Finding Inner Peace
Why Aren’t You Happy? How To Change That
Why aren’t you happy? This is a question we often ask ourselves, answering ourselves with excuses we tell ourselves. Can I be happy? Sure, you can, but are you sure you want to be happy?
I find that today, listening to the news and hearing people bickering about politics is not easy to be happy. Even if I am happy, once I hear about more violence in the country, I’m no longer happy. So why aren’t you happy? Try to be happy in today’s culture!
Fair observation. Outside forces and experiences can and do take away our happiness. Being happy isn’t always easy, but it does happen. You may want to check out a previous article of mine I titled: “Happiness Is Not The Answer But Here’s What Is.”
In that article, I wrote: “Happiness is a fleeting emotion which comes and goes. As such, happiness can’t be a life goal. This is why I don’t encourage people to seek happiness as a life goal.” My premise is that we need to focus on inner peace instead of a fleeting of happiness. But for the purpose of this article, I’m content with using the word happy.
Many times we lose our happiness due to outside factors, but I find I lose my happy feeling because of my own inner issues. We can be our worst enemy when it comes to keeping or losing our happiness. The positive side to this is that if I’m my worst enemy, can’t I also be my own best friend? Yes!
Our thoughts are actually our own creation. They may seem to pop up in our heads, but in reality, we create them. So, since we create them, we can change or delete them. A favorite quote by Dr. Judith Beck, Ph.D., is “just because I think it doesn’t mean its true.” Just because there’s a negative thought about me, doesn’t mean its a right thought. As a child, I used to have the thought I was Superman. Obviously, having that thought didn’t make it accurate. So why do we put faith in negative thinking about ourselves?
Here are my ways of keeping my happiness:
- Thoughts: Learn and believe that I’m the creator of my thoughts, and so I can change those thoughts whenever I want. If you’re not feeling happy, check your thoughts to discover what you’re telling yourself. If you’re telling yourself unhappy thoughts, then, of course, you will feel unhappy.
- Perspective: The way we view the world around us becomes our reality. If we focus our thoughts on the negative, of course, all you will perceive is negative. The more you look for the positive, the more positive you will find. And if your perspective is positive based, so will your thoughts.
- Kindness: Have you noticed that many times we are kinder to others than we are to ourselves? Learn to treat yourself as you treat others. If you are patient with others or give them the benefit of the doubt, do the same to yourself.
- Mindfulness: Practice living in the moment, feeling what you’re feeling without judgment. Learn those times when you aren’t happy, and teach yourself ways to become happy.
- Keep Going: Just when life is going great and you’re feeling comfortable, we tend to self-sabotage. We stop ourselves just before we achieve our success through the thoughts of not feeling worthy or of not thinking you really can achieve this. Don’t allow those thoughts to influence you. You made it this far, keep going.
Why aren’t you happy? It might be your own thoughts. Change your thoughts, and you can once again feel happy.
Angry At Society – how to feel peaceful not hatred
Angry at society appears to be the primary emotion of our time. As this angry feeling festers, it can lead to feeling hatred. Yes, there is also kindness found in society, and I do know people who are not angry. What can we do with our angry emotions so that we can turn them into a sense of being peaceful, and we don’t end up feeling hatred?
Angry at society? Why is there so much anger? We see it in the streets, in demonstrations, on social media, etc. I have my theories, but the focus of this article is not on the why, or the origin, of the anger. Instead, I write this article on anger from the perspective of mindfulness.
In mindfulness, we are urged to remain in the moment, non judgmentally. Following that suggestion, I don’t necessarily need to understand why someone is angry. Assuming anger is taking a person from their peace, I guide that person to shift their perspective and so take action in the hopes of returning that person to a sense of peace.
As a counselor and practitioner of mindfulness, I don’t perceive anger as either positive or negative. The feeling is the feeling; what I do with the feeling is healthy or unhealthy. So, anger in and of itself is not the issue. My perception and actions based on anger is the issue. Therefore, many people these days who are angry are not what bothers me. What bothers me is what they are doing with their anger.
Anger, as an emotion, has its place. Anger has been used successfully as a means of defense against danger, both physical and emotional. Anger, felt when we perceive a threat, produces in us an increase of the chemical adrenaline. This chemical prepares the body for a physical fight and later coping with the event’s emotions.
