Category Archives: Looking for the positive

Negative thoughts and chocolate teapots.

I love this suggestion from my friend, Ali, building on some of the foundations of mindfulness.

The concept works like this.

Many of us, even the ‘confident’ ones, are occasionally plagued by negative voices telling us that we’re useless at something, or that we can’t do it.

Some methods advise you to do battle with thoughts like these, to try and replace them with positive ones.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it’s easier said than done.

So Ali suggests you follow these steps:

1. Acknowledge the negative self-thought without judging it (eg ‘Okay, there you are again. That’s interesting…’)

2. Apply humour to the thought, with a smile (‘You’re about as useful as a chocolate teapot aren’t you?!’)

3. Tell the thought where to go (‘I have no use for you now.’) As Ali says, this is the polite version, feel free to add your own…

4. Replace it with a positive self-thought. (‘I can do this. At the very least, I can start.’)

I like this, and am tucking it away for when I need it.

Strike up the Penfield Mood Organ.

The Penfield Mood Organ doesn’t actually exist, but it would be great if it did.

It appeared in the opening pages of the Philip K. Dick science fiction book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, on which the Ridley Scott movie Blade Runner was based.

(I know. That’s rather a lot of cultural references for a Wednesday.)

Anyway, the idea of the mood organ was that you could choose your mood and quite simply dial it in.

So, on the basis that you almost certainly do have more control of your mood than you might think, what would you like to dial up on your Penfield this morning?

Imagine it.

Live it.

Lights, cameras, action. Time for a mind movie.

I guess it’s human nature.

We tend to dwell on those things which have gone wrong, often completely failing to recall those which were successful, happy and exciting.

Sometimes it seems we believe that constantly replaying the sadder, badder stuff might will it all away, whereas it often just assumes more and more importance, usually far in excess of its actual significance.

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably got quite good at chewing over negative events, seeing the pictures in your mind just as clearly as they were when whatever it was first happened.

Often, however, a distorting filter gets placed in front of the lens, so the pictures you see are actually a misinterpretation of what really took place.

It may be difficult, but there’s a lot to be said for thinking like a detective when the nasties show up in your head time after time.

Was it truly and honestly as awful as you think? Was everything about it as bleak as you remember?

And most important of all, is there honestly any value in playing it back as often as you do?

So here’s a thought. If you’ve become an expert at creating these remembered images, why not put your skills to better use now and then by re-running memories of an especially good and happy event?

Visualise the sights and sounds. Concentrate hard on re-imagining the thoughts you had at the time.

It’s surprising how quickly this can work, and how swiftly it can bring a small smile to your lips.

Bring me sunshine. Please.

Frankly, for most of the year so far, it hasn’t exactly been Sunny California around these parts. It’s been one heck of a wet winter and, despite its official arrival, spring doesn’t seem to have sprung yet.

Patience is a virtue, it seems.

The thing is, though, for virtually all of its ninety-three million mile journey towards Earth, the sun is shining. It doesn’t know how to do anything else other than produce heat and light, day and night.

Oh yes, and act as the hub of our solar system, keeping our planet and its neighbours in their proper orbits. But you get my point, I hope.

The dependable nature of sunshine is evident when you travel by air. Whatever the weather when you take off, during daylight hours it won’t be long before you’re high enough for the sky to turn crystal blue.

So what is it that stops the sun shining all the time here on Earth? Well in most parts of the world, it’s a relatively thin layer of cloud which gets in the way.

Ninety-three million miles of unimpeded sunlight, then it all gets blotted out in the final twelve or so.

A metaphor for the way life affects our moods perhaps?

Talking to someone who generally has a sunny disposition might make you realise that a lot of their life is not that different from yours.

Often it can be no more than one or two things which get in the way of your day being good.

And not always, but sometimes, it takes just a few tweaks to make everything quite a bit better than it might otherwise have been.

A day for tweaking, perhaps? Let’s all tweak together, then.

What do you think? There’s almost always a choice.

At any one point in a maze, there are generally two ways to go.

Sometimes more, but unless you’ve just reached the exit, there’s usually a decision to make.

Left or right?

2016-11-09

Often, life can feel just like a maze.

You’re sure there has to be a way through it, but you don’t have a map.

Who knows whether the decisions you make every day are the right ones?

How come some people seem to glide through it much easier than you do?

But of course, not only do you go through each day faced with a million decisions, you also generally always have a choice about the way you’ll think about what happens, and this is the bit which is easy to forget.

Most of us tend to have familiar patterns of thought.

Something happens and we view it in a particular way – in general, the way we always view this kind of thing, and that’s fine if, for example, we’re always pleased about positive events.

On the other hand, it’s not so great if your reaction to bad stuff is to say: ‘Well, it’s all my fault. I bring these things upon myself’.

You see, it’s probably not the truth.

Just now and again (often, perhaps) someone else is to blame.

Someone else is the cause.

That’s one branch of the maze, then, one choice.

But there will be many others.

For example, do you blame the other person?

