This past year has been tough and a lot of people have lost hope for a better future. But that can change by recognizing that we’re somewhat in control of our thoughts. Did you know that we have about 6,000 thoughts per day? And about 80% of them are negative! That means that we have a huge amount of negative self-talk. We spend a lot of time telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough or not as good as someone else. When we do this often, it becomes a habit. We can start feeling bad about ourselves and lose hope.
The great news is that we can change these negative habits and train our minds to interpret our experiences in a more positive way. Sure, life can be HARD, but our patterns of thinking and the way we perceive the world can make it much harder than necessary.
In the words of Greek Philosopher Epictetus, “We are disturbed not by things, but by what we think about things.” Therefore, if we can change the way we think, we can change the way we feel!
Have you ever expected, even visualized disaster? Have you noticed or heard about a problem and started asking, “What if?” What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you? That way of thinking is called “catastrophizing” where we catastrophize a problem and make it worse by escalating our negative thoughts.
With catastrophizing, we worry that the worst possible outcome will happen. We exaggerate the problem. When you realize you might be catastrophizing, stop and ask yourself the question, “What story am I telling myself?” It might take a moment, but get specific. For example, maybe you are telling yourself that you are ruining your kids and that you are a terrible parent and that none of you are ever going to be happy again. Whatever it is, when you force yourself outside the thoughts and examine them, it becomes apparent how dramatic your story has become.
After identifying the story you’re telling yourself, ask yourself, “What other story could be true?” This is where you use your logical brain and reference facts. An example of this would be, “Patty went through a divorce and it was so hard, but her children are all doing well and she moved on with her life and is thriving. That can happen for me, too.”
When you identify the negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones, you’ll feel better. If you think you are a good person who deserves to be happy, you’ll create a happy life. You’ll see possibilities for the future and have hope. While using these techniques takes mindfulness and work, it’s worth it as it can give you a tool to start the new year off in a great place.
The experience of divorce often involves intense feelings of anger. Whether it’s due to an ex’s behavior in the past or the adversarial divorce process, it’s tempting to hold onto that anger. However, letting the anger and pain dictate how you function each day will not help the healing process or get you where you want to go. It’s like trying to ride a bike with flat tires, you’re not going to get anywhere!
As good as it feels to point fingers at your ex’s mistakes, focusing on that will only create more animosity and won’t move you forward in your life. Yes, you probably have many reasons to be angry and frustrated at your ex but save those conversations for a therapist or a trusted friend. Don’t talk about it to your children, your attorney or your ex. Talking to your children will negatively impact them – they love their other parent and feel badly when anything negative is said about a parent. Talking to your attorney can cost you a significant amount of money. And talking to your ex about his or her mistakes will just escalate things and slow your progress in the divorce.
So how do you handle all the anger and emotions? You need to have a place where you can process what happened. A therapist, a trusted friend or a divorce support group are all great options. I run a Facebook support group – Separation and Divorce Support Community – which is one good option. Once you’ve started to process all the feelings that you’re going through, it helps to put your intention on learning from the past instead of reacting to it. What have you learned from your relationship with your ex? What can you do differently because of this learning? Take the time to come up with a plan for yourself and what you want in your future.
This may seem unfair because you weren’t treated fairly or you aren’t getting a fair deal. But what’s more important in life – fairness or peace? Fairness or happiness? If you could be happy and peaceful, what is that worth to you?
With every door that closes, another one opens. Embrace this new opportunity as a new stage of your life with happiness, peace and hope. Your personal transformation is an exciting time with endless possibilities. Let go of the anger and go for what you want. You deserve it!!
Positive affirmations have been shown to reduce stress. The following six mantras can be a powerful tool to reduce stress. Take deep breaths as you say the following:
In today's world, it's very difficult not to feel anxious. With the advent of the 24 hour news cycle, an infinite amount of information coming at us from a multitude of devices and recent current events, people are more anxious now than ever before. Everyone seems to be worried and it is significantly impacting our physical health, our mental health, our relationships and our lives.
