A bit of Marie Kondo-style decluttering – in my home, and in my soul – was what I needed to shift out of a bad mood and back into enthusiasm and joy. Here’s how I did it.
Today, I woke up in an unmotivated, depressed, dour funk. A complete surprise.
I dragged myself to the gym, hoping the workout would be enough to shift me out of the doldrums. On the treadmill, I pondered why I felt down. After all, I thoroughly enjoyed teaching my meditation and mindfulness workshop over the weekend (shout out to all of you enthusiastic folks at SRVUMC!), I spent time outside in sit spot, one of my favorite nature-connection practices, and I’m feeling more settled in to my new office. What was up?
Listening to My Feelings
Part of it was the long list of to-dos for my book launch… but that was also exciting to me, so I knew it wasn’t the whole story behind my sluggishness and lack of enthusiasm. It was time to pull out one of my time-tested practices that comprises the 5th key in my book, Awakening from Anxiety: listening to my anxiety!
I wasn’t exactly feeling anxiety, but this technique works for any emotion, so I spent some time listening to my inner Self speak through the depressed, lethargic feeling and energy in my body. And it was a clear message – decluttering is in order!
How many of you have been hearing about Marie Kondo a lot lately? I know a number of my clients and students have been talking about her show on Netflix, “Tidying Up”. Although I haven’t actually watched a full episode, I’m definitely familiar with the power of decluttering from Feng Shui. I have applied some of the concepts I’ve learned from Denise Linn to clear space in the home in order to open up and increase energy and well-being.
Clear De-cluttering Directions!
My inner Self gave me clear direction – fold the laundry, give away an old chair, and move the long table to the upstairs hallway. After having to vacate my office of 7 years and shift to subletting from other therapists, all my furniture from my old office ended up dumped in our home yoga space… and now there wasn’t any space!
As soon as I got home, I got to work, implementing the directives. Fold laundry (and put away) – check. Move the furniture and give things away – in progress. Immediately, I started to feel better! And I had the energy to work on this newsletter.
But that wasn’t the only thing I needed to declutter. The stuff, the material things, was just on the outside. I needed to listen further to the apathy and depression, and allow it to help me on a deeper level. Yes, “negative” emotions can actually help us. From my chapter on “Listening to Your Anxiety”:
“Anxiety has a message for you, if you take the time to listen and receive it. It actually wants to be your helper, letting you know what needs tending to in your life. In fact, renaming anxiety as your helper or protector is a lot less negative and can change your perspective on your fears. It certainly is more pleasant to think of listening to your helper than listening to your anxiety, isn’t it?”
The Thoughts Under the Apathy Within
My helper, it turns out, had a lot to say! I listened to my apathy within. It let me know that I had allowed myself to accumulate some unhelpful thoughts in my consciousnesss: there were a number of things in my heart and soul that needed decluttering. Thoughts I’ve held onto that were putting me in the doldrums. Here are some of the perceptions and ideas that revealed themselves for clearing out:
- I have to do this (a sure winner – guaranteed to make you NOT want to do something)
- There’s too much (usually shuts me down and stops me from taking action)
- No one cares (ditto)
- I don’t know where to start (which is just a cover for “I don’t really want to start”, because honestly I could start anywhere)
- Nothing interests me (which is a cover for “I’d rather be doing something else”)
Well, that was quite a good start. Because once I became clear about the thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions within me that are causing my suffering, then I could actually do something about it. These weren’t news to me – I’d encountered them before – but my inner Self helped me with shifting out of them readily.
First of all, by reminding myself that I really don’t have to do anything, except breathe. And actually, breathing sounded rather nice at the moment. So I stopped to breathe and feel my body, emotions, and surroundings.
One Thing at a Time
There was still quite a mess in my surroundings. So my inner Self reminded me that the practice is always one thing at a time. We all know this. We probably taught our kids this. But my habit is often to see everything that I have to do all at once, and that sure is overwhelming.
So I look at one sheet that needs to be folded, and do that. Very doable. Each one at a time action is easy. And kind of fun, when I’m fully present, immersed in the moment and the simple pleasures of doing what is in front of me.
This one at a time, fully present approach dealt with most of those thoughts right off the bat. I could choose what one thing I wanted to do next. No have-tos. When I saw too much, I just came back to one thing. It was lovely to notice that I actually had more interest in what I was doing by being fully present with my breath and the mindful movement of bringing the ends of the sheet together, fold, flip, repeat.
After several one-at-a-time things, there was less clutter, and the overwhelm softened. My energy increased.
Dealing with the Last Remaining Issue
But one last thought loomed – “no one cares.” Here’s where a little sneaky Byron Katie technique came in, called The Work. The Work is a transformative process of 4 questions and a “turn-around” that has also impacted my life. I decided this one thought, “no one cares,” would benefit from the process.
Is it true? Well, no. Of course I could think of people that cared, so that nailed the first two questions (Is it True? Can you be completely certain that it’s true?). I was seeing clearly the 3rd question, how it was impacting me and my life when I believed it, because it was bringing my energy down and depressing me. And it was also obvious to me that if I didn’t have that thought (question 4), I’d be out there, doing what I love to do and helping people release their stress, anxiety, and spiritually awaken.
I knew that the turnaround, that last process in The Work, would shift me into a new trajectory. If “no one cares” isn’t true, what might be? One truth might be that people do care. There are people in my life that care about me, and there are also people that care about getting unstuck from anxiety or depression that would really like my assistance. There are people who find that what I have to offer makes a difference. It helped some to remember this.
But that wasn’t really the biggest turnaround.
The biggest one was “I don’t care.” Wow, that’s not pleasant to look at. What don’t I care about? As I looked at the messy state of our house, the pile of stuff on my desk, the list of things I was avoiding, and my exhaustion from sleep deprivation, it was pretty clear. I didn’t care about me. My heart and soul felt down because everything else received my energy and attention except me. I wasn’t caring for myself sufficiently, let alone my home. I was running around doing all the things I thought I “should, have-to, am supposed-to” do and neglecting myself.
But what a great realization; I needed to care more for and about me. It’s so ridiculously obvious, but hey, we all backslide from time to time. We all forget to do the things that nurture us. Myself included.
Our Emotions are Our Helpers
That’s why we have emotions like anxiety, anger, and depression – they are our helpers, trying to get our attention. They’re here to remind us of what really matters. Sometimes, those emotions are nudging (or slapping!) us into a brand new insight. But often, it’s bringing to our awareness things that we “know,” but forget or don’t bother to do. As long as we listen to what we’re feeling and do our best to discern its message, we can get back on track.
I don’t need deep revelations every time I check in with my inner Self. Sometimes, it’s just a simple reminder to return to what I need, or about what I truly value. My home, my life, and my soul needed some decluttering, and that was all it took to shift my mood.
What decluttering is your soul calling for?
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