6 Ways to Shake Things Up


Positively Present - Shake It Up

 

For months and months, it felt like a dark cloud was hanging over my head. I don't know if it was seasonal depression or regular depression or just part of my biological mental ups and downs, but, man, was it rough. I didn't feel like doing anything, and I didn't feel like I'd ever get out of that dark fog of what felt like nothingness.

But, over the past few weeks, there's been a shift. I've felt something start to change, the clouds start to part a bit, if you will. I don't know if the darkness is gone (I mean, is it ever?), but I do feel a lot better than I was feeling. In fact, the other day, I was driving and it just hit me: Wow, I don't feel terrifically sad right now, and that sad feeling feels a lot like a memory I can't quite recall. This is often how it is with me -- when things are good, it's hard to remember them ever being bad; when they're bad, I can't imagine it'll ever be good again. 

I was stopped at a red light, thinking about how different things seemed now than even a few weeks ago, I was so thankful that the darkness (whatever it was!) seemed to be passing. I've been, little by little, starting to feel like myself again, so I thought, why not shake things up a bit? I know, this might, to some, seem precisely the wrong time to shake anything up, but, after months of nothingness, of feeling perpetually blah, shaking things up feels like the exact right thing to do! 

I've been trying a few of these shake-things-up ideas, and I thought I'd share them with you in case, like me, you're at a point in your life when you need to switch things up a bit (but not in a change-career-paths, sell-all-your-stuff-and-move-to-the-beach kind of way!). 

 

GO SOMEWHERE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN

Even if it's just somewhere in your town, go to a new place! This is a pretty easy way to shake things up (but not too much!). Obviously, going on a grand vacation to new country or something would work too, but, if you're like me, and you don't like too much shake up, just checking out a new spot (a restaurant, shop, museum, park, etc.) can enliven your day just a little bit! 

 

SWITCH UP YOUR EVERYDAY ROUTINE

I tend to bring this tip up a lot here on Positively Present because I personally love my routines. They're just so comforting and, because they are so familiar, I don't have to think much about them, which frees my mind to think more about creating! But switching them up (even just a bit!) can add a nice little spice-of-life to the day. 

 

LOCK YOUR PHONE UP FOR 24 HOURS

This one I haven't yet tried, but it seems like quite a good way for heavy phone users (like me!) to shake things up. If I didn't look at my phone for 24 hours, my whole life would be so different. (To be honest, I don't even know if I could manage this, but it sure would be worth a try, if just to shake me out of my phone-clutching habits!)

 

GET RID OF WHAT YOU DON'T NEED

Most of us have a lot of stuff we don't really need, and I don't know about you, but I always feel so refreshed and satisfied when I go through my things and donate them to people who might actually use them. This might seem like a "shake it up" activity, but I really do feel exhilarated when I do it (organizing nerd alert!) so I count it as a way to shake things up. 

 

HAVE A SOLO SING + DANCE PARTY

Personally, I try to do this daily. It doesn't always happen, but every time I take time to sing and dance, I feel better. There's also all different kinds of music and vibes for a solo dance party so you can switch it up just by changing the tunes. It sounds silly, but singing and dancing really has an amazingly positive impact on my mental state!

 

SIT WITH ANY MOMENTS OF BOREDOM

Another one I've yet to try, but am very intrigued by: sitting with boredom. I generally don't get bored (and why should I, with all the tech and books and music and art at my disposal?!), but boredom can be useful and if it's not something you experience often, embracing it could be a interesting way to shake things up. Just sit with it and see what happens!

 

So there you have it! Six fairly easy ways to shake things up in your day-to-day life. If you're going through a dark period, give these a try (even though I know it's really, really hard to do) because they might just help. If you're in a sunny time in your life, also consider shaking things up. There's no easier time to do it than when you're feeling that sunshine-y mindset. Regardless of whether you try these ideas or not, I hope they've inspired you to think a bit about how you might want to shake things up in your life. You don't have to embark on some dramatic journey or aim to transform you life in order to shake things up a bit! 

