Hi! How are you thinking today? Are you deep in the stress of everyday life? Your kids, your spouse, your job, this insane pandemic that has caused the world to lose its mind? Well, I have one quick thing that will help you. But be warned. I am not about to tell you to sleep right, eat well, or meditate. I mean, those help, but I think we both know that already. What I want to talk to you about is a quick trick in the mind department that will help you so much and, bonus, you don’t even have to get off the couch.
Redefine the Meaning
What is it – When you really think about it, we attach meaning to just about everything. It is never the “thing” that has meaning, but what we THINK about the thing that gives it meaning. These meanings embed themselves in our brain (whether they are true or not) and the stronger the meaning is to us, the more it will fuel our emotion. Our lives are a reflection of all of the assigned meanings we have strung together over the years. These meanings become so ingrained in us that they simply become who we are.
Think about it – Try this example: What do you feel when you think of the meaning of the tiny three letter word, FAT? How many meanings are there for this one word and what emotions are attached to those meanings? Maybe people feel ashamed of themselves for gaining weight, or judgmental of others, or frustrated with not losing weight, or afraid to wear a swimsuit because of their weight, or they face health problems...the list is endless and that is just ONE three letter word! Think of how many meanings are crammed in your brain!
We define everything in our thoughts. Whether we were taught these definitions or we just created our own judgements, it is always in our heads. We define ourselves by our age ("I'm too old to do that or I'm too young, no one will listen to me"), profession (doctor vs garbage man), education (masters degree vs high school diploma), clubs we belong to (country club vs public golf club), how we look (sexy, professional, housewife, athletic), what school we went to (Harvard vs community college), what sports we play (football vs bowling), our marital status (divorced vs single). We put definitions on how we are treated by others (that person didn't smile at me, that person was too short in her response, that person was rude to me), we put definitions on what cultural events mean to us (mask, anyone?), we even define our children's actions (my child read at 3, my child got all A's, my child was the last picked for this sport). The list is endless! With each of these basic descriptions, you likely have some judging thoughts about them. And when you begin to think of those thoughts as changeable, you begin to understand that you can change those meanings anytime you want!
The more something means to us, the more we attach emotion to it – either positive or negative. It is the negative meanings that give you so much stress.
Here’s the thing – If you are feeling stressed, the meanings you have previously given to your world are not in alignment with who you are today. Maybe the meanings worked for you years ago, or maybe they are meanings passed down to you generationally or culturally, but when you are not aligned with your meanings of the world around you, you will feel stressed.
Try this – think about where you are feeling the most stress. There will be an abundance of emotion around this topic. It probably feels bad in some way - creating anger or resistance or depression or worry. Whatever that thing is – start there.
Ask yourself, “What is the meaning I am giving this thing?” Write down the thing, the meaning, the emotion you feel. Now, ask yourself how that meaning needs to be changed to align with YOUR happiness.
Now here is the secret – other people might have a totally different point of view than you and if that definition works for them, great. But you don’t need anyone who does not live in your head to tell you what your definition of anything should be. It is a weight off your shoulders when you redefine your meanings to align with you and not be against you. <<< Read that sentence again!
We are defined by the thoughts in our own heads. People can say what they want, but we are the ones running those words through our brains and looking for the meaning in them. If we want to feel better, then we need to use our thoughts to define the meanings that work for us. Then stress is reduced. Keep doing it with all the things in your life that bother you and you will keep reducing stress.