September 22, 2017

Eight Negative Attitudes of Chronically Unhappy People

Eight Negative Attitudes of Chronically Unhappy People

“Almost all painful feelings have their source in an incorrect way of looking at reality. When you uproot erroneous views, suffering ceases."

—   The Buddha, as written by Thich Nhat Hanh

All of us experience negative thoughts from time to time. How we manage our negative attitudes can make the difference between confidence versus fear, hope versus despair, mastery versus victimhood, and victory versus defeat.

Multiple studies have revealed how chronic negative attitudes can adversely affect one’s health, happiness and well-being. Below are eight common negative thoughts of unhappy people, excerpted from the book "How to Let Go of Negative Thoughts and Emotions.”

1.    Self-Defeating Talk
Self-defeating talk are messages we send to ourselves which reduce our confidence, diminish our performance, lower our potential, and ultimately sabotage our success. Common self-defeating talk includes sentence beginnings such as:

“I can’t…”

“I’m not good enough…”

“I’m not confident …”

“I don’t have what it takes…”

“I’m going to fail…”

Would you like it if a friend tells you repeatedly that “you can’t succeed,” “you’re not good enough,” “you lack confidence,” “you don’t have what it takes,” or “you’re going to fail?” Would you consider this person a real friend? If not, why would you want to talk or think this way to yourself? Engaging in habitual self-defeating talk is like having a false friend who puts you down all day long. You become your worst enemy and detractor.    

2.    Negative Assumptions
A prevailing form of negative thinking is to take stock of a situation or an interaction, and presume the negative. For many people, this “looking at the glass half empty” attitude is habitual and automatic. One might look at a crowded commute, a rainy day, or paying the bills as automatic negative experiences.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently positive or negative about traffic, weather, or bill paying. As the saying goes, “it is what it is.” It’s the way you choose to relate to your circumstances that makes the experience positive or negative. This choice can instantly make you stronger or weaker, happier or gloomier, empowered or victimized. Given the same situations, one might look at a crowded commute as a chance to listen to relaxing music or practice mindful breathing; a rainy day as an occasion to curl up at home with hot cocoa and a good book; or bill paying as an opportunity to practice the “pay yourself first” wealth building strategy. It’s all in how you choose to relate to the moment.       

3.    Negative Comparison with Others
One of the easiest and most common ways to feel bad about oneself is to compare yourself unfavorably to others. We may be tempted to compare ourselves with those who have more accomplishments, seem more attractive, make more money, or boast more Facebook friends.

When you find yourself wishing to have what someone else has, and feel jealous, inferior or inadequate as the result, you’re having a negative social comparison moment.

Research indicates that habitual negative social comparisons can cause a person to experience greater stress, anxiety, depression, and make self-defeating choices.        

4.    Negative Rumination about the Past
We should learn from the past, but not be stuck in it. Sometimes life circumstances and personal setbacks can haunt and prevent us from seeing our true potential and recognizing new opportunities. What has already happened we cannot change, but what is yet to happen we can shape and influence. At times, the first step is simply to break from the past and declare that it is you, not your history, who’s in charge. Goethe reminds us: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” Don’t dwell on the past. Make better choices today and move on.

“Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.”

— Wall Street Journal

5.    Disempowering Beliefs about Difficult People
Most of us encounter difficult people in our lives. In the face of such challenging individuals, it’s tempting to believe that they are the perpetrators and we are the victims, or that they hold the power with their challenging behavior. Such attitudes, even if justified, are reactive and thus self-weakening.

The key to changing your disempowering beliefs about difficult people is to shift from being reactive to proactive. Whether you’re dealing with a narcissist, a passive-aggressive, a manipulator, or an intimidating and controlling oppressor, there are many skills and strategies you can utilize to stay on top of the situation.

6.    The Desire to Blame
Blame can be defined as holding others responsible for our misfortunes. Some people cast their dysfunctional parents, negative relationships, socio-economic disadvantages, health challenges, or other life hardships as the reason for their unhappiness and lack of success.

While it’s certainly true that life presents many difficulties, and undeniable the pain and suffering they often cause, to blame others as the reason for one’s unhappiness is to cast oneself in the role of the victim.

There are illusory advantages to victimhood, as finger-pointing provides convenient justification for life’s unsatisfactory conditions, and sheds the work necessary to take complete charge of one’s own life and well-being.

However, habitual blaming over time perpetuates bitterness, resentment, and powerlessness, as the victim suffers from what H.D. Thoreau calls “quiet desperation.”

Often, those who are the target of your blame have little idea (or could care less) about how you really feel. You only hurt yourself by being a prisoner of your own bitterness and resentment. Your feelings may be justified, but they will not help you become happy, healthy, and successful. Ultimately, isn’t that what you really want?

"When we blame, we give away our power."

—   Greg Anderson

7.    The Struggle to Forgive Yourself
All of us make mistakes in life. When you look back at your past deeds, perhaps there were decisions and actions you regret. There may have been unfortunate errors in judgment. You may have caused harm to yourself and/or others.

As you recall these past events, there may be an accompanying sense of self-blame at the blunders made, damage done, or opportunities missed. You might think of yourself as a “bad” or “flawed” person and wallow in guilt. During these moments, it’s extremely important to be compassionate with yourself, knowing that now that you’re more aware, you have a chance to avoid repeating past mistakes, and to make a positive difference with yourself and others.

“Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes — and mistakes aren't permanent reflections on you as a person. They're isolated moments in time. Tell yourself, "I made a mistake, but that doesn't make me a bad person."

