Rumination – when you can’t let go of your past

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one”

Anonymous quote from the Internet

 

We all may know someone who seems to live in the past. Someone who is always talking about past experiences. Someone who claims they learned a lesson from past experiences, but somehow they cannot stop talking about it – or maybe it is even you, and you recognize some of the patterns in your own behavior. It is called rumination, and today’s blog talks about people who cannot let go of the past, the reasons for it and – if you are affected by it – what you can do against it.

What is rumination?

Imagine you are sitting at home and your thoughts keep circling around some negative experiences. It can be a conflict with someone, bad experiences in your childhood, or the end of a relationship or divorce that happened months or even years ago. For some reason, you keep reviewing what has happened to you, over and over. You talk to your friends about it, maybe you even write about it to get it out of your head. Congratulations, you did the first step to take on negative thoughts! But what happens if you think (or talk) about the same old stuff over and over again? Then you might suffer from something called “rumination“.

Did you ever see a cow in real life? They appear to be constantly chewing on something. That’s because they’re ruminating. Technically speaking, the cow regurgitates previously consumed food and masticates it a second time. It’s literally chewing on the same thing over and over again. Luckily for the cow, the food is digested at some point. Humans however, do not need to ruminate food, but some people have a similar process going on with thoughts in their head. Some people dwell on negative thoughts because their mind is literally STUCK. If you are a ruminator, you keep repeating and re-living the same negative experiences in your head over and over, but you can’t do anything to change it.

The problem with ruminating people is that they truly believe they are “doing something”; however, they are not pursuing any goals, there is no progress happening in their life, they are literally stuck in the same train of thoughts – it like writing your own autobiography over and over again but nothing is changing for years.

Examples of rumination

Imagine if you broke up with someone or had a divorce one or two (or even more!) years ago. Usually, the healing process is done, and people move on. Ruminators have a problem with moving on. If you are a ruminator, you can’t stop talking about these things, even if it was years ago. You talk about how it affected you, how bad it was or maybe even how unfair it was. Instead of focusing on your future, you focus on your past, and that would keep you from finding real happiness with a new partner – that would be sad!

Examples of rumination include replaying conversations that you had in your head, dwelling on a divorce or the end of a relationship that happened a long time ago, talking to your friends about the same things over and over, about all the “injustices” or “injuries” that happened to you, and how you were able to rise from it and move on. But did you really? Is it really moving on when you still think and talk about the same old stuff that happened a long time ago?

In my home country Austria, we have a saying: you either HAVE something or you TALK about it. If you’re self-confident you don’t need to talk about it all the time. If you’re really happy, you don’t need to post it on social media over and over. And if you really moved on from something, you don’t need to remind yourself all the time. If you need to talk about it all the time, then you are stuck. You are a ruminator.

What is rumination doing with you and why are people doing it?

There seems to be a correlation between ruminating and patterns of depressions (according to some recent studies). This makes sense, because how can someone feel good or happy if he or she is always thinking about negative past experiences? That’s like scratching on a wound over and over again (instead of letting it go and heal).

Psychological studies state that rumination seems to be correlated to “cognitive incompetence” and “cognitive consciousness“. It means that ruminating individuals are very well aware and conscious of their negative thoughts. They think about past experiences over and over again – up to a point where the thoughts create their own reality, sometimes exaggerating or even differing from what really happened. Ruminators often believe that their rumination will lead to solving a problem, but it really creates a loop where they are stuck in their own thoughts. Cognitive incompetence means that they cannot find they way out of the loop.

What can you do against rumination?

There is a quick and easy way to find out if you are a ruminator. If friends and family are telling you that you always complain about the same things, or if they even withdraw from you because you seem to be telling the same stories over and over again, you might be ruminating.

The first step would be to think about your “needs”. Very often, people cannot let go of their past because they need something to be “solved”. If you need “clarity”, “certainty”, “resolution” or “fairness” for something that happened a long time ago in your life, then these needs are holding you back. The key is accepting the past and truly move on (and not talk about it excessively anymore).

Sometimes we live in a world that isn’t fair. There will always be someone who is prettier or more handsome than you. There will always be someone who makes more money than you do. You cannot change it. Bad things happen. Breakups happen. Divorces happen. It is painful and sometimes it is unfair. For example, it might seem unfair when you suffered a painful divorce six months ago, and your ex-wife or ex-husband is already married again and so much happier than you. It might seem unfair, but who said that life is fair? You are only hurting yourself if you cannot let go of the past; the truth is that we are all responsible for our own good.

The sooner we accept that life can be unfair, the sooner we can accept to take our own fate in our own hands and embrace the present moment. The past already happened, we cannot change it. What we are able to change is the future – and that is truly yours.

So stop ruminating and blaming other people for your misery, and start living your own life – you deserve it.

Summary

We all may know someone who seems to live in the past; someone who is always talking about past experiences or someone who claims they learned a lesson from past experiences, but somehow they cannot stop talking about it – this is called rumination. The problem with ruminating people is that they truly believe they are “doing something”; however, they are not pursuing any goals, there is no progress happening in their life, they are literally stuck in the same train of thoughts – it like writing your own autobiography over and over again but nothing is changing for years. The first step would be to think about your “needs”. Very often, people cannot let go of their past because they need something to be “solved”. However, the sooner we accept that life can sometimes be unfair, the sooner we are able to let go because we simply cannot change it. The past already happened, we cannot change it. What we are able to change is the future – and that is truly yours.

It is time… to connect with yourself

“I think somehow we learn who we really are and then we live with that decision.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

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I really like this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. It basically says that who we really are is a matter of our decisions. It is not something god-given and unchangeable, it is something we decide for ourselves. Therefore it is important to know what we want and to connect with ourselves to know who we want to be!

