January is the month of new beginnings, new decisions, new choices. For many, the month of January, looking from the distance of December, feels like it’s going to be a fresh start, a blank page that will be filled with great choices we missed to make in the previous year. This time is going to be different. Right? But, with the year 2020 unfolding, it’s not uncommon that people struggle to keep up with their New Year’s resolutions. Somewhere along the way, they realize that sticking to their decisions is too difficult, or that those goals are not that important, or that “they just don’t feel like it”. What happens?
That strong urge for change that pushed us to make New Year’s resolutions – called motivation – faded away. This is not surprising – keeping high levels of motivation, in the long run, is tricky. Knowing a little bit more about how motivation works might help you achieve and keep your resolutions.
A Closer Look Into the Nature of Motivation
There are different definitions of motivation out there, but the majority basically boils down to this:
Motivation is a desire to act in pursuit of your goals. It pushes you to act, to behave in a certain way to get what you want or need.
You certainly felt this drive before, this urge to move and take action. It felt awesome, it pushed you toward reaching your goals, you felt energized and willing to engage – yes, in short, you felt motivated. But motivation is not easy to maintain. That initial spark fades away after some time and is, typically, not enough. That’s because motivation consists of three components:
- Activation – the initial decision to make things happen
- Persistence – the continued effort toward a goal despite the obstacles
- Intensity – how hard you work for your goal
Further, there are basically two types of motivation:
Extrinsic motivation comes from an external source – to get a reward or to avoid punishment.
Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside, from within us – we do something because we enjoy it.
Both types of motivation are important. However, it turns out that intrinsic motivation is more powerful.
What does this mean for you? Only knowing that something is good for you is not enough to push you to make a change; a considerable reward has to be in play. This can be something external, like social recognition, money, or approval for example, or internal, like a sense of purpose or the feeling of deep fulfilment that comes from acting in accordance with your core values. Ideally, both should be present, but even one can be enough to push you forward through all three above mentioned components of motivation.
Staying Motivated Throughout the Year – Action Plan
In terms of New Year’s resolutions, if you want them to stick, the first crucial step is to turn them from a wish/decision to a goal. But it’s not just any goal; to keep you motivated, your goal needs to be a certain way to enhance the energy you need to get to the destination:
- Optimally challenging – meaning you need to put the effort in, but it’s realistic and not too hard,
- Specific – meaning your energy is directed toward a particular outcome,
- Congruent with self – meaning your goal is in line with your values.
Once you have that set, you’ve established a strong foundation for working up toward the goal. Even if you slip up, it will be easier to bounce back from there.
Additionally, here are 4 additional hacks that can help you get and stay motivated throughout the year:
1. Find your why
Nothing drives us like a strong feeling of purpose. The question WHY we do something is crucial, and if the answer is in line with our personal values, it is a huge push forward. To find out what your personal core values are requires tapping into your deepest self and asking: “What kind of life do I want to live?”. If you can connect your work and goals to your core values, it becomes a powerful source of motivation.
2. Focus on who you want to become
People interpret situations and difficulties in accordance with how they perceive themselves, and choose actions that feel congruent with their identity. For example, if someone believes that they’re a “loser”, sometimes they will choose actions that will reinforce this belief, and not choose actions that are incongruent with this picture of themselves because “it’s not for people like me”.
Thus, for increasing motivation, it can be more effective to focus on the identity – who you want to become – than on the ability – what you want to achieve. If you want to, for example, start going to the gym more often, the reason: “Because I’m (becoming) an athlete/healthy/good looking person” might be more motivating than: “Because I need to exercise more/have a healthier lifestyle”.
3. Set small milestones
Sometimes, setting a goal can feel intimidating because it looks too big to achieve. A crucial thing to not crush your motivation down is to divide large tasks into small, manageable parts, and do one at a time. Your brain will get a hit of dopamine every time you tick one small task off of a list, which will keep you motivated.
