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The magic of first times - a guest column

Ibiza Therapist Daga Cybruch gives us some advice about how to beat the lockdown blues by unblocking our own routines.

Lockdown. Virus. Distance. Confinement. Isolation. These words bring feelings of powerlessness, anxiety, frustration… And the count goes on. Even dreaming seems ridiculous. Planning holidays? Taking up a salsa class? Joining a choir? It feels like we've been deprived of the joy of dreaming and anticipation. Maybe we've been thinking of starting a new hobby for years, but now it feels like it is no longer OUR choice whether to do that. And precisely at this very moment, we want to!

We fall into routines that, on the one hand, save our lives, or, on the other hand, might convert our experience into a Groundhog Day trap. Routines bring structure, safety and predictability, they foster our sense of control - so much needed in times of uncertainty. Yet, at the same time, when our days are filled with routines, our brain doesn't get enough exercise, stimulation to grow, to feel excited, refreshed and accomplished.

How can we break our routines when we're confined at home, not allowed to meet other people, and the limitations of what we can do increase every day? How to feel the butterflies in our stomach again? How to feel wonder and excitement?

What if I told you that it is the uncertainty and unpredictability that fuels that feeling? Let us use it then. Let's make it work to our benefit. Let's surrender to what we don't know, to what we haven't tried and let's experience the magic of first times.

The things I can do instead.

The idea for this post came to me when I woke up one day and the list of my routine activities came to my mind, even before I had opened my eyes: My morning stretch. What I have for breakfast. Zoom call. Lunch. Work. Do the laundry. Read a book. Eat dinner. Meditate. Sleep.

And then I started to think of the things I wanted to do but couldn't: I couldn't go to the gym, I couldn't meet up with friends for sushi, I couldn't go to a live concert… As it turned out, all I needed was this energy of frustration and craving for something different - I wanted to surprise myself!

So, instead of stretching, I put on clothes and went to the beach. It was windy and cloudy, the mist covered the fields, and my car's heating worked very slowly. And yet, I felt this excitement, this uncertainty and this anticipation of adventure that I had longed for.

When I arrived at the beach, the wind almost knocked me off my feet. I felt my face turning cold, the sand under my boots, I looked at the sky covered with orange-pinkish clouds (the sun had just risen) and felt nearly euphoric. I did it! I was alone at the beach at 8:12 in the morning. I had carved out a magical moment for myself from what was there - I just needed the tools of curiosity and openness. I embodied what it means to witness full potentiality. And I was ready to go home and spend the rest of the day feeling energized and excited. A little bit proud. A lot grateful.

I know - not everybody can just go to the beach for sunrise. But, fortunately, an inspiration for newness can be found everywhere.

Determine your routines and habits.

The best way to find inspiration for your “first time” is to know what is usual. Be the investigator of your own life. What is it that you do every day automatically, on default mode, out of habit? Is it the same porridge for breakfast? The same, “the shortest” way to the shop or to work? Calling your mum always on Sundays, never weekdays? Wearing the same colours and avoiding yellow at all costs? Listening to indie music to relax? Or starting to tie your shoelaces always with the right shoe?

There cannot be a habit too big or too small to discover and to pay attention to. Start with noticing and observing the way your days unfold and how you create your patterns. Wait until you...

Choose one thing at a time.

Once you are aware of the abundance of inspiration you can draw from, choose one thing - one routine you want to break, one assumption you want to test, one new thing you want to try today. Maybe you're used to sitting at the same “favourite” chair at the table. Change the seat! Talk to the grumpy neighbour who always looks away when he sees you, and you have a whole story of his life in your head. Make a joke; ask him about his favourite lockdown series. Do something against the usual. Grow seedlings, especially if you have never planted anything before.

And while you're on it, remember to...

Be mindful.

Savour the moment, immerse yourself in it. How does the room look when you see it from a different perspective? What do you notice? How do you feel? What does the neighbour's voice sound like? How does it make you feel? Maybe he doesn't respond at all and walks away fast - how do you feel then? What are the thoughts that arise? Do you judge yourself? Do you judge him? Watch the fresh shoots sprouting at random times a day. Maybe make a time-lapse. Smell them. Feel the seeds when you rinse them.

Find that inner child in you who is excited about the newness of everything they experience.

Make it memorable.

Reflect consciously on your “first-time experience”. What made you choose this over anything else. How you felt. Any detail, any new thought or sensation related to the experience. Make a little note to self - a sentence (or a whole paragraph) in your journal (if you keep a journal). Take a photo of the seedlings jar. Write the word that best describes the experience. Maybe for the experiment with the neighbour, this would be “Hilarious” or “Funny hat” or “Definition of grumpiness”.

After all, when you do something for the first time, you...

Let everyday count.

You feel more connected to the present moment. You notice some positive emotions - like hope, curiosity, motivation, surprise - even if at the slightest. You might discover something new about yourself; something you enjoy or detest, something that excites you or simply helps you understand yourself or the world or maybe - poses further questions and stimulates your curiosity. The days don't mesh into a pulp without distinction, yet with the monstrous power to devour your life. They become more meaningful, maybe even fulfilling, more flavourful. And, last but not least, with challenging yourself, you gain the sense of agency over your wellbeing.

When you do something for the first time, and then another thing and another, all those moments do not merely add up - they grow exponentially and create a whole new entirety of experiences. A multitude of neuropathways fire away, you develop a better sense of yourself and a closer connection to life - in this moment, in this space.

Enjoy the attitude of openness to life unfolding before you, the newness of it in every instance. Enjoy being human with your fears and doubts about the unknown that show you the paths where you can learn and improve. Create the magic in your life by shifting your perspective from what is known and familiar, to fresh and unexpected. Dare to dream again...

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