There are various forms of psychotherapies or therapies in general that revolve around the idea of reframing thoughts or beliefs. I find these therapies to be interesting, because I’ve had success with using them myself to change my behaviors or overall feelings about myself. Some of these therapies however frame certain emotions or feelings as being “negative”. They try to eliminate feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, doubt, fear etc. I wonder if this is really necessary though, or if it is just contributing to more avoidant or destructive behaviors when these feelings do arise.

In college, I was introduced to this idea of removing limiting beliefs. With the help of an expert, I was able to remove several limiting beliefs that hindered my self-confidence or sense of ability/worth. All these negative feelings that I once had were now completely gone. It seemed life-changing. It honestly was great because I felt a lot better about myself in general. But the thing is with this particular method of removing limiting beliefs, they would frame “fear” or “anger” as negative or unnecessary, something that we “should” actively work to get rid of. Your behaviors would then be influenced by the new positive emotions that you would form. I think it’s awesome when you can work from state of positivity, but then wouldn’t all the “negative” emotions essentially be useless? Are we supposed to act solely out of positive emotions?

It’s one thing if the reaction or emotion is extreme and you’re trying to lower the intensity. But, it’s another thing when a slight irritation or a normal sense of fear holds you back from moving forward. What if instead of removing the source of negative emotion, we plan out a set of actions that help the situation?

I think learning what to do in the moment of negative emotions is better than just trying to get rid of the emotion. I mean even with positive emotions, we have to be mindful. Some people make rash decisions when they are excited, for example. Some people mindlessly get into dangerous situations when they are content, not really paying attention to what’s going on around them. And of course with negative emotions, some people exhibit violent behaviors or verbally abuse people when angry. What if we planned out what to do in these situations before these moments arise?

When someone says something that causes you to become angry or upset, you could plan out what to say. You could state how you feel and what bothered you, without necessarily blaming the other person. You could also offer a solution. For example, let’s say a friend tells you that you’re making an assumption, and you feel upset by this. You could say, “I feel hurt by what you said. I feel judged. I don’t like that you’re saying I’m making an assumption, as I find that insulting and I would never say that about you. Instead, I wish you would ask me what my thought process was in this situation.” Or let’s say when you get upset, you have trouble finding the right words to say. You could plan out what to say any time this situation occurs. For example, “I’m upset and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, I will talk to you later when I figure out why I feel this way.”

I feel like a lot of us learn how to make situations worse when dealing with negative feelings. Some people are exposed to violence. Some people are exposed to hateful language. Some people learn to avoid situations, never truly resolving them. And, this doesn’t just apply to my example of anger. It can apply to any negative emotion.

Think of people who deal with anxiety or depression. Yes, of course these people could try removing limiting beliefs. I even encourage it. At the same time, we want to teach them to deal with these feelings in healthy ways. Sometimes even, just accepting the feeling and learning how to cope with it helps to reduce the feeling itself. This happens when we decide to tackle our fears. Confidence comes from engagement and taking action.

We want to make sure we are taking the best course of action regardless of how we are feeling. This is also a part of emotional intelligence. If we experience negative emotions on a regular basis, of course, removing limiting beliefs is helpful. Otherwise, it is best to learn how to respond during the times we feel these emotions. Learn to cope with all your feelings in healthy ways.

I used to struggle with thinking that I had to always be productive. I felt like I should always be reaching the next milestone, building upon my success in a linear or exponential path. I was always looking for the next experience or goal that I had to accomplish. Maybe I’d be content with the present moment for some time, but eventually, I’d feel some pressure to be doing more.

It wasn’t until I faced mental health challenges that I realized that pushing yourself to do more all the time isn’t the healthiest way to live your life. If you are able to do more and you accomplish that, great. But if not, there’s no reason to beat yourself up. Life doesn’t have to be constantly going up. And actually, life doesn’t even work that way. You’re going to experience downs at one point or another. If you can embrace that you will be unproductive at some points in your life, it will make it easier to prepare and deal with those “down” periods.