4. “CHOOSE” instead of “MUST”
A slight shift in the language can make big changes in the mindset. Sometimes the things we’re not motivated to do and see as a chore are, if we stop and think about it, the things that we are grateful for. “I have to go to work” and “I get to go to work” sound very different, don’t they?
And don’t forget – motivation is not a one-time thing. It has to be reinforced day after day. As Zig Ziglar wisely said: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
How do you keep yourself motivated? Share it with us in the comments. Additionally, if you like this post, please be free to share it with your friends and family.
Happy new beginnings!
Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2020). Armstrong’s handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page Publishers.
Hockenbury, D. H., & Hockenbury, S. E. (2010). Discovering psychology. Macmillan.
Are you stuck in your head? Do you feel like you are worrying about anything and everything all day long? Repeating the same scenarios in your head over and over and spiraling down the hole of anxious thoughts is tiring!
Sometimes, worry can be a good thing. When there is a realistic possibility of failure or unpleasant thing occurring, worry can motivate us to work harder, prepare and focus on what we can control. However, when it slips into rumination about the things you have no control over, it doesn’t lead to productive or practical solutions. Instead, it triggers unhelpful thought patterns and excessive worry that repeat over and over. It’s completely useless and simply frustrating. But how to stop?
Why Simply Telling Yourself to Stop Worrying is Not Helpful
Your excessive worry isn’t there without a reason. You bother yourself with worst case scenarios and anxious thoughts because they give you a false sense of control. If you worry too hard, bad things might not happen, right? And if they happen, you’d surely be prepared?
Still, you don’t feel any better if the thing you were worried about really occurs, do you? Think about it.
Remember, worrying gives you a FALSE sense of control. We have a tendency to believe that rumination will bring a sense of relief, but it doesn’t because that tailspin has no end or solution, which just intensifies anxiety more.
Simply telling yourself to stop doing something is not enough because, as mentioned above, somewhere deep down you might believe that worry gives you some sense of control and relief. That’s why your subconscious mind doesn’t let go. However, this sense of control is extremely weak, and the damage to your mental health far outweighs that illusion of the “benefit”.
So the first thing you need to do is to consciously decide to give up on trying to control things you can’t control. Second, stop blaming yourself for feeling anxious. It’s enough you feel overwhelmed in the first place; you don’t need additional pressure. Simply telling yourself to stop worrying doesn’t work. So, what does?
Schedule Worry Time
It may sound counterproductive, but forcing yourself to worry during a specific time of the day may actually help you worry less. Studies consistently show that dedicating 15 to 20 minutes during the day to purposely obsess over things that worry you actually decreases the number of worrying thoughts during the day and helps to ease anxiety.
Rules are simple: schedule 15 minutes at a specific time every day to worry about your problems. Pick a time when you know you’ll be able to focus all your attention to worry without interruptions. However, try to make this time at least 2 hours away from your bedtime to avoid possible difficulties falling asleep.
Okay, now that you made your appointment with worry, spend some time with it. Dedicate your full attention to your anxious thoughts during those 15 minutes, without fighting them or trying to make them go away. Don’t try to think positive or to convince yourself these thoughts are unnecessary. Exactly the opposite – strive to come up with as many worries as you can, and try to be as uncomfortable as possible in reviewing them. If you run out of ideas in those 15 minutes, it’s important to not walk away. The goal is to fill the whole 15 minutes with worry, not a minute more or less. If you spent all your anxious ideas in the first 10 minutes, repeat the ones you already thought over.
When your scheduled date with worry passes, get up and go on with your day. You’ll meet your worry at the same time the next day, but not until then. Anxious thoughts will, of course, try to sneak in and occupy space in your head during the day. Just politely tell them that now is not the time, and they will have to wait until the appointment when you’ll listen to all of them. If they are persistent, instead of getting stuck in your head with them, try some of the mindfulness techniques like focusing on the outside sensations or on your breathing.
There is a little mind twist here. You’re probably frustrated with not being able to run away or combat all those worrying and uncomfortable thoughts; it just seems there are too many of them all the time. However, when you turn tables around and purposefully try to find as many of them as possible, you realize three things:
- There are not so many of them after all,
- Facing your worries and letting unpleasant feelings those obsessing thoughts evoke is not so terrible or unboreable,
- In the end, worrying becomes boring.
These three things change the way you approach your worry and gradually ease your anxiety over anxiety. Instead of becoming all tense on the first thought of worry, you become to experience other emotional responses, like boredom for example. That creates space for making a distance from unhelpful thought patterns and for taking a more realistic perspective.
In the end, one important note: be persistent. Give time for change. When you start practicing this technique, it’s possible that your worry will intensify in the first few days, and it will be more difficult to resist rumination between worry times. That is frustrating, but also totally natural. Just keep up the practice. Emotional changes need time. However, if this technique stirs up extremely strong emotions in you after a week, stop practicing it. Additionally, don’t hesitate to ask for additional support. Your therapist will work with you to discover what lies behind your anxious thoughts and feelings, and find techniques and tools that suit you best.
“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” the clichéd saying goes. However, is it really true?
There is a widespread notion in our society that following your passion is the key to a fulfilled and happy life. Well, it turns out this kind of belief is not only a myth but can be very limiting and even dysfunctional.
Your Idea about What Passion is is Probably Wrong
If someone would ask you what your passion is, what would you say? What are you wholeheartedly passionate about? *tick-tock* *tick-tock*…
The truth is, this question is triggering! The majority of people feel pressured to come up with a good answer, and if they don’t, they feel like something is wrong with them. Considering everything society and media constantly feed us, that’s no surprise. We’ve been told that finding our true passion is a secret to a purposeful and joyful life, and if we don’t discover what it is, well… we’re destined to misery. But that’s completely wrong. Actually, the whole concept of passion you can often see in many self-help books, motivational speeches, movies, magazines, and other sources is inaccurate.
The thing with passion is that it’s not something you do; passion is something you feel.
Passion is a full force of your attention and energy that you give to whatever is right in front of you.
– Terri Trespicio
Passion is a feeling you find within yourself.
Yes, it’s true that with some things we’re able to find this feeling more easily than with some others. Cooking or writing can be extremely joyful while doing paperwork in the office can be painfully boring. However, it’s not paperwork itself that makes you feel bored; it’s the way you look at it. If you approach it with curiosity and shift your attention on finding interesting things in paperwork, it becomes so much more enjoyable. Actually, if you focus on becoming better at paperwork over time, it may lead you to becoming passionate about it in the end. That’s because passion is not a destination; it’s developing over time and through life experiences.
Looking for One and Only Passion = Fixed Mindset and Limited Experiences
One research found that, compared to people who see passion as a developing feeling through activity, individuals who believe people have a relatively fixed passion that just waits to be discovered have a tendency to quit more often when things become difficult or less interesting. That’s because they believe that, when you’re passionate about something, it becomes a boundless source of motivation and, as already mentioned, “you won’t have to work a day in your life anymore”. But that is not true; in any job, even the best one, there are certain things that are not so pleasant or fun. So, when things become difficult, and they will with anything you do at one point, a belief that it must mean “it’s not your true passion” gives you an easy way out.
As the authors of the research say: “Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry”.
Really, being obsessed with finding your passion can limit your experiences and prevent you from exploring some areas you might be really good at. Moreover, if you believe that once you find your passion it will all be sunshine and rainbows and that you’ll feel motivated all the time, it will almost certainly lead to disappointment after disappointment.
Instead of searching for your passion, be passionate!
