Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No one is as lucky as us

[Don't forget to look up.]
Where: NYC
When: November 14, 2010

Title from a fun song by Paramore, my favorite part goes like this:

Oh no, no one is as lucky as us
Now I've got a feeling
if I sang this loud enough,
You would sing it back to me

And I thought it was appropriate considering my current project.

The Extreme Positivity project is going quite well. While I haven't reached quite the heights of giddiness the first day of the experiment induced, that is probably because I'm not bouncing back from a depressive phase. On the other hand, I have been more productive, and have felt generally more cheerful.

In the spirit of the Happiness Project, I've come up with some resolutions I am aiming to practice every day that are related to the recent epiphany to help keep me on track:

Practice Positivity - I will try to notice negative thoughts, and rephrase them as positively as possible.

Play with Piper - She's been having some health problems, and her age is becoming more and more obvious, and I want to put effort into making sure I remember how wonderful it is to have her around. It also makes both of us so happy to do little training games, and she always finds a way to make me laugh. So I'm going to make an effort to practice our tricks or learn new ones every day, to keep her happy and her brain occupied.

Here's a toy I purchased to help facilitate this - this is a puzzle toy, and the majority of her dinner goes into it. She gets to use her nose to find the pieces of food (thus fulfilling the most basic of drives for a dog), and then has to figure out how to get them out, and from her wagging tail and the intensity of her focus, it's quite a rewarding game.


Notice Accomplishments - I am going to put significant effort into consciously pausing and noticing when I accomplish tasks both big and small throughout my day, so that at the end of it I can't lie to myself about having done nothing.

I Don't Have To Do Anything - This a more specific subset of the "Practice Positivity" resolution. I find that when I have thoughts that start with "I have to", it makes me feel sad and helpless. Instead, I am going to notice when a thought starts that way, analyze the truth of the statement, and rephrase it to "get to", or "want to". It's a simple mental trick, but it is instantly empowering. It's also surprising how infrequently "have to" is an actual truth. There is always a choice - we might not want the consequence of certain choices, but regardless, the choice is there. "I have to go to work" is really, "I choose to go to work because I enjoy having money to pay for food, rent, retirement, and nights out when my friends".

And then there are a few bad habits I'd like to work on, because I think that they impact my happiness by subtly intruding into my mental space and giving a place for depression to take root:

Reduce internet usage to 1 hour a day: I spend a lot of time reading a variety of boards and blogs on the internet, and while it's fun for a little while to see what's going on in other people's lives, it can quickly change from a mindful exploration to mindless seeking behavior. Exploration leaves me feeling newly educated or inspired, but mindless seeking leaves me feeling drained and useless.

I've installed a timer application on my computer, which I now turn on when I start reading blogs and looking up random stuff online, and then turn off when I stop, so I can track just how long I'm doing it for. The challenge is REMEMBERING to turn it on, which I'm, at the moment, having mixed results with. I may temporarily change the resolution to "track the time I spend online", without it implying a restriction on that time, and then once it's a habit to start and stop the timer (which will also encourage a state of mindfulness at the beginning and the end), start to restrict the amount of time.

Stop chewing on my fingers: This is a habit I'm pretty ashamed of, and at the moment, my goal is to notice and stop once I've started - I don't have even the smallest chance of being able to notice BEFORE I start right now, it's such a deeply subconscious habit that there is no thought that precedes the action. I'm lucky if I notice that it started a minute in!

This habit impacts my happiness in a couple of ways - it is usually a precursor to or the result of stress, and it is a way for me to escape from the stressor rather than directly dealing with the stressor (and thus making it go away). Also, I will be a licensed massage therapist in a month or two, and it is important to that I care for my hands, and don't leave them looking or feeling rough.

So that's the update! I appreciate all the words of support and sympathy for the description of my experience of depression. I want to reassure everyone that it is now far more manageable than it once was. I've suffered frequent bouts of depression for all of my adult life, which culminated in an unrelenting and miserable year and a half before I finally found a solution that works for me - coming from that to the current day or two every once in a while is acceptable progress, as far as I'm concerned! While it certainly still sucks, and I'd rather it didn't happen at all, it is no longer an emotional emergency - it's a state that I know I will come out of as long as I take care of my body and mind. It is really an inconvenient (although often embarrassing), temporary paralysis now, rather than an experience of dark emotion.


Laura February 2, 2011 at 12:07 PM  

I'm so glad you're feeling better. I thought about calling, but I didn't know if a phone call would help or just be a hassle. If you get to that place again, would you like a call, or would it make things worse?

I really, really liked The Happiness Project. One of the things I took away from it was "Be a storehouse of happy memories." You already do that with your gorgeous photographs. My version was Gretchen's daily 1 sentence journal - I should get back to that.

And I am totally with you on the chewing my fingers and reframing the "I have to"s - I'm exactly the same way on both counts!


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This is my first blog attempt. It hasn't been kept up over the last year, for some reason being pregnant really ate into my creativity, and I picked up the camera very rarely. I am thinking about starting it up again, but am not sure what direction to take it in.

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