Here you are experiencing a tantrum, a non-sleeping baby, your kids being loud and obnoxious, a messy house, an unhelpful partner, or perhaps all of the above.
You are completely consumed by what is going on and you are stressed. You are stuck in this moment, like there is nothing else going on in the world but this all-consuming moment.
Common advice (including my own) is for you to live in the Now. However one may argue that you are already in the now – Right in it. In fact, you are completely consumed by it! It is difficult for you to even contemplate something bigger than this right now, because this ‘event’ seems to be causing you extreme stress right now.
But while you may feel like you are in the now, your mind certainly isn’t. What makes you feel stressed right now, is not that event. It is because of what you are thinking about this event. Furthermore, your thoughts are in conflict with the reality of this event.
This second step of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process is going to teach you how to change your thinking and stop the stress!
From this lesson onwards it is time to switch gears. It is time to stretch your mind past the habitual thinking of your past and begin retraining your brain to think differently in response to the challenges of parenting and life in general.
Before I get into this lesson though, there is one big disclaimer I must remind you of, as I have emphasised before. You will NOT change your thinking just by reading these lessons. That’s not how this works. You have seen in earlier lessons how the brain currently works the way it does because it has formed physical connections in the brain that have developed as a result of the repetitious exposure to life experiences, particularly those from your childhood.
Your brain has habitual thinking patterns that influence how you perceive your life. By now you may have even received some insight into what specific thinking patterns you hold that are responsible for how you feel.
What is needed now is new information to be fed to your brain in this same repetitious fashion, so that you can begin re-forming new habits of thinking in the brain which will cause you to feel differently about your life.
Unfortunately I can’t do this for you. This is where you will need to do the work.
Have you ever read a really inspiring book that has made you think about your life and change how to look at things, but a week or so later, you find that you are still doing the very things that you set out to change? Why this occurred was only because you stopped consciously repeating this new way of thinking and it hadn’t become a habit in the brain yet. You must keep repeating your new thinking over and over again until this becomes the super highway of thinking and the old way becomes the goat track. This is often why affirmations can be so effective.
Whenever you catch yourself feeling low or down, you must begin implementing the first step on the Mind TRACK to Happiness process that you have learnt, which is to identify your thinking. Ask yourself: ‘What am I saying about this situation?’ Because the answer to that; is what is actually causing your stress.
Once you have identified your thinking, you are then going to use this second step to change this thinking to be in alignment with reality. So let’s explore what I mean by reality.
What is reality?
The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of reality is this: ‘reality’ • noun (pl. realities) 1 the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
You feel stressed because you are resisting the current situation in your mind. It is different from your expectations. You have an ‘idealistic or notional idea’ of how this situation should be yet your actual experience is different to that idea. Your beliefs about what that means about you or your life’s worth is causing you to feel like this event is wrong, or that you are missing out on something. Stress occurs when the conversation in your mind resists the reality of what is happening and because of incorrect perceptions of what is happening.
Why is this happening to me? She shouldn’t be doing that. I hate living this way. I never get time out. I don’t want to deal with this. I’m hopeless. I’m a bad mum. I want my old life back. I’m tired and don’t want to do this anymore. I should be doing a better job. I should be able to cope. How come I’m the one who has to do everything? When do I get to do what I want?
The list of statements could go on and on.
All of this type of thinking is rejecting reality and we need to expand our mind from the smaller picture of what is happening to the reality of the bigger picture.
Remember the reality thinking Model?
This week you are going to learn how to expand your thinking to be in alignment with the ‘Reality of the situation’, ‘the reality of being a parent’ and ‘the reality of life’. The final one – ‘the reality of self-worth’ will be discussed in next week’s lessons as it is a big one that requires a detailed explanation.
By using the reality thinking model you can see how you are literally sending your attention in another direction. You are expanding your thoughts from the small, consuming picture, to gaining a different more expanded view of that situation which will stop the stress.
We begin to do this by accepting the reality of the situation.
We have established that when you feel consumed by an event, your mindset is conflicting with what is actually happening.
The first thing you must come to terms with when expanding your mindset away from stressful thoughts is to accept that what is currently happening is occurring because of how life has unfolded leading up to that event and that we cannot ever change the past.
If your child is having a tantrum, then it is because before the tantrum, there was a series of events that caused her to ultimately end up feeling angry and with her limited knowledge of appropriate behaviour (because of her age) or limited ability to understand the present situation like you do, a tantrum is the result.
If your partner is unco-operative, it is because before now there has been a period of time where this dynamic was set up by both of you and the way you treat each other, or the agreements you have in place are what were created in the past, resulting in your current experience. Or it may be that there is something going on for your partner in their mind that is resulting in their current behaviour.
Regardless of what your partner is doing, they are doing it because they are accessing their beliefs about life which dictate how they perceive the situation.
If you want to change this current situation you need to first accept the reality that you are where you are because of past agreements and past thinking (from you and your partner) that has occurred before now and then address them in present time (by continuing with the Mind TRACK process).
Any conversations you have with yourself (or others) about how things shouldn’t be this way, are all in conflict with the fact that it IS this way. That is reality.
You cannot change the past. What you are currently experiencing is what is happening NOW and it is here NOW because of how the past has unfolded leading up to NOW.
So the first part to expanding your mind is to acknowledge the current reality of this situation. That doesn’t mean you have to like this reality, but you have to accept that it is here now and deal with it from there.
Let’s see how to apply the acceptance of a situation by looking at other aspects of being a parent.
Your postnatal depression
You currently have postnatal depression only because of beliefs that you hold about what defines your self-worth. Because you have not lived up to the expectations you believe you should, you feel like you have failed at life and it causes you to feel like a failure. You want to, or already have, shut down certain aspects of your life to protect yourself from the pain of feeling like a failure. This is the reality of why you feel the way you do.
Any opinions you have about being a bad parent because of your depression, being too reliant on others, not being there enough for your kids, not being a good enough parent etc, are only contributing more to how you are feeling. Understanding that these beliefs are in conflict with the reality of true self-worth and being able to learn how to look at your challenging situations in a different way, will give you the ability to change how your are feeling.
You are at this stage in your life – that is you feel the way that you do, only because of the previous beliefs that you have had conditioned in your mind about your worth and that is the reality of how you came to have depression right NOW.
So by expanding your mind to this reality, rather than being consumed by your depression, you can already start to detach from your depression, realising that it is just incorrect beliefs causing this feeling, not because there is something ‘wrong’ with you.
‘This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be’
The reality of the situation is that it is the way it is. It doesn’t matter that it’s not supposed to be this way in your opinion. The fact of the matter is that this is the reality you are experiencing. Things don’t always work out the way we expect them to and in order to be able to accept this new, unwanted reality, we just need to be able to change the way we view it.
Whether you are talking about a labour that was supposed to go differently, a marriage that broke up, getting the skill of breastfeeding, enjoying parenthood or getting that ideal job, the reality is you are having the experience you are having now because of how everything else has unfolded in your past.
This cannot be changed. You can only change how you view it, and then set goals around what you would like to happen next. Accepting your new situation is paramount for not get consumed your new unwanted reality. Remember, you don’t have to like it, but if you don’t want to spiral into depression, you do need to accept it and move through the Mind TRACK process so that you can look at this situation differently then create some goals around what you are going to do about it now that it is here.
‘I’m stuck at home with the kids, day in day out’
Because of the arrangements you made between you and your partner, because you are a single parent or because of the choice you made not to put your kids in childcare, being home with the kids everyday is what you are currently experiencing in your life. This is the reality of the situation. You made the decisions that you did in the past, with the knowledge you had at that time and NOW you are experiencing the result of those decisions.
Perhaps now though, you have new information that may change this decision, such as, “I didn’t realise how much I would need my own time out.” Now that you’ve realised you don’t like the result of this decisions, you might find you need to revisit the decision to be a full time stay at home parent. However, you must accept that you are home right now with the kids full-time. Once you can accept this current reality, then you can change the way you look at it and perhaps set some goals around what you are going to do now that this is your current reality (you would do this in the aim step).
‘I never get any time to myself’
If you don’t get any time to yourself, it is because you have made other things a priority. This may be because you have really young children and can’t leave them for too long. It may be that you don’t believe you should take time out from the kids. It may be because you don’t want to put them in childcare or because you are a single parent. However the reality is that if you don’t get time to yourself, there is a specific reason. There are beliefs that you have that are stopping you from taking time out.
