Difficulties Can Make Us Become Better People

Difficulties Can Make Us Become Better People

By: Dr. Rick Petronella

Troubles come in every shape and size. Depending on how you define it, trouble may visit uninvited, stay too long, and then stubbornly refuse to leave. If that’s the way it is– if trouble, difficulties, and hardships are commonplace in life, then our challenge becomes learning what we can about them. Is it possible to leverage problems into improvements and develop quality character traits from the painful experiences that come our way? Setbacks along the road can be setups for the next steps in recovery. 

Creating Positive Character Traits
Please remember that the severity of the challenge is not correlated with positive character change, but attitude about the difficulty is. If applied with even a moderate amount of wisdom, difficulties can foster resilience and trying circumstances can establish persistence and clarify your motivation for recovering. Sorrow and heartache can create compassion. A long wait in a line you didn’t want to be in can produce patience. Resist the urge to fight, argue, and complain with every delay that comes your way. Learn what you can, using what comes your way, to create a positive attitude.

Let difficulties form you into the kind of person you always wanted to be, rather than using them to justify becoming the kind of person you always wished you weren’t.

We have all experienced enough negativism to carry all of us the rest of our lives. Living in a negative world can sometimes take its toll, but you do not have to be at the mercy of a negative environment. There are practical ways to have a more positive state of mind. Like gravity pulling you down to earth, it is easy to be pulled down into a funky mood by worries and difficult situations. Thankfully, being positive does not depend on circumstances; rather, it is almost entirely contingent on your attitude. Because what you tell yourself impacts what you believe about yourself, it is important to declare and repeat confidence-boosting statements instead.

A reactive response of the human mind is to dwell on what went wrong and what should or should not have been done or said. If you let them, negative thoughts can sour your disposition and mood. This lesson presents numerous meaningful, confidence-boosting statements designed to improve your attitude and help you maintain a positive disposition.

Saying it in a Positive Way
It is too easy to frame things in a negative way and to focus on problems in life. As a challenge, consider reformulating the way you normally think and speak. 

You are always moving in the direction that you think and speak. If you think and speak constantly with pessimistic and defeated statements, you are likely moving in a downward and negative direction. However, if you speak with confidence, strength, and in an optimistic way, you are likely moving in a more positive direction. To strengthen your positive frame of reference, try some of the practices below.

Add your positive responses to the following negative thought or statement.

Example: “I didn’t get everything done I wanted to today” becomes: “I got some things on my list done and that will have to do for today..”

Attitude Determines Success
Having a positive, cooperative, can-do attitude makes an enormous difference in our thought process   especially in mental health recovery. Negative, defeated attitudes can sabotage your progress and affect others around you. Changing your outlook and mindset is foundational to solid mental health. You will get the life you desire as you alter your attitude, change your direction, and continue your efforts toward emotional health and recovery.

Philippians 4:4-8
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 
-Apostle Paul 

Quiz: How Do You Handle Overwhelm?

When overwhelm strikes, it’s easy to feel powerless and immobile. Everything feels too big. It’s not just everyday busyness and packed schedules. When we’re overwhelmed, just making simple plans become a monumental effort. Take the Compass quiz below to see how well you’ve learned to deal with overwhelm.

True or False

1. I try to remember that I don’t have to do everything myself. I ask others for help and gather a support team about me. 

2. As often as I can remember, I stop for a moment and take several deep, relaxing breaths.

3. I say “No” to new requests for my time, and I try to renegotiate previous commitments so that I can regroup. 

4. I resist the frantic voice inside that yells, “You don’t have time!” and take a little break to sit or lie down for a bit, because I know it will make me feel as though I actually have more time.

5. I watch a funny video and/or movie . (Laughter has a very positive effect on brain chemistry.)

6. I  stop and breath to get perspective again.

7. I go outdoors for a few moments or even a few hours. Taking time to notice the glorious details of nature—a leaf, a snowflake, a tree or flower—is very regenerative. 

8. Even if for only 10 minutes, I do some form of movement—jogging, walking, jumping jacks. (Exercise increases adrenaline and endorphins, the body’s natural antidepressants. 

9. When I need to drown out the negative chatter in my overwhelmed state, I sing quietly or hum to myself. It soothes me and helps me focus on “one step at a time.” 

10. I have a practice of meditating or praying each morning, which keeps me tethered to myself during the times that overwhelm wants to scatter my energy to the wind.  

11. I write in my journal as fast as I can for 15 minutes without editing or judging; this “brain dump” helps clear my mind and move away from overwhelm.

12. On my walks (with the dog or alone), I whisper to myself all the things for which I forgive myself. 

13. When the pressure of overwhelm feels unbearable, I listen to evocative violin, cello or piano music that helps me to cry. The crying helps wash away the overwhelm and bring me back to my strength. 

14. I keep a list of all the things that help me re-connect with myself, that help me re-collect and re-focus my energy inside, so that when overwhelm begins to visit, I can remind myself of things that have worked in the past.

Overcoming overwhelm isn’t really about measuring accomplishment. It’s about connecting with what has meaning for us, with what feeds and enlivens us. Feeling connected then connects us to best self for getting things done. If you’d like some help working through overwhelm and aligning better with your values and needs, don’t hesitate to call.  

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