Days spin out of control, or go down the tubes, pretty quickly if we let them.
Challenging situations, unexpected delays, or a few irritating moments, especially early in the day, have a tendency to colour the day with challenge. We often drag the feeling of challenges and irritations from one moment to the next, bracing for the next frustration to arise. Jaws and shoulders tense, brows furrow, and patience grows short as we mentally stockpile the day’s irritations.
It used to feel like I was putting on armour to be prepared for the next thing to happen, almost looking for it.
I carried each challenging situation and offending person with me throughout the day, and then took them home with me in the evening to share with my loved ones. I had a habit of cherry-picking the negative stories from my day. Nice, hey? Quite honestly, I shopped my mind to find some gripe-worthy tidbit to share when I got home.
I wanted to share the love and thought complaining was a great conversation starter. Really Corinne?
This is where mindfulness came in. Awareness is curative.
I started to pay attention to how it felt in my mind and body when I was the recipient of others’ stories about every idiot on the road or what the guy at work did. I could feel myself bracing for the onslaught of negativity simply by looking at another’s face and demeanour. It didn’t feel good inside me as I let myself get pulled into the drama, experiencing the irritations from another’s life. Heck, I didn’t even need to meet “that guy.” I got to experience the effects of others’ ineptitude as a third-party. I could feel tense without leaving the house. Gaining awareness into myself and my own personal tendencies was fascinating.
As I paid attention to what was happening around me, I recognized I was not alone in my habit of reliving and reciting the negative. It’s a cultural tendency. We love to swap stories of the stupid and outrageous. As I recognized the power and control I was giving to unskilled individuals, I made a different choice.
It’s up to me to choose my focus of attention. It’s interesting to notice what we tend to focus on and which stories we feed.
It was powerful to ask myself to get real. Was it really a bad day filled with challenge, or was it really a few minutes of irritation that I fed throughout the day? What would it look like, and how would I feel, if I started to capture stories of the good stuff? Who on earth would be interested in hearing about the delights of my day?
Well, it turns out most people are.
I had to change and uproot that old bias for negativity I was born with, and had practiced so well. I began keeping a mental list of all the good things that happened and the things that went well, and reporting on those when I arrived home.
My brain started to change and I found myself looking for, and paying attention to, all of the good in life. This is what I choose to feed and nurture. I’m not pretending, or wearing rose-colored glasses, I’m just choosing which events I’m going to give my greatest attention and energy to.
Why on earth would I cause myself to suffer all day because of another’s actions or a challenging situation? How far do I want to carry them?
I notice when I slip and start to mentally compile a list of bad things. And then, I pause and ask myself an important question—did I really have a bad day or did I have 10 or 20 minutes of challenge during the day?
I’ve found there’s much more positive in life than negative. There’re more kind and intelligent people than challenging ones. Good stories are the conversation starter when I arrive home. I’ve upped the ante. Now, I not only speak about all the good, I write the good things down in my gratitude journal. I can hardly wait to reflect on my day and record the wonderful things.
The crazy thing is, I was the one whose mind, body, and emotions suffered as I fed the negative stories. And, I’m the one who benefits from my change of focus. It’s a simple practice, but it’s benefitted my life greatly.
We all could use a little good news today.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.