Personally when I’m down, I just focus on basic self-care. I eat well, and nowadays I try to incorporate minimal physical activity, I let out my feelings in healthy ways such as journaling or music or talking to someone, I get enough rest, I maintain my hygiene… There’s actually a lot that goes into self-care that people may not realize. If you’ve ever experienced long periods of time with difficult or sad emotions (depressed, or not even necessarily depressed, maybe grieving, dealing with anxiety, or just having a difficult time dealing with hardships in life), you’ll know that it can be hard to do the most basic things sometimes. But, self-care is especially important during this time.

Honestly, I know I’m privileged, so it may not be easy for everyone to do this. However if you can, I’d say not to focus on making money or working too much during a down period. Some people find it helpful to give back to their communities, to do volunteer work or to involve themselves more in their work in general. But, many people can experience burnout. I wasn’t pushing myself to work too hard or to focus on making money when I was having difficulty dealing with voices. In addition to self-care, I engaged in CBT therapy, trying a variety of coping skills, and involving myself with activities that I thought I might enjoy. I was working on myself, to become healthier (mostly mentally/emotionally, but now even physically). I figured that if I couldn’t help myself, how could I possibly help others? It’s nice if you can provide values to others, but don’t neglect yourself in the process.

I would say 2019 was one of my least productive years. I was just barely getting by, disconnected from reality and feeling trapped by the command voice I was experiencing. Some people were trying to be helpful, but didn’t really know how or gave poor advice. For example, a few friends told me that they didn’t think CBT would help me with my voices. (It did.) One professional I successfully worked with many years ago had no idea how to help me with the problems I faced with the command voice. Another so-called professional was overtly rude and judgmental, not really understanding the severity or the intensity of the command voice. I didn’t taking any courses or work on any major creative projects at this time.

2020 was the year that I started to regain my interests slowly but surely. I revamped my blog. I started a body hair positive Instagram. I posted a couple of song covers on streaming services. I became more social. CBT was really helping me. It reminded me of my college years when I removed limiting beliefs, but it felt much more balanced. Back then, I wanted to avoid all negative feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, etc. But with CBT, I realized the importance of sitting with those feelings of anxiety or sadness, not letting it overwhelm you but to experience it without any quick judgments or reactions. I learned that you didn’t always have to view events positively or to lean entirely to a positive perspective. Sometimes, I felt right in the middle, like the negative thoughts evened out with the positive. And, that was okay too!

Even in 2020, I would say I wasn’t the most productive. I was gaining a lot of clarity mentally and emotionally. I did focus on some creative outlets, but it was mostly from inner work I was processing.

This year, I still feel as if I’m focusing on myself. But, I’m trying to find ways to transform that into value for others. For example, I finished producing a song on hearing negative and suicidal voice. I thought I could share with others how I work through those feelings and try to reframe the voice. I unofficially started this health journey, hoping to reduce a few pounds to reach a normal BMI again and to feel more energetic and stronger in general. I’m also planning to accomplish other goals and create other habits that I can turn around and teach others about. I want to share reviews of courses or books that I’ve finished. I have other goals such as producing another song and maybe even publishing another book. I would like to also get back to creating videos on YouTube, besides just music.

It took a couple years, but I’m finally becoming “more productive” again. And honestly, I don’t think anyone really notices the difference. I don’t think anyone is really keeping track except myself. I could have another 2019 all over again this year and nobody would notice. So, I don’t know why I really felt pressured to be productive all the time. I think honestly, just being there for yourself and doing what you can to be a healthy person is enough. Self-mastery is a worthy goal in itself.

Don’t mistake your worth or importance for being how much you contribute to society. It’s great if you can contribute, but it’s not necessary. Society will continue to function whether you contribute to it or not. Plus, you can’t really compare each person’s contribution. Someone who has 5 million YouTube subscribers for their mukbang channel may be providing entertainment value in their videos garnering millions of views, and someone else may be providing mental health services for a child who has ADHD. Can you really compare the two? One person versus millions of people? Online versus face-to-face? Entertainment versus mental health? Why even compare? What’s the point? People engage in different activities. People have different experiences and are educated on different subjects.

