So, this has been an interesting few weeks for me. I shared that with you last week. As I look back at the past five years, I see the pattern now. June, July, and August are really hard for me. This year is different though. This year, I have tools like I’ve never had before to help me process the emotions and deal with all the negative messages that want to take root in my head. I’ve been using these tools in my personal life since I was in certification to become a Life Coach. That training has literally saved my life. And the beautiful thing is, and that’s what I’m recognizing right now, is that once you’ve learned these tools, you can use them in every area of your life for the rest of your life. So, having this season come back around has allowed me to go through it in a more healthy and permanent way with these tools. Not to mention, I actually transitioned past it so much more quickly.
Last week I told you I had recognized the feeling as melancholy. I remember in the past years being debilitated by melancholy for several months. Like, June through the end of August. I was emotionally sensitive to everything: every word, every look, every memory. My emotions were on high alert for what seemed like forever.
So, because I know I’ve talked to many of you who are feeling like I had been in the past years, I want to tell you exactly what I did to get to where I am right now. Because right now is healthy, clear-minded, hopeful, energized. When I said last week that I just wanted to get back to feeling comfortable in life again, this is what it feels like. But before, my way of getting back to comfortable was just to push through; to muster up that smile and keep moving, no time to give any of my emotions consideration. Because, hey, if I actually did, I might get lost in the depths of the despair.
But that is actually the exact opposite of what happens when you slow down long enough to face the music; to examine and explore the note in the song of your life, to take the analogy from last week. So, I put myself, time after time - on purpose! - in an uncomfortable position. And I don’t mean physically uncomfortable. Because, if you listened in last week, you know that I was in a hammock on my back patio where the breeze freely blows from the open expanse behind me, rocking me to and fro, sometimes into a sweet sleep. Total physical comfort. But my mind was uncomfortable. The stillness and quiet were too much. It created open spaces to think…about all kinds of things. And sometimes my brain entertains all kinds of negative thoughts that run away with me. It took me a good three nights of visiting that hammock to finally get to a place where I could relent to the thinking and open up to the emotions; to allow them to come - full force if they wanted - and then to start doing some good work.
Now, let me tell you, the Holy Spirit is the best friend you’re going to have in a time like this. For a believer, He is the comforter and the peace giver. But He’s also the One who brings wisdom, knowledge, and discernment as His good counsel. And He is the One who strengthens you with power in your inner being. So, inviting Him into your situation is the most wise thing you could do. He wants to help! This is why integrating brain science with Biblical faith is so powerfully healing and transformative. His work is the best work. So, let’s start by inviting Him in.
As I was trying to analyze the last two weeks to see the progression of what actually happened - as in, how I moving through this weird place I was in, and what was going on that led me into the next phase - I realized something very crucial. On that third night in the hammock, after deciding that I would relent to all the thinking and the emotions, and quit trying to ignore it, my brain - prompted by the Holy Spirit, I’m sure - offered me a new thought. As I was complaining out loud to my two dogs, “I’m out here by myself. It’s so quiet. No one needs me or is looking for me. I’m all alone,” a new thought popped up: “Who do you know that would love to be in this hammock right now all by themselves? Without anyone bugging them, just peace and quiet, swaying in the evening breeze? No one looking for them or asking them to get up and make dinner.” I immediately thought of several of my younger friends with littles that needed constant attention and supervision. “She would love to be in this hammock right now. She would relish the solitude.” And with that one thought, I felt a shift inside me. Being able to see my situation from another perspective created gratitude. And gratitude began to take root. And it changed me. Gratitude’s perspective allowed me to open myself up for healing of old wounds - the wounds that kept me from appreciating the beauty of what is.
And then, I was primed and ready to invite in mindfulness - the next phase of moving through this season. I opened myself up to become aware of what I was feeling, what the thoughts were that I was thinking, and I asked myself why I was thinking that.
The Bible tells us, many times, to be careful what we’re thinking on and the messages we entertain. We should give it some consideration. We should give space to find out why we are thinking the way we are. The Holy Spirit can give us insight as to the reasons why we are feeling the emotions we are. Then we should just get curious. This is where we’re able to pull ourselves out of the center of the emotional event by becoming a “watcher,” as I described last week, and really get curious as to what’s going on. Then try to bring some logic and reasoning to the situation. As you’ve invited your brain to examine the situation, watch how the Holy Spirit helps you identify the lies you’re believing, and then guides your mind into truth. It’s a fascinating process if you’ll just make the time and space for it to happen. It’s actually inviting the process…the very process you’re initially trying to avoid because you think it’s going to kill you. But it won’t. It’s actually going to bring you freedom and life.
