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Creatures of Habit...

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

Another week has come and gone and I can say it was a pretty good one. Looking back over my digital journal and not even two weeks ago I had a lot of days that were not great. Yet this week was mostly in the green. So lets look at some of the ways I seem to have come about that shift.

I think one key thing that comes to mind is the simple fact of being in a positive direction mindset, is more important than just a positive mindset. Having this in mind felt like I was more in control of what was going on in my life. Previously if I was trying to be less depressed, but was depressed, that would feed into the negative feedback loop. But keeping in mind the direction allowed me to navigate being down, knowing that I was still moving in the right direction (even if it didn't feel like it some days). Sometimes we have to get down to the details of our goals, but sometimes we need a little leg room so we don't beat ourselves up for no reason. I think for the last few months I have constantly tried to be in a positive direction mindset, regardless of if I was in a positive state or not.

I think, from the many times of coming through depressive stages in my life on my own, I can navigate the space of a negative state of mind much better. The underlying element to that is that I know I will get better eventually, simply due to the fact I have done it so many times before. As much as it sucks going through the same thing over and over again it has given me the experience of 'knowing' that I will get through it. I've done it often enough that I'm bored of the process and just want to be happy, but turns out life doesn't really work that way. I have been lucky in that my state of mind is, for the most part, just my mind. I can probably safely say there isn't a chemical imbalance, my external life is mostly fine. It could always be better, but it's not bad. So I've been lucky in that regards. So everyone's case is different of course, but still, this is my experience.

So first step, get comfortable with your negative state. You will probably be in that state for a little while, so might as well get comfy. Don't let it wear you down more than it has to. And fighting it generally doesn't seem to help that much either. I think going with the grain of your mindset is better than going against it. As hard as it may be to get out of it, there is a reasonable chance that you will as long as you are willing to try, and also willing to change. You will find that some of the things that you are dealing with simply become easier to deal with when your state of mind changes over time. Some things just disappear altogether.

I've struggled with a Dr Pepper addiction for basically the last year. I drink it to feel good, I drink it when I feel bad, I drink it to feel more creative, to relax after work, something nice with dinner...basically I was running out of reasons when I couldn't justify a Dr Pepper. Luckily I managed to keep it to mostly one can a day, but some days I just gave up trying to restrain myself. Until about two weeks ago now where I just stopped. I don't even know why. I just didn't crave it anymore. The best example I can think of is an experiment where rats were tempted with addictive drugs, but chose not to take them in a situation where they had other, more healthy, ways to fulfil their time such as exercise, things of interest and a social circle. Dr Pepper was my vice to help with the negative state of mind, and as soon as I managed to get passed a certain line of that towards the positive, I didn't need that hit anymore. It's only been two weeks, and I have to be vigilant, but as I see it the longer I stay on this side of positive I should be able to keep it up. Which in turn will hopefully improve my weight, which will allow me to be happier, which means I need it even less, etc. I always forget that negative feedback loops aren't the only feedback loops. In this case though, I think it just came down to hitting the bar that I was 'ok' without it and resonating with the idea that I didn't need it anymore.

Our comfort zone, or homeostasis, is probably the hardest to change, especially when that state is negative. Over the process of getting to a happier place, your base state will always try to drag you back regardless of if that base state is better or worse than the one you are aiming for. I've mentioned in a previous post how this affects our ability to be happy, and I just recently finished a book this week that goes into getting out of it a bit more, at least in an indirect way.

Atomic Habits by James Clear covers creating very small habits to result in big changes. I found it very beneficial in understanding more tools to get out of the comfort zone in a more manageable manner. Previously I have to admit that I have tried to get out of a negative state as fast as possible, but I'm starting to think the harder you try to escape, the harder you will be pulled back, which results in disappointment and frustration, feeding into the negative feedback loop. The more I keep to reasonable shifts, even going with the flow of that negative state so that I can understand it more, the more results I seem to get that actually stick. Create habits that move you in the right direction in very small increments, so small that you may not even feel them, and eventually you will find that you are out of you bad habit and/or have started a good habit 'properly' without even noticing. The book goes into a lot of detail as to how to improve your approach to doing this. Basically make the goods habit you want obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying. On the flip side, make any bad habits invisible, unattractive, hard or unsatisfying. A big one for me is Easy. I always want to get better faster. So the steps I try to take are hard. Cutting soda out cold when I don't resonate with that yet in any way. Doing 3 hours of development a day. Create a high quality video once a week. Too hard, not done, hello negative feedback loop. Wash, rinse, repeat. Understanding that the process to a more positive headspace is slow. Like, really slow. And getting comfortable with that fact will allow you to do that. If you haven't read the book, go do it. It's great. Try your local library if need be. Although the Kindle version was very reasonable in price.

