November 11th, 2014
Advice columnist Carolyn Hax was asked by a reader how to handle her “button-pushing sister.” In her response, Hax in part tells the questioner not to allow others to control the access to her sensitivities. The questioner then writes back to Hax to elaborate on this strategy, stating “I don’t ‘give’ people like this access to my sensitivities, they just now exactly what they are and how to use them to hurt me Even if I put on a show like it doesn’t hurt, it still hurts.”
Hax’s response was so perfectly stated, I am restating it here, with the caption: “I couldn’t have said it better myself!”
Answer: I’ll use my experience in reading hostile mail for 16 years, and also in some volatile, now-ex friendships. Both used to upset me deeply, and now the same things barely register. Nothing about the other parties changed, the abuse still comes. What has changed is inside me: I value their (or anyone’s) opinion less; I am more accepting of, less embarrassed by, and therefore less defensive about my own shortcomings; and I learned more constructive ways to handle my hard feelings. Combine the three and I am just not as, for lack of a better work, hurtable as I used to be.
Needless to say, I couldn’t agree more. Dealing with difficult people is an INSIDE job!!!
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 2014, p. C2
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October 15th, 2014
Small talk may be common, but it doesn’t do much to nourish our sense of well-being. Compared with people who rated themselves as more unhappy, people who were happiest spent 70% more time talking, had one-third as much small talk and twice as many substantive conversations.
Researchers came to their conclusions by having a group of 79 college students wear a tape recorder for four days and eavesdropping on their conversations. The students also were given tests to measure happiness and personality.
The findings “demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary, and conversationally deep rather than superficial,” the authors, from the University of Arizona and WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis, wrote.
It’s not clear, however, whether happy people attract others for deep conversation or whether deep conversation makes people happier. Further research should be done, they said, to see if having more substantive conversations helps unhappy people become happier.
The study is published online in the Journal Psychological Science.
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September 17th, 2014
Do you compare yourself to other people? Of course you do, because this is human nature. It is only natural to experience envy. Envy isn’t all bad. It can be a motivator in the short-run. For example, if you envy your neighbor’s new car, this can motivate you to work harder in order to earn more money for your own new car. The problem with playing the comparison game is that envy can become a toxic emotion. Too much envy, and you will get stuck.
Let me explain. While it may be comforting to know that on any given measure – whether money, appearance or job status – you will outrank some, there are always others who will outrank you. This puts you on a downward spiral, a dangerous place to be if you want to keep energized towards reaching your goal.
And, when you are grappling with toxic envy, you often try to make yourself feel better by putting others down. The belief is that if I can tear you down, I will build myself up. But this practice doesn’t really put you on an upward spiral because deep down inside, you still don’t believe that YOU measure up.
So, stop playing the comparison game and start focusing on you. Here are three quick – yet effective – tips to put on an upward spiral:
- Shift your focus. Mentally run through those life circumstances in which you feel confident and appreciate yourself.
- Decide to find your own measure of success. Remember, you create your own vision and determine our own goals that are meaningful for you.
- Challenge yourself to be happy with your current situation. In fact, with a positive attitude, you are more likely to make improvements.
End the comparison game…focus on you…and enjoy the journey. After all, this is YOUR life so you might as well enjoy YOUR journey!
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August 20th, 2014
Do you consider yourself an anxious person? Remember, everyone feels anxious from time to time. This is normal. And, in fact, some anxiety is productive, such as double checking your plans or making a doctor’s appointment. This is a matter of being well-informed and prepared. The real problem comes when your anxiety escalates and you become limited or incapacitated in some aspect of your life. This kind of obsessive worry or anxiety invariably puts you on a downward spiral.
Here are three POWER Optimism skills that you can practice in order to break out of the anxiety loop.
First, move from the No Control Zone to the Control Zone. Remember, you can’t change others. You can’t control what’s happening outside of you. Remembering these facts will make you less affected by what’s going on around you that is producing anxiety. Repeat to yourself that there is nothing you can do.
Another POWER Optimism strategy is maintaining personal accountability. Rather than blaming someone else for your anxiety or focusing on a situation that is making you depressed or unhappy, take responsibility for yourself. Think of positive changes you can make that will alleviate the anxiety. Give yourself permission to feel anxious about whatever is bothering you. After all, anyone might feel anxious. But be sure to check in and ask yourself how much anxiety is too much. Learn to be an under-reactor rather than an over-reactor.
Third tip. Eliminate negative self-talk and beliefs. Alter that anxious self-talk, such as, “What if I have an anxiety attack when I am driving home tonight?” This kind of thinking is likely to trigger an attack. Create a positive counter statement, such as “I can feel anxious AND still drive.” Also, be sure to release your limiting beliefs, because these are often the foundation of your negative self-talk. Such beliefs as “I am powerless” or “Life is dangerous,” feed negativity and fear. Replace these beliefs with empowering beliefs, such as “I am in charge of my life” and “I can handle whatever situation might arise.”
While change won’t happen overnight, with a commitment and continued practice, you can break free of that anxiety thought loop and start living a life of assurance and tranquility.
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July 24th, 2014
Often we experience being alone as being lonely. Here are four strategies to help you be alone with being lonely.
- THINK SMALL. Looking too far ahead is daunting. Celebrate minor achievements – going to a café on your own, talking to someone at work — rather than fixating on what you have yet to achieve.
- ASK QUESTIONS. Don’t let your thoughts go unchecked. It’s easy to let a negative emotion dictate your mood. Question what’s caused you to feel the way you do and consider whether it’s justified.
- CLEAN HOUSE. Practice “mental hygiene.” Take a few minutes every morning for a bit of psychological housework. Are there worries or doubts lurking? Deal with them before you get on with your day.
- ACCEPT IT. Remember that loneliness isn’t a failing. We’re social creatures hard-wired to be with others and it’s natural to feel unhappy when that’s jeopardized. Don’t feel ashamed to admit to it.
While you may not be able to prevent lonely feelings, using these strategies can give you the confidence that you can at least manage it.
Source: Psychologies Magazine, November 2013, p. 62
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