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Sep 21

Hitting the Reset Button

reset

You may have noticed I have not published much on the blog recently. Truth be told, I am in a bit of a funk right now. I don’t feel particularly creative, and although I have plenty of time to write, I find myself wasting time on other things. I have let many bad habits creep into my life and although I’m not really unhappy, things are not optimal. Not that optimizing everything is the goal, but it can make life better.

 

I like to write when my life is going great, because who doesn’t want to share all the awesome things they are doing. However, maybe what is really more useful to you, the reader of this blog, is to hear about my struggles. Reading a manicured and heavily edited reality is deceiving in a way, and when we watch someone else’s life we should keep in mind we are watching the movie that they want us to see. There is a lot going on which is unseen.

 

This current bump in the road is primarily related to my health, specifically the issues with my back. Although things are slowly getting better, the path is not linear. Intellectually I knew this was going to be the case, but practically it has been hard to deal with. The constant false starts and times where I think this is the week everything goes back to normal are too many to count. When I hit the bad days it is very discouraging and difficult to stay positive. The times when I know gratitude and meditation and all of the happiness hacks should be implemented are the most difficult times to use them. It is easier to go to a screen, or to pour a cold beer instead of going for a walk or doing 10 minutes of meditation.

 

When things are good in your life, it is easy to get lazy and complacent. We stop doing the things that got us to happiness in the first place. We coast along maintaining the status quo. Sometimes this works. The danger lies in things deteriorating very slowly, just beyond our perception. Incremental change is hard to detect. Kind of like when you realize your kids are almost as tall as you but it seems like just yesterday they couldn’t reach the kitchen counter. The change is so slow you don’t notice it, but its there.

 

Reset

Things are out of sync and it is time to hit the reset button.

 

Perhaps your life is out of sync as well and you want to join me on this journey.

 

The beautiful thing about blogging is you can hold yourself accountable. I’m assuming I will write some sort of follow up to this and let you know how everything goes. It would be mildly embarrassing to have to tell you about my failure, so I may work just a bit harder. Of course I could just make anything up and tell you I succeeded even if I happen to fail, but you all know how I feel about lying.

 

In no particular order of importance these are the areas I am going to focus on:

 

  1. Meditation: Mindfulness is the cornerstone of happiness and living a content life. I’ve harped on this before, although to get the benefits of meditation, you have to actually, you know, meditate once in a while. I have not done formal mediation for months and I need to change this. I feel like anxiety is creeping into my life at times because I am drifting to the future. My health had made me aware of the simple fact that eventually my body is going to wear out. I don’t like this but I need to accept it. It is useless to worry about things I cannot control. Time will march on and I will age. It doesn’t help that many of my friends are quite a bit younger than me, and are entering the prime of their athletic abilities while nagging injury has led to decline in mine. I will start meditating at least 10 minutes a day.

 

  1. Alcohol: One of the more interesting experiments I did was to quit drinking for 6 months. The effects of sobriety are profound, both from a psychological, social and physiological standpoint. I have let the habit of drinking back into my life and I think it is time to let it go for a while. I will miss having a beer every now and then, but for now it must go. I’m no longer using alcohol in a mindful way. I am using it as a crutch, something comforting to help me unwind from the day. The problem is it’s too easy to let one drink turn into two, two to three, etc.

 

  1. Caffeine: I really like coffee in the morning and I don’t know if I want to give it up completely, but I’m drinking too much, and sometimes later in the day. I want to get down to one cup in the morning. Perhaps I can get rid of it completely, but I think this habit will be harder than alcohol for me.

 

  1. Sleep: The quality of my sleep has deteriorated significantly in the past few years and I don’t know why. Sleep is when the body releases growth hormone and other reparative factors and fixes itself from the trauma of living. Getting rid of alcohol and limiting caffeine should help. I will meditate at night, which should help falling asleep, but not necessarily keeping me asleep.Maybe I will start experimenting with timing of evening meals, temperature, maybe even different mattresses or pillows. Sleep is 1/3 of our life and it deserves our attention.

