Ten Ways to Feel Better Now
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
I'm writing to share with you a set of tools that may be particularly relevant at this time of loss and uncertainty, although it may seem to be coming out of left field from someone you know as a graphic designer. But I've led a dual life for decades. And right now I'm busting out what I really want to share and have been studying my entire adult life: how to feel good. Alongside my graphic design services, I have always worked in the trenches as a helper bee: teacher, coach, and counselor in fitness, recovery from addiction, positive lifestyle change and, most relevant here, managing negative feelings. For 14 years I co-facilitated groups of violent offenders who were court ordered to treatment. One thing I know for sure is that acting out in violence against another ALWAYS comes from a place of not feeling good. Same for all of us when we torment and abuse ourselves with fear, anger, judgment, blame, doubt, anxiety, and other negative feelings and thoughts. "Ten Ways to Feel Better Now" offers strategies to re-frame whatever is going on in your life and see the world in a more hopeful, positive and loving light. I hope it's helpful. Okay. Here we go. TEN WAYS TO FEEL BETTER NOW
Recognizing the whole range of feelings allows us to experience the fullness of our humanity from the depths to the heights. No one is immune from negative feelings. But we do get to choose how long we hang out in despair and doom and gloom. This post explores some ways to consciously move up the emotional scale into better feeling (and usually better working) thoughts. Knowing what we don’t want clues us in to what we do want, an essential first step in creating our lives as we want them to be. Once we turn our attention from the problem (what’s not working) to the solution (what would feel better and work better), everything shifts. We move toward what we’re focused on, whether positive or negative. The English language has a large vocabulary of ‘feeling’ words, but they can be easily sorted into good and bad feelings. We can feel the difference in our bodies. Our negative feelings can take us hostage, distorting reality and blocking us from moving forward. Once we’ve done what we can to correct a situation, it becomes counter-productive and painful to wallow in negative feelings. Recognizing these stuck places and working through them with mental strategies to feel better can help pull us out of a self-defeating and unpleasant mindset. It’s challenging to change feelings head on. But feelings arise from our thoughts, so changing our thinking can help. Consider the following strategies for pulling yourself out of a funk: 1. THOUGHT-STOPPING. This is a form of self–talk where you tell yourself, “Stop!” or “Don’t even go there!” then consciously re-direct your thoughts to something more positive or hopeful about the situation. Or distract yourself from the negative situation completely, choosing to focus on a good feeling thought: a sweet memory, something you’re looking forward to in the future, or something you appreciate in this moment. You can return to the problematic situation later if you choose to, in a more positive and productive frame of mind. 2 . DETACHMENT. Try to pull back from the small self that is caught up in negative feelings to the perspective of the larger, wiser self who sees the big picture and knows that the feelings you are experiencing are universal and that they will pass. Instead of thinking of anger as your anger, it might help to see it as the (universal) anger, a well that we all draw from. Negative feelings, like positive ones, come and go. When you don’t claim them as your feelings, you may be less invested in holding onto them, feeding them, and letting them dominate your consciousness…and more able to let them go. 3. ACCEPTANCE. Accepting ‘what is’ goes a long way toward helping us let go of what we think ‘should be.’ There are not two parallel universes: one operating at the level of how things are and the other with things as they ‘should’ be. We can’t even agree on how things ‘should be.’ Acceptance of things we cannot change feels better than doing battle with them. Surrender to what is out of our control (everyone and everything outside ourselves) can liberate us from negativity, judgment and blame. THE SERENITY PRAYER. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 4. ANTIDOTES Negative emotions can become toxic and an antidote to the specific poison might be available. For example ...
Self-pity can be de-toxified with gratitude and appreciation. It’s not possible to feel sorry for yourself and feel appreciation at the same time.
Worry can be neutralized by positive expectation or optimism. They cannot co-exist.
An antidote for jealousy might be abundance. (There’s plenty of love to go around. I can share my partner’s affections.)
Anger can often be dissolved by choosing compassion instead…for yourself or another.
5. ACT AS IF… Alcoholics Anonymous has given us the slogans: “Act as if…” and “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Feelings take their cues from our thoughts but also from our bodies. If we go to the mirror and fake a smile, we feel better. If we act confident we feel confident. If we practice compassion, we become compassionate. 6. JUST DO IT. We can dig ourselves into a hole by doing nothing. We do nothing so we feel bad. We feel bad so we do nothing. We do nothing so we feel bad, etc. But getting involved in activities we enjoy reverses that downward spiral. Having interests and hobbies in our lives provides focus and structure and offers us something to look forward to. It helps make order from chaos and gives us a sense of accomplishment. What brought you joy as a child? What activities or passions have you abandoned along the way? What have you always wanted to do but haven’t? What’s stopping you? Just do it. 7. SHARPENING / FLATTENING. Some people like to ‘sharpen’ or intensify everyday life by creating dramas. They tend to personalize and magnify events in their lives and create dramatic stories in their minds about other people’s lives. Other people (flatteners) tend to let everyday events roll off of them like water off a duck’s back. They prefer to keep calm and have developed the ability to detach themselves from the turmoil around them and not get hooked in. The point is it’s a choice. If you find yourself sharpening and you no longer enjoy the adrenaline rush that results (for you and those around you) try flattening. You can choose to chill. 8. GO GENERAL. Usually when we’re upset, we’re focusing on something specific that’s not working for us. The more intensely we focus on it, justify our position about it, and build our case against it, the worse we feel. Backing off to a big picture perspective instead can provide fast relief. General self-talk might include things like: “Things work out for me,” “I’ve survived worse,” “This too shall pass,” or “No need to sweat the small stuff.” 9. GO PRESENT TENSE. “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” - Lao Tsu Most of our negative emotions come from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Try bringing yourself into the present moment. Become aware of the beauty, wonder and well-being all around you in this moment. Unless you’re in pain or in danger, the present moment usually looks pretty good. 10. GET IN THE WATER. “When we go back to the sea, we are going back from whence we came.” - John F. Kennedy Getting in the water can provide an instant attitude re-set. It can cleanse and refresh you and wash your troubles away. Water always takes the path of least resistance, going with the flow: under, over, around, or through any obstacles. Water buoys you up, relieving the constant pull of gravity. Cool water literally cools you off both physically and mentally, and warm water melts away physical and mental tensions. YOUR CHALLENGE. Choose 2 or 3 of the above strategies and consider how you HAVE USED THEM, or how you COULD USE THEM to bring yourself relief from persistent negative feelings. You can even stack them and use several strategies at once. Would love to hear what resonates with you. All my best through these trying times!