Monday, March 9, 2015

Seeing danger - How you think affects how you feel

Are your thoughts making you unhappy?
When someone says, "I need to talk to you." - do you think the worst? Do you tend to notice angry or sad faces more than happy ones? It could be that you've developed hyper-vigilance. This means that your attention is captured by possible threats in your environment. It is important to notice what may be harmful to you, for your own safety, but the persistent focus on possible threat or perceived negative attitudes towards you can lead to depression.

What studies show
In studies on people with and without depression, it was found that those who tended to suffer with this debilitating problem tend to have persistent negative thoughts in their head. Interpretation Bias and Depressive Symptoms And this article: Not all emotions are created equal They also tended to interpret what other people say and do as negative towards themselves. For instance, if someone appears to ignore your comment, you might think, "He/she hates me." or "Well, they're obviously not interested in anything I have to say," or "Why is it every time I go to say something, no one is interested?" or even, "What is wrong with my opinion?" There may even be a tendency to catastrophise: "What's wrong? What have I done wrong? There's something bad going on here...." and, more troubling, is the possibility of these thoughts - "What's wrong with me? Why aren't I good enough?"

Because our negative "script" (persistent internal thoughts) can cause us to misinterpret others' intentions, we could then react negatively, when this is not appropriate or warranted. As a result, our relationships are affected. We walk around thinking people are against us. Our world becomes a dark place.

So what can we do to change this?

Changing thought habits
The human brain is such an amazing organ. It is constantly changing, learning, adapting and for this reason we can actually alter our thought processes to create a more positive 'script'. One way is to try and think from the perspective of others, what they might be going through or that perhaps what we think is happening might not be the case at all. For instance, the person who appears to be ignoring you might:
a) have a hearing difficulty
b) be preoccupied with their thoughts
c) be suffering or unhappy today and not tuned in
d) thought you were talking to someone else
e) be struggling to keep their head together and just can't talk to anyone today

There's lots of possibilities here. If you've developed a habit of thinking negatively and making negative assumptions, you might not be aware of it. I'm going to be absolutely blunt now - the truth is, most people don't go around thinking up ways to hurt you. They have their own problems to deal with. It's not actually about you at all. You're not that important to them. We have to stop assuming that just because we are the most important person in our life, that others feel the same way.

Who is OK?
The theory of Transactional Analysis, more particularly Eric Berne's theories, try to help us understand that our state of mind influences our thoughts and actions. Berne described 4 assumptions:
1. I'm OK and you're OK.
2. I'm OK and you're not OK
3. I"m not OK and you are OK
4. I'm not OK and you're not OK

Can you see how these thoughts could change your interpretations?

Keeping it real
That's not to say we throw out every instinctive reaction. We are primarily social creatures who want to interact positively with others, but there are situations where the other person really is angry or that things could get ugly any second. And we need to take action to avoid trouble. The trick is to interpret each situation accurately. If you're used to interpreting a threat where it might not exist, you will overreact. It's much more healthy to give people the benefit of the doubt. If you're unsure what was meant, ASK! Get more information. Don't assume. And above all, be prepared to forgive. It might pay also to reacquaint yourself with what the full range of human emotions actually looks like, so that you can interpret them better.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why technology can't replace human relationships

The human race is devolving. Its easier to interact using technology than to engage in meaningful relationships where you look the person in the eye, smell their fear, feel their anger or see their love. Its cowardice and it demeans us. Are we so afraid to feel pain that we've shut off the avenues to joy as well?

So much of life's richness comes from dealing with the present, tackling difficulties, pushing through fears and allowing people into our hearts. A virtual hug is a sentiment only. Feeling someone's arms around you is a tactile experience, reality, fulfilling something deep inside the human psyche that cannot be replicated or synthesised.

We were made to be herd animals - a pack, for support and safety, shared joys and fun. When we withdraw physically from our own, we deprive ourselves of what we need, at the deepest level.

Conversely, when all our senses are engaged we are truly in the moment, truly living. Sweating as you tackle that mountain/climbing wall, feeling the water surround your body as you glide through, tasting the wind as you ride a bicycle down a steep road, watching your child play...

There is no substitute for what you experience physically, mentally and spiritually by actually being in the moment.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dear Diary - Is a diary the best friend you'll ever have?

Why keeping a diary is good for the soul
Ever had one of those days when you just wanted to crawl back under the covers and sleep it off? Ever had a problem you thought NO ONE would understand? Well, guess what? You have at least one friend in the world - your diary. Jotting down your feelings can be a powerful way to unleash your frustrations, your passions, your creativity, your grief, your anger, your joy. It's the one time you're completely honest, because you're talking to... yourself. There's no judgement. There's no blame. It's just you and your innermost thoughts.
Lynn's journals
When is a diary a negative thing?
Of course, you might think that dumping all your negative stuff in a journal is a bad thing, that it keeps you locked inside your misery. But it doesn't have to. Your diary can be a notebook of sorts, for collecting all the little bits and pieces you find which are of interest, for doodling, sketching and glueing pictures. If can be a place where you store great ideas, write down goals and dreams, spell out your passions. It's up to you. If your diary is a place you want to revisit, make it an uplifting place to be! Be kind to yourself. Search for inspirational quotes to perk you up when you're feeling blue.
Paulette's Art Journaling
Art Journaling
This has become a popular way of boosting creativity and providing an outlet for emotions. It doesn't have to be brilliant art. It's whatever you want it to be, whatever sparks your interest. You can even do classes to learn how art journal classes  Its perfect for moody teenagers, dispirited middle-agers, children, grandmothers, busy professionals - anyone.

