Lose interest in negativity

I am amazed how much energy I have committed to negative people and their experiences.  I used to think that I toxic people were drawn to me for some reason. I would find myself completely worn out and thinking “Why is everyone around me so unhappy?”  And after a while, my frustration would get to the point of pure exhaustion. And I would wonder how I could stay positive with so much negativity around me and even worse, I would think things like, “Maybe I just need to be more negative too.”

Finally one day, I heard someone make the simplest of statements.  They were talking about how to navigate unhappy co-workers and all the drama that can suck the life out of your work day.  The statement was something like this, “You have to become disinterested in the negativity. Begin to consciously decide that you have no interest in it and it will cease to impact you.”

My initial reaction was to sit down.  Those words were so simple, yet profound.  It made so much sense.  The reality was that I had to acknowledge my own interest in the negativity, the drama, the tragedy of it all.  I mean, we have have an entire culture that thrives on reality television and pop culture that perpetuates heartache, grievances, and chaos.  And I DID find that interesting.  I like to think it appealed to my character that believes someone can persevere through hardships but the reality was that by paying attention to the gossip or negative stuff, I didn’t have to pay attention to myself and acknowledge painful feelings or experiences of fear or insecurity.

So I began to digest this idea of disinterest.  I sat with it for a day or so and then I became excited. I wanted to try this out the next day.  I began my day as I usually do and sure enough, within an hour I had my first opportunity to practice disinterest.  Someone was complaining about another coworker and their ‘tone’ and remarking on a recent interaction that was, according to this person, totally unbelievable.  I recognized how easy it would be to comment and not only become interested but engaged in the conversation.  But instead, I smiled and simply choose to think about a positive quality about the very same person who was being talked about and quietly walked out of the room.

The opportunities kept coming.  It happened when someone cut me off in traffic, when my bank made an error on a deposit slip, when someone criticized me for a mistake, and when I spilled coffee down my shirt.  It’s not about ignoring these things or pretending they don’t happen.  Its about recognizing what I can learn and figuring out how I want to move forward.

As I become more in tune with opportunities that present for my disinterest, this amazing thing happens…I simultaneously become more open to the possibility of hopefulness and gratitude.  My environment has not changed, the landscape is the same, yet my capacity for love, tolerance, and understanding has only increased.

It is not like I am suddenly immune to negativity but now I am better at allowing myself to truly assess my own feelings of stress, insecurity, or fear.  Accepting the reality of the situation enables a healthier and happier way to appease my heart than getting consumed by the chaos.  Some times are easier than others, but I am committed to the practice of becoming less interested in the negativity and much more interested in love, understanding, compassion, and kindness.

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Unplug and open up

Last week I arrived to a lunch meeting about 20 minutes early and decided to keep my phone in my jacket pocket instead of keeping myself preoccupied with the latest status updates on all of the social media sites.  As I sat there and took in my surroundings, it was astonishing the stories that I could envision of the people around me.  The restaurant was buzzing with activity with a lunch rush; staff were hustling by and communicating to each other; one table in the corner was celebrating a birthday; another group of elderly women were toasting to their friend for her recent success; and a couple to my right appeared to be newly in love.  I was able to process all my information through various verbal comments, facial expressions, body language, smiles, and pure energy throughout the room.  Granted, it wasn’t detailed information about the circumstances behind each interaction, but they were all full of life.  Undoubtedly, that experience was way more interesting and incredibly more ‘real’ than any status update I could have read that day.

It made me wonder, how much of the world do we shield ourselves from now in the spirit of ‘staying connected?’   And why is it so difficult to simply sit and observe?  Are we hesitant to observe others or perhaps, even our own self?  Are we afraid that someone will actually look in our eyes and engage us, even if simply through a smile? Or are our own thoughts so chaotic that we don’t want to be alone with them for even a few minutes?

I love forums such as this where I can intentionally seek out particular topics, ideas, and like-minded people.  And I am grateful to share my thoughts and ideas with whoever may want to listen, but we both know that throughout this post I have had the luxury of editing, adjusting, or otherwise omitting information for one reason or the other.  And while I value the ability to appropriately formulate my thoughts before sharing them with the world, there is a limitation to my ability to truly connect with someone who is not able to look into my eyes, hear the tone of my voice, or simply be with me in that moment when I stumble for the right words.  My hope is that we find that balance of engaging with each other as  honestly as we can, in whatever venue we have available to us.  I know that my best and most real self comes out when I unplug and open up to the world right in front of me. And in the end, that is what helps me feel more confident in opening up to this world as well.  (Insert a gentle smile here).

 

Happy guys

Happy guys

Holiday check-up

Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights (Photo credit: ImageMD)

Who is ready for the holidays?!  If you just responded with an exasperated sigh or cringed as you read those words, this may be a good post for you.

This time is mentally and physically exhausting all by itself, so why not consider doing a quick mental health check-up before you find yourself wanting to call in sick to your next holiday event?

 

Here are some areas to consider:

1)      First, you may want to check your emotional temperature.  Are you running hot lately?  Noticing a tendency to respond in anger?  If so, ask yourself what is underlying the anger?  Maybe you’re sad, maybe you are feeling insecure about something, or maybe you are just overwhelmed.  Irritability can be an indicator of all sorts of things, both emotional and physical.  Spend a few minutes thinking about the last few things that have gotten you really upset.  Notice if there is a theme or common thread.  Then create a plan to unwind or unplug each day and create a space of calm.  If you are able to meditate (or what I sometimes do,  which is simply sit still for a few minutes)…it has been show to decrease feelings of irritability and anger greatly. It’s amazing how even 60 seconds of stillness positively impacts our emotional well-being.

2)      Second, how is your appetite?   Are you eating your feelings?  Have you been reaching for extra servings of carbs and sweets?  Think about what is it that you may be trying to compensate for.  Another thought is to really consider what makes you feel “full”.  Are you seeking out activities that inspire you and fill your heart with joy?  Think about something that you can set some time aside for that truly fills you up (without all the extra calories).

3)      How is your energy level?  Are you waking up only to wish for another hour of snooze time?  And more importantly, are you pushing through the day feeling like you slept on a bed of rocks?  Getting enough sleep impacts everything from our mental sharpness, our emotional responses, and ability to problem solve. Energy level is also impacted by what we put in our bodies and if we are not eating enough balanced nutrition and taking in enough water….our whole system suffers.  Also consider what kind of energy is surrounding you.  If you are rubbing elbows with negative people all day, that’s gonna run you down.  Sometimes you can’t escape a cranky co-worker, but maybe you can take extra steps to limit contact and be ready to respond with extra kindness and positivity.  It may be as simple as repeating a positive affirmation or even faking a smile until it feels real.  Yes, that does work.  Try it right now if you don’t believe me.

4)      Now, let’s talk about your flexibility.   Nope, this isn’t about being about to touch your toes (though it is important)!  It’s about being open to a new experiences and rolling with the flow.  Are you hearing yourself explain why you can’t do something, or why something automatically won’t work?  Rigid thinking leads us to experience higher level of stress and releases all those hormones that contribute to feeling fatigued, irritable, and generally uninspired.  Start stretching yourself.  Try to resist the impulse to immediately think why something won’t work and think about how you are willing to try.  If you are going through a lot of changes, give yourself permission to feel a bundle of emotions but work on identifying what type of support you need while you’re going through the change.  Do you need someone to hear you and validate you? Or maybe you just need to acknowledge that the change is scary as hell and you’re feeling scared or fearful.  It’s okay to feel all those things.  There is something powerful about acknowledging and owning feelings of vulnerability.  Again, this about increasing awareness.  There may not be a quick fix or solution…but a higher sense of awareness can serve you well.

