It’s been hard to motivate myself since the pandemic created a massive change in everyone’s lives. It’s slowed down my already diminished “have to do” list. My routine has become, I wake, shower, meditate, eat, clean dishes, call family and friends, check the news, eat, clean dishes, watch movies on Netflix, sleep.
In between I procrastinate with reading what’s new during the pandemic—what changes are being made and when and how we will be able to move freely again. I am also lured into watching movies Netflix is adding to its site.
Eager to write for my blog again after taking time off to finish a book I’d written. I vowed that I’d write every day so I could post every week. But that’s not happening.
I confess to not having been a responsible blogger in the past. I didn’t always post fresh material each week.
But now it’s worse. I don’t feel the inclination to write about what I wrote before. That never stopped me from sitting at my computer until an idea propelled me on to write.
It’s possible that having slowed everything down to essentials in my life has resulted in not feeling any urgency to get my work done. My reaction to the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic was to double down on meditation and walk to commune with nature every day. I watch only movies and read books that are funny and/or uplifting. It’s my carefully calculated way of keeping myself from becoming depressed.
Knowing this is not who I am, I wonder how I can keep myself from feeling distracted each time I sit down to write. Having become so calm has turned into a problem.
My research brought up the fact that procrastination is because of discomfort, but at first that made little sense to me. Feeling discomfort writing before didn’t stop me from writing. It was a little anxiety that helped me to begin writing before.
We motivate ourselves to work with something outside ourselves. When our work is something we love to do, the work itself motivates us. Because I no longer had a routine, I needed to find extra motivation to work despite having lost what had motivated me before the pandemic.
Celebrated author Nir Eyal shares powerful insights on the science and psychology of procrastination in a podcast on Mindvalley. He says that everything we do is to escape discomfort. We need to learn how to control and manage our discomfort to take action.
In my case, needing to learn a novel way to manage my discomfort became my goal. First, I needed to acknowledge that involving myself with something other than what I planned to do was due to discomfort. By naming what it was, I realized whatever had my attention was procrastination, not anything else.
Nir Eyal offers two ways to do this. The first step is the 10 minute rule. You say to yourself, “I don’t crave distraction anymore. I can get past this distraction in 10 minutes”.
Set a timer for 10 minutes. You can either return to the task you wanted to do or sit with the discomforting sensations of either blame or shame.
Blamers criticize other people. “It’s So and So’s fault for keeping me from being able to work.“ Shamers condemn themselves. “If I had any guts, I wouldn’t be tempted with stuff that doesn’t serve me.“
Be present with the urge to blame or shame until it stops. Allow the thoughts to play out until they lose their strength.
The second step is for when you feel guilty about making time for entertainment. If you want to watch something on Netflix, instead of feeling guilty, if you intend when you want to do this, you are changing how you’re approaching what you think of distraction.
By determining the details first, getting the information, then defining by scheduling the time, you do it without feeling you’re procrastinating.
Another suggestion from Eyal is that if you set a period of time you will lock out on your calendar to work without distraction, you don’t have to deal with the discomfort of feeling pulled away from working to procrastinate.
These suggestions helped to help me overcome the fears that came up when I tried to write. Telling the truth to myself helped me define what was happening. Rather than judge my response, I could distinguish what action to take.
The best that’s come from facing the truth is I don’t crave distraction anymore. It’s so much more satisfying to feel good about a job well done.
Besides, now that procrastination is all right when I plan for it, I can still enjoy it.
When I learned we had to stay home and distance ourselves, the news wasn’t alarming. I’m an artist and writer, and I’m used to being alone.
That was then. I knew I could meet friends for lunch, go to the gym, go shopping, and anything else I wanted to do after working. Now, there’s nothing to do besides work, cleaning, cooking or finding something to entertain me after work.
That would have been fine for a little while, but hard when we don’t know how long this isolation will last. Nothing is certain now. There’s nothing to look forward to.
My two granddaughters were to graduate in May, one from high school, the other from college. I’d been flippant when I heard they wouldn’t get to celebrate with their friends. When I wrote that I’d watched them get their diplomas in my imagination and told them how proud I was, I thought it was a cute way to approach their loss.
Today, I read two articles about grief. The first was about all the students who won’t be able to have a graduation ceremony. It described how hard it was for these students to lose all they’ve been looking forward to these last four years.
