Like food is to the body, self-talk is to the mind. Don’t let any junk thoughts repeat in your head. Maddy Malhotra
Internal validation, the voice within, intuition – whatever you want to call it, it exists whether you feel you have control over it or not. Aligning our self talk and giving ourselves permission to seek internal validation before hearing the judgement of others is one key factors that could be vital for our happiness.
To learn more about self talk and internal validation, and how to tap into it and enhance the quality of positive thoughts, click here.
Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. Robert H. Schuller
Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. Napoleon Hill
They say that the universe always provides for us – ask for patience, and you’re likely to find a line at the bank or you could just test yourself and head to the post office during your lunch break. Imagine the frustration you would encounter if every time you looked for patience you got tested in some way. Patience is a skill, that’s why often we hear the term to “practise patience” – we can actually practise it and strengthen our ability to be more patient in all circumstances! This week Happiness Weekly gives you some tips on how!
Know your triggers
If you know what makes you feel impatient, you can avoid it when you are already feeling irritable, but you can also use it to challenge yourself when feeling calm to strengthen your patience in various situations.
Letting go can be difficult, but once you’ve packaged everything in a box and handed it to the universe, trust your journey to guide you. If you find directly challenging yourself with frustration is too difficult, you could also get in touch with your inner zen and practise:
- Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
- Meditation: a written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject.
- Affirmations: the action or process of affirming something.
- Visualisation: a technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal.
Look at the big picture
When you’re finding it difficult to practise patience, sometimes stepping out of the situation and looking at the bigger picture can make the discomfort feel more bearable. Remember your goals and direction and then decide if enduring discomfort is necessary or worth it for what you desire.
Don’t demand yourself be perfect
We can all be perfectionists. We all want to do the best and be the best. But what if for just one day it was ok to be yourself, exactly as you are and that was perfectly perfect enough? Sometimes when we’re on the brink of frustration it’s because we’re demanding too much of ourselves or expecting too much. Consider how you would treat your best friend in the same situation. Treat yourself accordingly. What you’ll eventually notice is that being hard on yourself won’t change the outcome.
Intentionally practise patience
Deliberately put yourself in situations time and time again where your patience is constantly being tested. For example you may:
- Choose to stand in the longest line
- Drive behind a slow driver when you’re in a rush
- Take the longer route to get somewhere
- Make yourself wait longer
- Deliberately miss a deadline
Laugh at the problem
Laughing at anything is great at reducing stress. If you’re irritable and you laugh, you will instantly feel calmer about the situation and be able to feel more patient in your situation. When I can’t find the funny side in a situation, I have a lot of friends who will find it for me! If you’re having difficulty, talk to a friend and tell them their job is to find the funny side in your story. See how you feel once they find it and you’re both laughing.
Remind yourself what’s important to you
Is it really important that you achieve that goal exactly on time? What happens if you don’t? What is it about that particular thing that is frustrating you? How does it honestly affect you? Really think about it before you wind yourself up too badly over something. Sometimes simply reminding yourself what’s important to you is enough to practise patience.
In becoming more patient and practising patience you will reduce your stress levels, feel happier, make better decisions, be more empathetic and compassionate to others, and be better able to understand the process associated with growth.
How do you practise patience?
How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar. Trina Paulus
Look around you. Right now. What do you have in your life that’s important to you?
Now imagine that gone. Completely.
Generally even the thought of losing whatever it is makes us feel sad, overwhelmed or possibly even angry.
`While going throughout the journey in life, you’ll eventually come across a point where you need to let go. It may be letting go of a person in your life, it may be letting go of negative thoughts and feelings, it may be letting go of material things. Letting go is the steepest learning curve in attachment. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can let go the easy way!
Part of letting go is acceptance – acceptance that it is gone, acceptance of your feelings and acceptance of the feelings other people have around you about whatever is gone. For example let’s say we lose someone close to us through a relationship break up or death – there’s not a lot we can do about it, it is what it is – but we will have feelings about it and the people around us will have feelings about it. If we can accept what has happened quickly, then what other people think will bounce off us rather than consume us.
I’ve been talking about this a lot lately because it’s true – a lot of the time we look for external validation – but why? We live our lives! Stuff what other people think: What do you think? How do you feel? That’s what matters. Check in with your self and make your internal or self-validation a priority in your life.
Be conscious of attachment
If you know you are attached to something (dependent children are different) – let’s say we’re talking about a house, a spouse, a sports car or a romantic partner, start distancing yourself emotionally from whatever it is you are attached to. Practise thinking about letting go of it in the most positive way you can. This is key in recovering quickly if you are to lose it. Even if you just practise it as a passing thought rather than doing a deep meditation over it – if you are to lose it, your mind is prepared and your subconscious will return you with “Oh yeah, you prepared for this – remember when you were thinking this would happen and this is what you thought…” Don’t panic, it’s not the Law of Attraction, it’s preparing for what may eventually happen.
Challenge your limiting beliefs
If you were to lose whatever it is you’re attached to, what would it stop you from doing? What is it about that thing that you are so afraid of losing it? How does this thing make you a better person now than what you could be without it? If you lost whatever it is you’re attached to, what would it stop you from being? You’ll find when you start challenging your limiting beliefs about the thing you’re attached to, that you’re able to create distance from it. In fact, you may even discover the thing you’re attached to is holding you back.
Believe in yourself
When you believe in yourself, you know exactly what to do. The only way you can believe in yourself is to know who you are. Spend some time on your own exercising your self trust, self acceptance and self love, and learning about yourself and the things you love. Once you know all these things, you’ll be able to believe in yourself, your confidence will grow and you will be ready to face whatever challenge comes your way.
Break it down
Take it one day at a time, one step at a time, one moment at a time. You don’t need to let go all at once. But if you use each day to detach piece by piece, you’ll feel stronger because every time we let go of something, we give more energy and power to ourselves. If you are strong enough to let it all go at once, then more power to you – letting go quickly enables you to start your healing journey faster whereas letting go gradually can sometimes just prolong the pain.
Let it go
If it comes time that you need to put this into practise: give yourself permission to let it go. Consider other positive stories where people have been in your exact situation (or something very similar) and as a result, have gone on to achieve much bigger and better things. Focus on what you do have, not what you don’t have. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Read positive affirmations and encourage yourself to let the situation strengthen you. Allow it to make you better not bitter. And remember: When you’re going through hell, just keep going – keep going and going until you’re so far removed from that hell that before you know it, you’re floating with angels again. Remember: nothing can hurt us forever.
Finally, if you really want a lesson in letting go, try packing your entire life in a small suitcase and moving overseas to a completely different country … indefinitely. What’s stopping you? Remove the blocks and excuses – and go for it – it will be one of the most empowering things you ever do.
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. Buddha.
You probably think I’ve lost it – the chief blogger of Happiness Weekly who prides herself on spreading peace and happiness worldwide is writing about getting angry and seeking revenge? What good could come out of embracing an emotion such as anger and responding out of revenge? And I’m not only talking about getting angry but actively seeking revenge?
Yup … I’m crazy. Or am I?
Holding anger in, or suppressing it – which is basically the same – can be unhealthier and even more detrimental to your long-term health, than to actually get angry and respond. Suppressed anger leads to premature death (ie. by 50 years old), long-term depression, increased risk of heart disease, cancer, accidents and suicide.
Not a lot of us have been taught how to get angry. In fact from a young age it’s an emotion that is often to be neither seen nor heard – in my social circle I’ve found that particularly being female impacts this as you’re almost expected not to get angry. Unfortunately when we swallow anger, we also swallow other emotions along with it – such as fear.
I’m often told of people doing the wrong things by each other. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to my friends, it’s happened to colleagues and I’m almost certain at some stage in your life it would have happened to you. In fact, maybe you’re even the person who does the wrong thing sometimes out of anger. That can happen – we’re all human and sometimes we make mistakes – so long as no one gets hurt. So I’m excited about this week’s blog post because this week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can get angry and seek healthy revenge.
Have you felt that overwhelming sense of anxiety, where you have so many emotions as a result of someone hurting you that you actually don’t know what to do so you’re trembling in silence and almost suffocating in agony? All you seem to be able to feel is sheer frustration combined with immense pain? You may have also felt fear.
Anger, when we don’t know how to deal with it properly, will often manifest as other emotions. When our anger finally does explode, we will generally overreact to something impulsively, irrationally and also may not have as much control as we would if we’d dealt with our anger at the time we felt angry. By dealing with our anger at the time, rather than keeping it suppressed, we can continue living a harmonious life. This doesn’t mean you can punch people out when they do the wrong thing by you, although it may be tempting, so today we’re going to look at the healthy ways you can express your anger.
First, it’s important to acknowledge the upside to anger according to Dr Gary J. Oliver, “One of the many potentially positive aspects of anger is that it can serve as a very powerful and effective warning system. Healthy anger can help us identify problems and needs and provide us with the energy to do something about them.”
How to express your anger in a healthy way
As I said, it’s best not to go knocking people out every time they wrong you – but it’s almost important to allow yourself to have your feelings and ensure you feel validated in feeling the way you do.
When I first considered the concept of getting angry in a healthy way, it was such a foreign concept to me that I kind of laughed. “I don’t even get angry! I just cry!” It was brought to my attention that those tears were caused by years and years of swallowed and suppressed anger. I had actually had a lot of anger bubbling under the surface but I didn’t know how to let it out so I’d never released it.
One concept I had grasped correctly about anger is that anger is an emotion, not an action. This means you need to express it and in expressing it, you need to figure out a healthy way of doing it – such as seeking “healthy revenge”.
Recognising that you’re angry and dealing with it appropriately won’t hurt you or anyone else. As Dr Gary J. Oliver pointed out, anger can carry messages that act as warnings to us – when we swallow our anger for a long time these loud warning bells start getting dimmed and we start overlooking them and accepting circumstances we don’t like, which links back into my article about cognitive dissonance.
How to express your anger in an acceptable way
There’s no right or wrong rule of thumb here, but let’s set some ground rules and boundaries around this to ensure we’re safe and the people around us are safe as well.
– No one (you or others) should get hurt as a result of your expression of angry (this includes hurting their wellbeing or negatively affecting their life)
– There should be no consequences from your actions and if there are, you need to accept the punishment
– Part of knowing how to get angry properly is knowing how to fight fair – if you get angry and then don’t fight fair then you never actually won that fight, whether you feel better about the outcome or not.
Anger Management classes will obviously identify and establish healthy responses to anger. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re passive aggressive (as the movie may suggest) or that you have issues in over-expressing your anger. A few tips for expressing your anger in an acceptable way may include:
– Assertive communication or waiting until the anger has died down and then communicating
– Acknowledge that you feel angry and validate yourself
– Go for a run and really pound your feet against the pavement
– Smash a pillow onto your bed
– Healthy revenge – which I’m going to tell you more about now.
How to seek healthy revenge
The first thing you need to do is cut the fantasy. Yup, you have to stop fantasising over writing rude words in your neighbour’s lawn with weed killer because their loud partying kept you awake til 3am last night. Stop thinking about slashing your ex’s tires because they cheated on you. Stop thinking about picking up your ex-girlfriend’s sleazy best friend to get back at her. Can you see how these fantasies only make one person look bad at the end of the day? Carry it out and I guarantee the only person who will feel bad will be you. Although I’m sure each fantasy may enable you to express your anger, none of them do anyone any good. In fact, these thoughts waste energy, people’s time and money at the end of the day. Although it may make you feel validated at the time and as though you “won”, none of these things will lead to a positive conclusion. So, instead of bothering with any of that, we’re going to concentrate on how you can really get your anger out and win. The best way to do this is to act for the greater good.
OK, now you’ve quit wasting your time on fantasising and let’s work out how you can actually deal with this anger in a healthy way and then how you can seek healthy revenge.
How do you seek revenge in a healthy way?
Warning: DO NOT SEEK REVENGE WHILE YOU’RE STILL ANGRY! If you’re still angry, keep on with the first part of this blog or see a professional psychologist about how you can deal with your anger. Anger is the strongest emotion that can manipulate our responses, causing us to act irrationally.
Now that you’ve dealt with your anger and released it in a healthy way, you’re in a better position to seek revenge. That’s what the first part of this blog was all about, getting in the best possible position you can so that you can use your anger to seek healthy revenge. OK – we’re going to do is something quite radical now…
Instead of seeking revenge on the people who did us wrong, we’re going to look at how we can use this incident to help other people. So literally we’re taking the pain from the situation and we’re going to turn it into power. This is what I’ve been referring to as healthy revenge. This is the only actual revenge that shows you as a positive and balanced individual that is striving for success rather than hurting others as a result of the pain you are feeling. Your response by taking action this way will speak louder, encourage powerful outcomes and create a positive difference – people can see that you got angry in order to take that action but they, and you, will be grateful for the outcome. A really good example of this is Tom Meagher from Melbourne, who contacted the parole board to change their system in order to enable our justice system to protect other women so they don’t get hurt like his wife did. The value that he has added to our world by using his anger to seek positive revenge is incredible.
Well that sounds great! But how do we know what action to take?
This is similar to how you were fantasising about plotting revenge, but instead of listing negative scenarios, we’re listing positive scenarios that will assist you in moving forward from the event that hurt you and left you angry.
The best, most dignified way to get angry about something that happened to you, is to make something positive from it. It’s just up to you to come up with what action that may be.
Here are a few steps you could take in order to take healthy revenge:
Step one: Give yourself permission to go on a healthy revenge mission. A big part of this will include forgiving yourself for any part in what happened
Step two: Consider the most positive thing you can do with your anger – for example, I started supporting a domestic violence charity that shuns violence against women after my experience with narcissistic abuse. This action was just one step in seeking healthy revenge, but it was certainly the most empowering response I could’ve had to the situation.
Step three: Get creative. If you’re really angry, spread it out and get creative about it. Contact politicians, start your own business based on the event that affected you, write the story and educate as many people about what happened to you as possible (imagine if it went global and you saved thousands of people from going through the same thing), hit the gym and workout to be strong enough to defend yourself in case it happens to you again … the list goes on.
Events are just events until we add perspective to them. Anger is the one emotion that leaves us feeling completely powerless – unless we do something positive with it. Even negative revenge is a temporary fix. Don’t let your anger beat you.
Difficulties mastered are opportunities won. Winston Churchill
The way we process things all comes down to our perspective on the events that have occurred and the lessons we take with us to grow and help others. The greater the challenge, the more we learn from it and the more opportunities appear right on our doorstep. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can find opportunities and lessons in challenging times.
This blog was inspired by a recent trip to the airport. One thing after another kept “going wrong” for me, but instead of getting frustrated by each event, I laughed hysterically at myself. When things like this happen, you have a choice – you can either laugh at it as an outsider would, or get uptight and stressed about it. Life’s short – choose wisely.
After much debate I decided to wear high-heeled boots and look attractive, rather than be practical and wear flats because I hadn’t seen the friend I was visiting for some time. I had a large suitcase, my laptop bag and a large handbag and I struggled with all three as I caught a bus and then a train to the airport – all the while, chatting to a beautiful soul on Facebook, who happens to be a pilot and was keeping me calm about my impending flight.
When I got to the airport I went straight to the automatic check-in point. There were about seven options on how you could check in including scanning a barcode, typing in the reference number, typing in your name etc. Having some time on my hands, I decided to scan the barcode. About ten minutes later (I’m pretty persistent at times!), I stopped attempting to unsuccessfully scan the barcode and typed in my name – which took approximately sixty seconds. The rest of the process took approximately two minutes to complete and I was all checked in.
The lesson I learned in this was that sometimes it really is just easier just to do things the simple way than to attempt to do things because of novelty.
I then start struggling over to the baggage check-in point – on my way stopping to ask an attendant if I would be able to take my fold up umbrella aboard in my carry-on luggage. For those looking to fly domestically in Australia – the answer to this was yes.
I got to the conveyor belt that takes your baggage into the abyss until you hope to see it again at your destination. I placed my bag on the conveyor belt, standing up on its wheels, where it got weighed. What I was convinced weighed a couple of tonne, weighed 15kg. (For a five-night stay interstate, I’ll admit – I probably over-packed a little.) At this point I had my laptop bag on my back, my large handbag over my arm and was clutching onto the boarding pass and receipt for the boarding pass along with the sticker to put on my bag (also known as the luggage sticker). “Goody! I’ve always wanted to do this!” I thought to myself, as I envisaged the lady at the counter doing it for me last time – so seamlessly, so professionally, it probably took about two seconds in total to take the sticker off and wrap it around the handle and off went the bag.