All this, of course, doesn’t mean that if you know exactly what you’re passionate about, and you’re pursuing it, something is not right. No, if you’re happy with what you do, that’s awesome! That inner sense of excitement is something many people are searching for, and you’ve found it – we’re glad for you! J
For those of you with panical inner screaming: “I don’t know what I’m passionate about!”, know that it’s okay. Nothing is wrong with you. It’s great you don’t know, actually – that gives you the opportunity to explore and see how you can develop your passion. If something you do, let’s say a new job, doesn’t click right away – give it time. Try to become better at it and approach it with an inner sense of enthusiasm and interest.
Pursue your whole life with passion. Give special attention to everyday things, from paying your bills to doing your laundry or working out. Become fascinated by little, ordinary things that surround you. That, and not one special thing that you’re trying to discover, will make for an enjoyable and freeing life you strive for.
Holidays are here! Yay…? While everyone around you seems joyful and excited, you’re maybe wondering why you’re feeling so blue.
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious during this time of the year, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, holiday season triggers feelings of sadness, irritability, loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, and a bunch of other unpleasant emotions for more people than you think.
For some of us, holidays bring pleasant memories. For others, on the other hand, holidays have that sneaky nature of bringing some painful memories to the surface. Add financial pressure, tight deadlines, social obligations, or meeting with family members that you know will say or do something that stresses you out… Now it’s not so surprising that you’re not all that cheerful and excited for holidays, is it? However, there are ways to turn things around and feel different than this.
So, let’s try to make it a little easier this year. Here are 4 strategies for handling this end-of-the-year situation and coping with holiday depression:
*** 1. Let yourself feel. ***
Suppressing emotions is a road to depression. Emotional avoidance is one of the main causes of not only depression, but a wide range of psychological problems. Don’t be afraid of your feelings – they are already there in you. If you’re trying to avoid grief, loneliness, sadness or any other unpleasant emotion because you think it’s intolerable or dangerous or inappropriate, you’ll soon feel anxious about such emotion arising. Before you know it, you’ll invest so much energy in trying to suppress unpleasant feelings surfacing, that it will drain all your energy and become a negative experience itself.
It’s OK to cry and feel sad or lonely. Give yourself some time to sit with your painful feelings and to accept them. Acceptance can feel relieving – it means you don’t have to spend a tremendous amount of energy anymore on pushing your feelings away. So, let yourself feel. THEN, and don’t forget this step, do something nice for yourself and socialize.
*** 2. Create new traditions. ***
Putting on a brave face for others can be especially difficult when the world is blasting us with images of group hugs and the memory of your final hug with someone you love is all that you can think about.
– Suzanne Deges-White, Ph.D., Psychology Today
Holidays have a way of opening old wounds that we may try to forget about during the year. Also, sometimes, there is pressure to perform rituals and traditions that we may not necessarily feel connected to or comfortable doing. Some people even feel that, by changing the same old holiday traditions, they will somehow betray their loved ones who are no longer with them.
Instead of focusing on what once was, why don’t you try and create a new tradition? There are no hard rules on how your holiday should look like. It’s completely OK to get creative and do something out of the ordinary. This doesn’t mean you have to erase all the rituals that were once a part of your holidays; instead, you can reinvent them in a way that feels fun and comfortable for you and your loved ones, or even create a special new ritual that honors the person that is no longer there. Starting a new tradition can help create fresh memories of holidays, no longer overshadowed by the past.
*** 3. Keep Your Expectations in Check ***
These days, fairy-tailish photos and videos of happy people enjoying the holidays with their loved ones seem to be everywhere. Movies, TV shows and social media set great expectations of how this time of the year “should” feel. What is important to have in mind is that reality is often different.
Everyone have their own version of the perfect holiday. However, when reality doesn’t live up to the dream, stress and disappointment kick in. It’s nice to have a plan on how you’d like to spend your holidays, including details about people, decoration, food, gifts, etc. It’s a whole another story if everything MUST be the way you planned it. Instead of losing your mind over a burnt tray of cookies or your cousin being late to the family gathering again, stop for a moment and change your perspective. Look at these missteps as opportunities to exercise your resilience and flexibility.
