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Tips for Creating New Meanings & More Happiness

Ever see yourself in the pit of despair or really upset about something and ask “How the hell did I get here?” or “why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?!

Boy, I sure have.

But now I know questions like that only give my subconscious mind something to answer.  Ask shitty questions, get shitty answers.

It’s not that I really want to know why I’m a victim and deserving of this situation. [duh!]

What I’m wanting really are two things;

to understand how can I avoid this in the future and

to find a way to feel better now

As a lifelong student of personal development I’ve picked up a few tools that really serve me when I’m beating up on myself.  Let me be clear.  I’m not here to tell you that I have achieved that state of Zen-ness or enlightenment where I never say negative things to myself.  I mean come on! I have a brain and I’m human.  Pretty inevitable that negative is going to pop up. And that’s cool.

The good news is I’ve picked up two things I want to share with you that are helping me get closer along my path to a higher and lighter state of living (aka thriving!).  Another way of looking at it is that I have negative thoughts or mini breakdowns…sure. But I’ve learned it’s how fast I pull myself out of them that transforms my overall happiness level.

I don’t think we should expect to never have contrast or negative show up. Instead our work is to keep/practice ourselves into a high flying place so that when we face resistance (self-generated or in the world around us), we know how to adjust and shift back to a place of happiness.

Tip #1:  Realize You’re A Meaning Making Machine

Something I first learned at the Landmark Forum nearly 10 years ago and I’ve learned at new levels is around the notion that our brain is largely a machine.  We might call ourselves “meaning making machines“.

Your brain is constantly evaluating every experience in order to catalog, categorize and file that experience away for future reference.  As a young pup (say under 6 years old) our brains are in a very formative state and we’re soaking things up all around us.

The brain at that stage is in a constant state of receiving, cataloging, storing and giving things meaning.  “Is this good/bad?  Is this helpful/harmful?  Is this something I want to experience again/not again?  Is this something I enjoy/detest?”

The brain is like a machine constantly evaluating the experiences around us.  It’s very rudimentary processing is to evaluate and store our experiences.  This is very helpful in that we have all of our memories and experiences nicely cataloged and we learn to lean towards what we like and don’t like.

What we forget as adults is that as a young pup we evaluated a situation, made a meaning about it and that meaning is what’s driving us in how we make/spend money, interact in relationships with men, treat our kids, feel about our weight/body and on and on.  We’re often driven by the meanings we made up as a three year old and now we’re 30, 40, or 50+.  Those childhood meanings are still running the show.
How to Stop a Binge BookHow to Stop a Binge Book
The other thing is that in every moment that part of our brain is always (yes always) giving our situations meanings. It’s just doing its job.  What happens is we don’t realize we’re in mechanistic mode and so we never think to change or look at something in a new way.  Unless we have an upset or enough pain to cause us to re0evaluate something and say,

Hey, wait a minute!  I don’t have to keep doing this stupid behavior and getting these crappy results!

So, my first tip is to remember that your mind is a meaning making machine so you begin to become aware that you’re doing it.

Not sure what I mean by making meaning? 

Here’s a quick example. You have a set of neighbors who are always working to keep their house in good shape, take care of things and are always very polite when you’ve interacted with them.  One morning you come out to go to work and realize their lawn is really overgrown and they’ve left their garbage cans out on the street more than a day or two.  In that moment your brain links up past experiences and creates a meaning – or a story – about the neighbors.  Maybe even a story that includes you!

Your brain may send you thoughts like “Gosh, they’re really letting the place go.  I wonder if they’re out of town and forgot to have someone take care of things.  I hope they’re ok and aren’t sick.  I wonder if their lawn mower broke.  Maybe I should go over and see if they’re ok.  Perhaps I should call and see if they’d like me to….

All sorts of meanings come to mind just by seeing long grass and garbage cans.

What’s so is… their lawn is growing and they have garbage cans out in front of their house.  Your mind made up a few meanings to help you evaluate the situation (a story).

Now this is just one example.  I hope you can see how this quickly applies to you.

For now, just realize that you’re doing it.  In fact, start to become aware that you’re doing it all the time.  The miracle of transformation begins in awareness…self-awareness of who we are and what we’re doing.

