Why do we care about mental wellness?
For starters, I hope we all aspire to be well mentally as well as physically. Also, the extent to which we are mentally well, we are more likely to have better performance, results along with joy & fulfillment.
Essentially, exactly what you want!
This week, I didn’t show up as my best self one morning. I’m sure everyone can relate. A minor thing gets under your skin or something doesn’t go according to what you wanted and you allow it to affect you a little. It can happen anytime.
Before 6am one morning, our oldest daughter Ellee came into the den where I was finishing a meditation and sat on my lap. I was okay with that. Because I only had a couple minutes left in the meditation, I stayed in the practice… eyes closed, palms up. I like it when the girls see me doing positive behaviors like reading a book & meditating because it reinforces “the things we just do in this house.”
When she sat down on my lap, I got the sense that was attempting to distract me so that I would focus on her. She was fidgety, moved my phone which was where the meditation was coming from and started making small noises. Again, all good…
I didn’t realize she moved the monitor for the camera watching our 3-year-old Grace beside me from the coffee table to the couch right beside me. I picked up the monitor from being semi-wedged under my leg. In the process of putting it back on the table, I inadvertently turned on the microphone, which allowed the sleeping 3-year-old to hear us for a couple seconds. It proved long enough to wake her up at 5:50am.
Within a moment, she called out for me and it was clear that she wasn’t going back to sleep. She wanted to get up for the day and was not going to take “rest a little longer” for an answer.
By 6:05am I had both girls hanging out with me, which not only cost Grace an hour of sleep, it also derailed my morning to-do list.
I wasn’t joyful. I didn’t do or say anything to express my lack of joy… I definitely was not being overly cheerful. Just a “meh” state of mind. I harbored blame for Ellee for moving the monitor to a place where I turned on the microphone during what I interpreted was an attempt to get my attention.
I had both girls hanging out with me and my attitude was tepid, simply because the situation wasn’t how I expected it should be. The result is that I was missing the opportunity to be fully present with the girls and being the Dad I want to be.
I had given up 2 factors that shape our mental wellness… 1) Agency; 2) Gratitude
Agency is the feeling that we are in control of our lives. It’s the belief that regardless of whatever circumstance we find ourselves in at the moment, we own the power to choose what we think, feel & do.
Gratitude is simply an appreciation and thankfulness for our circumstances.
In those early morning hours, I lost my sense of ownership over the situation and lost sight of the fact I get a little extra time with the girls. After a few minutes, I realized how I was showing-up and I reconnected with my sense of agency and gratefulness of the time with the girls and I was once again being the person that I want to be.
While this pertains to being a parent, we can experience a similar situation with our job where we lose that agency or gratitude for our situation and then do things like… play it safe, procrastinate, settle for mediocrity, lose joy. The impact is felt in our performance, our results and our fulfillment. It creates the potential for a loop or spiraling down.
When this happens, we want to reconnect back in with our agency and gratitude. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to do both at the moment.
Agency in the moment
Focus on what you can control. Shift focus from what happened in the past (you can no longer control even if you had some control over it) or what might happen in the future. Dial in on our thoughts, what you feel and ultimately what you do. Note the truth that regardless of our situation, we still have control over ourselves.
Notice the present moment. A tenant of mindfulness is awareness. Become aware of the present without attempting to change it. Ask yourself “what is going on right now?” That ability to look at what’s happening almost like a 3rd party observer detaches you from getting wrapped up in the situation. From that place, you’ll naturally notice your agency in the moment, because you will be less likely to be in a negative mind space.
Focusing on what you control and awareness of the whole present moment will give you the ability to tap into your creativity, resourcefulness, resiliency and joy.
Gratitude in the moment
Along with agency, gratitude helps create a positive psychological state because we appreciate what we have. First thing is to appreciate what you have at the moment. This isn’t about finding some false silver lining or telling yourself a story that isn’t true. Just ask “what is there to appreciate in this?” Truth is, there’s always something to appreciate.
Tap into greater purpose & meaning. Asking “why am I doing this?” or “who do I want to show-up as right now?” brings you back to your purpose. Recognizing that will provide gratitude for however the situation feeds your purpose.
Agency and gratitude do not work in isolation. They work together.
How did I reconnect with my agency and gratitude that morning this week? I remembered that my purpose with the girls is to be a present Dad. That led me to become grateful for the uninterrupted time we were spending together AND the fact that both girls WANT to spend time with me. What a gift, right? Then, realizing that I could just have some fun hanging out – even though both girls were up early.
My mood lightened and I allowed myself to have more fun and be playful.
We do have a new rule in the house, though. The baby monitor is only to be put on tables… Hey, I have agency to create rules, too 🙂