Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘mental health

Choose Twice

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In celebrating the accomplishment of my 10-years of posting daily, I am somewhat randomly exploring the “Previous Somethings” archive in search of anything that might catch my fancy. One of the first challenges I have discovered is dealing with a bit of embarrassment over plenty of what I am finding. Who wrote this stuff!?

Oh. I did.

Skip that one. And that one, too.

One of the features of “Relative Something” that evolved pretty early on was resorting to two-word post titles. On one hand, it took a lot of thinking out of the process of deciding what to title my posts. When writing every single day, trying to come up with a worthy title over and over again can become an inordinate burden. Limiting it to just two words simplified the task nicely.

However, when I started down the path of this feature, I didn’t realize how soon I would reach a point where I was coming up with titles that I’d already used. Most of the time, I make changes until I come up with something fresh, but as I’ve approached this tenth anniversary, I’ve decided it doesn’t really matter so much.

You may have noticed that I differentiate my poetry posts by using a single word title. It’s a lot harder avoiding repetition when reduced to one word.

Here are two poems that I posted under the identical title, “Choose.”

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From August, 2013:

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freedom
to choose health
in the face of other options
takes effort
that is rewarded
incrementally
sometimes infinitesimally
over time
do the math
not the science
that it takes
making rockets fly
simple addition
day after day
for months at a time
healthy emerges
for goodness sakes
like green on the grass
running in a river
rounding the rocks
headed toward forever
where life is esteemed
and success of good health
the spectacular garnish
that feeds on itself
in magical ways
running and jumping
with joyous persuasion
returning investments
of health options chosen
turn off that tv
go do something else
break down that routine
be someone else
that unlikely person
you never felt could
emerge from your shell
stuck there for good
just a choice
to be made
inside the mind
there’s reward to be nabbed
free for the choosing
life filled with promise
of better than good
outside the lines
of everyday drab
just beyond reach
of those who don’t try
it’s easy to grasp
for the bold few who do
exercise free choice
to choose better health
not just for a day
but from now on
days-months-years at a time

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.From October, 2017:

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2019 at 6:00 am

Heading Somewhere

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Apparently, if my recent dreams are any indication, there is somewhere I’m trying to reach, but circumstances keep delaying my readiness to depart. But, isn’t that just an inherent existential dilemma? Why are we here?

It’s the journey, right? Not just the destination.

I love a good adventure, but the truth is, I’m not all that fond of traveling. One common thread of people’s stories about their travels are the hassles and struggles faced along the way. Getting through airport security, navigating the unknowns of destination ports, communicating through language barriers.

It’s all part of the package of traveling. Choosing to see those parts of the journey in a more positive light than as just being hassles, goes a long way toward helping a person accept them as pleasurable, as in, a puzzle to be solved. If you like puzzling, I mean.

If you are not traveling, you are still headed somewhere. Are the everyday challenges being navigated, hassles? Or are they puzzles being solved?

Are we trying to get ready to depart, or are these little conflicts actually the journey, itself?

Where the heck are we heading, anyway?

To a better place. Free from pains, both physical and mental. We are looking for peace and love.

Don’t just be a consumer of those commodities, though. Be a distributor, as well.

Yesterday, after my well-health check-up physical with my doctor, I needed to visit our local pharmacy. To my surprise, I was offered the option of trying out a short-term regimen of an oral corticosteroid to see if it would settle the lung congestion left over from my recent cold. This, in contrast to the usual long-term (and much more expensive) daily inhaled asthma treatment.

Without thinking fast enough, I let them transmit the prescription to an Ellsworth pharmacy that Cyndie recently discovered was not functioning well. They are understaffed, overburdened, and may be headed out of business.

We phoned to see if they had my common prescription ready for pickup. So far, so good.

They’ve closed the drive through (because it’s too cold outside?), so I had to go in. I was not surprised to see a queue of visibly frustrated customers waiting. The angst in the vicinity was palpable.

Armed with prior warning, I was not flapped by this. I brought love and peace. Calmness. Understanding. Smiling. My energy smoothed some of their rough edges, while I accepted the process of waiting.

I enjoyed an added bonus of being able to find someone on my way out, and tell them they had forgotten their insurance card, which I had witnessed the staff fretting over.

Where are we heading?

Oh, yeah. To peace and love.

And better health, too. What an adventure!

