If You’re Looking for Normal, You’d Better Lace Up Your Dancing Shoes

Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left...

Normal

Fist of all…. hello! I’ve been away from Self Help Daily so long I feel like I almost need to introduce myself. Don’t worry, I haven’t been mad at you… you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

In fact, it’s not you. It’s me.

Well,  more to the point – it’s summer. This happens every summer, like clockwork. I get ridiculously busy in the garden, we have 110 places to go, and my Kentucky blog keeps me hopping with SO many events and activities going on.  Granted this year has been worse than ever because not only has all of that been going on, I’ve had more work to do.  Even those of us who have the luxury of working from home can run out of hours at the end of the day.

Not complaining mind you. I am not – and will never be – one of those people who complains about having to do anything whether it’s working in the garden or working at my computer. I thank God every day I’m able to do both.

The next time you feel like complaining about being busy, visit a Nursing Home.

Anyway, I’ve gained on all the craziness and am now ready to get back down to business.  For better or worse, you’re stuck with me.

You know what’s on my mind today? Normal.  I started thinking about this popular, yet elusive, subject about a week ago. An online buddy e-mailed me about some stressful things going on in her life.  Apparently she’s had a great deal of stress and anxiety at work and at home (never any good when life double teams you). Within one paragraph, she mentioned life getting back to normal three times.

Then in the next paragraph she mentioned not knowing what normal felt like two times.

I couldn’t help thinking, by this time, that she was expecting a suitor to show up at her door that just wasn’t going to show.

We’re all like her in a lot of ways, aren’t we? Seriously, how many times have we all wished for things to get back to normal or for our situation to be more normal?  Heck, don’t we even sometimes wish for people in our lives to be more normal?!

The problem is, in our minds, we paint a much grander picture of NORMAL than it actually is. We envision pretty much a modern day Garden of Eden. Everything’s peaceful, beautiful, and totally free of anything remotely stressful. We envision having more money than we can spend, more hours in the day than we can use, and… come to think of it – even though we’re eating more food than usual, we’re losing weight!

That’s not NORMAL, though. That’s a fantasy.

In reality, normal is different things to different people.  When I think of “normal,” I think of everyone in my family feeling good and being happy. No bickering, complaints, or clashing of wills. Everyone has everything they want and more than they need. Health, happiness, and harmony – it’s all I really ask for.  Well, that and a full coffee pot.  My normal may not seem all that ritzy to the next person, but to me it’s Heaven on earth.

Just because there are extra cares, concerns, stresses, or anxieties in your life doesn’t mean it’s suddenly ABNORMAL. It’s just a little to the right or a little to the left of NORMAL.  Your peace of mind will be a lot sounder if you can truly grasp the concept that a great number of your days are going to be spent to the right or to the left of normal. If I were to be completely honest, but we haven’t just had “one of those days” in our family or even “one of those weeks.”  We’ve had “one of those years” – and it’s just July. One broken refrigerator, 1 broken washing machine (3 times), 2 broken lawn mowers, one nasty case of poison ivy, one gall bladder surgery, one dental extraction, 2 broken cars…. the list goes on, but I’m getting a migraine!

We’ve been to the left and to the right of NORMAL so often this year it’s almost like we’re line dancing through life. To the left… to the right.. to the left… to the right…  That’s okay with me, I’ve gotten good at this dance by now.

Waiting for the Inevitable Return to Normal

Some people ride the tide and wait to be carried back to “norm,” while others fight, kick, spit, and try to swim upstream like they’re salmon.

I’ve found that when you’re doing the left/right dance, it’s best to stay busy.  Be proactive.

When we say we want life to be normal, we’re actually saying that we want __________ to be gone or ____________ to be better. We want solutions to problems – and, a lot of times, we want the problems to fix their darn selves. WORK for it? FIGHT for it? CHANGE? You’re kidding, right?!

Your Action Plan when NORMAL is Eluding You:

  • Don’t panic. Keep breathing – in fact breath deeper than normal. It helps keep you calm. Seriously. When in stressful situations, our body kind of has a mini-panic attack. The pulse races, muscles get tense – it’s as though our entire body is ready to take off at any given moment. The fight or flight reaction kicks in and our body is convinced it has to gear up for whichever way we decide to go.  When we calm down and take deep breaths, our mind tells our body, “(S)he’s got this. Cool your heels.”  Your pulse will slow down and the entire body will relax. You’ll feel 110 percent better instantly.
  • If there’s something you can do to actually help bridge the gap back to normal, do it.  Sometimes it’s as simple as making an appointment with a doctor, mechanic, dentist, or (ahem, ahem) washing machine repairman (as in one that knows what he’s doing!). The amazing thing is as soon as we do all that we can possibly do, not only do things start “getting better,” they start “looking better” almost immediately.
  • Keep living. Keep loving. Keep laughing.  If we were to only enjoy life on the days when everything’s going right, we’d be miserable grumps most of the time.

The third point brings me to one last analogy.  I read a wonderful story recently of a farmer who lost his arm in an accident on his farm. The picture accompanying the story showed this farmer showing of his prosthetic arm – smiling ear to ear and looking like the happiest man in the world.  If one were to look at the picture, without reading the story, they’d feel sorry for the man. They might even wonder why he’s smiling so broadly.

Easy! He’s smiling because he’s glad to be alive. He actually came thisclose to dying that day. Closer than thisclose but I have no idea how to illustrate that. At the end of the story, I realized that the start of every single day must seem like an unopened gift to this man.  As I got up from the article and began to cook supper, it hit me – the start of every single day IS an unopened gift.  Not just to him, but to all of us.

