Mental Wellness Challenge
2021, September 29
It’s the end of September already… not sure where that month went…
My last challenge was to:
- Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth… You don’t need to close your eyes or anything… just take in 5 good breaths and pay attention to the breaths you take…. Because… as simple as this sounds – you can’t retake a breath… so make good on the breath you take.
- If you have a photo album or pics on your phone – take a minute or two and browse through some photos… I’ve got a digital picture frame and it plays photos from a whack that I have in a big album. Seeing pictures of my kids, my wife , my grand babies and my friends go by reminds me to smile.
- Practice a little gratitude each day.
How did you do?
Breathing – paying attention to a few breaths – being mindful of the process of taking in a good deep breath and then exhaling it… Kabot-Zinn encourages this exercise to help slow the mind down and to focus attention on the moment. I like thinking about each breath… the fact that I’m not able to ever retake a breath. This reminds me to make the most of each moment… I’m not very good at appreciating each moment… I get too caught up in the “works” of my life…
Taking time to look back at photos, or even my mental photo album helps me to be appreciative of all of the experiences that I have had and have been able to share with my family. It’s really easy for me to lose all that… My only regret, photo wise, is that I didn’t invest in a better camera early on – when my kids were little… Nowadays, its pretty simple – every phone has a pretty decent camera for snap shots – so the collection of memories is… easier… I just have to remember to do it.
I find it interesting that a few photos can help me rebuild my experiences. Without the photos, many of those precious moments would simply vanish into my yesterdays… My journaling is a little like a photo album too… When I read back through some of my journaling – done a decade or so ago – I am able to reconnect with ideas, thoughts, and experiences that I had when I took the time to write. I’ll be the first to admit that some of that stuff is tough to read… there are some dark things in my journaling – however, there is plenty of hope in there too… It’s difficult to re-read some of my entries from times when I simply didn’t want to exist anymore. To read the emotional crud that I was experiencing at the time and for sure – to even re-experience some of the anguish. The fact that I am here, doing my life as well as I can – is certainly evidence to me that “This too shall pass…” The darkness isn’t permanent if I work hard enough to let the light in…
The past year or two have been taxing on me. Sincerely, I have found it difficult to be truly grateful – to truly practice gratitude. There’s been SSSOOOOOO MMUUUCCCCHHHHH shit in the world, and some of that has splashed into my experience… I really has been difficult to pull up a ton of gratitude… In some instances – well – I fake it…. “Fake it, till I make it…” That might sound odd, but it’s a truth. Sometimes, I put on gratitude like a mask or a jacket… Not 100% self-convinced that I AM grateful. When I do this, I get or take an opportunity to do a little perspective checking and perhaps I do actually “grow” a little gratitude for my circumstances. It’s certainly a truth in my experience, that my circumstances aren’t as dark or grave as those of others – and while comparing myself to others has two sides to it – I can gleen a little comfort that I am in a pretty good place compared to so very many others… (This kinda feels a little wrong for me.)
The past couple of weeks have been up and down. Normal days I suppose I could say. Nothing truly notable. Sure – I have developed some new and uncomfortable aches and pains… and life is moving along… Do I dare say that life for me is – my usual? What the heck is that anyway… LOL
The seasons have changed… While I appreciate the warmth of summer days, I truly love the turning of summer into fall. The colors of fall are incredible. I love to take time to see the beautiful leaves, in the auburns, golds, reds… There are a few trees and bushes in my neighborhood that are breath takingly gorgeous… for a few days – what was just a plain looking little tree or bush bursts into the most vibrant reds… but only for a few days… then their leaves start falling to the ground… (ya – there’s a lesson in there for certain!!!) Taking the time to “see” the beauty is an intentional act… and if I know anything about my experience at all – I glean the most from my life when I am intentional.
Cool thing about those little trees… they aren’t dying… they are just going through a natural pattern that is a piece of their growth. The tree goes through all the seasons and each year it grows a little… (yup, another lesson in here too). The tree starts with its new growth, leaves and sprouts in the spring, soaks up the sun and water through out the summer, turns color and loses its leaves in the fall and then must weather the cold of winter… Then the pattern repeats… (nothing like stating the obvious, Kev)… but the lesson piece for me is that during that winter – the freezing temperature can help kill off pests and parasites the tree has picked up… The dormant season for the tree is an important season too… bugs and other nasties perish in the cold… Do I have a dormant season? Is there a time in my “cycle”, my rhythm, where my nasties perish? Hmmm… there’s some thinking for me there…
Without a doubt I know that my experience is cyclic. I’ve mapped my mood disorders and I know that there is definitely a pattern… while it isn’t annual, it does repeat.
I’m not certain that I permit a dormancy in my experience… I don’t know that I can.. my brain doesn’t like to be dormant… (my body can do dormant… my mind – not so much)… and aside from my ADHD piece, I have learned that I need to be more vigilant with regards to where my mental health is… Alas, I’m not a tree…
There’s a broader piece of this seasons thing too… I’m pretty certain that I’m not in the spring of my experience… nor the summer… I’m getting a little older – perhaps starting my own autumn.. I can only do my best to make sure that I take time to be intentional about “seeing” the colors of this piece of my life. I used to think 60 was “really old”… and while there ARE certainly times where my body tells me that I’m not a youngster any more – I don’t feel mentally old. I’ve been around the sun a few times for certain, I’ve lived through some good stuff and some bad stuff… so far… I’m very hopeful that my autumn will be filled with lots and lots of wonderful colors… and – once my autumn is through – I’m ok with the beauty of winter too… (A nice cosey blanket helps with that too…).
The truth is – none of us really know what tomorrow is going to be… I’ve known folks whom have tripped down stairs and have died from the fall…, or fallen slipped into a river and ended up going over a waterfall… I’ve had friends work so very hard their entire lives – never to see their own autumns or winters… because of cancer or heart disease… so – I need to work really hard at being present in my own life – for however long it goes… and where-ever it takes me… and perhaps that true from of gratitude?
This week I am going to challenge you to:
- Treat others in your life the way you would want them to treat you.
- Give more, expect less.
- Tell someone you love them. Be intentional about this!