What can we do about this? It turns out that we can start with some advice from our elders. In an article in Psychology Today, the author interviewed hundreds of older people over a 10 year period about what they would like to pass on to younger people. You would think they would talk about their regret of a big decision they made or an affair. As they reflected on their lives, over and over they said "I wish I'd spent less time worrying." We need to take this advice from our elders and worry less!
The best way to decrease anxiety and worry less is to be in the moment. When you're truly in the moment, you can't be anxious. Often we spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about the past or the future. When thinking about the past or the future, you aren't in the present moment. Being in the moment means looking at the beautiful colors of the fall leaves or noticing the curve of your child's face. It means taking some deep breaths and smelling what's cooking on the stove. It means being in your body, not in your head.
Sounds simple? Obviously it's not that easy to do. One very important method to help stay in the moment is meditation. Meditation takes time and practice. There are several meditation apps and YouTube videos that can teach how to meditate. Meditating once or twice a day, it could be for only 10 minutes, has been shown to change the way the brain works and decrease anxiety. The apps that I found helpful are: Take a Break, Headspace and One Moment Meditation - all are free! Also, there are many YouTube videos with instructions on how to meditate. Just type meditation in the search bar and look at all of the options.
So the next time you find yourself worrying, tell yourself, "Stop". Refocus your thoughts to the present and use your meditation skills to decrease anxiety in your busy life. You may find that when you become an "older person", you'll have less to regret!
I always feel really good when I walk out of yoga class. My head is clear and I feel calm. My yoga instructor, Gemma, has an incredible peace about her and she puts it into each of her classes. But this morning it was different. Gemma was saying something that was really meaningful throughout the class. She was repeating four sentences which captured the idea that I try to share with clients about being peaceful and content. Just repeating them in her calm voice was impacting me. I started to worry that I wouldn't be able to say them as well as she was able to say them. But then I stopped myself from thinking that way because it was interfering with my yoga practice...
When I opened my eyes after the deep relaxation and sat up, I found a hand written piece of paper next to me. I thought I was the only one who got it and it was my own special message. But then I saw that everyone had gotten one. On the paper were those four sentences:
"May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be peaceful with whatever comes.
May I be free from fear and striving.
May I be content just as I am."
Such simple words but with so much meaning.
Thank you, Gemma, for giving me your inspirational words to take with me!!
The holiday season brings a tremendous amount of stress as we are either incredibly busy or feeling somewhat lonely. Many people don't have as strong support systems as they need and it becomes very obvious during the holidays due to the messages that we receive from the media. If your life doesn't look like some picture perfect holiday card then you feel like a failure. These perfect pictures are usually unrealistic. Here are some tips to make it a non-stressful holiday season:
1. Slow down - our society moves quickly. There is so much to do and we feel that if we aren't accomplishing something we're waisting time. Say no to an invitation. Shut off all screens. Sometimes we need to take a break and breathe.
2. Acknowledge your feelings - know that feeling anxious or sad is normal and allow yourself to feel those feelings. Express them in a journal or to a close friend.
3. Look for the positive - if you don't have an extended family or support system, find the people who are there for you. Recognize that you do have people who care about you and who you care about.
4. Reach out - contact others in the community or in religious or other groups. There are others who are waiting to connect with you and will help you get through this time.
5. Spend time in nature - nature can be healing and if you're feeling stressed or depressed, getting out in the sun can be just what the doctor ordered. Sunlight stimulates the production of the feel good serotonin.
6. Make time for yourself - take a walk, listen to music, take a yoga class, take a bubble bath. Spend time with someone who makes you laugh. Do things to take care of yourself so that you can truly enjoy this time of year.
Jill Barnett Kaufman, MSW, LCSW and Certified Parent Educator is an experienced clinician who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges and bring more happiness and peace into their lives.