I recently listened to a talk from a lovely lady about resilience. She was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I found everything she said interesting and it really hit the right note for me – for both my working and personal lives. She was talking about resilience, mental health, the power of positivity and ‘filling your bucket’.
Lately I have been feeling a little down and a bit overwhelmed by the constant treadmill that seems to be our life. It has always been the case really but lately I’ve not always been able to stop it from getting on top of me. As a result I have found myself feeling low at times; wondering how I can ever make it better and will it just always be as hard as it is now. This caused me to look a bit more deeply at how to stay positive, change negative feelings and make my mindset generally more healthy. Some Google searches, reading on support websites and looking for books in the library helped me to identify Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a possible solution, helping me to look more closely at how things are, what isn’t working well and how to adapt my way of dealing with things to make it more positive and to be able to cope with it. Changing negative thoughts into positive ones. I’ve not really had enough time to read very deeply into it yet but from what I have read, it sounds like a good approach or solution. Therein lies the problem – time!
The talk in work was linked to the same kind of ideas as I had been looking at and I was really interested to find out more. The thing I liked most about it was that it seemed a little easier to adopt the ideas and solutions offered. It didn’t involve reading lots of books or trying to find time to make notes and look in-depth at what was going on, asking myself lots of questions. The main idea was to seek out activities that ‘fill your bucket.’ It focuses on keeping yourself ‘on the beam’ on a daily basis, rather than the extraordinary or being a superhero. She spoke about building positive emotion as a necessity rather than a luxury. It’s important to actively pursue positive emotion, as it helps you to be flexible, creative and to relate to others. Positive emotion comes from nice things like friends, kindness, things we like to do or places we enjoy visiting etc.
Another thing she spoke about was ‘finding your flow’ – This is an activity that completely absorbs you. Something where you can easily lose track of time, the level of challenge is appropriate for you and you can measure progress. The message from this was to find time to engage in such an activity and if you don’t already have a flow activity – get one (e.g. Jigsaws, puzzles, sewing, chess and so on – it’s personal to you).
This then led on to discussing the work of Tom Rath and Donald Clifton – How full is your bucket? This focused on ‘The invisible bucket of positive emotion’ and she talked about how the greatest negative impact in prisoner of war camps came from the withholding of any positive information. People ended up in social and mental isolation.
The part I found most interesting and could really relate to was when she spoke about the impact on our lives of day to day social interaction. All interactions we have will either be filling or dipping our positive emotion bucket.
- Smiles, greetings, kind words – add a little into our buckets.
- Scowls, tuts, nasty remarks – dip a little back out.
She spoke of how there are people who come along who drill holes all over your bucket or tip it upside down. We need to be aware of this and manage relationships accordingly, as best we can. We need to be mindful when we have had a day of constant bucket dipping – we need positive emotion and flow activities. Another aspect I really related to was when she discussed the law of reciprocity – by filling other people’s buckets you get some yourself. This all struck a chord with me and I felt it relates well to my own favourite quote about being kind, which those of you who follow my blog will probably recognise (or be slightly fed up hearing!)
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.
You never know when your small gesture or act of kindness could be just what someone needs. It might help a frazzled parent get through the day, it might be the addition to the bucket that brings someone back a little from breaking point or it might just brighten a moment. It costs you nothing and the rewards can be so great.
The talk then focused on how we react when things go wrong and gave the following indicators for ways we deal with things that contribute to emptying more from our buckets:
- Catastrophising – thinking everything is a big deal. Using words/phrases like; it’s murder, that’s a riot, it was a nightmare.
- Low frustration tolerance – the outcome is made into something worse than it needs to be. Using descriptions like; I was traumatised, it was unbearable, I was devastated, it was the worst day of my life.
- Overgeneralising – assuming every person or situation will be the same. Saying things like; all of these people do this, everyone says it, they are all like that.
Here the speaker emphasised the importance of the words we use and the effect they have on our buckets. For example when describing a room – compact vs poky. When describing a person – involved vs interfering. She encouraged us to think about the language we use and whether we would like to hear those words said in relation to us.
It’s easy to get caught up in the negative and focus on what hasn’t been done or what you don’t have. Focus on noticing what’s been achieved and looking for or appreciatingbthings that have been done. The example the speaker gave was coming home and not noticing the carpet had been hoovered and the floor is tidy but seeing that the cushions are a bit squinty. Does anyone else do this? Do you notice what you’ve achieved or focus on what you’ve still to do? What do you reflect on at the end of the day?
She moved on to discuss the importance of recharging and relaxing. Her own example was getting up 15 minutes earlier in the morning so that she could enjoy the view from her window whilst drinking a cup of coffee. She discussed time out and breathing. At this point we had to do a short breathing exercise. We were timed for one minute and had to count our breaths. The second time we had to consciously pause between each breath and count this time. I was amazed – half the number of breaths and I definitely felt a little more relaxed afterwards.
The speaker then finished off by reminding us to be realistic in our expectations – of ourselves and of others. A lot of unhelpful thinking is caused by rigid core beliefs; e.g. I must do a good job. Being flexible in core beliefs is important. We can still have preferences such as to do well and know we will feel disappointed if we don’t, but we should also recognise that it’s not the end of the world and that we will get over it and move on. She highlighted the importance of recognising what you can and can’t control. Some things just need to be given away.
I felt more energised after this talk, almost like the recharge she spoke of. It all really hit home with me and I found it so interesting and worthwhile. It came along just at the right time too. In part due to myself and to our circumstances, I had been finding myself drawn into a spiral of negative thinking and finding it hard to get myself out. I know it’s important to listen to how others think and feel but I also realise the importance of not taking on board their thoughts and allowing them to influence my own – though this is not always easy!
At the end when everyone was leaving I felt I just had to tell the speaker how valuable I had found what she said. She had after all spoken of positive words filling people’s buckets and since she had turned my bucket back up the right way, I felt I should show her I appreciated it. She even gave me a hug into the bargain. Those who know me well know this is another level of progress for me!
Thank you to that lady. Thank you for putting the final pieces of the puzzle into place and for showing me how to mend the holes in my bucket. Hopefully the repair kit will hold and I can start to fill it back up again. I can only take it a day at a time.
All parents will know it’s hard to find time for yourself, to recharge and to engage in your ‘flow activity’. As a special needs parent it’s sometimes a little harder, particularly if they are unwell or having a bad day- though it’s especially important. The additional needs of our children always come before our own. I’m not saying that shouldn’t be the case. I am very guilty of not making time for myself or engaging in the things I like. Finding the time is the main challenge.
In the interest of filling some buckets, thank you for reading and please leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments too!