Happiness Part IV: Change A Thought

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There was once a time on a trip where I started to feel “odd”.  I told my husband and fellow travellers that I was feeling strange but, couldn’t peg what it was that was feeling off.  My husband, in all of his wisdom, asked if my stomach was upset, headache, toothache, ear ache, body pain and the list went on almost endlessly until I finally realized something.

“NOTHING is wrong,” I shrieked out with delight. “I’m feeling great!”

For the first time in years, I had no aches, pains, headaches, not even my allergies were acting up.  As a matter of fact, I was feeling darned fabulous.  So, what was my problem?  Why did I think I was feeling so poorly?  The answer was simple.  I wasn’t used to feeling no pain, angst, anxiety or even allergies.  I was used to feeling miserable in one way or another.  Feeling wonderful was a foreign feeling to me so, I thought something was wrong with me.  How sad is that?

Our reality, our happiness, is what we allow ourselves to become used to feeling.  If we feel miserable 90% of the time, the feeling of being miserable is what we’ve become used to and therefore, anything outside of that misery, feels foreign to us.  We measure our wellbeing and happiness, according to how we usually feel and want to get back to that familiar feeling even if we hate it.  It’s what’s familiar to us.  It’s what we see as our “normal” in spite of our blood pressure being through the roof or our stomach in knots almost every day, if not every day.  That’s our gauge.

In my last segment on happiness, I requested that you take note of the thoughts that ran through your head for a couple of days and jot some of them down.  If you weren’t able to do that yet, stop reading here and do it then, come back and continue reading.  It will help you to see where we tend to go wrong in our days with our thinking patterns.  Remember that our thoughts can create our emotions so, if we change our thoughts, we can change our emotions.

I journaled my thoughts over the past couple of days.  My thoughts went something like this:

  • The cat threw up 3 times in one week. She must have a stomach tumour. She’s going to die.
  • I have 3 doctor’s appointments in one day coming up.  How could I be so stupid to book in all of those appointments in one day?  I’m not going to get to them all.  Traffic will be bad and if it’s not, how am I going to fill in the time between appointments?  I’m not going to get through this day.  I’ll be exhausted.
  • The vacuum just quit.  Now, I’m going to have to buy a new vacuum and I can’t afford it.  In the meantime, my allergies are going to go nuts with all of this fur and dander.  I’m going to feel like I have a cold 24/7.  I’m sure getting this fixed will cost as much as a new vacuum.  I’m sunk.
  • My brother is in trouble, mentally, emotionally and physically but, my sister-in-law  doesn’t like me.  I have no money to give him and he won’t call me to talk or come to see me.  I can’t help my brother and he’s going to end up in a psychiatric facility or a hospital.
  • It’s been over a year since I last saw or talked to my daughter.  She’s taken off with a drug-riddled, demented jerk and I will never see her again.  I’m cutting her out of my Will.  I never should have had a child.  I shouldn’t have put all of my energy into raising her to make her happy.  Now I have nothing to show for all of those years.  I’ve wasted 34 years of my life.

That’s only a few of my thoughts these past few days.  Can you spot a pattern in my thinking?  Does your stomach sink while reading my thoughts?  Aren’t those thoughts alone, enough to have you wanting to curl up into a ball even if this is my life, not yours?

In practically all of my thoughts, I can see a pattern that emerges and know that I do it to myself.  I can see that most of my thoughts are not only negative but, they’re catastrophic thoughts and they are fortune-telling with a doom and gloom or worst case scenario style ending.  Instead of simply recognizing that the cat threw up 3 times in the week and assessing her other daily habits (eating, playing, purring etc.), I leapt to the conclusion that she had a tumour and was dying.  In actual fact, she threw up a hairball a day or 2 later.  Rather than seeing that my brother and my daughter’s choices were not within my power to rectify unless they wanted me to help them (which I would gladly do), I jumped to some pretty horrific conclusions about them both.  As for my vacuum, my neighbour had an extra vacuum which she gave to me the next day and can keep until I can afford another one.  The 3 doctor’s appointments in one day, I’ve yet to experience but, I’m sure that I will get through them even if I see it as the world about to cave in on me.  None of them are life threatening appointments and are, for all intents and purposes, preventative rather than appointments that need to go to but, I can’t and won’t cancel them. I simply know now that I should check my planner and space these things a little better in the future.  Lesson learned and there’s nothing catastrophic about going to have a coffee in between if I’m early for one or another of them.

