Why Bother Pinpointing Emotions?

Why Bother Pinpointing Emotions?

It is vital to our mental wellness to admit to how we feel. When we own up to our interior emotions then we can begin to preside over our exterior actions. 

          Getting to Know Our Emotions

When we begin to take note of our feelings— grumpy, growly, snarky or snippy, then we can respond instead of react. Until then, we will most likely continue to let the awful and no good feelings direct our actions.  

 I did not grow up in an emotionally intelligent household. Instead, I learned to survive by ignoring in myself, and in others, anger, sadness, or disappointment. But emotions are not something to be ignored because they do not go away. Instead, over time, the buried feelings in ourselves or others intensify, resulting in anxiety, fear, and shame. 

But change begins when we start listening to how we feel. Instead of ignoring the churning and burning inside our guts or the thoughts that race through our brains, we can begin to ask ourselves some questions. What made me feel edgy? Was it legitimate? 

With time and lots of patience, we become more attuned to our patterns, of the ebb and flow of  feelings and just how many different emotions we experience in any given day. Our emotions have something to tell us and when we begin to listen we become acquainted with them. 

But being emotionally well isn’t just about knowing myself better, it also makes me more savvy about the feelings of others. And being savvy about the feelings of others allows me to show them empathy. 

For instance, conversing with one of my highly emotionally charged students following one of their angry outbursts, I asked what their insides felt like when they were angry. With great insight, they told me that they just wanted to run away. Gently, I explained that running away from our anger or hurt wasn’t any more possible than running away from one of our arms or legs because our emotions are part of who we are. That brought a smile to their face. Then we talked through some alternative behaviors such as breathing or counting down from 100.

Though we can’t get away from how we feel, we can learn to feel differently. 

So why bother to pinpoint our emotions? Our emotions are part of who we are. If we listen to what they have to say, then we can take charge of them instead of letting them be in charge of us.

Why Bother to Stop Worrying?

Why Bother to Stop Worrying?

I don’t remember when I first met Worry or when I made an agreement to believe it.  I imagine it arrived after my Father’s suicide. Without his authoritative presence in my life, I took on the responsibility of figuring out life for myself. It never crossed my mind that I was too young to take on such a load. Instead, I heaved the burden of finding my own as best I could, and got on with living.

 The Personality of Worry

Believing it was within my power, I took the responsibility of keeping bad things from happening. Why I believed worrying could help me to keep evil at bay is beyond my understanding. But, I fretting, brooding and anticipating the worst scenario kept me hyper vigilant, on guard and on the defense. Worry changed my life, but not for the better. 

First of all, Worry made me work hard. It was not a kind taskmaster. Worry was never pleased. “The job is never done,” is one of its precepts. “There is always more to do,” is another one of its laws. Worry always raises the bar, never allowing one to feel the sense of success, a job well done, or any contentment. It convinced me that I needed to consider all the “what ifs” in life.

There were no vacations with Worry, no down time to relax. If I took it easy, I might be accused of being lazy.  Worry was demanding, always wanting me to keep my ducks in a row.  Consequently, Worry wanted me to always think ahead, and never allowed me to enjoy the moment. “You don’t want to be blind sided,” It warned me. In addition to plagues with worry during the day, I also had to make room for it  in my bed at night. A good night’s rest was not an option when Worry was in charge. I’d often jolt awake, feeling an elbow in my ribs, if I slept too soundly.  

 Worrying had become such a habit to me that when I wasn’t anxious, I was out of sorts. It was an exhausting way to live. 

 I grew tired of Worry and its ways. I wanted it to leave me alone. At first, I was nice about asking it to go away, but Worry does not respond to the soft touch. So I gave up being considerate of its feelings and instead began telling it to “shut up,” even though I was taught never to use those words. I also learned to ignore it. Eventually, Worry got the message and comes around much less often.  

