A new New Year, for Me

Depression, Aging, and The Miracle Morning

I am having a different kind of year this year: that’s right! Already! I have been excitedly planning and setting up my 2017 planner since July (I’ll write another post about it for the planner nerds out there), and I have been setting goals for a month and even working on some already.

I know. Whaaaa?

I spent 2016 largely the way I spent the previous 2 years: depressed, overweight, eating crap, and largely (no pun intended) just trying to get from pillow to pillow each day. Result: 2016 was largely the same as the previous 2 years. I fully intend for 2017 to be different, and I have high hopes that different will mean better.

I am still depressed and overweight. They do seem to go together, like evil twins. However, in the last month I have managed to stop drinking entirely, start exercising at least 4 days a week, cut fast food down to just a few lunches per week, journal consistently, meditate daily, and, most important, take a longer view of my life than just getting through the day at hand so that I can collapse into bed at the end of it.

All of this has resulted in a grand total net loss of zero pounds, which is discouraging, and I may need to revise my year’s goal of losing 20 pounds to focus more on fostering the habits that will keep me healthy and less on the outward signs of it. But it’s only January 1, so I’ll keep the original goal for a while and see how it goes.

Stumbling blocks are ever present. I have severe, unrelenting clinical depression, and I’m somehow middle-aged now. Those things rob a person of the oomph that would simplify making sweeping life changes. I literally had “get out of bed” on my daily checklist for a good portion of 2016, because I couldn’t take it for granted that I would be able to do it. One of the habits I have worked hard on forming is literally just to show up for my day on a consistent basis. This feels like starting really far behind the starting line. Depression is a really sucky ogre to be on a life journey with.

Depression complicates goal setting because it utterly destroys the observing ego and removes the future as a viable possibility. What that means is, for the most part, I have no idea what I want to do with my life: for now, I mainly know which parts of my life I don’t want. That’s OK. I have started. I hope that some more goals and desires will crop up as the year goes on, and for now I am just leaving space for them.

As for aging, I used to run flat-out for miles at a time, in races. Now I jog for a maximum of 2 minutes before my lungs seize and I am forced to walk, panting. Aging is discouraging and makes things physically harder. Right now I am focusing on just moving my body in some way most days, because that is attainable for me and much better than not moving my body at all, which is how I spent the previous few years. And shockingly, literally lying around drinking beer, eating chips, and watching TV plays hell on muscle mass and metabolism. When I was 25, I bounced back from self-inflicted assaults like those. At 42 I bounce only because I have such excellent padding everywhere on my body.

All of this is scary and exciting to me. I might fail. Worse, I might succeed, and then I will have to face the grievous knowledge that all along I have had the ability to live a better life and failed utterly to do it. I am, however, guaranteed to fail if I don’t change anything, so I am one-thing-better-ing my way to a fantastic year. At least comparatively.

That’s great, you say, so how DOES a depressed slug get off the couch and get all this in motion?

I suppose one has to hit some kind of bottom. That is a common thread in “rags to riches” stories of any ilk. Mine was just that I was utterly sick of the way I was living my life, but I have been sick of it from some time without doing a thing to change it. I don’t know what flipped a switch a month ago. The switch-flipping is a necessary precondition to anything else, but I don’t know how to make that happen.

Other than that, I read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and happened to be in a mental state where I was receptive to it. Again, I have no idea how to produce that state, but I am just glad it happened along at the right time. You can find oodles of YouTube videos about this book and its ideas without ever reading the book, but somehow I found the wherewithal to actually read the thing and implement what it said to do. This is because I had nothing to lose and because the ideas make sense.

Here is what I got from the book on the first reading (so phrased because I’m sure there will be more readings): there is an actual recipe I can follow to improve my life.

Having no better ideas of my own, I decided to give it a try. The recipe is as follows. Every day, get up earlier than you are right now, and do six things. This is a tall order for people like me for whom getting up at all is a major challenge, but there’s nothing else for it. To be awake, you have to get up.

The six things have the acronym SAVERS:

  • Silence
  • Affirmations
  • Visualization
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Scribing (writing)

Elrod came up with these six things after researching what successful people do, and he decided what the heck, he’d try them all, all at the same time. The hook for me is that you don’t have to commit to becoming a monk or sitting on a pillow for an hour a day (forget it). You can do each thing for a single minute if that’s all the time you have. That makes it doable.

It was HORRIBLE for the first week, but now I have formed the habit, so I automatically run through my morning routine even when I’ve planned to take a day off.

For the curious, here is my own Miracle Morning routine:

  • Wake up, wash face, feed animals, start coffee = 5 minutes.
  • Silence = 3 minutes. I try to just sit still and do/think nothing for 3 minutes, which is about as long as I can stand it.
  • Reading = 10 minutes. The idea is to read a bit of a motivational or personal development kind of book each day.
  • Scribing = 10 minutes. I like journaling anyway, so this is the easiest one for me. I write what I did the day before, memorable/funny moments, lessons learned, and gratitude.
  • Affirmations = 3 minutes. I have a working set of affirmations that I repeat to myself for 3 minutes even though it makes me feel like a total fool. Because my ideas have not been working so well for me.
  • Visualization = 10 minutes. I use this time to plan my day and visualize it going fantastically, and the remainder of the time goes to daydreaming. What do I really want? What would be super cool? What kind of person do I want to be?
  • Exercise = 5+ minutes. Depending on how much time I have, I engage in movement ranging from 5 minutes of stretching, crunches, and jumping jacks to 45+ minutes at the gym. Possiblities include yoga, jogging, T25 DVDs from beachbody.com, or schlepping across town to my chi-chi gym.
  • Shower and breakfast = 20 minutes. This is important for me to include because otherwise I’ll sit around drinking coffee and staring at my iPad until I’m late for work.

So there’s the how, for me, right now.

I am absolutely committed to making positive changes this year, and that makes this an awesome New Year’s Day.