Generational Connection

Six Ways to Upgrade Your Praise

I am in such a good mood this morning. Even though I lost my vape somehow and spent nearly $200 on wine yesterday, I still got to spend the whole day with an amazing, loving little girl. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned her before on my blog, but my sister’s boyfriend has a six-year-old daughter named Alaina. She is the most precious, well-behaved child I have perhaps ever met. (and I work with kids everyday.) I can’t seem to stop being fascinated by how happy she makes me though. As someone who never interacted with or cared much for children before I got my current job, it is a constant mystery to me why I love her and the other children I meet so much.

It almost feels like a chemical reaction is trigged in my brain when children are around. My heart opens wide and loving kindness floods my senses. I am overwhelmed with the desire to see them happy and to make a positive impact on their young minds. Especially when it comes to young children, I am also touched by their accepting and curious nature. Children don’t seem to judge at all. Even when they point out something rude like someone’s weight, it is never done in a malicious way. It is simply an observation that we interpret as an insult. Children embrace the world and everyone in it for what they are. For this reason, I feel I am able to take down the mask I wear for the world when I am with them.

The most intriguing aspect of my love of children is that none of these children are related to me. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that would happen. And it’s not just me, my mom and grandma and aunt all seem to love Alaina just as much as I do despite none of us having a connection to her biologically. When I got older, I felt patronized by what I saw as my family’s feinted interest in the things I did when I was a young child. I felt lied to that they told me my art was good, that I was smart, etc. It felt like everyone around me must have just been playing a role. They couldn’t have really gave a damn about seeing me ride a pony around in a circle at the county fair.

Being with Alaina has taught me that that isn’t true at all. I genuinely loved watching her riding a pony yesterday. I loved seeing her happy. I loved watching the wonder that colors her perception of the world. I even had to laugh as she yelled, “WOAH!” at every single firework last night. I know a few years ago, I would have been the young woman angrily wondering why those people don’t make their kid be quiet. Now even the things that would have annoyed me about stranger’s children in the supermarket, only make me smile.

Funny enough, it reminds me of something from Interview with the Vampire, which I watched a few weeks ago for the first time. (I may have been an aspect of Twilight as well.) The vampires could live forever so it was important for them not to become too disconnected from the living world. They were encouraged to interact with the people of each time period to maintain some of their humanity.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I feel like I can relate to that sentiment. Children keep me connected to humanity. They also keep me grounded in the present moment, because that’s where they are. They allow me to see the world through fresh, eager, innocent eyes. It is a joy to be an influence on them, to know that you can potentially make a huge impact in their lives. It is a responsibility that I am honored to have. It is a joy and a privilege to be a protector, a teacher, an example. Time spent with a child, is a meaningful investment in the future.

That’s why it is all the more painful to realize that these children don’t have much of a future to invest in. As much as I’ve wished the rest of the world would acknowledge the fact that it’s largely too late for us to adequately address climate change, it was crushing to hear a newscaster in a video Alaina was watching address children with the message of an inevitably catastrophic future. After I had finally come to terms with my own shortened lifespan, my wound was ripped open anew at the prospect of the even greater loss for the tiny soul snuggled into my side. What shame, what anguish I feel to leave these children with a decimated earth. How badly I wish I could tell all the generations after me that I’m sorry.

Even if it’s futile, I am going to keep fighting for them, for the animals, for all the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Even though it hurts, it’s so worth it.

Using Praise to Encourage Good Behaviors

Technology & Creativity

I often wonder who I would be without technology. Would I have less anxiety? Would I be closer to the people in my life? Would I be more present? Would it be easier to focus? Sometimes I can look back at my childhood for a clue to the answer to those questions. Although it’s hard to compare because childhood is so different from adulthood in general. I can’t tell precisely what role technology may have had in those differences. One thing that seems clearer to me than others is the effect technology has on creativity.

Before the advent of computers, television was the biggest hurdle to my creativity. I get that blaming technology or television is ultimately a copout. Nothing is making me use these things as much as I do. However, I would argue that boredom itself leads to creativity. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I was actually bored. I’m certainly anxious, but not bored. I remember when I was younger, trailing behind my mother as she went about the house doing chores whining about how bored I was. It was that very boredom that became the catalyst for so much creativity. You’ve simply got to get creative if you want to find ways to entertain yourself. I was required to look within myself for stimulation rather than depend on the world around me.

