Category Archives: Attitude

Guest Author Roswitha McIntosh
Beyond Gloom & Doom

"Yes" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Yes” by Mimi Stuart ©

Brain research shows that happiness is more closely related to our state of mind than to our external circumstances. We filter life through our mind’s eye. Thus, we can choose to appreciate the moment and view our life as a precious gift. By transforming our state of mind, we can improve life’s ordinary moments, making them extraordinary, which results in greater enjoyment of life’s journey.

Here is an example of how a change of attitude can transform our experience of ordinary life, and make it better for those around us as well.

GUEST AUTHOR Roswitha McIntosh writes:

Whenever I listen to the news or read the newspaper, a sense of gloom overtakes me—nothing cheerful, nothing uplifting. News about terror, war and corruption, news about the alarming decimation of other species and destruction of our planet, or earthquakes, floods and fires. Man against man, man against beast, man against nature, and nature against man. Nothing but gloom.

I decide to take a walk. A neighbor waves a friendly Good Morning. A little boy holds the door for me—what kindness in one so young! The sky is blue. Overhead, a plane takes travelers to distant lands. Below, flowers shine in the sun. My spirits lift with joy.

As always when I enter a grocery store, I marvel at the abundance of it all. I grew up in war-torn Europe, when food was severely rationed. People were pitifully thin.

I remember my overwhelming amazement when I had my first American meal, succulent roast beef—more than a month’s ration—a baked potato, butter and corn. We did have potatoes—that’s what we lived on—but there was no butter or cream or anything else. For my first dessert in America I chose an orange—I vaguely recalled once having seen one. I knew nothing about ice cream.

Today I’m looking for an orchid for my brother. “Long lines,” I mention to the young woman in front of me. It is Saturday. “You’ve got only one item?” she asks, looking at my plant. “Do go ahead of me,” she offers.

I thank her for her kindness, but decline, seeing her little son. “I bet you’re eager too to get back outside,” I say to the boy. He smiles. We chat amicably about this and that and before we know it, we reach the checkout stand.

I walk home with a smile, glad to realize again that most individuals are kind, far kinder than the media realizes. I mentally survey my friends and acquaintances and find that they all have admirable traits: it may be kindness, joie de vivre or integrity, knowledge, special skills or a good sense of humor. It’s rare that I run into a person who’s devoid of a worthy trait.

It is NOT a world of gloom and doom, I conclude, but a world of infinite variety. And, gratifyingly, we are free to choose our focus and attitude. By doing so we create a world of our own making.

by Roswitha McIntosh, editor of the blog “Rosi Colored Glasses

“Stress is killing me.”
The surprising facts about stress.

"Nessun Dorma" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Nessun Dorma” by Mimi Stuart ©

Research shows that having stress is healthier than having little or no stress at all, as long as you have some control over your life. People who have some stress and some control over their lives tend to live the longest, feel happiest, and have the strongest immune system. Thus, active participation in directing your life with its built-in difficulties turns out to be better for you than passive acceptance of an easy life or feeling helpless in face of a difficult life.

Stress triggers release of cortisol in your body, and having too little cortisol can be just as unhealthy as having too much. Moreover, research shows that simply embracing stress rather than trying to get rid of stress causes people to handle difficulties better, and makes stress less likely to lead to depression, divorce and health problems.

This is good news, because an interesting and enjoyable life involves taking risks and facing the unknown, both of which are inherently stressful. The more practice we get in dealing with uncertainty and hardships, the more confident we can be in our approach to life. The more actively we endeavor to face and deal with challenges, the better we become at taking appropriate action, and the healthier the accompanying stress is to our system.

Imagine that you are deciding whether to take on a stressful job or a stress-free job. Consider first that there is a point where having too much going on in your life can cause you to lose control over your life. However, if you have too little going on in your life, your passivity and boredom are likely to lead to unhappiness and a feeling of meaninglessness or emptiness. Thus, it is important to pursue what gives you meaning and that you gain the confidence to handle the accompanying stress.

Taking control of your life means taking positive steps to deal with challenges. Such positive steps include the following:

• prioritize what is important in your life,
• face your difficulties head on,
• take steps to change what you can about any given situation,
• change your perspective about circumstances you cannot change,
• develop your sense of humor,
• take care of yourself physically and emotionally.

By all means, take risks!

It is key to recognize that even when we don’t have control over external circumstances, we do have control over our perspective, attitude and response to external circumstances. Thus, Viktor E. Frankl survived the holocaust.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

~Viktor E. Frankl

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Watch Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

The essential personality trait for a calmer, more interesting and all around better life.

"Can't walk but I can fly" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Can’t walk but I can fly” by Mimi Stuart ©

How do you react when your flight gets canceled, a friend doesn’t show up, or your dinner burns to a crisp? What if you spill coffee on your white shirt before a business meeting? Or you are robbed of your passport, money, and cell phone in a foreign country?

