How We Stay Positive
So, let’s start with a warning. This is going to be a very long post. It’s usually just one person writing a blog post at once, but this time, we have all four of us adding our thoughts, all in different sections. Health and Wellbeing are topics that we’re really interested in lately, so we’re really pouring ourselves into this post here today. Hopefully you don’t find it too boring.
Without further ado, here we go!
Music can start off your day with positive vibes or feed into a negative emotion. I made several music playlists that include only my favourite positive songs. Whether it be lyrically positive like “Happy” by Pharell or an upbeat song that makes me boogie like “Fantastic Baby” by Big Bang, I try to focus on music that won’t channel any negative vibes. Rock and heavy metal are my go-to music for when I feel upset or angry, and although I use lots of rock music to get upbeat and feel happy, some of my favourite bands have a negative association with certain times in my life. If I listen to that album when I’m having a bad day, I remember those negative feels and it can easily pull me down into a negativity spiral. Oh that sounded so hippy, like….yeah, right? But it’s true: once you’re put into a sour mood, it’s very easy to feed into it and grow it, yet it’s not easy to remind ourselves of all the good things in our lives.
I visualize being negative like having an angry pet bird on your shoulder. It grows very quickly and easily when you feed it. It just sits on your shoulder and whispers angry negative things in your ear until you’re having the worst day of your life. Woke up late and missed the bus? You angry bird is there to whisper in your ear and to remind you that this day is already going to suck. You catch the next bus, but get bumped on the bus by someone, and that bird is there to remind you how much humanity sucks, and to fortify your early anger of missing the bus. That angry little bird will continue to poison your mind; he’ll point out people judging you, remind you that you’re not good at things, direct blame at other people for things you could change yourself. Whatever it is, that bird is there to remind you of all that’s wrong with the world and your life.
So how can we put a muzzle on this grumpy little bird? I find that, once I realize that the day isn’t in itself bad, but that I’m just hearing the squawking, then popping on my pre-made playlist of positive music can really help quiet the bird’s noise. Good positive music is the start for me, even if the music annoys me at the time because I’m not currently in the mood to hear something positive.
The hard part is acknowledging that you’re in a bad mood. Yes, that sounds weird, but you really need to say to yourself, “holy crap! I think I’m being a massive grumpy bear.” When I realize I’m actually in a bad mood, I look back on some of the stuff that’s stressing me out and decide whether or not it’s actually justified anger. For example, being angry and enraged because you’re waiting in a slow line at the grocery store…that is not justified anger. You’re angry because you want to move faster but being angry isn’t going to change anything. It’s not anyone’s fault that they, too, want to purchase groceries. Even if the cashier is slow, it’s still not their fault you’re angry. Your anger is your own issue. You’re just making yourself upset without being able to change anything. And if you can’t change anything, then it’s not worth your energy. So, I take all the things that I’m feeling angry about and I divide them into three categories:
The Three Types of Anger
1. The Angry Bird (i.e.: a slow moving line up, people wearing clothing you don’t approve, getting a bad parking spot)
Things in The Angry Bird category are actually very personal things. You may not find waiting in line to be annoying, but for some people it can send them into a rage. I think of this category as just me taking out my bad mood on other people and on the environment around me. It’s not seriously justifiable anger, it’s just grumpy angry mutterings from that sour bird on my shoulder, reminding me how annoying my day is. I’m just looking for things to be angry about, and feeding into my already sour mood. By putting a muzzle on your personal Angry Bird, you can work on bettering yourself and lowering your stress level. Your need to acknowledging these short fuses and acknowledge that they are not the only reason you are upset. There is an underlying bigger reason, and by listening to your angry bird you are only feeling worse.
