I’d like a mulligan for May, please. (And Healthy Habit #6)

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I would like a do-over for the month of May.  Is that too much to ask?  It was a long, horrible, emotional month that I spent doing a whole lot of nothing (when I wasn’t busy being depressed and feeling sorry for myself).  I didn’t write much, I didn’t read much, I didn’t declutter anything, I didn’t finish my 4th step, and most of my Healthy Habits that I have been working on went by the wayside.  The month started off with my daughter’s 17th birthday, then Mother’s Day, and then her high school graduation, none of which I got to be a part of.  In the last six weeks, I have had six friends die (overdose, illnesses, and a car accident), and I am weary.  My husband’s 11 month contract for work was up at the end of April, and he hasn’t yet been able to find another job, so financial stresses are creeping back in.  And the whole month of May was windy.  I hate wind.

All of that being said, I am not looking for sympathy.  I’ve given myself quite enough of that, I think.  I am, as they say at meetings, ratting myself out.  I feel like I have to tell on myself because I haven’t been doing the things that I know I need to do to be healthy.  While I have been honest about my feelings of sadness and depression with those closest to me, I haven’t spoken up at meetings, and I haven’t really done anything to deal with my negative emotions, I’ve just been waiting for them to pass.  But they haven’t.  So consider this post my confession, the short version of my upcoming 5th step.

I’ve realized that I am playing on a slippery slope.  I haven’t wanted to drink (thank you, God), but I haven’t exactly been the poster child for sobriety.   Last night, after finding out that my friend died in a car accident  earlier in the day, I had a drinking dream.  I know that many recovering alcoholics have drinking dreams, but I haven’t had one for a very long time.  Honestly, it kind of threw me for a loop.  What does it mean?  Have I become complacent in sobriety?  Am I taking for granted that right now I don’t want to drink?  Have I chosen to place wallowing in my self-pity above my recovery?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  Probably though, it was just an anxiety dream that followed a really bad day.

What I am choosing to think though, is that it’s a wake-up call for me.  I want off the slippery slope and back to my previous, moving-in-the-right-direction, physical and emotional sobriety.  That isn’t going to come me if I just continue to wait for bad feelings to pass.  I have to get my butt back in gear and do the things that I know work for me.  That means more meetings, more writing, and more blog reading.  It means that I have to finish my 4th step and work on my healthy habits.  It means that I need to remember the things for which I’m grateful.  I can’t remember the last time I wrote a gratitude list.

So for June, I’m not going to try a new Healthy Habit.  I am going to focus on the habits that fell away during May, and get good at those again.  It’s my mulligan for 2014.  I know that I can’t really redo May, but I can make June a happier, healthier month.

 

 

 

 

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Healthy Habit #5 – A month of decluttering (and an update on kindness)

 

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In my ongoing attempt to learn some healthy habits this year, I have decided that for May I will try to develop the habit of decluttering.  While we are not hoarders in the reality show sense of the word, my husband and I do live in a small apartment along side a lot of junk. and I think that it’s time to start getting rid of some of it.  I did some reading about decluttering, expecting to find a bunch of how-to’s, and I was surprised to find out that there are some real psychological benefits to sorting, and organizing, and eliminating the extra stuff we keep around.

I read this in one article:

Did you know that clutter can have negative psychological effects on you?

Have you ever wasted time looking for things? Or feel stressed by the visual chaos around you? Maybe you have a closet door that doesn’t quite close because there’s too much stuff in it. Maybe it’s your kitchen counter, office desk that is crowded with items, leaving you with no room to properly “use” the surface in question. These everyday sightings suck away your energy and weigh on your mind.

Experts even go on to say that all this clutter can leave you feeling edgy, unhappy, rushed and unproductive. I think they are on to something.

