Creating Joy in 2018 #1: Creating a Positive Mindset (Even If Things Aren't That Great)
I have some great hopes for 2018, so I've decided to call this year The Year of Joy! I have discovered over the years of my life that if I can find ways to be sure I have joy in my life, even in the hard times (because we will have troubles---we all know this), then some really great things can happen. This first month of 2018 is devoted to how we can create a positive mindset and have all those wonderful effects overflow into our lives.
There was a time, many years ago that I'll never forget. I was a single mom with no job, no job prospects (it was during the Great Recession of 2008/2009--and this was into 2010 and folks in my career field were actually being riffed), I was bankrupt, and my home had been foreclosed, so I was homeless too. I was coming out of a relationship of absolute pure abuse, mostly mental and emotional. Frankly, I felt chewed up and spit out. I was a mess.
Please don't judge. It was one of the scariest, blackest times of my life. It was a big valley, for sure---one of the deepest in all my life. I was depressed, frightened beyond measure, and angry---at myself most of all.
I remember I had called a girlfriend of mine and asked her, "Do you think this is EVER going to get better?" I was pretty intense.
Well, my friend----YELLED in my ear! I laugh about it now, but at the time it was a BIG slap in the face. She told me I was so busy living in fear, anger, and hopelessness that I would NEVER be able to crawl out of this hole unless I got my head together. She told me I had better start using words of gratitude, hope, and belief....or she would never talk to me again.
Oh. My. Gosh. I totally stopped digging that Black Hole deeper after that figurative slap in the face. Yep. I did. I stopped playing the victim. I pulled on my emotional and mental bootstraps and changed my frightened, hopeless (ungrateful) thinking.
I took the little money I had left, and I went out and rented my daughter and myself a very tiny home in a good neighborhood of our city so she could go to a decent school.
I began living in belief----I lived as though I was successful again. I lived as though we had enough money (not spending, mind you--just that feeling). I concentrated my thoughts on gratitude and joy.
And when I found myself inevitably skidding back down the black rabbit hole of fear....well, I stopped that. I just remembered the intensity of my friend's voice ringing in my ears. I pulled my thoughts back together FAST.
Do you know what happened? When I started watching my thoughts and my words....I got a great position in my career field....at the last moment! When there were NO jobs!
I had enough money to support us again, and I worked on my self-esteem and identity like crazy. Although we were still very "poor" by some people's standards, I was HAPPY... because I made myself so. Therefore, I was not poor at all.
Making changes in your thinking and shifting your thought processes can change the course of your life.
It sure did for me way back then.
Because this is a brand new year and the very first whole year in a new change of careers for me---from teacher to writer and blogger, I am christening this year The Year of Joy. Each month I'll tell you what my focus will be for that month, hopefully during the first week of the month, if I have my act together. ;-)
Here's how this first month, The Month of Mindset, will be done:
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How to Be Joyful and Positive....Even If Things Aren't That Great
There are several strategies I have learned how to employ in order to regain joy, even from the depths. I hope these help you too, whether you are struggling heartily as I was back then, you are just a little down, or even if you are already joyful---because my good friend....the valley is coming again. Life is mountains and valleys and mountains.
Month Of Mindset Strategy #1: I Will Guard My Thinking
We all know this: We have this self-talk going on ALL the time. And a lot of it is negative. There's been research done that shows that you can actually rewire your brain with negativity OR positivity with your thinking. Luckily our brains have something called neuroplasticity, which means we can change our brains by the way we choose to think!
Isn't that exciting?
The trick is catching yourself and getting those thoughts changed up fast.
Here's how I change up my negative thinking when it turns downward:
***Reframe your thoughts.
I reframe the thoughts by turning that negative thought into a positive. Let's see if I can show you an example. OK: When I start thinking, "I am so out of shape and I have no time to exercise..." I change that thought to: "I'm just starting out on this workout program. I'm going to BLAST this and be in the best shape of my life in just a few months!"
Practice gratitude intentionally. It's just so easy to find yourself thinking willy nilly about all the things that are just wrong. Things you don't like. Things that you can't change, but you have to deal with. I have found that if I take some time ON PURPOSE (I set an alarm) to tick off at least 10 things I'm grateful for, then I'm happier right away.
