We’re in the realm of immediate gratification. Why? Because we’re in the midst of the holiday season. Nothing like overloaded calendars, crazed shoppers, and demanding family members to summon the need for instant relief.
So before you reach for the remote, a bag of chips, or a glass of wine to check out, I’m going to encourage you to check IN and ask yourself just this one thing: What am I resisting right this moment?
Do this every time you catch yourself feeling any emotion that isn’t pleasant.
The ONLY reason you feel less than great is because you’ve got resistance going on. You could be resisting a person, a situation, a thwarted expectation, an emotion, or even the weather. But the fact is, you don’t feel good because you’re resisting what is at this very moment.
I talk about resistance a lot.
Resistance is a necessary part of life. Resistance is what grows our strength – without something to push against we wouldn’t build muscle. Resistance is fundamental, AND it’s the sole reason we are stressed out.
So we’re not going to attempt to ban the opposition from our life, we just want to learn to collaborate with it. When we do this we experience relief immediately.
Collaborating with resistance isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Here are two tricks to try out.
As adults, we’ve gotten really good at withstanding a lot of negative emotion, more than I think is healthy. Many of us are calibrated to sluggish emotional state, thus, we have a difficult time even acknowledging that we feel less than great. Sadly, this unintended resignation becomes a way of life. So check in and notice what you feel this very moment. Disinterest? Malaise? Lethargy? Disappointment? Boredom? Confusion?
If your baseline feeling is interest or better, then you need no relief – keep feeling good!
But if you feel uncomfortable in any way, pinpoint what you’re resisting right this very second. Sometimes this is enough to provide all the relief you need. Many times, simply acknowledging exactly what you’re resisting is enough to drop it (because you suddenly recognize the futility in pushing against conditions you can’t change).
If not, then immediately shift your focus to something that FEELS GOOD.
What you feel is a result of the thoughts you focus on. You and only you, have the incredible ability to choose your focus. So change the subject and think of something that lessens the resistance you’re sustaining. Think of something that makes you smile and keep your attention there for a while and see where this new thought train takes you.
If you stay diligent in your focus, you’ll find that within a couple of minutes you’ll be in a much better mood. Don’t forget to smile while you’re at it. Yeah, you may feel a little silly but it works.
Here’s another thing, it’s NOT denial. Some people think, “Oh, ok Amy, I’ll just think about anything other than the problems in my life… um, no, that’s delusional.”
It’s not. When you’re resisting (complaining, judging, comparing, wallowing, whining, etc.) you’re creating and sustaining a neurochemical cocktail that, in short, literally keeps you from accessing all parts of your Prefrontal Cortex and thinking creatively. Read: finding and executing real solutions to the problems at hand. As long as you resist, and the more intense the resistance, the more you’re apt to see only what’s wrong and perpetuate the associated crummy feelings. That’s honestly not going to get you anywhere. (How has complaining been working for you so far?)
Dropping resistance by shifting your focus to something that lightens your mood is not denial. It’s a foundational step in priming yourself to access more creative, innovative, and empathetic parts of your brain, and thus, a broader and more enlightened perspective. THEN you can act – with clarity and power.
This is such a meaningful exercise because it sparks curiosity, not judgment. The only reason you’re resisting anything at all is that you have a judgment about it. Sometimes compelling people or circumstances can hijack your attention so much that adjusting your focus in a new way isn’t easily possible. That’s when you really want to respond to questions. Rather than push against the conditions and resist judgment, begin to tap into the realm of discernment, curiosity, and empathy by asking questions to see if there are new ways to regard the conditions at hand.
Why is this helpful? Judgment gets you nowhere in solving problems. Curiosity, on the other hand, shifts interactional dynamics and opens others up to more constructive, creative, and connected conversations. Why? Because without the resistance we’re fully present and able to up-regulate the hormone and neurotransmitter, oxytocin so that we’re literally more connected to others. This is when we really can shift situations and solve problems. We can’t build bridges to others and different circumstances by pushing against it, we only begin to create a better world for ourselves when we can step into genuine curiosity. And that all starts with asking really good questions. So trick #2: stop being so definitive in your stance and be open to influence by asking questions you don’t have answers for.
There you have it. You can float along this holiday season and enjoy every moment using these two tricks to keep you from dipping down into too much negativity. Be diligent with your focus and approach each day with curiosity. Collaborate with resistance and watch how feeling good becomes your new set-point.
Try this out for the rest of December and see what shifts occur. If you get some momentum going with these practices and want to take it further, contact me to find out how we can deepen your experience of living on purpose.
And I’d love to know your strategies for staying positive during holiday stress. Leave a comment and tell me how you both survive and thrive during the holiday season. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in San Francisco and Sacramento, CA committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.