The students had watched the master for a while before one was curious to know which form of meditation he practices every morning in his garden.
The master replied: "When I look carefully, I see the cherry tree in full bloom"
One of the students asked: "But why does one have to look carefully to see the cherry tree? The vibrant color of the beautiful blossoms are hard to overlook"
The master smiled and answered: "So that I really see the cherry tree and not my idea of it."
This short story is loosely based on a story by Anthony de Mello. Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest, public speaker, author and psychotherapist known for his storytelling (among many others.)
We're not always positive. Influenced by society, experience, upbringing, and exposure to the news we go through life. Yes, we try our best and we want to be happy. Always. But roadblocks and exhaustion can make it difficult and sometimes we enter the vale of tears.
We know that whining neither helps the situation nor does it make us feel good. So how can we stay positive when the going gets tough?
No whining please because:
It changes your brain
Neuroplasticity is a term that refers to the brain's ability to change its structure and function.
Nerve cells die, new ones form. Brain scans proved what we suspected all along: who's whining a lot becomes more and more negative.
The reason for that is that our brain cannot differentiate between what we think and what we experience. Imagine the synaptic connections like paths between nerve cells. The more you train them, the more you walk them, the more you activate them the more approachable these nerve cells will become.
The good thing about it is: training and repetition lead us to our goal. But if you train whining and complaining, you will become an expert in negative emotions. The number of times you walk a path will decide which path becomes your Main Street.
Negative emotions cause a physical reaction. You probably noticed: when you're mad your heart rate increases and when you are afraid your muscles become tense. The hormones that regulate these reactions are either feel-well hormones that make you happy or fear and stress hormones, for instance, cortisol, that cause tension.
If you feel negative emotions over and over again, more and more of the, in this case, undesirable hormones get released. That lowers your resistance to the next stress attack and puts you in a downward spiral.
Happiness is your decision
The first step to stop whining is to make a conscious decision:
Do I want to be a positive person?
See things and positive light?
Have confident expectations and
Focus on solutions?
Or do I want to be a negative person? Be critical about everything and find errors everywhere. And, no, the decision isn’t as easy as it seems.
Obviously, all of us want to go through life as happy as possible. But the whining status has a lot of advantages and you must understand those to make an educated decision.
Whining feels good sometimes
In our society, bonding over a shared enemy or negative situation is a common way of socializing. Just listen to conversations all around you.
We bond when we complain about the bad weather or when we commiserate with others and we team up when we find a common enemy.
A trick of our mind: if something terrible happens, our brain helps us out by making us feel as we are the unluckiest person in the world. The most terrible thing in the world just happened to us.
Not just one unlucky person. Oh, no! The most unlucky person ever in all of earth, space, universe and beyond.
It might sound absurd but this is how our brain helps us to feel like a winner even when we lose.
Whining can help us to feel better. It takes guts and honesty to acknowledge our own responsibility when something goes wrong. And it can be painful.
Last but not least, whining is a fabulous way of getting attention. And I don’t mean that in a negative way.
Some of our problems are wicked and dark and the last thing people around us want us to do is to tell them our deepest problems. What we do instead if we feel that we need some attention: we complain about something else.
Imagine you’re standing in line in front of a register. It would be pretty awkward if you said something like: “I have been diagnosed with herpes and that worries me” to a random stranger. But what if you complained about the slow cashier instead?
The people around you have problems too and they might be just glad that they can bond with you by complaining about the store with the worst cashiers.
That way everyone can get a bit of empathy and compassion while at the same time none of the unspoken rules of society have been broken and nobody felt awkward (besides the cashier should they overhear your conversation).
Top five tips against whining
Don’t think this challenge is easy for me. We’re all human and everyone gets caught up in whining from time to time.
But I have learned how I can minimize whining attacks and become a more positive person.
I would love to share that knowledge with you:
Observe and recognize
The first step is to recognize that you are whining. Often we are not aware of it.
But first off let me say loud and clear: do not stress yourself. If you catch yourself whining, don't despair! It’s a good thing. Knowing is the first and necessary step to making changes.
For the rest of today look for the source of every negative emotion. And ask yourself:
How can I change my perspective?
How can I invite more love, acceptance, and problem solving into that moment?
And breathe deep and slowly. That always helps.
An effective tool to calm your mind and for effective stress-management is brainwave entrainment. You'll find more in my digital STORE
Solution mindset vs victim mindset
Let’s say you recognized something critical. Breeze deep and calm and ask yourself:
What can I do?
