I have been saying this all year, but today it’s literal. It’s Groundhog Day!
Who can forget the DJ’s voice booming from Bill Murray’s clock radio as it ticks from 5:59 to 6:00am. And then…I’ve got you babe.
If you don’t know what I am talking about kids, get into your jammies and curl up with this 1993 movie classic.
It’s February 2. Again. Like Groundhog Day number 350 right? Living through this pandemic might just be the closest we get to a real-life never ending Groundhog Day.
But really, we’ve never been here before. Not like this. You have never breathed this breath. You have never stood in these footprints. It’s all brand new. And choosing to look through those lenses is apparently good for our health…mental, emotional and physical.
For many of us (except the introverts) isolation, masks, limitations and social distancing are getting old. The dark winter days have made lockdown feel like it’s never going to end. But, beyond the weather, there are plenty of reasons our current circumstances might be more difficult to manage than last year.
“Back in March, we were all fired up in terms of our response,” psychotherapist Anne Marie Shepherd told Prime Time. “But, over time, when more people are exposed to the same fear, that will naturally die down,” she said. And that, she said, allows other emotions, like sadness, overwhelm and despondency, to come to the front of our minds. I am seeing this, in myself and my virtual students.
‘Groundhog Day’ is a movie about change and transformation. There are lessons we can learn from Bill Murray’s unremittingly monotonous days covering the appearance of groundhog Punxsutawney Phil over and over. His character completely rails against the monotony, and in the end, as he begins to change, life begins to change.
Humans like predictability, but please tell me I am not alone in feeling the impact of too much repetition. As an extrovert and I thrive on people! If every day is the same, not going to the gym, not meeting a range of people, not having travel or projects to be excited about, that means we have to create our own stimulation for our brains, because we’re not getting it from the outside.
So how can we create some brain stimulation? Let’s take some lessons from Bill’s playbook.
Lesson 1: It is often the little things in life that make us happy. Remember to stop and smell the… hand sanitizer? Kidding. But buy yourself some fresh flowers or burn a candle next to your workspace. Cook something unusual. Journal. Sleep in. It’s easy to miss out on the little things, but they act as mini-antidepressants. The pharmacy of your brain is open, when you are open to the little details of your life.
Lesson 2: Take pleasure in the moments. Walking in the crisp air. Cuddling with a furry friend. Seeing a beautiful winter sunset. Warm drinks. Holding a hand. Sending someone a card in the mail. Being present for the moments makes up a rich life. Moments are really all we have. And living in the past, or getting too far ahead of ourselves is a guaranteed recipe for unhappiness.
Lesson 3: Take a deep breath. A little part of your brain called the locus coeruleus is responsive to how much carbon dioxide is in the blood, and as you change the carbon dioxide levels – by taking deep breaths with a longer exhale – your locus slows down its firing, which reduces the amount of noradrenaline in the brain. Noradrenaline is one of the chemicals associated with the fight-or-flight response. You can change the chemistry of your brain more precisely than anything the pharmacist can give you! In this short video I will guide you through some breathing and meditation with longer exhales.
Lesson 4: And this is the biggest lesson for me. Cry when you need to cry. Feel the feels. Your body is not made to hold on to those big emotions. But we get really good at stuffing them down. Like that drawer. Keep stuffing things in and not taking things out and soon you can’t open the drawer. Give yourself permission to be sad, angry, frustrated, upset, bored. Share these times with people around you. I promise, we are all feeling the same way. It’s so good to have someone hear you and it’s good for them to see your vulnerability. If you don’t believe me, check out this TED talk, and the science behind our tears.
It’s Groundhog Day. But it won’t last forever. Let’s make some small changes today and see if the world around us really does change.