Are you sad, anxious, managing a difficult relationship, grief or divorce? Are you feeling the stress of medical issues, parenting or work? Whatever difficulty we experience is made exponentially worse by how we talk to ourselves about those same experiences. Like flipping on a switch, changing the meaning you ascribe to life's hardships instantaneously short circuits the thoughts that breed negative emotions. Adopt these five beliefs to transform unhappiness to wellbeing.
1. Believe in Your Power to Challenge Your Difficulties: Do you wake up feeling daunted by life? Or, do you start your day in a good space only to stumble in the face of difficult news later or an unforeseen problem? And when that happens, do you feel like giving up? Do you tell yourself, "Ugh, this is impossible, I can't do it!" Self-efficacy is a term psychologists use to refer to how much a person believes in her ability to reach goals or tackle her life's problems. Your ability to believe you can persist in obtaining your goals and solving your problems -- including work issues, social issues, financial goals, healthy behaviors, workout and diet regimes -- is almost entirely dependent on your ability to persist in spite of setbacks. People who continue to persevere do so because they force themselves to believe deep down in their core, that if they hang in there long enough they will solve the problem at hand or meet their goal. So whatever you are managing that is hard on you today, start by telling yourself "I can handle this, even if I don't have all of the answers right now, I know I will find a way."
2. Believe "Radical Acceptance" Brings Peace: One of the most plaguing of human conditions is a sense of not feeling quite good enough. Believing you are somehow missing the mark means you spin your wheels with anxious energy by always weighing out how to get it "right," how to appear "good enough" or ways to dupe people into thinking you are better than you believe yourself to be. Feeling as if something fundamental is missing from your core means you don't see yourself as belonging and this brings on a crushing sense of aloneness. You have the capacity to stop doing this. The key to internal peace, no matter what obstacle you are facing, is to radically accept yourself just as you are. All human beings struggle with imperfection; it's a component of human existence as opposed to something actually being inherently wrong with you. Whatever you are struggling with in your head or about yourself, allow it to be present with self-compassion -- not self-criticism. When you radically accept yourself, you feel truly free and at ease, this leads to more intimacy and connection with others. The more we openly connect with others, the less alone we are in facing life's hardships. Openly connecting, without walls, provides a resilient buffer to all that ails.
3. Believe Being a Good Person Matters: Doing the "right" thing, being someone you would want as a friend or colleague, treating others with kindness and respect, even when they disappoint you, helping those who need it when you can, is meaningful. This concept is deeply rooted in our civilization -- the Golden Rule in Christianity -- "Do onto others as you'd have done to you" -- Buddhism's concept of "Karma" -- Judaism with the Yiddish term "Mensch" -- and many other examples. Striving to operate in this manner brings a profound sense of comfort and wellbeing. Your intentions should line up with your actions and your speech. The more you can be integrated in this way and not act in a manner that is harmful to others or disrespectful of yourself, the easier it will be to experience consistent internal contentment. Believing the world is generally a good place with good people in it is reinforced when we ourselves work to act in accordance with this idea. The more we believe we are in a safe loving world, the less terrifying adversity seems and the more mental space we have to problem solve and work through difficulties.
4. Believe in Actively Changing and Evolving as a Human Being: How much do you believe you can intentionally grow and improve yourself in specific areas of your life? Click here to answer nine brief questions to see how much you believe you can evolve as a person. "The Personal Growth Initiative" is a concept psychologists use to refer to a person's desire for personal growth and belief that growth is possible. If you don't feel you can change and evolve as a human being, start working on believing you can. The more you think you can improve yourself the more likely your life difficulties will also improve. In fact research shows that people who are more resilient to traumatic experiences are this way because they believe in their ability to grow and change as a person. For example in one study, personal growth initiative was assessed in a group of functionally impaired Rwanda genocide survivors. The study found that even after controlling for a number of factors and symptoms, those with higher personal growth initiative had lower functional impairment than those who were less likely to believe in their ability to grow and improve. Work to intentionally set goals for your personal development and believe that evolving yourself as a human being matters. Doing this makes a difference in terms of how resilient you will be to life's hardships. The more resilient you are, the less likely one hardship will start a contagion and impact every aspect of your life and functioning.
5. Believe Suffering Has Meaning: Rumi, the 13th century Persian Poet put it this way, "The wound is the place where the Light enters you." Sometimes great emotional or physical pain can bring in a new perspective, sense of peace or outlook that a person would never have ordinarily obtained. Of course, sometimes pain is just misery and a huge stumbling block. Yet keep working to believe, even if you can't find the meaning intuitively at this exact moment, that whatever your wound, light is still entering your psyche and being. All is not lost to you, there can be another side to your pain and not seeing it yet doesn't mean it won't appear.
We can't control life's suffering -- it is undeniably sewn into the fabric of existence. What we can control is how hardy we are in facing these challenges. The more you work to adopt these 5 beliefs, the more resilient you will be and life's difficulties will have less power to hobble your world.
For more tweet me your relationship questions @DrJillWeber, like me on Facebook or visit drjillweber.com. Dr. Weber is a clinical psychologist in Washington, DC and author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy -- Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships.