The Psychological Trick To Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself
The pandemic has caused hardships for everyone, from health issues and loss of family and friends to financial strains, and crippling anxiety. It is no secret that it has been an incredibly challenging year with a return to normality often feeling out of reach.
Misfortune is inevitable but how you deal with life’s obstacles is up to you. Persistently feeling sorry for yourself will not create change. Many of us can admit to believing that life will never be as good as it once was but we can indulge ourselves in self-pity or learn how to effectively respond to our circumstances.
Choose to learn how to recognise self-pity and trade it for gratitude.
The Positive Effects of Choosing Gratitude Over Self-Pity
Self-pity is a state of mind in which a person presents excessive despair over their troubles causing debilitating feelings of sorrow, helplessness, and anxiety. It goes beyond sadness by exaggerating misery and is mentally draining. It is easy to spot individuals wallowing in self-pity — they are the people who see doom and gloom for their future, only complaining of their losses and disappointments. These individuals are difficult to tolerate and are unlikely to receive pity from anyone around them as their behaviour can repel rather than attract compassion, creating a vicious circle for them.
Self-pity depletes your mental strength and can sabotage your efforts to move forward. It is not life’s responsibility to give you everything you want so what can we do to avoid dwelling on self-pity? Start by practicing gratitude. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and the readiness to show appreciation. We do not feel self-pity and gratitude at the same time.
Self-pity is an emotional response that causes us to think we deserve better and to overlook the good in life while gratitude teaches us to appreciate what we already have. Gratitude opens us to new perspectives; we can have gratitude for events of the past (positive memories), the present (not taking the small wins for granted), and the future (remaining optimistic through hardships).
Practicing gratitude eliminates the habit of endlessly reaching for something new in the hope that it will bring fulfillment. Psychotherapist and mental strength trainer Amy Morin wrote for Forbes how gratitude can benefit your life in the following ways if we take moments to focus on all that we have:
1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
2. Gratitude improves physical health.
3. Gratitude improves psychological health.
4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
5. Grateful people sleep better.
6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.
7. Gratitude increases mental strength.
These are incredible repercussions for a simple change in behaviour — pausing to appreciate what already surrounds us.
Psychologist Russell Grieger, Ph.D. wrote for Psychology Today that we must make a decision, right now, for which of the two responsibility principles we will adopt — the victim mentality who whines, complains, and feels sorry for themselves when they face adversity or the personal responsibility mentality who assume it is their job to create the life they want, not others or fate. When the world next delivers an unexpected blow, choose to fight back against the negative default. Gratitude gives us the opportunity to flourish and improve our satisfaction with life.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” — Robert Brault
How Can I Practice Gratitude?
There are many easy ways to practice gratitude:
- Write down notes in a journal (or on your phone!) describing 3 things each day that you are most thankful for.
- Take photos of what makes you feel grateful and refer back to them frequently.
- Share your appreciation and express your gratitude by showing kindness and doing something nice for others.
- Give yourself a moment each day to simply count your blessings.
Start with appreciating the basics; the body that keeps you alive, a roof over your head, the food in your cupboards, or someone in your life you cherish. We are filled with misconceptions of what shapes happiness but focusing on cultivating gratitude will enrich your life by putting an end to the constant desire for everything to be better. Positive thoughts breed positive outcomes.
There is no shame in acknowledging that you are suffering and unsure how to move forward but do not poison yourself with a victim mentality. You have the choice to dwell on self-pity or to feel grateful. Start developing a habit of leading with gratitude and unearth how the power of your mental strength will defend you against the pity party. If thoughts of self-pity are creeping into your mind use gratitude to show them the door.
Life is full of variety, we all experience both pleasures and problems. We do not have a choice that there are problems in the world but we do have a choice in how we respond to them.