 

  1. Screens: They are no less addictive than the booze or caffeine, maybe even more so. Social media and video game makers are obviously smarter than me because they have hacked my brain. I’m exactly like one of those rats in the experiments where they press a button to get a little hit of cocaine to blast away at their dopamine receptors. We all suffer from this weird cognitive bias where we think that it is only other people that suffer from bias and somehow we see the world clearly and are immune. I try and remind myself frequently that I am just as ridiculous as everyone else around me. It’s impossible to completely eliminate screens, but I can put up barriers. I am going to not carry my phone with me as much. I will force myself to meditate and exercise before I hit the screens.

 

This is like clearing the cache from your computer or completely reinstalling the operating system. Sometimes a little patch or a change in software code will do, but at times it’s best for a hard reset.

 

Ctrl

 

Alt

 

Delete.

51 comments

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  1. B

    Hang in there buddy. Ups and downs are expected. Might I recommend being outside at sunrise and sunset? Making dinner for the family? Going to church (can we still say that?) petting a furry animal? Being around water? Making love to the wife? Getting a backrub? Going to the movies and having popcorn? Calling a buddy and going to a hockey game? There is no shame in trying to “manage” happiness. Some of these things might work. I challenge you to do them all this week!

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Some good suggestions. I will do at least half 😉

  2. Physician on FIRE

    Does this mean no beers at FinCon?

    Say it ain’t so!

    Good for you for making some positive changes, though. It’s tough to get out of a rut by maintaining the status quo.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    1. Mr. 1500

      Exactly what I was thinking.

      1. TheHappyPhilosopher

        Hahaha! Perhaps if there is an especially delicious IPA an exception can be made.

        1. Mr. 1500

          Really though, I’m sorry you’re going through this. And peer pressure also sucks. I’ll never ask you if you want a beer, but I will mention any exceptional IPAs we happen to have on hand.

          Most of all, just get better.

          PS: I’m finally finding my groove with meditation. It took a couple failed starts, but now my brain is starting to get wrapped around it.

          1. TheHappyPhilosopher

            Don’t worry, I’m largely immune to peer pressure 🙂

            That’s great about the meditation. The changes are a but subtle at first. I felt like I was failing every time I did it, but after a few weeks I started noticing the changes.

  3. Blastmastet

    Gave up drinking 9 years ago and will never go back. My moods are so much more regular. No more emotional rollercoaster. Happier family life and I never have the wasted day where I am recovering from hangovers. Had a back injury this past winter and it took forever to heal. Like you, I thought it would be with me for life. Back to normal now with better flexibility from stretching and strengthening. We all have low ebbs in the tide of life, I get gloomy each fall with a touch of SAD from the short days. Not nearly as low as when I was drinking. I have just accepted that I will have less energy for several months and be less productive. I have arranged my side hustle so I can kick it in gear or ease off based on this. If only the fulltime gig was as flexible!

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Congrats. There is real liberation in sobriety. Glad the back is feeling better – gives me hope.

  4. VagabondMD

    Sorry to hear about the funk. I was worried that the return to full time and the recurrence of the back issues might have set you back some.

    The good news is that you pulled yourself out of his before, with great success, so you should be able to do it again. I will raise a glass of seltzer to toast to you getting your mojo back.

    Be well.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thank you Vagabond.

  5. ChrisCD

    I just finished a book, “What Made Maddie Run?”. The book tried to find answers for her suicide. One thing it talked about is the fake “us” that we allow others to see and that they allow us to see. We don’t realize there are 1000s in the same boat. We are not alone. But we think we are. You are not alone. I am glad you are being forthright with what you are dealing with.

    When it comes to sleep, there are natural remedies that may help, too. And of course there are prescriptions that can help. Many don’t like taking meds and I would be one of those. My wife does some of both, which helps her. She deals with chronic back pain. Some topicals help. Stretching helps a bit. Hot baths. Being of service to others or busy helps take her mind off it.

    I am dealing with what is probably plantar fasciitis and maybe some tendonitis. Despite taking long periods of time off from running, it doesn’t really go away. I love running and really for my sanity, need to run. So I run. I do similar things that my wife does for her back to help cope with the pain.

