Let it Go
There’s so much uncertainty in our world today.
The Delta variant has taken hold.
As this post goes live, Sydney ticks over its ninth week of lockdown.
All but essential businesses and services are closed, people are losing their jobs, their lives, loved ones.
The road to recovery will be a long one.
Add to that, we all have our own issues to contend with.
No matter how big or small compared to the next person, they’re significant because they’re personal to us and affect our day to day.
You can’t scoff at Elon Musk when he talks about his problems just because he’s a billionaire.
So, with all this doom and gloom around us atop the everyday stresses of life, how can one not help but think negatively?
Life Is All About Perspective
I have a friend who has sex two to three times a day, exercises daily, reads numerous books each week and yet complains about how much he hates prison.
Okay, so that’s just a joke, but you get the idea.
You can look at your current situation feeling a sense of worry, helplessness, or frustration; be angry with the world, beat yourself up or feel sorry for yourself.
It won’t do anything other than put you in this self-perpetuating negative cycle of apathy or self-sabotage and further downward spiral.
This is of significance particularly for those going through life-changing experiences.
Some fail to recover from them; are never the same person.
You might know someone – always negative, they bitch and moan about how it burned them, be it a relationship, business venture, or investment.
Or they’re the opposite – fearful, hesitant, always doubting themselves.
Instead of changing their perspective and focusing on what’s positive, they focus on their pain.
The lesson taken away is never ever doing it again instead of recognising where they went wrong and using their knowledge and skills to try again with a different strategy or in a similar venture.
Your response might be, “Easy for you to say. Do you even realise what I’m going through? I’ve lost everything and my life is ruined. You don’t know the pain I’m suffering.”
No, I don’t, but am sympathetic to you and the many out there enduring hardship in these difficult times.
Know there are support services for those of you in need. You’re not alone.
Think back to the biggest adversity you overcame.
You’re here today to tell the tale so you’ve got what it takes to battle through hardship.
How did you overcome it? What did you learn?
I’ve encountered two life-changing adversities, both altering my path significantly and yeah, they fucking sucked going through them.
You feel alone, doubt yourself and your future.
But look at someone who overcame one of the greatest challenges anyone could ever face, yet still achieved greatness - Stephen Hawking.
At twenty-one years of age, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and given two years to live.
He lived fifty-five more.
Hear his words of wisdom:
Think About Your Health
When you’re feeling your worst, be it anger or sadness, you’ll feel the effects negativity can have on your health.
Headaches, chest pains, and insomnia, some symptoms.
However, realise a habitual negative outlook is damaging to your health long-term.
If your tendency is to be hostile – cynical and mistrusting of others, those thought patterns can result in an increased risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.
Depression is a mental health issue many struggle with.
Left untreated can result in symptoms within your central nervous system and an increased risk of a heart attack.
Habitual negative thought patterns result in cortisol – the primary stress hormone in your body, being released into your brain.
Excessive cortisol, exacerbated by repeated exposure to chronic stress is associated with “an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.”
Your genetics or a traumatic experience may have you more prone to negative thinking.
But realise everyone’s brain has a negativity bias – bad news sells better than good news, we do more to avoid pain than gain pleasure.
The negative memories you have are more powerful than the positive ones. They send shivers down your spine; make you shake your head in disgust.
Our ability to recognise threats to our well-being is how we are wired to survive; how our ancestors avoided predators thousands of years ago.
But this natural inclination to focus on what’s negative doesn’t mean you’re not able to establish new habits, after all, it’s you in the driver’s seat.
You Can Change
As with anything, change comes from within.
It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort.
Start by identifying the negative thought patterns common to you.
Recognising (and documenting) these habitual patterns raises your awareness of them.
Some examples being:
- Black and white thinking – thinking in absolutes using all or nothing words such as, “always”, “never”, “perfect”, “impossible”. “This always happens to me,” or “I’ll never get it right.”
- Comparison – seeing yourself less fortunate or having less capability than others.
- Excuses – blaming others, not accepting responsibility or claiming to not have any control of a situation.
- Expectations – of yourself and others by using “should” and “must” statements. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment by demanding perfection and berating when it’s not good enough. “You should be spending more time with me,” or “I must stick to this diet.”
- Making assumptions – be it on yourself or others. “I’m not good enough,” or “I bet he screwed up again.”
Once you’re aware of the patterns you exhibit, get leverage on yourself by asking yourself these questions:
- What positives exist by choosing to continue manifesting these negative thoughts?
- What are the negative consequences; both now and long-term?
- What will it cost me to change my mindset and be a more positive person?
- What are the positive outcomes of making a change; both now and long-term?
Once you’ve identified your habitual negative thoughts and have leverage, make the effort, and pay attention to your behaviour.
Catch yourself when you’re in a negative frame of mind and call yourself out on it – verbalise “I’m being negative.”
It’s not about beating yourself up, but instead recognising and accepting that you’re thinking negatively and making a conscious effort to snap out of it.
Consider this to be a lifestyle change for you, so understand it will require effort, patience and time.
Take ten minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness.
Whether you’ve given meditation a try or not, recognise the difficulty in sitting and remaining present for a period of time without your mind wandering. It’s only natural for it to do so.
Mindfulness meditation isn’t about being perfect – it’s about acceptance.
Our response to being distracted is what matters; recognising when our thoughts wander, being non-judgemental, letting go of them, and bringing your awareness back to the present.
“We can’t change what happens to us in life, but we can change the way we experience it.”
See what meditation does for you by trying one of the many apps available or guided sessions on YouTube.
Avoid negative sources of information. Instead, find ways to be happy and things to be grateful for.
Constantly reading or watching the news is not good for you.
It reinforces your negativity bias, warps your perception of reality, and alters your mood by use of disturbing footage and exaggerated language.
I’ll give you an example:
Many news reports of aircraft incidents state the aircraft “plummeted” or “plunged” towards the earth.
In reality, this would only occur when an aircraft is totally impaired – i.e. a wing has fallen off or the fuselage broken in two.
In a typical engine failure scenario, the aircraft will remain intact and therefore glide or perform a controlled descent should it have one or more engines still operating. It won’t just fall out of the sky.
But a “controlled descent” isn’t sensational enough to make headlines.
How many other phrases do you think are substituted with stronger ones to elicit a negative reaction?
In almost all cases, what you see on the news is happening elsewhere.
Look outside your window. Does it look like a world of doom and gloom?
Many of us are fortunate to live in the conditions we do.
There are parts of the world you wouldn’t want to be in right now.
Find happiness in the world around you - not on your device, not in your head.
After all, that’s where life is meant to be lived.
“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.” – Joyce Meyer
No matter how great the struggle you face, it too shall pass.
Nothing lasts forever and you’ll be all the stronger and wiser from it.
There are no boundaries.
I’ll finish by sharing this bit of wisdom from a guy named Bobby - it’s pretty simple.