In society, whenever we feel that our ideas, beliefs, or opinions are attacked, our basic instinct kicks in, resulting in an angry response. Anger is undoubtedly the most judgmental of our emotions. It’s also the most moralistic, self-righteous, and repudiating. Most of us will defend, sometimes to the death, what we believe.
Attacking a person’s beliefs or opinions is akin to an attack on the person themself. Why? Because we are the thinker of our thoughts! In essence, if you attack my thoughts, you attack what I created, and in so doing, you attack the creator, me.
Anger is probably the only emotion that we consciously cling to. Think about the last time you felt happiest. How long did that feeling, in its intensity, last? And when the feeling drifted away, many of us say, “I wish it lasted longer.” Yet, when it comes to anger, when was the last time that feeling of anger simply drifted away? For many of us, we hold onto it, ruminating over and over the offense, which was done.
Why do we hold on to anger? Let’s examine what the emotion of anger does for us:
- It provides us with a feeling of power.
- It enables us to believe that we are in control of the situation.
- It confirms to us that we are right and correct in our stance.
Examining this list, why wouldn’t I want to hold onto anger? If I give up feeling angry, I may feel less powerful and less in control, and I may discover that I’m not entirely correct in my thoughts or beliefs. Yet, if I am willing to give over my power and control to a reflection of my thoughts, I have now opened myself up to self-examination!
Self-examination, one of the goals of meditation, can also be a means of growth. But self-examination can be scary as we uncover aspects about us that we may not wish to open or issues that even we don’t like. As we hold onto our anger, we don’t allow for this self-examination. In many cases, that which angers us in others is what we are covering up in ourselves!
As I stated earlier, anger isn’t the issue; it’s our reaction to anger, which can be an issue. Therefore I differentiate between what I call a “healthy anger” instead of “unhealthy anger.” For example, you witness an injustice and become angry as your belief system speaks to justice for all. In this example, your motivation for feeling anger is not self-righteous indignation or a sense to overpower someone “because I can.” In this example, your anger will most likely result in action toward resolving the injustice, whereby all parties involved will be granted a sense of peace. As peace overtakes the anger, one is willingly open to self-examination.
The unhealthy anger is that anger, which I hold in a self-righteous manner with no motivation or intention toward a sense of peace or self-examination.
The person who practices mindfulness, meditation, and self-examination recognizes within them a sense of peace. Note that I don’t speak of the “feeling” of peace, rather, the “sense” of peace. Feelings, such as anger and happiness, are fleeting; they come and go. Having a “sense” of peace is not fleeting. A sense of inner peace speaks to an awareness of oneself within your environment. We can feel angry, happy, sad, etc. while at the same time maintaining a sense of peace.
People such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. no doubt felt anger as part of their motivation of why they acted as they did. But a reason their actions were not violent and their rhetoric was of love is that they had a sense of inner peace. This sense of inner peace allowed them to feel the anger, yet not allowing them to betray their values.
When we feel emotions and act in unison with our core beliefs, not violating our true selves, we are at peace. We may feel anger at situations or even toward specific people. Still, in maintaining a union between those feelings and our actions with our core beliefs, we retain our sense of inner peace.
Our goal is not to stop feeling angry. Instead, our goal is to learn how to respond to anger healthily. Here are my steps for healthy anger:
- Before feeling angry, practice mindful meditation and spend time in self-examination.
- When you feel anger, find your inner peace to help change your perspective to understand the situation from everyone’s viewpoint.
- Take action in union with your core beliefs and values, which will ultimately lead to the spreading of peace.
- When the situation is over, refuse the urge to hold onto the anger. Let your inner peace overtake the anger allowing yourself time to re-charge.
I agree that there is much in our world toward which to feel anger. Use the steps above to rise to the challenge of using your anger healthily.
An Easter Spiritual Reflection Booklet
I’m pleased to share this booklet of my spiritual journey through my reflections from Palm Sunday to Easter. On each day I leave us challenges to guide us to deeper understandings of the feelings of the season which leads us to hope and inner peace.
