Silhouette of person standing in front of sunset with outstretched arms

We've all done it. Whether it's been staring outside on a beautiful day when we should be working our 9 to 5, or whether it's a global pandemic and the weather is starting to turn nicer and we suddenly are aware of all the limitations we are currently facing. We maybe want to have a backyard BBQ with some friends, or perhaps it's missing the sports activities that come along with this time of year.  

True, there are at least some outdoor activities we can partake in, and it's a good way to get outside of our houses. But even in the midst of that, we still feel like we're missing something. We feel like we're staring outside at a sunny-with-a-high-of-75 day, but are stuck pushing papers for hours preventing us from really enjoying life.

And on it goes. We each continue to deal with diffent kinds of stress and changes in our lives. Wondering when, if ever, will things get back to some semblance of "normal."

But as I was thinking about the concept of being stuck inside and staring outside, I was reminded of the phrase "Inside Out" and how it has applications in our lives. Everyone else sees our "outside," be it in social media or in-person communications or anything in-between, but we have the inside view into our own souls.

Inside Out

When push comes to shove, whatever is on our inside tends to show on our outside, no matter how much we try to hide it. Do you have stress welling up inside you? It tends to manifest itself in some way on the outside. You might lose patience in situations where you would normally be able to keep it together, you might show it in the expression on your face, you might get hyper-focused on addressing the stressor, and ignore other areas of your life, or potentially a million other manifestations. Similar things happen with sadness, fatigue, loneliness, and every other thing you feel. We may be able to hide it for a little bit, but it doesn't make it disappear.

It's not all bad, though! It's these cues that help others know how to help us! If I'm stressed, Kristin does her best to take away other stressors or responsibilities, so that I could be more focused on resolving that stress. She might take the kids out to the park or to a store with her, while I'm able to focus. If I'm feeling disgruntled about something in this world, she'll listen as I talk it through.

Humans were built for this. In fact our eyes are very integral in this process, and are constructed differently than most of the animal kingdom. The sclera, which is the white part of your eyes, is visible and has clear distinction from the colored iris due to its white color.

The highly visible sclera of the human eye makes it easier for us to see where someone else is looking and to engage in nonverbal communication. Knowingly or not, we also use our eye whites to flirt, ignore, and let others know what we’re thinking both consciously and subconsciously.

-- Excerpt, Psychology Today

What does this mean? It means you're a mind reader! You gauge the emotions of those you're close to, and in this world of pandemic-induced "lots of family time," you can try to keep an eye out for those around you. Try to react to their feelings in a way that will help the situation. Go above-and-beyond to care for those closest to you.

Expose the Good Inside You

Negative emotions are not the only things inside of you. There's lots of good in there. There are the special and unique things to your personality, maybe there's humor, maybe there's deep love for someone, or maybe there's a master chef in there. These things tend to come out of us as well. Well for me, the master chef thing is most definitely not going to come out, because it is certainly not in there!

In this time, there's joy and light that you can bring to this world, simply by being you! That said, sometimes, though you can intentionally bring some of those good things out, even when you're dealing with negative emotions. We can actively choose to love, even in the midst of chaos around us. We can choose to creatively problem-solve, even when the world is throwing us curve-balls. Every little bit of good sprinkled out around us has ripple affects, even small drops of water provide ripples that radiate outward when dropped into a bigger body of water. So be a joy instigator!

Outside In

We know those little bits of joy that others spread have positive impacts on us. What's outside of us does affect our insides! It could be negative, it could be positive.

Back when the news of this virus started to get serious, it probably caused some form of reaction within us (whether it be denial or fear). If you lost your job during this time, you probably had some fear. If you own a business, you were probably scared for what it would mean for you and your employees. We most certainly were in this boat! But on the flipside, there may be moments even recently that brought you joy. Maybe it was listening to a song that really encouraged you. Maybe it was the weather warming up and allowing more outdoor activities.  Maybe it was just a good phone or Zoom conversation with a close friend or family member that calmed you or brought you joy.

We can't deny the effects of the outside world upon us.

Why does it matter? Well, because you can control some of the outside influences you put into your life! You can chose your sources of news, you can choose what you read, what you watch on TV, or even the people you associate with. When you're making your choices, it might be worthwhile to try to maybe increase the level of good inputs you have in your life. That can mean a lot of different things to different people. Maybe it's a few of these things:

  • Reading a good book, maybe one that empowers or encourages you.
  • Watching TV shows or movies that are "feel good" or remind you of the good in the world.
  • Watching content that good prevails over the evil or bad in the world.
  • Maybe reading a religious text if that's your thing.
  • Talking with friends or family that are encouraging and empathetic.
  • Listening to some music that brings you peace in an upended world.

Whatever you do, the more hope, joy and peace you fill into your life, the more of those attributes that will naturally flow out of you. Even in a time such as this.

Breathe in encouragement, so that you can exhale joy to those around you.