Decluttering can even create more space for your mind. It can generate fresh energy and help you let go of negative vibes you have been holding on to. Some people live with clutter (at home and at the office) because they need to. Clutter plays a role in their life. There may be a strong emotional connection to the clutter. For some, the clutter has gone out of control. We all know a hoarder or two. It’s actually scary, but it helps to understand that they need this clutter as it provides them a sense of security and comfort. And asking them to declutter can have the same effect as if someone asked you to cut off your right arm. It can be traumatic. Some people hoard because they are afraid to throw away something that is useful. (There are other reasons, but I digress). Let’s get back to our average clutter.

If you are like most people, you could probably use a good cleanup, create more space, feel energized and actually breathe better.

As you declutter, you will also realize just how much you have and this leads to a feeling of abundance, which leads to gratitude, which leads to happiness. Apparently, the outer order creates inner calm.

I would love to have the feeling of inner calm that decluttering can provide.  My closets are all packed full of things that I no longer use or wear, my kitchen has too many ‘junk drawers’ and all of the rooms in my house (except the living room, we have people who visit that room, for crying out loud) have nice, neat, organized (at least that’s what I tell myself) piles of stuff that I have no idea what the contents are.

So, for the month of May, we will be decluttering our home.  I’ve enlisted the help of my husband, because it’s his junk too, after all.  I will take some before and after pictures of the areas that we work on.  I will also follow the advice of a professional organizer whose tips I read online:  I will save big, time-consuming projects for the weekends, and I will work on smaller ones for 30 minutes a day during the week.  I will work with 3 piles as I clean – throw away, give away, and keep.  And I will either throw away or give away the things that I have not used for over a year.

I feel excited and happy about getting started on this month’s healthy habit…let the decluttering begin!!

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Month of Kindness update:  April was the month that I decided to develop the habit of being kind to people throughout each day.  I found that how easy or hard it was to maintain the level of kindness that I wanted to was directly related to the mood I was in.  When I was in a good mood, being genuinely kind, whether it was just by smiling at stranger, bringing lunch to share with a friend, or making a birthday cake for a coworker, was easy.  Seeing the happiness and gratitude on other’s faces made me feel truly blessed.  On the days when I was not in such a great mood, being genuinely kind was harder.  I could still “appear” to be kind, but when my heart wasn’t in it, it felt more like an obligation than a blessing.  Still though, even when I wasn’t being completely honest about my motives (my month of kindness, as opposed to true, altruistic kindness), the responses that I received from others did make it worth it.  I just think that it’s better to be kind for the right reasons, instead of being kind because it’s the right thing to do.

One thing that I did notice about kindness this last month is that it’s contagious.  I found that often times, when I was kind to someone, I later saw them being kind to someone else – paying it forward.  I don’t think that it was a conscious thing, it seemed almost like perhaps people have just forgotten that it’s nice to show kindness, and once they saw it, they remembered.  I loved that.

Overall, I would say that my month of kindness was a success.  I liked what I saw, heard and felt during the month, so I plan to make this a habit that sticks!

Healthy Habit #4 – A Month of Kindness (and an update on Yoga)

 

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For 2014, I committed to starting some Healthy Habits.  So far, they have all been about me (there’s an alcoholic for you!), I’ve started daily prayer, meditation, and yoga.  But this month I am going to make my Healthy Habit about others.  I am going to practice kindness, each and every day.

Each month we have a student recognition assembly at the college where I work.  Besides giving out perfect attendance awards, and honor roll certificates, we have a short presentation on something that may be helpful to the students.  Last month, the topic of the short presentation was kindness.  A short video was shown about the power of kindness and how it benefits both the giver and the receiver.  That really got me to thinking so I did a little bit of research about the science of being kind.  I found that in addition to both of the parties involved in the acts of kindness, anyone that sees kindness in action also benefits.  I read this in an article in Psychology Today:

I have a friend who used to live in Pakistan, where he was an animal rights activist. One day, he was walking through his home city when he saw a crowd gathered around the stall of a bird seller. A man had bought some myna birds – a popular caged bird in Pakistan, because of their ability to mimic sounds – and was releasing them. One by one, he took them out of the cage, and let them fly free. In all, he bought 32 of the birds, just to set them free. 

My friend was amazed by this act of altruism, partly because – as he put it – ‘such acts of charity were not so common in my part of the world where people are not so kind to animals in general.’ But he was also amazed at his own reaction to the act. He was filled with a deep sense of peace. A strange quietness filled his surroundings, and he felt completely free of worry or anxiety. The sense of peace and joy remained with him for a few days, and, in his words, ‘I believe it is still there to some degree.’

Isn’t that awesome?  A simple act of kindness, and everybody wins!  It’s not just the man who bought the birds that gets to feel good for having done something kind, and it’s not just the birds that feel good flying free; everyone who was part of, or witness to the act, felt good.  I want to experience that.

So, my commitment for the month of April is to take opportunities to perform acts of kindness each day.  I’m not talking about just being nice to people, I think I already do that.  And I’m not talking about just giving gifts or things of monetary value.  I am talking about going out of my way to do something kind for someone every day.  I have a few ideas (not a whole month’s worth, though), but I am confident that the ideas I have will breed more as the month goes on.

My plan is to keep track of my acts of kindness as I journal each day, and I will report back to you all at the end of the month.

Be kind!

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Yoga Update:  Well, I wish I could say that my Healthy Habit for March was as successful as the first two of the year, but so far it hasn’t been.  I did well for the first couple of weeks, and I have to admit, I felt really great.  It seemed like my posture improved, I felt strong and healthy.  But then somewhere along the third week my yoga sessions became hit or miss.  Then, for the last week, whenever I said that I was going to do yoga, I seemed to find something else that was more important to do right at the moment.  Like sleep.  Or fold laundry.  Or read.  Ugh.

So yoga has not yet become a habit for me.  But I’m not giving up.  I did my yoga DVD tonight, and I am going to keep trying!

Healthy Habit #3 – Yoga

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March is here and that means it’s time for a new Healthy Habit.  This month I have decided that I am going to give yoga a try.  I have heard so many good things about it, but have never done it myself.  You’ve probably heard the same list of healthy benefits of yoga that I have:  increased flexibility, stronger muscles, less achy joints, stress relief, and more restful sleeping.  But I also read that yoga has some other benefits that I didn’t know about.  Practicing yoga can strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis.  It can also get your blood flowing and improve circulation, which, in turn, leads to a healthier heart and a decreased risk of heart attack.  Yoga can also aid in weight loss (woo hoo!!), and boost your immune system.

So yesterday, I went to Target and bought myself a DVD for yoga beginners.  Before I try any classes around other people (I’m 42, a little overweight, and terribly uncoordinated), and embarrass myself, I thought I better give it a try in my living room.  I’m going to give the DVD a test run as soon as I finish this post.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Meditation Update

For the month of February, I started meditation as my healthy habit.  I have still been meditating in the morning.  I have missed a few days throughout the month, but have been pretty successful in staying consistent.  I started with guided mindful meditation and I find that I really like it first thing in the morning.  I have tried to keep my morning a routine and that seems to work best for me.  When I first get up, I make coffee and sit and journal as I have my first cup.  When I finish writing, I go sit in my comfy green chair and meditate using the app I downloaded to my phone.  I started at 5 minutes and have moved up to 15, but on rushed mornings I go back to 5.  What I have noticed is that when I meditate, I feel calm and mindful.  I am able to be in the present without anxiety and fear.  I am more aware of my breathing and what my body is feeling. It’s an absolutely wonderful feeling, and I only wish that it would last all day.  As I continue to mediate, I don’t think that I need to add more time to my morning sessions, instead I think that meditating more times throughout the day will be even more beneficial.

