1. What Happiness Means

    July 30, 2020

    Yep, there are lots of things to be upset about right now. 

    I worry about how selfish our culture has seemingly become. I feel frustrated because there is no end in sight for COVID. 

    Despite all that, I’m still happy. I have to be, because it’s my flotation device. I can’t give up on protecting my happiness, or the world will be too overwhelming.

    Last year when I first started working on my happiness, I felt guilty and like I didn’t have the right to be happy. Then I realized, the state of the world would remain the same whether I felt happy or sad; I decided I would rather be happy.

    Being happy doesn’t mean I condone the current situation. It doesn’t mean that I am happy about everything going on in the world. It means I try to find meaning in my life everyday, and to hang on to hope. I can be happy on the day to day while still being anxious about the world. We are allowed to feel more than one thing simultaneously.

    I give you permission to be happy and to keep pushing for more change. Happiness isn’t complacency; it’s choosing joy now, because the world will never be perfect, so you might as well enjoy the ride while you’re on it.

    You can look at this time as an opportunity to grow without distractions and test your resolve, or you can look at it as a miserable time of unfairness and think of all the ways in which you’ve been ‘robbed’.

    And if you do feel like this is a miserable time and the world is unfair, acknowledge that. We can’t hide from our true feelings, even if we would prefer not to have these ‘bad’ feelings. 

    Instead of judging your feelings or pushing them down, try sitting with them and accepting them like you would a baby and/or kitten. Just like a real baby or baby cat, your emotions don’t know any better, and all they really need is kindness. Telling them they’re bad won’t make them go away.

    There are some emotions we would rather not feel (like sadness, anger), so it is difficult to sit with them. Most of us want to try to avoid pain, which is why we stuff sadness and anger into a box. However, whether they burst out of the box in one big explosion or dangerously seep out over time, they will always escape the box, and you’ll have to feel your feelings regardless. 

    Might as well do it as soon as possible, because (Pain x Resistance) = Suffering.

    The more you resist your emotions, the more pain you’ll feel in the end.

    But this is a post about being happy, so how does allowing yourself to feel sad fit in??

    Maybe a better way of saying ‘happiness’ is ‘acceptance.’ 

    I know sometimes I’ll still be sad. That doesn’t make me ‘lesser’ or any less ‘happy’, because my overall state of being is happiness/acceptance. 

    If I have a drawer full of socks, the drawer itself is ‘happiness’. The socks in it are emotions like joy, sadness, anger, etc. I would rather keep all my socks in a happy drawer as opposed to a sad drawer, because I need to use that drawer everyday, and it just makes things a little more pleasant.

    I encourage you to not judge your emotions this week. You are allowed to feel them. In fact, you HAVE to feel them. Sit with them gently, be kind to yourself, and don’t forget to be happy.

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  2. Embrace Your Anxiety (like a kitten)

    July 21, 2020

    Does anyone else feel like driving and going into stores is super overwhelming since Covid started? Is it just me?

    Usually I do drive through or order pick up for my groceries, but you can’t get every single item you need that way. So sometimes I need to go into the store to get a specific ingredient. And holy heck is it stressful!

    I was an anxious person before I forcibly became a hermit due to Covid, and now everyday activities are giving me anxiety. Just thinking about all my new anxiety is giving me anxiety, AHH.

    So today I’m going to tout what has long been touted to me: mindfulness. I know, UGH. It sounds SO BORING and pretentious.

    If I pretend it’s not called mindfulness, it’s a lot more appealing. To me it means: name that emotion and why it’s appearing. It sounds really silly, but it’s easy and it works for me.

    Exhibit A: Going into Target.

    Mindless Deidre: AHH SO MANY PEOPLE WITHIN MY 6 FOOT BUBBLE

    Mindful Deidre thinks:

    I am stressed out because there are many people here while a global pandemic is happening. It’s normal to feel stressed out when there are many people within your bubble during a pandemic.

    While it doesn’t change the situation, I feel a lot better about it because I’m validating my own feelings and allowing them to be felt. Though we desperately try, we can’t escape our emotions.

    As I explained in my previous post, just because you ignore a kitten that is climbing your curtains doesn’t mean there isn’t a kitten still climbing your curtains. 

    We may ask, “why is the kitten scaling my drapery? That’s not very nice.” 

    Obviously it’s not an ideal situation, just like feeling anxious isn’t my preferred state of being. But kittens don’t care. Kittens just want to be acknowledged, and so do your emotions. Mindfulness can help with that.

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  3. Embrace Your Emotions Like a Kitten

    July 14, 2020

    Another Friday, another kitten analogy, here we go!

    (this one might make more sense with a puppy, so I’ll let you choose which baby animal you want to imagine for this analogy. I’m still going to use kittens though because I’m on a roll)

    What happens if you ignore a kitten (or puppy)?

    Does it entertain itself and leave you be? Does it sleep peacefully?

    Haha, nope! If you ignore a kitten (or puppy), it will climb your curtains, tear up your tissue box, and find other mischievous ways to make its presence known. It will meow (or bark) “PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

    What happens if you pat the kitten on the head, and halfheartedly dangle a toy in front of it?

    The kitten will be appeased, for now. It may nap for a bit, before it decides to eat some string and turn your sock into a toy.

    What happens if you fully engage with the kitten? You focus only on playing with the kitten, uninterrupted, for 15 minutes. You run the kitten up and down your apartment, wearing it out, and then shower it with kisses and snuggles.