Now it was my turn.
So I removed the sticker. Half of it peeled off seamlessly, just as the checkout lady had done at my previous visit to the airport. It was just as I’d imagined – I could almost have gone for a job at the checkout, I thought to myself. But then: disaster. The other half of the sticker just didn’t go so seamlessly. In fact, it started to tare and as I instinctively tried to use my other hand to separate it – my boarding pass and receipt both got stuck to the sticker. Concentrating, I carefully peeled my boarding pass away – it tore slightly but not too bad … the receipt wasn’t so lucky on the other hand – it tore in half.
So the lesson I learned here was this: when trying to stick the sticker on your bag at the airport, keep your boarding pass and receipt completely clear of the sticker. In fact – put them in your handbag or pocket if you have one. Oh – and just because you visualise something doesn’t mean it’s going to pan out that well for you – make sure you’re adaptable and creative enough to adjust to whatever may happen next!
My next challenge was trying to place the bag down on the conveyor belt. It was a wheelie bag, so I thought if I just tipped it then it would fall flat – but for some reason it didn’t work that way. I ended up rolling my bag up and down the small section of conveyor belt about five times before I physically had to pick the bag up, lie it flat and place it back on the conveyor belt. I watched my bag disappear on the conveyor belt to join other travelling bags. The lesson I learned here was sometimes persistence doesn’t pay!
Next was walking through the scan machines. I carefully placed my handbag, my belt and my backpack into the trays provided and watched them go through the machine. I walked through and all was clear. I then took my bags and started tying my belt back around me. I then received a random request to be scanned for explosives. I agreed. I learned if you wait around for too long, people will take advantage of you – sometimes it’s best not to loiter, take your belt with you and put it on elsewhere!
After that I marched off to the travelator which has been my favourite thing about airports since I was young. I learned that things we enjoyed as children, we may also find enjoyable as adults – even if we’re using it properly (unlike when we were children and would use them as a treadmill). I made sure I walked it on the way home too – just to please my inner child and bring back a few memories to bring a smile to my face.
As you can see, there are lessons in every little thing we do and as long as we learn through our times of despair – as much as we may feel the loser at the time, we come out the winner. It is our perception of the events that happen to us that frames the event. Life events are just events until we frame them – and our perception of these events is based on our beliefs, values and past experiences. For example, laughing at the chaos in my case helped me to view the circumstances in a positive frame of mind.
The ability to learn from things is up to us – for example, if I allowed each of these events to frustrate me perhaps I would have repeated all the same things on the flight home because I wouldn’t have been so receptive to learning from what happened.
When things appear to be mounting against you, have a think about this quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly”. Many people will interpret this in different ways. What does this mean to you? Check out some of these powerful interpretations.
Finding opportunities in challenges is like looking at life like an optical illusion – sometimes they can be two-faced and the opportunity is up to us as to how we interpret it. Have a look at these optical illusions and see what you find – I’ll put answers below. You should be able to see two images in each image below – what do you see?
Optical Illusion Answers:
A Beautiful woman looking away/Old woman looking to the left
B Old couple looking at each other/Two people in sombreros – one playing a ukulele
C Old man/Person on a white horse
D Rose/Two cherubs kissing
E A man with a moustache looking to the left/A boy with sheep near a village
Thank you for reading and have a fantastic day!
You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there. Edwin Louis Cole
Last year my life didn’t move. It was like I was frozen in time. Nothing changed. At all.
I didn’t learn anything (other than what I researched for my blog), I didn’t do anything new or exciting (because I was so busy trying to facilitate that for others) and my life just stayed exactly the same. I couldn’t help but compare it to the year before when everything changed all at once: new job, new home, new relationship.
It was frustrating for me because I am usually good at initiating change in my life, but I couldn’t find what was anchoring me down. I was stuck. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I couldn’t make anything happen and just as I was on the verge of making something happen, I’d back down.
I stopped believing in myself.
Yet here’s the thing: in this year of nothingness I wanted change and almost expected it to happen without me even trying.
It wasn’t long before I developed something that I call “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” – unless something happened to demonstrate change was imminent, I didn’t believe anything would change, so I wasn’t going to bother trying. I remained completely unmotivated.