Why bother to stop worrying? Worry is worth letting go of to make room for the incredible possibilities in any given day, that are unknown to us. 

Why Bother to Understand?

Why Bother to Understand?

We have ample information, from unlimited sources on the internet. With a simple click of a mouse or tapping of a screen, we can access a plethora of articles, personal opinions and “news” stories concerning any topic. Yet, information alone does not give us understanding. We need more than the facts mam!

     Taking Part in Discussions

In days gone by, I remember the adults in my life, sitting around the dining room table, long after a meal was finished, discussing in quiet voices their informed political views of the day. 

Though I did not understand what they discussed, or what it had to do with me, I did comprehend that what they talked about was important to them. 

I clearly remember their body language. They’d lean forward in their chair when they spoke, use their index finger to make a point, and fold their arms over their chest when they finished.

Though I sensed everyone had a different opinion, when one person shared their perspective, everyone else listened, respectively, and then waited their turn to speak. I could tell who agreed or disagreed with what was said simply by watching how they shook their heads. 

Always, somewhere in the midst of the parley, someone broke the tension that built up with a joke or a funny story. No one left the table angry, just a little more informed than when they first sat down. 

Information was available for this previous generation, just in a slower form: newspapers, magazines, and news broadcasts. There was also more time to think and digest the news. Up-to-the minute reports only occurred when a catastrophe struck, not twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. 

We face many of the same issues of previous generations, but instead of being on the side lines, listening, and watching the dialogue, we are the ones who are directly affected. We are the ones at the table talking. How we formulate our opinions, share our experiences and listen to others is important. 

To gain understanding takes more than just reading the facts. Instead, it requires respect for an idea other than our own, listening when someone else shares their story, and taking ample time to think about what we believe before we open our mouths. 

Why bother to understand? Gaining understanding through healthy discourse helps us to be a little more intelligent than if we were left to ourselves. 

Why Bother Maintaining a Sense of Humor?

Never Settle For A Ripple When You Can Make A Wave

Why Bother Maintaining a Sense of Humor?

Having a sense of humor is our capacity to recognize the funny side to life. To maintain our receptivity to funniness, we have to allow ourselves to laugh. Though life is serious, we can’t make it so somber that we forget to engage the muscles we use for laughter. If we do, those muscles will atrophy. 

  Retaining Muscular Tone

The muscles used for laughter are located in our abdomen, around our mouth and eyes. When responding to humor, our brow goes up, eyes widen and our jaws relax and may even open wide. Muscles in our abdomen move as we emit a gleeful noise. Of course the more we exercise these particular laughing muscles, the more toned they become, the less we engage them, well then the more lax they become.

It is easy to spot people with lax laughter muscles. Their mouth is turned downward, lips pursed, and eyes absent of any merriment. Their shoulders are lax, turned inward and their bellies slightly protrude. It does not take long for anyone’s body to conform to the posture lacking in elation, jubilant or joy. 

On the other hand, it is just as easy to spot those whose facial and belly muscles are toned by laughter and whose eyes are moist and clear from tears of daily guffawing. Like following in the footsteps of morally upright people, shadowing a person with toned laughter muscles and merry eyes is crucial to our own well-being. 

When we surround ourselves with people who laugh easily, smile often, and see the funny side to life, our lives will be better off. Though I cannot say the exact number of times we need to exercise the muscles involved with laughter, I do know that repetitive movement of those muscles does more good than harm. So, the more we are engaged in the action of laughing and smiling, the easier it will be to maintain well toned laughing muscles. 

Just in case you need a smile or a little tee-hee; What do you get when you cross a tortoise with a porcupine? (a slow poke).

Why bother maintaining a sense of humor? Maintaining our sense of humor is as important as retaining any other part of our wellness. But don’t take my word for it. Have a good laugh and feel it for yourself.

Why Bother Noticing Time?

Why Bother Noticing the Time?