However, I’m sure that I’m not alone in how I think.  Even if your patterns don’t match mine or, you’re nowhere near as bad as I am with my thinking patterns, we can all learn that our thoughts can have great impact in how we’re feeling at any given time.  Our happiness or, in my case, lack of it, depends upon how we think.  We have power over our thoughts no matter how deeply ingrained they may be.  We can learn how to think differently.

There’s more to being happy than our thinking patterns but, that’s for another entry and it’s coming.  If you haven’t checked your own thinking patterns thus far, give it a try.  Even writing them on a napkin or a scrap piece of paper will suffice.  See if you can find a pattern to your thinking.  Let me know what you find by leaving me a comment.

More to come.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Journey of Finding Self

The Journey Into Finding Self

Ever watch your life, knowing that it’s slipping into the toilet but, feeling unable to stop its free fall?  Kind of like one of those dreams where you know you’re falling but, you can’t stop it and hope to wake up before you hit the bottom.

I’m not talking about substance abuse or a deep depression here.  I’m talking about knowing that you’re at a crossroads of change where things within your life have changed so drastically that you haven’t had the chance to catch your breath and figure out who you are or, where you’re heading next and wanting Life to just slow down a bit so that you can catch up with yourself in the process.

There’s always a stage in our lives where these types of feelings will happen.  They seem most prevalent though, through the teen years, after graduating from higher education and entering the real work world, the getting married and starting a family years, then, not again until the empty nest and retirement years hit.  The common theme throughout each of these stages appears to be change and new roles.

Every time we hit one of these stages in our lives where either our roles are changing or we’re entering a new phase of Life, it becomes necessary to learn new coping strategies as well as finding new roles to fill.  Often, these milestones mean a graduation of sorts that may feel more like torture than anything else.  We are often left, finding ourselves, having to re-invent ourselves and our lives just to cope.  It’s no easy chore to say the least.

I’ve always been a caregiver throughout my life for one person or another.  Even as a child, living in a dysfunctional home, I became my parent’s caregiver more than I was a child.  After that, I became a mom which involves a great deal of caregiving.  During that time frame, I helped take care of dying grandparents and parents and, that continued on up until the past couple of years.

Now, when I should find myself feeling freed of responsibilities because there is no longer the need for caregiving and being an empty nester, I’m finding myself once again, totally lost in Life.  I am asking myself, who I am, what I want, where I want to see my life go.  I should be rejoicing that I finally have this opportunity to do that after all of the years where that was not a choice, let alone a thought.  However, I am finding myself, actually quite lost.

I once thrived on necessity and roles, knowing what I was supposed to be doing every moment of every day.  There’s familiarity with routine and “must do’s”.  There’s a certain sense of grounding to know where you’re supposed to be, what you’re supposed to be doing, when and how you’re supposed to be doing it all.  When all of that has been taken away, we can find ourselves feeling like we’re afloat on an open ocean with no land in sight to head towards.  It can become a frightening feeling rather than the freeing feeling that we once thought it would be, should we have this chance.  The question of “who am I?” becomes a frightening question to delve into.  The question of “what should I do now?” becomes almost overwhelmingly empty and we tend to want someone or something to give us those answers because we honestly don’t know anymore.

Pardon me while I pull up my chair and look at these questions a little more closely.

If you’re finding yourself in a similar boat, no matter what your stage of Life, I hope you’ll join into a discussion and journey with me.  It’s one that is done best with company and empathy.

It’s the journey of finding oneself.  A journey that we all have to take all throughout our lives…or, at the least, at some point or another.