How are you?
The overwhelming feeling that I’m experiencing these days is gratitude. Does that mean that I have no fear or worries? Absolutely not. Gratitude is one of my many emotions, along with uncertainty and some worry about the future. Some of you may be taking care of children or parents and you may be feeling your worry acutely. Or you may have a niggling sense of unease but are not sure where it’s coming from.
Take a Break
Can you take a few minutes for yourself today? I’m not going to ask you to do anything complicated. Sit for a few minutes and ask yourself “How am I really?” Avril, who I interviewed in episode 24, would advise that we journal this. Write down all the emotions that you are feeling right now. Are you worried? What’s worrying you? Are you afraid? What are you afraid of? Do a brain dump to bring the worry and fear out of your subconscious. Then can you give yourself some self-compassion? What can you do for yourself as an act of self-care? Perhaps it’s a positive affirmation, saying a prayer, taking a bath, reading a poem, playing with your pet. What will not hide the emotions you are feeling but give you a bit of solace? Then notice how you feel after this activity. Do you feel your presence in a different way?
If you are in a relationship or need some support from friends, you may want to discuss your worries with them. Try not to say I’m fine when you are actually in pain. There are people there for you, who will listen and support you. If needed, this can be a therapist or someone at a crisis hotline. You don’t have to go through this period of uncertainty alone.
I’m reading the book Rethinking Positive Thinking by Gabriele Oettingen In it, she talks about the dangers of positive thinking and how it reduces our energy to actually accomplish our goals. Instead, she presents a practice called “mental contrasting”. Mental contrasting can be used to achieve success or for reducing anxiety.
Mental Contrasting for Success
For help with success, Oettingen recommends that we balance our positive expectations of the future with a realistic look of the obstacles and challenges that would prevent this future from occurring. With both the positive expectations (step 1) and obstacles (step 2), it’s important to be as detailed as possible with the visualization. If you judge the positive future as attainable, mental contrasting will energize you to work towards that future. If you judge the positive future as unlikely, it will reduce your focus for that difficult task so that you can turn your attention to other more beneficial tasks. This means that mental contrasting works to increase motivation so you can take action that coincides with your thoughts of success.
Mental Contrasting to Reduce Anxiety
Mental contrasting also helps to reduce anxiety. If you are worried about something negative happening, elaborate on that negative future by thinking about what it may look like, including as much detail as possible. Then fantasize about all the positive realities that will stand in the way of that negative outcome. How can you use those positive things to avoid the negative outcome from happening?
Here’s a video interview with Dr. Oettingen and Larry King:
Connection Challenge: An Old Friend
Last weekend, I was looking through old pictures of when I lived in India. That was 15 years ago! I found a picture of the children of a friend I’d spent a lot of time with back then, and sent her the photo. She called me and we spent about 25 minutes catching up, sharing how we’re doing in this time and supporting each other. There was a lot of laughter as we reminisced about past adventures. I don’t speak to this friend often but it was really fun to catch up with each other, even though she’s facing some specific challenges as a result of coronavirus.
Is there an old friend that you haven’t chatted with in a while that you could reach out to? Perhaps you’ve reconnected on Facebook or other social media. Do a video chat if you can. If your whole body revolts at that idea, then send a message. Maybe they will call you back. 😉 As an alternative, try the Marco Polo app to send a video message to a friend.
- Mental Contrasting of a Negative Future with a Positive Reality Regulates State Anxiety
- Mental Contrasting: A Smart Alternative to Positive Thinking
Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation by Gabriele Oettingen