Peace, happiness and motivation in 25* words or less
September 3, 2016 6:18 PM   Subscribe

I have some useful mental scripts that help me deal with irregular brain chemistry and other maladies. Things like saying "surf the emotion", or "it's just a thought. It's not reality" and "is this behaviour / thinking pattern helpful?" or "if you feel crap, clean the bathroom. You'll still feel like crap, but at least the bathroom will be clean." Give me more.

*You can go over 25 words but please keep it short and text-based. Feel free to range wide with this - emotional self-management, motivation for exercise and other healthy things, self-esteem, productivity, career, housekeeping, being a good friend...

If you have a source, that would be great (link or author name). If you think the usefulness of the phrase might not be immediately clear to someone who is very literal, a short explanation would be welcome. Example:
Life is like a rheostat, not an on/off switch (Sonya Friedman, On a clear day you can see yourself). I took this to mean you don't just shift between happiness and sadness, day-to-day living is variable, a steam of different emotions and experiences, and it's counter-productive to expect to be happy all the time. Maybe you could categorise the phrase like "do what needs to be done whether you like it or not" might be categorised under motivation?

Yes, I do love Hyperbole and a half and How to be Alone but I want one liners that I can write on a scrap of paper and keep in my wallet, not stories, or songs.

I am not religious, but others who read this might be so if you want to "let go and let God" go ahead.
posted by b33j to Grab Bag (71 answers total) 134 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't have to want to do the thing, I just have to do the thing.
I will feel better after I have done the thing.
It will take less time to do the thing than it's taking me to fret about it/avoid it.
I can handle feeling anxious/uncomfortable for a while.
I'm doing the best that I can given my current situation, resources, and awareness.
Everyone is doing the best that they can given their current situations, resources, and awareness.
[That thought may be] true, but [it's] not helpful.
posted by lazuli at 6:25 PM on September 3, 2016 [34 favorites]

What about some of the lyrics from this new song by Steven Universe's creator Rebecca Sugar? It's called, "Here Comes a Thought", and lately I've been singing the intro/outro to myself whenever I'm super stressed out: Take a moment to think of just, Flexibility, love, and trust.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:25 PM on September 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

Mine is I want to become the wind.

It represents me just floating through all the chaos and helps to imagine or is not quite that important.

I say it in Japanese, mostly because I can.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:33 PM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For exercise: "just put your shoes on and get out the door"
For work: "You can either spend 10 minutes doing [this scary confrontational thing you don't want to do]; or ten weeks fretting about not having done it".
posted by girlgenius at 6:37 PM on September 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

Enthusiasm for life defeats existential dread.
posted by blairsyprofane at 6:49 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Embrace the suck" helps me remember to find the calm in not fighting the inevitable. I am teaching it to my teens.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:59 PM on September 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

"If the ocean can calm itself, so can you" Nayyirah Waheed
posted by veery at 7:22 PM on September 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

Song lyrics that help me:
1. "Breathe in, breathe out, move on"
2. "This is smaller than you know/it's no bigger than a pebble lying on a gravel road"
posted by TwoStride at 7:25 PM on September 3, 2016

Best answer: IT may not be okay, but YOU will be okay.
posted by MsMolly at 7:38 PM on September 3, 2016 [25 favorites]

Best answer: Make a decision, then make it right.
Nobody ever regrets having exercised.
posted by teremala at 7:39 PM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Don't just do something, stand there"

I'm an ER doctor/Toxicologist at a big urban hospital. Sometimes I get a little frenzied and overwrought and too focused on doing, doing, doing.

