Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?by Julie Smith
Why has Nobody Told Me This Before is about the right tools to help you develop resilience and the capacity to handle difficult emotions properly. Through this, you’ll understand how your thoughts affect your feelings, behaviors, and, overall, your life. You’ll also learn how to handle your emotions, have a healthy mind, cope with low mood, lack of motivation, emotional pain, grief, self-doubt, fear, and stress, and, most importantly, build a happier and more meaningful life.
“Something that the science has been confirming to us, and something people often learn in therapy, is that we have more power to influence our emotions than we thought.”
We all have bad days from time to time. But our mood is not permanent and does not define who we are; it is an experience and a sensation we feel. Certain factors, such as hunger, thirst, poor sleep, infection, disease, negative relationships with close people, and our thoughts and beliefs, may all impact our mood.
Our thoughts can change how we feel. Similarly, our feelings can change how we think and act. Because of these influences, it's hard to keep your mood stable. For example, if you think, "I can't do anything. I'm a loser," that thought will put you in a bad mood, making you feel tired and acting in unhelpful ways, like pulling away and giving up. This vicious cycle keeps us in a low mood, but we can get out of it by carefully evaluating our thoughts and emotions and responding properly.
We can't control what thoughts enter our minds, but we can choose how to respond to them. Distancing ourselves from our unpleasant emotions and thoughts is the first step. You can accomplish this through metacognition, the process of objectively thinking about your thoughts. The only thing you need to do is examine your thoughts and how they affect you.
While being mindful of your thoughts is a good practice, it must be accompanied by a healthy lifestyle. This is because a good mood is also linked to a healthy diet, quality sleep, exercise, and connection with other people.
Nutritional changes may have a significant impact on depression symptoms. The link between sleep and mental health is reciprocal. This means your sleep will also suffer when your mental health suffers from stress, depression, or worry. And when you don’t get enough quality sleep, your mood will start to drop.
Relationship failures, like poor diet and sleep, may also have a devastating effect on our mood and mental condition. Conversely, being among people, interacting, and forming relationships with them may help improve your mood.
Actions to take
“Mastering motivation is building the capacity to do what matters most to you, even when a part of you does not feel like it.”
Motivation is a feeling that comes and goes, so we can't always expect it to be present. Think about it: How many times have you been so fired up about a goal at the start, only to have your enthusiasm fade away days after things started to go your way? Chances are, we’ve all experienced this several times. This is because feeling demotivated from time to time is not a flaw in our system but a natural aspect of being human.
The good news is that we can overcome this in two ways: understanding how to maintain motivation once it emerges and learning how to accomplish what has to be done even when we lack motivation.
Our lack of motivation leads to procrastination. When we feel too stressed about a task, we tend to delay it until the last minute. This habit of procrastinating has been so common to everyone. In addition to this, there’s another condition that causes demotivation, known as anhedonia.
Anhedonia occurs when we no longer find pleasure in the things we used to enjoy. This is linked to many mental health problems, such as depression. When this happens, we wonder if anything is worth the effort. Then we stop doing important things, and when we begin to avoid something significant to us, our natural reaction is to wait until we feel like doing it again.
However, the motivation we’re waiting for rarely arrives because, in reality, it doesn’t come naturally; we have to produce it through our actions. Fortunately, we can trigger motivation even if we’re demotivated.
Some actions we can take to spark motivation are moving our bodies, staying connected with our goals, making small steps toward them, and changing our opinions on failure.
Fear of failure is one of the leading causes of demotivation and procrastination. If we identify failure with worthlessness, we will quickly lose motivation to strive for our goals since it is safer not to attempt at all. It is critical to separate failure from our personal worth and accept it as a natural part of life.
Now, if you’ve already tried the steps to get yourself motivated and you’re still lying to bed, unmotivated to do workouts, your last resort is to do the “Opposite Action” trick. This is simply about doing the opposite of what your emotions are telling you to do. Realize that you can make decisions based on values rather than feelings, and then start taking action.
For example, if your goal is to stay healthy and fit, but you don’t have the motivation to accomplish it and feel like laying in bed all day, push yourself to take the opposite action: stand up and start doing some exercise. You can do it!
Actions to take
“Pushing emotion away can cause more problems than allowing it to wash over us and take its natural course.”