I had the idea for today’s blog today. I was sick for almost two weeks; it started with a minor bug, a minor cold, it got better, then it got worse. Long story short, it was “only” a severe cold. On the bright side, I had a lot of time to do something I didn’t do in a long time – connect with myself.

Today’s blog is about the one person, the one most important person in your life, that is yourself. How can you expect that somebody loves you if you’re not able to love yourself? How can you expect that anybody treats you with respect and takes care of you, if you can’t take care of yourself or if you can’t respect yourself?

Connect with yourself

Are you connected with yourself? When somebody asked me this question for the first time, I was a little bit surprised. My first reaction was “Yes, of course!”. On second thought, I hesitated. I mean, I lived with myself every day, but it didn’t mean that I knew me (it sounds silly, doesn’t it). But do you know yourself? Do you check with yourself often?

To get to know what I want, I learned to check in with myself regularly. So, every once in a while, I have a little hiatus, a break from every-day life, a few hours just for myself. I am not online, I am not checking the phone, I am not listening to music, I am just there. Existing, breathing, practicing mindfulness; I watch my train of thoughts, my mind wanders around, and it is the best feedback I can get about myself, my thoughts, my desires, and what is going on with my life.

Start with little steps

To connect with yourself, start with little steps, baby steps. Practice mindfulness, and try to sit quietly in a room for 5 minutes. No Internet, no mobile phone, disconnected from the world, but connected with your inner self. Now, watch your train of thoughts. Don’t judge, just let it flow, let it go. Whatever comes into your mind, observe it, but don’t judge. It won’t be easy, but it will get easier every time you do it. The next time, try to do it for 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, until you have the amount of time you are comfortable with.

Something I can not repeat often enough – get a journal! Write down anything that came into your mind. Psychological studies state that once you write something down, it is out of your mind (i.e. “taken care of”). Over time, you will see a pattern, your desires will become more clear, and you will get a feeling and an idea for your goals in life. This is truly important because once you know your goals, you can take care of your goals to connect with yourself.

Take care of your goals – and reward yourself

If you don’t know what you want, how can you ever expect to get what you want? An important step in connecting with yourself is to think about your goals. What do you want? Write down some of your main goals, either short-term or bigger long-term goals. When you write down bigger long-term goals, I recommend breaking it down into smaller easily achievable goals; it is always helpful to think of small steps towards something big. Do not forget to congratulate yourself when you achieve your goals. For example, when your goal is to go to the gym regularly, and you made it through week 1, reward yourself!

Once you have set goals, you need to think about your next steps. Be as clear as possible why you set a certain goal and how your life will be different once you achieved your goal. Think about help, support and resources you need to achieve your goal. Be not afraid to ask for help!

I have to repeat it one more time – get a journal! All my clients who started a journal stated that their life changed significantly after a while. Backed up by science, daily logging into a journal helps us shape our mind and focus on our goals. There is nothing that you can’t do today to take the first step towards your goal (and if it is just buying a journal for logging your progress)!

So what?

Of course you know about eating healthy and going to the gym, of course you know about how exercise helps you to feel better. My question is – why aren’t you doing it? The problem is, we probably aren’t doing enough of it, we don’t feel connected with ourselves.

Our life, our day is filled with our decisions we make. Instead of sitting in front of the TV, we could make the choice to meet with somebody. Instead of playing the game in front of the computer, we can cook a nice dinner for our partner and cuddle afterwards. Instead of eating chocolate as a snack, we can choose to eat an apple. It sounds simple because it IS simple. Life is about our decisions. It is not the big decisions that change our life permanently, it is the small decisions we make every day. Changing these small decisions, one by one, towards our goal, we will find ourself in a better place after some time.

I hope you have an interesting and insightful time with connecting with yourself! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life with greater happiness and authenticity. Currently, he is a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville/Tennessee, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna/Austria. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by Austria and the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technology frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the Internet, games or smart phones.

 

 

Mindfulness in everyday life

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“Mindfulness helps you communicating. Especially with yourself!”

Thich Nhat Hanh

I get up every day, the same routine almost every day. Breakfast, shower, work, meetings, traffic, gym, dinner with friends or the best spouse of all, chores…. and all of a sudden I am caught up in a routine; I lost my mindfulness, it happens to me too. Today’s blog is about the little things you can do for yourself, for your mindfulness and for your happiness. Little exercises you can include in your daily routine.

What is Mindfulness?

Coming from Asian philosophy, mindfulness is a mental state where we focus our awareness on things that are going on right now. Mindfulness helps us to become more aware of our thoughts and what is going on inside and outside of us.

Find some exercises here, they can help to raise your awareness. Psychological studies showed that mindfulness exercises help a lot of people to calm down, collect their thoughts, acknowledge their feelings and physical sensations. If you practice these techniques regularly, you will see some changes in your life and your mental state over the next few weeks.

