Why I like the AEIOUY: an exercise we are practicing in our Cultivating Joy Group.
A – Abstinent. What is it that I need to let go of? For me, it’s the automatic negative thoughts. The beating myself up for not being perfect!
E- Have I exercised today? Oh my God, I have to exercise! That’s the one thing I have to do for me, and it has to be joyful, fun exercise. It cannot be another chore, to do list or trigger my “no pain, no gain” mentality. This is a joyful gift I give to myself.
I- What have I done for myself today? That’s often the hardest thing for all of us, and certainly what we are practicing in our cultivating joy group.
O- What have I done for others. This also can be hard and I’m going to explain why.
We are seeking the balance between caring for ourselves and caring for others. If we are a “caregiver”, or more likely have been a “caretaker”, this can be unsettling.
Change can be challenging, even positive change, and learning self-care is no different. When we are practicing the new skill of self-care or putting ourselves first, this may be threatening to others and scary for us too. Relationships are like a seesaw. When we try and make a change whether it is our eating habits or speaking up about our needs, this may cause the seesaw to shake or become unstable. How do we make changes without threatening our family and friends? Incrementally, with patience, love and compassion and support of a coach, mentor, or group.
Dieting is a good example of this, of being off center and out of balance. We recognize the pain our weight gain has caused and so we often starve ourselves on these crazy diets; low fat, low carb, high-protein whatever diets, often depriving ourselves of essential and healthy fats, carbohydrates or proteins. So we find ourselves on one side of the pendulum for a while until we say, “screw this! I deserve that jelly doughnut!” and BAM we are on the other side of that pendulum again. So we are actually seesawing our weight instead of having a practice, and taking small daily baby steps towards our goal. Worse, yet is when we beat ourselves up for “falling off the wagon” and enlisting the fear that we simply cannot change. Instead we need to recognize that the pendulum will sway back and forth but with a practice, smaller swings with less force until it reaches equilibrium. As my daughter reminds me, “practice not perfection”. This of course, is where a coach can help as well as daily journaling and daily reminders to practice self- compassion.
So I am going to make small incremental changes so that I’m not swinging the pendulum. So it is not unsustainable for me or for my loved ones that I live, work, and associate with.
U- Am I holding onto Unexpressed emotions today. Am I being true to myself, authentic or am I in my default “people pleasing” mode? Are the intentions of my actions from fear or insecurity or from a place of love?
Y- Yeah! Practicing gratitude for something good that has happened today. How can we pat ourselves on the back? This is such a great way to end each day, with a gratitude journal. What was right today? What should I feel good about today? Maybe, I finally got this monkey off my back. It all comes back to baby steps. Really don’t forget to pat yourself on the back!
It takes five positives to undo a negative, and we need to give ourselves five positive affirmations for every time we beat ourselves up over something. This can be counter-intuitive. We are hard wired to see the negative. The most primal part of our brain is the amygdala in the back of the brain and it stimulates our sympathetic nervous system or our “fight or flight” reflex and as I explain in my talk on adrenal fatigue, you cannot relax, heal or lose weight when you are in this mode. So we have to make a conscious choice, to recognize our fears, the negative self talk and CHOOSE to sit with it and ask ourselves is this really true? Is our internal conversation initiating our self -limiting fears, or is that who we truly are? Then we need to decide if we are going to allow our thoughts to control us or use our frontal brain, our executive functioning part of brain responsible for choice to control our thoughts, feelings and actions. This is the part of the brain that is stimulated in meditation and in deep breathing exercises and what activates our parasympathetic nervous system, the heal and repair section of our brain.
So the practice of positive affirmations, and the practice of gratitude is an essential antidote to stress and to creating a life of joy. To say that most of us do not practice this is an understatement, but it is a practice we can cultivate. So the task for this week is to continue to journal, every night at a minimum, think about what we are grateful for, relax, smile and begin to create your dream life.
What is it that inspires you and keeps you going when you are flooded with negative thoughts, anxiety or depression? Do you seek support or do you isolate? Does this help or hinder you? What kind of practice works best for you? Will you share with us?
Thank you for joining me in this journey. Thank you for being here to practice this, and to help spread more joy and gratitude.