Recently, a friend shared that they regularly schedule some personal grump time. This got me wondering how personal grump time could help release heavy emotions to support lightening one’s mood and supporting emotional health and wellness. What could a really good grump session look like and how can it best be carried out?
There are various ways to go about one’s daily life journey from the aspect of emotional health and wellness. There are some basic emotions and six, identified by psychologist Paul Eckman, are: happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, and anger. The emotions we feel influence the decisions we make about our lives and often compel us to take action. However, it’s up to the individual to choose one’s mood because no one can make anyone feel a certain way. Someone could certainly trigger an emotion in an individual but ultimately it is up to the receiver to choose how they will react and then feel. As illustrated by licensed clinical social worker Amy Morin, “Paying attention to the way you think can help you become more aware of your bad mental habits. With practice, you can train your brain to think differently. Over time, building healthier habits will help you build the mental muscle you need to become mentally stronger” (13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do (Inc.com)).
Beware of the idea of forcing positivity on one’s self. I’m reminded of a person in my life circle who puts a silver lining spin on everything in a nauseating way; this individual is always (intentional emphasis on always) compelled to do this not only for themselves but also to one-up others’ experiences by adding an even more positive perspective. This particular individual does not seem to allow for any space for someone to feel all their feelings, negative or positive, all of which are valid. “By trying to silver lining (Brene Brown’s new verb) someone else’s pain completely invalidates her experience. It’s as if we are saying to the person, ‘Your pain is so trivial that mere words can change it.’ We are, of course, not trying to say that when we are sympathizing. But we are nonetheless,” says Shala Nicely, a licenced professional counsellor. My opinion is that silver lining someone’s positive feelings also similarly trivializes their experience. It can feel despairing and disheartening, leading to thoughts of, or similar to, What’s wrong with me for feeling this way? “Positive thinking could be considered the high fructose corn syrup of the thinking world– when forced. It’s not necessary, natural, and research has found that it’s not good for us when we have to sell ourselves on it,” writes Therese J. Borchard, a mental health writer and advocate (PsychCentral). She contends that, “Positive thinking is not wired in. We don’t necessarily need it to survive… On the other hand, negative thoughts — the what if’s and oh no’s of life — are wired in. They are the handy neural first-responders which, by erring on the side of caution, kept us in our caves when the wind rustled the sticks on the ground in case it might have been a hungry wooly mammoth.” Today, those intense warnings of danger may be overprotective and even pesky. While they are natural to us, we do well to not become paralyzed by them. We can simply appreciate them as well-intentioned and move forward.
Having a self-care plan in place for physical, emotional and mental health is a recurring message to us, especially now. Amy Kiser Schemper, in a recent issue of Prevention magazine, proposes that “Rest days are important for our bodies and our brains. If you need a break, take it.” While she’s referring to walking wisdom, it can easily apply to daily life.
So let’s do it up right. Let’s take a break for our bodies and brains and get bad-tempered, focusing on the negative and giving in to our problems and hardship. At least for a short period of time.
6 Steps to Scheduling Self-Directed Grump Time
Perhaps you’ve heard of the concept of scheduling “worry time” which can help one develop control over the frequency and timing of worry. Backed by research, it’s suggested that when one can contain their worry to designated periods, it can free up the mind for other important, interesting or fun activities. In keeping with the concept of scheduling worry time, let’s look at how to best accomplish intentional grump time. Here are six easy steps.
1) Schedule regular grump sessions, putting them in your calendar. Choose your own frequency whether it’s bi-weekly, weekly, or even daily. Start by setting aside 5-15 minutes in a private, and if necessary, sound proof environment or head outside somewhere private. At a subsequent session, you can decide whether or not you prefer to take an entire day or half day to be a grump. For now, consider the most appropriate time when you won’t be interrupted, won’t be rushed, or have something pressing to do afterwards. Also consider not doing this right before you go to bed because you do not want to carry a grumpy attitude with you into sleep. Imagine those dreams!
2) During your very first 5-15 minute grump session, start by imagining the grumpiest person you know, knew or have read about and consider how they express themselves. Using your imagination, borrow some of those grumpy aspects to find your own appropriate grumpiness factor. Here are some facets in helping you become your best grumpy self:
First, notice what your example grump looks like, their physical appearance. Mimic their body language, their stance, facial expression, hair, etc. Now transfer those visuals into a new image… your own personal grump. Notice its shape, colour and size. Shift your body to fully take on these characteristics. Let loose and simply go for it.
Second, consider what sound your example grump makes. Notice the sound this grump makes as they move about, even as they breathe. Take on those sounds, playing them like an instrument, and secure any sounds appropriate for your own personal grump.
Third, consider the somatic feelings in your example grump’s body including temperature, pressure, and emotion. Notice what wells up for you and give it its own life.
Fourth, as a grump yourself embodying everything discussed already, notice what the surroundings and environment around you smell like as a grump. What do you smell like?
Fifth, did you know that your sense of taste can change with mood? According to science reported by PubMed, positive emotions are linked with enhanced sweet tastes while negative emotions are associated with heightened sour and decreased sweet tastes. Go ahead and notice what taste your mouth is currently experiencing as a grump.
You’ve almost arrived in total grump fashion and a few more suggestions will likely help you get right into this!
3) Begin to recognize how the various aspects of visual, auditory, somatic feeling, smell, and taste fit you personally in your grumpiest grumpness. Shift them to make them your own.
4) Once you’ve shifted into grumpiness, give your personal grump a name, different from your own perhaps.
5) At first you may want to set a timer while embracing being the grumpiest grump you can be in your first grump session.
6) When your time is up, finish with a ritual of some kind. You can carry out something as simple as inhaling a deep reinvigorating breath and exhaling any last remnants of your grump. You may wish to add a happy dance or play your favourite uplifting music.
Between scheduled grump times, if you find yourself feeling grumpy, think of an imaginary vessel like a bag or box or locked trunk and dump those grumpy thoughts in until your next scheduled grump time. Practising will help make this easier. You can enjoy knowing that those grumpy thoughts will be available to you during your next scheduled self-directed grump session, out of harms way for anyone else.
If you give yourself time to be grumpy every now and again on a scheduled basis, imagine how much lighter and positive your life outlook can be. Imagine how easily heavy emotions will be released, lightening your mood. Dr. Seuss wrote, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Yes, imagine being a really good grump! But just for your scheduled and private grump time, please.