The Low Mood Survival Guide

The Low Mood Survival Guide

If you’re anything like me, or anything like any other human being who’s ever lived, you’ve likely asked yourself this question:

What do I/can I/should I do when I feel like shit?

At some point or another, everyone has asked this of themselves (or others) and I get asked this (and ask myself this) all the time. 

So today I’m going to share what I know to be true about low moods in the hope that we can see more about that question.

I know that fortunately low moods are temporary. Temporary does not mean we won’t have bad days, but it does mean we don’t need to resign ourselves to having bad lives.

It’s a law of nature that everything that comes up, must come down. Everything that ebbs must flow. Thought, the thing responsible for our feeling like shit, is constantly in motion, always moving and changing.

There’s a consistency to the flow of thought that we can take comfort in and come to rely on.

No matter how long it takes for the sun to come out, both literally and metaphorically, it eventually always does.

I know that low moods feel awful. No one likes to feel like shit. We are peaceful, loving, connected, well and wise by default. 

So when we feel angry, fearful, isolated, broken and confused, it feels like shit.

That awful feeling is designed to feel awful so we can all intuit our true nature, who we really are, is not that, but it still feels awful and it still sucks when we’re in the thick of it.

I know that low moods are a highly distorted state of mind.

Meaning that what looks and feels absolutely real to us in that state of mind, is actually not at all accurate or reliable. It feels like it is, but it isn’t. 

Knowing (or even just being willing to consider) that this is true allows us to take our perceptions a little (or a lot) less seriously.

I know that low moods are something that every single human being experiences. Everyone. No exceptions. 

Realizing that truth allows me to have compassion for others and for myself because no one is immune, it’s not pleasant, and we’ve all been there recently or are there now.

I know that in low moods we’re all doing the best we can. Sometimes we’ll do things we wish we didn’t do, but that’s okay. We’re all human, we’re all trying our best given how life looks to us in that moment.

That view, fortunately, is also always changing but in the meantime we can let our best be good enough and know we have limitless opportunities for it to be different next time.

I know there is no one “right way” to move gracefully through low moods.

Sometimes grace looks like having a good cry, stretching it out on my yoga mat and taking a hot shower.

Sometimes grace is reaching out to a loved one, sometimes it’s distracting myself for a good long while, sometimes it’s baking peanut butter cookies and watching The Office.

There are literally infinite ways we can move gracefully through low moods. It’s never in the what, it’s in knowing we can be kind and gentle with ourselves when we’re not feeling our best.

Is there a right way? No, there’s only what’s right for you, right now, in this moment.

So if you’re feeling like shit, there’s one last thing I want you to know.

Yes I want you to know all the above: that it’s temporary, that you’re guaranteed to eventually feel better, that I understand how awful it feels, that fortunately it’s a distorted view of reality, that compassion is always available for us and others, that we’re doing the best we can, that everyone else has been there and there’s no right way to move through it with grace… but I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Nothing is ever wrong with you.

You are just as perfect, whole, complete, healthy, wise, well and peaceful as you’ve always been, even if you can’t feel the truth of that in this moment.

Nothing can take away your essence.

Nothing can alter your true nature.

So the low mood survival guide comes down to simply this: you always are okay, even when you don’t feel okay, and it’s okay that you don’t always feel okay and you’re free to do whatever helps you remember that you’re okay, always.

With all my love,

Shannon

On Thought

Today I wanted to share with you an excerpt from my new book True Nature Series: Anxiety.

Enjoy!

“Thought is the creative energy we’re all connected to that flows through our minds and allows us to have a human experience. This energy takes many different forms and its form is always changing.

Everything from the most fantastic ground-breaking discoveries to the most insecure nightmarish fantasies are simply different forms of this energy.

It’s an impersonal force that is infinitely creative, generative and imaginative.

Sometimes thought takes the form of anxious thinking. Sometimes thought takes the form of depressed thinking.

Sometimes thought takes the form of grateful thinking. Sometimes thought takes the form of curious thinking. It can and will take unlimited forms.

No matter what form it takes in any given moment, it never stops being a creative energy that flows into all of us, that gives us ideas, images, feelings, perceptions, emotions, concepts, structures and most importantly, an experience of being alive.

Without thought, there would be no experience of anything at all.

At its core it’s simply a force, an impersonal energy, that takes a momentary form in our awareness before changing form.

In my first book True Nature: An Exploration of Being Human (2018) I used the metaphor of colours flowing through us, with different colours creating different momentary experiences for us.

I also spoke about thought like waves, how every wave comes from the ocean, crashes on the shore and returns back to the ocean from whence it came.

Thought is universal in that every single human being operates the same way.