"Don't just stand there, do something" is too much with me at these times, so I switch it around to remind myself to stop and think for a minute
posted by BadgerDoctor at 7:46 PM on September 3, 2016 [12 favorites]

Best answer: For me: "What would you tell a friend to do?", and "What would the smoke you want to be do?"
posted by smoke at 7:52 PM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You're allowed to feel your feelings.
posted by FencingGal at 8:31 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I remember to think about a difficult thing, "This has already happened," as if it's over and in the past (because soon it will be), that helps.
posted by Francolin at 8:40 PM on September 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm not the first person to experience this situation.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:09 PM on September 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This, too, shall pass.
posted by rpfields at 9:23 PM on September 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

It's gotta get done by someone, and I'm the only one here.
posted by rhizome at 10:29 PM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Action precedes motivation.
posted by aniola at 10:33 PM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

The glass is already broken.
posted by aniola at 10:35 PM on September 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

Savor consciousness.
posted by Corvid at 11:07 PM on September 3, 2016

"Remember there's more than this
There always was and always is."

"Find that bit of faith that sets you free from having everything to prove."

-- Two Indigo Girls song quotes that often help me (first is from Rise Up, second is from Dairy Queen)
posted by mekily at 12:04 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

Here, take my advice, I'm not using it.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:23 AM on September 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: When I am too caught up in my thoughts and worries, "Be. Here. Now." brings me back to the present moment.
posted by t0astie at 12:28 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Just keep swimming." (Finding Nemo)

"Lord, free me of myself so I can please You." (Michelangelo)

"When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.” (Edward Teller)

"Whatever life takes away from you, let it go."

"If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit."
posted by tackypink at 12:36 AM on September 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You know that it's going to get done eventually, so why not do it now and get it over with?
posted by M. at 12:45 AM on September 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This is not really a saying, but a lot of times when I'm feeling lazy and don't want to do something I need to do--whether it's filling up my auto tank or doong chores NOW vs later---I ask myself: "Would Future Me thank me for doing this?" Thinking ahead like that and recognizing that taking care of something now will let me be more lazy or stress-free later helps give me that extra push.
posted by sprezzy at 1:37 AM on September 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

Best answer: When you feel like nothing is good, when you feel worthless, remember that feelings lie.

Every day is a beautiful day.

(Not sure about the utility of these next ones, but they cheer me up for some reason or other:)

"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."

"Nobody really minds seeing a friend fall off a roof."

"A lot of people want to try and be right rather than happy."
—Donald Glover

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."
—Winston Churchill
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:38 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I also use "I'm not the first person to have this problem." It helps me brainstorm solutions.

"Gourds are only useful when they're empty." I shorten this to "empty gourd, empty gourd" when I'm having obsessive thoughts. I have a whole elaborate visualization of a gourd being hollowed out, too.

"You don't have to attend every fight you're invited to."
"I never got in trouble keeping my mouth shut."
"Don't swing at bad pitches."

LOL, I guess that makes it obvious I'm always working on impulse control!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:45 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "You can get through this" as a firm, kind command.

I've been having a lot of luck recently with troubleshooting-for-understanding (rather than fixing) too. Like "why do I feel bad" when I start feeling bad > (recent example) because my friend who said he'd get a ride with me to some work drinks at the pub then said shortly before we were due to leave that he was gonna go to some different drinks with different people > why is that making me feel bad > because it feels like he got a better offer/likes them better, because I never get invited to the kind of thing he just got invited to and I don't know why or if it's because there's something wrong with me, because I get invited to a lot less stuff since I quit drinking a few years ago and I worry I'm missing out socially and professionally, because I like giving people rides 'cause it makes me feel useful and now I won't be doing that, because I was relying on going to the thing with him to give me someone to talk to by default which helps with my social anxiety, and because I really hate established plans changing at late notice & it feels destabilising when that happens.

YMMV depending on the cause of the feelings you want to get through but this has been super helpful for me. Previously I would have assumed I felt bad because [vague disappointment + vague self-loathing] but I always shied away from trying to identify it further, usually just in case the self loathing turned out to be true & justified on further inspection and made me feel worse. But being precise about the causes and telling myself it's okay to feel bad based on those things generally leaves me feeling less worse overall.

The aim is not to fix anything based on the analysis, it's more to be like "see, those are some complex and justifiable feelings" and self-soothe from there.
posted by terretu at 3:28 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Be kind and patient. Be patient and kind".

