My client, Lauren, came to me a few months ago frustrated that she could not stay joyful all day long. She felt her emotions were a rollercoaster depending on what she was experiencing in the outside world. I asked her to keep a journal so we could look at what was triggering her emotions. When we reviewed her journal, it read like this:
I woke up in the morning really excited for the possibilities of my day. I had some toast and coffee and I felt great. I woke the children up and they were very cranky. Steven would not eat breakfast and Sophia would not stop screaming. I finally got them out the door and I felt so negative and annoyed. Why is my life like this? I bet other parents don’t have this type of morning. The children missed the bus and I had to drive them to school. I was thirty minutes late for work and I was tired and cranky. I went to my desk and saw that my boss was out sick so I had until tomorrow for my project. I felt positive. About two hours later the phone rang and it was my brother asking me for money and I really did not want to lend him money again. I started to feel negative again.
Lauren wanted more emotional balance in her life but she could not just snap her fingers and turn off her thoughts and reactions to the outside world. Lauren wanted to know how she could cultivate an inner joy and space that would sustain her throughout the day no matter what she faced.
Here is my daily practice that I shared with Lauren to help her maintain emotional stability throughout her day:
1. Gratitude! I wrote about this before in the Attitude of Gratitude Post. In the morning when I wake up, before my mind starts going through everything I need to do for the day, I stop and remind myself of all the people and things for which I am grateful. I was never one to list things or keep a routine, but the gratitude list helps me gain a sustainable perspective before I even get out of bed. I have a greater understanding of what is really important to me throughout the day and I am less affected by outside daily events. I also end my days with a gratitude exercise, this time focusing on fortunate circumstances from the day. A better perspective before I go to bed on the day that has passed allows me to calm my mind, stay hopeful and sleep better.
2. I remember the mantra of Maybe throughout the day. Sometimes when we get upset it is because we believe that we are stuck in a pattern and things are not going our way. We forget that life will change again. We can remind ourselves that as bad as things may look or feel, there are always the possibilities that Maybe what is happening will turn out to be good, Maybe it will get better or Maybe we can make peace and live with what we are experiencing and still be okay. With Maybe we can return to the present peacefully and have hope for the future.
3. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we have become negative and down until hours or days later. Creating awareness of when and how our emotions get low is an ongoing practice. Sometimes, when clients such as Lauren journal their day, it becomes more clear to them when they take dips. By creating awareness around our emotional dips and turns, we have a guide as to when to use Maybe and other techniques to ward off too many mood swings. Some people set alarms at specific times during the day when they can look at the clock and take note of what is going on around them and within themselves. It reminds them to be present and grateful, and the result is awareness of what is important.
4. I make a point of filling my day with little things that remind me of joy. Sometimes it is as simple as a cup of tea and other times it is making time for a call with a friend or relative. I like to spread these little joys throughout the day to remind me of the feeling of joy and steer me toward emotional balance.
Having this daily practice does not mean you will never feel sad, negative or anxious. It merely stops us from dwelling too far into negative emotions for the little and sometimes bigger mishaps that occur during the day. It helps us keep a bigger perspective on what is really important, as well as all that is still possible in our lives. The more aware we become of the things that throw us off course, the less we will allow daily experiences to overcome our inner joy and path.
Lauren finds the practice is really helping her not feel so desperate and negative every time something unexpected or undesirable happens in her life. She appreciates what she has and realizes that Maybe is always by her side.
So Maybe give it try. Who knows what can happen?