We all get a temporary, unique experience of this universal, impersonal energy. So even though every human being has experienced anxious thought, when it’s our anxious thinking, colouring our lives, our futures, our pasts, our relationships and ourselves it appears – but in truth isn’t – very personal, very unique and very problematic.

The fact that the system works the same in everyone shows us that in truth it’s completely impersonal, not at all unique, and not problematic in the slightest.

You’re about to see more about what’s behind that illusion, and learn about the trick we’re all falling for everyday…

On It’s All Good

Sometimes, it feels like it’s all good and all is well. We feel calm and contented, peaceful and joyful, loving and connected, and just generally well.

We love feeling like this. Universally, everyone knows what this feels like, we all enjoy it, and we all strive to get back there when we’re not feeling it.

But it’s easy to misunderstand what we’re feeling. Often, it looks like we’re feeling life “going our way”.

It looks like we feel good because the person we want to spend time with also wants to spend time with us. It looks like we feel joyful because we got that promotion. It looks like we feel peaceful because it’s a sunny Saturday. It looks like we feel love because we found the right person to love us.

And so we attribute all those good feelings to things outside of us: our circumstances, environment, and other people. We feel great and automatically scan our lives for the reason for that great feeling.

Oh it must be the sun! The recognition! The lovely person! The day off!

When it truth, we feel good because we naturally, by default, ARE well-being.

When we’re feeling good we’re simply feeling our default natural state without the interference of thought. That’s it.

We think it’s the sun but really it’s the lack of critical thinking about the weather.

We think it’s that special person but really it’s any human we’re in the moment with when we’re not listening to our insecure, self-conscious thinking.

We think it’s the day off but really it’s just lack of thinking about the work week, our to-do lists and our perceived responsibilities.

When we have less on our minds, we all, universally, consistently, feel like all is well. We feel contented, we feel peaceful, we feel connected and all is good.

It’s true that we’re not always going to have little to nothing on our minds. All humans feel busy, sped up, caught up and stressed from time to time.

But that experience is always moving, always ebbing and flowing if we let it move through us.

When we’re not trying to fight it, fix it or control it, it just leaves on it’s own accord and we’re right back to having not much on our minds and feeling great.

So if you don’t feel that all is well, that’s okay. Give the system a minute or two to reset. Don’t try to do anything with your thinking, don’t listen to it, don’t take it seriously, don’t engage with it.

The minute it’s allowed to come and go as it’s designed, it reveals what’s always just underneath it: love, peace, connection, contentedness, joy and well-being.

And then, once again, it’s all good.

On Getting Out Of The Way

How do I grow sunflowers?

My friend and I recently planted a whole packet of sunflower seeds in her front garden because they’re our favourite flower.

I know that if I want sunflowers to grow in that specific patch of dirt, it’s helpful to plant seeds there. I also know that they need water and sunlight (both of which nature provides) in order for them to grow.

But how do I grow sunflowers?

Well the truth is, I don’t. Or more accurately, I can’t. Sunflower seeds turn into sunflowers because there’s a bigger energy, a life force, a universal intelligence, that takes care of it.

It’s simply not up to me. Since it’s in the cards for sunflower seeds to become sunflowers that will happen naturally, barring any interference in the system.

We work the same way. By nature, we are creativity, well-being, love, wisdom and peace of mind.

By design we are operated by the same life force that knows how to grow sunflowers. It also knows how to create kittens, heal wounds, digest our breakfast and run millions, perhaps billions, of other processes.

Essentially, it takes care of us. It runs us,  balances us, and can do the heavy lifting such that I never have to work out how to beat my heart… and yet it continues to beat.

The only thing that gets in the way of sunflowers expressing their true nature, or us expressing our true nature, is that occaisionally there’s temporary interference in the system.

Sometimes the land is too hot and dry, sometimes it’s too cold and wet, and the sunflowers have a hard time blooming. Sometimes we get lost in our stories, caught up in our beliefs and led astray by our personal thinking, and we don’t feel in touch with our true nature either.

Yet knowing what’s the default, and what’s simply sometimes in the way of the default, is immensely helpful.

When I need a new solution, a creative idea, a fresh perspective, a reminder of what’s available to me, a new thought, a feeling of connection, a sense of love, or a feeling of peace, I take comfort in knowing that’s the default.

I know the questions: How do I get peace of mind? How do I work out this problem? How do I feel love for this person? How do I feel well? is akin to the question I posed at the start of this post: How do I grow sunflowers?

I, with my human will, can’t. But fortunately I don’t have to, because it’s built-in to the system.

I live an easier, simpler life knowing that an inevitable fact of being human is that I, same as you, have well-being, wisdom and peace of mind as the factory settings.

And I also benefit immensely from understanding that when I’m feeling stuck, low, anxious, unwell, unclear, unbalanced, or anything else that doesn’t feel like home, that I’m simply experiencing some temporary static in the system that will clear out quickest when I leave my mind alone.

Where we so innocently get in our own way is we try to do something with what we think and how we feel. Instead of leaving the mind alone to self-correct we dive into the static and try to mess with it, not realising that the static is designed to clear out and return the signal to full strength.

If you’re not feeling love and connection, let your mind settle.

If you’re not feeling creative and resourceful, let your mind settle.

If you’re not feeling calm and contented, let your mind settle.

If you’re not feeling clear and wise, let your mind settle.

There’s nothing you need to do to get to these states, they are the default. 

When we’re not indulging the static it fades into the background effortlessly.

If you want to grow a sunflower, plant the seed and let nature take care of the rest. If you want to feel your true nature, plant the seed of understanding that there’s nothing you have to do to get yourself back there, and let nature take care of the rest.

On The Waves of Thought

Today I wanted to share another chapter from my book True Nature: An Exploration of Being Human in honour of recently releasing the True Nature Companion Course, enjoy!

GO WITH THE FLOW

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” Rumi

Thought and feeling come through us like waves on a shore. An ocean wave forms and then returns to the ocean, ready for the next wave to take form. Every thought/feeling wave we’ve ever had has come through our system, created a full sensory experience and then returned from whence it came.

This is why we’re not stuck in the same feelings we felt as kids. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had a moment where I truly believed that I would be stuck in a feeling forever, but time has proved that’s simply not possible.

Thought is always moving, always changing and always flowing, even when it’s not different enough to catch our attention.

Our brains are really efficient machines which tend to categorize similar feelings into one mood. So even while we’re in a bad mood, we’re still having hundreds of different thoughts, all with their corresponding feelings.

Once we’ve labelled it as ‘bad day’ we notice all the thoughts and feelings that support that, while ignoring or dismissing the outliers. The subtle nuances tend to get blurred together by the lens of how we’re seeing life in the moment.

The ocean of thought keeps making waves: temporary forms that crash on the shore, give us an experience, and leave. They’re random, unpredictable and impersonal.

Even on our worst days, days full of panic attacks, crippling not-leaving-my-bed depression, tough illness, or unexpected injury, there’s still variance from one moment to the next. There’s still flow, even if it’s not to the degree that we wish.

Even when it goes unnoticed, even when we label it away, there is still thousands of times a day where the energy of thought comes through us like waves on a beach.

It begins in the formless, takes a form, gives us the ensuing experience, and returns to the formless to make way for the next wave of experience.

This dance of energy is a universal constant, we don’t know what will show up next but we know something will. The content can be anything we could ever imagine, as it’s fully creative, pure potential.

Yet whether the next wave is an anxious sensation, a surprised reaction, a joyous thought, tears of gratitude, a pang of hunger, nostalgia, despair or absolute enchantment, anything and everything comes to us as waves from this eternal ocean.

The same energy that powers the tides, waves and ocean currents of physical bodies of water also powers our human experience. The details are always changing yet the underlying principle is a constant.

I find it so comforting to know that we have infinite waves ahead of us bringing us fresh thinking and new feeling, ultimately recreating our lives from the inside-out.

 

p.s. if listening is more your thing you can check out the audiobook here

 

On The Future Is An Incomplete Equation

As humans it’s far too easy to fall into the mistake of thinking a) that we know how things should turn out and b) that it’s up to us to make that happen.

Lately I’ve noticed myself falling back into that trap. The trap of “it really is in my best interests if x were to happen” followed by a whole load of thinking “now how can I make sure that that happens?”

To be honest, it was making me positively neurotic and frankly no fun to be around.

Because very little is in our control. Very little is up to us. 

And yet, we walk around in these bodies, with these thoughts and feelings, with these hopes and dreams, with these fears and dilemmas, with these expectations and projections, and we think the responsibility for our future well-being is on our shoulders.

It’s a heavy burden to bear. Thankfully, it’s not necessary.

The future is an incomplete equation is a line I first heard from Dr Keith Blevens and I really got what he was pointing to.

Not only do we not know what’s going to happen in the physical world (injury, illness, death of a loved one, bankrupty, breakups, the list is endless) but we also don’t know what our experience of anything will be in any given moment.

Our experience is a result of how the energy of thought shows up in us in the moment. We can’t predict the thoughts we’ll think, the feelings we’ll feel, the sensations we’ll experience, the great ideas that’ll arise, the sense of knowing we’ll have in our gut and so much more.

