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? 

 


Thought-Tinters: 8 Things That Impact Your Thinking

Your Toughts Colored By

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Whenever I do interviews, one of the questions I get asked most frequently is, "If you could give out one piece of advice, what would it be?" It's a tough one to answer, but my instinct is almost always to say, "Pay attention to your thoughts." It sounds like simple (or perhaps even strange) advice -- after all, aren't we always paying attention to our thoughts if we're thinking them? But, if you think about it (ha!), we actually don't pay attention to our thoughts very often.

Maybe when we're infants or children we pay closer attention because many of them are so new, but as adults, we've often grown so used to the voice inside our own head that we don't give it much thought, particularly when it comes to thoughts we have frequently. And paying attention to our thoughts can actually be challenging if we're not used to it. I learned best how to do this by reading Byron Katie's Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. That kind of grandiose subtitle is often a stretch but, in this case, it happened to be true. Reading that book, and learning how to pay attention to my thoughts, really did change my life.

If you've been wondering about how to change your own thoughts (or just curious about what it would be like to better understand your own mind), I'd highly recommend reading that book. But if you're short on time, here are a few things that might influence your thoughts. Taking note of them (and perhaps changing them if you don't find them to be positive and beneficial to you) can really help you understand more about how you see the way you think. These are just a few of the various aspects of life that can influence you (some others include your culture, time period, what you eat, who you surround yourself with, whether or not you use mind-altering substances, etc.), but these are, in my opinion, some of the most important to reflect upon in order to better understand yourself. 

 

LOVE

What you love -- or don't love -- impacts the way you see the world. There's a reason that the phrases "rose-colored glasses" and "blinded by love" exist. What we care about (or don't) influences how we see the things and people around us. Just think about a few things you really love (right now I'm envisioning dogs, rainbows, and a big stack of books from the library). You probably feel really positive and joyful thoughts about them, don't you? Whenever you encounter those things in the world, you'll be predisposed to enjoy them because you already have positive experiences with them. This isn't to say this is a bad or a good thing. It's just something worth noticing as you go about your day-to-day life. 

 

SEE

Likewise, what you see is going to have a big influence on your thoughts. If you witness something horrific (or watch it on the news), you're going to be impacted by that image. If you see something outrageously wondrous, that image is likely to stay with you for awhile. You cannot control everything you see, but you do have the ability to make choices when it comes to a lot of what you look at (and surround yourself with). Pay attention to what you spend most of your time looking at and consider how it makes you feel. Do you feel uplifted? Informed? Interested? Bored? Overwhelmed? Knowing that what you look at influences your mental state can be the push you need to pay attention and look at what is positive and productive for you. 

 

DO

If you've never done something, it's going to be pretty difficult to understand what it's truly like. For example, I've never had a baby, and though I ask my friends and family members for all of the details, I'll never fully understand what that experience is like (no matter how vivid the thoughts in my mind!) unless I do it for myself. Understanding this notion -- that you cannot 100% understand until you do it -- can be really helpful not only in interacting with those who have had experiences different from our own, but also when trying to share our experiences with others. Our thinking can, for better or worse, be limited. Sometimes this can be a good thing, but recognizing it can help to improve our interactions with others and help us assess what kinds of actions we want to experience first hand. What you do shapes you, so choose wisely. 

 

READ

Reading ties closely with seeing, but it's worthy of its own category because it influences me so deeply. I read a lot of books. I always have and I hopefully always will! What I've read -- whether it's nonfiction, fiction, a newspaper, magazine article, back of a cereal box, etc. -- has had a humungous impact on who I am as a person. Reading makes me more empathetic and open-minded. While I cannot fully understand the experiences of others (even if I've had them myself, since we are all so incredibly different), reading allows me to have a better understand of things I will never live through myself. Reading is, in my opinion, a gateway to open-mindedness. The more you read, the more you know, I believe Dr. Seuss once said. Personally, I avoid reading things that scare or upset me, but that's my preference. Whatever you choose to read, it's helping you to think differently and in new ways. (Did this just become a PSA for reading? Yes, yes it did. Go to the library!)

 

HEAR

Just as what you read and see contributes to how you think, so, too, does what you hear. Whether it's news, YouTube videos, podcasts, music, the voice of a loved one -- it doesn't matter. It's changing how you think about the world and about yourself. Which means it's very important to select what you listen to with care. You don't have to limit yourself (after all, the world is a really big place and there's probably all kinds of cool things to listen to that we don't even know about!), but pay attention. Every single word that you here influences you in some way. Some more than others, yes, but all of it matters. Take notice of what you listen to most and, most importantly, what you're thinking about when you listen to it. 

 

FEEL

Feelings and thoughts are so closely intertwined that sometimes it's hard to know the difference. A thought is typically complex, while a feeling can be narrowed down to one word. A thought: "I have so much work to do that I'll never get it done." A feeling: "Overwhelmed." They're certainly linked and one can impact the other, but often the gut instincts, those feelings that arrive without us even realizing it, influence our thoughts. For example, you often feel overwhelmed -- a tenseness in the shoulders, a clenched jaw, a snippy attitude -- before you can form the thought, "I am feeling overwhelmed right now." Pay attention to the ways feelings and thoughts work together and look for the truth and root cause (Katie's book referenced above can really help with this.) Feelings aren't facts, but sometimes they can appear that way to our thinking minds, so it's vital to recognize the role feelings play in your thoughts. 

 

KNOW 

The more you know, the easier it becomes to understand the world (and the notion that so little of it can be fully explained!). The Red Hot Chili Peppers have a song lyrics that goes, "The more I see, the less I know," and it's honestly one of my favorite lines ever because it's oddly true. What you know matters (just consider how much more you understand as an adult compared to your childhood self) and that shapes who you are. What you don't know also shapes who you are. So many of the worlds biases and prejudices are based on what's not known. Knowledge is power, sure, but the most powerful knowledge you can have is recognizing how little you know and how your small amount of knowledge transforms the way you think. 

 

WANT

And, finally, what you want (and value) has an incredible power over how you think. If money and success is important to you, those things will be the focus of your thoughts. If you family is your focus, your thoughts will prioritize them. If desperately want a relationship, finding a partner will always be on your mind. If you desire to make a positive change in the world, your thoughts will home in on how you can do that. What you want guides the choices you make. No one thing is better than the other to want (no judgments here!), but taking note of what you want (or think you want) can be an essential element of understanding your thinking and how it shapes the way you're living. 

 

 

As you can see, there are so many factors that go into every single thought in your head. It's hard to imagine fully understanding all of it, no matter how much soul-searching we do, but it is worth paying attention to how (and why!) we think what we do. Our thinking shapes our actions, choices, feelings, relationships, and so much more. The better we know ourselves, the more we can shape our lives to live the way we'd like to. If you're struggling with self-awareness or self-love, shift your thinking with one of my workbooks, available for purchase here (or by clicking one of the images below!). 

 

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