Your emotions are neither good nor bad. They are your brain's way of explaining and making sense of what's happening in your world and your body. Your brain gets information about the outside world from your senses, and then it uses memories of these feelings from the past to help make sense of them now.
While it’s important to acknowledge your emotions, you should not take them as facts. Emotions are not facts; they are a guess and your points of view. So, how can you stop pushing your emotions away and seeing them as facts?
First, you need to be aware of the emotions you feel, examine and analyze them, and hear the messages they are trying to send you. This way, you’re giving yourself more chances to make different decisions based on your values instead of just acting on how you feel.
To deal with your emotions healthily, you need to be able to see them for what they are. Remember that you are not your emotions, and your emotions do not define you. Each emotion can tell you something and let you know what you need, but you need to explore.
Giving various names to one emotion is the best way to examine the message behind your emotion. For example, you can find shame, disappointment, and sadness behind the anger and realize you need a connection with your loved ones.
Now, if strong emotions seem so overwhelming to you, it’s best to try self-soothing. Self-soothing is any action that makes you feel safe and calm, such as a warm bath or drink, talking with a friend you trust, listening to soothing music, smelling a calming scent, or slow breathing.
Actions to take
“Grief is a normal and natural part of being human.”
The loss of a loved one is often associated with grief. However, we might also experience sadness at other times. This usually happens when something significant to us ends, even if not caused by death.
Grief is an inevitable aspect of being human. We must go through this process when we lose someone or something we loved, needed, felt connected to, or had importance in our life.
When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve, we will end up having unresolved sadness. This has been related to depression, suicidal thoughts, and excessive drinking. Suppressing and pushing away our grief may seem like we are protecting ourselves, but it may be the opposite in the long term.
There are four stages of mourning: accepting the new situation after the loss, dealing with the pain of loss, getting used to living in a world without that loved one, and finding a new way to stay in touch with the lost loved one while living life as it is now.
Here’s how we can deal with grief:
- Maintain your relationship with the person who has died: Our bond and affection for a loved one do not stop when they die. Adapting to loss entails discovering new ways to feel connected to them, for example, going to a specific area where you shared memories or spending time at a cemetery or monument.
- Take care of yourself: Grieving exhausts us emotionally and physically, so you must take extra care of yourself during that period. It's crucial to maintain your health and to take care of your needs by focusing on a healthy diet, exercise and socializing.
- Express your grief: You need to express your sorrow. This can be done through quiet thinking, memorials, or sharing your feelings with others. Allowing yourself to feel and express whatever occurs can support you in experiencing relief.
- Give yourself time: Setting a time limit for your mourning is destructive. When overwhelmed, give yourself time to feel this way until you're strong enough to look forward. Adding pressure to feel a specific way in a set timeframe causes pain and misery.
- Maintain daily functioning: Our mental health is fragile after a loss, so it is understandable to set aside time for grieving. However, it is essential to maintain some structure and routine to avoid deterioration from lack of exercise and social engagement.
Actions to take
“Learning the skills to deal with criticism and disapproval in a healthy way is a crucial life skill.”
We all experience criticism and rejection. However, not all of us know how to use them to improve our lives.
Our ability to envision what others think of us helps us operate better in social groups. Historically, rejection from our community threatened our existence. Today, the brain still tries to keep us secure in groups, but rejection and loneliness continue to threaten our health because criticism triggers the stress response.
Here’s how we can overcome self-doubt and sensitivity to criticism:
- Developing the capacity to accept constructive criticism and utilize it to your benefit while keeping a feeling of self-worth.
- Being willing to learn from constructive criticism and use it for self-growth.
- Learning to let go of comments representing just someone else's beliefs, not really the facts about you.
- Figuring out which criticisms to take seriously and which to ignore.
When receiving criticism, we have to realize that most people who are critical of others are also critical of themselves. It may represent how they have learned to talk to themselves and others. They criticize because it is what they do, not because it reflects your worthiness. You should perceive the critique as one person's concept wrapped up in their own experiences. Of course, there are constructive critiques that we should consider and use for self-improvement.
On the journey to self-improvement, we may find ourselves being filled with self-doubts. Overcoming this involves building self-confidence. People often think being self-confident means being fearless, which simply isn’t true. Confident people are those willing to accept their fear while doing the things that truly matter to them. They allow themselves to step out of their comfort zones to become their best selves.
