Opinion | Davis: The concept of moving towards in mental wellness
Do you remember super balls? Those small, concentrated spheres of rubber zigzagged erratically when they hit something, and catching them was a comedic effort. This is how the emotional dance I engaged in with anxiety and depression looked. This dance, however, didn’t happen right away. Before, it was a chaotic dance which spun randomly with every bounce.
The mind goes where you direct it to go. Think about the instruction a child receives when riding a bicycle for the first time. “Remember, you will steer the bike where you are looking.” So if you look at the ditch, in trying to avoid the ditch, where do you imagine you will direct the bike? Straight into the ditch, of course!!
Mental health mirrors this concept in that thoughts go where we think. If we think about moving away from a problem, we forget we are still looking at the problem we are trying to get away from. There is a key mental health peer support concept that address this beautifully — it’s called the principle of “moving towards.”
Moving towards is like having a goal. Positive versus negative, the solution versus the problem. Think about New Year’s resolutions. Why do these promises to self rarely last beyond February? No willpower? Temptations? Consider this: with resolutions, you focus on something that you want to stop doing. Say you’ve set a goal to quit smoking. You may tell yourself that you won’t light up, buy the next pack or focus on NOT smoking. Remember the bike? If you focus on the problem — NOT smoking — you will likely end up breaking that resolution.
When looking at the same issue in the framework of “moving towards,” you set a GOAL, perhaps becoming healthier. When you feel like smoking, you take a walk, munch on carrots, chew gum, etc. The goal of creating healthy habits move you towards your goal of getting healthier. This is considerably more effective and you are more likely to find success with this principle in your toolbox.
Now back to the super ball. A large span of my life focused on moving away from anxiety and depression. I made many missteps which ended up CAUSING anxiety and depression. Once I learned the concept of moving towards, things changed. I began moving towards hope and wholeness. I can speak from personal experience in saying this stuff works! I’m still challenged by things that cause me to panic or feel low. The difference is that I have something to move towards. No one can escape the ebbs and flows of life. I choose to move towards happiness and not away from anxiety; to move towards reframing challenging circumstances for positive outcomes rather than moving away from depression. So now, instead of looking at that silly little super ball as a mess of random bounces with no direction, it reminds me of my bounce back. What would you like to move towards?
Jill Davis is Peer Services Coordinator for Mind Springs Health and uses her experience with a mental health diagnosis to help others. She is based out of Grand Junction and can be reached at JDavis@MindSpringsHealth.org or 970-683-7135.
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