Act The Way I Want to Feel

I recently started re-reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. (subtitle: “Or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun”) I forget exactly why I had picked this book up in the first place, but I really enjoyed the author’s story of why and how she tried to become happier. It is a lighter read than some books I may gravitate toward given that I am a trauma-based therapist. However it being lighter doesn’t mean it doesn’t give great points and insights on improving your life.

What does it mean to be happy? How can I have more fun? How can I make my life less complicated? How do my actions contribute to or re-enforce the days that I’m down and mopey?

One of her personal commandments – mantras and reminders of how to live a happier life that I am so loving right now is: act the way I want to feel.

Act the way I want to feel.

My husband will say to me sometimes if I get annoyed, “well you can feel however you want to feel”. This unfortunately for him (sorry babe!) sparks further annoyance. “Why would I want to feel (fill in the blank: angry, sad, annoyed, etc.)?” Of course I don’t want to stay stuck in feeling angry or sad. I want to feel happy, calm, relaxed. So how do I do it? This is becoming a reminder for me in those times to do something to turn it around.

Act the way I want to feel. It reminds me of the DBT skill: opposite to emotion action. Essentially this means: move toward what will help you versus what will hurt you or keep you stuck.

If you feel depressed, what will be the smarter option for getting out of the depressed mood?: A) stay in bed all day and watch dramas on Netflix or B) get up, shower, and go for a walk or call a friend to have lunch.
If you feel angry, what will be the smarter option for calming down?: A) throw things and yell about what is making you angry or B) take a deep breath, walk away, and shift attention away from the thing that has triggered you.

Sounds simple right? Of course I understand it isn’t that simple or else none of us would ever stay in bad moods. The thing that I encourage you to do is practice. Practice trying a better & healthier way. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Push yourself when even though you don’t feel like it, you know doing so will make you feel better. So often I hear people say, “I just didn’t feel like going”, about something like going to the gym or going out with friends (things they know make them feel good). This “I don’t feel like it” thinking traps them into often doing something ineffective, like isolating, emotional eating, drinking, or self-harming in some other way. If you know that going to the gym or going out with friends makes you feel better, then push yourself to try.

Think about what makes you happy, what gets in the way of your happiness, and what contributes to staying in bad moods. Practice acting the way you want to feel!

Spotlight on ~ DBT

DBT = Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

This is a type of therapy I became more aware of in 2010 while working at a partial hospitalization program. Since then I have had multiple trainings and have learned as much as I could about it. In my experiences, it has been the most useful and effective type of therapy that I have worked with.

My favorite skills are wise mind and radical acceptance.

Wise mind is the balance of your logic and emotions. Many of the DBT skills are about balance. It is probably unrealistic to expect that we would be completely logical about a situation, and it is probably ineffective to be completely emotional about that same situation. Ideally, we would acknowledge what our emotions are (basic mindfulness practice – checking in and observing our feelings), and then engage the rational part of our brains so that we don’t act out impulsively.

Things to consider for arriving in wise mind: Can you identify the emotion or feeling? Where do you feel it in your body? Can you rate it on a scale of 1-10? Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling without acting. Then assess what you are thinking. What information do you have – what are the facts? Is it something you have any control over? Are you making assumptions or predicting the future? Understand that your thoughts are not always true. Live without judgment and you can tap into your own wise mind.

Radical acceptance is about acknowledging reality. Acceptance doesn’t mean forgiveness or that we condone or are happy about that reality. It just is an acknowledgment that we most likely have no control. Remember, the only things that we can control of are our thoughts, feelings (though this is often debated,) and behaviors. Everything else is out of our control. The past is out of our control, though we can learn from it; the future is out of our control, though we can try to prepare for it. Finding acceptance can create an important freedom and allow you to live in the moment without judgment.

Check out these resources for more information on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and feel free to comment with any thoughts or questions!

DBT Self-Help
DBT at Get Self-Help
DBT Links at Healing from BPD
Diary Card templates (to track your progress)

Journal Prompt: Think of a recent upsetting situation. How can you use wise mind and radical acceptance to look at it differently?