It’s been one of “those days.” Just about anything that could go wrong has. You’re feeling defeated, anxious, depressed or any other feeling you’d rather not feel.
To deal with it, you go to your favorite comfort activity: zoning in front of the TV, binge eating, smoking, drinking, shopping or anything else that will help you to forget about things. And then you start to feel bad about what you’re doing to cope with that bad day.
Is there another way? Of course there is. Like everything else in life, you have choices. You just have to remember that you have options.
If you want things in your life to change, you have to start making – and acting on – different choices.
Reframing means looking at things differently, making up a different story about what’s happening.
For example, when I’ve been stuck in airports with delays of up to six hours (or more), I could have been angry (actually, I was when the airline fiasco started), played the victim (“I can’t believe this is happening to me!”), dwelled on all the time being wasted or many forms of other negative thinking and feeling – none of which would have changed the situation or made me feel any better. And it’s all about feeling better.
After doing a quick mindfulness check early in the process and noticing my initial anger, I realized that I now had tons of time to get a backlog of work done or to write a new article or two. It was like the stormy skies opened to reveal the bright sunshine.
This was a great opportunity!
I caught up on work, wrote a post and felt much better by the time I reached my destination – probably better than if there hadn’t been a delay.
When s#!*t hits the fan, reframe it by asking yourself: What’s great about this?
When a day seems to be turning into one of “those days,” pause, take a few deep breaths and ask how the circumstances can create opportunities for you instead of the roadblocks you’re so accustomed to seeing. Make up a better story about it that helps you to feel better.
What you see in any circumstance is based on the same stories you’ve repeated internally for years.
Do you always see the unfairness in every situation? Or how you always end up with the short end of the stick? Or how others get better opportunities than you? Or how nothing ever works out in your favor?
Those are simply beliefs. Your subconscious is constantly trying to find ways to confirm those beliefs. The more you think them, the stronger the feelings and associations become and the more often you project them on situations in your life.
You can break those cycles in many ways, one of which is reframing. Since this can sometimes be difficult to do on your own, you can start to open your perspective by asking others how they interpret the same situation. It’s likely you’ll get a variety of answers based on each person’s unique set of beliefs.
It’s All About Feeling Better
Many people find it hard to question their own beliefs. These beliefs have been held for so long that they seem to be “the truth” for the person holding them.
My question is: Would you rather be right or happy?
While it would seem that the obvious answer would be “happy,” I’ve actually had close family members choose “right” because anything else would create a massive threat to their ego/self-image. So, I understand that this seemingly simple question isn’t always an easy one to answer.
Back to my airport fiasco. When I noticed my initial anger over “This shouldn’t be happening! I have people to meet and plans to follow!” I knew that anger wouldn’t help the situation, and it certainly wouldn’t help me to feel happier. I chose to be happier, acted on that and had a great trip.
Simple Steps to More Happiness
The next time you see your day evolving into one of “those days,” and you find yourself falling into the abyss of less-than-helpful beliefs and actions, take a moment and practice the following:
Breathe and pause before doing something unhelpful.
Ask your True Self what emotion, need or belief you’re trying to feed and what your True Self thinks will be the best way to nourish you.
If you have one, contact your accountability partner.
Think of a new, more productive habit, thought or belief you can use to replace the destructive one (meditate, walk, eat something healthy, listen to great music, find the opportunity in the situation, etc.).
Write out (using pen & paper – no computers) your contingency plan for the next time things don’t go so well. For example: “When I’m feeling agitated and reach for a [vice], I pause and take three deep breaths to connect with my heart. Then I take a walk outside for at least ten minutes. While walking, I ask my True Self what is needed. When I return, I feed my soul with the nourishment that my True Self suggested.”
To head off days turning into “those days,” create a daily practice that helps you to think differently about yourself and your world.
As part of your daily practice, do one of these in the morning and one in the evening:
Gratitude List: Every day, write (using pen & paper) ten reasons you’re grateful for something or someone. Alternate between things you love and things that drive you crazy. Include things you’re neutral about. Examples:
I’m grateful for my partner or being single because…
I’m grateful for [someone who drives you crazy] because… Note that people drive you crazy for a reason. That reason can teach you an immense amount about yourself.
I’m grateful for [my favorite food] because…
I’m grateful for my job/business because…
I’m grateful for hot water because…
I’m grateful for cloudy days because…
Loving Kindness meditation: This is another way of seeing (and accepting) things and people you love and things and people that drive you crazy in the same light. It may be difficult at first, but, like any other practice, gets a little easier with regular practice.
Everyone has “those days.” Unless you’re the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa, you’re going to start down a negative path. With regular practice, especially on days that aren’t so bad, you can change what your brain tells you about the situation.
You can create the habit of looking for the good in any situation. You can begin to look inward to find the lesson in the muck. You can begin to choose happiness regardless of what’s happening around you.