Listen to my interview (9 min) on iHeart Radio WLW Cincinati or read my article below.
The 2020 Global Emotions Report by Gallup found that 27 percent of Americans have experienced a lot of sadness this year, and that number is on the rise. (find the full Gallup 2020 Global Emotions Report here)
Feeling sadness is a natural part of the human experience. But staying sad for prolong periods of time doesn’t have to be.
If you find yourself feeling sad these days I have some contrarian ways of turning the tide, and getting you back into a feeling good, creative, and resourceful state.
The first step is easy: Admit that you are sad!
Look, we are in the middle of a health crisis, a political crisis, an equality crisis and an economic crisis, all at the same time. That’s A LOT of negativity for even the most positive person to withstand.
The data confirms it. Last year The Global Emotions Report found 21% of Americans experienced sadness. This year the number spiked to 27%.
One out of four Americans is experiencing sadness right now. You might be one of them.
Today, I invite you to begin finding your happiness by first admitting that you are sad, lonely, scared or angry. Admitting it gives power over it. Resisting it ensures it will persist. As I tell all my coaching clients “what you accept, you will transform.” So, today go ahead and be sad with all your energy, and then watch as you naturally begin to release the sadness and turn back towards being just a little happier again.
How can we reverse course while battling a pandemic that has impacted all aspects of American life?
The only way to reverse course by going forward. Fighting against, resisting or adding to the negativity in the world only screws you over and keeps you stuck.
In the past, we found solace in our relationships with each other and all the distractions of our daily life.
But that has been dramatically impeded by this virus.
Today, each of us is confronted with an old adage that happiness lies is within. With the removal of normal day to day life, it’s easy to mourn “what it used to be like.” Now, we are forced to reconnect to inner peace and happiness given the external things that used to make us feel good are diminished or gone altogether.
After nearly two decades of providing coaching and advice to top performers all over the world I’ve discovered that true happiness is found in the practice of acceptance. That means we practice accepting the situation as it is without resistance or wanting it to be different. Remember, acceptance is not agreement. You don’t have to agree with what’s happening to accept it and move on.
There are three statements you can use every day throughout the holidays.
“This is my life right now.”
“I am working to accept it as it is.”
“This to shall pass.”
How do we stop doomsday thinking from taking over?
Through my work, I’ve found that being as negative as possible helps you find your positivity. You better read that again. Being as negative as possible helps you find your positivity.
Doomsday thinking is a natural biological process. When you step back and look, you will see that all the negative, automatic thinking in your head is trying to help you navigate through life by forecasting what might happen – so you can avoid the bad stuff.
In a nutshell, your mind is an amazing survival mechanism that is designed to keep you safe in whatever environment you find yourself in.
That’s amazing. But the biology you inherited from your ancestors wasn’t designed to deal with images, information and news from people and places you can’t control. That’s why watching the news happening in places that aren’t affecting you at the moment triggers the same survival state as if it happening right outside your front door.
When you continually focus on negative external events, your psychology and your physiology respond as if you are in a threat situation when you aren’t. That’s what I call The Drunk Monkey doing it’s job to keep you safe from all the things that aren’t actually a threat to your well-being.
So what do you do to turn this around? The best practice when you have doomsday thinking is to write out the most negative future you can imagine. You know, the really nasty one that is floating around in the back of your head. The one that keeps you up at night.
Then make a plan to deal with that doomsday if it happens.
Don’t avoid the negative future. Plan for it!
Look. I know my New Age positive thinking clients cringe when I tell them to do this. But after coaching thousands of people to experience happiness and success in life I’ve found that planning for the negative and making peace with it is the only way to get the doomsday thinking to stop so you can start planning for better futures.
Why does my mind default to negativity and feeling bad?
In my book Quiet Mind Epic Life I help you see once and for all that our mind is not your friend.
That all the uninvited, negative talking in your head is a survival machine. It’s job has been to help us avoid danger and stay alive longer. Today, our ability to discern and use judgment are far more effective tools for feeling good and succeeding in life than our outdated fight or flight system.
Way back in 1991 I started calling my mind The Drunk Monkey. By naming it something funny, it makes it easier to deal with.
One way to do that is to simply start noticing how crazy The Drunk Monkey is. Start to notice it’s addiction to negativity, to gossipping and to spewing it’s opinions. Then, start to laugh at the absurdity of its fantasies that are fueled by fear, hatred, worry and concern.
I like to pet my head like it’s a barking dog… “Oh Drunk Monkey… it’s okay. I’ll keep you safe”
Are we looking in the wrong places?
Happiness isn’t a place, it’s a context. Happiness isn’t found in activities, situations, circumstances or other people. All of those things can help us and trigger us into a context that makes us happy. But the thing most people don’t realize is that it is not the thing bringing us happiness, it how we relate to the thing that causes us to feel one way or the other.
One really helpful way to see how context is influencing your experience is through the presence or absence of gratitude.
If we look closely, we will find that you have hundreds of things that are going right in your life right now. And perhaps 3 or 4 that are going wrong. The Drunk Monkey rejects this reality and inserts its own. If you let it, it will obsess over those 3-4 things and literally blind you to the hundreds of things are working and going your way. To neutralize The Drunk Monkey’s impaired judgement, simply start making lists of all the things that are good in your world and as I said earlier, start going forward from here.
It sounds hokey but studies from Harvard, Berkeley, and USC all demonstrate creating a new context changes how you see the world. Test it for yourself.
How do we begin to look inside of ourselves and take responsibility for our own emotional wellbeing?
It starts by setting your intention to be happy. I would love for you to experiment with this idea of by saying, “Today, please set the intention to be happy regardless of the circumstances I find myself in.”
What mindfulness practices can change your life?
In my free mobile app, I give you 23 Daily Practices you can do throughout the holidays and into the new year. In fact, all the ideas that I’ve been sharing today are from those 23 practices. Let me leave you with this one.
“Acknowledge and appreciate the people in your life. Especially the ones who bother you in some way. They should be your target today. It turns out that you do not like in others what you don’t like about yourself. When you practice accepting them for who they are… you end up healing the negative thoughts that make you unhappy. So today, acknowledge and appreciate the people in your life.”
Do that, and watch how you suddenly feel just a little bit happier.