WHEN you have been lucky enough, as I have, to live in several different countries, it is often easier to notice the peculiarities of the culture you were born into, writes psychotherapist Jody Merelle.
Just reading through my Facebook memories over the years it is obvious to me how much I used to miss many things about living in England.
Being able to stand in a queue and have a chat with the person next to you is not a given in many countries.
In general the British are much kinder to animals than they are in many parts of the world. I also respect the willingness there is here to challenge authority when it is seen as being against the interests of the wider nation.
However, there is another part of our culture which I am fairly certain is not doing us much good. And that is the amount of time we give to talking and thinking about what is going wrong.
Given the push to ‘talk about your problems’ that may sound like an odd thing to say. But when I say “going wrong” I am not talking about the really big stuff like being in an unhappy marriage or financial issues. I am talking about those little niggly things that happen to us pretty much every day.
Monday morning this week did not get off to a brilliant start in our household. With three school aged children in the family, mornings are usually quite chaotic anyway.
But this Monday morning there was not a single white shirt to be seen anywhere. Somehow with everything going on at the weekend the washing had not quite hit the mark, so all three of them were walking around wondering what to wear. Added to this I had some on-line training which was starting at 8.30am.
To save time I had arranged for two of them to be picked up and taken to school. I was dropping the third (at a separate school) myself.
I thought I would just make it home for 8.30am when I came up against a road closure and had to take a different and much longer route back. I was going to be late.
When I eventually got home I hurriedly switched on the computer to find it needed to restart in order to update itself, making me even later.
In the meantime I went to check the post and discovered a £45 fine from staying ten minutes too long in a Lidl carpark. This was the final straw – concrete proof that this week ‘everything was going wrong’.
If any of this sounds familiar it is because very often we arrive somewhere and start the conversation with how bad the traffic/weather/morning has been.
It is a cultural norm to start off by listing what has gone wrong and then convincing ourselves that it is a bad day or week ahead. But how often do we celebrate the fact that those same things have gone right? Not often enough in my view.
Don’t get me wrong, each of the things on my Monday morning list was annoying. And I am certainly not in the financial position where £45 for parking doesn’t have an impact on our budget. However, in the grand scheme of things they are not big enough to define my week.
In the past I would probably have spent the next few days recounting the story of the terrible start to my week.
Now though, I have learned that by doing that I am simply setting myself up to wallow in needless self-pity. That will just make life harder than in it already.
My question these days is – am I going to let that thing (traffic, road closures, IT issues, a parking fine) define the rest of my day?
No I am not. I might whine about it once, but then it is time to move on. In any given day there are likely to be just as many positive things as challenging ones.
There will be many days where the traffic is moving, the roads are not closed and my computer will work straightaway (as it did this morning).
I have learned that a good tip is to notice those things and give them just as much attention as we do the tricky stuff.
Irritating niggles and small wins will both happen every day of our lives. The trick is deciding which of those we choose to concentrate on and which will decide how we feel about the day or week ahead.