If you have a mental practice or habits that lean towards fear-based or negative thinking, your mind may have made up some thoughts about the situation that sounded more like “Those stupid neighbors, what’s wrong with them?  Don’t they know we’re trying to keep the riff raff out of here?  What if they stop mowing the lawn all together and then what?  What is going to happen to the value of my house? This neighborhood is really going downhill…

Wow, that’s some awful shit those neighbors are creating!  The world is coming to an end!

See how the mind can get into a groove and look out!  Let’s call this momentum meaning making.  We get momentum going in one direction (positive) or another (negative).  It’s up to us to notice we’re having a thought and a single thought without any momentum can be adjusted relatively easily.

If you start to let that negative thought spiral or build momentum in a direction it takes a lot more work – and may be impossible – to stop it from really ruining your mood or rest of your day.

Believe me it happens. Still happens to me, too!  I’m just practicing slowing the momentum earlier and finding relief faster.  Doesn’t always work.  It’s a practice, right?

Now that we know we’re doing what we’re doing…what the heck do we do about it?!  Who wants to get all wrapped up just from a couple of garbage cans in the street, right?  Hell, stuff like this is going to happen all the freakin time…I need tools to avoid letting something so small take me off course!  Great, I’m glad we’re on the same page.  Now let’s turn to a tool or alternative to letting that momentum meaning making mind get off course.

Tip #2 – STOP!  Then Choose What Meaning Makes You Feel Better

Now you understand you are constantly making meaning of everything in your life. It’s time to be more deliberate and intentional about your meanings.  That is where your power comes in.  It’s time to guide your thoughts.

If you’re living your life at the mercy of your reptilian, machine mind then things will continue the way they’ve always been.  When you want to chart a new course, it’s about beginning with the meaning you give to situations so that you’re empowered to live from thoughts and stories that support who you are and what you’re up to.  If you’re living from your three year old child, you’re living in survival mode.

I’d like to share a few ideas with you.

One of the things you will want to have in your toolbox and remember to use when facing things that don’t feel good when you think them are questions.  Yes…questions!

Questions help us guide our experience of life. Ask an empowering question and your mind will figure out an answer that will feel good.  Ask a dis-empowering questions, get a life that doesn’t feel very good.

One of the questions I ask myself when I realize I’m not feeling good about something is, What else could this mean?  Instantly my brain is turned on to finding alternatives…new solutions…new meaning.  You’ll be amazed at how effective this can be!

The next time you find yourself upset, frustrated, angry, sad, depressed, about to eat something…you name it…ask yourself “What else could this mean?”

Another couple of ideas along this same line are “What could I do to feel better now?” and “Is that true?!

The “what could I do” question is meant to help you focus on your feelings and to reach for ideas to help lift you back up to a higher place.  The “is that true” question comes from the remarkable work of Miss Byron Katie – an amazing inspirational teacher.

When you ask yourself “is that true?” it really helps you face the reality of the situation – to look more closely at what is really happening. The purpose is to give you a broader perspective, and ideally a more wise one, that will cause you to evaluate things that are happening with more aware and unencumbered eyes.

I’ve shared a lot here…now it’s time for you to put this into action!

Your assignment today and for the next two weeks is to STOP!  Stop when you find yourself reacting with negative emotions and ask yourself questions.  Choose one of the ones I’ve shared or come up with one of your own.  And then trust the process of your higher, wiser self to step in and bring solutions that help uplift you and allow you to feel better.

Please remember to share your comments below!

I look forward to reading your comments – or email me a question if there’s something I can help you with.

With love and light,

Polly

This Post Has 13 Comments
  1. Hey Polly. Thanks so much for posting all these wonderful blog posts, your advice really keeps me going 🙂 I wonder, though, how I could best deal with all the information you offer. I receive your emails as well at the moment, and I feel like I cannot / should not take in too much tips all at once because I won’t be able to really let them sink in and apply them that way. What do you think would be the most efficient way to deal with all the information you’ve made available? Thanks again, and kind regards.

    1. Hi Regina,

      Thank you for your kind words and what a great question! I’ve never thought about it quite the way you’ve asked your question. I guess I would say that when I came up with my 10 steps that you receive initially when you subscribe to my newsletter it was what I felt were the most important topics/areas to address in the beginning. I still feel the first 10 steps I send out are crucial to address in any recovery plan.