When you throw away all “musts” and “shoulds”, you’ll view things more realistically, and remove the pressure that’s causing you stress and negativity. Set your expectations aside and remind yourself to enjoy the moment.
*** 4. Go Outside and Give. ***
Whatever you do, it’s best not to withdraw yourself completely from social activities and holiday festivities. Isolation will almost certainly make holiday blues worse. Even when you’re in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer to the world. If you feel lonely, or like you don’t have anybody to spend holidays with, it doesn’t mean you have to stay alone. There are people out there that will enjoy your company much more than you think. So, get outside and do what you can to make their (and your) holidays more pleasant and less lonely. Kindness is such an incredible tool to combat sadness – yours or other peoples’.
Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or volunteer to help people at a nursing home or homeless shelter or wherever it’s possible in your city. Go outside and explore what new nice things holidays have for you.
And for the end, the most important thing of all: don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re struggling with the holidays. Reminding loved ones that you’re having a rough time may be enough, but you also may want to reach out for more support. There is a difference between holiday blues, which lasts only around the holiday time, and more severe depression. If the holiday season passes and you still feel the same, it’s best to consult a professional.
We know you got this.
Enjoy the holidays 🙂
“I’d like to do that, but what would they think of me?!”
“OMG this is so embarrassing.”
“I know I shouldn’t care about what other people think and I would love to stop but I just can’t.”
Bet you’ve had some of the above thoughts at least once in your life.
The majority of people have the need to fit in and connect to others – it’s one of the basic human needs.
In fact, from the evolutionary perspective, making sure to gain social acceptance was the most important thing for your great great great ancestors to survive. In those times, living alone in the wilderness was equal to, well, being dead very soon. Therefore, social acceptance and being a part of the tribe was everything! However, times have dramatically changed, and, fast forward 10,000 years to today, our survival no longer depends on the judgment of others. Still, we’re left with this pretty annoying habit of worrying about what other people think of us in the world where the concept of social survival doesn’t exist anymore.
So, what do we do with it now?
First of all, being aware of how others perceive us can be useful for us but – and this is the key – in moderation. Being insensitive of other people’s opinions is not helpful – it can get you in trouble and harm your meaningful relationships. If you care about what your boss or your family or close friends think of you, it can help you be a better friend, relative, employee. You’ll be kinder, gentler, and probably happier in general.
Unless you care too much.
Sometimes we can spend a large portion of time and energy worrying about being socially judged, and that’s the point where healthy awareness becomes a source of stress and anxiety. It can hold you back from making changes in life or doing things you love because of the fear of how it will look. In the end, it can prevent you from showing the world the real you. And that’s a pity, because we’re all unique, and the world deserves to see you as you really are. And you deserve it too.
So, if you decided to take control over your fear of being socially judged and over time and energy you invest in it, here are two new ways you can look at it:
Perspective 1: People don’t think about you as much as you think
Studies show that we constantly overestimate how much other people think about us and how harshly they judge us. In reality, although it’s not always visible, the majority of people is far more focused and worried about how they’ll appear to others, including you.
When you have this in mind, it changes your perspective on social situations. If you’re aware that people are often concerned about how they’ll be perceived as much as you are, you can shift your focus from worry to kindness. Instead of being self-conscious all the time, help others feel appreciated and valued and make social situations easier for them. It will make you both feel better.
Perspective 2: Caring what other people think of you should depend on the nature of your relationship
You probably heard before that you shouldn’t care what others think. Well, that’s true… and also not.
How much you care about others’ opinions should depend on the nature of your relationship. As mentioned above, paying attention to the views of close family and friends is good for both sides. It leads to greater satisfaction with the relationship and works toward keeping that relationship in a good place. As long as your decisions are influenced by your own judgment and not by the fear of how your close ones will react, everything is good.
On the other hand, opinions of people you encounter on the street or in the public transport should not matter at all.
