Do you feel like the same situations keep happening to you over and over again? Do you keep attracting partners that don’t fulfill your needs or you face the same problems in different relationships? Are you struggling with the same stresses and conflicts at work, or you keep losing your jobs? It’s like you’re a magnet for people who hurt you, or embarrassing situations, or bullies at work, etc.
I am sure that, at least once in your life, you have said or thought something like: “Why this keeps happening to me all the time?”. And really, why? Is it some kind of a mystic cosmic power that brings these experiences to your life? Fortunately, psychology has a more realistic explanation to why you keep entering the same unpleasant situations all over again. Let’s explore what actually happens.
Frameworks You Live By
From the moment you are born, you are in a survival mode. During your childhood, your little mind is programmed to absorb everything that is happening around you in order to learn and adapt to your environment. You pull in the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideals of those around you. By interacting with your parents or primary caregivers, you form certain beliefs about yourself, other people, and life in general. These beliefs are the product of the way you interpreted behaviours of your important adults and how they treated your needs, as well as things they were telling you about other people, rules, and life in general.
Of course, not all parents are the same. Thus, some will be convinced that life is a fight, you are not allowed to make mistakes and need to be perfect in order to succeed or be loved and appreciated. For others, life will be a scary and dangerous place full of people waiting to hurt you, so you need to be careful who you trust and never let your guard down. Some will, on the other hand, believe that life is easy and fun, that people usually have good intentions and that, whatever you do, everything will be okay in the end.
These belief systems become the frameworks we live by. They are like colored glasses that affect how we see everything unfolding in our lives. More importantly, these beliefs direct our decision making, condition our behaviour and, ultimately, affect how others react to our behaviours and how they treat us.
Now, imagine a situation that you’re going to a party where you don’t know almost anyone.
Version 1: You’re afraid nobody will talk to you because believe you’re boring or not good with new people. Consequentially, you will probably feel self-conscious and anxious, and enter the party acting awkward, standoffish and not so friendly. As a result, people will not be encouraged to come to you and start a conversation, which will only, in turn, reinforce beliefs you already had.
Version 2: You strongly believe that you’re an interesting person and others will be open to meet you. You think: “This party is going to be great”. People will probably be drawn by your openness and outgoing attitude and come talk to you, which also proves you were right in your beliefs in the first place.
This effect is called a self-fulfilling prophecy, a term coined by famous sociologist, Robert Merton.
Merton noticed that sometimes a belief brings about consequences that cause reality to match the belief. He defined self-fulfilling prophecy as “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true” (Merton, 1968).
In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief or expectation that we hold about a future event that manifests because we hold it. Our expectations and predictions of what will happen impact our behaviour, which shapes how others see us and how they act toward us. In turn, they provide feedback we set ourselves to get in the first place, which serves to reinforce the original belief. Generally, this process is unintentional – we are not aware that our beliefs cause the consequences we expect or fear. And that’s exactly why it’s so difficult to tackle them down and start changing them.
Breaking the Cycle Can Be Hard…
Breaking the cycle of entering the same situations over and over again can be tricky, in the first place because we don’t see our fundamental beliefs as beliefs but as actual facts about the world. Subconsciously, it’s important for us to prove that our beliefs about how life works are “right” because it gives us a sense of security. If we “know” the rules by which the world functions, we feel like we can prepare and know what to expect. That’s why we filter information so they can fit our belief system. We rate experiences that are in line with our beliefs as an important “proof” that our frameworks are actually true, while we label those opposite to our frameworks as unimportant coincidences that won’t impact the way we see the world.
Over time, these patterns of thought and behaviour become our automatic response, a sort of a habitual reaction to circumstances. Researchers believe we have neural pathways in our brains that are reinforced by habit. The more you repeat the behaviour, the stronger your neural pathway for that behaviour becomes, and the easier it triggers the next time.
It’s like a forest dirt road – the more you walk on it, the more well-established it becomes. You have an automatic impulse to walk down that well-worn path, rather than on the grassy part. However, this dirt road often leads to the same destination. To break the cycle, you need to consciously resist the urge to stay on the road you know and start walking on the grass to a different direction. Over time, as you repeat taking the same route on the grass, another path will form and it will be easier to walk on.
One thing you can do to make the first step toward exiting the circle of “attracting” the same problems is to, for starters, let go of certainty. It’s important to understand that much of what you think you know about yourself, other people, and life, is more probably a belief and less probably a fact. It is a product of your upbringing and your past experiences. But the good news is that we can choose our beliefs and, therefore, change them.