There’s also an APP version to keep on your phone or computer. -Chris
PATH Finding Your Inner Peace And Happiness infographic
Coronavirus: How To Emotionally Cope And Reduce Anxiety
Coronavirus continues to spread around the world and the USA. This spread of the virus is causing people to suffer from anxiety and even panic. Fearing they will be affected by the coronavirus, people are changing their lifestyles, even avoiding social situations. How can we realistically emotionally cope with the coronavirus? Follow the PATH.
Coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization, is part of “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases … Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.”
The idea of a virus, invisible to the naked eye, which can span the globe, is the subject of many a horror movie. Yet this isn’t a fictional movie, and people are getting ill and dying. Thus, the reality of the coronavirus gives us a reason to be anxious and scared. Our fear response keeps us safe and alive. So however you’re feeling about the coronavirus is healthy for you.
I’m not a medical professional, so I’m not writing this article on how to avoid getting the coronavirus. My reason for writing this is to guide us in finding ways to reduce anxiety about the existence of the coronavirus.
Using PATH, the program I developed, is what we’ll apply in this situation. PATH is made up of 4 interconnected strategies to help us focus our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to best respond to the world healthily. In this discussion, I’m in no way minimizing the potential threat or the turmoil the coronavirus has already placed on too many people worldwide.
The first step in practicing PATH is to practice mindfulness. Take a moment throughout the day to recognize how you are feeling in the present moment. Regardless of what you’re feeling, acknowledge it without judging it. If you wish to feel differently, then ask yourself what you can do differently. If there is nothing at the moment you can change, then accept it and find something else you can change.
In light of this mindful meditation, we’ll now start upon our PATH:
Regarding the coronavirus, examine how you feel about it and what you think you know about it. Now, change your perspective by looking at it from a different viewpoint. For instance, spend time studying the virus to gain knowledge instead of false news or hype. Or you could ask yourself how this virus compares to other outbreaks we’ve experienced in the past. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, as of February 28, 2020, there are 2,871 deaths reported worldwide, while the common flu, as of this writing, finds 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. alone every year. According to those numbers, more people die, in the U.S., from the flu than those who have been killed worldwide from the coronavirus.
Acceptance does not mean agreement or settling. It’s about viewing reality, and acknowledging what is happening, ask yourself how you will be or are impacted. In the case of the coronavirus, the acceptance is in the reality that it exists, is spreading, and potentially can kill a person. Now, in this reality, what can and can’t you control? What you can’t control, you need to dismiss from your mind since those thoughts are creating much of your anxiety. Instead, focus on the things you can control. In this situation, you can control where you travel, your personal hygiene, and keeping up to date (non-obsessively) with the latest news on the virus in your location.
Now that we’ve changed our perspective and accepted reality, we’re prepared to take action. Based on the above two steps, what can you realistically do for yourself, your family, or your community to make a difference? In this situation, where the majority of the U.S. is not affected by the virus, can you help others to stay calm or educate them on how to respond to the threat?
Mindfulness and finding inner peace is not about selfishness, but an outpouring of the peace we have experienced. This last step on our PATH focuses on what we can do, as a result of the above steps, to guide others to feel the peace you are now feeling. Then they too will do the same with others. Think of how different our communities would be if everyone was helping another to find peace and reduced anxiety over the coronavirus!
I know too many people have died, and many more people have been negatively affected by the coronavirus. But I also know that by keeping this virus in perspective and helping others to do the same, will benefit us in the long term.
The Greatest Threat To World Peace – What Is It?
The greatest threat to world peace, as I see it, is the fear caused by anxiety. My message is consistently about finding one’s inner peace. Yet, the greatest threat we have to achieve that inner peace is anxiety and fear. One’s anxiety quickly turns to fear, and fear can turn us against ourselves and against one another. Here are my 7 practical tips to reduce the greatest threat to world peace.
The greatest threat to world peace is more profound than what we hear about in the news. The media will tell us that war, terrorism, poverty, climate change; these are the greatest threat to world peace. While I won’t argue the point, what’s the common denominator affecting societies and cultures? Anxiety and fear.
According to the American Psychological Association anxiety is defined as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. And what tends to cause most of our anxiety? The unknown, a sense of feeling out of control.
When we don’t know what the future may bring, or we feel a lack of control in our life, our anxiety rises. As the tension increases, the feeling of loss of control leads to fear. What I don’t know, understand, or control can be fearful.