Whether that day is filled with exactly what we wanted or filled with things we never asked for, it’s still a gift.  It’s hard to be unhappy when you find yourself smack in the middle of a beautiful gift that’s denied to many.

The farmer said something that really stood out to me. He said, “I do everything I used to do. I just do it differently now.”  Just is the word that seals it for me. It’s so matter-of-fact and so beautifully simplistic.  Almost in a by the way tone, he says he just does things differently now.

This man didn’t just dance his way back to NORMAL, he redesigned the entire dance floor.  He was an inspiration to me and I hope that the thought of him will serve as an inspiration to you.

Keep smiling and, by all means, keep dancing. It’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere…especially if NORMAL is your destination.

So, How Do You Look at Problems?

This Quote Suggests Looking at Them a Whole New Way

Smiling Breakfast

“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast” - Alfred Montapert

In addition to one of my favorite photo ops (love it when my food’s in good spirits), you’re looking at one of my favorite quotes of all time.

Simple. Basic. Understated. Golden.

Easiest way to set yourself up for a mad case of the blues?  Expect life to always be in as good a mood as my bacon and eggs were.

People who are completely thrown off their axis by traffic, bad drivers, long lines, and high grocery prices kind of amuse me.  Seriously, man. That’s life.  I’m not sure why we seem to think we should be immune to any sort of inconveniences, but it seems to me that people’s fuses are getting shorter and shorter.

I have absolutely no idea what we could contribute this to. Some people say it’s because people aren’t “conditioned” to be patient any longer.  I guess you could make a case for this theory – we are kind of a drive thru and microwave society, aren’t we?  Give it to me NOW! I have no intention of waiting or being inconvenienced!

The sooner we realize that life doesn’t OWE us anything, whether it’s a carefree day or a new dining room table, the sooner we’ll be at peace.

EXPECT problems… because they are going to come, but instead of letting them eat away at you, plate them and eat them before they even see the fork coming.

A Couple of Thoughts About Thought

Why You Should Choose Your Thoughts Carefully

Alexa looks at the world a little differently than most...

So….. Whatcha Thinking About?

The thought of bearing all the troubles of the past, the troubles of the future AND troubles that have yet to happen is a certain type of death.  Fortunately, we control our minds and, thereby our thoughts. It isn’t as though some mystical little voodoo priestess controls us from an island in the South Pacific (or anywhere else for that matter).

We can decide the thoughts we’ll entertain and we can just as easily chase away the thoughts we refuse to entertain.  Thoughts that are coated in fear and deep fried in anxiety are what that I call “poisonous thoughts.”  Life’s too short and far too beautiful to spend any time whatsoever with these types of thoughts.  It would make as much sense as filling a glass with Tide and guzzling every drop.  The hideous effect that it would have on your stomach is similar to the effect “poisonous thoughts” have on your mind.

Have you ever known anyone who spent far too much time thinking? They can’t seem to find anything constructive to do with their minds for the life of them! So they sit and dwell on things they wish were different. Usually this means sending their thoughts into other people’s lives and focusing on things they wish were different about them. Wow, how productive is that?!?!

A lot of times you can tell a family member has been doing this very thing when you walk in and instead of saying, “Hi!,” they get an accusing look on their face and demand, “So, why DO you buy only name brand food? There’s nothing in the world wrong with off brands.”

Been there. Answered with a straight face, “Because we have more money than we know what to do with.”

You and I are not what we eat; we are what we think. – Walter Anderson

Always, always, always keep a close eye on your thoughts. Whether your thoughts tend to think about problems in the past or problems you think you may one day have – keep reminding yourself to stay in the present.

Know this:  Your thoughts set the stage for the production you call life. They determine so much! For one thing, they determine how many people will want to share center stage with you and how many will exit stage right the minute you show up. Your thoughts also determine how your production (life) will play out. They can either give you an edge, or push you over one.  So the minute a poisonous thought pops up on the scene, grab a hook and pull it off the stage. The longer you let it wander around, the more likely it is to think it’s part of the cast.

Choose your thoughts carefully.  Make your thoughts the kind of thoughts that make your world brighter and happier.  What’s the use of having any other kind of thought? Think about it.

Never bear more than one kind of trouble at a time.  Some people bear three – all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have.  – Edward Everett Hale

More Quotes About Thought

A Few Thoughts About Pessimists

Do you FULLY Realize Thier Influence???

Quote about pessimism by Dwight D. Eisenhower Pessimists are a depressing lot, aren’t they?  Given the way they suck life and energy out of the world, we should call them vacuums. When they ask why, we can say, “Because you suuuuuuuuck.“  Just kidding, of course, it’s never cool to call names. Not even when they fit like a brand new pair of Isotoners.

Pessimists almost seem allergic to positive thought – you can practically see them recoil at the concept.

I am so thankful to be surrounded by optimists.  Everyone in my offline world is a certified optimist.  The cheerful, glass is half full, upbeat, life breathing kind of people you look at and go, “Wow, how did I get so lucky to have you in my life?!”   I did a mental inventory this morning of these amazing people and realized that each and every one is the sort of person that if I said, “Let’s go fight the hounds of hell,” their response would be, “I’ll grab a weapon!”

Except for my oldest daughter (Emily) who’d also want to take a thermos of coffee. Sigh, I raised that girl right.