Getting time to your self has little to do with time and a lot to do with priorities. You will learn how to look into this further in Week 6, however understand, as you are learning to expand your mind with the reality of various situations, that the reason why you have very little time out, is because of decisions made in the past that have resulted in the current outcome. You cannot change what has unfolded in the past. You can only change how you deal with your current reality now that it is here.
It doesn’t mean you were wrong to make those decisions in the past, or for making your kids a priority over your time out. It just means that in order to change how you feel, you must first accept the fact that you have little amounts of time out because of the priorities you had in the past and revisit these priorities and beliefs to see whether they can be changed or re-organised to give you time out.
Challenging your thoughts
Another way to align your thoughts with the reality of the situation is to pull yourself right into that moment by allowing yourself to experience what is actually happening. Remember when you are going through something difficult, your mind is going crazy with resisting the situation. What if you were to stop that resistance and force yourself to really allow yourself to experience the situation? Once you are doing this, allow yourself to look at it objectively and without judgement, for this is the reality that you are experiencing regardless of your opinion about it. For example:
A Baby Crying
Instead of resisting the noise just allow yourself to listen to it. Hear the noise in your ears without judgement. Challenge those thoughts about the noise meaning something is wrong with your child, or that you aren’t ready for him/her to wake up. Challenge those thoughts about how you have to stop it or that you can’t stand the noise any longer. It is just sounds. Just like the music that comes out of your stereo or TV, your child’s cry is just a sound. It is all the other labels you place on that crying that causes you stress. The reality is that your child is crying. That’s what babies do. That’s how babies communicate.
When you allow yourself to hear these sounds (your baby crying) without resistance, then observe your child, – still without judgement, you can do so with a bit of objectivity. What is she trying to say? Look at her. Does she look like she is tired (rubbing eyes)? Does she look like she wants to be held? Does she look like she is in pain? When you stop resisting the sounds she is making, you have a clearer head to search for why she is crying and what you can do to help her.
If you are a new parent and just starting out with a newborn, accept that these sounds coming from your child and remember that you are learning what each different cry is for. Give yourself the time and resources to learn about how to deal with her crying. Whenever you hear your child crying, try labelling it as ‘just sounds’ and stop all the other opinions on what this crying means about you and your capabilities as a parent.
As above, make yourself listen to the noise without resistance and label the noise as ‘sounds’. Put the noise in the same category as being in a crowded room or having your TV up loud. None of these things have any urgency. It is how you are interpreting your child’s tantrum that is causing you to feel resistance and stress. The sounds are coming from a learning child who is trying out different ways to behave. That’s it. If you have a plan for dealing with tantrums, implement it now without resistance. If you don’t really know what to do, try what you can to move past this moment and vow to research ways to handle this situation for the future. A tantrum is only an older child’s way of communicating and learning what behaviour is appropriate. It’s a normal experience happening to parents everywhere. It doesn’t mean anything about your capabilites as a parent or your quality of life.
What are you saying to yourself about bonding with your child? Many parents worry they are not bonding enough with their child, or question whether they love them enough, or at all? Some parents question whether a child loves them enough. Challenge this thinking by getting out of your head the pressure of this ‘bonding’. Chances are you have all sorts of warm and fuzzy Huggies pictures floating around in your mind of how your bond ‘should’ be and because it’s not matching your ideal you are worried that you are not bonding at all.
You need to abandon all your beliefs about how it should be, as your beliefs are probably the experience that someone else had of bonding and everyone has a different way of connecting with others and showing and receiving love. Here’s a little exercise to help you to just BE with your baby:
Set aside some quiet time with your child when they are sleeping and the house is quiet. Stop everything that you are doing. Even if you have to wait until the middle of the night when everyone (including your child) is sleeping, then do that. Just sit with your baby and look at her, really look at her. Take in every single bit of her body and begin to caress her arm or leg gently. Take notice of her little head and how soft her hair is. Look at her tiny little face and lips and take notice of the small breaths and the rising and falling of her chest. Begin to see her just for how she is – a perfect little child that has come into the world.
Whenever you notice your thoughts trying to make judgements or analyse whether you are ‘feeling the bond’, just gently shift your attention back to just being with your child. Don’t criticise, just notice those habitual thoughts that are trying to control the bond unfolding the way your brain thinks it should, and then shift it back to your child.
Sit with your baby for a while, just relaxing your own breath and sit in this quiet room just you and your baby. That’s it. This is the current moment and this moment is the start of your future together. Let go of everything that has happened – any sadness, the labour that didn’t go to plan, any frustrations of the day. It’s all over now and all you ever have is the current moment. Right now, in this moment, it’s just you and your child and the physical connection of your touch.
Repeat this exercise as many times as you can over the next few weeks. Sometimes we just get so caught up in what we should be doing, how things should be going, what tasks we need to complete, stopping behaviour, managing behaviour, being a good parent, getting organised and trying to control life so we can get it right, that we often don’t just stop and BE with our children. It is only all this thinking, judging, controlling and planning that is causing you to feel like you are not bonding with your child and sometimes all you need to do is STOP. Acknowledge that ‘this is my child’ and we already have a bond, just because she came out of me’ and this bond is not definable. It is unique to me and my child.
Accepting the reality of a situation is the first way to expand your thinking in the direction of being in alignment with reality. Accepting reality doesn’t always mean you will like that reality, nor does it mean that you have to just put up with it and do nothing. This first step to expanding your mindset is just the start of looking at the situation differently. This must start with consciously acknowledging and accepting what IS and understand that it can’t be any other way because of how life has unfolded before now. Accepting the now is also about stopping what you are doing, sitting in a quiet room and just acknowledging that all those opinions you have about your day to day activities is not the reality of the situation, it is just your memes playing out.
Acknowledging that ‘this is what is happening right now’, stops you from entering into those pointless conversations about how life isn’t going the way it ‘should’ and what you are missing out on now that you are not getting what you wanted. As you continue with the TRACK process, you will get to start doing something about this situation in the aim step, but for now this step requires you to accept the current situation the way it is, because that is reality.
Summary: How to expand your attention towards The Reality of the Situation.
Bottom line is to accept what is going on right now as the reality and do not let your mind enter into any conversations that are in conflict with the facts of what is going on right now.
In tomorrow’s lesson, we begin to expand your attention a little further by looking at the reality of being a parent. This is where we start to look at this situation in the context of the overall experience of parenthood. Already we begin to widen our perspective on what is going on instead of being sucked into thoughts that are in conflict with this reality.
Today we learn how to expand your thinking to the bigger picture of what a stressful situation means in the context of being a parent.
To do this, we need to have an accurate expectation of what will be experienced and what it means. Here are a few points to note about life as a parent:
Think of parenting as a job
Like any job there are skills to be learnt. There are days where you want to go to work and there are days where you would like to stay in your bed with a good book and not talk to anyone. In a job there are times where you seem to be on top of everything you need to do and feel relaxed and there are times where you are under the pump and need to do lots of different things all at once. There are times when our work colleagues are unco-operative or are in bad moods.
In a job you advance and get better at things with practice, you learn and you apply this new learning with trial and error. In order to improve your working ability you would also receive on-the-job training, learn theory and speak to other, more experienced people about the best ways to do things.
How is this dissimilar to being a parent? It’s not. Yet, somehow we often believe we should have parenting all figured out, just because we’ve had a baby. Did you know everything you needed to know about your job when you first started work?
The reality is you have never been a parent before, or at least never been one to this particular child. There will be things to learn, knowledge to gain, skills to practice and over time you will get better at. You will need to figure out the best ways to help your child develop through those difficult stages. You will need to deal with days where they are unco-operative or moody. You will have days when you will feel like everything is organised and running smoothly and other days where you are in a complete mess and get nothing done all day.
None of this is reflective of you being a good or bad parent. What it is reflective of though, is the reality of how life is. There are constantly ups and downs and with both of these ends of the spectrum, there is learning and experience – something to be gained and to grow from.
When we can view our challenges as just a part of the ups and downs of the experiences of life, then you will cease rating yourself on whether you are doing a good job or not. You will simply see that these times are the reality of being a parent (and of life).
Get rid of your attachment to having ‘instinct’
Many parents believe they should carry a ‘parent’s instinct’. Although I believe in instinct, I think there is way too much pressure and expectation that comes with this label. We often hold an incorrect definition of what instinct is when it comes to what it means to be an instinctive parent.
