Chatting with some single girlfriends, we began by whining about being single and lamenting the problems, but ended up appreciating the many positives of being single. Sometimes the negatives engulf us and fill our view until all we can see is difficulties and pain. Our conversation shifted from woe to laughter as one person pointed out how nice it was to be able to read in bed. This diverted our attention from focusing on what we lack and started us listing the good things.
Think about what you’re thinking about
Your thoughts grow your brain. Some images to describe this process are: growing branches on trees (which according to neuroscientist Dr Caroline Leaf is what it looks like), laying strands in a cable or grooves in a record – the more you think the same thoughts the stronger the thought exists in your brain. Thoughts are measurable and ‘influence every decision, word, action and physical reaction we make’1 and they produce feelings including negative ones like anxiety.
Become aware of the negative, toxic thoughts and conversations you have in your head… then replace them. Here’s 3 ways to change your perspective and improve your thoughts, to change the lens through which you view your situation:
As a single again person it’s easy to slip into a negative focus, lamenting your situation. Your focus on what you don’t have or what is hard in your life, making yourself miserable by expressing your discontent instead of looking at what you have and appreciating your life. 2 This is what I and my girlfriends did at the beginning.
Here is some of our list of good things we appreciate about being single:
- Having control of the remote
- Setting our own standards of housework
- Not having to juggle to fit another adults calendar to attend events
- Not having to share the block of chocolate (provided it is hidden from the kids if you have them)
- Sleeping all over the bed with as much of the quilt as you want
- Only listening to your CD’s
- The toilet seat is always where you left it (children may affect this)
While the list may seem selfish it also included having time available to help others or serve as a volunteer.
You can take this a step further and start a gratitude journal. Writing down 3 things each day you are thankful for. Sometimes it can simply be that the day is over!
Reframing is defined as ‘frame or express (words or a concept or plan) differently.’ 3Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.
An example from my life as a single parent. When the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by. I am spending part of Christmas alone; this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe that by saying, ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’ See blog ‘How to reframe the problem of Christmas into an opportunity‘ for what I did differently
3. Be present
Don’t’ wallow in the past and what cannot be changed or worry about the future. Be present in the moment. It can be hard in the initial mess of the end of a relationship to do this. A practice to help with this is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is focusing your attention in the moment and accepting it without judgement. Its enemy is multi-tasking. In the busyness of single life where you are juggling everything, focus on the one thing before you.
In any situation where you feel trapped by the negatives, you can change your outlook. You can use techniques like creating the list to be grateful for, reframing and being present to switch your perspective from the negative, what is bad or wrong, to find a positive. Most circumstances in life are a mixture of both and how you feel can be a matter of perspective. When all you see are problems, you feel miserable. When you change your mindset to see advantages you feel better. It can be a choice to change your focus. Your situation may not change but how you feel about it does.
After the discussion with my friends I was still single, but I felt happy in my circumstances, instead of dissatisfied.
Putting legs on it
If you are feeling overwhelmed, trapped in your circumstances, try changing your focus. List an advantage; one good thing about it.
If you are single again, can you add to our list?
- Leaf, C (2009) Who switched off my brain?, Inprov Ltd, USA p13-21
- Legge, V (2010) New Life in the Mourning, Sid Harta p106
Lens: Paul Skorupskas unsplash.com
Frames:Jessica Ruscello unsplash.com