You can start off by choosing a pattern that you want to break out of. Then, write down the past five times when it happened. List all the details about those situations – how did it happened, what led to it, why you think it happened. Now, try to find commonalities across these situations. In the end, try to find what part you play in these situations? Are there any behaviours that might have led you to the common outcome?
Here is a list of questions that might be helpful in discovering a pattern and your part in it:
- What keeps happening over and over again?
- How does it start?
- What happens next?
- And then what happens?
- How does it end?
- How do you feel after it ends? (John James, 1973)
This process is crucial for changing your patterns. It gives the opportunity to tackle down the reason you might have taken up a particular role and contributed to the outcome that keeps happening. From there, you can set up a goal – what you want to change and what results to get – and then map out a different path from the one you’re taking now.
It’s absolutely okay if you’re not able to identify the reason behind the same situations repeating in your life by yourself. A good therapist can help you figure out where you’re standing and how to proceed.
Please share your thoughts and experiences on the topic down below in the comments, it’s always amazing to hear it! Also, don’t forget to share this post on your social media.
How is it possible that it’s already Sunday night when it feels like Friday was half an hour ago?! The struggle of knowing the laid-back, weekend You has to dress up tomorrow and face the overwhelming to-do list of the working week again is real. That sinking feeling you experience on Sunday night is what millions are dealing with too – the Sunday night blues.
Why Sunday Nights are So Tough?
For one thing, Sunday night blues started in our schooldays, when Sunday evening meant the fun of the weekend is over and we have to return to our boring textbooks and homework. Even when those days are over, out body and mind remember those anxious feelings and Sunday night remains the trigger that brings this response back. The fact that, for many of us as adults, Sunday means roughly the same thing – returning to tasks and responsibilities on our workplace – additionally strengthens that familiar physical and psychological response we developed a long time ago. For this reason, even people who love their jobs are not immune to Sunday night blues.
Additional thing that probably happens is that you are thinking too far ahead. We described this cognitive distortion HERE, so you might want to take a look. In short, when you think about everything you need to finish during the next week all at once, stress spikes up and you feel overwhelmed. What you ultimately do is you’re cramming the workload of five working days, so about 40 working hours, into one moment of thinking; the result is, naturally, that it looks like too much to handle. But in reality, things are much easier while you’re actually going through them.
“You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.”
So, when Sunday evening comes, your body and mind habitually start familiar pattern all over again: worrying about the upcoming week, feeling of overwhelm for everything that has to be done, sadness for weekend being too short, anger at yourself or others for not doing everything as planned, irritability, anxiety, depression. You may even have a hard time falling asleep.
How to Beat Sunday Night Blues?
Sunday night sadness and anxiety may be common, but you don’t have to live with them. Here are a few things you can do to outsmart your sad Sundays and feel uplifted for the week ahead.
✔️ Keep your weekend plans realistic
You want to make your weekend as enjoyable as possible, and that’s great. However, it’s important to not get caught into the trap of setting the expectations for the weekend so high that it becomes a race of accomplishing everything on the list.
If you’re determined to finish work reports and answer some additional e-mails, reorganize your closet, meet with friends on a drink, spend time in nature with your family, read that exciting book that’s sitting for too long on your bedside table, and go to a yoga class all in the same weekend, activities that are supposed to be fun and relaxing might turn into obligations. The end result is that you’re probably going to end up either exhausted from running to achieve all of it or frustrated that you haven’t accomplished it all. Either way, your mind on Sunday night consequentially becomes, well, a not so pleasant place.
Sometimes, even the most organized people have to deal with the reality that things don’t always go according to the plan. Because of this, try to see plans you make on Friday afternoon as an outline, as a list of possible things that you have the freedom to do on the weekend, not as plans written in stone. It’s wonderful to have a variety of choices – embrace it. But don’t let can and want turn into a must.
✔️ Active leisure time
About 75% of people don’t leave the house on Sunday (source). When we combine it with the fact that “feelings of anxiety and depression are most common when the person is not particularly busy”, as the professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, Steven Meyers says, then it’s easy to recognize why Sunday becomes a perfect time for those unpleasant feelings to creep into our minds.
One good way to avoid entering this “empty space” is to replace your passive leisure time with enjoyable activities that will occupy your mind and redirect your attention. And by this we don’t mean doing some house chores – reschedule them for some other day. Instead, you want to do something you enjoy – spend time with friends, exercise, devote time to hobbies, do something creative, anything that is fun for you and gives you something to focus on.
