Experiment #31: Give Your Inner Critic a Silly Name

BY DIANNE JACOB, Food Writing Coach

BY DIANNE JACOB, Food Writing Coach

Need a fresh idea for dealing with your inner critic? Of course you do. The critic never goes away. The issue is how to deal with him or her.

I read about an idea you might find useful: Give your critic a silly name. That way, his or her negative pronouncements about your abilities carry less weight.

I tried this approach with a talented client who can't seem to get around to writing. I suggested she name her critic Mildred. My client giggled. Suddenly, the critic seemed goofy. She had less power.

It makes sense to name your inner critic after Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce.

It makes sense to name your inner critic after Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce.

We talked about how helpful Mildred can be in other areas of my client's life: in food styling, recipe development, creating a beautiful home, and designing a photo for Instagram, for example. My client relies on Mildred to help her make good decisions through criticism. But somehow, Mildred isn't helpful to her when it comes to her own writing.

Ethel is a great inner critic name.

Ethel is a great inner critic name.

Isn't that interesting? Now the challenge is to get Mildred to help her in this final arena, where Mildred has been harsh. My client reports that "the writing has begun...slow and steady." Hooray!

It all sounds quite logical, but as we know, taming the inner critic is a slippery process. I've dealt with her messages in my head forever. But I'm naming her Bertha now, or maybe Ethel. Already I like her better.

Experiment #30: Slow TV

Let extremely chill Norwegian vibes cover you in relaxation.

National Firewood Evening. Enough said.

National Firewood Evening. Enough said.

My friend Carl (sharer of great ideas in How to Deal with an Anxious Partner) told me that he found himself watching a two-hour train ride to Oslo on Netflix.

"Oh yeah?" I said. "What happened?"

"Literally nothing," he said. "And it was great."

slow tv netflix

Carl had discovered Norwegian Broadcasting Company’s “Slow TV,” which has been running on Netflix since last August. In the words of the Daily Beast's Daniel Bukszpan:

If you’re wondering what happens on these shows, the answer is simple—nothing. Nothing happens on any of these shows at all, unless you consider the two-minute firewood-stacking explainer preceding the six hours of crackling log action to be “something.”
Train Ride Bergen to Oslo

Train Ride Bergen to Oslo

I loved what Carl said about watching this ride, 

It's almost like you readjust your watching behavior, such that when the train comes through a tunnel and you see a new incredible panorama, it is genuinely exciting. You just get lulled into it.

If your nervous system is running ragged, this experiment could be just the thing for you. It seems like an amazing thing to have on in the background when you're working on something else. I wonder if I could scratch out the time to go through my personal household filing while watching the Norwegian National Knitting Night? Sounds like a winner to me.

Experiment #29: Snowglobe Away Your Thoughts

Some of the great things that spilled out of the envelope when I first opened it.

Some of the great things that spilled out of the envelope when I first opened it.

Rainbow monocle.

Rainbow monocle.

Last week I received a mysterious package in the mail. In it were many fun anx-positive crafty treats including fake tattoos, scratch and sniff stickers, and a monocle that made everything look rainbow when you looked through it. 

I later found out that my friend Michelle had sent me the care package from The Heart and Hands Store on Etsy. Artist Janelle Silver creates adorable, positive messages to make people feel good. It's a nice gift idea for the right person.

One of Janelle's ideas struck me as a particularly good experiment:

anxiety support

Write down something you need to let go on a piece of paper. Then, in Janelle's words, "Get a bowl full of water and add coloring or glitter...make it a celebration. Record it on your phone if you want to watch it again later. "

Next you just cut the paper into tiny pieces and "snowglobe" them away.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Experiment #28: Count Bees, Spot Elephants, Discover a Planet

I heard about this idea on my new favorite podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression. On this episode, he talks to someone helps herself get out of slumps by logging onto Zooniverse, joining in on crowd-sourced research for great scientific, literary, historical, and artistic causes. 