Again, your worth is not tied to your contribution to society. Your worth is not determined by your level of production. So, please don’t feel as if you have to force yourself to be productive all the time. There will be a time again when you can and when you are able to do so. In the meantime, just focus on your health.

Typically, I have 2-3 hours to kill in the evenings. This is after I finish eating dinner. Right after, I watch a little bit of TV and I might play Candy Crush or check social media. And then after, I brush my teeth, take a shower, and change into my pajamas. I try to record something I accomplished or experienced as positive that day. Then, I go straight to my evening activities, which involve less gaming than before and much more coloring.

These days, I think a lot about coloring sheets. I’m not even that great at coloring, but I enjoy it so much. It’s a relaxing activity to help me wind down during the evenings.

The reason I took up coloring is because I wanted to have an activity to help me relax specifically in the evenings. I experience hearing voices, and it used to be pretty active in the evenings. But when I started reading in the evenings, it quieted down. And then one day, I had the idea to color. When I started that, I noticed that the experience was even better. It’s only been a few nights of coloring, but so far, it’s going well. I find coloring to be a good coping skill.

Coloring hasn’t always been the ideal coping skill. Previously, I couldn’t always focus on coloring. My mind was so active. I was focused on other ideas or activities that required more energy. I could only color for 15 minutes or less before I was distracted.

But these days, I’ve been coloring for up to an hour or longer. I don’t really create much nowadays besides blogging. Maybe that’s why? Or, maybe I just needed to do it for a specific purpose or time of day. Not sure exactly what the difference has been between then and now.

The same happened to me with reading. I don’t know if it’s because reading on a tablet is easier. But, now I can read more on a tablet than I can with a hard copy.

Though, I guess I’ve been able to be more selective of what I’m coloring, and I enjoy the medium I’m using. I use dual tip markers, one side with a brush nib and the other side with a fine point. The colors appear vibrant. I can print out whatever sheets look enjoyable to me.

I’m trying to find more engaging material for me to read in the evenings. I started with one book, but have been feeling bored with the text lately. Just to make sure I read at least 20 pages a day, I’ve been reading earlier in the day. It wouldn’t be a problem if I was more engaged. Maybe 20 pages is pushing it. I thought about reducing the number of pages, but I like the idea of sticking to my original goal. So for now, I’ll split reading in the morning and evening just to complete the 30-day challenge. Then after that, I can adjust.

The long-term idea is that I would spend at least half an hour of my evening reading. I don’t really do much else in the evening at the moment. And, I feel like I’m doing something growth-oriented. Reading stimulates my mind.

If my sleep were better, I’d probably just stick to coloring and maybe finding another hobby. Then, I could sleep at 9 PM and wake up at 5 or 6 AM. If I were to wake up that early, I’d spend half an hour to an hour reading. But because my sleep is a bit of a mess right now, I don’t do any of that. I try to stay up later to compensate for typically waking up so late.

That’s another problem I have to troubleshoot. For now, I’m glad I figured out 80% of my evening activities. The other 20% I want to solve is finding alternative activities to turn to as well. I’m not entirely opposed to gaming, but sometimes I feel like I’m not really being social or learning anything. I guess I could argue that coloring isn’t really teaching me anything either. It’s just a fun side hobby. So, maybe I won’t rule out gaming entirely. Gaming has its own benefits.

I think I have to eliminate this mindset of whether I’m using my time in the most efficient manner. Honestly, I don’t even spend my time efficiently during the day. And, life is more than just being productive all the time. Besides, even the most successful aren’t productive 24/7. They rely on self-care, such as going for walks, or reading rather than working straight away, or even just enjoying a nice dinner with friends.