One amazing way to spend your Sunday is volunteering. One study found that people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance. Further, those who volunteered in their free time were less stressed and less likely to feel burned out at work. Another study shows that volunteering in our free time makes us feel like we actually have more time! It suggests that volunteering makes us feel more efficient, like we are doing something big and valuable with our time, and therefore like we are less stressed and hurried.
✔️ Schedule something you look forward to for the working week
You know that fuzzy excitement before a vacation? That tingling anticipation of all the adventures that you might experience on your trip? Well, a micro version of that happens before your weekend. Having something to look forward to often serves as a fuel that helps us go through stressful times. But sometimes the weekend can feel too far away, and especially so on Sunday night.
However, you don’t have to save all your fun activities for the weekend. Scheduling little things you enjoy strategically throughout the week should give you something to look forward to, which will relieve some stress and anxiety and boost your mood and energy. When, on Sunday, you know that the next time you’ll enjoy yourself won’t be on the next Friday, but actually much sooner, already on Monday even, the upcoming week doesn’t look so long and scary. These activities don’t have to be anything big – scheduling a romantic dinner on Thursday night, going out for a movie on Wednesday, or curling up in your bed with a blanket, a cup of tea and your favorite book on Monday night will do just fine.
✔️ Ask the right questions
Your Sunday night blues might simply be a product of overthinking, but they can also be an important sign. Take a step back and try to identify what’s causing you anxiety, stress, or sadness. Do you have too many commitments? Do you need more sleep? Have you neglected yourself for too long? Is your job in opposition with your personal values and beliefs? Maybe it’s time to slow down a little. Whatever it is, pinpointing the exact root of those unpleasant feelings that occur right before Monday is the first step toward a solution.
If you need additional help, do not hesitate to reach out. Your therapist can help you explore where your Sunday anxiety and sadness come from and create the right strategy to soothe them.
If you know a friend or a family member who is having a hard time on Sundays, share this article with them on social media – they may find it helpful.
How do you fight Sunday night blues? Leave a comment below! 👇
You probably heard that self-esteem is one of the most important things for leading a productive, successful, pleasurable life. But the term is a little confusing – does it mean self-worth? Self-respect? How do you know your self-esteem is too low and how much of it is too much? What is the optimal level of self-esteem?
Cambridge English Dictionary defines self-esteem as “belief and confidence in your own ability and value”. Self-esteem is also often defined as “One’s own sense of self-worth or personal value”. What is problematic in this concept is that it refers to “worthiness” and “value” of the human being.
The Illusion of Self-Esteem
Let’s stop for a second and see what value means: “The regard that something is held to deserve”. Indirectly, the term “self-esteem”, therefore, suggests that holding ourselves in high regard is something to be deserved. It suggests that we need to have certain traits or do certain things to earn to be “worth” of respect and love. It inevitably includes self-evaluation. But here is the thing…
You are “worthy”, “valuable” and “deserving”, if you want to use these poor terms, simply because you exist, because you are alive. There is no such thing as “more valuable” or “less valuable” person. Achievements, skills, talents, or some qualities or lack of those can’t determine our human value, because our worthiness is already set simply by our existence.
It is important to note that self-esteem is a concept different from self-efficacy, which refers to how well you believe you’ll handle future actions, it represents your belief in your own abilities. Someone can be appreciated by many people, accomplish great things, be successful in several areas, and those are all amazing things that are certainly pleasant. You may achieve greater happiness or more efficiency by achieving your goals or by believing in your abilities, but that doesn’t increase your intrinsic worth, nor do your failures can lower your human value.
Chasing Self-Esteem Won’t Make You Happier – Maybe Even the Opposite
Another problem with the concept of self-esteem, other than the fact that it is based on non-existent, or at least unhealthy, premises of “worthiness” and “value”, is that it also obliquely requires comparison with other people. Evaluation can’t exist without comparison to some “standard” or some external object. Therefore, determining our own worth means we first have to compare ourselves with others. As Albert Ellis, the father of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) claims: “Self-esteem theoretically rests upon an often inaccurate and unstable global rating of the self in comparison to others”. This necessarily means that, to have high self-esteem, we need to feel above-average. You can easily see it in the simple fact that today, in our culture, being seen as average is considered an insult. But for every human being to be special and above average is logically impossible.
