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Playful Self-Discipline: Emotional Health

paintbrush wildflower

It’s September and time for a new focus for a month of Playful Self-Discipline. After thinking about my responsibilities in August I gathered up my courage and decided to focus on being playfully self-disciplined when it comes to taking care of my emotional health this month.  That sounds good, right?  But what does it really mean?

Emotions: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Way back in December I had a really low point.  I was mad, I was sad, and worst of all, I was sulking around the house and being horrible to my family.  I was acting pretty childishly, to be honest, and I was simultaneously ashamed of how I was acting and yet stuck in this loop of feeling sorry for myself and acting those feelings out on those around me.  It wasn’t pretty.  But it inspired this year-long Playful Self-Discipline project, and I’ve learned a lot over the past eight months.

I started with some of the easier, less sensitive issues I wanted to work on.  Staying active with my family, flossing, appreciating beauty.  But what I really want (and need) to have is more self-discipline over the intersection between my emotions and my behaviour.  How can I effectively deal with my emotions as they arise without stuffing them down or letting them spill out and make a mess of things?

Mindfulness and Feelings

I’ve recently started reading Natalie’s Feeleez blog, and despite the fact that Feeleez are a tool to help adults educate children about their feelings, there’s a lot of food for thought regarding adults and their feelings on Natalie’s blog.  Her post on Choosing Happiness Despite the Whining really resonated with me.  Ditto for Audio Stories and Inner Stories.

The crux of the matter is this: the way we respond to our thoughts and feelings is within our control.  It is OK to be mad, sad, frustrated, jealous, insecure or ashamed.  It’s not OK to take those feelings and use them as justification for poor behaviour.  And yes, it is difficult to redirect our thoughts, or to realize when we are telling ourselves a story woven from fear and irritability, but it’s a practice worth working at.

And I am working at it, every day.  Oddly enough, I felt very zen through most of our car journey this summer.  Emotions came and went like the hills and mountains outside my window.  I noticed them for a while, and then they eventually passed.  I wondered why this process seemed to work more smoothly in the confines of our car when it was so easy to lose my cool at home.  Could it be because I wasn’t trying to get anything done other than keep rolling along the road?  No housework, no laptop, no expectations of productivity?  No distractions to cover up my feelings, and nothing to do other than watch the emotional weather systems pass by and look out for the next town coming up along the road.  Perhaps.

peyto lake marmot

I know emotions can be a sensitive topic, but rest assured, if you feel like sharing your experience here I’ll make sure the comments are a safe place.  There will be no judgment passed here.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kirsten September 10, 2011, 8:38 pm

    Brave woman. Working with emotions and behaviour can be so tough. It becomes especially difficult when your body is chemically imbalanced, working against every mental effort. I struggle with not letting this chemistry become a scapegoat for my reactions and behaviours when feeling very strongly, but also acknowledging that these physical limitations really do affect me, and make things that much more difficult to change.

    I think that the work that you have been doing over the last 8 months has been very important, even the “easy stuff” because it all contributes to a healthy emotional system. Good for you!

    • michelle September 11, 2011, 10:33 pm

      Thanks Kirsten. It’s true, all the “easy stuff” is what makes it even possible to start thinking about exploring and working to change the more sensitive emotional stuff. Because if I haven’t eaten or slept enough, there is no way it’s going to be realistic to start delving into major emotional work.

      It’s a strange thing – sometimes I feel like working on self-discipline is an impossibly difficult task, and other times it feels much the same as learning to ride a bike or working to keep my house clean. Certainly work, but work of the do-one-thing-over-and-over-until-it’s-automatic kind of work. It’s like I’m retraining myself to have different habits, both physical (like flossing) and emotional (like not going off into a depressive funk every time something sucky happens). And that retraining is happening a little bit at a time, all day long. Seeing it as a gradual, constant learning process makes it easier to deal with the times I fail at it, and less intimidating overall.

  • Herbwifemama September 13, 2011, 6:58 pm

    I just arrived here, and this post resonated with me. I struggle with depression (due to physical causes), but a mental approach works just as well, even though the causes are physical. (I also take herbs to heal the physical causes). I’ve found that just not brooding on my negative thoughts has had a great effect. As does practicing gratitude, a habit I’ve gotten out of the past few years. I’m a Christian, so memorizing relevant Bible verses, like Psalm 23 also help. Of course that can be tailored to whatever religion or nonreligion you are- it’s the premise behind affirmations. Charlotte Mason said that to help kids master their wills, they needed to change their thoughts. You really do create your own reality from your thoughts, and I’m just now learning this. I’m looking forward to dealing with my emotions with you this month. Here’s to mastering my will so I can help my kids master theirs!

    • michelle September 14, 2011, 11:09 pm

      Thanks for your comment! It’s true that simply not brooding on negative things can have a huge effect, but it is one of those things that sounds very simple until you try to do it – negative thoughts seem to have a gravity of their own and it can feel oddly satisfying to brood on everything that is wrong about the world and your place in it. But as I get older the less and less I am satisfied by the negative brooding and the more motivated I am to sort things out in a positive way instead. Thanks for joining me on the emotion adventure this month!

  • Eren Mckay September 23, 2011, 9:04 am

    Hi Michelle,
    I often paint, sing, and even write poetry to release emoitons that may be hindering me. Sometimes the only way is to feel beter is to write things out or even cry. I totally undertsand what you are saying. It’s a definite minute by minute choice to grow or not.
    All the best,

    • michelle September 23, 2011, 7:50 pm

      Minute by minute, absolutely. And there are always more opportunities to make those choices – it’s not like it’s a single choice that is made forever. I often find that time alone to process my thoughts helps me release emotions, but that can be in short supply with young kids!

  • Eren Mckay September 27, 2011, 2:28 pm

    So true Michelle,
    That’s why we need to tell our loved ones (husband or others) to take care of the kids for a while each and every day so that we have enough time to recharge. This is soo essential for our emoitonal health and shoulnd’t be just a once a week thing.