In these terms, think now of the greatest threat to world peace. The more we don’t understand what will happen, and the higher our feeling of a loss of control, the greater our anxiety and fear. And if I feel afraid, I will either hide or fight that which I fear.
Therefore, when other cultures, societies or countries feel a loss of control, they will become anxious and afraid of that which they perceive is the source of their loss of control. In my opinion, simplified greatly, the greatest threat to world peace in the Middle East is fear rooted in the ignorance of other cultures. Both Western cultures and Middle Eastern cultures tend not to understand each other. Therefore we are anxious and fearful of that which we don’t understand. Unfortunratlrey, the response to the feeling of fear is to fight rather than dialogue to understand each other. This fear, by the way, is felt on both sides, the West and the Middle East.
Unless you are a diplomat or have international influence, the question we ask ourselves is, “how does this relate to me?” It relates to us since most of us interact with other people. How we interact with people who are of a different culture or different religion from our own, let us know the level of anxiety and fear we hold inside ourselves. This level of anxiety influences and affects not only how we feel but how we treat others.
Think now of the solution to the greatest threat to world peace. If each of us, everyone in this world, took the time to learn about that which we fear, we would most likely not fear others. If everyone in the world ceased to fear each other, the need for terrorism and war and sanctions would disappear.
I fully understand the complexities of life and take into account the problematic realities of the situations we face in the world, yet devoid of naïve “answers.” In place of answers, I propose the following practical tasks to work on as we develop ways of reducing our anxiety and fear of unknown people and situations. As we accomplish these tasks, we will feel a sense of hope, a hope fulfilled by each person.
- We aren’t alone. The struggles of coping with a world in turmoil are not yours nor mine to struggle with by ourselves. Many people feel similarly. Seek out others who feel the same as you and, instead of complaining or despairing, work together on practical solutions to local problems.
- We aren’t victims. A victim is a person who suffers as a result of events happening to them for which they are powerless to control. You may say that, according to that definition, we are victims of what is happening in the world! But if we change our perspective on how we define “world,” not meaning the entire globe, instead, define my world as consisting of my local community. In this way, we can create reasonable expectations. Creating reasonable expectations allows us to actually do something resulting in our expected change. For example, it is unreasonable to make our goal that of world peace. Yet, the purpose of creating a peaceful home, work, or local community is reasonable.
- Empower yourself and others. Educate yourself about the struggles and solutions tried in the past. Learn what worked and what didn’t work, figuring out why it didn’t work and what you may do differently to make it work. Find and obtain the resources needed to carry out your goal. Our ability to work with others to find a solution to problems removes the label of victim, replacing it with survivor. Although we need to be educated about the issues, it is also essential to keep a balance, allowing for some news-free periods in our day.
- Regain your power. Once we realize that we are not powerless, our desire to implement change brings about renewed strength and optimism. Recognize the power and strength that you individually, and you as a group, possess. Find creative ways of using your energy for the good. Do not let the power itself take over, for hubris makes one feel invincible. In reality, even though we may have power, we will not always make the proper decisions. Knowing how to learn from our mistakes is a sign of strength, for the knowledge gained from the error will help you to avoid that, or similar mistakes, in the future.
- Focus your energy. Our power and abilities are limited, so wisely focus your energy on those tasks which can be completed and not on those tasks you know are impossible to achieve. No one person, or one group, can do everything.
- Empathy. As we learn about the issues affecting our world we begin to realize that many of our problems originate with people not understanding each other. We tend to view the world from our perspective and our history, failing to recognize that those with whom we may disagree are also seeing their world from their perspective and past. Finding solutions to problems presupposes that all parties agree on the nature of the problem. Empathy, placing ourselves in the shoes of another, provides us a deeper understanding of the concerns of others. By viewing the world through their eyes, we can be better informed and so better prepared to find and carry out solutions. Empathy does not mean I agree with another’s opinion, only that I view the other’s opinion as viewed by themselves.
- Self-care. The realist in me recognizes that to accomplish all of this, I will end up draining and wearing myself out. But, I realize the need for self-care. Take time for yourself; keep up bonds with family and friends; find activities or hobbies which do not relate to the work at hand; spend time in meditation and quiet to focus yourself.
