Quick. What was your first thought when you woke up this morning? Was it: Today will be a great day? Probably not.
What was your last thought before you went to sleep last night? Was it: I’m so grateful for [fill-in-the-blank] that happened in the last 24 hours? Again, probably not.
But why not?
Why do most of us lack these habits? I guess we get caught up in the busyness of everyday life. And these well-being behaviors can be downright hard.
I know they’re hard for me. I am a recovering pessimist.
But long ago I learned that well-being is a journey, rather than a destination. We don’t one day arrive at a state of well-being and stay there forever. We have to keep fixing potholes, clearing debris, and taking detours when necessary. But, step-by-step, we make progress.
Here are some steps we can all take.
Acknowledge it’s your choice
Trauma and setbacks happen to all of us. They’re rarely a choice. But how you react to them is. Your attitude is the choice you make.
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”Alphonse Karr
Choice is an interesting word. Dictionary.com defines it as “the right, power, or opportunity to choose.” Think about that. Choosing an attitude of well-being is your right. A positive attitude gives you power over the situation, and the opportunity to lessen your own misery.
Face your reality
I’m not suggesting that you choose to ignore all traumas or setbacks you face. Rather, I’m suggesting you sculpt your attitude in a more constructive direction while acknowledging the reality of the situation.
Let’s say you came in second place, not being offered a job you wanted. Or you had a fire that damaged your house or apartment, but without physical injury. Or you missed an event you wanted to attend. Being bummed is okay. But don’t wallow in negative feelings too long. The longer you immerse yourself in negativity, the more ingrained the action becomes.
Face reality head-on and work to change (or at least accept) the negative reality. What might you do to find an even better job? Be grateful your insurance covered the cost of the property damage. Identify another promising event to attend.
Prime your brain
Throughout your life, you have primed your brain to perceive events in a certain way. Chances are you have a stronger reaction to bad news than to good news. (Psychologists refer to that as negativity bias.)
You can’t eliminate bias, but you can work to control or manage it. Start by framing your self-talk. Say “I can’ instead of ‘I can’t.’ Say ‘what can go right?’ instead of ‘what can go wrong?’ Practice priming your thoughts in a beneficial direction until the positive attitude becomes a habit.
Commit to choose well-being and put it into action.
- Start the day with positive self-talk. Wake up with a smile; expect that good things will happen.
- Change your behavior to change your mood. In her TED Talk on body language, Amy Cuddy suggests that using “power poses” can elevate your self-confidence. And I discussed in a prior post the many mental and physical (and perceptual) benefits of proper posture.
- Practice positive affirmations to prime your brain toward well-being. While words alone won’t result in a healthier you, words DO matter because they condition your attitudes. If you’re about to look at something through a negative lens, stop and take a breath. Look for opportunities to adopt a positive perception.
- Make good choices for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self. Think about what to eat. How often to exercise. Whether to meditate. Choice, choice, choice.
- End the day with gratitude. As you’re drifting to sleep, focus on two or three things for which you are grateful. And smile.
As you approach 2020, make an oath to wellness. May you be strong, confident, and healthy enough to weather all the challenges you will face.