How You Talk to Yourself Matters Part II
Self-Care Starts with Self-Talk
Stop the Woeful Worries!
By Eleatta Diver
Prints available HERE.
Addicted to worry
My name is Eleatta, and I am a worry addict in recovery. A fretful undertow of anxiety courses through my thoughts gripping my gut like the cuff of a blood pressure gauge. BUT I am learning how to construct dikes to alter the watery swells. I'm learning self-care really starts with tending to our thought life. When my confessions of fretful consternations are met with surprise, I concur with a smile, ‘Yeah, I hid it well…until I didn’t.’ And I explain how the undertow pulled me into darker and darker places until it became obvious that I had two choices. I would either learn how to redirect the flow of my ruminations or drown underneath their force.
Tools to change
Through adept counseling, good friends and self-education, I’m learning to manage the tides of worry by building preventive barriers. Much like sand bags are filled, stacked and used as dikes to hold incoming flood waters, I’m filling my thoughts with new substantive weight to strengthen and protect the borders of my emotional well being. I wish I’d learned this skill much earlier, but as the saying goes, ‘Better late than never!’
Building strong dikes
Dike building experts say the strongest dike reinforcements follow specific guidelines.
Step 1.) Clean away the base area, thoroughly removing any debris.
Step 2.) Determine how high the dike needs to be based on the flood predictions
Step 3.) Properly fill sand bags.
Step 4.) Tap, press and pack the bags as they’re stacked to create a tight seal.
Similar steps can be taken to build strong ‘thought dikes.’
Step 1.) Clean away debris.
Task- Identify thoughts that are scattered around the edges of your thinking. For me, those thoughts were fragments of fearing rejection left over from childhood wounds.
Step 2.) Get clear on a particular type of flood you anticipate.
Task - Again, mine was fearing rejection, so when faced with new opportunities for my business, I could predict the oncoming waters with a meteorologist’s accuracy.
Step 3.) Properly fill those sand bags.
Task - Through meditation, I poured new, healthier thoughts into my psyche.
Step 4.) Press bags to create a tight seal.
Task - With purposeful intention, I tapped , packed and compressed these stacks of thoughts with determination.
If you’re as much of a visual a person as I am, here’s a short video of a sand bag dike being built.
Self-care starts with self -talk
I have come to equate the skill of assembling ‘thought dykes,’ to that of offering the truest type of self-care. Indeed, tending to our thoughts may even give just as much emotional release as a spa massage.
A deeper diver
For a deeper dive into the practical how to’s of changing thought patterns, I highly recommend Deepac Chopra.
Deepac has a fantastic app too. It’s full of simple self-care practices with an emphasis on our thought life and it includes numerous leading voices in well-being. Check it out HERE.
How You Talk to Yourself Matters Part I:
Positivity Breeds Positivity
Bubble Baths and Clay Masks
I see lush, filtered photos of bubble bathing, clay-masked women, sandy stretches of serene beaches, and vibrant spreads of fruits and veggies. They peddle self-care mantras and quotes from sages and stars. Ok. Agreed. We do need to take care of ourselves. We do indeed need reminders that we become better versions of ourselves when we respect our requirement for nurturing. But the photos can be misleading.
Don’t get me wrong
Mindfully holding yoga poses, slowly sipping steaming tea, and luxuriating in spa massages certainly have their place! Oh my god, do they ever! But the very best self-care practices really begin in our heads. We should pamper ourselves with these luscious practices, for sure. But we should also take a look at the kinds of words we use on ourselves. If we’ve got negative thoughts playing on an internal loop, a bubble bath has limited power.
No, I haven’t yet
I've not yet mastered the art of conquering every single cruddy self-deprecating thought in my head. But I can honestly say I’ve made some huge strides
Sipping green tea
We sip green tea to rid ourselves of toxins. We seek out massages to loosen stiffened muscles. And seeking to transform our running negative monologue can release tight emotional kinks.
Why do we tilt toward self-criticism? Maybe it’s a human condition of brokenness. (Some personalities lend themselves to a darker disposition). Maybe it’s from damaging chapters in our lives (Mine sprang from a thumb amputation at the age of six). Maybe we tell ourselves we’re no good because we think it'll shield us from other's opinions. I'm sure the reasons are limitless.