These youngsters had been looking forward to all the festivities and honors for over four years. Now that was being taken away from them, my initial response to my grandchildren in my estimation turned out to have been disrespectful.
I’d become one of those women who has lost touch with compassion. I know women like that. Their entire world revolves around themselves.
That’s not who I want to be.
The second article about grief was about all of us. A group who met shared their feelings about living with the pandemic. One woman said she felt grief. They asked an expert, David Kessler, to find out how to manage their feelings.
Kessler is the world’s foremost expert on grief. He co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.
Kessler says, “Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. Losing normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”
What can individuals do to manage all this grief?
Kessler advises us to start with work on the different stages of grief. The stages aren’t going to be linear. He says, “There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.”
And he states “Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”
There’s anticipatory grief, which is really anxiety. Anxiety is fear and conjures up worst-case scenarios. That’s when you must make yourself think about the best-case scenarios.
“We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored, but neither should dominate either.”
- To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. You can name five things in the room. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay.
- You can also think about letting go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands.
- It’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Be patient. If someone is usually adaptable but is now contrary, think about who they usually are and not who they seem to be in this moment.
- This is a temporary state. It helps to say it.
Finally, Kessler adds; “I’ve been honored that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning. I had talked to Elisabeth quite a bit about what came after acceptance. I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people realize they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They realize they can use their phones for long conversations. They’re appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.”
It’s helped me to find meaning to this pandemic. One way I’ve found meaning is that when distancing myself from others, instead of being stoic in my aloneness, I am finding balance in my life between being sequestered and in touch with my humanness. I feel better about myself and find that I’m more accepting.
This pandemic might hold some significant meanings for you, too. Challenges are the beginnings of change and growth.
You can read the entire article, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief” at: https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief?
I wrote my memoir not sure why I needed to do this. I’m an artist. Having been painting and learning to paint better was my life. I knew little about writing.
But something deep inside was stirring. I had the urge to write about myself. Maybe I wanted to explore why I’d done what I had, but I was so intent on knowing truths that lay deep inside, the why’s seemed irrelevant. Something was there to explain why writing my story would make sense.
I couldn’t get what I was after by planning what to write. Thoughts kept me further from what I was after.
The truth comes from that place of feeling good; the place known to be in the flow. It’s where you embrace what is. We find truth living in the moment without a care in the world.
The truth never comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts are full of beliefs, judgments, and fears we formed through the years. Our thoughts are in the truth’s way. They’re the blocks to our happiness.
Arriving at the truth requires us to put aside our beliefs, judgements and fears. How do we do this? There are many teachers who can show you a way like Byron Katie, Joe Dispenza, and many other teachers on Mindvalley and other sites.
But I’ve found a simple way you can learn to do this for yourself. Writing your story will help you see where past experiences contributed to form those beliefs, judgments and fears. Let me give you an example from my life story.
When I was first married a long time ago, in the 60s, I believed I was beholden to my husband. He was the one earning the money I lived on while I was free to do what I wanted to do. In return for my freedom, I believed I had to comply to his wishes.
On Sunday nights, when our maid had the night off, I’d ask my husband if we and our four children could go out to dinner. He’d tell me it was okay. I bathed and dressed the children, and when I was ready to go my husband would decide he’d rather stay home. He’d go to the grocery store for TV dinners.
I’d feel harassed and beaten down. I’d cry.
Several years later my beliefs, thoughts and fears had gotten worse, and I became depressed, I went for therapy with a psychologist. When I told him what happened at our house on Sunday nights, he asked me why I didn’t take the children out without my husband.
It was as if a light bulb went on in my head, illuminating all the options I had that I hadn’t seen before. In that moment I realized no one was keeping me from going out to dinner but myself. The only reason I couldn’t see was that I believed it wasn’t possible.
Where did the belief that I couldn’t spend money without my husband’s approval come from? When writing about that time in my life, I saw how that belief came from all the times he admonished me for spending money. Each time I capitulated, and the more I didn’t question this belief, the harder it became to see any options for myself.
Writing my story helped me see how I’d believed I wasn’t good enough. Why else would I allow someone else to dictate what I can or can’t do?
The first step in changing and moving forward comes when we realize that questioning our thoughts leads to empowering ourselves. The opposite—when we blindly continue following our beliefs, judgments and fears—we disempower ourselves.