  1. Sensory exercise: Usually all of our senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, etc.) are activated all the time, subconsciously. The next time when you have your breakfast or dinner, try to observe how it interacts with your senses: How does it smell? What components can you taste? How does it feel? What memories do you have with certain smells? What are you feeling? During the day, what experiences do you have? What smells and tastes do you have, and what are you feeling? Why is that?
  2. Gratitude exercise: All too often we rush through life without acknowledging the things we take for granted. Before you get up in the morning tomorrow, still lying in bed, try to think of three things you are grateful for, things, situations, experiences, or other people.
  3. Filter exercise: We all have this filter in our head, filtering all the information we get from other people. All too often this filter doesn’t work very well, clouded by our negative beliefs. Whenever an action from someone causes a certain re-action, try to think about this filter. What is happening right now, why are you feeling this way? Monitor and challenge your filter, your beliefs, check his accuracy, and be ready to modify your filter if needed. Sometimes, a filter was beneficiary once, but may be counterproductive as time moves on. Mindfulness allows you to observe your reactions, your thoughts and your feelings, and enables you to challenge your filter to change your beliefs.
  4. Focus exercise: Mindfulness means you are able to focus on something. Whether it is this article, a book, a talk with someone – being mindful means you are completely in the present and aware what is going on at the moment. The next time you are doing something, try to focus on it for at least 30 seconds; try to focus without judging or evaluating. What is going on at the moment? What are you feeling? Why are you feeling it?
  5. Quiet exercise: In our world it became almost impossible to be experience real silence; the phone is ringing, the computer is beeping, the TV is on, etc. Silence is needed for practicing mindfulness when we want to observe our mind and our thoughts. Try to spend at least one hour in complete silence during a week, e.g., going for a walk, sitting in your living room, etc. It is a hard exercise, but very rewarding; you are able to (re)collect your thoughts.

 

As always, practice makes greatness. The more you practice and include these exercises in your daily routine, the more possible it is to see rewarding outcomes. If you have any questions about mindfulness, don’t hesitate to ask me!

 

About me: I am a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist (certified by the Austrian Ministry of Health), proud husband of “the best human being there is”, and stepfather of two teens. I work as a motivational speaker and coach; I am passionate about helping people to live a better life and to be able to find happiness and authenticity. I studied Clinical Psychology in Austria (with an emphasis on cognitive-behavioral techniques), and I finished my doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2013. Furthermore, I authored several scientific papers and book chapters. Currently, I am a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville/Tennessee, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna/Austria. I am a gamer and always excited to use new technology; my research focuses on “(Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology”, such as games or “side effects” of new technologies (internet addiction, etc.).

New year’s resolution- be authentic!

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Three years ago, an incredible journey started for me. I was not unhappy, but I was not happy either. I wanted to change things in life, but I did not know how. So one of the first things I did, I made the resolution to be more authentic, to be more my “real” self, no matter what other people think. Over that following year, I watched amazing things happen… I built new relationships, got a new job, found new friends, and even found myself getting married to an incredible human being – something I would have never even imagined happen to me three or even two years ago. With my post today I want to tell you why it is so important to be the REAL you, to be authentic. Once you start being authentic and take care of your needs and your real self, everything will change, and I will tell you why.

How we lost track of our real self

When we were little kids, we had flaws, we had a personality, we had qualities that defined us as human beings. However, while growing up, society influenced you and molded you into your today’s self. However, very often we ended up flexing our behavior; when we grew up, we learned to flex our personality to fit what we think others expect from us. This is a very natural thing. Think of ancient tribes – it was important to be good with everybody, it was vital for your survival; the more people like you, the more they help you survive. However, being grown-up, this can lead to serious issues. When you fake your personality or do not have the courage to stand up for yourself, you only hurt yourself.

Once you are aware of who you are, what you want and what you deserve, and start being yourself, it will be an amazing journey for you!

You will attract the right partner!

Something that happened to me too… When you are able to show your real personality, your flaws, your worst and your best sides, you will attract certain people. Sure, when you fake your personality and are not able to face your fears, you may attract someone… But I can guarantee you that it won’t make you happy. It is exhausting to fake a personality 24/7, to be not able to just be yourself. You might feel unhappy, exhausted, resentful or even guilty when your needs are not met. When you are authentic, you automatically create a consistend experience for other people; just be authentic and real, and you will attract someone who is truly meant for you.

Relationships change – you will find your right clan!

I had different relationships and friendships three or even two years ago. I was not surrounded by people who really supported me, who wanted to see me succeed. Quite the opposite, they projected their fears onto me, and tried to hold me back. However, the minute I focused on myself and started to be authentic, I lost some of these “friends”. It was a painful process, but trust me: once you are your real self and not subconsciously faking your personality like others want you to be, you will find other friends and colleagues.

You will find people who inspire you, who want to help you; you will attract other authentic people who are in line with your flaws and strenghts.

You will be healthier

Faking your personality (even if it happens subconsciously) is extremely exhausting. Subconsciously, you are always worried about other people’s thoughts, you try to impress almost everybody. It takes a lot of energy, and of course all these worrying can affect your immune system and your health.

Once you stop faking and start being authentic, all the worrying stops. You will have a lot more energy for authentic positive things, and you will gain confidence by just being present and yourself. It feels good! Being with the right people will boost endorphins. You will feel good, you look good, and you attract good. Over time, it creates major positive energy in your life!

You will be more successful

It is true – people do not want to buy fake experiences. When you are authentic, people can trust you, that you’re always you. It will be painful for some, and you should not be afraid to hurt some people with your opinion; however, you will be respected when you are able to speak your truth in a polite way.

When you’re not faking something, you are able to connect to people on a deeper level and you are able to build real relationships. Once people feel secure in your relationship, they will trust you and your opinion. You will attract people who want to spend time with you, and you will attract customers and clients who respect you.

Summary

Faking personalities is vital during adolescence; you experience and try different roles. However, as an adult, it is truly exhausting to fake a personality 24/7, at work and at home. You don’t attract the right partner or the right circumstances at work. Once you start to listen to yourself, to who you really are and your needs, you will be authentic. Being authentic creates real happiness, because you will find yourself surrounded by completely different people: Colleagues and friends who will want to see you suceed, who support you and uplift you. Most important “side effect” – you might find your real love, the one partner that is meant for your and who fits your flaws and your strenghts! You experience real and authentic happiness – just like you deserve!