The greatest threat to world peace is the fear caused by anxiety. One’s anxiety may quickly turn to fear, and fear can turn us against ourselves and against one another. Empower yourself through knowledge so as not to fear the unknown, but to make the unknown known. The known reduces anxiety, rids one of fear, and allows you to feel a more profound sense of inner peace.
Changing Perspective On The Holiday Season
Changing perspective on the holiday season is so crucial for us in finding happiness and peace. The stress and busyness of the holiday season have me reflecting on the topic of keeping perspective on the holidays. If I change how I think about, or view, the holidays, then how I view and cope with the stress of the holidays will change.
(This article is based on a transcript from my podcast episode posted December 21, 2019)
When I talk about the holiday season, I’m not talking in any particular religious meaning. Regardless of your belief or how you celebrate this time of the year, the fact remains this a very hectic time. In changing my perspective on the holiday season, namely, my expectations will change how I view the season, and so reduce my stress.
Many of us have expectations of what this time of the year should be. Families and our traditions place these expectations upon us. So when we’re looking at these expectations it puts a high level of achievement, a high level of making sure that what we do equals previous years’ celebrations.
Expectations on celebrating and honoring one’s traditions is a worthy goal to have as long as it is a realistic goal. When I talk about perspective maybe we need to shift our thoughts and views about some of our traditions in our approach to this season to give it a whole different perspective. I know this time of the year there’s talk about getting away from the commercialization of the season. I agree that as a society, we’ve allowed the holidays to become consumerism focused.
When you think about it, the consumerism of the holidays tends to give us stress! So it begs the question, what is the real meaning of the holiday season? Since there are many different cultures and religious traditions that celebrate this time of the year, let’s examine the purpose of the season in a very large and general picture.
The holiday season was meant to be, from its inception, a time to spend with family, with loved ones, and a time to take stock of what life really means. Given the longer nights of the Winter season, this is a perfect time for us to take stock of our lives.
Yet, as the Winter progresses, the days get a little bit longer as we experience a little bit more daylight each day. This little bit of sunlight each day gives us hope. This sense of hope impacts our perspective and any changes we wish to make about it.
If my perspective on the holiday season is based solely on appearances, decorations, parties, gifts, etc. as the only meaning of this season, then my view, shaped by society and tradition, places such a demand (expectation) on me that my stress will be high. So how do I lower my stress? Change my perspective on the holiday season. To quote the Grinch, “maybe Christmas means a little bit more.”
So what is important to you in life? Is it appearances and material goods? Or maybe it’s family and close friends. If I can focus on the importance of love of family and friends, then the rest of the” things” of the season aren’t as important. I’m not saying that we get rid of all consumerism, but what is your priority this time of the year? What in life genuinely makes you happy, peace-filled, and feel loved?
Surrounding oneself with loved ones while celebrating your togetherness is relatively stressing and expectation free. It’s only you being yourself, knowing you’re respected and honored simply for you being you. It can’t get much better than that.
Now imagine a holiday focused on the expectation of pleasing and impressing those same people. The more you believe, the more your stress increases as you think of all that has to now be accomplished and done with perfection. Which scenario do you choose?
Consumerism grows as material goods build upon material goods. You purchase one item, but now you need some of the accessories, and some of those need special connectors and cords. Now you’re buying more and more, and needing to carry with you more and more things. See, all of these things build upon each other so that one material good equates to many more material goods, If we’re looking for a way to find some peace in our lives begin to change your perspective and declutter. I’m not advocating that we get rid of all of our material goods, but to re-examine the products we already possess.
As an example, I turn to one of the persons in history who inspires me; Saint Francis of Assisi. He was a Catholic preacher and monk back in the 1100s and 1200s who gave up everything he owned to live a life of complete poverty and ministry to others.
As Francis’ reputation for caring and compassion spreads throughout the area, other men decide to follow Francis, and they too give up everything they own. Francis and his followers are proud of their accomplishments in ministry due to their freedom in not owning possessions.