What besides whining and feeling bad can I do about the situation?
Is there anything I can say?
Is there anything I can do?
Do not accept:" it is what it is" answers.
Love it–change it–leave it.
Perceiving a difficult situation positive is not as easy as suggesting it. But it is easy to actively look for the positives and change how you feel about a situation.
We have a strong tendency towards a negative mindset. The positive, grateful mindset first has to be learned.
So ask yourself in the morning: “what am I looking forward to today?” And ask yourself in the evening: “what am I grateful for today?”
List five positive things that happened today. While you do that, you will realize that there were a lot of small wonderful moments you had already forgotten.
As we’ve discussed earlier: the more you do that the more it becomes an automatism.
Every day has both: good and bad moments. You decide which have a stronger impact. At the same time, you set your brain filters to getting you more of whatever you focus your mind on.
Article: Mastering the Art of Gratitude
Another question that works miracles is: “How can I make the world a little better today?”
Inhale good moments. Should your life be in a difficult stage right now, inhale the small good moments.
The warm sun on your face, the good book, the person smiling at you. There are many things in everyone’s life to be grateful for.
Train that. It will make you happier and more stress-resistant.
Focus on the big picture
You know these moments when something really extreme, intense happens. The death of a loved one or the birth of a baby.
Those moments when the world seems to stand still for a moment. It’s not just about us anymore. We recognize the whole cycle of life, the ups and downs and what really matters.
Most of the things we stress about are neither permanent nor relevant. Humility can help us to become fully aware of the gift of life and therefore become more positive.
Train yourself to focus on the big picture.
Meditation and mindfulness are helpful tools to achieve this.
I practice mindfulness. I teach mindfulness. I read books about mindfulness. You know why?
Most of our fears and worries have their roots in the future or past. That even applies to pain. A huge part of our suffering is related to worries that are not directly caused by the pain.
Now is the time. This moment counts. Focus on what it is right now.
If you need to learn how, feel free to have a look at my digital mindfulness training.
Also, if you sign up to my newsletter, I can invite you to my next free workshop.
Life is great
As an apprentice to positivity, you will learn that not everyone is appreciative of your new mindset. Actually, there are a lot of people who find positive people annoying.
Don’t let that irritate you. Send them extra love. Try to infect them with positivity. Don’t try to change them but also don’t let them pull you down.
Take a step back, breathe deep and stop fighting. If you find that difficult, you will find tons of information on effective stress management throughout my blog.
Coming back to the example from earlier on: positive and negative people have one thing and common: We all feel the need to bond. And we will all face difficult situations.
While we can’t tell our worst problems to every random person we meet, we can bond over a positive common denominator: Instead of bonding over how slow the cashiers are, we could bond by starting a conversation about how this store typically provides great service.
While that might seem like a rather small example, you will realize that complaining to bond is one of the big factors why you whine.
Complaining to avoid taking action is another one. So is whining to make yourself feel better.
When your brain tries to comfort you the next time by telling you that you are THE person who attracts the all the bad luck: Just tell it "Thanks, brain. But no, thanks. Let's make me feel better with positive thoughts of gratitude."
The tips work with all of them. Why not try it right now?
The paradox about stress and stress-management is: The more you feel under pressure the less likely that you feel like taking out an hour of your day for self-care (even though you know you should).
Not only are we endangering our mental and physical health and put ourselves at the risk of burnout – our productivity is decreasing drastically when we are stressed.
Just think about it: How much can you achieve in one hour of work at “full speed” and how often do you work long hours under pressure and don’t produce impressive results?I get it. When you have to meet deadlines or juggle a ton of responsibilities, you might not be open to learning/practicing mindfulness or meditation.
Did you know that you can reduce your stress level in just five minutes?
Meditation is one of the most effective tools for managing stress. Many of us believe that meditation comes with a lot of rules.
The right form of meditation, the right place, the right length, that candle…Buddhism refers to “dukkha” (pain, suffering, unsatisfactoriness) as stress and identifies attachment (“acquisition”) as the source of all suffering. Forget everything you have ever heard about “rules” in meditation.
For some people, their idea of meditation creates more stress and that is certainly not the intended use of this brain-changing self-care “tool”. Meditation should be without attachment.
Yes, you can achieve more for yourself if you decide to take out 20 minutes or an hour of your day. But you don’t have to. If I had to define a single rule it would be: Do as much as you can of what is good for you.
Taking a small break for a 5-minute meditation will do you good too.