This second phase of the process took me a good week. But I was intentional about meeting myself and the Holy Spirit out on that hammock every evening to do some good work. And then I turned a corner. I felt it physically. Melancholy makes me feel lethargic. It makes me want to stay inside and hide. Sure, I’m able to work, take care of my house and pups, cook for myself, and all the normal things, but that’s just about it. I have no desire or energy for anything else. But after getting a little gratitude check on the privilege of retreating to a quiet hammock every evening, I remembered back to the first time I strung up that Eno between my two brick pillars under my patio. It was a very warm, sunny afternoon and the breeze was strong, which swung my hammock from shade to sun to shade to sun, back and forth.
I was looking for a retreat, so I had brought out my portable speaker and turned on ocean wave sounds. I leaned back in the hammock and closed my eyes. I envisioned myself under a cabana in Mexico, 25 feet from the crashing waves. My own little paradise. The longer I laid there, the more real Mexico felt. I drifted off into a sweet little nap. When I woke up, I had such a sense of peace and calm…and happiness. I was happy. Like smiling from ear to ear, happy. I’m not sure if it’s because I was tickled that I could actually fool myself into believing I was in Mexico, or if the whole experience just honestly made me happy. Regardless, thinking back on this first hammock experience brought back that same feeling. Happy. Which is interesting because that’s not the emotion I had when I started out. Remember? I was feeling alone and probably a little mad about it. But then I was happy. How can you have a turn-around of extreme emotions like that in the expanse of one hour? Something significant had happened here. And now I know what it actually was: it’s called playfulness. Playfulness is the way people frame or reframe situations in a way that they are experienced as personally interesting, and/or intellectually stimulating, and/or entertaining.
According to researchers of adult playfulness, it directly contributes to experiencing emotions such as joy, glee, and happiness. Which makes sense now why my little trip to Mexico found me feeling an immense sense of happiness. And then even in the remembering of that experience produced the same happiness. It was a reframing of the situation. I was also reframing my situation when I considered another perspective about being alone in the backyard in my hammock this past week. The consideration of other ideas forced me to use my imagination. It opened up the part of the brain where playfulness resides. Imagination and playfulness come from the same part of the right side of the brain. It’s the same part of the brain that also elicits creativity and unlocks supercharge learning.
According to an article by Help Guide titled The Benefits of Play for Adults, being playful can add joy to life, relieve stress, and help connect you to others and the world around you. I’m so intrigued by this now that I’m going to have to go do more research on it to learn more.
Earlier in the week last week, a few friends asked to make plans on Saturday, and I penciled them in on my calendar not quite sure how I would feel on that day. But I woke up on Saturday morning with a fresh sense of life and vitality and hope for the future. It was a day for playfulness. And I did. I had brunch with one of my best friends and her husband - one of my favorite couples in the world - and we toasted to their 37th wedding anniversary. Then I headed right over to another of my best friends’ house and spent several hours lounging on her pool floats, laughing and crying and discussing all the things of the world and solving all the problems. A few hours later I was off to spend dinner and a movie with another best friend. Sunday was more of the same playfulness, with church and lunch with friends. Yes, church can be playful if you want it to. Playfulness is best achieved when you’re not self-conscious or concerned about how you look to others or what they think about you.
The results for me is that I feel like myself again. I’m hopeful, excited for today and for tomorrow. I’m energized, I’m looking for the next playfulness fix, and I’m happy.
So, I think I’ve cracked the formula to transitioning through a season of change. Here it is: Holy Spirit lets us see our situation from a place of gratitude. Gratitude opens you up for Mindfulness. Mindfulness accesses regions in your brain that creates playfulness. And playfulness, and all its benefits, results in restoration.
That’s it. Holy Spirit revelation, gratitude, mindfulness, playfulness, and restoration. This is the healing formula. Try it for yourself and let me know what you find.
Friend, would you like some help working through this healing formula for yourself? I’d love to help you!
I’ve put a link in the show notes for a free 30-minute call just so we can see if we’re a good fit to work together and show you how Life Coaching would work for you.
Also, don’t forget to get the free, downloadable guide that complements this episode. It has a few prompt questions that will help you personally work through some of the things I’ve talked about today. It’s kind of like a little Life Coaching at home.
Have a wonderful week, friends. See you next Wednesday for the next episode of Another Beautiful Life podcast.