Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rumination ruins Happiness

Can we hope to gather flowers & be ridden of thorns if we water a cactus & let the flowering plants wither?Of course not !But this is precisely what we often do."We water the seeds of our own suffering"(Thich Nhat Hanh).This cactus is nothing else but rumination--repetitive thinking of negative thoughts.Consider this-the human brain produces approximately 70000 thoughts on an average day .If a majority of our thoughts are bitter,can we hope to shake off depression?The worst thing is,that once this cycle is established, it becomes difficult to break it off.However if we take care of the small things we CAN do it,says rick hanson.

These are many & far-reaching.Let us take them one by one.

1) Mind--When we brood over real or imagined slights,injustices,betrayals,failures & frustrations we enter a stage of mild depression.If we do not take adequate steps to get out of this rut,then rumination is further entrenched & depression aggravated.As a result we become tense,moody,sullen,irritable,absent-minded & asocial.Depression saps our energy & enthusiasm.We find it difficult to concentrate on anything.Our responses to situations are often irrational and biased.

Body Long periods of negative thinking take a toll on our health.An over-wrought mind,sick with worry & apprehension, makes for a tired body;susceptible to diseases.Emotional turmoil has been known to cause diseases like B.P,Angina,Stroke,Diabetes,Thyroid & skin-eruptions.The levels of  stress hormones like Adrenaline & Cortisol swell up.We feel agitated & jittery.

2) Relationships--Our gloomy moods tend to keep people at arm's length.This initiates a vicious cycle.We feel lonesome & brood some more.We become irritable & difficult to be with.This naturally tells on our relationships.As the patience of our loved ones wears thin,we may be left high & dry;cut off from those very ties which would have given us support & succor.

3) Career--That's not all.For an adult who is in service or still studying,this sort of pondering is sure to damage his career.Most people today do not have the time or inclination to make allowances for someone who is moody or preoccupied.This obsession with thoughts causes us to lose our hold on reality.It impairs our judgement.Efficiency suffers & stagnation results.A setback in career becomes a major cause for dejection,generating more worry.


1) First of all,take a hard look at your thoughts.What is it precisely,which is pinching you so bad?What is it that you are not able to forget ?How did it start?Ir it the past or your present which is bothering you?If it is the past then no amount of worry can change it.

If there is a problem which you face today then you need to find a solution and take concrete steps to overcome it.This repetitive thinking is not helping you.Do not torment yourself with the worst case scenarios-they seldom happen.

2) Now look carefully at people around you. Are they all blissfully happy? Don't they have ANY troubles? How are they coping? And most important--you are not the sole target of setbacks & disappointments.No need to feel persecuted. Snap out of self-pity.

3) Start a journal.Be mindful of how much time you spend in retrospection. Every day enter how much time you wasted thus & try to bring down the numbers.Do it !

4) Make a note of the occasions when you mostly slip into your negative moods. If it is during walking then take a chatter-box friend or a young relative along with you.Little ones are so inquisitive that they will not allow you to slip into a reverie.Switching to exercise instead of walking too, will not give you any time to fret.

Many people go into a trance while reading-they turn the pages of their memory bank instead of the book.If you also have this tendency then it is best to suspend non-essential reading for the time being.

And if negative thinking assails you at bed-time,then tire yourself out with a long after dinner walk.You will automatically slip into slumber without that daily ritual of fretting & worrying.

Find out which time slot attracts gloomy thoughts in your mind. Most of us brood a lot when we have nothing to do. O.K, assign yourself an onerous task for that particular time.Ah yes!you will feel more tired than usual,but if this cures you of negative thinking then it is all for the better.

5) You can also take the help of your partner or a friendly co-worker.Request him/her to just jab you when s/he sees you going into a reverie.

6) Take up a strenuous activity on a regular basis-- something like running,swimming,gardening,spring cleaning or playing a vigorous game. As the sweat oozes out from your pores,the melancholy too, will leave you.Positive chemicals like serotonin,dopamine & endorphins will come out to make you cheerful once again.

7) Learn a new skill-something which will update your resume & augment your confidence.It will also free you from cyclic thinking by filling up your free time.Pursuing a favorite hobby will also do the trick.

8) Whenever you chit-chat with your family or friends,do not recall any melancholic events.Focus only on pleasant memories.This is even more important when you are on your own. Consciously dig up instances when good things happened to you.If you find yourself shifting to a gloomy track, immediately pinch yourself & say"that was in the past,today things are better".Even if they are NOT so much better;in this way you will save them from becoming worse.Positive Thinking actually induces positive changes.

9) Meditation,Yoga & breathing exercises also help to cool the mind.You can gain good control over your mind from all three.

10) Lastly,if you are the religious type,have faith that your God has chalked out a life plan for you which will help you to grow & evolve.Take the obstacles as challenges,which will open the gates to a better life.Even if you are not religious there is enough reason to believe that there is a just world-order.All get a mixture of good & bad times;though not in equal measures.If you have passed through some ordeals in the past, have faith that the cycle of change will usher in better prospects for you.You can also turn the habit of retrospection into good use by being aware of the pitfalls which sucked you in the past & avoiding them.

