“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
Ask an unhappy person why they are unhappy and you’re likely to hear all about the people, life events, and circumstances that have contributed to their negative state of mind. Since so many of us blame our unhappiness on external factors, it makes sense that to alleviate the undesired feelings, we focus on changes like new jobs, new cities, or new significant others. It seems so obvious that if we change the things around us, our suffering will end. Right? Unfortunately, the newness of that person, place, or thing wears off and the unhappiness creeps back in.
Learning how to identify and change negative attitudes to address unhappiness may seem counter-intuitive, but it is ultimately the key to maintaining happiness no matter what happens in life. Happy people don’t have charmed lives, they have attitudes and mindsets that are protective and promote resilience.
Here are a few common cognitive pitfalls of unhappy people:
1. Negative Self-Talk
An inner dialogue that is self-defeating leads to reduced confidence, low self-esteem, and ultimately demolishes any chance of success. Examples of negative self-talk include:
I’m not good enough…
I don’t have what it takes…
If the tape running through your head sounds like this, no wonder you struggle with unhappiness!
2. Negative Assumptions
Maintaining negative beliefs about the world can be habitual and automatic. Someone who sees the world as “glass half empty” likely has assumptions about events such as rush hour traffic, paying the bills, or rainy days. Of course, there is nothing inherently negative or positive about traffic, bills, or weather. All meaning associated with these events is attached implying that the way we perceive anything is a choice. It is very possible to change your mindset and learn to see the same life events from a whole new perspective—then rush hour becomes time to call a friend, paying bills becomes a reminder of wealth, and rainy days become a time to slow down. We always have the opportunity to make new interpretations of the same events.
3. Negative Social Comparison
The easiest way to feel bad is to compare yourself to others. One of my favorite expressions is, “don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.” This is a good rule to live by! Remember, the image you see of another’s life may seem glamorous, but you never really know the full story.
Holding others responsible for your misfortunes is a real problem. Anyone walking the planet can name someone who has been the cause of pain or strife. And it is possible that the accusations are even true. However, choosing to adopt victimhood means we give away our power. Perhaps we are not responsible for the circumstances of our life, but at some point it is necessary to stake a claim and take control. This requires full responsibility and a release of blame.
To learn how to reduce or eliminate negative attitudes or feelings, contact me to make an appointment. It is time for you to shed old thought habits and learn how to find happiness!