Monday, December 28, 2015

EMOTIONAL TUNE UPS THAT REQUIRE NO SPECIAL EQUIPMENT OR TOOLS

First, take an assessment of yourself; If you are feeling an uneasiness within - be it general melancholy, feeling discouraged, or losing that sense of liveliness and connection you once had, ask yourself these questions :


Have I stopped following my body's need to move -dance, twirl, run, skip, hop or jump - and opted for relative inertia, only moving when necessary to accomplish some task that is required of me?

Have I stopped making music, either alone or in accompaniment with other people or nature's creatures, with my own voice or an instrument of some kind?

Have I stopped taking delight in stories, either by reading them, making them up, retelling them, or just imagining them?

Have I stopped allowing silence to embrace me? Do I, instead, find quiet and solitude uncomfortable?

Has it been awhile since I spent some time in nature?

Have I stopped speaking to or acknowledging people I don't necessarily know but that I meet in public settings?

When we stop doing things that we once enjoyed, we experience a break in the mind-body connection that keeps us balanced and feeling whole. We feel a sense of loss, even though we may not recognize that loss consciously. To put it simplistically, an infant loses its pacifier and cries; it doesn't know what a pacifier is but only knows it is not comfortable any longer.


Using our Physical Energy
Certain movements of our body help us express our feelings. Skipping down a path, or jumping over a small puddle, is exhilarating, and very likely as a child and young adult we enjoyed this type of movement. Routine movement is humdrum and boring. Those familiar with exercise routine mechanics have long realized that repeating the same calisthenics without changes creates those dreaded plateaus in progress. You've just got to change things up once in a while. The child in us misses skipping and jumping. Growing up, we left those behind and began to add dance movements to replace them. Some adults continue to dance, others never did or don't any longer. I have a marvelous Aunt who is in her 70s and still jumps around and dances at the drop of a hat. We, her nieces and children, in our 40s to 60s, marvel at her energy and obvious enjoyment of life. She says she has the energy of a bird. I want that, too, and who wouldn't?
Enjoying Music
Melodic and pleasant sounds, heard or made by us, are relaxing and calming, helping us release tension in our bodies and minds. Listening to any type of music, be it symphonies, orchestras, choirs or the rock band or country or pop singer of our choice is good for the soul. Truly, the phrase "music soothes the savage breast", is not an old wives tale. My Father is 90 years old and has always loved music. He played drums as a younger man. In his 70s he bought himself an electronic keyboard and learns songs to play from instruction books. He picked up harmonica, too, and can play a few tunes. My parents always encouraged their children to enjoy music, all kinds. They made sure I was able to be in music programs in school, buying me a clarinet and putting up with the squeaking and squawking of novice practice sessions. I went on the teach myself to play several stringed instruments and piano, too. But, even without the ability to play an instrument, we can all listen to beautiful music, music that WE like, and maybe some of us can even sing along. Music has the power to alter our attitudes, to inspire, uplift and gladden the heart. Ancient people recognized the ability of music to transcend the hardships of life. Use that power to help when you're feeling down, too.

Being Creative
Imagination helps keep our minds in a synergistic mode. Our brains are in a constant state of what we like to call "thinking" for much of our day. It is when we actively apply ourselves to reach a state that impels us to create some idea or image from nothing, that we achieve something greater than simply "thinking" and begin to be creative. Imaginative play, as a child, enhanced brain growth patterns; there is no reason to assume that employing our imaginations won't do the same for us now as adults. As a very small child, many of us learned how to color in coloring books. School teachers gave us assignments that incorporated our ability to draw to complete assignments, thereby showcasing our creative talents. Some, surely, were better at it than others, but all of us improved as much as we practiced the craft. Others were better at expressing creativity using words on paper, while others seemed to excel at manipulating materials to express theirs. Building with wood, sculpting with clay, or doing projects involving ideas and inventions were other forms of creativity in our peers. All forms of imaginative creativity exercise our brains and keep it functioning optimally. The act of creating something from nothing, whatever mode we choose, enhance our feelings of individuality and self-expression and we all need that in our lives.