If you really want to change and move forward in your life, you need to begin to “clean house” of disempowering beliefs, judgments and fears. It gets easier with each success. In fact, after a while you will hear your thoughts and be able to turn them off.
One easy way to learn how to do the work of disempowering your thoughts is to go to Katie’s website https://thework.com/, where you’ll find a step-by-step description of how to do it.
I’ll be posting more about our thoughts in more posts, so stay tuned in. I welcome questions you might have for future posts.
There are many books about writing a book. The book I’m writing isn’t one. Let me explain.
Twenty or more years ago I set out to write a memoir. I’d majored in writing in college. I’d been a voracious writer all my life. But none of those years acquainting myself with writing and books had prepared me to understand what to write about or how to start.
Heck, I knew nothing about writing a book.
So I went to a guru. Stay with me. This gets interesting.
This guru had written a book, but her knowledge about writing was of no interest to me. What I needed was an answer to what I should write about. I didn’t want to just write any book. My intuition was guiding me to create a book using my experiences to help me and help others.
These were issues I was grappling with. How best can I help others with the experiences I’ve had? What should the focal point of the book be?
Abraham describes itself in the plural as “a group consciousness from the non-physical dimension.” There are other names for this dimension; Muhammad, Source energy, the Universe, God, Jesus, and many others.
Before these concepts about spirituality throw you, you’re questioning my sanity or you think I’m from another planet, please rest assured.
Now here comes the good part.
This information from Abraham is available through other spiritual sources. I mentioned a few above, but other best-selling contemporary authors and spiritual leaders are also sharing this information. Esther Hicks was also featured in the movie, “The Secret”.
Abraham is channeled through Esther Hicks. Abraham’s answers, spoken through Esther, pertain to “your joyous deliberate creation and control of every event and condition of your life.” To translate; we’re always creating. The trick is to learn how to create what we would like.
I’d been to several workshops where Abraham answers questions from the audience. Each time I went, what Abraham said about subjects affecting me resonated. The information I received was always enlightening. I would see problems I’d been having with more clarity, and I’d know the truth of what Abraham shared because their interpretation made me feel good.
The question I asked Abraham was a question about what kind of book to write. The answer I received from Abraham was, “Write a Book About Writing a Book.”
What kind of answer is this?, I thought. I didn’t want to put all my time and effort in what I perceived to be a silly attempt. But now I’ve written three books, and now that those three books are flip/flops—(flip) an instance of flipping; (flop) to be a complete failure—I understand why writing a book about writing a book might have been the better option.
According to Abraham, “You only hear what you are ready to hear.” That was true for me writing those three books. I realize now that guilt drove my first memoir. I wanted to defend all I had done. All that explaining, defending and justifying made for some boring reading. That book flopped.
Ten years later, I lightened up in the second book I wrote. I flipped from making my story be about me and instead my story became about a woman I imagined to be. That book flopped because it couldn’t decide who I was.
Another ten years went by before my third attempt. This would be the perfect time to write about myself. I had forgiven everyone I’d blamed and had forgiven myself about my past. This time it would be easy. And it was easy, but not good. Something was wrong.
I tried to sell it and got a lot of interest because of the premise, but one reading after another led to more disinterest. The truth revealed: the writing sucked and it wasn’t the truth.
I wouldn’t give up.
I still believed that I had a destiny, and that I was to write a book that would help me and others. I’d trusted the way to do this would come.
Giving up now meant giving up on myself. It would be tantamount to forsaking my faith in my vision. It would mean what I’d done didn’t count for anything.
All the signs, the serendipitous events, the times I’d come in contact with what I needed at the perfect time, were they all just phantoms?
Then it hit me!
Maybe this is the test. Maybe if I hold on to faith, success is right around the next corner. I know now what’s wrong. Maybe now I can do it right.
I’ve already learned a lot more about writing. I am seeing/hearing/feeling the truth more and more. I can do this now.
This is what I shall share with you on my blog. I’ll be posting about writing this book. And this will be in real-time. Stay tuned and sign up for info on new installments.
To access Abraham, go to https://www.abraham-hicks.com/
Podcasts from Abraham available on youtube.com
The way to eliminate negative thoughts is to change them to positive thoughts. Sure, but how do we?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the inspirational best-seller-of-all-time, The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale. It was first published in 1953.
Besides the colossal success of Peale’s book, successful Happiness Courses are being taught at Harvard, Yale and other institutions. There have been many other books written about happiness, even Happiness songs. And achieving happiness has been the subject of many movies.