Fortunately, once I cut myself from the anchor, and started working on myself, I was able to turn things around. I started by taking a big step and left that relationship I’d gotten into – over time I have found the bigger the step you take, the greater the change. Not surprisingly, this year is completely different. My confidence is restored, I feel as though I’m in control again and I love life!
This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can overcome this “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” and make positive change happen in just one simple step.
I heard a fantastic quote the other day that I wanted to share with you:
“If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to heaven (happiness) is created by good actions. To take action, just do it. Do it now!”
The rule of thumb here is: in order to get out this “I’ll believe it when I see it depression”, we need to take action to encourage positive change and keep taking steps until we reach our goal. In other words, we’re turning things around to enables us to see it before we believe it! How do we do that?
1. Stop what you’re doing
Stop what you’re doing and be mindful of any rituals you’re currently following. Think about where your values are and whether your priorities align with them. What is most important to you – and why? Are you following through with these things or have you forgotten about yourself? How are these rituals you are following serving you?
2. Discover what’s holding you back
Realistically assess what you’re spending your time on – is this holding you back? It didn’t take me long to realise what I was spending my time on was doing nothing for me, and when really honest with myself, I acknowledged it was depleting my self-esteem – and it was my fault! I was spending 95% of my energy on a relationship with a narcissist – my anchor – and I was choosing to remain in it even though friends and family disapproved, it didn’t align with my values (despite his best attempts to cover it up – it was an affair), and it wasn’t doing anything positive for me at all. Once acknowledging this, I could concentrate on the steps I needed to take in order to get out of there.
3. Do what’s in your control
If you can make change happen, within your control, do it! Generally if you have “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” you would have been procrastinating for quite some time… so you know what changes you want to make but you never quite got there. Today is the day you give yourself permission to make change within your control happen. If you’ve been looking at renting a property, if you’ve been thinking about studying, if you’re looking at jobs but not applying… STOP HOLDING YOURSELF BACK! Make it happen!
4. Don’t be scared of eliminating blocks
This is a big one – sometimes taking steps to remove our blocks is exactly what is holding us back from making positive changes to our life. What if it means the difference between being with your partner and being on your own? It sounds scary. OK, go into your imagination for a moment – and fast forward time by 10 years, imagine your life once you have removed the block and the positive change has happened as result. What do you look like? How are you behaving? What’s changed around you? Now weigh up if you want that anchor tying you down, or not.
5. Empower yourself
We all have a lot more control than we think we do in any given situation – don’t wait for someone to save you, save yourself! Empower yourself. Depend on yourself to make the right decision. Trust yourself. Love yourself enough to let go of something that’s hindering your happiness. The key to making positive change happen is setting goals to help you out of your situation. Define a goal as positively as you can and then write down what steps you need to take to get there. Then choose just one of those steps and action is today! Some people take little steps, others – like me – like to start with the toughest step to get the biggest impact and make the most dramatic change. There’s no right or wrong. Once you have actioned that one step, you are one step closer to achieving positive change in your life.
Remember this in trying to move forward, no matter how scary that first step appears to be:
If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. Nora Roberts.
Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Bob Kerrey (1943)
The kindness of strangers has the power to improve our wellbeing and increase our feelings of happiness more than our normal friendship circle. How do I figure this? Imagine you have been hurt or let down by someone you trusted and thought you knew. You’re just looking to vent and for someone to listen to your story.
First you talk to a friend, they listen, and offer you their opinion and give advice in an attempt to try to lift you back up. You can sense their empathy and genuine care in their response which makes you feel somewhat better and your day continues as normal.
Now imagine the same scenario, but this time you’re talking to a complete stranger. You tell them your story and they listen. They then respond in a way that shows they identify or can relate to your situation, they offer you their opinion based on what they have heard and understood, and advise you accordingly. All of a sudden you feel less alone and your faith in humanity is restored and it’s like the sun has started shining through a grey sky – your day almost feels better, more fulfilled, than when you spoke to your friend. The happiness you feel as a result of the correspondence with the stranger barely compares to how you felt after communicating with your friend about the same issue.
This week Happinesss Weekly looks at why strangers can have a greater impact on your happiness than your friends.
