A little while back, author Elizabeth Gilbert shared her mental health self care routine on Facebook. She wrote her morning begins with prayer and meditation and dancing and then maybe some yoga or therapy and then continues on with love and even more love throughout the day.
I was struck by the audacity of Liz's list. Her unapologetic recital of the tasks she takes daily for the care and feeding of her soul.
And, after justifying why Liz can take care of herself in this marvelous way and why I'm unable to (she doesn't have kids, she's wealthy, she's a successful writer - all of which have everything to do with me and absolutely nothing to do with her), I asked myself what would I do if nothing stood in my way? What would I build into my schedule? How would I care for myself?
My first thought was that I'd sleep longer into the morning. Immediately, a part of me countered, "But what about the dog that needs to go out and pee? And the hungry-hungry-hungry cat that starts crying at 5:45? And the teenagers, who are starting school in just a week and the older one has a zero period that starts at 6:45?"
I wouldn't even let myself imagine a schedule in which I took even a little bit better care of myself.
I realized what gets in the way is not the animals, kids, responsibilities, and obligations.
What gets in the way is me.
I'm the one who chooses what to expect from myself. I'm the one who fiddles with my inner tuning knob so I can clearly hear the voices that tell me that what I want is impossible and so far out of reach.
As my kind friend/life coach buddy pointed out so gently to me the other day, I'm a pleasure denier.
I'm a bully who doesn't allow myself to enjoy herself.
The thing is, I don't need to do anything extra to allow more pleasure into my life. I don't need to schedule massages or book weekend getaways to the coast.
Neither do you.
We're always in the moment making choices of what we do and how we think and whether or not we give ourselves permission to take pleasure from what's right in front of us.
Like smelling the eucaplyptus trees at Beresford Park while on my morning walk with Jasper. Or taking the time for little longer love fest with Traviesa the cat. Or luxuriating in the sweetness of sliding under the covers and resting my head on my pillow after a very long day.
Psychologist Rick Hanson says that our brains are wired to be Teflon for the positive and Velcro for the negative. It's called negativity bias and it's a natural – but now mostly unnecessary – protective perception of the world in which we automatically look for and remember the negative. It's a mindset that kept us safe when a rustling in the bushes could mean that we're at risk of being a preator's next meal.
You can shift your mind to see the world from a more positive place with Rick Hanson's four-step process he calls HEAL: have a positive experience, enrich it, absorb it, and then take the optional link step, essentially overwriting a negative memory with a new, more powerful positive one.
You can start right now, in this very moment. You can make choice after choice after choice (because building a new habit takes many tries) to firmly turn your inner tuning knob to a new station, switching from the negative playlist to a brand new one, listening instead to the curious, joyful, and eager voices within you.
Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash