Using Cognitive Dissonance to Help Us Change Behaviours
Have you ever known you wanted to do something in your life, like quit a bad habit, drink more water or lose weight?
If so, you are likely aware of how difficult these things can be to implement. Often our thoughts and desires conflict with our actual behaviours. Did you know that experiencing cognitive dissonance may help these thoughts and behaviours come into alignment?
Cognitive dissonance is a phenomenon in which someone holds varying or contradictory beliefs which creates psychological tension as well as an imbalance. Often, the individual feels the need to alleviate this conflict by changing one of their views to align with the other. For example, an individual who wants to stop a behaviour that they believe is harmful to their health, such as smoking, but also greatly enjoys cigarettes. These contradictory beliefs can cause cognitive dissonance to arise, which creates a discomfort that has the potential to motivate the inner conflict to be resolved.
Cognitive Dissonance in My Life
I can be quite indecisive, especially when it comes to buying decisions. Just last week I was deciding between two pairs of (very similar) running shoes to purchase. Everyone was telling me I couldn’t go wrong either way, but I was unable to make up my mind. After some time, I just decided on one, and after that happened, the value of the rejected shoes decreased dramatically. I was convincing myself that the shoes I bought were way better than the other ones, and so was everyone around me! This shift, called the post-decisional spread, is an interesting phenomenon to reduce any felt discomfort in the form of dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance from a Research Perspective
A study done by Chatzisarantis et al. (2008) worked with participants who believed that exercise was boring while also holding the view that lack of exercise has harmful outcomes. They had some participants write about a time they intended to exercise but did not follow through, while others wrote about an unrelated, neutral topic. Following this, participants completed a questionnaire to measure intentions to exercise as well as behaviour. The experimental group (who wrote about exercise) had stronger intentions and exercise behaviour than those writing about a neutral topic. This gives rise to the notion that creating an unwelcoming state of cognitive dissonance in an individual can lead to attitude change.
Can Cognitive Dissonance Lead to Change?
Although the feeling of discomfort may present as uncomfortable, it can lead to progressive changes in our lives. For example, if someone believed that fast food was healthy eating, letting them know the information regarding the negative effects may create this state of cognitive dissonance, pushing them to become more informed and possibly make a behaviour change towards healthier eating.
Another motivational factor may lie in detecting a discrepancy between one’s behaviour and their values. For example, one may express to their friends that smoking is damaging and yet do it anyways. This may be happening at the conscious or subconscious level, but pointing it out may highlight the discrepancy and be the motivating factor to change.
Chatzisarantis et al. (2008) also found that participants induced to feel cognitive dissonance experienced an increase in their perceived ability to control their behaviours. An explanation for this could be that they had yet to rationally think about the behaviour change and how they would actually go about it, and once they did they felt they had more control.
What Happens After Our Behaviour Changes?
Once new behaviours are on the rise, especially when they had been goals for a long time, positive reinforcement of the individual and the behaviour can reduce any corresponding dissonance. This will not only help form the new behaviour but also help the individual stick to it over time, maintaining the new life change!
So, although cognitive dissonance can create tension within ourselves, in various situations this tension can be used as a motivator to reevaluate our goals and values, and check in to ensure our behaviours match our cognitions!
Chatzisarantis, N. L. D., Hagger, M. S., & Wang, J. C. K. (2008). An Experimental Test of Cognitive Dissonance Theory in the Domain of Physical Exercise. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20(1), 97–115. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200701601482
Imposter Syndrome Meaning: What it Is and How to Work Through It?
“I’m not qualified for this job, I just got lucky.”
“I feel like everyone else in this class is smarter than me.”
“If people really knew how little I know, they would think I’m a fraud.”
“I’m afraid to speak up because I don’t want to sound stupid.”
“I feel like I’m faking it and it’s only about time before someone finds out.”
Have you ever caught yourself thinking along these lines in relation to your workplace, your academic position, or even your personal life? If so, there is a chance that you might be experiencing the phenomenon of imposter syndrome. In this article, we will delve deeper into what constitutes imposter syndrome, who experiences it, and what can practically be done to overcome or work through it.
So What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can best be described as an individual’s internal belief that their success is not a result of their ability, intelligence, or effort, but rather a mere stroke of luck or contingency. What underlies this belief is a feeling of inadequacy or self-doubt, and the fear that one day the individual may be exposed as a ‘fraud’ or ‘impostor’, despite evidence to the contrary.
What can follow is a diminished sense of belonging for the individual in academic or work-related environments. Individuals inflicted with imposter syndrome often tend to reject or undermine compliments paid to them by peers, colleagues, and mentors. They begin to perceive people who praise them as being ignorant of reality or having been deceived by their tactics.
As a result, they tend to feel the need to exert superhuman effort to perform at a normal level. In some instances, they even unconsciously self-sabotage their own chances of success.
Who Experiences Imposter Syndrome?
If you were to question your social circle, you might find that many of your colleagues have had experiences that involve imposter syndrome to some degree. Imposter syndrome is surprisingly common, with research suggesting that up to 70% of people experience it at some point in their lives. It can be especially prevalent among high-achievers, including those in leadership positions or in highly competitive industries.
Furthermore, it is particularly relevant to individuals from racial, ethnic, and gender minority groups. This is especially true in professions that do not have clear and objective measures of success, such as the creative arts.
What Are Some of the Reasons Behind It?
So, what causes imposter syndrome? Well, there is no one true answer. Feelings associated with imposter syndrome can be the result of a variety of factors, including perfectionism, fear of failure, childhood expectations, and change.
The imposter cycle may begin in one’s familial upbringing. For instance, a child labeled as “pretty” may grow up feeling that their achievements are solely attributed to their physical appearance. Similarly, a child labeled as a “high achiever” may become a workaholic to maintain that persona.
Children who invest a great deal of their identity in these roles may be afraid to perform them in any way that is less than perfect. Although not all children who receive childhood labels are guaranteed to develop imposter syndrome, a child’s familial upbringing may provide the ideal backdrop for it to develop.
Moreover, imposter syndrome can arise when an individual experiences a significant life transition, such as graduating from school, starting a new job, or being promoted in an organization. These events have the potential to shift a person’s perspective and disrupt their sense of stability and competence.
Furthermore, research has indicated a link between the personality trait ‘perfectionism’ and high levels of imposter syndrome. Those who exhibit perfectionism tend to set unachievable high standards, have a fear of making mistakes, feel inadequate, and are highly self-critical.
Okay, But It’s Just a Temporary Feeling Right?
Not necessarily. Unchecked imposter syndrome can have significant implications on one’s mental health. Research suggests that high feelings of imposter syndrome are related to lower reported self-esteem, lower reported quality of life, and considered struggles with anxiety, self-doubt, worries, and depression. The inability to internalize success can lead to considerable emotional distress for those suffering from this particular condition.
Even more worryingly, the fear of failure persisting from imposter syndrome can limit one’s career growth and satisfaction, create conflicts, and undermine one’s academic self-concept.
How Do I Work Through it Then?
Vying for perfection is impractical
What truly counts is progress, not perfection. By focusing on your progress and internalizing the idea that errors are natural and part of the learning process, you can experience personal growth and satisfaction.
Rewire your cognitive attributions
Identify stable and positive characteristics associated with your accomplishments. This would help in preventing you from attributing your success to luck or mitigating factors.
Pay attention to your self-talk
Your internal dialogue is pivotal to re-affirming the feelings that are tied to imposter syndrome. Try to assess whether your thoughts are empowering or disabling. If you catch yourself thinking “I’m the wrong person for this position”, reframe your thoughts to say” I have a lot to offer in this position”
Share your feelings with a trusted mentor/colleague
Discussing your feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt with someone you trust and respect can be beneficial in distinguishing reality from your perception of insecurity.
Create a list of your positive qualities and abilities
Construct a written list that identifies your strengths and what you contribute. Take input from others around you as to what your personal strengths are. Refer to the list when in times of self-doubt. For instance, if struggling with a new role, remember you were chosen by your respective supervisor for one or more of the abilities described on your list.
Seek out professional help
Understanding that imposter syndrome can be quite deep-rooted and in some cases resistant to self-help, you may want to seek out mental health services from trained professionals in order to overcome feelings of unworthiness or perceived fraudulence and pursue healthy self-growth in work-related environments.
Clance P. R., & Imes, S. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy Theory, Research, and Practice, 15(3), 1–8. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/h0086006
Mullangi, S., & Jagsi, R. (2019). Imposter syndrome: treat the cause, not the symptom. Jama, 322(5), 403-404. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2019.9788
Schubert, N., & Bowker, A. (2019). Examining the impostor phenomenon in relation to self-esteem level and self-esteem instability. Current Psychology, 38, 749-755. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-017-9650-4
Wang, K.T., Sheveleva, M. S., & Permyakova, T. M. (2019). Imposter syndrome among Russian students: The link between perfectionism and psychological distress. Personality and Individual Differences, 143, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.02.005
How to Overcome Insecurity In a Relationship
We all feel insecure from time to time in our relationships; it’s completely normal. However, some people feel like this most of the time, to the point where it becomes overly consuming for both partners. Knowing how to handle and manage insecurity in a relationship is something that can truly make a difference between a relationship’s flourish and failure.
Signs of Insecurity In a Relationship
Insecurity in a romantic relationship can feel like:
- The constant fear that your partner will leave you
- Feeling you don’t have enough to offer
- Ruminating about all the times in the relationship when you looked or behaved imperfectly
- Feeling like a fraud destined to be exposed
- Seeing yourself as boring, overweight, stupid, ugly…
- Feeling like you don’t deserve lasting love
- Experiencing guilt and shame often
- Being hungry for attention and reassurance, but even when you get it, it rarely seems convincing enough
- Switching between doubt, anxiety, anger, and guilt back and forth
- Consuming jealousy that leads to unhealthy thoughts and actions such as obsessively questioning your partner’s whereabouts, privacy violations, controlling behaviour, etc.
These feelings can especially exacerbate when we are in a relationship with someone we have intense feelings for. The more important the relationship is to us, the more we think we stand to lose. This is where our insecurities become super uncomfortable – they spike anxiety, fear, suspiciousness, anger, and other unpleasant and unhealthy emotions.
What Causes Insecurity In a Relationship?
At its core, insecurity usually comes from a deep sense of inadequacy. The frequent underlying belief is that we are not enough the way we are. That we are flawed, ugly, or unworthy of love. Often, this sense of “low worth” comes hand in hand with one or both of these unhealthy patterns – a harsh inner critic and the belief that others will love us only if we are behaving a certain way.
Acting strong, fun, compliant, agreeable, beautiful, hard-working, always there for others, whatever the set of criteria is, we may believe that it’s the only way to make our partner stay. Sometimes, this can even feel like tricking our partners into loving us. Maybe not explicitly, but somewhere between the lines, we may fear that the moment they discover our true colours, they will leave.
On the other hand, we may feel powerless before our inner critic that throws insults at us all the time. It may become so embedded in our daily self-talk that we are not even aware of how much of an impact it has on our overall self-esteem.
The Impact of Our Past to Our Current Relationships
All these beliefs are usually the product of our early experiences. They come from the ways we interpreted and incorporated those experiences into our belief system the best we could with the limited resources we had. Some examples of those early experiences may be:
- attachment styles we built with our primary caregivers, that we, later, transfer to our other relationships
- main messages we received from our environment that tailored deep beliefs about ourselves, other people, and life in general
- observing relationships around us and “learning” what we absolutely should and should not do to avoid ending up hurt
- hurtful experiences, like being rejected, neglected, or humiliated by someone we cared about
While it can be easy to blame our partner’s behaviours for our insecurities, the truth is, most of the time, insecurity in a relationship really comes from inside of ourselves. Indeed, being in a relationship with someone who regularly judges most of what we do can surely shake our confidence. Putting up with repeated criticism and rarely getting affection or appreciation from our partner can increase our self-doubt. But pay attention, the word is increase, not create. It may be good to remember that other people cannot make us feel or behave in a certain way. Only our thoughts and beliefs can.
Can Insecurity Damage a Relationship?
It is completely normal to feel insecure once in a while. In small amounts, it can even be beneficial at times, because it may motivate us to put more effort into our partnership. It is chronic self-doubt that can negatively impact our mental health and interfere with our relationships.
One of the key elements of successful romantic relationships is an authentic connection between partners. Deep connection comes from authenticity, and authenticity requires us to be open to showing our vulnerable side. To do that, we need to believe that, even with our vulnerabilities, we are still beautiful and worthy of love. In other words, we need to be comfortable with who we are, at least to a certain extent. Chronic insecurity can stand in the way of engaging with your partner in an authentic way by preventing you to be completely yourself.
Constant worry in a relationship can be mentally exhausting, robbing you of peace and happiness. Instead of enjoying the journey and having a good time with the person you love and care about, obsessive doubts can turn your head into a truly uncomfortable place to be. And like if that’s not enough of a pain, if you let your insecurities get out of hand and impact your behaviours, it can lead to a set of unhealthy interactions with your partner where you’re both unsatisfied and the relationship suffers.
We Fetch For Clues To Confirm Our Toxic Beliefs
For example, insecurity in a relationship can sometimes cause you to misinterpret some situations or to exaggerate problems. It may not sound intuitive but we, as humans, are constantly in search of clues to confirm our beliefs. This gives us a sense of structure and control. We have all kinds of beliefs, and most of them are accurate and help us organize and interpret information. However, some of these beliefs can be unhelpful and unhealthy. But our brains can be stubborn and instead of letting go, they seek to confirm those beliefs too.
In the context of relationships, this means that, if you believe your partner will hurt you, leave you, or betray you, there is a high chance that you will, consciously or unconsciously, try to find proof for your fears. This is a natural response to anxiety – you’re trying to feel prepared if the worst-case scenario happens. However, this causes your anxiety to spike up. Not only that, but this may even lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where you start behaving in a way that induces the exact reaction you wanted to avoid. Simply put, you may start finding problems where they don’t exist. This not only fuels your insecurities further, but also leads to unhealthy behaviours like putting your partner down, jealousy, accusations, and constantly asking for reassurance, just to name a few. All those behaviours push your partner away and disrupt intimacy and trust in a relationship.
How Do I Stop Being So Insecure?
Depending on where your self-doubts come from, there are several strategies and steps you can take to tackle them down.
1. Tame your inner self-critic
People with a strong inner critic know how hard it is to suppress the annoying voice that’s putting them down. Sometimes this little voice is so persistent and so convincing, that we accept it as our reality. Since it can be so loud sometimes, and so embedded in our thought patterns, the solution is not to shut it off; it’s often impossible. Instead, pay attention to what the voice is saying and then actively stand up for yourself. Treat your inner critic like a misbehaving child that you’re trying to teach how to be civilized and stop firing insults. This way, you’re becoming mindful of your self-diminishing thoughts, taking a step back, and then take an active effort to reframe them. It allows you to reject unhealthy attitudes toward yourself and accept a more realistic approach as an accurate reflection of who you are.
In the beginning, this kind of self-talk can feel a little bit unnatural, like you’re faking it. However, with persistence, it usually starts feeling less and less like labour, and more and more like something authentic.
2. Make a list of your strengths (short-term solution)
As an emergency boost to your self-esteem, it can be helpful to make a list of all your positive traits. This list represents what you bring on the table in a relationship. This is not the time to be modest – get creative and write down every positive detail you can think of. Maybe you have a gorgeous smile or you’re a good kisser. Maybe you don’t have a smokin’ hot body but you’re supportive and make your partner feel appreciated. Or maybe you’re not that funny but you’re trustworthy and, on top of that, a great cook. Nobody is perfect. But it’s important to know that it’s not necessary to be perfect to be loved. Imperfections are what make us human. Learn to love your uniqueness.
One important thing to have in mind is that this list does not represent the reason you deserve to be loved. It should just serve as a reminder of how many positive traits you have, because during the times of strong self-doubt, they are easy to forget. You, with all your quirks and experiences and scars and mannerisms, you as a unique human, are loveable. Let that sink in. Sometimes this is hard to accept.
3. Let go of conditions you imposed on yourself to deserve love
The underlying belief: “They will only love me if I am this or that” is what can often be seen behind insecurities in relationships and what fuels self-doubt further. On some level, when you hold this belief, you send yourself a message that you are not truly loveable at your core, for who you really are, but that you need to deserve love by doing certain things and behaving in certain ways. But you don’t. We choose our partners and our partners choose us.
Of course, you need to invest in a relationship for it to be healthy. It’s necessary to put work in your partnership to thrive. It’s good to do nice things for your partner, to show respect and affection, to build trust and make them feel safe and appreciated. But you don’t need to do certain things to be the person worthy of love. There is a difference between the two.
If we feel worthy of love only if we meet certain criteria, that feeling stands on an unstable ground simply because we will sometimes fail. Inevitably. Everybody does. This is why it’s important to start loving yourself for who you are and not for what you do. To recognize that you are enough. To realize that your partner is with you because of you (even if you’re super not sure about it right now). Self-compassion can be incredibly helpful with this!
4. Communicate with your partner openly and effectively
It’s important to get clear about what you and your partner both need in a relationship and discuss realistic and reasonable ways you can help each other fulfill them. Be aware that this kind of talk requires both partners to ditch defensiveness and assumptions, and be kind, honest, and open with each other. Intimate connection creates a safe environment in which you can work to overcome insecurities and meet each other halfway. Sometimes this is not easy, especially if there are perpetuating problems and frustrations in a relationship, but with mutual effort, it can be done.
Coping with insecurity in a relationship can be tough because it requires you to deal with your core beliefs and take an active effort to break the patterns that influenced your thinking for years. Still, with consistency, self-reflection, and effective communication with your partner, it is possible. And please remember that it doesn’t have to be a lonely battle. Support and help from someone you trust, like a friend or a therapist, can make it a lot more bearable. Learning to manage your insecurities will increase not only the quality of your mental health but the quality of your romantic relationships as well.
P.S. If you like this article or know someone who may find it useful, please don’t hesitate to share it on your social media.
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It’s Time to Rethink Self-Care (+20 Simple Self-Care Ideas)
There’s been a lot of talk about self-care lately, and it’s for a good reason. Self-care is an essential part of managing stress and living a balanced life. But what is it exactly? For many, the first association to self-care is pampering yourself, like taking a long bubble bath or going to a massage. And yes, self-care can surely look like that, if it works for you. But it’s also so much more.
Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
In other words, it’s any activity that restores your energy, promotes your health, and makes you feel nurtured and taken care of. What makes it so important is that it is a vital starting point for dealing with stress and challenging situations in life. Think of it as an armour to protect the energy you need to survive and thrive. It’s not just an escape from the daily grind, but an ongoing routine that increases your resilience and overall vitality.
Struggling With Self-Care
While a part of self-care is taking care of your physical health, it also means – and here comes the tricky part – paying attention to your needs and allowing yourself to act on them. Many of us don’t know how to practice self-care because we weren’t taught to pay attention to our inner states, trust them, and be honest about them. Instead, we learned what we’re ‘supposed’ to feel or think, and try to ignore things that are opposite to that. For example, you may feel upset about something, but at the same time you think that you shouldn’t feel like that but be strong, positive and grateful. So you suffocate your anger, sadness, or anxiety about the certain situation.
If this is something that sounds familiar, there is a chance that you apply the same mindset on self-care too. In other words, you have the idea of how self-care should generally look like and force yourself to do activities that fit into that picture. So self-care becomes a chore, which is exactly the opposite of what the whole concept is all about.
Despite its huge importance for mental health, self-care still sounds a little yucky for some. The reason for it probably lies in the fact that, in our culture that glorifies self-sacrifice and ‘hustle’, it’s easy to feel guilty for wanting something different than that. We may feel wrong or shameful if we put our needs first, if we take some time to relax and do something nice for ourselves instead of helping others all the time or tirelessly working toward our goals. As a consequence, we might label ourselves as being ‘selfish’, ‘weak’, ‘lazy’, or ‘entitled’. And, of course, because we don’t want to be any of these things, we neglect meeting our needs, sometimes to the point where our body and mind beg us for it. The end destination – exhaustion and burnout.
Considering its significance for our wellbeing and at the same time so many misconceptions attached to it, it’s time to rethink self-care, don’t you think? Let’s debunk some common misbeliefs about it.
Misconception: Self-Care Is Selfish
Truth: Self-Care is Necessary for Maintaining Loving Relationships And Investing in Them
Think about it like when you’re in an airplane. The flight attendants always tell you to, in case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask first, and then help others. It’s similar with mental health – if you’re not properly taken care of, there is a chance you’ll end up not helping anyone, including yourself. The lack of ‘me’ time can drain your energy and lead to resentment toward others. And that, you’ll admit, is not the most positive starting point for investing in relationships.
Self-care is the opposite of selfish. It means you’re preparing to be there for others and to give and help not out of guilt but because you honestly want to.
Misconception: Self-Care Means I’m Weak
Truth: Self-Care Is a Necessary Part of Being Strong and Healthy
Self-Care is not a sign of weakness, but a fundamental aspect of staying healthy, emotionally and physically. Practicing self-care is not proof that you can’t persevere and cope with challenges, but a sign that you’re thinking long-term. Almost everywhere we turn, there is some sort of messaging to push it harder, to stretch our limits, to go, go, go. Self-care doesn’t fit in this kind of mindset society imposes on us, and sometimes it takes courage to go in the opposite direction – to slow down and take some time for yourself. And something that takes courage is surely a sign of strength, not a weakness.
Misconception: Self-Care Means I’m Lazy/Is a Waste of Time
Truth: Self-Care Boosts Your Productivity
Today, many of us are addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the move, make plans, have things scheduled in. But your energy is not limitless. If you never stop to take some rest and you neglect your needs, it is a well-known road to stress, overwhelm, and burnout, which all lower your productivity. On the other hand, self-care is a way to recharge and prepare for new challenges. It’s not a lack of self-determination, but exactly the opposite – a smart strategy to keep you in line with your goals in the long run.
Simple Self-Care Ideas to Try
A self-care routine doesn’t have to be something big, expensive, or time-consuming.
Still not sure where to start? Here are some simple self-care ideas that might give you some inspiration to start exploring what works best for you.
1. Eat a healthy meal. If you’re into cooking, prepare it yourself. Experiment with new tastes.
2. Set a date with yourself. Visit a museum, go to a cinema, or treat yourself to a nice dinner
3. Get a solid eight hours of sleep.
4. Go to your favourite workout class or take a walk in nature.
5. Book a massage or a spa day. It’s a part of self-care too!
6. Stretch. Multiple times a day. Pay full attention to your body.
7. Take time to breathe gently and deeply. While doing that, say some kind words to yourself.
8. Switch off all your electronic devices (laptop, tablet, phone, TV), and enjoy the silence.
9. Meet with a friend whose company you really enjoy.
10. Learn something new that always interested you. Wake up that curious inner child.
11. Write in a journal. Get honest about your feelings and needs.
12. Meditate or practice mindfulness.
13. Practice gratitude.
14. Write yourself a ‘well done’ list at the end of the day to celebrate your achievements, however big or small they may be.
15. Curl up with a cup of tea and read a book or watch your favorite TV show. Extra points if you light up a yummy smelling candle ?
16. Tap into your creative side. Try sewing, writing fiction, painting, dancing, or buy some crayons and a coloring book.
17. Say NO to activities or gatherings that drain your energy.
18. Seek therapy.
19. Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a close friend.
20. Practice taking ‘should’ out of your vocabulary and freeing yourself from feeling that you ‘should’ do things.
How do you take care of yourself? Let us know down below in the comments. And also, if you like this post, please share it on your social media. Let’s raise awareness about the importance of self-care.
How to Beat Sunday Night Blues
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.
An 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 usually 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
Many people don’t leave the house on Sunday. 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 of the 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 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 favourite 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 to 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!
Forget About Self-Esteem And Replace It With Self-Compassion
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.
Ellis, A. (2005). The myth of self-esteem: how rational emotive behaviour therapy can change your life forever. Prometheus Books.
Guest Blog: How Yoga Can Help You Embrace Your Body As It Is
Imagine how life would be if you loved the way you looked? Yes, including all those beautiful imperfections. Instead of wanting to change that certain part you dislike about your body, what if you came to completely accept it? What if loving your body became natural for you?
Living in a social media driven world, what’s online may make one feel anything but empowered and self-assured. Unfortunately, media has led us to believe that if we look a certain way, our lives will magically become perfect.
We get it, feeling confident in the modern world may not be easy but it’s totally possible. There are many women out there who love their bodies – and they’re all in different shapes and sizes.