While I have no intention of clearing my schedule to charge the gates of hell, it’s pretty cool to know I could round up am army in an hour. Two, tops.

I find that I’m even drawn to authors, blogs, newspapers, websites, tv channels, and magazines that are optimistic.  Some people are GREATLY amused by factions of the media that belittle and make fun of celebrities, athletes, politicians, and so on. That bumfuzzles me, to tell you the truth. Think about it – this sort of thing is like a shot of negativity on the rocks.  Why invite negativity and pessimism into your world.  I don’t “get” falling over yourself to view “worst dressed” stars, for example, when the “best dressed” would be so much better for your eyes.

And psyche.

I also don’t understand why so many people want to read negativity. It’s essentially inviting negativity to come into your home, sit down, make itself comfortable, and stay a while.   The problem with making negativity your house guest is this:  After a while, even though you probably won’t realize it , you become as negative and pessimistic as the company you keep.   I like to use the analogy of newspaper ink.   When you’re holding a newspaper in your hands, reading the divisional baseball standings, weather, or (if you have the fortitude) the front page – you don’t realize that the ink is slowly coming off on your hands.

You don’t feel it happening.  At the time, you don’t even see it happening.  But after you’ve laid the paper down, you happen to glance at your hands and, sure enough, they’re ink stained.  Fortunately newspaper ink is a cinch to get rid of.  If only the negative repercussions’ stains were as easily wiped away.

I detest negativity and perennially negative mindsets so much I even unfollow people on Twitter if they start stinking up my twitter stream with too much negativity.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Mary Poppins.  I know there are times when we all have to vent.  I’m not talking about grumbling about a ref’s call or your team’s inexplicable refusal to play defense in the biggest game of the year (what IS up with that???). I”m also not talking about asking what a celebrity was thinking about when she wore a meat dress. Oh that Lady Gaga…

These are things we all do.  And, let’s be honest, sometimes refs beg for it.  But most of us also realize (and publicize) that there are many more things to be happy about.  The good vibes we send out far outweigh the bad. I’m talking about people who never seem to be happy, satisfied, or content with anything.  They gripe about the President, they gripe about prayer in schools (oooooh, that did so much harm <—-SARCASM), they gripe about what they had for lunch, they gripe about what they’re going to have for supper.  Their bad vibes are poisonous and their good vibes? Well, they’re so scarce you never notice them.  You know the type.

But do you avoid the type?

If not, they’re leaving a bit of a stain behind whether you realize it or not – and it doesn’t wipe off easily. We all have to be careful when it comes to our influences because, to a very real extent, they determine the person we see in the mirror each day.

I believe this can be filed under our series of How to Be Happy posts, for obvious reasons.  The people you allow into your world influence you greatly (whether they, physically walk through your living room or simply trample across your thoughts).  If you’re permitting pessimistic grumble guts to keep company with you, you can’t very well complain about not being happy, can you?!  Find a happier, more upbeat and optimistic group of influencers and watch (and feel!) the difference.

Here’s an easy exercise – a great way to measure the amount of negativity you’re allowing into your world.  In the coming days, pay close attention to the people you follow on Twitter, your friends on Facebook, the blogs you read, websites you visit, newspapers and books you read, shows you watch, etc.  Judge each one’s level of negativity vs the level of positivity.   Realize that this is the company you keep… the guests you’re inviting into your home.

Then ask in the immortal words of Dr. Phil… How’s that working for you?

Quote About Living in the Present

Why'd You Want to Live Anywhere Else?

Quote about living in the moment

Live your life in the moment.  Today is a miracle! – Joi, Self Help Daily

Forget Growing Up. If You Want to Be Happy, Grow Younger!

Plus, A Beautiful Inspirational Poem

Joi Tania Wygal Sigers

Am I wrong to be always so happy? This world is full of grief;
Yet there is laughter of sunshine, to see the crisp green on the leaf,
Daylight is ringing with song-birds, and brooklets are crooning at night;
And why should I make a shadow when God makes all so bright?
Earth may be wicked and weary, yet cannot I help being glad!
There is sunshine without and within me, and how should I mope or be sad?
God would not flood me with blessings, meaning me only to pine
Amid all the bounties and beauties he pours upon me and mine;
Therefore I will be grateful, and therefore will I rejoice;
My heart is singing within me; sing on, O heart and voice.
-Walter C. Smith.

Is that beautiful or what?!  Each time I read it, I’m left with a big smile on my face. You know, the ear to ear kind that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Have you ever really listened to the beautiful, free, wonderful sound of laughter?  Last night, my middle daughter Brittany was in the kitchen cooking with her on-again, off-again, on-gain, off-again boyfriend.  Or is it on now?  My other daughters and I literally have to ask each other each day, “On or Off?” because it changes that often.   I don’t panic because I remember all too well what it was like to be that young.  When these two kids (and they’re both beautiful, full-of-life, adorable kids) are “on,” they have a ball.  Last night, when they were in the kitchen cooking, there was a lot of laughter.   It made me think…. laughter is a beautiful thing!  It means the person is, at least at that moment, completely taken over with happiness and awash with joy.

The more time my girl’s spend afloat with  joy rather than weighed down with sadness the better.  Makes for one happy momma!

Adult laughter is as precious and wonderful as a child’s laughter.  Sadly, for a lot of adults, it just doesn’t come as often.  Naysayers will say that it’s because adults have so many things to worry about and take care of… that they don’t have time to laugh.  I’d be the first to wash a hog all over that, so let the hogwash begin.  Everyone has time for laughter and everyone has time to be happy.  If they don’t, they’d better MAKE time because staying on the road they’re on will make them run out of time sooner than they’d like to.

