Get out of your busy mind
Stop overthinking life. Do what is necessary but don’t drive yourself crazy with “what if” thinking and “if only” thinking. No, no, no. Be more present in the moment and stop living in your head. It’s a sure-fire way to make yourself neurotic and paranoid. Learn to dismiss your thoughts and not focus on every thought that comes into your head. Tell yourself (I say it to myself out loud!) “There I go again, stop it!” and I then distract myself with something else. It’s fine to be in your mind when you are thinking efficiently – in terms of problem-solving or goal setting but thinking for the sake of it is dangerous.
Live in the present moment
We often live in our heads – thinking about the past or living in the future and our lives pass us by. Try fully immersing yourself in the present moment. Practise this a few times a day. Take 5 minutes out of your day and focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and one thing you can touch. Engaging your 5 senses in the present moment gives your brain less time to focus on worry as well. The more you can be fully present in the now, the happier you will be. The exception to this of course is if you are in a current crisis – that’s common sense. Then talk to yourself in a positive way – “This shall pass, change is inevitable”. Let your perceptions work for you, you can always control your reactions to the world around you. This is where your power and your emotional well being lies.
Focus on what is good in your life. The default setting for humans seems to be to focus on what is wrong. Evolutionary Psychologists say this is because when we were hunters centuries ago, we had to be tuned in to threat. These days, threat presents themselves rather differently yet our “old brain” – the hypothalamus and the amygdala still get triggered in the same way when we feel stressed. We could be stressing over the fact that the kettle has stopped working but our old brain will pick up the physical signs of stress and interpret them just as if there was a lion in the room. Focus on what you do have – it’s an instant route to feeling happier.
Comparing yourself to others is the most inaccurate thing to do yet it causes us so much misery. We all have insecurities and these trigger comparisons with others. We torture ourselves by believing others are more in control, more successful, and have better jobs and relationships. We compare without all the information to hand. It’s the most useless futile mind exercise there is.
You don’t really know what is going on with others. Instead, focus on how you can improve your situation. Use gratitude and brainstorm ways (good problem-solving!)to move forward and change your situation. You have control over your life, not over the lives of others. Let them get on with whatever they are doing.
If they are one of those extremely annoying people who constantly brag on Facebook, stop following them. You can still be their friend without following all their ludicrous brags. People who do this have low self-esteem and need external validation – that’s all that is. Ignore them. If it helps them to feel better about themselves it causes no real harm, even if they do look silly and desperate for approval.
Uncertainty is a part of life. Resisting it and trying to stay in control will exhaust you. No one has any guarantees. Stop stressing out about whether your partner is being unfaithful, you can’t keep track of their every move. Let go and learn to trust. Do life experiments – try new things. Avoiding life because you are fearful of uncertainty will lead to further fear and vulnerability. Use approach behaviour and tell yourself you are resourceful and resilient and will find a way to cope with whatever life hands you to the best of your ability.
Accept uncertainty, work with it. See it as useful. Who would want to know everything – the day you will get cancer or the date of your death… no thanks! See life as full of surprises, shift your perceptions of uncertainty and you are bound to feel more carefree.
Keep the faith
Life is tough and it gets to us all at times. Everyone feels negative and defeated at times. This is a part of life. I use the above tips – get out of my mind, watch my thinking, focus on what is going well (even if it’s hard to find something at times, there is always something) and try to be philosophical. What I tell myself (my ‘mental diet’) is crucial to how quickly I recover from being at the bottom of the pit, feeling there is no hope.
Don’t allow life to grind you down. There are many truly magnificent miracles and wondrous things happening every day. Follow inspirational people on Twitter, and look for stories of kindness, they do exist. Most people are very happy to help if you let them. Keep hope and faith – no one can take that from you.
Keep these tips close, I use them often and they help me when life gets challenging. I hope they help you too.