But, whatever the reason lurking behind our self-disavowal, there’s only one result - stinking’ thinking’. With each condemning thought we entertain, we end up digging trenches in our brains that beckon an ever-increasing stream of nay-saying thoughts.
Of course, the intention here isn’t to become some pie-in-the-sky pollyanna with fake, shallow positivity. No, the idea is to look at our negative thoughts head-on. Then take a measured, prescriptive approach.
Grab it and stare it down
Here's how we need to deal with our negative-nelly thoughts. When we see one approaching, grab it. Stare it down. Then challenge it.
Here’s an awesome diagnostic checklist from positivepsychology.com that include free worksheets that helps give insight into the nature of our glass-is-empty narratives.
A Deeper Look
For a continued probe, healthline.com gives a relatable list of 'the sky is falling' and it's all because of me scenarios.
Here’s an excerpt. For the full article, click here. Which of these rings true for you? I confess, I've probably done them all.
Your colleague sends you back an article you wrote with some amends. You decide you’re rubbish at your job.
Your boyfriend said he’d text you when he got home okay. He forgets, and you get scared he’s been attacked and is lying in the street.
Your friends forget to add you to a group chat, but you incorrectly assume that you’ve been excluded on purpose.
Someone gives you a funny look on the street because they thought they recognized you – but you assume they’re thinking that you’re ugly.
You pass your driving test with 5 minors. Instead of celebrating your success, you beat yourself up for the 5 mistakes you made.
Discounting the positive?
You get a top mark on a piece of coursework, but you explain it away as a fluke or sheer luck.
Making “should” statements?
A client at work is unhappy because you missed a small section of a report. You demean yourself because you “should” have seen it and “should” be better and “shouldn’t” be making mistakes.
Your feel guilty, so you reason that you’ve definitely done something wrong.
You accidentally upset a child, so you label yourself in single, total terms: “a bitch” or “evil.”
Do these sound as familiar to you as they do to me?
Our thoughts mold our self-perception and frame our self-esteem. I remember my Mom always saying, "Pretty is as pretty does." And even from an early age, I understood her meaning. How we think of ourselves is reflected outwardly. I only wish I'd read articles such as these long ago.
We all have negative thoughts. It’s just part of being human. But being aware of them, understanding their origins, and knowing how to deal with them puts us on the best path toward true self care. So, when you think, “Ugh! I didn’t get all the things done today that I’d wanted!” Bookend that thought with affirmations of what you DID accomplish.
Curating our thoughts gives us control over the “noise” in our head. Though negative thoughts are inevitable, learning to navigate up, over and through them is the very foundation of self care.
Emotional Self Care: Lessons From Zen Cat
Cure Motherhood Overwhelm
"I Need Help" by Eleatta Diver
Prints are available here.
Tyranny of Urgency
For years I allowed myself to be held hostage by the incessant tyranny of urgent tasks and immediate demands.I had five kids. Need I say more? You might say that I learned about self care in the School of Hard Knocks.
Choking our clarity
Overwhelm and depression create numbness to the soul like novocaine does to gums. It can step on our air hose and choke our clarity.
Wake up call
It took a 'toes-hanging-over-the-cliff edge' season to compel me to wake up, turn around and begin to figure out a way to diffuse my internal pressure cooker before it annihilated me along with anyone nearby!
A road to healing
Thankfully, my husband helped uncurled my toes from the cliff with his practical no-drama-needed-solution. He bought me an art table - an adorable cobalt blue one with matching clip-on light PLUS a comfy swivel stool. I began to draw, paint and remember who I was. I has nearly lost the sense of 'self' in the wake of constant child care. Slowly, in fits and spurts, I started on a road towards healing.
Light heart and clear mind
As I kept creating, my heart lightened and my mind cleared. I slowly came to trust the tangible exchange of making an art piece and feeling happier.
Hands and heart
Noticing that creating with my hands had a significant impact on my psyche, I got curious as to the ‘why.’ I began researching and stumbled on"The Creativity Cure: How To Build Happiness With Your Own Two Hands” by Carrie and Alton Barron.
The pages of their book unpack the relationship between creativity and emotional wholeness. Presenting clinical examples, along with statistics they lay out clear prescriptive exercises reinforcing the axiom that creating and making are integral in lifting depression, reducing anxiety and increasing happiness. The genius of Carrie and Alton pours from wisdom garnered over four decades of medical and psychological expertise.
