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The Power of Perception

Perception is a fascinating thing. The power that each of us holds within ourselves to focus our minds is a tremendous thing. Our perception of things can make a world of difference in the way we feel. The most empowering thing we can do is change the way we look at things. “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It is funny how we can focus our attention towards the good or the bad impact that something has had on our lives. The more we put our attention on hope the brighter our outlook, and vice versa.

A person’s mood influences the way in which they interpret their environment. Say for example that I am in a bad mood; in that case I am likely to focus my attention on negative aspects of my environment. Our moods alter our perception of things. If you are feeling anxious, you will notice the stressful and harmful possibilities in your environment. Depression in particular has a mesmerizing way of focusing our attention on the difficulties of things. It has a certain way of blocking the light of positive opportunity from our internal sight. There can reach a point in the depression cycle when it is difficult to physically move. Going to the bathroom can take real determination. Behavioural Activation is a term used in Cognitive therapy which states that we must do the thing we don’t feel like doing in order to make ourselves feel like doing it, easy to understand right? Getting up and doing the thing makes us motivated to do it, versus waiting to do the thing until we feel like doing it (which will likely not happen). If someone is laying on their bed, feeling totally defeated, negative, depressed, no energy, just blah, probably worse than blah; The theory is that instead of waiting for motivation to come to feel like doing the thing that they know will be beneficial such as going for a walk, calling someone, doing the dishes, whatever it is; just do it, even when you don’t want to. There is a whole biological component that goes along with this theory, it is the getting up and doing the thing which releases those ever-sought-after feel-good chemicals in our brains that increase our positive feelings. The waiting to do the thing until we feel like doing the thing is where so many of us get stuck and ultimately meet failure.

To shift your mood you will need to change what it is that you are doing. Small changes make a big difference. Relaxing your tongue can stop the incessant mental chatter that ruminating can bring. It has an effect as a result of the mind/body relationship that calms the mind by relaxing the tongue. The theory is that when the mind gets going on a negative course the mouth gets ready to speak choice words, it has some things it wants to say. When we relax our tongue, it naturally relaxes the mind. How standing up straight makes you feel more confident. It was the ol’ ear biter himself Mike Tyson who said “discipline is doing what you hate to do but like you love it.” Maybe not that many of us like doing the dishes, or exercising or whatever the thing is that you put off doing that you know you will feel better once it is done. When we do these things they make us feel better. It is a warning sign to check in with myself when I stop cleaning my house. There is a significant relationship between my mental health and cleanliness of my home. I know that in order to start feeling better emotionally that I need to get moving and clean my house.

What do you do when you reach the end of your emotional rope? It is a good thing to think about before you get there. Make a list of things to keep on hand that cheer you up for when you are feeling down and out. For people who suffer from extreme anxiety and depression these preparatory steps can be sincerely helpful. Some clients resonate with the idea of making a “tool box” or a what I like to call your “emotional safety kit.” You can put whatever you want in yours, a journal with pre written writing prompts, clay, essential oils, knitting slash crochet items, cross word puzzles, colouring supplies (art is a wonderful emotional outlet), a prayer book, exercise weights or whatever you’d like. I find sensory items to be helpful; textiles help to soothe us we are lost in our emotions. They can help to bring our awareness back into our bodies and alter our perception of the situation.

One of the all time greatest Canadian heroes is Terry Fox. This young sportsman lost his leg in his early 20’s to cancer. While recuperating from the amputation in hospital Fox started to set goals to raise money for Cancer research. Against all odds and other people’s opinions Terry started to put his dream to action. Starting in Saint John’s Newfoundland he started to make his way across Canada. Initially faced with little support, horrendous rain, wind and snow Terry was discouraged. Step by painful step he put one foot in front of the other and showed up us all what a lot of determination and spirit can do to bring hope to an otherwise seemingly hopeless situation. Even though he had many struggles and was apparently forced off the road by drivers in Quebec he kept going, everyday, apparently refusing to stop. It just goes to show what a difference we can make when we don’t let our obstacles hold us back from making our dreams happen. Terry’s courageous spirit will always live on, he lived his life in such a way that he became an utter and complete legend because he would not stop pursuing hope.

You can change the way you feel, instead of focusing on all of your problems, why not focus on the good things in your life. It isn’t necessarily easy to shift gears, and the lower you are the harder it can be to get the momentum to do so, but you can change the way you feel. There are simple things that make us instantly uplifted, a kind smile, a caring gesture, an act of selflessness, thoughts of past successes and future goals, smells and music can trigger positive memories and feelings. Nature is healing too, and art is a wonderful outlet. Perhaps just think about all the cool people you have been blessed to know in your life, don’t worry, we have all had a few bad ones cross our paths, even Terry Fox knew that struggle. The point is, take the first step, put your foot out there and get moving. You can do amazing things with your life if you try. Terry Fox said “I believe in miracles,” and it is because of people like Terry that I do too.

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