    Thankfully, I am able to “will” my way through things. After reading the book and just living with my wife who also deals with depression, I realize not all minds are wired that way. For those that aren’t, people need to heed the early warning signs of distress and get them help so that they know it is okay if they can’t “will” their way through it. You seem to be similar to me. You can reason through things. But still, please make sure you have a very strong support system in place.

    Sorry, I’m not sure if any of this helped. I realize I am rambling a bit. Stay connected.
    cd :O)

    1. Blastmaster

      Try myofascial release performed by an experienced practitioner on the planters fasciitis. After 2 sessions mine was completely gone after troubling me for years.

    2. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thanks Chris. That book sounds interesting, I will give it a read.

  6. Satisfied Ghost

    Hang in there! Thanks for sharing your struggles. It’s so easy to just talk about how fabulous everything is. I think the most important part is being kind to yourself.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thank you ghost.

  7. Church

    Nothing wrong with a “mental day(s)” here and there. IT’S A GOOD THING.

    Life is CRAZY, which can be so much fun and drive you insane at the same time. Remembering 60 passwords, kids’ games/practices, bills, remembering to save, TPS reports, going grocery shopping, a-hole boss, a-hole backstabbing co-worker, what’s-his-name’s birthday, what’s-her-name’s get-together, blah, ba-blah, ba-BLAH, it’s never ending.

    If you didn’t take time for yourself, you wouldn’t be able to rise again with even more grit than you already have. And people are counting on you, so don’t feel bad about anything.

    Welcome back, it’s good to have you!

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thanks for the support Church.

  8. Leslie O'Meara

    HP,
    It’s great that you can share your pain with so many of the caring folks on your blog. I suspect your back is affecting you quite a lot. We weren’t made for sitting or standing for long periods like so many of us have to do now in medicine with the computer work. Chronic pain is so different than acute pain and I think there is something about back pain, where it is so central in your body, deep, and affects so much of your nervous system that this type of pain has such a profound impact on us. Everyone’s back is different but something that has really helped me is water running in deep water wearing a waist flotation belt. I imagine the weight of my lower body hanging down in the water and the lift of the flotation belt helping to create space in my back while I run in the deep water. I happen to live where we have a beautiful outdoor pool and this is available to me almost all day long. There is a technique to water running and it should be done properly to work your core (pelvis somewhat forward) and it can be a great workout if you go hard. After exercise, I like to get into the happy baby position with my legs and stretch. I have only discovered in the last few years (due to pain!) how important stretching is. I’d also suggest a relaxing type yoga class focused on mostly stretching. You can meditate in yoga while you move your body slowly and open things up. All this should help you sleep too. I hope you can figure out what it is that your body needs and get to a comfortable and peaceful place.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Those are good suggestions. I should look into swimming and deep water running. Water can be therapeutic in many way.

  9. WealthyDoc

    Good for you!
    Less booze and less caffeine and more meditation all improve the quality of sleep. That then adds to the QOL.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      We shall see 🙂

  10. Ron Cameron

    Thanks for reminding us the outside world (and the people in it) are not always made up of shiny, happy people. Sometimes we hurt despite our best efforts, sometimes we choose poorly. Recognize, then adjust. Right? My own personal problem is when I’m “in the darkness” I don’t know I’m there until after the fact. It’s discouraging and frustrating while it’s happening. It’s taken me weeks or months to recognize it in the past, but now I’m slowly getting better at it. Congrats on recognizing and choosing to change the problem.

    I find Sleep and Screens can be helped by the same thing: Remembering there’s a very interesting world just outside our door and exploring it. Last night I stopped playing a video game to take the dog for a quick walk (on my bike). I got a little 9pm exercise, the dog was happier, and I was physically more tired and mentally engaged thinking about the “giant mushroom thing” I found and placed where my wife would find it in the morning. Small things that, when you put a bigger emphasis on them, can distract you from booze, caffeine and games. (Full disclosure: I had all three yesterday).

