I want to suggest a special "spring cleaning" exercise of trying to go just 24 hours without complaining.
The point isn't to be a perfect little trooper, and get through the entire day as Pollyanna. And the point isn't to beat yourself up when you inadvertently start thinking negative, angry thoughts.
The whole purpose of my spring cleaning exercise is to notice when you feel most down and negative. By trying to live a full 24 hours in a "here's what's good about my life" frame of mind, you'll inevitably notice the times of day, events, and circumstances that tend to bring you down.
This knowledge is priceless!
Times of Day
For me, it's first thing in the morning when I tend to feel the most down about things. Knowing this, and knowing that in an hour or so I'll feel much more enthused about my day, I can just smile and give myself a hug when I start getting on some Eeyore-like jag. It will be better as soon as I get going with my day.
It really helps to pinpoint when the most negative thoughts are occurring because it can help you spot patterns that you may not have noticed before. For instance, I can replace the habit of worrying over things with a more positive early-morning routine, something that makes me feel good and supports me.
Events and Circumstances
During your 24-hour complaint-free day, make notice of the kinds of events that really get your growl-o-meter going. For me, it's overwhelm. It's times when my team isn't supporting me the way I'd like them to, and my workload doubles as a result. It's when all kinds of "emergencies" push back my #1 goal for the day.
Again, I can do something to change this -- when I recognize the pattern. When I feel overwhelm starting to strike, I can do a pre-emptive strike of my own: Shut down my email (the world won't really end). Ignore the requests that are unknowingly sabotaging my day. There's almost always something you can do.
Is it waiting in line that drives you crazy? Your kids being lazy and creating more housework for you? Is it a co-worker? Identify the challenges to your peace of mind. See how many of your stressors -- when you think about them dispassionately -- can be placated and soothed in some way before you get to the frustration point.
Complaining Makes It Worse
By the end of your 24 hours, you might also notice that complaining about something tends to make you feel even worse. The more you focus your mind on what's going wrong, the bigger and more important it can seem.
Try It and Share Your Results
Try this little experiment tomorrow, and see what comes up during your day. It's a great time of year to start clearing out the cobwebs of self-defeating self-talk before spring arrives!
Of course, I'd love it if you share your revelations and results in the comments below!