"Life Is What You Make It, Not What Happens To You." This is my theme for "Self-Improvement Saturday." I have just created my own holiday and have given it a tagline.
Why? Well – why not?
Living with teens, I see plenty of emotions – and I'm experiencing a lot of them as a menopausal woman. Everyone's hormones are all over the highway, and I think the natural inclination to some degree for many people as we grapple with life – small problems or big – is to feel annoyed, overwhelmed, self-pitying, resentful and dare I say it – powerless.
The truth is, we are not.
I have put up two 8 1/2 x 11 posters of the following habits in my kitchen in a prominent place. I also put a header above it that says "Self-Improvement Saturday. Ways Of Thinking Not Just For Today But Every Day!" And it also says "Life Is What You Make It, Not What Happens To You."
I'm not going to say a word.
And by me NOT saying a word, that is REALLY something because although I always talk (ha!) about how much I like to communicate with my kids, prattling on too much to teenagers is not helpful.
They will find that I put up these posters annoying anyway – I can't guarantee they'll read it.
But I'll have a reference point to send them to the next time someone begins complaining about life being "unfair," having to do things they don't want to do, or feeling like other people have power over them (in the form of gossip, exclusion, slights, contested grades, feeling overlooked by coaches or directors, getting turned down for a date, etc.).
There are a myriad of ways a young person could feel badly themselves and feel a loss of control over what they are living through. Experiences are new and emotions are raw, and it's hard to imagine a time when these events will pass and that they won't matter so much in the future.
While that is true, what is MISSING here is teaching young people that they don't have to feel powerless as life events occur. And I think a lot of them do.
As a parent, I have tried to teach my kids things like charity and helping (we regularly do service for others), to teach them to respect God (we go to church and they partake in preparing for sacraments, which I take very seriously), and we discuss regularly how to interact with other people.
What HASN'T been done on a regular basis in a concrete way is to discuss what it really means to be a mentally strong person.
They've seen lists of good study habits, the 10 Commandments, prayers, rule of the road for driving, etc. They've been educated on a lot of important things at home and at school.
But I haven't given them a list of mentally strong behaviors to follow until now. And it's also my job to read that list and live it so I'm a good example.
Some people seem to be naturally mentally strong and for them, and it appears automatic for them to conduct themselves in such a fashion.
These are the people we admire for their grit, positive nature, humility, resourcefulness, hope, imagination, leadership, creativity, support and the good example they set. These are people we are automatically drawn to, and we consciously or unconsciously strive to be like them.
Truthfully though, when you ask a lot of these people how they came to be who they are, many will tell you a story of overcoming adversity and changing their thinking. They are people who experienced the death of a parent at a young age, who overcame bulimia or anorexia, or had a deep depression. These life experiences can scar people but also empower them for the future.
With that in mind, it's necessary to remember that when something hurtful or bad happens that we NOT ignore it. Suppressing emotions is dangerous. We need to feel the disappointment, hurt or rejection for a while. We need to process it and experience the negative feelings.
But dwelling in the negativity is what aggravates conditions like depression and anxiety, which are thought to be a combination of biologic and life experience.
No doubt, for conditions like anxiety and depression, medication may be necessary. I'm not trying to make light of the medical necessity of many forms of treatment.
But research shows continually that the BEST way to fight anxiety and depression is through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
Depression, anxiety and mental illness are at all-time highs in the United States at all ages, not just teenagers.
I keep wondering why.
I'm sure some of it based on the information and statistics we're able to keep, as well as a bit of a cultural change. Any kind of illness, but especially mental illness, has historically been something to "hide" and was shameful. I don't think we kept the same statistics on this data in the past. The stigmas still exist today, but now many more people are willing to see a doctor or therapist and so we have data that we didn’t' have previously.
But I'm struck by how people of my parents' generation seemed to take life so much more in stride, and seemed to be happier more easily. They are "The Greatest Generation," born in the 1920s and 1930s, and there are fewer of them every day, unfortunately.
People who I know who've done missionary work report that those they've come to help in Third World countries are often happier and more content than the people coming to help on the trip.
