Karen Bohnert

Are you stuck?

Is sad your go-to emotion?

I realize these are heavy questions, but I encourage all of you, like I encourage myself, to ask yourself these questions. We must identify the feeling that encompasses us and allow ourselves to really feel it — all of it. After that, we have a choice to be stuck in that emotion or to allow ourselves to think of a happy thought.

For some, forcing ourselves to think of happiness might be a challenge. Think of a place, a memory, or a person that inspires joy and optimism. Think back to an accomplishment or a proud moment in your life. It might be about a cow you bred that went 90 points or smoothly transitioning to three times a day milking. Or, it might have nothing to do with the farm at all. It might be something that you did for yourself or a special memory of your children.

All these happy thoughts must surface because they will inspire you and encourage you to be a better version of yourself. And ultimately, this is what we all strive for.

Here is the deal. When we are stuck, it is so natural and easy to go to the “yuck” and think about the bad stuff. We know those emotions. Misery loves company, and when we are miserable, we feel the urge to pour more miserable emotions on it. Raise your hand if you have ever been there.

Admittedly, I’ve been there. Stuck in the yuck. Stuck in the crossroads and knowing I needed to rise above the easy emotion of feeling sad or angry. Truthfully, complaining seems like a natural coping mechanism. However, be cautious. When we find ourselves complaining about the little things, this can be a slippery slope to talking negatively about others and about ourselves, too.

When we are negative, nothing gets accomplished and nothing seems right or hopeful. It truly is a yucky place to be. However, we have a choice. We can continue down this miserable road, or we can choose in this moment to focus on the good.

Do me a favor. Close your eyes. Think of something that made you feel joy, something that made you feel happy, or something that made you feel proud. Sit in that moment. Then open your eyes and look in the mirror. You are smiling. With this simple exercise, your mind will be trained to begin seeing joy in other areas of your life.

We must shift our thinking from “We are the victim of being stuck in the yuck” to a person who has the power to train our mind to see the good in this world. I encourage you all to start taking control of your own happiness and your own life.

This simple training is something I’ve put time and energy into the last 30 days. I was stuck in the yuck for too long and realized I have the power to change that. I’ll be honest, some days I feel like I’m rocking life. Other times, it is really easy to go back to the yuck, especially during the gray winter months.

When you find yourself going down that road to where stress and misery live, let yourself feel those emotions. Let yourself own those emotions, and then give yourself permission to kick the yuck to the curb and allow your heart to make room for all the joy and happiness in this world.

I know all too well that we cannot control the milk price or the feed bill, but we can control our budgets and try to plan for worst case scenarios.

We have to try to shift our headspace to focus on the bright spots instead of all the things that went wrong. Please be gentle with yourself — this transition doesn’t happen instantly. We won’t change from zero to 100 overnight. We must wake up with a grateful heart, and shift our mind to the things that are going right. Give thanks to those glittering moments.

We must push pause during those heavy moments, where we beat ourselves up over all the things that went wrong that day. Even on the days where nine things went wrong and one thing went right, we must put our focus and energy on the one thing.

What I have found is that this mind shift is powerful not only for ourselves, but also for others around us. There is a saying, “You become like the three people you hang out with.” So, we must choose wisely. Look to your left and then look to the right. If both of those people are toxic complainers who are stuck in the yuck, realize that you have the power to change that. Likewise, you have the power to allow yourselves and those around you to continue being swallowed by the yuck.

My advice is to have the courage to think differently, to think positively. Once you do this, others around you will start to think differently, and you will have led the efforts for a happy environment. This environment is difficult to cultivate, but once you plant the seeds for joy, what sprouts is more joy.

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 500-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.