Back in the 1970s, when I was in high school, there were more than a few songs on the radio that referred to time passages. “Time keeps on slippin into the future,” and “Seasons change and so did I,” are some of the lyrics to the songs I remember. Yet, as a teenager, those lyrics referring to time did not mean as much to me as they do today. Back then, it felt as though I had an infinite amount of time. Now, I know I don’t. 

                Time Flows Forward

Though time did not mean so much to me back then, it does today. Two important events occurred this month that caused me to pause and reflect on the fact of how time passes flawlessly, smoothly, and continuously. 

First, one of my favorite nephews turned forty. Turning forty is in my rear view mirror, but it was not for my nephew. And he, like me, never really fathomed living to be that “old”. Now he has lived to be as old as his auntie once was. 

I did not tell him that I remember wiping his nose, reprimanding him for his bad attitude or wondering when he’d ever “grow up.”  Instead, I just wished him a happy birthday knowing what it is like to turn forty. 

The second event that seemed benign yet momentous was that I watched my grandson play football in our town’s stadium. I sat in the grandstand with my oldest son watching his son play ball. At the same time,  I reminisced about the games my husband and I had watched in the same grandstands when our son was just a babe bundled in blankets. It was a surreal moment. 

Time does flow and though we cannot stop the clock, replay life in slow motion, or edit our mistakes we can choose how to live our lives in such a way that when we do look back, we can see how much we’ve changed, for the better. 

Time, along with experience, has taught me the value of the moments we do have. Contentment, rich relationships, and commitment are lessons we can’t learn in a hurry, but only through the ages of time. 

Why bother noticing time? Time keeps on slippin, we can’t save time in a bottle, seasons change and so do we. Hopefully, for the better.

Why Bother With Happiness?

Why Bother With Happiness?

I’m a big fan of the power we have as human beings to make personal choices. Yes, we all encounter hardships and setbacks in life, but we are not the victims of our circumstances. No one holds us hostage to thinking and acting in certain ways. Instead, by our own volition, we can choose happiness over gloominess, contentment over discontentment, gratitude over entitlement. 

The Daily Matters

Someone once said that what we do every day matters more than what we do every now and then again. If so, then happiness is not a one time choice. Rather, it is a day in and day out commitment to pursue the lighter side to life, an attitude of hopefulness, and a perspective other than gloom and doom.  

Selecting happiness does not mean we deny the hardships in life. It only means we believe we have what it takes to maintain our sense of joy in the midst of life’s mayhem. 

On any given day, my gladness can be squeezed right out of me, if I let it. Whether at work, grocery shopping or driving down the highway, unhappiness, bad news and grumpy people abound. But instead of allowing  circumstances to rob me of my cheerfulness, I engage in my full proof plan of holding my position of uprightness. Not just in the physical sense, but also in the emotional, spiritual, and mental capacity too. 

First, I take a deep breath and smile. Then I look for another face that I can smile at. Since I can only attend to the present moment, smiling into the face of the adversary gives my heart a boost if even for only a second. But that is all it takes to gain a fresh perspective, a new thought, a fresh charge of creativity. My happiness rebounds with a breath and a smile. It is that simple. But it doesn’t end there. 

Maintaining everyday happiness in those stressful moments begins with routines that feed and nourish my joy. The things I do every day, eating good food, getting good rest and exercise, prepare me for those moments in my day when circumstances that may steal my happiness, rise up.

Maintaining our happiness is not a selfish endeavor. Instead, it is a habit that makes us healthy. 

Why bother with happiness? Choose happiness for the health of it. 

Why Bother Being Grateful for Mistakes?

Why Bother Being Grateful for Mistakes?

Though we were created for relationships, some days it is tough being around other human beings. For instance, just this last week, without meaning to, I managed to offend two people then, without wanting to, I was offended by a few others. Though I know that moving to a deserted island is out of the question, I find that thought crossing my mind at times. 