You need to create
Simply put, their work amplifies this simple fact. Humans NEED to create—to produce something using our hands and minds. These acts of creativity are fundamental in helping us connect to our inner selves and our outer environment.
Warning that too often, in our technology-driven, crazy-paced society, we neglect this need, the Barrons document ways in which the creative process promotes healing. They analyze ways in which creating connects our minds with our bodies and explain how this gives us a greater sense of satisfaction in our everyday life.
Creativity as Self Care
Repeatedly, Carrie and Alton insist that you need not be an artist or writer or musician to take creative action. The Creativity Cure is a rich tool for anyone. It is not about making art or being an artist, but rather mining the opportunities around us to use creative acts as a means of 'self-care.'
Step away from the piles
In hindsight, I should've known what would help me decompress. Creativity was there. It was waiting. But I never came to meet up with it. I had been an art major. I knew the soothing calm that washed over me when I was 'in the flow' of making and creating. But somehow, it seemed so counterproductive to step away from the endless piles of laundry, diapers, cooking, and errands to PAINT!!! Now I know better!
Replenish and revive
That was years ago. The kids are all grown now. The house is much quieter. The mountains of laundry are mere molehills. But the life-saving lessons that I learned about the importance of self-care and creating, I try to share with any cliff-clingers I meet! I want to spread this hard-learned lesson - it’s utterly unsustainable to continually give of yourself without creating ways to replenish and revive.
If your toes happen to be a little too near the edge of overwhelm, here's a brief sampling from the Barron’s expansive list you will want to try.
10 Ways to Feel Happier :
1.) Write a letter by hand
Research has shown that the general act of writing by hand can promote physical and mental benefits, from improving learning abilities to increasing a more positive outlook on life. And when it comes to writing letters or postcards, the impact lasts far longer than any of today’s high tech versions of communication. From the care and thoughtfulness of the sender to the value experienced by the recipient, no true match exists for this old-time, traditional means of conversation. So, grab some paper and start writing! Besides, you’ll also probably initiate a reciprocal effect of some similar act of thoughtful goodwill coming right back to you! “Give and it will be given to you.” (Luke 6:38)
For more letter wring inspiration...
2.) Watch a sunrise or sunset and swish some paints
Watching a sunset or a sunrise evokes a sense of awe and can help you slow down time and regain a feeling of having more control of your day. So take a few moments to take in the beauty. Then grab a tray of watercolors, some paper, a journal, or a sketchpad, and swish some similar colors around. Don’t try to recreate what you saw, but rather simply enjoy the sensation of the water as it mixes with the paint and the look of color as it oozes over your paper. Keep it simple and savory.
How sunsets can promote greater emotional wellness...
3.) Twirl around to some tunes
Even simple head bobbing to music can activate and release the pleasure centers of your brain that are the same areas activated by some drugs. Dance is a natural part of being human. It impacts our simple sense of pleasure and happiness. Even just spinning on the spot in your kitchen can switch your mental state to a higher level of joy. So, test it out yourself. Give yourself a gift. Put on a great tune, twirl, and twist some! You’ll feel lighter and more energized with a sunnier disposition. Here’s a great ‘feel-good’ playlist for you!
Top 20 'Happy' Songs of All Time | Billboard
4.) Swish some cool colors
Cool colors, those that are green, blue, and purple, are calming and soothing. In particular, purple is often used to help spark creativity as it’s a mixture of blue (calm) and red (intense). So pick up some colored pencils, gel pens, or watercolors and doodle away. You’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated. It isn’t so much what you can do, but what you do. It’s the process itself that provides the value. If we can treasure the process of doing as much as ‘having done a thing perfectly’ we provide ourselves with new avenues for success, a heightened sense of self-esteem, and evidence of self-repair.
For creative art therapy ideas anyone can do...
5.) Stir up a new recipe
Getting your hands dirty and doing something physical, with a satisfying end product, is part of a great unwinding process. Whether it’s making a unique rendition of an old-time favorite like banana bread or sampling a recipe from an entirely new genre of cuisine, there’s something to be said for the glorious mindfulness of cooking. You can put on some music or a podcast and slip into a mild trance. And when you wake up, voila!
For recipes that'll make more happiness...
