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Putting Attention On What’s Right

fonz

This morning I caught myself in the middle of a negative thought, not once but twice.  The first thought assaulted me when my daughter spilled the entire contents of her bowl full of O cereal on the floor and I immediately thought “she should not spill cereal on the floor! Why does she do this to ME?!”  The second time was when I was on the freeway thinking about getting to my salon appointment downtown later this afternoon, my thought was “oh great, it’s the first day of the Comic Con convention (downtown), traffic is going to be ridiculously bad.  If it’s not Comic Con it’s the Fair or opening day of the Del Mar race track. Summer in San Diego sucks.”   Stress and anxiety accompanied these thoughts respectively.  Getting caught up in useless negative thinking is a bad habit of mine; thankfully, I’ve learned much better habits in the last couple of years that trump my bad habits.  One of the most useful habits I practice is the habit of questioning my negative thoughts.

Whether I performed the duty with drama or not, the end result looked like me sweeping up the O cereal and placing it in the trash.  The O cereal, the floor, broom and dust pan couldn’t care less if I was cursing and fuming as I cleaned up, however, it made a huge difference to my daughter and me.  My thinking that “my daughter should not spill O cereal” made me feel resentful toward her, I then treated her as if she was intent on ruining my morning which then put her on the defensive and set me up for less than pleasant interactions with her.   I didn’t clean up my thoughts around the O cereal incident right then and I believe this fueled my negative thoughts about the traffic.  Luckily, I caught myself mid-thought while condemning the Comic Con and San Diego before I spiraled into a crank-fest meltdown.  I realized that I was projecting a traffic report in the future that I couldn’t possibly know to be true and accepting it as fact (my salon isn’t near the Comi Con venue, by the way).  Furthermore, I live in freakin’ San Diego(!), the very city many travelers make a vacation destination.  As I write this, it is 68 degrees, sunny and drop dead gorgeous outside.  If that weren’t enough evidence to support the fact that summer in San Diego does not suck, I can also throw in the fact that I can be at any number of beautiful beaches in less than 10 minutes.  Did I mention I can see the ocean from my house?

Now before you start thinking your summer and/or life sucks because you don’t live in San Diego right now or because you believe some other situation is causing your misery, back up and look at the facts of your situation.  The facts of a situation will never be the cause of your feelings–the story you tell yourself about the facts is what causes you to feel what you feel.  The good news is that you can choose a better story to tell yourself about the facts that will result in a much better feeling and a happier ending.  The next time you are stuck in traffic, focus on where you are going, the reason you hopped in your car in the first place.   Why are you making the trip? You must want to go to your destination (if you really don’t want to arrive at your destination, you may want to investigate that).

We all get caught up in what’s not going right from time to time (or more frequently, for some us), but it’s far more pleasant and productive to focus on what is going right.  If you think you are at a loss for proof of what is going right in your life, start a list and include these two items: 1) you are literate (you’re reading this, right?) and 2) you are breathing (bonus points if you can do this without the aid of medical equipment).  You can then move on to the various amazing skills, talents and qualities you possess. Build on that. It’s difficult to complain about what’s wrong when you’re appreciating what’s right.

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