Last week, it was my region’s turn for a heavy-duty heat wave. It wasn’t as hot as last year’s ‘heat dome’, when my apartment reached 120F / 50C, but it was hovering between 30-40C for seven straight days. I didn’t feel meh; I felt hot and tired and irritable.
This week, temperatures have returned to seasonal (low to mid 20s C, 70s F), and despite my physical relief (and gratitude!), I’ve just been feeling kind of… meh this week.
We’re going to feel meh sometimes
As a culture, we put a premium on feeling good. YOLO. “Live your best life.” But we aren’t built to feel good all the time (and if we did, how would we know we felt ‘good’?). Our bodies are sensing instruments for navigating the world around us, and they respond to numerous factors that are beyond our conscious mind and completely outside our control, anyway. Weather and geomagnetic energy shifts, hormones or a poor night (or week) of sleep, among other things, can disrupt our bodies and biorhythms.
Let’s start with a working definition of ‘meh’
To me, ‘meh’ means that nothing is wrong, exactly, but there’s a low-level sense of feeling a bit unsettled, or maybe a little down. I’m not talking about depression, anger, anxiety or any emotion that can be named easily. Nor am I talking about those times when it seems like everything is falling apart.
If there is a clear catalyst for your feeling, and if you can do something about the situation that’s giving rise to emotions, then by all means, take whatever steps you can.
Similarly, if you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired, all of those can affect emotions. Eat, journal, reach out to a friend (or play with an animal), or take a nap. HALT isn’t what I’m talking about, either, when I say ‘meh’.
To name the meh or not to name it
There are times when it helps to name what you’re feeling—“name it to tame it.” This is most helpful with emotions that can be labeled clearly, or when you’re feeling intensely distressing emotions. It can be a relief to put a word to the feeling. This practice isn’t necessarily helpful with meh-ness, because meh-ness doesn’t mean that anything is wrong.
At other times, though, talking about the emotion, or even thinking about it, works at cross-purposes to inner peace. Ruminating tends to lead us towards creating stories, which keep the thinking mind engaged and prolongs the feeling. Whatever we focus on tends to amplify. There’s even a phrase: “What you resist, persists.” And meh-ness is low-level resistance to the ‘what is’ in our experience. Meh means we’re not fully present, not fully appreciating what’s around us in this very moment.
Here’s what I’ve done this week to focus on inner peace in the midst of feeling ‘meh’:
1. Allow the feeling
Imagine a big bubble around your body, even under your feet. Now imagine that bubble expanding and expanding. See how much space you can create around the ‘meh’ feeling. Just allow it to be there, without resistance.
Is your body trying to tell you something? Listen to it. If it needs rest, give it rest. If it needs nourishment, give it healthy food. Your body will always tell you the truth; it’s the mind that can corrupt these messages. Try not to worry about what you’re not doing. Your decision to take care of yourself is not going to cause an international incident or make headline news. The other things will get done when they get done.
2. Get moving
‘Meh’ is an energy that, like all energies, needs to move through the body. It can’t do that as effectively when we’re lying on the couch. Instead, get outside if you can. Go for a walk. If you have access to nature, go where there is nature, whether that’s a park, a garden or a forest. Nature helps to stop us from ruminating.
If you can, exercise more intensely. As you walk or run, visualize the meh-ness flowing out through your feet and into the earth. (Endorphins from exercise don’t hurt, either!)
4. Seek out experiences of awe
One of the reasons nature is so beneficial is that it stops our mind from thinking. Meh-ness can come from subconscious thoughts, those we’re not aware of having. The more awe you can seek out, the better. If you’re stuck at home or work, look at photos from the James Webb Space Telescope. It puts our meh-ness in perspective.
Few of us can see the stars at night any more, because most of us live in relatively urban settings. Looking at the stars has a way of putting things into perspective. Our bodies are made of the same elements as stars; we are, both literally and poetically, stardust, as Joni Mitchell wrote.
5. Chop wood, carry water
If there are tasks to do, do them. Just take the next easy step. As my friend Sarah Clark says, “If it’s not easy, it’s not the next step.” Wash the dishes. Take the dog for a walk. Go to the meeting. Run the errands. Send the emails. As you’re doing these tasks, continue allowing space around the meh-ness. These tiny moments are all part of life—in fact, they make up the majority of our lives. This moment is the life you’re waiting for.
6. Come into the razor’s edge of this moment
The moment when you began to read this sentence is different from this moment. In fact, reading each word is a new moment. It’s impossible to feel meh when you’re fully present. To bring yourself into presence, try rubbing your hands together, then focus on the sensations in your hands—the electrical impulses passing through your nerve endings. Or close your eyes and imagine that you’re breathing in and out with every cell on the surface of your skin. Keep your focus on your skin as a living container, expanding and contracting with each breath. These practices can give you a momentary respite from meh-ness and are a reminder than this feeling, like all feelings, won’t last.
It may be helpful to practice fierce presence, which means intensely focusing on staying in the moment. Focusing on physical sensations (like the feelings in your hands) can also bring you into the moment.
7. Pattern-interrupts can also help
If you can, take a bath or shower and picture allowing the meh-ness to flow out of your body and down the drain (showers are a great place to practice presence, too, btw—focus on the sensation of each drop of water hitting your head or body).
Or play Tetris or Bejeweled, or a similar puzzle game, which can disrupt subconscious rumination loops. These games create just enough “cognitive load” to stop meh-ness in its tracks. Avoid video games, which take you into the world of a story and engage the thinking mind. Hopefully it goes without saying, but don’t look at news or social media; both of those are detrimental to emotional well-being.
8. Laughter is the best medicine
Another way to move energy through the body is through laughter. Whether I’m watching my cat be a little goofball racing around the apartment, or watching old episodes of Scrubs, or watching laughter yoga videos, these get me out of my head and sure enough, soon I’m not feeling meh any more.
When you feel meh, remember that this is a universal feeling; everyone experiences it from time to time. Like all feelings, this too will pass.
Photo credit: Sasha Freemind via Unsplash
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