6.) Commit to a DIY project
We’re hardwired to create things with our hands, and in this age of tech, our brains truly need handmade self-expression. We experience satisfaction and a sense of well-being after we exert meaningful effort with our hands. It fosters pride and satisfaction, but also provides psychological benefits. When you make something, not only do you feel productive, but the engagement and exploration involved in the doing have the ability to move your mind and elevate your mood. So choose a project. It can be the simplest on Pinterest. Commit to it and see your disposition shift to the sunny side! Here are some suggestions for you to consider!
For DIY ideas that increase emotional wellness...
7.) Dare to doodle
Studies indicate an enormously high potential for evoking positive emotions happens through all art-making, but in doodling especially. Experiments show that while doodling, our blood flow is increased in the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that’s related to our brain's reward and pleasure circuit. An interesting side note is this. Tests revealed the highest levels of experiencing pleasure happened while doodling within or around a circular shape. So, give yourself a gift. Draw a circle. Take 15 minutes and luxuriate in doodling!
For simple ideas on doodling to increase happiness...
8.) Say ‘Yes!” to journaling
Writing by hand, on paper, helps the brain regulate emotion. Findings suggest that keeping a diary, making up poetry, or scribbling down song lyrics can help people get over emotional distress. This act of writing accesses our left brain, which is analytical and rational. While our left brain is occupied, our right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use all of our brainpower to better understand ourselves, others, and the world around us. Ready, set, start!
Further reading on the emotional benefits of writing
9.) Write a note of encouragement
This item, though similar to #1, is more specific and focused in its intention. Think of someone who may need a word of encouragement or expression of appreciation. Write them a handwritten note. Did you know that receiving a compliment or verbal applause has the same effect on our brains as receiving cash? And while we can't force others to compliment us, when we give compliments to others we also reap some reward. That's because we feel good when we make other people feel good. It's a win-win!
For further reading on the benefits of letter writing...
10.) Bake some cookies
Psychologists have begun devoting time to exploring baking as a therapeutic tool to boost levels of optimism and overall feelings of well-being. They’re finding that the positive effects they are seeing are partly due to how baking provides small tasks to focus on in a manner that’s similar to meditation. It increases mindfulness. In this way, baking is a type of therapy that requires us to be both physically and mentally attentive and that provides us with a productive outlet for negative emotions and a safe space to be inwardly rejuvenated. So, go forth and bake!
For more ideas for baking happiness...
I hope you’ll enjoy these! Have fun! Let me know how they go for you! And I’d love to see pics of your creations!
Positivity Breeds Positivity
"I Am Worthy" by Eleatta Diver
Prints of "I Am Worthy" are available here.
Self-Care Begins with Self-Talk
Positivity breeds positivity
In this era of Covid 19, we are entrenched in challenging times. We’re feeling the strain and we’re understanding the notion of taking care of ourselves is no longer a casual consideration, but an absolute requirement for keeping ourselves glued together.
The most effective practice of self care best begins with an evaluation of our self talk. The way we speak to ourselves can either fortify or sabotage our psyche.
Our Inner Critic
We all have an inner critic, but it’s how we choose to live with the critic's voice that determines our quality of life.
There are times this little murmur can be helpful and keep us focused on our goals—such as when it reminds us that what we're about to stuff into our mouth probably isn't the healthiest choice or what we're about to do might be something we really regret tomorrow morning!
Shame: We all have it. It's that gremlin that says 'I'm not enough.' Or, if you're feeling pretty confident,...'ooh, who do you think you are?' Shame always has a seat. Brene Brown
Learn to listen
Learning to listen and discern the intent of our inner thoughts helps us sort and use the positive messages and bridle those that are detrimental .
The average person
Most folks have about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. A whopping 80% are negative; inane repetitive thoughts fill 95%! The National Science Foundation affirm negative thoughts are mostly useless and only create imaginary of drama in your mind.
Negative thinking blows everything out of proportion. Once our minds are 'tattooed' with negative thinking, our chances for long-term success diminish. John Maxwell
You're not so sure?
If you’re not sure if you're focusing mostly on the negative, here’s some questions you can ask yourself.
Check and See:
Do you amplify the negative?
Do you tend to amplify negative aspects of a situation and sift out all of the positive ones? For example, you had a great day. You crossed through almost everything on your to-do list. But that evening, you can only focus on the two tasks you didn’t get to complete.
Here's a HOW-TO:
How to stop amplifying the negative.
Do you make things personal?