I still have fond memories of the ridiculous games my sister and I would come up with like smacking a ball back and forth at each other down a long hallway in our house. Once we made our own Pokemon figures out of clay because my mother couldn’t afford to buy all the ones we wanted. When I was really little I even tried to make unique toys for myself out of construction paper and cotton balls. We were very creative and innovative children. Who knows if any of those moments would have even come to pass if we had our own tablets or smartphones like the children of today.

Now I can hardly come up with an idea for my daily drawings on my own. I can’t help but search for “inspiration” on Pinterest first. Lately I’ve even been searching through endless prompts for what to write about rather than taking the time to search my own heart and mind for what I’d like to say. It’s much harder to convince yourself to take the time to look within when there is just SO MUCH available outside of yourself to consume. Not to mention its much easier to scroll through Pinterest than it is to sit staring at that daunting blank page. In addition to that, it almost feels like my own ideas couldn’t possibly even compare to the creative content that already exists at my fingertips.

We’ve all come to realize the damage that constant comparison can cause to our self-image and self-esteem. I think it also has a huge negative effect on our creativity. Who knows what my mind would be able to creative if it wasn’t always preoccupied with what already exists. With the way we are all so dependent on technology, it feels nearly impossible to expect anyone to spend time cultivating their own creativity. Because that’s just it, creativity is something we have to practice. The problem with practice is that we must accept we aren’t likely to be very good in the beginning. It’s hard to settle for your own (initially mediocre) ideas when you know there are better ones behind a screen, a simple click away.

I don’t know what the answer to this problem is, or if there is even a practical way to address it at all. The silence we all had to face in the past was the blank canvas that allowed us to find our own inner greatness. That silence is still there, waiting patiently for each of us. Yet in the past we were forced to sit with this silence, now we must choose to. I fear that as time goes on less and less people will realize the value in doing so. Years of constant external stimulation will also make it harder and harder to make that choice even if we want to. Soon our own inner worlds may be lost to us completely.

Harnessing Your Creativity - Little Black Belt: a Martial Arts Blog

A Good Day to Have a Good Day

I’ve been allowing myself to get awfully frazzled and caught up on the little things the past few days. Only my second full week back in the office full time and I’ve already managed to start blaming my anxiety on being too busy. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly and easily I am able to forget that nothing was much different when I had more time at home. I felt just as anxious, perhaps even more so, because there were less distractions. I have trained my brain well. Unfortunately I’ve trained it to always be looking for danger and discomfort.

It feels like I am constantly checking to see if everything is okay. I keep asking myself, “Am I anxious right now? Can I handle this? What does the rest of my day hold that I need to prepare myself for?” I keep waiting and waiting for everything to be perfect as my life passes me by. I keep postponing my own happiness. I keep telling myself, “Not yet, not yet.” Once I get home, once it’s warmer out, once I get vacation time, etc. But even when those things happen, there is always something else that causes me to shift my timetable out farther into the future. This has been going on and on indefinitely for as long as I can remember.

I don’t want today to be just another day I spend looking forward to allowing myself to be happy someday. Today is already a perfectly good day to be happy. There is nothing stopping me besides myself. So here it is, this is me giving myself permission to thoroughly enjoy myself today. No matter what happens. No matter what may go wrong. No matter what chores or errands I have in the future. Today I am just going to focus on today. I am healthy. My body feels good. I am awake and energized. I have every reason to celebrate this amazing life I’ve been given to enjoy. There is no reason good enough to justify withholding your own happiness.

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Hyping Yourself Up

The other day I was texting a friend of mine, and we began to playfully tell one another about how good the following day was about to be. We were saying things like, “tomorrow is going to be incredible” and “we are going to have such an amazing day.” At the time I didn’t really think much of it. We were just messing around. It was almost bordering on sarcasm. However, I noticed something about that “incredible” day that came after. It truly did end up to be one of the nicest days I’ve had in a while. I felt calm, happy, energetic, light-hearted. My anxiety didn’t seem to be bothering me as much as it normally does. I thoroughly enjoyed my day at work and the company of my coworkers. There was so much laughter, so many smiles.

