How to create a natural high (and why I'm on one right now)
"I don't know, I just feel... supercharged or something."
That's what I said to my bestie last week as I told her how different I felt lately: my excitement for the podcast, my enthusiasm during workouts, my clarity in relationships, etc.
And she said the most interesting thing:
"I can tell you're on a high. I feel like you and August are friends."
She's right, of course. I'm on the best kind of natural high, but it's not because we're in the month of August.
I get why she'd think that. There are a bunch of happy events this August, like my birthday, my baby boy's first birthday, and my little brother's wedding. I even love August enough to announce it on my Instagram every year, like people don't already know what month it is. :-)
But my "mood" isn't happenstance or due to the position of the moon. It isn't because of my birthday, either.
It's something else entirely.
A natural high is a direct result of taking creative action.
I'm feeling this natural high because of what I've been doing over the past month or so, and the kind of action I've committed to. And guess what? It's clearly working!
Here's what I mean:
First, you must express yourself...
After closing my business earlier this year, I took some time off to decompress and spend time with my little guy. (Because, duh, he's the cutest.) But it only took a few months to start feeling antsy. I told my friends,
"I think I'm ready. To do what? I'm not sure. But I've got the itch."
When I thought of what I might do, I considered various options. Should I write? Should I explore this photography I'm being pulled to? Should I try something entirely new?
The thought of creating excited me. But I also was hesitant about how much time to spend on something that may never see the light of day.
It's not easy to make time to create when your efforts may fall on deaf ears. Create anyway.
This came up last week while recording my first podcast episode with Ali Nelson, actually. During our conversation, she said the greatest thing:
"I asked myself, 'What is the work that I want to be doing?' And then I started creating. And at the time I didn't necessarily have clients who wanted that work. But in order to even show that you can do that work, you have to create it, people have to see it and know that it's possible for you to do it."
At some point, the itch got so bad that I decided to scratch. I decided to start expressing myself. I decided to do a little bit of everything I felt called to do—write, take photos, brainstorm other projects, what-ever-I-want.
So, I do exactly that.
Even if nobody's reading.
Even if I nobody's paying me to do it.
Even if I have no idea what the hell I'm doing.
Then, make commitments to yourself...
Once I knew I wanted to express myself creatively, I knew it had to become a habit.
In the words of Stephen King,
"Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink."
If creating is free, what was holding me back from scratching the itch? A plan.
I sat down and made a list (a public one!) of what creative activities I wanted to accomplish. I even journaled a bit about why I was struggling to get it done and how I might re-organize my time to make it happen.
I came up with my list of commitments.
- Writing for my newsletter once per week
- Taking photos every single day
- Healthy eating and moving at least four times per week
These are not commitments to the outside world. These are commitments to myself. Nobody is holding me accountable but my own self.
By creating commitments to myself, I'm honoring and prioritizing that which my soul feels need to be created.
It felt great to see on paper what I needed to get done. It made me feel like creating what I committed to wasn't as outlandish and impossible as I'd imagined. It made these lofty ideas of mine concrete and tangible.
Which prepared me for the next step...
Do the work.
Which is, you know, hard. Because does life looooves to get in the way of my art.
The social obligations. The fun invitations to dinner or the movies. The boring stuff that needs to get done. (Like going to the supermarket, which I haaate.)
But, most of all, my inner lazypants that wants to scroll through shiny pictures on Instagram instead of getting work done.
Which is why I love this quote:
"Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not."
— William James
It's through our actions that we create our feelings.
Taking creative action creates a natural high that kills all inner resistance.
I could easily get caught up in a downward spiral of "imposter syndrome" with my photography, but my commitments and my daily action don't give me a chance to even think about my lack of training. Doing the work every day takes the pressure off my technique and measuring up to anyone else and puts the focus on expressing myself, as whimsical and self-taught as it may be.
The same goes for my podcast. By committing to making it happen, I just started doing and didn't have a chance to feel—nor give in to—resistance. I did it by sending out emails to potential guests I'd like to have on the show and scheduling our interviews. No going back now. :-)
So yes, August is most definitely a beautiful month for my family, but there's nothing like the natural high of self-expression and creative exploration.
What can I say? I'm on a high. :-)
PS. Podcast going live in a few days. So pumped!