Experiencing Nature
Connecting with nature keeps us connected with the world. We are all organisms on this planet and need to feel like we belong to the earth and everything that exists within it. Being a part of something larger may help us to feel grounded, or it may be that feeling part of nature keeps us "real" in our own minds. Many studies and surveys show that, whatever the "magic" may be, experiencing nature in a close up and personal way helps keep us centered within ourselves.

Quiet and Solitude
Enjoying times of silence in the course of a day helps us exercise our brains and cleanse emotional baggage. As a young child, I took naps. Sometimes I didn't sleep, but laid there thinking, since that what our minds naturally do. I'd about things I'd heard or seen. Such uninterrupted and uncluttered periods of quiet and solitude helped my brain process my experiences in life. Creating silence during a portion of your day could be a way to give your state of mind a tune-up. Many often go out of their way to avoid periods of quiet-and-alone-time because this is when regrets and other unpleasant things we've been pushing down below our consciousness often surface. Once we bring them up and face them, however, allowing ourselves to acknowledge and feel the emotions they illicit, we can choose to move through the unpleasantness that surrounds them. Sometimes the hurt is our own, things that have been done to us by others, and we may end up crying about it- crying, especially when we're alone, is a good cleanser, don't fear it. At other times we recall hurts we've caused or wrongs we've done, but it's then that we can decide to rectify, if possible, things from our past that are festering inside us. Then, and only then, can we can dispel whatever negativity or darkness is attached to past unpleasant memories. Eventually (and it may take many periods of quiet-and-alone-time to get there), happy experiences and delightful memories will come through for us, and we will yearn for those times of silence once again rather than avoid them.

Being Sociable
Fear of being unacceptable, in even the smallest of interactions, can make a person feel alone and unconnected to the rest of the world. When we interact with others, even strangers, we feel part of a whole - important rather than insignificant. Fear often keeps us from feeling free to speak aloud in public, even on a one-on-one basis. Feeling nervous and inadequate are emotions we've all experienced and they make us uncomfortable to the point where we might want to avoid them. We mistakenly label ourselves as BEING our emotions; we say: "I am shy", "he is timid", or "she is easily embarrassed," or worse. We may feel shy sometimes, that doesn't make us always shy. We may have been very embarrassed at one point, but that doesn't keep us perpetually so. Feeling the freedom to say something to another human being (while waiting in line at the grocery, for instance, or sitting on a bus) is empowering. Of course, not everything that pops into our minds is fit to share at any given moment in time - this is why our brains have frontal lobes - the synapses have been formed, hopefully, to help us react appropriately in social and public situations. It is a fact that some brains have an poorly functioning frontal cortex, leaving social skills somewhat underdeveloped in those so affected. This we must take into consideration whenever confronted with a person whose persona, actions and ideas seems a bit unusual or inappropriate. But these interactions, whatever course they take and however fleeting, may be what makes our - or someone else's - day, and can even, in a grand way, alter the path of someone's life.

Each and all of these are ways for healing that often illusive sense of un-ease within ourselves. Re-start doing one or more of them today.

Take a moment to move the way you did as a child, just once, then twice, then for a full minute. Kick your feet as though you were having a tantrum. Wave your arms as though you were a bird, flying. 

Whistle a tune, hum a jingle, sing a song in the shower. Change your usual radio station, if you have one. Surf around on the dial. Maybe find a classical music station. Give it a minute and see if you can hear the different instruments being played, listen to their tones and how they are being used in the composition. If you don't enjoy that, turn it back to your usual station and sing along whether or not you have a good voice. {Here's a challenge for you if you have never played an instrument of any kind: go to your kitchen, get out two spoons, place them back to back, holding them with your thumb and the rest of your fingers, and with your index finger between them. Take a seat and hold the two spoons back to back in your hand over your thigh and with your other hand, palm down,  slap the spoons first onto your thigh then up into your palm. You are playing a percussive instrument that also contains a tone  - enjoy it!}

