Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘positive thinking

Momentum

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Words on Images

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Fluid Planning

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There is one aspect of a healthy balanced mind that I am enjoying in particular in the years since overcoming the dysfunctional thinking that was a huge part of my depression. I find it much easier to accept unexpected changes to plans.

I think my old pattern of rigidity was an attempt to protect myself from any possible discomfort I might experience over not being adequately prepared for some new scenario that might pop up. My new perspective resulted from an exercise of examining what the worst possible outcomes might be for situations that I was earnestly wanting to avoid.

In the end, there was never anything that deserved the level of angst I was nurturing.

Cyndie and I had big plans for this coming weekend. It has morphed a little to become “not as big” plans now. We are going on a little “stay-cation” to her parent’s house in Edina, leaving Jackie to take her first shift of managing the ranch for an extended few days.

I had intended to pack enough things last night to allow me to leave from work today and go straight to the Edina house for the entire time. Then on Monday morning, I’d only need to drive the short distance again to work. Now both ends of the plan have shifted.

Cyndie was assigned a responsibility to manage affairs for an aunt who is moving from her own home into a nursing care facility. This event is claiming her full attention this week and she just isn’t ready to be away as early as we originally envisioned.

That actually eased my burden of trying to pack the bike in the car before work today, because I am going to want it with me over the weekend to continue my conditioning efforts before the Tour of Minnesota begins in another week.

In fact, the night off allowed me a chance to get out and ride for an hour last night. That was a particularly pleasant outing due to perfect weather conditions.

Now we are thinking we’ll pack up and head for Edina tomorrow morning.

The back end of the plan for the upcoming weekend has also changed for me. As the date closed in, I realized I have an appointment to drop off my car at the body shop to repair my deer-dented doors and pick up a rental car.

I’ll head home Sunday night to fit in that detail.

Other than those two changes, the middle of the extended weekend plans are still standing firm. For now.

What’s the worst that could happen if those end up changing, too?

Nothing that we won’t be able to adjust to, …kind of like the way horses get back to grazing so quickly after something rattles their calm.

Here’s to mastering the art of being comfortable with the possibility that plans might change.

If you want to take it up a level, the next step is mastering the art of visualizing the best possible outcomes, and allowing it to become your ongoing default perspective.

Then you get to celebrate with reckless abandon when something changes, and the outcome ends up even better than the best possibility you imagined!

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Written by johnwhays

June 7, 2018 at 6:00 am

Two Wolves

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Last week, Cyndie and I squeaked in time after a hard day’s work to watch the Disney movie “Tomorrowland” (2015) that arrived in the mail on our Netflix subscription. We liked it a lot. It includes significant references to the popular teaching legend about two wolves, which highlights the importance of how our thinking influences our lives.

We have been repeating variations of the punchline with noticeable frequency in the days since.

A simple synopsis taken from the movie:

Casey Newton: “There are two wolves” … You told me this story my entire life, and now I’m telling you: There are two wolves and they are always fighting. One is darkness and despair, the other is light and hope. Which wolf wins?

Eddie Newton: Whichever one you feed.

This resonates for me, because it reflects my direct experience from my years of chronic depression through the ensuing years following wonderfully successful treatment. I learned to feed the good wolf instead of the bad one.

This recent focus on the two wolves legend has renewed my attention to how often I still automatically default to a negative perspective, despite my desire and intentions to do otherwise.

I stepped in the house at the end of a long, strenuous day of laboring on our property and Cyndie checked in with me, commenting on the vast number of things we accomplished. Without missing a beat, my response grabbed the equally vast number of tasks that remain in need of attention.

Luckily, that default response no longer goes unnoticed by me. I caught myself and admitted I was feeding the wrong wolf.

It’s as if I feel the cheery perspective of the state of things requires a counterbalance to keep it from being a false representation of reality. But, thinking about it, I could see that no matter how I chose to frame it, either mental perspective did not physically change how many projects we did or didn’t complete that day.

The reality of whether the grass needs mowing or downed branches need to be turned into piles of wood chips does not change based on how I assess our achievements of the day.

So why not feed the good wolf?

In life’s ongoing battle between darkness and despair, and the alternative of light and hope, which one should we be feeding? I vote for light, hope, love, peace, compassion, understanding, and even more love.

Thank you, Tomorrowland, for sowing the seeds.

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All There

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It’s all there. The good and the bad. Really, it’s always been that way. Disasters and human rights abuses are scattered throughout history, right along with the victories and accomplishments.

We can choose which of these we allow our attention to focus.

Wars take lives, medical advances save lives. Weather disasters destroy, ingenuity builds.

In my old life, the negative held an illogical amount of my attention. I aligned with the adage of Murphy’s Law, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

When a hard day at work feels like things went wrong just because they could, it is too easy for me to slip into a dreary doldrums of woe. It is the natural direction my mind, and subsequently my body, would tend to go. It takes a conscious effort to think otherwise.

