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How Do You Stop Complaining? 5 Baby Steps to More Positive Thinking
Complaining is a habit that’s very hard to get rid of. Even if you recognize that you have fallen into a pattern of seeing the negatives in every situation, you’ve already conditioned your mind to expect that awful things will happen. Your experiences and your preconditioning already work against you. How do you stop complaining? Recalibrate your mind for more positive thinking. Here are five steps to consider:
1. Do not stop at the complaint; move forward.
We lead such busy, harried lives that something will always fall through the cracks. Maybe a housemate was too busy to wash the dishes or throw out the garbage. Maybe your partner borrowed the car and forgot to refuel. Someone at work did not get the memo or failed to respond to an urgent e-mail. If the ball drops, it affects you, and you cannot help but exhale in annoyance. “Is it always my job to fix things?” you ask. Maybe it isn’t, but if it aggravates you, then you are invested in it – you don’t have to fix it, but you can be part of the solution. By all means, ask your housemate to commit to a schedule for housework, and switch when one of you is busy. Ask your partner to remind himself to refuel the car – via mobile application, post-it, any which way. Alter the way you communicate at work so that you are guaranteed a timely response.
2. Think short-term or long-term, depending on what is most helpful.
A trick of positive thinking is to think of time as being relative: this too shall pass. Whatever complaint you have, you can tell yourself that it is merely short term: “This is temporary,” “I can solve this and soon this will cease to be a problem” or “The situation will resolve itself in time.” You can also think of it in the long-term: “This has to be done but it’s almost over now,” “This will lead to better things in the future,” and “This is a step in the right direction for the big goal at the end of the year.”
3. Let go of complaints over things outside your control.
The bitter pill to swallow is that not everything is under our control. This includes the weather (“It’s so hot that it’s frying my brain, I can’t think”), management decisions (“They’ve cut the budget again, am I supposed to work a miracle to get this project done?”), or even limited lunch options (“What do you mean you’ve run out of Meal A? It’s there on the menu, isn’t it? What kind of place is this?”). It may be frustrating, but you have to work with what you’ve got. See if you can spot the silver lining (It’s really hot, haven’t been to the beach in a while, this is the best time!). Try to motivate yourself for the present challenge (If I pull this off on a small budget, I’m going to convince my boss I can do even better next time with a bigger budget and an assistant… or a salary raise!). Tell yourself that there are other options to consider (Okay, no Meal A, is Meal B a better choice?)
4. Accept the choices you’ve made thus far and embrace the challenges that go with them.
It’s not easy being in your situation, but would you have really chosen otherwise? You may have chosen a thriving career with a lot of traveling. You may have stayed single, or gotten married. You opted to have kids or take care of a raft of pets. You chose to live in another city, far away from your family homestead. All these choices have its accompanying challenges; exchanging one for another means merely a set of new challenges. Remind yourself that the sacrifices are worth the choice you’ve already made. Even as you spot the imperfections, be grateful for the good things in your life. Then move forward.
5. Meditate. Keep calm and carry on.
Reconditioning the mind to think positively must be a constant effort. The practice of meditation can help you overcome your negative thoughts, including the accompanying stress, anger and anxiety. Put things in perspective. Learn how to objectively judge a situation. Relax. Breathe. Think. Know your strengths and how to leverage on those strengths. Learn to accept and be grateful for your life.