On one occasion, it’s documented that some of the Brothers asked Francis if they could purchase an educational book for all of the brothers to use. Francis himself was not against learning, but he uses the opportunity to explain to them the importance of not gathering material goods. Francis replies by asking if we get a book where we going to store that book? We need a place to store the books so that the book stays safe. So we’re going to have to build a building. Yet if we build a structure to put the book in we’re going to have to make sure that when we’re not around, that book remains safe, so we may have to put some locks on that building.
And then once we put the locks on the building, people will get suspicious of what’s in a locked building that we may have to hire some people to keep an eye on that building. Francis’s point being is this one book; this one material object is causing them to build a structure that will need to be secured.
Francis’ other lesson in his response to the Brothers pertains to one’s focus and priorities. If the book were in the guarded building, how focused would the Brothers be on the ministry to others versus on the status and care of the book? The takeaway from the story is not that Francis is anti-education, but that Francis wanted his Brothers to be wholly and entirely focused on serving God without any other care or stress. In other words, a perspective shift on the meaning of material goods.
Place Francis’s story into your modern life. Think of the material goods we have. Is it not true that once we obtain an object that it might mean we accumulate other objects to go along with that object and/or the debt of the object(s) indicating the longer, we may have to work, taking us away from our family. Yet honestly, what’s more, important to us; those goods we’re working for or our family?
My challenge for all of us is to refocus our lives on those things which are meaningful to us. Then examine what our priorities are now. If my priorities are causing me stress and defocusing me from my priorities, then what changes in my life do I need to make to realign my priorities and my life?
So that’s my challenge for us during this holiday season, to change your perspective so that your priorities in life match your actions such that you find hope and enjoy peace this holiday season.
Coping With Family Stress To Bring Peace To The Holidays
Coping with family stress during the holidays can seem like a given. Many of us anticipate that family will get on our nerves, make us upset, or get us angry. Understanding that stress, especially during the holidays, will happen, then coping with family stress becomes more manageable and doable since we expect to feel and experience that family stress.
Coping with family stress comes with the season. Sure, family stress happens all year. Still, during the holiday season, it amps up, becoming stronger and more widespread amongst families. Family stress is defined as a disturbance in the steady-state of the family system. The disturbance can emerge from the outside, from inside the family, or both simultaneously.
Why does this happen? Why during a time of the year when we try to be cheerful and happy are families more stressed?
I feel that the answer to that question is two-fold. The holiday season itself can cause stress. Families need to make preparations for travel, the arrival of other family members, meal prep, getting gifts, decorating, and meeting the expectations of traditions. There’s a lot of responsibility placed on many people during a short couple of months. But we all know how the family will talk for years to come if just one aspect of the holidays doesn’t go as they wanted or expected. That’s a lot of pressure to place on people.
The other part of the answer to the question is that families who may spend much of the year physically separated are now coming back together. Children out on their own for the first time, feeling that sense of freedom, are now back in their parent’s house, struggling with being an adult while once again being treated like a child. Or family members who get along well through phone or video chats, find that living under the same roof, even temporarily, is a reminder of why they moved away.
Put these two reasons together, not unlike distant family members coming together, and we have the answer as to why coping with family stress is such an issue this time of the year. Tensions are high to achieve perfection, and family members are moving back, the perfect storm in which to brew stress.
So what can we do about this? Do we resign ourselves to an uncomfortable holiday as we assume stress to be inevitable? Not at all. Actually, the “answer” starts with the formulation of the question itself.
If you know there will be family stress during the holiday, base your expectations as such. If you know that one uncle will be drunk once again, or that cousins whom you can’t stand will be at a function, base your expectations as such. If that uncle gets drunk every year, don’t act surprised when he does it yet again. Why would you expect him to act any differently? Enter the holiday season with realistic expectations as to how people will act and plan accordingly. Therefore no surprises or hurt feelings. Actually, if for some reason they act in a healthy way, such as not getting drunk, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Keep your expectations realistic. No family is or will ever be perfect.
I write and often speak on this topic of feelings and how no one makes us feel any such way. Our nature tends to seek blame for when we don’t like how we are feeling. If I’m feeling happy or joyous, I’ll own that feeling! I’ll tell everyone how “I” feel. But, if I’m angry or sad or disappointed, I need to find the person or situation for which I can blame for those feelings. So if I’m disappointed in how the family gathering is progressing, I’ll be sure to vocalize how uncle so-and-so “made” me feel. Yet, in reality, no one makes us feel anything. People act, we react. But we have a choice in our reaction. If I kept my expectations based on reality, and uncle so-and-so is once again ruining the evening, I can choose to feel what I want since I already prepared myself for his actions. I don’t have to feel disappointed. And if I do feel frustrated, that’s my choice, just as it’s your uncle’s choice to do his actions.
