BEST title of an article I have seen in ages: “You Don’t have a Disorder…. You have Feelings!” Isn’t it true that we have become a generation that believes we are supposed to feel good (or be happy) all of the time, and if we don’t, something is wrong with us?
On an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry and his comedian companion beautifully covered the habit we all have now of complaining even of good experiences. We say things like, “I wasn’t blown away.” Someone asks us how our coffee is or our meal or the series we’re watching and we say with disappointment, “It’s okay…not the best,” as if we’re supposed to experience the best every time. Our expectation now is to be blown away by every encounter. Who told us we’re supposed to feel good all the time or have the best all the time or be impressed every time and if we’re not, we’re missing out on what others must be experiencing on a constant basis. It’s a lie. We’re making this stuff up. We are not being “jipped” of anything we were promised. We weren’t promised anything.
TIP #1: Don’t believe the lie! We’re not supposed to feel good all the time!
I don’t want to write another book. Please. No more books. But lately, I’ve been haunted by the title of one: There’s Nothing Wrong With You. I’ve lived long enough, mindfully enough, to know that if I don’t feel well it’s not what I am tempted to call depression; it’s called sleep deprivation. If I am overly sensitive and emotional and exhausted, then that is all it is. If I get a good sleep (or several good sleeps) and begin to feel rested again, my so-called depression lifts and things feel manageable again.
Most of us are sleep deprived, ingesting sleep stealers like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and technology, and because of that, we feel overwhelmed. We call it depression or some other disorder and I’m not sure why. What are we gaining by using labels and taking medication, doctor- or self-prescribed? What keeps us from recognizing that it’s just basic physiology…that it’s simply because we’re not sleeping well, not eating well, not exercising, and that the lack of proper self-regulated physiology (from good self-care) is at the heart of the matter. Is it because that makes us too responsible for our own feelings? Are we afraid to be responsible, to be at the helm of our feelings and lives?
When our physiology is in check, when balanced with proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise, we do okay. We don’t feel happy or good ALL THE TIME. We’re not going to be impressed or blown away ALL THE TIME. When our physiology is in balance from proper self-care, we’re simply more able to string together moments of feeling okay, satisfied, balanced, maybe even good. When we do feel better feelings, we need to savor them…really take them in… mark them in our mind and body and say to ourselves (and the people we’re with), this is one of those moments. Appreciate. Marinate. Fully allow. Be completely aware. These moments do happen sometimes, and when they do, the days of exhaustion and discomfort and restlessness can seem worth it. In that moment, for that moment, we get to feel glad we hung in there through the discomfort to take in the good.
TIP #2: Balance your physiology with more sleep, important supplements, healthy food, lots of water, and fun exercise.
Maybe we can’t always feel connected and understood and appreciated and purposeful the way we wish we could. But I have noticed that I can give to others what I’m not getting and when I do, I get closer to the feelings I want. When I need to feel my shame alleviated, I help to alleviate someone else’s. When I need to feel understood, I listen to others until I understand. I let them know I understand. I help them to notice that we are getting to connect, and that’s it; that’s all we get: Moments. We get to have them only when we are able to make ourselves aware that we are having them.
TIP #3: Give to others what you wish you could receive: support, understanding, compassion, fun.
TIP #4: Practice when you can, the art of presence, the capacity to notice.
We’re really good at noticing when we’re NOT blown away, or when we are exhausted, but how good are we at noticing when something is okay if not good or great, or when we feel okay if not good or great? It’s a big word in medicine – interoception – the capacity to fully notice our physical sensations when we are at an equilibrium. Scientists have discovered that learning to attend to the moments when we feel okay is the magic key that unlocks the door to more moments that feel better. I’m going to be practicing interoception through the tools of 60 Seconds and mindfulness and meditation when I’m exercising or being in nature or connecting with someone. I hope you will too.