I was concerned in the beginning about being able to turn my thoughts off, but I quickly learned that clearing one’s mind isn’t the point.  The point is to learn how to redirect unfavorable thoughts as they come up.  While the calm, mindful feeling doesn’t always last as long as I want it to, the redirecting my thoughts and concentrating on my breathing has stuck.  I have found myself on a number of days in stressful situations at work.  I have consciously redirected my thoughts about the situations by closing my eyes, breathing deeply and reminding myself that, in that moment, I am alright.  It works!

I have also been trying to incorporate metta meditation into my day.  One of my fellow bloggers over at Mished-Up, commented that she enjoys metta mediation, so I did some reading up on it and have been practicing it along with the guided meditation.  Metta meditation, or lovingkindness (isn’t that an awesome name for it?), is a type of mantra mediation where you repeat phrases of loving kindness out loud or to yourself, beginning with yourself and working outward to your family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, strangers…as far as you would like.   As I inhale, I use statements like:  May I be strong, May I be mindful, May I be well, May I be joyful.  And I as I exhale I focus on breathing out the opposite:  Gone is weakness, Gone is worry, Gone is illness, Gone is sadness.  And I continue outward with the other people in my life, wishing them the same things I wish for myself.  I really love this meditation.  It’s repetitive but I like that…so far the phrases have not become rote, and I truly feel each one as I say it.

So after a month of meditation, would I say that it’s a keeper?  I think it’s definitely something I want to explore more.  I see the benefits and I feel better when I do it.  I think that’s reason enough to do some more practicing, don’t you?

Healthy Habit #2 – A Month of Meditation

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The month of February brings Healthy Habit #2 – Meditation.  It seems that I’m not the only one that has decided to give meditation a try.  Kristen over at Bye Bye Beer is also working on meditation, and Lucy at Soberistas is posting some great information about mindful meditation.  I’m keeping my eye on both, to be sure.

I hear such great things about meditation in the rooms of AA.  Step 11 is, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”  The fact that it is right there in one of the 12 steps, tells me that meditation is both important and beneficial to the recovering alcoholic.  I have carefully and thoughtfully worked my way through the steps with my sponsor, but somehow, up until now, I have managed to leave the meditation piece out.  I feel like my conscious contact with God is continually improving through prayer, I am doing well sharing my thoughts, needs and thanks with God.  But I have heard so many times that meditation opens the door for God to speak to us, instead of the other way around.  I haven’t felt that yet.  So, I thought it was high time to give meditation a try.

Outside of the rooms of AA, meditation is practiced for a lot of reasons, stress-relief being the chief among them.  Meditation can help you to learn to be mindful and present in your everyday life; to simply be.  Some of the meditation websites that I visited also say that there can be physical and mental health benefits.  It can improve your focus, memory, self-control, academic performance, as well as improving metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure.

All of that makes it sound like meditation might just be the best thing since sliced bread!  I don’t mean to sound skeptical, but it sounds too good to be true.  All of that said, I am giving it a try (because I have been skeptical about a lot of things.  For example:  the grace of God, the power of prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, journaling as a form of self-awareness, taking medication for psychiatric issues…and I have been proven wrong on all of those!).

The first step in my search for peace and mindfulness was to decide which type of meditation I was going to try.  There are a bunch out there, and different things work for different people.  I decided to take a look at three different types, the ones that didn’t seem too far out there, for me.  First, there is guided meditation, in which you are assisted by a teacher or guide to talk you through your meditation, helping you to refocus as your mind drifts.  Second, is mindful meditation, which is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening around you as you let your thoughts flow, without judgement and without trying to shut them down.  And lastly, there is mantra meditation, in which you choose a calming word or phrase and repeat it over and over, either to yourself, or aloud, to prevent distracting thoughts from entering your mind.