Many of us would become anxious or angry, which certainly does not improve the situation.

We need to be flexible. Being flexible means remaining cool headed, which allows us to problem-solve and to think of alternative actions when facing an unforeseen event. Being ready to adapt to changed circumstances invites creativity and resourcefulness.

Flexibility of attitude and action will give you the confidence to confront any situation. The simple act of remaining calm opens the possibility of maintaining a sense of humor and adventure, which increase your chances of having a positive outcome or at least an interesting experience.

For example, imagine the advantage of going to your business meeting with comfortable ease and a witty remark despite the stained shirt vs. being uncomfortably embarrassed. Or imagine the story you could tell when you are one of the few tourists who gets to experience a police station in Morocco vs. feeling panicked and overwhelmed.

Our memories of difficult situations and experiences make the best stories. If you keep calm and aware enough to observe the details and emotions while engaging the characters involved in the mishap it will make your experience that much more rewarding.

Bad situations may require that you modify your expectations. In a worst-case scenario that lacks any humor or an otherwise silver lining, being flexible means letting go and trying to gain patience, wisdom and humility, and to face the misfortune with a sense of grace.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “My negative emotions bring me down. I tend to dwell on feeling hurt or angry.”

Read “Transformational Vocabulary: ‘I’m angry, totally confused, and an emotional mess over these overwhelming problems.’”

Irrational beliefs: “I feel like a failure because I failed a class.”

"Think" - Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©

“Think” – Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©

Einstein learned to speak late, at the age of four. Bill Gates’ first business venture failed. Walt Disney got fired for his lack of imagination and good ideas. Are any of these people a failure? Of course not. Most of us who are not famous are not failures either, even though we may have failed a class, gotten a divorce and much more.

Irrational thinking

Yet people often unknowingly hold faulty beliefs that cause them to suffer from their own self-imposed negative emotions. For example, people hold mistaken beliefs such as “In order to be a worthy person I must get great grades, I must make a marriage work, I must get the best job, or I must have the perfect life.”

Unfortunately, such irrational thinking will have unhealthy consequences. It may cause a person to feel depressed and miserable, which in turn will make him or her less effective and less capable of dealing with or improving any given situation.

The cognitive approach to psychology holds that unhappiness often stems at least in part from our irrational beliefs. These irrational beliefs distort the way we see others, ourselves and the world. If either our thoughts are inaccurate or our reasoning is irrational, our emotions and behavior can become disturbed and inappropriate, causing harm to ourselves and others.

Solution

1. Identify the irrational belief.

2. Analyze the facts more objectively.

3. Re-interpret your belief based on reality.

4. Adapt to improve the situation.

Our thoughts have great influence over how we feel about ourselves. Most of us are unaware of all the assumptions we continuously make. Therefore, the key is to learn to monitor your thoughts and then check them against reality by discussing them with your friends or a therapist.

Example: “I failed in my marriage.”

By exploring the assumption that divorce is a failure, for example, we find that there is no evidence that one must have a good marriage to be a successful, worthwhile and happy person. A good marriage might be great for some, but it is not necessary for health, fulfillment and happiness. Besides it takes two motivated and compatible people to have a good marriage. It is wishful thinking for someone to think that one person can be responsible for a good marriage on his or her own.

Through any disappointing relationship we learn about ourselves and others. We may learn, for example, that we need to set better boundaries, to have more fun, to be less controlling, to avoid people who are controlling, etc. By viewing a marriage and subsequent divorce as a meaningful experience including both joy and suffering, rather than a failure, we can learn from the experience, and perhaps even cherish some of the memories.

Example: “I feel like a failure because I failed a class.”

Similarly, when you realize that getting a bad grade does not make you a failure, your emotional response to bad grades might be sadness or frustration rather than self-loathing or depression. Sadness and frustration are often healthy negative emotions that may lead you to transform a situation, e.g., to study harder, get a tutor or change classes. Such emotions trigger reflection and the realization that something needs to be changed. Disappointment in life is inevitable, but can pave the path to improvement and change.

By becoming more objective, you can avoid feelings of self-loathing that cause people so much grief and make it difficult to move forward in life. Instead, appropriate negative feelings cause us to reflect and to focus on making changes rather than dwelling miserably on perceived failure.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Commonly attributed to Darwin

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Irrational thinking: ‘I’ll reject them before they reject me.’”

Read “Mind reading: ‘You just don’t like spending time with me!’”

Read “Catastrophizing: ‘I failed my test. Now they’ll know how stupid I am. I’ll never get into college and get a decent job.’”

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

The psychological habit that is as unhealthy as smoking: Rumination.

"Allegretto" by Mimi Stuart Live the Life you Desire

“Allegretto” by Mimi Stuart ©

Rumination

Have you spent too many sleepless nights or distressing days dwelling on bad feelings and experiences of the past? Rumination is the compulsive focusing on causes and consequences of your distress. While worry focuses on potential bad events in the future, rumination focuses on past and current failures, disappointment, or suffering.