Do you automatically blame yourself when something bad happens? For example, you hear that an evening out with friends is canceled, and you assume that the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.
Here's a HOW-TO:
How to stop taking things so personally.
Do you assume the worst?
Do you anticipate the worst? For example, when you can’t find your keys and then hit every red light on the way to work, do you automatically think that the rest of your day will be a disaster?
Here's a HOW TO:
How to stop assuming the worse.
Do you think in all or nothing terms?
Do you see things only as being either totally awful or fabulously wonderful? For you, there is no middle ground. Do you feel that you have to be perfect at something or else you're a complete failure?
Here's a HOW -TO:
How to stop 'all or nothing' thinking.
Becoming self-aware helps you find root sources of negative thoughts. And then it’s much more possible to retrain and redirect your conclusions.
Do these exercises:
Make a list - on paper or screen. Be brave. Do an honest brain-dump of every negative thought you have.
Take a dive and look a little deeper. Write about things you fear happening.
Write about things that make you feel insecure. Write about things that make you feel stressed regularly.
Write about things that irritate you about other people.
Organize your thoughts. Make a column or a separate list. Pair every negative thought with at least one corresponding positive thought.
Here’s an example
In itemizing something in which you’ve had a fear of failing, cite one instance when failure actually helped you be able to learn a valuable lesson or skill.
Redirect the negativity
Doing this type of evaluation is the best way to begin redirecting the negativity train running through your brain. In beginning to counter balance with positives you become the engineer driving the train of your thoughts, rather than a frazzled passenger hanging onto the railing of the caboose.
Practice makes positivity
With practice, you’ll be on your way to a more positive approach to life, and improved over all well-being. For further reading on this positivity connection, see these resources below:
Better cardiovascular health
Better coping skills
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Improves imune system
Planning for Positivity
The process of shifting negativity to positivity is simple, but it does take time - and practice. Here are some additional ideas to help you think and behave in a more optimistic way.
1.) Identify areas to change.
Identify areas of your life that you usually find yourself thinking negatively about, whether it's work, your daily commute or a particular relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
2.) Check in with yourself
During the day, stop and pay attention to what you're thinking. If you find your thoughts are mostly negative, find a way to redirect those thoughts. Put a positive twist on them and make them go in a better direction.
3.) Be open to humor
Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
4.) Surround yourself with positive people
As you begin reconditioning your train of thoughts, make sure the people in your life are positive and supportive. Being around negative people can sabotage your efforts to create new positive thought patterns.
5.) Be a friend to yourself
Be gentle and encouraging. Make a decision to speak to yourself like you would talk to a cherished friend.
6.) Your thoughts form your days
You owe it to yourself to improve your days by improving the quality of your thoughts.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — Lao Tzu
I am here cheering you on. We're in this thing called, LIFE, together. Let's do all we can to cherish it, to appreciate one another and to value ourselves.
Comment below and let me know how it goes.
How to Know You Need Self Care
Signs You Need Self Care
Soul Centered Spiritual Wellness and Self Care
Getting enough sleep, brushing your teeth, and eating well are classic examples of good physical self-care. These basics are pretty obvious because your body lets you know when you're tired or hungry.
But knowing to give your emotional well-being the attention it deserves is equally important. Self care begins with an honest, compassionate evaluation of your life.
“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” Parker Palmer
Acknowledging the slow leak
For years, when I heard the term, ‘self care’, I rolled my eyes in contempt. But I was forced to acknowledge the effects of a slow leak in my emotional engine. I was burnt out and disillusioned. I’d driven myself past every yellow light and yield sign. I slammed into the hard gray wall of depression.
Help myself get help
I needed to figure out how to help myself get help! So I ate a big slice ‘humble pie’ and began reading about ‘self care.’ The primary task was understanding why I was burnt out. I needed a diagnostic test. I share the following discoveries in hopes they may be a help to you too.
“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.” Stephen Covey
Self inflicted expectations
Burn out happens when you fuel your life on self inflicted unrealistic expectations. I’d twisted myself into a pretzel in attempting to tick all the boxes I thought necessary. I was a mom of five, homeschooling, moving continents and packing up houses, all while grieving the loss of my Mom to cancer. I facilitated endless dinner events in our home assisting my husband’s role in pastoral ministry. My internal code was, “Serve. Give. Rinse and repeat.” I drove myself on fumes.
