Tag Archives: hay house world summit 2013

Are You a Pessimist?

Over the years I’ve noticed that any time I get into really bad form, it’s because I’ve started believing the thoughts that are telling me that everything has gone to shit.

I’m lazy and useless. I’ve gained weight. I’m ugly. I’m alone. I’ll never amount to anything.

Recently, I observed that I was slipping into one of those moods. Rather than dwell on it, I switched on an interview with Dr. Joan Borysenko, psychologist and mind-body medicine expert.

I was half-listening as I got ready for bed when I heard Joan speaking about pessimistic thinking. Joan says that you can inherit a pessimistic world view. This type of thinking happens when you lose hope and can’t see a way out of things.

When something bad happens, Joan suggests looking at your explanatory style. How do you explain this negative occurrence to yourself? Martin Seligman put forward the Three Ps of Pessimism. They are as follows:

1. You take things Personally. You blame and even hate yourself. You can see from above how I was telling myself that I was lazy and useless.

2. Your thinking is Pervasive. Nothing in your life is good. Relationships, family, work, body-image: all crap.

3. Permanence. You’re in a mental rut and you can’t imagine that your life could be any different. You feel stuck. I was telling myself that I’d never amount to anything and that I’d always be alone.

This was a revelation to me. I was relieved to realise that I am not alone in this type of thinking. And once I become aware of it, and own it, it immediately loses its grip on me. I can choose the way I think.

Joan suggests disputing what you say to yourself. When you watch your mind and witness your thoughts, you can see that you’re telling yourself a story, one that isn’t true. This creates distance from the thoughts so you can observe and even learn from them.

Joan explains the science behind all of this, which I won’t go into in detail now. Basically, she states that you can change your brain circuitry. Brain plasticity allows for the rewiring of your nervous system. So you don’t have to be stuck with pessimism for the rest of your life.

Joan doesn’t suggest shifting from pessimism to optimism. Rather, she speaks about the benefits of stress-hardy or I-can-do-it thinking, which is more realistic.

Suzanne Kobasa introduced the Three Cs of Stress-Hardy Thinking. They are as follows:

1. The stress-hardy thinker will want to rise to the Challenge.

2. Commitment. The person will stick with the challenge and see it through.

3. Control. The stress-hardy thinker doesn’t try to control the uncontrollable. Instead, they focus on what they can control.

And if you can’t see yourself making the leap into stress-hardy thinking just yet, Joan suggests a few quick and simple tips to calm down your fear responses. Deep breathing, exercise and just a five-minute meditation can be enough to bring you back from your pessimistic thinking.

Do you recognise yourself in any of this? If you get caught in a spiral of pessimism every now and again, don’t beat yourself up. You’re human. But you do have choices. Change your thinking, change your life. Are you up for the challenge?

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Leaning into Life

Listening to the Hay House World Summit at the weekend, I heard one of the speakers say: “Successful people do what they want to do, not what they feel like doing.” At the time, I didn’t really get it. The following day, it hit me.

For quite some time, I’ve been teaching myself to get quiet and listen to my body. I’ve learned how to say “No” and how to know what’s right for me at any given moment. I thought the best motto for life was to “go with the flow”.

Then, I came across an article by Noor Shawwa, who wrote about the three ways we approach life. He suggested that we can go with the flow (lean back), walk away (quit) or make the most of it (lean in). A couple of days later, I read another article, this one by Jack Canfield, telling us to “Build Momentum by Leaning into It.”

Going with the flow is a welcome relief after a lifetime of resistance and control. But upon reading these articles, I realise that there is something empowering about leaning into life. If I always sit back and do what I feel like doing, I’d skip the workout and eat lots of cake. Alternatively, if I were to do what I want to do, I’d do things that make me fit and healthy and full of energy. Yes, I might feel like watching the latest Ryan Gosling flick (and that’s okay too) but I might want to prepare an inspiring Positive Living class more.

So today, even though I don’t feel like it, I take myself out for a cycle. And boy am I tested on that, as yet, uncertain balance between going with the flow, leaning in and downright quitting!

The wind is strong. No matter which direction I go, it blows against me. I huff and puff in annoyance. I want it to stop. A plump bumblebee dives onto my head and bounces off my eyelid. As I pedal along, a dog chases me, barking incessantly. I reason with it in a sing-song voice, trying to appeal to its gentler nature. Eventually, it gives up. Just before I cycle right into a giant pothole. I am totally jarred but I remain upright. Minutes later, two tiny flies simultaneously suicide-bomb into one eye each. I pull over and rub my eyes vigorously, only burying them further into their watery graves.

I sit back on the saddle and laugh. Up until this point, I thought everything was against me. Now it feels more like nature is working with me in order to wake me up. There is nothing I can do about the weather. I have two legs that are working hard to bring me into the beautiful countryside. The wind is warm (and it’s not often you can say that in Ireland!) and it’s forcing me to get more out of my workout.

Just as I relax into it, it begins to drizzle, thus breaking the weeklong spell of glorious sunshine. I can’t change the weather, I mutter. But I can change my attitude. I understand that leaning into life still requires going with the flow. It’s just about adding momentum. So I lean into the rain and keep going. I’m like a human hearse carrying two tiny insects who have sacrificed themselves for the cause – my awareness.