A sad number of days are, well, sad.
A good number of days are great.
Today was excellent.
Why? No special reason, I guess. At least, no external reasons.
But I think I've discovered four things I can do to help my mood:
1. Have a clean house.
2. Be active in life, not passive.
4. Increase spirituality.
If you hate long posts, you can stop here. If you care about the intricate details of my life and how I reached those conclusions and how they're affecting me, please, take a seat, grab a snack, and read on.
1. Have a clean house.
No, seriously. It's only been the past few months or so, but I'm starting to realize that the state of my house drastically impacts my mood. The days I wake up and piles of laundry are the first things I see, then I get up and the bathroom is dirty and toys are everywhere and dishes aren't done (though that's more rare because BJ usually does dishes before bed) and the floor needs to be vacuumed and the kitchen is sticky, etc., etc., are the days that I'm in a bad mood. When I'm gloomy all day. When I'm close to tears. When any little whine from Kessa drives me from the room because it grates on my very raw nerves.
Lately I've recognized the correlation and have started to experiment upon it. Not that I sometimes leave my house messy so that I can see if my mood darkens. Rather, I try to keep my house cleaner, hoping that I'll stay happy. Then when I start to slip because I'm not naturally a clean and organized person, I notice that my mood is slipping and look around to see what the state of my house is.
Yesterday, for example, I was in a good mood in the morning, then for no apparent reason, I started to become more sullen. Kessa had been happy. No bad things had happened. And yet I found myself becoming melancholy. Kessa read into that mood and became more clingy and needy. That's when I looked around and noticed that my house was rather untidy. But by that point Kessa wouldn't let me put her down so I could clean. I bemoaned this fact to BJ. I recognized that my mood was darkening, and that it was probably due largely to my dirty house, but Kessa wouldn't let me do anything about it.
Just then my dear friend Tiffany mentioned that she was going home to an empty house and wasn't looking forward to it. I begged her to come to my house instead. Maybe she could distract Kessa long enough for me to at least straighten it up. She agreed. Hooray! Miraculously, Kessa started playing happily by herself long enough for me to get most of the house tidied so when Tiffany got here we were able to just chat. By the time she left I was in a much, much happier mood.
Today I worked on keeping the house tidy. I vacuumed. I tidied up after play times. I made my bed. I cleaned off counters. I took out garbage. BJ did dishes.
2. Be active in life, not passive.
This is harder to define, and thus has been a much longer time in coming for me to recognize. The idea started forming one day when Kessa was napping and I was dinking around on the Internet, reading all of my regular sites. Everything was up to date. I had nothing left to read.
And I was bored.
I kept checking all of them to see if, per chance, anything had updated. I played mindless games. I knew that there were other things I could do, even on the computer. Like blog. Or work on my budget. Or write in my journal. But I didn't want to do any of that. I wanted to be entertained. I didn't want to do anything.
That's when I started to realize that I was addicted to the Internet.
I forced myself to get off the computer. To do something. Anything. For the next several days I started limiting my computer time. I left the computer on so I could have music playing, but I turned on the screensaver and pushed the chair in. I made lists of things I needed to do in my house. I focused on playing with Kessa. And I was still drawn to the computer. I found myself unconsciously walking toward it several times per day.
I found that when I sat at the computer and did mindless stuff, it sucked my emotions, too. It made me not want to do anything. It made me passive in general. I didn't want to do things. I got bugged if Kessa wanted my attention when I wanted to be dinking on the Internet.
Today I made a point to get off the computer and live life a little bit. Kessa and I went to lap time at the library. We didn't stay the whole time because Kessa didn't care about the songs and stories; she just wanted to pull books off the shelves and not put them back on or read them. She was having fun, but it was really distracting for the other kids. So we left. I taught her how to color (maybe she should have learned this ages ago? We didn't have crayons!). We took the yellow crayon and ran around the house excitedly (well, I was being bubbly anyway. She was just watching.) pointing out everything that was yellow. Yellow is one of those words that sound funny when you say it too many times. We went walking. I'm giving Kessa more practice with walking. (Not that I'm anxious for her to walk or anything. I'm actually perfectly content with her crawling. But I wanted to get out and get some exercise and fresh air.) She crawled up all of our stairs. Twice. She walked up and down the hill to our playground. She figured out that she had to turn around and crawl backwards down the steep part of the hill. We sat in the sand and dug it up and made the hard sand soft. I put her in the stroller and walked to the pharmacy to fill a prescription.
