already know that some days I just look better than other
days. There really is a sparkle in the eyes that no amount
of eye liner, eye shadow or other kinds of makeup can duplicate.
The sparkle comes from within, from feeling really good.
My favorite is the feeling of bliss for no reason. Ill
also take bliss that is due to a series of good stuff going
on with family, friends, work, or spiritual practice, even
though basing happiness on things external may cause spiritual
advisors to wince!
How do we tap into blissful moments and
string them together to form a more positive life-style?
It turns out that the ability to find your own bliss at
any given time can be learned. Recent research in cognitive
behavioral therapy suggests that we can follow steps to
unlearn self-defeating thinking patterns that lead to bad
moods and depression. David Burns, M.D., in his book: Feeling
Good: The New Mood Therapy (Avon Books, 1999,) points out
10 steps to break up negative thinking patterns that effect
All-or-nothing thinking: In
this thinking pattern, youre either a hero or a
failure. Each small negative is seen as a sign of failure.
This pattern can lead to crippling perfectionism.
something negative that happens as a sign that more bad
things are sure to follow. For example, if you have a
disjointed morning where things just go wrong a
long line at the bank when youre already late, a
dropped cell phone call right in the middle of a vital
conversation you feel sure that the rest of your
day, even the rest of your life is slated to go the same
way. Reminding yourself that these are simply incidents
and not inter-related will help pull you out of a downward
spiral on your day.
The mental filler: You tend
to dwell on the bad side of a situation and ignore the
positive aspects. A tiny oversight outshines a job well-done.
A pat on the back for good work is an antidote to this
focus on the negative.
Diminishing the positive: The
tendency to down-play positive events and shape them into
negatives. Lets say you sell your first piece of
work as an artist. Instead of feeling the joy of the achievement,
thoughts dwell on the price. It could have been better
or the gallery opening could have been better attended.
That doesnt mean its bad to be aware of aspects
that arent entirely positive. It just means to let
yourself bask in the good stuff.
Jumping to Conclusions: You
practice mind-reading or fortune telling. Either way,
you smell trouble coming. If a friend appears distracted,
you assume that the friend no longer likes you. If you
get a promotion at work, you feel sure youll lose
the job when the boss discovers how far over your head
you feel. Trying not to stack negatives up in a pile will
help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
The binocular trick: Your
emotional lenses morph situations so that the good parts
are small and the bad parts loom. Ask yourself if your
lens needs adjusting to a more balance perspective.
Emotional Reasoning: Equating
your bad mood with your self-image. You feel bad so you
feel you are bad. Your mood is simply that
a mood. You dont need to define your self based
on a series of events.
"Should" and "must"
thoughts: Dr. Burns calls the tendency to constantly
remind yourself of what you should or must be doing, "musturbation."
You feel buried in guilt and shame for all those things
not done. If you label yourself as a failure for the things
you havent done, youll miss all the positives
that you have already achieved.
Labeling and mislabeling: You
tend to define your self-image through what you do. Because
everyone makes mistakes, over a period of time your self-image
becomes based on those mistakes. Mistakes are simply mistakes.
Your job is only a job, it is not you.
Personalization: If you assume
responsibility for anything that goes wrong, even if its
not your fault, youre stealing your own happiness.
Do you find yourself constantly apologizing? Its
a habit that can be broken with just a little bit of attention.
Its one thing to read a list of
defeating behaviors and ways to overcome them. Its
another thing entirely to incorporate real changes in old
behavior patterns. The first step to improving your mood
is to notice a particular negative tendency. The next step
is to choose an alternative behavior. Start small. Give
yourself credit for trying a new approach. With a bit of
attention to these details, youll see the results
of your work shining back at you through the sparkle in