Could it be that happiness really IS how we think of life? That when you get used to hardship you learn how to see the best of things and really know how to appreciate goodness, and don't feel entitled? Is it because they don't expect everything to go perfectly all the time and they've developed the mental resources to handle things when they don't?
I think so.
Maybe you're already familiar with this list of 18 Habits of Mentally Strong People. I know I've seen it before, but recently I've really taken the time to read and re-read it.
It was written by Amy Morin, an author and LCSW who endured some terrible tragedies in her own life. So it's not coming from the perspective of a person who has it "all made" and is just spouting off "feel good" commentary.
To read her story, click on the following link: amymorinlcsw.
I know this is a long post, but I felt her points were so valid that I wanted to actually include them here.
I invite – and challenge you – to read the list.
How many things are you already doing? Where could you improve? How can we parents show – BY EXAMPLE – how to think about life better and show how to manage it by our actions?
18 Habits of Mentally Strong People
- They practice gratitude.
Counting their blessings instead of their burdens helps mentally strong people keep life in perspective. Their choice to be grateful shines through in their mood and behavior.
- They retain their personal power.
Mentally strong people don't give negative people power over them. They refuse to blame anyone for holding them back or dragging them down.
- They accept challenges.
Mentally strong people view adversity as an opportunity to grow stronger. With each obstacle they overcome, they gain confidence in their ability to become better.
- They focus on the things they can control.
Mentally strong people stay productive and effective by focusing on the things they can control. Rather than waste their energy worrying about whether a storm will come, they invest their efforts into preparing for it the best they can.
- They set healthy boundaries.
Creating healthy emotional and physical boundaries gives mentally strong people the room they need to grow. They're willing to say no, even if it means disappointing others.
- They take calculated risks.
Mentally strong people balance their emotions with logic to calculate the risks they face. They're willing to step outside their comfort zone and seek opportunities that will help them reach their goals.
- They make peace with the past.
Mentally strong people reflect on the past so that they can learn from it, but they don't dwell on it. They refuse to live a life of regret, and they are able to let go of grudges.
- They learn from their mistakes.
Mentally strong people focus on learning from their mistakes. They accept full responsibility for their behavior and choose to move forward in a productive manner.
- They create their own definition of success.
Rather than resent other people's good fortune, mentally strong people feel free to share in their joy. They recognize that other's achievements don't diminish their own.
- They view failure as an opportunity for growth.
Failure is part of any long journey toward success. Mentally strong people accept this and choose to use each failure as an opportunity to grow wiser.
- They set aside time to be alone.
Mentally strong people take time to be alone with their thoughts. Whether they write in a journal, practice meditation, or sit silently and reflect, they know a little solitude is essential to their well-being.
- They accept full responsibility for their lives.
Mentally strong people create opportunities for themselves. They don't waste time waiting for the world to give them what they think they're owed.
- They practice perseverance.
Mentally strong people know that the best things in life are worth waiting for. They exercise patience and persistence as they strive for their goals.
- They modify their unhealthy beliefs.
Mentally strong people refuse to allow self-limiting beliefs to restrict their potential. They understand their minds can be their best asset or their worst enemy.
- They expend their mental energy wisely.
Instead of complaining about things they can't change or rehashing events that already happened, mentally strong people devote their energy to productive tasks. They don't waste limited resources like time and energy on things that aren't helpful.
- They practice realistic optimism.
Mentally strong people talk to themselves like a trusted coach. They refuse to believe pessimistic predictions and don't allow themselves to become overconfident.
- They tolerate discomfort.
Mentally strong people aren't afraid to endure a little pain. Whether they keep running when their legs are tired or they resist instant gratification, these people practice self-discipline even when it's uncomfortable.
- They stay true to their values.
Mentally strong people keep their priorities in line with their beliefs. They're courageous enough to live according to their values, even when it's not the popular choice.
How Will You View Today's Obstacles and Victories????
Subscribe by email here to make sure you don't miss a post. It's spam-free and you can opt out whenever you like.
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
Filed under: Uncategorized