Updated: Mar 12, 2020
Upstream / Downstream Thinking
Recall a time when you tried to swim against the current in a river or in an ocean. Feel how hard you had to work to move even a few inches. You’re kicking, you’re paddling. See the people at the shore - you’ve moved nowhere! How could I be working this hard and made no progress?! I’m exhausted. ☞This is an upstream feeling.☜
Now imagine letting yourself be taken by the current. How easy and effortless it is. You’re in the flow of a lazy river. You move naturally and smoothly.
Take a breath and feel this. ☞This is a downstream feeling.☜
Apply this concept to life. You know the feeling when you’re working hard to force a situation into how you want it to be, how you think it should be? You’re working harder than anyone else around you. Things are just not going the way they’re supposed to. You’re frustrated. People aren’t doing what you want them to, damnit! UPSTREAM.
The key to feeling happier and better in life is to make deliberate choices to feel *slightly* better, more downstream, in each moment. You’re not going to go from depression and hopelessness immediately to joy and gratitude. That’s unrealistic. But, can you find a way to feel a little bit of relief, a little of that downstream feeling?
The main thing you need to consider in the moment is: Am I pointed upstream or downstream? You do not need to look for an end-all solution to your problem, just something that feels *a little bit better* right now. If you let that be your consideration, you can begin moving toward the desired state you seek.
If we were to apply this way of thinking to our dating life, it might look like this:
“I’m sick of being single. I want to be in a relationship."
Remember, your job is to make the choice to choose a downstream thought (to feel *a little* better in the moment) rather than an upstream thought (to continue feeling depressed or frustrated).
Dating is so hard.
The people I like don’t like me.
I’m never going to meet anyone.
All the guys my age are looking for women younger than me.
I should have married the third guy ago. Why did I break up with him?
My clock is ticking. I’m running out of time.
I know I will be happy once I meet my soulmate.
Even though I don’t know how I’m going to meet my future mate, I am open to new possibilities and I’m not ready to give up.
I may not know where he/she is coming from, but I know that I will be more attractive if I am enjoying life when I meet them.
It’s fun for me to discover what makes me happy on my own. I know that figuring this out for myself is important. And it feels good!
I know I’m not the only person who feels lonely. Even people in relationships feel lonely.
Dating helps me learn about myself and about the qualities I’m looking for in a relationship. Each person I’ve spent time with has helped me shape the picture of what I want.
I like spending time with people who are in happy relationships because it helps me see what’s possible.
I’m on a date, I’m at a new restaurant and I’m enjoying this conversation. I don’t have to know right now if this is my life partner.
✺ How do you feel after reading each paragraph? The downstream thoughts don't have to be life-altering, you're just looking for a tiny bit of relief. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! ✺