Luckily, after receiving a diagnosis of depression and being offered treatment with education, medication, and talk therapy, I learned both the ease and the benefit of choosing to think differently.

Bad things still happen, just like they always have.

Yesterday, at work, I decided to start a new adage. My natural inclination to be pessimistic shows through a little bit, but you can see my intentions are noble.

“Anything that can go wrong, might not.”

See what I did there?

Thinking positive!

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Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Manipulating Neurochemistry

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How are your stress levels today? Don’t think about the answer. Feel it.

Cyndie and I have faced some questions about how we are doing lately. It hasn’t been as easy to answer as usual for us. It was a tough winter, but listing our grievances doesn’t feel good to share. It doesn’t paint the picture as accurately as we know it to be.

Our move to the country and accumulation of animals for which we need to tend has put distance between us and our friends and family. Some connections with people and activities have broken, and only a fraction of new local connections have sprouted in their place.

We have gained a brilliant wealth of new relationships with our animals, and precious though they are, it is not the same.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to drive the suburban roads again that consumed our everyday back when we lived in Eden Prairie. The dramatic contrast to our present-day environment was revealing.

Is it worth it? The struggles to cope with the never-ending challenges of weather and the unrelenting daily routine of required chores to care for our horses, chickens, dog, and cat? Some days, more than others. It’s life. It’s something we chose. (By the way, that’s a luxury –having the choice– that is not lost on us.)

Our challenges can be framed as onerous and laborious; burdens that could be lifted by giving up our animals and moving back to the conveniences and camaraderie of our life-long friends and families in the suburbs.

The difficulties of the last few months, and the years of owning and caring for our animals can also be framed as invigorating, rejuvenating, inspiring, and fulfilling. It is adventure of a very high order.

When we choose to frame the ups and downs of life in the positive, we manipulate our neurochemistry in healthy ways. That is a choice we have power to control. I spent an unfortunate number of years manipulating my biochemistry in the opposite direction by mentally framing my life in the negative.

We won’t prevent harsh realities from challenging our decisions by simply thinking positive all the time, but we will be better served to meet those challenges when we give our brains the healthiest balance of on-going positive neurochemical support possible.

Life here is challenging, but we are doing well. Really well. Thanks for asking.

It feels right.

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From Nothing

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When I spend my days away from the ranch, not taking pictures, not collecting experiences, the relative somethings get a little thin. Four days a week my hours are tied up with commuting and day-jobbing. By Friday, I have to work a little harder to fill this space with words and pictures. I will often be heard muttering, “I’ve got nothing.”

Thursday nights are what Cyndie and I refer to as my “Friday.”

Last night we celebrated with my bringing home Cyndie’s favorite half-baked deep-dish pizza for dinner. I walked in the door, placed it in the refrigerator and collapsed on our bed, falling into a deep sleep with Pequenita curled up on my legs.

It’s a manifestation of accumulated exhaustion. What a luxury.

One of the things that leaves me feeling like I’ve got nothing to write about, is how incomparable my healthy first-world exhaustion is to the suffering I witness others around me going through. How dare I frame my suffering as particularly arduous, when other’s lives are hovering on the brink, when disasters abound, when life challenges won’t be temporary.

I feel lost within my familiar surroundings, an unsettling perception. It’s an instance when I resort to waiting. That feeling doesn’t last. If I don’t fight against what isn’t really there, balance returns soon enough.

One of the reasons I strive to compose something every day is as a push on my ‘swing’ of daily maintaining my mental health. It’s an interesting conundrum for me when the healthy act of writing meets up with the well-known challenges of writer’s block.

One of my “go to” solutions is to simply post a picture. Sometimes, by the end of the week, I don’t even have that.

Before the point in my life when I identified that I was dealing with depression, a moment like this, with no idea what to write about and feeling lost, would have simply stoked a dangerous fire.

I’m thrilled to be able to report that my perspective and awareness are so completely different after treatment that times like this tend to end up being more of an inspiration than an ominous threat.

It’s so simple, it gets misconstrued as not even possible. It does involve some bigger picture observation, but after that, in each moment, it is simply a matter of thinking differently. The secret is in recognizing what is going on in the moment, and then directing my thoughts in an appropriately healthy way.

Through talk therapy, I learned how to recognize my dysfunctional thinking and perceptions. With practice, I have honed skills in changing my thoughts, which alters my chemistry. Happily, no pun intended, it generates a positive feedback loop that strengthens with each cycle.

One last part of my simple secret to overcoming my depression: trusting it can work.

My healthcare providers were convinced they could help me, and I trusted them.

It worked.

Look at that. When I started writing this post, I thought I had nothing for today.

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Think

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2017 at 6:00 am