I genuinely think this day was a direct result of that conversation my friend and I had the night before. Even the words alone, without much belief or intention behind them, were able to have an effect of my reality the next day. To me, this was a shining example of the power of mere words. How often my inner voice has the opposite effect on my reality. Without even noticing it I have been ensuring my own discomfort in many experiences. I look towards the future with apprehension and fear. I tell myself that everything that lies before me is going to be so unpleasant, so difficult, so unwanted. Then I end up unconsciously affirming my own expectations.

Since that talk with my friend, I’ve been trying to intentionally get myself excited about my life. I’ve been trying to wake up early and exercise before work the way I used to instead of wasting my whole evening with workouts. Even though I dreaded the idea at first, as I was falling asleep the night before work, I visualized my alarm going off the next morning. I didn’t just imagine the motions that I would go through. I pictured myself waking up feeling well-rested and excited for my renewed morning routine. I tried to feel exactly how wonderful and happy I was going to feel when I woke up. I was somewhat surprised to find that it actually worked. I have been doing this thought exercise as I’m drifting off to sleep each night and this week I have easily been able to accomplish my goal of waking up earlier. And I have thoroughly enjoyed it every day.

I would like to start utilizing this newfound mental tool for the other events throughout my day as well. Rather than dreading the boring, tedious things I do each day like driving to and from work, making coffee, feeding my pets, doing my makeup, I am going to start using visualization to make each of those normally humdrum experiences enjoyable and meaningful. I figure that if I am unable to stop myself from thinking about the details of the future, I might as well start at least changing the way I think about them. I’m working on shifting my internal dialogue from “oh, god I have so much to do, I don’t want to do this” to “I am so excited about being able to do all the things I have going on today.” Even during the times that I really don’t believe it.

I used to view this type of thing as useless self-denial, as a form of lying to myself. And some days it does still feel like a lie. Some days are much harder than others. But that’s okay. I am going to keep trying anyway. Because I’ve realized that emotions are not something that are true or false. They are not solid, immovable facts. They are things that I get to create and interpret any way that I please. The ability to interpret our own reality is one of the most miraculously powerful things we have in this life. I want to train myself to make the most of it.

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Doomsday Preppers

This may seem funny to a lot of people, but I genuinely respect the people that are currently stockpiling food, water, ammunition, etc. and otherwise preparing for the end of the world. There have always been people like this, and I can see why in the past it may have seemed crazy. But looking at the world in 2021, I don’t see why anyone is still expecting everything to turn out okay and continue on as normal indefinitely into the future. There is just no rational or logical reason to think that.

All of the science points towards an inevitable societal and environmental collapse happening within our lifetime. It is no longer just something for our children or grandchildren to worry about. We are going to experience catastrophic changes within a matter of decades. That may still seem like a lot of time to right our course to some people, but even if that was enough time (it isn’t) the fact is that we haven’t even started trying to change in any meaningful way. I fully expect to witness the end of the world, if not entirely then at least as we now know it.

This is something I’ve mentioned in passing in a few of my other posts. However, in those posts I was focusing more on the mental and emotional impact of feeling this way. The frustration and pain of not being believed or taken seriously by the majority of the population. That is its own separate issue. Today I wanted to focus on my personal inner conflict with where to go from here having accepting these things to be true.

I can understand to a certain extent why hardly anyone seems to accept this ultimate outcome for the planet and human life specifically. It is hard to deal with. It is scary. It leaves you feeling empty and hopeless a lot of the time. But I’ve never had the luxury of being able to avoid the hard facts of an issue. That’s part of the reason I became vegan even though it certainly would have been easier to keep my head in the sand. I just can’t deny reality the way a lot of people can. I don’t have those same defense mechanisms when it comes to avoiding the ugly truth. Maybe it would be better if I did. Maybe I’d be happier that way.

