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Innovative Techniques for Learning Emotional Intelligence

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Innovative Techniques for Learning Emotional Intelligence

Put simply, EQ is the awareness and control of emotions. It has been found to determine overall life fulfillment. So learning EQ is crucial for everyone. In this post, I tell you the current state of EQ education, why it isn’t working and how EQnow is revolutionizing the way we learn and increase emotional intelligence.

Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is considered a predicator of success, in both life and work. Introduced in the 90’s, EQ makes so much sense it’s kinda crazy we weren’t focused on it before. Read more about the benefits here.

EQ is important now more than ever. And while research is catching up, we have another, more pressing issue to focus on: How do we actually learn EQ? And then after we learn it, how do we incorporate it into our lives?

Current State of Emotional Intelligence

There aren’t many learning resources available:

  • Therapeutic practices like CBT aren’t easily accessible or feasible with everyday use. (Think of those thought journals everyone sells but the large majority of buyers ditch after a couple weeks.)
  • Self-help and business books (while likely written with good intentions) don’t give any lasting or long term success. As Daniel Kahneman explains inThinking, Fast and Slow, “Books available to us are tailored to reassure messages of illusion to us.”
  • Recycles inspiration quotes create a momentary positive outlook but fall flat. Recycled so many times they start to lose meanings. They don’t tell us anything useful like how to do something. Yeah, yeah, love yourself.. but how?
  • Products marketed to help are only helping opportunists and capitalism. Self-help has become a booming industry and marketplace, but people are still lost.
  • A lot of experts or those offering help don’t know how to. They are trying but their applications are falling short.

Desired, Future-state of Emotional Intelligence

While beneficial, CBT and therapeutic techniques aren’t practical. They don’t easily incorporate into our current, fast paced lives. Business books and quotes aren’t helping either. We need something that we can apply and develop. We need something that will help us incorporate EQ into our lives.

Thats where EQnow comes in. After decades of research, experimentation and trial and error we have created a modern day, comprehensive resource for learning EQ. With EQnow you will not only learn EQ you will incorporate EQ into your life and create a lasting and positive impact.

How EQnow works

The idea is simple. Learning EQ requires concentration on two processes:

  1. Learn the vocabulary (EQnow Glossary of terms here.)
  2. Practice and change habits

Learn the Vocabulary of Emotional Intelligence

Think of it, anyone can critique food, but there are professional food critiques. The differentiation is due to the professionals ability to put their pallet into words. They’ve developed a certain vocabulary. Learning the vocabulary around EQ is based on the same reasoning.

We need to learn the vocabulary to define our experiences, thoughts and emotions. Defining them is part of the process of being aware of them. When we are aware of our thoughts and emotions we are able to then determine how to effectively manage and control them. We are able to communicate what we are thinking and feeling to ourselves and others.

Practice and Change Habits for Increased Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence also involved emotional regulation, response and control. This will likely involve ditching some bad habits. And as the saying goes, old habits die hard.But don’t fret!

EQnow has created repeatable daily habits that can be practiced anywhere by anyone to help them ditch bad habits. We will guide you and help with this very changeling and rewarding process.

Get Started Now

No matter where you are starting, you can increase your EQ. You can have a better, more meaningful life. Start now by learning the vocabulary and incorporating positive EQ habits.

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Why EQ Is Important… Now More Than Ever

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a term that is often heard but rarely understood. Put simply, EQ is the ability to be aware of and to control feelings and emotions. A more detailed description would mention a full range of abilities regarding emotions including: awareness, control and management. It would not be complete without reference to our ability to relate to and have empathy for others.

EQ contributes to how we handle ourselves. It involves understanding what we are feeling and why we are feeling it. It determines how we cope, express ourselves, develop & maintain friendships and perceive the world around us. It can be the difference between finding fulfillment and feeling hopeless. It is considered a predicator of success in life and work.

It doesn’t take much to find indicators that EQ is needed more now than ever. Emotions are getting out of control in dangerous ways. New terms such as “Ken” and “Karen” define those with low EQ who flip out in the public arena. At the time of writing, 20 people a minute are physically abused by an emotionally ignorant partner. The drug and overdose epidemic, skyrocketing depression, anxiety and suicide rates – all results of poor emotional management.

Whatever their upbringing, background or story, it is important for every person to start learning about their emotions and to focus on emotional management and development.

EQ is inviting us to start the conversation. To learn about our emotions and to understand the inner-working of our minds. To reflect on our thoughts, and to make sure we are utilizing them to our advantage so we can live a fulfilling and successful life.

With emotional intelligences one would hope that abusers would learn that there is no justification for their actions. However, the biggest impacts lies in EQs ability to empower the victims and survivors of abuse so that they may reclaim their right to be who they are and live comfortably without fear. To let a bullied school child know they are not alone. To help those who are sad or silently suffering and let them know they are not alone either.

EQ will guide and introduce us not only to ourselves but to one another. It will give us the courage to say, “hey, I don’t know what you are going through but I can understand what it is like to feel like crap.” To find unity and togetherness in a world where we are so easily turned against each other. To find a semblance of hope in an otherwise seemingly hopeless situation and to retain clarity in an uncontrollable and unpredictable world.

To learn and understand emotions we need to know the vocabulary around them. For the EQ glossary of terms click here.

References: https://ncadv.org/statistics

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Stoicism and the Trichotomy of Control: Why You Need to Know What It Is and How It Changed My Life!

When we actively label what we can, cannot and can somewhat control, we remove a lot of stress and anxiety from our lives. In this article I discuss stoicism, the trichotomy of control, and why you should incorporate it into you life by using examples of how it changed my life.

number 3 representing the trichotomy of control

Photo by Tony Hand

Stoicism and the Trichotomy of Control

Stoicism is a school of philosophical thought. Think of it this way: just like there are religions with different beliefs, there are schools of philosophical thought with different beliefs. Those who practice stoicism believe in the principles of stoicism similarly to how those who practice religion believe in the principles of the religion they associate with.

Stoicism dates back to 300 BCE. Most of us have probably heard of Marcus Aurelius. American presidents like Theodore “Teddy” Rosevelt were also known for reading stoicism.

One stoic principle is called the dichotomy of control. It explains that we should view life happenings by: what we can and what we can’t control. A professor of Philosophy, William B. Irvine has recently added a third level to dichotomy as outlined in his book, “A Guide to the Good Life.”

Photo by Tim Mossholder

Now There Are Three

In his book Irvine identifies control in 3 categories:

  1. “Things over which we have complete control (such as the goals we set for ourselves)
  2. Things over which we have no control at all (such as when the sun rises)
  3. Things over which we have some but not complete control (such as the outcome of a game or match)” (Irvine)

Irvine’s trichotomy is an updated form of the dichotomy of control practiced in stoicism, which was subsequently rebranded as the serenity prayer in Catholicism.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Serenity Prayer (people fight over who wrote it 🤷‍♀️ )

My Practice of the Trichotomy of Control

Irvine’s trichotomy REALLY resonated with me. So, like any really cool person would do, I decided to experiment—on myself. Little did I know, this experiment was going to change my life.

For the next few weeks I kept the trichotomy at the forefront of my mind. I’d break my thinking and interpretation of situations into 3 categories: what I can, can’t, and can somewhat control.

Example:

I woke up late and missed a training session at the gym. Hating to be late, waste my trainers time and miss a session I felt frazzled. Typically, this type of thing would ruin my day. I’d beat myself up over it, and I’d think about it on repeat. However, this time I threw the trichotomy at it:

  1. I can control: when I go to bed and I need to go to sleep earlier.
  2. I can’t control: the past, so no point in being upset. (Note: I explored my feelings here before reaching acceptance as to not reject my feelings.)
  3. I can somewhat control: how pissed my trainer is by saying sorry, sending him memes and gifs and telling him how handsome he is.
Photo by Kara Eads

The BIG One

I was a couple weeks into my trichotomy experiment and everything was going well. It was sometimes hard to fit everything into the trichotomy (namely seeing what I could somewhat control) but I made due.

And then something happened that changed my life forever: I decided to cut my hair. From mid-back length to pixie. AKA from really long to super short. Typically a big change like this makes an impact, but it wasn’t the hair cut that changed my life, it was the events after the haircut that did.

My short hair felt amazing, but I was feeling self conscious about my new look. I heard encouraging comments like: “New do, cool!” and “I love it, OMG”. I also heard negative comments like, “Don’t guys like girls with long hair,” and “Maybe you should have gotten a boyfriend first before cutting your hair.”

Before the trichotomy of control, I would have given that last statement the power to bring me down. Fortunately, I had the trichotomy at my whip. Instead of getting upset or defensive I simply replied: “I can’t control what guys like.”

It may seem like a small instance, or something not worthy of noting, but to me, it was a defining moment in my life. Instead of feeling upset about my hair and adding to my already shaky confidence, I didn’t let it bother me. I was confident. I felt powerful. I didn’t need external validation, and I didn’t let someone else’s negative words impact me.

