Sometimes resilience means letting go: The last post at Bounce Back!

By Bobbi Emel, MFT

shutterstock_147905000One of the important components of resilience that I am learning to practice more and more is that of acceptance. Taking in my experiences as they come and allowing them to happen. Sometimes things need to change and I take action and other times things are out of my control and I have learned to sit with the experience – whether it’s comfortable or uncomfortable – and keep moving on.

My experience at this point in my life is that I have many wonderful things on my plate but, in fact, there are too many for me to give each its proper due. So, after much consideration and sitting with discomfort for awhile, I have decided that I am going to let Bounce Back! Develop Your Resiliency! go.

I have enjoyed being a part of the wonderful PsychCentral community and I hope to be a part of it again at some point in the future. But for now, I want to thank both the folks behind PsychCentral and you, the reader, for making this an exceptional part of my personal journey.

I hope that you’ve learned some helpful ways to bounce back in life and I invite you to continue following me on my personal blog, BounceYou’re welcome to join my community there and receive the free ebook, Bounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs by clicking here.

Thanks again to John Grohol, Victoria Gigante, and all of the helpful people here at PsychCentral.

May you lead resilient, meaningful lives.

Balls image available from Shutterstock.



Let Go of Self-Esteem: 4 Ideas to Truly Feel Better About Yourself

By Bobbi Emel, MFT

People come to me in my private practice and request that I help them build their self-esteem so they can be more resilient in life.self-esteem tightrope

I think they’re on the wrong track.

While having a healthy amount of self-esteem can be helpful, there are aspects of self-esteem – and the pursuit of self-esteem – that can be harmful and hinder your ability to bounce back in life.

Researchers call this “contingent self-esteem.”

When we base our worth on something in particular such as physical appearance, work/school achievements or sports, the way we feel about ourselves is contingent on how we do in those endeavors.

If we do well, we feel great! But if we fail – and we’re human so there is no doubt we will fail sometimes – we feel awful about ourselves.

So, what are our options?

We can work so hard in our chosen contingency that we won’t fail and feel bad. (But we’ve already discussed the nature of humanness and failure above.)

Or we can avoid putting ourselves at risk of failure by not trying something new or self-sabotaging so we can say things like, “It’s not that I failed – it’s just that I didn’t really try very hard.”

People who come to me seeking more self-esteem are inevitably walking this tightrope of fear-of-failure/success-sabotaging and assuming that what they need is more self-esteem to help them hold their balance.

Not so much.

4 Ideas That Self-Esteem Doesn’t Like

1. Take on an “others first” attitude.

Self-esteem, of course, is very “me” centered.

It turns out the best way to feel good about ourselves is to be more “you” centered.

Goals directed at being constructive, supportive, and responsive to others lead to feelings of connectedness, closeness to others, social support, and trust, as well as reduced feelings of conflict, loneliness, fear, and confusion. Compassionate goals appear to engender a sense of worth and connectedness without the devastating drops that come after feedback suggestive of failure. ~ Scientific American Mind magazine

Instead of working until midnight at your job to help yourself be successful so you’ll feel good, why not work hard to help the other members of your team or provide for your family?

 

2. Be self-compassionate.

Self-compassion steps in precisely where self-esteem lets us down—whenever we fail or feel inadequate. When the fickle fancy of self-esteem deserts us, the all-encompassing embrace of self-compassion is there, patiently waiting. – Kristen Neff, PhD, eminent self-compassion researcher

 I have talked about self-compassion in depth elsewhere, but I think the best thing to ask yourself is, “If it were my friend in this situation, how would I treat her? Would I say, ‘You just need to work harder’ or ‘You’ll never be the best person on this team if you don’t train your body to the point of injury’?”

Be your own best friend and apply some compassion to yourself.

 

3. Have a ‘get-better’ goal rather than a ‘be-good’ goal.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD, notes that many people set goals for themselves that have to do with being good at something.

People who base their self-worth on contingencies are pros at doing this. They won’t let themselves off the hook until they’re the best at whatever it is they are doing.

Again, do you see how this sets you up for failure? We can’t all be the best at something because someone has to be at least second-best!

A better way to set goals in line with self-compassion is to focus on getting better at something.

Seeing mistakes and failures as an inevitable part of getting better at a task or way of being allows us to learn and grow rather than limiting our experiences for the sake of contingent self-esteem.