This is a great internal mantra to repeat when dealing with frustrating or stressful people. And also to tell oneself, as a reminder to treat your own self that way.
posted by fourpotatoes at 3:30 AM on September 4, 2016

Best answer: I use a couple of wave analogies...

There are always troughs and crests, and a low point is just another trough. It cannot last. Troughs are just there to prepare you for the next crest. So while picturing the waves rolling into shore, I say to myself, "It's just another trough. A crest will soon follow."

Also, waves can only drag you down if you let them. The destructive force is all inside the wave; but the wave is powerless against me if I hunker down, duck my head and simply let it pass over. Only when I think I can control the wave, and engage it in some way, do I put myself at risk. So I picture that wave coming, and repeat something like, "The wave is powerless against me."

(if you've never been to the beach and had a wave absolutely demolish you, the latter one may not have as much impact. But really, if you plant your feet in the sand, and let that wave just pass over, it can be a very protected, safe feeling. When I envision this in the midst of some godawful life-drama, and just focus on self-care, it's been really helpful.)
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:05 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Francolin, yours is another one of mine! "This has already happened, it's just the doing of it that has to be gotten through."

This can greatly minimize the Overwhelming Significance of Doing A Thing, which can add so much extraneous baggage that it paralyzes you into an anxiety spiral.

Who cares about The Thing? It's already been done. You just skipped a small step (the doing). Finish that up, and move on. Ain't no thang...
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:14 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sideways answer: a very effective CBT technique that works for me and I've successfully taught to my high school students is:

1. Acknowledge the feeling.
2. Immediately set a timer for 5 minutes and then force your brain to start counting something (like leaves on trees) or naming playing cards. The idea is this forces your brain out of emotional thinking and into rational thinking and your brain really can't do both at the same time. The more you focus on logic, the less your brain can dwell on those unpleasant feelings.

It's an excellent reminder that you have the tools to get through a bad moment. If you ever see a college student suddenly pull a deck of cards out of their bag in the Boston area, chances are I was their teacher at one point.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:51 AM on September 4, 2016 [17 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, thanks guys, you've been awesome. Love it.
posted by b33j at 5:59 AM on September 4, 2016

Wow, this sucks. It's just as well nothing lasts forever.
posted by flabdablet at 6:12 AM on September 4, 2016

I am partial to BuddhaInABucket's NOT TODAY, SATAN.
posted by dreamphone at 6:40 AM on September 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

My husband and I use this phrase all.the.time when we are feeling overwhelmed by a big project. It reminds us that we don't have to do the whole thing all at once; breaking the task into chunks and taking even the smallest actions will move us towards completion.
posted by belladonna at 6:57 AM on September 4, 2016

Best answer: "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its joy." — Leo Buscaglia

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship." — Louisa May Alcott

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." — Anaïs Nin

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
posted by datarose at 7:24 AM on September 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: “...there are three musts that hold us back: ‘I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.’ ” -- Psychologist Albert Ellis, quoted in an interview published in Psychology Today: "The Prince of Reason", Jan/Feb 2001.
posted by alex1965 at 7:26 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Laurie Anderson talks in her (lovely, tragic) film Heart of a Dog about her guru telling her "you should learn how to feel sad without actually being sad." I replay that in my head often, ideally in her gravitas-filled voice.
posted by LeeLanded at 7:36 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

"I can choose to worry about this or I can choose not worry about this."

That sentence is how I remind myself that worrying is a choice I make. It's not a law of nature. Worrying is unlikely to affect the outcome but it's pretty sure to make my life less pleasant.

Sometimes I do choose to worry because I'm obstinate like that. But the worrying feels different when I've made the choice to engage with it -- kind of like indulging in a guilty pleasure.
posted by mcduff at 7:38 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have a coworker who spent about a year being cross with me for no good reason. When I needed to put myself in a "kill'em with kindness," mindset, I often reminded myself "I'm gonna tolerate and love the SHIT out of you." It was easier not to react when I pictured a sparkly pony.
posted by maryr at 8:13 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Similarly, both when I feel cranky towards the world of when others treat me brusquely, I try to remember this bit of Ani Difranco's "Pixie" (included the whole chorus for context.) I find it a good mantra because if has a hint of a tune to it, which is why I'm including a song link.

Maybe you don't like your job
Maybe you didn't get enough sleep
Well, nobody likes their job
Nobody got enough sleep

Maybe you just had
The worst day of your life
But, you know, there's no escape
And there's no excuse
So just suck up and be nice

(note: this isn't one of those things where my favorite artist had the perfect song out anything. This chorus just stuck with me.)
posted by maryr at 8:21 AM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

The last words of Layman Pang: "I ask that you regard everything that is as empty, nor give substance to that which has none. Farewell. The world is like reflections and echoes."

Helen Shucman, A Course in Miracles: "What you think you are is a belief to be undone."

I had a friend who ran a little dress shop that sold curios from India. I was taken with a hollow "stone" made from hard resin that was somehow half filled with water. I have a collection of smooth objects that fit in my hand, and this was perfect. My friend told me he holds one of these in his hand each morning and thinks about the water inside the stone, and repeats out loud, "truth is beautiful," until he laughs with joy. I can't say it without smiling. Truth is beautiful.

Another thought I have found very helpful:

You always get a second chance to make a first impression.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:30 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Nothing to do, nothing to undo." Useful for meditation, when thoughts about what needs to happen come into the mind, and for times when action is not appropriate.

"Relax. Nothing us under your control."
posted by mmw at 8:39 AM on September 4, 2016

Best answer: For tasks: you only have to wash and cut up the vegetables, you can cook the dish later/you only have to sort the laundry and maybe put it in your car, you can take it to the laundromat later.

Sometimes once I get going I end up cooking/doing laundry anyway, but even if I don't, cooking is so much easier if all the prep work is done and it's easier to go do laundry if it's already sorted and in my car.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:43 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "It's not my birdhouse."

Years ago, a friend and I were babysitting another friend's lively young daughter. My friend had brought one of those little raw wood birdhouses for the girl to paint, with an idea that together they would paint a sweet pink-and-white birdhouse to match the girl's room, and together they would do all sorts of clever detailing -- shingles on the rooftop, faux windowboxes with flowers, a name in cursive above the door. And that the little girl would put the birdhouse on a shelf and keep it for years and maybe pass it on to her own daughter someday as a keepsake, etc.

So the girl, who is five, starts painting and she does it in wild blotches of red and green and violet and a malevolent shade of orange and half her name across one side of the roof and the other half along the other. And my friend... she freaks out a little. This is not the birdhouse she imagined. This is not the sweet pink-and-white birdhouse that would look so pretty on the shelf. This is not a charming birdhouse that will see the next generation.

And she starts to get upset.

But it is not her birdhouse. It is the little girl's birdhouse and it is just the way she wants it, and that's the way it should be.

So now, any time there's something we had a vision for that is not working the way we had envisioned but is beyond our control: "It's not my birdhouse." And it helps us let go of something we were holding on to too tightly but shouldn't have.
posted by mochapickle at 9:40 AM on September 4, 2016 [20 favorites]

Just started listening to the Bruce Lee Podcast, and this quote of his really resonates with me:

"Be water, my friend"

The general meaning is don't keep banging your head against the wall if something isn't going well. Be "like water" and flow around the obstacle = try a different approach.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:41 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Someday, there will be a pill for this" is my version of "this, too, shall pass."