Photo by The Lucky Neko

Inner Peace and Tranquility

For so long I worried about what others thought of me or how others perceived me. I would tell myself that I didn’t care… but I always did. Now my knowledge of the fact I can’t control what others think overpowered the fact that I cared what they thought. This type of mental freedom is amazingly empowering. It was like a huge weight has been lifted!

Witnessing first hand how effective it was to break down life situations into the trichotomy I decided to add it permanent to my thought process. It’s been two years since I started the trichotomy experiment, and it’s also been 2 years of me feeling less anxious, less depressed and more like myself.

Also, within those two years I heard some different kinds of comments. Comments from a friendly bartender who bought me a desert on the house and said it looks like I’m “living my best life”. A comment from a colleague who said, “you seem different, in a good way.”

I’ve also had someone tell me that they love how I don’t “give a fuck.” I corrected them: it’s not that I don’t give a fuck, it’s that I know I can’t control much of what I used to give a fuck about so now I just try my best! I mean, of course I want people to like me, and of course I want things to turn out well, but there’s only so much I can do about that.

Photo by Elena G

Trichotomy in All Areas of Life

One thing I noticed while practicing my trichotomy experiment is that we are all encouraged to worry by essentially every facet of society. (Worrying is suffering so basically we are encouraged to suffer—ouch).

This happened recently with the 2020 election. It was an important elections and there was a lot on the line. Emotions were high. News reports added to the anxiety with their barrage of “what if” and doomsday articles.

While some were watching live streams, living in a web of anxiety and checking the numbers 24/7, I was chillin in my house, watching Gilmore Girls and just genuinely living my best life. People would try to suck me into political “what if” conversations but I had nothing to contribute.

Some would misinterpreted this as ignorance, or as me being lax about politics. When really it was that they were trying to connect over communal suffering, and my focus is on tranquility. I understand the issues, and I voted (mail-in vote in PA baby!). While the votes are being counted there’s nothing I can do, and worrying would just make me miserable.

RELATED ARTICLE: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

Photo by Aaron Burden

Follow Trichotomy of Control in your life

When we add the trichotomy into our thought process, and characterize things as what we can, can’t and can somewhat control, we remove a lot of anxiety from our life. It also helps us build self-compassion and relieve anxiety over past mistakes.

Adding the trichotomy to my life was just one of the pieces that fit into the puzzle of me trying to better my life…but it’s a damn important one. I cordially invite you to test out the trichotomy of control in your life.

You can start now! Pick something that you are currently worried about. Divide the situation into the three categories of what you can, can’t and can somewhat control. It may take some time to stick, but with some practice and repetition you’ll get there, and it’s worth it!

How are you going to add the trichotomy in your life?

Lyndsey Getty may receive a small commission if you purchase items linked in this article. 

Holidays Without Family Are Tough. Here’s How to Not Let It Get You Down…and Build Your EQ in the Process

Thanksgiving is next week and this year is unlike any other. Many of us have made the difficult decision not to spend the holiday with our family. As someone who has previously spent Thanksgiving without family I can relate to how tough this may be. In this article I show you how to use emotional intelligence (EQ) to not let this holiday season get you down, and build your EQ in the process.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska

Thanksgiving and Mental Health

Thanksgiving (or any family affair) may put our emotions to the test. Navigating interrogations from invasive family members. Remaining calm during family drama. Getting mentally prepared to eat more food—even though we’re stuffed.

This year Thanksgiving is going to test our mental health and emotional management in a new way. We’re spending time away from family and missing holiday traditions after an already tough year. Stress is high, and emotions are almost at a breaking point.

Spending the holidays alone can negatively impact our mental health, this is especially true if thoughts and feelings are not managed properly. This may spiral into other areas of life, and can create a succession of negativity and sadness, leading to depression, or building upon a depression that’s already there.

It’s imperative we acknowledge, and are conscious of, this importance of emotional management so we navigate it effectively. And so we don’t end up depressed or anxious, or have negative feelings carry over into other areas of our life.

Why EQ Helps Us Get Where We Need to Be

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is awareness and management of emotions, thoughts and feelings. It is considered the #1 determinate of life success. To learn more about EQ check out: The Quick and Simple Guide to Learning What EQ Is Once and for All.

After spending over a decade dedicated to improving my mental health, I’ve learned a lot. And my theory is that EQ and mental health are directly related. Meaning, the higher a person’s EQ the better their mental health. By living my life according to this theory I’ve overcome debilitating depression, anxiety and PTSD.

While missing the holidays this year will be tough, I see it as an opportunity to build (or build upon) our EQ. A holistic approach, this will not only help navigate the upcoming holiday season, it will help with other difficult situations we may face throughout the course of our lives—and during this uncertain time of COVID.

RELATED ARTICLE: Uncertainty Sucks. We Need to Manage It Effectively. Here’s Why.

My Experience of Holidays Without Family

Like many others who’ve come from a dysfunctional family, I’ve had to make difficult decisions. For my health, safety and wellness, I’ve made the difficult decision to cut ties with my family. While this may be the first time spending holidays alone for some, I’ve spent the last decade of holidays alone, and I want to help you by sharing what I’ve learned.

It took a lot for me to get to the place of mental wellbeing that I’m in now. Below I share some of my “go-to” mental health techniques (backed by EQ), specifically crafted for helping you work through this untoward holiday season.


Note: The items are split into three main sections with sub-sections for easy reading.


1. Take Inventory

With the holidays approaching we may feel anxious, like we need to be doing something, or making alternative plans. What we really need to do is slow down and reflect. Let ourselves recharge after making the difficult decision to not see family with Thanksgiving.

When we feel upset or anxious, slowing down may seem counterintuitive (or damn near impossible). We may feel the need to act, NOW! However, slowing down is a part of grounding. It helps us to become aware of our emotions, thoughts and feelings. And grounding gives us time to collect ourselves and gain clarity.

With that clarity everything becomes easier to manage. We actually speed up the process of emotional management. We are better able to manage the situation in a productive way. (Look at you being all productive and shit! Proud of you 😊)

Below are some ways to take inventory aka ground yourself. I suggest you do them all. (I did them all, too!)
Photo by Kelly Sikkema

1.1 Inventory of Current Situation

Inventory Current Situation Objective: State only facts and focus on being objective.

Examples:

  • COVID is a deadly disease and we are all living in a crazy time.
  • A gather with family members may get someone sick.
  • A lot of families are not gathering for Thanksgiving.
  • You are not going to have thanksgiving with family like you typically do. 

Inventory Current Situation subjective: What do you personally think about the current situation and not seeing family during the holidays?

Examples:

  • This really sucks and I’ve already been through enough this year.
  • I really needed family time to lift my spirits and now everything is even more of a mess.
  • What the fuck, I’m not going to see my family. This is bullshit, I’m pissed.
Leaves hanging from a string representing the different emotions we may be having around the holidays.

1.2 Feelings & Emotional Inventory

Once we take an inventory of the situation we can then take an inventory of our feelings regarding the situation. What we need to do here is acknowledge what we are feeling and why. I.e. “I am feeling X because. of Y.” Acknowledging feelings can be tough if you’re not used to it. It may even feel uncomfortable.

If that’s the case, go sit in a comfy spot and remind yourself that doing this will only benefit you. You can also give yourself a little treat afterwards, e.g.: “I’ll think about my feels and then I’m gonna go watch my favorite show for an hour.”

Some feelings that may come up are (not an exhaustive list):

  • Anger: “Why is this happening, this is not fair, we should be able to see our families.”
  • Sadness: (anger is a secondary emotion so it’s highly likely you’re feeling sad if you’re angry.) “I’m bummed out I can’t see my family, I really love the holidays and I’m going to miss spending the time with family.”
  • Anticipation (anxiety): “This is gonna suck, Thanksgiving is going to be a sad day and I am going to feel miserable.”
  • Surprise: “I can’t believe this is happening, never in my life did I think I would be told to stay home and that I couldn’t see my family on Thanksgiving.”
  • Stress: “I want to see my family, I need the family time and I feel lonely.”
  • Guilt: “I want to see my family, and they are OK with me going to their home, but I don’t want to risk getting someone sick—I feel bad not going but I can’t.”

❤️ How you doing so far? This stuff is tough. Hang in there.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

1.3 Inventory of What You’ll Miss

Not partaking in family traditions, most of which we’ve been doing since we were a kid, is going to bring up some feelings of sadness and/or longing for the familiar. After we list out the facts, take inventory of our feelings, it is now time for us to take an inventory of what we will—and won’t—miss.

When we look back we tend to idolize and forget the negative so really think about the things you won’t miss. Yes, thanksgiving can be great and all, but it’s not the perfect, amazing day that we might be creating in our minds now that we know we cant have it. Some examples below:

Some things you might miss:

  • Grandmom’s stuffing or a family members particular dish.
  • Cousins “going for a walk” and coming back and smelling like pot, OR, going for a walk and coming back smelling like pot—hehe.
  • Sitting in the den and taking a post-meal nap.
  • Leftovers.
  • Seeing family you typically don’t get to see often.
  • Someone getting wasted and making a fool of themselves. 
  • Seeing all the little kids growing up.
  • Having a feeling of belonging and comfort being with your pack.

Some things you might not miss:

  • Having to get up early and pack everyone into the car and drive for hours.
  • Dealing with a busy airport, or train station.
  • Hearing about how much—or how little—you ate.
  • Your creepy relative who makes inappropriate comments.
  • People being invasive and asking questions about your social and sex life.
  • Being forced in the same room as people who are literally bad for your mental health. (Not saying this is everyone’s family but it this could be the case for some.)
silver lining when thinking about difficult situations
Photo by C Dustin

1.4 Silver Lining

I don’t like when people try to make everything positive while disregarding their feelings. This is not to disregard feelings. This is to say, “This sucks, but..”

Try and find some things that will be a positive:

  • Have more 1:1 time with your kids.
  • Will be able to make food that you like, how you like.
  • Can see more family because everyone will be on zoom.
  • More time to relax.
  • Maybe after all this is over you can plan to have a family Thanksgiving another time—say, during March or when infections are under a certain percentage.
Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production

1.5 Unproductive things

Make a list of things that will not be productive and will lead to feeling sad or upset or anxious:

  • Working. If this is your scheduled day off, don’t work. Enjoy the day off and find something else to do. Burying ourselves in work can be a negative coping mechanism.
  • Continually thinking about what you’re missing. If you’re hyperfocused on what you’ll miss then you’ll miss it even more and this can make feelings tough to manage.
  • Choosing to be miserable and not making any effort to make the day as good as it can be.

2. Acceptance

…aand we’ve made it! We’ve reached the acceptance phase. All hands and arms inside the ride please.

Acceptance is a lack of resistance. Resistance happens when we try to control events in which we have no control. We try and force something that can’t be forced. We can’t change the past, predict the future, and we have limited control over our current situation. But we can manage our thoughts and feelings (this is EQ).

Acceptance is imperative for good mental health.

Another reason why the acceptance part is so important is that when you’ve accepted the situation as it is, you become present. Instead of focusing on what is not you are focusing on what is. THIS is the only way to find happiness and tranquility.

Think of it, if you are sitting around feeling like shit even the best meal ever cooked in the entire world wouldn’t taste so good. It’s the company, not the food. It’s also our mentality towards the situation, not the situation itself. (Related Article: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life)

Some tips for acceptance:

  • Acknowledge the situation sucks (or is less than favorable): This sucks. Sometimes just stating it out loud helps. And I’m sorry this sucks, I’m sorry if you’re upset. It’s a shitty situation.
  • Realize this is peculiar af: Seriously, this is so peculiar. Our entire lives are turned upside down. Just acknowledging this will help with acceptance. State it matter of factly because, well, it’s a fact. Things are weird af right now.
  • Limit your thinking time: Continually focusing on something that upsets us is a welcome mat for sadness, anxiety and depression. Give yourself some time to think and feel your feels, but limit this time frame to about 30 minutes or so maybe 2x a day. If thoughts come up outside of that time frame remind yourself of your next thinking time slot and literally tell yourself, “I will think of this at 6pm.”
  • Remind yourself you have no control: What’s done is done. You’re not seeing your family and it sucks. This is not something you can control. When thoughts pop up in your mind, you can literally respond to your inner voice and say (aloud or in your mind) “I can’t control this.
  • Focus on what you can control: You can’t control the situation around why you aren’t going to see your family in person. What you can control is what you do on Thanksgiving day.

3. Decide How You’re going to Spend you Thanksgiving

We’ve acknowledged the situation and our feelings. With acceptance we are managing our feelings and thoughts. Now we come to the point of taking action and figuring out what we are going to do with this Thanksgiving day. It’s an opportunity to create new rituals, and who knows, maybe they’ll become a tradition!

  • Just because we can’t physically be with family doesn’t mean we can’t see them. Do zoom calls or phone calls. In the future this will be great to do with family who is far away or unable to visit for the holidays.
  • If cooking isn’t your thing you can look into ordering out. Also consider that you don’t need to cook an entire thanksgiving meal. I bought a chicken, and I’ll make some sides but nothing big.
  • Make the one dish you love—or ask the person who typically makes it to send you the recipe. Maybe not an entire dinner but you’ll get the part you really appreciate.
  • Take a rest day. This year has been tough. Take a day to rest and relax. Maybe even just chill on the couch to decompress. I am looking forward to taking a rest day and think I’ll go for a hike and then fall asleep reading.

Conclusion

When the day arrives feelings may be overwhelming. Remember, it’s all about how we perceive the situation. If we keep mulling over it in our minds we are likely creating more suffering and suffering twice. Remind yourself to stay present in the moment. Think of the facts: You are in your home. You have a day off of work. You can do something you want to do.

There’s no law saying you cant enjoy this day. I hereby give you permission to enjoy your Thanksgiving, even if you aren’t physically with family.

The steps above can be repeated as needed. If you find yourself feeling upset feel free to take an inventory of your feelings or another section.

Don’t forget to think about the things that you are thankful for!

I really hope this will help you navigate your first Thanksgiving without family. And I wish you a peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving!

Uncertainty Sucks. We Need to Manage It Effectively. Here’s Why.

Uncertainty is a certainty in life. Most of us hate it. However, we can learn to manage it in a way that will make it less sucky. In this article I discuss uncertainty, negative impacts of handling it poorly, ways we negatively cope with it, and how to manage it effectively.

Photo by Pim Chu

Uncertainty is unknowingness. Most of us hate it! If it were a taste, just imagine something you despise. Something that the pure smell or tase of makes you squint and want to spit. (For me that would be green olives—yuck!)

Most of life is uncertain, so it’s not productive for us to hate it. We never know what’s going to happen next and life can change (for better or for worse) at any moment. 

We don’t have to hate uncertainty. While it is uncomfortable, we can learn from it. And that’s what we are going to discuss in this article: being comfortable being uncomfortable, better yet, being comfortable in uncertainty. 

Negative Impacts of Poor Uncertainty Management

The level at which you face uncertainty directly relates to your level of satisfaction with life. Life is uncertainty. There are really only a few things that are certain, like death. Sounds grim, right? Well, other things about avoiding uncertainty aren’t pleasant either.

Uncertainty can cause hypervigilance. We get anxious and our nervous system goes into overdrive. Our conscious brain sends our subconscious brain signals that we are in danger. Our subconscious does not realize we are sitting on our couch watching a news story that has been specifically crafted to spread negativity and fear. This may trigger our body to react as if we are in physical danger. 

Negative thought loops can occur when we allow our mind to free think any doomsday or negative thought unchecked. We need to stop this from occurring because it will cause us discomfort—and because it’s unproductive and unhealthy.

We can get so caught up in uncertainty (and avoiding it) that we lose track of the present moment. Our entire life can pass by as we focus on managing negative coping mechanisms.

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”

Bill Watterson

Poor uncertainty management can also cause depression, anxiety, stress and misplaced anger. We can end up closing ourselves off or getting so caught up in worriment that we lose sight of our goals. AKA it’s the opposite of living our best life.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Quick and Simple Guide to Learning What EQ Is Once and for All

How We Manage Uncertainty

To some, uncertainty can be exciting and fun! They are the ones who are taking chances and making leaps when there’s no promise of a successful landing (for Gilmore Girl watchers this would be Logan Huntzberger starting his businesses). If they try a new endeavor they may be thinking, “I need to at least try, if I mess up, I’ll figure something out!”

Others may find uncertainty to be excruciating and uncomfortable (think Emily Gilmore). They are the ones who like to have a steady routine, and get frustrated when things change. If they are faced with an unknown, or they try a new endeavor they may be thinking, “but what if its a complete flop?”

Then there are those who are in between. I personally think this is the best place to be. I love my routine, but I also love making calculated risks, and I find it exciting to sometimes not know the outcome.

Ways We Try to Negatively Manage Uncertainty

When our fear of uncertainty is stronger than our desire to face the world we may partake in growth-inhibiting coping mechanisms that hurt and hinder us from living our best life. Most of these coping mechanisms are negatively impactful, and create more suffering, or they just prolong our suffering.

Unhealthy methods of dealing with uncertainty can manifest in several ways and each individual is unique. I mention a few below. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Living in denial. Denial is refusing to accept the present moment because it’s too tough or uncomfortable to acknowledge.
  • Trying to control others. Parents may try to control their kids, partners may try to control their lovers. Bosses micromanage their employees. All in an attempt to control what they can’t, uncertainty.
  • Perfectionism. When the outcome of an event is something that can’t be controlled, some will resort to perfectionism in order to keep the mind busy and try to force a favorable outcome. 
  • Drugs or alcohol – Drugs and alcohol reduce our consciousness and therefore reduce our awareness to uncertainty.
  • Anger and tantrums. Some find it easier to be angry than to acknowledge that sometimes life is unfair and uncertain.
  • Religious or spiritual dependancy– Religion and spirituality are beneficial and can contribute to a fulfilling life. However, it’s negatively impactful when taken to an extreme, or if someone gives up trying because “God will handle it.”
  • Tarot Cards & Astrology– Again, can be fulfilling (and fun) but can also be a negative coping mechanism when too great of a dependency is placed on the cards or stars.
Uncertainty can feel like we are falling and don't know when or how we will land
Photo by Joseph Frank

How to Effectively Manage Uncertainty

I started writing ways to effectively manage uncertainty and it turned into an article itself! Click here for: 19 Ways to Effectively Handle Uncertainty So You Can Stop Worrying and Start Living: Pandemic Edition.

If you don’t have time to read the article, at least remind yourself that it’s ok to feel your feels. I know that we are taught not to do so—because then people may think we are vulnerable or weak—but it actually takes strength to acknowledge you are scared or nervous in times of uncertainty. When we stop fighting our feelings they are easier to manage.

RELATED ARTICLE: You’re Not Failing at Mindfulness. 5 Real-Life Examples of Mindfulness to Help You Get Started

Moving Forward With Uncertainty

How we manage uncertainty directly impacts our mental and physical health. The more we face uncertainty head on, the more resilient we will become. While some people are more comfortable and secure with uncertainty there are those who hate it and try to control as much as they can.

No matter where uncertainty lands on your like—dislike scale, a lot of what is going on in the world today is becoming the unavoidable elephant in the room that is reminding us of life’s uncertainty.

You don’t need to be a big risk taker, and go jump off a literal cliff, but you do need to work on managing uncertainty if you want to live your best life. The first steps are: 1) acknowledging the discomfort surrounding uncertainty, and 2) being aware of our personal negative coping mechanisms and how they negatively affect us.

19 Ways to Effectively Handle Uncertainty So You Can Stop Worrying and Start Living: Pandemic Edition

The world is uncertain and even the most secure and level-headed person can feel frustrated, worried or anxious. In this article I discuss psychological uncertainty, how it affects us, why we must manage it effectively and give “how-tos” with real like examples of how we can handle uncertainty during the pandemic (and other times in our lives).

Photo by Devin Berko

What is uncertainty?

Uncertainty can occur in specific circumstances, like when we are waiting for a call to see if we got the job. And it can also revolve around larger questions in life like, “who am I?”

With COVID uncertainty can come in many forms. Questions like:

When will this be over?
What will “normal” be like when this is over?
Am I going to be able to find a job and provide for my family?
How am I going to work and help my child with distance learning?

How Uncertainty Affects Us

When we are faced with uncertainty our views (of ourselves and the world) are challenged. Uncertainty may cause hypervigilance, avoidance, negative or all-or-nothing thinking.

Our attitude towards, and ability to manage uncertainty can directly affect our level of and susceptibility to depression and anxiety.

Uncertainty can hinder our ability to make decisions, hinder our ability to feel confident and it can even cause us to put our life on hold and get stuck. Or worse, uncertainty can have us looking to others for direction and then start living our life dependent on their suggestions.

elephant representing inability to avoid uncertainty
Photo by Tobias Adam

How to Handle Uncertainty

Managing uncertainty effectively will reduce anxiety and stress, which will in turn help us get better sleep and have an overall higher quality of life. Below are some tips and suggestions for managing uncertainty, not only during the pandemic, but all throughout your life.

1. Ground Yourself

If you’re feeling anxious or uneasy make an effort to focus on your breath. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold for a couple seconds, exhale through your mouth 2x longer than the inhale and invite calmness into your body. Woosa.

RELATED ARTICLE: Allow Your Thoughts to Float Like Leaves — How to Practice Mindfulness & Meditation

2. Take Emotional Inventory

Feelings commonly associated with uncertainty are: fear, shock, discomfort, denial and anger. Take an inventory. Be objective and remember that feelings are not good or bad. Once you acknowledge your feelings they likely won’t be as strong anymore.

3. Acknowledge That Uncertainty Sucks

Sometimes just stating the obvious can help us feel more grounded. Uncertainty sucks. That’s that.

4. Think About Uncertainty Differently

The level of discomfort around uncertainty depends on how we view and manage uncertainty. Whether you accept uncertainty or not, it’s always going to be there. You don’t need to be super gung-ho about it, but focus on not loathing or hating it.

RELATED ARTICLE: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

5. Embrace the Uncertainty

I’m not suggesting you yell “YOLO” and run naked through your neighborhood or spend your entire life savings on something frivolous. But I am suggesting that you embrace the uncertainty and that what’s to come may be better than you could’ve ever imagined.

via GIPHY

6. Focus on What You Can Control

When we try to control things we can’t control we subject ourselves to depression, anxiety and suffering. Things you can control are how much you read, what you consume (negative news, food, etc.), how long you spend watching news, doomscrolling, how you manage your emotions, and your thoughts… among other things.

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7. Limit Your Thinking

Think about uncertainty in structured time slots. Maybe 30 minutes, 2x a day. Sit down and focus solely on the situation, what you can and can’t control. When time is up focus on something else.

8. Give Yourself Permission to Relax

It may feel like worrying or hyperfocusing gives us some control, but really it’s just making us suffer twice. Remind yourself that worrying doesn’t change anything, it causes mental discomfort.

9. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude can change our perspective and help us break free from negative thought loops. When practicing gratitude focus on the things you are grateful for in your life —not how they compare to others and their life. It can be as simple as being grateful for a TV show that helps you relax.

RELATED ARTICLE: You’re Not Failing at Mindfulness. 5 Real-Life Examples of Mindfulness to Help You Get Started

10. Flip “What if” Thinking

What if thinking can be negative and create suffering. Make the swap from negative “what if” thinking (what if it doesn’t work out) to positive (what if it does work out).

11. Reflect on A Time When You’ve Managed Uncertainty Well

A lack of confidence compounds negative feelings associated with uncertainty. We may think we can’t handle a situation and then the situation becomes scary and intimidating. To build confidence think of a time when you’ve handled an uncertain situation effectively.

12. Go for a Walk or Exercise

Walking and exercise aren’t a cure all but they sure do help. They will help you to focus on something else, rather than uncertainty, as you exert physical instead of mental energy.

13. Start a New Hobby or Pick up an Old One

Flow is when we are fully immersed and focused on something we enjoy. When we focus on trying something new or when we practice a hobby that we love we can connect to flow instead of focusing on uncertainty.

14. Acknowledge That This Isn’t Forever

Just like other feelings, feelings regarding uncertainty won’t last forever. Feelings are fleeting and they come and go. Remember, this too shall pass.

15. Be Conscious of How Media Weaponizes Uncertainty

Words like staggering and scathing and lashing and the like. Seriously, so dramatic. I’d tell you to make it a fun drinking game and take a shot every time a news story was dramatic, but the likelihood you’d die of alcohol poisoning within an hour is just too damn high.

16. Take Prediction Thinking With a Grain of Salt

Prediction thinking isn’t inherently bad or negative —but the media makes it negative to an extreme. We need to limit the attention we give to it. Even the most educated prediction is likely going to be wrong, and most of the predictions we are hearing are not even remotely close to being educated.

RELATED ARTICLE: 9 Ways to Stay Socially Connected While Physically Distant

17. Build Your Tolerance to Discomfort

Next time you’re cooking use a different burner and consciously focus on how it makes you feel. The idea here is that you are exposing yourself to discomfort in a controlled, comfortable environment. With this small exposure you build your mind muscles which will help you work through discomfort in other areas.

You can also do this by bushing your teeth with the opposite hand.

18. Practice Self-Compassion

Things are crazy right now, even the most level headed, emotionality intelligent individual may be feeling stressed out and worried. Give yourself reassurance and be kind to yourself. This shit is tough!

19. Reach Out to Others and Connect

Make sure to connect on things that are going well or connect on the fact that things are uncertain and scary, but that we are in it together and will overcome. Try not to form a bond over negative thinking. More about social connection here.

You’re Not Failing at Mindfulness. 5 Real-Life Examples of Mindfulness to Help You Get Started

Mindfulness is a useful, learned skill that will help anyone who is trying to live their best life. While there are helpful resources available, for the most part, mindfulness is self-taught. It can be confusing, and those who are learning may even think they are doing it wrong and give up. In this article I discuss what mindfulness is and give examples of everyday situations in which I’ve use mindfulness (working out, trying something new, making a mistake, trouble sleeping and public speaking) in hopes it will help you incorporate mindfulness into your life, and not give up!

A neon sign saying "You Are Here" to represent awareness and mindfulness
Photo by Aleks Marinkovic

Mindfulness is active awareness of thought. It’s a great technique that will help you quiet your brain and worried mind. While it’s not going to solve all of your problems, it will put you in a mentality that will help you navigate and solve them. After all, when you change your thoughts, you can change your life.

Those just starting with mindfulness may get frustrated and think they are failing, even when they aren’t. In this article I share relatable, real-life examples of how I practice mindfulness in my life. I share examples in the hopes that it will help you introduce mindfulness into your life.

RELATED ARTICLE: Allow Your Thoughts to Float Like Leaves — How to Practice Mindfulness & Meditation

I tried to pick topics that most can relate to. I give an in depth reflection on one area (working out) and then added some shorter sections about starting something new, sleep, and public speaking. Remember that these examples are how I use mindfulness, but you can incorporate mindfulness into all areas of your life.

What is mindfulness?

It’s not just sitting in a corner, cross legged with your eyes closed being completely devoid of thoughts— a common misconception. Mindfulness is awareness. In this article we are focused on mindfulness being the awareness of thought and how it can be practiced throughout the course of your daily life.

“Mindfulness is not meditation.” 

The first step in learning mindfulness is awareness of being aware of thought (stick with me here). We need to be aware that we are trying to be conscious of our thoughts so we can then be aware of them. This type of awareness will likely take repetition. A proven technique for you to try here

If you are having trouble with awareness of thought, you are not alone. Remind yourself that you do not need to be aware of every thought. Pin point times when you are feeling particularly stressed or when thoughts are negatively affecting your life (like when trying to sleep) and focus on being aware of your thoughts then.

I’m not aware of my thoughts all day, that would be like a full time job! 

If you forget to be aware and realize it the next day (or hours later), then you are on your way (really, stick with me here)! Just realizing you forgot is a step further in the learning process. It will help you to remember next time. You will build up to remembering in the moment, then you will be aware of thought, then you are mindful. 

Sitting with not distractions to represent mindfulness
Photo by Simon Migaj

Real Life Example of Mindfulness 

Working Out

Glute day. Last exercise – deadlifts. I finished the first set and thought/felt I didn’t want to do anymore, that it was impossible for me to do anymore. I acknowledged the thought and took an inventory. Was I pushing myself too hard? Should I stop? 

Albeit a little hungry, I wasn’t pushing myself too hard. I decided to continue with the rest of the deadlifts. During the second set my brain was shooting me thoughts with each rep, “you should stop,” “this is tough,” “you won’t be able to finish”. I acknowledged the thoughts and kept going. 

I took a rest period in between sets and completely turned my brain off. I had decided I was gong to finish and that’s that. I didn’t allow any intrusive thoughts to deter me and I focused on finishing the next set.

During my 3rd set the thoughts were still there. I started to feel like I physically couldn’t do the deadlifts (even though I knew I could). Almost like my body was going to freeze and I would be unable to move. I continued doing the deadlifts with mental discomfort. My anxious thoughts told me I couldn’t make it to 10 deadlifts and that I should stop. I acknowledged the anxious thoughts and continued until I was finished. 

Representing using mindfulness to reach goals
Photo by Lance Grandahl
Recap:

I did something my thoughts told me I couldn’t do. I did something my mind was making me feel like I physically couldn’t do—even though I very well knew I could (and did). 

After I finished my workout I realized that I didn’t want to do the deadlifts to begin with. I had other things on my mind. I wanted to finish the workout, eat and then finish some writing. I was anxious to finish my writing and that anxiety was present in my workout, manifesting as anxious thoughts telling me I couldn’t finish. 

It was important for me to finish. I had a goal. If I hadn’t finished I would have felt miserable about it later on, aka create suffering for myself.

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour”

Old Zen Saying

After finishing the workout I still felt anxious. I decided to take some time to relax and stretch, my body really needed it. I stretched for longer than I usually would have and I used that time to quiet my thoughts. I still got my writing done.

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Some other quick examples:

Writing (or trying something new)

The example above was from when I was exercising, but I’ve had these occurrences while doing other things, like writing. A few weeks ago, while writing an article, my mind told me I wasn’t good enough. I acknowledged the thought and continued writing. 

That instance was actually very sad. When I acknowledged the thoughts I realized they were a result of me not being encouraged to write or pursue my interests. Sometimes when I write I’ll hear those limiting beliefs again. I consciously work through them, and here I am, a writer. 

Making A Mistake

I was in my kitchen and dropped something. Huge mess. Had to clean it up. Dinner I just cooked waiting and Netflix ready, so this was particularly frustrating. “You’re so dumb” my mind tells me. “Wow, that was harsh. I definitely do dumb shit sometimes, but I’m not dumb,” I snap back at my inner voice. 

Then I reflected. My inner voice can be very cruel sometimes. I was not pre-programmed with a harsh inner critic, and the inner voice I have is a result of things that I’ve heard others say to me or about themselves. So somewhere in my life I’ve encountered someone who would berate themselves, or me, and I’m continuing it in my mind —I am continuing suffering.

Enough is enough. I cleaned up the mess. Acknowledge that I make mistakes, assessed if i could avoid what happened in the future and then enjoyed my dinner. 

miserable dog in sheets representing not being able to sleep
Photo by Matthew Henry

Going to sleep 

After a long day, or a day where I’m writing and reading a lot, my mind can tend to explode with ideas. This also happens if I’m stressed or worried. Recently I made a huge mistake and while I am physically well, and there was not much but monetary loss, I kept beating myself up about it. I couldn’t sleep. Then, thoughts of the craziness of the world and everything else just crept right on it.

It was like my stressed thoughts opened the door to a negative thought party. 

I needed sleep. I stopped my thoughts by acknowledging them, telling myself that they will be there in the morning and I can think about them then. I switched the anxious thoughts with the thought that my bed is for sleeping, not for thinking. Then I repeated my mantra “time for sleep, not for think” (feel free to borrow it!) and fell asleep. If that doesn’t work I practice the floating leaves technique

Public speaking

Sometimes waiting to speak at a meeting can generate anxiety. Which sucks because I was usually one of the last ones to present. I get a little shaky and my stomach feels empty. My thoughts are so automatic in this occurrence I don’t even consciously think them.

Here, I used mindfulness to dive into them. I wonder why I am anxious and think of what could go wrong. I realize I just want to do a good job at relaying the information I need to present. I remind myself that I am prepared and put a lot of effort into my speech for the day. I take a few deep breaths and calm my nerves. 

RELATED ARTICLE: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

Mindfulness: Your Likely Doing It Right

Mindfulness is often confused with meditation and some may think that mindfulness is complete quietness of thoughts. That is not the case. We can be mindful while we are going about our daily lives, and simply acknowledging our thoughts is mindfulness.

If you are aware of your thoughts, you are being mindful. Basically, if you think you are doing it wrong because you are still having thoughts, you are actually doing it right because you are aware of your thoughts. Mindfulness is not going to be delivered via Amazon Prime or 2-day direct. Have patience and you will get the mindfulness that you seek. 

Mindfulness is a useful, learned skill that will help anyone who is trying to live their best life. While there are helpful resources available, for the most part, mindfulness is self-taught. It can be confusing, and those who are learning may even think they are doing it wrong and give up. In this article I discuss what mindfulness is and give examples of everyday situations in which I’ve use mindfulness (working out, trying something new, making a mistake, trouble sleeping and public speaking) in hopes it will help you incorporate mindfulness into your life, and not give up!

A neon sign saying "You Are Here" to represent awareness and mindfulness
Photo by Aleks Marinkovic

Mindfulness is active awareness of thought. It’s a great technique that will help you quiet your brain and worried mind. While it’s not going to solve all of your problems, it will put you in a mentality that will help you navigate and solve them. After all, when you change your thoughts, you can change your life.

Those just starting with mindfulness may get frustrated and think they are failing, even when they aren’t. In this article I share relatable, real-life examples of how I practice mindfulness in my life. I share examples in the hopes that it will help you introduce mindfulness into your life.

RELATED ARTICLE: Allow Your Thoughts to Float Like Leaves — How to Practice Mindfulness & Meditation

I tried to pick topics that most can relate to. I give an in depth reflection on one area (working out) and then added some shorter sections about starting something new, sleep, and public speaking. Remember that these examples are how I use mindfulness, but you can incorporate mindfulness into all areas of your life.

What is mindfulness?

It’s not just sitting in a corner, cross legged with your eyes closed being completely devoid of thoughts— a common misconception. Mindfulness is awareness. In this article we are focused on mindfulness being the awareness of thought and how it can be practiced throughout the course of your daily life.

“Mindfulness is not meditation.” 

The first step in learning mindfulness is awareness of being aware of thought (stick with me here). We need to be aware that we are trying to be conscious of our thoughts so we can then be aware of them. This type of awareness will likely take repetition. A proven technique for you to try here

If you are having trouble with awareness of thought, you are not alone. Remind yourself that you do not need to be aware of every thought. Pin point times when you are feeling particularly stressed or when thoughts are negatively affecting your life (like when trying to sleep) and focus on being aware of your thoughts then.