4. Let go of self-judging.

If we were to design a new self-esteem movement, it would teach people to reduce focus on the worth of the self altogether because any action designed to enhance self-esteem is destined to have, at best, temporary benefits and most likely will fail because such actions are motivated by a toxic preoccupation with self-judgment. – Jennifer Crocker, PhD and Jessica J. Carnevale, Scientific American Mind magazine.

Letting go of self-judgment is hard. And it’s a practice, not something we can do right away.

One of the best ways to practice is to meditate mindfully for a period of time. Start of with a short interval of five minutes.

Close your eyes and focus on your breath as it comes in and out of your nose. Try to notice the coolness of the inhale and the warmth of the exhale.

That’s all you have to do for five minutes. Just sit and notice your breath.

What you’ll find, though, is that your mind will almost immediately start to wander. And, it’s likely that when you notice your mind wandering, you’ll think something like this, “Oh, I’m not good at this! I couldn’t even keep my mind focused for ten seconds!”

See the judgment there? “I’m not good at this.”

When you notice your mind flitting around, also notice what you say to yourself about your meditation practice.

If you notice judgmental thoughts, simply allow them to float away and return to your breath.

Learning to be less judgmental for even five minutes can infiltrate the rest of your day and, if you continue the practice, the rest of your life.

 

Try these four approaches to life and I think you’ll find yourself on much firmer footing than that tightrope of self-esteem.

 

Resources:

Crocker, J. & Carnevale, J.J. (2013, September/October.) Letting Go of Self-Esteem. Scientific American Mind, 24(4), 27-33.

Halvorson, Heidi G. (2011), Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Harvard Business Review Blog Network.

Neff, K. (2011.) Self-compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself. William Morrow.

 

Want more ideas about bouncing back in life? Download my FREE e-book, Bounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.

 

 



Need to Bounce Back RIGHT NOW? Try these 4 things

By Bobbi Emel, MFT

If you’re in a spot where you feel like you need to bounce back right now, here’s what I want you to do:woman "help"

 1. Take a deep breath.

Now, before you roll your eyes, let’s look at why this is important.

Taking a deep breath does a couple of very vital things for you.

- It stimulates your vagus nerve by expanding your diaphragm. The vagus nerve is that long, winding nerve that starts in your brain and winds down among just about every organ in your body. When it gets triggered, it prompts your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, calming your body.

It’s pretty hard to feel anxious and upset when your body is calm.

- Your deep breath can serve as a reminder for you to slow down and return to the present moment rather than fretting about the past or worrying about the future.

 

2. Decide if there is any action you can take.

I giggle a bit at us self-help providers because we sometimes advise people to see the forest of their problem rather than the individual trees.

But occasionally all that’s really needed to get you back on your path is to knock a few of those trees down!

Now that you’ve taken a deep breath (see #1,) take a step back from the situation and do some quick problem-solving: What is the real problem? Is there any action you can take now that will help? What have you done in the past that has worked for you?

If there is something you can do, then do it!

If not, see #3.

 

3. See the forest instead of the trees.

As much as I teased about people like me giving this exact advice, it really is helpful if there is no action that can be taken.

Again, engage in #1.

Realize that you’ve been in other situations throughout your life where you’ve felt stressed and like you really need to bounce back right now AND you’ve made it through those times. They weren’t pleasant, but they do pass.

Everything does.

 

4. Read these 14 quick, handy tips.

Someone sent me the link to this cool little article on abcnews.com: 14 Bad Habits That Drain Your Energy.

Did you know that being dehydrated or not having enough fuel in your body can suck your energy?

And what happens when you don’t have energy?

Problems appear much bigger than they truly are.

And/or you don’t have the energy to manage them.

 

Need more help bouncing back? Download my FREE ebookBounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.



Infographic – 30 Things To Start Doing For Yourself

By Bobbi Emel, MFT
I love this infographic. Each of these little tidbits will help you develop your ability to bounce back and make your life more meaningful. Post it on your fridge or a wall somewhere and practice one of them each day. You’ll be happy you started doing healthy, positive things for yourself!
(You can click on the infographic to see it full-size.)

30 Things to start doing yourself

by shadeed9.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

For more details about how to bounce back in life, download my FREE ebookBounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.



Want to Feel Better? 11 Free Resources to Get You On Your Way

By Bobbi Emel, MFT

floorSome of the best and brightest researchers who study how to increase your well-being have loads of free, practical, helpful information just waiting for you out there in cyberspace.

To make things a little easier for you, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites. These are people and research that have rocked my world and I know they’ll do the same for you. Look for the free stuff!