My problem isn’t whether or not to believe these things, it’s what to do with this overwhelming, devastating information. For a while I thought I might be able to influence change, to shift humanity into living in a way that would prevent this doomsday from happening. I pretty quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. We simply don’t have enough time to break through the strong illusions of the human race, the greed, the selfishness, the idiocy quite frankly. Now I’ve switched over to contemplating how to mitigate these coming disasters for myself personally. How can I ensure my family and I suffer as minimally as possible?

I genuinely want to use however long I have left in peaceful, stable times to start preparing. My mind often drifts to strategies of stockpiling food and water, teaching myself basic first aid, studying the local plants, learning what can be eaten or used for medicine, how to purify water, how to start a fire, how to effectively grow crops, etc. The only reason that I haven’t actually started any of these endeavors is because the thought of why I need to is too painful. While all of these activities interest me and even seem fun to a certain extent, the underlying reason for them causes me too much grief for me to think about it for very long. Not to mention the anxiety I feel when I realize just how much I’ll need to learn. Part of me wonders if my time is better spent in a blissful state of self-induced ignorance. If I’d be happier overall spending these days trying to enjoy a normal life for as long as I’m able to. Rather than struggling now in order to make my future struggle somewhat easier.

After the events of this past year, these heavy thoughts have been weighing on my mind even more than usual. I think I’m finally ready to start gathering my resources. The amount I’d need to learn and do is overwhelming, but nevertheless I have to try. I’m going to do my best to have fun with it, to make a game out of it. To try to focus on the moment and the actions as I’m doing them rather than the reason behind those actions and the dismal, frightening, unpredictable future ahead.

This summer I am going to begin by stockpiling knowledge. I’m going to gather up books on all of these topics. I’m going to start trying to identify and memorize different useful plants in my area. I’m going to devote myself to my gardening. I’m going to buy some type of water filtration device. I’m going to teach myself basic survival skills. I may even buy a gun and spend some time doing target practice with my uncle. I no longer mind if anyone thinks this is funny or that I’m crazy for believing what I believe. My only hope is that by expressing these thoughts and feelings, others may be moved by my certainty and resolve. Many people in my life believe that I am extremely intelligent. I hope that eventually some of them may trust that intelligence enough to follow me, to listen to me, even if what I say is hard to hear.

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The Comfort of Not Knowing

If you saw my post yesterday, you already know that I have little to no expectations for the future. I am just trying my best to be grateful for the amount of life I have been given and not worry about the years of growing old that may be lost to me. I’ve always had a hard time imagining myself being old anyway. The thought is pretty unsettling actually. However, obviously I don’t know everything.

I am simply making an educated guess based on all of the information I have available to me. I recognize that there are still things in this existence that I don’t know about or understand. Laugh if you like, but taking LSD has humbled me. It showed me that even when you think you are seeing everything, there are always new perspectives and new discoveries to be made. There is still so much about this life that we do not understand, and most likely never will.

For someone will such a dark outlook on the world and the future, this is a great comfort. Not knowing is something to be grateful for. There are few things more beautiful and enlivening than being surprised. No matter how much you learn or know, this life is always full of surprises. Amongst the monotonous daily drudgery, lurk the most unlikely things.

If I’ve learned anything, the farther in the future something is, the less accurate any predictions you make will be. It’s almost like the butterfly effect played out before our eyes. Small, seemingly insignificant details can snowball into relevant factors for the future in unpredictable ways. Now perhaps this is just a depressed mind grasping for some shred of hope, but even though I’ve lost any expectation that humanity can or will rise to the occasion, I have opened my mind to other (albeit somewhat ridiculous) possibilities.

This strange comfort of “not knowing” struck me one day as I was watching alien conspiracy theories. *Pause for laughter* Yes, I realize how silly that may sound. But hear me out. From a purely mathematical and probability perspective, aliens exist somewhere out there in the vastness of space. This I’ve accepted with not much interest. It doesn’t mean they have or will ever make any kind of contact with us. However, there are a lot of unexplained wonders that exist across the world that some people suspect have alien origins.

Obviously just because something can’t be explained, doesn’t mean we can assign any fanciful explanation we want. But the fact remains, there are quite a lot of things in this world that for the time being we are completely at a loss to explain. Whether that means there are aliens or ghosts or whatever is irrelevant. It simply means we don’t know everything.