When you let yourself go beyond your comfort zone, you’ll likely experience failure. This is a part of growth and learning. It’s important to accept it as it is, be compassionate with yourself regardless of failures and flaws and learn to replace criticism with kindness—-these are important elements of confidence too.
Actions to take
“To fight fear, you must first be willing to face it.”
Fear is our brain’s alarm system; it predicts danger and warns us to escape. This is especially helpful when we’re in a life-threatening situation. However, if there’s no real danger, fear can prevent us from living a more fulfilling and joyful life.
When we are afraid to do something, our initial reaction is to flee, which makes us feel protected, but this does not solve the problem. Escape and avoidance bring only short-term relief while feeding anxiety in the long run. Instead of reacting to fear, it’s better just to wait for it to pass.
It's not enough to just tell your brain that something is safe. You must experience it because your brain needs some time to be persuaded, so you will need to engage in that behavior repeatedly. When you are frequently exposed to the behavior you once feared, you will soon feel comfortable engaging in it.
So if you want to feel less anxious about something, do it as often as possible. If you’re afraid of heights, for example, regularly go to places with heights so that your brain accepts them as something that is not so scary anymore.
Another way to reduce fear is deep breathing and reframing anxious thoughts by finding another way to think about your fear.
One of the most common human fears is the fear of death or the fear of the inevitable. This may be handled in three ways: believing in heaven and that something good awaits you after death, accepting death as a relief from pain, or embracing death as an uncontrolled and inevitable part of life.
Actions to take
“What we feel as stress is when our brain is preparing us to do something.”
The brain-body link goes both ways. When your body is under stress for a long time, your adaptive brain, which controls your body, is changed by the constant signals about it. Stress can hurt both your body and your mind. It changes everything about you.
We must balance incoming life demands with replenishment to manage stress and stay healthy. When we feel stressed, we should refuel ourselves. We can refuel through meditation, exercising, breathing, connecting with others, and focusing on goals that are not self-centered but allow us to benefit others.
Both meditation and physical activity help relieve stress. Your breathing influences your heart rate and stress levels. One of the simplest ways to start reducing stress is to focus on your breathing and make your outbreathes longer than your inbreathes. When outbreathes are longer than inbreathes, the heart rate decreases, and the body relaxes.
Another key stress-relieving factor is social contact. Caring for others and wanting to protect them is an instinct that might help reduce stress. While stress might cause us to act selfishly in certain circumstances, it can also motivate us to be more compassionate toward others.
Studies show that when we put caring for others ahead of ourselves during stressful times, we begin to feel more optimistic and brave. Socializing reduces stress, while isolation stresses the mind and body. Connecting with loved ones helps to reduce the impacts of both short-term and long-term stress.
Self-centered goals make people more prone to unhappiness, anxiety, and loneliness. On the other hand, people who base their goals on something larger than themselves often report feeling more joyful, thankful, inspired, motivated, and overall happier!
To reduce our stress levels, we simply need to consider how our decisions and actions could benefit a larger good. We find stress simpler to manage when we can relate our engagement to our values and help others. Here, we modify the meaning of our struggle, so we're inspired to continue rather than escape the stress.
Actions to take
“When we use our values to guide our goal-setting, it also helps to create our day-to-day purpose.”
If we want to live a meaningful life, we need to pause for a moment and evaluate the values that guide our life, our goals, and the relationships that we have.
Some people feel lost in life and unable to find purpose because they lack life values. When we lack clarity about our values, we might set goals based on the expectations of others than ourselves. This may prevent us from feeling happy and fulfilled.
We should organize our life according to our values, not self-centered goals. But what is the difference between goals and values? A goal is something definite and measurable toward which you may strive. When you accomplish it, it is the ultimate result. Then you must seek the next goal. This goal could be as simple as passing an exam, completing your to-do list, or running a personal best.
Values, on the other hand, are thoughts about how you want to spend your life, who you want to be, and what values you want to stand for. Having clarity on our own values might help us choose goals that will give us meaning and purpose.
Aside from having the right values and goals, quality relationships are also crucial to a meaningful life. Human beings are defined by their social connections. The quality of our connections with others and the joy we get from them directly affect our physical and mental well-being. You may enhance your relationship by analyzing your behavior, deciding what kind of person you want to be in that relationship, paying attention to your partner's needs and emotions, and emphasizing respectful conversation, connection, and support.