Today I have been considering the idea of visualisation. It has been theorised that on some level the brain can’t tell the difference between real events and vividly imagined events. This is the case for memories as well, and since memories are often what we replay in our heads, they define our future. If we have lots of good memories of ourselves happy and successful and joyous in our minds, we create that future as it’s what we expect. But if we have lots of memories of ourselves being miserable and depressed and anxious and awkward in our minds, then we expect that and unfortunately create that as our future.
The trick here, for those of us that have a lot of negative memories swirling around in our heads, is to add into the mix positive images of ourselves being happy and successful. By focusing on these new images – or visualisations – and having the discipline to redirect our minds to them when we get stuck in the negative memories, we will create a new, more positive future.
This works in part because when you visualise enough of the life you want, your subconscious believes that you have it already and you end up developing the attitude needed to actually achieve it.
I have decided to start trying this. I will try it for a week and see if there are any differences in my life and report back on my experiences. I am going to start by visualising at night my day ahead and the things I am going to do. I am going to visualise myself doing all of the things with ease and excellence and enjoying myself. I am going to try to really feel what it’s like to do each activity with ease and excellence. I imagine I will spend around 5 minutes doing this each night. It is my hope that this visualisation will help to reduce some anxiety and increase the happiness I feel in my day to day life.
I have committed to doing a HIT (high intensity training) cardiovascular workout every day. The idea is that you do short bursts of intense exercise, to the point of almost collapse, with the aim of reaping the health benefits. Specifically it helps your overall aerobic fitness and also it greatly improves your insulin sensitivity. Insulin removes sugar from your blood and controls fat stores in your body. When insulin becomes less effective you can become a type 2 diabetic. My nana on my mum’s side died from diabetes-related illness and my mum has diabetes, so I may have a inherited predisposition towards it. Because of this I am extra keen to do anything I can to reduce the likelihood of getting it and HIT seems promising.
So how does my HIT workout look like? Promise not to laugh!
I get on my exercise bike, timer 30 minutes. I ride at 4 on the intensity level for one minute at a relatively brisk pace, then crank the intensity up to 9 and go flat out for 20 seconds. I then turn in back to 4 for one minute, do another 20 seconds on 9, 4 for one minute and then a final 20 seconds on 9. This takes me to 25 minutes left on the bike and the end of the HIT part of my workout. I continue that 25 minutes on 4 intensity level at a relatively brisk pace.
That’s right, the ‘HIT’ part where I am going flat out is actually just three lots of 20 seconds, which makes up 1 whole minute!
I know what you’re thinking – big deal! It sounds trivial, doesn’t it? But just that tiny amount has been shown to offer a huge improvement in insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular health in most people. And, it is HARD! The idea is in the 20 seconds you absolutely go hell for leather. I literally pretend I am running (well, cycling!) away from a hungry mountain lion, I absolutely go for my life. And when you go that intense and fast after about 5 seconds your thigh muscles start to get weak and almost give out and you just keep pushing. It is a very long 20 seconds and I always groan when the second 20 second bit is about to start and at the beginning of the third 20 second bit I am almost ready to quit the whole idea and go eat a donut.
The great thing about HIT is that it seems to me that how fast you go when you are going full throttle is relative to your fitness. So my ‘hell for leather’ speed on a bike might be 20ks an hour, for someone with a lower fitness it might be 15ks an hour and someone with a higher fitness might get up to 50ks an hour. And an elite athlete could get to over 100ks.
This idea of pushing yourself to your limit is actually starting to change the way I think about exercise. I have always thought that when you are quite fit, you would be able to exercise without as much exhaustion. But I quite like the idea of always pushing yourself, no matter what your fitness level. So right now I might be able to go 15ks per hour on my bike, but when I get fitter I won’t just do my 15ks per hour and be less tired and sweaty, I will be equally as sweaty and tired but have done 20ks per hour.
The idea of making that exhausted feeling the goal rather than the speed or incline is changing the way I view exercise. Because my goal is to be exhausted, I don’t feel as negative about feeling exhausted anymore. It’s my goal, after all! When I get exhausted I think ‘yeah, that’s what I want.’ Which is improving my attitude towards hard exercise which means I will exercise more.
And hopefully improve my overall health while I’m at it!
So now the work starts to happen. It is one thing to decide to change your life, it’s another thing to truly commit to it.
It takes work to change and oftentimes getting out of your comfort zone, which can be very scary. Trust me, I know, I’m here right now! Almost 100% out of my comfort zone and it feels terrifying! But also, I have to admit, it feels quite free as well. I keep feeling like almost looking over my shoulder, like living without my negative habits and thoughts so rigidly defining my experience is fake and it will all come crashing down soon.
