the next right thing podcast

A Five Senses Check-In

Back in October I wrote this post—inspired by The Next Right Thing podcast—that was all about connecting to your senses in order to find some peace amongst the fear of the future and chaos of the present.  

Right now, I have a lot of moving pieces in my life, a lot of things that I don’t feel like I have control over and that are changing. As a result, I have been pouring myself into projects, exercise, and goal setting in order to combat the corresponding anxiety. Yesterday, after getting home from work a little earlier than usual, and with the sun out and the weather an incredible 75 degrees outside, I found myself debating over how I could be productive. Should I go for a run, a walk, a hike, do yoga, do work, write, clean, read, pray? What could I do to make myself feel good, or better, or at the very least, calm.

After a while, I decided to do a little yoga, even though I spent the first few minutes frustrated and unwilling to participate. I pretended to relax until I actually relaxed. Then, I sat down on my bed and tried to map out my plan for the rest of my evening—instantly going back to that place of demanded productivity.  My mind was racing and I felt like I was wasting time. But then, I felt the breeze come through my bedroom window. And then I noticed that the sun had turned golden with the evening and there were birds chirping outside. And then I thought back to that post, and I thought it was a fitting time to shift my focus back to the present—“to what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

Here’s what I wrote down:

Five things I can see

  1. The golden hour sunlight shining through the window
  2. The flickering shadows casted on my bed, my floor and my wall from my blinds
  3. A branch of the palm tree in my backyard swaying in the breeze
  4. The collage on my wall that I made to inspire me whenever I look at it
  5. My newly painted pink toenails

Four things I can hear

  1. The bells of the church down the road that mark the start of every hour
  2. Birds chirping—a reminder that spring is so close!
  3. Neighbors chatting and laughing
  4. A UPS truck driving in the distance

–Three things I can feel

  1. The evening breeze that is cool but no longer cold
  2. The soft comforter that sits on top of my bed
  3. Hunger. The excited kind of hunger you feel when you know what you’re making for dinner and you can’t wait to have it. Looking at you Naan pizza.  

–Two things I can smell

  1. The laundry detergent I used to clean the cozy sweatshirt I’m wearing
  2. Fresh air from my open window

–One thing you can taste

  1. Cold water

There are a lot of things that we can’t control, but there are also a lot of moments that we can choose not to let control us. As it turned out, there were plenty of good things to find on what tried to become a very stressful afternoon. And while I can’t guarantee that anxiety won’t sneak its way back into my shoulders, as I sat there, allowing myself to feel the breeze, to listen to the family next door joke and laugh, and to watch the sun turn gold, I knew everything was going to be okay, and that I could take a deep breath and relax.

Finding Focus with Your Senses

With so much going on and so many reasons to both worry about the future and get lost thinking about the past, it is easy to lose sight of the present.

I know I have a tendency of focusing on the if/when’s of the future or the “if only’s” of the past, and at times I can think and worry about them until I spiral down to a point of near paralysis. As a result, I often look for ways to reconnect to the present moment, as it’s the only thing I have any control over.

Recently, on an episode of the podcast The Next Right Thing, host Emily P. Freeman shared an exercise geared to get you back into the present moment by focusing on the senses. She said, “senses bring us back to the present moment, reminding us what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

The exercise asks you to notice and/or write down the following:

Five things you can see

Four things you can hear

Three things you can feel

Two things you can smell

One thing you can taste

As I write this blog in a low sitting chair on the beach, this is how I would go through the exercise:

Five things I can see

  1. The waves moving in and out
  2. A ship far off in the distance
  3. My brother’s sandy feet
  4. The freckles on my knees
  5. A feather stuck in the sand

Four things I can hear

  1. The ocean
  2. Kids playing and laughing
  3. An airplane overhead
  4. A seagull squawking

Three things I can feel

  1. A slight breeze
  2. The sand between my toes
  3. The heat of the late morning sun

Two things I can smell

  1. The ocean
  2. Fresh (non smoky) air

One thing I can taste

  1. The bagel I ate for breakfast

What I love about this exercise is that it can bring you into the present both to diffuse a stressful or anxious situation, or to magnify a good one. It can bring good things into focus so you can appreciate them and it can bring negative things into focus so you can move away from them. It can also act as a good distraction from intrusive or anxious thoughts, and give you something to do for a few minutes besides just breathe—which sometimes just doesn’t cut it.

