If you want life to be happier, you must adjust your attitude. It’s how you deal with stress that determines how well you achieve happiness.
This morning a seasoned psychology professor walked up on stage to teach one final lesson – a stress management principle – to an auditorium filled with students who were about to graduate from college. As she raised a glass of water over her head, everyone expected her to mention the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” metaphor. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from a couple ounces to a couple pounds.
After a moment of fielding answers and nodding her head, she replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass is irrelevant. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the absolute weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your worries, frustrations, and stressful thoughts are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a little while and nothing drastic happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to feel noticeable pain. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
Let this professor’s words be your wake-up call.
If you’ve been struggling to cope with the weight of what’s on your mind, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down.
The key is to realize that the worries, frustrations, and stressful thoughts you’re dealing with are entirely a product of your own creation. And you can let them go almost instantly by adjusting your attitude. Today, I challenge you to do just that – to replace your negative thoughts with positive alternatives. Take a look at the quotes below that I’ve carefully selected from our blog’s archive. Pick one (or more) of them that relates to your present circumstances, and use it as a mantra by repeating it to yourself the moment you feel negativity creeping up inside you.
- Most people make themselves unhappy simply by finding it impossible to accept life just as it is presenting itself right now. Be mindful.
- Happiness doesn’t start with a better relationship, a better degree, a better job, or more money. It starts with your thinking and what you tell yourself today.
- You may not be able control all the things that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
- When you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself. And doing so, in turn, changes everything.
- You alone get to choose what matters and what does not. The meaning of everything in your life has precisely the meaning you give it.
- Use your struggles and frustrations today to motivate you rather than annoy you. You are in control of the way you look at life.
- Worrying never changes the outcome. Breathe more and worry less. Train your mind to see the lesson in every situation, and then make the best of it.
- Be selective in your battles. Peace always feels better than being right. You simply don’t need to attend every conflict you’re invited to.
- Even when you are upset, don’t be hateful – keep your heart and mind wide open. Peace is not the absence of pain, but the presence of love.
- Just wish people well, even if they’re rude to you. Embracing their negative energy only harms you at the end of the day. Smile and move forward.
- Happiness and a negative mindset can’t co-exist. Those who move forward with a positive attitude will find that things always work out better.
- Truth be told, we either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. In the end, the amount of work is the same.
- When you really pay attention, everyone and everything is your teacher. Take time to observe and listen. Take time to learn something new.
- We learn the way on the way. Let go of everything from the past that does not serve you, and just be grateful it brought you to where you are now – to this new beginning.
- Think of all the hundreds of thousands of steps and missteps and chances and coincidences that have brought you here. In a way it feels like the biggest miracle in the world, doesn’t it?
- The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you accept that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.
- Letting go isn’t about having the ability to forget the past; it’s about having the wisdom and strength to embrace the present.
- Stepping onto a brand new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation that no longer fits, or no longer exists.
- Sometimes you simply have to stop fretting, wondering, and doubting. Have faith that things will work out, maybe not how you planned, but just how it’s meant to be.
- Head up, heart open. To better days approaching!
The Most Practical Side of These Mantras: Healthy Coping
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Above all, the mantras in this post collectively serve as a healthy coping mechanism for life’s inevitable disappointments. And understanding how to cope in a healthy way is an invaluable skill.
How you cope can easily be the difference between living a good life and living a sick one. If you choose unhealthy coping mechanisms like avoidance or denial, for example, you can quickly turn a tough situation into a tragic one. And sadly, this is a common mistake many people make.
When you find yourself facing a disheartening reality, your first reaction might be to deny the situation, or to avoid dealing with it altogether. But by doing so you’re inadvertently holding on even tighter to the pain that you wish to let go of – you’re, in effect, sealing it up inside you.
Let’s imagine someone close to you has grown ill, and supporting this person through his or her illness is incredibly painful. You might not want to deal with the pain, so you cope by avoiding it, by finding ways to numb yourself with alcohol and unhealthy eating. And consequently, you grow physically ill too while the pain continues to fester inside you.
Obviously, that’s not good.
If you notice yourself doing something similar, it’s time to pause, admit to yourself that you’re coping by avoiding, and then shift your focus to a healthier coping mechanism, like using the mantras in this post to help you open your mind.
When you face struggles with an attitude of openness – open to the painful feelings and emotions you have – you find out that it’s not comfortable, but you can still be fine and you can still step forward. Openness means you don’t instantly decide that you know this is only a horrible experience – it means you decide that you don’t really know what the next step will be like, and you’d like to understand the whole truth of the matter. It’s a learning stance, instead of one that assumes the worst.
The General Benefits of Healthy Coping
Coping certainly isn’t an easy practice, and I’m not suggesting that it is. What I am suggesting is that it’s worth your while. With practice, healthy coping allows you to find better ways of managing life’s continuous stream of unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances. For example:
- A task is harder than you expected it to be. Instead of running from a daunting and overwhelming task, you can accept it and see what it’s like to feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed, and still take action anyway. Writing a book, for example, is daunting and overwhelming, but you can still write one even with those feelings rolling through you (just like Angel and I did with 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently).
- An interaction with someone you love angers or frustrates you. Instead of lashing out at a loved one when you’re upset with them, you can sit quietly with your difficult feelings and just be open to what it’s like to feel them. And then, once you’ve had a moment to breathe, you can see what it’s like to deal compassionately with someone you love who you’re also upset with. To try to understand them instead of just judging them at their worst.
- Unhealthy cravings overwhelm you out of nowhere. You may be inclined to indulge in unhealthy cravings like alcohol and sweets for comfort when you’re feeling stressed out. But you can sit with these feelings and be open to them instead, and then gradually build positive daily rituals for coping in healthier ways – taking walks, meditating, talking with someone about your feelings, journaling, reviewing the relevant mantras provided in this post, etc. (Angel and I build life-changing, positive daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- You are forced to deal with a loved one’s death. When someone you love passes away, the grief and sense of loss can seem overwhelming. And at that point, it’s incredibly easy to give in to unhealthy, “quick-fix” ways of alleviating the pain. But you have to force yourself to do the opposite – to give yourself compassion, to sit with the powerfully difficult thoughts and feelings you have, and to open your mind to what lies ahead. Gradually it becomes evident that death isn’t just an ending, but also a beginning. Because while you have lost someone special, this ending, like all losses, is a moment of reinvention. Although sad, their passing forces you to reinvent your life, and in this reinvention is an opportunity to experience beauty in new, unseen ways and places.
And of course, we’ve merely just scratched the surface of an endless pool of possibilities for healthy coping. The key thing to understand is that by learning to cope in healthier ways, you will find that you can better handle anything life throws your way, and come out stronger, and oftentimes even happier, than you were before.
In the end, the world is as you are inside. What you think, you see, and you ultimately become. So gather and choose your thoughts wisely…
Think how you want to live today.
Your turn …
How has adjusting your attitude affected your life and circumstances?
What else do you try to keep in mind to strengthen your mindset and cope more effectively with stress or pain?
We would love to hear from you. Please leave a reply below.
This post originally appeared on Marc & Angel Hack Life. Sign-up for their free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.