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Not sure I’m depressed, although things are not optimal. You are right though, decline is often slow and insidious.

      Getting outside will cure many problems for many people.

  11. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    I could so totally relate to this post!!! I’m sorry to hear you are having back pain but thank you for being honest in your blog. I’ll be an accountability buddy if you want with a couple of those things. I hear you on sleep. I have found as I get older it’s tough to get good quality sleep even though I technically put in the hours. I can’t even sleep unless I take an OTC sleep aid, which I’ve been doing for a long time, and sometimes I still wake up tired. 🙁 I’ve never had an alcohol or caffeine issue though so I’m with you with the sleep, mediation, and screens challenge/reset!

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      People told me quality of sleep declines after 40. I didn’t believe them…until I hit 40 😉

  12. Tony Nesse

    You don’t sounds so happy right now, philosopher. I hope your plan works, so we find you serene again. The two things that help me most when I am sad are a supportive spouse and a devoted dog – hope you have both!

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      I am actually happy most of the time, even with the back issues. More frustration than sadness.

  13. RocDoc

    I hope the back pain improves soon. Pain that lasts for weeks or months can be so very depressing. I can’t recall in past posts if you went to see a back specialist? Maybe a series of ESI would help?
    I hope you will be able to decrease doing the full time work soon from the partners maternity leave and go back to part time so that your back gets some rest and you won’t have to sit so many hours every day.
    The meditation sounds like a great plan and cutting down the alcohol can help. I could not stop my caffeine and I admire you even for the attempt at decreasing coffee intake. I drink many more cups of coffee than you (minimum 6 per day) plus at least 3 or 4 diet cokes per day (maybe more even.) You have much more will power than me!

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      I’m back to part-time. Full-time was pretty miserable on bad back weeks.Haven’t had any afternoon or late morning coffee all week – I’ll see how long I can go 🙂

  14. Mrs. Adventure Rich

    I’m sorry to hear about the struggles. Thank you for sharing your areas of focus. Honestly, I think these are focuses that could help many people, myself included.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Agreed. I will report back soon.

  15. Dr. Curious

    Stay strong, my friend! It sounds like your action plan is solid. I’m no meditation expert, but I try to practice vipassana (mindfulness) meditation regularly, and I definitely notice a change in attitude when I get out of the habit for a few weeks. You didn’t mention exercise, and perhaps this is difficult with your back problems, but I find that 30 minutes of getting my heart rate up enough to sweat does wonders for my mood. My wife often comments that I return from a run a different person.

    Good luck!
    Dr. C

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Exercise is helpful. I back likes it when my body is warm and moving. Sometimes I pay for it the next day though.

  16. Eric

    Great post. I’ve gone into “Monk Mode” quite a few times when I reached this point – life became meditation in the morning, work the whole day, workout routine at night, and reading/reflecting before bed. It’s a good way to reset as you mentioned.

    For your back, have you tried yoga? I sit all day and have had minor back pain here and there and a simple yoga routine has remedied it.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Some yoga poses are OK, but often there is quite a bit of flexion that aggravates things.

  17. Doc Holiday

    The best move you have made is to recognize the problems.

    If I had to pick one thing to cut out, it would be alcohol. A mean friend. Takes a while up front. You will miss your mean friend. Life gets better and better after it is gone. Every week, you will get a present from sobriety. Pretty soon you are impressed with how badass you are. It solves so many of the other issues, especially motivation.

    Caffeine in the morning? No prob. Early AM motivation. That’s it.

    I was thinking this morning about how the things that can truly make us happy are free. Sex. Fitness. Books. Nature. Food isn’t, but good food isn’t too expensive.

    Main thing is to be proud of yourself for your accomplishments. With yourself. Not to others.
    We are here with you.

    Doc Holiday

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thank you. Honestly I think coffee will be much tougher to quit than alcohol. I should do it though, if for nothing else but to prove that I can.