I’m not aware of my thoughts all day, that would be like a full time job! 

If you forget to be aware and realize it the next day (or hours later), then you are on your way (really, stick with me here)! Just realizing you forgot is a step further in the learning process. It will help you to remember next time. You will build up to remembering in the moment, then you will be aware of thought, then you are mindful. 

Sitting with not distractions to represent mindfulness
Photo by Simon Migaj

Real Life Example of Mindfulness 

Working Out

Glute day. Last exercise – deadlifts. I finished the first set and thought/felt I didn’t want to do anymore, that it was impossible for me to do anymore. I acknowledged the thought and took an inventory. Was I pushing myself too hard? Should I stop? 

Albeit a little hungry, I wasn’t pushing myself too hard. I decided to continue with the rest of the deadlifts. During the second set my brain was shooting me thoughts with each rep, “you should stop,” “this is tough,” “you won’t be able to finish”. I acknowledged the thoughts and kept going. 

I took a rest period in between sets and completely turned my brain off. I had decided I was gong to finish and that’s that. I didn’t allow any intrusive thoughts to deter me and I focused on finishing the next set.

During my 3rd set the thoughts were still there. I started to feel like I physically couldn’t do the deadlifts (even though I knew I could). Almost like my body was going to freeze and I would be unable to move. I continued doing the deadlifts with mental discomfort. My anxious thoughts told me I couldn’t make it to 10 deadlifts and that I should stop. I acknowledged the anxious thoughts and continued until I was finished. 

Representing using mindfulness to reach goals
Photo by Lance Grandahl
Recap:

I did something my thoughts told me I couldn’t do. I did something my mind was making me feel like I physically couldn’t do—even though I very well knew I could (and did). 

After I finished my workout I realized that I didn’t want to do the deadlifts to begin with. I had other things on my mind. I wanted to finish the workout, eat and then finish some writing. I was anxious to finish my writing and that anxiety was present in my workout, manifesting as anxious thoughts telling me I couldn’t finish. 

It was important for me to finish. I had a goal. If I hadn’t finished I would have felt miserable about it later on, aka create suffering for myself.

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour”

Old Zen Saying

After finishing the workout I still felt anxious. I decided to take some time to relax and stretch, my body really needed it. I stretched for longer than I usually would have and I used that time to quiet my thoughts. I still got my writing done.

🍓 Sign Up for the Mid-Week Snack

A newsletter highlighting a new concept each week to help you live your best life… and get over the hump.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Some other quick examples:

Writing (or trying something new)

The example above was from when I was exercising, but I’ve had these occurrences while doing other things, like writing. A few weeks ago, while writing an article, my mind told me I wasn’t good enough. I acknowledged the thought and continued writing. 

That instance was actually very sad. When I acknowledged the thoughts I realized they were a result of me not being encouraged to write or pursue my interests. Sometimes when I write I’ll hear those limiting beliefs again. I consciously work through them, and here I am, a writer. 

Making A Mistake

I was in my kitchen and dropped something. Huge mess. Had to clean it up. Dinner I just cooked waiting and Netflix ready, so this was particularly frustrating. “You’re so dumb” my mind tells me. “Wow, that was harsh. I definitely do dumb shit sometimes, but I’m not dumb,” I snap back at my inner voice. 

Then I reflected. My inner voice can be very cruel sometimes. I was not pre-programmed with a harsh inner critic, and the inner voice I have is a result of things that I’ve heard others say to me or about themselves. So somewhere in my life I’ve encountered someone who would berate themselves, or me, and I’m continuing it in my mind —I am continuing suffering.

Enough is enough. I cleaned up the mess. Acknowledge that I make mistakes, assessed if i could avoid what happened in the future and then enjoyed my dinner. 

miserable dog in sheets representing not being able to sleep
Photo by Matthew Henry

Going to sleep 

After a long day, or a day where I’m writing and reading a lot, my mind can tend to explode with ideas. This also happens if I’m stressed or worried. Recently I made a huge mistake and while I am physically well, and there was not much but monetary loss, I kept beating myself up about it. I couldn’t sleep. Then, thoughts of the craziness of the world and everything else just crept right on it.

It was like my stressed thoughts opened the door to a negative thought party. 

I needed sleep. I stopped my thoughts by acknowledging them, telling myself that they will be there in the morning and I can think about them then. I switched the anxious thoughts with the thought that my bed is for sleeping, not for thinking. Then I repeated my mantra “time for sleep, not for think” (feel free to borrow it!) and fell asleep. If that doesn’t work I practice the floating leaves technique

Public speaking

Sometimes waiting to speak at a meeting can generate anxiety. Which sucks because I was usually one of the last ones to present. I get a little shaky and my stomach feels empty. My thoughts are so automatic in this occurrence I don’t even consciously think them.

Here, I used mindfulness to dive into them. I wonder why I am anxious and think of what could go wrong. I realize I just want to do a good job at relaying the information I need to present. I remind myself that I am prepared and put a lot of effort into my speech for the day. I take a few deep breaths and calm my nerves. 

RELATED ARTICLE: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

Mindfulness: Your Likely Doing It Right

Mindfulness is often confused with meditation and some may think that mindfulness is complete quietness of thoughts. That is not the case. We can be mindful while we are going about our daily lives, and simply acknowledging our thoughts is mindfulness.

If you are aware of your thoughts, you are being mindful. Basically, if you think you are doing it wrong because you are still having thoughts, you are actually doing it right because you are aware of your thoughts. Mindfulness is not going to be delivered via Amazon Prime or 2-day direct. Have patience and you will get the mindfulness that you seek. 

Photo by Will Shivers

Lyndsey Getty

Hiya, I’m Lyndsey and I am following my dream of being a writer! Just a few months ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to share my writing. But I gained confidence by utilizing the very things I write about, EQ, betterment, philosophy and psychology. More about my story here.


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Recent Posts:

Allow Your Thoughts to Float Like Leaves — How to Practice Mindfulness & Meditation

Mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword. However, it’s a very real and very serious concept with amazing benefits. In this article I give a high level overview of mindfulness, what it is, who it’s for and why it’s important. I also share a proven technique that will help you learn and incorporate mindfulness into your life.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an art, the art of observation. It’s like people watching, but instead of watching people you are watching your thoughts. When we observe our thoughts we are better able to manage and control them, which is a pivotal part of emotional intelligence. (EQ is considered the #1 determinate of success, more about that here.)

RELATED ARTICLE: The Quick and Simple Guide to Learning What EQ Is Once and for All

Importance of Mindfulness

Observing our thoughts makes us objective to them, instead of an unknowing advocate of them. When we are mindful of our thoughts we respond instead of react. We are powerful. We are more likely to act in accordance with our goals. We are better able to avoid saying and doing thing we will regret, and we are closer to happiness and connection.

On the opposite end, when we are not mindful of our thoughts they can create suffering and depression. We suffer when we are stuck thinking about something that happened in the past (depression), or when we worry about the future or things we can’t control (anxiety).

Who Should Practice Mindfulness

If you are a being with a pulse and consciousness you should be practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness will help in every aspect of your life, including common situations like:

  • Looping thoughts of a cringeworthy event (eek, I can’t believe I did that)
  • Worriment over what is going to happen in uncontrollable situations
  • Inability to sleep due to thoughts (I’m tired but my brain is wide awake)
  • Worriment over things you can’t control
  • Invasive or negative thoughts that are interrupting your life (OCD, PTSD)
  • Worse case and “what-if’ thinking
  • Quieting a harsh inner critique and inner voice
  • Felling stuck and having invasive, limiting beliefs

Floating Leaves

I found this technique while reading the book “How Can I Help?” by Ram Dass and have found several different version of the technique online. The idea here is to use visualization and to create images of your thoughts by using a concrete object (leaves).

This practice teaches us how to observe and accept thoughts as we would observe and accept the natural event of leaves floating in a river (or falling from trees). As a result we will be better able to live in the present, accept life changes and control invasive, negative or unhealthy thoughts. We increase our emotional intelligence.

This technique is great for anyone who is interested in meditation as mediation starts with emptying the mind of thought. When we let our thoughts float we empty them from our mind.

Allow your thoughts to Float Like Leaves

  1. Visualize a gently flowing river. Imagine leaves from the trees along the riverbank falling into the water and floating past you until they are no longer in sight.
  2. When a thought comes into your mind visualize that thought as a leaf (or sitting on the leaf). Imagine that leaf falling from a tree and floating down the river until it is out of sight.

Tips for Success

When first starting it is best to sit in a quiet place, take a few deep breaths and relax your body. Once you are in practice you will be able to do this exercise while wide eyed and conscious. If you’ve ever had a conversation with me, I could have very well have been doing it while we we’re talking.

This technique is effective but may take some time to learn. The first step in learning is repetition. When you find yourself being caught up in thought, perhaps right before bed, try and activate this technique. Other thoughts may creep into your mind while you are visualizing and using this technique. Turn them into leaves as well.

Just like all leaves are leaves, all thoughts are thoughts. Meaning they are all the same in being and it is we who create their context. Even the most powerful and invasive thought can float down a river. If it tries to come back up stream, float it down again.

RELATED ARTICLE: You’re Not Failing at Mindfulness. 5 Real-Life Examples of Mindfulness to Help You Get Started

My Experience With This Exercise

I started using this exercise about two years ago and I’ve experienced incredible benefits. For me, the visualization is not difficult. However, simply reminding myself to do the technique is what needs work!

In the fall, nature reminds me. On Friday I took a walk in Valley Forge Park, and at one point I found myself walking down a tree line path with leaves falling all around me. I looked at my feet and leaves paved the entire trail.

I imagined what it would be like to be tasked with going around and picking up all of the leaves. I was then reminded of the burden that carrying some thoughts can bring, and gained an added appreciation for landscapers.

Lyndsey Getty may receive a small commission if you purchase items linked in this article. 

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can change the quality of their lives by changing the attitudes of their minds.”

William James

Would you like to know how to improve your quality of life? How to improve every aspect of your life? How to reduce suffering and finally be happy? How to find fulfillment? Maybe you just want to feel better or stop feeling like shit.

What you need to do is: change your thoughts. Or become aware of them at least.

Photo by Thought Catalog

Thoughts Are the Answer

When we have a problem we search for answers. We may think answers are tough to find, or that it will take money to get what we need. This is a mentality that has been marketed to us in a society that is founded on selling us things and making us consumers. However, if we truly want to change our lives, we need not look further than our own minds.

This is not to say that we can automatically change our entire life just by changing one thought. It is to say, that with patience, practice and repetition we can change our current, unproductive thought patterns into productive patterns that will get us more of what we want, and most importantly, what we need. Like thought alchemists!

When we think effectively, we are in a better frame of mind to act and respond effectively, and in conjunction with our goals, and what we want to achieve. We are better able to recognize things that are mentally burdensome, like a drama filled, toxic relationships. We are also better able to recognize things that will help us on our quest towards fulfillment and add more of that to our lives.

RELATED ARTICLE: Allow Your Thoughts to Float Like Leaves — How to Practice Mindfulness & Meditation

Our Feelings Towards Thoughts

Our thoughts are how we can change our life for the better. So how do we feel about them?

Well, if thoughts had an IG or twitter account they would be blocked by most people. But their negative and nasty comments would give people hours of arguing material – you know, those social media threads with complete strangers arguing in circles for hours.

It is unknown how may thoughts the average person has. Some sources say 30k-70k a day. Other say 6k a day. Whatever the case that’s a large gap. The different between driving a KIA or a Mercedes, gap. But, if thoughts were automobiles most people would rather take the bus or walk.

A study done at the University of Virginia included hundreds of undergrad students and their sentiment towards thoughts. Students were given the choice to shock themselves with electricity or sit in a room alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. A quarter of the women and more than half of the men went with the shock. The final results: thoughts are unpleasant.

They are if we think they are.

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You Think It Is, Therefore It Is

Some say life is suffering. Those people have misinterpreted Buddha. Even though there is plenty of evidence to show Buddha did not mean life is suffering (in it’s common english definition) there are those who are set (determined!) to see life as suffering and WILL NOT change their minds.

To them, life is suffering so it will be suffering. In their book, it has been written and that is how it will be. Well, that is how it must be or they will experience cognitive dissonance and the uncomfortable feelings that come with it. Meaning, what they think (that life is suffering) has to be true so they will do anything in their path to make it so.

Even if they are gifted with wonderful things and all that they desire, they will find a way to find suffering.

The weather was nice, but it could have been a little less windy.
I loved the dinner, but it could have been served quicker.

This is not to say we shouldn’t expect the best for ourselves. It is to say that when we look for the bad we will find it, and if we are set on thinking life is suffering (or something else) it will be that way.

RELATED ARTICLE: You’re Not Failing at Mindfulness. 5 Real Life Examples of Mindfulness to Help You Get Started

Moving Forward With Thoughtfulness

Could our disdain and unpleasant feelings regarding thoughts be the reason for the high level of sadness, emotional illiteracy, depression and anxiety in the world today – yes.

via GIPHY

And I don’t need a study or a doctor or a celebrity to tell me. The imperial evidence is undeniable. So what do we do if thoughts will help us positively change our life but we find them unpleasant?

The question has a simple answer that takes time to master: we need to be aware of our thoughts and take control of them.

We need to stop seeing our thoughts as being unpleasant and, instead, acknowledge them for what they are: thoughts. We need to acknowledge the thought for being there and decide if we want to either allow it to float away or if we want to follow it. Thoughts are part of who we are and we are going to have them for our entire lives, so might as well learn to appreciate and control them.

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13 Negatively Impactful Social Connections – You’ll Be Amazed and Enlightened at the Same Time!

,,
Warren Buffet

“Surround yourself with people that push you to do better. No drama or negativity. Just higher goals and higher motivation. Good times and positive energy. No jealousy or hate. Simply bringing out the absolute best in each other.”

Photo by Volkan Olmez

The importance of social connection cannot be understated. It reduces stress, helps us feel understood and has a ton of other benefits (find more about that here).

While social connection is good. Not all social connections are good. And while being socially connected helps us, having the wrong types of connections can hurt us. Below I outline 13 negatively impactful social connections and how they can negatively impact us and our lives.

1. Blackout Buddies

Woot woot! But really, womp womp.

Blackout buddies, or any friend we get wasted with are not a healthy connection. It doesn’t need to be booze, it could also be drugs or another kind of harmful coping method like binge eating. This is negatively impactful because bad habits may start to seem normalized and we start to get stuck.

2. Drama Attractors

It’s not good to be closely connected with people who constantly have drama or turmoil in their life. Of course, some drama can’t be helped, but people who constantly have drama around them will just bring us down. If we are close to drama we may get sucked into the drama.

3. Gossip Kings & Queens

Gossip kings and queens bring a different kind of drama. They are so caught up in other people’s lives they don’t talk about much else (yawn). Not only is this boring af, it’s negatively impactful. Keep in mind, if they are talking badly about others then they are most likely talking badly about you to others too.

4. Dependents

Some people depend on others to do the difficult life work for them. They turn to others and try to skirt responsibility. Of course we should be able to depend on our friends and family for help. It becomes an issue when others try to skirt their responsibilities onto us. There is enough responsibility to go around, and it’s negatively impactful for us to take on responsibility that isn’t ours.

RELATED ARTICLE: 9 Ways to Stay Socially Connected While Physically Distant

5. Codependants

And unsuspecting person can be subjected to another person’s codependent habits. This can manifest in ways such as a friend wanting to have say in your life and choices. Or a friend thinking they know what is best for you better than you do. Or someone who is trying to control you and force you to do things their way all of the time. This is negatively impactful and results in a negative, energy-draining connection for both parties.

Photo by Kyle Glenn

6. Boundary Fighters

Boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships. Some people DID NOT get this memo. They will try to weasel their way in, or crush boundaries, which in turn creates an unhealthy connection and relationship. Other times, people who are bad at setting their own boundaries may also try to ignore yours.
⚡ Healthy connections require healthy boundaries.

7. Manipulators

While we would hope everyone wants to genuinely connect, some people are just in it for what they hope to get out of it. This is negatively impactful because we are being used. The person isn’t connecting with you, the are connecting with what they can get from you. Not only is it a bad spend of our energy, we are getting fed negative energy by the manipulator.

8. Controllers

Someone who is controlling likely has an idea of what type of person they want you to be. They don’t acknowledge us for who we are as a person. In this scenario the controlling person is connecting with their ego, and there is an illusion of connection, but really you are being subjected to a bad environment.

9. Debbie Downers

Some people just love being miserable. It’s like they created this little cocoon of misery that they want to protect at all cost. It’s could be a cute, little cocoon and it could be warm and toasty in there, but it sure ain’t healthy. If we get sucked in to their negative energy we can end up taking on their shitty mentality of life, and das just not good!

10. Put Downers

As the name suggests, put downers are people who put us down. They most likely think they can’t do something and so they project that onto us. Connection is supposed to bring us together and improve our life. Put downers will do the opposite.

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11. Busy Bees

🐝 Buzzzzzz. Buzzzzz. Buzzy bees are those who are apparently always trying to connect but are unable to do so because they are always super duper busy.

🗞️ News flash: errryone is busy! We find ourselves spending a lot of mental energy trying to connect with them when we need to just let them be (with their poor time management skills) and find people who are willing and ready to connect.

12. Clingarinos

Has a nice ring to it and it’s a word I made up to describe people who are clingy. They may want to connect but they are doing it wrong and it’s not healthy for either party involved.

13. Bad Fits

If the glove don’t fit… I’ll let myself out.

