As a clinical social worker and therapist, I try to help my clients combat negative and faulty thinking. Often, we find ourselves stuck in either the past or the future, which steals our present joy. Only when we make the decision to actively challenge the negativity that plagues us can we free ourselves and live in peace and contentment. I find that the use of positive mantras helps to reframe and redirect the negative thinking that can hinder our growth as human beings. I have created this short list of helpful mantras with the hope that everyone who reads it will realize that joy can be had and it can be had now!
- · “Don’t believe everything you think.”
Sounds silly, but we need to challenge faulty thinking. If we simply believe whatever enters our minds as fact, then we are enslaved by our emotions. What we think is not always necessarily so. We need to start using discernment with our thoughts as we do with other aspects of our lives. Another variation of that is, “Just because you think it, doesn’t make it so.” Let the negative and faulty thinking leave your mind as sand runs through a sieve.
- · “This too shall pass”
We need to remember that life is about moments and that just because we have some bad moments, does not mean our entire lives have to be bad. If we can remember that, we can have joy even in dark times. Everything is temporary. Yes, that means that the good times are only temporary as well, but hang on to the hope of the next moment. Sit with your pain and discomfort, but accept that it is only temporary. If the bad is over, let it go!
- · “Wherever you are, be all there.”
Get out of your head! If you are stuck in your head, either lamenting about past mistakes or regrets, or you are worrying about the future, you are missing the present. You are missing what is right in front of you. We can learn from mistakes of the past. As a matter of fact, we absolutely should learn from our mistakes and all of our experiences. That is how wisdom is acquired; however, if we remain stuck there, we miss today’s joys. More than that, our growth potential is stunted, as we are ruled by negative emotions such as guilt, regret, anger or sadness. You do NOT have to bring yesterday’s woes into today! Free yourself from that.
As for the future and worrying, it has not happened so stop acting as if it has! It’s perfectly normal to assess what might occur. A lot of us have to do that for our occupations. We have to see a problem, come up with an action plan, project different outcomes that may occur and have a solution for each. That is just a smart way to operate when problem-solving. However, the issue comes when we get stuck in worry. We project into the future without truly assessing realistic possible outcomes. We allow ourselves to think that the worst case scenario will occur, then we start to really believe it will and then, once again, we are ruled by such negative emotions as worry, dread or fear. It is OK to plan, but then you have to reign yourself back to the present and realize that the future is not yet here and that it does not always have to be the worst case scenario. Challenge that belief and entertain more probable outcomes. Then, get out of your head! Enjoy the here and now with all of its possibilities!
- · “It is what it is.”
ACCEPTANCE!!! This should always be the goal. We need to accept what has happened to us. We need to accept where we are in life at this moment in time, completely and without judgments or self-deprecation. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we place sometimes unrealistic expectations on those whom we love? Why can we not accept that things are the way they are supposed to be at this moment? Even if it is a dark time, we can use it as a learning opportunity. Remember, we cannot learn unless we are tested; moreover, we may never know the full extent of our strengths and abilities if they are not put to the test. If we can accept our place in this moment, we have true freedom.
- · “I am more than the sum of my parts.”
Don’t think for one second that we begin and end with our bodies. Never underestimate the power of the mind. We are not bodies with souls. We are souls with bodies! Our mind, our spirits, can overcome any obstacle. The trick is to not let negativity take over, because then is when we are vulnerable. Release the anger. Release the hate. Move away from self-pity. Only think of those things which are filled with joy, beauty and peace. Feed your soul with the things that only serve to enrich your life, encourage you and fill you with love. If you get your mind in the right place, the body will follow. I do not mean that you can cure yourself of what ails you. I simply mean that, no matter what your body is enduring, with a positive mind and heart, you can transcend the physical and still have joy right now.
- · “Count your blessings, not your troubles.”
We all have stuff. We all have things about which we can complain. Life can be downright hard! There are times I feel as if I am constantly hiking up hill and I cannot seem to reach the pinnacle. When I start to do the “woe is me” song and dance, I stop myself and look up and say, “Thank you Lord for my strong legs that keep me hiking!” If you take the time to stop and look around, I am sure you have many things about which to be thankful. There are so many blessings in our everyday lives, but we miss them because we are too busy lamenting about the things we don’t have or we are coveting others’ possessions or accomplishments. That is such a terrible waste of time and energy. I challenge you to be thankful! Everyday put on an attitude of gratitude. Take time to be thankful for at least one blessing a day. If you do this, you will begin to see that your blessings outnumber your woes.
- · “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
This is my mother’s favorite scripture. She has some major medical issues. When she was diagnosed with a brain tumor back in 1998, she did not say, “Why me?” She looked up and said, “Ok Lord, what is it that you want me to learn?”
Thankfully, the tumor was not cancer; however, it was wrapped around her pituitary gland and a large portion of it was inoperable. It caused a condition called Acromegaly. In case you do not know what that is, it is the disease with which Andre the Giant (the famous wrestler) suffered. It ultimately caused his death. Her disease is being controlled by medication, but her doctor needs to tightly monitor her for any signs of growth. This is an unpredictable thing. Sure, she has her moments of fear and terror, especially at night, but she will not allow that fear and terror to steal her joy. Every day when she wakes, she says, “Thank you Lord for returning my soul to my body today. This is the day that YOU made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Do not waste your days. None of us are promised tomorrow. Please, do not waste your days on things that have no value. Be glad in everything, even the mundane. In the words of James Taylor, “Shower the people you love with love and show them the way that you feel. Things are going to be much better if you only will.” Please, shower the people you love with love, shower yourself and shower even strangers, for you have no idea how even the smallest acts of kindness can make a difference. You will have your down moments. You may entertain your beigest fears. You may get angry, sad, jealous, anxious, lonely, and fearful, but I beg you, do not dwell there. Let yourself feel what you need to feel to process the emotion, but then take the lesson to be learned from it and move forward. There is so much joy to be had! You can choose joy today, right now!
Abigale S. Hassel, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
Oncology Social Worker