Tag Archives: winter

Weighing In on New Years Resolutions

Now that the new year is under way, you might be putting your resolutions to the test. This weekend, I noticed that a nearby grocery store had expanded its produce department, even though we are having seasonal temperatures around 0o F, and none of these foods could grow nearby now. I imagine that they are feeding people’s new habits.

Expanded produce department

But how long do new habits take to form?

I grew up during the era when everyone “knew” that it took 21 days to establish a new habit. Imagine my surprise during dinner last night when my daughter told us that she is on the 17 Day Diet, and my son protested that new habits take 30 days to form. So, I did what I love to do: I looked for reasons behind our various expectations.

I found that I grew up after a doctor published that his patients took 21 days to begin to adjust to their cosmetic surgery. Paperback best sellers retold his story by stating that it takes 21 days to change a habit.

A few years ago, the European Journal of Social Psychology published an article that states that it takes 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. Media is reporting that the researchers found that habits take 66 days to establish, so a new myth is born.

You might want to join Matt Cutts as he challenges you to try something for 30 days instead.

If you’re looking for support while you’re turning over your new leaf, or know someone who is taking on an awesome challenge, let us know in the Comments section so we can cheer along and be inspired.

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The Longest Night

Thank you Liza for reassuring us that we can bring back and expand the light.

photo: Candle in the dark, by Andy Hay

Like Liza, I have been sifting through memories of my Christmas Pasts, to find ones that nourish new possibilities. I am so content with what I have, my seasonal joy is now from gifting things to people who are in dark times, to surprise and delight them.

When I studied Psychology, I learned that people collapse under crises just after the worst is over. Forget the common idiom, “the darkest hour is just before dawn”; the darkest hour is the one just after dawn. People tend to give up just as things start to get better. That is one reason to appreciate that Christmas and New Years are after the Solstice; after the darkest, longest night. That means that the most important time for action is now.

What is making your days merry and bright? How are you brightening the dark times of others?


(This might be especially true for people close to the North Pole. I have not found a comparable tradition for Southerners; short days are less drastic for them.)

Deeper Roots

Tonight is the longest night. At 5:03 the shortest day of the year ended and the winter solstice, the longest night began.

My family lit candles – six candles on the menorah for the six (thus far) nights of Hannukah and four candles on the Advent Wreath for Peace, Hope, Joy, Love. We won’t light the Christ candle until Christmas Day. My family gathered in the flickering flame. The light looked so fragile, the shadow and the darkness beyond so vast and enclosing.

It feels like it is the longest night in our nation as well.   The President of the New York Police Department Union said “There’s blood on many hands tonight….That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.” In fact there is blood on many hands. There has been for many generations. Since the first Native was murdered, since…

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Winter Farewell

These are some of the earliest plants that grow when our snow clears

I am glad to see it go.
I am tired of moving snow.
When my truck will not start
And my fingers smart

I want to see plants grow

The sun reflects off of the snow and brightens the ground out in the open and under the trees
My back yard today

Yet

I love the quiet of winter
when the only animals out
are squirrels, and birds at feeders

I love the brightness of snow
that reflects the few hours of light
through clouds holding more of the same

I love the invigorating cold
for moving along on snowshoes
then cuddling by heat — human or otherwise

I love the smoothed ground revealing
otherwise invisible animal tracks,
clearings between trees in the forests
and contours of the ground

 

Winter
Even though you overstayed your welcome
I’ll look forward to seeing you again
in a few months.

Bipolar Snowballs

bipolar self-talk maniabipolar self-talk depressionPeople with bipolar disorder often hide the disease, afraid of being misunderstood. I want to share a story that might help me, and others, to reveal this part of who we are. Let’s see what you think.

Mexican earthenware figures 600-900 AD
The Walters Art Museum · Works of Art
CC BY-SA 3.0 US

Self-Talk Power: my best friend and worst enemy

I noticed that the snow plow had been through to push back the tops of the high snowbanks. When it passed our house, it pushed an icy snowball that was 4 or 5 feet in diameter off of the top of the snowbank — right to the middle of the entrance to our driveway.

I couldn’t move it, partly because my head had been like a pinball machine all morning: if I moved too quickly or the wrong way, I would trigger the tilt switch, which would make a migraine leap into action.