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Other Examples

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As long as I’m on the subject of sticktoitiveness, there are two other examples in my life that have slowly rewarded me for staying the course day after day, in one case, for years.

When I finally took action to address an addiction to sugar which manifested in cravings that controlled my decisions, I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I had previously experimented with simply cutting out desserts and cookies or candy treats for a random period of weeks, just to see if I could, but I neglected to account for the amount of sugar I was getting from other sources.

My cravings for breads and cereals would ramp up to impressive levels, and I would allow myself those compromises.

After learning more about where I was getting most of the sugar in my diet, and discovering the actual measurement of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization for percentage of daily calories, I set out to control it by watching the numbers.

That made a big difference. First of all, it showed me how physically addicted my body, and mind, had become. I experienced withdrawal symptoms that included headaches, dizziness, nausea, and tremors, not because I cut out sugar completely, but simply by strictly limiting the amount of sugar in the food I was eating.

It has taken me years at the rate I am working it (because I waver with my level of strictness), but self-control slowly improved to a point where it hardly takes mental energy to employ anymore. Most importantly, I am not just doing this for a period of weeks. This is forever. I always measure how much cereal I eat, and I always check serving size information to figure out how much sugar there is.

A more recent adventure in every day tenacity that I am watching produce slow results is, my daily planking exercises. When I started back in the last week of March, I decided to see what results I might achieve if I did the exercises my physical therapist recommended for the entire month of April. These were focused on strengthening my core to treat the painful symptoms of degenerating discs.

It is really helpful to not be constrained by debilitating pain when doing daily chores to care for our animals.

Thirty consecutive days of planking in April established enough of a pattern that I found it easy enough to keep going through May. Then two months became four, and in a blink, I’ve made it eight months of pretty regular planking. In that time I have slowly gained enough strength that I have modified my methods to match.

The current plank that is my primary exercise is four minutes long, starting with a minute and a half of a basic horizontal planking, then 45 seconds of lifting an opposite arm and leg for a two-point plank, 45 more seconds with the other arm and leg, and then finishing with a final minute of the basic plank again.

There are other leg exercises and some yoga stretches that get mixed in after the planking, depending on how much time I have to spend, but the planking is key.

Between these two daily efforts of healthy controlled-sugar diet and regular exercise, practiced over months and years, my physical health is in better shape than most of my previous adult life.

That is providing plenty of incentive for me to stick to this indefinitely.

Maybe the fact that these steps are not a quick fix, makes the positive results that much more satisfying. It definitely provides a welcome bonus of boosting my mental health, as well.

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Think Sticktoitiveness

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Stick-to-it-iveness.

If there is one simple key to self-improvement that could serve us well no matter what aspect of our lives we wish to address, I would select —whatever action toward better health you choose: repeat it every day.

Repeat it every day. Don’t stop. If you miss a day, don’t give up. Pick up the next day and the day after that. For a week. Then a month. Six months. A year. No reason to stop now. Keep doing that healthy thing every single day.

Look at the inverse. What do humans do that make themselves suffer negative consequences?

Smoke cigarettes? They smoke every day.

Eat poorly? Day after day.

Not get enough exercise? Harbor negative thoughts and feelings? Don’t get enough sleep? Neglect friends and family? Neglect themselves!

Most of the afflictions we heap upon ourselves grow into problems because of unhealthy choices enacted repeatedly, day after day, over an extended period of time. It’s illogical to think an easy remedy would erase the results in a fraction of the time it took to travel a great distance away from good health.

Turn around. Go the other way. Take a step toward optimal health and then do it again the next day. And then three hundred sixty-five more days after that.

Because. Progress accumulates.

I took the first steps to interrupt my slowly intensifying depression in 1993. As can happen in many situations, things got a little worse after the initial diagnosis and early treatments, but eventually progress settled in and incremental improvement began to develop. Slowly.

Sometimes, in waves. I can almost measure progress by decades. This year, I am noticing new levels of relief that reveal I am continuing to improve, even decades removed from the day doctors released me from medication and therapy treatments. A year ago, I didn’t notice that my mental health was anything less than prime.

It is only by experiencing this unprecedented level of healthy mindset lately that I’ve gained a sense that it wasn’t as good as this before.

