Does discouragement have a colour? If so, is it grey? How about discouraging weather? Rain, perhaps?
When discouraged, does it seem like there’s a rainy, grey, discouraged filter over everything?
For example, let’s say we feel happy and in control. The cat throws up on the rug. What do we do? Take it in stride. We love the cat; cleaning up only takes a few seconds. We handle it and move on. No big deal.
But what if we are discouraged? That little pile of unpleasantness can take on a ridiculous importance. It’s one more piece of evidence that the universe is conspiring against us. Just one thing after another, and it’s all bad.
Discouragement is not a joyful state, for you or for the people around you. If we know that we have a tendency to slip into discouragement, what might we do?
We could change our reality so it’s not so discouraging. However, we all know that there’s a lot of reality that we can’t control. Regardless of our wishing, hoping, and effort, serious and potentially discouraging situations will exist.
So, if we can’t change reality, perhaps we can change our perspective. How?
You could create a discouragement antidote kit. This could be a physical “kit;” or it could just be a list. What it contains will depend on what works for you, of course.
Does that sound ridiculous? Maybe. Then again, what do you have to lose?
It’ll be more effective to put this together when you’re not discouraged. When discouraged, it’s so easy to forget that anything brings us cheer. However, any time is better than not doing it at all.
Here are my suggestions.
Music: What music do you find encouraging and invigorating? Find the sound files or the CDs. Dig out your old vinyl. Or make a list so you’ll remember it when you need it.
Comedy: What movies, cartoons or other entertainment brings you joy?
Activities: What activities lift you out of yourself and help you gain perspective? Paint, colour, draw, play guitar, weed, write, knit, weld, carve, etc. You don’t have to be a master. You need only be absorbed and encouraged.
Physical activity: If you like running, run. If you like to dance, dance. It’s even more encouraging if you can find a partner or a group.
Cards, letters, mementos: Find mementos from different times in your life—both the ups and downs. When we are down, it can be hard to remember that we’ve been there before and we have the wherewithal to get back up.
Meditative practice: Is there a faith-based or meditative practice that you have forgotten or abandoned? Reconnecting with your values can help with perspective.
Friends: If you have a friend with whom you can share and find encouragement, then you are fortunate indeed.
I have a few cautions for you, too.
Inspiring stories: When you read or hear about someone’s heroic response to difficulties, do you feel inspired? Or more discouraged? If you beat yourself up with, “I should be more like her/him,” then the “inspiration” may be unhelpful for you. Choose inspiration wisely.
Other people’s lives: Comparing your life to others may not be helpful. It can seem that everyone else has everything you want; they’re living great lives while all the lousiness has fallen on you. That’s not reality, but comparisons could reinforce an already discouraged perception.
Finally, Dr. Glasser includes encouragement as one of the habits that builds relationships. If you are in the depths of discouragement yourself, then encouraging someone else may seem impossible. Even so, I “encourage” you to encourage others; it could act as another helpful antidote for your own discouragement.
Is discouragement an issue for you? How do you handle it?