How I’ll Find Happiness in 2011: Avoiding Overthinking in March

In my third month of exploring The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky as a part of my journey on finding happiness in 2011, the month of March was dedicated to the act of avoiding over thinking and social comparison: using strategies (such as distraction) to cut down on how often you dwell on your problems and compare yourself with others.

In the past month, I came to discover I have a serious problem in allowing self-hate and negative talk determine my mood. Addressing this exact issue, I found inspiration from so many bloggers over this past month :

But the one that resounded with me most was Andrea’s Emotional Hunger post on her blog, Can You Stay For Dinner?  The beautiful written post is worth a full read, but these words stuck with me most:

I’m a people pleaser. The type who probably comes across as extroverted and sunny and light. I spend mornings, days, and early evenings, trying to radiate positive energy, becoming totally absorbed in interactions with others, really just giving life my absolute all. It’s part of my wish to never have regrets. I like to live fully. Give it all I’ve got… So at the end of the day, I feel drained. I feel as though I’ve got to take something back for myself.

So at night, when I feel zapped of energy, when I feel like I’ve done a lot for others, and maybe tried too hard to make life a bit sunnier for other people, to make them laugh (mostly at me- and for good reason), when I’ve given it all away, I’m left with a body and mind that needs restoring.

I am a living and breathing example of Andrea’s words. A strong work ethic was instilled in my brother and I by my parents. I took this concept to a new ridiculous level after an interaction with a business contact early in my career.

I went to drop something off to said contact at the hotel she was staying at on my way home one weekend. I found her in the valet waiting area, sitting on a banquet chair with her laptop, typing to capture a flurry of thoughts. Handing her the paperwork I was sent to deliver, I inquired why she was still working in such a random spot after hours on a Friday evening. Her response: “I try to do all the work I can with all the time I have. Every moment of the day. You have to take advantage of them all, no matter where you are.”

Without even knowing it, I found myself embracing this mantra. It didn’t take long to realize the ridiculousness of it. Even still, I fill my days with too many business meetings, plenty of personal interactions and a list of goals to reach that is a mile long.  I do my best to be realistic and not overtax myself, but some days that concept is abandoned and I’m back to giving 200%. Unfortunately, this isn’t a reasonable or realistic way to live. Burnout is bound to be the next thing on your to-do list.

This way of life sets a person up for failure: they expect by working on tasks every moment they have in order to  reach perfection. But as we all know, perfection in impossible. And when that burnout happens, I feel defeated. All I can think is, “I didn’t get that done. The task isn’t completed. I let someone down.” It took until this month’s project to realize just how much I let the self-depreciating thoughts seep in. And the more that happens, just how much my anxious and depressed tendencies tend to rear their heads.

In assessing all this, I had a break thru, starting with throwing out the to-do list. Andrea says, “it’s about filling myself, my time, and my mind with something that I want to mean so much more.” So I asked myself:

  • “what makes me insanely happy? what makes me sad?”
  • “knowing what brings me joy, what do I want to spend my time doing?”
  • “who/what are the people/things in my life that inspire me? how can I spend more time with them?”
  • “how can my self-love spread positively into other areas of my life?”

Some questions were easier to answer than others, but I was able to figure out what really was important to me. Over the month, I decided to use one of the book’s strategies to focus on a new intention. When I caught myself thinking negative thoughts, I stopped that internal monologue and said to myself, “FEED YOUR SOUL”. I then ask myself, “what do I need in this moment to feel fulfilled?”

Sometimes it’s simply some downtime: a nap, some trashy reality TV or some quiet time alone.

Sometimes it’s some physical activity: a fabulous hot yoga sweat fest or a pup walk with the fuzz.

And sure, sometimes it’s ice cream – but in that craving, I remind myself the ice cream is only going to solve the problem if the problem is hunger.

That simple three-word phrase has drastically increased my self-awareness and self-worth in the past month. Filling your head with negativity is only bound to end in negative results. Instead of just putting the positive out into the world, I now keep some of that positivity inside for my own personal use. And with a new sense of “anything is possible”, I’m on my way to creating a realistic to-do list filled only with those things that bring me absolute bliss.

What’s in store for next month? Practicing Acts of Kindness! I’m so excited for April!

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  1. Thais says:

    wow what a beautiful post!! And no I’m not just saying that because you mentioned me =P in all seriousness, it is so important for us to slow down and do things for ourselves sometimes. replenish our energy with some self-lovin’!! I love your 2011 journey – I wish you only the best =)

  2. @FitInMyHeart says:

    I Believe that Prayers are answered when you ask! Last night, in my exhausted state… I prayed… This Post was my answer!!! Thank You!!!
    Love You Lots!!!
    Dr. Mo
    P.S. Can’t wait to #HugYourNeck in May!!! #CLEMarathon

  3. Rachel Wilkerson says:

    This is such a great post! Glad I could be included in a list of such inspiring, positive articles and blog posts. And I’m even happier you’re focusing on YOU! I’m a people-pleaser too, but there comes a point when you just start to give of yourself so much, you have nothing left. Looking forward to hearing how next month goes for you!

  4. RunToTheFinish says:

    beautifully written post and one that I think strikes a chord with far too many of us. I know my todo list has felt overwhelming for the last few months…then I realized the only one adding to that list was me and the only one upset by it was me

  5. Tina says:

    I’ve decided to embrace a life of fun! After the “have-to’s (like kid’s school & work)” are done, its all about having fun & enjoying life! I’m not waiting-the time is now! You’ll figure it all out, don’t worry! 🙂

  6. Jolene says:

    Wow, I needed this too. April is going to be a BEAR for me in many ways. I need to breathe and just take it a day at a time.

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