If you’re on the internet at all, you’ve probably heard of Glennon Doyle and her wonderful organization “Momastery”. I am a fan and follower of hers on Instagram, and was recently inspired by a post with the hashtag: “Kondo That Sh@#”. If you don’t know what she means by that phrase please click: “Marie Kondo“. (You’re welcome). These women are bringing us what we know on a gut level we need, but don’t always pay attention to in our busy lives.
Glennon suggests that we apply Kondo’s methods to our inner life as well as the pile of concert t-shirts we have squirreled away in a remote corner of the closet. Previously, if you had asked me whether it’s possible to neatly fold our emotional lives into tidy, aesthetically pleasing piles I would probably have rolled my eyes at you and laughed at your adorably naive fantasy. (Secretly though, I really want to be able to do that to my life and relationships too).
I mean, come on, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to organize our emotions and open a drawer to select the appropriate and joy sparking response to a situation? As an empath who has had to learn to temper her responses to stimuli, it sounds fantastic! I feel and sometimes speak before I think a response through. However, I’m not sure that’s exactly what Glennon intended, plus, it feels a little “Stepford Wives”.
I think she meant that we get to choose what we allow into our daily experience, and that is something that is both realistic and possible. Curating what we allow into our hearts and minds isn’t just doable, it’s crucial for self-care. I’m not saying that we must only let in things and experiences that spark joy – because that would make life one dimensional and ultimately boring and stagnant. I am saying that we should choose experiences that feel more gentle, authentic and kind.
If you’re not sure whether you need to make any changes, here’s a pop quiz: when you wake up in the morning, do you feel a crushing sense of dread? Are you grumpy, neutral, or happy to awaken to another day? If you wake up grumpy or dreading the day, it’s possible that you might benefit from making some changes.
“That’s really easy for you to say, but I still have to get up and go to my crappy job so that I can pay the bills and feed my kids.” Yes, you absolutely do, and tiny perception changes can make that task entirely more tolerable. It might seem tough to believe but stick with me.
The most liberating idea I ever learned was that everything we think, feel and believe will be reflected back to us in our daily lives. Sometimes it’s a terrifying realization, because if our lives are not what we want them to be, it can feel like adding insult to injury. “Whaddya mean, my life is tough and it’s MY fault?!” It’s really hard to take responsibility for creating what we experience, especially if it’s not particularly wonderful. The fantastic news is that what created the reality to begin with was just a thought, and you can change your thoughts.
This philosophy is not a magic bullet, and it’s not going to affect instant change, but it also doesn’t take very long either. For practical matters though – there is action to take in the moment, like applying a spiritual tourniquet in order to deal with the currently crappy reality we have to face while we make the internal changes. If you’re having a rough Monday morning and you’re looking for a way to ease yourself into a better mood, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to share with you.
One I love is faking a smile. Science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life. I know it sounds backwards, but science has shown that our bodies respond to the physical act of smiling because your brain registers the muscle movement and produces feel-good hormones in response. The fact is, as Dr. Isha Gupta a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine explains, a smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin. “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression,” says Dr. Gupta. “Low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression.”
You can actually trick your brain into thinking that you’re happy and then spur actual happiness. Forcing a fake smile can actually legitimately reduce stress and lower your heart rate. Let that sink in. If you’re not at least a little bit excited about how rad that is, I may need to check your pulse.
Please, please, please do not think I’m suggesting that you hide, stuff or otherwise sublimate your real feelings. Quite the contrary. I want you to own, feel and explore them with me, with a therapist or with your best friend over wine and yummy food. (I suggest doing the latter on a pile of warm laundry with freshly baked bread and French butter). Sometimes life demands that we show up and face the day, and tips like this one can help us make it through a tiny bit easier.
Other mood-enhancing hacks include inhaling orange essential oil, looking at the color green, buying ourselves some flowers or having a cuddle with a beloved pet. Try any and all of them if and see if they work for you.
The underlying goal is that we create lives we don’t want (or need) to escape from. The surest way I know of doing that is managing our perceptions, both about what is true and what is possible. Thoughts and words create our future experiences. If you’re not sure how, you may consider examining what you feel and believe, in order to identify the ways in which your internal narrative doesn’t help facilitate the life you actually want to be living.
Not sure how? I can help. Find me at 12Listen for a reading and we’ll get you on your way.
As always, I’m with you on the journey.