Loving your body completely simply boils down to respecting yourself and accepting how you look. Using yoga as a tool, we assure you that the journey to this place is going to be an incredibly joyous one, and we will explain how in this guide.
Asana in yoga helps you reconnect with your body
Asana, or yoga postures, allow you to connect with your body via breath and movement. Postures in yoga allow us to separate different aspects of our body, comprehend their functioning and understand how these areas work together. Learning this key lesson is something that everyone at the Marianne Wells Yoga School is able to master very quickly.
If you’ve suffered from negative body image at any point in your life, you’re probably aware that it largely involves avoiding and isolating oneself from aspects of the body that induce feelings of shame and self-loathing.
Yoga helps you extricate yourself from this escalating form of neglect by encouraging you to listen to your body. To perform any yoga posture, you have to acknowledge each part of your body and understand how it prefers to move. Yoga provides a lot of benefits for the body, so for the health-conscious, this is a great exercise to start with.
Pranayama promotes peace of mind
Yoga comprises of two main parts: breath (pranayama) and posture (asana). Pranayama, or more specifically, Ujjayi, is a specific style of breath in yoga. It develops heat in the body while stimulating rest and the feeling of peace.
Ujjayi is a deep and potent type of breath that fires up the lungs and throat. While this may sound counterintuitive in promoting rest, one of the main purposes of Ujjayi is to relax the body. It is a long, smooth breath created by lengthening your inhale and exhale.
A longer breath signals your body to relax. Taking some time to rewind is a great way of promoting self-love.
Yoga is an excellent stress-reliever. A 2005 German study indicated that women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed” showed significant improvement in their mood and overall sense of well-being after being treated with 90 minutes of yoga per week for 3 months. Well-being scores improved by 65%, and depression and anxiety scores improved by 50% and 30% respectively. Complaints regarding back pain, poor sleep and headaches had also been resolved.
Yoga encourages positivity
One of the key aspects of yoga is performing mantras. Contrary to popular belief, mantras are quite simple and can help you during meditation. They’re simply words or phrases, each with different purposes, such as helping you overcome challenges and showing gratitude.
Repeating mantras is a great way to understand the power of a positive mind. When you repeat a mantra every day, you start believing that it is true. With each passing day, the mantra and your belief in it become stronger.
“I love myself. I am beautiful, intelligent and unique.”
You don’t have to limit yourself to traditional mantras. You can even create your own. A mantra (such as the one above) that holds meaning in your heart and resonates deep within you can be easily brought to life by you. You are the creator of your positivity.
You’re always amazed
Just a few weeks of yoga is enough to fascinate anyone. You’ll be surprised to know that it is not the yogic postures, but watching what your body is capable of that will amaze you.
With time and practice, you become capable of moving your body in ways you never even imagined. With time, you’ll be able to effortlessly stand on one foot, wrap your arms and legs into an eagle, and even balance your whole body weight on your arms.
Whether you’re performing an advanced posture or you’re in the process of deepening one, you’ll understand that your body is strong, flexible, and incredibly beautiful.
Even though some magazine covers may make you think otherwise, yoga is for everyone. Yoga is a beautiful journey where you can witness your body’s full potential and truly appreciate what it can do.
In most cases, people never discover their body in their optimal strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga is an invigorating experience which can make you feel like a warrior every day. Once you discover this strength within you, it’s hard not to feel grateful for the body that gives you so much.
Yoga creates communities of love
Yoga retreats, classes, and online platforms bring in several like-minded people, helping in creating a strong and supportive community. Practicing Yoga is not only fun, but it is empowering.
People join yoga classes for a variety of reasons. While some join it for physical reasons such as toning up and building flexibility, others join it to relax their bodies. Whatever your reason may be, you’ll soon realize that yoga brings about another essential outcome: feeling comfortable in your skin.
Almost anyone who joins yoga wants to learn to love his or her own body. Yoga creates a space where everyone, at the same time, is thinking about their connection with their bodies.
When you join your first yoga class, be sure to introduce yourself to someone and ask them what brought them to it. Listen to their response and share your reason as well.
Author Bio: Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International.
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/siddhiyogateachertraining
Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I – Neurophysiologic Model. J Altern Complement Med. 2005;1:189–201.
Catherine Woodyard. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul-DecExploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life.
Collins C. Yoga: Intuition, preventive medicine, and treatment. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 1998;27:563–8
McCall T. New York: Bantam Dell a division of Random House Inc; 2007. Yoga as Medicine.
Dealing with Dating Burnout in 5 Steps
“I’m done with dating. No, really! I don’t see the point of it anymore”
Is this something you have thought of or said aloud recently? You’re not the only one. Dating isn’t always as fun as it’s made to sound. It’s a lot of time and effort put together. You spend hours of your precious time and energy on finding someone you’re interested in. It is followed by working hard on making yourself presentable and then taking the time to get to know that person. Most of the time, if not all, it turns out to be a dead-end, and with that emerges dating burnout.
Signs of dating burnout
1) It isn’t fun anymore.
What started off as fun initially is not so anymore. The dressing up, the conversation to get to know the other or the texting that comes after the date has lost its appeal for you.
2) You have had one bad date after another in a series.
Your date was obsessed with his/ her phone, had weird habits, was drunk or could not get the conversation going, whatever the reason; it just hasn’t worked out in the last few dates.
3) You have been complaining about it for a long time.
Your friends, family and even your dog are tired of listening to you complain about the horrible dates you have been on. You’ve gone overboard and maybe a friend has not-so-politely cut you off letting you know you’ve been talking about hating the dating scene for a tad too long now.
4) You get sarcastic and even rude on dates.
Some people love sarcasm, I get that. But do you think you are getting more defensive, sarcastic and even hostile on your dates lately?
5) Dating = exhaustion.
The mere mention of dating puts you off and you feel terribly exhausted thinking about going down that road again.
If you are experiencing dating burnout, what should you do to get yourself back on track?
1) Take a break
This is the first thing you need to do once you realize you are experiencing dating burnout. You need to leave the scene and mix things up a bit before bouncing back. Taking a break would ensure you take the pressure off yourself. Take the time to be around people you like and enroll in that hobby class you have been thinking about. Getting off the dating cycle leaves you with plenty of time to indulge in yourself. Take advantage and have a life again. Dating comes with a lot of pressure. It’s often when the pressure is off and you’re going about your life that you find someone you’ve been looking for.
