We are now living in very stressful times. War, global warming and economic disasters plague us. Personal situations depress us, yet most of our stress arises from our negative thoughts and beliefs. We tend to think that what we think is the truth. What if it isn’t? If your thoughts are making you depressed or stressed try these three helpful tips to brighten up your day.
1. Get into a cosmic perspective. A very creative psychiatrist had a special lampshade in his office that reflected the stars in the night sky onto his ceiling when he turned off the lights. When his patients were lying on his couch and telling him their problems, he would frequently ask: “How will this matter in a hundred years?”
Try to remember what was bothering you six months ago. Most of us can’t recall what upset us back then, although whatever it was really angered, worried or scared us. Somehow we survived or resolved the event or situation and are now worried or anxious about something else.
Shift your down mood by putting it into a cosmic perspective. What is ruining your day today? Get in touch with your negative beliefs and ask yourself: How will this matter in a hundred years? Then notice what happens.
2. You can’t change anyone else. Is there someone in your life that you would like to change but aren’t succeeding with? People are like snowflakes; each one has a different design. Some of us are extroverts and some are shy introverts. Some people like to stop and smell the roses while others are racing toward the prize. Some are neat and others messy. Has anyone tried to change you? How did that make you feel?
Julie was married to a man who was a compulsive overeater. Jim also had trouble keeping jobs and couldn’t control his anger. He refused to seek help for his problems, and she was angry most of the time because she couldn’t convince him to. She asked me: “Am I being unreasonable in wanting him to go for help or join OA?” My answer to her was: “No, that’s not unreasonable, except for him.”
What I meant was: You can’t get milk from a bull! All of us want to be accepted as we are right now because we are doing the best we can. Even though we may want to do better, we just are not able to at this point. Her husband was doing the best he could at that moment. Perhaps in the future he would decide to take action, but nagging only made it worse. Julie needed to see Jim as he was and not as she wanted him to be. Once she came to terms with this she could decide whether to stay or leave.
3. Make a list. Ken Keyes was a remarkable teacher. He was a quadriplegic who radiated love and acceptance. Ken wrote: “To be upset over what you don’t have, is to waste what you do have.” He was a living example. When you are having an off day and want to perk up, make a list of everything in your life that you can give thanks for. Start with the simple acknowledgement that you have a roof over your head, food in the pantry, money in your pocket and go on to add as many items as you can. You might include having a friend, a good memory, a park to sit in, and you can carry a tune. Weigh the positive against the negative you were just thinking and notice the difference.
Use these three useful activities to release stress by changing your perspective. Then you can choose to have a good day every day.