Have you ever paid attention to people, listened to them, felt their vibe? Today I was in an elevator at my hotel going down to the beach. I was the only one on it when the doors opened and two people jumped in. They turned around to two other people waiting to get on and said, “sorry there isn’t enough room.” The elevator doors closed and one took a deep breath, and the other said, “Oh my God, the negativity.” They proceeded to say how those “New Yorkers” were complaining non-stop for the two minutes they were waiting for the elevator. They proceeded to get out of the elevator in the lobby and danced around to get rid of the negative energy. I found myself laughing, enjoying the entertainment.
The sad truth is that when people retell their stories, they relive the emotion that goes with it. When someone cuts you off on the road and you later relay that story on the phone or at home, that emotion of frustration comes back. When you feel that emotion, it can feed you to think of so many other things that have made you feel that way, and the cycle keeps going. Not to mention that whomever you are telling your story to is taking on your vibe. Ask yourself what vibe you are giving off?
A perfect example of the perpetuating cycle of reliving emotions is when a couple is fighting. I hate to pick on women because I am one, but this is common. The partner will do something to hurt their wife’s feelings, the wife will then start talking about it. She does not stop there because now she is getting worked up, she Is talking about the last 10 years of “things never change” and “do you remember when you did this?” The subject is no longer that you forgot the dishes. You always forget to do the dishes. You are also inconsiderate, and you forgot to give me that birthday present last year on my birthday. And it spirals away from there. 100% not effective. One thing turned into several, which now there is no way to fix the problem.
Common at work too. Someone else gets credit for work you did or did together, and it spirals from there. It goes from the boss giving him or her credit to “that person is out for my job.” You become a little paranoid at that point because you are constantly wondering what they are going to do or turn in. You quit working on things collaboratively. Your emotional suffering begins and your work suffers. Your home life suffers too because you can’t focus on the task in front of you anymore. And it spirals downwards and gets worse and worse. You are emotionally invested and suffering so you are not problem solving your way out if it. Your attention is not where it should be.
The core of our suffering comes from our perception and interpretations of what is going on. Emotional suffering is only in the mind. When there is too much emotional suffering, it can lead to physiological symptoms such as fatigue and numbness. There are many exercises to decrease emotional suffering, but it starts with mindfulness.
The simplest task is to stop judging. This is simple. Something is not good or bad, it simply is. We put our judgment on something and it becomes much more. “I heard Sabrina got knocked up in high school”, most people say “what a shame,” or “she ruined her life.” The truth is, we don’t know the outcome of someone’s future, and can’ t predict it. It’s also a bad thing until it happens to your family. It is a change, then It’s a blessing. According to Marsh Linehan, founder of DBT therapy, created steps for mindfulness that break it down simply by breaking them up into what and how skills.
What to do is simply observe, describe, and participate in your situations. Observe your surroundings. No judgments. It isn’t important if you think the purple chair in the room, it’s just a purple chair. If you feel angry, observe the heat in your cheeks, the pressure in your chest, or head. Just observe, facts only what is going on around you.
Next, you can describe everything. Label your surroundings, facts only. I am currently at a restaurant on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. I will give you an example of my surroundings and then you practice is constantly at home to learn to help you take your judgments out. There is a baseball game on on every big screen. The chairs are brown. There are large glasses on some of the tables filled with red liquid. A gentleman is serenading the woman he is sitting next to. He does not sound like Maroon 5. There are a total of 5 children in the restaurant. I had the pasta. I really liked the pasta. Keep it simple. It is ok to have preferences of whether you like something or not. There is a difference in preferences and judgments. My thought of the man’s voice was omitted because it was my judgment, not a fact.
Next participate. Fully immerse yourself into the moment. Feel the breeze, feel the temperature, notice the emotions stirring in your body. Sports or physical activities are easy to participate in. If you are running just run. Feel your feet touch the ground with each step. If you are listening to music, listen to the music, notice how it make you feel, if you want to sing, sing. Fully be present in all of your activities and participate.
Next, we have our how skills. They consist of Nonjudgmentally, One-Mindfully, and Effectively. The nonjudgmental piece is key. If you throw negative judgments on something, you can ruin your day. Use facts only when describing. Never assume you know what someone is thinking or feeling. If someone is saying negative words to you or has a negative demeanor, walk away, or ask them what is wrong. Try to pay attention to not judging. Notice if you feel uncomfortable. Most important if you are working on not judging, DO NOT JUDGE YOUR JUDGING. We all judge. Mindfulness is a practice, being nonjudgmental is a practice. It is something you to do repeatedly until you master the practice.
One-mindfully is exactly how it sounds. Do one thing at a time. If you are breathing, just breath. If you are talking to someone, just talk with them. The importance of doing one thing at a time is because you cannot do more than one thing at a time effectively. People like to multitask and do a couple things at the same time because they think they are being effective by getting things done, but the truth is, you cannot be present and participate fully in more than one thing at a time. Which leads us to effectively doing things effectively. Make conversations and activities count. If you must be right all the time, ask yourself this, “is it better to be right or be effective.” It is not effective to talk in loops.
We make things good or bad in our heads. We all care what people think. Some more than others. Don’t even tell me you don’t care. We care that are parents accept us. We care about our grades, what our friends think of things, our status. People that sincerely do not care are sociopaths or psychopaths. Even severe criminals cared whether they were liked, it was how they lured people into their vehicles to kidnap, abuse, and murder them. We care whether our boss or customers like our work. If we didn’t then we would not have a job. The problem is not that we care about other what other’s think, but it is not healthy to spend more than a couple minutes on it. I once heard that someone thinks of you for 1% of time, but we stay stuck on what that person thinks for 50% of our day. I think it may be fabricated a tad, but if someone is thinking that I am thinking about them, I may spend five minutes unless they are drawing it out. It’s in the back of my mind for a later conversation, but I let it go.
I have four sons. I grew up watching Disney movies, so I wanted to bestow some of that onto them. I made them watch Frozen. Ever since they were “forced” to see the movie they gang up on me and sing, “let it go,” whenever one of them gets in trouble. If I start yelling, it’s “let it go.” I end up laughing because I did this to myself. Now when I get worked up, the Frozen song pops in my head. When asked what one of my coping methods was on national radio, I sang “let it go.” After I got off the show, I realized what I had done, and now have one more thing to laugh about. It was humiliating, but memorable. I was asked to come back.