Category Archives: life worth living series

making a life worth living (part 3 of an ongoing conversation)

Mindfulness is a part of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) that I’m still learning about. From what I can tell, there are different ways of practicing mindfulness, but at its core, mindfulness’s goal is to allow you to observe and describe your feelings, to recognize them without being driven by them (and without forming myriad secondary and tertiary feelings about your feelings.)

Mindfulness exercises are often meditative in nature. For instance, you can observe and describe an object. The goal is to focus on the simple facts and avoid judgments or feelings about those facts. You can also observe your breathing to ensure you’re breathing deeply (which is calming) instead of from your chest (which can tire you and reinforce your anxiety). For me, though, my mind is so hyperactive that it’s hard to focus on breathing for any length of time. Maybe that just means I’m a novice.

I was in a cute little shop the other week, though, and the cashier came over and demonstrated a handheld Tibetan Singing Bowl for me. I didn’t ask her to — she just came right over! And then she was so deliberate and careful in her demonstration, not seeming to mind that it took awhile to show me. When things like that happen, I always consider that it might be God-appointed. I don’t jump to conclusions, but I do get ready just in case. Sure enough, this seemed divine. The Tibetan Singing Bowl is a meditation tool: you run the wooden striker around the rim of the bowl to make the bowl “sing” louder and louder. The catch is that you have to be mindful! You have to move the striker consistently around, apply consistent pressure, modulate your speed to change the sound. I immediately knew it would be helpful for my mindfulness exercises.

After thinking about it for a couple of weeks (I hate impulse buys — they make me feel guilty!), I went back to the store. The bowl I wanted was gone! There were others, but they weren’t quite as loud and nice. Thankfully, though, the cashier was helpful again! She showed me bells with a similar idea — and a much louder singing “voice”! You held the bells like normal, but instead of striking them or tilting them to ring them, you again ran the striker around the outside to make them sing. I bought the loudest bell and now I practice with it every day. My brain is still hyperactive, but I feel more able to focus on creating the sound than just on my breathing (something I still hope to put in place later!)


making a life worth living (part 2 of an ongoing conversation)

Here are a couple of things that have proven very helpful to me during times when my emotions feel more difficult to control.

1. Willfully being social. Even when I feel like a mess, sometimes I can get it together and “act opposite” to my emotion by heading out to see a friend. I think of it like being in a play and “faking it ’til I make it,” acting like fun company until I really am having fun and forgetting my troubles. Sometimes I will also be deliberately vulnerable with a friend, acknowledging that things aren’t going well in a controlled way, but only insofar as I feel like it helps in creating a genuine friendship. I am so not the one to be giving friendship advice, so feel free to chime in about what you think about this point.

2. Working alone in a public space. Even if I feel like being with friends would be embarrassing or difficult because of my anxiety or sadness, I find it tremendously helpful to be in a public place. I pack up a book or a laptop and head to a comfortable coffee shop or deli (I’ve even scoped out some 24-hour ones for late night “company”) and work. Inasmuch as it helps me focus on my work or reading, it helps distract me from my negative thoughts. I also find it really healing to look around at other people enjoying their food and conversation — it almost provides a realistic plumb line that helps me calibrate my feelings. I usually feel more balanced and capable after spending some time out in the world.


making a life worth living (part 1 of an ongoing conversation)

This post is part of an ongoing conversation about things that would enrich my life.

1. Seeing more plays — the drama and spectacle on stage is a fun and happy reprieve, even if it’s a sad story. I always enjoy plays, but for some reason I forget to seek them out. I went to see Rock of Ages not too long ago and it was seriously the most fun social event I think I’ve ever been to.

2. Making trips to see animals (zoo, ranch, etc.) and interact with animals (volunteering at the Humane Society)

3. Doing more activities outdoors — I just read this post which was wonderful, and I especially liked what Reiland says about connecting with nature. Before my diagnosis, that was one of the coping skills I’d developed organically. I realized that going for a hike or canoeing or going to see animals made me feel grounded and gave me perspective in the nicest way. I need to make time in my schedule for these things.