And while she napped I did productive things. I cleaned. I let myself have some computer time. I read my scriptures. I even just laid down and relaxed. I had dinner almost ready when BJ got home. (Though, that was while she drank a bottle and ate fruit leather, not while napping.)
I hate to admit to this. I mean, I know that exercise is good for you and yadda, yadda. But I hate to exercise. Even my loathing of not being able to lose weight and fit into my clothes again isn't motivation enough for me to actually exercise regularly. I hate being sweaty and out of breath. I hate feeling out of shape. And it's boring.
Just before Conference BJ and I went to the temple. I passed out while kneeling. Turns out I have bad circulation. I asked BJ what I could do to improve my circulation. He told me aerobic exercise to strengthen my heart. Ugh. Curse him. But that was a much bigger motivation for me. Not being able to fully serve in the temple because of my health was a huge wake up call. It motivated me to actually start riding my exercise bike every morning. I actually get out of bed in the morning and ride. BJ is awesome and takes care of Kessa in the morning while I ride my bike and shower. (Which also motivates me to get up, because if I start late, BJ gets to work late.) And know what? After almost 2 weeks of riding my bike, it's getting a lot easier. I don't have to lay down for 10-15 mins afterward before I'll trust my legs to support me in the shower. (Don't judge my out of shapeness. :P ) I don't feel like I want to die anymore. In the far recesses of my brain I'm toying with the idea of upping my 20-minute ride to 30 minutes. Y'know, if I can convince myself to get up right on time. And today I started reading a book while I ride. It made the ride go so much faster! Good idea, Tianna.
And (surprise, surprise, I know) today I weighed in at the lowest weight I've been for over a year. It was very exciting.* But I keep telling myself that I'm not exercising to lose weight. That's a great bonus, but I'm exercising for my health. Jalin presented this idea to me months ago, and I liked the idea of it, but I had never gotten around to convince myself that I wanted to do it for my health, either. Guess God took the reins on that one. :)
4. Increase spirituality
This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. Increasing spirituality does wonders for your mood. At least, it does for me. BJ and I have made a point to increase the Spirit in our home. And actually, we consciously made that decision because we were trying to figure out how to better my moods. I was having a really hard time dealing with Kessa when she was whiny and I was scared to death at the prospect of multiple kids. I didn't want to push away my kids. I didn't want to resent my kids. I wanted to happily be an active part in their lives, not handing them off to someone else every chance I got because I had had enough and needed to get away. I knew there was no way I'd ever be a single-child parent, which meant that it was my attitude that needed to change. But I didn't know how! BJ and I talked at length about it and the conclusion we kept coming back to was that I needed to feel the Spirit more. I needed more access to the Spirit when my mood started to drop. I needed him right there to pull me back up.
BJ and I started reading scriptures together nightly. At first it was super hard to do it every night. But now it's just part of our bedtime routine. We always did it sporadically, but it had been tough to do it regularly. But given that motivation, we just started immediately and haven't looked back. I started saying my morning prayers more regularly. I started reading my Book of Mormon more regularly. I started looking for the Spirit in my life. I've started acting on promptings I get that before I may have ignored. BJ and I have had many discussions lately about things we could do that may or may not be popular, but would have a positive impact on the Spirit in our home and family.
I've also started listening to Conference talks on my iPod when I go on walks, make dinner, clean, etc. Any time I'm doing something mindless. After awhile I'll switch to books on tape, but I try to make Conference the first thing I listen to, then if I still have time later, then I can listen to other stuff.
This one I don't have tangible evidence to say X caused Y. But I do know that I've been much happier consistently since I've started making a concerted effort to invite the Spirit into my life. And really, any good LDS person has to know that this is the first and best step to take.
Now, please don't think I was a grumpy, moody, mean person a few weeks ago. No, I still had great days. I was still happy most of the time. But I was prone to unexpected and very-hard-to-change bad moods. And I'm sure I'll struggle with that for the rest of my life. But I'm glad that I'm learning triggers and preventative measures so that I can limit those moods.
*BJ is a punk and suggested today that maybe our scale is broken. Because he's also losing weight, but he's not exercising. So maybe it's just our scale going down, not my weight. I stuck my tongue out at him. You should, too. Because, y'know, that's the Christ-like thing to do and will invite the Spirit into your life. Errr… [sigh] I love you, BJ!