Running on empty
Mechanics give rough approximations on how long a car can keep going when the tank reads empty. The experts say you can probably expect to get anywhere from 30 miles on a nearly empty tank. Depending on the car, you may even eke out more than 100 miles.They explain the real-life numbers vary according to how you drive, the condition of your car and the type of road terrain. Let’s just say I drove like a banshee, the condition of my car was questionable and the road was rocky. The fumes in my tank were gone. I was depleted and despondent.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
There’s a good reason the lights on our cars’ dashboard are nick named ‘idiot lights.’ It’s idiotic to ignore their flashes! And you pay a high price for doing so.
Dinged and bruised, I bumbled my way into the self-care garage and allowed it’s tenets to overhaul my crucial systems and rebuild my motor. There was lots of work to be done. I had to ask myself some hard questions.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” Jack Kornfield
If you’re running on fumes too, you can begin by getting curious about the causes. Here’s is a check list to get you started along with resource links for further reading.
Check and see
Do you have any self-sabotaging thoughts?
Yep, that's me!
How many ‘Yep, that’s me?’ did you have?
If you nodded affirmative to more of these than not, it’s high time you roll yourself into some self care maintenance.
Know Your Worth
The first step in taking self care seriously is to understand you are worthy of health and you are immensely valuable to those in your life.
We need tending
We are complex creatures, so self-care is much more than what’s touted on our social media feeds. We are a spirit. We carry a soul (our emotional make up). And our body houses it all. The best self care regimens involve all parts of us. Our bodies need tending as well as our emotions and our connection with God. ( If that word bothers you, then read in its place, ‘the power that is higher and greater than all of us.)
Coaxing our bodies into wellness certainly may include bubble baths. But an effective self care regimen involves our whole being - body, soul and spirit.
Here are some ideas
Below, you'll find lists of ideas to get you started along with resource reading links.
Physical self care involves those practices which nourish and protect our bodies.
Emotional self care is the awareness that comes from understanding what’s necessary for nurturing, and honoring your feelings. It begins with identifying feelings and attitudes.
Spiritual self-care is any practice we do to further our connection with our higher self. Your higher self is who you truly are at your core- the real you. Understanding your existence in the spiritual sense is a vital part of self-care that is often overlooked. Here are a few ways to tend your spirit.
For more self care info...
To further you on in your self care journey, here’s a mega list of ideas from tinybuddah.com - an awesome site that offers respite and inspiration.
I wish you well on your journey toward self care. We’re all in this thing called ‘life’ together! I’d love to hear what ideas you find most helpful!
Lessons From Zen Cat
'Zen Cat' by Eleatta Diver
Prints, posters, pillows and totes of 'Zen Cat" are available here.
Cat people and Dog People
There are two types of people -cat people and dog people. I’m the former. My fondest childhood memories are with a lap of sprawling purring softness. My cat offered a safe haven from an inner swirl of youthful anxiety. He lived as a zen master model of inner peace.
Confident and Calm
Cats are paragons of emotional well being. Perfectly grounded in their own unique ‘catness’, they exude calm confidence. With supple poise they nonchalantly saunter through their day. Their super-chill inner peace is observable in their habit of endless napping.
Peace is the feline’s factory-setting. Anxiety is mine. Learning how to deconstruct anxiety and build inner repose has been a life long pursuit. Considering the example of these amazing creatures helped me see practical steps along the path to greater inner repose.
Zen master lessons
Here I offer a few lessons from these zen masters. Each lesson is paired with a reading recommendation and an inspiring quote.
1.) Practice ‘just being’
Being present in each moment is one of the things cats do best. They embody sublime chillness. They don’t get in a rush. They don’t wear out the carpet, franticly pacing, annoyed over some delay. They don’t fret or chew their claws worried over deadlines. They don’t glue their eyes to their phone afraid to miss the latest post..
Granted, they don’t have human demands and requirements. But just one glance at the feline life can be a reminder to at least pause, take a deep breath and recalibrate. Slow down a bit, sink into the moments of our lives rather than skimming their surface.
A fabulous read on this topic of learning to be present in the moment is the book by Eckhart Tolle,
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment: Tolle ...
