Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Channel That Love!

When we are children, our parents tell us we can be whatever we want to be. Or at least, most of them do. But really what they should be saying is that we will be whoever we want to be and whoever we think we are. The idea you have of yourself in your mind is stronger and carries more weight than you ever could imagine, and when you project an idea about yourself it becomes truth. You make it so, if you will.

We all say terrible things about ourselves, especially when we are upset. “I’m stupid.” “No one really cares about me.” “I’m going to be alone forever.” “I’ll never find someone.” “I’m fat.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m useless.” I did this for a long time. Those horrible phrases I would repeat to myself become something of a comfort when I was depressed. I was soothed by the fact that I was just as pathetic as I had always imagined myself to be. All was right with the world.

But when you are constantly down on yourself, and constantly telling yourself you can’t do something or you aren’t worth something, you begin to believe it. Those words stay in your heart and you begin to act based on them. They are in the back of your mind, always taunting you. You lose your job and you tell yourself, “Of course you did. You were never good enough for that job, anyway. You’re just too stupid,” and it’s like a comfort. Ah, yes, I am my old self after all, incapable of doing anything right. You feel better because you recognize and know that person well - it’s reassuring in its familiarity. 

So, if these things work one way, they undoubtedly work the other, as well, right? This is the realization I came to last night, sitting alone in my tiny bunkhouse. It was hot – the milder weather has made it tricky for me to gage how much heat I should use, and I had misjudged. My curtains were drawn. In my window I have a postcard that a dear friend sent to me, to which she glued a beautiful phrase that I repeat to myself every day: “She accepts the fates and furies beyond her control with unflappable composure (and a serious sense of humour)!” Since I have been saying this, I have indeed begun to face things with unflappable composure, composure I never knew I had. I sat on my bed and stared at that postcard. I repeated the words in my head a few times and began to feel strong, capable, in control of my emotions. That’s when I started to think – if this works so well, wouldn’t saying other things aloud to myself and repeating them over and over in my mind start making them come true, as well?

So I wrote down everything I wanted to be. I wrote down twenty phrases, among them:


I cut out each phrase and taped them to different areas of my bunkhouse where I would see them frequently and repeat them, either in my mind or out loud. I also taped a poem to my door that I wrote to remind myself to feel love for all living things, even when it's the most difficult.

A lot of people, when they are trying to project positive affirmations, make the mistake of saying things like, “I wish I could be better at communicating with people.” When you say wishy-washy things like this, your mind gets caught up in all the “I wish” and “I’d like to”s. It must be a positive statement. I AM EXCELLENT AT COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS. You might feel like a fraud at first, because you’re not excellent at communicating with anyone yet. That’s okay! You’re not a fraud, because by saying this you’re going to make it so, and then it will be true. 

If you don’t believe this can work, think about it this way. Everyone knows that person, the one who is always in a terrible state and horribly depressed and in some bad way at work and broke and everyone is out to get them. The tiniest cold becomes something to whine and complain about, and every slightly negative thing that happens to them is blown to the hugest proportions. Do you ever notice that those people are always miserable? It’s because they’re projecting misery. “Everything bad always happens to me.” Well, of course it does, you’re sitting there festering in your own skin just WAITING for it to happen. Constantly repeating negative statements like that puts them in the forefront of your brain, and as soon as something bad happens, it’s just reaffirming everything you were already thinking.

We all do this – I am definitely no exception, that’s for sure – but the key is to stop yourself when you sense it starting, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that everything seems the way it does because you are perceiving it that way. Doing these positive affirmations isn’t going to stop bad things from happening to you. It’s just going to help you think of them differently, and they won’t seem so bad. Remember that wherever you are and whatever’s happening to you is exactly as it should be. So it follows that whatever situation you’re in… you’re in it for a reason. So, what’s the reason? I’ll bet you could find it, if you really wanted to. “I just got dumped. I’m so sad! But… I could see myself becoming really negative being with that person” (or bored or inactive or unhealthy or whatever) “so that must be why it didn’t work out. There must be something in store for me that I haven’t gotten to yet, and then this will all make sense.”

Sound trite? That’s okay. You don’t have to do it then. But the rest of us will, and we’ll reap the rewards.

I was talking to a friend the other day who is going through some hard times. She expressed to me that she felt like a bad person and that she didn’t like who she had become. (Just for the record, I don't believe there are "bad people", just bad decisions and hurtful actions) I told her she could be whoever she wanted to be, so if she wanted to change she should find all the things she didn’t like about herself and strive to change them, one by one. It’s a frightening task, sure, and one that’s probably going to take you the rest of your life, but what have you got to lose? In your mind, who is that person you want to be? Who is that best version of yourself? Maybe you want to be kinder to strangers. Maybe you want to be calmer, able to deal with your emotions better. Maybe you want to be more courageous. Well, what’s stopping you? Grab a sheet of paper now and plan it all out. Write down all the things you want to be. Remind yourself of all the beautiful things you already are. Don’t judge yourself, don’t be harsh. Everyone has things about themselves they don’t like and everyone has flaws – you are no different. But you can take control of these flaws and change them, and the person who will benefit the most from it is you. So, go to it. Read them out loud every day, run them through your mind continuously, make them into a mantra: I am strong, I am capable, I am beautiful, I am intelligent, I am calm, I am collected, I am kind. Be conscious of your thoughts and when you feel you are slipping, repeat them to yourself yet again. I am angry right now, but I don’t have to be. I AM CALM, I AM CALM. 

