Our emotions are always with us. Reacting to our thoughts, our encounters and everything around us, often our emotions seem to have a life of their own. When confronted with something we find unpleasant or unkind, we may politely smile, rant and rave, scream and cry or simply walk away. As Zig Ziglar once said, “It’s not what happens to you that matters. It’s how you respond to what happens to you that makes a difference.”
In order for you to respond, rather than give a knee-jerk reaction, try some of these strategies:
- Look for three good things each day. These events could involve you, people you know, or something you observe with strangers. Whether large or small, notice and write them down. Did one person hold a door open for another? Did you see the look of surprise, or appreciation, on the face of that person who wasn’t expecting a kind word or gesture to come his or her way?
- What do you truly appreciate in your life? Who makes your days easier, who makes you laugh or smile? When you get frustrated with family or friends, can you also think back to why, in spite of their transgressions of leaving dirty socks on the floor or not returning calls or emails, they enrich your life? Once a week, write down those names, and describe an incident that you can appreciate still, to this day. What about life’s conveniences in our modern world? Add those to you list of appreciation, too, noting what you value about them.
- Think back on your days, or even years. How are you similar to George Banks, the Jimmy Stewart character from It’s a Wonderful Life? My husband mentioned that when he was a teen, he had pulled someone from the bottom of a swimming pool. He knew he had saved that life, but had never stopped to consider that the accomplishments of that girl, and now her children and grandchildren, would never have been born and positively impacted the world as they have were it not for his saving that one life so long ago. Even if you didn’t save someone from dying, how have you touched the lives of others?
- Give yourself some quiet time by unplugging from all electronics. Talk to a person face-to-face, spend some time enjoying nature, or write in a journal (with a pencil or pen!). Depend on nothing else for stimulation except your thoughts, your musings.
- Spend a bit of time with mindful breathing. Imagine the air entering your body through your nose, traveling throughout your entire body all the way down to your toes, and then all the way back through your entire body until you have exhaled completely. Notice how each part of your body feels. Are you holding any tension? Do you notice the tension start to drain, literally, from your body as you pass from 5 minutes, to 10, or longer? Your shoulders dropping, your forehead relaxing, your heart beating a bit more slowly.
Now, it’s your turn. It’s your time. Start now, during a relatively calm period, so when the unexpected happens, you’ll be ahead of the game. You’ll have a handle on the situation and your emotions. Don’t let one more day pass without give yourself that gift.
It’s just waiting for you.
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Photo credit Mikael Kristenson