Struggling with shame? Brene Brown’s got your back.

Must see: Brene Brown’s free first Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability (20 minutes.)

Also good: Her free second Ted Talk, Listening to Shame (20 minutes.)

Excellent free article: 4 (Totally Surprising) Life Lessons We All Need to Learn

Must read book: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

 

Too hard on yourself? Kristen Neff can help you with that.

 Must read free article: Why Self-Compassion Trumps Self-Esteem

Must read book: Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Wonderful, free guided meditations about self-compassion: Self-compassion.org website

 

Need more positivity in your life? (Or just want to know what that is?) Barbara Frederickson’s all over it.

Science-y, but really informative free article that includes video clips: Are You Getting Enough Positivity In Your Diet?

Good book: Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life

 

Want a go-to resource on how to set and reach your goals? Heidi Grant Halvorson’s got it for you.

Must read free article: 9 Things Successful People Do Differently

 

Looking for more happiness? Sonja Lyubomirsky has the place to look.

 Must read free article: Is It Possible to Become Lastingly Happier?

Also good: Her other free articles on Psychology Today and her free videos at the Greater Good Science Center.

Good book: The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want

 

Searching for more meaning in your life? A bunch of researchers say it will make you happier.

Must read free article: Is a Happy Life Different From a Meaningful One?

Must read free ebook: my very own How to Live a More Meaningful Life

 

And don’t forget, if you’d like to learn more about bouncing back in life, download my FREE ebookBounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.

Man with laptop image available from Shutterstock.



29 Quick Tips to Bounce Back in Life

By Bobbi Emel, MFT

1. Realize that change is always going to be in your life. Expect it.

“I always thought things would calm down and get easier. I’m beginning to think that’s not going to happen.” Phoebe Howard, age 99.

2. Be nice to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Read Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

3. Practice mindfulness by noticing your thoughts and feelings, but have no judgment about them. Try this 12-minute ‘taster’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn.


Chinese Finger Trap 2

 

4. Resistance is like a Chinese Finger Trap. The more you struggle, the tighter you’re held in the trap.

5. Be flexible and open in your way of thinking. It will allow you to problem-solve more effectively and accept your reality more easily. Read Roger von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative

6. Find your taproot.

7. See if there is a gift hidden within your troubles. The sand that irritates the oyster eventually becomes a pearl.

8. Develop post-traumatic growth. The basics are being optimistic and framing your struggles as meaningful (finding the gifts and opportunities in them.)

9. Gain perspective: See how many different angles you can view the same problem from.

10. More perspective: Remember that you’ve made it through tough times before. And you’re still here to talk about it.

“I like to see a cloud in the blue sky. How else can you appreciate the blue without a cloud in it?” - my 100-year-old grandmother, Mary Gustason

11. Think about kaleidoscopes. The pattern is beautiful, but when it gets shaken up, a wonderful new pattern can emerge.

12. Take a break.
 Really. It’s okay.

13. Find something that makes you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

14. Remember that your thoughts aren’t always true.

15. Remember that it’s okay to have fun, smile, and laugh sometimes even when you are in the worst of situations. (It’s even good for you.)

16. Sometimes things really do suck. No one said you have to like the difficulty in front of you. Read this for more.

17. Look up. No, really. I mean look up. What do you see that you didn’t before? There. Wasn’t it nice to get out of your head for a moment?

18. Practice acts of kindness.

19. Stop ruminating.

20. Savor the good stuff. The next time you see a beautiful sunset, stop and really see it.

21. Do what is in front of you.

22. Remember that falling apart means you can put yourself back together any way you’d like.

23. Distract yourself from your troubles for a while. Healthy stuff only!

24. Remember that this is how it feels today. It won’t be like this all the time.

25. Remember that Suffering = Pain x Resistance.

26. Believe that life is meaningful.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live for can bear with almost any ‘how.’” – Friederich Nietzsche

27. Stay away from shame. Watch Dr. Brene Brown’s Tedx talk.

28. Change what you can, accept what you can’t.

29. Breathe.

 

Looking for a bit more on bouncing back? Download my FREE ebookBounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.

 



Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

By Bobbi Emel, MFT

I am a happiness grump.happiness grump

Perhaps I come by it honestly as my parents often referred to me as “Little Chief Thundercloud” when I was a small child.

Nonetheless, I enjoy a bit of happiness as much as the next person. But the aspect of happiness that has me particularly grumpy is the popular social notion that one should always be happy.

