We all want to live a fulfilling life, don’t we? Being the best possible version of ourselves with all the glory of happiness and success. However, being the ‘best version possible’ doesn’t always have to mean wealth- but it can simply mean that you have reached the highest point of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: self-actualization. We are privileged enough to be in a position where we can choose to utilize strategies that we know will improve our chances of achieving the goals of living a purposeful and fulfilling life. Hence, below will be a summative list and quick explanation of a few key pointers to alter health behaviours get you on your way.
Avoiding thought traps
When life doesn’t seem to be going in the way we want, at times we may fall into negative thinking patterns, which can cause us to spiral further down. Thus, by being mindful of these patterns, we can stop them before they become frequent and negatively impact our lives in the long run.
Catastrophising; This often happens when a situation doesn’t go to plan, and the resultant outcome in your head is many times worse than the actual outcome (e.g. Someone is going to blow up my house if I’m late for their event)
Mind Reading; occurs if we are uncertain about other people’s thoughts, and we begin to hypothesize what they may think of us. (e.g. if I don’t finish my work, my students will think I don’t care about them)
Negative Bias; It is normal to only notice the bad things that are happening, and ignore all the positives. This can lead to feeling worse about what is happening in the situation. (E.g. when you are late for work, you only notice the red lights, not the green lights)
Black and White thinking; This is another word for ‘all or nothing’ thinking, where it can either be one extremity or the other (e.g. I am either dumb or smart, there is no in-between)
The rubber brain
Like how rubber can stretch and go back to normal, this is a common analogy of how our minds should be able to adapt to uncommon situations, and also to alter our perspective of how we view concepts and occurrences. One example of this is logical disputing. This is the act of hunting down and ‘arguing’ with unhelpful thoughts.
This includes reanalysing the situation at hand, and seeing if there is a better way of thinking. Some examples are:
What’s a better or alternate way that I can think about what has happened?
What is- the worst case, the best case and the most likely case?
By having flexible thinking, it allows us to believe that things do not always have to be a certain way, as such alleviating any forms of distress that may be present. These examples of health behaviours thus demonstrate the importance of a broad perspective and keeping an open mind.
Stress and positive psychology
There are different levels of stress that everyone will experience at one point or another within their lives, so it is important that we learn how to manage. It can be concluded from Selye’s General Adaption Model, that our body can only deal with stress for so long- before we begin to get sick and our body stops functioning.
To avoid these consequences, there are some methods to optimise thinking patterns and thoughts:
Identify coping resources
understanding the stress response as not harmful, but instead possibly helpful
Practising optimistic thinking
realising the importance of getting basic needs- sleep, food, water
Emotional regulation- always check in with how you are feeling, and reach out if emotions become too strong/ complicated
Gratitude is a key component that we tend to overlook in the stressors of our everyday lives, however is actually something that we should be practising everyday!
This example of a ‘positive activity’ can improve the frequency of positive emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and need satisfaction. In turn, this increases wellbeing levels.
One way to practice gratitude- as a guide, would be to keep a ‘3 blessings’ journal, where every day you reflect on the small/ simple things, or important aspects of the day that made you feel happy. Over time, this trains your brain to not ignore the simple blessings within your busy lives, instead focus on the present and how lucky we are to be experiencing and living where we are.
Now that you have some information about various health behaviours (i.e. stress coping mechanisms and thought traps that you should avoid), try applying some of these to your everyday lives. It may not be a noticeable change at first, but essentially the aim of these behaviours and strategies is for you to take a few more steps to living a more fulfilling and happy life!