To start with, I chose guided meditation. It seems like anything that has “guided”  in front of it is a good place to start.  I found a lot  of youtube videos that offered guided meditation, and I downloaded a couple of meditation apps to my phone.  Ultimately, I chose one of the apps to start with.  My decision was based solely on the way the guide’s voice sounded.  I picked the one that was the most soothing to me.  There are different lengths that I can set the app to, ranging from 3 – 30 minutes.  I started with 5.  Each morning, for the last nine days, I have gotten out of bed, made coffee, written in my journal and then sat down in my comfy wing-back chair to meditate.  I’m the only one up at that time, so I don’t have to worry about distractions, but I use my earbuds nonetheless.

I am, for 5 minutes, able to focus on what my guide is saying.  I can concentrate on what she asks me to, whether it is my breathing or how my body feels, or pushing distracting thoughts away.  It is relaxing, and mindful, and peaceful!  And the 5 minutes goes by very quickly (I think I am ready to up it to 10 minutes).  I also have to admit that there is a feeling of calm that stays with me for a little while after I am finished.  I also feel a sense of quiet focus…not like I am having to work at it, but rather my mind feels comfortable focusing on whatever task is at hand.  My mornings have been like that for the past few days, but somewhere during the day, I lose that peaceful feeling.  I thought that perhaps that meant that I should try adding another meditation session somewhere in the middle of the day.  However, both days that I tried that, I ended up falling asleep.  Ah, progress, not perfection!

I will keep meditating and I will try the other two methods, and let you know how it goes.

Namaste   😉

Making Prayer a Habit – Healthy Habit #1

February is here, so it is time for me to give you all an update on Healthy Habit #1 – Prayer.  As I wrote in my last post, I made a commitment to praying out loud each morning with my husband using our prayer beads.  My hope was that our daily prayer would become a habit and that we would continue to grow in God, and closer to one another.  I started off by doing some research about the benefits of couples praying together and I was immediately happy with the healthy habit that I chose.  Here are some things I found out:

  • Prayer Unites Couples.  Praying with your spouse provides spiritual unity through God, and spiritual unity is a tie that binds us to one another and is not easily broken.
  • Prayer Promotes Emotional Intimacy.  When couples pray together, they are not only inviting communication with God, but also with one another.
  • Prayer Keeps You Humbled.  Praying together is a humbling experience.  It’s easy to be humble before God when we pray on our own, but being able to ask for help, or strength, or mercy while praying together requires humility and vulnerability.
  • Prayer Gives Hope.  When your hearts are in unity with God’s good and perfect will, then your prayers will always be answered.  Regardless of you actually getting what you prayed for.

After reading these things, I was all in, and, after a month of daily prayer, I have to say that I experienced all of those things.  My husband and I have a very strong, fulfilling, happy marriage.  That said, I did (do) experience a stronger sense of unity and humility when we pray together.  The act of sitting together, heads bowed, eyes closed, approaching God as one instead of individually, was extremely intimate.  Talking about what we wanted to pray about extemporaneously before getting started was definitely an act of humility.  Being able to tell one another, “here is what I need help with today,” or, “I need to pray about (fill in the blank), because I am really struggling,”  is much more difficult than baring our souls to God on our own.  All in all, it has been a beautiful experience…one of growing in God together.

Another benefit that I have found is that when we pray together, we remember to pray for others.  I’ve heard it said that the biggest lie that comes from Christians is, “I’ll pray for you.”  I have said it before myself, and then forgotten, or just thrown up a few words to God in passing.  This month, whenever I said that phrase to someone, I was able to keep my word because Austin and I talked about who and what we were going to pray for beforehand.  The prayers were more thoughtful and thorough than they would have been otherwise.  That’s a blessing, for sure.