    The kitten will be satisfied, and will leave you in peace for the rest of the day.

    The kitten is an analogy for your emotions. No matter how much you push them down, they’ll still seep out and destroy things in the process. You can’t just make the kitten disappear, because the kitten is part of your family. You can’t choose to love the kitten only when it’s convenient for you, just as you can’t expect to only feel happiness all of the time.

    So then, how do we deal with our rascally kitten/emotions that are desperately crying out to be heard?

    You fully engage with them, just like you would fully engage with a kitten to make it take a nap and stop knocking things off your desk.

    As it is when playing with a kitten, sometimes it can be painful. You may get some claws in your leg while the kitten climbs you like a tree, and you may get some playful bites on your hand. The pain is the hard part. To fully engage with your emotions requires some degree of pain, which is why we are so reluctant to pay attention to them.

    The kitten won’t be satisfied until you do engage with it. And just as you would unconditionally love and accept a real kitten, you should unconditionally accept your emotions too. Occasional poops on the floor and scratched up furniture is part of the trade off to get purry cuddles from a lovable kitten, just as sadness and anger are part of the package that comes with happiness

    Sadness and anger can be a gift.They are a warning bell that lets us know when something is wrong and when changes need to be made. Even if it hurts to listen to the warning bell, we shouldn’t neglect it because it brings us pain. These important emotions are trying to protect us from more pain in the future.

    I hope picturing your emotions as a lovable kitten will help you embrace them, and give you the courage to listen to warning bells and face your problems head on.

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  4. Treat Yourself Like a Cat: Part Two

    July 09, 2020

    I’m continuing on the path of cats & mental health. You feel me?

    As I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel over and over for things to do during quarantine, I rediscovered a show recommended to me when I first started fostering cats.

    Despite its intimidating name, Jackson Galaxy’s show “My Cat From Hell” is anything but.

    Jackson Galaxy shows you how to work with your cat to change its ‘hellish’ behavior. Desperate cat owners (or guardians as they are referred to in the show) seek help for things ranging from scratched up furniture, ‘unprovoked’ attacks, and overzealous territory marking (AKA peeing everywhere).

    In the opening credits of the show, he states “there’s never been a cat I can’t help.”

    That is wonderful news, and not just because it means the cat won’t have to go to the shelter; it means no cat is broken. The environment needs to change, not the cat.

    I believe the same applies to us humans. No one is broken. Only their situation or environment. It’s much easier to change your situation than it is to change your personality.

    The cat guardians in the show are often surprised by Jackson’s approach, thinking he was going to say, “you’re right! Your cat is completely crazy!” and maybe do some intensive cat training. Instead, he encourages them to see things from the cat’s point of view. How is the cat feeling? Is it scared because cars go by every night? Is it bored because no one has time to play with it?

    Oftentimes after he asks these questions, the reason for the cat’s bad behavior becomes clear: the cat is bored, scared, and/or lonely. The cat is acting out because it’s crying for help.

    The cat isn’t broken, the environment is. And while results aren’t instantaneous, the solution is usually relatively simple. Add more shelves so the cat can look out the window. Buy more toys to keep the cat engaged. The key is to be patient and to realize there’s no quick fix for anything.

    Whenever I feel anxious, it helps me to think of my brain as a scared cat in a hectic environment. What would Jackson do? For starters, he wouldn’t yell at the cat and say “stop being anxious! You’re stupid for being stressed out!”

    He would approach the cat with an open-mind, coo at the cat, pet it, and play with it.

    He wouldn’t try to change the cat’s personality; he would assess why the cat is feeling the way its feeling, and work to improve the cat’s environment.

    He approaches every cat with calm, acceptance, and love, and you should do the same for yourself. If your current situation is bad, remember you’re not broken; maybe its just your situation.

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  5. Treat Yourself Like a Kitten

    July 02, 2020

    I’m going to do something funky today and combine my passion for cats and mental well-being.

    Do you ever beat yourself up for saying something stupid? Do you get frustrated when you don’t make progress on your goals like you should?

    As I’ve said before, be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself like you would treat a best friend. 

    In case that analogy isn’t working for you, I’ll share a different analogy that I recently read: treat yourself like a foster kitten who hasn’t had proper socialization yet. Who can get mad at a cute little kitten??

    If you get frustrated with your little kitten, just remember that it doesn’t know any better and it hasn’t been properly socialized yet. 

    With lots of gentle care, that feral kitten will soon become a purry cuddle puddle. Yelling at the kitten or being mean to the kitten won’t help it progress. You can forgive your kitten for following its instincts, right? Your metaphorical kitten is doing its best with the tools it has!

    You may worry that your kitten won’t improve at all unless you put pressure on the kitten. You may say to the kitten, “be better!” 

    You may even give the kitten an ultimatum, “kitten, if you don’t go to the gym 3 times a week I’ll be mad at you and not give you any treats!” but the kitten won’t understand. It will only be confused and shrink away. 

    I can’t guarantee that removing all your expectations of the kitten will improve the kitten’s motivation. But I can say that the kitten will be much happier if you take a gentler approach, and the kitten may even end up surprising you with its progress once all the pressure is removed.

    So if you get upset with yourself for not being more motivated, remember the little kitten in your head. Being upset with the kitten for not doing more isn’t going to make the kitten more productive, but petting it and whispering encouraging words might.

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