  18. Amy @ LifeZemplified

    Ah, the joys and pains of being human. Sorry to hear of your back pain and funk. It’s often difficult tackling too many changes at once, but I’d also encourage you to add some type of exercise activity and make a conscious effort to do schedule in some fun. Wishing you wellness.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      I do exercise, and probably need to increase it as the back slowly improves. Thanks.

  19. Mrs. Grumby

    So sorry to hear that you’re continuing to struggle with back pain. Thank you for sharing your experience and your insights.

    The benefits of daily meditation work like compound interest. Every 10-minute session is a deposit that provides greater equanimity in the other 1,430 minutes of each day. The mind will see more and more opportunities to begin again as the practice continues.

    With every effort in your list of 5 you are giving yourself a great kindness.

    May peace and ease be with you through this reset.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thank you Ms. Grumby 🙂

  20. AGoodLifeMD

    I’m sure you have more than enough suggestions on your back pain and having a wife in pain management, I know that every person is different. Stay strong.

    Your other life change strategies listed parallel changes I made after having kids and a terrible partner at work. I realized that the status quo was unsustainable. Basically, I would be semi-hungover a few weekends a month even with only 2-3 beers. I would drink caffeine most of the day all week. Between the alcohol affecting sleep and extra caffeine to get over the fatigue, which also affected sleep (caffeine half life in the central nervous system is several hours) I was in a negative cycle.

    Now I’ve eliminate caffeine except an espresso on Saturday morning with my daughter. I drink 2 beers per month, if that. I use headspace to meditate 10 minutes per day. Focus on keeping sleep sacred and routine as possible and get 8 hours minimum.

    There is no doubt I’m more content. I may not have the highs of a Saturday night party or mid day double latte but the integral contentment is much higher. Those strategies are personal, but they worked for me. Also, a healthy dose of playing acoustic blues guitar (trying to learn the entire Clapton unplugged) was huge and gives me my daily “flow” fix. I know you play so maybe that’ll help. Try a new genre to get out of a rut maybe.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles, I do learn from them.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you did a lot of the things that I am going to implement. I know they will work, it’s just being strong enough to follow through.

      Guitar and music in general is a great way to unwind for sure. I haven’t been playing as much because it puts strain on my back. As I’m feeling a bit better though, I do strum a bit.

  21. Brandon

    I have experienced a lot of the same. I have cut out drinking, started doing yoga in the morning (not as much as I would like), cut out coffee and tried* to meditate.

    If you are looking for someone that has a clear vision on how the human mechanism works I would suggest checking out Sadhguru. He has helped me and many others break through this insidious type of lifestyle. http://isha.sadhguru.org/yoga/

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thank you Brandon. I will check it out.

  22. Melissa Yuan Innes

    I was touched that you shared some of your imperfection. I can’t relate to anyone who pretends to be invulnerable.

    I think it’s normal to get lazy when you’re happy. I know I only do yoga every few days because I can get away with that, but if my back tweaks, or I’m driving a lot, I step it up.

    I like your writing. I find it thoughtful and honest. Keep up the good work, and thanks for encouraging all of us toward greater health and happiness.

    1. TheHappyPhilosopher

      Thank you Melissa. I appreciate the support 🙂

  23. RAM

    “The danger lies in things deteriorating very slowly, just beyond our perception. Incremental change is hard to detect.”

    Love this line. So true. I struggle with a lot of the same things and they absolutely tend slip in undetected. I too especially notice this with tv and drinking. I don’t have any great solutions, but it is very helpful for me to hear about your struggles and I will try some of your recs. Thanks for your honesty. Keep fighting the good fight. Maybe victory is to just keep battling.

  24. Smart Money MD

    I hear ya. Sometimes our jobs/lives tend to chew up our creative outlets as well. Keep your head high and keep up the good work!

  25. Hatton1

    Somehow I missed this post. Sorry for your back pain. I limit caffeine after noon. I will drink 2 cups in the morning and a Diet Coke. Any more and I get jittery. I really don’t feel normal without the caffeine. The older I get the less alcohol it takes to make me feel bad and interferes with sleep.

  1. Death of a Colleague | The Happy Philosopher

    […] « Hitting the Reset Button […]

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