You Must Be Happy Now

If you don’t believe me, visit one of the few remaining bookstores in your area and go to the Self-Help section. Your neck will get a kink in it as you keep your head cocked to one side to read the endless list of ways to be happy, stay happy, reasons why you’re not happy, why you suck because you can’t maintain happiness, etc.

Searching for the word “happy” in the book section on Amazon is frightening. (Not to worry, I did it for you.) My search returned 63,499 results.

Of course, we need to take this with a fairly good-sized grain of salt since the top book right now is, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander, which is an autobiography by someone from the A&E series, Duck Dynasty. Be sure to pick up your copy today.

Still, in the top 25 books are titles such as:

  • Happy This Year! The Secret to Getting Happy Once and For All
  • 10 Things To Do Today To Be Happy Now – 10 Simple Steps For Finding Joy In Your Everyday Life
  • Instant Happy: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers
  • Happy For No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy From the Inside Out
  • Overcoming SAD: The Happy Hippie Yoga Chick’s Guide to Beating Winter Flip-Out.

Actually, that last one might be worth taking a look at . . .

The Antidote

Overall, though, you receive my point: You can and should be happy once and for all, happy now, and instantly happy. As the duck man might say, “Happy, happy, happy. What a quack.”

Imagine my relief, then, when I spied this title: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
Aha! An author after my own heart. I had to have the book immediately.

Fellow grump Oliver Burkeman has written a holy text for those of us who are fed up with all this happiness business. His opening chapter frames the entire problem of just-think-positively-and-you’ll-be-happy within the context of an enormous seminar called “Get Motivated!” The speaker is Dr. Robert Schuller and he has tempted the gigantic crowd with the secret that will change the listeners’ lives forever.

‘Here it is, then,’ Dr. Schuller declares, stiffly pacing the stage, which is decorated with two enormous banners reading ‘MOTIVATE!’ and ‘SUCCEED!’, seventeen American flags, and a large number of potted plants. ‘Here’s the thing that will change your life forever.’ The he barks a single syllable – ‘Cut!’ – and leaves a dramatic pause before completing his sentence: ‘ . . . the word “impossible” out of your life! Cut it out! Cut it out forever!’

The audience combusts. I can’t help feeling underwhelmed . . .

Burkeman’s understated British humor continues throughout the book, as seen by his concluding statements about Schuller:

It is only months later, back at my home in New York, reading the headlines over morning coffee, that I learn the news that the largest church in the United States constructed entirely from glass has filed for bankruptcy, a word Dr. Schuller had apparently neglected to eliminate from his vocabulary.

Burkeman’s thesis is that the very act of pursuing happiness is precisely the thing that makes us miserable.  He negates the path to happiness being merely about positive thinking and choosing happiness. However, he also takes issue with those who agree with his stance but then choose to “resign themselves to gloom, or a sort of ironic curmudgeonhood.”

The Negative Path

The Antidote, is about a possible third way, one Burkeman calls “the negative path” that is based on the work of psychologists and philosophers who see that our constant battle to eliminate negativity only leads to us feeling that we are woefully inadequate in the happiness department.

The negative path takes a completely different approach to the things that we try so hard to avoid. It involves “learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity, stopping trying to think positively, becoming familiar with failure, even learning to value death.”

After the introductory first chapter, Burkeman takes us along on a wide-ranging journey to investigate each of these tasks. To ancient Greece and the teachings of Zeno about approaching negativity rather than running from it, and then to a modern Stoic named Keith who lives in Watford, a town just outside of London.

Then to Manhattan to talk with an American Buddhist about the fruitlessness of positive thinking and on to Massachusetts for a week-long Buddhist meditation retreat where he eventually found that “It was suddenly apparent to me that I spent my regular life in a state of desperate clinging to thinking, to trying to avoid falling into the void that lay behind thoughts. Except now I was in the void, and it wasn’t terrifying at all.”

And on and on the journey goes including a trip to the Museum of Failures in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and visits with the incorrigible Albert Ellis and ethereal Eckhart Tolle.

Near the end of the book and our journey with Burkeman, he makes an observation that sums up some of the lessons we have learned:

The real revelation of the ‘negative path’ was not so much the path as the destination. Embracing negativity as a technique, in the end really makes sense only if the happiness you’re aiming for is one that can accommodate negative as well as positive emotions.

