Have your heard the phrase, “Stop and smell the roses?” Why do people say that? After all, don’t they know we have to go to work, take the kids to dance class (insert extra-curricular activity here), cook dinner, bathe said children, do homework, paint the den, go grocery shopping, cut the grass, attend that PTA meeting and whatever else is taking up our 24/7? What about those roses?
It’s important to focus on this fact: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” You and I both spend hours upon hours planning…planning for what? You’ve heard these before, probably even used them: “When I have more money…” “When the kids leave the nest…” “After next summer…” “When I get another job…” We (I include myself in this statement) find ourselves wishing for the next chapter in our lives to begin, without taking time to savor life around us. Instead of focusing on ‘want someday’s, let’s focus on ‘have now’s. Here are some tips to help you accomplish this:
1. Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. If you find yourself starting to think those wishful thoughts, stop yourself. Replace your usual “when I…” with “right now…” Instead of, “when I have more money”, for example, say, “with the money I have now, I can…” This allows you to not only focus on the present, but to stay positive. Make a list of three statements that begin with “When I…” and then change them to “I will now…”
2. Count your blessings: all of them. Go on, make a list of everything that you appreciate in your life at this moment. If this is hard, think about what you envy about other people. Write out what you think is so great about their life. Then think about how this could be a burden in their life. Then focus inward, make your own list of all the things right with your world. This will allow you to see, on paper, how much you DO have. The grass is not greener.
3. Appreciate the little things. Many times the ‘little things’ fly under the radar. Have you thought about why satisfaction surveys almost always get filled out by unsatisfied people? Because satisfaction or delight is demanded. If you’re satisfied you consider that par for the course, but get wronged and ‘it’s on!” Let’s re-focus on affirming satisfaction. Maybe your husband takes the trash out without you having to ask him. Maybe there was no traffic on the way to work today. Or maybe your mother-in-law gave you a compliment. Whatever it is, take time to acknowledge the little things day-to-day. You may even want to acknowledge these out loud. Tell your husband, “Thank you for taking the trash out.” Tell him you appreciate it. This will not only help you feel positive, but will make him feel good too.
4. Journal. This powerful tool can be one of your best secret weapons! I always encourage my clients to journal. There is just something about being able to get all your thoughts and feelings out on paper. If you’re feeling down, and counting the days until the next chapter in life starts, take the time to write it out, letting go of all those pent-up emotions and aggravation. A great exercise to do everyday is to write three pages, without lifting your pen, just write. Don’t think, don’t rationalize, don’t worry…just write. This lets the cork out of all those bottled-up repetitive, negative thoughts and makes way for the positive thoughts to flow.
5. Make a list. Write down everything you want to accomplish in life. Write down your goals, your hopes, your dreams, and desires. Write down big things (travel to Europe), and small things (take the dog on a walk at least 3 times a week). Keep this somewhere within easy access, and when you have accomplished something, cross it off the list. Also, add to it from time to time. This will help you see (once again, the visual, concrete image!) that you ARE achieving your goals. Re-write any sentences that start with, “When I…”
6. Breathe. When you start feeling overwhelmed, or like life will never be the way you want it, take a deep breath. Close your eyes, and think about what life was like a year ago. Three years ago. Five years ago. Think about how far you’ve come. Tell yourself that you will get to the place you want to be. It just takes time. Breathing (apart from keeping you alive!) releases toxins in the body, calms the mind, steadies the heart, and increases oxygen in the body. Just breathe.
Erica S. Gould is a Licensed Professional Counselor helping children, teens, and adults achieve happiness and reach their full potential. She can be reached through her website at http://www.ichoosechange.com/erica.html.