For the past couple of weeks, my morning routine has been completely upended by the addition of a young puppy in the house. Where I was starting to flow with getting up, making my coffee, doing my yoga then spending some time reading or writing, I am now up and generally holding or distracting the puppy with no real ability to leave him unattended. Over this time I’ve grown frustrated and depressed that my months of building up a habit are thrown out the window. I’ll admit, no matter how mindful I was, the feeling that I was helpless was settling in. But I’ve reached my limit, I’m spending less time doing and more time consuming and I can’t mentally handle it anymore.
We start each day with a chance to set our mood or define our actions, we might let the previous night’s sleep, the first thing we see, the seventh thing we hear or the events around us set our mood. In my case, I’m letting the previous day’s inactivity rule me. It’s one thing to be affected by these stimuli, it’s another entirely to create a narrative and base your day on it. You might wake up tired and just presume everything sucks, repeating that mantra that “I didn’t sleep very well.” Or you might have some guy cut you off in traffic and without realizing it, subconsciously end up with a “People are jerks” story echoing in your mind. Most of us have some circumstance that defines how we feel or act or react for a while after it happens and usually, we don’t even notice. Luckily, this is where Mindfulness can play a part.
By creating a habit of evaluating your current mood, seeing if you like that mood, and trying to understand why you’re “in” that mood, then you can sometimes change it.
In almost every case you can make a change in your actions, your environment or your mindset. I can place my puppy in a kennel to let him rest. I can put him on the chair behind me (where he is now) and let him sleep while I type. In all of the above cases, you MUST be prepared to write a new mantra and follow that narrative. “I’m not helpless.” “I am empowered to make choices in my day.” “I’m able to choose a positive emotion in response to negative actions or undesirable outcomes.” Repeat them as needed, or just assert the phrase once and go on about your day.
You might not be blessed with the ability to just utter a phrase and change your mood, that is a gift available only to a blessed few, of which I’m NOT one. If that’s the case, you start with the phrase as something mindful, but then follow up with action. Woke up tired? Start DOING something, anything! That motion, that progress will awaken your mind and eventually pull you out of that funk. You might have to be very active, go for a walk, do some exercise, get your blood and oxygen flowing. I recommend yoga over meditation in this case. I recommend walking or standing activities over sitting. Be busy with things so you can’t ruminate on your sleepiness. And of course, caffeine.
On the flip side, if you’re angry or frustrated or dwelling on someone else’s bad behavior or previous days bad things then you should spend your time clearing out that negativity. Gratitude is a great thing to realize here, think on what you appreciate. Here is where meditation becomes useful. Count your breaths, be aware of your inhalation or exhalation or the space between those. Let your mind empty or fill it up with positivity. If you still need to be active for this, use that time to journal and let the frustration go. I find that by writing things out on paper I can process it better and usually I feel better for having written it. When I’m really good, I can do a summary or conclusive paragraph that lets me see my writing with more perspective.
I will also suggest that you do actually write it down, put it into reality somehow and then move along. The most valuable thing about writing your own narrative is that you can find a positive perspective, you just have to give yourself time to release any emotions that were making you feel stuck.