– Robert Holden
“Beware of Destination Addiction: a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job or person. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”
2.) Seek out sunshine
Cats instinctively know to seek out sunshine. Either sprawling across a window ledge, or a in glowing pool of light on the floor, cats understand the power in strategically lounging in the warmth of the sun’s vitamin rich rays. Although we humans do wisely limit our exposure, we would benefit from taking a cue from the cat’s playbook. Take a few minutes to sit by a sunny window. Take some deep breaths. Renew and replenish yourself in the warmth of light.
There’s two great articles on the benefits of sunlight on our psyche here in verywellmind.com and healthline.com.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you will not see the shadows.”
3.) Stay Curious
Whether it’s a crinkly paper bag, a dangling sweater string, or a crawling lady bug, cats are always inquisitive. The saying, curiosity killed the cat says it all. And they have that curiosity in such abundance that they need ‘9 lives’ to explore it all! Cats see wonder in the world around them, even if it’s within the confines of a small apartment. They are always looking at objects in new ways. They probably wonder why we don’t!
Psychology Today has a great article on the emotional benefits of staying inquisitive.
“When you’re curious you find lots of interesting things to do.”
4.) Savor the Stretch
Stretching for a cat is a pure art form. From beginning to end, their stretch is sumptuously savored. And it’s a regular practice indulged in several times a day. I wonder if it’s one of the secrets to their subtle bodies. If cats could confer with their owners, stretching would surely be among their top talking points. Cats know regular stretching increases brain clarity, muscle resilience, and boosts energy levels. So, rise and go forth! Reach, bend and stretch!
This article from self.com has some really helpful tips on stretching.
11 Benefits of Stretching That Will Make You Want to Move ...
“Stretching your body and mind is essential to avoid rigidity.”
5.) Practice playfulness
We needn’t remind kids of how to do this. It’s natural when we’re young but as we get busier and life’s demands are thrust upon us, who has time to play? A cat would tell you that you can’t afford not to play! I love the message of artist/ speaker, Jason Kotecki, “Beware of ‘adultitis.’” He describes this ‘condition’ in compelling detail. “Adultitis’ is a common condition occurring in people between the ages of 21–121, marked by chronic dullness, mild depression, moderate to extremely high stress levels, a general fear of change, and, in some extreme cases, the inability to smile.’
For more of Kotecki's playful inspiration, check out Escape Adulthood. It’s a guaranteed mood booster!
Then, if you want further documentation on the value of play, here’s a great article in Psychology Today.
The Underrated Importance of Being Playful
-Arnold J. Toynbee
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.”
6.) Touch, connect, cuddle
Cats know a secret. Cuddling leads to purring. And then life just seems to feel a whole lot better. Our days are packed. And understandably, passing pecks and pats can become the norm. But studies show there’s incredible restorative hormones released with intentional hugs and holdings. Try it! Make it a fun experiment. Become an intentional hug-giver and watch what happens. (Of course, showing respect to Covid 19 restrictions.)
And here’s some scientific backing to inspire your cuddles!
The Health Benefits of Cuddling - WebMD
“A hug is like a boomerang – you get it back right away.”
7.) Stay open and welcoming
In spite of a cartoon characterization of innate malice between cats and dogs, in reality they can be loyal B.F.F.’s. Countless homes can attest to heart warming tales of cats’ willingness to live in peaceful harmony. Cats don’t assume their differences from a dog to be too great to a bridge to cross. Many cats know the warmth found close beside their dog companions. What a great lesson for us. How much greater inner peace might we feel if we adopted the willing openness of the cat!
For some specific tips and tricks to cultivate more openness, check out this great article from verywellmind.com.
How to Make Yourself Appear More Approachable
-Henry David Thoreau
“It is never too late to give up your prejudices”
8.) Grow in gratitude
Cats exemplify contented gratitude. They are happy with what they have. They simply accept and welcome their surroundings enjoying whatever soft, warm places present themselves.
We have a factory setting that seems to tilt towards griping. Training our psyche to lean towards gratitude is a process. To inspire you, here’s a great article laying out the undeniable perks of thanksgiving.
The Neuroscience Behind Gratitude: How Does Cultivating Appreciation Affect the Brain
We all have a basic knowledge that we should be thankful. Thanks largely to the programing of our mothers, “Say thank you, dear.” But transforming lip service into a life practice is another matter entirely. This article from developgoodhabits.com is here to shed more understanding with practical how-to ideas..