As far as it becoming a new, healthy habit…it has!  I don’t know how the experts judge whether or not a behavior has become a habit, but I think that once something is truly a habit, you will feel it’s absence when you don’t do it.  For example, I am in the habit of getting to work earlier than I have to be each work day.  On days when, for one reason or another, I have to get to work at my actual scheduled time, I feel like my whole day has been thrown off.  It’s like forgetting to kiss my husband good-bye in the morning.  Not doing it doesn’t ruin the day, but it makes the day (or morning, at least) feel like something’s missing.  That’s how I felt on the few days that we didn’t get to pray in the morning.  I think that there were four days that we didn’t pray together before work.  On a couple of those days we did end up doing our prayers later in the day, but on a couple, we didn’t.  One day in particular I remember that we didn’t have time in the morning (I overslept but still had to be at work an hour before I was scheduled…I know, I have issues), and all day long I thought “we need to do our prayers,”  but the evening came and we just didn’t get to it.  I felt the lack.  I felt like something was missing.  I was so happy the next morning when Austin said, “are you ready to pray?”

I am going to call Healthy Habit #1 a success.  We are going to continue to pray together every morning, using our prayer beads, and growing closer to each other and to God.

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Healthy Habit #2 – A Month of Meditation  

I’m going to need your help on this one.  I haven’t really ever had any success with meditation, but I’m going to give it another go.  I started this morning and will post about it in the next couple of days.  In the meantime, I would love to hear from any of you that find meditation helpful.

Healthy Habit #1 – A Month of Prayer

In my last post I talked about starting new, healthy habits instead of making new year’s resolutions that I knew I would not keep.  I realized that adding healthy habits into my life would take a change of perspective about the whole clean-slate, positive-change thinking that comes along every January 1st, because when it comes to setting rules for myself, I don’t often succeed.  My thought was that if I changed my way of thinking, and made my new habit a positive, healthy addition to my daily routine, it would be more likely to stick.

So here we are a little over half way through January and I wanted to give you all an update on the new habit that I am working on.  For the month of January, I committed to praying out loud each day with my husband.  It’s not something that we do together very often, aside from before meals; but we both pray often on our own.  My relationship with God has grown so much over the last couple of years, and my faith has increased.  I frequently have conversations with God in my head, and feel like I am continually improving my conscious contact with Him (AA’s 11th step).  Before this month, my prayers were usually one of two things:  I was either giving something over to God that I knew I couldn’t handle on my own, or I was thanking Him for His grace and mercy.  I know that these two things are good, and necessary.  But could I do more to glorify God and bring me even closer to Him and to my husband?  I thought so.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I made some prayer beads.  He was the brains behind the design, and I was the manufacturer.  The idea was to use them to teach people (me, really) how to pray.  Austin put together some carefully chosen scripture that briefly but thoroughly takes us through the gospel as we go through the beads one-by-one.  There is time for extemporaneous prayer, and even the serenity prayer is included.  The whole thing takes about ten minutes.  Here is the set of prayer beads that I made for myself:

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If you are interested, what we pray is at the bottom of this post.

I love the progression through the gospel in the five small prayer beads and the four larger promise beads.  The five smaller beads, which we repeat five times, remind me that don’t have to work for God’s love, I have what is needed, a broken and a contrite heart.  I love the  progression from “God, have mercy upon me, a sinner,” to “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”  It is at first as though we are asking for something we know we don’t deserve (we don’t), but then we progress to using God’s name (Lord is the English translation for His Hebrew name – Yahweh) and saying, I have faith, but please help me to strengthen it.  At the fourth small prayer bead, the prayer changes to praying for “us” with the  Kyrie Eleison, our mindset changes from help me, to help us all.   And then, finally, we get to glorify God in the throne room with angels and saints, as children of God.  That last bead never ceases to remind me who I am, and the ones preceding it never cease to remind me who I was.  I came as a beggar and became an unconditionally loved daughter.

The four larger promise beads also progress through the gospel.  They start with Jesus’ invitation to us to stop trying to do everything on our own.  We can turn everything over to Him, and instead take His yoke upon us.  What a lightened load!  Then we move to the confession of our sins and the forgiveness that doing so offers.  There is such freedom in that.  We no longer have to be a slave to guilt and shame.  We are forgiven.  The third bead reminds us that we can have confidence that everything according to God’s will is perfect and right.  All things will work together for good if we just turn around and trust God.  That’s it, just turn around and trust Him.  And with the final promise bead, we get to rejoice because the Lord is at hand!  What could be better?!?