***Find joy in small things.
I love this. You know when you are really cold, and you are holding a hot cup of delicious coffee or tea? And you take that first wonderful, warming sip----THAT'S a reason for joy. The warmth of the cup on your cold hands, and that first delicious sip.
Or how about when you look out your window and see that incredible icicle hanging there? It's so beautiful, and if you just stop and enjoy it....you'll find joy.
There are TONS of small things all day long: The happy smile of a child, the beautiful sunrise, the warmth on your face when you step outside for a minute, a quick walk outside, watching birds...there's no way to list everything.
Month of Mindset Strategy #2: I Will Watch My Mouth
"The words you speak become the house you live in." --Unknown
Oh, the words we speak....
First off, our words come from the thoughts in our heads, so by getting better at strategy #1 above, you will probably get better at strategy #2 easily.
Our words form our lives. Our words affect our relationships. Our words once spoken, can never ever be taken back.
Unfortunately, the people who are closest to us often experience the worst of our words. I personally find myself saying things sometimes to my husband I would NEVER say to someone else. Luckily this doesn't happen too often, but really---words cannot be erased. They are there in someone's head forever.
The Bible has LOTS to say about our deadly and poisonous tongue---and my goal this year is to chain it up even more than I already do. There's little worse than knowing you hurt another person, especially one you love because of your words.
"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18
I read somewhere that it takes ten positive statements to erase just one negative statement. So....why not try not to say mean things in the first place? AND, that includes NOT saying mean things to yourself about yourself!
Start with those thoughts...then your words will follow. And the goal is to make them happy and joyful.
Month of Mindset Strategy #3: I Will Give Myself and Others Grace---
I'm sure not saying that all actions are ok. We all need some good boundaries for a happy life. But...How about trying to think positively of a person who is annoying. Maybe they are struggling.
And this skill works BEST if it's turned on yourself. This goes back to that negative self-talking we all do. I am resolved this year to get rid of the word, "SHOULD." I should do this. I should do that. I should feel happy. I should....Blah, Blah, Blah.
I am replacing that word with, "I choose...." And if I don't choose to do the thing I "should" do, then I'm going to give myself some amazing grace. It's ok.
Here's how this could work: I'm going along in my day, and that dumb thought keeps popping into my head, "I SHOULD get on that elliptical right now." But because I'm busy, I don't. Then those negative thoughts start in on my head: "You are so fat. You are never going to get healthy. Well, I guess it's not that important. You're awful--you broke your promise to yourself again...and on and on and on...."
So, my plan is to replace that "SHOULD" thought and all the resulting negative thoughts with this: "I choose." If I say to myself, "I choose to not work out right now because I must get dinner ready or my loved one(s) will be hungry," then the resulting self-talk may become something like this, "Wow. You are caring and kind. You are showing your love for your spouse. And tomorrow will go better."
And you know what? I think by thinking this way, I'll be more likely to "CHOOSE" to work out first thing in the morning like I promised myself. I believe Amazing Grace given to oneself can create some great changes in our lives.
Final Thoughts On Developing a Joyful Mindset
This is certainly a constant journey---that skill of being joyful. There's danger when all things are going great because that's when we take things for granted and don't value the good stuff. There's danger when things are going awry because then we have to work through a vast variety of potential problems.
So, my thinking on this is that if we can work on that positive mindset muscle, we can actually create our world. We can at least be happier in that world.
I read Victor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning, a few years ago. If you're not familiar with him, he is a famous Holocaust survivor. Being a doctor of psychology, he chose to study his fellow Holocaust victims to see if their mindset played any part in their outcome. It's a fascinating book--and I really think every person should read it at least once. It's very inspiring.
My grandmother's words come to mind too: "Stop feeling sorry for yourself because there sure are a lot of people who would trade places with you in a heartbeat." Good way to lose that bad attitude!
Another great mindset book I read awhile back is Marci Shimoff's book: Happy for No Reason is another excellent choice for helping you with your mindset. She outlines several things we can all do any time to become happier.
And finally, another one of my absolute favorites is Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I LOVE this book. I have in in all formats: hardback, Kindle, and even Audible. It changed my life.
Well, what do you think of these strategies? Will they work? Well, they do work for me...when I remember to do them. And as I grow older, I am getting better and better and remembering them, too. Do you have other ideas to help develop a positive and joyful mindset?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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