Mini-Post: Bringing Life to the Dead Zones of Routine

I’m experimenting with a mini post. Life is all about trying new things, right?

Today Enjoy Life For Once’s Facebook status was:

Pick a routine today, especially a dull one. Doing the dishes, tidying the living room, packing your bag. Devote ten seconds of the time to just paying attention. Feeling the water on your hands, feeling your legs. Notice the colors, the sounds around you. Bringing fresh attention to the dead zones of your day is a great way to start making friends with the present moment, which is where your power to change is.

Do you ever try this technique? What kind of results do you see?

How many times during the day do you think that you are unaware of things where you could be more present?

 

For me, I noticed that when I spent time paying attention while doing the dishes, the routine became more enjoyable. I felt more collected afterwards, and even felt moved to clean up the living room a bit, noticing the weight of each pillow in an enjoyable way.

It was nice.

I would like to try doing that more often, since “doing the dishes” is one of those things I always assume will be horrible.

Are there routines that you despise, that you do begrudgingly, that could perhaps get some fresh life into them if they were less bothersome?

 

Morning Intentions For Happiness…Right?

There are a lot of things we are supposed to do in the morning.

We should write down our dreams, eat good breakfasts, and stretch. We should get hydrated, go for a jog, and meditate. Depending on who you ask, you’re a fool if you leave out one or more of these.

But what about morning intentions? Are they useful? Are we all supposed to do them so that we can be happy, shiny people bubbling with cheer and healthy bank accounts and perfect relationships in no time at all?

Here I’m going to re-explore the question of happiness and how to find it through morning intentions. There are no solid answers to be found here, only some things that have been helping me to feel less crazy lately.
Happiness: Hmmmm….

I’ve been reading a great book about happiness recently called “The Happiness Trap.” Undoubtedly, it will show up in more than a few posts from here on in. The main thing I’m gaining from it is the acknowledgement that there are various definitions of “happy.”

A lot of times, we take the word to mean “a pleasurable feeling,” and we seek it out to no end, beating ourselves up if we can’t achieve it.

The other definition has to do with living a meaningful life. Living a life that is in line with your values, and that is fulfilling. Such a life will not always meet the expectation of a “pleasurable feeling”.

Even the healthiest long-term relationship is bound to have some ups and downs, and a healthy life is not going to be bliss and cheer every step of the way. Acknowledging this is important. My morning intentions are not for bliss; they are for living a life that feels real and friendly to the person living it.

Which Things Always Create A Desirable Feeling?

There are certain things that I do sometimes that never fail to lead to me feeling good. Some of these include:

  • Running with the dog.
  • Reading a fictional book for at least a half an hour.
  • Looking at the sky or a natural surrounding for a few minutes without thinking too much about it.
  • Drawing, doodling, creating art with colors on paper.
  • Making up ditties on the guitar for characters in my short stories to understand them better.
  • Cooking a nice meal.

These things generally never make me feel worse, or more stressed, or more anxious, or like I wasted time.  They are things I love, things that nourish me and help me to improve a skill that I value. The problem is, on most days I don’t have time for each and every one of them.

So sometimes, in the morning or during the heat of my workday, I will commit to one of them; and do an intention that way. Instead of a complex list of things that are supposed to bring me some type of happiness, I’ll pick something that is likely to lead to inspiration and a feeling of working with a fulfilling life.

 

Respecting the Uniqueness of Each Day with Morning Intentions

Each day is a unique conglomeration of factors. Sometimes you feel like you are getting sick. Other times, you feel on fire with creativity. Your hand might hurt from yesterday’s writing episode, or your legs might hurt from yesterday’s workout. On certain days, you are booked with plans and on others, your schedule is blissfully open.  This is important too, I think.

No intention is going to work every single day of the week.

Listen to your body, to your mind, to the mood it is in. Listen to the weather and your schedule. Think of an intention based on those things; give yourself room to notice what the day is saying.

If you wake up and feel like you are coming down with a cold and you notice that it is rainy and chilly, perhaps the nature walk intention is not the ideal one to commit to. Perhaps today is a good day for the hot tea and bath intention.

