The artist Henri Matisse said: "There are always flowers for those who wish to see them”.
I was walking through the bush this morning at the end of the wildflower season, marvelling a little sadly at how fast the rich colours of the spring were transitioning into the baked khaki of summer, when I spotted an actual flower - a beautiful cluster in fact, of tiny fringed lilies like a jewel in the dusty surrounds. This was awfully literal, but Matisse was right. I could have seen the rapidly dessicating bush, been morbid about declining rainfall patterns or climate change this morning or I could choose to revel in the last of the pretty flowers for the season and marvel at how they will quietly survive beneath the earth and spring forth again after next winter.
A lesson in happiness is a lesson in "reframing"
We all have flat days. Grey days. Days when it is hard to see good in the world. It can be way to easy to get sucked into the bad news that comes across the tv, radio and social media feeds. There can be days when inspiration seems elusive, goals too distant and tedious workloads overwhelming.
That‘s where reframing can come into play. This simple (yet sometimes seemingly difficult) tactic is designed to make us take the cycle of negative thinking that produces flat moods and translate it into positive (or at least neutral) emotion.
The first key to effective reframing is self-awareness. We need to be able to spot the intrusion of negative thought patterns. They can be hard to spot if you’ve had a history of them and have negative thinking as a persistent habit. It can be hard to see the wood for the trees. This development of awareness through ”thought monitoring” is vital.
Now you’ve found a bad thought, it’s time to bust it. We have to instigate some “silver lining“ thinking. This comes easily to the naturally optimistic, but many others will really struggle. Turn over that negative thought in your mind and change it into something more positive. “I can’t do this” can become “This is hard, but I can manage this.” It can seem a little forced and fake at first, but positive thinking can be learned. Along with careful rehearsal of positive self-talk, long term practice does indeed make for positive progress (nobody’s EVER going to be perfect).
Establish some positive affirmations to repeat when things get tough. Use short phrases and be concise. Use the present tense and stay in the first person (ie use the word ”I”). Use positive language that will make you feel good and prompt action. Focus on positive traits you want to cultivate. Make it about you, and your self improvement - don’t compare yourself to anyone or involve others. An example might be: “I have a lot of talents and contribute a great deal to my team” “I am healthy and enjoy eating well and exercising to have that benefit” or it might be as simple as “I am here and I deserve to be.” There is power in the simple art of practicing positive thought. There is no time, however bleak that can not have a sliver of positivity tweezed from it. So if you want to be happier, don't bother stopping to argue with those last couple of lines.... have a go at training your brain to be so and learn (then practice) the gentle art of self-love and how to find that silver lining. If you need extra help with this, you can enlist the help of a qualified therapist.
If you're interested, here's a little more about reframing... https://www.talkspace.com/blog/reframing-therapy-effective-tool/
If you struggle with negative thoughts in a way you feel disrupts your life, you can consider treatment. In Australia, a great place to start can be the Mindset Clinic, who offer (free) online Mental Health Assessment and Treatment in partnership with Beyond Blue, Macquarie University and Head to Health.