“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 Zoom 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 Course.)
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 conference in Orlando, 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.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Marc, the positive reinforcement and coaching I’ve received from you and Angel, directly and indirectly, over the years has been absolutely priceless. I was also lucky enough to catch your Think Better, Live Better event in Portland this past summer and it was a game-changer! So first and for most I want to say THANK YOU!
Two points in the post really jumped out at me. Number 3 about learning to find beauty in painful situations is something your event and follow-up coaching really assisted me with. I’ve lost some things in my life, and for a long while I just couldn’t find my way, but the self-inquiry tools you taught me gradually got me back on track. The second point that resonated was Angel’s point in the video about the importance of rituals. Every positive change I’ve successfully made happened one day at a time over a prolonged period of time. The positive daily rituals you and Angel set me up with were a long-term savior to me.
Keep up the great work!
Ataullah Bhutta says
Best article I’ve read online about how to live a contended & tension free life. Long live Marc and Angel
Marc Chernoff says
Sandra, thanks so much for the positive feedback. It was so nice meeting you in Portland. And we’d love to see you again in South Florida next month too for Think Better, Live Better 2017. 🙂
This post arrived in my email inbox right when I needed a moment of positive reflection.
Love the actionable practicality of the second point about noticing the tension in our bodies. No doubt, when we relax our physical tension, our mental tension eases too. Great stuff!
M&A, I want to say that this post just reinforces the honest, evidence-based teachings you’ve provided for me via your course, coaching and readings over the past year. I’ve begun 2017 in a far better place than I was in just a short year ago at the beginning of 2016. In part, I have you to thank for that. So like others have said above, thank you for doing what you do. I appreciate you.
Marc Chernoff says
It’s inspiring to hear that you’re finding great value in the Getting Back to Happy course, and that you’re in a better place as we begin 2017 together. Keep going, one positive day at a time. 😉
My dear Marc and angel,
This article came to be at a time when my thoughts were so overwhelming ………that I was drowning in them. I felt helpless …..felt lost , felt scattered , total mayhem in my emotions. I do not recognise myself. I try so hard with reading positive , breathing , yoga …… but I failed .
Your article brought tears to my eyes. I will read it again and again to pull myself out of my abysm.
I love you guys . Thank you for all your guidance and hope .
Marc Chernoff says
Sending prayers of strength you way, Parul. Please remember to take it one day at a time. Any one of us can win the battles of just one day, it’s only when we try to conquer the battles of yesterday and tomorrow that life gets overwhelmingly hard to deal with.
M&A I really appreciate the reminders to take time to breathe! I too often get so wrapped up in ‘doing’ that I lose sight of the ‘why’ and hitting pause – even for just a moment or two allows me time to remember and reflect.
Thanks for the work you do and the help you share!
Be well in 2017
Carmen Peskin says
Thank you for this article. It really was God sent. I left a toxic work relationship 4 months ago and it was possibly one of the hardest things I have ever done. I gave up a job I was brilliant at, a secure income and a part of me for the unknown. I did this whilst dealing with the grief of suffering 4 unexplained miscarriages. Today, I am trying to rebuild my life, knowing that I had to let go of that toxic work situation no matter how hard it was, to make space for the new coming in my life. Today I was feeling low. It feels like God is far away as my prayers don’t seem to be answered and then your email popped into my mailbox and it was a sign – a sign to never give up… to keep working everyday at bring about the changed life that I want. Let go and begin again – this really resonates so well with me
Marc Chernoff says
Cheers to new beginnings, Carmen. It’s inspiring to hear about the positive steps you taken to move your life forward.
You have no idea how much I needed this today! Thank you so much!
Thank you so much for this article, it hit the nail on the head. Especially the part “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.” I will reflect on this and use this to help make changes in my life. Thank you again for all that you do!
Thank you for sharing this. I was in a bad place and didn’t sleep at all last night due to a stressful time yesterday with family. Trying so hard to practice the belief that I can’t change them. I can only change my reaction. Your tips should be a big aid in accomplishing my peace with this hurtful situation.
I am working on leaving the past where it belongs. After losing a job after 22 years and leaving a toxic marriage after 23 years which I felt like both of my arms were cut off I am working very hard on. I read your blogs every time I receive them and they help tremendously help. Thank you for giving us people who can’t afford the trip access to your video. God bless you both and keep up the fantastic work.
bello abidemi says
Thank you for this article and insight.