Plus, we never know where certain activities will lead. Some people make entire careers out of gaming, sports, reviewing books, teaching people coloring tricks, networking, and more. So, why am I trying to limit myself? If it’s an activity I enjoy and it’s not harmful to others, it should count for something, right?

I think my next goal after my reading challenge will be to find ways to fix my sleep. I was trying a few different ideas, such as sleeping later. I’m getting mixed results so far. I think part of it is that I worry I might wake up too early, and then what do I do? I have to sort out that gray area.

I’m glad that my evenings are a lot calmer than before. I’m also glad that the activities I’ve chosen feel good to me. I’m not just doing things for the sake of doing things. I’m choosing activities that align with my interests. I hope this positive trend continues.

I remember enjoying coloring books when I was a kid. And even now, as an adult, it is still just as enjoyable. It’s relaxing, and a good way to refocus your attention. It can be especially helpful for people who experience negative thoughts or hear voices.

Coloring is a great coping skill. It doesn’t require much effort. You could search for coloring books on the web to buy. Nowadays, because adult coloring books started to rise in popularity, you can find them in local arts and crafts stores, or even places like Target, Walmart, or CVS.

You don’t even need to buy a coloring book. If you have a printer, you can print out coloring pages online. I’ve printed out a few Christmas ones myself from websites like JustColor.Net.

You could even repurpose your coloring pages. After you finish coloring it all in, you could make envelopes out of them, greeting cards, giftwrap, gift bags, and more. That’s partially why I chose Christmas-themed coloring pages, so I could use them for that specific time.

I started coloring a page I printed from the internet last night. I bought a set of felt tip markers. The markers I got bleed through the paper onto the other side. I guess that’s expected with most markers. I thought about getting colored pencils, but I just like the vibrancy of markers.

Personally as someone who hears voices, I found coloring to be meditative and fun. I didn’t have any particular thought while coloring. I was mostly focused on figuring out which colors would go well together and staying within the lines. I didn’t experience hearing voices during this activity. So, I’m experimenting with it as an evening activity before I go to sleep, to help me to relax and to give me something fun to do.

Some other activities that are similar to coloring may be painting, drawing, or doing puzzles such as word searches, crossword puzzles, or sudoku. I’ve tried painting before, but I stopped because I had difficulty always coming up with an idea for it. Same for drawing. Plus, it requires some skill. Of course, you can practice the skill. Coloring is more accessible to people though, because you don’t have to draw a picture to color. You can find plenty of images online to color, or a book full of coloring pages.

There are apps on your phone or on your tablet that you can download that involved coloring/painting by numbers. I haven’t tried a painting or coloring app. Personally, I like the motion that’s involved with coloring with a marker against a sheet of paper. It requires some hand-eye coordination. I think it’s more fun that just tapping a screen and producing colors. Though, it’s worth a shot for anyone who doesn’t feel like spending money on buying art supplies.

Taking up coloring as a hobby is pretty inexpensive, though. I spent less than $10.00 on a set of 34 colored markers. So even if I found out I didn’t like coloring the first evening, oh well, it’s not more than a movie night, or a dinner out. I could give the markers away to my nieces. No big deal.

Compare it to other hobbies. It’s cheaper than playing a musical instrument, or buying a bike to ride, or even some sports.

So if you’re thinking about getting into the hobby of coloring, I’d say go for it. The risk is minimal. And, it could be good for your mental health.

It also can take a while to do. I thought it’d take me 15 minutes to color in half a page, but it took more like an hour to fill a quarter of the page because of how carefully I was trying to color in between the lines. So, it’s a good time sink for sure.

By the way, I already started my 30-day challenge to read, but I think I’m going to add coloring to the challenge as well. Reading is more challenging that coloring, because you’re processing the words in your head and trying to make sense of the text. But with coloring, you’re focusing on just moving and watching I guess. It’s pretty mindless. My real challenge will be to focus on reading 20 pages without fail each day. Coloring will be my reward in a sense.