Another thing that stuck out recently was how much gratitude can help in shifting ones mind state. I always saw it as one of those kind of woo woo things that overly spiritual people do, but turns out they were onto something. The simple act of taking a moment and being thankful for something, like truly thankful, is a fantastic life hack to improve your mood almost immediately. With everything going on, however, this can be a little difficult. So for several weeks now I will always take note that I am thankful for still having a job (even though it could be better), an apartment that I have decked out to my liking in a location that I like, and friends. Now maybe you don't have some of these these things, everyone has their own battles for sure. But it is possible to be thankful for the smallest of things and still get that positive result. Be thankful for the sun on your face, a song that you like, the fact you can read this and have access to the world on your phone or computer, the beauty of a leaf, an awesome pet, or just the existence of your favorite soccer team. Take a moment, turn off the world, take a deep breath, and focus solely on that thing, and just appreciate it being in your life. All the crap of the world will be there when you return, so you can take this moment. If you are in the darkest of places, I think this one thing can be the first step to getting out of it. I found this quite beneficial some days, and one of the easiest things you can do, and you don't need anything to do it.

Another other big takeaway of the last few weeks is being more present. This has been happening more over the last few months, but I feel I'm actually getting more of a grasp on it. I have always suffered from living not now. Past or future, depends on the day. But not now. In a way this is an extension of gratitude. Bringing in your awareness to the now and just enjoying the moment. This of course depends on what you are doing, but I have found it possible to take a more positive spin on things that previously tormented me endlessly. Chronic pain in my upper back, taking the moment to be mindful of it and less reactive to it (especially with the help of The Way Out by Alan Gordon helped with this). I can now, if I concentrate, actually take the pain as a challenge to come to terms with the pain, and work the practices of the book. Higher pain gives me an opportunity to feel better. Although at this early stage in the process it takes a lot of concentration. But if I can appreciate a moment with chronic pain, then I'm sure you can find a healthier state of mind in nearly anything. I think this is one of the reasons why taking a deep breath can be so therapeutic. It recenters us to the moment, but it's very easy to lose that moment as soon as it's done. Hold onto it, take another deep breath, until you can be in the moment without it (the deep breath, not breath :)

When it comes down to it you have nothing but the present, even the future is just a different version of the present you. What we need to do is figure out how to make future present you 'happier' by creating increments of happier you now (and that part is key), but also less annoyed by future present past you...which is you now. You will not magically wake up one day and think that you finally get it. You will never reach that point, and that's fine. Life is not about reaching some imaginary level or understanding of happiness. Life is trying to create optimal levels of positive engagement as much as possible throughout your life. Both now and the future, and finding the balance of that is life.

If all of this seems a little...meandering...then you'd be right. I don't know what I'm doing with this page :), or any of my projects to be honest. I'm wholly taking on the start doing and learn later approach to creating content. And just creating, regardless of if it's focused, niche, or even good. Speaking of which I've added a couple of characters to my low poly EXU cast.

Dorian Storm

Orym of the Air Ashari

And I am half way through the next character Fearne. All of these characters so far are a first pass. I will add them altogether in the same scene for the final pass and make sure the details are down for animation etc. I'm looking forward to getting them all together.

I think this project has helped a lot in getting me out of the negative side of mind state. I purposefully limited the scope of the characters to low poly in order to get results faster, and I have found that this approach to characters is much faster. So this has worked out really well. I admit that many days it is still hard to open up blender, and I am recording all the content to release as a timelapse somehow eventually, but the more I do it the easier it gets. It's almost like I am creating a habit or something...

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