Life is full of heartaches and heartbreaks, and not just the relationship kind either. The “I just failed my chemistry test”, “I can’t pay my bills this month”, or “I can’t be pregnant right now” kind also really hurt. We’ve all been there at one time or another, facing some really tough situations. Whether it’s due to your own mistakes that caused the pain or pain inflicted by someone else, pain is pain. We all need a little inspiration to keep pushing through when life as we know it at the moment just plain hurts.
I’ve learned that when everything around me seems to be crumbling, it’s crucial to have positive and encouraging influences in my life. Sometimes that can be accomplished through friends and family, but they can’t be there when I’m alone with my thoughts. Because of that I’ve learned to change my thoughts.
Of course that’s easier said than done. It begins with little changes. Writing encouraging phrases on Post-It Notes and putting them where I’ll see them throughout the day has worked for me. I’ve also used dry erase markers on my bathroom mirror to jot down some empowering messages for me to see when I start my day.
Technology has made it possible to easily find material for inspirational messages that speak straight to you and your situation with a quick search on google images or Pinterest. Don’t overlook the opportunity to also save images as your wallpaper or lock-screen background! I’ve included a few that have worked for me. Blessings to you on your journey to better thinking!
It’s interesting how easy it is to forget what holidays are all about. Christmas is meant to be about giving but too often we focus on “what can I get out of it?” We prepare our wish lists before Thanksgiving even arrives, before we have decided what we should give to our family members. And Thanksgiving itself is meant to be about counting our blessings, and yet we often focus too much on the food we will eat, and the football game we will watch. Or maybe we get excited to see the people we will be spending it with and the things we will do to celebrate. Don’t get me wrong, those are important parts of the holidays. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be a very special time if it wasn’t commemorated by family get togethers and festive traditions. However, each holiday has a theme which is worth pausing to think about, a lesson which is worth trying to learn in a new way each time the special day comes around.
Giving thanks is a beautiful theme. Gratitude makes each good thing more meaningful. Without gratitude, without pausing to appreciate all the beautiful things in our lives, they can too easily slip right by us unnoticed. If we don’t stop and notice the beauty, we might get too busy, too pre-occupied to see it. On the other hand, if we foster an attitude of gratitude, if we make time to give thanks, we will see more goodness and beauty all around us, and we will also appreciate it more than we did before. It’s the difference between being handed a sandwich and chowing down immediately, and looking in the eye of the person who handed you the sandwich and saying “thank you” and thinking to yourself, “I’m really lucky to be able to eat this. Some people have nothing to eat right now.” When we practice an attitude of gratitude, each tiny part of our daily lives becomes something to celebrate, something to rejoice in. This Christmas, we all have good and bad things happening in our lives. Some hard parts, some parts that are going well. But let’s really make an effort to give thanks, both in words and silently in our hearts.
Active listening is a skill that many people could use a little help with. It’s easy to talk to people without giving them our full attention. Practicing active listening skills can be just the thing to increase successful communication in your relationships.
Here are some ways to practice your active listening skills:
Stop what you’re doing. You cannot actively listen if there are other distractions stealing your attention. Give the person in your conversation 100% of your attention. It also communicates respect to the person you’re talking with.
Make eye contact. It shows the other person that you’re interested AND paying attention to what they’re saying. It also shows compassion to the person you’re talking with by sharing their gaze.
Just listen. This can truly be the hardest of all. Don’t interrupt. Don’t try to fix their problems. Don’t share your opinions. Simply listen and Hang. On. To. Their. Every. Word.
Wait for a natural pause to ask the right questions. The right questions are clarifying questions. This is the perfect time to ask questions to make sure you understand what the other person is saying.
Show empathy when necessary. When you’ve done all of the above, you should have a pretty good idea what emotion they’re feeling. For example: If your friend is feeling down and just needs a shoulder to cry on, now’s not the time to throw a pep rally of a celebration for your friend. Just be in the moment with them. (Tip: This is especially true for people who have just received difficult health news about themselves or loved ones.)