Or try to understand them?

Why not try to keep this in mind today?

Emotions, just like life itself, can take the form of a maze.

And the best way to progress (indeed, the only way) is to remember that you have choices.

Almost always.

Even the hardest times are rarely pitch dark.

How do you react when things don’t go your way?

I’m afraid it’s ever so easy to become unrealistic in the way you reason.

You lose out in a competition, for instance, and you declare that you never win anything.

The train doesn’t turn up when it should, leading you to grumble that they’re always late.

You temporarily fall out with a friend, and then moan that nobody loves you.

You and I know that it’s rarely the case that things are permanently up the creek, yet when you’re feeling rough, you may be liable to slip into this unfortunate way of thinking.

I know I certainly can.

2016-10-28

A good counsellor might challenge your assumptions.

She would ask you if it’s genuinely the case that you’ve won nothing whatsoever in your whole life, and you’d probably begrudgingly admit that, well, you did once come first in an egg and spoon race.

Unrealistic reasoning isn’t helpful, and it’s invariably helpful to interrogate yourself if you ever find yourself ruminating in this kind of way.

Almost certainly you’ve won something at some time.

You’ve experienced punctual trains.

And someone somewhere loves you.

Betcha.

Be a woohoo-minator, not a ruminator.

I guess it’s human nature that we should tend to dwell on those things which went wrong, often failing to recall those which were successful, happy and exciting.

woohoo-minator

Sometimes it seems as though we believe that constantly replaying the sadder, badder stuff might make it all go away, whereas it often just becomes increasingly visible, usually far more than its significance deserves.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got good at chewing over negative events, seeing the pictures in your mind just as clearly as they were when whatever it was first happened.

Often, however, a kind of distorting filter gets placed in front of the lens, so the pictures you see are a misinterpretation of what really took place.

It may be difficult, but there’s a lot to be said for thinking like a detective when these nasties show up in your head.

Was it truly as awful as you apparently recall?

Was everything about it as bleak as you remember?

And most important of all, is there honestly any value in playing it back as often as you do?

So here’s a thought.

If you’ve become an expert at creating these remembered images, why not put your skills to better use now and again by re-running memories of an especially good and happy event instead?

Visualise the sights and sounds, and concentrate hard on re-imagining thoughts you could have experienced at the time.

You may be surprised how well this can work, and how swiftly it could bring a small smile to your lips.

Try to avoid “one-downmanship” conversations where you and a friend discuss who has it worse.

“You won’t believe the week I’ve had.”

Interesting, isn’t it, how often a conversation with someone can slip into exchanging catalogues of disasters?

If you’re not careful, it can end up as a kind of one-downmanship in which each competes to out-gloom the other, turning what might have been an opportunity to lift one another up into exactly the opposite.

We part having had a good grumble, but having failed to gain the lift that a truly good conversation can deliver.

2016-09-07

Generally, though, there are ways of steering a conversation out of bluesville.

For a start you can help to set its tone yourself by talking about your own good stuff (even on the shabbiest of days, there is usually some) rather than running through all your woes.

It also makes sense to ask about areas of the other person’s life that tend to be positive rather than those bits you know have a tendency to make them crabby.

Talking about bad stuff may leave you feeling bad.

But talking about good stuff…

Well that’s another story altogether.

In the words of a popular book, maybe today’s the day to stop thinking and start living.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I sometimes find myself avoiding books just because they’re popular.

Seeing them everywhere seems to put me off them for some odd reason.

It was therefore good to be persuaded by a friend to read Richard Carlson’s ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living’ – definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of self-help books.

2016-09-04

Among a host of other useful reflections, Carlson reminds us that how you feel is very much driven by what you think.

And to a large degree you can control what you think.

I listen to the radio in the bathroom in the mornings, and even on days when I may not be feeling so great I’ll become aware that an amusing remark by the presenter has got me smiling.

In this moment I’ve clearly stopped dwelling on negativity to smile at a joke instead.

Not surprisingly, thinking about negative stuff can make you feel bad.

So why not make a deliberate effort today to send black thoughts packing?

You have the power to do this.

You really do.

Others’ moods can rub off on us, so do your utmost to spend time each day with someone upbeat.

‘Ever since you started hanging around with X, you’ve changed.’

It’s one of those allegations which seems to get levelled in relationships which are struggling through a rough patch, the insinuation being that the accused isn’t who he/she used to be.

The fact of the matter of course is that we do tend to take on the characteristics of the people we spend the most time with.

Socialising with optimists may give you a more half-full view of life, whilst being around those with a fundamentally pessimistic outlook might well drain your own glass.

2016-08-05

Most of us have some around us who need to be there whatever the weather, but there’s nearly always a ring in your social circle that’s more discretionary – people you can choose to spend time with (or not).

I think life might become bland if we opted to fill this ring entirely with the super-happy. But isn’t it worth going a little out of your way to benefit from being with those who generally lift your spirits rather than dampen them?

You know who I mean. Why not arrange to catch up with them?