Dear Dr. Norquist:
I seem to be plagued with bad moods. My co-workers have mentioned or joked about how I’m almost always in a bad mood. I’m always ready and waiting for something bad to happen. I really don’t want to be miserable all the time – I just don’t know how to feel differently. I know you help many people (from reading the column every week). Do you have any suggestions that could be helpful for me?
Dr. Norquist responds:
We create our own hell by letting anxieties and negative thinking pervade our waking thoughts and perceptions. In this way we weave our own individual perspective on an experience of this world. The landscape that we see and experience is based upon our habitual thoughts and beliefs. Whatever we think and believe appears valid to us, because we act in ways that confirm our views.
If we believe others are not trustable, we will treat them, or perceive their behavior in ways that confirm this belief. We will also tend to unconsciously surround ourselves with people and situations that are not trustable. In this way, we keep recreating what we believe to be true. Often it is not the outer conditions of our lives that need changing so much as our own minds. We create our own heaven and hell, right here on earth through our habitual thoughts and beliefs. Our minds are the root cause of the conditions and experiences that affect us.
You ask what you can do to change the way you feel on a daily basis. One of the most powerful actions you can take is to discipline your mind. Practice letting go of negative, anxiety-creating thoughts. Start by just observing your thoughts as they arise. Do this from a detached, nonjudgmental place. It’s much easier to let go of thoughts when we do not have any emotional attachment to them. See them as scenery passing by. Do not criticize or judge yourself for missed opportunities to do this. A kind, accepting attitude toward yourself will serve you much better in this exercise. Over time, you can learn to re-direct your thinking and develop positive thinking habits that will have an up-lifting effect on your daily mood.
Some people find it helpful to use imagery to assist them in this process. You can visualize putting your negative thoughts in a dumpster and seeing it being carted away. You can see your negative thoughts being melted away by the sun. You can even put up a stop sign in your mind when you notice negative thinking, as a way of re-directing your thoughts. Be creative! There is no limit to what you can accomplish with the creative power of the mind. If you can be diligent with this exercise for a month, I think you’ll be amazed at the results. Your co-workers may even have to change their opinions about you!
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2012 Chaitanya Counseling Services