Feel free to talk to me when you need assistance or coaching in finding your real inner needs and live an authentic life.

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum works as a Life Coach in Tennessee; he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life with greater happiness and authenticity. Furthermore, he currently is a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville/Tennessee, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna/Austria. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by Austria and the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technology frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the Internet, games or smart phones.

 

My grandfather’s golden watch

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

My favorite day!” said Pooh.

A.A.Milne

Have you ever thought about not wearing a special shirt or not putting on that cologne in the morning, because it was too expensive? You wanted to “save it for later, for a special occasion”? You shouldn’t. You should feel special every day, and it is in your hands to accomplish this feeling. My article today is about my grandfather’s golden watch and how it can teach us a lesson to embrace and welcome every day. Many of us save things for later and forget to live today.

My grandparents’ “war” generation

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents at their house. As a kid, I never wondered about the fact that my grandmother had “good silverware” and “every-day silverware”. She also had the “good cups” and the normal cups for everyday use. All the good silverware and dishes were stored in another room and only taken out for special occasions. I grew up with this, and it was not until later that I realized that this was a special way of thinking, inherent to the old war generation.

My grandparents grew up during World War II; my great grandmother even survived both world wars. They had to learn how to survive with a minimum of resources. After World War II, there was an economic boom in Austria. People were able to buy stuff they never had before, such as TV’s, special silverware or dishes – luxury. My grandparents grew up with almost nothing, so they had to learn how to plan ahead. They wanted to save the “good stuff” for later, for special occasions. However, with all the “saving up for later” my grandparents forgot something important – to live in and embrace the moment.

My grandfather’s 60th birthday – the golden watch

I remember my grandfather’s 60th birthday, I was 13 or 14 years old. We celebrated my grandfather’s birthday with the whole family, and he got a lot of presents. One of these presents was a golden watch, from my grandmother and my great-grandmother. They didn’t have a lot of money, so they had to save some money for it. It was a nice watch, with a golden clock-face and a fine leather band. When he got it, my grandfather opened the case with the watch in it, looked at it, said “This is nice, thank you” and put the watch back in the case.

He probably never opened it again until the day he died.

My grandfathers death – the good-bye

My grandfather died a year ago, three weeks after I went to the United States. He was sick for a long time; his death wasn’t a surprise. But even if it was the end of a long suffering, the whole family was devastated.

However, I am glad that I had the opportunity to say good-bye before I went to the U.S. He suffered from several strokes; he was not able to move his hands anymore. He also was not able to speak anymore, and was almost blind. But you could still see some light in his eyes when he recognized something.

Saying good-bye was hard for me. I knew that I would never be able to see him again. I went to his room, he was in his bed. I took his hand and I said goodbye. His eyes were always closed, but as I gave him my last kiss on his cheeks, he opened his eyes. He saw and he recognized me. I told him that I have to go now. He looked at me, I saw it in his eyes that he heard what I said. He stared at the ceiling. I saw a tear in his eye, and I am sure he knew that this was the final good-bye. I didn’t want him to see me cry, so I swallowed my tears; I cried a lot after that.

The golden watch

A couple months after his death, I spoke to my grandmother. I totally forgot about the golden watch; when she told me about it, I remembered it. She took care of my grandfather’s belongings after his passing, and she found the watch. She wanted me to have it, to have something from him when I am in the U.S., something to remember him. My grandmother told me that he was never wearing this watch, always waiting for a special day.

The next time my mother visited she brought me that watch. And there it was – the golden watch in a case; it looked like a brand-new watch. I had to get a new battery, but still – after almost 25 years it looked like a completely new watch.

Live and embrace the moment

I love the golden watch. It reminds me of my grandfather and where I come from. And it is a reminder to live every day. My grandfather waited for a long time to wear his golden watch, but he never did – until it was too late.

Unlike my grandfather, I do not want to wait for special days to wear my watch. I also do not wear for any special occasion; I wear it every day if I choose to. And this is the important lesson this watch teaches me: When I wait to for a special day, I will probably never wear it. The same goes for “expensive” clothes or “special” shoes or “fine” fragrances – I wear it every day I can. Every day is special, because it is YOUR life! You are still alive, and you should feel worth it – wear your best cologne, your best clothes, eat that special dinner, because you deserve it! Celebrate and embrace your life in this very moment!

Take away message from my grandfather’s golden watch

We never know how long we live; we never know what tomorrow brings. Of course, it is good to save some money for later! However, it shouldn’t stop us from living, enjoying our life today. Think about yourself: What are the things you don’t wear, don’t do, or don’t eat because you want to wait for a special day? Why can’t you do it today? You can wear your best clothes, order  that special dinner just for you, have a bath with that special bath salt, nourish your skin with that special body lotion, wear that special cologne when you go shopping… it is your list. Feel special and don’t wait for a day in the future far ahead because it might be too late some day!

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum wants to help people to thrive in life. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist, a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

Be your own best friend, for happiness’ sake!

“Happiness Is When You Feel Good About Yourself Without Feeling The Need For Anyone Else’s Approval”

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As a Psychologist and Coach, I meet a lot of people; furthermore, even after meeting with clients, I can’t help to see some things with my psychological eye. Some people are really talented with overthinking situations, dwelling on the past, and be their own enemy. They just can’t help themselves.

However, you – with reading my blog – can help yourself! Therefore, I’d like to introduce you to your worst enemy in today’s post – yourself. Right, yourself… I try to outline some rules for happiness, so you can stop being your own enemy, dwelling on the past, and start designing your own brilliant future!