Here is the actual definition of instinct:
The connotation with parenting and instinct is that we should ‘instinctively’ know what we are doing. That somewhere hidden inside us we have knowledge about how to raise children locked inside of us just waiting to be accessed.
However, what have we learnt about the brain? We are born with limited thinking abilities and most of what we know is taught to us through our experience of life. We do not have some hidden abilities hiding in our minds waiting to be accessed.
If we don’t know something, then we don’t know something and the only way that we will know, is to learn. That is, to feed our minds with information that eventually becomes knowledge.
Even if we do have some instinctual tendencies that may have been handed down from generations and genes that could help us along our parenting journey, it is near impossible to be tuned into this instinct if your predominant thinking is associated with self-doubt, self-criticism, judgements, fear or the myriad of other beliefs that consume our repetitive thoughts.
The reality of parenting is that you need to learn things all the time. You do this by seeking new information about situations you are facing and practice new ways of doing things. If you don’t know something, it is not because you don’t hold that ‘instinct’ you are meant to have, it just means you don’t have that information in your brain, and you need to learn it. That’s it.
You aren’t stupid, incompetent or failing as a parent. You just have to learn what to do which is what I teach you to resource in this Mind TRACK to Happiness process. If you are struggling with any developmental or challenging behaviour with your child, then seek out the answers for how to deal with it, create a plan from this information and then action it.
This will, of course come with its own trial and errors, but that is what parenting is all about.
You will never get parenting right
Who decides whether you are getting it right or not? You may believe something is right where another parent may believe it’s wrong. Whether you are a good or bad parent is in the eyes of whoever is judging you and it is reliant on whether their beliefs deem you got it right or not. Furthermore their beliefs are only a result of what they have experienced and learnt from their life.
In this day and age, there are so many things we are told to do so that we have children who are smart, healthy, beautiful, happy, fulfilled, individual, independent, not naughty, well-behaved and so on. The list is endless. The search for the perfect way to bring up our children and the right way for them (and us as parents) to behave is a pressure among many parents.
If you are trying to be a great parent in the eyes of everyone else, then you will never win. Your views and their views are neither right nor wrong they are simply different and are a result of life experience. It is all we ever know.
We often cannot control how our child’s life unfolds either. However, your children are always getting life experiences. They are always living, learning and growing through what’s happening for them and how they perceive it (which we also cannot control). Sometimes, even though we have installed the appropriate morals in our children, they still have an experience that is not enjoyable.
Parenting, or life in general is not about getting it right. It is about having experiences that we are continually learning from and growing from as we continue through our journey. This is what is happening for you and your child, regardless of your opinion of it.
Whether you get parenting right or not will only be determined by how you or others are rating the job you are doing. And how true are these ratings? Where do they come from? What makes you believe that one way to parent is right and another isn’t? The beliefs you created from the minds of others. Does that make them right then?
The reality is that your children are changing all of the time. With these changes come new challenges, both for them and for you personally. We are all experiencing ups and downs in life. That is not something that you will ever change. A perceivably good thing may end in something perceivably bad and vice versa. But we learn from these times and set different goals, or reassess our lives because of these times and consequently continue the journeys of our lives.
Dealing with tantrums, backchat and other developmental challenges
Take note of what your opinions are about these times. ‘I’ve had enough’. ‘She’s not respecting me’. ‘I don’t want to deal with this anymore.’ ‘I hate it when he behaves that way’
The reality is that you will experience behavioural challenges throughout the years of your child growing up. This is how kids learn. How do you know what to do unless you’ve experienced what not to do? You would have behaved that way at some point in your childhood. That ‘perfect’ parent (in your eyes) down the road has to deal with this learning behaviour too and every parent under the sun has to deal with behavioural challenges.
It is a reality of being a parent. These times do not reflect the whole parenting experience though. There are good times too. The times where your child did remember the appropriate way to behave, the times where you and they are smiling and laughing, the times where things are running smoothly, time where they are playing quietly or sleeping well. We just need to start looking for those times and recognising that they too form part of your life as a parent.
It’s not all challenges and problems. There are easy times too. It’s just that your mind has been taught to see what’s ‘wrong’ in your life, so now you need to teach it to keep every experience in perspective – it is all just part of the journey in life both full of ups and downs.
Remember this statement – EVERYTHING rises and passes away. Nothing lasts forever.
The reality of parenting is that our children are growing and learning and they won’t behave the way that our adult, mature minds think they ‘should’. They need to learn this way of thinking. Often their priorities just don’t match ours because they don’t yet have the ability to think about consequences. Reasoning is actually the final part of the brain’s development.
We need to become aware of how we interpret the challenges with our children and all these unrealistic judgements and expectations of how we think this experience ‘should’ be, or what we think our children ‘should’ be doing. All we can do is keep teaching them appropriate behaviour and know that slowly but surely we are reinforcing these lessons through all of the repetition we use.
How to expand your thinking to The reality of parenting
Whenever you feel yourself getting stressed by a situation with your child, recognise and stop those thoughts that are causing your stress and are in conflict with the reality.
Accept the current situation for what it is by reminding yourself that you cannot change what has happened in the past and that this situation has occurred as a result of what has happened in the past. (The reality of the situation).
Then expand your mind further by acknowledging that this situation is only part of the ups and downs you face as a parent. It does not represent your entire reality.
Remind yourself that there are enjoyable moments and there are unenjoyable moments. There are times when they are learning and times when they are showing you what they’ve learnt by behaving in the appropriate way.
Let go of your expectations of how things ‘should’ be and just go with the flow of how things are, continuously reminding yourself of the reality of your child’s growth and the learning you are going through with every developmental stage they enter.
The reality is that babies cry, toddlers tantrum, pre-school and school age children backchat and push boundaries, and siblings will argue and fight. However babies also smile, giggle, love you unconditionally. Toddlers laugh at nothing and do cute things. Pre-school and school age children say cute things and have an endless energy and enthusiasm for life to be admired.
Teach yourself to acknowledge these enjoyable times too. Keep them firmly entrenched in your mind, as they are also part of your reality as a parent.
If you can expand your mind to look at a particularly challenging experience in the context of the entire parenting reality, then you will not get so bogged down with that particular moment. You will be able to see that this is just a drop of water in a big pond of what you are experiencing as a parent, and whatever is happening, does not dictate whether you are a good or bad parent. It only reflects another experience in your life that is providing you with learning and growth.
Stress started out by being consumed by a moment in our life. Whether that moment came because of one event, or because of a series of events, it ended in us feeling like something was wrong, that we were missing out on the life we needed, that things should be different or we (or someone else) could have done something differently. We then drew the final conclusion that all of this meant something bad about our lives, or our worth as a human being. This thinking is the small picture. This repetitive, habitual small picture thinking is what you need to change in order to stop your stress.
We then began the process of expanding your mindset towards the bigger picture, starting with the reality of the situation. ‘Everything I am currently experiencing is a result of how the past has unfolded and I cannot change any of it. It is what it is.’
Then we got you to think about this situation in the context of the reality of being a parent. ‘There are enjoyable and unenjoyable moments for both me and the kids. We are all learning and growing from our experiences and when the kids are displaying challenging behaviour, this is only a small part of my entire experience as a parent. I am getting to know my child and learning the best ways to raise them as I go and sometimes I will make mistakes. My child is learning how to behave and live harmoniously in the world and they will sometimes make mistakes. Whenever I experience hard times when parenting, I know that I also have good times too and keep that in mind.’
You can see that we have already begun to expand our attention to look at the bigger picture of what this challenging situation really means and how we can align it with reality.
Now we expand even further by looking at what this unwanted situation means about your life, because often we feel as if it diminishes our quality of life. This is only because we have a narrow view of the situation that is in conflict with the reality of life.
What is the purpose of life?
There is much speculation as to what the purpose of life is and many people will give you different responses. However, there is one indisputable fact about life that most people would agree with, and regardless of how life unfolds, we all experience life in this way.
The purpose of life is to learn, grow as a person and contribute to the circle of life. No matter what we are doing or how we are doing it, we are always contributing our knowledge and a part of ourselves to the world around us.
Throughout our journey we have many different experiences. Some are enjoyable and some are not. We set goals and some of them we achieve and some of them we don’t. We have relationships that are fantastic, warm and fulfilling, but there are times when they are not. Money comes and goes. Children come into the world, then grow up and leave home. Friends join us and then leave us through moving away or growing apart. Jobs and careers come and go, or end in retirement.