Read a story book for kids. Enjoy the illustrations. Think about how you would have pictured it if there had been no illustrations. Get a pencil and paper and write a story of your own. Or get some crayons and coloring book, or some paints and canvas, or carve something out of wood, whatever it is you used to enjoy as a creative outlet, do it again. There are so many craft ideas out there; some involve recycling plastic bottles to use as decorative containers, or use old T shirts to weave a rug, or use magazine and newspaper images to convert a plain box into something beautiful with a little glue, time and imagination. If you lack for ideas, go to your local library and browse the Craft section of books. If you have an internet connection, go to YouTube and look for "crafting" videos, or put in a search for "things to do with old cards" or "DIY projects" or anything you can think of, really. 

Go outside and sit, listening to the breeze rustling the leaves of a tree, or a bird calling, Go for a walk in your neighborhood. Go to a local park and sit on the grass, watching insects as they come into view. Feel the bark on a tree, look closely at a leaf or flower. Enjoy the shapes of clouds in the sky. Watch the evening stars come to light and listen for the sounds only the night seems to have. Nature is so available to us, no matter where we live. And it's so refreshing to the soul to experience all the natural world around us has to offer. Take a child with you, too, if you can, because seeing nature through the eyes of a child can make the 'old' new again. 

Smile and say "hello" to the person you are seated next to on the bus. Nod to a pedestrian on the street walking toward you as you make eye contact. When you are buying groceries and find yourself standing beside someone else at the spice section, and find yourself wondering why cloves are so expensive, say "What are cloves made from anyway?"  I did that once and had a brief but interesting and pleasant conversation with a total stranger. Or at the frozen food aisle, wonder aloud, "Why do we need so many choices of ice cream?"  At worst, the other person might roll their eyes and walk away, missing out on what could have been a scintillating exchange of ideas and observations. In any case, there's no need, neither shyness, nor chance for embarrassment, to pass up a chance to connect with another human being, no matter what the outcome.  


Using our own brain power, thoughts and emotions and the time and space we've been given, can allow us to re-balance. Oh, and there is a physical exercise we can do, too. 

Set aside just 30 minutes - a day, every other day, once a week, even - and do something that you don't already do, and do it just for yourself, but do include others if you wish. Pick a creative idea from the above list, get closer to nature, go out of your way to get out of your comfort zone using any one of the ideas mentioned here. Just a small change in your routine can bring an entirely new and freshing outlook to your life, and if melancholy and boredom were bugging you before, maybe this will help dispel those feelings. If it works, then do it more often. 

There is a physical exercise we can do, too, that is said to help balance the brain's functioning. It's an exercise that is simple in concept and performance, but can be difficult, at first, depending on your current physical condition, and it may not be for everyone:

   To begin, grasp your right earlobe with your left thumb and forefinger (thumb in front, forefinger behind)       and the left earlobe with the right thumb and forefinger, crossing the right arm over the left one. (Note: this is   the stance I've seen, but I'm not sure that right over left is any better than left over right would be - I'd do       whatever is most comfortable) Standing upright (feet slightly apart to shoulder width apart) - holding the         arms crossed, earlobes held position - bend at the knees as low as you can go and then return to upright ,     inhaling on the downward motion and exhaling on the return to upright motion. Repeat this 15 times. If you    can, do several sets of 15 reps. Don't do it too rapidly; you want to breathe slowly in and out in time with  the repetitions.
It is not intended to be a fitness exercise in that sense, but it has been shown to improve brain function, balancing the right and left hemispheres in output as measured by PET scans. It does have the added benefit of working several large muscles of the lower body, as well as improving overall fitness and burns a few calories, too. 

If you try to incorporate all these things and none of them work to make you feel or function better, then maybe some time with a counselor is what you should consider. Often, religious organizations have counselors that operate for little or no money, or on a sliding scale, so consider that resource. A public health department may be able to recommend you to someone who can help, if you don't have a private physician you can talk to. If all else fails, try your local public library. The librarians are a wonderful source of information for just about anything a person can search for, and often underutilized. Don't give up - never give up, in fact - there are always people who care and are willing to help.  Remember, the unextended hand is rarely shaken. 


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