This is from Zooniverse's Serengeti Wildebeest Count Project

This is from Zooniverse's Serengeti Wildebeest Count Project

I loved what the interviewee said:

"Makes me feel like a part of the world, even when I'm lying in bed for a few days. They have great guides on how you contribute to the research, even down to how you spot different kinds of rumps on gazelles...It's easy to use and it makes me feel productive, like I'm helping someone do something," says the interviewee.

Be Helpful While Just Hanging Out

"Occasionally you'll be flipping through the slides as you're doing your categorizing work, and all of the sudden you'll get a photo of an African elephant. That always really excited me because I found them really beautiful. Once I was really stuck because I had just done a load of photos. It was all 'wildebeest standing,' 'wildebeest eating,' or 'zebra standing' and then all of the sudden I got this amazing photo of a pack of elephants with babies in the middle of them. It just made my whole day."

You can choose from any number of  projects on the Zooniverse site, following your own interests and curiosity. 

zooniverse projects

Do you think that helping out with environmental research in this easy, low-stress way might be a good experiment for you to try today?

If this experiment works for you, hit the heart (no login required) to let others know they should give it a try!  

Experiment #27: Keep a People Boundaries List

people boundaries

The past two days have been trying days for me negotiating my friendships. Or I thought they were friendships. (It's no longer clear one way or the other.)

Regardless, I've had to figure out how to deal with these relationships. Particularly the sadness, abandonment, and rejection. 

So, I fired up Evernote (you can use whatever app you prefer, obviously!) and put down a heading, Decisions about Boundaries. Let's call it the Boundaries List

Then, I wrote down some subheadings -  Focus on, Beware, Be Cautious, Acquaintances, Non-Starters One-way Streets, and Let Sleeping Moments Lie.  Under each one, I put in as many as names as possible, including the two people from the last two days' roadtrip through Disappointmentia.

  • Focus On - Budding friendships or relationships that I am going to focus on, rather than wallowing over all the ones that went belly up. Funny how all the sad memories come clamoring against barricades when one friendship hits a bad note.
  • Beware - stay away from these people or treat them like a pair of dead socks. Distance. 
  • Be Cautious - they didn't intend to hurt you. You just got pushed down the pyramid of priorities. Your expectations are high these ones because they're probably great people who bring beauty to your friendships. But they dip into life like submarines. 
  • Acquaintances - this could be the hardest group to do, too. This is where you should put people like mine, or those who have long made you question who you are to them. There will be pain. But seeing their names here will help let go.
  • Non-starters - you tried to strike up a conversation or shoot for a coffee, but ended up with a bag of nothing. Oh well. 
  • One-way Streets - There may be some overlaps here with previous groups, but this one should really be for repeat-offenders. 
  • Let Sleeping Moments Lie - I feel like this is the artsy sister of Be Cautious, that sister who has wanderlust and seems too busy notice that you've let her crawl into your heart. Sometimes, like flings or affairs, it was just a moment between two friends. And now that moment must sleep.  Let it sleep.

At first, I had Focus On at the bottom of the list, but I found that that made me focus on the negative. So, top of the list, it went! And what a difference. I get to mourn what was lost but set my sights on the new friendships that may perhaps be those ones that will outlive all the rest.

Try this experiment and let us know how it went on the forums, or be a trooper and join Slack! It's wondy. 

Mina Demian lives in Stockholm, Sweden where he Writes, Codes, and Plays Music. He also Invents Amazing Words in the Beautiful Voyager Slack Group. 

Mina Demian lives in Stockholm, Sweden where he Writes, Codes, and Plays Music. He also Invents Amazing Words in the Beautiful Voyager Slack Group. 

Experiment #26: Bring Color Into Your Life

Last week, we saw housepainters priming the house out our back window. We were filled with curiosity (especially me, a curious cat for neighborhood haps). What color would they go with? Would it be "startup grey", the most common color of the San Francisco neighborhood where we live? 

Aha! A sparkling, snappy blue!

