We have all experienced those dark days during this pandemic. The days when it feels as though it will go on forever and you mourn all that you have lost. Your independence, freedom, social contact, hugs, travel, and adventure. Many people have lost loved ones and/or their livelihood. We have endured months of this challenging time and like marathon runners, we sometimes hit a wall.
Last week when I popped into the little grocery store on the corner of my road, the owner, an Asian woman who always greets her customers with a smile and kind words, seemed distracted. She wasn’t hearing what I was saying and she was making mistakes. When I asked what was wrong, she told me that she was afraid of the consequences of this third lockdown (in UK) on her, her family, and her business. I reminded her of how well she had managed the last two lockdowns and how we had all relied on her shop. She said, ‘That was because in the first lockdown we didn’t expect it to last more than two months and so it was easier.’
I replied, ‘When I’m running and feel as though I can’t run another step, I follow Paula Radcliff’s tip. I tell myself that I just have to run to the next lamppost. That’s easy. Then just one more. Could you think of the lockdown like that? Just get through one week or a month at a time?’
I didn’t think I had offered much comfort but she paused and I could see she was giving this some thought. Each time I pop into the shop she reminds me of what I said and tells me that it did help. So, I am offering it up here as just one little tactic that might help to change your mindset.
When I experience a particularly dark day, I practice gratitude. It is not the gratitude I learnt as a child, ‘Think of all those who are less fortunate than you.’ When we do that it can make us feel guilty for being miserable and that does not help.
Gratitude, love, and joy generate feelings that lift our spirits. Even when we are feeling low, we can find those emotions. Writers have to do this all of the time. We remember a feeling so that we can describe it accurately and in doing so experience it again from memory. A good writer conveys this to the reader triggering their emotional memory.
On a dark day, this takes a bit of effort but some techniques can help you to go inward and experience feelings of gratitude.
Imagine yourself as a young teen or older. This younger version of yourself is given a glimpse of your life now- what you have achieved, where you live, the people in your life. How does that feel? I know I would be overwhelmed with gratitude that my life worked out as it did. Take just one thing that you never thought possible that you once desired with all your heart – something that is now part of your life. Feel the gratitude as if you are that younger self looking into the future.
We very quickly take for granted the good things in our life. Last week I noticed that my diamond eternity ring had slipped off my finger without me noticing. I was frantic. The ring represented a special time in my life and was a symbol of a long and happy marriage. As I searched for my ring it felt impossible. It could be anywhere. I kept telling myself it was just a thing, not a person and so I should not be so materialistic but I won’t lie I felt sick. Then, miraculously I found my ring in the wastepaper basket. It slipped off my finger when I was wiping away excess hand cream with a tissue. I said a prayer of thanks. The gratitude for finding my ring was powerful. I held onto that emotion. Think of a time in your life when you were thankful for what felt like a miracle. Or remember a time when you regained full health after a period of illness. We have a deep sense of gratitude but it is fleeting. By remembering how it felt you can generate the uplifting power of that emotion.
Travelling, meeting with friends and family, hugs and kisses, going to the theatre and exhibitions, these are all things that are missing from our lives right now. Instead of mourning the temporary loss of these privileges focus on how lucky we were and are (because they will return to us). Feel the gratitude for these gifts. We may think that we will never take them for granted again but we will.
I have suggested a few ways in which you can generate a feeling of gratitude on a dark day when you perhaps do not feel that you have anything to feel grateful for. Similar techniques can be used for generating feelings of love and joy. Meditation gurus and yogis believe that these three emotions vibrate on a higher frequency which has a positive impact on our physical, emotional, and mental health. I know that when I practice gratitude in the ways that I have described it is very effective in lightening my mood.
I hope that you find something here that is of benefit to you. An earlier post Feeling grounded in times of uncertainty may also be of interest.
I did not want my post to be all about me so I saved my news until last. Today 1st February is publication day for my 2nd novel Just Bea. I am extremely grateful to you for reading my books, the writing community for your support, and the amazing book bloggers who work so hard to read and review books so that they can introduce them to new readers. If you would like to join my launch party this week or follow the blog tour then head over to the Just Bea page to find out more.