Every single experience brings with it a shelf life because everything rises and passes away. And all the while we continue to learn new things, take the knowledge we learnt and apply it to other areas of our lives, or share it with others and grow, mature and age. The sun rises and sets every single day.
This is the reality of life! However we continue to get stuck in the tiny events of our lives, thinking that this is it for us. ‘What I’m experiencing right now is the be all and end all of my life. This small event when measured against my whole journey through life is what defines my worth.’
This is the thinking that causes you to feel stressed or depressed. Your worth is not defined by this moment, or by any of the moments that have occurred in your past. This moment is just an experience on your journey. That’s it! It will come and it will go. You will get learning and it will contribute to who you are and what you experience next. It will influence those around you and contribute to their journeys.
You may argue that your whole life so far has been full of this same disappointment and stress, but that is only because you have been taught to look at it in a certain way – a way that is in conflict with reality.
You have been taught to look at what’s wrong, what’s missing and who’s to blame. You have been taught to respond with guilt, anger or self-criticism once you have noticed that your life has gone wrong.
But now you are being challenged to force your mind to see things in a different light.
It doesn’t matter what you have been through in the past. It is over and you are who you are for having experienced everything in your past. Right now is a new moment and teaching your mind to think in alignment with reality is about being consistent with noticing the thoughts that cause you stress, then challenging and changing them by shifting your attention to focussing on a different way to view that situation.
We become consumed by tantrums, non-sleeping babies, back chat, messy houses, differences in beliefs, lack of money and a myriad of other events that occur in our lives. But when we learn to see the bigger picture and the reality of the ups AND downs of our lives, and see the value that these events bring to our lives and our knowledge of life, we stop seeing these moments as defining us. We start to see that these events are only part of the overall picture of your life.
When you expand your mind in this way, it becomes impossible to be consumed by any single event happening in our lives.
Here’s a little exercise to help you with this expansion:
Imagine you are an outsider looking down at you and your situation with your child (or whatever is causing you the stress in that moment). Imagine what you would look like from this person’s perspective, what your child would look like.
Now imagine looking down at the whole room that you are in. How big are you now that you are looking at this whole room?
Now imagine looking down at your whole house and seeing yourself in that room. How big are you now?
Now imagine that you are looking at yourself from above your whole street. How big are you now?
Now imagine looking down at yourself from above your whole suburb, then your whole city, your whole state etc. How big are you in each visualisation? Keep expanding your thinking wider and wider until your FEEL how insignificant this moment is in comparison to the rest of the world (or universe if you get that far).
This little moment is only a small part of your life, of your whole existence, yet we easily get consumed by this small picture. Doing this visualisation helps to remind you that you are NOT what is happening right now. Life is sooo much bigger than this.
This is only a very quick way of expanding your mindset to seeing the bigger picture of this situation, rather than being sucked into it being a reflection of your whole life, which can be so easy to do as a parent.
Why do you think that common advice for parents when things get noisy or tough is to put your child in the pram and go for a walk? Because your mind becomes expanded by being outdoors. It is no longer you and your child in that small room, with all that noise and frustration. It is now you and your child, and the trees, the road, the huge sky, the houses, the fresh air and all that space around you. You no longer feel so consumed by these moments when you are outdoors with your child, or take a walk by yourself.
But it’s not always possible to go outside (because of the rain or cold), or take time out (other common advice). Sometimes all you have is your mind to help you through those challenging times. This is why it is imperative that you work on your mindset, rather than just relying on all those external factors to make you happy.
When we become stuck in the small picture, that small dot on your whole journey of life, we need to expand our mindset past the habits of seeing what is wrong with this situation and start seeing the value in it. Even if you can’t see the value in it, know that at some level this experience is teaching you something and contributing to your life and your unique story.
You are not this event. You are the experiences of ALL your events, both good and bad. It is your ignorant mind that has been trained to look at what is wrong, what you are missing out on, what should be happening and how worth-less you are that keeps you stuck. And this thinking is the ignorant beliefs that were handed down to you from someone else who also didn’t know any better.
‘When you change what you think about, what you think about changes’.
When you stop seeing all the faults in your life and start seeing them in the context of the reality of life, its ups and downs and its value, then your mind will follow in that direction and continue to think differently.
Start challenging your habitual thinking when something’s not going the way you had planned. Start catching the conversations you are having with yourself about what this situation means and challenge your responses. Here are some questions to get you going:
These questions send your attention in search for the answers, sending your attention away from the event being a problem and instead viewing it in a different way.
It’s kind of like when the make and model of the car you are going to buy appears everywhere when you have decided on buying that car. Because you have your attention on the make and model of that car, this is what you see around you as you are out and about. Similarly when you put your attention on searching for the answers to these questions, you will find evidence of life being better than you thought it was by changing what you’re putting your attention on.
All of this new thinking must be done consciously first. A deliberate replacement of new thinking will, over time, change how you habitually think.
The reality (the bigger picture) is about having a realistic perception of these highs and lows that occur in your life and in parenting.
It is being able to view a tantrum as a developmental stage and not a reflection of your parenting. It’s about being able to look at red paint on your carpet and see it as a ‘teachable moment’. It’s about being able to view any of our child’s behaviour and remember that the connections in their brains are still learning how to live in the world and that this is another opportunity to reinforce life lessons. And finally, it’s being able to accept that your life is not less worthwhile because of this situation by seeing it as valuable to you, your child and your journeys through life.
Here are a few examples of how to use these questions to challenge your thinking.
“My child is not sleeping well. He’s waking up so many times a night. I’m not getting any sleep. He’s missing out on getting a good night’s sleep. I should be able to get him in a sleep routine. Everyone else is coping, why can’t I?”
So what does it mean that you are experiencing this situation?
“It means that I’m not getting enough sleep. My baby is not getting enough sleep. I am miserable. It means that I am not coping. I should be able to get him into a sleep routine. He is 6 months old and I should be having a full night’s sleep. I have other kids to tend to and I can’t be this tired. I must be doing something wrong.”
Says who? (How did you learn that experiencing this situation means that?)
“Mmmm, well all the parenting info I read says that by 4-6 months old my child should be sleeping well and that if he is not then I am not using the right technique for him. I must be doing something wrong. My friends have their kids sleeping well too by this age, so it must be something I’m doing wrong and my mum even said that she had us kids sleeping through by 6 months of age”
How do I know this to be true? (Why are their/your beliefs truth?)
“I guess because other people are saying that I should have him in a routine by now. Because my definition of coping is me having everything under control with my child and being able to get him into a routine.”
Has there ever been a time when this wasn’t true? (this is where you really start to challenge your thinking)
“I guess other parents have had babies that aren’t sleeping through at age six months.”
What is another way of looking at this situation? Remember the key questions to challenge your thoughts.
“Sometimes it takes a little longer for mums to figure out what works best for their babies. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer for babies to learn how to sleep through the night. Perhaps I’m not doing it wrong. Maybe I just haven’t found what works for my child. This is just a small part of the whole parenting experience and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad parent. I’m just learning what my child needs and how to respond to those needs. I do love being a parent and there are other aspects I enjoy, like when I do get her to go to sleep in my arms and we have that quiet cuddle time. ”
Here’s another example of how to challenge your thinking:
“I yelled at my son and I hate myself for it”
So what does it mean that you are experiencing this situation?
“I’m a terrible mother/father. I know logically that he is only little and is just learning, but his naughty behaviour really got to me today. I’m the adult. I should be able to control my emotions. But I didn’t and I feel really guilty because I don’t want to mess him up and be that kind of parent.
Says who? (How did you learn that experiencing this situation means that – ‘you’re a terrible mother/father’ and ‘you should be able to control you emotions’?)
“Good parents don’t yell at their children. Parents are supposed to be calm and rational and be the teacher to their children. I learnt this from society. There is so much information out there that tells you all of the effects yelling has on your child. As far as my emotions are concerned, I don’t really know where I learnt that. I just should be able to control them, I guess. I have the knowledge of an adult. I should just be able to calm myself down and be that good parent I’m supposed to be.’ I guess society teaches that too.
How do I know this to be true? (Why are their/your beliefs truth?)
“Because all those studies show that children who grow up in angry homes are angry too, or have some other problem because of their upbringing.”
Has there ever been a time when this wasn’t true? (this is where you really start to challenge your thinking)
“I guess I have heard other parents (which I consider to be great parents) say they have yelled at their children before. I guess everyone gets angry at some point in their life.
