They say there's nothing like learning a new skill to get you out of a mental rut, and there's definitely been truth in that for me lately. The past two weeks have been tough for personal reasons, but today I finally feel more like myself again - and I think part of that has been due to a shift of focus.
You know how in movies, after the girl goes through a tough breakup or something, she cuts her hair, starts taking business classes, or writing, or painting, and sort of "finds herself" again? It's a little bit like that, on a smaller scale. Sometimes you just need to step back from your life, reevaluate, and take intentional actions against the problem areas. These are the little habits I've been trying to implement more seriously, that have refreshed my mind!
1. READ. LIKE, SERIOUSLY.
Reading is always my respite - instead of an escape from reality, as some might call it, I feel like literature reminds me of my own faults (in such a good way!). I channelled all of my spare evening time this past week into finishing the Space Trilogy, and now have started on a biography of Flannery O'Connor. Nothing like some solid writing to clear your head and make you think about things from a different, or clean, perspective.
Even if you don't consider yourself a writer, I cannot stress enough the effectiveness of simple journalling! I always find myself going in circles in my brain over the same, tired issues, and I don't even realize I'm getting tense...until I sit down and write them clearly, point by point (or in a complete mangled mess of words - because it doesn't matter if anyone else can read what you've written, it matters that it's on the page instead of cluttering your head) and I can breathe easily again. It doesn't have to be a lot, it doesn't have to be clever or witty or dramatic or creative: if you just write your thoughts, as they are, a lot of clarity comes through the process, I've found. :)
3. LISTEN + LEARN.
Whether it's through podcasts if you're on the go (my current favorite is The Conservative Conscience with Daniel Horowitz!) or simply the people of experience and wisdom around you, being active about listening is a great way to learn, and learning is the best way to refocus your mind and your heart. Instead of mulling over the situation, focus your energy on mastering a new skill, improving your knowledge on a certain subject, or simply gleaning from the wisdom of the more mature men and women in your life. Not only do you take the focus off of your mood and onto someone else, you also will invariably learn a lot (that you would have missed by sitting home feeling sorry for yourself).
4. GET OUTSIDE MORE
It's so hard to make time to get outside, especially if you're working long hours and don't really have time for a walk/etc until it's dark, or simply don't feel like it. Still, even if it's just opening the windows on your drive to work, or spending your break outside when you can-- it really makes a difference to breathe that fresh air (especially around this time of year when the weather is so pleasant).
5. GET A HOBBY.
In line with the idea of listening and learning, I've recently taken up practicing French again, just flicking through a couple practice lessons here and there, to strengthen that skill again. It sounds kind of silly, but that's a guaranteed 15 minutes in the day spent positively and productively: and engages the mind in an uplifting way. If you're struggling to work through a tough spot in your life, I'd definitely recommend pouring yourself into a skill, rather than allowing that bad mood to make you stagnant.
(I use the app Duolingo, in case you were wondering.)
"And when the winter's over
The flowers climb through the snow,
The willows weep and the clover bloom,
Then all at once you hear a song
That's stronger than the noise--
R E J O I C E."
Here's to grace.