If you’d like more carefree, beautiful, reckless laughter in your life – I have something that might just help.  You’ll have to go back in time, though.  Way, way back.

Remember when you were a child (I told you it’d be way back!).  Imagine yourself playing with the kids in your neighborhood.  For me, I’m remembering long bike rides, camping in my backyard, going to the park, swimming, playing softball, and being surrounded by dogs and cats (some things never change).  I remember the happiness, the excitement, and most definitely the laughter.  Your trip back in time might conjure up bike riding, playing cowboys and Indians, and fishing.

No matter where your memories take you, you’ll notice:

  • You lived out loud.
  • You couldn’t wait to see what each day brought!
  • Life was FUN.
  • You didn’t worry about money.
  • You didn’t care how much your clothes cost.
  • You didn’t care how much your friend’s clothes cost.
  • Your world was a wonderful place in which to live.
  • You hated going to sleep at night because you might miss something.
  • You laughed. And laughed, and laughed, and laughed…

Michael Playing Ball like a boss!

I’m a card-carrying optimist and, admittedly, my head is almost always in the clouds.  Sorry but I love the view.  However, even I will acknowledge that adulthood brings about responsibilities – certainly more responsibilities than you had when soaring on your bike and feeling the wind in your race. I can still feel that rush in my mind.  I SAILED on my orange 10 speed bike!  However, there’s a KEY element from our childhood that we CAN and SHOULD remember and revive.

1. EXPECTATIONS

When we were children, we had more than enough even when we didn’t.  Children who are playing with sticks are as happy as kids who are playing with their new computer games.  Children accept what life has given them and they don’t resent what it hasn’t.    They live in the moment without worrying about the next.

Too many expectations drag your spirits down.  Expectations constantly whisper in your ear, “This isn’t enough…. That isn’t good enough…. You’d be happy if only…. I need that to really be happy…”  Kids don’t have such burdens to weigh them down.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting material things – especially if they’re needs.  However, if you’re one of those people who is ALWAYS wanting something, you may want to re-evaluate.  If you’re relying on things to make you feel good, there’s a problem somewhere.  You need to find out why you aren’t happy with what you have – as opposed to always wanting more.

Be happy with who you are, where you are, and what you have.  Let go of excess expectations.  You’ll feel lighter immediately.

2. REGRETS

I remember once, when I was about 5, I got in trouble with my mother. I’d driven my toy car into the street (pray tell, where do cars go, after all?!!).  I was rewarded for my efforts with a switch to the backside.  Apparently, I’m told that I ran to my grandmother and told her, “Mommy beat me with a tree limb!!“  No red marks, no tears… but I tried my best to pull off the “tree limb beating” story.  I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember my grandmother trying not to laugh and my poor mother producing the tiny stick for her examination.  My grandmother (“MeMe”) kept that little switch on her dresser for a very long time.

No doubt, the whole affair went completely out of my pig-tailed head before it even hit the pillow that night.  Kids don’t carry the past with them.  They don’t fret over what they did or what was done to them – even if it was done with a tree limb.

  • It happens.
  • It happened.

Kids are masters with suffixes.  They know the difference between something happenING and when something happenED.  Why do adults get so tricked up with suffixes?!?!  We’ll go back (sometimes so far back that everything starts looking black and white) and retrieve past injuries committed to us or wrongs we did to others.  Isn’t that nothing more than going back for what happenED and cause it to be happenING all over again.

And we think we’re so smart!

If the memories you’re going back for cause you to smile – or laugh, as I do when I remember my grandmother’s expression – then, by all means, visit them often! However, if they make you feel bitter, resentful, guilty, angry, sad, or bad in any way – leave them where they are and never go back for them.  Memories are funny things, the more we relive them, the stronger they are.

My husband has some sort of a button on his remote control that “pulls up” his favorite channels on the screen.  All he has to do is choose which FAVORITE destination he wants to go to (ESPN, History Channel, Golf Channel, NatGeo, Discovery…).  Memories are kind of like this.  The ones we visit the most and dwell upon the most often are right there, in the forefront.  We keep them strong and centered.  If they’re negative memories, can you imagine what that does to our psyche?

Let go. Move on.

3.  Control

When we were kids, we didn’t try to (or even want to) control our friends or family members.  If daddy chose to wear white shoes in November, that was cool with us.  If mom wore curlers to the grocery store, what was that to us?  If our best friend cut her hair shorter than our beagle’s, we weren’t going to lose sleep over it – no more than we would if another friend grew his hair past his waist.   We loved these people – what did it matter to us what they wore or how they did their hair?!  They were our family and our friends and we’d fight anyone that looked sideways at them!

When a lot of people become adults, they think they have to control everyone and everything around them.  Then they wonder where their joy has gone.  It’s hardest, probably, for parents.  But we HAVE to remember that our job is to raise these precious blessings to the best of our abilities.  When they become adults, we HAVE to allow them to live their own lives and make their own decisions – just as our parents did for us.  I know you’re an intelligent person, so I won’t go into the fact that “some things” warrant intervention, no matter how old the child is.  However, it’s been my experience that most parents have the most hang ups over “little” things.