Overthinking and second guessing

Yes, we all made mistakes, we all said things we wish we didn’t say, and we all made decisions we regret. Nevertheless, we also had situations where we helped somebody, wrote kind words to someone, made a phone call to encourage somebody. Instead of dwelling on negative situations, why don’t we dwell on the positive ones, where we helped somebody?

It is amazing how some people are able to focus on negative things, and overthink it how they reacted, should’ve reacted differently etc. Life is full with ups and downs. As I said before, we all make mistakes. How can you expect that somebody forgives you if you can’t forgive yourself? Make the first step and forgive yourself.

Mistakes made you the person you are now, they shaped you. You would react differently today – so the past was an excellent teacher, and you learned from your mistake. Just hold your head up, live through the mess of your past, and keep focusing on the present and designing your fantastic future.

Let your past be a teacher – and nothing else

We all made mistakes. We all made decisions we regret. Nobody is perfect. We all have good days, and we all have bad days where we dwell on the past, full with feelings of regret or remorse. And this is okay – it is okay as long as you do not let it stop you from designing a better future, beginning in this very moment.

Every mistake can inspire you towards success, every decision you made, made you the person you are today. You cannot change the past, but you can change your future.There were reasons you made a decision, there were reasons why you made a mistake, you just didn’t know it better that time.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, let the past be a teacher instead of a weapon to hurt yourself. Ask yourself what this situation taught you, and take it with you into a better future. Yesterday is gone, the future not here yet – all you have is your present.

Allow every past moment to be an investment in designing a better future, your future!

Don’t be your own enemy and listen to lies in your head

I am pretty sure we all have this voices in our head. This nagging voice “You could’ve done better”, “You don’t deserve it”, “How can people love you”, “You’re ugly”, “You’re a failure”, and so on.

This is the part that amazes me a lot – instead of being your own friend, most people are their own enemy and let these voices guide their life. Yes, we all have lazy days where we don’t feel like we are up to do what needs to be done.

However, feeling guilty because you didn’t do something, or because you didn’t do it well enough doesn’t serve you. Guilt is a strong feeling, nagging deep inside your soul, petrifies you until you’re not able to do anything else anymore.

Just don’t listen to your inside voice that tells you that it doesn’t matter if you skip a day at gym, drink that one more cocktail or smoke that one cigarette. It’s the voice of laziness that keeps you from flourishing.

Try to be your best friend, your best coach and motivator. Replace old, disempowering thoughts with uplifting and encouraging thoughts. You can do it! And what keeps you from doing it right now?

Thoughts of encouragement

It was Gandhi who said that “your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”

If you want to start shaping your future and your destiny, you will have to start with your beliefs and thoughts. Your words have power, not only for you but also your environment. Therefore, be very careful what you think and what you speak; are your words encouraging? Do they help you or anybody else in fulfilling their dreams? Happiness comes with words of encouragement; happy people speak words of encouragement not only to other people but also to themselves.

I strongly believe in the law of attraction. If you start speaking words of kindness and encouragement, it will attract other helpful, encouraging and kind people into your life. Just be careful – very often you are surrounded by negative people who want to drag you down.

Don’t listen to them, and seek out for encouraging people. You will see that you will awaken in others the thoughts and beliefs you hold in yourself. Always be your best friend, and live your life always aware of the fact that your beliefs and thoughts are your future and your destiny. If you want a better world for yourself and others around you, you have to start inside.

I sincerely hope that you find yourself in my words, and you find something you can include in your own life. Just remember, that most people are their own enemy – no one else is to blame but themselves. Therefore, instead of heading into the direction of a future with happiness, they dwell on the past, with overthinking and second guessing situations. Let your past be a teacher for you!

Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is not here yet – all you have is the present, and it is a present. Thoughts of encouragement will help you to shape your beliefs, your actions, your habits, and in the end – your fantastic future!

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

 

Stop.Breathe.Think. Daily happiness

“Love and happiness are not something ready made. They come from your own actions.” 

Dalai Lama XIV

Everybody wants true love and to be happy – I assume that there are only a few people in this world who want to live on their own. Nevertheless, this quote from Dalai Lama already points out to something I want to say – true love and happiness do not come from the outside; rather from your own actions and from the inside.

I heard this a long time ago, “Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” In other words, do what you love and love what you do, because this is the only way to live happily.

There only a few rules for true happiness

1. DROP THE THOUGHT: A lot of people tend to overthink certain matters. Try not to overanalyze other people’s reactions or words. You are not sitting inside other people’s head, therefore you construct your own reality by assuming what he or she might have meant by saying this or that – and your assumptions are in most cases not true. Therefore, try to “drop the thought” and go on living.

2. UNPLUG FOR QUALITY TIME: We are wired 24/7. Even with my iPhone and iPad, I can always be online, giving everybody the opportunity to speak to/with me. Sometimes I need to unplug, and my own space – and so do many people. You have to learn to let go. Set aside your phone and laptop, and spend some real quality time with friends. At the end of the day, they really matter. Imagine yourself in the last seconds before you die – you will probably NEVER say “I should’ve checked my Facebook timeline more often“; instead, most people regret missing time with friends.

3. KEEP ON LEARNING: I finished my PhD roughly some years ago.  Nevertheless, I never stopped learning. You have to feed your brain with some new stuff every now and then. Why don’t you lean Japanese calligraphy? Enroll to some sushi cooking lectures? By rough estimation, it takes 5 years to learn a new “profession” or to be excellent in some area. Therefore, you have plenty of time to learn new skills even if you are “older” than the usual 40/50/60 crowd you see in media. Challenge yourself; you are never too old to do something new.