That’s right – none.
Worrying about what acquaintances or people who you probably won’t see again think of you is not that useful. It can prevent you from speaking your opinion, looking how you want to look, or doing things you enjoy in public, like singing or reading a book while sitting alone in a café.
The only remedy for this is practice – express yourself in small steps. Do things you’d like to do that don’t harm anyone, but you’re too embarrassed of doing. It’s going to be uncomfortable at first, but step by step, it will become easier. Ultimately, you’ll feel freer and more confident.
Wear that weird hat you love so much. Say your political opinion (politely) even when you know the person who you’re speaking with doesn’t agree. Dance to that amazing song street musician is playing.
It doesn’t matter if they’ll approve or not. What matters is what you’ll slowly find out, and that is that other people’s opinions can’t harm you. Also, it will surprise you how many people will accept you as you are, in spite of all flaws you try to hide so badly.
What’s the smallest step you’re ready to take right now?
Soap’s one way we can clean our body, but did you know we can clean our mental well-being as well?
S: Social connections
O: Optimism; attitude and explanatory style
A: Appreciation and gratitude
P: Purpose and meaning; something more than satisfying personal needs
What helps you with your well-being?
Are you the type of person who needs to do everything in a particular way? Or perhaps things need to be “just so”. It can be tough to let it go and let things just be but maybe it’s time to give it a try! New research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology shares that perfectionism may lead to stress, burnout, and potential health problems. The researchers took a look at the results of 43 studies, over the past 20 years, and found that concerns about perfectionism can sabotage success at work, school, or on the playing field.
When we think about it, those with perfectionism tendencies have a hard time accepting flaws. They can be hard on themselves, as well as others, because everything needs to be perfect. If you’re never pleased with your work, then things will never be good enough for you. It will be very difficult to stop working because you’ll always wish to make things better.
To work on reducing perfectionist tendencies, try setting realistic goals. Also, accept failures or less than perfect standards as learning opportunities that help you improve for the future. Most importantly, forgive yourself when you fail, and reframe failure as a growth opportunity, rather than defeat.
I was browsing through my Instagram feed tonight when I came across the profile of one of my colleagues in Atlanta, Georgia. One of his blog posts about self-love caught my eye, because many of the clients I’ve worked with have had similar issues.
Rather than trying to rephrase his posting, I’ll quote it for you. He says it best.
Chasing the Cheat’a
May 23, 2015
Solomon E. Stretch
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now and I just hadn’t been inspired, until one of my beautiful friends posted this quote to her Instagram feed. “Don’t let the mixed signals fool you. Indecision is a decision”.
Why do we play the fool? Apparently, everybody does it.
Why do we choose to waste our time on people who don’t choose us?
Now that’s a question for you! Seriously?! I bet it’s a pride thing, something that Freud would say stems back to our dismissive caregivers. I’m sure there was something lacking that our parents OR our first love (boyfriend, girlfriend, crush, or someone we casually stalked and never caught a charge for) didn’t give us. But us being prideful humans are determined to make that void whole- even if it kills us.
3 C’s of Your Addiction:
Control: Trying to make someone love you
Compulsion: Having the need to do all the things you said you weren’t going to do. Yup, you compromised who you are
Consequence: hurt feelings, wasted time, and you just might look like an ass
Self-love is so important. Clearly understanding your values, what’s important to you, and being confident with your own boundaries will help you create healthy relationships in your life. Be patient with yourself. If you don’t have all these yet, slowly work towards improvement little by little. Surround yourself with a supportive and empowering circle of people. If you don’t have many of those around, consider professional help.
Give yourself some love. It’s one of the most important things you will do in your life.
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.
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.’) – Don’t go down that road, there is nothing good down there! – 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.
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 times 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 to 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 we can’t dwell on them.