Reconciling with Gratitude

Once upon a time, I began a gratitude journal and challenged myself to keep a list of the things for which I was grateful. Soon enough though, this record became redundant and I quit writing down the blessings I found in my everyday life. Yet, this short lived drill did do something for me. It helped me to reflect not only on the things that made me grateful but that gratitude is a state of being. It can become my response to the people, circumstances and every day missteps that occur on any given day. 

To set my sights on having perfect relationships, never being offended, or never offending another is an unrealistic expectation. And though I focus on being kind, caring, empathetic, aware, and fully present in the moment, sometimes things still go awry. I lose my focus, am misunderstood or react impatiently. Can I still show gratitude in these awkward, uncomfortable, and tense moments? 

If gratitude is a response to the people and circumstances that surround me, then I believe I can learn to be grateful even in the midst of the most awkward situation. Not immediately of course, but with practice.

When misunderstood, in the moment of being offended, or when I know I’ve made a mistake, I admit, my first response is not one of being thankful. Instead, I get miffed, blindsided and exasperated. It is only later, when I’ve had time to sort through my initial emotions, that I find a few treasures for which I can be grateful. 

First, I am thankful that my awareness level is growing. It no longer takes me days, weeks or months to figure out where I went wrong. This means that it takes me less time to amend my blunder. An apology might be in order, a note to self to do something differently, or simply not allowing my bad move to hold me hostage for the rest of my life are simple ways to right myself. 

Secondly, mistakes cause me to reflect, reconsider and reach out for help. I have a group of people who know me well enough to keep me accountable. When I’ve been snarky, they tell me. When my approach needs to be softer, they let me know. If I am at fault, they will point it out. 

I am grateful for this supportive group of close friends. 

Why bother being grateful for our mistakes? Life is not perfect and neither are we. But we can be grateful for our mistakes because if we let them, they can teach us to respond with gratitude. 

Why Bother Driving the Speed Limit?

Why Bother Driving the Speed Limit?

It has been one year since I had a speeding ticket. Of course I remember the embarrassment of last year when I got pulled over by a policeman. Yet, the moment of shame along with the consequences of a $90 ticket and a slight raise in my insurance rates, only changed my habit briefly. I was stopped once again for speeding, only a few days ago. This time though, the middle aged blue eyed State Trooper was very gracious. He understood my circumstances. I was a fourth grade teacher of 29 students on my way home after a hard day’s work. So, with a generous amount of kindness, he told me to slow down and withheld issuing me a ticket. Whew!

Yet, I have to ask myself, why oh why do I feel the need for speed? Why is it so hard for me to stay within the parameters of the posted speed? How can I alter my ways forever instead of just temporarily?

Change of Habit

Though I once thought it only took 21 days to change any one of my personal bents, I am now reading that it takes up to 63 days. Ridding ourselves of  any one of our untamed practices not only involves time, it also includes being patient with ourselves. Perhaps what I need to do before breaking my pattern of speeding is to first rid myself of my inclination toward impatience. 

Long term change, I know, is not instantaneous and requires us to shift in more than one area. For instance, when I quit smoking, I took up jogging. The switch from inhaling nicotine to gulping chilly morning air into my lungs, at first seemed foreign to my whole body. But after years of maintaining this routine, it now would be unnatural for me to light up a cigarette and inhale the toxins.

I have to ask myself, is my speeding habit any different? Could it ever be foreign to me to exceed the speed limit? Could this become my new reality?

Perhaps a new mindset is what is needed here. I need to let go of my feeling of being left behind when another car passes me by. I need to replace the thought that I need to be first in line. Since I do not have a reputation for being late, but rather I am known for being early, I really have no excuse to speed anywhere. 

Oh, wish me luck. Sixty-three days is a long time to wait for change, but I know speeding is something I need to leave behind.

Why bother to drive the speed limit? No matter our bents, propensities or addictions, we all need to change something. Mine just happens to be the need for speed. 

Why Bother to Trust Again?

