Today is my final post on my “Bad Attitude” series. It’s been several days since I posted Part 3 and there are a few reasons for that. It was REALLY hard to be so transparent about the methods I used to pull myself out of a moody pit. And you know what? It wasn’t so much because I doubted whether the methods were effective or legitimate ~ because for me they truly have been ~ but I was surprised and alarmed by the accusing voices inside my Christian head drilling me on why I didn’t dig further into God’s Word during my season of despair, or why I didn’t recite relevant Scripture, or why I didn’t kneel and pray upon consciousness in the morning instead of choosing to do the things I did.
Which, by the way you guys, are all such powerful, life-changing spiritual disciplines which deserve volumes of explanation and theology to even begin to understand. God’s Word is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, and I believe this truth in the marrow of my bones. Like you, I have been in dark places in my life where all I can do is physically bury my head in the pages of Scripture because I know that I know that I know that those pages are the only place where I can find TRUTH and HOLINESS and SECURITY. Oh, please understand me when I tell you…….I know.
But this time was different for me, and I don’t think I can adequately explain it except to reference 1 Kings 19, a story in which Elijah the prophet is feeling very alone, discouraged and hopeless. In this passage of Scripture, God eventually comes to Elijah, but He does not come as expected in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in an unexpected gentleness. When God is not “coming” in all the ways we’ve experienced Him in the past, there is a real possibility He may be doing something new in us and through us to shift our paradigms and prepare us for new experiences. One of my mentors once told me, “If something is missing, it means something new is coming.”
But that is a conversation for another day.
So anyway, now that we got that out of the way, I want to wrap up my Bad Attitude posts by sharing with you the 3 ADDITIONAL CHANGES I MADE to effectively help myself get over this huge depression-like slump in my life. In Part 2 I shared about the book and podcasts that helped me reframe my thinking and intention. In Part 3 I shared about the disciplines I established which involved talking to myself instead of listening to myself (my-oh-my, this too is a wholeloddof conversation for another day) and the Three Questions I ask myself every morning in the shower. (I should clarify that after reading my personal affirmations each morning, I habitually spend a segment of time either reading Scripture, working through a Bible study, reading a daily devotion, or pouring over the words of C.S. Lewis or A.W. Tozer. This spiritual discipline was never altered, even during the darkness of my slump. The additional disciplines I’ve shared in these posts were specific changes I implemented during this particular season.)
Once I knew my head was somewhat back on straight, I knew I needed to ask myself frank questions about my health. It would be absolutely ridiculous to play this woe-is-me victim role without seriously addressing how my eating/exercise/hormones/etc routine was playing in to the overall picture of my mental health. They are intimately intertwined! So although I’m usually a healthy eater, I knew I needed to do better about taking vitamins and eating a healthier breakfast before work. So I set about making these two things easier to accomplish.
#1 ~ I Started Taking Vitamins and Eating a Healthy Breakfast
Had I always intended to take my vitamins? Of course! Did I have all the vitamins I needed in my cupboard? Of course! Was I taking my vitamins regularly? Of course NOT! So right away I asked myself: What steps do I need to take so I remember to take my vitamins faithfully every morning? (Because I shure as shootin’ didn’t want ’em lined up on the counter….#notprettytolookat).
My Super Simple Solution? I put a yellow sticky note on my espresso maker and wrote on it with a black Sharpie marker: “Want more Energy? Take your Vitamins!”
And I do 🙂 How’s that for a life-changing tip?
I did something similar for breakfast. I had been thinking for a long time I should make more smoothies in the morning, but the ones I made from memory had grown blah and I didn’t have the creativity at 6am to think up new recipes. So I asked myself: What steps do I need to take to make a healthy smoothie in the morning?
My Super Simple Solution? I spent about 10 minutes on the computer one night and found 3-4 recipes that sounded delicious and included lots of healthy ingredients like chia or flax seed, protein powder, and pumpkin spice (because pumpkin spice makes everything better). I printed the recipes off, three-hole punched them, and placed them in a binder RIGHT BESIDE MY VITAMINS. I know, super simple. But you know what? Sometimes these tiny little steps can make BIG steps that much easier. As my son’s wrestling coach always preaches to his wrestlers: “Take care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves.”
#2 I Started a Grateful Thankful Journal
This may very well be my most favorite discipline to date. Okay, I also really love my morning time. And now that I think about it, my neighborhood runs are pretty amazing, too. But my new Grateful Thankful Journal? Be still my heart.
It is impossible to be anxious or depressed and grateful at the same time. Try it. Take a moment and write down 2-3 things you are grateful for. But wait. There’s a catch. You can’t write down general things like “The warm sun,” or “My family.” Instead, you have to write specific things like, “Gabriel (my son) was invited to be the voice on a radio ad after we just prayed God would help him use his talents!” and “Amaya asked to make her own chia pudding for her school lunches ~ praise God for her healthy eating choice!” And then just see…did your anxiety and depression cease to exist for a few moments? Yep.
I mean, let me assure you, once you start writing these things down, it is like the windows of heaven open and pour down so many daily blessings in your life there will not be room enough to contain it all.
My Super Simple Method? I use my planner and write at least one Grateful Thankful sentence every night as I climb into bed. Yes, some nights I forget or get distracted, so the next night I make myself fill in the missing day. This simple practice, which I know is not a new thing for many of you, will bless you in ways you cannot imagine. I am a firm believer in the power of a grateful heart more now than ever before because of this simple, nightly ritual. It has changed me forever, and I cannot recommend it enough.
#3 I Got Active
Now if you know me at all, you know I’m a fairly active, fit person. I run regularly, lift free weights off and on, occasionally challenge myself on a pull-up bar, tackle local ninja courses, and can lift my share of extremely heavy pieces of furniture. I teach PE, for Pete’s sake. Regardless, in the wintertime in Alaska, it can be very hard to maintain an active lifestyle because the cold drives us all inside for months on end. BUT, there is so much benefit and power in your body’s physical activity to rejuvenate and refresh your heart and mind. A favorite quote of mine declares, “You are only one workout away from a good mood.” And it is SO true.
My Solution? I make myself fit in activity whenever I can. Some days I jog or speed walk around the gym at school for the first 10-15 minutes of my lunch break. Other days I slip into our school’s weight room just down the hall and do a few sets of squats and bench press. On weekends I go for a walk or run outside with the dogs (now that it’s light in the afternoons and evenings, I am back to running outside and especially love choosing different neighborhoods to explore each time). Many times I talk my oldest son into doing this circuit workout with me in our home exercise space. Not only do we both get a good workout, we also enjoy good conversation and bonding through the experience.
And get this: Some days at school, especially after a chaotic or stressful class period, I take a few moments in my closed office to push through a few air squats, push-ups, or jumping jacks to calm myself down and re-energize my body and mind for the next class period. It makes such a huge difference that I can’t believe I didn’t do this kind of thing earlier in my life.
So there you go. Those are my 3 Additional Things. Today, I am not only much healthier mentally, spiritually, and physically, but I am abundantly optimistic that my best days on this earth are still ahead. What a miraculous change from where I started last November! And although I’ve walked you through this journey giving you insight and tips into ways I fixed my attitude, there is not a doubt in my mind Who has been orchestrating my “fixing” all along for His glory.