I've heard (and said), "if I can just [get through today/finish this task/complete this list] then tomorrow will be better." But what happens when that day rolls into a week, month, or year?
What might be missed out on while you’re “getting through”? And what are you “getting to” that’s any better than now?
We can't force ourselves (or anyone else) to get into something. Though instead of getting through it, we can explore getting into it. “Getting in” to something involves a willingness to enter the fullness of the moment, even if that includes discomfort, low mood, or intrusive thoughts. This is more of a recentering around the here and now
Here are four ways to help you to shift from “getting through it” to “getting into it” today.
Choose a pump-up song. What song makes you feel present? Pump-up songs encourage, motivate, are personally meaningful, and symbolize how you want to show up to this important moment. What do you want to stand for right now? What song best represents the values you want to live by?
Build in rituals. Rituals help us establish our daily cadence, can ground us, balance our nervous systems, and are especially helpful during times of stress and uncertainty. Try a morning mantra in bed, practice gratitude meditation in the shower, and sip on some tea to prepare for rest. Rituals don’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and they can be built into what you are already doing. Try adding rituals that calm your body (see Epel and Lithgow, 2014). What rituals from your childhood or culture would you like to bring back into your life?
Use self-experimentation. As we are all complex, imperfect, biopsychosocial beings, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. You will need to test out and learn what works best for you. Using evidence-based interventions, you can try them out on yourself to see if they work for your personal goals. These can help us boost executive functioning, emotion regulation, learning and memory, and creativity. For example, if you want to boost your creativity, try walking in nature. What do you know works for you to improve your mood, focus, and energy? Get into your day by learning more about how your unique mind and body work.
Be imaginative. When we just want to get through or finish, we forget that we have choices. Imagination allows us to think about options that are counter-intuitive, increasing our cognitive flexibility and critical thinking skills. With age, research shows that we tend to get less creative. Try asking yourself some out-of-the-box questions: A favorite of mine is, “If you only had $100 in the bank what would you do with it? Now, what if you had 1 billion dollars? What do your responses say about your values?” Get into your day by being imaginative, doing something out of the norm, and noticing what happens to your outlook on life.
A well-lived life is not a pain-free one. Some days might just be tough. So, why not enter your day fully with an inspiring tune and a reliable ritual, experiment a little, and get imaginative? How much worse could it get?