Why Bother To Trust Again?

To trust and rely on others is a basic human need. But, when that trust is broken our hearts break, our defenses go up and we become guarded individuals. Our thinking shifts after an experience of shattered trust. We may think that our best defense from ever feeling disappointment in someone again is to keep ourselves from ever trusting anyone again. It is a natural response. But, just because it is natural does not make it good. The very thing that reinstates us to experiencing faith in others is the very thing we resist: trusting once again.

Broken Trust

It can be difficult to think of ever trusting someone again. Being vulnerable may feel impossible, even life threatening. When we’ve counted on someone to be there for us and they are not, our thinking shifts, not only about them specifically, but about everyone in general. We may no longer believe that anyone is trustworthy.  

When my father ended his own life, my defense shields went up. Suddenly what had once felt like a reliable world, suddenly became chaotic and confusing. I found a way to survive such a thing as my father’s suicide, but when I grew into an adult, every person I encountered was suspect to leaving me high and dry just as my father had.  

Distrust, unlike a physical defect, is something disguisable. It can be covered over with busyness, maintaining an impeccable appearance or putting on a false bravado. Though mistrusting individuals may wear a hard outer shell of protection, our thin veneer covers a heart longing to believe in someone. We wish for someone whom we can rely on. But letting down the guard is too risky. To trust again means we could get hurt again. 

To trust again is a risk. We have to decide if the gamble is worth taking. Yet, remaining a distrustful person has its disadvantages too. There is the problem of loneliness, isolation, self-medicating, one way conversations, unresolved anger and depression. 

When we are hurt by someone whom we thought trustworthy, we don’t have to throw out the rest of humanity. Not everyone is a suspect. To allow others back into our lives means taking baby steps of courage. And baby steps of courage can lead to gaining confidence once again in another human being. 

Why bother trusting again? It is worth trusting again when you consider the alternative of distrusting and being alone.

Why Bother to be Inspired?

Why Bother to be Inspired?

Inspire means to stimulate, affect and motivate. Without inspiration, I know my life would be dull, stagnant and boring. 

To be inspired is to be filled with creative power. It is a supernatural prompting that is sparked from within. Yet, I also know that I can be invigorated, roused, and rallied by other people. 

From whence inspiration comes, might be mysterious, yet, I do know when I’ve been inspired by someone. 

Inspiring Moments

Inspirational moments are just that; moments. They might be a brief interchange with someone, a few words from something we’ve read or sometimes a new idea that solves a dilemma we’ve had suddenly makes an appearance in our brain.

Yet, that interchange with another person, that  phrase we read in a book or the new concept that appears in our heads captures our attention. Then, it is up to us to feed that small ember into a flame. 

I’ve been influenced by the disciplined lives and kind words from a number of people. I remember when I was pregnant with our first child. I was filled with fright by the thought of becoming a mother. Of course, I wanted to be the best mom ever, but had no clue how to parent. When my husband announced that we’d soon be parents to our Bible study group, one woman exclaimed, “You will make such a good mother.” 

Her words motivated and energized me to grow into that good mother role she’d predicted for me. I read books and articles about every developmental stage my baby would go through so that I would be prepared for what was ahead. That mother saw what I could become, a good mom, and that became my aim. 

When I began to train for an open water ⅓ mile swim, a woman swimming in the lane beside me said, “You should train for the Long Bridge Swim.” That was not on my list of competitions to sign up for, yet her words created a spark inside of me. I found that training for a 1.78 mile swim made me more than ready for the ⅓ mile distance swim. 

The final example comes from one of my yoga instructors. She saw my capability to become a yoga instructor long before I imagined it for myself. Because of her influence in my life, I signed up for teacher’s training and now find myself leading yoga classes as an instructor. 

Why bother to be inspired? As long as we are alive there will be opportunities we cannot imagine until someone imagines them for us. Then it will be up to us to fan that little spark into a flaming reality.