Caroline Hay says
Just found your blog for the first time today! Just gotta say… I love it! You guys are awesome… Thanks for the inspiration! <3
Fantastic reading and very uplifting.
Thank you for this post. I also remember what it felt like to feel stuck in a pit of anxiety and despair and i also know that the pain of losing someone close to you never really goes away, it just becomes more bearable over time. I have found that when feeling overwhelmed or anxious, try focusing on the next few steps, concentrate on putting one foot in front the other and pretty soon before you even realize it, that pit will be far behind you. It also helps to surround yourself with people who love you!
But your second point really hit home today. There is someone that I find it hard to be comfortable around because of events in the past. However, my reticence is also partly due to my first hand knowledge that the person is still doing it even now. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that if they want me to respond positively to them that they stop doing it. That’s not how it works! All relationships require effort from the two persons in order for it to work. I guess I will have to talk to them about it and see how that turns out.
What do you think?
Nigel Ikechukwu says
I would consider myself very lucky to have stumbled upon this priceless article. Really grateful to have landed here.
I really really really needed this today. I started a new job, and need so badly to do well and take it gracefully.
I will likely be rereading this for weeks to come….thank you sooooooo much.
Belinda Kibbler says
Thank you for you insight today .
I am struggling very deeply with the passing of my son from suicide.
It was only 8 months ago. I am heartbroken and very lost in direction at the moment. I am now suffering with PTSD and am having professional help. I have found your blog interesting. It is very hard to move forward at the moment
Have you ever thought that all the negative feelings and thoughts that you have now are the result of you not following your dream/ your purpose and what you have followed since day 1? I feel like these are the signs that God is showing you that you are not on the right path. If you are on the right path, you don’t feel less the negative feelings + thoughts anymore until they are gone. The key is that when you will know when you are on the right path (more in tuned with life, less negativity). But the more important is that you should never give up when you know you are on the right path, because giving up will lead you to the same place as before with the same negativity and sadness/frustration.
Sienna Eskildsen says
I really like this article. For me, it is not easy to handle “downtime” however, nice to read few pieces of advice that move my mindset in the right direction. 🙂
First answer: The point above that resonates with me the most is the tie between the last two: 3. Find the beauty behind the pain, and 4. Let go and begin again.
I definitely needed number three when someone close to me was in a hospital a couple of years ago. That was literally hell on Earth. But looking back on it now, I think it tested me to see that you need to appreciate your loved ones everyday, even if they do get on your nerves. 😉
And four is something I can remember if I make any mistakes. While it’s not necessarily easy, I think that motto can give me permission to forgive myself for mistakes, whether they’re small or big ones. I’ve read your articles before, but I forgot how profound they were when you really take a grain of salt from each of them. Keep up the great work! And congratulations on having Mac! He seems like a sweet kid!
Amy Stainthorpe says
Relieve the resistance. Honestly as I was reading this I got to that point of your post and realised I was hunched over my desk leaning towards my screen with tense shoulders. I instantly relaxed my muscles and felt myself breathing better too. It was like a magic wand and seriously hadn’t even realised I was doing it! With two children, a husband, a dog, a home, a job and a business to juggle it’s easy to forget to take time out and just get that breathing space. It’s why I love to walk the dog in the countryside or at the beach. Fresh air and taking in the beautiful surroundings. Great for the mind.
Some of the most beautifully written content I have ever read. Thank you, Marc, for being so open. Having never been here before, I can promise you that I will be back. In fact, I just subscribed.
Oh, and most definitely the fourth point. I can’t begin to count how many times I have let something from the past remain in the present. Knowing what I know now, I make every effort humanly possible to leave the past where it belongs, in the past.
Sienna Eskildsen says
I like what you said about the challenges being temporary. it what makes a person stronger. it may be hard to carry a positive attitude but with baby steps, transformation will happen.
Thank you. Right message at the right time for me.
Thank you Angel for the suggestion to let go of the focus on the overwhelming goal and work on the drills. I put off those goals too many times because I immediately get bogged down in the anxiety. Another way to say enjoy the present and celebrate attaining the daily small steps on the journey. Thank you for the positive energy you send out into the universe. Best wishes!