 

 

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Regard Yourself as a Cloud


Positively Present Alan Watts Clouds

 

Regard yourself as a cloud.  Clouds never make mistakes.  Did you ever see a cloud that was misshapen? Did you ever see a badly designed wave? No, they always do the right thing.  And if you will treat yourself for a while as a cloud or wave, you’ll realize that you can’t make a mistake whatever you do.  Because even if you do something that appears totally bizarre, it will all come out in the wash somehow or another.  Then through this capacity you will develop a kind of confidence.  And through confidence you will be able to trust your own intuition.

Alan Watts

 

Over the past few months, I've been listening to a lot of Alan Watts videos on YouTube. Most of them say very similar things, but the underlying theme is the same: acceptance

You don't know what's going to happen. You don't always (ever?) know what the best decision is. The infinite number of possibilities in life can feel overwhelming. Most of us are so overwhelmed by them that we just ignore them entirely, convincing ourselves that we have no choice but to stay where we are, to do what we've always done.

But we always have a choice. And choice, odd as it might sound, can be a terrible burden. That is, until you start listening to Alan talk about clouds and water and explaining just how essential acceptance is. If you never know what's going to happen (regardless of the path you choose), how can you do anything but accept what's going to happen? 

Every struggle we face -- both internal and external -- stems from a lack of accepting what is. You don't always have to like what is, but if you don't accept it, you will be in a perpetual state of stress and anxiety (which, to be honest, is what a lot of us are in a lot of the time.) 

Rather than reading my thoughts about what Watts has said about acceptance and choice, I recommend you check out this beautifully edited video featuring his words and consider how choosing acceptance -- regardless of the other choices you make -- might improve your life. 

 

 

If you can't see the video, click here to watch. 

 

Choosing acceptance, even in the most positive of situations, is no easy task. We're taught from day one to always be striving, to always seek improvement, to analyze and assess, to judge ourselves and the world around us. But imagine if you could truly embrace these words...

When you look at the clouds they are not symmetrical. They do not form fours and they do not come along in cubes, but you know at once that they are not a mess. [...] They are wiggly but in a way, orderly, although it is difficult for us to describe that kind of order. Now, take a look at yourselves. You are all wiggly. [...] We are just like clouds, rocks and stars. Look at the way the stars are arranged. Do you criticize the way the stars are arranged?

Alan Watts

What would your life look like if you accepted the world (and yourself!) as it is? What would it feel like to choose acceptance over anxiety, to feel peace instead of the constant push to do or be something else? 

 


Assist, Don't Resist: Adventures in Accepting Anxiety

Positively Present - Anxiety Might Look Like
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For as long as I can remember, I've been anxious. During some periods of my life (like now) it's worse. Other times, it's just a faint trace, like someone's perfume lingering on you after a hug. 

For as long as I can remember, I've been trying to elude my anxiety. I've tried almost everything. I've tried mixed drinks and drug cocktails. I've tried sleeping too much and sleeping around. I've tried therapy (which does, to some degree, help) and soul-searching (also helpful, in its navel-gazing way). I've tried shopping and scrolling. I've tried yoga (also useful in the moment) and meditation (albeit, only a handful of times). I've tried snacking and starving. I've tried calming apps and I've read (and probably written!) beat-your-anxiety articles. I've gone for long walks and I've sat by myself in silence and I've tried new things and I've clung to old comforts. Maybe I haven't tried everything, but I've put in a lot of time trying to avoid or quell my anxiety. 

And guess what? I'm still anxious.

Not all the time. And not always in the same way, but it's always there. Maybe there's a part of me that, deep down, doesn't want to let it go. Or maybe I literally cannot let it go. Either way, it seems to be here to stay and, after three and half decades of trying to outrun it, lately I've been thinking... what if I just stopping trying? 

Resisting it obviously hasn't been working for me. Sure, I've been able to dodge anxious feelings by altering my mind or distracting myself, but the anxiety always finds a way to come back, no matter how hard I try. So what if I just accepted in instead? This obviously isn't ground-breaking idea -- the notion of accepting anxiety has been around forever (god knows, I've probably even written about it somewhere), but this is the first time in my life I've actually felt like, hey, maybe I really can just stop resisting this and see what happens. After all, what have I got to lose? 