So why aren’t more Americans getting any happier? Only one in three Americans say they’re very happy, according to a recent Harris Poll.
I think this is why. I contend that our thoughts determine our feelings, and most of those thoughts are fearful, worrisome, or they’re scary.
Hardly conducive to a sunny disposition.
These negative feelings play havoc with our ability to see options. They impede feeling happy. They cloud our mind so we don’t perform in the most focused way.
The thoughts seem to come out of nowhere. They can come from an incident in the past. Sometimes they come after we begin something new, doubting our capabilities of succeeding. Or we may have a habitual thought come up repeatedly in the present.
All the feelings born of negative thoughts, if not questioned, become buried again until something else triggers them. Questioning the thought is the first step in preventing unwanted thoughts to crop up.
All the suffering that goes on inside our minds is not reality, says Byron Katie. It’s just a story we torture ourselves with.
To question a thought, you can use Byron Katie’s technique. Ask yourself;
Is it true?
If it still seems likely, ask yourself, “Can you absolutely know it’s true?”
How do I react – what happens – when I believe that thought?
Who would I be without the thought?
There’s a lot more you can learn about the questioning. Check out her website for more information: http://thework.com
The common denominator of most thoughts that pop up is that they’re negative thoughts.
When we don’t question whether the thought is true, we may end up anxious, overwhelmed with doubt and uncertainty. We feel stressed.
Sometimes we feel like a victim, unable to see any other option but live with what we wish wasn’t happening.
Our thoughts and feelings have a huge impact on our body. This is because of the mind-body connection. Most of the time we act because of habit, without thinking, and let our negative emotions rule us. This can cause distress.
It’s hard to remain happy when we’re not feeling the higher vibrations of love, joy, and gratitude, and hope.
The way to remain happy is by developing the skill of having these positive emotions most of the time. Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind. Thinking about remaining positive each time you feel negative emotions like sadness, fear, doubt, and guilt helps build new skills and resources that provide value in many areas of your life.
How can we build positive thinking in our lives?
In my last post, I described how to get over negative feelings. Anything that sparks feelings of joy, contentment, and love will work. Taking a walk, calling someone I love or cooking a favorite food to eat do the trick for me.
There are the three ways James Clear at JamesClear.com has found to increase positive thinking:
- Meditation – Recent research by Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, revealed that people who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not. Some positive aspects I have experienced are stronger self-confidence, reduced stress, tension, and states of deep relaxation. I have a general feeling of wellbeing. It has lowered my blood pressure readings, and I’m able to concentrate and focus better than before.
I know some of you may be thinking, “No, not meditation again.” I used to feel that way. But with all wonderful new ways to meditate now, and with a little research, I’m confident you’ll find one you love and can’t wait to start your day.
2. Writing – James Clear, in his blog, The Science of Positive Thinking: How Positive Thoughts Build Your Skills, Boost Your Health, and Improve Your Work, tells about a study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality that the students who wrote about positive experiences had better mood levels, fewer visits to the health center, and experienced fewer illnesses than the group who wrote about a control topic.
I’ve been writing in a journal for eight years and writing posts on my blog for three years. I loved my journal from the start because writing my thoughts helped me discover ways to solve problems. The more positive outcomes I experienced, the more I became addicted to feeling positive. I began to look forward to each new positive experience I could write about.
Another way to feel more positive is to use your journal every day to write what you’re grateful for. Gratitude provides a cumulative effect of positivity.
3. Play is another way to feel positive. Schedule time each day or at least weekly to do something that makes you feel happy. You might hike up a mountain or pursue some adventure. Maybe it’s spending time with a certain person or finding a hobby you love.
“When we are ready to make positive changes in our lives, we attract whatever we need to help us.” Louise Hay
Facing a new challenge can feel daunting at first but if you persevere, you’ll find it getting easier. Each time a new experience affirms you’ve progressed, trust me, you will be happier.
Bonus; Esther Hicks, inspired by Abraham, generously provides videos of her answers to questions from people in her many workshops in over 50 cities in the United States. The videos are uplifting and filled with positive vibes. I used to watch these as I was learning to think positively. I still do from time to time.
