I came home from a gig on Sunday night feeling dark and just plain sad.
I have recently become single and, this being a new development, I haven’t had enough trial and error in this place to understand how to navigate it successfully.
So, instead of concentrating on putting on the best three-hour show I possibly could, I kind of phoned it in, as they say. Now this by itself is no great sin. I play a lot of gigs, and even when I am not fully present, I am still somewhat pleasant to listen to.
But this time, I had also embarrassed myself by coming across too smarmy with the female bartender and too desperate to the manager when I was asking about said bartender.
I ruminated over my poor behavior on my drive home and I admonished myself for being a person I couldn’t even relate to. Then I reproached myself for being my own worst enemy. Good paying music gigs are not only difficult to acquire, they’re very easy to lose. There always seems to be someone waiting in the wings with a guitar who’d gladly take your place and for less money than you charge.
I wound up going to bed feeling terrible.
When I woke up in the morning, I headed for the coffee pot, once again replaying this horrid movie in my head. I followed that with a mental checklist of all the damage I may have caused my standing in the local music community and I began to project about how my life was likely going to change. This was all before I’d poured the soy creamer.
I sat down and quieted my thoughts. I read a meditation that centered me, and I remembered the tools that I employed the last time I felt this awful:
The Scrambling Technique
Instead of playing the same movie over and over in our collective heads and progressively feeling worse and worse, try this exercise:
First, sit up and take a deep breath. Now, play the movie in its original form (you know, the one that is making you feel horrible). Then, change all the colors. I imagined myself with a blue face asking a green manager about the bartender. Then I sped the scene up to Benny Hill velocity. Then I gave myself a chipmunk voice. Then I added carnival calliope music and continued to make the film sillier and sillier. The more I looped it, the stranger and more whacked out I allowed it to become.
This is a tried and true neuro-linguistic programming exercise. The reason this works so effectively is because all of our emotions are predicated entirely upon the images we see over and over in our heads.
Change the images into something comedic, and your brain has no choice but to stop assigning them so much importance. Not only that, but it will be next to impossible to ruminate over it again without giggling a little when you see yourself with a blue face acting desperately and talking with a chipmunk voice.
Make A Gratitude List
I can understand that when things really bring us down, it can be difficult to wrap our heads around gratitude. The idea is to start with something basic.
I am not on fire. I am not in prison. I do not have a soul-searing toothache at the moment.
You don’t have to use my examples, but you get the point. Staying in a state of mindful gratitude has been proven to substantially improve one’s quality of life, boost the immune system, and even help with deeper and better sleep.
Move A Muscle, Change A Thought
There is nothing that will make depression worse than the television, the laptop, or the iPhone. Leave it all behind and get outside for a walk, a hike, or a bike ride. When I do this, it helps me to understand that we are not alive forever and we need to soak in all the peace, beauty, and kindness we can get our hands on.
I put this into practice myself and felt so much better breathing the outside air. The universe also saw fit to provide me with three or four people I passed along the way who beamed wonderful smiles right at me, as if to say, “Stop beating yourself up. You’re okay with us.” It felt magnificent.
We all, at one time or another, have a bad day, use poor judgement, or slip into behaviors that don’t serve us or the people around us that well.
This is not only reality, it’s almost to be expected.
We need to be mindful of the fact that we are nothing more than the sum total of our thoughts. As the guru Wayne Dyer used to say, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Good thoughts will net us a good life. There’s always going to be times when you wake up “on the wrong side of the bed.” It’s wholly in your power to not carry it around longer than need be.
Author: Billy Manas
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Supervising Editor 1: Leah Sugerman
Supervising Editor 2: Callie Rushton