If you feel bad and use action to distract yourself, then your action will produce a result that also feels bad.
That’s why my efforts to “problem-solve” my way out of anxiety and depression didn’t work. I used intellectual effort to try to escape those bad feelings, and the promise of an “aha!” moment, the feeling of clarity and understanding, became addictive like a drug.
I’m learning now that I can change how I feel just by changing my focus.
But how is changing focus different from problem-solving or other distractions?
The difference is that it starts with acceptance of how I feel right now, whereas distraction is an abandonment of feelings in favour of activity or stimulation.
Since my aim is to improve my baseline feeling, it makes no sense to abandon and lose track of it for the sake of temporary reprieve. It’s better to feel what I’m feeling (even if it feels not so great) and see if I can gently improve it.
Otherwise when distractions end, we are just back where we started, with the added pain of having been distracted and disconnected from ourselves all that time.
And that’s why life seems to go on so consistently despite the many things we do each day. When our actions end we are right back to the feeling that inspired them. Years can go by without much change to how we feel.
Unless your actions challenge and expand you, they won’t bring about deeper change – they remain mere distractions.