Check out the videos at:
Or go to her main website for more information at:
For more on how your thoughts affect you, go to:
We know thoughts crop up out of nowhere. Some are a nuisance, scaring us do something we planned or causing guilt over something we did long ago. We put up with them, but maybe they’re not just a nuisance. Maybe they are detrimental to our well-being.
When I was younger, I wasn’t able to visualize myself getting any older than 45 years of age. That was the age I had set a goal to have a one-woman show of my artwork in New York City.
The future was beyond my imagination.
My artwork was the only reason I had to feel worthy and enjoy living. I was unhappy in my marriage and struggling to find contentment. I cried every night to release pain and sorrow.
Finally, without a reason to go on living, I let go of holding on to my dilemma and sought help. My husband told me we couldn’t afford a psychologist, but I surprised myself by responding, “I can’t afford not to go.” It was the first time I had felt the confidence to stand up to his controlling tendency.
I was ready for a new beginning.
Thus began a journey into my mind. Volumes of hidden anger—somewhere I had learned it wasn’t proper for a woman to express her indignation—and an inability to perceive that I might have options, were among the many glaring traits I discovered.
The resentment raging from deep inside me at my first meeting with the psychologist surprised me, but the relief of finally being able to let go of the rage felt freeing. I went on for over an hour before I could stop ranting.
I didn’t realize I had set in motion a huge change in my life. I had instinctively taken the action I needed to discover why I had become so unhappy, and I opened possibilities that blew my mind.
I observed the thoughts in my mind. I realized the thoughts were creating the feelings I was experiencing. For instance, for whatever reason, I noticed that I was telling myself, “I feel sad,” right before a shower. But the moment I realized what I was thinking wasn’t true—wasn’t what I was feeling—I knew for sure my thoughts had created the feeling.
Why do negative thoughts pop up in our minds?
Barry Gordon, professor of neurology and cognitive science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, replies: We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds, and we can control only a tiny part of our conscious thoughts. The majority of our thinking goes on subconsciously. Only one or two of these thoughts are likely to breach into consciousness at a time. Slips of the tongue and accidental actions offer glimpses of our unfiltered subconscious mental life.
How do unconscious thoughts influence our behavior?
Researchers have long known negative emotions program your brain to do a specific action. It’s the fight-or-flight response to danger. It’s the ego’s way of helping you stay safe. But constant negativity can also impede happiness, add to our stress and worry level, and ultimately damage our health.
When you’re in the fight-or-flight response mode, your emotions program your brain to do a specific action. When you’re facing danger, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. Negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts. Your brain ignores any option that isn’t focused on the immediate action you must take to avoid a calamity.
This is useful when you’re trying to save yourself from getting hurt, but in most cases unnecessary. The problem is that your brain is programmed to respond to negative emotions in the same way—by shutting off the outside world and limiting the options you see around you.
This takes us back to my story of waking up to the fact that thoughts create feelings. One of the most striking traits in myself when I noticed my negative thoughts were my being unaware of my options.
My Aha! moment happened while sharing a story with my psychologist. Our maid was off every Sunday. I would ask my husband to take me and our four children to dinner on those nights. Getting four young children ready was almost as hard as preparing dinner and cleaning up afterward, but I liked being able to get out of the house one night a week.
Often, at the last-minute, all of us ready to go, my husband would decide that he’d rather eat at home. He’d go to the grocery store for TV dinners, and, frustrated, I’d cry. “Why didn’t you go out without him?”, my psychologist asked me.
It was as if a light bulb lit up inside my mind. I hadn’t fathomed I had options. I must have believed I had to do as told.
“If you realized just how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” Anonymous
It takes time, but little by little, by questioning the unwanted thoughts flitting through my mind, I discovered that changing my thoughts to more positive ones—ones that weren’t out of the realm of believing—I noticed myself able to work at an ideal level. I was feeling more optimistic, feeling more freedom, and feeling happier.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Norman Vincent Peale
In my follow-up to this post, I will share with you how to stop negative thoughts. In the meantime, try the first step to stopping them. Don’t try to stop them by telling yourself you have to stop thinking about the obsessive thought. Worry and obsession get worse when you try to control your thoughts. Instead, notice you’re in a negative cycle and own it.
Question if the thought is true. If it isn’t true, try something that sparks feelings of joy, contentment, and love. It could be your favorite music, a walk in the park, or talking to a friend. We’ll begin work on ending the annoying thoughts in my next post.
If you have questions or want me to discuss any issue about your thoughts, please comment below.