There was a study done several years ago to determine why certain people live to be over 100 years old. They looked at all factors including family history, diet, lifestyle, and geography.
There was one factor that was common to most of those studied. They had a purpose. They had a reason to wake up in the morning. I could be a job, caretaking, an interest that requires attention, or plans for the future.
Having a purpose or a goals goes a long way toward improving mood and self esteem. Find an interest and pursue it. Have a reason to get up in the morning. You may well live longer and actually want to accomplish this.
What a huge and universal topic to be tackled on a blog post. Man has been trying to find an answer to this question since the beginning of time. Numerous philosophers and psychologists have written volumes on this topic. This is the major reason people have turned to religion and metaphysics. How many sleepless nights have been caused by the search for the meaning of life?
“What is the purpose of my life?”
“Why was I born?”
I have come up with my own answers that simplify and truly work for me. They make life less of a mystery and far less scary. I thought I would share and I hope they might work for you.
1st the second question: Why was a born?
My birth is no more or less significant than the birth of any child that has ever been or is yet to be. My parents engaged in sexual intercourse. One of my mother’s eggs was fertilized and approximately 9 months later I was born. This is the reason I was born. It is that simple.
1st question: What is the purpose of my life?
I do not believe in some grand plan or inherent meaning of life. I believe each of us has value as a person and we make choices during our life. My life does not have meaning. I give meaning to my life. The meaning I give it depends on my values and beliefs and the choices I make. Therefore, life means what I decide it means. And the meaning I give it can and has changed over my lifetime.
Try this on and see if it works.
I have been writing my blog for a few years and I have rarely spoken about myself and my own struggles. Having started my own journey of recover nearly 30 years ago, I have a great deal of experience and knowledge about all the skills I have shared with my readers. I have also learned from all the people I have counseled over the last 20 years. I hope that some of you have benefited from my blog.
One thing I have to keep in mind is the phrase: progress not perfection. No one, including me, has ever done this perfectly. I am a work in progress like everyone else who is in the process of change and growth. I suffered from chronic depression and addictive behaviors for most of my life as well as poor self-esteem. Although I have experienced a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life, I also have my struggles. I sometimes find it difficult to apply all the coping skills I know. There times I have to work hard to focus on the things I need to and stay in the present.
I have my own philosophy of life: Life is to be enjoyed. I work every day to make that a reality. One of the ways I stay focused is by writing this blog. It has great value to my life. I hope it has value to yours.
You have realized that something is not quite right in your life. You have become more aware of your anxiety or depression or some other issue that weighs heavily on you and negatively affects your life. You have become increasingly aware that something has to change because you can no longer tolerate living like this. What are you waiting for?
You have experiences that have haunted you for many years. You have tried to put behind you. You have read books and gotten advice from friends on how to overcome it. You have beaten yourself up for years about it. You have thought about getting help with the issue for years and understand that you cannot do it on your own. What are you waiting for?
Your drinking or other substance abuse has become more and more of an issue in your life. The damage continues to pile up. Friends and family keep telling you need to get help and deal with it. As much as you try to control it you find it impossible. You life is unraveling in front of your eyes. You know you can’t deal with it on your own. What are you waiting for?
You are very unhappy at your job and keep telling yourself you need to find another one. The economy has improved and it is easier to find a job. You have been thinking of continuing your education for a long time. You keep putting it off and continue to feel sad and anxious. What are you waiting for?
Your relationship is just not working. You and your significant other have one disagreement after another. There is more conflict than calm and happiness. You have worked hard to find ways for you both to get your needs met. The more you try, the more you realize your values, wants, and desires are not the same as hers/his. You know in your heart that the relationship will never be as fulfilling as you want. You want more. What are you waiting for?
Life is so short. The clock continues to move as you stay stuck in a place that you do not want to be. Fear stands in the way of finding a more fulfilling life. For the most part it is you that stands between yourself and having an opportunity to find the things you seek. Taking the steps to overcoming your fears is the only path. Moving forward one step at a time. Try not to look too far into the future. That’s a very scary place full all kinds of unknowns. You can deal with those when you get there. You are responsible for your own happiness. You are not responsible for the happiness of others.
Another year is about to come to an end. What are you waiting for?
It is important to understand that our perception of reality becomes our reality. In many cases our perceptions have become distorted based on beliefs we developed early in life. Therefore, just because we perceive something to be true it might not be the case. Using the example of a person who is bitten by a dog; some people develop a fear of all dogs. Most dogs are not likely to bite us and we approach all dogs with the same fear. The fact is that only a small percentage of dog bite people so fearing all dogs is a perception not based in the truth.
Avoid thinking in absolutes or all or nothing. The concepts of always and never are invariably the result of faulty and distorted thinking. Also, it is not helpful to think that you should have done “this” or shouldn’t have done “that.” Regrets for previous actions are not helpful in improving mood and moving forward in our lives.
Identify the thoughts or beliefs that are faulty, erroneous, or self-destructive. Find alternative thoughts and beliefs. The next step I call “catch and correct.” Every time you “catch” yourself engaged in faulty thinking replace that thought with one that is more helpful. That way you are “correcting” your old patterns of thinking. This requires increased awareness of your thoughts and vigilance. It also required you to be persistent in your effort. This process will take time in order to change old automatic thinking to a new way of thinking. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping a journal to record your thoughts and feelings. This strategy works for depression, anxiety, other fears, and self-esteem issues.
Most of all be gentle and kind toward yourself. No one does it perfectly and neither will you.
If you only read self-help books or articles by many pop-psychologists, you would likely believe that changing how you think, feel, and behave is a relatively easy process once you decide to do so. Many people write in such a way that leads you to believe it should be as easy as deciding to change and instant change occurs. Deciding to change is only the first of many steps toward the attainment of lasting and permanent change. It will require a commitment of your time and effort to reach your desired goal.
The first thing you must understand is that most of your thoughts and behaviors are not done in a conscious manner. They are mostly automatic and are habits you have developed over time. We all have a set of beliefs that determine how we see things and, therefore, determine what we think and what we do. This ultimately determines how we feel. In making the changes that will ultimately improve our mood, self-esteem, and our lives we are changing habits. Habits take time and effort to change.
We all have this conversation going on in our heads (self talk) that determines our reactions to events. I suggest that you start a journal and write about how you experience life. This will help you to identify faulty or distorted thinking that negatively affects your life. The next step is to explore alternative thoughts and behaviors to replace those that do not work. Having someone to share your thoughts and feelings with as well as exploring alternatives is extremely helpful. The support and encouragement from a trusted relative, friend, or counselor increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.
I will continue to discuss the process for change in my next post.