When you’re creating your realistic expectations, remind yourself that it’s OK to feel how you feel. And it’s OK if not every family member agrees with the other members. A family’s bond is not in agreement with everyone, the relationship is in the love and the connections of the members. Yet, since each member of the family is an individual person as well, they may have different thoughts and opinions from others in the family. Remind yourself that it’s OK. Just as each family member has their own views, so too, you have your own opinions and feelings. You don’t have to convince others as to your opinion, nor do you have to justify your feelings. Be yourself, yet understand that as a member of the family, the family itself has importance. As you accept others in the family, accept yourself as a member too.
How To Find Hope In Life
How to find hope in life is not always an easy task. Yet, a life without a sense of hope can be dark, depressed, anxious, and lacking in motivation. In this article, I write about ways of finding hope in life, and so finding happiness and inner peace.
To find hope and to keep hope are essential to living a happy and peaceful life. Yet most of us know what it’s like to live a life devoid of hope. A life where nothing seems to be going our way, and no one seems to understand. The encouraging “you’ll snap out of it,” or “sleep it off,” or, my favorite, “just get over it,” is not at all helpful. If only it were that easy to overcome the feeling of hopelessness.
Hope is a mechanism developed by the human brain to cope with contexts and situations unfavorable to survival. Without a sense of hope in the future, or hope in one’s ability, where would we find our motivation, our drive, to move forward? In the worst of times, it’s hoping that drives me forward. That “knowledge” telling me there is something better in the future if only I get there. Hope compels me to find the impossible as possible because I believed it to be possible and so acted as if the possible were already the reality.
The author and evangelist Hal Lindsey says it so well: “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.” Here are some of my suggestions to find hope in life:
- Do what you know you can do. Take steps forward by accomplishing the tasks you know you can achieve. Maybe you can make the bed, or actually get out of the bed, celebrate the little wins as eventually, these wins will become the lessons needed to find hope.
- Perform an act of kindness. Helping someone else not only shows them there are good people in the world but gives you a sense of accomplishment and outward pride in supporting a fellow human. This sense of pride, felt healthily, will lead to a feeling of hope, knowing that if you can help someone else, you can help yourself, too.
- Surround yourself with optimism. The attitudes of people around us influence our mood. If you surround yourself with positive and hopeful people, you, too, will become positive and optimistic. Learn who the positive people are in your life and follow them.
- Allow for inspiration. Read inspirational books or quotes, strengthen your faith, return to your place of worship, whatever it takes to believe and feel the presence of a being more significant than yourself. Knowing that a prayer community is willing to help you, and the belief that something out there is higher than you, gives us hope in that we aren’t alone.
- Spend time in nature. Feeling, seeing, sensing the depth of the beauty of nature is awe-inspiring. Notice the small insects and bugs, reflecting on how they, given their size and lack of intelligence, somehow survive and even thrive in their environment. If the insect can do it, you can do it!
How to find hope in life is necessary for us to move forward in life, to find the motivation to grow and mature into the best person you can be. Don’t let yourself lose hope. Hold on tightly, and try to enjoy the ride.
The Future Worries Me – As It Should: how to be happy
We fixate our thoughts on the future and so complain that the future worries me. If we stay focused on the future than yes, I’d be worried about my future, too. But there is a solution which I offer in my four tips for coping with the future.
If I were to ask for a show of hands, how many of you would raise your hand in agreement that generally speaking, I’m worried about my future? I’m assuming most of your hands are raised in agreement. Why is this so? Why does the prospect of “the future worries me” resonate? The answer is fairly simple and consists of one word: unknown.
None of us knows the future. Therefore, by its nature, the future is an unknown. Since it’s an unknown it tends to be scary, because I can’t prepare myself for it. Therefore, the future worries me. As humans, most of us desire to be in control of our daily lives, although, no matter how much we strive for control, much of life is beyond our control. The future is one of those areas outside of our control.