Keeping It Simple

Sometimes it’s fun to make an elaborate plan. Today after work I shall finish 2,000 more words of my short story and I shall also run three miles whilst creating a slow-cooked turkey dinner with herbs from my garden! Yes, a perfect day in paradise! But all of that can lead to some rushing, some frantic energy, and a whole lot of lack in the slow enjoyment department.

Keep it simple. Maybe one intention a day is good. Maybe your intention is about your health.  “Today, I will smoke one less cigarette than normal.” or, “Today, I will get a vegetable that I have not tried in a long time.” Something small, easy, doable. Or, something vague. “Today I will notice how my body feels after each meal.”

Forgiveness, Acceptance, and Compassion

I am trying to learn more about compassion and how to use it in relation to my own destructive emotions. So far, I know that one thing that truly seems to work for me and troublesome or “negative” emotions is to welcome them. That’s easier said than done.

But I feel a bit closer to acceptance after asking myself:

  • Where does this emotion affect my body?
  • How would I explain this feeling in my body?
  • How long has this feeling been happening?
  • How long will it happen, can I time it?
  • What is happening outside of this feeling?

These things are not directly accepting or welcoming a feeling, but they do encourage curiosity which lets me see the feeling in a way that is more useful than just fusing with it and letting it dominate my awareness.

Do you have feelings that can get in the way of your creativity, your writing, your music, your joy?

The Best Morning Intentions For Happiness

Having wide intentions, broad strokes of awareness, and many things to pick from can be a great way to have each day bring you to a more healthy relationship with yourself & your community. Or at least, they do that for me.

Don’t try to be too “happy” and don’t assume that others are feeling that way, either. Don’t try to make a million intentions that you’ll never keep up with, or stay too focused on getting excess money and a perfect relationship. Stay real, stay here, look at what is happening now. Find those things that always leave you in a better place and do one of them every so often with abandon.

The Science of Morning Intentions

This will be an upcoming topic for a post. I am going to do some research on various things, including priming, memory, and adrenaline.

 

Do you use morning intentions? Do you use them to try and attract more money, or a partner, or to get healthier? Or something else?

Do you find that having some type of intention can help you with your writing, such as a set goal for the amount of words to do in a day? (Especially now that NaNoWriMo is coming up…)

Or is the whole business of “intentions” some type of hippie crap that is best left to the vultures?

Finding Nourishment in the Roots of a Facebook Status

Sometimes there’s pressure to put on a certain face for the public world. But how do we really feel?

Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about Facebook statuses.

Maybe it’s because a lot of my friends seem to be sharing things that otherwise would never be known. Secret drunken laundry dance parties, for example.

Maybe it’s because the person doing secret drunken laundry dance parties is my sister. Who knows. The point is, a lot of my friends are doing well and having fun; this I know from their statuses. All of my friends that I talk to, however, are having hard times here and there.

Why do we share what we share, especially on these quick statuses?
Sticking with the theme of this blog, which is learning to see things in new ways and not be too automatic (sometimes for the sake of writing better material), I am going to write here about how we may gain psychological nourishment and extra story material by looking at why we choose to make certain Facebook statuses.

The Example of the White Gecko

Here is something I’ve been thinking about writing on Facebook as a status:

“For the first time ever, there was a pink gecko in the bedroom!”

Instead of writing that status, I analyzed it. Why, I said to myself, why do you feel the need to tell all the people that there was a gecko in your bedroom? You certainly wouldn’t call them and tell them. Except for maybe your sister. So…

Here’s what I came to while trying to deconstruct my impulse for posting about the pink gecko:

1. It shows that I am living in a place that is unique for me, because Geckos don’t live in CT or MA, where I came from.

2. It shows that craaazy things happen in my life, therefore, I am interesting.

3. Geckos are cute and perhaps people will smile just thinking of one.

4. I just want people to acknowledge my existence in this strange and fleeting life.

5. Was it really pink? Maybe someone will explain the process of color-changing to me.

Now, none of this was really conscious at the time of thinking “Gosh darn golly gee, I should write about that gecko!” Instead, it was just an impulse. Just like my impulse to quote certain lines of songs by Tom Waits and Bob Dylan quite often, which I also refrain from doing.

