We all face significant adversity at some point in our lives, be it in our health, finances, relationships or other areas. It may seem pessimistic, but I prefer to think of it as honest, when I comment that at any one time we are either in the midst of a challenge, coming out the other side or heading towards the next one. Adversity is just a part of life, and the easier we accept that and see it as a positive rather than a negative, then the sooner we can stop being fearful of the future and build the necessary resilience.
Now of course, I am not suggesting that we should welcome all our difficulties and those forced changes which are often so difficult to embrace, but that by choosing to find the positives in any hardship, we take away its power to destroy us and hold us back. Bad things happen, to everyone, often without reason.
The more we dwell, beat ourselves up emotionally, or fall into ‘victim mode’, then the more difficult it becomes to move on. Negative thinking sucks away our energy and power, and leaves us vulnerable and often alone. We have so much more power over our thoughts than we think.
I find it interesting that if we want to lose weight, then we understand that we will have to do things differently when it comes to our eating habits. If we want to get fitter, then by default we know that will have to regularly train. But what about our thinking? It is easy to conclude that we will always feel anxious, sad, depressed or frustrated when certain things happen in our lives…..and yet these are learned responses.
Some of these default patterns will be helpful and protective, but many are not. We may not have the power to determine what happens to us, but we always have the choice how we react. I remember many years ago when a friend of mine told me of his experience visiting a Caribbean island. Someone in the community had died, and instead of mourning they immediately had a party to celebrate their life.
Now I am not suggesting that it is possible or even desirable to have a party every time something really bad happens to us, but it does go to show that our perception of a situation, and hence our reaction, is 100% within our control. If your current default patterns are not serving you, then perhaps it is time to find a way to look at things differently and make a change.
Taking responsibility for my emotions has been perhaps the biggest game-changer in my life. Realising how much control I have has transformed the way I think, and by default the actions which I then take. I am no longer a victim of my circumstances and feel much more empowered.
Best of all, I have grown immeasurably as a person and am significantly more resilient to life’s challenges. I thought that it might be helpful for me to share with you three biggest mindset ‘ninja’ tools which I use every day to keep me on track. When I default to these emotions, rather than negative ones, it is so much easier for me to feel happy, focus on the good and not the bad, and share that joy with the people I meet.
I truly believe that gratitude is the ultimate emotion, and nurturing it has changed my life more than any other approach. I have taught myself to be grateful for everyone and everything, the good and the bad.
I find that it is impossible to hold negative emotions and gratitude at the same time. Within every difficult situation, there is always a positive to be found….even if it is simply the fact that things could have been worse!
As many of you know, I journal every day, generally in the morning and evening, and one part of this is my gratitude list. Sometimes it covers big things, but very often it is simply an acknowledgement of the small wonders in my life each day.
At the moment I am looking out of my window at a pair of fledgling Magpies which have fallen out of their nest into my garden – don’t worry, I have been checking on their progress for several weeks and they are being well looked-after by their attentive parents. I love watching them preening themselves, larking about and making multiple ‘trial runs’ of their flight feathers. It won’t be long before they are up and gone, but just seeing them survive and thrive makes me happy.
I can also be grateful that after 10+ days of not feeling that good, I finally seem to be back on track. I have still been exercising daily, keeping up with my healthy habits and crossing off my goals, but it has been a lot of effort. Finally, today, I seem to have turned the corner.
I find that by focussing on the good things in my life, I get much less weighed down by the bad. It would be very easy for me to fall into a funk about my health situation and what I can no longer do, or to beat myself up about the state of my house or my finances. I allow myself to acknowledge those areas where I could do better, but spend more time celebrating the parts of my life where I I am doing well.
Being grateful for everything, and therefore the lessons I am learning, plays a big part of my ability to bounce back from adversity. Try keeping your own gratitude journal, and I am confident that you will find that your life improves.
Remind yourself that no matter what challenges you are facing, somebody invariably has it worse….often way worse! It is very likely that since you are reading this, you live in one of the most developed countries in the world. You don’t live in a war-torn hovel, with no access to any medical care, living off meagre food rations, having watched many of your family members be killed so you are constantly fearful for your life.
Now that may sound a little dramatic, but for some of the world population (likely more than you think), it is a reality! On a lesser scale, there is a good chance that your version of a ‘bad day’ is markedly better than 90-something percent of the rest of the world population.
Please don’t get hung up on what often amounts to small stuff. I observe, but don’t over-indulge in social media or in fact the media at all. It is too easy to get drawn into a very jaundiced view of what constitutes a good life on this planet. It either appears as all sunshine and roses, which it is not, or doom and gloom, equally untrue. Watch the news, and much of it is about death, destruction, accidents, terrorism, corrupt politicians, redundancies, environmental disasters…..I could go on.