Sometimes I like to amuse myself by coming up with outlandish ideas of how the world may not end. Maybe aliens arrive and save us and the planet, maybe something like this pandemic takes out the majority of the population before we have the chance to put the final nail in our environmental coffin, maybe the world governments have some kind of contingency plan that will save us at the last moment, maybe an amazing technology is being invented as we speak that will change everything. It could also very well be something I am entirely unable to imagine. I’ve also learned from taking acid that even our imagination doesn’t define the limits of what is possible.

It seems like most of the population has been continuing on with a foolish sense of assurance due to a vague idea of these ace in the hole possibilities. I’m not among those that always think everything will work out for the best somehow. I don’t believe there is a god up there that has a plan for all of us. I don’t believe humans are some type of miracle of creation or evolution. The universe couldn’t care less whether we exist or not. Despite all of that though, I do accept I don’t know everything. And I am interested to see what surprises are still waiting for me.

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Setting Aside Time to Savor

Since the beginning of December, I have been slowing chipping away at cleaning and organizing that needed done around my home. I made a long list and spaced each task out so that I would only have one reasonable thing to do each day instead of trying to do too much and getting overwhelmed like I usually do. I had my doubts that I would actually follow through with any of it though.

After over a month and a half of diligent efforts, I am happy to say that I completed everything on my list as of yesterday! My last task was one I was dreading having to do. I needed to paint over this atrocious wallpaper my grandmother had up around the ceiling border in the kitchen. I knew it would probably be a huge mess and take a long time. Not to mention I had no idea if the results would even be worth it. But knowing it was my final task, I went about it with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.

It actually didn’t end up taking as long as I’d thought. And it’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do for a room. Now I am even more determined to convince my father to let me paint the wood paneling around the house white as well. But I digress. The point is, I only spent a few seconds admiring my work before my mind was already racing off to what else there was left to do.

I never seem to allow myself any time to just enjoy what I’ve accomplished. I am always looking towards the future. And that can be exciting, but ultimately when that anticipated future arrives, I only acknowledge it briefly before looking forward to something else. I’ve never been able to truly savor what I have or where I am in the moment.

I’m kind of at a loss when it comes to what to do about this. I have gotten so used to most of my pleasure coming from the excitement of expecting things in the future. When I can’t think of anything I have to look forward to, that’s when I really get anxious and depressed. Even though at any given moment, there is so much all around me that I could be happy about and be enjoying.

Even within the span of a single day, I am always thinking a few steps ahead of myself. I look forward to my coffee, then slurp it down mindlessly. I look forward to my daily drawing, then get anxious when I pick up the pen. I look forward to dinner, then inhale it in only a few minutes while distracting myself with Netflix. No wonder I am always so anxious. I have been living in the future for so long.

I am present and peaceful when I meditate and do my yoga everyday, but that is only a small fragment of my life. I want to allow that presence to slowly bleed out into the rest of my life as well. I want to allow myself time to be proud of my accomplishments and savor my hard work. I want to enjoy where I am right now. Because, all things considered, it is a pretty wonderful place to be.

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Do We Know What Will Make Us Happy?

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I remember reading once that when put to the test, what we think will make us happy usually doesn’t end up actually making us all that happier when we get it. I’ve noticed this in my own life, especially recently thanks to this pandemic. One of the things I’m always longing for is more free time. I’ve always wished that I didn’t have to work so I could spend my days any way I choose, with no obligations or responsibilities. Yet after just a short time “working from home” (I don’t find myself having much actual work), I was even less happy than I was when I was waking up early and spending eight full hours every weekday at my job.

Now this could be just because I have an exceptionally amazing job with coworkers that I consider dear friends, but even when I lost the job I hated and got to spend a summer on unemployment, I was miserable. Back then I attributed it to having to fret about finding another job, but now I think it was more than just that. What I always imagined would make me happy, even what I thought I needed in order to be calm and happy, turned out to be completely wrong.

