Positive Psychology Wisdom. Scientific ways to live your life with well-being and flourishing. Work and Fun rolled into one. Sounds great, and it is. But did you ever have a day when your well ran dry? You felt parched for positivity? Perhaps like me, when your body was not your friend?
I hit my pause button the other day. I needed to. Life was getting, well, just too damned much. I don’t want to get into the icky details, but I will tell you this: Acute and chronic pain (from a car accident in 2000) are not a walk in the park! I know many of you are in the same boat, and I empathize with you.
What to do? I ventilated to my loving husband and thanked God for his caring. Next, I felt like I was on a game show. I “Phoned a friend”. Her zest uplifted grateful me. Still needing a boost, I thought of my dear cousin who lives in Delaware, Bonnie Jester. She is one of the bravest people I know. After a hellacious bizarre flesh-eating illness and months in the hospital, she had to have her leg amputated. Thinking of her bravery immediately helped me re-frame my awareness of how very lucky I am. Think how much worse this could be! I thought, “Judy girl, put on your big girl party pants and be grateful for all the good in your life.” My beloved Mom used to tell me, “You don’t have to look far to have someone far worse off that you.” Now there’s a powerful truth.
Now what? Time to do some focused breathing. Sitting up straight with my tongue gently at the roof of my top teeth, I took a deep breath. I breathed in to the count of four, held my breath for seven seconds, and exhaled for eight seconds. The “4-7-8 breathing” exercise to decrease anxiety often works for me. I needed to do it several times to feel a smidgen of peace. I have practiced this before and it has become like a friend, when the seas of my life whip up waves too high for me to navigate. Thank you Dr. Andrew Weil for opening that door of relaxation and more peace. I meditated for awhile, but I still felt antsy.
Then I remembered one of my favorite positive psychology coaching mantras, “When times get tough, do something for others.”
Aha! I decided to create wisdom/coping/well-being tips to help raise up my flag of smoother sailing hope.
See which ones resonate most with you:
1. Help someone else.
Affirm their spark. Commit to joyfully completing random acts of kindness. The other day, I gave a policeman a small piece of candy. His grin was worth a million bucks. I help my meaning and wellness soar. The same day, our firemen happened to be out collecting, “Fill Our Boots” campaign. Now that was more fun! Later Ken told me he had filled a boot, too. Later that day, a kind, cognitively impaired young gal at the grocery store was getting down on herself when she repeatedly kept scooping up the wrong salads for me. I admit it. At first I was in a hurry and was shamefully a bit perturbed. I caught myself. I re-framed. I decided we would have a great chat. II helped her locate each salad and told her what a great job she was doing. Her smile was palpable and so was mine. Other people matter, indeed.
2. Kick resentments to the curb.
Use forgiveness like a tonic. You don’t necessarily need to forgive others, but you might choose to forgive yourself. Process and let go of memories that do not serve you. Tried of dealing with toxic people? Delete them from your memory bank as quickly as you can. Removing your energy vampires from your book of life allows you to write more upbeat chapters. Letting go is a huge stress reliever. If you need to be around them at home or work, try to observe them rather than interact with them. I know this is challenging, but use your grit. Stoke up your stamina and win at well-being.
3. Create good times for yourself.
How? Shore up your curiosity and observation skills. Become more aware to look for the good. Notice the little things. Maybe a tiny flower sitting on your own doorsteps will elicit gratitude. “Taking pleasure in pets” just bubbled up to the top of my sensory awareness. Love up your pet or a friend’s. Look for novelty opportunities. Be inquisitive and open-minded. Smile for no reason and watch others mirror you. If you get stuck, check out research by Barbara Fredrickson, Sharon Salzberg, and Krisitn Neff. They have created terrific loving-kindness, self-compassion meditations. Self-love and acceptance stokes up your positivity. Then you can pay it forward to others. Dual delights!
4. Accept negative emotion as normal.
Rather than fight life, accept you are human. You are uniquely you with all your foibles and folly. How wonderful! Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. Your inner critic may actually help you become more aware of your life, reminding you it is time to release and re-frame. Frolic as you focus on your worthiness and goodness. Failure is fertilizer in life. It helps your inner abundance bear fruit. Still need help? Get a coach. We love to watch you grow into your best self. And NOW, as Eckhart Tolle says, is a great time to start!
5. Ignite your self-regulation.
OK, this is not an easy task for most of us. Life is messy. You get carried away with the craziness or demands or the should’s, have to’s and must’s. Quit musterbating! Banish awfulizing! Thanks to rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) pioneer, psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis, for that wisdom. Self-regulation is one of the hardest values to master. But never-fear. Awareness of your own emotions and behaviors will help you to manage yourself and your relationships. Social and emotional intelligence teaches you to pause, empathize, and think before you act. All of us with a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) understand this is an ongoing process for most of us. Practicing a mantra may help. “Hocus, Pocus, Focus!” helps me. And ADD “kids” of all ages I have coached have enjoyed this humor, too.
6. Grab your GRIT!
Roll up your motivation sleeves. Investigate what gives you purpose and meaning. What adds vitality to your life. Know your passions, of course, but also understand passion for what you want to accomplish in life is not enough. You also need gumption, tenacity, and sustained effort to get to the hard finish line. Perseverance, diligence, and long-term practice. Think of spelling bee champions or an Olympic athlete. Not that you want to score that big. Their secret? They keep on trucking even when they fail. Failure is life’s fertilizer. Yeah, it stinks, but it really helps you grow. Check out grit researcher and author, Angela Duckworth, and her new GRIT book. Media maven, Caroline Adams Miller, also has a new grit book coming out soon. She’s written a ton of articles on goal motivation, accomplishment and grit.
7. Hop onto the Humor Express Train!
It will take you down the tracks to greater success and happiness. Notice the naughty nectar of life’s nuances. Suck up every opportunity to belly laugh. Play like a kid. Get into frivolous fun flow. Buy stock in Depends underwear to remind yourself to put on your twirling red polka dotted bow tie and hot pink feather boa. Go ahead and laugh till you pee your pants (and that gets easier when you are my age!). Life is a great playground. Want to add to your folly? Ask family and friends to jump onto life’s merry-go-round with you.
Remember you tend to mimic the folks around you, so make sure they are smiling, too.
Hope these strategies help you on those days when a dark cloud threatens to rain on your positivity parade.
I would love to hear from you. Feel free to flash me an email. I appreciate your feedback. Also, if I can be of service to you, I would love the opportunity to be your positive psychology coach.