I considered the possible times to call my husband at work, so he would be ready to clear the driveway when he came home: immediately, before I forgot? But then he might dread it all afternoon. What if I took a chance on remembering to call him as he’s ready to leave for home? But then I might forget, and he’d arrive home ready to relax.

Self-talk Snowball

I walked over to see how bad the situation was.The snowball was so round, I wondered if I could roll it. As I lifted one edge of it, pieces fell off, but I was able to push most of it out of the way. I was surprised by how little it weighed. I thought it must have been full of air pockets, like Styrofoam.

Bipolar Self-talk

See the remainder of the snowball after I had moved it

The snow plow had also pushed several inches of dense snow into the entrance to the driveway. The sun was shining brightly for a little while, but the temperature was too close to zero Fahrenheit for the snow to melt away. The snow would be much easier to move at that moment, compared with waiting for my husband to move it when he got home after a tiring day at work, with the temperature falling, and darkness settling in.

As I got a shovel, I wondered if I could move any snow. I wondered what happened to the migraine, and my tiredness and weakness. As I moved some snow, I was amazed that the full shovel loads were easy to lift and toss over the tops of the tall snow banks. Where did my strength come from? How could I do this after spending the past few months in bed in a depression?

I cleared the entire end of the driveway, one minute at a time, taking a break after each minute: stand still, eyes closed, breathe, tune in, and decide whether to continue. This is what I heard myself saying:

I can do anything, if I just do it. All of these months, I wasted a lot of time lying around, focusing on what I couldn’t do, when I could have just gotten up and done what I could do. What a relief! I finally beat this bipolar thing! I am such a strong person. Anyone else’s body would have atrophied by now. My body is built like a bull. I know how to use body mechanics to do hard work. This feels so good. I used to know that I could do absolutely anything, and here I am, doing it again. I am glad to be the familiar Me again. I love being out in the sun, breathing the fresh air, working my muscles, doing something nice for someone else. I forgot how much control I have over what I can do. I just need to remember to focus on what I can do, and just do it. I have no idea why I ever think I can’t do a certain something. There’s nothing I can’t do. I’ve proven that over and over…

Redirecting the Self-Talk

Finally, I remembered my therapist advising me, many times, to do just a little at a time when energy floods my blood, rather than riding the entire wave of opportunity, and then entirely exhausting myself. Finally, I remembered my psychiatrist looking at me with astonishment as I mentioned being in bed all day for weeks and then very suddenly running up and down flights of stairs and being happily very busy doing many things all at once and keeping track of them all, and he asked me how someone like me, who is intelligent and sensible, could be so unreasonable about overdoing it when I became energized, aka hypomanic.

Finally, I realized that being out of bed for a couple of hours was strenuous enough for me for one day for right now. I saw many things I wanted to do, but forced myself to bed. I wanted to stay up and be busy. Instead, I called my husband to check my judgment. He reminded me that I accomplished a lot that day, and that I needed to rest so I wouldn’t feel like I got hit by a Mack truck. Oh. Yeah. I had forgotten about that Mack truck that shows up and runs me down after a surge of energy in the middle of a depression. After hypomania sweeps me away, I feel as if a brick wall fell on me. So, this time, I set myself to staying in bed, and then a wave of exhaustion overwhelmed me, and I was ready to settle down for the rest of the day.

How might someone as intelligent and sensible as I remember to take it easy when a wave of energy comes along? How does a wave make me so muscular? Sometimes, when I get one of those waves, I remember to ride it carefully, slowly and deliberately, but often I become extremely busy and irritable as I cling to the face of the wave until it crashes on the beach, and leaves me there depleted, as limp as a rag doll, and miserable.

Bipolar Snowballs

So, I need to rest a lot right now. When I find myself calmly up and around doing things without thinking about it, or when I am continuously aware of my limitations, maybe that’s a taste of “normal”. When I see my ability to do everything that I think of, maybe that should smell fishy. I’m getting better at recognizing the difference.

Bipolar might be like the snow plow that left a large snowball at the end of our driveway. Sometimes, we don’t notice the snowball. Sometimes, we can roll the big obstacle out of the way, and then overcome more obstacles. Sometimes, we continue shoveling away with unlimited energy, until we inadvertently and inevitably step in front of a Mack truck, and it flattens us.

What does your self-talk sound like? How do you recognize its nonsense, and overpower it? When do you find it helpful?