Why is that? It’s impossible for me to wrap my head around it for very long. After a few weeks back in the office full time, I was already back to daydreaming about having more free-time. Even though I just saw that it would do me no good! I’d just spend it being anxious and depressed rather than doing all the productive things I’d pictured myself doing with it. It could have something to do with another interesting tidbit from Time Warped, the time perception book I’ve mentioned.

Apparently we often put things off or make plans we can’t ultimately follow through with because for some reason we imagine ourselves having more time in the future. Yet if we imagined ourselves moving up the date to tomorrow or next week, we’d find our plans ridiculous and out of the question. I definitely think this mindset contributes to my procrastination. It does often seem like things will be easier in the future. I’ll have more time. I’ll be in a better place mentally. I’ll have fixed all the problems I’m struggling with by then. Etc, etc. Humans always have a tendency to be over-optimistic about the future. I always though I was the exception to that rule, given I fear the end of society is just on the horizon. But when it comes to smaller things in my personal life, I fall into the same flawed thinking.

This may seem like depressing news, to find out you actually won’t have more free time or be happier in some imagined future where everything has gone your way. But there is a silver lining. We no longer have to feel like we’re waiting for something before we can be happy. Chances are we wouldn’t be happy when we reached that idyllic future anyway. It’s a useful lesson. We should just learn to enjoy where we are now. We can be happy where we are with what we already have.

Not only do we not need to wait for a distant future to find happiness, we also don’t need to be so afraid of things that may happen in the future either. We may overestimate how happy something will make us, but we also overestimate how detrimental something will be in our lives. Both lottery winners and holocaust survivors both end up pretty close to everyone else in the end when it comes to happiness and a sense of well-being. We will eventually adjust to anything, no matter how amazing or horrific.

With this knowledge we can learn to relax. We can ease into the life that unravels before us each moment. There is no need to become attached, try to avoid/resist, or get upset when something doesn’t go the way we think it should have gone. After all, what do we know? Once we give up our obsession with trying to control every little aspect of our lives, we may find that we are able to live with much more ease. Have faith that this universe is playing out exactly as it should be. Have faith in yourself, in your ability to handle whatever life presents you with. Let go of expectations. They always seems to let us down or prevent us from seeing life for the incredible, beautiful thing it really is.

I know that all the happiness I will ever find is already here inside of me. I’ve been struggling to arrange my world to my whims, when in the end I don’t even really know what will turn out to be best for me. So instead I will try to let go. I will try to take each day for what it is with curiosity and a grateful heart.

Mental Health & Time Perception

I have been reading a very interesting book called Time Warped: Unlocking the Secrets of Time Perception by Claudia Hammond. This is a great book for anyone curious about the many mysteries of how we interpret and view time, and how our perception of time can change as we age and even from one moment to the next. While a lot of the book has fascinating facts that are not exactly useful as far as effecting everyday life, there are a few things that I think have immense potential for practical implications.

One of the most important things this book mentions is the way mental illness, namely depression, effects time perception. While I mainly suffer from anxiety, I have had periods of severe depression in my life. And even though I’ve had suicidal ideations in my teen years, I still never fully understood how anyone could go through with ending their own life. I think understanding how depression can warp our idea of time plays a key role in suicidal behavior.

It has been shown that people with depression over-estimate the amount of time that has passed in a given interval. Basically time slows down when you have depression. Each moment begins to feel like an eternity. Every day is simply too much to bear. Life seems to drag on and on. Knowing that depression can make you perceive time in this way really makes it more understandable why someone might feel like they just can’t take it anymore.

In addition to that, Hammond points out in this book that depression also effects one’s ability to imagine the future. So not only do they feel like every moment is taking longer than it objectively is, they also cannot visualize a future for themselves. Granted, being depressed, they may only imagine an awful, bleak future if they can imagine one, but they are incapable of imagining things getting better. They can’t imagine things ever changing in general. Even on my darkest days, part of me finds a small amount of comfort in the thought that nothing lasts forever, and when you’re already so low, most likely things can only improve from there. But imagining not even having that, to truly believe things will always remain the way they are, that things will remain painful, intolerable, desolate, lonely? Well, it begins to become more clear why suicide seems like a reasonable choice to some people.