What is another way of looking at this situation? Remember the key questions to challenge your thoughts.
“My yelling was only one moment in time. My son also experiences lots of love, cuddles and good times from me. I tell him that I love him all the time. My yelling is an indication that I have to learn more strategies for dealing with his behaviour and becoming more aware of my thoughts that are leading to my anger. Patience does not come natural to me, but I am learning how to change that. Today was just one of those days that I allowed the moment to overwhelm me. Right now is a new moment and I can continue to train myself to think about situations differently in order to avoid anger in the future. Whenever I learn something new, that has its ups and downs too. I won’t always get everything right and I can’t always expect to stay calm in all situations. All I can do is to stay conscious of my thinking as much as I can and change it. Over time it will become easier to stop my anger.
Trying to look at the situation another way is possibly the hardest part of the whole Mind TRACK to Happiness Process. We have been so heavily conditioned with that wrong path/right path thinking, to look for what we are missing out on and how it should be different, that it can be difficult to even contemplate how to change that, let alone change it right in that moment.
This new way of thinking will take practice. Any new skill does. This is where your commitment comes in. As written in the last example, with learning something new, there will be ups and downs, so through your journey towards postnatal depression recovery, there will be times where you feel like you have stopped your thoughts and changed them effectively and there will be times when you still feel overwhelmed and don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.
A helpful thing to do is to keep a journal of all your wins. Whenever you catch yourself stopping your usual thinking and changing how you view a situation, write down the date and what you did to change it. That way when you have your down days, you can refer back to your book to see all those entries where you did change. It will keep your progress in perspective.
There are always highs AND lows in anything that we do. This whole program is centred around being able to acknowledge both ends of the spectrum and seeing the value in either one.
As we continue over the next couple of days, I am going to help you to learn just how to keep changing your thoughts to be in alignment with reality by finding the ‘hidden good in the bad’ – essentially finding the value in challenging moments.
Because at the end of the day – how we feel about something all depends on how you look at it.
We are trained and conditioned throughout our lives to expect our lives to go right all the time. Even though logically we know that it doesn’t happen all the time, it does not stop us from expecting life to go to plan and thinking that something is wrong when it doesn’t.
In this reality step we have been learning how to expand the mindset to look at the bigger picture. You’ve been learning to acknowledge your opinions and judgements about the events that occur in your life and send your attention in a different direction by expanding your view of the situation to be in alignment with reality.
Throughout this program so far, I have talked a lot about the ups and downs life throws us and how there is learning and growth that occurs in every experience.
While this is all great advice in theory, it can be difficult to apply, so in today’s and tomorrow’s lessons, I’m going to help you to learn more of how to look at the value in your experiences.
This lesson is about finding the ‘hidden good in the perceived bad’ and to start with, I am going to share with you a little story that illustrates the value of the ups and downs of life perfectly and how they are neither good, nor bad.
It’s called – The Enlightened Farmer
A farmer’s prize mare got out of the stables and ran into the hills. The farmer’s family came around to console him. “How unlucky” they said, to which the farmer replied, “Hmmm…maybe.”
Three days later, that prize mare came running out of the mountains followed by 300 wild brumby. Again, the farmer’s family came around, but this time to celebrate with him. “How lucky was that” they said. The farmer replied, “Hmmm… maybe.”
A week later, the farmer’s son was breaking in one of the wild brumbies when he fell off and broke his leg. Once again the family came around to console him, saying “Oh dear, this is so unlucky”. Once again the farmers response was the same “Hmmm…maybe.”
Two weeks later, the farmer’s son was commissioned to go to war, however, they would not accept him because he had broken his leg. The family was ecstatic. “Wow, how lucky was that” they said. What was the farmer’s reply? You guessed it…….”hmmm, maybe”.
What this story illustrates beautifully, is how each event is joined to the next one and sometimes these events are ones that we can celebrate and other times they make us sad, disappointed or angry, but we never know when either event is going to be the best thing that has ever happened to us.
A broken leg meant the farmer’s son didn’t have to go to war. There was a hidden good in a perceived bad.
We can never control how life unfolds and often we are thrown unexpected curve balls that we must deal with, especially when you are a parent.
Seeing the value in all events is a practice you can become good at by continually challenging the mind when you come across these unexpected times, and as you begin to notice some of those habitual comments that are going on in your mind.
You can habitually perceive these events as wrong, bad, detrimental to yours or your child’s life, or you can learn to see the benefits of it.
At the end of the day, it all depends on how you look at things!
Here are some examples from recent history where we have been quick to look at the tragedy, the drama and events as being wrong, and how they made people miss out, only focussing on how bad it all was.
Example One – The September 11 Twin Tower bombings
Should this event have happened? No! And would we ever wish for this event to happen again? Absolutely not. But the reality is that it did happen. We can remain stuck in the should have/could haves of this moment, or we can find the benefits that this tragedy gave us.
For starters, the world had a huge reality check on the intensity of how angry and vengeful a small but powerful minority of the world is and stepped up their security. The relatively small amount of people who died in this tragedy, did not give their lives in vain, for this event has saved millions of lives through increased security measures in airports and embassies across the globe.
Millions more people were personally affected with reality checks as to how important family is and living life outside of work, leaving their six figure incomes for a simpler country life, or simply adding more leisure time for themselves, or looking after themselves better. This event shocked the world to its core and changed the course of many people’s lives forever.
Finally, how many people opened their hearts and their wallets to support the people who had lost loved ones, or to help with the clean up? How many people rallied around to take care of the survivors or the victims of this event?
How many wake up calls were given to family members who momentarily thought that they had lost loved ones, but then realized that they hadn’t? How do you think this affected those people, their relationships with each other and how it changed their lives?
The reality is that a few hundred people lost their lives that day, and for that we are sad. But that is not the only part of this story. Millions of lives changed for the better because of that event. Millions more gained a new appreciation for life.
Is this a tragedy, or is there some blessing in disguise? It all depends on how you look at it.
Example Two – The abduction of Daniel Morcombe
This example is one that most Australians would be familiar with. Danieal was a 12year old boy who was taken while waiting for the school bus on a busy highway in 2003.
Should it have happened? Absolutely not! No one wants to have that happen to a child, much less their own. But the reality is that it did happen. We can stay lost in our thoughts of how bad this was, how awful the men were that committed this crime or we can search for the hidden good in this story and the flow on affects that have occurred from this one incident.
Daniel’s parents were determined not to give up hope and started with what initially began as a nationwide search for any clues to Daniel’s disappearance via media, milk cartons, billboards, truck signs, etc not stopping at any lengths to get their son back, and has now progressed into a massive foundation working on educating the public on child safety awareness.
Every year nearly 3000 Bike riders go on ‘The Ride for Daniel’ sending a strong message to the public that ‘crimes against children is not on’. Everytime those bikers are seen, thousands of people line the streets to watch the endless parade of bikes ride by, all with the underlying reminder of why all these people have come together, further keeping child safety on the forefront of our minds. This bike ride is truly a heart warming thing that I have personally witnessed myself.
They also have an annual Walk for Daniel campaign where upto 500,000 school age children participate in a community walk followed by an educational talk, discussion and education via a free DVD also made by the foundation to teach kids how to be safe and avoid experiencing what Daniel did.
This one life that was lost has benefited millions of Australian kids and parents, and has potentially stopped countless more children from being abducted too.
One boy. One life sadly lost, but millions of people positively affected.
It all depends on how you look at it!
Now apply that mindset closer to home. Can you learn to look at the events you face in your everyday life, or even what’s happened in your past in a different way too?
Should some of the events from your past happened? Possibly not, but the reality is they did and we cannot changed the past. But you can change the way you perceive it. Right now, you can start looking at the benefits that you have received from that event and can continue to do this throughout life.
You see, we have always been taught to look for all the bad stuff, the drama, the tragedy, what’s gone wrong. Just look at the news every night to see how we came to be so focussed on all this stuff. But, rarely do we see the rays of light shining through those clouds. Rarely do we take notice of the ripple effects of that one drop in the pond of our life.
Let’s have a look at some common difficult day-to-day situations where we can find the hidden good in the bad.
“My partner and I are always fighting lately. We shouldn’t be treating each other like this”.
Value: Our fighting is an indication that we need to learn new ways of communicating and negotiating. Where can I learn how to do this?
“My child is having tantrums, speaking rudely and misbehaving and I’m sick of it.”
