How To Get Off The Hamster Wheel of Life
This week with my 4th graders (if you're new to this blog I work with kiddos to teach them strategies for stress and anxiety) we talked about this amazing workbook, that I highly recommend, "My Happiness Journal." While this is geared for kiddos, and I highly recommend it for them, I also love this for "adults". I put adults in quotes because I believe deep inside there is still a child who has great imagination, wonder, curiosity and FUN! And, I am still riding off the high of all the fun making we have been discussing over the past month, and my encouragement to get out there and have a lot of it! Well, this is no different. This journal makes me smile just looking at it, and it couldn't be any more appropriate than to channel that inner child and all of their creativity for us adults!
Why I think this journal is a must have is that it asks the all important questions of: "My Birthday was great this year because", and "This dessert is happiness" (and it asks you to draw the dessert!) I kid, these things are fun, but some of the other things it asks are: "What are the 5 things I couldn't do without in my happiness bag?", "Five things to do if I'm having a bad day" (with 5 suggestions: read a book, text a friend, take a walk, draw, play a game and 5 blanks to fill in), and "Happy to Help Coupons" (fill in the blank on how you are willing to help others).
Now, you know this is right up my alley in terms of positivity and present moment awareness, but what really struck me were my daughter's and the 4th graders answers to these questions. It wasn't what they said, or talked about, it was the simplicity in it all. There weren't a lot of fluff in the answers or justification as to why they felt this way or that.
In fact, most everything they answered from the book was one or two word answers. Most of these kids know exactly what makes them feel good, no hesitation. Can you say the same? Could you rattle off the 5 things in your happiness bag (no fair just rattling off the people you love, dig deeper) and 5 strategies to turning your day around? I know prior to beginning my personal journey to understanding why I was so unhappy and unfulfilled I would not only be hard pressed to come up with 5 things in my happiness bag that had meaning, I definitely did not have 5 strategies for coping with stress, anxiety and overwhelm, that weren't some form of distraction or numbing (think alcohol, TV/movies, social media, food, etc.). And, these three emotions, at that time, were my primary emotions. Nor did I know that it was possible to overcome these emotions and heal from them so I didn't have to keep experiencing them on repeat. See, I didn't realize that I did not have to have the life experience that we are here to be challenged and our job is to seek solutions to these challenges. That is what I thought life was, a "challenge-solution" game. I thought is was my job to avoid pain (challenge) by finding solutions. I thought that I would find enough solutions one day that all the challenges would go away. Well, by definition that is not possible because I was playing the game of "challenge-solution", thus challenge was part of the deal.
I don't know about you, but I got really good at coming up with solutions to all the challenges in my life, personally and professionally. I would pride myself on coming up with creative solutions, and quick. But, if life is a "challenge-solutions" game and I was coming up with good solutions, quickly, how come I wasn't satisfied? How come if life was supposed to be a "challenge-solution" game there was only short-lived satisfaction and a lot of stress and overwhelm? The reason is that you can't win that game because not every situation is going to be exactly the same, so the solutions will need to be varied and nuanced and likely not usable for the next challenge. Also, the people involved in each situation are complex. And lastly, you have set up a hampster wheel or treadmill scenario in which there must be a challenge in order to find a solution for the game of life to continue.
So, what to do? If life is not "challenge-solution" then what is it? It just is. Life itself is neutral. All the scenarios that we are in reaction to are neutral. We are the ones that bring the challenge, the bad feelings, and the stories to every scenario. We are the ones that create the drama, the stress, the expectations and the bad feelings. Life is actually simply a "cause-effect" game. And, if we played it as such there would be not only less feeling bad, we would be able to course correct quicker and continue moving forward. This is my work, helping people to identify what is tripping them up from enjoying this life right now. Helping them get out of the "challenge-solution" game and into the "cause and effect" game so that they can find purpose and meaning and be present and participating in their lives right now! It is possible, and I believe our birthright, to feel good almost exclusively and I want to help you get there. If you can relate let's schedule a time to chat.
Peace,Erin "off the wheel" Mac