Let them go.  Your relationship with your son or daughter depends upon you being able to relinquish control.  When our kids get older, we don’t see them as often as we once did. Do we REALLY want the precious time we DO have with them to be tense and confrontational?  Allow yourself, and those around you, to be happy.  Allow yourself, and those around you, to love life and live out loud.

If you have to take a trip back to childhood to remember how it felt to be carefree and happy to be alive, then go back. If you need a special reminder, keep a picture of yourself as a child nearby.  How would he or she felt if they saw you today?  Would they want to spend time with you or would they call you the grouch of the neighborhood?! How about the teenaged you, would they want to hang out with you?  Would they think you were fun or would they tell you, right off the bat, to “Lighten the heck up!”?

Finally, a little time travel in the opposite direction.  It’s not nearly as fun, but imagine YOU in your eighties.  If the 80 something YOU sat down with today’s version, what would he/she tell you?

  • Work harder.
  • Put in longer hours.
  • Buy a newer car.
  • Find more things to stress about.
  • Buy a newer house.
  • Make your kids march to the beat of YOUR drum, not their’s.
  • Make your spouse toe the line

Doubtful!

Don’t you think the things he/she would actually say would sound something like this:

  • Lighten up.
  • Laugh more.
  • Cherish your family and keep them close. They will always be your REAL treasure.
  • Spend more time with the ones you love.
  • Stop worrying about how you look. Seriously.
  • The world is a beautiful place. Look around you!
  • Take more pictures.
  • Eat healthier foods.
  • Stop trying to make your friends and family measure up to your yardstick.
  • Throw the damn yardstick away!
  • Stop trying to make time PAY and just make time COUNT.
  • Stop worrying about how you’ll LOOK at this age or how much you’ll HAVE.

One of my favorite bracelets is about as simple as it gets. It has one of my all-time favorite sayings on it, also about as simple as it gets: Live Love Laugh.  That’s really what it’s all about, you know.  The 8 year old you knew it.  The 80 year old you will know it.  My one hope, right now, is that the present day you is closer to knowing it as well.

Self Talk: Never Underestimate its Life-Altering Power

For Better or Worse, Our Words and Thoughts Matter, Even When We're the Only Ones That Hear Them

If you’re looking for ways to feel happier and overcome feelings of loneliness and sadness, one of the first places you should look is inside your own mind!  When it comes to happiness, very often our thoughts and self talk make us or break us.  Read on for a delightfully colorful man who has this thing figured out.

There’s a particular stretch of town that I travel a couple of times a week. It’s a nice quiet drive, a huge change from taking the bypass which is anything but quiet. Personally? I’m a fan of quietness. This road runs through an amazingly interesting part of our town with some pretty colorful characters.  One man, in particular, always catches my eye.  On the rare occasions that I don’t see him, I’m half tempted to pull over to the side of the road and wait for him – he always makes me smile.  I call him the “Happy Walking Man” and I’ll never forget the first time I saw him.

I nearly rear-ended the car in front of me.

He’s probably in his early sixties.  He has dreads but a very, very receding hairline (to the tune of being bald on top).   The thing that’s so remarkable about this man is his happiness. He wears it head to toe.  The first time I saw him, he was doing some sort of  a happy walk and talking to himself.  You could see his joy from a mile away. Somehow my inquisitive nature wanted to take a second look to see if my buddy was singing or talking and I determined that he was definitely talking… the determination came just in time – right before the front of my vehicle met the back of the one in front of me.

Each time I’ve seen him since, he’s wearing the same smile.  Sometimes he talks, sometimes he just walks.

I was telling one of my daughters about him recently and a couple of things I’d been thinking about kind of gelled together.

First of all, before you say anything, I know that the odds of my guy having both oars in the water are slim.  It’s entirely possible that Happy Walking Man is blissfully unaware that he ever owned an oar.  That’s all completely irrelevant because he’s the hero of this post – and heroes don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules.

I’ve always been a HUGE champion of positive thinking and believe with all my heart that our own thoughts and self-talk shape and define our world.  I also firmly believe that many people who claim to be…..

  • sad
  • lonely
  • depressed
  • blue
  • miserable
  • angry
  • bitter
  • resentful
  • etc…

… simply need a new script to follow when they’re talking to themselves.

Take for example the mother of  a houseful of young children.  She’s with them day in, day out for over 20 years.  The house and mini-van are completely filled with noise, singing, giggling, arguing, and excited chatter about everything from Sesame Street to Justin Timberlake.  Father Time has no regard for her or anyone, so he marches along (possibly with the gait of Happy Walking Man).  The kids grow up, go to school, get married, and do all sorts of things that don’t involve giggling or trips to McDonald’s.

“Mommy” wakes up one day and is “Mom.”  The once rowdy house is completely still – more still than she ever thought anything could possibly be and trips to the grocery store are suddenly as quiet as a librarian on her lunch break.  Early in the transition, it would be easy (so easy) for her to tell herself that she’s lonely and that things are too quiet.  It’d be natural (so natural) for her to curse Father Time and demand that he return her “babies” to her.

You may have guessed that I’m the “mom” in the illustration and I refused to take the easy and natural route.  I mean, can you say MISERABLE??!    I remember the first 9 or 10 trips alone to the store.  I’ll confess that tears came a few times.  Then I decided that I was simply telling myself the wrong things.  I’d find myself thinking, “It’s too quiet!” or “I’m lonely!” – Then I thought, “Well, no wonder you’re sad – you’re setting the stage perfectly for that!”