So, what will your positive affirmations be? Would you share them with me, as I have shared mine with you? I would love to hear them, and all about your journey to self-discovery and mental health. My own journey has been frightfully interesting so far. I completely slipped up for a few weeks, started eating shit again, smoking cigarettes, you name it! Now I have a new sense of motivation and strength and am ready to get back to it again. The one thing I always have to remind myself of is that in no way am I perfect and in no way will I ever be, so not to treat myself like I’m supposed to be. But by constantly reminding myself that I can be whoever I set my mind to being, I feel a renewed sense of hope for this journey I’m on. 

Namaste, friends.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Exercise Addiction

So recently I joined a gym in town and began working out about four or five times a week. I’ve always had a general problem with laziness, and usually shortly after joining a gym I would just stop going because I didn’t feel like it anymore. Ever since I started taking my meds and taking better care of my health, however, I’ve found I have much more energy and motivation to meet my fitness goals. It’s been a few weeks now and I still thoroughly enjoy my workouts. In fact, I look forward to them, which is something completely foreign to me. I think it’s obvious that my exercise routine has been making me feel great.

But all this has brought something completely new into my life, a problem I have never had to deal with before. My problems have always stemmed from food – eating too much or too little – so having a problem when it comes to exercise is something I was not equipped to deal with. My gym visits started out being about 60 minutes long, which is perfectly acceptable, but over time they got longer and longer. Now I find myself there for at least two hours every time. I do over an hour of cardio. I’m intent upon burning at least 1000 calories. So I started to think maybe I have an addiction. I looked exercise addiction up online to get some more information, and I thought it would be beneficial to share it with you.

Exercise addiction has many symptoms.  You may think, “how can an addiction to something as healthy as working out be a bad thing?” Well, in my opinion, any sort of mental or physical dependency upon something is usually not a good thing, and exercise addiction is no exception. Addicts may feel a strong urge to exercise an excessive amount, and experience a feeling of real dread if their fitness schedule is interrupted. Oftentimes, they berate themselves if they are not able to make a workout. They begin exercising on their own to avoid attracting attention to themselves, and their relationships with friends and family suffer greatly. They may even miss work to exercise. Oftentimes, they have a goal that they wish to reach, but once they have, they create a new goal so that they can justify continuing with their obsessive need to exercise. To put it bluntly, exercising is the most important thing in their lives, and they feel unable to control themselves when it comes to how often and how long they work out.

Phew! That definitely doesn’t describe me. I am more than happy to reschedule or cancel my workout if a friend or family member would like to meet with me. Exercise is definitely not the most important thing in my life. However, I do feel like it’s very important that I looked up this information, because I was headed down a path that may very well have led to a bad addiction. It’s so important for us to remember to pace ourselves, especially when it comes to physical activity. Working out too much can lead to serious injury, and if you are not willing to pace yourself, you will never have time to heal. Remember, our main goal is health, not perfection. Burning too many calories is not healthy – it’s basically the same thing as not eating enough, and we all know how bad that is for you. You may lose weight, but you’ll be losing muscle mass and important vitamins and nutrients too, and that isn’t good for you.

If you feel like you may have a problem, be honest with yourself. Do the above symptoms describe you at all? If so, take a step back and examine your mindset while working out. Do you refuse to let yourself stop, even when you’re in pain or feel like you don’t have the energy to go on? Does everyone who was in the gym when you got there leave before you do? Do you get physical pleasure from the “workout high” we all experience, so much so that you push yourself beyond what you thought capable just to achieve a stronger sense of elation? 

If so, take a step back! Grab a friend and sit down with them. Ask them if they have noticed anything or been concerned. If exercise addiction is a real problem in your life, chances are a good friend will have noticed. They can give you some advice, but also help you to understand that your worth as a person does not come from how physically fit you are, but how healthy your relationships are, your heart, your generosity, etc. Ask yourself if you are really willing to give up those things just to achieve a better figure. I should hope not, and I think a few soft words with a good friend might help to put things into perspective.

I hope this information has been as helpful for you as it has been for me. I have enjoyed writing about this because it has helped me work a lot of things out in my mind and understand this situation a lot better. 

Remember, in order to be healthy, truly healthy, your mind must be healthy, too! 

<3 Namaste