4. FORGIVE AND LET GO. I used to believe in some kind of “revenge” for a long time, but I realized over the last years that this was some sort of negative energy inside of me. We all have people in our lives that use us, hurt us or test us somehow, but feelings of revenge do not serve any purpose for happiness. I learned to let go, and to trust “Karma”. If somebody hurts you or uses you, he will likely do this with other people as well – and there are good chances that life will teach him or her a lesson. If you are lucky enough (like me), you can even watch how it happens; just remember that everything you send out (love, happiness, negative thoughts) will come back to the sender. If you forgive and let it go, you learn and move on. Never regret a single part in your journey. Everything happens for a reason, and made you stronger somehow.

5. GIVE BACK: “Random acts of kindness”. Psychological studies reveal that real happiness comes from sharing with other people. If you believe in Karma or god, or a higher power, everything you send out will come back to you somehow. Just trust “god”, “the universe”, “karma” or whatever you believe in.

6. MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS: At the end of the day, only friends or family can help you when you are feeling down. Having a successful career and a lot of money in your wallet can make you feel safe, but it does not make you feel happy. Only a truly loving partner teaches us to become better people.  He or she supports us during our ups and our down moments. Be grateful when you have someone like this in your life. I found my spouse and I am daily grateful and consider myself blessed to have my spouse in my life.

7. BE AUTHENTIC. Don’t be a fake version of yourself. Try to be somebody who feels comfortable just the way you are. At the end of the day, it’s about who the inner you is. If people love you just because of your fake version, you’re not being true to yourself or to society. Always surround yourself with people who want you to succeed. It seems simple on the surface but I found myself working with people rooting for me to fail. It was a hard lesson because I just did not believe that there are people like this out there – but they exist. Therefore, stay away from them. Authentic people are hard to find; if you found them, hold onto it.

“Simple” rules, my foot, you might say. And yes, they are not that simple, but nevertheless – these are proven ways to improve your happiness. True love and real happiness are something that have to start within you. Do your part, and you will see that life changes for the better immediately…

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

About the law of attraction…

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“Thoughts don’t become things; thoughts ARE things.” Eric Michael Leventhal

I really like this quote, basically because it sums up something I already do on a subconscious level, following the law of attraction, but I found that many people have problems with this point of view, saying it is not a scientifially proven fact. It may be true, but nevertheless, I found myself wondering about the fact why so many people are used to make they life harder for themself by negative thoughts, not being able to break out and create positive things in their life. I also wondered about how the law of attraction might work, if there is really something like a “force” attracting things in our life. This is what I found over the last years.

Interested in Quantum-physics as well as in Psychology, I found the outcomes of several studies in the last decade very astounding. If you break down matter, from molecules to atoms to electrons, neutrons and protons, you find even smaller parts. An important theory of Quantum-physics is the string theory. It basically states every matters consists of strings, sized a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. It is said that they are made of nothing but little lines of energy. Therefore, according to this theory, everything we see, your living room, the text you are currently reading, your body, is made of pure energy. YOU are made of energy. Therefore, from a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to differ between fantasy and reality, because both things are real somehow. We are really living in exciting times, when science is basically confirming ancient points of view that thoughts create reality (like Buddhism, …).

As I pointed out before, I strongly believe in the law of attraction. When I am in a positive mood, I attract positive situations; vice versa, when I am in a bad mood, more negative things seem to happen. In the beginning, the rate of good and bad things may be the same for positive or negative people, but positive people focus more on the positive aspects in their life. One positive experience can lead to another one, like a chain reaction. But to make good things happen, they have to be somewhere before – in your head, as thoughts. When all life around us including us is made of energy, including our thoughts, then why don’t we focus on good things? Why not channel our “energy”, our thoughts, into a desired direction?

Of course, things do not change instantly. What you are now, where you are living and working now, your current life circumstances, the people you know, everything is the product of thoughts you had and decisions you made in the last years. Be patient with yourself, if you find yourself trapped in unhappy life circumstances.

Why am I writing this? As a Psychologist and as a coach, I get to know a lot of people who are not happy with their life. I want to help by stating some facts about changing the life by changing one’s thoughts. I do not say that it is easy to change one’s life – but it is possible. Instead of channeling energy into negative views and complaining, your energy should go into positive things, summed up by “Do and think more of what makes you happy”. You are the creator of your own reality, and only you are responsible for your life. Maybe you had a rough childhood, an unhappy marriage, you met the wrong people in your life, you made some wrong decisions… it is okay, nobody is perfect. Everybody has his or her own story, but it is solely up to you how you live your life, to make changes, starting with your thoughts in this very moment.

I always recommend writing down your thoughts. You would be stunned how many negative thoughts are crossing your mind every day. This is a given fact, how can you be happy with unhappy thoughts? By writing them down, you (maybe for the first time in your life) make yourself aware about how you treat yourself and your surrounding. Once you wrote them down, it is up to you to find better thoughts for yourself. Think about better thoughts and write them down. Also start to think about your goals, and write down how you want your life to be. Psychological researcher found that people who wrote down their goals instead of just saying them out loud where more likely to reach their goals. This fact is true for both negative and positive things. For example, studies suggest that when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw it away, they also mentally discharged these thoughts. People who were told to carry around these thoughts in their pocket were found to be more likely attached to these thoughts. Therefore, to start a change in your life, write down your goals, your desired changes in your life. I recommend using sticky notes, and put them somewhere where you can see them as often as possible. The more energy you channel into a desired direction, the more likely you will see outcomes. Just be careful about goals, they should be realistic. Winning a billion in a lottery is possible, but unlikely. Loosing more than a pound per week is possible, but not very healthy. Getting to know your future husband next week if you are single may be possible but unlikely. Set your goals realistically when you write them down. Writing down what you want is a good way to be more clear about your intentions, and I believe that this somehow activates the law of attraction.

Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist, a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology and new technology (play a special game to overcome depression or use an app to provide positive psychology) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

Life changing habits

“Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll fell peace.”

Spirit says, “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.”

Marianne Williamson

I get to hear following sentences a lot; like “I want to change my life”, “I want to change this” and “I want to change that”… After all, the good thing is, we are all creatures of habit. The bad thing is, we are creatures that stick to old habits. Another good thing is, habits can change! For example, I made it a habit to work out frequently and I made it a habit to eat healthy. It was not easy in the beginning, but once you made the first steps, it gets more and more easy to include new habits into your everyday life.

Most important of all, I made it a habit to think positive. You might say that these steps are difficult – they are! If you want to change everything in your life at once, it is difficult and you will most probably fail, to be honest. It is better to stick to baby-steps instead. For example, if you want to eat more healthy food, start with small steps like a healthy breakfast or a healthy lunch every day. It is mandatory to make a plan of things you want / write it down, make a 30-day plan for habits you want to change, and put it somewhere where you can see it (on the fridge). Commit to your plan, publicly, and log your process! Furthermore, do not forget to reward yourself. For example, whenever I reached a certain goal with my work out plan, I rewarded myself with a new outfit. And – be proud of yourself, even if you fail. At least you tried it. Fall may fall down and might nearly give up, but this is part of the process; you try, you fail, you learn something, and you try again!

There are some habits I included in my everyday living, for example:

Think positive

Positive thinking is important to form habits. Even if you fail: with an optimistic way of thinking you will try it again and succeed. Start by detecting your negative thoughts first, by recording your negative self-talk. Find some help with my other blog article about positive thoughts here.

Stop multi-tasking

Over the past years I made the mistake of multi-tasking. In our world it is so easy to get distracted, you have your smartphone and tablet on your desk, your laptop and your PC turned on, and you switch every 10 minutes, when a new message on Facebook pops up or someone wrote you a message. I felt super productive this way, but I realized that even when I did a lot lot things during the day, I didn’t get anything essential done in time. Multi-tasking is not productive. Therefore, stop it. Make it a habit to fully commit to the work you currently do.

Follow the 1-hour rule: fully commit to a work for exactly one hour. Set your phone on silent, do not open Facebook, concentrate on your current work for 60 minutes. Stop phubbing. After that, evaluate. Was it enough time? Are you able to put another hour into it? If so, do it. You’ll see, you get more work done more efficiently if you fully commit to it, and just IT.

Exercise!

Yes – you will roll your eyes, you hear it the x-thousandst time. Well then – why aren’t you exercising? What are your excuses? Too much work? No time? Instead of wasting time in front of the TV, there is always time for work out. And trust me – 30 minutes on the treadmill will relax you more than 30 minutes on the couch, watching TV or playing games or whatever you usually I do.

Exercise helps you to think positive, you gain more self-confidence. You will feel better – and this is definitely a life-changing habit! I enjoy my work out times not only for physical reasons: it is one time for me and me only. I have my best ideas and brain storming during work out times… I put my workout times in my calendar, this my time for me and for me only.

Simplify your life

You would be surprised how many time you lose with non-essential things during the day. So as a first step try to identify things in your life that are essential. Things, activities, people that are important to you, that you love the most. Then try to identify the rest.

Spend more time with things you love, and less time with things that are non-essential. This can change your life because it simplifies your life in general and it helps you to focus on what’s important.

Be kind and friendly

I strongly believe in Karma in a way that friendly and kind people get more back from life itself than grumpy and selfish people. Kindness, being friendly and smiling are habits that can be cultivated. If you focus on it, for example do one kind thing a day (bring some sweet surprise to work, pay for someone else’s coffee at Starbucks, etc), you will notice changes in your life. I believe in the law of Karma and attraction. With being kind you start to attract other kind people and episodes in your life. People will react to you differently and treat you better!

Even if you have some grumpy and negative people in your life – do not let them bring you down to their level. Try to smile and imagine being in a kind of positive cloud that filters negative comments away. You will be surprised about changes in your life if you do this constantly.

Identify your best hours during the day

Start a daily routine and identify what’s the best and productive hours during the day for you. For me, for example, it’s the morning hours before noon where I am at my best and get the most things done. Obama is known to work in the evening hours. Other people work best in the afternoon. Try to create a daily routine with everything – your work, your exercise, your dates with your partner: this will help you to root new habits, and it helps you to focus on what’s important and not whatever comes along your way. Use any app for time-management and a calendar. It helps you to get the most important things done and to eliminate non-efficient things.

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Licensed Psychologist, and the founder and director of Thrive in Life Counseling and Therapy LLC, his private practice in Franklin/Nashville, Tennessee. He is a researcher as well as the author of several peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters about internet gaming disorder, internet addiction and anxiety disorders. He offers services in English and German. Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum diagnoses and treats individuals, couples and groups with a wide range of challenges in their lives, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, ADHD, shyness, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, phobias, diversity, relationship issues, mens issues, career and life challenges, marital and couple issues and other challenges. His research work focuses on “new” technologies, such as online-based social skills trainings as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as addiction.

Golden rules for real happiness

Yes – you know these people. They seem to glow from the inside, full with authentic happiness. How are they doing it? 