2. Annoyances (i.e.: a spilt drink on your crotch, loud talkers in the library, people talking in a movie theatre)
Outside of the things that you personally perceive as annoying, there are also poopy annoying things in life that are not your fault. Sometimes you can change it and sometimes you cannot. For example, you can report the loud talkers in the library and get them kicked out (hahah not that I’ve done that…yes I have). You could also move locations. You can also personally ask them to turn down their talking volume as well. You have options sometimes. Yet not everything is preventable or changeable. A person spilling something on you accidentally is not preventable. Yes, it is annoying, but you have to remind yourself that it wasn’t done maliciously. It sucks, but don’t let it be “just another reason this day is the worst.” I’ve come to the conclusion that many people are just unaware of the world around them so when they blast their music loudly or stop walking at the bottom of a flight of stairs to check their phone it’s NOT because they’re mean spirited jerks, it’s because they just aren’t being considerate of the world around them. I file these annoyances under “unaware humans” and try my hardest to either make a change, or to just move on. Oh and if you’re the person sitting in front of me in a movie theatre gabbing on your phone, you better believe I’m leaning in and telling you to hang up. I’m not paying money to let you ruin my movie.
3. Core Stress (i.e.: work related stress, money related stress, school related stress, health related stress, family related stress)
Core stress is the real reason you’re upset. And it can wreck major chaos on both your mind and body. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be upset because someone spilt a drink on you, or you can’t be upset because you waited 20 minutes to get a latte. I’m saying that in order to manage a reasonable level of stress that doesn’t lead to despair and a nervous breakdowns, you need to learn to let those other things go. You need to acknowledge what your core stress is so that you don’t go spiralling into despair when something else happens. Like waking up with a pimple. Or missing the bus. Or having a bad customer at your work. That turns into “SCREW THIS DAY, I HATE THE WORLD I’M GOING BACK TO BED!” *Disney princess worthy fling onto the bed and sobs* Yes, I have done that. I have done that recently. Truthfully, I have struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to acknowledge that listening to the Angry Bird and using annoyances to add to my “worst day ever list” is not actually helping me feel any better. It’s just not productive to my health. It keeps me from sleeping, it makes me irritable, and it makes me sad. What we need to do is discover the real core of our stress, and focus on just dealing with that. For me, I’m personally dealing with health related stresses at the moment, while before I was dealing with work and school stresses.
I personally think that stress comes from a feeling of uneasiness that comes with not knowing the future. Will I pass this exam? Will I get that job? How will I pay off my loan? When will I meet someone? When will I stop feeling pain? When we’re stressed out about something it feels like our entire life is purely made up of stress. We view the world through the eyes of stress BUT, and this is a big but, you’re only experiencing a tiny piece of your life. You’re taking that tiny piece and wearing it like poop tinted glasses in which to view the world in its full poopy nature. But you know what? Middle school, high school, university, job hunting, careers…that’s not the whole of life. Those are just more little pieces from your life. Those are just locations, actions, and transactions we go through. Life is happening around and outside those things! I realized this in my 5th year of University while applying to get into Teacher’s College.
I put all my energy into filling out the massive amount of applications forms. It was important, yes, but I was so stressed out regarding if I would get into school or not I had nervous breakdowns on the way to work. I’d burst into tears over a canceled plan with friends. I’d be unable to get out of bed. I was stressed out all day and everyday…but it didn’t actually change anything. Did it make me work harder at a specific task? No. Was it just ruining my entire day? Yes. Once I sent out the forms, I literally could do nothing but wait and see if I was going to get into school. WHY WHY WHY did I waste energy walking around stressed out of my mind? I have to receive that rejection/acceptance paper in the mail first! Why didn’t I take that energy, plan for both scenarios (accepted vs not accepted) and just move on until I found out? But I didn’t.
Looking back on it now, I saw the patterns I fell into. Listening to the Angry Bird, allowing small annoyances to turn into huge problems, but I realize now that once I take the time to breath deeply and categorize all my feels, I can see what must be changed in order to keep myself from feeling upset.
Essentially, there are things that are worth being stressed out about, like your immediate core stresses, and then there are things that you can choose to ignore. It’s really really hard to ignore them sometimes, but by doing that you can deal with core stress and have a good day at the same time.