2) Assess what’s going wrong
Once you have taken a break from dating and are feeling good about yourself, revisit the past. Look at where you’re coming from and how it’s affecting your present. Do you harbour unresolved issues from your past relationships? Are you really ready to move on? Are you trying to find your ex in all your dates? If you think your ex may be holding you back, it’s important to close that chapter of your life before moving on.
What do your expectations from your date look like? Are you going overboard in wanting someone who’s good-looking, rich, sensitive, charming and funny all in one? Well, that might be a bit unrealistic, don’t you think? Chart it out. List down your priorities in order. Think of the bigger picture and what is it that you want at the end of the day? Too many expectations and running after an elusive perfection may spell doom for your dating life.
Do you find yourself in difficult relationships which have a common theme? Are your partners all unavailable, committed, need to be taken care of, or take undue advantage of you? If you seem to be choosing the wrong partner all the time, you need to assess what is going wrong in the dating phase itself and set it right.
How do you feel about yourself? Do you take hours getting ready for a date? Do you feel you don’t look good enough? How you feel about yourself reflects in how you present yourself and that may be a reason for dating being unsatisfying for you. You need to be confident and feel secure about yourself. When you are content being who you are, you will start attracting the right people.
3) Laugh it off
Humour helps in almost all situations. Do you think these bad dates would matter a year from now? Five years from now? I bet you’ll be sitting with the love of your life telling him/her about these misfortunate dates from your past and having a good laugh over it. Tuck it in for a funny memory down the line. Laugh it off.
4) Don’t take it out on yourself
Your last four dates didn’t work out. Big deal! Don’t fall into the trap and feel like the biggest loser on earth. You aren’t. There is nothing wrong with you and no, you aren’t doomed to be single for the rest of your life. Haven’t you heard that slow and steady wins the race? Or how about, patience is the best virtue? You’ll get there. Don’t put yourself down.
5) Don’t lose hope
Dating burnout leads to the feeling that there’s no one out there for you. Believe me, when I say, nothing could be further from the truth. Set your sights right. Get back from the dating break. The love of your life is out there and you will find him/her.
Who knows, maybe your perfect match is just a click away?
5 Tips to Increase Self-Esteem
Are you very critical of yourself? Do you often tend to focus on your negatives rather than your accomplishments? Are you often comparing yourself with others? Do you engage in negative self-talk? If you said yes to one or more statements above, you may have a low self-esteem.
Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself and how confident you are in your skin. Low self-esteem is not something we are born with, and it is amenable to change. How we feel and think about ourselves extends to how we look and behave. Having high self-esteem helps us overcome difficulties and obstacles with ease while having low self-esteem makes us focus on our weaknesses and mistakes setting us up for failure.
There are myriad causes of low self-esteem. It could be due to difficult experiences in childhood, negative life events, past relationships, stress, negative thinking patterns, discrimination, loneliness, trauma or abuse.
However, no matter what the cause, its impact is the same. Low self-esteem leads to negative thinking which might, over time, even lead to mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Low self-esteem limits your career and social development.
Changing the way you think about yourself changes the way you feel about yourself.
So how do we go about increasing our self-esteem? Here are 5 easy tips:
1. Positive Self-talk
How you think about yourself marks the cornerstone of your self-esteem. If you constantly tell yourself you’re no good, you might start to believe it. Self-talk is your inner voice, your thoughts that you don’t say out loud. Negative self-talk makes you feel bad about yourself. It could be something like ‘I look fat in those jeans’, or ‘everyone thinks I am dumb’, or ‘everything is going wrong with my life, nothing is going to change’. These statements act to bring you down. Over time, you start to believe them as if they were true. This results in negative thinking which opens the door for further problems including mental disorders.
Ok, But How Do I Counter Negative Self-talk With Positive Self-Talk?
In order to bring about change in your self-talk, the first step is to notice what you have been saying to yourself so far. Hear what your inner voice is saying. If needed, even write it down. Once you have started listening to your inner voice carefully, assess it.
- Are you engaging in more positive or negative self-talk?
- Are you keeping things in perspective?
- Is there actual evidence for what you’re thinking?
- Can you try to look at it differently?
- If a friend was in a similar situation, what would you say to him or her?
- Can you change the situation somehow to feel better about it?
Once you have monitored and assessed your self-talk, you need to change it. Counter negative thoughts with positive ones. Omit ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘ought’ from your self-talk. These words put unnecessary pressure on you to perform. Do a quick reality check when you encounter a negative thought. Assess the truth in the statement.
- Do you have evidence for the thought?
- What about the evidence against the thought?
- Are you jumping to conclusions, negative ones at that?
Try to look at alternative explanations for the situation.
- Can you try to look at the situation from a different perspective?
- How would an optimist look at this situation?
Put the situation into perspective. Look at the bright side.
- What best can come out of the situation?
- Will this matter in a years’ time? Five years’? Ten years’?
Jump into action mode. Make goals to counter the thinking.
- How do I solve this problem?
- Have I learned something from the situation?
- Will this learning help me in the future
2. Assertiveness Training
Oftentimes, it is others who bog us down. They say nasty, cruel things making us feel bad about ourselves. We believe their words which start resonating within and become our inner voice. This needs to change.
Being assertive means you value yourself and set clear boundaries. Here’s how to go about being assertive-
- Use ‘I’ statements. Say statements that start with ‘I’ such as ‘I think…’ or ‘I feel…’. Statements starting with ‘you’ are often misinterpreted leading to an argument or fight. Avoid saying statements that start with ‘you always…’ or ‘you never…’.
- Let go of guilt. Are you that person who wants to do everything for everyone and always wants to be there for everyone? Yes, this tip is especially for you. You can’t. You can’t do everything, you can’t be everywhere and you can’t please everyone. So stop feeling guilty when you can’t attend your child’s recital, can’t bake a cake for your husband’s birthday or couldn’t meet a friend who was in the city for only a day. You don’t have to do it all to be a better person. You already are one.
- Express your feelings. Be honest and tell others how you feel or what you want. Be clear, specific, honest and respectful. Focus on the real issue and say it out loud. For example, you might be cribbing about the towel on the floor but the real issue might be that you want your spouse to spend time with you. Say it loud clearly.