50 Ways to Practice Gratitude Every Day
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
9.) Show unconditional love
Cats love unconditionally. They make no demands and place no expectations (other than food and water, of course.) They are not put off by unbrushed teeth, a bad hair day, or old crummy clothes. Cats are simply present to share space with you.
Psychology Today offers some practical ideas to grow our unconditional love muscles.
“Unconditional love is the outer expression of inner peace.”
10.) Take Time for Naps
Cats are napping experts and they look so darn cute doing it! Science totally backs the cats. Indulging in midday shut-eye work wonders for alertness, mood improvement, memory, creativity, productivity. We would do well to follow the cats’ lead. Just lying down for 15 minutes calms our inner being while enhancing a peaceful state of mind. Our feline friends are zen masters. They model the way to let their surroundings swirl and buzz while they bask in a few moments of blissful stillness.
Afternoon Naps Can Boost Your Mental Agility
“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed by a nap.”
11.) Find joy in the ritual of daily cleaning
The process of getting clean is serious delight to a cat. They savor every lick and stroke. Their washing can’t be hurried. We, on the other hand, rush and race mindlessly jumping into the shower. We do what we’ve gotta’ do, jump out and bolt on to the next thing. We forget to appreciatively notice the warmth of the water, the scent of the soap, or the sensuous softness of the lather. But there’s a beneficial emotional afterglow that comes from mindfully finding pleasure in this simple daily ritual. Try it. Breathe, feel experience it for the pleasure it is.
Psychology Today encourages this basic practice as a great way to start our day more mindfully.
“Scented soap, rich lather and warm water are life’s simple luxury.”
12.) Don’t Worry, be Happy!
Cats live out what they believe. If cats could speak, they would surely decry the wastefulness of worry. They hold certain truths to be self evident. There’s no benefit to worry. Life should be savored and restfully enjoyed. These codes of conduct give the cat their super powers.
Though happiness can feel like a the proverbial elusive butterfly, there are actual tried, true and practical things we can all do to boost our happiness quota. This article in The Business Insider is a collection of some of the best 'happiness' ideas from top therapists.
10 Ways to Calm Down and Feel Happier
“Happiness is a function of accepting what is.”
Cats always find the will to get up and try again. No matter how many times they stumble, trip and fall, They have an incredible resilient spirit, and probably know better than we do that just because a few mistakes have been made, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying. The cat’s motto is, “Persevere and you’ll find a way.”
We’ve all heard the maxim, “Don’t give up!” But did you know that the habit of persistent effort is a proven way to experience greater emotional wholeness? When we make choices to ‘keep going’ on our goals we have a more positive and optimistic outlook on life. Studies show evidence that we have less anxiety and depression.
Science Daily presents this encouraging idea.
Perseverance Towards Goals Can Help Fend Odd Anxiety and Depression.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
14.) Turn off drama
One thing a cat is never known for - drama. It’s simply not in their nature. They know how to ‘go with the flow.’ They know how to adapt to those around them and find calm within themselves instead of demanding those around them adapt to them.
Tinybuddha.com offers practical steps we can take to insure we have less drama and more chill in our lives.
“When you are not honoring the present moment by allowing it to be, you are creating drama.”
15.) Slow down
Cats move with beautiful elegant slowness. They meander. They saunter. Their movements are purposefully measured and judiciously allotted for each task. Whether it’s ascending to a higher perch, strolling to the food bowl or crouching to watch the bird in the tree, the cat moves its body in poised dignity.
The 10 Essential Rules for Slowing Down and Enjoying Life ...
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
16.) Find delight in being yourself
Cats don’t give a blessed rip about what you think of them. They have personality but no ego. They are at totally at ease in their own skin. In fact, cats are so comfortable with themselves, they expect you to love them just as they are - when they’re at their best and when they’re at their worst. On the rare occasion a cat becomes angry (say when his tale has been stepped on), he vents the momentary angst then releases it quickly without shame or resentment.
For some practical tips on ways to feel more comfortable in your own skin, I suggest more reading from the tinybuddah.
How to Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin
Ernest Hemingway honored the emotional maturity of the cat in saying, “A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
So, here’s a big thank you to the cats of the world. Because of your awesomeness, we have a ‘pawerful’ line up of traits to fortify our emotional well being and increase inner peace..
Which ones spark your interest? I actually want to try assimilating all of them! I’ve posted them on my fridge as nudges.
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