—   Mayo Clinic

8.    The Fear of Failure and Making Mistakes
The fear of failure and making mistakes are often associated with perfectionism (at least in certain areas of your life). You may think that you’re not good enough in some ways, thereby placing tremendous pressure on yourself to succeed.

While setting high standards can serve as an effective motivational tool, expecting yourself to be perfect takes the joy out of life, and can actually limit your greatest potential for success. Multiple studies have shown the correlation between perfectionism and unhappiness. Try as we might, it simply isn’t human to be perfect, and certainly not all the time.

“Given the desire to be valued and appreciated, it’s tempting to try to appear to be perfect, but the costs of such deceptions are high…How can you like yourself when you don’t measure up to the way you ought to be?”  

—  R. Adler and R. Proctor II

Source: Psychology Today
Preston Ni, M.S.B.A.

September 10, 2017

Old School

Yesterday, my husband and I spent the day together.

We began the day picking up some secondhand camera lenses. Bargain of the day, great investment.

We shared breakfast at Cracker Barrel, picked up some groceries, attended the memorial service for a dear friend of mine and did a bit of shopping.

We drove on back roads, twisting through small towns, enjoying the autumn breeze and absolutely perfect weather. On our way back home, we stopped in West Concord, the town where my husband attended grade school. The original school building, built in 1902, has since been converted into a community center and historical society.

Walking around the partially dilapidated building, I asked my husband to share memories of his childhood with me. He showed me where the cafeteria was, places kids on the playground hung out, and the room where he learned to use his very first tool. A hand saw. If only that teacher knew how important introducing that hand saw in kindergarten would be to Keith's future.

Old brick calls out to the photographer in me.
I am eternally grateful that my husband allows me to primp and pose him in my photographer's mind's eye. Occasionally, I even get a shot that makes me smile.

Love the ones you're with.
Never forget where you came from.


September 6, 2017

Number 9

Today is wedding anniversary #9 for my husband and I. As a general rule, I do not speak details of my personal relationships on Facebook. My opinion, old school as it may be, is that one person's intimate life details are not eligible for another person to publicize on social media.

Drama, please...

The one clear and purposeful exception I make is in the explanation of love I have for my husband Keith. I could mush on and on about him all day. He never stops surprising me with new ways of showing how much he loves me.  And honestly, after nine years, I love the guy more every day.

I tell you these details, not to make you believe we live a fairytale life. But to show an example of what getting back up after being knocked down looks like. We've both been married before, that will give you enough trust issues to float an ark. But it's different being in a marriage with someone who wants the same things you want, who you can openly communicate with without fear of retribution, who you trust with your biggest fears and failures, who lays down his pride for you and has vowed to give up his life for you...

That's my husband.

If you're one of our neighbors, you've likely heard him screaming cuss words in the driveway while fixing a motor. You know how sorry I am. Thank you for not calling the police. I promise, he's harmless.

If you're in our family or one of our friends, you've likely experienced an episode of PTSD or anxiety with Keith. If you have, you know. If you haven't, you will. There's nothing you can/can't do or say to manifest this. Again, he's harmless. Treat him like a human being and he'll act like a human being. If you ask, he will also sit down and tell you about his PTSD, the symptoms he has, how this affects his everyday life.

Today, I get to share my overflowing love for this patient man.

About once a week, I'll ask him if he knows how much I love him. Monday afternoon, he was seeming kind of cranky so I sat down next to him on the couch.

"Do you know how much I love you?" I asked. No response, not even an eye blink.

[Sidenote: Keith has hearing loss from years of repetitive weapon fire. I am an expert at determining deafness from selective hearing.]

I asked again, a little louder this time, "Babe! Do you know how much I love you?" 

"Huh?" He looks at me like I'm nuts (which perhaps I am,  interrupting Game of Thrones).
I repeat myself once more, and he presses pause on the remote control. 
Here we go... 
He turns his entire body to face me and in a mostly sarcastic voice says, "Now, what is it that I can do for you?"

I proceeded to have a face-to-face conversation with my husband about how much I loved him, his meaningful place in my life and the universe. Then I asked him if he believed me. And did he believe I would love him with my entire heart until my dying day. 

His answer...? Meh. 

Most of you who know Keith know he was messing with me at this point. I knew also. But in that moment, when your spouse has taken the time to stop his TV show, something has been making him cranky, and he rates your love as a lukewarm 3/10 on the eternal scale, kidding or not, you keep talking. As my husband learned, it's difficult to be cranky with your wife in your lap, holding your face while you speak. I literally can only stay mad at him for anything, three hours max. Which includes the time he realizes I'm angry. 

Maybe communicating through hardship seems like conventional relationship advice. Not texting or tweeting. Face to actual face, phones in another room (gasp!) conversation. I know, no time. There's always time until there is no time. 

Some people think if your first (or second, or third) marriage didn't end up gloriously, you "settled" when you married again. I'm calling bull$hit on that, which is part of the reason I share this.

Wherever you are in your life, right now, you probably have some plan in mind for your life. What your future looks like in school, your career, with your family, traveling, hobbies and adventures.

Then something traumatic happens. Completely and totally unexpected. You thought you knew pain in this moment. Then pain came to haunt you. The unimaginable changes you.

We all have something. That thing that has knocked us down, kicked us in the gut, left us feeling like the bottom of the barrel. Sometimes more than once. That doesn't mean you're worth less as a person, deserve less, feel less, hurt less. It is your responsibility to decide how to get back up when something or someone knocks you down. Trust me, getting back up is completely worth it. 

Happy anniversary to my husband, Keith. In good times and bad, sickness and health, I hope you'll always know how much I truly love you.