The extemporaneous prayer follows.  Austin always does this prayer, but we talk about it beforehand so we don’t leave anything out.  I love the way he prays and I love that he has the words to express just what I feel.  First, we express gratitude for all that God has brought us through, all the joy and peace that He has filled our hearts with, and for His unconditional love.  Then we ask for the things we need.  We pray for our families and friends that are struggling and we pray for ourselves.  We ask for the knowledge of God’s will and the desire to live it.  We ask for the grace that we already know God gives us.  And then, lastly, we express our thanks that we can be confident that God will provide for us, as he has always done in the past.

I haven’t really written posts like this in the past.  I often discount my attempts at anything theological or biblical, because I consider myself a “baby Christian,” since I came to Christianity late in life, and I don’t feel knowledgeable enough about it.  But I do feel confident in these prayers that I have been saying aloud every day for 19 days.  I am reminded every single morning that I am valued, I have a perfect Parent, and that I am not alone.  I am reminded of the big picture every morning.  I don’t have to can’t do everything on my own, but that’s okay, because God can.

I feel like January is having a profound effect on me.  The act of sitting and praying with my husband, going through our homemade prayer beads and reciting scripture, has already made an impact.  I find that I am much less anxious and more mindful throughout the day.  I can almost immediately change my focus when it drifts to the negative, by simply remembering my prayers from the morning.  I can take my beads out of my purse and hold them or set them on my desk as a reminder of the promises that God has made.  I can rest in the knowledge that I’m never alone.

I’m going to update you all on the habit-making part of all of this as the end of the month gets closer, and I will let you know what my plans for February are.

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Prayer Beads

Begin with the Cross:  Gloria Patri

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

Three initiatory beads:

1.God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

2. The Courage to change the things I can;

3.  And the Wisdom to know the difference.  Amen.

Five prayer beads:

1. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.  A broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:17)

2. God have mercy upon me, a sinner. (Lk 18:13)

3. Lord I believe, help my unbelief.  (Mk 9:24)

4.  Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.

5. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.  Glory be to Thee, O Lord Most High.  Amen.

Four promise beads

1. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  (Mt 11:28-30)

2.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 Jn 1:8-9)

3. We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  (Rom 8:28)

4.  Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.  (Phil 4:4-5)

Three concluding beads:  Extemporary Prayers

Following this pattern:  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds trough Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 4:6-7)

1. Gratitude  (prayer)

2. Petition  (supplication)

3.  Confidence  (thanksgiving)

Meditate on the crucifix:

1. Crucifix side:  Meditate on Christ who proceeds us into suffering.  “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Rom 7:24-25a)

2. Cross side:  Meditate on Christ who proceeds us into victory.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”  (Rom 8:1a)

Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

 

 

 

Getting better and better

be-better

I am not good with resolutions.  I don’t think that I have ever (ever!) made one that I have kept.  So, for the last few years, I haven’t made any.  There was really no point, I knew that I wouldn’t keep them.  It always felt like too many rules, and, as an alcoholic, it turns out I’m not so great with rules.  Plus, it always seemed to me that resolutions were borne out of negativity.  They were often promises to stop doing things that were bad – stop drinking, stop smoking, stop eating like a big fat hog, stop being a couch potato.  I don’t know about you, but as soon as I feel like I can’t do something that I like, the desire to do it increases to the point of obsession in no time flat.  So clearly, the typical resolutions that people make don’t really work for me.

