By Linda Arnold EBS CONTRIBUTOR
If you can’t see your glass as half full most of the time, it’s not your fault. Our brains are wired to prepare us for dangerous situations. We often go to the list of “what ifs,” causing our glasses to diminish.
Blame it on our throwback response to the saber-toothed tiger dangers of yesteryear. Our fight-or-flight responses release the hormone cortisol into our systems to deal with these “emergencies.” And that can cause stress.
When you catch yourself going into a negative spiral, take note. You can change your thoughts, since you no longer need to be afraid of the lions, tigers and bears. Oh, my!
Our minds love questions, and they go in search of answers. The problem is we often ask questions out of fear and these questions have no real answers. So, the mind keeps searching and searching, swirling around in circles.
As I write this, I’m at Ocean Isle, North Carolina, on hurricane watch. By the time this column is published, we’ll know the outcome of Hurricane Dorian. Right now, though, we’re living in the “cone of uncertainty.”
I really have no control over this situation, and have to live with ambiguity. As a planner and organizer—with a tad of control mixed in there—this is not my strong suit. While it’s tempting to watch “The Weather Channel” or check online updates incessantly, that can be detrimental. I need enough information to be prepared, yet not so much that anxiety sets in.
So I wait.
What a great time to switch my focus to what is going right. You may want to try this handy exercise, too. Just keep asking your mind these questions:
What is going right in my life?
What else is going right?
And what else is right?
Since the mind loves questions and likes to provide answers, it will keep searching and searching, coming up with more things that are going right. This becomes easier with practice.
Gratitude can be a powerful antidote to worry, stress and anxiety. If gratitude journals haven’t worked for you, this might be a good approach. It lets your mind do the work for you. Our minds also like to think in pictures, so the more you can visualize those things that are going right, the better.
My niece, Caity, has a wonderful way of shedding light on life lessons with her sons. She came up with the term “PIP it,” as a shorthand way of saying “put it into perspective.”
Consider these real-life scenarios, as shared by life coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff, from participants in their workshops. Talk about PIP-ing it!
“On my nursing shift at the hospital, I was forced into a moment of clarity when I got off my phone, utterly flustered after having an argument with my husband. An 8-year-old patient who’s dying of leukemia asked me if I was OK.”
“Today is the 10-year anniversary of the day I had planned on ending my life. It’s also the 10-year anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant with my now 9-year-old son. He’s the reason I changed my mind. And he is so worth it. Perhaps most important, I now realize I’m worth it, too.”
So, what is going right in your life?
Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit lindaarnold.org for more information on her books.