Last year I wrote a post about my resolution to become more conscious of my emotions instead of minimizing or distracting myself from them. (see An Emotionally Conscious Resolution). I cannot say that I was hyper conscious of my emotions throughout the entire year, but I did try to pay attention to strong emotions.This week I’ve been reflecting on how this stance has affected me over the course of the year. I was surprised at what I have discovered.
NOTICING WHAT FEELS GOOD
I had not been aware that in my tendency to minimize or avoid, what I perceived as negative emotions, I was also not noticing what actually felt really good. I wouldn’t say this past year was exceptionally amazing, compared to other years, but I certainly became more aware of the good things. Here are a few:
Spending time with good friends
In the past, I noticed when I was socially drained or had a particularly stressful social interaction, but was not very conscious of how good it felt to spend time with people I love and do things I enjoy with them. I’m still very much an introvert, but I’ve realized that these times add to my life and should not be treated as another item on my to do list. (See Who are Your Friends? for more on this).
I’ve started to notice, more distinctly, the types of things that result in more energy such as:
Spending a chunk of time outside every day, but particularly on cloudy days adds to my energy level.
It takes a few days of exercising consistently to feel the increase in energy, but it does come. Knowing this has given me more motivation to do exercise when my energy is low, knowing that it will boost my energy eventually.
Being pain free
This is not something I always have control over, but my mood is definitely improved by lack of pain. Knowing this, I took steps over the year (I have more to do yet) to address several problematic areas of my body and have started to include addressing pain as a part of my ‘health plan” instead of only counting exercise as a valid activity related to my physical health.
Also, when I do have pain, I have trued to look at it, not as a set back, but as part of my body’s own unique needs and the management of it as a valid part of my health plan.
Pain is part of the journey, and while it has been lessoned by many steps I’ve taken (buying a good fitting back pack, buying a chiro-pillow, following up with my doctor about pain management strategies, doing physio exercises, to name a few) some days, a hot bath, a hot water bottle and a nap are what my body needs and other days it’s a run on the treadmill. This has been a distinct shift from my perspective when I wrote My Shitty Body (Image) and Avoiding Exercise – An Expert’s Guide
Non- screen time
I have loved playing board games with my kids, reading books, chatting with friends and getting outside to ski. These things keep me grounded and I have found myself seeking out and initiating these activities more.
This is something that gets easily passed over. I spent a day, recently, with some elders at a meeting that I thought was going to be about discussing the practicalities of moving forward financially, as a non profit, that I’m a part of. Instead the day was focused on our spiritual connection with time and money, and the need to find healing in order to ensure that we are not ruled by either, so that, even in generosity, we do not pass on unhealthy relationships with money and time to others. I’ve been challenged by this and was reminded of the power of mindfulness, self examination and intentionality in giving meaning, direction and freedom in life. (See Religion, Spirituality & Mental Health for more on this).
These are a few things I’ve noticed this past year that I want to have more of in my life and continue forward with.
WHEN THINGS DON’T FEEL GOOD
In last year’s post, I examined an event that did not feel good to me. Over the course of the year, when examining situations that don’t feel good to me, there are a few things that I’ve found helpful in sorting out what is going on and what I should consider doing next, or differently:
Checking my physical needs
Am I tired? Hungry? Sick? Hormonal? I need to take care of these first before trying to sort out a situation that feels negative. I might need to postpone my evaluation of this event/situation until I’m not feeling overwhelmed by these physical things.
Checking the intensity of emotion in comparison to the event
Does the intensity of my emotion fit with the situation that I have strong feelings about. Sometimes I notice a generalized irritability or sadness, which gives me a clue that there might be something I am ignoring or minimizing. If I figure out what is bothering and discover very strong feelings attached to that issue, I might also need to check what other issues might be contributing to the intensity of my feelings. (Check out Understanding Relational Conflict through Creative Writing – part I and Understanding Your Conflicts through Creative Writing- part 2 for more on this).
Recently I had a situation where I had an interaction with someone which, to the outsider would seem pretty harmless. I was feeling uncomfortable for a while afterwards and finally decided to pay attention to my feeligns. I discovered a whole lot of feelings just under the surface which surprised me in their intensity. I started writing up a confrontational email in my head to address this situation. After quite some time of ruminating over my feelings I decided I needed to work off some adrenalin and so went for a run. After that I was able to return to the situation without the same intensity and recognized that there was a series of interactions with this person that were similar, which I had lost patience with and needed to address in some way. Based on my own experience with conflict, I set about figuring out what I needed from this person, in practical terms, in order to make things right and then worked on the best way to communicate this.
When looking at the history of the situation, like the one listed above, I’ve discovered that I also need to pay attention to my own responses in previous interactions. Where have I been silent? Where have I been passive aggressive? (See Passive Aggressiveness) Where have I been aggressive in a destruction and not constructive way? (See also, 5 Things Your Anger Can Help you pay Attention to). This will be important for me to take responsibility for and learn from for future interactions.
These are just a few things I’ve noticed in the past year. They have led me towards many things that, in years past, might have made on my list of resolutions (ie, get outside more, spend more time with friends, etc) but without being conscious of the very tangible rewards, haven’t always stuck. I will continue with this process over the next year and am excited to learn more about what works and what doesn’t in a well life, for me. I invite you to do the same! Happy New Year!