Get a New Perspective
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When setting new goals for yourself, it’s sometimes easy to focus on the negative in our lives rather than the positive.
Pamela Walker, PhD, a clinical psychologist in a private practice at Cooper Clinic, offers her top five tips controlling stress in the New Year by focusing on positive, uplifting factors that keep with the spirit of the holiday season.
It’s important in the New Year to adopt an “attitude of gratitude.” Shifting your focus from problems to blessings and changing your lens of the world from what’s wrong to what’s right allows you to automatically reduce stress.
Adopting this new attitude can be done in various ways. Some people enjoy writing in a gratitude journal. This allows you to document your daily blessings and increase awareness of what you are thankful for. Others enjoy prayer or meditation focusing on gratitude. Another way to shift your focus to something positive is to pick cues that normally would be stressful and use them in a positive way. For example, instead of becoming frustrated by traffic jams, choose red traffic lights as signals to rehearse five things you’re grateful for.
Holding on to anger and resentment is harmful to your health both psychologically and physically as it can trigger hypertension, heart problems and help develop chronic illness. Before you learn how to properly forgive, you must understand what it means. There is a misconception about forgiveness. It’s not necessarily reconciliation, rebuilding the relationship, condoning bad behaviors or trusting untrustworthy people. It is choosing to let go of anger and a desire for revenge. Think of your emotional energy as a finite resource or asset. Do you want to invest in anger and bitterness or joy?
In order to forgive and let go of that stress it’s important to acknowledge the anger. Tell yourself that you won’t let this person continue to occupy or poison your thoughts and emotions and decide to release the bitterness for your own peace of mind. Do you feel less stressed already?
This year, focus on your tolerance of people and events that don’t conform to your expectations and “should list.” People who are intolerant are frequently angry, frustrated or impatient. Do you have an internal “should” list about the things you can’t control? In such situations, your anger has no effect on the “rule breaker,” while your blood pressure automatically increases. For example, some people insist and demand that others shouldn’t drive too fast, should always be on time or should agree with them politically. Disturbing yourself about things that are out of your control causes unnecessary stress.
Practice rational thinking. The next time you find yourself in a frustrating situation over which you have no control, think, “Just because I want something, doesn’t mean I have to have it.” A major trick to relieving stress is deciding to accept others’ differences and situations over which you have no control.
Altruism means to act selfless and give or do for others. Studies have shown that people who focus on altruism oftentimes find more benefit from the good deed, in terms of mood and health, than the one receiving the help.
Try volunteering, participating in charitable work and simply giving your time for others. These good deeds reduce stress because they take you outside of yourself and your problems and worries, and because helping others is inherently uplifting.
Nurture your Spirit
Whether you practice a religion, enjoy nature, spend time in quiet reflection, craft artistic creations or express your creativity in other ways, make sure to do what you love! It’s an easy and effective way to combat stressful times during your life.
This year focus on positive change in your life. Being able to accept and improve gratitude, forgiveness, tolerance and altruism make life more enjoyable and help nurture your happy spirit!