We can’t predict any of it. There’s too many moving parts, too many pieces of the puzzle constantly rearranging that it’s impossible to know what the future holds, even when (and I would argue especially when) we think we have it figured out.

And because experience is something that occurs, arises, comes into form, shows up, appears… does it really make sense to think it’s something we can control, manipulate, have power over, force, or make happen?

The idea of not having control scares the living daylights out of us. It makes us feel vulnerable, unprotected, and at the mercy of life.

But while we’re putting in lots of effort to try to control life, manage our experience and ensure our future happiness, we miss what we have going for us, always have had and always will have.

We miss that we have wisdom, and knowing, and intelligence that is innate.

We miss that we’re a small part of a larger universal unfolding.

We miss that we’re safe and okay even if injury, illness, death of a loved one, bankrupty and breakups are in our imminent future.

We miss that we’re in a flow of experience, an ocean with a million waves that look and feel different but can’t affect the deepest part of us.

And when I remember that it becomes clear to me that a) my idea of how things should turn out is just a wave of thought that I’m treating as solid truth and b) when I’m too busy trying to make life turn out a certain way I miss what I always have going for me.

I miss the moment. The today. The right now. The right here. The stellar jay that landed on my deck as I write this. The way the sun looks in the trees. The warmth of the tea in my cup. The feeling of my fingers on the laptop. The sound of the music coming through the speakers. The softness of the blanket.

The future is an incomplete equation. 

I don’t know what will happen. And yet that’s okay. I’m starting to see more and more it’s not up to me to make life conform to my ideas of how life should be. 

Because really what do I know? I could be, and have been, totally wrong before.

I’ve strived to make things happen only to discover that life was never meant to work out that way. I’ve had beautiful unfoldings, serendipitous coincidences and unexpected delights change my life in numerous ways.

But most importantly, I’m perfectly whole, complete and okay no matter what the future brings.

 

On The Illusion of Numbers

It’s so easy to fall for the illusion that outside world circumstances can cause us to feel a certain way. We get tricked so many times; the illusion is designed to look real.

The other day while driving I caught myself groaning in frustration when I saw the gas price at 151.9 c/L. Just as soon as I heard the exasperation leave my mouth, the thought came into my awareness “where do you think your frustration is coming from?”

It’s an excellent question. Where did I think my experience was coming from in that moment?

As much as I initially fell for the trick of the mind, I was reminded immediately of what I know to be true: my experience can only come from thought brought to life through consciousness. That’s always true, across the board, no exceptions.

That little realisation, that tiny insight, woke me up once again to the fact that something in the outside world isn’t the kind of the thing that can cause me to feel anything. Only my thinking has that capability.

In that moment I was reminded of what’s really going on.

I had glanced up and my eyes took in light that was bouncing off of an object in the form of wavelengths. From that my mind created colours, shapes, numbers, conceptualised that the numbers 151.9 in sequence signified a gas price of 151.9c/L, matched that with my opinions and preferences for the gas price, saw that what I was observing didn’t match my expectation of how life should be and I felt the corresponding feeling of frustration.

The entire process was an internally generated experience. It happened only in my mind, even though it looked like it was caused by something in the external world.

It’s just what my thinking did, in that moment, before it went on to do something else.

I can have a completely different psychological experience of those waves of energy in the form of light and colour because they aren’t the cause of my experience.

In fact, I have had a completely different experience of reading the same sign.

When the gas prices hovered around 160 c/L for an entire summer, seeing 151.9 on the sign brought me a huge sigh of relief. Why?

Because that’s what my thinking was bringing me in that moment.

Everytime I see 151.9 on a gas sign I will have a different psychological experience based exclusively on thought in the moment. Will it seem high? Low? Will I be pleased? Stressed? Relieved?

Will I care? Will I notice? Will I see my experience as thought? Will I fall for the trick that numbers can make me feel something?

I don’t know. And to be honest, most of the time I don’t really care.

Our feelings, regardless of how different they feel to each other and our personal preferences, are all made of the same “stuff”: formless energy.

Energy that is always changing, flowing, ebbing, shifting, arising and dissipating. Whatever I’m feeling is just there in the moment until the next feeling replaces it, on and on and on ad infinitum.

It just doesn’t feel that simple because we’re used to believing that our feelings mean things about our lives.

We believe surely we need to do something with how we feel, we need to figure it out, change it, fight it, accept it, become aware of it, label it, categorize it, express it, solve it… right?

Wrong. What frees me is seeing the simple truth: what I’m experiencing is simply transient energy.

Everytime I catch a glimpse behind the curtain, see the truth of our human experience a little deeper, and understand how life works a little better, I realize things are not as they appear, and what a relief that is.