My Struggles With Contentment.
During the run up to and the weeks preceding my most recent birthday… My 36th… I’ve been experiencing a feeling I haven’t felt before. Although I know 36 to most is not considered old. For me something inside has changed… Don’t worry it’s been a positive change. A change I’m glad I’ve arrived at sooner rather than later.
Over the years I’ve had no trouble putting my body through its paces, convincing myself that physical exercise is all I need, my answer to everything. But I’ve recently started to wonder should I be asking more of my mind?
Physically looking after myself has served me well thus far, I’m by no means a specimen but I’m happy with above average at this point. Following training programs, workout plans and nutrition guides has never been a problem for me… When I’ve been looking for the physical returns, sticking to what’s required has never been an issue.
My mind on the other hand seems less willing to yield to discipline, often behaving like it has a mind of its own. I’ve always dabbled with positive memes, blog posts about growth, self-improvement books… but these only ever offer temporary motivation, guidance or distraction and my attempts at keeping my mental health in as tip top shape as my physical health just never seem to be pursued with the same vigour.
Like many I’ve suffered myself from spells of depression at stages of my life, But exercise was like a medicine to me during each comeback from these down periods and to this day I know if I’m ever not in a good place mentally the sooner I can string together some days of physical activity the sooner I’ll be on the road to feeling better in myself.
The problem for me though has been when I’ve not been able to exercise… AKA self-medicate with movement… having been plagued with a constant string of injuries over recent years… I’ve noticed that down times… or spells of mental concern have become slightly more frequent.
I’m constantly feeling annoyed at myself physically, berating my ageing body for keeping me from all the pursuits I love so much… I catch myself regularly comparing to the metaphorical jones’ or to the vision society has fed me of where a ‘fast-approaching- 40-year-old’ should be in life…
I slip in to periods of self-pity, focussing an unhealthy percentage of my time on life’s problems and challenges acting as if I’m the only one with things that must be overcome.
It’s only recently I’ve realised I need to go to the root cause of my anguish… my mind… and seek to improve the status quo there…
I love this quote and it hits home the point perfectly…
“We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are…”
And I know if I’m going to improve how I’ve been feeling in my head recently and maintain it long term, I’m no longer going to be able to hide behind press ups and pull ups and just my physical capabilities in a body that will no doubt from this point on be presenting me with a steady stream of niggles, aches and pains. I’m going to need to look at and rely on more how I’m dealing with things upstairs… My mental state. How my internal monologue and self-talk are shaping my state of mind and as a result my physical reactions and interactions with the world.
This process has led me to exploring the concepts of mindfulness and meditation… Two things I’ve resisted getting involved with for a while now due to a lot of negative hippy, fluffy connotations associated with both words… but I’ve felt a little desperate and I guess I needed to try something new because everything old that I’ve known hasn’t been working for me…
It’s still early days as I explore these concepts but you know I’m not sure whether it’s just a placebo effect or not but I have been feeling much better on the days where I’ve found time to switch off from my thoughts even just for a short while.
Even after just a few weeks I’m becoming familiar with a number of themes that occur on a regular basis in the guided meditations… that of being grateful and finding contentment.
Two ideas I’ve never been great with but which I now see could be instrumental in helping me to learn to accept the challenges, the ebb and flow and uncertainty of life without the resulting urge to always to surrender to them.
Something I read yesterday struck a chord with me connected to this topic, it spoke of moving to a place mentally where you are able to be happy and satisfied with where you are, whilst being on the way to where you are going. This is my current life goal… Beautifully summed up in one sentence.
The idea for this post came to me mid dog walk this morning after this morning’s meditation introduced me to the German word ‘Beschaulich’, which is the state of peaceful and contemplative well being brought about by living a simple and unhurried life.
It’s true the things we need most will always find a way of coming in to our lives just at the right time. And I felt that in that instance that meditation recording was meant to find me today.
And as I sat in silence this morning and the ladies voice from my phone app encouraged me to contemplate what brings me true contentment and nourishes my well-being most, I realised that once again the things I offered up as answers were things I’d begun spending and ever decreasing amount of time on… No wonder my head game had started to feel like it was slipping.
And now as I struggle to summarise this post and begin to form a conclusion to hopefully save it from the realms of self-commentary from a therapy session and move it more towards the land of exercise and fitness related motivational words.
I guess I just wanted to offer a little insight into some work I’ve been doing on myself outside of the gym, share my revelation that I now recognise I’ve been needing to take some time to get my mental state healthier… Which then led me to ponder Christmas, a time when I know I’ve been known as many of others do to struggle for one reason or another mentally. And as lucky as I feel that I’ve had a little break through at the time when I have. I guess I just wanted to put out something that might be heard or read by even just one person that either is or isn’t aware that they might feel down as well over the next couple of weeks… Because behind the scenes of festivities and fun when the world feels like one big perfect shiny bauble, a lot of sadness, loneliness negative and unhealthy practises can breed for us all.
So whether it’s comparisons of your family dynamics with that of the perfect family on the TV or Social Media feed, Or the state of your finances that won’t allow you to indulge in the materialism of Christmas to the levels you would like, Maybe you’ll be spending this Christmas alone or away from loved ones, Or you’re already beginning to feel the insecurities creep in and the self esteem depart as the fitness industry prepares itself to guilt trip you after you dared to enjoy yourself in December.
Whatever the reasons for you not feeling as great as you should, know that you are not alone. There are others out there too at this time of year feeling a similar way. So I say to you if you are in a good place currently, unscathed by this time of year and there are no black clouds in your sky, look to the person next to you and check with them that they are ok… And if you happen to be struggling yourself… All I can say is try and be as self-aware as you can, avoid the triggers that lead to those negative feelings. Keep your healthy diet within touching distance at least. Keep an eye on your alcohol consumption. Limit the time you may have to spend around people that aren’t good for you. Don’t believe the hype, the media are trying to convince you that perfect Christmas is just another purchase away… but for some of us Christmas will always be a little different to how it’s portrayed in the John Lewis commercial. Call me a grinch if you like but lots of others aren’t quite having as much of a special time as it may appear at this time either so be empathetic to everybody.
Take some time for yourself to maybe get some physical activity in, I promise that will cheer you up no end. Then maybe look to the things you have in life to be grateful for… It may not be obvious at first but if you adjust your point of view you may see things a little differently. Spend time undertaking tasks that bring you contentment as opposed to spending time online for example developing FOMO or focusing on what your life ‘ISN’T’ right now, completely missing out the chance to celebrate the many (or even the few) things that it IS!