Now more on how to cope with distressing thoughts. Here is one simple but powerful technique that you might want to give a try.
This technique works particularly well when something “bad” has happened and you begin to think negative thoughts and feelings about that situation. Oftentimes, we “make mountains out of mole hills” and minor to moderate stressors are not really worth the attention that we give them. One way to gain perspective is to ask yourself, “Will this matter in one year from now?”
So much of our suffering in life, as discussed before, is self-created. Sure, there are things worth suffering over – death, major illness, your house burns down, and so on. But much of life’s suffering comes from viewing rather innocuous events as REALLY bad. Such situations might include:
- You get a flat tire
- You have to take your car into the shop
- You get a speeding ticket
- Your friend forgets to meet you for lunch
- You lose your cell phone
- You are stuck in traffic
- Your forget your sunglasses on your trip to the beach
Now apply this technique to the situations like the ones above: “Will this matter in one year?” You can see that these situations will be off your radar by then…probably even within a couple of days.
Notice when a negative emotion arises – that is usually a red flag that you are having some negative thoughts about the situation. Now, ask yourself the question and see if it reduces your distress. You can’t always control situations – setbacks are a part of life. But try changing your perspective using this technique. We often have more control over our view of situations than the situation itself. This technique can work very well on reducing unnecessary suffering. Save your distress in life for the situations that truly warrant it, and you will be much happier overall.