It seemed that what I really wanted was to tell a story. I really wanted to share something, to be seen, to be acknowledged, and to project a certain image through that. Like my sister and her drunken laundry party. She might have been hanging out alone, but at least everyone she ever met knew that she was having a good time.

I’m finding that that the impulse to post a photo (or just to get a photo) of a sunset, or the rainbow, or a cool view of the city skyline, is much the same. It usually breaks down to some combination of:

-My life is fun, believe me, here’s proof!

-I am interesting; please, god, friends of past, present, and future, agree with me that I’m interesting!

-I’m doing well, don’t worry, I’m happy in some moments, like this one, which you get to see in full color in all of its instagrammed glory!

-Smile, darnit! You are my friends, you should be smiling! Maybe this will make you smile!

A picture that my Facebook friends never got to see..

And others. I am never quite disappointed with the resulting feelings of asking myself  “Why do I feel I should post that particular status or picture to Facebook?”

Memories of External Validation

I think we’ve all had the  “If that person thinks I’m awesome/pretty/smart/interesting, then I will finally feel like it myself” feeling. For me, it happened a lot when I was younger.
Now when it happens, it seems to be related to work-stuff a lot. A boss, an organization, a magazine. “If they take my manuscript/essay/short story, I will truly feel like a good writer!” and it goes on.

Now, why is this? It is clearly repetitive and illogical. A sunset is gorgeous whether or not all of my friends see it too, a gecko on my wall makes me smile even if nobody else sees it, believes it, or can even empathize with it. The same story that one magazine rejects may be perfectly acceptable to another.

External validation has never worked, nor will it. So why keep trying, and is there any harm being done?

Do We See The Extent of It?

I remember reading a study about people feeling worse about themselves after seeing the very best pieces of all of their friends’ lives on Facebook. This is a big deal to me. It’s a lot like those studies of magazines many years ago where the psychologists basically watched girls’ self-esteem go down the more pages they looked at of mainstream magazines.

The reason it matters is that it affects people I love, and it also might be a factor in helping to be aware of the causes of depression or bad moods in myself.

So, when we try to extract the happiest and most validating moments of our lives, our friends see that. Then, they get an unrealistic idea of our lives, and judge their own based on that lens that everyone contributes to. They choose to then show their happiest moments, and we feel that we need to also be that perfect. This keeps compounding itself.

The more we show our best sides, the more one-dimensional the whole situation seems to become. That’s why I’m rooting for honesty and examining my intentions before leaving any type of status to see if it really will meet the need I expect it to.

Usually what I come up with is that I need to validate my own joy and interesting-ness, so I end up doing things like making faces with materials that fall from the trees at the coffee shop to make myself smile. But I’m not going to show you those.

Turning The Mirror Around
I think that in terms of writing fiction, thinking about this kind of stuff matters. The world seems to be moving me in a direction of more automatic behavior. Instead of reading street signs, I can just watch the arrow on my GPS. Instead of dialing each number of someone’s phone number, I can scroll to find their name. These are little things. But they add up, as I’ve mentioned before.

So before I start making automatic status updates to try and reach for some sense of validation or present some image that I’m not, I may as well think about where those are coming from. It helps me to see inside some of my characters for the various fictional pieces I’m working on. Because what are our characters besides pieces of ourselves, and how are we going to know their true and genuine responses to things and motivations when we are not exploring our own?

We can start with what motivates us to make a status, if we want. I’m starting there, and my stories have been pumping out like crazy since the cancelled gecko status. It may be cause and effect, it may not be.

How about you?

Have you ever explored the feelings behind why you make certain statuses? Do you feel like you are completely honest in them, or that you are showing your best or most upset sides?

Do you feel different after looking at Facebook for ten minutes than before? Does it help you feel more connected to people, or less?

And also, I lied about not showing you the face made from fallen objects at the coffee shop.

Sometimes, you just gotta sit alone and make an acorn face.