It was in April when I first used this subject. Almost three months have passed since then and it is now the fourth time I am writing under the same headline.
Probably I am more surprised about it myself than you are. That might be because I write my blog entries spontaneously.
You can experience in almost real time what is going on inside me, what moves me, what keeps me busy. Just as spontaneously a topic was created, which I recently wrote in the forum. Everybody who knows me a little bit through my posts has probably felt a little bit of my displeasure when reading this topic.
Since a few weeks I have been using the so-called social networks a bit more. It is frightening for me to see how rough and rude the way people treat each other is. Do I live in a too perfect world outside these social media? Ben, who actively supports me, said something like this: "Our messages and responses are polite. Why are the answers [we receive] insulting? How do you still manage to be in a good mood and even laugh?
Ben is a sweet and adorable bloke. Since December, one crisis in his life replaces another. The place where he lived was destroyed by the Wildfires, his girlfriend abandoned him and due to the restrictions of the pandemic his chances to meet a girlfriend or old friends are extremely low. All he had left were his personal belongings and his car. When we had a few appointments and tours on the mainland earlier in the year, he said that he has a car when I wanted to rent one. In the last second I stopped myself from turning down his offer. Had I done that, I might have unintentionally offended Ben.
When it comes to cars in terms of comfort and power, my mind usually goes into standby. Admittedly, a few hundred kilometres in an xx year old (lovingly maintained) Colt are not very comfortable, especially not for the passengers in the back seats.
You can insult and hurt someone unintentionally. But you can also do it on purpose. The latter happens very often in social media. There are hardly any other places where you can get dozens of new "nicknames" within a few hours.
Back to Ben's question. How do you deal with it?
I first asked Ben if he knew the people or if they knew him. He answered both questions with no. Then I asked him whether he saw in what and how he wrote it a cause for the reactions. He said that he could not imagine this and gave me several examples to read. I also saw no reason for the offending reactions.
This was probably one of the longest introductions I've ever written. My conversations with Ben are only a small part of the question of how to maintain or improve mental well-being in unpleasant situations. Deliberately I do not speak of mental health. Although mental health is partly dependent on the surroundings and situations, it can also have genetic and various other reasons. When dealing with the question of mental well-being, one quickly finds out that it is about much more than just the way of thinking. Of course, the way we think has enormous significance.
When we met Ben in January, he was, as I said, in a not so easy phase of his life. Even though he tried to hide his sadness, you could see and feel it. When he sat at the pool and stared onto the water once again, I just sat down next to him. Ben understood the signal and started talking after a few minutes. I only listened.
It is important for our mental well-being that we can talk about our feelings, worries and fears with a person we trust. Although we only met personally a few days before, Ben has granted me this trust. I have never got to know someone so intensively in such a short time. Even though I wish Ben hadn't had to make these experiences, we all agree that it has brought us all closer.
Another aspect for our mental well-being is communication. Conversations stimulate our thinking. You exchange ideas and insights, and at the same time you are encouraged to think about what your conversation partner has said. Especially when it comes to ideas, new ideas and sometimes entire concepts develop within these conversations. Talking about flowers, animals, beautiful women or men,... stimulates our visual imagination, our fantasy. I am occasionally criticized, quite justifiably, for appearing very convincing in conversations. This is a side effect of having led a company for some years.
Criticism now takes me back to the question of how to deal with unkind words. Here I am referring to personal criticism. While we enjoy a positive feedback like a warm shower, a negative criticism is like a cold shower. We feel unwell, uncomfortable. This is where we need to take action. To become active does not mean to defend against criticism with counter-arguments. Becoming active means that we have to ask ourselves why our counterpart sees us this way. Is the criticism justified? Does the other person even have the right to criticize us?
Both of the questions cannot be considered completely independently of each other. But to answer the first question, we need to know ourselves. Something I wrote in an earlier entry. We need to know who we are, what our strengths and weaknesses are. By knowing this, we can also evaluate criticism. Is it a friend, or another person we trust, then we should listen very carefully. It is quite possible that we have not seen this side of ourselves before. It is important to be open and to ask detailed questions.
If we can answer the first question in the negative and the person is someone who does not know us well, it should be clear that we reject this criticism. It is a waste of energy to communicate this disagreement to the other person.
It is also a waste of energy to respond to such comments, answers, ... it's like an altercation. One argument leads to another. In the end there is no winner. This is something I learned from my husband (and later in coaching sessions). At the very beginning of our relationship, I said some things to him in rage (I rarely had my Italian temper under control). But it didn't turn into an argument because he sat there like a rock. His silence had made me angry, but at the same time it disarmed me. After I had calmed down he came up to me and confirmed one point or another, and in other points he told me his viewpoint. Well, he had listened.
Even if my 25 percent Italian genes try to get the upper hand every now and then, I have learned that communication, conversations, debates, ... are much better suited. When you are served by a waiter, cashier, ... unfriendly, it is better to just take a deep breath and ask yourself if there is a possibility that this person is just going through something. We cannot know that. It doesn't cost us anything to give him or her an honest smile and wish him or her a nice day.
We interact with our fellow human beings consciously and unconsciously. There is a very distinctive experience for me at a market checkout. It was such a memorable moment that even after years I still know that I bought tomatoes. Since I only had this one item, an elderly lady told me to go first. I thanked her politely with a smile. She took note of this. After I had paid, I turned around myself to her again and thanked her a second time. Her facial expression changed from amazement to a radiant smile.
I'm just wondering if I've gotten off topic. Never mind.
While negative influences cause discomfort in us, positive influences increase our well-being. But how can we avoid these negative factors and increase the amount of positive ones?
First you have to learn how our brain basically works. Everything we perceive with our senses ( visual, auditory, sensory ) is processed by our brain. Most of it is unconscious to us, because only a small part of it reaches our consciousness. Our feelings, decisions and actions are influenced to a greater extent by our subconscious. I have said before that we do not have to accept unjustified criticism etc. However, our consciousness has already obtained this negative information. It is up to us to mitigate and transform them. In doing so, we have to take care that our brain basically cannot deal with negations. "Please do not think of a pink elephant now" - usually leads to our mental imagination projecting a pink elephant.
We have to find the equivalent and make use of it. Have we been told we were uneducated. We repeatedly say "I am educated." We can reinforce this by writing it down.
Easy? No. It takes a lot of practice.
Several years ago I started to greet myself with a smile in the mirror in the morning. At first it was a silly grin. It became much easier after I had stuck a big Smiley next to the mirror. My husband had recently written in @JoelR 's topic that we have laughing Buddhas in our houses. Even if there is a deeper meaning behind it, these laughing Buddhas immediately lift the mood when you look at them.
We also increase our mental well-being by focusing more on positive impressions. There is an essential difference between drinking coffee (or tea) and enjoying (celebrating) it. It is important to take the time to do things that give you pleasure. Enjoying these moments will make you feel good about yourself.
Time-outs are also important. Hours that we only have for ourselves. Turn off the computer, TV, smartphone, tablet for a while and enjoy the silence.
Our physical well-being strongly influences our mental well-being - and vice versa. Physical activity ( from walking to gymnastics, ...), healthy food and sufficient sleep are also very important factors.
It wasn't necessary to tell Ben any of this. I had only asked him a few questions and focused his attention on the positive reactions that were predominant in numbers.
Apart from the sadness Ben had in him at the beginning of the year, he and his brother Pat are bubbling over with positive energy. Ben also has the enviable gift of transforming his experiences and emotions into music. When he grabs his guitar and lets his voice sound, it is a wonderful moment. If Pat then joins in the singing (yes, both can sing excellently), it becomes a magical moment.