There is some serious research about “positive psychology” going on, about what makes people happy. Martin Seligman is one of the fathers of positive psychology, and led some serious research in this area.  I found some of the results surprising because I already did it subconsciously all my life. I’d like to share some of my habits with you and sum up scientific results about happy people as golden rules for happiness:

  • Positive activities diary. It sounds simple, but research shows that remembering the little things that went well over the day can make you feel more happy. When you’re about to fall asleep, try to think of all the things that went well during the day: that nice talk with the barista at Starbucks, that call from your father, that smile from your kids – be grateful and appreciate the fact, that little things can make you happy! It can help to start a positive activities diary: Every day in the evening time, try to find three events from the present day that made you happy. Over time you will find yourself more aware of the little things that make you happy in your everyday life, just like happy people do.
  • Meet happy people. Research shows that if you are together with happy people, you’re more likely to be happy yourself. Look at your life: Are there any people who literally suck out the energy of you, leaving you behind devastated and without any positive feeling? Try to spend more time with friends, who push your emotions up, who give you a good feeling!
  • Foster positive activities. Yes, there are certain days where you get out of bed, and everything is wrong, you’re grumpy and you just want to yell at everybody to leave you alone. To be honest, I don’t have these periods in my life at all. I really try to be happy all the time. Just trying to be happy lets you actually feel better. I reward myself, I’m a very self-gratifying person (e.g., I survived that horrible painful meeting with my dentist? I deserve a marvelous breakfast for that). And I challenge my negative thoughts!
  • Mindfulness and acceptance. As mentioned in the last sentence above, it is important to celebrate the small victories as well as the big events in your life. I notice each and every little thing that goes right during the day, focusing on the good things rather than the bad things. And I try to live my life with mindfulness – meaning that I appreciate easy-to-come-by pleasures such as a good café latte or that cute puppy from the neighbor.
  • Feelgood music mix. According to psychological research, music has a great power on your mood. I always have my personal “feel good” folder with my favourite mp3’s that lift up my mood instantly, when I feel depressed or down or anxious. Furthermore, I use these music doing things I don’t like, e.g. the household. I hate vacuuming, I really do. But it’s so much more fun with a good techno-remix, plus over the loudness of the vacuum it’s unlikely that anybody hears my rusty tuneless voice. Try to find your personal uplifting music and listen to it at least once a day!
  • Physical exercise. I started my workout when I was twenty. I kept it as a weekly routine to hit the gym at least two or three times a week. Of course I had periods in my life, when that was not possible due to exams or other stuff. I noticed that I started to feel uncomfortable and in a strange mood when I didn’t get to work out for more than a month. Psychological research backs me up: Exercise releases endorphins that make you happy. It has a depression- and anxiety-decreasing effect. On the other hand, you should try to get enough
  • Sleep! And relax! Your body needs sleep, appreciate this fact. Give your body the time to relax, recover and reboot. A lack in sleep has a significantly bad effect on your mood. Furthermore, take some time off during the day with mediation, unplugging the phone and be there, just for you. Meditation or just a few minutes off for yourself, practicing stomach-breathing (deep long breathing into your stomach) can increase your personal resilience. Happy people take their time off, for rebooting and recharging their batteries.
  • The world is your catwalk. According to a recent study, people feel happier when they take long strides while swinging their arms and holding their heads high. Sounds silly? Just try it. Hold your head high and take long strides the next time you walk somewhere. Remember – the world is yours, it is your personal catwalk 😉
  • Focus on the positive aspects of life. Seligman pointed out that there is something like “learned helplessness” in depressed people, they aren’t able to help themselves, being dependent on other people. On the other hand, there is something like “learned optimism”! Optimists have a realistic view of life, knowing that bad events will go by, they’re temporary. Defeat is not their fault, it’s because of circumstances, bad luck or other people. Confronted by a bad event in life, happy people tend to perceive it as a challenge rather than a problem and try even harder. Nothing lasts forever!
  • Give. Whether it is time or something else. Give something to other people. Psychological research shows that spending money on other people makes you more happy than spending that money on yourself. Spending time for or with other people has a crucial effect on people’s happiness – research shows that volunteer work is good for both mental and physical health! Scientists say that  the act of making a (financial or other) donation triggers the reward center in our brains that is responsible for dopamine-mediated euphoria.
  • Spend quality time with friends. Depressed people often fail to leave their house for any social activities. They simply don’t have the motivation or the energy to do so. Furthermore, texting friends or seeing them via webcam seems to be so much more convenient. It’s a trap! Don’t get too comfortable, studies show that it has a dramatic effect on your happiness when you actively go out and meet friends or invite them over for a face-to-face talk. Technology is fine, but it can’t replace everything, especially when it comes to social connections!
  • Get out! Happy people choose activities outside, and if it is only for a walk. Fresh air is essential for happiness and provides a sense of vitality; furthermore, the sun has a mood-enhancing effect as well (even if it is the sun in winter, it’s always better to get real daylight instead of artificial light from bulbs).

Have fun including these habits and activities in your life! It’s all up to you to include more happiness in your life…

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Licensed Psychologist, and the founder and director of Thrive in Life Counseling and Therapy LLC, his private practice in Franklin/Nashville, Tennessee. He is a researcher as well as the author of several peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters about internet gaming disorder, internet addiction and anxiety disorders. He offers services in English and German. Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum diagnoses and treats individuals, couples and groups with a wide range of challenges in their lives, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, ADHD, shyness, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, phobias, diversity, relationship issues, mens issues, career and life challenges, marital and couple issues and other challenges. His research work focuses on “new” technologies, such as online-based social skills trainings as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as addiction.