Sometimes people simply aren’t a good fit. We may get caught up in wanting everyone to like us that we forget. A bad fit is just that, bad. Sometimes people just don’t get along. It doesn’t mean we hate them. It just means we don’t connect. It’s best to leave these be, trying to force something to work takes too much energy.

🌯 Wrap up

This list is not exhaustive but wowza was it was exhausting to write. Referencing all of these bad types of connections gave me a bad energy. I felt I was being a Debby downer (BTW, totes sorry to anyone named Debby if they are annoyed by that reference)!

That is not my intention. My intention is to help you become aware of the types of bad connections so you can make sure the connections you do form are good ones. Social connection is the lifeblood of human happiness and you deserve the best!

Also, I know that everyone is perfect and blah blah blah, but when you think of the list think of how you may be guilty of one or two of these. It may be in a particular relationship or a constant in your life. We all need to improve!

Social Connection and Why It’s Important —Now More Than Ever

The power of social connection cannot be overstated.

Social connection is a link or bond between people. It is when we recognize and acknowledge (with our being) other people and their beingness.

We recognize another person for their dreams, their wants, their hobbies, their inner child. We see them as a being, not as what they can do for us or what car they drive or what clothes they are wearing. We see them and they see us. We say, “hi, I am a being, I have wants and feelings and emotions, you do too, we are more alike than we think.”

In doing so we feel more connected to others and the world. We find fulfillment. The person we connect with will find fulfillment as well. They will feel comfortable and appreciated for who they are as a being. Social connection is a gift. It’s a feeling of belonging. It’s a sense of fulfillment. It’s what this whole life thing is really all about! It is feeling understood.

Quotes Regarding Social Connection

“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Brene Brown

“Social connection is the experience of feeling close and connected to others. It involves feeling loved, cared for, and valued, and forms the basis of interpersonal relationships.” Wikipedia

Why It’s Important and How It Will Help You Live Your Best Life

Think of social connection like a support beam. When the world feels heavy and we feel like we can no longer carry such a large load, that support bean, that social connectedness, helps makes things feel lighter. We feel less alone. We start to feel like we can do this!

When we feel connected to the world and those around us, it’s like we grow roots. We walk on a more solid foundation, we feel some semblance of control and calm in an otherwise erratic and uncontrollable world.

Social connectedness and quality of life are closely intertwined. Social connection is a core human need. Starting with our connection with our caregivers when we are babies and is a constant need all throughout our lives.

Social connection is super important for life satisfaction. When we connect meaningfully with others we feel understood, like we belong and that we are appreciated, loved. We can feel less weird or that there are others out there like us, I promise you, there are!

When we connect and feel connected our physical and mental health benefit. It lowers anxiety and depression, regulates mood and emotions – there is a whole plethora of positives here.

What Social Connection Is (Examples)

Social connection doesn’t mean physical presence, and it doesn’t mean life long bonds.

There are many different levels of social connection and different ways that people can socially connect. Stronger bonds may give us life long benefits, but we gain benefits from every type of social connection.

We can socially connect with a stranger simply by saying “hi” as we walk past them. We don’t even need to vocally say hello and simply by smiling at someone we can connect with them. We say “hey, you’re a human, I’m a human, and I’m acknowledging your existence.”

Of course we want to be loved and understood and have stronger bonds that last our entire lives, and social connection includes that too, but sometimes being acknowledged is simply enough.

What I am trying to get at here is that you can socially connect even if you don’t have life long friends or strong connections with family. I understand sometimes it can feel upsetting or like we missed out when we don’t have a fried since grade school or strong family ties. But small connections can lead to larger ones, and it’s never too late to connect.

Social connection does not need to be a physical presence. We can socially connect while being physically distant. See some examples here.

What It’s Not (Examples)

Social connection is acknowledging another person and saying hi, it is also having strong bonds with family and friends. What it is not, is logging onto social media and comparing ourselves to other people and their curated and edited news feed, aka their highlight reel.

Social connection isn’t comparing ourselves to others we see in our lives. It also isn’t forcing connection or basing our value or worth on whether someone wants to connect with us. Sometimes we may find someone we find super interesting and want to connect but not everyone will want to connect. We should never chase someone or have to fight for friendship.

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Why Social Connection Is Important Now More Than Ever

When we are feeling anxious or depressed we may get the urge to disconnect from others but that can actually make us feel worse. Social connection is important because it can ground us. It can help us feel less alone and that there is hope in hopelessness.

2020 has been a wild ride. Even before this year the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide have been going up. It doesn’t takes a doctoral degree to realize that our lack of connecting is making us miserable.

The more we are disconnected the worse we feel. Life is hard enough as it is. We need to connect now more than ever so we can give ourselves a shot at finding happiness and live our best life.

How to Incorporate Social Connection Into Your Life

Simply put, we just need to make social connection a priority and have a want and will to connect. From there we can to seize opportunities we are given and also make opportunities to connect with others.

We can start by taking an inventory of our current connections. Do you have a family member or friend you’ve been meaning to check up on? Or maybe someone tried to contact you and you never got around to calling them back.

We can also be on the look out for opportunities to connect. Opportunties are all around us once we are open to them. We have the opportunity to socially connect anytime we communicate with another human being. That communication could be as simple as a smile and wave hello, or it can be a full fledge conversation.

9 Ways to Stay Socially Connected While Physically Distant

Social distancing means we are physically distant. But we should still stay socially connected —they really should have named it physical distancing. Social connection is important now more than ever (read more about that here) and you shouldn’t stop trying to connect because of the current state of things.

A few of the social media sites get most of the attention, but there are a lot of options out there. And while on-line connection isn’t the same as in-person connection, it is connection nonetheless. Not only will it help us feel socially connected, it can help this socially distant time easier.

Below are some suggestions and sites that will help you stay socially connected while being physically distant. Explore from the comfort of your home – you really don’t even need to wear pants (hehe, I suggest you wear pants).

Do you have any suggestions for social connect? Let us know in the comments below.

Please note I reference and link sites in the list. I am not affiliated with these sites.

1. Volunteer

Find virtual volunteer opportunities here. Not only will you get some social connection, volunteering is also great for wellness and mental health. I volunteer as a zoom moderator for a non-profit. Some volunteer opportunities are solitary so if you are looking for more connection check out the opportunties that involve working with others.

2. Phone or Zoom Call

Friends and family are most likely also feeling some social disconnect. Give them a call or suggest setting up a zoom call. You may just make their day! You can set up a free zoom account here. Note that there have been some security issues so please use the video service that you are most comfortable with.

3. Join Meetup and Meet Some New Peeps

Meetup’s mission is to “help people grow and achieve their goals through real-life, human connections.” One good thing from this mess called 2020 is that a lot of Meetup groups are no longer limited to how far you can travel. All you need is zoom! I love Meetup and it has really helped me stay socially connected.

4. Chill Outside and Say Hello to People Walking By

This can also help you practice interacting with people if your social skills are a little rusty. Also great for taking some time to yourself to unwind. Sit out with some tea or coffee or wine, and focus on the scenery around you. Don’t forget to say hello to a passerby. Don’t be turned off if you don’t get a good reception. Some people are stuck in thought or not used to others saying hello. 

5. Chat With Neighbors

You and your neighbor may not have much in common, but it’s always nice to say hello! I got really lucky and my neighbor’s are great. My one neighbor took the pictures of me for my website! He is also a fellow INFJ which was an amazing coincidence. Ya know, just two introspective, introverts getting together and communicating.

6. Snail Mail

Get back to basics! Snail mail is a great way to connect and it’s fun to handwrite letters. Find a pen pal and write away. Or you could write to your friends and family. Everyone is likely feeling a little down at the mo. This will make their day! I mean, we always get junk mail or bills, how awesome would it be to get a letter just saying hi!

7. Have Virtual Lunch With a Stranger

Lunchclub.ai is a new site I am trying out. You sign up, answer some questions about your goals and hobbies, select some times you are available to meet and then you are matched with someone for a 1:1 zoom call. I’m excited to try it out and see who I meet.

8. Reddit

Reddit.com can get a bad rap. It is anonymous and when some people have anonymity they can be rude. HOWEVER, and a big however here, I have very much enjoyed my time on Reddit. I’ve found a great community of supportive people. Someone once commented on a post of mine and called me a “true feminist icon” (I want that on my tombstone!). Success on Reddit is all about the communities you join. Find groups focused on your interests or hobbies and go in with the intention to discuss those interests. I love seeing others share their writing or crafts that they’ve made! Fair warning, try not to get addicted.

9. Find Social Sites Dedicated to Your Hobby or Interest

The problem with the larger social media sites is that a lot of times we can end up just comparing ourselves to others – or arguing with a complete stranger. When you find a site dedicated to your hobby or passion you are more likely to find connection. A site I recently found is The Story Community Learning Center that offers a weekly Free-For-All Bookclub.

Remember, we are physically distant but we don’t need to be socially distant.