Trying to see yourself as better than others all the time is exhausting and can easily lead to self-criticism. To retain superiority, we have to meet very high standards. As soon as our feelings of superiority slip – which is inevitable because there are so many different people in this world and there is always someone better, smarter, prettier etc. – our self-esteem easily goes down.
For a long time, mental health professionals believed that high self-esteem is a predictor of greater happiness and life satisfaction. However, as much as this notion seems like common sense, research shows that there is no scientific evidence of a correlation between higher self-esteem and pleasurable living.
Another study states: “Self-esteem in the West is not based upon an unconditional appreciation of the intrinsic worth of all persons. (…) Research, in fact, demonstrates that high self-esteem displays associations with a broad range of psychosocial dysfunctions, including, for example, narcissism, poor empathy, depreciation of others, prejudice, aggression, and distorted self-knowledge”.
Okay, if not self-esteem, then what? Well, there is actually a healthier alternative to self-esteem that really predicts better mental health, greater life satisfaction, and overall happiness – self-compassion.
What Is Self-Compassion?
“Self-compassion means that the individual fully and unconditionally accepts herself whether or not she behaves intelligently, correctly, or competently and whether or not other people approve, respect or love her” (Ellis 2005, p. 38).
Self-compassion is the way of treating yourself – in a supportive and non-judgmental way, with kindness, understanding, and love. Being self-compassionate mean that you recognize previously mentioned notion about all humans having value simply by the fact they exist in this world, not by the set of traits and abilities they possess. Self-compassion encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations, without forcing yourself to meet some high standards to feel that you are okay as a person. It allows you to look at yourself from a more objective and realistic point of view without evaluating or comparing yourself with others.
Why Nurturing Self-Compassion Over Building Self-Esteem?
Opposite to high self-esteem, studies haven’t found any negative effects of self-compassion yet. In fact, self-compassion predicts better psychosocial adjustment and resilience while avoiding the liabilities associated with high self-esteem.
Self-compassion gives us a more stable sense of self-love because it comes from within. On the other hand, as it’s based on comparison with others, self-esteem is unstable because it depends on external circumstances. This often results in having a more negative emotional reaction or protecting behaviours when people evaluate us negatively or even neutrally because we are trying to protect our self-esteem from collapsing. With self-compassion, in contrast, we don’t need to defend or protect ourselves from negative feedback, because we know that it won’t affect how we see ourselves as a person.
Self-compassion provides emotional safety to see ourselves as we really are. Instead of labelling ourselves as good or bad, as of high-value or worthless, we should accept our flaws with an open heart, take responsibility for our behaviour and choices, and still be kind to ourselves. It’s okay that we are imperfect humans leading imperfect lives, and we don’t need to strive to be “better” than others to love ourselves or hold ourselves in high regard.
Yorkville University has written a featured post on Registered Psychotherapist, Ashley Kreze. Read more here: http://www.yorkvilleu.ca/news/blog/macp-alumna-ashley-kreze-runs-private-practice-hosts-tv-talk-show/
If you ask people what is the purpose of life, what is the one thing they strive to achieve in life, the majority of them will probably respond with one thing:
“To be happy.”
Happiness is the most important desire people have, something everybody wants in their lives. However, for different individuals, happiness means different things. Some find happiness in hanging out with friends and socializing while others enjoy little pleasures by themselves, such as a warm bath or a good book, more. All in all, everybody wants to achieve this state, and many don’t know how.
Buffer.com has shared a great article, backed by science, on 10 things you can do to increase your happiness. Here they are:
1. Exercise More
Scientific research showed that exercising daily can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight. Additionally, it exercise is proven to be an effective tool in battling depression.
2. Sleep more
We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves and that it helps us focus and be more productive. Well, scientists found out it’s also important for our happiness. How well we sleep affects our productivity, as well as our sensitivity to negative emotions.
3. Move closer to work
Research shows that commute to work affects our happiness, even more than having a big house. Seriously! On the other hand, when you think about it, commuting is something we do twice a day, five times a week; it’s no surprise it has such a dramatic negative impact on our happiness.
4. Spend time with friends and family
Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. But it can also instantly increase your happiness, even if you’re an introvert. Among numerous other studies, The Terman study found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives.
5. Go outside
Making time to go outside on a nice day can improve your happiness drastically. One study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory.
6. Help others
Helping others actually makes you happier and more satisfied with your life. For example, spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. Also, volunteering is another way to make other people lives better, but also to improve your own.
