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  • Writer's pictureNick Allen

Overcoming negative events

Mistakes and bad luck are inevitable. You can — and should — work extensively to limit their occurrence, but you’ll never avoid them entirely. Rarely do we think about situations where something has gone wrong, but I’d argue that it’s worthwhile to do so. The consequences of a single moment are almost never disastrous. Substantial damage comes when we allow negative events to snowball.

A single day missed from your workout routine or a single cheat meal that deviates from your diet will be irrelevant in the long run. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to take a break from the gym or fulfill your cravings occasionally. The true damage comes from allowing these slip-ups to discourage you, leading to the complete abandonment of exercise or healthy eating. To avoid this, some people follow the “two-day rule,” which states that you should never miss two days in a row of any habit you’re trying to build.

My motivation to write on this topic didn’t come from habits, though. Instead, I observed my behavior on certain days when I was in a bad mood — either as a result of a personal mistake or something out of my control entirely. I noticed that this temporary bad mood would often become an entire bad day filled with regrettable actions. When I would look back on those days, it was never the initial event that hurt the most. It was my response, and the way I proceeded to treat people and situations that had nothing to do with the initial problem.

I’m confident that acknowledging this process is the first step to correcting it. While I certainly have not fixed this behavior in my own life, I can now at least recognize it with consistency. I’ll catch myself in a bad mood and ask: “Are you acting this way for a logical reason? Or are you being influenced by pre-existing emotions?” From here, taking the next step and correcting the action is difficult but possible.

In terms of practical strategies for moving from acknowledgement to action, the benefit of clearing the mind cannot be understated. When I find myself frustrated, I love to drop everything for a brief walk or nap. The “lost time” from these escapes is always outdone by the mental clarity that they bring. If a full escape is not possible, I’ll simply take a couple deep breaths and go over the situation in my head. I’ll remind myself that there’s no going back to change what happened, but that the damage can be minimized if I bring a positive attitude to the rest of the day. I’ll sometimes reflect on how fortunate I am overall, and how minor my problems are relative to those of the people I see in the hospital and on the street.

Solutions will vary depending on the individual, but acknowledgement is the first step for everyone. Think back to this post the next time you find yourself feeling off, and recognize that whatever has happened up to that point does not have to impact the decisions you make in the future. Carry this awareness with you throughout your day, and reflect on it when you catch yourself acting on negative emotions. This thought alone is significant progress towards limiting the downside in your life.


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