Now, I’m not a psychologist, nor do I have any training in counseling people with depression, so perhaps this knowledge is already being implemented. However, I immediately thought of a way this may benefit therapists and perhaps even help save lives. In my experience as a social worker, there are many times when we must assess whether or not a client is at risk of hurting themselves. To do this, we normally ask if they have ever thought about hurting themselves, if they have had those thoughts recently, if they have a plan, etc. There is nothing wrong with these questions and I think they should still be asked. However, there is A LOT of stigma around depression, mental illness, and thoughts of suicide, especially amongst older generations. While we all hope each client will feel comfortable enough to answer questions about suicidal ideation honestly, I’m sure many don’t.

I remember in school reading about all the warning signs to look out for regarding depression and suicide. These are certainly beneficial and take into account that not everyone will verbally express these thoughts and feelings to others. By now, I would assume most people know these are the signs people are looking for and may actively seek to avoid being found out in these ways. I would propose that therapists, social workers, even friends and family members that are concerned about a loved one committing suicide, should begin asking seemingly innocuous questions regarding time perception.

The person’s ability to answer questions about the future would be a dead give away as to whether or not they may be at risk of suicide. You may think, well if they are already trying to hide their true feelings, they would just make something up. But if I understand correctly, they would not do this. Because they would not be able to. It isn’t that they are imagining an awful future full of suffering and would lie to the questioner, offering an imagined pleasant or neutral future. They would be incapable of giving an answer at all apart from “I don’t know.”

Not only would this question be much less direct than asking someone if they had thoughts of suicide, it would also be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be deceptive with the answer. I believe this would be a great way for people to nonchalantly discover whether or not someone is depressed or potentially suicidal. As I said perhaps this is already being utilized by therapists, but it could also be useful to anyone concerned for a loved one. I am hopeful that this kind of information will become more well-known and perhaps even save lives by allowing people to get the help they need before it’s too late.

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Future Worries

Last night as I was falling asleep, I couldn’t stop worrying about something that, depending on the state of the pandemic this summer, may or may not happen in July. Even though that’s nearly half a year away, I was sick with anxiety about it. I couldn’t relax.

However, in the middle of my worrying, I had a realization. Why was a worried? Presumably because I feared being anxious or uncomfortable in this future situation. Yet by pre-emptively worrying about it months ahead of time, not only would that not change the reality of the situation when it finally arrived, but would ensure I was anxious and uncomfortable in this very moment as well. Fixating on the past or the future does nothing but steal the peace we could find in the present.

This train of thought led me to also understand that there will always be a time in the future to worry about. Or a memory to miss from the past for that matter. If we don’t teach ourselves to prioritize and be mindful of the present moment, that anxiety, that sadness, will always remain.

Peace is only to be had in the present. It is always here waiting for us, waiting within us. Why waste it? Difficult times are sure to loom on the horizon. But there is nothing to be done about them until they arrive. I always feel like if I don’t worry about things before they happen, then I won’t be prepared when they do. But even I know that is ludicrous. Anxiety and worry do not make you more prepared. They just extend your suffering. To truly prepare, it would be best to stay grounded in the present. To allow myself time for peace and rest, so that I may face the future when it comes with strength and confidence and a firm connection to that peaceful place within myself. Besides, who knows who I will be, where I will be, when that future does finally arrive? I will not be the person I am today, the person I am right now. I must have faith that whoever I have become by then will be ready.

So I will let the future come in its own time. There will be plenty of time to agonize over it when it arrives if I still feel the need to. In the meantime, I am going to practice learning how to more fully enjoy the present. I am going to give my brain a new system to follow. Whenever I notice myself becoming distraught over something yet to come, I will practice pivoting away from those thoughts. I’ll ask myself: How does it feel to exist in this body right now? Do I feel heavy? Light? Is there tension in my jaw? My shoulders? Can I release it? Can I relax into this body? What is my breath like? Short and fast? Long and deep? How does it feel to breathe all the way down into my belly? How does it feel to pause between inhales and exhales? Can I feel my heart beating steadily in my chest? Can I hear it pumping away? Can I feel gratitude for these things I so often take for granted? Can I remember that the future is not guaranteed? Yet I have this precious moment in the palm of my hands. What a crime it would be to waste it.

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