Aha! A sparkling, snappy blue!

From early morning tea to evening dinner, getting to look out the window at the new bright blue house has genuinely brightened our lives. It seems so simple, but makes a difference in our lives. Just a color change! 

Here's another example. Check out this house. It's just a short walk from where we live:

I can't love it more.

I can't love it more.

There's something about the brightness that suggest strength, optimism and positivity. 

We may not all be ready to paint our houses ala Caribbean dream (though I wish we would), but bringing color into your daily life -- in the form of painting a room, or just painting a piece of furniture -- can melt a little stress and help pump up the good vibes. Finding and enjoying those positive feelings is what helps us ride the wave

A truly incredible row of houses in the Dominican Republic.

A truly incredible row of houses in the Dominican Republic.

If this experiment works for you, hit the heart (no login required) to let others know they should give it a try! 

Experiment #25: Let Your Phone Die And Roam With A New Friend

stress relief

My friend Nell posted this one on Facebook earlier today:

Great idea: Let your phone die for hours and walk around the city with a new friend like you're in your twenties. #bliss

This struck me as a truly great idea. I've had a couple of accidental phone-free walks with new friends recently. They helped me see my surroundings with fresh eyes. Could be the same for you, if you decide to give this experiment a go.

If this experiment works for you, hit the heart (no login required) to let others know they should give it a try! 

Experiment #24: Tell Yourself a Pump-Up Story (with Soundtrack)

rockydown.jpg

When I truly need mojo...I put on the Rocky 4 soundtrack. According to a highly unscientific poll I conducted (with friends and acquaintances born in the 70s), this Cold War Rocky made a strong impression on many people who continue even to the present day to dip into "Hearts on Fire" or "Burning Heart" as needed.

Rocky 4 was not high on subtlety.

Rocky 4 was not high on subtlety.

Listening to Eye of the Tiger -- which was originally released in Rocky 3 and then "recycled" in Rocky 4, Wikipedia notes -- doesn't only make fans like me recall a heated Man vs Machine showdown, or an unparalleled training montage (and yes, you should watch all 7 minutes of this video):

It also harkens back to the story of a young and poor Sylvester Stallone trying to sell his script. A born underdog with a paralyzed face, Stallone managed to sell the script and himself to the studio.

(The backstory is up for debate. This 1979 New York Times profile tells one story. Snopes suggests there's another.)

I use the young Stallone chutzpah as a lever to help myself out of rejections and failures. I slap an abbreviated Rocky 4 onto Spotify -- there really are only 5 songs worth listening to -- and imagine myself running through the snows of Siberia. Yeah, I can face the job search again. If Rocky can chop massive firewood with a beard, I can do this.

Feel free to use Rocky as needed, or think back to a story that pushes you back into mojo. Preferably it includes music too. Then watch your fortunes turn around.

If this experiment works for you, hit the heart (no login required) to let others know they should give it a try! 

Experiment #23: Notice Your Stop

limit negative thoughts stress relief

It can take years to figure out the simplest things. For me, one of those simple things is that there are certain sentences I’m simply not allowed to finish. I've learned over time they're not good for my mental health.

Example: “If only…”

If a sentence starts “If only…” I’m not allowed to finish it. It's simple.

notice your stop

If this experiment works for you, hit the heart (no login required) to let others know they should give it a try!

Experiment #22: Change Your Body Temperature

Henri Matisse, Seated Woman, Back Turned to the Open Window, 1922.

Henri Matisse, Seated Woman, Back Turned to the Open Window, 1922.

I've found that when I'm stuck in cyclical thinking, or just feeling stuck changing my body temperature actually makes a difference. A hot bath is one way to go, but lately I've been finding a cool breeze is often what I need most.

Try removing a layer of clothing or opening a window when you're stuck in your thoughts. It’s simple, but it actually helps bring you back into the moment. The goal is getting grounded. Changing your body temperature helps.

If this experiment works for you, hit the heart (no login required) to let others know they should give it a try!