May 29, 2022
Doom scrolling had become part of my daily routine and my energy level, mental health, optimism and even my diet had suffered as a result. I hadn’t felt great about the state of humanity for months and things didn’t seem to be getting better. I knew I was stuck in the mud but it was hard to break free of this habit I had created for myself.
Habit experts talk about the importance of “interrupters” for helping to make changes that stick. Some interrupters we initiate and some are unexpectedly thrust upon us, but either can be a catalyst for a change in our behaviors. Things like a new job, a new romantic relationship, a change of scenery and yes, even a vacation.
Last week as another terrible news headline entered my inbox, an invitation to visit a dear friend in Miami also winked at me. “A change of scenery will do you good”, she said. “That and a plate of broccoli”, she teased. She was right, I had been consuming a steady diet of toxic headlines, cheese and “Impossible Whoppers”, it was no wonder my view of humanity (and my middle section) was so dystopian and hopeless. Before I could change my mind, I booked by ticket.
Being an island girl from way back, the smell of the salty, humid air and the feeling of warm water and sand between my toes was an unconscious and instant relaxant for my nervous system. I found myself immediately softening like the caramel in a Rolo. Without fully recognizing it, I began to feel a little less heavy-hearted. A smile curved across my face and I even succumbed to a few giggles. Then... something very uncomfortable and profound happened. I heard myself repeating the same crappy, hopeless, doom, and destruction stories that I had been listening to and repeating for months! It was all there, staring me in the face. I had been gorging myself on a smorgasbord of terrifying headlines, high on addictive stress-producing cortisol, so of course, my outlook and attitude were dark and dystopian! I needed to break this habit now! AND for some reason, at that moment, I was reminded of this old Cherokee parable -
One evening beside a warm fire, a wisened Grandfather told his Grandchildren the story about a great battle between 2 wolves.
“My children, there is a great battle that rages between 2 wolves”,
Pointing to them he said, “and these wolves live inside each and every one of us".
Intrigued, the children listened more intently.
"One is the evil wolf. It is destructive, divisive, angry, envious, and jealous. It is filled with great sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, ego and self-pity. It spreads guilt, lies, and resentment.
The other is the good wolf. It is joyful, full of love and hope. It is filled with kindness, empathy, generosity, humility, peacefulness, and serenity. It spreads compassion, truth, and faith.”
The children pondered this predicament until one child finally asked,
“ Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
After a thoughtful pause, the Grandfather replied, “The one you feed”.
Changing my high-stress cortisol consumption habit would take more than just a trip to Miami and a plate of broccoli, it was going to demand a commitment to make a conscious choice in every moment to do things differently no matter where I was. With this vacation inspiration cheering me on, I changed the channel and started feeding my emaciated “good wolf” heaping plates of natural beauty, a few margaritas, and a whole lotta broccoli love.
Choosing to witness the beauty and peacefulness of nature can help interrupt habitual patterns of unchecked consumption.
A local legend we will call "Sasquatch" told me he doesn't need to leave to go on vacation. He just takes a moment to look all around him and take in the sacredness of it all. He is lucky that he can do this so easily and it doesn't hurt that he happens to live in one of my favorite special places - Hot Springs, North Carolina. For millennia, folks have been drawn to this small town in Western North Carolina for kinship, healing, and connection with the natural surroundings. Found at the confluence of the French Broad River and Spring Creek, Hot Springs, is less than an hour from Asheville, and near the Tennesse border. There is a bounty of majestic mountains to drink in, mossy magic trails to explore, waterfalls and swimming holes to experience, an abundance of wildlife, along with ancient petroglyphs and the hot, healing thermal waters. The irony is that I have the unbelievable good fortune to be the custodian of a 13-acre property there called Hot Springs Tree House Cabins. Sometimes you have to "go to come back", Sasquatch reminds me. Often times we just need a good "interrupter" like a vacation to help do that for us. At Hot Springs Tree House Cabins our guests come from all over the world to rest, relax, reflect and play in the great outdoors. Many get inspired to paint, write or make that important commitment that will change their life forever. On vacation at the cabins, it all seems a little easier to feed the good wolf some broccoli, and oh, how good it feels when we do.