So, I don’t think I did justice to my perspective in this video. The basic idea of “think of two good things for every one bad thing you experience” and “never take things for granted” kinda gets lost when the examples I give are “my dog didn’t die!” and “my hips ain’t broken anymore!” Let me get into this idea a bit more, if I can.
In a very blunt, cold way, I can put it as this: the things that bother me in the here and now are insignificant in other contexts. I might read a crappy comment on Tumblr, and be upset, but then I can just, you know, close the computer. Walk away. Buy some flowers. Make a home cooked meal. Walk my dog who freaking loves going on walks and dances around in excitement when we’re about to go out. Go to the park and do balls, Soo Zee style. All of these things are better than dealing with or dwelling on negative experiences.
When we step away from the computer, we’ve got a bunch of friends, close friends, who aren’t really computer literate, and when we hang out with them and they’re like “what’s a tumblings?” and I think to myself of the vast world of experience out there, and how tiny this one is in the grand scheme of where my life has come from and where it’s going. Life exists outside of internet culture. Life exists outside of your classroom. Life exists outside of your job. There’s so much of it everywhere! It’s Cherry Blossom season now in Korea, and gotdamn it’s gorgeous.
Some might think that this isn’t a way to solve your problems. It’s more flight than fight. My response to this is that not every problem is worth the effort that goes into solving it. Not everything needs a resolution, and if the effort that goes into solving something is greater than the outcome, then fuck it. Move on to something different.
I think the method that I advocate most for getting over the blues is two fold. The first is to realize the insignificance of whatever event is bothering me, and secondly is to focus more attention and energy on appreciating what I DO have around me. I could be upset about dealing with our landlord, buuuut I have a soft kitty here. I could be upset that I’m not in the best shape right now, buuuut I have a wife that loves me. I could be upset that a project I had been planning fell through, but look at that sunset. Once you realize that all things are of equal significance, that the things that are happening to you aren’t as important as they seem at the moment, then the playing field is levelled. Good experiences and bad experiences have the same weight, so why not put my energies into experiencing the positives?
Why would I focus on the people that dislike me, when I could be paying attention to the people that do like me? Why pay attention to anger when I could pay attention to love? It’s hard when I occasionally fall into a rut, but I just do my best to realize the negative thought pattern, and then say “f*ck it” and to move onto something else I like instead. My life won’t crumble as a result. Things will go on.
Part of my experiences is to never take anything for granted. Anything can change in the blink of an eye. I could get extremely sick. A meteor could hit. Kim Jong Un could flip his shit. We could die in a taxi accident. There’s no guarantee that the experiences I’m having now will be experiences I’ll have in the future. There will be a time in the future when things will be different, where situations will suck more. Let me do my best to appreciate what I have now while I still have it.
For instance: You’re watching our videos. You have no duty to. Tomorrow you can say “goddamn: that last joke of theirs just pushed me to the limit” and you can stop watching. And then what? What if everyone stopped watching? Does that mean we’ll die? Not at all. It means we’ll have to do something else instead. I’ll enjoy doing this for as long as you let me, but if you change your mind I won’t be angry at you or myself for it, because I’ve done this to the best of my ability, and enjoyed as much of it as I could.
Some days I’m walking out in public with Martina. We get separated in a mall. I look for her and can’t see her. There’s no sight of her anywhere. At times like that I sometimes think to myself, did she really ever exist? The life I have with her is too amazing. It’d make sense if I was just dreaming this whole thing up. Now that the dream’s over, at least I can say it was fantastic, and I was fortunate enough to have great experiences with her. Then I see her again, and go back to appreciating as many moments with her as I’ll be given.
We had a pretty big scare lately which we didn’t talk about publicly in video, but I’ll talk about here because I feel like the blog section is a different audience than our YouTube viewers. It’s something that negatively affected us, and you might have seen that in our videos. Martina lost the hearing in her right ear last February, and after many hospital appointments and tests with ear specialists, the doctor concluded she probably had a brain tumour. When he suggested this diagnosis, the first thing I thought wasn’t “holy shit, she’s going to die” and started panicking. Instead, I thought “ok. So this is the situation. What’s our next course of action to make this better? What can I do to make things better for Martina?”