I started using the time alone for meditating, planning out articles I wanted to write, quizzing myself on things like state capitals and famous quotes and listening to my Patsy Cline CD (something a couple of my girls would have disowned me for!).  I replaced, “It’s so quiet!” with “This is so relaxing.

When I walk through the house during the afternoon and the only sounds are birds chirping in the yard, I don’t bemoan, “The only sound around me is birds,”  I smile and say, “The only sound I hear is birds.”

I think this is the place where so many of us mess up – whether we’re mothers or fathers or not.  We all get far too comfortable with thinking the same thoughts over and over again.  They become a pattern, and if they’re the wrong kinds of thoughts and if they’re negative self talk, we’re penning our own doom.

One of my daughters was talking a few weeks ago about something she loves to read about: “Flipping.”  The only flipping I know of is what gymnasts do, so I had to ask her what flipping she was talking about.  She said that she was fascinated at the process of buying houses that needed work, fixing them up, and selling them for more money than you paid for them. I’m still not as impressed as the flipping done by gymnasts, but I have to admit, it does sound interesting.

When we “flip” our thoughts, we get much more out of it than money.  If we can take thoughts that need makeovers and fix them up, we get a whole new life and new found happiness.

Spend a little time with your own thoughts.  Periodically ask yourself, “What am I thinking right now?” You may be surprised!  You may find yourself in the middle of a thought like, “I’m so lonely…” and catch yourself.  You might just argue with yourself.. “No, I”m not lonely! My cat is right beside me and my husband will be home in two hours.  I’m not lonely, I”m relaxed!”

Sometimes we get into a recurring pattern of thinking the same thoughts.  Some people, after going through a particularly tough couple of months (or even years) will find themselves thinking, “I am just so down..” But if they were to cross-examine their statement, they’d find that they aren’t so down after all.  They simply grew accustomed to saying so!

Our self talk and our thoughts either build us up or they tear us down. They CONSTRUCT or they DESTRUCT.

Take your self talk and hold it accountable. Flip it so far you don’t even recognize it!

  • If your self talk is sad, cheer it up.
  • If your self talk is defeated, build it up.
  • If your self talk is on repeat, mix it up.
  • If your self talk makes you cry, shut it up!

If you can, picture the hero of our article strolling along the street.  His smile is bright enough to light up three counties.  What do you think he’s saying to himself? It’s darn sure not, “I’m lonely” and he’s not singing the blues.  He’s enjoying the heck out of life.  He may not know where the day is taking him, but he’s already packed his smile.  Well played, Happy Walking man, well played.

Make each moment count double and make each thought count for something.

Negative Thoughts Destroy Lives

So Put Them on a Rocket to Saturn NOW

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
– More Norman Vincent Peale Quotes

Destructive thoughts, defined, would be those thoughts which are negative in nature.  Those which tell you that you that you aren’t good enough or that the cards are stacked against you.  Destructive thoughts ask, “Why even try?!” and demand, “Life is not fair!”  Destructive, negative thoughts accomplish absolutely nothing but hinder absolutely everything.  A thought like this is like a bad co-worker: They do nothing to help get anything done and get their back up if you suggest they pitch in.  And like bad co-workers, they make more work for you and cause you to think how much easier life would be if they were on… I don’t know… Saturn.

While you can’t put your co-worker on a rocket to Saturn, you can load up destructive thoughts and send them on their way.  If, that is, you want to badly enough.

The problem is, people don’t take negative thoughts seriously enough.  We become so accustomed to thinking negatively that we don’t even realize we’re doing it.  When it comes to doom and gloom thoughts, we all need to practice a little R, R & R:

  • Recognize destructive thoughts.
  • Realize that we’re the ones in control of our thoughts.
  • Run in the opposite direction!

In the classic “How to Get Anything You Want” series of books, Elsie Lincoln Benedict had the following to say about destructive thoughts and “moods:”

The reason why predominantly destructive moods bring destruction to our lives is that our predominant moods automatically set the “gages” and fulfill every requirement for bringing to pass in our lives the destructive thing we are dwelling upon.

A long-cherished mood of any kind sets in motion the very forces that are essential to its materialization in the outer world.

Powerful words! No one in his or her right mind could read these words and not demand more from their thoughts, because as powerful as these words are, thoughts are twice as powerful.  Think about it throughout the day.  How many people have you known who have pretty much brought about the very thing they feared the most in their life?

  • How many hypochondriacs have you known who, literally, made themselves sick?
  • How many times have you seen people who kept saying they were “depressed” and “sad” only to become the most miserable person in town?
  • How many times have you seen someone fixate on feelings of loneliness and self pity so long and so profoundly that they ultimately become more alone than they ever were before.  Oddly enough, people don’t gravitate toward sadness and they run from pity parties like my oldest daughter, Emily, would run from clowns.  (A phobia I’ve never quite understood!)
  • How many times have you held yourself back with negative thoughts and nailed your feet in place with thoughts of self-doubt?  I know I, personally, have shoes with nail holes in them!

Hopefully these words will help give you a leg up on destructive  negative thoughts.  Remember to handle them with R, R, & R.  Recognize when they’re creeping into your mind. Realize that YOU are in complete control. Run!

How do you run? Oh, that’s the easy part.  You simply REPLACE the negative thoughts with positive ones.  If the destructive thought says, “You can’t do this!” – rearrange the words, squeeze out the negativity, and say “Of course I can do this!”