One thing that I have learned over the past couple of years in recovery is that most negative things (feelings about others, feelings about oneself, regrets, outlook on life) need only a change in perspective to become positive.  I can’t even begin to tell you all of the horrible things that I did when I was drinking.  It is so easy for me to go to a place of self-loathing and self-pity when I think about the regrets that I have.  It can turn me into an isolating lump of self-hatred in a heartbeat.  But I am learning to view those things differently.  When I think about my drinking days, and the regrets start to surface, I tell myself the truth – I would not be where I am today, had I not done those things.  I would never have met my husband, I would never have learned to live life free of alcohol, I would never have become the loving, self-aware woman who I am today, and I would never have found the unconditional love and grace of God.  That switch in my way of thinking has been life changing.  The past didn’t change, the things that I did were not undone, but my view of them is different.  One of the 9th step promises says, “we will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”  A change in perspective makes that promise come true.

I had been thinking about all of this as 2013 came to a close.  I wondered if my new perspectives could help me do the things that resolutions are meant to do – improve oneself physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  Maybe it was time to set some goals and commit myself to stopping the unhealthy things that I still do (at least booze is out of the picture today!).  But I needed a change in perspective.  Deprivation and rule keeping are not things that work for me, so I had to come up with a different approach.  It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, if instead of trying to break negative habits, I started to incorporate new, healthy habits, it just might work.

I started off my new plan as any modern person would, I googled it.  I found a lot of information about the nature of habits (good and bad), and even more about what has worked for other people when it comes to making healthy habits stick.  Here are the highlights of what I learned:

1. Make a commitment.  Contrary to a lot of what we have heard about habits taking a certain amount time to form (21 days is what I always heard), there really is no time frame for making a habit automatic.  But there is research that shows that making a commitment to try something new for a specific amount of time, and really doing it, improves the outcome.  This makes me think of Belle’s 100-day Sober Challenge.  It’s an attainable goal, with a specific time frame; and from what I see on her blog, it often leads to another 100 days, and another…a beautiful, healthy new habit.

2. Do it daily.  Consistency is the key.  Doing something a few times a week instead of daily makes it harder to lock in as a new behavior.

3. Start simple.  One article that I read talked about starting the healthy habit of running.  As the future runner sought help for ways to move from sedentary to marathoner, a psychologist told her to start off by getting up each morning and putting on her running shoes.  That’s it.  No running whatsoever until just putting on the shoes became automatic.  I’m not sure about that  theory, although it did work for the person who wrote the article, but I do like the idea of keeping it simple.  I tend to want to jump in with both feet, have instant results, and feel great about myself the first time I try something.  When I don’t get what I want immediately, I quit.  So starting simple and taking small, but specific steps, makes sense to me.

4. Form a trigger.  All of us alcoholics understand the word trigger!  Here again, I had to have a change in perspective – having a trigger doesn’t have to be a negative thing.  If we take something that we already are in the habit of doing, and add our new healthy behavior immediately following it, we have created a trigger that will help us make our new behavior automatic.  For example, I am not in the habit of taking my make-up off before I go to bed (I know, gross), but I am in the habit of brushing my teeth.  So, presumably, if I use brushing my teeth as a trigger for taking off my make-up, it’s more likely that I will do it, stick to it, and make it a habit.

5. Journal your progress.  This is important because there will be times that we just don’t feel like doing our healthy habit.  I, for one, know just how easy it is to fall back into old, comfortable behaviors even when it’s not good for me.  Having something concrete that you can look back on to recall your successes will help with motivation in the future.  I sometimes look back at my journal to remember how far I have come in my recovery.  It helps, it encourages, it works.

There are a bunch of other suggestions that I read about, but these are the ones that really hit home for me.  These are the things that I am keeping in mind as I set out to build healthy habits.

I’ve decided to give this healthy habit thing a try.  I am committing to add one new, healthy behavior each month for the year.  I know that my results won’t be 100%, but even if one month’s habit sticks, I will see it as progress.  I will also learn what works for me, how I can improve myself physically, spiritually and emotionally.

As it’s the 12th of the month, I have already been working on my first month’s new habit: daily prayer aloud with my husband.  I’ve had some really great results from doing so already and I am excited to share them with you in my next post….