It’s a ten minute trip from my home to the psychotherapist’s office and I was trying to be mindful as I drove.
I remember briefly focusing on the ridge of stitching on the underside of the steering wheel and feeling its hardness under the back of my fingers. I remember trying to focus my attention on the feeling of my bum on the car seat. I remember focusing on the sound of the air blowing in through the open passenger window.
Focusing on the moment is what mindfulness is all about and I’m trying to be a good student because I want to get over my depression, find my inner strength, enjoy a less hectic life, learn to cope with boredom and just let go of everything.
I want to love my wrinkles, have great self-esteem, tell people the truth about myself and ask myself questions like Why be Happy When You Could Be Interesting? because I like philosophizing about life, not because I’ve forgotten how to be happy.
In short I’ve been feeling horribly grumpy but I’m making progress so here are my thoughts on how to stop feeling grumpy and start feeling happy.
1. Notice what you’re thinking about
Inevitably thoughts came to me during that short drive and I was soon swept away in those thoughts, thinking about how hard and boring it is to be mindful. Wondering how mindful people have time for mindfulness.
Thinking about how I don’t really want to find the joy in every moment if it means finding joy in brushing my teeth, doing the washing up or mopping the floor.
Thinking that being mindful all the time sounds as boring as bat shit and how I prefer to do dull tasks as fast as possible so I can move swiftly on to doing things that I actually enjoy like reading, writing or walking.
I didn’t take time to get in touch with my feelings and feel my feelings because I was too busy thinking but I can now see I was feeling irritable, irritated by feeling irritable and angry at how angry I was feeling a lot of the time.
2. Think about if your thoughts are rational or irrational, helpful or unhelpful
Then I started thinking about Bear Grylls because, if left to its own devices, the mind jumps around like a hyperactive kid on a trampoline and comes up with all sorts of random connections.
So I thought about how Bear probably doesn’t need to practice mindfulness because if he feels bored with life, as I do, then he just jumps out of a helicopter, parachutes into the jungle and spends five days in survival mode trying to get back out again.
Now that kind of thing could really make you feel alive and keep you in the moment in a way that brushing your teeth just won’t.
Then I start thinking about all the places I could run away to and all the adventures I could have if I was Bear and not a responsible, self-employed mother of three.
And I was conscious of how much I enjoy thinking about life and philosophizing and I started wondering when people who are fully mindful actually think and what they find to talk about when they get together.
3. Use grumpy people to teach you how to be happy
All of these thoughts had come to me in just a few moments and I was almost at the therapist’s office now.
Then, as I pulled into the car park there was an old man walking across the tarmac carrying two bags of shopping. I wasn’t really conscious of him but I guess I unconsciously slowed down to avoid running him over and I was consciously thinking about how annoying old people are ambling along, getting in the way and slowing down busy people like me.
Then as I drew alongside him I did become fully conscious of him because my passenger window was open and he took the time to call in at me:
And I was shocked and amused by that little wake up call and the lesson in mindfulness and the realization that I’m not the only grumpy old person who gets irritated for no good reason.
4. Don’t try to force yourself to be happy, it won’t work
You see I’m not feeling depressed any more. After three months on anti-depressants and six weeks of therapy I really do feel much better. Now my feelings of depression have been replaced with a general and fairly constant bad mood.
I am irritable, grumpy and even angry a lot of the time. I am frustrated with myself for feeling like that and I can see why I don’t like my personality.
I am not the sunny, happy person I would like to be. And of course the gap between what I would like to be and the reality of being a grumpy, frumpy wowser* is making me even more annoyed, with myself and the whole wide world.
So I need to forget about that gap and think about how good it is to feel grumpy and not depressed any more.
5. Start thinking in shades of grey
The more I become aware of my emotions, the more I can see how strong they are and how powerful they are in coloring my world where everything is divided into black and white, right and wrong, love and hate.
For example, the very next day I climbed onto my bike to ride my daughter to school thinking about how I love biking then Kiara said:
“Mummy where’s your cycle helmet?”
And I immediately thought about how I hate wearing a bike helmet, how stupid the law is and how much I hate living in Queensland where I have to abide by such arbitrary laws.
But I put on my helmet and we cycled off past a tweeting bird and I thought:
“I love birds!”
And my mood soared. But almost immediately I saw a crow perched on a rubbish bin and thought:
“I hate crows.”
Then I saw a beautiful flower and thought:
“I love nature.”
But then we passed some litter and I thought:
“I hate litterbugs.”
And so my thoughts go on and on with endless labels and everything sorted into things l love and things I hate, and every one of those thoughts either causing me to feel instantly happy or instantly irritated.
Nothing just is and yet it is. That is what I need to think, that is what I need to see.
*Wowser is an Aussie word which originated to describe people who don’t drink (I quit drinking in at the beginning of 2013) and now means a general party pooper.
Have you got any tips on how to stop feeling grumpy and start feeling happy? Or any thoughts at all? Leave a short word below. Thank you.
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