Rumination interferes with the confidence you need to problem-solve and move forward in your life in a positive way. Moreover, ongoing repetitive circular thinking about failures and distress often leads to depression as well as addictions.

Solution

The solution is to learn to notice each time you start ruminating. Then immediately distract yourself with a healthy activity for at least two minutes. Only two minutes of distraction will stop you from ruminating. You may have to do this countless times a day when you first start, but if you keep it up, your ruminating will diminish and then disappear.

Depending on your personality, effective distraction may have to involve your mind, your body, or both. Think of a mental or physical activity that is engaging enough to distract you.

Here are some examples:

• Organize papers or your accounting.

• Read a book.

• Do fifty sit ups.

• Clean your house while listening to your favorite music.

• Call a friend.

• Do a sport or take a walk while listening to a book on tape.

• Do an interactive video or game, such as a language or geography game, or lumosity.

• Clear clutter, focusing on what should be thrown out or where to put things.

• Catch up on social media or emails.

• Plan a dinner party or a trip.

Remember that you only need to distract yourself for two minutes. But if you distract yourself with something positive or productive many times a day, you’ll also have accomplished something worthwhile in the meantime. You’ll be better read, in better shape, caught up with friends, and you will have a cleaner house. These small satisfactions will also help you to stop ruminating about past negative events.

If you don’t have two minutes to spare, consider doing what a friend of mine did during a painful break up to keep her from dwelling in negative thinking. She wore a rubber band around her wrist and snapped it each time she started to ruminate about the past or worry about the future. Her wrist turned red, but her emotional health remained stable and empowered despite the losses and transition she faced.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
@alisonpoulsen

https://www.facebook.com/dralisonpoulsen

Read “Fear of failure: ‘I’m worried about failing.’”

Read “Regret: ‘I shouldn’t have yelled at my friend.’”

Read “’I don’t have time for this huge project.’ Ten minutes: One box, one call, one block.”

Self-doubt: “I’m afraid of looking like a fool.”

"Courage" by Mimi Stuart Live the Life you Desire

“Courage” by Mimi Stuart ©

Perfectionism is an imperfect way to live

The desire to excel encourages achievement. However, when aspiring for excellence turns into the pursuit of perfectionism, then you are creating unnecessary anxiety in your life. Perfectionism is an attitude often fueled by a fear of failure or criticism. In contrast, willingness to make mistakes and look a little foolish will help you improve your skills, accomplish excellence and enjoy your life. Most successful people have “failed” their way to success.

Note that avoiding perfectionism doesn’t entail becoming careless. There is a happy medium between perfectionism and being carefree. Too little attention to external feedback can lead to thoughtless, reckless and offensive behavior.

The benefits of handling a little discomfort

People who are not afraid of being a novice or making mistakes tend to get good at many things quickly because they are not held back by their doubts and a lack of confidence. Think of the possibilities you miss out on if you avoid the following situations because of your fear of failure:

• Striking up a conversation with someone despite the possibility of being rejected.
• Asking for a job despite potential for disappointment.
• Telling a loved one how you feel.
• Requesting that someone treat you differently.
• Asking someone for help.
• Talking to your children about awkward subjects.
• Starting a business venture.
• Participating in a sport or class when you are a newcomer.
• Practicing a foreign language.
• Singing and dancing.

The benefit of making mistakes

We should welcome mistakes because they show us how we need to make adjustments to improve our life. If we look objectively at the feedback we get from others, we will speed up our learning curve about how to execute tasks and interact with the world around us.

Socializing and dating

Think about dating and making friends. If you avoid the risk of looking foolish, you will have a hard time socializing. How can you learn interpersonal skills unless you put yourself out there? How would you learn to read body language and to hone your communication skills? No one is a master at making friends or reading the hidden meaning generated by body language without having some experience of engaging with people. You need to make mistakes and make adjustments in your behavior, desires, and expectations. You learn to modify your style of communicating, your openness, the topics of conversation you engage in by learning to be sensitive to feedback from others.

So it’s important to accept and even embrace discomfort and mistakes and to risk failure. Making mistakes is part of the human experience. That is how we learn and evolve – and succeed! By embracing the risk of failure you will be rewarded by a reduction in the negative anxiety associated with fear of failure, leaving only the healthy and normal anxiety associated with the excitement about future possibilities. A whole world of opportunities opens up to you.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
@alisonpoulsen
https://www.facebook.com/dralisonpoulsen

Read “Perfectionism: ‘I’d like to have people over more often, but I rarely do, because it’s so much work to cook a great meal.’”

Read “Fear of failure: ‘I’m worried about failing.’”

Read “Fear of Making a Mistake: ‘I’m deathly afraid of investing more time, money and energy in something that could be doomed no matter how hard I try.’”