7. Practice smiling
Smiling itself can help us feel better, but it has even more powerful effect when backed up with positive thoughts. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly.
8. Plan a trip
You certainly know that excitement when you think about your future holiday. Well, it turns out that planning your vacation actually makes you feel happier. One study showed that the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks!
Meditation clears your mind, calms you down, and makes you feel more relaxed. But it’s also been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. We can literally “rewire” our brain for happiness with meditation.
10. Practice gratitude
Expressing gratitude can increase your happiness dramatically. Additionally, you’ll be more satisfied with your life in general.
Take a look at the whole article on this link: http://blog.bufferapp.com/10-scientifically-proven-ways-to-make-yourself-happier
What have you tried today to increase your happiness?
So you’ve been slacking on your new year’s resolution; who hasn’t? The question now is: are you going to make the necessary changes to achieve your goals? Remember, a positive mindset is required with the ambition to do more. Here, we will work on the times when doubt creeps into your mind and you find yourself loosing your motivation, slacking again. So even as the snow thaws out and the flowers start to bloom, note if your new year’s resolutions are starting to dwindle in your mind. Let’s take this post to reflect on the reasons why we chose those goals and how we can stick to achieving them in the coming months.
How Do You Speak About your Goals?
Let’s first look at how you articulated our goals to others. Did you scream it from the rooftop after too much champagne? Or maybe you scribbled it in the sand before the tide came in? Either way, you found some way to tell others what your goals are for this year. But after that night, did you write them out somewhere? A place you know you would read them? Because something as simple as writing on a blank page and posting it on the wall can go a long way toward helping you reach that goal, one day at a time.
Another effective method, that puts more accountability on your actions, is using an agenda. Did you reach your milestones in the time you allotted yourself?
Whichever method you decide to use, just make sure you stay aware of both: where you want to be and when you want to be there. Try to repeat the goal over and over to yourself, take the time to listen to what you are saying. This technique can up your stakes on your goals, by helping you dig deep and finding the real motivators behind them.
How to Motivate Yourself
Visualizing what you want to accomplish is important for motivation. Did you want to exercise to fit into those skinny jeans? Or did you want to give your doctor less concern about cholesterol levels? Take a few days to really listen to what the foundation is for your goals. Something you can do to help determine motivation is weighing the pros and cons of your thought process on making these changes: What am I gaining? What am I avoiding?
Motivating factors can be described as:
1 Fear: “If you don’t do the dishes you’re not going out tonight!”
2 Incentive: “If you meet your sales quota this month you’ll get a $1000 bonus on your paycheck”
3 Intrinsic (attitude/internal): “I complete this 5km run because doing so gives me a sense of accomplishment – and I know it’s good for my physical and mental health.”
By now you should start getting a clearer picture of where your goals are being formulated. Have you found something you’re passionate about? Is there something you know you have been putting off for years? Use this awareness to embracing your purpose for this year. I am not trying to make you uncomfortable by overwhelming you with an overarching reason for your actions, but rather trying to draw out some accountability about how you act towards your goal. As these actions are rooted in how your goals are presented to you, both internally and externally.
Internal (intrinsic) vs. External (extrinsic) Motivation:
● Internal motivation comes from the fulfillment of self-gratification
● External motivation comes from outside the learner in the forms of tangible rewards and punishments such as competition, grades, awards, promotion, pay, etc.
Where to begin?
If you’d like to inquire about goal setting and motivation treatment and help in Mississauga or Bradford Ontario at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479.
Taylor, J. (2013). Personal Growth: Motivation: The Drive to Change. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201201/personal-growth-motivation-the-drive-change
N.A. (2013) NALD: BDAA. Canada’s Literacy and Essential Skills Network. Retrieved from: www.nald.ca/adultlearningcourse/glossary.htm
Ham, V., Davey, R., Fenaughty, J. (2013). Proceedings from the 16th International Conference on Thinking (ICOT). International Conference on Thinking. Retrieved from: http://icot2013.core-ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Proceedings-ICOT-2013.pdf#page=181
Have you grown up with certain beliefs about the world? You know how life works, what is possible and what’s not, what you can expect and what you can only dream about. Hence, you think you have a clear picture of the reality, right? Well, think again. Maybe the world is not exactly how you look at it right now; maybe if you change your perspective, you’ll find out that what you believed as a definite truth is actually a lie. We lived our whole life with a certain set of rules and a certain set of beliefs. However, some of these beliefs are not helping us grow. Additionally, they are simply wrong. These are called Negative Beliefs, and they can stand in your way to be happy.
