If there is one thing that you can do today to be more happy is to mind your language.
Bad things happen to everybody. No exceptions. But that is not the issue, the issue is when bad things happen, what language do we use to describe the situation to ourselves?
Why does it matter how we describe it? Well, it matters because your description will affect how intensely you feel about it. Problem is, we are usually emotional when bad things happen and our emotions have a tendency to exaggerate things.
For example, you received a bad mark in your exam. You might say, “This is the worst day of my life!” Or, maybe you don’t say it, but you are thinking in that direction. The description you just made will affect your feelings about it. You will feel as if it is the worst day of your life.
But then, you might be thinking, “Well, I know that. I don’t mean it literally. Duh!” I know you know, and I know you know I know. But we are talking about emotions.
Our emotions don’t care about literal or figurative, reality or fantasy. When you watched a horror movie, you feel scared and threatened, even though nothing bad is happening. You feel that way not because the horror is real, but because it feels real. For our emotions, what feels real becomes real.
In the heat of the moment, when bad things happen, usually our emotion is taking the wheel while our mind is in the back seat. Our emotion is reactive; it tends to act immediately. Our mind is reflective; it tends to process things beforehand.
That is not inherently a bad thing, because there are situations where we need to react immediately. For example, there is a speeding car coming your way, what do you do? Do you stand there and think about it, or do you just scream and run away?
But in this blog post, I am not talking about those kinds of situation. On top of that, I am not talking about clinical depression either because that is a separate serious issue.
What I am talking about are “normal” bad situations that could happen on a regular day to regular people like getting a bad mark in an exam, being rejected in an interview, getting yelled at by your boss, arguing with a spouse, getting stuck in a traffic jam, and other things that could destroy your mood for the day.
We are not denying the bad thing that happened. We are simply cautious of how we describe it to ourselves because our emotions tend to exaggerate the actual reality of the situation. That exaggeration could translate into an unrealistic, over-the-top emotion and that emotion could translate into an inappropriate action.
Whether we are conscious about it or not, what we say to ourselves does affect our feelings. It is better that we are conscious about our mental chatter considering how powerful the mental chatter can be. It can influence our emotional state, which in turn will influence our actions.
Negative emotions tend to lead to negative actions.
So, how do we make sure that doesn’t happen?
Well one thing we can do is to avoid superlatives when we describe the situation to ourselves (or to others). When bad things happen, avoid using words like worst, always, never, most, least, ever, and other words that are superlative. When you assign a superlative value to something, it becomes super intense and that might not reflect the actual reality of the situation at hand.
For example, when you say this day is the worst day of your life, it means that there is no other days in your life which is worse than this one. This is the absolute lowest point of your life and you will feel like it is, even though in reality, it is not.
Relax. This is not the worst day of your life, even though it might feel like it. Remember, feelings are reactive. It is not reflective. So take a step back and allow your mind to reflect and re-evaluate the situation.
In reality, you are just having a bad day. Just one bad day, out of many, many days. You have had good days before and the possibility of good days to happen in the future still exist. That one bad day doesn’t determine how tomorrow will be, unless you allow it to.
Is today the worst day of your life? It is, only if you say so.
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