In last week's post I wrote about starting from where you are. A thought I had during my own reflection was, "what if you don't like where you are?" My gut reaction to this situation has typically been: "well, move!" And of course, that is not always possible. However, let's entertain that idea for just a moment. Many of us do make extreme changes expecting certain outcomes when we are unhappy with life as it is. We may change our appearance thinking it will make us feel better about ourselves or we change houses or cars expecting certain results. We even change jobs when life is not going the way we had planned expecting that change will result in greater satisfaction. After the change, if immediate happiness is not the result we may find ourselves perplexed.
When you start to explore why you don't like where you are, there will be some specific "moves" that start coming to mind. Perhaps you don't like the city you live in or the neighborhood you call home. Maybe you don't like the job you wake up to find yourself in everyday or even the relationship you are in. The option to move out of those situations is always there and you should feel free to uproot when necessary and move on down the road when it's time. However, today I challenge you to consider a different type of movement: rearrangement.
If you are like me, rearranging the living room furniture from time to time just feels good. It gives the room and sometimes the entire house a fresh look and feel. What if we did that with our minds?
Mindfulness is a great place to start when we don't like where we are. Often times, we do not like where we are because we have lost touch with the beautiful things that surround us and are only focused on things that create problems or inconveniences. Sometimes we are exactly where we wanted to be at some other point in time. You will notice as your read my blog, I do a lot of my thinking soaking in a bathtub. I became frustrated last week because my bathtub needs replaced. There are some cosmetic issues and some old stains that just don't make it very "pretty" and I have worries about its ability to continue functioning properly. Many days I start to get a bath and think, "this bathtub has got to go!" and that thought impacts my enjoyment of the bath that follows, even if only slightly. But what about the forest view from my bathroom window? I can see squirrels and birds from that window and it is such a peaceful space. What about the beautiful tile and the shower curtain that I handpicked because it made the room feel fresh and renewed? Why not focus on those things?
It seems only natural that our minds go straight to the negative. It is something so many of us struggle with and we honestly have to train our brains to think differently. Mindfulness and affirmations can help. For some, mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand. For me, they've always had there own separate value. Mindfulness is about being present and aware, no action is needed. In my example, standing in the bathroom observing my negative thoughts about the bathtub, refraining from reacting to them is simple mindfulness. Redirecting my thoughts is an action. I cannot redirect, however, if I am not first aware. Once we are aware, we can make better choices.
Sometimes my choice is neutral acceptance. No emotion is attached to neutral acceptance. You would observe a thought, and respond with "...and that's ok" and move on about your day, no obsessing, changing, worrying, stress, etc. "The bathtub has scratches and old stains...and that's okay." Follow "it's okay" statements with deep breath. Trust that it really is "okay".
Sometimes my choice is redirection. "The bathtub has scratches and old stains...but I love this tile and the view from this window!"
Sometimes my choice is change. "The bathtub has scratches and old stains; I am replacing it this weekend!"
The worst choice is to entertain the negative thought with reinforcement. "The bathtub has scratches and old stains and the deck needs repaired too...I am so frustrated with that light fixture in the hallway and come to think of it, my husband was supposed to fix that!" When you engage with negative thoughts you end up dragging your entire life down if you aren't careful. You have now allowed a scratch in the bathtub that has been there for months to incriminate your husband and remind you of all the random pending house projects. If we don't develop mindfulness and self-awareness, that happens much quicker than when we are able to continually monitor our thoughts.
What do you need to rearrange or move? Maybe you need a physical move or rearrangement. You could consider moving your reading chair to the window or moving your body to the deck while you drink your morning coffee instead of sipping it in front of the TV. Maybe you need a mental rearrangement. Try observing your thoughts today and intentionally choosing your reaction. When you think a thought, especially a negative one, literally say to yourself: "how am I going to process this thought?" When you make the choice to respond in a positive way, take a deep breath and smile. This simple behavior creates a positive association that will make it easier next time!
Here are some examples from my own day:
"The traffic awful today...and that's okay." (neutral acceptance)
"It is so rainy and gloomy outside today, I can't work in the yard like I wanted...but I can read my new book by the fireplace!" (redirection)
"I trip over this every morning on the way to the light switch, somebody should put it away!...I am going to move it to the closet." (change-action)
I'd love to hear from you! What rearrangements have you decided to make? What about a courageous move? Is there something you've decided to overhaul completely?