I have always wondered how on earth Mr A’s brain is wired to always see the positive, when mine is wired to worry. I wouldn’t say I was a pessimist, I’m not anxious or depressed or a serious worrier, but I have always been conscientious and keen to do well and sometimes that means I can be overly negative when things don’t got to plan or move fast enough or when I am feeling stuck or bored, times when it would really help me to be more positive.
I’ve felt a but stuck for a while, juggling lots of projects, enjoying playing with lots of ideas, but it feels like time to really consolidate some things and move on a little. I’ve found some great tools to help with that.
So, today I am sharing with you my diary of a 10 day mental detox which was inspired by a Tony Rubbins book (written in the 90s, so with some now slightly dubious celebrity reference points). I am not a great fan of spending too long reading self help type books, but I love anything immediate that puts me in a brighter frame of mind and Tony Rubbins is meant to be the world’s number one life coach.
He talks quite a lot, but makes a lot of sense. I have no idea how the book ended up on my Kindle, but some things are just meant to be. This little experiment has been a massive eye opener.
After waking with a hangover for the first time in years, after overindulging in the free wine at an event, I spent the morning fighting off the ‘hangover paranoias’.
I refused to succomb to questioning my entire life, my rational mind knows alcohol is a depressant. But I could feel it creeping in and it was horrid. So I had a bath, some toast and went back to bed with a cup of tea and happened to remember the Tony Rubbins book Awaken The Giant Within was on my kindle.
The chapter talked a lot about weeding the mind of negative thoughts and a mental detox. For once, the exact life advice I need neatly unfolded before me, I’d been half reading this book and half trying out a few ideas, but wasn’t convinced it was all falling into place (mainly because I was too lazy to make notes) so I decided then and there to do the 10 day mental detox.
Within an hour I was actually seeing the positives in the hangover that gave me a day in bed on my own with my thoughts (Mr A is a star for taking the kids off out). ‘This hangover is going to be the start of the rest of my life‘. I was thinking. ‘How flipping positive am I?’
The weeding was tiring, especially with a hangover, and I had to attend an event and blog about it. But by 6.30 the blog post, with video was live. No procrastination, no worries, no overthinking, no technical problems. It was simply ‘done’. I was unnerved and excited by my new found powers. I prayed to Baccus God of Wine that this was not just the hangover talking.
I immediately noticed there was none of the usual irritation at Sunday unfolding too slowly for me, and the family taking ages to get organised and not having a plan. I was happy with no plan. It was a good day for mental gardening as it was Sunday, the sun was out, and a day of pottering with the kids in the garden unfolded. I found my mind flitted a lot and I was aware of having to weed out quite a few negative thoughts, it felt quite tiresome at times to have to keep reminding myself to weed them out. As if there wasn’t much room in my brain for anything remarkable to happen. But the weeding was surprisingly easy and by the end of the day I was feeling a mental lightness about everything, a semi-flippant detachment from things that would normally have the power to alter my mood.
There was a breakthrough at dinner time when Mr A accused me of being patronising, a frequent complaint which always bemuses me as I believe I was being sincere and complimenting him for making food. For the first time in our 18 years of this minor disagreement I managed to make him laugh instead of being grumpy by pointing out he seemed ‘mildly irked’ (a Rubbins technique to reduce the impact of emotions).
I woke in an insanely good mood, full of the joys, dancing in the kitchen and smiling for no reason. It is Monday, but it feels like Saturday… I kept catching myself grinning.
The day was hard though. My thoughts felt really scattered and sitting down to work I felt myself weeding irksome thoughts like mad. Spending time on social media with messages and emails for lots of different projects pinging makes me feel quickly overwhelmed. I was fighting the urge to be negative like a ninja. I was really actually shocked how regularly my brain, which is not particularly anxious or depressed, defaults to worry, fear or negative thoughts about a whole range of situations. And by how many thoughts there are in my head.