Every day, I do something that helps. I also DON’T do things that harm. I don’t do negative self-talk like I used to. I make an effort every day to not do that. I do get exercise, I eat healthy, I smile, I pay better attention to energy, I send love, I sleep well, I write a daily blog. Doing these things regularly and over time, continues to provide accumulating improvements to my mental health.

This year, I am noticing improvements that weren’t so apparent last year.

It really does pay to stick to it.

I invite you to stop doing something today that isn’t healthy for you in the long-term. Replace that with one thing that is healthy that you can do every day. Do it for more days than you ever thought possible. Then do it for a few more years after that.

Here’s to the ongoing journey toward optimal health.

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Just Breathe

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Some mornings, you just need to pause, tilt your head back, and breathe.

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Written by johnwhays

October 28, 2018 at 8:19 am

Keep Going

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I’m on a roll and enjoying the fact that momentum from my recent decluttering success has me suddenly expanding the effort to reach items that have sat untouched for almost six years.

With my closet in the bedroom clean, and the drawers in my dresser unstuffed, I went on to tackle the pile of papers and odd collection of pocket leftovers that get dumped on the inviting flat expanse of the dresser top.

Included in the stack was the form for renewing my passport that I had filled out four months ago. That form was awaiting a headshot photo that met the specific requirements for dimensions and quality. It took a little while for Cyndie and me to find the right background to take the photo ourselves. Once that was done, I needed to print it on photo paper. That provided another easy opportunity for delay.

Friday, that renewal form finally made it to the post office and all that dresser top debris has now been dispatched to logical organized locations.

That accomplishment helped to fuel continued momentum that took me back out into the shop where there is now a glorious new open space where the foosball table top once stood. On the right side of the image above, there is a box against the wall that has been sitting there since we settled in here back in 2012.

We had removed three hanging light fixtures from the basement and I packaged them up to sell or give away. It’s just one of those things I didn’t get around to finishing that the box sat there untouched all this time.

Yesterday, I opened up the box, removed all the mouse-chewed bits of cardboard and packing paper, threw away the stash of acorns the rodents stowed, and laid out the light fixtures to take pictures for an ad.

They’re out there in the Craigslist universe now, hoping to find a new home.

And I am going to keep going.

I think I will finally throw out that old tattered seat I replaced on the lawn tractor that sold last month. I had placed the ripped vinyl seat back into the same box the new had come in. The tractor is gone, but I still have the throw-away seat left over from it. Really?

Boy, I gotta say, this decluttering progress is a real feel-good endeavor.

No wonder I’ve become so inspired to keep going.

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Written by johnwhays

October 7, 2018 at 9:50 am

Improvement Movement

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In my grand scheme of a continuous improvement movement toward optimal health, I have recently added new attention to not cleaning my plate. It’s an old habit, but eating everything served has long contributed to my consuming more food than my body needs at a sitting. I’ve decided to take another crack at altering that pattern.

It’s a project I tried off and on in the past, just like my attempts to stop snacking directly out of the bag, or trying to get a full 8-hours of sleep a night. I have not accomplished everything I set out to achieve.

I’m hoping to springboard on the success I have been experiencing with my daily regimen of planking and stretching exercises.

Actually, it parallels well with my recent decluttering effort. The latest accomplishments have inspired me to keep going to the next level of clutter out in the shop.

My planking success –started about 6-months ago and still making daily progress, well beyond the initial 30-days-in-a-row goal– seems to be inspiring me to take the next step toward better (and consistent) attention to portion size.

This whole portion control thing rides on top of my earlier focus to kick a sugar addiction and rein in the percentage of my daily sugar consumption in my diet.

Last night, I took a moment to calculate the number of grams of sugar in a serving of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Coconut Almonds that Cyndie brought home as a treat on our anniversary. It’s the coconut that sends these over the top. It calls out to me every time I walk past them.

Sixteen grams in a 1/3rd cup serving, which is a little under 1-gram per coated almond.

I have tried to satisfy myself with eating just 2 or 3 almonds at a time, but then the challenge I face is to honestly track how many little visits to the well I make in a day.

Craving is a powerful thing.

I’m happy that I have developed a bit of a craving to do my daily planking routine, and I struggle with the craving to sleep that washes over me at times of the day when I can’t.

Now, if I could just get myself to crave small portions of really delicious large servings of food on a plate in front of me, I’ll really be getting somewhere.

Here’s to continuous movement toward optimal health, one step at a time. Mind, body, and spirit.

Join me, won’t you?

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