Often, when you look around it seems like everyone else has a better life than you. That things just come easier for them and everything goes their way. They have more to show for themselves with their high-paying jobs, beautiful homes, loving families, and fancy cars. When you spend your time comparing like this, you fall into the comparison trap and measure every aspect of your life against theirs. Playing tit for tat to try to gauge how successful you are when judged against your peers.
Unfortunately, when you look to others with envy in your eyes, the only thing you do is communicate to yourself that you are less than. That the hard work you put in is somehow less important than the people you compare yourself to and that you are less worthy of success and happiness.
The downside to continuously evaluating yourself against others is that you start to suffer from a sense of “comparisonitis” and you can begin to exhibit symptoms of this sickness. For instance, you might quickly go from feeling a sense of jealousy when you look to others to feeling anxious, depressed, or worthless. Not only does looking to others make you feel bad about yourself, it can make you start to doubt whether you’ll ever feel good about yourself or the things you have accomplished in your life.
Perhaps for you it plays out a little something like this…
Your least favorite co-worker, the one who comes in to work dressed to the nines everyday and who never has one hair out of place came in today with a brand-new designer bag. The purse wasn’t even your style, but the way she so nonchalantly toted around something that cost more than your mortgage really rubbed you the wrong way. You messaged your best fried to meet you for coffee after work so the two of you could commiserate.
You both spend hours talking about all the mundane aspects of your lives and how glamourous everyone else seems to have it. But when you hugged goodbye and got into your car you actually felt worse, not better. At the time you thought wallowing with someone who understood would boost your mood; but, in fact, all it did was drive you deeper into your funk.
Eventually, habitually focusing on the negative in your life overshadows all you have to be appreciative for. But the truth is, spending time focusing on your appreciation is the surest way to cut through your comparisonitis and find a sense of acceptance about the positive things you have to show for yourself. It’s OK to look around and notice when others are doing well. This can be a great way to highlight the things you do and don’t want out of your own life. The key, however, is to not let this acknowledgement shape the way you feel about all the good things you have going for you.
It’s true there will always be those who seem to have an easier time getting what they want in life. But if you can learn to feel thankful about the path you are on you can appreciate all that is right in your own life. Cultivating a daily appreciation practice makes it entirely possible to bust out of your current rut and change your perspective toward the positive for the long-term.
Keep reading to see just how focusing on the good in your life can change your outlook for the better.
Life without appreciation
The human mind can generally only focus on one thing at a time. And whatever you focus on you tend to manifest more of. When you spend all of your time and energy thinking about what’s wrong or missing from your life, you invite more negative feelings to follow you. The draw back of this is that you’re continuously positioning yourself in a place of failure.
At the very least you find yourself stuck, unable to climb out of the pity party you’ve created. But on your worst days, you’re unable to muster compassion for the things you are doing well. Refusing to acknowledge all that is going right in your life keeps you from appreciating yourself, and the relationships you have with others. In the end, you basically cause yourself to have trouble enjoying your own life.
When you start to appreciate yourself
On the flip side, some pretty impressive things start to happen in your life when you choose to be positive. What your mind focus on grows. Appreciating and focusing on the positive aspects of life – allows the things that are going right and well in your life to flourish.
Giving them mental energy causes them to shine and the negative aspects of your life to fade into the background. You start to feel better about yourself, communicate better, and you’re able to enjoy life more. Your friendships and romantic relationships start to thrive as you are able to appreciate the positive aspects of your friends and family. Moreover, when you are more positive, people are drawn to you and want to spend time with you.
When you choose to cultivate gratitude and give thanks, you have the potential to see improvement in your outlook on life as well as your relationships with others. You will quickly notice the changes in your thinking help you recognize how good things really are going for you, so you can have more joy and more energy. Overall, by being appreciative, you have the opportunity to live life through a lens of joy instead of disappointment.
How learning to appreciate can radically change your outlook
While this is all said and good, breaking the pattern of negative thinking can be challenging at first. Even though it has such a negative effect on your perspective, wallowing in what seems wrong in your life can strangely feel more comfortable than focusing on the positive. This is because negative thought patterns tend to be deeply engrained and seem to serve a stronger purpose than thinking positively.
It takes a lot of conscious effort but changing your outlook a little at a time will help you dig out of your initial funk and make it easier to stay in a positive frame of mind for the long-term. While over time this way of thinking becomes a beneficial lifestyle change, there are a few quick things you can start doing today that will keep you in an appreciative frame of mind.
