Hop Off the Blues Bus



by Jo Peddicord

Aah! What a relief! Believe it!—you can lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and get the right answers at no cost! Wait, it will cost a little—your time. Give 5, 10, or 30 minutes...that’s up to you. Where is this miracle?  Simple—in your own quiet time and solitude.

Personal journal writing is an excellent outlet. In the 1930s, small five-year diaries with tiny locks and keys and gilt-edged pages were popular gifts. Five lines for each day of the week were allowed. We girls took pride in keeping a diary of all our little secrets, especially about boys. The personal journal I’m recommending is not like that, although it is very private. Here, we write pages each day of our thoughts and feelings, getting them all down on paper. One author, Lois Hjelmstad who is now in her sixties, has kept a diary since she was 15. She remembers that her jottings way back then started to sound like poetry. Those beginnings were the seedlings of her present day poetry. Several years ago she published a compilation of her poetry and journal entries in a book, entitled Fine Black Lines, Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness.

            Writing daily on your pages becomes a companion for your reflections and unfolding experiences. Your deeper feelings will creep out. You will more clearly see what actions truly bring balance, progress and peace and those actions that contribute the least toward your well-being and should be discarded. Introspection is a stimulant to your innate wisdom.

            To get started on the adventure of journal writing, get a simple spiral notebook, about 6” x  9.” Or, treat yourself to one of the beautifully bound and decorated journals, found in bookstores. You may want to choose a size that is handy for you to carry in your purse, because you can write whenever the urge hits you. Write at least two pages EVERY DAY. First thing in the morning is good, or during the day or evening when you are upset, overjoyed, or need the release that writing gives. You don’t need an eraser because nothing you write is wrong. Writing in a journal is like tossing a stone into a pond and not worrying about the waves. There is no right or wrong way to do this—just get the words down.

            In Modern Maturity magazine, November-December 1999, Sophia Loren, now in her sixties and still one of the world’s most beautiful women, says she writes in her “secret diary” whenever she needs to “decompress”. She writes what happened and her thoughts about the occurrence. It makes her feel renewed.

            Have you any idea what a release it is to get your agitated, resentful, hateful, or joyous, grateful, loving thoughts out of your mind and on to paper? The thousands of women who keep journals do so because it relieves burdens and satisfies a need. And guess what? Not only does this help your mental attitude but also it increases your creative drive...your creativity in any endeavor. The writing works your brain cells and this stimulates creative impulses. It enables you to work through joys and challenges.

            You may think, “How can I put my thoughts on paper?” It does take a little practice but here is how you begin. As the words race through your mind, write them down, no sentences or punctuation, just a string of words.  As you get used to doing this, you may get more form to your jottings, but that’s not important. The more you write the easier it gets. Resist the urge to be perfect. That is counterproductive. The therapeutic benefit comes from getting the words on paper in free flow. Don’t listen to any mental censor or critic. In this case, all criticism is untrue. This is your free time to write whatever, however you want to.

            Your personal journal may sound negative, scattered, self-pitying, repetitive, stilted, childish, silly. Then again it may sound surprisingly inspirational, more intelligent than you thought possible, or beautifully descriptive. You may write down some ideas and think, “Where did that come from?” This is all good. Whatever happens is okay. This is an adventure in self-discovery from which only good can come.

            Your journal writing is for your eyes alone. No one else may read it and you don’t have to, either. Just the action of getting the words out of your mind and on paper is itself effective and healing when done every day of every year. You will learn to turn off negativity, release hurtful emotions, comfort yourself, and improve your living.

Affirmations are your friendly supporters. With hope, confidence and a sense of possibilities, affirmations arrest the negative self-talk that bombards us and may have been suggested by parents, spouses and friends throughout our lives. People who know the power of self-talk recommend affirmations as one of the best lines of defense. Dwelling on past wrongs, jealousies, resentments, and sadness has no benefit and instead adds another wrinkle. But if we are to throw out these destructive thoughts, we need a replacement. That’s the value of affirmations—they replace those bad thoughts with good ones.  They blot out negatives with positives.

            Affirmations are short statements in absolute mode, phrased in the present, active tense, such as, “I am better every day in every way.” Repeating an affirmation 10 times or more, especially upon waking and just before sleep, and whenever appropriate throughout the day gets it rooted in the subconscious. Here is where ideas for corrective action germinate. Also, be sure to say an affirmation after a disturbing happening. This is programming your mind for success. Saying such strong statements aloud makes them more forceful. At times when irritating thoughts scream at you, you can shut them up by shouting an affirmation aloud several times. It works!

            Rather than rehash wrongs, resentments, and hurts, you’ll find it is far better to think or say an affirmation until peace settles in. Affirmations reinforce wisdom and anticipate good results.

            As you repeat an affirmation, digest its meaning. You can even sing it if you wish. Let it sink in and energize your mind with goodness. An affirmation that you particularly need to remember can be written repeatedly in your journal, placed on a sticky on your bathroom mirror or rear view mirror in your car. If you can’t fill two pages every day with your journal jottings, write affirmations. This keeps your mind-power vitalized. The next step is to heed the ideas for action that come unexpectedly during meditative moments, and to take any necessary or relevant action.

            Here are some affirmations to help you make up your own:

        Every day, in every way, I’m getting stronger and stronger (or happier and happier).

        I am free of all self-destructive criticism.

        I have unconditional warm regards for all friends, relatives, strangers and myself.

        I now release all comparisons of myself to others.

        I plan each day to be healthy, happy and active.

