Did you know that what you think matters? The content of your thoughts, the time you spend with them, and your reaction to them all influence the way you feel and what you do. If you have worked with me before, you will likely have learned this very important concept, which is a main tenet of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Indeed, focusing on things that have gone wrong during the day and judging yourself for either the mistakes you made or the fact that you are thinking about your problems (or maybe even judging yourself for both) can lead you to feel some unpleasant emotions. Notice I didn’t say “bad” emotions- emotions themselves are not really “good” or “bad.” Those are labels we often use when we judge our experiences and react to our thoughts and feelings. Remember that emotions are a normal and necessary part of the human experience.
In this month of Thanksgiving, I challenge you to acknowledge the difficult thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Allow them to be present without judgement. Be aware of any labels you use to describe your situation. Choose what to do next- you have that power! You can sit and wait. You can use healthy coping skills to work through it. You can ask for help. You can journal. You can exercise. You can talk it through with someone. You can read. These are only a few of the many choices you can make when faced with difficulty.
One of my most favorite daily habits that helps with managing difficulties is to intentionally spend time focusing on thankfulness. Look for, notice, acknowledge, appreciate, and attend to the thoughts, feelings, behaviors, situations, relationships, challenges, struggles, etc. that you are thankful for. Find the joy in the hardship, the growth potential in the challenge, the connection in the grief, the love in the lonely, the bravery in the fear, the gratitude in the lack. Many people think “If I just had/did/was, etc....I would be happier.” I challenge you to change your perspective. You may have enough right now. Experience thankfulness. Express gratitude. Look for the good. This doesn’t mean to ignore struggles or avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings. It means to embrace it all and do some good with it so that you can grow and experience deeper meaning in your life.
This is not a quick fix. This takes time. Grow in patience. You can reach out to a mental health provider who practices CBT for help.
I wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!