Here are the exact steps to follow to cultivate a daily appreciation practice and start reaping the emotional benefits:
Step 1) Pay Attention.
The first step in creating an appreciation practice is becoming aware of how you feel. Your body and mind are connected, and you often feel negative sensations before you realize your thoughts have gone to the dark side. Take some time to notice the feelings in your body when something negative is going on. Do you feel discomfort or pain? If so, where?
When clients come to see me, we spend time in session identifying the different parts of the body that are impacted by negative thoughts. These sensations often give clues of areas to explore with further therapy.
Step 2) Notice the Triggers
Once you are aware of the sensations inside your body, you can start to notice what causes them. Maybe when you saw your co-worker’s designer bag you noticed your chest felt tight. Giving some attention to this feeling might help you recognize that money triggers your anxiety. Becoming aware of triggers that cause you to think negatively helps you catch your thought patterns early and keep them from spiraling.
In session, clients of Connecticut Integrative Counseling work on pausing and being in the moment so they can really hone in on their particular triggers. Intentional thinking helps them recognize what it is about the situation that is causing them to be upset and allows them to take back power over the situation.
Step 3) Start a Self-Care Routine
Now that you know what triggers your negative thinking and where you feel it in your body, you can start to take care of yourself in a way that addresses your concerns. Perhaps this means tending to your bank account more often, so you have a good handle on your money situation. You could stick a few dollars every week into a splurge fund so that you know you have cash available if you want to treat yourself. Taking control of the situation makes you feel more in control of your anxiety and also sends the message that you care about your well-being.
When I work with clients on their self-care routines, we typically incorporate behaviors first thing in the morning or right before bed. The idea behind the routine is to take dedicated time and to make dedicated effort to make yourself feel valuable. The routine can be as simple or extravagant as you like so long as you are consistently showering yourself with love.
Step 4) Create an Appreciation Journal
As you start to practice self-care, you will notice that your positive feelings are becoming more prevalent. A great practice is to start writing them down and taking record of everything you feel appreciation for. This does a couple of things.
1. Writing down whenever you feel appreciation acts as a sort of affirmation. You are acknowledging that things are good, and you are inviting more of the same into your life.
2. You are keeping a record to look back on whenever you have difficult days.
People seeking a more positive life will often bring their appreciation journals into session at CIC. This gives us great insight into how therapy is working, how the individual’s outlook is changing, and if there are more areas to work on.
Step 5) Do a Short Mediation
Even though you are making great strides toward a more positive life, there will still be times when your triggers catch you by surprise or you discover a new one. In this moment, it is best to take a quick pause to re-center yourself. A great way to do this is through a short meditation. It can be as quick as one intentional minute spent focusing on your breathing and releasing tension and another minute spent thinking of something you’re thankful for. This can be a great time to go back to your journal if you’re having trouble focusing on something positive.
In session, I often teach my clients a few mediations they can memorize and practice on their own time whenever they are feeling triggered or out of alignment.
Step 6) Incorporate Your Support System
Just like when you start a new mindfulness practice or any other lifestyle change, it can be difficult to cultivate an appreciation mindset if everyone else you know is still living according to their old patterns. As you start to see changes in your own life, it is likely that your friends and family will notice as well. When they ask about what’s changed, invite them to start an appreciation journey of their own. This is also a great opportunity to invite new, more positive people, into your life as well.
Clients at Connecticut Integrative Counseling often invite family members into their sessions so that they can have difficult conversations with the guidance of a professional or simply to show their loved ones the progress they have made.
Step 7) Spread Appreciation on a Daily Basis
As you start to see just how positive an impact appreciation has had on your life, you might start to see how being appreciative can help others. What’s more, whatever you put out into the world comes back to you, so sharing positivity with others is a great way to ensure more of it comes your way. One way to make sure positivity comes back to you is to spread it daily. Send a thank you note, do a favor for someone you love, or call someone to have a positive conversation.
When you schedule a session with me, we will explore ways to cultivate appreciation in your own life as well as share it with those you love.
Getting out of your rut and building up a long-lasting positive attitude can make it so life is a lot more enjoyable. You absolutely can have a mindset that naturally trends toward the positive rather than the negative. And Connecticut Integrative Counseling can help.
To start cultivating appreciation in your life today, please contact me to learn more about how we can work together.
To learn more about my depression counseling practice in West Hartford, CT, please visit depression treatment.