I decide what is great about the situation is that I am ticking things off the list and doing things and that I feel a sense of objectivity about how I feel. I realise just how exhausting working with social media never far from reach all day feels. I decide it really is time to tackle that in a more regimented way. I decide to be nice to myself and focus on the project I find easiest. I try to trust in the fact the weeding will make room for new thoughts to grow through as nothing feels very exciting or easy to focus on today, despite my sunny mood.
I spent a really productive day on some projects I have been wanting to work on for ages, but felt guilty taking time from paid work to do. A friend who was having a tough day called and, although I secretly felt the same in many ways, I realised I hadn’t let it cloud my day. It was good to have the energy to help a friend in need, without feeling the need to offload myself.
This day felt a lot like standing in front of one of those tennis ball spitting machines with a broken racquet. A long day of fighting back negative thoughts. I keep asking myself the problem solving questions Rubbins suggests, as I know there is bigger stuff annoying me. I chatted to colleagues and I can see they feel similarly, it isn’t just me.
But I didn’t dwell for longer than a minute as per the rules. I kept telling myself once I have fought the negatives off I will have more energy to make bigger leaps forward. I hoped this was the case. I feel tired and unmotivated.
I became really conscious of how a great night out with family at the ice hockey really interupted my negative pattern.
Day 6 and 7
Passed in a flurry of work, there was lots of pondering and analysing, but I always seemed to nip any negative thoughts in the bug under the 2 minutes allowed by Rubbins. I went running both days, although I woke up tired and I didn’t want to go, I decided not to let my mind ponder how to get out of it, for long enough to get out of it. I just got on with it and I had two brilliant runs. They stayed with me throughout the day.
A dog walk also felt like a light bulb, it really crystallised my thoughts on a tricky problem. I knew walking worked for me already, but seeing it here I can really see how much movement is dislodging stale and unhelpful thoughts.
I was so busy doing the Museum Dash for Sport Relief all day in London, that there was no time whatsoever to dwell on anything. I was reminded how good it feels to be free to move, constantly on the go, covering new ground and seeing exciting things. I felt so inspired and energised, despite the fatigue. I suspected my body was telling me how much moving and new sights and sounds keep my mind in check.
I was utterly incapable due to sheer exhaustion. I found this day really tough. Even the simplest things seemed insurmountable due to fatigue. By the evening I was starting to really question lots of things. They were reoccurring things I often question, to do with career, home, work patterns, but I realised tackling them when exhausted was not productive or realistic. I kept giving myself a pep talk, it would be easier tomorrow when I was less tired, and for once I believed it. I told Mr A what was bothering me, we bounced some ideas around. I was pleased I didn’t let them become a mental downward spiral – instead of just complaining I asked him to problem solve with me.
It was a productive day on the whole. Mr A said he noticed a difference in me. The detox doesn’t turn you into some kind of unrealistic annoyingly over positive person, but it does train the brain to look for solutions when things start to niggle, to interrupt negative patterns and to not let the unproductive thoughts pile up.
I realised when I wake I now automatically ask myself Rubbin’s questions and use them to settle myself to sleep. I decided to print out the problem solving questions and stick them on my mac as a reminder not to dwell on one problems while trying to complete another work task.
Instead of just moaning to colleagues when I was frustrated with a mundane task I am not feeling motivated by, I asked them what strategies they use. It’s a little shift but the ideas they gave me really inspired me.
I have learnt how much movement helps, I need to build much more in. I tend to run at the end of the week and the start of the week is getting ploddy.
The morning questions taught me to be really grateful for family, and to realise that so much of the happy stuff is tied up in them.
The questions also help me to see which projects I am most enjoying and what I need to do to improve my enjoyment of other things.
The evening questions help me to settle to sleep and to see where I have spent the day productively.
I am more aware of my thoughts, I’m much better at sending away the ones I don’t want and tuning in to the postitives. It is like developing new muscles, I know it is early days, he change wasn’t as dramatic as I thought, but as Rubbins predicts, I don’t think I will be going back.
I still feel like I am at a bit of a crossroads in life, I am looking out for the next tools to add to the tool box and move me on even further, but these have been brilliant, and are definitely staying in my kit!
If you have discovered any great tools to help you get the most out of life, freelancing or being creative, as always, I would love to hear!