“No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life within the confines of your head.” – Terry Josephson

If your thoughts are swarming around a legitimate problem, zero in on a viable solution.  If a real solution seems out of reach, ask a few people for their opinion.  Talk it out.  The main thing is to be proactive and positive.  Always remember, if there’s one thing you’re totally and completely in control of it’s your thoughts.  So reign them in and make them work for you.  The ones that won’t?

Give them their ticket to Saturn.

Simply Put, Life Could be Easier

KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid

Right off the bat, let me admit that I have a flair for the dramatic. My favorite actors, actresses, athletes, and.. well.. people in general.. then to be those who flirt with eccentricity. Birds of a feather and all that, I guess.  I’m drawn to those who live life out loud and dance to their own music, whether or not anyone else hears it.

I’m also ridiculously fond of outrageous Starbucks drinks and exotic, fancy food and desserts.  Loud jewelry? Bold colors? Crazy movies?  Yes. Yes. Yes.

So when I advocate simplicity, I’m not advocating letting anything or anyone drain the fun out of life or cause its color to fade.  Far from it! I’d fight the hounds of hell to keep all the zest and color life wants to serve me.

Actually, when you stop to think about it, we can appreciate life more thoroughly if we simplify a lot of the things we do – beginning with our thoughts.

There’s a well-meaning, ambitious generation living right now that’s convinced we have to see everything, go everywhere, and do everything there is to do.  Bigger, bolder, brighter.  “Enough” is as elusive as perfect meatloaf at your in-laws.    Many seem to be looking for just the thing to make them happy or successful and, sadly, many of them equate money with each of these destinations.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Money doesn’t buy happiness – never has, never will.  There are just as many unhappy rich people as there are unhappy poor people.  Many times the only difference is they trade troubles.  Poor Pete may worry about the rent while putting in 10 hour workdays while Richie Rich may worry about the effects his crumbling marriage will have on the kids…. wherever they are.

I’m not saying these are concrete troubles, so don’t e-mail me any nastiness. I’m simply using an example – everyone has problems, everyone has worries, and everyone has a certain level of stress.  What’s more, everyone has a fence – you know, the one where the greenery of the grass is up for comparison.  I read a quote once that said something like this: “If we put our troubles in a heap along with everyone else, when we saw the troubles THEY had, we’d quickly run to retrieve our own.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that.  A lot.

I hear from many, many people through Self Help Daily and Out of Bounds and I’ve noticed something : People need to practice the art of simplicity more.  It’s nearly a lost art. Everyone wants to do too much, feel too much, and go too far. Contentment is a beautiful thing, but you have to let it find you – you can’t chase it down.

You’ll simply scare it off.

When I think of keeping things simple, I think of the acronym KISS – or Keep It Simple, Stupid.  I’m not reverting back to first grade, I didn’t come up with this acronym.

In praise of simplicity, let’s look at a few examples, a few people, places, and things that KISS really good.

  • Generally speaking, the best burger in town can be found at one of those amazing drive-ins or diners where they simply make burgers. They take buns, they cook the ground beef, they throw on fresh lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and mayo and make you and your taste buds all kinds of happy.
  • George Strait.  The man has never tried to  be louder than the songs he sings. He doesn’t try to upstage the lyrics or the music.  He sings the songs and has a loyal fan base most only dream about. No drama, no extremes, no foolishness.  Just great music again and again.
  • State Parks provide history, beauty, and relaxation – all without the clicks, whistles, and razzmatazz of outrageously priced attractions.  The scenery cannot be beaten and gracing state parks provides support for your state’s park and recreation system.  It’s all good.  It’s all simply perfect.
  • This one will probably go right past you if you aren’t a blogger, but bare with me.  The Thesis Theme for WordPress is what most would call a “simple” theme. Unless you customize it, yourself, there are no sliding, gliding pictures or multiple small images beckoning your attention.  There is this:  Content. What you write and whatever image you choose to accompany what you write.  Simple.  Many bloggers are clamoring for a more glitzy blogs these days.  I’ll be honest, I use a few other themes on a few of my other blogs – simply because I like for as many of my blogs to look as different as possible (I have to keep from boring my cat. Her attention span’s shorter than Little Jimmie Dicken’s shadow.). However, I can unequivocally say this:  When it comes to affiliate sales (on applicable blogs), Thesis blogs outperform the rest so heavily that I’m often tempted to go 100 percent Thesis.   My Thesis-based sites simply blow the others out of the water.  Heck, it’s not even close.
  • Rachael Ray has made, like, a  gazillion dollars simply by being likable and cooking. That’s it. She doesn’t try to be controversial or say things that’ll draw attention to herself.  She simply cooks, shares her recipes, and smiles a great deal.  Simple.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing, no matter how you dice it.

If you suspect that you’ve been trying to do too many things lately, chase too many dreams, wear too many hats – you get the idea – do yourself a favor and step back.  What things are absolutely necessary? What things are just creating clatter and discord in your world?  What things could you let go and never miss again?  What matters most in your life?

If you can create a simpler life and a quieter world, your body, mind, and soul will run over one another trying to thank you first.  My money’s on the soul – He travels lighter.

Brooding is a Sport Only For Fools

How to Stop Being a Worrying Wart

“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry; and one that has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

brood: (verb)  1. to think or worry persistently or moodily about; ponder: He brooded the problem.
2. to dwell on a subject or to meditate with morbid persistence (usually fol. by over or on).

Have you ever known a brooder? Brooders study on a particular thing or situation at length, focusing all of their energy on it until the brooding drains the energy right out of them.

