The Belly Bug Bunch

This can be a tricky time of year to feel healthy and for lots of reasons. Here's a story to tickle your immune system. And a take away.

In one of my previous lives I worked in Therapeutic Recreation at a nursing home in rural Massachusetts. My supervisor was a self-proclaimed Joy Therapist. She had a remedy for residents that lived in institutionalized care - spontaneity.

Spontaneity can be sorely missing when you live in an institutional setting.

Her dog was named John Henry, a family name. He was a dalmatian and in that breed it's not uncommon to have deafness. My super. talked to him in sign language. Everybody that lived there had some reason they were there, mostly something didn't work right anymore. Him too and he made all of us feel right at home. 

A story goes that Patch Adams, a medical doctor, peace and social justice activist, would put a bedpan on his head (clean) to bring a smile to a child that was being treated in a hospital with cancer. Or a clown's nose and big shoes. Studying with Patch Adams, had given my super. whatever permission she needed.

Being on my super.'s team meant getting over how serious I could be - at least a little. You made fun of yourself because at the end of the day you got to go home, you could go to the john when you needed to, you could be naked - within reason, you could eat organic or have a Starbucks everyday if you wanted to. 

It was February, and that generally meant a couple more months of winter. When you live in close quarters you share things like the flu, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia. Then just when it seems that everyone or most everyone has had the flu and gotten over it, it starts all over again. And it seems like it could just go on and on.

It was then that the Belly Bug Bunch was born. Our aim was to keep everybody going until spring. Big sized green bio-hazard bags got shredded into hula skits, we donned them with duct tape. Everything green - legs, arms, faces painted.

A little banging on pot lids announced us. Like a mini band of Munchkins right out of The Wizard of Oz, we sang, "We represent the Belly Bug Bunch and we're here to chase away the belly bugs!" For sure some of the residents were probably frightened by us and others probably scolded us and shook their heads.

But we chased away some belly bugs. Most everybody made it until spring. We brought some warmth into a cold February.

Today as we're getting over the middle of winter crud here in our valley and in my home, I wanted to call on The Belly Bug Bunch. 

Here's a take away to turn old winter crud into joy:
Coming down with a cold, flu, or worse feels awful. The natural amount of time it takes the body to come back to feeling good + the yucky feeling of being sick can leave residues like feeling helpless, there's nothing you can do. Here's how a simple story like this can help turn feelings of helplessness into new strength (joy.)

I like Rick Hanson's H.E.A.L. model: Have, Expand, Absorb, Link
H:  Have a positive experience, a good experience or a neutral experience. Or remember one. For me, The Belly Bug Bunch.
E:  You expand it, bring it alive. Remembering John Henry, the green bio-hazard hula skirts, the Munchkins.
A:  You let it in, you absorb it, let the memory/experience linger for 10 - 20 seconds. Take it in. The fun of being so very goofy; of seeing people who were sick, smile.
L:  Optional - Lightly touch a memory of the thing that needs support - for example, feelings of being helpless around having the winter crud. Now link the alive, good, real feelings in the moment to the difficult ones. Don't let the difficult feelings get the upper hand. Stay rooted in the good feelings!

Rx: Repeat the 10 second taking in the good, (H.E.A.L.) about 10,000 times (about a half hour) and you're well on your way to rewire the resource in! Rewiring the joy of The Belly Bug Bunch into places that felt kind of hopeless, "nothing I can do." The brain learns/rewires best a little at a time, 10 seconds here, 10 seconds there. H.E.A.L. is an enjoyable way to grow positive inner strengths.

I'd love to hear from you. Coming next, other remedies for Self-Care.