Psychology Tomorrow Magazine posted a great blog about Negative Beliefs. Read it here.
Snigdha Gharami gives some good examples of negative beliefs and how they are wrong. For instance, the idea of “never changing” in life is a false belief- some people have a habit of not accepting changes, but changes are actually good for us. Or, here is another example – some people believe admiring something (even something good) will create a lack of self-control. However, it is also false, because you cannot lose your value by admiring something good. There are other good examples in the article, so take a look; maybe you find yourself in it, and challenge some of your beliefs.
In the end, she wraps it all up well: “It is you who makes and breaks these patterns. Take a chance, live life your way because you only have one- this opportunity and this day will never come back.”
Embrace change, take a chance and live big!
The holiday season…
Cold weather ✓
2013 coming to an end ✓
Deadlines approaching ✓
More family time ✓
More commitments ✓
Season of giving ✓
…as you know, the list keeps running. Most of our lives encompass some of these things right now. In my practice, I’m finding that there’s an increased level of stress and anxiety in people’s lives. Why does holiday stress happen?
Holiday Season and Stress
Research from the American Heart Association (2004) contends that this time of year there’s an increase in emotional stress about the holidays. Having to interact with family we may, or may not want to associate with, feeling the pressure of having to absorb financial pressures such as purchasing gifts, traveling, and/or entertaining. Also around this time of year, people are more likely to indulge in foods and beverages they may not usually consume. Consequently, if it interrupts normal healthy patterns, feelings of guilt or regret creep in.
5 tips for avoiding holiday stress:
- Pick and choose your holiday activities
- Ask for help
- Say no when necessary
- Everything in moderation
- Set realistic expectations for the season
Try to relax and lower your expectations from yourself and from your family. You may find yourself enjoying holidays more than you expected.
Kloner, R. (2004). The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon. American Heart Association. Retrieved from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/110/25/3744.short
The year was 2005.
I was in my last year of my Bachelor’s program, meticulously spending hours checking my research data and putting the final touches on my thesis defense. Night after night, I found myself ruminating over having to present in front of my professors, not to mention mine in front of my peers. Ever since I could remember, public presentations, regardless of size or length, caused me grief. I mean, not your typical 11th hour jitters, but…blushing, shaking, nauseous stomach, cold sweats – you name it, I had it.
So, the day had come. I was to defend my thesis. Although most of the day felt like a blur, a few moments still stick with me. The first was feedback from one of my peers as we were standing in the halls practicing our scripts. I shared with my friends how nervous I was, feeling unable to control the physical and emotional reactions happening in my body. My friend, Susan*, turned to me and said, “…instead of telling yourself you’re nervous and scared, why don’t you say you’re excited!”. I listening, and thought to myself – “heck, I have nothing to lose!” So, minutes before my hour of fame, I said, “I’m excited”, “I’M excited”, “I’M EXCITED!”. I think after the 3rd excited, I was starting to feel it. The reaction kicked in! Then, before I knew it, I was done.
I think that’s the second part of my memories of my thesis. My accomplishment. I “felt the fear but did it anyway”. There’s no better feeling then working through a tough obstacle. Or, overcoming a fear.
I encourage you to feel inspired, to reach out for help if you need it, and to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (as Susan Jeffers would say).
Ashley J. Kreze
I received this email from a dear friend and colleague in the mental health industry. I liked it so much, I wanted to share it with you. Jacob’s 12 points are helpful for all. Enjoy!
“I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom was my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live – that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.”
Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness. These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives. (Btw, check out her book The How of Happiness)
I want to honor and discuss each of these 12 points. No matter what part of life’s path we’re currently traveling on, these ‘happiness habits’ will always be applicable.
1. Express gratitude
When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.
2. Cultivate optimism
Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison
Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out! If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done, and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
4. Practice acts of kindness
Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on. A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.
5. Nurture social relationships
The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA! There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
6. Develop strategies for coping
How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the deal. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
7. Learn to forgive
Harboring feelings of hatred are horrible for your well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion. When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system. You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.
8. Increase flow experiences
Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.
9. Savor life’s joys
Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
10. Commit to your goals
Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
11. Practice spirituality
When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”
12. Take care of your body
Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.
And don’t forget to smile!
Jacob Sokol is committed to living an extraordinary life. Today he released “Living on Purpose – An Uncommon Guide to Finding, Living, and Rocking Your Life’s Purpose.” He also loves his mom dearly.