Winning against negativity

Never is discipline more important in living a healthy life than when we have suffered some disappointment or conflict that wants to dominate our thoughts and spirit.

It is always a challenge to develop disciplinary practices such as meditation, exercise, diet, or any other life-changing routine, but it’s especially tough when we mix in some bad days at work, a conflict with a spouse, a financial setback, or even an untimely, nagging illness.  These normal life events present challenges to our fledgling disciplinary practices, and yet they are the very reasons why the work of discipline is so crucial to life-change.

Without some established disciplined responses, we subject ourselves to the whims of our emotions and our old customary preferences.  For many of us, the lack of a disciplined response results in overeating, wasting days in front of a television, or creating chaos elsewhere in our lives, and in the lives of others, so that we can expel the energy somewhere and on someone besides ourselves.  These negative patterns only serve to dig us a deeper hole to retreat into when we finally face the shame that is, for many, inevitable.

If a life-change is truly what we seek, we must get a handle on our disappointments, our pain, and our anger.

Five simple things to counter negativity:

  1. Breathe — When something happens for which your internal response is one of anger or hurt, simply take a deep breath, several of them, if necessary, until you can gather your peace of mind.  Caution: be careful not to sigh as a way of showing your displeasure nonverbally.  Simply breathe before speaking.
  2. Be mindful of the relationship involved, if any.  If it is a momentary one, like a bad driver cutting you off, just take a deep breath and let the other person get on out of your life.  If it involves a person with whom you have a professional or personal relationship, simply be mindful of the relationship in the broader context of this momentary precipitating event.  Just stop and think.
  3. Distract yourself with something neutral, or even positive, before the negative stimulus has a chance to embed itself into your spiritual being.  This changes the balance of your thoughts and your emotions and gives the positive side a better chance of succeeding.
  4. Get to your physical exercise as soon as possible.  This article, “13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise“, is a great list of the many benefits that exercise brings to your mental health.
  5. Move on to another subject entirely.  If you let the moment pass without allowing it to open up a wound, it will heal quickly and without regret or shame.

Negative events are simply inevitable; it’s Life.  These are growing experiences, and they provide us with opportunities to strengthen our discipline, our resolve to change our lives for the better.

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Jack Kornfield says, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.” In that sense, forgiveness is really not about someone’s harmful behavior; it’s about our own relationship with our past. When we begin the work of forgiveness, it is primarily a practice for ourselves.

—–Gina Sharpe, for Tricycle

I liken forgiveness to cleaning out an old closet with all its junk such as boxes that haven’t been opened in years, and old clothes from the 70’s. It is hard to let things go, but when you do, it is liberating, and it makes room for other things in your life. Forgiveness is a cleansing act.

Hanging on to grudges and offenses takes a lot of energy, and the one who suffers most is the one who won’t let go of them.

Follow me on Twitter, too, @toddwrite.

Forgiveness is self-care