When sitting on the sofa, eating crappy food and feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t improve your mood, it’s time to take a different approach to attitude adjusting.
I have just come off a week-long gloom binge. I wasn’t feeling well at all. My work wasn’t satisfying, my home life irritated me, exercise was an unattainable motivation and food…well…if it wasn’t made from sugar or high levels of sodium, I wasn’t interested.
As a sensitive and moody artist who is prone to anxiety and depression, it can be hard at times to pull myself from the depths of my own head. Once I’m there, the darkness can wrap around me like a blanket which, oddly enough, can feel rather comforting. Instead of craving things that would improve the situation, I hunker down, binge on television, cry in the shower, eat ice cream for dinner and procrastinate doing anything that could possibly be good for me. It affects my productivity in EVERYTHING.
Last week, while in the midst of a down-swing, I continued working on a painting and although I worked on it every day, I didn’t make much progress. That is kind of indicative of how my mood affects my day-to-day. When I’m in a negative head space, everything seems to take longer and my actions don’t seem as productive as I know they can be. It’s like everything is done in vain which depresses me even more…OH THE DRAMA OF IT ALL!
It seemed like every "big" change I made to this painting made no difference at all.
On Friday, after my 12th biscotti, 7th grilled cheese sandwich and 4th failed attempt to get to the gym, I had to do something. I chose to take the same attitude towards my day-to-day that I take when I’m stuck on a painting. JUST DO ANYTHING. Seriously. The more different, the better.
Just as in abstract painting, contrast can also be the solution to depressive moods. Trying something opposite to instinct can help.
I decided to approve my teenage daughter’s proposed 8-person sleepover. I know what you’re thinking: “WTF?! You’re fighting the doldrums by inviting a slew of crazed teenagers over?!” Yes, that’s exactly what I did. To justify this decision to my melancholia, I told myself that I would now have the weekend to finish cracking out on crappy food, as that is what the human teenager consumes at a sleepover.
What I was hoping is that all of these fresh faced, energetic, silly-as-hell children running around my house would totally obliterate the misery problem at hand. You try being stuck in a funk on a Saturday night when girls are being dragged across the floor laughing hysterically, sporadic dance parties are popping up on your front lawn and THIS is standing in your kitchen:
The point is that it got me out of my spin cycle. I woke up in my van Sunday morning (yes, I gave up the comfort of my house to the juveniles for the night) and joyfully cooked pancakes and scrambled eggs for a mess of youngsters. I found it amusing (instead of frustrating) when an iphone was found under one of our cars, when I realized that two entire jars of pickles were eaten by one 90-pound girl (ew) and when I was repeatedly asked for something to eat while I was in the middle of cooking a meal.
As it turns out, my Mother was right…it really is important to get outside and play on a beautiful day.
That afternoon, I got outside for the first time in a week and gardened (another one of those activities that is so hard for me to start, yet feels so good when finished). Monday, I woke up and rocked that painting, continuing on in a completely different direction from where I started. I had been painting in a pretty dark pallet so I took a light blue and painted over about 85% of my painting.
When in doubt, just do anything.
After a brief panic attack, (and another biscotti) I took the canvas outside and started sanding the paint down. Layers of texture and color slowly emerged through the light blue, creating a dreamy, twisted, complicated junglescape. Out emerged something I never could have planned or imagined and it was beautiful.
When I needed a break from that, I got on my bike and hauled ass on the bike path for about an hour. In that time, I was able to release most of the remaining dark cloud that I had been dragging around. It was really hard to pay attention to the blahs when I chose to engage with the outdoors for a minute. It’s Spring, Moody Artist! For Pete’s sake, go outside and play!
Today is Tuesday and I still feel my bad mood hiding out and waiting for an opening to creep back in. But instead of engaging with it, I’ve decided to write about the ridiculousness of it all. After lunch, I will incorporate some darks back into this painting and then I’m going mountain biking.
Detail of the painting after working a dark blue back in. Sometimes you just have to keep doing the opposite thing until you land where it all comes together.
The only constant mood is the changing one
We all go through ups and downs. If I’ve learned anything in my 40 years being human, it’s that there is no such thing as an endless good or bad mood. They are all temporary and part of a much bigger picture. It’s where we choose to focus that’s important. I’m always amazed when a once huge problem doesn’t seem quite so big when I don’t stop and stare at it. I mean, it’s Spring in Southern Oregon…I’d much rather stop and stare at the wild flowers.
Sometimes, it seems such an easier choice to curl up on the sofa and continue on with the pity party but right now I have to take the 180 degree turn that will get the spark back into my eyes and the motivation back into my hands. If I choose to remain stuck in my mood, that’s all I’ll be…stuck. Just like with my painting, I have to take action and I can’t wait to think of the “perfect” solution. Just shake it up! Throw caution to the wind, paint onto the canvas, and when in doubt, and if it’s available to you, laugh with a bunch of goofy kids (I hear puppies work too).
It's impossible to be stuck in the doldrums when there are goofy selfies to be taken with adorable 4-year-olds.
When you feel stagnation set in, what do you do to get unstuck? Let me know in the comments below. Goodness knows I need all the strategies that I can get!
Painting at top is Blue Music, 36x36, Paper, Acrylic and Watercolor Crayon on Canvas
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