Took a nice long walk last night and struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was working in his very big, very steep yard. “The weeds have gotten away from me this year,” he said, “What will all this rain we’ve had.” Before I thought about it, I responded, “Yes, the rain’s been bad this year, hasn’t it?” A few more pleasantries, and off I went. And then I thought, why am I complaining about the rain? Last year I complained about the drought. Am I never satisfied? Remembering all the complaints about the heat, from the same people who complained about the cold, I thought, “It’s not just me; why are we so quick to complain?” And it’s not just weather: how many of us complain about our jobs, neighbors, traffic, and on and on. Studies, like this one from the Mayo Clinic prove that this negativity is not healthy. We’ll be healthier if we become more positive.
So, how do we do that? Here are a few suggestions:
Also from the Mayo Clinic, studies show that practicing gratitude improves your happiness and physical health. They offer suggestions like creating a gratitude journal. I recommend my clients make a nightly habit of listing 3 good things that happened in their day. Once you get into that habit, you will become more positive every day as you consciously look for the good things happening.
Look for Balance
When you notice something negative about a person, place, or situation, stop for a minute and think about the positive things you notice, too. For example, slow traffic frustrates you but it also gives you time to transition from work stress to thinking about something you’re looking forward to at home. Or, if you’re angry with your neighbor, remind yourself of a nice thing they did for you.
Watch Out for What You’re Watching
Counselors use a term, “awfulize,” to describe imagining the worst possible scenario. For example, a potentially embarrassing situation becomes “total humiliation.” Can you feel the emotion with that awful phrase? Well, that’s what most news media is doing to us all the time – using emotionally-laden words to turn on the emotional centers of our brains, to get our attention, and hook us into watching their shows (and buying from their sponsors). I’m not recommending you stop watching the news. What I do recommend is limiting the amount of news you watch and avoid those journalists who prey on your emotions to tell you how awful things are.
I keep remembering the quote by Mr. Rogers, “Look for the helpers.” Along with the bad news – there will always be hope.
Don’t Forget to Laugh
This article identifies many studies that demonstrate the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of laughter. Find things to laugh about; watch comedy shows, look for funny books and articles to read. Make jokes with your family, no matter how corny. Hang out with children. Children laugh way more than adults and we could all use reminding of the joy of laughter and playfulness.
Let us help you find your joy again. Talking with a therapist may help you put your problems into perspective and help you find helpful and healthy solutions. Contact us today!