- Learn to say no. You aren’t being selfish when you’re saying no; you’re simply setting healthy limits. Identify your boundaries, be it physical, emotional or mental. Know how far you can go and tolerate. Stick to these boundaries and don’t let anyone transcend your limits.
- Agree to disagree. Having a different point of view doesn’t mean you are right and the other person is wrong. Talk it out. Respect the other person’s point of view. You might not agree with them but it doesn’t mean you are right in what you think. Be tolerant of other viewpoints.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
A great deal of low self-esteem comes from the fact that we compare ourselves with others who are better off than us. We don’t have that limo, that bungalow, that job or that petite figure. Social media sites heighten this social comparison where we nag our spouse about the fact that our colleague went on a vacation to a country miles away while we haven’t gone on one for so long.
Stop doing that! Stop comparing yourself to others. Compete against yourself. You don’t know that person, their life or what is it really like to be them. And even if you do, you are not that person. You have a different life and a different set of priorities. Compete with yourself on how you can better your grades, lose weight, get that salary package or simply eat healthy. Take a step ahead from where you were earlier; engage in a healthy competition with yourself instead.
4. Set realistic expectations
If you plan to lose 11 pounds in a week, you are setting yourself up for failure. Having unrealistic expectations makes you feel worse about yourself. Set realistic goals that are achievable. Setting expectations from others also set us up for failure. Wishing your spouse won’t criticize you might not work until you tell him or her so and make sure he or she works on it. Check your expectations if they keep disappointing you. There’s a chance you have set them too high.
5. Take a 2-minute break
Break from what, you ask? Break from putting yourself down. Take a 2-minute break to highlight your accomplishments and to appreciate yourself. Every day, set aside 2 minutes to ask yourself what 3 things you appreciate about yourself. It could be something you mean to your family, friends or colleagues or it could be a skill you are good at. These don’t have to be big things. Small but meaningful things work best. Write down these three things every day in a journal. An added benefit of this exercise is that you can go back and look through it when you are feeling low. This little break will help you put everything in perspective and rev your mood.
These tips work great when you actually get down to practicing them in real life. They will take some time and lots of practice, however. Don’t give up though. There’s sunshine at the end of the night. Keep trying and you will get there.
On the last note, I personally think you are awesome!
Jack Kornfield once said: “There is a place in everyone that yearns to love, that longs to be safe, that wants to treat others and ourselves with respect. Sometimes that place is buried underneath layers of fear, old wounds, and pain that we have used to protect ourselves from injury.”
The path to health and inner peace is often not a path of adding to something. It is the path of letting go. This is a main principle of healing – rather than chasing happiness we simply choose to let go of that which makes us unhappy.
Let Go – it means just as it says. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance an idea, a thing, an event or a particular time – it’s an invitation to make room for our future by letting go our past, at least a part of our past. We all have made mistakes and bad decisions. We all have ‘baggage’ from our pasts – painful relationships and old beliefs.
How do we let go of such things? Letting go does not mean ‘getting rid of’ or ‘throwing away’ or annihilating them. It is more like setting down and letting them be. A close friend to letting go is acceptance. Accepting people and situations for what they are. This means we lay them aside – put them down gently without any kind of aversion.
Letting Go Of Past Relationships
A breakup of a relationship can crush our joyful disposition and replace it with tearful despair. According to brain scientists, nearly 20 percent of us suffer from ‘complicated grief’; a biological occurrence that is actually rooted in our brain chemistry. It is a persistent sense of longing for someone we lost with romanticized memories.
When we break up with someone, words like ‘time heals all wounds’ might ring very hollow.
Losing a relationship can feel like a mini-death. We may find ourselves going through the process of grief:
Denial (‘It can’t be over’) – You are shocked and in denial. You don’t believe it is over and you hold out hope.
Anger (‘How could he/she do this to me?’) – Allowing ourselves to grieve – there is nothing wrong with having a good cry. We are free to express our feelings, but not drown in them.
Depression (‘No one will ever love me.’) – It may be wise to try to replace those thoughts with: ‘All pain passes eventually’. Yes, time will do its part. A cut on your skin will heal in time, but it hurts now. The same is true with an emotional wound. In the beginning, it hurts, but over time the pain passes. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. There are steps we can take to lessen the pain. At first, we need to stop the bleeding and soothe the pain. Finally, we need to keep our wound from becoming infected with bitterness.
Acceptance (‘I’m going to be all right’) – When this process is over, try to remember: Letting go opens you up to new possibilities. Everything about holding on is torturous and an exercise in suffering. When we let go, we give ourselves peace.
Letting Go Of Past Resentments And Hurts
Sometimes our lives are like driving. Driving down the road of life, we all look through our windshields; we focus on where we are and where we want to go. But we also look at the rearview mirror to see where we’ve been and what has happened behind us. But, imagine driving our car looking only into that rearview mirror. What do we think would happen? We can’t see the good things or the bad things that are in front of us. We can’t see where we are going, and finally, it’s not a safe way to drive, and even, seems ridiculous.
It’s the same way in life. Often, we drive down the road of life focusing only on the rearview mirror. We can get so focused on our past that we are barely able to move forward or see what is in front of us. In our mind’s rearview mirror is where we can feel resentments, mistakes, bad decisions, and hurts. But they are behind us. We need to be aware of our past mistakes, but dwelling on them doesn’t do us any good.
When someone wrongs us, it is only normal to feel a degree of anger. When we have, or feel that we have, been wronged, we could become bitter. That’s okay in the moment, it’s natural. But constantly thinking about the episode could result in our having negative feelings about others. We might close up, isolating ourselves and showing little interest in others.
Our heart is like an heirloom bowl or a vase. What would we do if it became soiled or stained? Would our immediate response be to throw it away? Not likely. We would probably put forth the effort to clean it carefully. In like fashion, we can work hard to get rid of feelings of annoyance toward those who offended us.
Positive Impact of Forgiveness and Letting Go
Scientists have launched research that has begun to demonstrate that forgiveness and letting go can positively enhance emotional and even physical health. Forgiveness is not just a good social lubricant but also good medicine!
“In a study of more than 4,600,” says a report in The Gazette, researchers “found [that] the more hostile, frustrated and mean-spirited the personality” was, the more unhealthy the person’s lungs were. In fact, some of the harmful effects were even greater than those of a current smoker!