5)      And finally, when’s the last time you checked your vision for yourself?  How far are you able to see in the future?  I’m not talking about a psychic hotline kind of stuff, I’m referring to feeling hopeful and goal-oriented.  Have you reviewed your goals for yourself lately  or even better, have you set some new ones?  Don’t wait until a new year’s resolution party….write down a couple of things that you would like to do now and create a plan of action to go along with it.  Include the people who you need support from and a timeline.  One of the most powerful ways to instill hope is to create a goal.  When you create goals, you acknowledge that something IS possible.  That is the crux of what hope is, believing in a possibility.  It doesn’t have to be an elaborate 5 year plan.  It can be something as simple as listing off the chores you want to accomplish by the end your weekend.  Next time someone asks you why you are writing out a ‘to do’ list, just tell them that you are engaging in an act of hope.

 

Yes, the holidays are coming whether we are ready or not.  So why not take a few minutes and think about your emotional health and where you are today before taking on a whole new set of worries, tasks, and responsibilities.   Who knows, maybe if you take the time to increase your awareness and possibly incorporate some strategies now; you may not end up screaming at your in-laws at the next family dinner or flipping out about the lack of adequate parking at the local shopping mall. Okay, maybe that last point was a stretch, but never underestimate the power of positive thinking.  🙂

What’s on your ‘to-do’ list today?

Here’s the deal, we have a ton of stuff that is expected of us each and every day.  Some times it comes from our own internal ‘to-do’ lists and often it’s a mixture of responsibilities that come from work, family, and this thing we call life.  As I was working through my own tedious tasks today I couldn’t help but notice that none of my important items had to do with me, my well-being, or pretty much anything that made me feel light inside.  So I paused for a minute, jotted down a few things that I could (and would) do before my head hit the pillow tonight.

I list 21 items below but the idea is not to do them ALL today or maybe even all this week, but it’s a great start.  I simply wanted to write them down so I could work through a little every day.  It’s not an exhaustive list and I encourage you to add or adapt your own actions, but hopefully it will give you a nudge (if you need it) of inspiration to pause and pay special attention to your best resource, YOU!

Pick 1 or 2 or however many you think you can realistically do today and feel free to repeat the same list for tomorrow.  I truly hope and believe that any one of these actions would improve your overall sense of well-being, feeling of peace, or even relief (even for a just a moment).  I do offer a bit of explanation with a few of the items, but mostly that is for comical benefit.  I tend to use humor as a primary coping mechanism (hence, all the smiley faces all the time)!

  1. Smile. 🙂  See…it’s already working!
  2. Forgive yourself for something (could be for getting frustrated easily or maybe it’s just easing up some of that negative talk within your own head…)
  3. Hug yourself (or someone else). If you need instructions on hugging yourself:  take your left arm and place it on your right shoulder.  Then take your right arm, place it on your left shoulder.  Now squeeze.  I know, sounds silly, but works every time!
  4. Trust yourself.  If this seems too daunting, then start by asking yourself what it means to ‘trust yourself’.
  5. Write out a gratitude note.
  6. Replace a complaint with a positive statement.  Note:  the more you practice this one, the more you notice those around you who could use the practice!
  7. Slow down (yes, this is vague…it is supposed to be as only you know what that means for yourself.  Take it as literal as you like 🙂
  8. Hold the door open for the person behind you or perform any other random act of kindness.
  9. Say good morning (to everyone)!
  10. Tell someone you love them (this could be yourself as well….if you choose self, I recommend saying it in front of a mirror.  It has more impact when you see yourself saying it).
  11. Choose to be happy today (the whole day).
  12. Sit quietly for 5 minutes.  No talking, just listening.  Can be done with eyes open or closed, your choice.
  13. Embrace change.  Again, figure out what that means for you to ’embrace change’.
  14. Let go of something that no longer serves you.
  15. State a dream of yours out loud (doesn’t matter if anyone else hears it).
  16. Write out a definition of ‘love’ without using a dictionary.  Describe what it feels like, looks like, and how you know it exists.
  17. Practice patience.
  18. Stretch your body (arms, legs, whatever makes sense for you).
  19. Listen to your body (instead of a clock) to tell you when you are hungry and tired.
  20. Take 5 deep breaths.
  21. Smile.  Listed twice because it’s just that awesome!

Will these things change your life?  Probably not.  Will they lighten your heart? I surely hope so.  Be intentional today and move yourself and your well-being to the number one item on any of your ‘to-do’ lists!