I am not for one second suggesting that you should deny these ‘problems’ exist, but unless you are able to directly do something about it, this is just information, and not very positive information at that. I find it remarkably unsurprising that we are experiencing a huge rise in mental health disorders, and part of this is down to the endless diet of negativity and pessimism all around us.
The mind is a very malleable thing and has the capacity to take onboard a huge amount of information. Are you filling your brain cells with positive or negative thoughts? At some level, you see and remember every input, so it seems obvious that we need to monitor the quality of what that is and at least skew the percentage in a positive direction. That perspective certainly allows us to understand that life for so many others on this planet makes ours look amazing, but filling our heads with too much negativity (which we often can’t do anything about), can only drag us down.
My over-arching thought is always what a gift my life is. I am fortunate enough to be alive right now, to live in this amazing technological age, to have survived health challenges which even 50 years ago would likely have seen me die in childhood, to have a roof over my head, the support of friends and family whom I love, and a whole lot more.
Reminded of that, it seems totally irrelevant that my fridge/freezer is on the blink, I am long-overdue with a hospital appointment, or that I sold some gym equipment on e-bay and the buyer keeps messing me about. So what!
Keep perspective my friends. Take a good, hard look at yourself before you have your next moan. Save that energy for the things in life which really matter.
3 Be PRESENT – live for today
Figure out what can you control and try to let go of the rest. It is easy to spend too much time worrying about the future or beating ourselves up about the past. The only place in which we have control is in the here and now.
I listen to far too many people who are worrying about things which ‘might’ happen, rather than deploying their energy to deal with the one thing which certainly will. You WILL die, there I said it. You can live the remainder of your life tied up in knots about the what if’s and the maybe’s, or you can just get on with living for today and planning to make the most of whatever weird circumstances come your way.
I am not somebody who surrenders all control or subscribes to that new age quip, ‘what will be will be’, but equally I refuse to spend too much time dwelling on all the bad things which might happen. I absolutely believe that we can create our future or just let it happen to us, and I know which option I prefer.
I fully accept that my life will continue to be filled with challenges of various types, and in fact by staying present I maximise my ability to deal effectively with whatever does. I am not so much fearful of the challenges which I know I will face (we all do), but more of letting those circumstances prevent me from making the most of my life.
Regret terrifies me. I hate the idea that I could get to the end of my life with sadness about a bunch of missed opportunities or holding a long list of things that I wish I had done. Now it seems unlikely with a heart and lungs like mine that I am going to climb Everest, but regardless of my future health or other obstacles, I am determined to make the most of whatever ability I still have. I could spend the rest of my life worrying about my heart health, and then die in a car accident.
I don’t mean that we should be blasé about risk and do all sorts of stupid things, but all decisions (or even choosing to make no decision) shape the path of our life in a certain way. Almost everything in life happens as the result of a choice. I could get out of bed at 3pm, not shower for a week, refuse to go to work, drive the wrong way down the road, walk into the supermarket naked….you get my drift and don’t worry I won’t do any of them! Some of our choices become ingrained – we call them habits – and many of these are based on our interpretation of events in the past.
We need to make our decisions based on current facts and information, not default behaviour which we learned a long time ago. Personally, I thrive on action rather than inaction, so by making proactive choices it at least feels like I am attempting to direct the flow of what happens in my life. I love the saying ‘you might be on the right path, but you will get run over if you just sit there’!
When I do find myself ruminating too much on a problem, I confront my worries head on. I ask myself the question, ‘what is the worst thing which could happen here and how likely is it to occur?’ All too often, I realise that the chances of something truly bad happening are very small, and even if it did, I would find a way to cope. I often realise that I can also do at least something to positively affect the outcome, thus returning some of the power to me and reducing my anxiety.
Meditation has perhaps been my greatest tool for helping me to stay in the present. I used to dismiss the idea of meditation as something woo-wooo and only for ‘spiritual’ people, but over the last few years it has become more of a staple in my daily routine. I certainly recommend that anyone with long term health problems gives it a try (there are some excellent free or low-cost apps if you want some guidance) as I think that it goes a long way towards building a positive and resilient mindset.
There you have my top 3 tips for overcoming adversity and leading an inspired life. I have been posting loads of videos on my www.facebook.com/bethjgreenaway page about health, nutrition, exercise and mindset, so please feel free to go and check it out.
I am looking for some new topics to discuss, so do let me know if there is a subject which you would like me to cover.