Many of you will already know that diversion and distraction can be great tools for managing your mood. But my use of the word ‘can’ here, is really important. You see, not all diversions are created equal.
You could think of it a bit like strategies for not paying tax (not the most exciting of analogies but, forgive me, I was an accountant in a previous life). One option is tax avoidance which is employing a clever tax advisor to find legal ways around the rules so that you can pay less tax with a clean (ish) conscience. The other option is tax evasion which is purposefully not paying/declaring tax that you owe and is illegal.
Some diversions are healthy and constructive and other distractions are unhealthy, unconstructive and are often being used to avoid the discomfort of your emotions.
I’ve probably always subconsciously know about the difference between helpful and unhelpful diversions but it was really brought home to me when I listened to this fab podcast episode from Brooke Castillo all about, what she calls, Buffering.
Buffering is the distraction that we choose in order to avoid some thing, someone or some feeling which we expect will cause us discomfort or we fear will trigger (or may have already triggered) some kind of negative emotion.
Buffering can come in all sorts of forms but common ones (which I obviously, most definitely cannot relate to in any way shape or form) are:
- Over-sleeping (I hear the parents and insomniacs out there saying “Yeah, right, I wish”
- Household choring – a quick diversion to unload the dishwasher when something gets tricky
- Scrolling – internet/social media/email
- Procrastofaffinating in all its glorious forms
Numbing, avoiding, diverting.
None of these buffers have any real meaning or value to us. (Ok. I’ll give you that there’s the occasional documentary on Netflix which might change your life.)
Now, don’t get me wrong, of course all of these things have their place in our lives and can be wonderful in some semblance of moderation. But they are not very wonderful when what we really need is to be doing, addressing or feeling something else. And, in contrast, that something else usually does hold meaning or value but, because it comes with a dollop of perceived ickyness, we don’t think we’re able or that we should have to face it head on.
What is that thing (or things, I have a lengthy list) that you find yourself doing when, in the back of your mind, you know you should be doing something else?
What’s the alternative to diversion?
Conscious choice – the difference between just finding yourself eating/watching/buffering and instead making a conscious choice to do that thing e.g. I’ve had a long day, I’ve achieved all I can and now I’m going to put my feet up to savour a nice glass of wine and watch Bake Off and I’m going to really enjoy it
Being aware – fessing up to yourself about your go-to-buffers, practising the skill of observing yourself and noticing when you’re feeling the urge to buffer
Getting curious – once you’ve noticed the urge then get curious about what’s going on behind the scenes. What is it that you’re trying to move away from? What is it that you think you can’t handle or that’s going to bring you some discomfort?
Choosing to be in Flow – diversion can be an effective technique for shifting your mood but instead of selecting from the shelf of often valueless buffering alternatives, put your energy towards something which will get you into a state of Flow – a state where you’re fully immersed in a feeling of focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Feeling your emotion – you’ve been able to notice what’s going on behind the scenes, you have an inkling what it is that you’re trying to divert away from and you’re ready to resist the urge to buffer. What now? Just sit with it, sit with the feeling. Give it a name so that you can fully acknowledge it. Explore where it exists in the body. Really feel it. And then…..
Know that you’ll be ok – as you sit with the emotion that you predicted would cause you discomfort, notice what has happened? Are you still alive? Are you still breathing? Have you spontaneously combusted? Are you in physical pain? Hopefully the answers are yes, yes, no, no. And that’s because you’re so much stronger, more resilient and more capable of dealing with your emotions than you think.
Have the confidence to be playful – so now you know that you can handle your own emotions, perhaps you can feel safe and confident to have a play with all of the above but know that you won’t ‘do it right’ every time because there is no doing it right with this stuff, there’s just giving it a go and paying attention to what happens with curiosity and kindness.
Your habit of buffering/diversion has developed to protect you from your own emotions.
But, as you now realise, your emotions don’t actually pose any real threat and so aren’t something that you need protecting from.
You are more than capable of experiencing, coping with and living a full life in spite of and because of the way you feel.
So now there is nothing to run away from, nothing to avoid, nothing to divert from, why buffer?
And what might you gain if, sometimes, you’re able to make the conscious choice not to buffer?
In my experience, I know that I gain one of the most valuable and precious things life has to offer – an enhanced sense of satisfaction from knowing that I’m living my life fully and with purpose.
Hey there, in case you didn’t know, I’m Hana and I could be your Personal Mindset Coach.
I’m occasionally known to my clients as ‘the lovely stranger’.
I’m here to help you see things from a different perspective, to choose a different lens, to find different ways of thinking, being and doing – so that you can get out of your head and just get on with living a bloody great life.
If you’d like some support exploring this or other fascinating things about you further, then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can arrange a cuppa some time to find out if we might like each other enough to work together.
If you like what you’ve read and want more then how’s about downloading my free ‘Where’s your head at?’ ebook – get it right here.
Or if you want to join me in a little experiment to feel more grateful for what you already have then come and join my #gratitude365 Facebook Group.