Value: My child is growing in a healthy normal way and he has just entered a new developmental stage that I’m not sure how to deal with yet. I need to find ways to help him accelerate through this stage and ways for me to cope and keep my cool. This will help him and me to learn through this.
“I am home all day and all night with my child and I never get a break”.
Value: I get to see my child grow up and develop. I get to see the first smiles, crawls, walks, words. I also get to see their first tantrums, learn how to meet their needs, make them feel loved. I get to know their little personalities better than I would if they were apart from me. I get to have the experience of being a mum and loving a little being that has part of me in him.
“Motherhood is not what I expected it to be. It’s really hard.”
Value: This motherhood experience is new and challenging but I am learning how to do things differently to how I used to. My life has changed dramatically and with that comes a whole new set of highs and lows that I’m still getting used to.
“I hate admitting that I have a mental illness. I feel so weak”
Value: I am not weak for having a mental illness. My mind has simply learnt an incorrect way of viewing life. In a way this is a blessing in disguise because it is forcing me to learn more about myself and how I can accept myself, which in the end, is going to vastly help my children, because I’ll be teaching them this new knowledge too.
Perhaps you are already resisting some of these new ways of looking at these situations, determined to defend why these statements are wrong and why you are right. The point is, either way you look at these situations, whether you are thinking in alignment with stress or harmony, you are right, because they are your beliefs.
You can defend them and get sucked into why your train of thought is right and continue to spiral down into that place where you are stressed and depressed, or you can challenge these thoughts to try these new perspectives on and see if you can add to them. I guarantee you will start to feel better about situations as you continue to look at these situations in a different, more empowering way.
Don’t worry in day six of this week I am going to recap all of the ways to implement this reality step to include the three categories for expanding your mind – the reality of the situation, parenting and life.
I will take some of these situations mentioned and show you how you can completely change the story that you have been telling yourself to a new story that is going to stop you from feeling so bad about these situations.
Often our low times are exactly what we need to propel us to a different place in our lives. They force us to change and try something new.
Every event we experience flows on and effects the next one. We are forever growing and learning from these events and then go on to share our knowledge with other people which impacts their lives.
What has unfolded in your past has led you to right now, where you are reading this new information about how to be happier.
Your stress, your anxiety or your postnatal depression could be your low that you needed to propel you to the next phase of your life, through the lessons that you gain from it. It could be extremely beneficial because it forces you to abandon your current way of thinking in order to end your pain and try something new. It could be the best lesson of your life.
But will it be? Hmmm….Maybe
It all depends on how you look at it!
We often hear a lot about the benefits of adding gratitude into our lives. I have personally experienced what it feels like to be thankful for the good in your life.
Gratitude is slightly different to finding the hidden good in the bad, because it is about finding what’s great about your whole life, instead of just the situation. In yesterday’s lesson, you started to learn how to find the value in the event that is occurring in your life. Gratitude is essentially searching for where the highs are in your life, instead of being overwhelmed by the lows and thinking that this is all your life is.
When you live with gratitude in your life, this creates a feeling within you. It is a deliberate mindset that you can teach yourself that helps you to see the glass as half full.
All week we have been talking about expanding your mindset to change the way you look at challenges and what they mean about your life. Having an attitude of gratitude can help you to do this.
Our thinking is all about perspective. Remember, it all depends on how we choose to look at things. Our brain often uses habitual thinking as a way of looking at things, and what you are trying to do with this whole reality step, is to override these habitual thoughts, by deliberately replacing them with a different perspective on the situation.
Gratitude is a great way to do this.
The way to do this is to look for things that we have that we are thankful for, that we can appreciate in our lives. Things that we may take for granted, but would be lost without. Things such as food, clothes, having a roof over your head, being able to pay your bills, your friends, your family, your children, your husband can be a good place to start. You are literally putting your attention on what’s great about your life.
When your children are playing up, it can be helpful to use this form of gratitude to help you to expand your attention away from that moment, and take a look around at your life to see what is good about it. Recognise that this moment that you are experiencing is only a small part of your life and even though it is a difficult time, there are other things going on in your life that are pretty good too. This current situation is not the be all and end all of your life. It is just one moment in time.
Here’s a little exercise that I did that you might find helpful to use too, as written in my ‘You Inside the Mum’ Manual’ which you can access as part of your membership:
Every night for 2 weeks I deliberately sat down and thought about 20 things that I was grateful for. To begin with it was all of the really basic, intellectual things. ‘I’m grateful for my healthy children. I’m grateful for my house and the food that I eat and the husband that I have’ etc – Fairly standard run of the mill intellectual and obvious stuff.
But then a strange thing started to happen. On about day 3 or 4, I began feeling this gratitude. It went from thinking about what gratitude was, to really feeling grateful for all of these things. I remember feeling suddenly awed by the awareness of what I really had in my life and felt this unbelievable feeling of elation and genuine gratitude for everything around me. After this awakening, it was difficult to keep to the 20 things that I was grateful for as everything connected to something else that I was really grateful for.
I began to think about things like running water, and feel a genuine sense of gratitude for the fact that I could walk to my sink at any time and turn on my tap and receive running water, either hot or cold, depending on my desire. Simple pleasures that I had taken for granted, I suddenly became intensely aware of how grateful I was to have those pleasures. I also began to sincerely appreciate my friends and family.
After watching the movie, Pursuit of Happiness, with Will Smith, who plays a homeless dad with his young son, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I would never become like him. I have so many wonderful friends and family that wouldn’t hesitate to put me up in their houses until I got back on my feet. I am fortunate enough to live in a country that offers financial support to the unemployed and housing, especially for single parents. The chances of me ever becoming homeless were incredibly slim. After watching that movie, I felt incredibly grateful that my children were tucked up in their beds, under warm blankets, sleeping peacefully, under the same roof that provided them comfort and security. It was amazing the sense of awe that I had for the simple pleasures that I was fortunate to be blessed with.
Another effortless shift began to happen in my daily life too. I didn’t feel so angry anymore. I felt a strange sense of patience and calmness with my children and found gratitude in my experiences with them and within my daily life as a stay at home mum. This was a huge shift for me at that time of my life, where I was still learning a lot about my own habit patterns of the mind in terms of being a mother, and becoming an observer to my actions and my reactions that were causing me to suffer in my role as a mum.
Feeling gratitude and undertaking this challenge to find gratitude in my daily life, so that I could list these things every evening, literally caused me to shift my attention to the positives of my life, rather than staying stuck in my ‘woe is me’ attitude and I began to feel really good about my life. I really started to feel as if I didn’t need to be angry, as I really had nothing to be angry about – my life was really quite good.
This is the huge change that gratitude can have on your life. It forces you to shift your focus outside of your problems, your fears, your anxieties and your resentment, and really feel what a great life you really have.
If you try that exercise too, for at least 2 weeks, you will be amazed at how differently you feel. It doesn’t matter what is going on in your life. There is always some aspects of it that you can be grateful for. As you read this, if you are in a situation where many difficult challenges are presenting themselves right now, it may seem like there is nothing to be grateful for, but trust me, there is, you just need to start looking for them.
Start with really obvious stuff, as I’ve just mentioned – food, water, clothes, health etc. To begin with you will probably just be stating what you are grateful for without feeling, but bare with it, because after a few days of doing this, you will notice a significant shift.
Make sure that you seek to find new things to write about everyday and that you are not just writing the same list each night. Because you are going about your day looking for things that you can add to your gratitude list that night, you find that you are not focusing so much on your problems.
This exercise is the perfect example of how shifting your focus and expanding your mind can change how you feel. It’s pretty amazing how quickly your mind starts to pick up on this shift in focus and expands in that direction instead.
You will experience what it means when I quote the saying. ‘When you change what you think about, what you think about changes’. I strongly urge you to give this gratitude exercise a try for yourself.
When you consistently begin deliberately finding all of these things that you appreciate in your life, rather than focusing on everything going wrong and what you are missing out on, you will ultimately be widening your perspective and stopping yourself from being consumed by the small picture (what is currently happening) which is essentially what we are trying to do in this reality step.
Another way that you can add gratitude into your life is by learning to see what you are getting or receiving from the situation itself.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
Even as I began to write that list, my attention kept finding more and more ways to find gratitude in your life. You will be quite surprised when you begin adding gratitude into your life too.
Gratitude and Happiness
There is a big difference between feeling happy and having overall happiness in your life. As I have mentioned before, feeling happy is an emotion and it’s usually an emotion that we feel when life is going the way we would like it to go.
