Hi folks! How are you today? Another beautiful day here in Perth, warm and sunny. Although rain is back again over the weekend…ah, rain. Still we should not begrudge rain in this part of the world…
Ok, so what I want to talk to you about today is a skill. I don’t believe it comes naturally, and as such, takes a while to learn. It means you need patience and practice practice practice before you get the hang of it. By that I mean, I don’t think it’s easy, but is anything worth having ever easy?
So, before I go there, I want you to cast your mind back (a little or a lot, depending on how old you are) to when you learned to drive a car. Really try to remember the first few times you got behind the wheel. If you are anything like me, boy, that was a mind consuming task. I learned to drive in a manual, and I remember very clearly how tricky it was at the start to coordinate the clutch with the gear change, not to mention accelerating out of a gear change! I remember my lack of confidence on the road, I even remember the time when I mistook the accelerator for the brake going around the corner…. vrooooooommmm right into an oncoming vehicle! (no crash, but I was lucky!). And let’s not even talk about parallel parking.
But it wasn’t long before it all became unconscious knowledge. Before long I was driving like a pro (in my humble opinion, anyway), radio up full blast, going the speed limit (I wouldn’t go over 40kms per hour initially), merging, going safely around corners (😊), the whole shebang.
The point is, it was hard at first, but I persisted and I got there. I’m still driving today!
And, when you think about it, what else have you learned that was hard at first? That initially it took a lot of effort but eventually you got the hang of it? What about the skills you learned in your job? When we start a new position its always (usually) overwhelming and confusing and tiring, but in a few months the systems are all familiar, the people are familiar and we are ok in our new environment.
So, with that new self-perspective in mind – “Oh, yeah, I have been able to learn to do difficult things”, let’s talk about ‘enjoying life anyway’.
Worries, problems, difficulties are a part of life. It doesn’t matter who you are, no one escapes problems, worries and difficulties. We are all the time, grappling with situations that don’t quite match the way we want them to be.
So, it’s very normal to be grappling with whatever it is that is currently on your mind. There are thousands just like you. With a problem just like yours. You are not alone. You want to improve things, you want things to better or solved or ended or …. All that is normal. Steve Jobs wanted to improve communication so we have those phones! Someone wanted to improve washing dishes and so we have the dishwasher! Wanting to improve/fix/correct…it’s a very normal drive.
BUT! The problem comes when the worry, problem or difficulty starts to take up all our mental space and consume all our emotions. Perhaps we made a mistake and we can’t stop thinking about it and how we need to fix it. Perhaps a child is causing some stress and this needs to be addressed, perhaps a boss is not the best, perhaps the marriage needs work, perhaps a loved one is unhappy or sick…
Like I say, it is normal to worry about these things and want things to improve. But in these stressful times it becomes all the more important to find ways to enjoy life anyway. We need enjoyment at these times more than ever because it allows our minds and emotions to rest and recover. We need to go for that walk and enjoy it. Listen to the birds sing, look at the gardens, enjoy the blue sky and pleasant sense of movement. We need to pick up that book and relish the relaxing read. We need to have coffee with that friend and enjoy their sense of humour and companionship. We need to look extra hard at our loved ones and really call to mind how much we enjoy their company.
“Well yes Bronwyn, I appreciate that what you are saying is right, but how? I don’t find it easy to turn off my brain.”
Great point. Isn’t that always the case? Advice is great, but can someone please tell me how?
Ok, I have some suggestions for you as to how to set the ‘enjoyment’ ball in motion.
- Try simply giving yourself permission to enjoy yourself, if only for the time of the walk, the coffee with a friend, the playtime with the kids, the dinner with your partner. See if just by saying to yourself “You know what, just because everything isn’t quite right, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy this. I give myself permission to enjoy myself.”
- Really train your focus mentally to find something in your environment that you appreciate. (Remember what I said earlier about practice practice practice?). It might be a beautiful object, a photo, a pet…whatever really – your coffee machine! (I know I am in love with my coffee machine). Take a moment to take that thing into your awareness, and relax into feeling your appreciation for that thing. Feel the love, basically. Let the smile come.
- Think about the people you love. Think about why you love them. The funny things they say sometimes. Enjoy those thoughts. Let the pleasant feelings follow.
- Remind yourself that worries are normal, will always be with you, but you don’t need to always be with them.
I think that’s my suggestions for now – perhaps you have some ideas about how you can coax yourself into enjoying life anyway, if only for an hour or two? Remember, I haven’t said this was easy to do, but it really is worth the effort.
Remember – the advice offered here is of a general nature and not offered in a prescriptive way. You should always seek advice from your GP or mental health professional for advice specific to your situation.
Bronwyn Tough – Counselling Psychologist based in Midland, Perth.
Enquire about a session with Bronwyn