When someone wrongs us, it is only normal to feel a degree of wrath. When we have, or feel that we have, been wronged, we could become bitter. 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 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 any feelings of annoyance toward those who offended us. With our heart cleansed of negative thoughts, we want to enjoy again the close friendship that had seemed lost for good.
Physical injuries may range from minor cuts to deep wounds, and not all require the same degree of attention. It is similar to injured feelings—some wounds are deeper than others.
There is a saying that ‘you can measure a man by the size of the things it takes to upset him.’ How do we measure up in this regard?
Do we really need to make an issue over every minor bruise we suffer in our relationships with others? Minor irritations, slights, and annoyances are apart of life and do not necessarily require formal forgiveness.
Forgiveness, it seems, is much like money. It can be spent freely and mercifully on others or can be hoarded stingily for oneself.
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 harbor 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.”
Researchers report that 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:
a) “Recognizing we have been wronged“ – Forgiving others does not mean that we condone, minimize, or deny the offense what others have done to us. It does not mean that we have to approve of their wrong behavior or minimize the damage it does. Nor does it mean putting ourselves back into an abusive situation.
b) “Giving up all resulting resentment“ – At times it may simply involve letting go of the situation, 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 harbor 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 and even love” – 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 behavior 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.
Jack Kornfiel: Meditation for Beginners, 2004, 2008, p.61
Six Keys to Personal Success – Awake!— 11/2008, p.7
www.ns.umich.edu/Releases/2001/Dec01/r121101a.html (Dr. David R. Williams)
www.seekingwellnesstogether.com/does-your-attitude-affect-your-wellness/ (Dr. Hans Selye)
forthright.antville.org/stories/782226/ (Dr. WilliamSadler)
forgivenessfoundationinternational.org/what-you-need-to-know/latest-discoveries/ (Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University)
wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2000488 (The Toronto Star)
nytimes.com/1983/11/29/science/guilt-or-why-it-s-good-to-feel-bad.html (Psychoanalyst Gaylin)
www.scribd.com/doc/168686686/Claire-weekes-hopeAndHelpForYourNerves-by-Kuryuka (Dr. Claire Weekes)
www.webmd.com/balance/features/learning-to-forgive-yourself (Joretta L. Marshall, PhD) Donald Winnicott, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, p.148
Have you ever felt like you don’t understand your emotions? Why you acted out in that situation and why you’re crying in another? Or, have you ever felt others don’t understand how you feel? Above all – are you running away from your emotions?
The most important thing in order to live a happy and healthy life is to learn to understand and express your emotions. They are of immense importance to accept yourself and others and to have healthy relationships.
Understanding Your Emotions and Feelings
Mary Buchowski-Kurus put together a nice article called “Emotions – How To Understand, Identify and Release Your Emotions”. It will help you recognize your emotions and feelings, understand them and manage them in the right way.
“Different people define emotions in different ways. Some make a distinction between emotions and feelings saying that a feeling is the response part of the emotion and that an emotion includes the situation or experience, the interpretation, the perception, and the response or feeling related to the experience of a particular situation. For the purposes of this article, I use the terms interchangeably.
John D. (Jack) Mayer says, “Emotions operate on many levels. They have a physical aspect as well as a psychological aspect. Emotions bridge thought, feeling, and action. So, they operate in every part of a person, they affect many aspects of a person, and the person affects many aspects of the emotions.”
Emotions control your thinking, behavior and actions. They affect your physical bodies as much as your body affects your feelings and thinking. Thus, people who ignore, dismiss, repress or just ventilate their emotions, are setting themselves up for physical illness. In other words, emotions that are not felt and released but buried can cause serious illness, including cancer, arthritis, and many types of chronic illnesses.
I wholeheartedly recommend you to read the whole article here: http://www.mkprojects.com/fa_emotions.html
As a little bonus, here is a beautiful video on emotions:
What is the lesson to be learned?
Tip: Listen for the total message. Hear what emotions are being shared, and how the person feels. Showing genuine care and empathy goes a long way.