“I’m drained and so very tired of all the anxiety, negativity and stress. Too often my mind is consumed with unforgiving thoughts, and every muscle in my body is full of tension. It hurts. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I don’t want to feel like I live in a whirlwind of constant exhaustion. I don’t want to just ‘get by’ day to day…”
Those are the opening lines right out of a Skype chat session I had last night with a long-time reader and new course student of ours. I’m sharing this with you today (with our student’s permission) because, in somewhat different words, I’ve literally heard this same message from hundreds of course students, coaching clients, conference attendees, and readers over the past decade.
Can you relate? To an extent, I bet you can. Sometimes life brings even the best of us down to our knees.
I’ve fallen into a deep trench of despair in my life more than once. Looking back on these trying times, when I was struggling to get back on my feet, I now appreciate just how powerful our minds can be. They can bring us down even further or lift us up at a moment’s notice. How we think about things, changes everything!
Whenever I’m coaching someone who’s struggling in the trenches, I gracefully shift their focus from what they don’t want to what they DO want. I remind them that what you focus on grows stronger in your life, and that the best time to focus on the positive and take responsibility for your happiness is when you don’t feel like it. Because that’s when doing so can make the biggest difference.
It’s about thinking better so you can ultimately live better.
The key is to understand that no matter what happens, you can choose your attitude and actions, which dictates pretty much everything that happens next. Truly, the greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose our response – to train our minds to make the best of what we’ve got, even when it’s less than we expected.
But how exactly can you adjust your response, and keep your attitude and actions positive, in the heat of the moment? Let’s take a look at a few strategies that work…
1. Create space to breathe.
Feelings and emotions come and go like clouds on a windy day. Conscious breathing is your anchor.
Hold still for a moment, take a deep breath and free your mind from all the chatter that’s going on inside your head and around you. Doing so creates space for a change of state – for something new and positive to enter.
Don’t say you don’t have time to pause. Yes, you have battles to fight, insecurities to overcome, loved ones to contend with, and goals to achieve, but a momentary break from it all is necessary. It’s perfectly healthy to pause and let the world spin without you while you compose yourself.
Ultimately, the key is to refill your bucket on a regular basis. That means catching your breath, finding peaceful solitude, focusing your attention inward, and otherwise making time for recovery from the chaos of your life. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
2. Relieve the resistance.
You might be surprised by how often you subconsciously resist life.
If you evaluate your body and posture right now, I bet you can find some kind of tension. For me, it’s often in my neck, but sometimes it’s in my back and shoulders.
Where does this tension we feel come from? We’re resisting something – perhaps we’re annoyed by someone, frustrated at life, overwhelmed by all our obligations, or just bored. And our mental resistance creates a tension in our bodies and unhappiness in our lives. Therefore, Angel and I often recommend this simple strategy to our course students who are struggling to relieve themselves of their resistance and tension:
- Locate the tension in your body right now.
- Notice what you’re resisting and tensing up against – it might be a situation or person you’re dealing with or avoiding.
- Relax the tense area of your body – deep breath and a quick stretch often helps.
- Face the same situation or person, but with a relaxed body and mind.
Repeat this practice as often as needed. Face the day with less tension and more presence. Change your mode of being from one of struggle and resistance to one of peace and acceptance.
3. Find the beauty behind the pain.
Every situation imaginable has hidden beauty in it if we’re willing to open up to it. For example, even as Angel and I have coped with the death of loved ones, we’ve discovered opportunities for us to appreciate life more, to appreciate the lives of those we’ve lost, and to appreciate the priceless time we had with our loved ones.
We do our best to embody this same mindset in every difficult life situation we encounter. When we get ill, it’s a chance for us to rest. When some unforeseeable event postpones one of our business projects, we spend more time with our family. When our young son, Mac, throws a temper tantrum, we see that he’s expressing himself, asserting his individuality, and being human.
We choose to find beauty even when it’s buried beneath problems and pain. You can do the same.
Let’s take a moment and revisit the idea of finding beauty even amidst the reality of losing a loved one, because that’s about as painful as life gets, and the general principles for coping with this catastrophic kind of loss is universally applicable to less severe situations too…
Imagine a person who gave meaning to your life is now no longer in your life (at least not in the flesh), and you’re not the same person without them. You have to change who you are – you’re now a best friend who sits alone, a widow instead of a wife, a dad without a daughter, or a next-door neighbor to someone new. You want life to be the way it was, before death, but it never will be.
Angel and I have dealt with the loss of siblings and best friends to illness, so we know from experience that when you lose someone you can’t imagine living without, your heart breaks wide open. And the bad news is you never completely get over the loss – you will never forget them. However, in a backwards way, this is also the good news.
You see, death is an ending, which is a necessary part of living. And endings are necessary for beauty too – otherwise it’s impossible to appreciate someone or something, because they are unlimited. Limits illuminate beauty, and death is the definitive limit – a reminder that you need to be aware of this beautiful person or situation, and appreciate this beautiful thing called life. Death is also a beginning, because while you’ve lost someone special, this ending, like every loss, is a moment of reinvention. Although sad, their passing forces you to reinvent your life, and in this reinvention is an opportunity to experience beauty in new, unseen ways and places. And finally, of course, death is an opportunity to celebrate a person’s life, and to be grateful for the priceless beauty they showed you. (Angel and I build actionable rituals for overcoming painful life situations with our students in the “Pain & Hardship” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
4. Let go and begin again.
Everything in life – every situation and every relationship – has to come to an end eventually. It’s important to appreciate and accept the end of an era – to walk away sensibly when something has reached its inevitable conclusion. Letting go, turning the page, moving forward, etc. It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters is that you leave the past where it belongs so you can make the best of the life that’s presently available to be lived. This ending is not THE END, it’s just your life beginning again in a new way. It’s a point in your story where one chapter fades into the next.
To a great extent, this happens to us constantly. It’s happening right now.
Every single day, we have to accept the fact that things will never go back to how they used to be, and that this ending is really the beginning. This concept might be tough to accept at first, but it’s the truth. Life is endless impermanence. And it’s beautiful. It means nothing is really behind you. It means life always begins now – right now – not tomorrow or the next day or the next. And it means you can have the fresh start you want whenever you want.
So be humble. Be teachable. The world is always bigger than your view of the world. Right now there’s plenty of room for a new idea, a new step… a new beginning!
5 More Tips to Keep Your Attitude & Actions Positive
In the short video clip below, recorded live at our annual Think Better, Live Better conference, we share five more powerful strategies that will adjust your mindset and ultimately allow you to live a better and more effective life.
Note: If you’d like to attend this year’s Think Better, Live Better 2017 seminar on February 18-19 in South Florida, you can get info and tickets here.
Please let us know…
Which point mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Anything else to share?
We would love to hear from YOU in the comments sections below.
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