When we feel that we can’t control an aspect of our lives, then we feel “out of control”. Feeling out of control is scary itself as we worry about where we will end up if we aren’t in control. So, the future is not only an unknown, but it’s also out of our control. Actually, the future isn’t in anybody’s control!
So yes, when the future worries me, it should! THAT’S NORMAL.
When I work with clients who state that I’m worried about my future, obsessing over it, stressing over it, I help them to understand that their feelings about their future are to be expected. If we are to dwell in the future, meaning, keeping our thoughts focused on the future, then we will be worried and anxious. The statement that the future worries me is deeply felt. I let my clients know that although what they’re feeling is a normal response to their action if they would rather not feel worried and anxious then they need to do only one thing – change their action!
If my action; keeping my thoughts in the future causes me to worry and have anxiety, does it not make sense that changing my action; removing my thoughts from the future would cause me less worry and stress? The common definition of insanity is doing the same action over and over yet expecting a different result. Therefore, the definition of sanity is doing a different action and getting a different result.
Here are my four tips for coping when the future worries me:
- Refocus your thoughts: Throughout the day, whenever you feel worried or anxious, pause a moment to notice where your thoughts are focused. Are your thoughts focused on the past or the future? If so, this is the source of your worry. The future worries me when I dwell in the future. Consciously move your thoughts back to the present moment by consciously focusing on what you are now seeing, feeling, experiencing, etc. We have control over the present moment, so keeping our thoughts focused on the present automatically reduces our worry and anxiety.
- Change your perspective: Perspective is how you see and interpret the world around you. Our interpretation is derived after being “filtered” through how you feel about yourself. If you’re negative about yourself, you’re most likely negatively focused on the world around you, and vice versa. Changing our perspective on an issue allows us to view a different way of thinking, which may help us find a solution different than those we’ve tried before. A different solution leads to a different outcome, and therefore sanity.
- Worst case scenario: When we dwell in the future we tend to focus on what can go wrong (TIP: referencing number 2 above, a change in perspective would be changing your focus from what can go wrong to what can go right. Why must it be negative? Since I don’t know my future why focus my thoughts in only one option, the negative option? Since I don’t know the future isn’t it possible that it could be positive?). Since you’re already focused on what can go wrong, consciously ask yourself “What’s the worst case scenario?”. When you objectively and logically review what you fear as the worst case may in fact not even be that bad! A few months ago I was working with a client on this very topic. I used the example that what if a sinkhole developed right now and this whole building went down. What’s the worst case? The client stated that the worst thing that could happen is that he dies. I asked why that’s the worst that could happen to him? Of course, he mentioned family, kids, friends, etc, but that’s not the worst case for him, it’s the worst case for them! If he dies he’s dead, there are no more worries or concerns for him. So the worst case might be that he survives and is scared. Yes, being scared is normal. What do you do next? You try to climb out; you either succeed at it or rescuers finally get you out, but regardless, the odds of being trapped in the hole, alive, with no one coming to save us, would be rare. And if you say “but what about the zombie apocalypse”? Well, in that scenario I would rather be hidden in the hole. My point being, worrying about a future sinkhole will cause anxiety; but understanding that even the worst case scenario isn’t that bad, allows us to reduce our worry about an impending sinkhole.
- Plan for the future with a reasonable expectation: Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I’m not saying that to live in the present means we forego any future planning. Not at all! First, concerning the scenario for which you are planning, determine those areas of the scenario for which you do and don’t have control over. Those areas you have no control over you need to ignore. But, those areas you do have control over you need to make plans. Understand that the decisions you make today will impact your future plans. And, situations and events out of your control will impact your future plans. This is why I say that we need to have a reasonable expectation. We can make the best plans in the world but keep in the back of your mind that they may not come true. And that’s alright. Why? The opportunities which may open up for you instead may be better than what you wanted. In the future, other opportunities may exist which don’t exist today, and there’s no way of knowing that until we live in the future’s present moment. So, make your goals, plan for your future, but keep an open mind to what that future may actually reveal.
Let this thought comfort you: today was yesterday’s future for which you worried. Was it as bad as you thought? Tomorrow is today’s future. What decisions and plans can you make today to help you in the future of tomorrow?