This exercise can be a great go-to on anxious days, long trips to the DMV, stressful family gatherings, slow moving traffic, mornings when it’s hard to get out of bed, nights when it’s hard to fall asleep—really any time when your mind needs something to focus on…other than what it’s currently focusing on. Or, on good days, it can be used to focus and perhaps memorize the things around you that make this moment perfect so that you can remember it forever.

July & August Favorites (2020)

Hello and welcome back to another edition of favorites!

I have officially given up on creative introductions.

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Podcasts

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I haven’t been in a huge podcast mood these past couple months, so not only am I behind on most of the shows that I already listen to, I haven’t been actively hunting for new ones either. That being said however, I did come across The Next Right Thing, which is a short, faith based podcast that, like the song in Frozen 2 (even though this podcast pre-dates the movie) encourages you to take one positive step forward. Almost all of the episode are less than 15 minutes, giving you a little burst of inspiration each week. Highly recommend!

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Books

What I’ve been lacking in podcast motivation, I’ve definitely made up for in good books. First off, This is Going to Hurt, written by (now) TV writer Adam Kay. It chronicles his 6 years as a doctor and is full of hilarious, terrifying, and heart wrenching stories. As soon as I started it I recommended it to my mom so we could laugh and cringe our way through it together and we both loved it!

Next, A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost. This is truly one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I already loved Colin Jost from Saturday Night Live, but his wit and sense of humor shine in this memoir, and it was exactly what I needed during this crazy year. I listened to the audiobook which was fantastic, but if you are able, I’d recommend reading the eBook/physical copy, as there are tons of hilarious stories that have accompanying photographs I wish I could have seen.

And finally, Black Widow by Leslie Gray Streeter. The full title of the book is Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like Journey in the Title, which is long, but accurate. After suddenly losing her husband to a heart attack, the author documents the next year of her life, somehow finding humor that can make you laugh out loud. As a writer, I greatly admired her ability to turn to writing during such a hard time, and then to have the courage to share it, it was a very inspiring, heartbreaking and heartwarming read.

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TV Shows

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I don’t know how many times my brother recommended Community before I finally started watching it, but I’d like to formally apologize for waiting so long. It is so funny, so smart, so clever, and it never fails to make me laugh. I’m genuinely bummed I didn’t watch this show when it was on the air, but I’m so glad I’m watching it now! (find it on Netflix)

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Movies

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I have been trading movie recommendations with a friend of mine and Enemy came up a couple weeks ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. What is it about, you might ask? I can’t tell you. Because 1) it’s really, truly, a you need to see it to believe it type of movie and 2) I’m still not really sure. I will say though, I found this article really helpful in the aftermath. (find it on Amazon)

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Music

Taylor_Swift_-_Folklore

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the main album that stole my heart over these last couple months is folklore by Taylor Swift. It was such a great surprise and a welcome comfort in this crazy times. I have fully embraced its rainy day attitude, even on the hottest of days in Southern California.

Alongside that, I have also had a handful of songs I’ve been playing on repeat, some summery, some sad, some comforting. A little bit of everything:

  • MadHappySad by BabyJake
  • Pretty Please by Dua Lipa
  • Catching Feelings by Drax Project & SIX60
  • Famous For (I Believe) by Tauren Wells & Jenn Johnson
  • Hurting by Kygo & Rhys Lewis
  • Closer by POWERS
  • Rager teenager! by Troye Sivan
  • Passerby by Patrick Droney
  • Waste of a Lime by Ingrid Andress
  • Fighting for Me by Riley Clemmons

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These Amazon Shelves

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I am a collector of vintage cameras, and I have long been looking for a way to properly display them and so I was very excited to find these frames on Amazon. They are affordable, easy to hang, and sturdy enough that I could set up my cameras without fear. I would also recommend some Museum Putty, which I used to stick the cameras to the shelves (and the wall) since California seems to be a little earthquake happy at the moment. (find them here)

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Face Mask Applicators

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I had heard rumblings about these guys around social media, but wasn’t sure if they were really worth the money. But upon finding a cheap two pack on Amazon, I pulled the trigger and can honestly say they are WORTH IT. They save product, help you apply masks more evenly, and make you feel like you are painting a masterpiece on your face, which is delightful. (find them here)

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See my previous favorites post here.