(Image from http://thewheelergroup.wordpress.com/2008/07/29/are-you-a-tigger-or-an-eeyore/)
Winnie the Pooh is a very lovable children’s story that I never found interesting. I do remember snippets of the cartoon and I was always bummed out by Eeyore the clinically depressed donkey. As an adult, it still is hard to watch his mopey character. On the other hand, there is Tigger, the bouncy and positive tiger. Those two characters are complete opposite of each other and they provide a valuable lesson in how we view our lives and this world.
If I wanted to be friends with anyone, it would be with the Tigger type character. Someone who is positive and hopeful but still can learn a valuable lesson at the end of the day. In this world, it is all about the company you keep and the ones who can encourage you to have positive thoughts. Many people underestimate the power of their own thoughts and how uplifting or damaging it can be. In the real world, Eeyore and Tigger would never be friends for too long because they saw and experienced life so differently, the happy person would become tired of the other’s negativity, and the happier person would not want to be sucked into that unhappy world. According to the Psychology Today article entitled Misery Loves Company, it states that “There was evidence of short-lived emotional contagion: Severely depressed subjects were more likely to have a roommate whose mood declined over a six-week period than were less depressed subjects. But subjects cheered up noticeably when they spent time away from their miserable roommates.” The point is that people around us play a big role in our positive thoughts and happiness. So you have to be careful who you allow in your head.
Persistently unhappy and negative people are not intentionally trying to ‘drag you down’ but their depressed demeanor can have a dampening effect without you recognizing it. Everything in their lives are dark and dim and they are not able to see the positive side of life. This is not to say that each of us do not have those ‘depressed’ moments; however, when this mood has been ongoing for more than 6 months then there is something very wrong and it’s time to seek professional help. Some people have chosen to be stuck in this funk for most of their lives because it is the devil they know and are very used to experiencing. While I do understand the issue of clinical depression that needs more professional intervention, there are many people who choose ‘to be depressing’ and refuse to see the positive light in anything. Note: Depression has become a blanketed layman term for feeling blue; however, there is a difference between true clinical depression and feeling sad.
The power of the mind is astounding. I can recognize when I am in a funk and I can pinpoint the thoughts that help to put me there. I choose whether I want to continue those thoughts or choose whether I want to snap out of it and change the way I see my life at that time. While I recognize that this is not the easiest thing to do for many, it takes practice and can be done. In my previous career as a therapist, it was mandatory for me to be able to master and filter what things I allowed to stay in my head and their priority. Most therapists hear many ‘bad things’ on a daily basis because that is their job; however, what the therapist do with that information requires a certain amount of control with his/her thinking. It requires deliberate choices in ways to filter out the ‘bad stuff’ in order to make more room for the good stuff. It is not always easy but it has to be done to keep themselves sane and have normal lives.
The average individual who do not see or hear horrors everyday are more likely to be caught in the cycle of negativity.Why is that? In order to deal the horrors, you have to be able to see good and the positive in life. Once you are not able to do that, then burn out sets in and your mental health and all aspects of your life are compromised. For the average person, the demise usually starts this way. One bad thing leads to the other ie. my boyfriend broke up with me-therefore I think I am not good enough for him-therefore I think I am not good enough for any man-therefore I think no one will find me attractive-therefore I believe I will always be alone-therefore I will choose not try to find love again. Suddenly, this person has a low self-esteem and start to make poor choices all because of her thoughts. Now take for instance another scenario. My boyfriend broke up with me-therefore I feel really sad and think I was not good enough for him-I stop for a second and start to think about the good qualities that I have-I realize that when we first met he noticed those good qualities too and that was the reason we got together in the first-I start to think that we both made some mistakes (not just me) and the relationship was not meant to be-I am aware we may not have been compatible and that next time I will try to find someone who has more similar qualities-I choose to stop moping about the house and get back into my life or find new things to do-My mood starts to improve and I begin to regain my confidence in myself. Same situation but two different ways of thinking and two different outcome.
People are not expected to be happy-go-lucky everyday and all day. People are expected to have their sad moments; however, what we think affects what we do. It is so much easier to wallow in self-pity because the world is unfair and it is in a crappy state than to force ourselves to think positively. It is so easy to become discouraged and stay there without trying to fight our way out of the darkness. We whine and we bitch and whine some more but never take steps to make things better. We always want to take the easy way out which is to do nothing and still bitch about it. Negative thoughts are the easy way out because you can not be disappointed. That is a sad way to live all the time.
Jesus had the option to think positive or negative. He chose positive. He had the option of taking easy or the hard way. He chose the hard way. Resilience is a character trait that anyone can develop but it takes work; actually it takes hard work. It takes finding an inner will-power and exercising it. We are allowed to wallow, whine, ruminate, cry, self-deprecate etc because that is human nature. The problem is for those who do this constantly, try listening to yourself for a second or go back and read over your journal and ask if you would be willing to sit and listen to yourself go on like that all the time? If you answer yes, then I suggest a therapist stat! If you say no, then do something about it. Resistance is actually not futile. Newsflash! God does not miraculously give you courage and strength; you choose it and He supports it.
Ways to Develop Positive Thoughts
-Meditation/Prayer of thanksgiving (only focus on being thankful even for the simplest things)
-Find a song/poem/movie that puts you in a good mood (Christian or secular)
-Choose a simple positive saying that you only use on desperate occasions (overuse will lose its meaning)
-Identify an undeniably positive attribute about yourself (I have beautiful eyes, I am a great singer, I am a good friend, I am a hard worker)
-Find a simple blessing that you take for granted (My parents care about me-I am in good health-I have a place to live)
-Think of as many alternatives to your problems (most people only think of one which is usually negative or solutions that keep them in the bad situations)
-Learn to throw a positive spin on things (cheer yourself up exercise – even if it’s a ridiculous spin)
-Learn to laugh at the bad things or yourself (laughter releases stress)
-Give yourself advice as if you were giving it to someone else (image that you were helping a really good friend or someone you care about, what advice would you give?)
-Find other happy people (Happiness loves company, it might just rub off even for a little while)
-Take responsibility that you are making choices for your life (Taking back some power – many people give away their power and therefore feel helpless)
-Recognizing that failures and set backs are a part of life just like success (Yin Yang concept)
-Recognizing that the longer you stay in negative land the harder it is to get out (get out of your darkness comfort zone)
-Set small positive goals (Instead of I will not cry 5 times in one day, say I will smile 3 times in one day)
-Do something nice for someone else (this usually gets people out their own head and focus on someone else-be careful that the person is not a negative nelly)
-FEAR is the biggest antagonist to positive thinking. Our biggest fears are usually the things we create in our minds. (like the boogie monster)
Mental health is extremely important. Most people have control over their thoughts which in-turn affects their mood. It is understandable that when things are bad, it is hard to see the ‘forest for the trees.’ Everything seems dark and dismal but it does not always have to stay that way. One of the most discouraging moments for me was when I would ask my standard question “Tell me some positive things about yourself” and I would get silence because the clients are thinking or when they say “I have none.” Those responses told me that I had my work cut out for me to be able to guide someone to see at least one good thing in his/herself. It’s your turn. I am sure there are many other things people do and could suggest that has helped with maintaining positive thoughts. Any other suggestion? What is at least one positive attribute about yours?
Here is a link to a farewell lecture by a professor, Randy Pausch, who had a terminal illness and later died (I don’t know how to embed so follow the link) http://youtu.be/ji5_MqicxSo