      The tips and ideas I post on the blog are just my continual learning. I guess I would encourage you to feel your way through the information. When I teach classes I tell my students “don’t believe a word I say”. Try what I say on like trying on a new coat. If the coat fits and feels good on you, then you can consider adopting it and incorporating it into your life.

      The ideas can be overwhelming if you try to do it all – just like trying to learn an entire year’s worth of school in a day or a week. Take it one bite at a time. Keep coming back to my site/blog as a resource. I’m planning to keep sharing what I learn and grow from so there will hopefully be endless info for you to explore and grow with, too.

      If you’d like any more personal advice or suggestions, drop me an email…will you?

      I hope this is helpful and look forward to hearing from you.

      Blessings,

      Polly

      1. Such a quick and adequate answer! Thank you. I think I’ll just make sure to follow the 10 step plan up closely and then browse through your blog when I feel like I could use some more constructive input. Been going without binges for about a week now thanks to your tips and idead, which is pretty good for me. Very grateful 🙂

  2. Hi Polly,
    Thanks for all your insight, give some real hope..I’ve been dealing with eating disorders (anorexia for a couple of years, long tern bulimic) for the last 15+ years
    My hardest battle is that i only binge/purge 1-2 week but have done so for so long, tried everything, been determined that this time is it to give it up..and to then do it again , well you can understand how that makes me feel its futile.
    Yes i know that’s part of the problem and have recently started believing the ‘in your mind you can be 100% recovered’ which helps, but unfortunately i still falter..any advice on how to crack it, how to keep going after yet another fail?
    Thanks,

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Nice to hear from you!

      Gosh, can I relate to what you’re saying. I remember years and years of the yo-yo life of bulimia – always struggling to convince myself that I wouldn’t do it ever again. Again. And again. I hear ya.

      I don’t have a silver bullet, but I do what to share with you that it’s a process. Let me share a quick example of what I think you want to shift here and it really relates well because it’s about the body in this case…

      In the past few weeks I’ve noticed I’ve added a little extra around my waist and my pants aren’t fitting like I like them to. I really started focusing on my stomach, my love handles and really concentrating on how I didn’t feel good in my [entire] body because my pants were tight.

      I found myself focusing on it with some momentum and it seemed like I was only holding onto the weight instead of naturally releasing it like I have for many years (it’s a natural balance that you get to understand when you get on track/further along with recovery – you understand your natural body ebbs and flows).

      So, I was looking in the mirror the other morning and caught myself fixated on my belly. I stood there for a second and went…”wait a minute! I have hundreds of other parts of my body that feel amazing and I love! I’m not going to keep focusing on that one part because I’m only creating more resistance to what will naturally release and return to a balanced weight that feels good.” I had to become aware that I was doing it (step 1 – which you’ve done) and then I had to decide (step 2 – which you’ve sort of done, but haven’t “burned the ships – no turning back” done) and then practice being at ease and trusting well being to flow/law of attraction to do its thing (step 3 – your ultimate next step). Today, I woke up and didn’t focus on my belly and declared out loud so my subconscious/the universe could hear “I’m a sexy hot momma”. Sounds silly even writing it here, but it works for me. I said it a few times, I focused on that thought and began to look at parts of my body I do find sexy/feel good about. And low and behold I found them. That helped me find new momentum in the direction of “I’m a sexy hot momma”. I just keep thinking that thought and it’s beginning to gain momentum.

      You can direct your thoughts my dear. Just know it’s a process – kind of like learning to be bulimic or ride a bike or anything that you didn’t do very well in the beginning. Relax, trust you will and never, ever give up. The deciding piece is a big one I think for you. Decide once and for all that you want a life free from bulimia. Then commit to living that way.

      It’s not that you’re lazy or weak when you fall back into bulimia, it’s that you haven’t chosen and decided and committed to being non-bulimic and living into that commitment with your whole self. Part of you still identifies with bulimia. There’s a lot more I could go on about, but I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      And a short video from my favorite teacher, Abraham Hicks for you about stop focusing on the problem and momentum.

      Please email me if you’d like to discuss further or we can try 1:1 coaching if you’d like to go that route.

      Whatever you’d like my friend. Here to support you however best I can.

