For "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things" - Philippians 4:8
We are all very familiar -often too familiar- with negative associations. They come in the form of a song that reminds you of that person that broke your heart, a smell that reminds you your Dad is gone, and that street that reminds you of the car accident when you were rushed to the hospital. They nag at us, bring us down, and even overwhelm us with sadness. We all have them and they tend to just happen to us and leave us to figure out how to deal with them.
"We forget that we can intentionally create positive associations to enhance life."
Similarly, positive associations happen in the same way. However, there are two big differences when it comes to these associations. First, we tend to just brush off the positive associations and go on with our day while the negative associations linger. Most importantly, we forget that we can intentionally create positive associations to enhance our life!
For example, let's create a relaxation positive association. Picture the perfect spot where you could breath deep, begin to let the tension go, and feel peace or joy. I found my perfect picture by searching "peaceful hammock" online. It's a beautiful hammock tilted perfectly with a pillow, connected to two huge beautiful trees, surrounded by a spectrum of light and dark green. It has a river running by, and the perfect amount of sunlight coming through the tops of the trees. Now anytime I need to relax, breath deep, be filled with peace, and escape, I walk into that picture and lay down on my hammock. I have practiced it so much, that I can even quickly picture it when I am in a conversation that is making me mad, calm down, and come back to the conversation all within seconds.
Don't forget, when you find yourself having an awesome golf game, laughing out loud, or feeling really content and happy; make sure to pause and sink into that memory long enough to really enjoy it all while creating the positive association by naming it and using the senses to explore it.
For example, one day you find yourself around a table of friends laughing really hard. Stop to really feel the happiness, feel the smile and warmth, see everybody's body language, think about what you smell, where you are sitting, what you are touching and pause in the joy of it all. You may surprise yourself how easy it is to enjoy that memory weeks later.
You Have More Control Over The Negative Than You Think
Remember, you have more control of your thinking than you realize. When those negative associations pop up, get to the bottom of it.
"Take the power away from the negative association by reframing it and experiencing grace and forgiveness."
For example, maybe you have a reoccurring memory that makes you feel really bad when you drive by your old apartment complex. After you explore the feeling the more you realize you feel guilty and disappointed in yourself for your actions. Then, take the power away from the negative association by reframing it and experiencing grace and forgiveness. Maybe something like, "I am forgiven, everyone makes mistakes and I learned from it or that was years ago, I'm wiser now." Then when it pops up, repeat the grace and forgiveness. Soon (and over time), the negative association will not have the power to linger.
So what do you do with this information?
- Let the positive prevail. Begin to intentionally create positive associations.
- Allow the positive associations to hang around longer so you can really enjoy them.
- Learn how to process the negative associations and how to take their power away so they don't linger and can't control your life or your day.
Lindsey Pate | LPC-I & Thrive Mental Health Coach
(Wife, Mom, and Serving life to others)