Your thoughts are mental products although they don’t necessarily reflect an absolute reality. However, for you, they do represent how you feel. Some people can’t help but wear their hearts on their sleeves. Others are more able to manage their emotions and function as if everything is fine. Born to a single mother with serious financial problems, Debra often struggled with her feelings growing up. Now a married Sandwiched Boomer, with a lot of life experience under her belt, a family of her own, and more responsibility for her mom, she’s dealing better with her emotions:
“I have to work at being more optimistic and worrying less. I no longer dwell so much on the negatives, and looking at things from a more positive perspective is not as hard as I thought it would be.” Just like Debra, you can learn how to reframe your thoughts and take better care of your emotional self. Begin by following these tips:
1. Focus your thoughts on what you can accomplish rather than on what you cannot. Look on the bright side of difficult situations as you create a balance between caring for others and nurturing your personal needs. You may even want to make a schedule until this becomes a routine that is factored into your daily life. Although you often cannot control external circumstances, you can control how you handle them.
2. Honor your body by taking notice of what makes you feel better, both physically and emotionally – pay attention to your exercise routine, what you eat, your sleeping habits and what gives you pleasure. Reduce the situations that cause stress and increase the ones that make you feel more relaxed or alive.
3. Forgive others who are important to you for some past wrongdoing. Watch their reaction and see how that makes you feel. That doesn’t mean you have to totally forget about it. But learn a lesson from the situation and move on, especially for your own good.
4. Practice what you know about being resilient. Recognize how your character strengths support what you do. Integrate your core values and personal ideals into how you view the world. Release tension through laughter and watch yourself begin to bounce back.
5. Knowledge is power. Use it to your advantage. Gather information about ways to deal with how you are feeling – explore Internet search engines or the self-help section of bookstores. Talk about how you are feeling with friends and family whose opinions you respect. Schedule a few sessions with a therapist or a life coach.
6. Support is a valuable tool – connect often. Find a class or workshop through your local university extension program or mental health center. Join an ongoing group or attend a weekend retreat to share concerns and gain new perspective. Spend some time with others who will support your ideas, validate your perceptions and help you follow through with your plans.
It can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism when emotional circumstances are complicated and perhaps even painful. But you owe it to yourself to begin to better understand and cope with your changing moods. Talking about your negative feelings can increase your awareness and mitigate symptoms. In addition, you need to flip the coin and look on the bright side – for example, recognize the insight, strengths and skills that are already an integral part of you.
Some experts say that you have to feel better before you can change your behavior. Others advise you to behave positively and the feelings will follow. Try something as simple as being friendly when you’re feeling shy, or act happy when you feel sad. You know what happens when someone smiles at you. You can’t help but smile back – and that feels good. Make a commitment to look at life through a more positive lens, starting right now.
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