Now reality is that life doesn’t always go the way we would like, therefore we will not always feel the emotion of being happy. However, adding gratitude in your life and being grateful for what you are getting when life isn’t going to plan, will add happiness to your life.
For example, you would never feel happy if a loved one passed over, but knowing that we are all on borrowed time, you can feel grateful for the time you had with that person. You wouldn’t feel the emotion of happiness at that point in time, but you have a sense of acceptance about that situation, because you can see the positives of that experience.
What lies at the core of overall happiness in your life, is non-resistance – that is, not resisting what’s happening in our lives. Sometimes we can’t control how life unfolds, but we can be aware of what we are thinking about the situation, and if we can learn to see the hidden good in the bad and see what we are getting, what we are receiving and feel grateful for that, then you will be living your life with non-resistance.
This doesn’t mean that you will just allow bad things to happen for you and never try to avoid experiencing tough times. We are never going to do that. Of course you are always going to set goals and want life to go the way you’d like it to. That’s what we do in life and that is essentially what the next three steps on the Mind TRACK to Happiness process are all about.
However, all stress is a conflict between belief and reality and when you are in conflict with reality, you are resisting it. By having an attitude of gratitude you begin to, not only accept your current situation, but be grateful for what you are receiving from that situation.
Once again, after becoming aware of what you are thinking about the situation, you can consciously choose to remain stuck and consumed by what’s happening in your life, or you can expand your attention to what you are receiving from this situation – the benefits of it.
It all depends on how you look at it.
The last 5 days have been all about how to change your mindset from the small picture (being consumed by your child, your relationship or a challenging situation) and deliberately expanding your thinking to be in alignment with reality (the big picture).
The only way to make these changes is with awareness. Being conscious of those thoughts that you are having in your mind (step one of the TRACK process– thoughts) and remembering that this thinking is not who you are, but a product of your experiences. Not everything you think is actually true and has been taught to you by the minds of others that didn’t know any different themselves.
Objectively detaching yourself from the situation by recognising that these thoughts are simply your memes, the way you’ve habitually looked at life and then challenging those thoughts by forcing yourself to look at different aspects of that situation, is the way to stop stress and depression.
It’s important to remember our Reality thinking model below:
Whenever you are thinking stressful or depressive thoughts you are consumed by the small picture and believing that this event is everything that you and your life stands for. Just by recognising that it is your thoughts, not that event causing this, can help you begin to detach from it. Then what you want to do is align yourself with the reality of the situation. ‘This is the way that it is. What I am experiencing is the reality of what is actually happening and it is happening due to all of the events that have already occurred leading up to this event. I cannot change the past.’
Now we won’t always like this reality and this reality step is not about telling yourself ‘This is it for me. This is my reality- deal with it’, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. As this process continues, in step three, once you have accepted your current reality and have changed the way you view this current reality, you go on to begin setting some goals and making changes to your current situation. So don’t think that my point is that you just have to ‘put up and shut up’ when it comes to your problems. However, we must learn to accept what is currently happening in our lives, in order to move forward and make those changes. You do this by reminding yourself ‘this is what is happening right now’.
Once you accept the reality of the situation, you are now starting to expand on what you are thinking about this reality. It is what you are thinking that is causing your stress in the first place, so it needs to change in order to feel better about it. You do this by starting to look at the reality of being a parent.
Just like with anything else in life, we experience ups and downs in parenting. This is the reality of being a parent.
As parents, we will experience challenging behaviour. We will have to transition from an old life where it was easy to be self-indulgent, to a life where we have to make some sacrifices for our children. Our relationships will change and grow as a result of being a parent. However we are also experiencing some fun times too. There are good things about our child’s behaviour too – things that make us laugh, things that make us love in a way we never have before and things that teach us about innocence and simplicity that we have forgotten about with our adult minds. There are positives to this new life that we have now that we are parents and it is all about seeking out what those are and reminding yourself that parenting is full of highs and lows. This will keep the challenging situation in perspective.
As you continue to expand your mind, you start to align with the reality of life.
Look at the current situation in the context of your whole life experience. Within our journeys through life, we are also experiencing those highs and lows. What you want to do is put your attention on what’s going well in your life. Getting bogged down in what is wrong and bad about your life is only looking at the small picture.
To expand to the big picture you need to consider the law of polarity. What goes up, must come down. Where there’s an in, there is also an out. Where there is a winner, there is also a loser. Where there is bad, there is always good.
Think back to our story of the enlightened farmer. What seemed bad actually turned out good. Sometimes what seemed good flowed on to be bad. Nothing is permanent! Nothing. Everything rises and passes away, so this moment that is consuming you? “This too shall pass”.
The trick is to seek out the value in it by finding the hidden good in the bad. What is valuable about what I’m experiencing? What can I be grateful for?
For example, how do we know what ‘good’ behaviour is? Because we have experienced ‘naughty’ behaviour. How do your children learn how to do things? By experiencing how not to do things. How do we know that our house is messy and that we should clean it? Because we have experienced a clean house that is comfortable?
Look again at our examples of September 11 and Daniel Morcombe’s abduction, where there was bad, there was also good that came out of that event.
If your child is going through a challenging stage, whether it is rebellion, back chat, tantrums or an non-sleeping baby, this is your child learning and growing. If you are experiencing life not going to plan, then this is just part of your life and there will be (as there has been in the past as well) times where you have had things go to plan.
It all comes down to how you choose to look at the situation.
So now you know how to expand your mindset through from the small picture to the bigger picture, we only have one more way to further increase this expansion. That is to align yourself with the reality of self-worth. I know that you may have had years where you have been told that you are not good enough or similar beliefs drummed into you. That is why we have left Self-worth as the outer layer of expanding your mindset.
Feeling worth-less is at the core of ALL stress, so we are going to spend a whole week exploring it and teaching you why you are always 100% worthy. Before we do that however, I want to help you to apply what you’ve learnt on the new reality thinking model so far to two common situations pertaining to parenting and postnatal depression:
Example 1 – “I am a single mum and I have two children only 13 months apart. I am just so tired all of the time. I’m either up to one or the other of my children every night. I never get any time to myself. I have no partner to help me because he left me during my second pregnancy. I just can’t cope. I actually regret ever having children, and of course I feel so guilty about that. I hate that I spend my whole days washing, cooking, cleaning, playing with the kids and I just don’t want to do it anymore. I miss my job. I was never going to be the person I am today. I was supposed to get married, have kids and enjoy my life, but instead I resent it, and it’s starting to have an effect on the kids.”
How to expand your thinking using the reality thinking model
The reality of the situation: The reality is that you have expectations of what a family ‘should’ look like and you are currently not living to that expectation. It doesn’t make your life wrong, it just makes it different. Because of how life has unfolded up to now, you are now a mother with two children raising them without a husband. People do this all the time. It’s not easy, but it is your current experience and any opinions that are in conflict with that reality are only going to cause stress. You are currently a stay at home mum with two kids, 13 months apart and they are young and at demanding ages right now, meaning that you are probably going to have a very busy life for now.
Now that you align with the reality of the situation, move into changing how you look at that reality.
The reality of being a parent: Regardless of whether you are in a relationship or on your own, you will always come across challenges with your children. Having a partner will not change this. It is how you look at those challenges that makes a difference to how you feel and chances are, if you are thinking like this habitually, then it is likely that you would think like this with or without a partner. Although you have this stereo-typical picture in your mind of children having two parents, the reality is that there is only one in this picture. Neither picture is right or wrong, just different. Your children are not missing out on what they need for their development as they are always getting experiences that help them to learn and the reality is that they aren’t getting an experience of a dad, so that IS the experience that they are getting and learning from in their life. As far as regret for having the children goes, you made the choice to have children back when the situation met your expectations (that is, you were with a partner and living your ‘ideal’ scenario for having children). Now the situation has changed. The only reason why you regret having children is because you are thinking that you ‘should’ be experiencing it another way (that is with a husband) and because you are resenting all the work that you have to do now that you are doing it on your own. The reality is that he left and you do have children and you are the sole provider for them. There is value in that which we will look at as we expand further.
The reality of life: Sometimes we can’t control the way our lives unfold, but we are always gaining something from that situation. Your children are gaining a mum who is looking after them and learning how to be strong and organised. They are going to learn about relationships from you because of the experiences that you have had that you will share and pass down to them. You are learning how to be organised, co-ordinate what you need to meet their needs. You are providing everything your children need. Without you they would not have what they do, and they would not be cared for the way that they are. Here’s where you need to look at what you are grateful for and the value in this current situation.
