Calm in the Storm

Jeremy Sharp, PhDmindfulness, sport psychology Leave a Comment

I had a nasty run yesterday morning. And not in the “nasty as an ironic way to say pleasant” sense. In breaking down the run, it wasn’t my energy level or the distance (often the culprits of a bad run) that made it so unbearable – it was the wind. For those readers in Colorado, you’ve likely experienced this type of wind before. A wind so intense that it was difficult to enjoy even when it was pushing me from behind, and enough to make me curse everything in existence while I was running straight into it. A nightmare to say the least.

If there’s any silver lining in this experience, it’s that I came out of it with the idea for this post. See, about halfway through the run, I suddenly noticed that my eyes weren’t stinging from twigs and dirt blowing into them. I was running very close to full speed, in a posture that didn’t have me bent double and twisted to protect myself from everything whirling through the air. I had no reason to be swearing (and immediately felt silly for doing so).

In that moment, one of my favorite concepts from mindfulness hit me in a rare moment of clarity – the idea that nothing is permanent. There are ebbs and flows to everything…nothing stays the same, all the time. I touched on this idea in the Comments section of an earlier post, placing it in the context of neurobiology and hope for change in our brains. But this experience was a little more direct for me; in that moment, the run shifted from a tedious chore to something a little more lively and dynamic. I recognized that the wind, contrary to my belief until that point, wasn’t constantly blowing hard and fast directly into my face. There were brief stretches where it let up, times when I could feel the sun more strongly or enjoy a little burst in speed. I started to shift my outlook on the run from one of frustration to one of recognizing and appreciating these small moments of relief.

This idea is so important in my personal and professional lives as well. Many times, I’ve talked with depressed clients who say they’re “always” depressed about how “always” is never true. There are inevitably going to be fluctuations in mood, however small they may be. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning, before things have a chance to go wrong. It might be a seemingly random compliment, or a good grade, or a better-than-average sandwich that gives a brief lift in mood. Whatever does it for you, it’s the ability to recognize these moments for what they are rather than let them pass by that’s important. It’s so easy to ignore or miss these times, letting them get swallowed by the dominant mood. But my experience has shown that there’s a lot of hope to be gained from being aware of these small fluctuations. Once you start tuning in to the possibility that depression (or anxiety, or relationship difficulties) isn’t permanent, things start opening up. The belief that there’s a chance to feel better can be incredibly powerful. In therapy I try to help my clients gain more moment-to-moment awareness so that they can recognize the small shifts rather than miss them. It’s not easy, but with a little practice it is certainly possible.

In this moment, I recognize that I want to write much more than I have time for, particularly around mindfulness. I’ve mentioned mindfulness several times in the blog and would like to do a more detailed post one day. Until then, here are a few topical resources:


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