You see, I have many many negative thoughts running in my head all of the time. I haven’t gotten rid of them overnight, not by a long shot. But I have made the commitment over the last 5 months or so to trying to live without them. It was kind of like a break through, even though it sounds very straight forward and obvious written in text. You see, I was so attached to my negative thought reel that I thought it was me. I kept it hidden deep down and on the surface would say the ‘right’ things; I sounded very enlightened to people who didn’t know me very well. But I was so needy, I needed people to like me, to approve of me. Because I hated myself so desperatley and completely. I needed others to reflect a positive image of myself back to me so I could see myself as worthy. But because I hated myself I couldn’t maintain healthy relationships with people. The other person would either cease to be my friend or would have similiar self-doubt as me and we would have a negative friendship.
I have started to change this though. It is in it’s infancy and I have by no means ‘gotten there’ yet. One of the main reasons I am blogging about this is because I want to open up my personal experience of what I hope will be radical change in my life in the hope that it can help and inspire others. There aren’t many tales of people who have big problems, make big mistakes and are very unhappy becoming mostly untroubled, happy people who are full of light. There are a few, but often they are the extreme cases, people who committed huge crimes who renounced their former life and are now self-help guru millionaires. I’m not trying to discount these stories, they are indeed very inspiring and I am happy for the people who have done this. But their extremes of both highs and lows can be a little alienating to people who have a more moderate life projection. We can’t all have our own talk show, but we can all live satisfying lives that fufil us and those around us.
Anyway, back to the work I am doing to change myself. I have been very depressed in the last 5 months. I have spent days in bed crying and contemplating the meaning of my life and what I want to achieve. I will talk about this more in a latter post. For me, right now, realistic and healthy goals are small things.
So, in the last week or so, I have set a few small goals to do every day. My goal list thus far is the following:
* wake up at 7am each morning
* exercise on my bike for half an hour a day
* plan my next day every night and positively visualise what I will be doing
* do eft (emotional freedom technique, which is face-tapping and enegery work) on myself at least once a day, especially for anxiety
* when I find myself talking negatively in my head, gently try to soothe myself and stop the negative talk (this is the hardest)
It’s a small list so far, but I have found it challenging but manageable. I will be adding more things as I succeed in what I am currently doing.
I have gotten to a point in my life where I am not satisfied with my old excuses anymore.
And many excuses there are. My head is filled with them, from the somewhat cliched ‘I don’t need to get up early today’ to the uniformly disasterous ‘it won’t be perfect so why bother.’
When I look at my external and internal life I am just not happy with what I see. I have listened to that little voice in my head telling me I am not good enough for my whole life thus far, and that little voice has grown to become a huge, booming voice which almost drowns out anything else.
But not anymore.
I have decided to challenge that voice. Not with aggression or anger or hate. That voice has enough of that as it is. I am going to challenge that voice by reclaiming my life. Which means I have to change the habituated routines I am in.
These routines and habituated responses to things cause me pain and problems, but they are exceedingly comfortable too. Of course they are, I have been doing them for as long as I can remember and that’s a good 25 years. They fit like your favourite pair of flannete pyjamas on a cold night. So cosy and warm. So safe.
But I don’t want safe anymore. What feels safe to me has lead me to where I am now. Which is not where I want to be.
I want the life I daren’t dream up until now. A life where I am truly content. Where I do good work and have good people around me. Where I am free and creative and joyous. Where I am loved and supported by others and love and support them freely and happily. A life where I am not run by fear. A life that I never thought I could have.
But I now believe it is possible. And I am going to work towards it. And it will be work. Change feels uncomfortable at best. It can feel life-threatning and leave me feeling wretched and floundering. Feeling that challenged makes me feel like the very essence of who I am is adrift on a leaking boat in the middle of a choppy, endless ocean and I’m not sure if I will ever find land. It feels terrible and it’s why I have been avoiding making the changes I need to make.
But I am not avoiding the changes anymore. I accept that I will feel exceptionally afraid at the deepest level a lot of the time for a while, especially while making the biggest changes. My goal isn’t to torture myself and I am not going to push myself boot-camp style too far. I don’t wan’t to have a break down and collapse.
Instead I want to push myself out of what I do now which I have decided isn’t working for me, into new, uncharted territory that I have decided will serve me better. Which will feel horrifying at times. But this will start me towards the life I want.
This is change.