        I am developing the intelligence and mental sharpness to create a good life.

        I have the understanding and capacity to forgive.

        I am a competent, lively person capable of managing my affairs.

        I love the good I see in me.

        I have the friends and activities necessary for my happiness and good health.

Meditation is an action, not passive dozing! Like affirmations, meditation is a positive consciousness, free of mental chatter. Unlike journal writing in which we welcome all thoughts to put on the page, in meditation we block them out. We want our mind to be like a serene, undisturbed pond with either one inspiring idea or just enjoyment of pure peace. Although meditation may seem like prayer, the meditative attitude is closer to listening—listening for inspiration rather than pleading or begging. The objective is to maintain a listening posture while resting the body and mind in stillness.

            Life is filled with so much noise that it is a relief to the body, mind and spirit to escape into tranquillity we can create at will. During personal quiet time, we develop self-respect as we get to know ourselves. The calm mind is a keener environment in which to do this and make smart decisions.  Inner feelings are easier to understand and problems are more clearly analyzed when anxiety and agitation are absent.

            In silence, free of distractions, after your mind is tranquil, enjoy the calm or think about one important idea—nothing negative. To solve problems, dump them into the silence.

            Imagery works for some people. For example: Sit down and close your eyes.

            Imagine walking through a gate into a peaceful garden. You see at the

            entrance    a Grecian urn. Here you deposit all worries for the time being,

            as you stroll in    and “see” a fountain tumbling into a pond with gold fish,

            surrounded by dozens of     roses and all your favorite flowers.

            As peace settle over you, listen and wait. Answers may not come that instant. Be patient. The process fertilizes the soil of your mind for the desired seed to grow. You cannot rush the sprouting of the seed. Daily watering with more quiet time, contemplation and the sunshine of faith.  Limiting or distressing thoughts are weeds, and you know what to do with weeds.

            There are different ways to create periods of inner silence. Here is a basic one:

1. In the beginning, choose a quiet, devotional place in your home where you can be alone. Start by setting aside five or ten minutes. At first the body is usually too restless to be quiet. To release restlessness from your nerves and muscles, select a combination of exercises that work best for you.  Suggestions:  walk in place several minutes inside or outside; do yoga or t’ai chi (especially good to relax mind and body); perform stretching and tensing exercises, and  run in place. This is an important step because the reason many people cannot meditate is their bodies keep fidgeting. Be patient with your body.

2. Sit upright in a comfortable position. Posture is important because this is not nap time!

3. Close your eyes, rein in racing thoughts and empty your mind of disturbing ones.  While eyes are closed, roll them up, not down, to prevent dozing.

4. Quiet your mind by counting breaths. Each inhale and exhale is one count.

Do 12 to 24. Or, do any breathing exercise. Then, mentally repeat an affirmation and/or inspiring idea. Keep your thinking on this one thought.  Gently push out all intruders.

5. Protect your good thoughts, letting in only the positive ones. Your mind is not blank. Concentrate on one word, an uplifting thought, a happy experience, or the feeling of tranquillity.

6. Relax into the peace. In the beginning, if you can do No. 5 for five or ten minutes you have made a good start.

            At first, keep the total time short. Five minutes is okay. Do not be concerned about the time but about the quality of the quiet. Once you learn how to control your body and mind, you can meditate longer and in any place: sitting in a church, park, bus, plane. Persistence brings more control and enjoyment from your silent times. Once or twice a day, try to give your mind and emotions rest from worry and anxiety. The benefits are:

        Serenity de-tenses your face, relaxes facial lines, and rests the cardio-respiratory and nervous system.

        Your senses become calm and your ability to concentrate improves.

        You gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the woman you are.

        Time spent in meditation clarifies the mind and conditions it for greater creativity  and fulfillment.

        If you persist with daily practice, solutions, guidance and resources, which improve your status quo, will start to percolate any time when your mind and body are calm.

            Medical doctors are now publicly acknowledging the mind-body benefits of techniques such as meditation after decades of rejection. Isadore Rosenfeld, M.D., a 73-year-old cardiologist and author of Live Now, Age Later, recommends meditation. He suggests divorcing yourself from all emotions or feelings for 10- or 20-minute periods, once or twice a day. Many religions are also adopting a silent time or meditation into their practices.

            You can perhaps see how quieting the agitation of worries and fears for even a brief period nourishes your mind and body. That tranquillity contributes to all-around good physical, psychological, and emotional health.

Here’s, one more tool. We Americans have a special fondness for our Thanksgiving holiday. What we may not think of is that the act of feeling grateful has a healing benefit that removes self-centeredness. The following simple exercise can be done at any time and is especially uplifting during difficult times.

            Be grateful for 10 things in your life. Write them down in your journal. Express thankfulness for every evidence of good health, every kind action in the present and past, every beauty in you, in people, and in nature, as well as the presence of animals, birds and flowers, the green grass, blue waters, rolling plains, and majestic mountains.

            Look around you and seek reasons to be grateful. Be grateful for the beauty of the sunrise, the sunset, the silver moon, the snow sparkling like diamonds in the sunshine, the fragrance of springtime, the songs of birds, the faithfulness of loving pets and the goodness of friends and family.

Whatever you believe, affirm, and concentrate on has a strong possibility of eventually being manifested.


From Feel Nifty After 50 by Jo Peddicord. Copyright © 2000 by Jo Peddicord. Excerpted by arrangement with Golden Aspen Publishing. $14.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-639-9664 or click here.