Read it here as published in The Mindful Word
As consistently as the ticking of a clock marking time, we ourselves move as the second hand of a clock through our lives. Sometimes we move more jerkily through our day, and other times we move more smoothly, like the sweeping hand of a mechanical watch.
When things are not moving smoothly, it’s too easy to become frustrated and annoyed, and those feelings carry throughout the entire day. Each negative event builds on the other, and we fall into a negative space.
Obviously, letting our day be dictated by outside events is not a desirable way to live. We are tossed around by the whims of the emotions elicited by a dozen tiny (or not so tiny) things that either went right or wrong that day without pausing to address these emotions.
Being mindful to these perceived negative events allows us to process them, and consciously choose our reactions. The constant ‘tick, tick, tick’ of a hectic day wears on our nerves, and the more ‘ticks’ there are in our day, the worse we feel. These ‘ticks’ have a cumulative effect on us, but why do we allow them to control the flow of our day?
Acknowledge the Negatives
Take the time to consciously acknowledge the negatives. Acknowledge that things just aren’t going your way, and take a moment every time something you perceive as negative happens. You keep dropping things. You make a lot of typos. You burned something you were cooking. You forgot to pack a lunch. These things happen! Accept them for what they are, ask yourself why they happened, and embrace your humanity. Were you rushing? Were you distracted? Before you pick up that toast you dropped (jam-side down, of course) ask yourself, why did it happen? Should you have slowed down, grabbed a plate, and put the toast on it instead of trying to balance two pieces in one hand while pulling your shoe on with the other?
Identify the Problems
The problem on those days where things just don’t seem to be going well for you is that you are more attuned to anything negative that happens in your day. On a good day, you might get cut off in traffic just as many times as you would on bad day, but if you’re already in a negative mind space, you’re more likely to notice it and perceive it as yet another negative event. It gets added to your list of negatives, as though keeping tabs on everything negative in your day will somehow justify how you feel, and, in turn, justify how you react to them.
Taking Control of the Negatives
Instead of letting that fallen, sticky jam toast incident trigger a negative response, bring it out in the open. Remind yourself that these things happen. Acknowledge that you could have taken better precautions to avoid the incident, and ask yourself how you can take a more careful, mindful approach to the rest of your day. Then, when you get cut off in traffic, acknowledge that it wasn’t personal, and give the driver the peace sign instead of the finger. When you are running errands, take the time to get organized before you head out. Seek out the positives in your day, and take the time to acknowledge them. Reject the negativity that tries to creep in, and try to find the humor in it. Mindfully do positive things to change your mindset – open doors for others, smile at the grumpy cashier, let someone in in traffic, crank up your favorite song on the radio and sing along. Instead of wallowing in the comfort of your self-justified frustration, you’ll find yourself learning how to be more mindful and how to take control over those situations that you can, and, more importantly, your reactions to them.
Accept the Negatives You Can’t Control
Sometimes, there may be factors in your day that you simply cannot control, but that’s ok! Sometimes you’ll have a grumpy boss or an irritable spouse or child to deal with. Sometimes you’ll get bad news that will take longer for you to process. Perhaps you’re living with a chronic illness and you’re having a particularly bad day. At these times, take a moment and recall the Serenity Prayer – “God, Grant us the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed; the courage to change that which can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Turn Your Focus Outward
While you may think you’re having the worst day of your life, there may be those having a far worse day. Look around you, and recognize that there are probably others who are struggling with far more difficult situations than you are. People in undeveloped countries with no access to clean water. People living with incurable diseases and no access to medical treatment. People living in your own city who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Realizing that there are bigger problems out there may help you recognize that your own bad day isn’t so bad after all.
Being Mindful of the Good Days
On the days when things are running smoothly, we just float along, going about our day, and feeling in control and accomplished. On these days it is no less important to pass on the warm feeling it gives us in the form of smiles, letting others in in traffic, holding doors for others, and acknowledging more of what is going on in other people’s lives. We notice people who may be having a rough day, and give them a smile, or wish them a good day. Find a way to cast a little sunshine onto their day. We all have good days and bad days, but imagine the difference it would make if everyone was more outwardly focused and went out of their way to brighten up each other’s days.