. . . The ‘negative path’ to happiness, then, is a different kind of path. But it is also a path to a different kind of destination. Or maybe it makes more sense to say that the path is the destination? These things are excruciatingly hard to put into words, and the spirit of negative capability surely dictates that we do not struggle too hard to do so. ‘A good traveller has no fixed plans,’ says the Chinese sage Lao Tzu, ‘and is not intent upon arriving.’ There could be no better way to make the journey.

The Antidote is an easy read and not for happiness grumps only. We can all learn some valuable skills and lessons to make out lives a little easier and inevitable negativity a little more tolerable.

In fact, why not pick up The Antidote yourself? I promise it won’t make  you grumpy.

 

Interested in The Antidote? Click on the book for more information:

 

 

Ready to bounce back from grumpiness? Download my FREE ebookBounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.



Infographic – The Science of Happiness

By Bobbi Emel, MFT
I saw this very interesting infographic about The Science of Happiness and I just had to share it with you.

 

I’m interested to hear what jumps out at you. Here’s what I noticed right away.

 

1. Being outside is a necessary thing.
Looks like even 20 minutes can be helpful. And, similar to Barbara Frederickson’s work on positivity, it seems that soaking up some sun can help broaden your ability to be creative and problem-solve. 20 minutes a day. I think we can manage that!

 

2. Should we move to Mexico?
Mexico has the most satisfied people, the most optimistic people, and the happiest kids. Who knew?

 

3. I need more bananas.
Who couldn’t use a bit more dopamine? And we can get it from really healthy stuff. Including bananas!

 

4. It takes a village.
I love, love, love the snippet about the two biggest factors that contribute to happiness around the world: a sense of community and community celebrations. Resilience research also shows that a sense of community and having social support are essential to bouncing back in life. And the ritual of celebrations is a wonderful way to welcome each other and generate belonging and happiness.

 

5. Abraham Maslow was right.
Leading a meaningful, purposeful life is just bound to help us be happier. You might want to check out my post here about the journey toward living a rich, meaningful life.

 

What jumps out at you about the infographic? Let me know in the comments section.

 

Science of Happiness
Graphic by WebpageFX

 

Looking for more information about bouncing back into a happier place? Download my FREE ebookBounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.



Break Your Resolutions

By Bobbi Emel, MFT

You heard me.break your resolutions

Break those resolutions.

They’re not doing you any good.

Why?

Resolutions inevitably set you up for failure.

Think about it: Resolutions are usually created around something you have difficulty with, anyway, like exercising more or eating less. When you create a resolution, you take something that is already hard for you to do and pile on more expectations and more weight (so to speak) on the outcome.

Now what happens if you’re not able to keep your resolution?

You really suck.

In actuality, you don’t suck at all, but resolutions can make you think you do.

Guess what percentage of people who make resolutions actually achieve them?

Go ahead and guess. I’ll wait.

Ready for the answer?

8%. That’s eight percent, not a typo that’s supposed to be 80%. That means 92% fail at completely accomplishing our resolutions.

Break It Down

If you absolutely, positively have to create a resolution, at least do it in the best way possible.

Did you know that the origin of the word resolution is this?

Early 15c., “a breaking into parts,” from L. resolutionem (nom. resolutio) “process of reducing things into simpler forms”.

So, resolution actually means to break things down to make them simpler. The definition of resolution meaning “to hold firmly” didn’t appear until more than a hundred years later.

Rather than saying, “My resolution is to go to the gym more,” create something more specific, measurable, and smaller. Say, “I would like to go to the gym two times per week for the first 3 months and then bump it up to three times per week for the next 3 months.”

Instead of saying, “I’m going to cut out all carbs from my diet,” say, “I’m going to eat only 45 grams of carbs three days per week for one month.”

Reduce your breaking into parts to its simplest form.

The Healthiest Way to Enter the New Year

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, why not set an intention for the new year?

An intention is about having an aim, a direction, a purpose – it’s not about a fixed goal. It can serve the same function as a goal, that is it can get you moving in a new direction.

But holding an intention is not as do-or-die as a resolution. The resolution says “do this or else” while the intention says “let’s follow this path to something that is good for us.”

For example, your resolution to get more exercise may be turned into an intention by saying, “I intend to focus on my health this year.”

Your resolution to lose weight may also fit within the intention of being healthier.

Of course, health is not the only intention available to us.

Perhaps you intend to create more social connections or be more financially stable or pursue more peace and joy.

Once you have set an intention and keep it firmly in your mind, then it’s time to develop steps and goals that fit within the framework of your intention.