Acceptance of anything, but particularly of difficult things, is rarely easy, but here are a few things I'm going to try in an attempt to assist, rather than resist, my anxiety. Yes, it seems like a bit of a backwards idea, trying to help my anxiety instead of hinder it, but, at this point, I'm willing to give anything a go! 

 

REFRAME IT

It's only in recent years that I've come to realize how closely connected anxiety and excitement are to one another. If you pay attention, you might find that you feel similar when you're excited and when you're really anxious. So I'm going to try to use that to the best of my ability and try, when possible, to reframe anxiety as excitement. This won't always work, of course, but when it comes to certain things (for example, a speaking event I'm nervous about or a party I should attend but feel too anxious to go to), maybe it will help to try telling myself that I'm actually excited, rather than anxious. (Because, to be honest, something I think I am actually excited and I'm so used to being anxious that I confuse the two!)

Here's an interesting article, "How 'Anxious Reappraisal' Can Turn Anxiety Into Productivity" on this subject, if you want to learn more about this idea of choosing excitement over anxiousness. It claims that reframing anxiety as excitement can lead to improved performance and productivity. While I can't vouch for that yet, it does make sense. And I like the idea that, in reframing the anxiety, you're not attempting to get rid of it but rather to use it to your advantage. 

 

LEAN INTO IT

The article mentioned above also discusses what is going to be my second anxiety-acceptance tactic: leaning into it. Trying to get myself to calm down or chill out clearly hasn't worked for me. (Or, rather, it doesn't work in the long-term, as there are definitely some things that can calm me for a bit, but they never last.) According to the article (and some other sources I've explored), it's easier for the brain to go from one amped up emotion to the other (going from anxious to excited is easier than going from anxious to calm, apparently) so, rather than trying to chill out, I'm going to try amping it up (in a more positive way though).

I could see how, depending on the situation, the person, and the level of anxiety, this might not be a good idea, but for me personally I can see it potentially working. I have a lot of energy and thoughts and ideas (sometimes it feels like my mind is just one giant exclamation point!), and trying to work with them instead of trying to get rid of them might just work for me. I also read about this idea of inviting the symptoms, in which you're supposed to pay attention to the symptoms and take control of them by attempting to heighten them. This seems a bit of an odd trick, but the whole "using paradox" thing might be interesting to explore as another way to really lean into the anxiety. 

 

SIT WITH IT

And, finally, I'm going to try to just sit with it and let it happen. One of the most difficult aspects of feeling anxious for me is knowing that it's irrational, unhelpful, and not productive. I know it's a waste of time and stressful not only for me but for those around me, so I try to resist it. But I think, much like trying to untangle a knot by aggressively tugging at it, this just makes things worse. Whenever I feel anxious, I try to undo the feelings as quickly as possible, which, so far, hasn't really worked out for me. I'm going to try to stop fighting it and see what happens. I'm going to sit with it, even if that means literally just sitting and doing nothing, and I'm going to try not to judge it. 

I'm going to try, best as I can, to observe the anxiety and, if possible, even try to enjoy it. Weird as that sounds, so many good things (like the illustration above -- my most liked post on Instagram so far!) come from my anxiety. It's always been a part of me and, while reading First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety the other day, I pondered my answer to the question, "If I could give up my anxiety completely, would I?" There are times that I would probably say yes and, sure, maybe I would be better off without it, but I also know that it's part of me, like it or not. Maybe it won't always be, but, while it's here, I might as well try to find the good in it and make the most of it. 

 

I know these ideas won't work for everyone (and they might not even work for me!), but I figure that if something (resisting anxiety) really isn't working, it might be worth trying to do the opposite (assisting anxiety) to see what happens! If you have anxiety, what do you think of the notions of reframing it, leaning into it, and sitting with it? Do you have any other ideas for coping with anxiety without trying to run from it? I'd love to hear your thoughts or experiences in the comments section below! 

 

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