Even worse than knowing a brooder, of course, would be BEING a brooder.  How exhausting.

Do you tend to brood? Do you often fixate on things to the point of having the same thoughts on a repeat cycle? If you do have this unproductive tendency, I hope this article can help you rethink your course of action the next time your brooding mechanisms kick in.

Look at the second definition above…  oh, never mind looking, I’ll bring it to you: to dwell on a subject or to meditate with morbid persistence

Morbid persistence. What part of that sounds good?

I am incredibly lucky, I have to say.  I don’t live amongst brooders.  Myself, my husband, our daughters, and even our cats don’t brood.  If you were to think about brooding as e-mail, we’re from the school of “OPEN the e-mail, DEAL with the e-mail, DELETE the e-mail, and MOVE ON to the next.”

It’s the way I approach my own e-mail actually.  My husband teases me a lot about the amount of time I spend with e-mail but I get a very high volume of it and I don’t want it to just sit like a lazy great uncle.  I hate the thought of someone wanting something and having to wait for me to get to them. Not only do I hear from a great number of people in regards to my blogs, I also oversee a number of blogs/websites that we host. Sometimes people have problems they need help with, sometimes they just want to run something by me.

If someone needs my help, I want them to have it asap.

Some people allow their e-mail to build up to the hundreds.  Doing so seems kind of like  a waste to me.  They just sit there, taking up space – not accomplishing anything.

Brooding is a lot like unopened, undealt with e-mail.  Except it’s far worse, actually.  Not only does brooding take up time, thought, and energy – it actually makes the problem(s) or perceived problem(s) bigger than they really are.

Have you ever noticed that worry clobbers rational thought?  Brooding eats rational thoughts alive. It’s happened to all of us.  A noise in the night? – Has to be a burglar and, well yes, as a matter of fact he is on the roof.

Your 15 year old son’s hair is longer than your hair was at his age.  And you’re the mom.  Brooding on his beautiful locks will only compound the problem. You’ll conjure up various and assorted scenarios and each one will star your son as a failure, a ne’r do well, and possibly a bum.  Are these thoughts really what you want to focus on?  Do you really want to continually focus on and dwell upon negative images of your son?

He’s 15!

It’s hair!

Brooding is worry with OCD.  It gets locked in and just can’t stop.

The next time you find yourself focusing on worrisome thoughts or brooding about things that “could” happen or brooding over situations you “wish were different” – take action.

  1. Ask yourself if there is a present problem or if you’re simply fretting over a potential problem.  If you’re worried that your vehicle won’t make it another year, it’s a potential problem. If it’s in the driveway and doesn’t seem to want to ever leave, no matter how many times you turn the key – it’s a present problem.
  2. If you have a potential problem, stop wasting valuable energy on situations that may possibly be around the corner and take care of what’s currently on your street – right in front of you.
  3. Parents, this is for you us: Stop brooding over every single thing your child does, says, and/or wears. I know, I know, I know.  Parents who love their children will worry about their children but constantly brooding about all the little things will drain you and you won’t have anything left.  And there’s always this: You’ll drive everyone crazy in the process.  Never  good.

Maybe this would be a good time to remind you of that definition again: to dwell on a subject or to meditate with morbid persistence.

Actual Steps to Help Overcome Brooding

First of all, memorize the definition above and repeat it to yourself when you feel yourself beginning to worry or brood. If you promise to memorize it, I promise not to hit you with it anymore.

Second of all, ask yourself if the subject of your worry falls under the category potential situation or present situation.

If the situation is a present problem or issue, leave brooding mode and enter action mode.  Do what you can to alleviate the problem.  If it’s beyond your means, ask for help.  Back to me and my e-mail: When someone we host has a problem with their website, I address the problem as soon as possible.  If it’s beyond my reach, I find the appropriate person to refer them to.  Either way, the e-mail is opened, dealt with, and deleted.

There’s no need to worry with it anymore because it has been taken care of.

If the situation is a potential problem or issue, ask yourself how reasonable you’re being and be brutally honest.  If the potential situation could very well become a present situation, again enter action mode.  At the very least, share the concern with someone else.  They, very often, can help you see that your worry is out of proportion to the actual circumstances.  Other times, they may have extra information or advice that could set your mind entirely at ease.

You’ll never know unless you ask.

Last of all, hit the delete button. Once you have ascertained what (if anything) you can do about the situation, rest assured that you’ve done all you can.  Give yourself permission to enjoy life and allow everyone around you to do the same.

Here’s a quick exercise to illustrate the power of brooding.

  • Stare at the picture of the polar bear below.  Stare directly at him (or her?) for an entire minute.  Then, continue reading below….

  • During the time you spent fixated on the beautiful polar bear, you didn’t think about or acknowledge anything else.  For that minute (or ever how long you lasted), the only thing in your world was you and a gorgeous polar bear looking right at you.
  • Do you see the implications?  This was just one minute.  Can you see the potential harm negative, destructive thoughts can do to a person when they spend endless minutes and hours wrapped up in them?  If you spend day in, day out brooding on miserable thoughts and tragic scenarios, what must that do to your psyche?!?!

Treat your thoughts carefully, they’re far more influential than you realize.  Thoughts always grow into words and actions.  Now tell me that’s not reason enough to entertain worthwhile, constructive, and positive thoughts as opposed to foolish, destructive, and negative ones.

We are the product of our thinking, so it is important that we choose carefully where to focus our mental energy. – Dr. Charles Stanley

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