Rhythm

Recently I have been personally challenged by the concept of rhythm.  Rhythm in many different parts of my life; personal relationships, physical movement, spiritual growth and professional development to name just a few.  It’s not a word I’ve generally associated with these activities but for some reason, at present, I’m drawn to it.

As a psychologist in private practice, I often notice that periods of low mental health can often be characterised by a lack, or a loss, of rhythm.  This may be due to an unforeseen or tragic circumstance which has thrown us off course or a life transition such as starting university, retirement or becoming a parent.  It may also be due to sheer exhaustion, cumulative stress or a loss of meaning in one aspect of our life.  And let’s not forget the small things; a physical injury that alters our exercise routine,  a change in the way things are done at work, a close friend moving away. All these, and more, can contribute to a loss of rhythm.

We all live to our own beat.  A beat that changes as we change, that adapts to the activity and is unique to you. Whether it be fast, slow or syncopated, it is somewhat repetitive; a pattern that regularly re-occurs.  Similar to hearing our favourite song, there is a certain comfort in being able to anticipate the rhythm as it gives us a fair idea of what comes next.  When we can see a short way ahead, it helps us to “know”. This knowing gives us a sense of control and allows us to plan.  When we know how some things in our day or week look, we can initiate them automatically, almost without thinking; for example starting each day in the same way or allocating Monday for this and Tuesday for that. Such a routine would significantly decrease how much thinking we do about the future and enable us to be more mindful of the existing moment.

To consolidate, think about the experience of lacking routine when a new year begins. After returning from a holiday break, we find various demands and opportunities abound. The mornings may feel a bit chaotic or uncertain with questions like “how will today work?” or “what should I do next?”  After a while, once we’ve bumbled around in a stop-start sort of way, we work out what is essential and what is simply nice to do.  This forms our two contrasting elements which are also essential for rhythm.  Just as music will have an upbeat and a downbeat or long and short notes, our life rhythms require opposites like “need to do” and “want to do”.  Both are important; they provide enough fluctuation to keep life interesting.  If we only do what is absolutely necessary and never allow time for ourselves or plan enjoyable activities, then we are left with a fairly dull or exhausting beat.

This then begs the question: is there a difference between rhythm and routine?  To this, I would say “yes”.  A life that is balanced with both work and play (need to do and want to do) is often a practical base for positive mental health.  Routine is the regular procedure, the unchanging, steady beat,  sometimes described as “the daily grind”.  Rhythm, however, is what syncopates this beat; it gives our life momentum, interest or challenge, and keeps us moving forward.   If we are to see rhythm in our lives, we need to ask ourselves “what energises me?”, “what gives my life meaning?” or “what is it that I really LIKE to do?”.  Perhaps it is friends or family, keeping fit, playing music, learning new things, having fun or giving to others.  We are all unique in what brings us joy and motivates us…what is it for you?

Take a moment here to identify these for yourself.

Then…of course, because these things make us feel good, we want them to keep happening so we can rely on them.  So plan some ‘want to do’s’ into your routine.  Maybe daily, weekly or six-monthly – it will depend on what it is.

Go on…plan it.  If you don’t, then quite possibly it won’t happen.

My sense is that we enjoy and appreciate the good things in our life when it’s not the only thing we do.  We need that steady beat in the background that gives our life structure and predictability.  Yet we make it more interesting and purposeful when we add our personal flair to it.  May you discover your own personal rhythms, giving life to your routines.

 

Definition sources: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/routine  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/rhythm                                              http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syncopate

Finding Hope in Your Relationships

By Ivette Moutzouris

Registered Psychologist

I am a strong believer in hope. I wouldn’t be working in this field if I didn’t believe that change is possible and looking forward is definitely part of the process.

If I had to put it in my own words it means looking forward with a desire and yearning that things can get better. Without hope we are stuck and oftentimes we are stuck looking at what we don’t have, what hasn’t worked out and if you remain in the frame of mind long enough you can start to feel down and lose the very thing that can propel you forward……hope!

We need to believe that things can get better so that they do get better. But this doesn’t mean that life becomes perfect with this attitude. It means that we search for the meaning and sometimes the acceptance of what was and what is. By making some sense of the past and the present we can learn to improve, to make better choices, to change our expectations. We can also see what has worked (even if this didn’t happen often) and take better control of our immediate future by reproducing it again and again. In Psychological terms this perspective is called Solution Focused Therapy. It is the idea that change occurs when we focus on solutions rather than the problem. This doesn’t mean we disregard the problem(s) it simply means that solving our problems involves focusing on what’s working or has worked in the past instead of over focusing on what hasn’t. I have recently been reading a book on marriage- saving techniques which has this focus and in the first few chapters I was impressed by the author’s strong conviction that marriages can improve. She often had hope for her clients even when they seemed to have lost hope and she taught them how to look for exceptions in their marriage (i.e. times when things were going well) and to work on building on what already existed that was good. She found that this approach not only encouraged more immediate change but it also gave her clients a more practical and hopeful way of looking at their relationships. She also stressed that if something wasn’t working then adopt a different approach. This may seem obvious and simplistic but she did point out that in our relationships we often get stuck relating and reacting a certain way and this becomes a habit.

This approach is not only proactive but it is also reflective and hopeful because it is making a decision that things can be different and learning how to put this into practice. Once we experience a positive change it gives us hope into our future. It is an encouraging way of looking at your life. Instead of focusing on the negative we learn to be wiser as we reflect on the past, live in the now and look forward to the future.

 

Weiner-Davis, Michelle.1992. Divorce Busting. New York. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.