Dr. David R. Williams, said regarding his research: “We found a particularly strong relationship between forgiveness of others and mental health among middle-aged and older Americans.”
Negative Impact of Resentment
Resentment is a heavy burden to carry. When we harbour it, it consumes our thoughts, robs us of peace, and stifles our joy. The offender, at the same time, may go his way oblivious to our turmoil! Dr. Hans Selye pointed out: “It is not the hated person or the frustrating boss who will get ulcers, hypertension, and heart disease. It is the one who hates or the one who permits himself to be frustrated.”
Caustic emotions like bitterness and resentment are like rust that slowly corrodes the body of a car. The car’s outside may appear beautiful but under the paint a destructive process is taking place. When a person is unforgiving, the resulting conflict creates stress. Stress can lead to serious illnesses. Statistics indicated that two-thirds of the patients who went to a physician had symptoms caused by mental stress.
Dr. William S. Sadler wrote: “No one can appreciate so fully as a doctor the amazingly large percentage of human disease and suffering which is directly traceable to worry, fear, conflict.”
Forgiveness, on the contrary, brings psychological benefits including less stress, anxiety, and depression.
Forgiving others is not always easy. The pain can be immense, especially when a person has been grievously wronged. ‘How can I forgive someone who viciously betrayed and hurt me?’ some may even wonder.
Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University says that there are “very few people who understand what forgiveness is and how it works.”
What Forgiveness Really Is
The Toronto Star report defines forgiveness as in three steps:
a) Recognizing we have been wronged – Forgiving others does not mean that we condone, minimize, or deny the offence that others have done to us. It does not mean that we have to approve of their wrong behaviour or minimize the damage it does. Nor does it mean putting ourselves back into an abusive situation.
b) Giving up the resulting resentment – At times it may simply involve letting go of the situation and realizing that harboring resentment will only add to our burden. Forgiving, though, does mean letting go of any resentment for such wrongs and maintaining our own peace. By dwelling on negative thoughts and mulling over how badly they have been treated, some people let the behavior of others rob them of happiness. Do we harbour feelings of resentment and bitterness when some injustice causes us pain? Do not let such thoughts control us! Refuse to become trapped in a web of bitterness and resentment. This can easily happen. If we allow our emotions to dominate us, the result may prove more damaging to us than the injustice itself. Ask ourselves: Must we remain in severe emotional turmoil, feeling intensely hurt and angry, until the matter is fully resolved?
c) And eventually responding to the offending person with compassion – Waiting for an apology that never comes, we may only get more frustrated. In effect, we allow the offending person to control our emotions. So, letting go is not only for their benefit but also for our own, so that we may get on with our life. Forgiveness brings peace – not just peace with fellow humans but inner peace as well.
We may never completely put out of mind what was done, but we can forget in the sense that we do not hold it against the offender or bring the matter up again at some future time.
If someone else made mistakes, we might learn to forgive them or at least let go of the anger. But, when it comes to forgiving ourselves, we often struggle. That is because it is easier to forgive others. We all make mistakes, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that when we’re in the midst of them.
Perhaps we are overwhelmed by thoughts of past sins or mistakes that we have made. Some individuals continue to harbor guilt over sins for which they have actually been forgiven. We may feel guilty without really being guilty.
But, guilt is not a ‘useless’ emotion. Psychoanalyst Gaylin says: “Guilt is the emotion that shapes much of our goodness and generosity. It signals us when we have transgressed codes of behaviour that we personally want to sustain. Feeling guilty informs us that we have failed our own ideals.”
Regret is a powerful emotion and our mind has a hard time distinguishing between true mistakes that we can learn from, and little blunders that are really just a part of everyday life. Beside this, forgiveness is often today confused with condoning or lack of accountability.
In order to let the past mistakes go, we must forgive ourselves officially.
Choose to see life as a classroom, not a testing center. We are all humans on intertwining roads to self-discovery, searching for a greater purpose. On our roads, we will inevitably make mistakes – every one of us.
Dr. Claire Weekes commented: “To let past guilt paralyze present action is destructive living.” Most of us hold on to past mistakes and let them affect our self-esteem for way too long. This is not healthy and does not serve anyone. Healthy psychology is to acknowledge a mistake and cope with it. There is value in being aware of our past mistakes, but we cannot focus on them.
We can try to do our best, but we will never be perfect – We live in a world with high-performance standards. People think they need to be perfect. To err is human. We’re always going to make mistakes. Accept that we may have made a wrong choice and then forgive ourselves.
Joretta L. Marshall, PhD points out that people often try to forgive themselves for the wrong things. According to Marshall, “people don’t have to forgive themselves for being who they are – for being human and making human mistakes. Forgiveness means being specific about what we did that needs forgiving.”
Letting go our mistakes is like a technique we use to correct a problem with our computer. It is as close as we come to a system-reset button – we lost the mistake, but not the data in the memory.
Many people have little sense of what it means to have love and acceptance for one’s self. This is not the self-centered love of the mythological Narcissus. It’s not being selfish – it’s being selfish not to love yourself. It is necessary to love yourself before you can love others.
Loving yourself is all about accepting your strengths and weaknesses and even going a step further by loving yourself the way you are. Modern psychology knows this. The great psychoanalytic theorist Donald Winnicot said, “Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real.”
Can we look in a mirror and love ourselves unconditionally? People often learn to love themselves based on the feedback they receive from others. But this is conditional, not unconditional, self-love; self -acceptance based upon external achievements.
But unconditional self-love is learning to accept and love the unlovable in you. Learn to be kind to yourself in situations where you usually have been harsh. When you are down, talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend and move from criticism to self-compassion.
Yes, we can find inner peace. Rather than turning our attention to the past, we must keep our eyes focused on what is yet ahead. Life is a choice – the bad experiences in our rearview mirror are meant to be valuable lessons. Although it is not wrong to meditate on the lessons we have learned from past experiences, we need to maintain a balanced, realistic view of the past.
Letting go is never complete unless people and relationships are transformed in the process. At some point, we reach a turning point. Something shifts – we feel less burdened, we have more energy. We live longer and have better health.
We live in exciting times. Wonderful events are happening now and more lie just ahead.
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