You could appreciate that you are able to have the experience of having children. You could appreciate the smiles, the gurgles, those quiet cuddles you get when they are asleep. You could appreciate it when they do sleep a little longer than you expected and you got just ½ an hour more sleep. That is a step forward. Perhaps it is part of them learning to sleep better. You could appreciate that you have a roof over your heads and that they have warm beds to sleep in, clothes to wear and a healthy parent to look after them. You could appreciate the time you get to watch them grow and that you are able to be around them when all those milestones are met. You could appreciate that this is an opportunity to meet new people or other mums who are in a similar position. You can go out to the shops and get a coffee whenever you want and don’t have to answer to a boss demanding that you do this, that or the other. You can go for morning walks with the kids on a beautiful day.
The personal benefits for you are huge too. You are empowering yourself to soldier on and do things on your own. This builds strength, resilience and a personal belief in your abilities. You are learning to be independent and not have to rely on anyone to do things for you. You have learnt from your experience of having this relationship, so the next time you enter into a relationship you might do things differently. You wouldn’t have this information without ever experiencing the relationship that you did.
Being on your own without a partner has benefits too. You get to watch your TV shows, cook what you want for dinner, make your own decisions and not have to consult anyone when making a big decision about your life. There is no fighting or conflict in the house. Once the kids are in bed, you can have some alone time to do the things that you like to do (read, watch a movie, meditate, get on the internet).
You can see in this example, it is all about changing that ‘story’ that you have going on in your mind by looking at different aspects of the situation. Don’t necessarily believe the first opinions that enter your mind about a situation that hasn’t met your expectations. Remember the law of polarity and try to find those hidden benefits that this situation brings with it too. Where there is bad, there is always good. Focus on the value and it will change how you feel.
Let’s have a look at another example:
Example 2 – “My children hate me. My husband thinks I’m weak for having this mental illness. My mother-in-law thinks I need to just get over it and stop being so emotional. I feel like I am fighting with everyone. I’m home all day with the kids and they are doing my head in. My husband comes home late at night and then is too tired to help, then whinges at me that the house isn’t clean. I feel like I’m doing everything wrong and I’m a complete failure. This is the not the way I thought motherhood would be.”
The reality of the situation: You are feeling this way because of the way you perceive life. The way you perceive life comes from how you have been conditioned to perceive life. It has been learnt from all the experiences you have had in your life right up to this point. The way you treat people, the way they treat you, has all been set up because of yours and that persons beliefs and the dynamic that has been set up between the two of you. The reality of other people’s judgements of you is that they are neither wrong nor right. They are seeing you through the lenses of their beliefs which have been formed through their experience of life, just like you are seeing them through your lens of beliefs.
If you are at home with the kids for long periods of time all day, it is because that was what was decided between you and your husband as the way that you wanted it to be. Somewhere along the line before now it was agreed that you would be the sole carer for the children while he worked, opting not to work yourself and put them in childcare. You are now experiencing the result of those past decisions. They are neither wrong or right, just results of what was set up in the past. This is the reality of the situation.
The reality of being a parent: Children go through cycles of wanting lots to do with their parents and not wanting to be around their parents. They are going through their own ups and downs, and particularly when the kids are young, there can be periods of time where they are confused about their emotions and taking them out on you, pushing boundaries and trying out new behaviour. If they are gravitating towards your partner, it’s not necessarily about you, it may be because your husband is the excitement to their day because mum’s always there. It could be because Dad gets home in a calm and happy mood having been at work all day, whereas you are feeling stressed, having been at home all day. We all know how we like to be around people who feel good. If they feel good, we often feel good. If they are warming towards the other parent, you will find that it’s not about you and all about them and what they get out of it.
In relationships, as new parents, it can be difficult for a partner to understand how the other one is feeling, because they are not experiencing the same thing that you are. Husbands work all day and come home to cranky wives, chaotic houses and cranky, tired children. Moms have to deal with those cranky children, very little sleep and the chaotic house, constantly attempting to pull it all together, meet everyone’s needs and organise the chaos. It is easy for each partner to become consumed with their own experience of what is going on and forget that the other person may need help too. We are all looking at events through our own lens and when we judge another person, it is because we don’t understand what’s going on, because through our lens they shouldn’t be that way.
The final reality of being a parent is once again, the aspect of the highs and lows of being a parent in general. You will never get it right. You are not a failure when things go wrong sometimes, because the reality is that sometimes things go wrong. Kids don’t sleep, they put paint on the wall, the house gets messy, partners get cranky, you get cranky, some days you aren’t organised. However the other end of reality is that kids do sleep, they learn not to put paint on the wall, the house gets clean again and you and your partner get along sometimes too. This isn’t right either, it is just the reality of how life unfolds – its full of ups and downs.
The reality of life: Your life has changed from what it was like before children. You are learning new skills, working a new job and it is a time consuming and challenging job you are doing. With any new job, you are going to have good days and bad. There will be times where you feel on top of things and times where everything’s a complete mess. Every moment is just one moment in your life. The kids will grow up, get older, be more mature and better behaved. You will find other ways to get organised, find more time to spend on yourself and this phase of your life will rise and pass away. It does not define your entire existence.
In life you will have many different relationships – friendships, marital relationship/s and family relationships. With them will come good times and bad. Throughout your relationships and your journey through life you are constantly receiving new information and lessons that will change who you are as a person and give you more skills and tools for living your life. This period of your life is offering you information to learn from and change right now.
You can do this by finding the value in these moments and what you are grateful for, rather than staying stuck in what is not happening for you, how bad you are at everything and what everyone thinks of you.
You are learning the skill of being a parent and learning about your kids. Appreciate that they are at this learning stage and that this stage will pass. Know that with every instruction you give to them you are adding to the change and maturing of that behaviour. You are enabling that stage to pass quicker every time you repeat yourself. Appreciate your husband for the support he offers your family, for the help he does give you and for what you love about him. Even though your mother-in-law has opinions that are different to yours, what do you appreciate about her? You will find that when you can learn to appreciate what you do like about someone instead of focusing on what you don’t like, you will treat them differently and hence, they will probably treat you differently.
Finally (but this is by no means the extent of how you could change the ‘story’ about this situation to be in alignment with reality) your postnatal depression could be a huge blessing in disguise. Here you are on this program learning how to stop it. While you are doing that, you are learning some priceless information that could affect your happiness for the rest of your life. Not only does it affect your happiness though, but it affects what beliefs you pass down to your children. Sometimes difficult times like this where you feel at your lowest, can be the very times that we need to experience in order to propel us to another level of living our life. Would you ever get this kind of learning if you hadn’t been feeling the way that you have? Would you ever take the time to learn about how to think and be happy if you had not been desperate to stop your unhappiness?
Again this is the polarity effect at work again. Where there is a down, there is also an up.
This reality step is all about changing those thoughts that you became aware of in step one (thoughts) and aligning them with the reality of how life unfolds. Expanding your mind in a different direction and changing the ‘story’ you tell yourself about how your life unfolds makes every bit of difference to how you feel and your overall happiness.
Deliberately and consciously aligning to the ups and downs of life, finding the value in events and being grateful wherever you can will change those neural connections in the brain that have been formed in the past. The more you do this (understanding that at first you will have plenty of times where you revert back to old ways of thinking) you will be creating new habits of thinking. That’s why keeping an exercise book of your wins can be very empowering.
As we continue with next week’s lessons, we will be learning the final and most important part of the reality step and that is – knowing your worth.
NB – there is no audio available for this exercise
This whole week you have been learning about step two on the Mind TRACK to Happiness process – REALITY.
We used the Reality thinking model (see below) to show you how you can expand your thinking away from being attached and consumed by what is happening in your life and towards the reality of life.
Now it is your turn to begin changing your ‘story’ and learning how you can look at your problems in a different way.
Here are the steps of this exercise:
Remember that you always have access to the Q&A Forum to ask any questions that you may have or if you need help getting started. Sometimes starting is often the hardest but once we get on that role, it starts to snowball as your attention is guided in that direction.
When completing these exercises, a reminder of the following points may be helpful:
You are starting to change your mindset here and that can sometimes be difficult. Please ask for assistance to help you to apply this information to your specific circumstances. We are here to help.