 

Take some time now to set an intention for the coming year. I intend to create useful, helpful, inspirational information for you that will assist you in bouncing back in life.

What do you intend?

 

Is your intention to bounce back in life? Download my FREE ebook, Bounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.

 

Helpful articles and sources for this post:

New Year’s Resolution Statistics

Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Did It.



How to Make Your Holidays Not Suck

By Bobbi Emel, MFT

It’s that time of year again.Christmas dog

The Holidays.

For many people, the end of the year festivities are a time of joy and warmth, a time for nostalgia, and a time to celebrate with the loved ones in our lives.

But what time is it for others?

Those troubled by ugly memories of holidays past rather than ones filled with light and love.

Those who with the dreaded family get-togethers that you really can’t get out of but desperately want to.

And those who are alone for the holidays and don’t want to be.

How do we make this time not suck?

Here are some ideas:

1. Remember that this, too, shall pass.

Yes, I’ve used this phrase before. And I shall use it again and again and again.

Because no truer words have ever been spoken.

Even though The Holidays now start as soon as the last candy is nabbed from a neighbor on Halloween and last for about two full months, they’re going to pass.

Just like they do every year.

You’ll get through this year, too.

2. Don’t blow your dread out of proportion.

“I can’t stand the holidays!”

“Not another horrible dinner with my dad and his wife and her four bratty kids – I’ll never make it!”

“I’m the only one I know who doesn’t have somewhere to go and people to be with during the holidays.”

Your holidays aren’t fun, it’s true.

But do you make them suck even more by dwelling on your negative thoughts about them?

Try this instead: When you find yourself thinking your old thoughts that create dread in the very core of your being, just notice them and let them float away as though they are on a cloud in a breeze.

What usually happens is we go on and on and on in our minds about a thought, like this:

“Not another horrible dinner with my dad and his wife and her four bratty kids – I’ll never make it! All of that noise and shouting with those kids running at full tilt in the living room. And I never get any time with my dad since he has to do whatever Sheila says. I hate the way she orders him around . . . ”

Notice how the person having this thought is adding on to it and whipping it up into a full-scale catastrophe.

Just noticing a thought and letting it float away would look something more like this:

“Not another horrible dinner with my dad and his wife and her four bratty kids – I’ll never make it! Oh, there’s that same thought I have all the time – let me just put that on a cloud in my mind and let it float away.”

That’s it. No additional drama. No fuss. Just, “Oh, there’s that thought again.”

This technique helps you gain a little distance from your thinking so that it doesn’t become you. It’s just a thought you’re having.

3. Don’t try not to think about it.

Did I ever tell you about the white bear?

Social psychologist Daniel Wegner conducted a unique study back in the 1980s where he asked one group of participants to say aloud whatever came to their minds. “But whatever you do,” he said, “do not think of a white bear. If you do think of a white bear, ring this bell.”

What do you think happened?

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

The subjects had a hard time not thinking of a white bear.

Another group of subjects were told to verbalize their thoughts and that it was okay if they thought about a white bear. They were also asked to ring the bell if they thought of a white bear.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

The second group thought of white bears, but not nearly as much as the first group who were desperately trying not to think of white bears.

The moral of this story?

The more you try not to think of something, the more you will.

So let those thoughts of how much you hate the holidays come.

And then let them go.

4. Do something different.

If you can’t stand the holidays, try something different this year.

Instead of looking at the Christmas lights with loathing, look at them as just pretty lights. Notice the colors and the creativity in the displays.

Go to the mall or shopping center and just sit and people-watch. Do you notice yourself in any of those stressed faces? Do something different!

Obviously, if you can get out of the dreaded family gathering this year, do it. There’s no sense in making yourself (and possibly everyone else) miserable if you don’t really want to be there.

If you can’t get out of it, do something different when you’re at the gathering.

Sit with different people. Ask your dad directly if he can sit with you for awhile. Engage the noisy kids in a game that you and they all enjoy. Tell the drunk uncle you really don’t want to talk with him when he’s drunk and walk away.

If you’re alone for the holidays and don’t want to be, have a “Dinner for Strays” at your house. Gather other people you know who don’t have a place to go and create your own holiday tradition.

If you don’t know anyone, now is the time to join a church, group, or class so you can start to meet people.

The point is to take some action in a different direction.

You might be stuck in a holiday rut that’s actually a little easier to get out of than you think!

 

Want more ideas how to bounce back from tough times? Download my FREE e-book, Bounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.

 



 
 

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