The Well

Archive for June, 2010

What You Expect Is What You Get

by Andrew Shaw on Jun.27, 2010, under Recent Posts

Say you wake up today feeling off.  You start your day in a bad mood.  You say to yourself, “it’s going to be a terrible day.”  Then, you proceed to miss the bus because you are upset and grumbling about all the negative possibilities for the day.  You arrive late to work, and in your haste, you spill coffee all over your new shirt.  Now you’re really in a foul mood.  You’re feeling more and more angry.  Your thoughts and words are negative, which fuel nasty responses from co-workers.  As the day gets worse, you return home, with a short fuse and a bad attitude, to inpatient children and an unmade dinner.  You react to the situation by taking your frustration out on your family which leads to an argument with your spouse.   A terrible day indeed.

But, what would have happened had you started your day differently?  What if you had taken a moment to breathe, to express gratitude for being alive, and said to yourself, “it’s going to be a good day.”   Armed with a positive attitude, you might miss the bus, but then get a ride from a friend, which is full of laughter and good conversation.   Even if a co-worker seems nasty, you don’t personalize it, and you find a way to negotiate the situation to come to a resolution. If the children are fighting at home, you interpret it as a call for your help and an opportunity to use your parenting skills.  An uncooked dinner means a chance to be creative, and have fun, in the kitchen.  You smile, turn on some music and see dinner as a great time to come together as a family at the end of your day. 

Have you heard of the phrase, a “self-fulfilling prophecy”?  The world is what you think it is. You create your own personal experience of reality through your beliefs, expectations, attitudes, desires, fears, judgments, feelings and consistent thoughts and actions.  The self-fulfilling prophecy is a thought or statement that alters actions and therefore comes true.  A person stating “I’m going to have a lousy day,” might alter his/her actions, even subtly, so that such a prediction is actually fulfilled by his/her very behavior and actions.  

While one’s attitude cannot necessarily influence the larger things, such as the weather or the possibility of an earthquake, one’s attitude can influence the smaller things, like the way we respond to an event in our life, or the way we relate to other people and their responses to us.  Additionally, interpretations of things like “good” and “bad” tend to be weighted heavily by one’s expectations.  If we expect the worse, we’ll tend to experience the worse.  This may be due to only looking for the negative or interpreting events merely from this perspective. 

Understanding the power of expectation and attitude, and the self-fulfilling prophecy, are helpful in dealing with problems like anxiety, depression, or chronic pain.  Studies have shown that perception and prediction of an illness’ course tends to influence experience of the illness.  And Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, focuses on learning to alter thoughts and perception in order to change problem cycles or negative patterns.  By becoming aware of your thoughts, assumptions, expectations, attitudes, etc., and by integrating a positive mindset, there’s a very good chance you’ll feel happier and experience more of the positive in your life.

Be Well

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Independent Happiness

by Andrew Shaw on Jun.18, 2010, under Recent Posts

I read an article recently on happiness by Dr. Serge Kahili King.  He said that he realized that his unhappiness was related to things that had happened in the world that he was unhappy about — things that he didn’t like and that he didn’t feel he could do anything about.  Upon realizing this, he wondered why he had to be so unhappy about so many things over which he had absoluetly no control.  He commented, “I was amazed to find out how much my happiness depended on so many little things like temperature, sunshine, food preparation, news, voice tones, whether machines worked the way I wanted them to or not, bills, bank account levels, the availability of things, whether other people were happy or not, and on and on and on” (King, Who Owns Your Happiness?).

Like King describes, we tend to make our happiness dependent on events or outcomes outside our control or dependent on the behavior of other people and, in effect, we make these the owners of our happiness.  If there’s traffic, then we’re less happy.  If the car breaks down, then we’re less happy.  If the boss makes a decision we don’t like, then we’re less happy.  The weather determines our happiness.  The news determines our happiness.  The economy determines our happiness.  What someone says, or doesn’t say, determines our level of happiness.  How can we take back, and be the rulers of, our own happiness?       

Ask Yourself the Question: Is There Anything I Can Do?
Some things in life are beyond our ability to control.  We must first realize this, then accept it.  For example, if I recently had a job interview, perhaps I am worrying about how well I was received and how I presented myself. But since the interview has already been conducted, there is nothing more I can do now that will change the outcome.  It is done.  It is out of my hands.  Why worry?  Will worrying change anything?  Or another example, if you’re like me, you get upset sitting in traffic.  I am frustrated and angry because the cars in front of me won’t go faster.  I curse the other drivers and become more and more agitated.  Is my yelling going to change the reality of traffic?  Is it going to make the cars move any faster?  I am making my level of happiness dependent on something that is completely out of my control. 

If there’s nothing more you can do, let it be.  Accept it for what it is.  Focus on the things you can control.  Focus on doing those things, which are within your own power, that lead to greater happiness.  

Be Well

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Affirm Your Self

by Andrew Shaw on Jun.09, 2010, under Recent Posts

Perhaps you’ve already seen this video, as by now it has gone viral on the web.  It’s amusing.  It’s jubilant.  It makes you laugh and smile.  As I watched this video, it also made me think about how this girl embodies unbridled enthusiasm and self-affirmation, things that we tend to lose as we grow older.  I thought too about how wonderful it would be if we could bring this kind of positive energy into our own daily lives. 

Using Jessica as a model, maybe we could start our day affirming ourselves.  Rather than doubt and question what we’re capable of, we can practice believing that we are capable.  Too often we give up, we lose sight of our dreams, or we think that it’s just not possible.  The truth is, the power to dream and do, resides within every one of us.  But, we must nurture and uphold those powerful seeds of thought that lead to great action.  Moreover, it’s a chain reaction; positive thinking leads to confidence, leads to trying and hard work, leads to success, leads to more positive thinking.  This week, try starting every day with positive affirmations and when you notice self-doubt, think of Jessica, and remember to give yourself words of encouragement… you are good and you can do great things!     

Stay Positive and Be Well

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