It's just flippant enough that I don't find it intentionally comforting, and it reminds me that all of my emotions are, fundamentally, chemical in nature.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I like "You've already survived 100% of the hardest days of your life."
posted by guster4lovers at 10:40 AM on September 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I have a tendency to put off tasks, and I've started trying to see how much of the task I can accomplish while waiting for something else (almost always for the kitchen timer to go off and tell me my tea or pasta is ready). A few weeks ago, I managed to get an entire load of laundry folded about 4 seconds before the pasta had to be drained, which led to me throwing up my hands in the air and yelling, "YES! WORLD-CHAMPION SOCK-FOLDER!" out loud. Now variations on "You've got this, you're a world-champion sock-folder!" have been strangely motivating when attempting to get through household tasks.
posted by lazuli at 10:42 AM on September 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: "it's ok to not like things."
posted by beandip at 12:16 PM on September 4, 2016

Best answer: Worry is like paying interest on a loan you may never take out.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:50 PM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Anger is like stabbing yourself and expecting the other person to be the one who dies.
posted by talldean at 2:09 PM on September 4, 2016

Best answer: Let go or be dragged.

Similarly, if you read the Two Monks, A Woman and a River parable (which I originally came across via a jessamyn comment), some version of "Put it down and leave it behind, or choose to carry it with you"

From Kristin Neff's self-compassion meditation - "May I be safe. May I be peaceful. May I be kind to myself. May I accept myself as I am."
posted by penguin pie at 4:18 PM on September 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

"Stop thinking fourth-dimensionally" is one that's sort of from Back to the Future that I use. Don't obsess over old arguments, don't plan how you will have an argument that hasn't even happened.
posted by chaiminda at 4:48 PM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My therapist taught me to ask "What's true now?".
posted by bluespark25 at 5:33 PM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A couple things have gotten me through tough spots/times. One is "this too shall pass" mentioned upthread.

Another, when choosing not to get involved: "Not my circus. Not my monkeys."

And, well, just the thing that keeps me grounded, from Hillel the Elder:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, who am I?
If not now, when?

Occasionally, I throw in my own contribution: "If not me, who?"
posted by Ghidorah at 8:22 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Be a strong ship.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá

Pema Chödrön also had this really cool analogy for anger or negative thoughts, like try to visualize (?) them as a bird cutting across the sky. They might fly by, sure, but they they don't leave a trace. Helps me to remember that feelings/thoughts are super transient, even if they do emerge. She also talks about pausing, and slowing down the momentum of your reactions to stuff. like dont get swept up in it. Shes hella cool, someone here recomended her writing to me and its been a game changer

'Buy the ticket, take the ride.'
- Hunter S. Thompson
posted by speakeasy at 10:05 PM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Default to kindness. Begin with yourself.
posted by storybored at 10:14 PM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Happiness is not found in solutions, but in acceptance of the unresolved.

Have this hanging outside my office at home and think of it often. I bought my print from here.
posted by Twicketface at 10:11 AM on September 5, 2016

Best answer: "Is this effective?"

Along the same lines as "Is this helpful?" and "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" but a little different. Do what works in difficult situations and not what you have the urge to do.
posted by Lucy_32 at 10:42 AM on September 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Not sure if this fits, but my most used mantra after a lifetime of getting involved when I really didn't need to: "Not my monkeys, not my circus."
posted by momochan at 7:23 PM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I often ask myself, "How much of my feeling is real, and how much is just unnecessary anxiety? What part can I let go of?"

"Breathing in, I have arrived, breathing out, I am home," taken from Thich Nhat Hahn.

"You will not feel like this forever, feelings come and go."
posted by fairlynearlyready at 8:31 PM on September 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "the first step of being really good at something is being really terrible at it!"
posted by aniola at 3:22 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by athirstforsalt at 8:41 AM on September 9, 2016

Letterman asked Zevon if his condition had taught him anything about life and death. ''How much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich,'' Zevon answered.
posted by maggieb at 12:40 AM on September 17, 2016

“To be, in a word, unborable.... It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish”
― David Foster Wallace
posted by leotrotsky at 10:54 AM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

― Rainer Maria Rilke
posted by LauraJ at 3:21 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Inch by inch, life is a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard.

(John Updike)
posted by LauraJ at 3:23 PM on September 23, 2016

Best answer: ... and my favourite, from Thich Nhat Hanh:

"Smile, breathe, and go slowly"
posted by LauraJ at 3:25 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

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