      To your joyous journey,

      Polly

      1. Thanks Polly, think you really nailed it on the head..despite me tryi to convince myself that I am recovered and despite how terrible i feel about it, deep down, I’m not ready to give it up. I want to, oh trust me how much i want to be free of it, but a part of me doesn’t know how I would cope. It has become the easiest, most immediate thing that i know i can reach for when i want to ‘relax’ not think about about things and say F- you to the world, i still get the happy thrill when i start a binge and it’s hard to give up..then it kills me that how crap I feel after, the regret and frustration and anger at myself isn’t enough to switch that off. I don’t know how to decide and keep waiting for that switch to just happen for me but it just won’t come, despite all i know and try and do. I’m just at that point where I don’t know why I even bother to give up sometimes..how do i decide to not be bulimic when a part of doesn’t want to/is scared to??

        1. Oh geez…more good inquiry!

          I could go on for hours. Let me try to be brief…

          I know deep down you are love. You are a healthy, vibrant, remarkable woman.
          I think you’ve forgotten these things.
          Sit still. Really still. Quiet, eery kind of still for a time and that’s all you have. Your truest nature lies in stillness.
          When you connect with her…that deepest most vital and lovable part of yourself you’ll remember why you don’t want to keep being bulimic.
          You’re up to great things. You have important work you’ve come to do in the world (and I don’t mean becoming Mother Teresa or Ghandi). I mean being YOU. That’s something only YOU can do.
          Connect with your future vision of yourself and what you want in your life.
          You’ll quickly see it doesn’t align with all of the beating yourself up you do around food/bulimia.
          Focus on that beautiful, inspiring, remarkable woman that lives inside you and know that the people of this world want to meet her. They can’t meet her fully when she’s hiding out because of shame around food or laid up because she binged and purged herself to exhaustion the night before.
          Like I said…find the vision for who you really are, decide and burn the ships that you want this dang thing and tell yourself you’ll find coping mechanisms as you go. Hell, if you Google coping mechanisms you’ll find thousands of ideas today.
          No more excuses for you Wendy.
          Put your big girl pants on and let’s do this thing!

          I’m here and ready to hear what you D-E-C-I-D-E.

          🙂

          Polly

          1. Hi Polly,
            The insight you have is amazing and inspiring and just what i needed to hear.
            You’re right- i just need to man up and make the decision. I know I have been hiding behind bulimia for too long now. One of my greatest fears is not being good enough or succeeding and in a way, having bulimia meant that I always had a reason for why things may not work out, a fallback and excuse.
            It’s scary because what if i find out that i still can’t achieve what I dream when I’m a non bulimic? That would make me a failure for real…at least these are the underlying beliefs I have carried around with me for too to long.
            Life isn’t going to become miraculously amazing just because I’m bulimia free and it doesn’t guarantee that I won’t ever fail- but I need to give myself the chance to live it properly and see what I am capable of without this keeping me down.
            Change is terrifying- I tell my friends and clients all the time that it’s because we know how to deal with the ‘bad’ of our current situations, but are scared of the unfamiliar of the new change, and that it may be even worse than what we’re currently dealing with. Yet as you know, great things come from the hardest, most challenging situations we face and overcome.
            So yes, I am taking the leap and i make the decision today, to you and myself and the world, that I will be bulimia free, that I will reject all the beliefs I’ve carried with me so long that say I should care what others think and that fat=bad=people will think less of me. I decide today that I want to be the most glorious me that I can be and that I am meant to be. And i do this not only for me, my partner, my future children but so I can help other people realise that they too can overcome anything they put their mind to, if they just believe in themselves.
            I’m terrified..but I want to live my life fully.
            Thank you for your guidance x

          2. Wendy,

            Your courage and determination to live your most beautiful self is truly an inspiration. Not just to me, but for anyone reading this. Your words uplift and invite me to a whole new level. Thank you, my sister, for taking us all to new heights!

            Your decision and commitment reminds me of a powerful poem I have in my bathroom and look at nearly every morning…

            Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love:

            Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
            Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
            It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
            We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
            Actually, who are you not to be?
            You are a child of God.
            Your playing small does not serve the world.
            There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
            We are all meant to shine, as children do.
            We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
            It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
            And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
            As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

            Please keep me/us posted on your journey. Come back and share your story. Can’t wait to hear from you!

            Blessings,

            Polly

  3. I love that poem and thank you for your support! I will keep you updated and I’m sure, will touch base for your advice and help.
    Thank you for helping me change my life x

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