But first, Martina did an MRI to check if the diagnosis was accurate. We waited for a few days for the results. We just kept filming and putting up videos as best we could, talked to you guise online, and did what kept on making us happy, but Martina was feeling really down. After waiting a week, Martina’s scan came back…negative for tumours! We still don’t know why Martina’s hearing is gone. We think it probably has to do with her EDS, which she talked about before in her Draw My Life Videos. It’s possible that the EDS caused a dislocated bone in her inner ear. The point is, I didn’t get destroyed by sadness and panic when we waited for the results. They’re unknown, so there was nothing to think about. I focused on what we could do to be happy in the moment, and when the diagnosis came back with favourable results, I have a new thing to be happy about. It’s not gonna kill my wife! Woohoo!
I think I’m getting distracted here with examples. Basic premise in a nutshell: what I have is an infinite possibility of experiences, both positive and negative. All of them get the amount of attention I choose to give them. What I don’t have is an infinite amount of time. I’m going to spend the rest of my life appreciating my positive experiences, because the world doesn’t owe me anything, and the happiness in my life can be taken away from me at any moment. Sure, this sounds like a rather depressing standpoint, for some people, but for me I feel liberated, and I feel like I can enjoy things, like walking my dog, looking at my wife, hanging with friends, drinking a nice cocktail, sitting in a comfortable couch, not feeling ill, all of these things I can appreciate this more than many other people I know, who think that all of these things are just normal. Rather than thinking of the world as awesome by default, and feeling upset when things don’t go my way, I think of the world as not awesome by default, and feel blessed when things do go my way.
Intern Leigh here, aka: stage 2 apprentice wizard of time management and general ass-kickery. I’ve never actually done just school; every time I’ve been a full time student I’ve also been a full time something else. How do I manage to win scholarships, land amazing internships, and still find the time to watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch seasons 1, 2, and 3 over Easter weekend? I’m a time-management ninja. That’s right, I’m a ninja and a wizard. And I’ll share my ninja-wizard secrets.
Secret #1: I have a life outside of school
I take a Romantic Scholar approach to school. I don’t believe anything – a project deadline, a term paper, a film critique – should get in the way of Friday night barbecues. Or Saturday morning cartoons. Or Sunday afternoon brunches. You catch my drift? Rather than go for “well-rounded,” I focus on kicking tail at one specific area academically. That leaves more time for playing-I mean working at the studio, dragging Soo Zee to fancy whiskey bars, and shopping for new sundresses.
Secret #2: I timebox
I learned this trick from Neil Fiore. I never set deadlines to finish things. I set deadlines to start. When I get too intense about being the best video editor in the world, I fall into the pit of despair, so I make it a point to worry more about starting than finishing. Having no pressure to finish, no pressure to be perfect, no pressure to get it all done in one sitting does wonders for my stress level. Even just a solid, uninterrupted 15 minutes of work can be enough to remember that your value as a human being is NOT equal to your grades, or your art’s reception, or your personal best. (bolding requested by Martina)
Secret #3: I ignore emails
One of the most important things I learned from Merlin Mann’s awesome “Inbox Zero” email approach is that truly urgent matters do not come via email. If you need an answer right this flipping second, you’ll call me. So I ignore lots of emails. Not forever, but certainly not until I’m done with whatever it is I’m doing right now. I will check my email when I durn well feel like it, thankyouverymuch. Instead of constant push alerts that remind me I have a billion things left to do, I have blissful stretches of distraction-free time to focus on work slash research new bubble tea places and DIY steadycam rigs…I mean…pssh…not that I…do…that…RUN AWAY!!
Ok, so this was a ridiculously long post. I had no idea how to break it up into something more manageable. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read our thoughts on the matter. I hope you weren’t too bored with the blog post and with the topic. If you liked it, hooray! If you liked it and haven’t subscribed yet, you’re almost there! Click on the button below to get the happy juices flowing!