Posted October 01, 2015
Podcasts and books: Let's break it down.
A couple of weeks ago I posted about some of my favorite podcast episodes. I've been seeing some changes in my mindset since I've started using UJ Ramdas' Five Minute Journal so I thought I'd spend a few minutes riffing on my progress.
When I started The Five Minute Journal (about two months ago), I was in a really strange place. My health is pretty good; there's enough money in the bank; I'm happily married; I love our new life in Colorado and my mother's suffering is finally over. There are daily challenges, of course, but in the big picture? Everything's basically fine.
The problem? I don't know how to do "fine." I was born into "complicated" and so it is "complicated" that I have always been comfortably uncomfortable with. "Complicated" snaps at you all day, every day but hands you a nice to-do list each and every morning. "Complicated" keeps you plenty busy.
"Fine" gives you peace, quiet, and the freedom to choose. "Fine" wakes you up in the morning and asks you what you'd like to do with your time, your money, and your skills. For a person who has spent their entire life being "complicated?" It's "fine" that f***s you up.
In this clean, quiet space there has suddenly been time to listen to the things I tell myself. " Without "complicated" to hand it to me the list I noticed I had begun to seek out all the reasons I could not possibly be o.k. Each morning, my failures fanned out in front of me on life's table like a deck of cards just begging me to choose one and jump back in the game.I revisited old mistakes and wondered if I was making new ones. I focused on what I didn't get done instead of the good work behind me each day.
I was in this place when I started keeping The Five Minute Journal. The theory behind the structure of The Five Minute Journal is that this kind of writing taps into the brain's RAS or reticular activation syndrome, changing how you look at the world. Ramdas says in the introduction,
"When you write 'What would make today great?' you're taking a step to influence your RAS to point out and engage in activities that would make your day better. You're building new pathways in your brain that allow you to 'see' what you can do to improve your well being every day...your mind [naturally] learns to improve your happiness. Doing this consistently gives you consistently better days."
I wouldn't say I had much invested in that theory when I started The Five Minute Journal. I was really just thinking it was easier than keeping a regular journal (and it is.) But two months on, I've noticed something. That constant inner chorus of disapproval has faded pretty significantly. I'm not saying that I think I'm "healed" or anything. It's there; I know it's there; the inner chorus of disapproval knows that I know it's there. But I just get on with it and it's fine.
Kind of like an age spot on your skin. You see it, you don't like the way it looks, but you have to just get on with life. You can't get rid of it. Well...you try, but your dermatologist says cutting it out will leave a scar. You could laser it but you'd have to keep coming back to deal with it, because it will never really go away. So if the choice is between keeping the age spot or having a scar that you have to cover with makeup or spending thousands of potential retirement dollars on IPL lasers over the course of a long life? Sometimes you just decide ignore the age spot and get on with it. Depending on the age spot. Lots of dermatological problems can be used as analogies for life's problems.
While I was out on a run a few weeks ago I experimented with this new knowledge. That old ways of thinking will never be completely suffocated, but I can acknowledge them when they pop up, then tamp them down and just get on with the business of being "fine." Somehow just recognizing that they're still there -- but not useful anymore -- just helped me. The Five Minute Journal played some role in this acceptance process that I can't entirely explain to you, but it did. And it continues to help me move toward being just "fine."
I recommend the book.
SERIAL, The Lively Show, Who I Wish I Looked Like and a Review of UJ Ramdas and The Five Minute Journal
I've been going through "a phase" lately. A podcast phase. Like, I hadn't listened to podcasts for some years and then Sarah Koenig's SERIAL changed all of that. It became the thing that saved me from my hearing my own thoughts. Especially while my sister and I were holed up in an Omaha hotel room before and after my mother's funeral. In that hotel room, I re-learned the appeal of hands-free (free to use both hands for wine and chocolate) listening.
Sometime later, I found The Lively Show. I wish I knew how - because I love Jess Lively's interviews so much. If I could re-trace my Internet steps, perhaps I'd be able to track down a list of *other* podcasts that would change my life.
That's right. I said it. The Lively Show has changed my life. I look forward to Thursdays, when Jess releases each new episode. I've changed the set-up of my five-mile walks from all music to half music/half Lively Show. There are a handful of episodes I've put on repeat. Books I've downloaded after listening to interviews with the authors. Habits I've put into practice because something I heard resonated so deeply. For the record, those episodes are:
"One Part Plant" with Jessica Murnane. The Lively Show Episode #2.
Jessica Murnane has been through alot of what I've been through. Endometriosis. Multiple surgeries. Daily pain and frustration that stretches into years. She has reduced her pain by eating a plant-based diet (as I do) and it was helpful to hear her talk about her experience.
"The One Thing" with Jay Papasan. The Lively Show Episode #64.
I got a great deal of energy out of this concept. When I am stuck, I ask myself what "The One Thing" is...
"The Miracle Morning" with Hal Elrod. The Lively Show Episode #68.
Hal Elrod made me a convert. I put in my contacts first thing in the morning (plus some other routines) and I'm like a new woman.
"The Art of Relaxation and Creativity" with Jen Gotch.
For your information, I look like Jen Gotch inside my head. Specifically, this picture. I wish I had the balls to use that much peroxide and then put in some highlights with Kool-aid. But I don't. I'm not even sure I could pull off the awesome vintage sweater. And I always think eyeliner gives me the Cindy McCain "crazy-eyes." Like, probably makes the pale blue of me and Cindy's eyes pop when you're standing up close, but looks a little scary in photos.
But I digress.
The point is this: I'm not sure there is a point. Ok. Yes. It was about UJ Ramdas' The Five Minute Journal. I purchased The Five Minute Journal and have been keeping it for a few weeks now. Sort of a compromise between the three pages of automatic writing I did each morning for years and years and years and not journaling at all.
The Five Minute Journal is all about tracking gratitude and amazement, and a little bit about capturing desires. I think I quit the morning pages when I realized it was just a download of pre-coffee dissatisfactions.
Some days, especially if you work from home, recognizing The Five Minute Journal's "three amazing things that happened today" will be pretty small. But that process actually helps me identify the small stuff. Like, maybe my aged, handicapped dachshund was able to walk all the way to the mailbox and back. Other times the things I'm grateful for are big but broad. Like, you just really appreciated a day of beautiful Colorado sunshine.
Or maybe your gratitude surprises you. One day I was just so appreciative of something small my husband said that made me think more positively about a challenging situation. Most days I'm really grateful that I've found a crack financial planner who TELLS ME WHAT TO DO when I don't know what to do. Which, if you think about it, has the power to change the trajectory of my entire financial life. And therefore, many of the other aspects of my life.
And I think that's the whole point. (If this blog post really has a point...) That the simple act of consciousness, via The Five Minute Journal, can be a teacher. You're learning about the people and the experiences - big and small - that have the power to change your day, your week, your years.
You can listen to Jess Lively's interview with UJ Ramdas in this episode. And I highly recommend The Five Minute Journal. Because it will move you toward happiness - and happiness is (technically) what Anti-Bad-Mood aromatherapy sprays are all about. It's not about the money - because, believe me - I'm not making much. It's about making sure an idea I've had gets out there, fashioned in the way I envision it. Because I've spent so much of my working life making sure other people's ideas "work."
Deep thoughts, right?! Tell me something amazing that happened to you yesterday...? Big or small.