tackle the belief that I must get everything done before I can relax.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, Apr 10th

Hardwiring

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

I focused today on the feeling of satisfaction (more specifically, according to Rick Hanson, that of “accomplishment and agency”). This is a big one for me because my negativity bias is particularly powerful around Things To Be Done. I am big on having lists, and I get great satisfaction from checking things off them. This works well as long as I can keep up. But the dark side of this is that when things linger on my list too long, they start to weigh on me. Eventually my lists can turn into tyrants that are constantly nagging me about the things I haven’t done, and I stop feeling any satisfaction in actually accomplishing things; I’m too busy worrying about what hasn’t been accomplished.

I think that phase began to predominate roughly at the point I had children.

So today I’m trying to pause and notice whenever I accomplish something, even something as simple as loading the dishwasher or driving somewhere, and encourage a feeling of satisfaction in myself. And on that note… ah, I just finished a blog post.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, Apr 8th

Repeat and Recharge

My repeat this week was the additional mindfulness meditation. (I still find it amusing that I apparently like meditation well enough that I want to do more of it.) I went to YouTube again for a guided meditation, and chose this ten-minute meditation.

To recharge I decided to try something a little different. I’m often so busy hurrying through tasks that I don’t pause to really experience them. I especially notice when, after the fact, I realize that I could have done something slowly with my kids, but chose instead to speed through it by myself. So today I told the kids we could bake cookies, and made a point of approaching the process purely as a bonding experience, just for fun.

And it was fun. Not entirely without stress — I should lighten up a bit about messes, for example. But overall I think there’s good room for exploration here.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, Apr 7th

Express Gratitude

This exercise is non-trivial for my introverted soul. It isn’t that I expect myself to express deep, profound gratitude every time this exercise comes up (roughly every three weeks). I consider it entirely legitimate to express minor gratitude to a stranger. But I feel it ought to be more than a routine “thank-you,” that I ought to at least make an effort to give specific, meaningful feedback to someone about how they’ve made my life better.

This time I unexpectedly had an opportunity in the grocery store, where I found myself trying to check out with an overtired toddler. As she began to melt down into a sobbing, thrashing heap of tantrum, I saw the cashier begin to move more and more quickly. It gave me the opportunity to tell him that I hugely appreciated his speed and skill in getting me out of there.

Happy Friday!