In short,rumination is harmful for all three--body,mind &soul.What has passed cannot be changed,but the present should be handled with care;so that it does not jeopardize the future.Sometimes we are so convinced of our worthlessness that we believe we deserve the worst and our behavior unconsciously attracts despondence.If this could be the cause of your rumination,take care to build up your self esteem.It is all in our own hands.We can easily turn the tide by taking positive steps to control our thoughts ,because the mind is a good servant but a bad master!

Friday, February 3, 2012

#Anxiety and Stress--the terrible twins.

Updated on 16 Feb 2015

Anxiety and stress are actually two sides of the same coin.Anxiety is a generalized state of fear & apprehension while stress results from over-work or imminence of an adverse situation.The two have invaded our lives to such a degree that we have come to regard them as necessary evils.They impair our judgement,cause physical ailments & destroy our peace of mind.Our efficiency takes a beating,inflicting irreparable damage to our image & reputation.

We live in stressful times.Pick up a newspaper & majority of news will be about violence,theft,fraud,rape,murder,& other natural or man-made calamities.Very subtly all these news influence our thinking.If we read about an accident we shall be doubly tense while driving a car.A news about child abuse will set us worrying, what sort of people come in contact with our own child.So much so that ordinary activities like crossing the road,sending our child to school,or going on a journey,can make us tense & apprehensive.Such worries coalesce into a cloud of anxiety to weigh down upon our minds.We sense danger everywhere.Fear seeps in.We live in a state of perpetual angst.

Then a real trigger comes along & we are flustered to hell.The quantum of worry is totally disproportionate to the situation at hand.Because we were already tense,we distort the whole picture.An ordinary problem looms like a major catastrophe.This happens because our stress response system is overactive.

To make matters worse, we lose confidence in our ability to solve the problem.We feel that something terrible is going to happen & we shall not be able to cope.In extreme cases total helplessness & hopelessness take over;rendering us incapable of taking action.Very imperceptibly,without our knowing,floating anxiety has transformed into a major handicap.

Eliminating Anxiety
Have you ever wondered why some people are more stressed than others?The answer could lie in their own behavior.Our attitudes & coping skills play a significant role in whether we will be serene or flustered.

*Are we hyper in our reactions & thus make mountains out of mole hills?

*Are we oversensitive?Do we take offence at minor arguments or comments?

*Do we have a tendency to focus upon the negative aspects of every situation?

*Is our behavior such that it attracts opposition & confrontation?

*Is perfectionism the cause of our stress?Do we set unattainable benchmarks for ourselves and others?
Being dogmatic about our beliefs & methods creates discord.

*Do we hold grudges?

*Do we take on more than we can cope with?Doing this unnecessarily adds to our stress.The quality of our work will suffers & the resultant criticism angers us.

*Are we unable to assert ourselves in the face of abuse or rebuke?A lot of anxiety can be averted if only we learn to assert ourselves when the situation demands.

Ved was unjustifiably bypassed for a promotion.He could not voice his resentment & became sullen & withdrawn.The anger & frustration was all bottled inside.As a result he spoiled his relationships at his work place & became a patient of hypertension.If only he had discussed the matter with his boss,his anger could have been assuaged & the stress minimized.

Similarly,keeping quiet when someone passes a derogatory comment & not expressing our feelings when someone hurts us only adds to our angst.When we keep quiet in face of insult or injustice,we invite more of it in future & the humiliation continues to pinch us.It is best to nip it in bud.

Honest answers to the questions above will help us to get rid of our own mental debris so that we imbibe less stress in future.We often attribute the cause of our stress to a third party.This may or may not be true,but ignoring our own contribution delays  course-correction.
Combating stress
There are hordes  of stressors in our life today and it is essential to cut out those which have no direct bearing on us.If it is the media which is giving you the jitters,skip the crime section.If it is a co-worker, maintain a distance from him.If waiting in queues or commuting long distances is stressful,listen to music ,read a book,or observe the surroundings to avoid irritation;according to the situation.A queue is a fine place to study human behavior.Listening to the news or music while driving saves time & soothes the mind.Above all,stress transforms into enjoyment.

In case of difficulties and challenges which are germane to our success and well-being,it is best to find a quick solution and take prompt action .Procrastination prolongs tension.An onerous task or a ticklish problem will not just vanish on it's own.It will weigh on your mind till you take the required action.Sometimes the prospects of resolution become bleak and the problem intensifies with the passage of time.Many of us ignore a problem when it is a small dot on the horizon,till it grows & grows into a thunder storm.

If your hands are full with urgent work to be done,deadlines to be met & difficulties to be overcome;it is time to lessen the burden.

Revert your cell to an answering machine,and avoid round the clock connectivity.

Prune your "to do " list.Cut down or postpone those jobs which are not essential right now.

Delegate what you can,to others.

If there is any chore you dislike intensely,like washing your car,looking after your garden,or toting up your income for tax deduction;engage outside help for it.This will enable you to enjoy extra hours of peaceful relaxation.

If you are unable to find a solution to your problem, do not hesitate to seek outside help--whether a friend,a relative or an expert.

I certainly don't imply that doing all this shall grant you immunity from stress.Difficulties will come & crises will erupt;but you will be better prepared to tackle them without losing your cool.If you come up against googlies which cannot be played, get aside & carry on with the game to the best of your ability.

I have purposely left out the many ways we can beat stress when it does overpower us.For this you can look up .