Julie Ann
So, enjoy the creative freedom Art Journaling can give you. Try it!

Monday, October 14, 2013

ME time

Me time. It's not only advisable, it's a necessity. You must put time aside for yourself. Life can be stressful, insanely busy. The demands on your time can wear you down, cause you sleepless nights, aches and pains you didn't know you had and mood swings you don't want. It's all about winding down with some time to yourself. And you not only deserve it, you desperately need it. Plot it into your diary. Make a date with a friend to have coffee/lunch, take the time to read a good book or watch something you've been hanging out for. It's not selfish. It's sensible.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Discontented? Frustrated? Depressed?

So, your day is crap. Everything seems to be piling on top of you and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Yep. Days like this make you wonder why you bother getting up in the morning. But I have discovered something, just today, that has made a big difference - gave me something new, something clear to hold onto. Indian spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, has this to say:
"When there is gratitude, complaints disappear... When there is complaint in the mind, there is discontent, frustration and depression - all that follows. If you are not grateful... you will find fault. Even if there is none, you will try to see it. Your mind will find it for you.
This is the lower journey. Gratitude is the middle way. And as you rise above that... gratitude flows out from you as grace."

(- from 'Bang on the Door'. Ravi Shankar is founder of the Art of Living Foundation, which aims to relieve individual stress, societal problems, and violence.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

How You Handle Failure Determines Your Success

I believe that for each of us, there is at least one major life lesson we must learn, which will keep presenting itself in one form or another, until we learn it. It might be about self-control, healthy boundaries with other people, being willing to share our thoughts and feelings, tackling anxiety positively or giving oneself permission to feel blargh occasionally.

One of the essential lessons I've learned from my life as a writer (and  human being too!) is that how I handle my failures and mistakes has a huge impact upon my later successes. If I crumple at the slightest criticism, take it personally, lash out, blame others, I don't take anything useful away from the experience. Which is why I am always open to comments about my writing work. There is a lot of wisdom out there. I am not the font of it! And generally, I find people to be helpful, thoughtful and kind, so why be afraid of feedback? The equation is simple - I want to succeed, therefore I must learn the lessons to do so.
Sportsmen and women know this lesson well. There is only one winner in an event. The rest must deal with the disappointment of losing or placing second or third. The answer is not, as some people think, to eliminate competition and award everyone prizes for participation. That would completely nullify our achievement, strip us of the drive and courage to push beyond our boundaries. It's just silly. The answer is to teach and learn how to handle failure and disappointment. You cannot eradicate either from human existence. Just as we cannot smile and be happy every single moment of the day, we need to feel the full range of emotions, so too must we accept  failure.

If we can pick ourselves up, learn what went wrong and bravely aim to do better next time, we will find the ecstatic joy of personal achievement, no matter how small the goal.

Monday, July 29, 2013

How do you stay married in this crazy world?

The Perfect Marriage
Marriage isn't about having the perfect relationship, it's about choosing to go through your life together, side by side, no matter what happens.

Avoiding Stress & Hassles
Think you can avoid stress, hassles, random accidents? Forget it! Life comes with only one guarantee - it is unpredictable. You cannot make yourself immune by hiding away. But how you handle these unpleasant times is up to you. Make it worse or make it easier, the ball is in your court.

Personal Issues
In any relationship there will arise issues that are yours alone - issues from your childhood, previous experiences you may be anxious not to repeat. It doesn't matter how many relationships you have, these issues will keep cropping up until you learn the life lesson you're meant to learn, whether it's about trust, healthy boundaries, saying 'no', keeping calm in a crisis, taming your perfectionist tendencies etc. So blaming your partner isn't going help. And moving on to another partner certainly won't make these personal issues go away either.

Bad Influences
There are so many bad influences upon modern marriage, sexual stereotypes in the media being the worst. Our expectations of a partner should not be determined by what some advertiser thinks will sell his/her product, but by what is meaningful to us, as human beings with needs and desires. So resist the influence of the gasping orgasms, trite platitudes and neat, happy endings. Be prepared to write your own relationship, with your own terms. Intimacy is what we all want. We want to feel loved and appreciated, accepted and proud of. No movie can teach you how to accomplish that because what you're experiencing is a day to day journey with a real person, who has their own agenda too. There are many wonderful books available about managing relationships. One of the best is "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman.

Seeking Help
If you get stuck, seeking help from a professional can open doors you thought were shut. It's well worth trying. Confiding in someone outside the relationship, who has an objective view, gives you the freedom to see your partner from a different, more helpful angle.

The Rewards
Spending your life with someone means there will be tough times, when you might feel betrayed, angry or saddened. You may feel that giving up is the only way forward. But you can work through this. Be honest about how you feel and accept your partner's honest feelings as fact too. Flexibility. Sympathy. Patience when you don't understand. Selflessness. These are the keys to a successful marriage, not demanding that your needs be met, like some screaming infant. If you are willing to work at it, the pay-off is a joyful, exciting, comforting and content life together.