PAY ATTENTION!

Bluebird

Happiness is not about being in a “Zipadee-do-dah” mood 24/7. As we all know, Mr. Bluebird is not going to be cheerfully tweeting on our shoulder the minute we step outside.

Life hands us lemons at times; an often those challenges are the very moments that ask us to grow stronger and gain a deeper understanding of how precious our time on earth really is.

While the definition of happiness is unique to each one of us—overall it paints a picture of being content with our lives.

What you also might have noticed, however, is that when you are depressed, sad, or even angry, you tend to color everything around you and everything you are experiencing as negative, or bad in some way. It is called the attentional bias; in other words, we start to see everything through a gray lens, based on one event.

A Few Examples:

Fact: My best friend just moved to Alaska.

My reaction:  I eventually lose everyone I love.

 

Fact: Dinner was overcooked and dried out when I had guests over.

My reaction: I am a lousy cook and better not have another dinner party ever again.

 

Fact: My neighbor barged in unannounced and asked me to give her a ride to the store.

My Reaction: Why does everyone think I’m a taxi and at their disposal whenever they need something?

 

In reality, when we are in the throes of negative emotion, we rarely stop to remind ourselves that there are still plenty of wonderful thingsgoing on in our lives. Let’s take another look at the examples above and switch attention:

 

Fact: My best friend just moved to Alaska.

My reaction:  I eventually lose everyone I love.

Reality Check: I have loving friends and family still around me (such as x, y z), and also have the ability to make new friends anytime I want.

Fact: Dinner was overcooked and dried out when I had guests over.

My reaction: I am a lousy cook and better not have another dinner party ever again.

Reality Check: I have cooked dinner for guests many times in the past (cite examples), and the meals turned out great. I can always go back and see what went wrong with this recipe and try it out again before I serve it.

Fact: My neighbor barged in unannounced and asked me to give her a ride to the store.

My Reaction: Why does everyone think I’m a taxi and at their disposal whenever they need something?

Reality Check: It is actually just this one person that keeps asking me for favors. I just need to tell her honestly that there are times when I really can’t drop everything to help her out, but when I can I will.

 

Apart from severe depression, which might require therapy and/or medication if there is a chemical imbalance, my expertise centers on methods of self-help; that really work to soothe life’s everyday ups and downs.  We take care of our bodies, so why do we often neglect to nurture our frame of mind– one of the most important keys to happiness?

I was fascinated by a recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research,which looked at the therapeutic value of modifying what we focus on. It is called ABM or attentional bias modification.  Specifically, in sad or depressed participants in the study, modifying their focus on negativity, actually improved their mood. Interrupting a negative thought pattern with positive images or thoughts made a huge difference in the way people felt about themselves, their relationships, and their life’s circumstances.

One way you can guide yourself to pay more attention to the positive aspects of your life, and give less attention to the negative emotions of sadness, fear, anger, and anxiousness—is to complete what I call “The Happy Hundred”.  Here is how to do it:

  1. Get a couple of sheets of paper and number down the left side from 1 all the way down to 100.
  2. At the end of each day, write down everything that made you smile that day. Every thought or interaction, every experience that you are grateful for; no matter how big or small. Keep doing this each day until you have listed 100 positive things about your life.
  3. Once you get to 100 things that are good about your life, keep the list handy. Put it in your pocket or handbag and take it wherever you go.
  4. When something upsets you during the day—even if it’s your own thoughts, pull out your Happy Hundred list and re-read it.

Let this exercise become habit and you will experience the power of switching your focus from the negative to PAYING ATTENTION TO THE GOOD in each day, to the positive in people around you, to the strength within yourself.

 

 

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