Why strangers do it better
There are several reasons why strangers have the power to make us feel happier than our usual circle of friends – this could be why internet dating is becoming more popular and a more acceptable way of meeting someone and finding love. Here are some of the reasons why strangers can appeal to us more than our friends:
- Our expectations
The fact is we expect our friends to care about our wellbeing and therefore subconsciously depend on them to listen to us, side with us and support us unconditionally through all turbulence. It’s a part of friendship that almost all of us take for granted.
In the case of a complete stranger, we have no expectations. When a stranger is entirely removed from a situation and shows us kindness, we appreciate the time they take to actively listen to our story more than when our friends show us the same courtesy. Then if the stranger passes judgement that validates our feelings or actions, we start to feel better understood and less alone.
Although a stranger may have responded the same way as our friends, they exceed our expectations because we didn’t have any to begin with.
- The “stranger danger” belief
Strangers may also have an advantage over our friends because as children we were made acutely aware of “stranger danger”. These messages shaped our beliefs that strangers are a threat and potential danger.
Even now, despite statistics showing that someone we know who is a greater threat to us than a stranger, the media often highlight stories that demonstrate the opposite. When a stranger offers us kindness, our receptors instantly flick on warning us to be wary and we begin to question their motives and what could be in it for us.
It is when the kindness of a stranger is proven to be genuine and consequence-free, despite what we were programmed to understand, we often find ourselves pleasantly surprised.
As adults, neglecting or rejecting the kindness of strangers can force us to be confined and limited, so if we challenge this “stranger danger” belief, it enables us to work together to make a positive difference in each other’s lives.
- The selfish world we live in
Society often finds people first looking for the “what’s in it for me” before taking action in any situation. We all do it, whether it’s because we’re all time-poor in this fast-paced world or we’re simply becoming more selfish by the generation.
You may even notice that marketing campaigns are starting to lean towards commercial bribery as they become more aware that if they can’t convince the consumers that there’s something in it for them, it’s nearly impossible to motivate anyone to take action, let alone convince people to try a new product.
We are starting to value time more than ever before which is why when a stranger takes a moment to act selflessly towards us it leaves us feeling good because they have given up time to be thoughtful.
- About the kindness movement
This theory that strangers can have a greater impact on us than our friends isn’t new. Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward published in 2000, which was adapted into the film starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment in the same year, may have inspired the movement that encourages random acts of kindness towards strangers.
Whenever it began, adults are now being actively encouraged to be more mindful of each other and to demonstrate random acts of kindness where they can. The stigma associated with strangers being dangerous is deteriorating as more people embrace the “Pay it Forward” movement.
How you can make a positive difference to a stranger
The purpose of the following activities is to do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return – It doesn’t have to be expensive and there’s no need to go above and beyond when you choose to demonstrate a random act of kindness for a stranger.
– Buy someone’s coffee in the coffee shop
– Help a student with their tuition
– Teach someone something new
– Volunteer for a charity
– Let someone in front of you in the grocery store line
– Hand-write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you
– Speak up for someone – sign a petition, write a letter, be a referee for a job
– Work pro bono where your skills are needed
– Compliment a stranger
– Give up your seat when taking crowded public transport
– Listen to someone without interruption
– Greet someone in the elevator
– Hold the door open for someone
– Explain the Pay it Forward concept to someone
– Take part in Pay it Forward Day on 22 April. Find more information here.
For more ideas on how you can show kindness to others, follow the free Thrive Happiness Challenge application.
No one has it all figured out, especially not the people who are acting like they do and judging you because of it. Pretending to be something you aren’t because you’re trying to please a bunch of judgemental hypocrites and shitheads is not the way to be happy. Tucker Max
Do not judge and you will never be mistaken. Jean Jacques Rousseau
It can be extremely painful when other people judge us based on stories they have been told, something they have heard through the grapevine or maybe they simply believe a narcissist’s smear campaign after we finally worked up enough inner-strength and courage to walk away from a toxic relationship or a friendship that no longer serves us.
Some celebrities – such as Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus – embrace it openly, going with the “any news is good news” philosophy, but many others they talk about how daily rags and trashy magazines got their stories wrong and it impacted their reputations.
Most people would agree that they would rather not be the centre of controversial conversation that could lead to negative criticisms and judgements. Read more here.
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