Welcome to the middle path
- Jana Svoboda, LCSW
- Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
January 16th Challenge: Whine-Free Wednesday
Today's challenge is to give a rest, already. Let's take the day off from bitching. We don't have to be pollyannas, but we can practice restraint.
Here's some tips:
Stick to facts ("it's raining again") rather than editorializing ("I hate this stupid weather").
Check your narrative. Sometimes we add to our suffering with the stories we tell about it. I remember waking up one day with a sore knee. I immediately began imagining that it would be sore for a long time, that I'd have to stop hiking, etc. I realized that my thoughts about the meaning of the soreness were more aggravating than the actual knee issue, and decided the knee pain was enough.
If something's bugging you and there's nothing to be done about it in the moment, practice tolerating discomfort. I'm not talking about tolerating abuse or life-threatening situations. I'm talking about bearing with the everyday irritations, disappointments and aches and pains that come with being alive. Place yourself at a little comfortable distance and observe the negative thought/complaint without judgment. Rest; stop struggling with it. See yesterday's blog on mindfulness for resources and tips.
To help remember your intention today, wear a rubber band or easily removable bracelet on your wrist. When you find yourself complaining, switch it to the other wrist. See if you can keep it on one arm for a couple of hours.
This last tip is one I give to clients who are in the habit of constant negative thinking. I got it from a newspaper article I happened upon several years ago. It was a hard, hard day. I had arrived from out of town the night before to spend some time with my father, who was getting cancer treatment. That night it rained torrents. Instead of relaxing with my dad, I spent the next day helping my sister clean out flooded home. We carried out hundreds of pounds of ruined clothes, furniture and keepsakes. Everything stank. We were covered in filth and exhausted. My sister was strong, even as we threw away her precious keepsakes. "It could be worse", she said, and I looked at her as if she was insane.
After hours we took a break and went for sustenance and a newspaper. The radio blared in the background, encouraging people "not touch contaminated objects"-- a joke; we WERE contaminated objects. We sat on the porch; the yard full of chairs, beds, appliances. I read the paper over tea and spotted an article about a preacher in Kansas City who had begun a campaign to reduce negativity in his congregation. He noted the research behind positive psychology, and got people to sign a pledge to go 21 days without complaining (the length of time it takes to well-establish a new habit). It sounded good to me. My mood was darker than the thunderstorm the night before. We ran to the dollar store and purchased elastic beaded bracelets.
Truth: I broke two bracelets the first day, switching them on and off. More truth: I am out of the habit of not complaining. Maybe you don't need this challenge as much as I do.
But give it a shot. See how it goes. I was surprised by how often my mind would wander into negative territory. The bracelet served as a concrete reminder of my intention-- it increased my mindfulness.
PS-- tomorrow may be a Very Quiet Day for me. Be gentle.
Song of the day: