How to Calm Someone Down With Your Voice and Presence (2021)

How can you help calm someone down? Most of us want to help people we love calm down when they are stressed, angry, or hurt. It can be frustrating feeling like you don’t know what to do.

What should you say to calm them down? Better yet, what should you not say? Is there something specific you can do?

Don’t fret, you don’t need anything other than your voice and your presence to help someone else calm down. That may not seem like much, but both things can be powerful tools.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James

Using your voice and your words to help someone stay calm

Try to keep your own voice calm and steady. Christine Estes, a speech and language pathologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, explains “It’s very important to speak at a slower pace, which tends to be calming to the listener and makes it easier for them to understand what we’re saying.”

When I get excited, or not calm, I start speaking rapidly, and my pitch raises several octaves. There is a running joke that only dogs can hear me when I am worked up. If I was trying to calm someone down using that tone, it wouldn’t work very well!

She adds that “Using the appropriate level of loudness and volume for the setting is important,” she adds. “Usually a softer volume tends to calm people down and give them a feeling of relaxation.” So refrain from yelling or being loud in general.

Remember to breathe, as this helps keeps your own voice steady. Speak slowly and clearly, and don’t speak when they are speaking. Listening is one of the most overlooked ways to help calm someone down. When you do speak, though, the words you use matter. Use empathetic phrases, say their names, and give feedback on what you hear them say.

Just telling someone who is upset to “calm down” or “get over it” will have the opposite effect of what you are trying to do. Here are some things you can do instead! Start by asking open-ended questions like, “How did you feel when that happened?” Open-ended questions will require the person to think for just a moment before responding with a yes or no. That pause might give them a chance to help calm themselves. offers some great alternatives to common phrases that people say when they are trying to calm someone down that might work out a little better in providing comfort to someone else. Here are just a few (but they offer eight ‘counselor approved’ alternatives):

  • I want to understandThey recommend trying something like this instead: “I think I understand what is happening here. I may be wrong though, so feel free to correct me. Now is not the right time to respond, my friend. Take a bit of time out and think about what you want to say properly.”
  • Your feelings are justified, however… This doesn’t seem like you are taking the other person’s concerns seriously. Try this instead: “I completely understand you feeling angry in this situation, and you are right to feel wronged. I completely understand why you would want to lash out. Saying things in anger is not going to help resolve the matter in the long-term.
  • Distract yourself. They recommend saying this instead but point out that it might work better with someone you don’t know as well. (They caution that a close friend might redirect their anger to you). “Before you say something that you regret, shall we just go and get a drink/bit of food/a breath of fresh air?

Words are powerful. Sometimes the ones we utter can help other people feel better. Other times, you might not have the right words, or they might not be in a talking mood. That is ok! Your presence itself might be just what they need, and there are things you can do to help calm them down that don’t require speaking.

“Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it. If we’re frantic, life will be frantic. If we’re peaceful, life will be peaceful.” – Marianne Williamson

Sometimes your presence is enough to help someone

Touch can be calming, and it doesn’t require words. Always ask before touching someone though, because if they dislike being touched, they will not find this calming, and you will only add to their anxiety and stress. Once they have given you permission, a light touch, like circular motions on their back or patting their shoulder, could help them become calmer.

Sara Menges explains that touch “increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety. Dopamine is also known to regulate the pleasure center in your brain that can offset feelings of anxiety.”

Another hormone that humans release when being touched is oxytocin. This hormone helps human beings form an emotional connection to one another, which creates sensations that give us a sense of well-being and add to the happiness we feel.

If the person you are trying to comfort is craving touch, having them lean in against you will have the same effects as the other touches. However, this one allows them to physically rest for just a moment. It can make them feel safe and secure to know that they don’t have to hold themselves up and someone else is providing support, even if it’s just for a few moments.

I can always tell just how upset my teenager is by whether she crawls into my lap to cry or whether she sits and cries. Sometimes, we don’t have the strength to support ourselves and have a meltdown, and that is also ok.

Now for the person who doesn’t want to talk about it, and also doesn’t want to be touched, your presence alone can be helpful. What can you do to help someone calm down if you aren’t speaking or touching them? Well, that pretty much leaves breathing!

Take deep breaths while sitting next to them. Make sure to breathe in and out slowly. This will work better than reminding them to “just breathe” because the body will often subconsciously mimic the surrounding energy.

Given that fact, it is important that you manage the stress and anxiety that you are feeling. You don’t want to disrupt the other person’s flow. If you start feeling like you are getting overwhelmed, let them know you need to take a slight break and will be in the other room for a few minutes. Stay near enough that you can hear them, but take the time away to gather your thoughts. This will help you re-approach the situation in a way that might work a little better than the first time around.

Breath is the power behind all things. I breathe in and know that good things will happen.” – Tao Porchon-Lynch

If someone needs more help than you can give them

If you have tried everything you can think of and the person is escalating or not getting any calmer, you might reach a point where they need more help than you can give them. Here are some signs to look for if this is a panic attack that might require medical attention. Ask the person if they have medicine that they take for panic attacks. Let them know you are going to seek emergency help if the person is experiencing these:

  • chest pain that moves to their arms or shoulders (it might feel like someone is squeezing them)
  • shortness of breath that isn’t improving
  • pressure in the chest lasts more than a minute or two

Being under stress is like being stranded in a body of water. If you panic, it will cause you to flail around so that the water rushes into your lungs and creates further distress. Yet, by calmly collecting yourself and using controlled breathing, you remain afloat with ease.” – Alaric Hutchinson

It is really hard to help someone during powerful emotions calm down, but try to stay empathetic and respectful of their feelings. Keep breathing, listen to what they are saying, and validate their feelings. I’m guilty of trying to give advice, and this something I have to watch. They really don’t need advice at this moment.

Do what you can from a place of love, and just know that sometimes all they need is a calm voice and a calm presence, but there might be times when they need more than that. Recognizing that they need some additional help can be a great use of your voice and your presence in their time of need.

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Does Life Imitate Art, or is Art Imitating Life?

Have you heard the phrase ‘life imitates art’ before and wondered what that means? Maybe you have questioned how much truth that statement holds? The rest of this phrase, made popular by Oscar Wilde’s 1889 essay The Decay of Lying, claims that “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

Now, you might wonder: does life imitate art, or is art imitating life! This is one of those deep philosophical questions, kind of like, “what came first, the chicken or the egg.” Many philosophers have weighed in on this, including Aristotle and Plato. Writers, like Oscar Wilde, and actors, like Bruce Willis, have even shared their opinions. Before you decide which camp you are in, let me explain a little more about what the phrase means.

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” – Oscar Wilde

What does ‘life imitates art,’ mean?

Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet, and playwright was an advocate for the theory of anti-mimesis. To understand what this is, it’s important to know what mimesis means. 

Mimesis, which is an Ancient Greek term governing the creation of works of art, has a wide range of meanings. They primarily include imitation, receptivity, representation, mimicry, the act of expression, and the act of resembling. Anti-mimesis, then, is a philosophical position that proposes the opposite of Aristotelian mimesis, which uses deductive logic and analytical means.

In the book Poetics, by Aristotle, he argued that “it is a natural human impulse to make art that imitates the people, places, and events around them.” According to Billy Collings and his lesson in Master Class, “The Aristotelian concept of mimesis involved not just imitation but addition—the poet adds symbolism and structure that lets their audience draw meaning from the work.” Clearly, he believed that art imitates life, and Oscar Wilde disagreed.

Wilde felt that “things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the arts that have influenced us.” His ideas on the subject revolved around the premise that art changes our perception of life. So when we find beauty in nature, it is because we had an emotional reaction to painting or work of art that we had seen before. Basically, we are reliving the emotions we felt when we looked at those paintings. That would be a time when life imitates art and not the other way around.

Plato had two theories when it came to talking about art. We may find one in his work, The Republic, and this seems to be the theory that aligns with Plato’s view on the subject. According to this theory, since art imitates tangible things, then art is always a copy of a copy and leads us even further from the truth and toward illusion.

Plato felt that because art can also stir powerful emotions, that art itself could be dangerous. His other theory described artists as prophets because, thanks to their divine inspiration, they create a better copy of ‘the True.’ What if that painting depicting a forest full of lush green trees the artist is envisioning is better than the burnt dead forest he became inspired by? Therefore, the idea that art is imitation was central to both theories. Plato says that art imitates the objects and events of ordinary life.

“I think when people talk about art imitating life, you’re in real-time.” – Mike Colter

Did the artist paint that picture because they experienced a profound emotion when they witnessed a nature scene?

Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School, painted a View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm. We commonly refer to this painting as The Oxbow. The painting depicts a panoramic view of the Connecticut River Valley just after a thunderstorm. Now, did Thomas Cole paint this because he felt so moved by the way the sun peaked out on half of the canvas, despite the angry dark clouds still present on the left? Was he trying to capture a view of untamed wilderness?

According to an article from The Met, master printmaker Basil Hall criticized ‘Americans’ inattentiveness to their scenery, and Cole responded with a landscape that lauds the uniqueness of America by encompassing ‘a union of the picturesque, the sublime, and the magnificent.’

If you look closely, you can see that Thomas Cole painted himself into the painting. He is in the middle and his easel is visible, as is his brush, while he paints “The Oxbow.” This piece was morally significant, besides being beautifully done!

Proponents of the anti-mimesis theory, like Wilde, believe that “What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art. As in an example posited by Wilde, although there has been fog in London for centuries, one notices the beauty and wonder of the fog because poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects… They did not exist till Art had invented them (F. C. McGrath).”

“It’s weird, like, my life has always imitated art, and my art has always imitated life.” – Sebastian Bach

How do you answer this question?

I feel like this is one of those situations where two things can exist at the same time. Maybe when I am walking around the lake at dusk, the sun looks so beautiful because I have seen Sunlight and Shadow: The Newbury Marshes. It reminds me of the beautiful colors, and there is water and green space in the painting. Maybe that painting taught me there was a beauty to be found when colors stream across the sky and blend with the clouds.

Perhaps Martin Johnson Heade, an American painter known for his salt marsh landscapes, seascapes, and nature depictions, saw beauty in a scene in front of him and was inspired to recreate it for someone else. Art historians regard his painting style and subject, while derived from the romanticism of the time as a significant departure from his peers. Maybe he found joy in painting what he wanted, even though it was different.

Can you create art that moves people if you haven’t experienced something similar in your life? Does the surrounding beauty inspire the painter to pick up his brush and capture a moment? Or does a moment captured on a canvas, trigger a deeper emotion when you witness something similar in person?

I know for me, as a writer, I draw on the emotions and situations I have had in my actual life. Sometimes, pieces of my story work their way into my fiction pieces. Other times I write the raw, unvarnished truth of my trauma. I would say that is a case for art imitating life. As a reader, I can say that when I read something that triggers an emotional response, I can relate to the characters more because I have my experience to draw from. This still feels like art imitating life.

On the other hand, whenever I see a bee or hear of someone having an allergic reaction (which I have never had) the only thing I can think of is when Thomas J. Sennett dies in My Girl. It amazes me how often I recall the feelings of that scene because of something happening around me in real life. This is definitely a matter of life imitating art for me, as my emotions are tied to the work of art, and not the experience.

“Art imitates life and, sometimes, life imitates art. It’s a weird combination of elements.” – Bruce Willis

So, do you think that life imitates art, or is art imitating life? Does it matter, because either way there is beauty around us? Can both of these things be true at the same? John McGlade, Ph.D. in Architecture & Fine Art, says, “On the text of life, art is the highlighter.”

Maybe they aren’t separate entities of the same thing, like the chicken and the egg. Maybe they go hand in hand like the fabric used to make a shirt. A tool, if you will. Join in on this philosophical debate in the comment section below and maybe we can see what the consensus is.

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Gaslighting at Work Impacts You Beyond Just Your Job

The signs that someone is gaslighting you are things that also make for a toxic work environment. When your boss, or coworkers, are people that lie to you, deny their behavior, belittle you, keep you unbalanced, and then use that confusion against you, it can make for an incredibly long workday.

The gaslighter will chip away at your confidence and possibly even turn others against you, even telling people you are the one who is lying. The worst thing is that all that stress, negative feelings, and emotional turmoil will spill over into the rest of your life.

“Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick. Unfortunately, there are hoards of mediocre and downright rotten bosses out there, and big gaps between the best and the worst.”Robert I. Sutton

How to recognize when a boss or coworker is gaslighting you

It is important to be able to recognize the difference between being the victim of gaslighting, and just not having the best boss. When your boss is gaslighting you, you will notice they engage in some pretty shifty behavior. This goes beyond poor communication and results in outright lies.

Read more: 7 Ways to Recognize When Someone is Gaslighting You

They lie

It doesn’t matter what it is about, it can be about something big like saying they heard things about you from a coworker. However, it can also be about something small like lying about throwing away something when you asked them point-blank if they knew where something was.

They will lie to you with a straight face while simultaneously talking about how important trust and honesty are in the workplace. Denying things you know you have done is another form of lying.

How does being lied to affect your life outside of work? When someone lies to us, it not only shakes our confidence in them, but it is also insulting. My grandma always used to say, “When you lie to me, you call me stupid.”

I realized, as I got older, that people lie when they don’t think you will figure out the truth. Carrying out those negative feelings will make you start to doubt yourself in all areas of your life, and it’s more stress than anyone needs in their world.

They continuously deny things

Have you ever asked someone at work if they did (or didn’t do) something? One of my previous bosses asked me about a poster once. She had asked, providing no context, if I had seen it on my shift. I said, “no.” She told me that the other manager had told her it was on the desk when she left. I swore I had not seen it, and the two of us searched everywhere. This boss was not the type to let anything go. She finally found it in a trash can.

My boss then called my coworker to ask her about it again and told her I said I had never seen it. She continued to deny knowing anything about where it was. My boss told her we had found it in the trash can. She later admitted to me she had thrown it out. She said that she lied because she didn’t want the boss to yell at her, but my boss believed that she had never been aggressive about the situation. There was a lot of denying in this dynamic, and it made the days stressful.

Clearly, this will cause you to stress, and how does that stress impact you outside of work? Stress at work makes us irritable and short with the people in our lives. It is also bad for your physical health.

They belittle you

A master manipulator belittles their victim often and with varying intensities. Sometimes it is snide comments, and other times it is outright insulting. When someone belittles another person, it’s because of their own insecurities. They are trying to make themselves feel superior.

All it does is chip away at the other person’s confidence, which is not a great thing to do to your employees. Of course, if your boss belittled you all the time, you would never stay. So, they have to follow that up with over-the-top niceness.

Being dissatisfied with work like this can cause you to fear things like being fired, or getting so mad you just walk out. Now, besides the emotional stress, you might also face added financial pressure.

This keeps you in a constant unbalanced state

When your boss belittles you one moment about doing something the wrong way or making a mistake, and then in the next breath tells you that you do a wonderful job, it can leave you feeling confused. I had a peer who would get so mad, yell, and make the employees feel like trash, and then ten minutes later would tell them how outstanding they were.

They would later come to me and tell me how they felt they were inadequate at their jobs, and how this person came back and talked to them in a fake tone about how much she liked them. It left many of them unsettled.

This aspect of gaslighting wreaks havoc on your self-esteem and confidence which bleeds into other areas of your life. It can make you feel crazy and leads to you second-guessing your decisions.

Julie Wehmeyer says, “It is a good practice to look at your decisions and analyze your choices, but when you are constantly second-guessing yourself, and you stop trusting your own judgment, there is a good chance you are being gaslighted.”

Not being able to trust your judgment leads to a general sense of malaise and confusion.

The gaslighter uses this confusion to their advantage

By keeping you confused, and off-balance, they can keep you from feeling safe. This means you will feel less secure in other areas of your life. You might even question your own sanity when things happen at work that you know are wrong.

Sometimes, gaslighting is so bad that you can develop anxiety and depression because of the way you are feeling. Going through a portion of your life questioning your sanity and worth is nerve-wracking.

They can turn others against you

Someone who is this manipulative will also want to make sure that you don’t build close bonds with others on the team, so they can be in control. They will get mad if they think other people like you more than they like them and deliberately try to undermine you to those people. The only word for this type of environment is, toxic!

It will make work just about the last place on earth you want to be. This is a big problem because there are 168 hours in every week of our lives. We sleep (or should sleep) for 56 of those hours. That leaves us with 112 waking hours to live our weekly lives.

Approximately 3 hours of those 112 are spent getting ready to go to work! Factor in a 30-60 minute commute each way, and that is about another 14 hours missing! That brings the total time left to roughly 95 hours. If you only spend 40 hours at work (and let’s face it, some people spend more than that there) you have about 55 hours a week to live your life.

If you are being gaslit at work, how much of your limited time with your family and loved ones are you spending processing the trauma of the day? You might seem short and distant from the people who mean the most to you because your mind has to cope with what’s happened all day long. Stress damages your body physically and mentally.

Not only is the situation robbing you of quality time during the week, but it is also taking years off your life. According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare, “Being under heavy stress shortens their life expectancy by 2.8 years.”

If you are the victim of gaslighting at work, reach out to HR and see if you can get some help. You should not have to work under these conditions. It is making you less productive and happy at work, don’t let it take up any more time in your week! Stressing over someone you can’t change is not helping you enjoy the time you spend away from work. If HR doesn’t help you, it might be time to look for a new adventure where you will be appreciated.

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How to Embrace Your Physical “Flaws” and Feel Comfortable in Your Skin

“When you’re comfortable in your skin, you look beautiful, regardless of any flaws.” ~Emily Deschanel

I started doubting the way I looked at the age of eight following comments from other children, about my twin sister being cuter/prettier than me. During adolescence I suffered from bullying because of my appearance and thought I was ugly. Like many others, I believed for many years that everything would’ve been easier if I was better-looking.

At eighteen, when I left home for military service (mandatory in Israel), I started to get positive feedback from men and to feel much better about the way I looked. But still, for many years after there was a big gap between my self-perception and how others saw me.

Today, at fifty-one, even though I’m far from perfect-looking, I have finally come to terms with my appearance.

In my work, I encounter many women, some traditionally beautiful, others with a pleasant appearance and charm, who feel that due to the way they look, there’s no chance that somebody would want them. And I know children and teenagers who think that something is wrong with them and who feel ashamed of themselves because they don’t look like models.

Accepting how we look really comes down to developing self-esteem and self-love. Nonetheless, today I want to present to you ten steps that can create a shift in your relationship with your appearance and your body.

1. Clean your social media feeds of anything that makes you feel bad about yourself and your body.

Every time you scroll through social media and come across images or ideas that make you feel bad about your life or the way you look, stop following that person or page.

You may tell yourself that certain content motivates you to change, but you can’t effectively create change from a place of self-condemnation, jealousy, or fear. So if you choose to follow someone, make sure their content genuinely inspires you and helps you feel better about yourself, not worse.

2. Don’t try to force yourself to love a body part you don’t like.

I know I might be breaking a myth here, but you don’t need to love each and every part of your body in order to love yourself.

Trying to force yourself into loving a body part that troubles you might do more harm than good, as it consumes vital energy and evokes harmful self-judgment if you fail.

If you don’t like the look of a particular part, you can still focus on its good qualities, like its strength, function, or the pleasure it can give you.

For example, the breasts you judge as too small might produce all the milk needed for your baby. And those legs that seem too big to you might enable you to hike and enjoy nature.

3. Think of people you love and appreciate who do not have a perfect look.

I know it’s hard to stop believing that attractiveness is the key to happiness. That’s why I don’t expect that this step and the following one will radically change your self-perception. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to use them as a reality check from time to time.

Start by creating a list of at least five people you love, appreciate, or look up to, who do not have a perfect look, yet you still find beautiful, charming, or attractive.

Now think of what makes these people attractive to you.

I bet that what you most like about them is their heart and personality, something we often forget to take into account when we are so absorbed in our shortcomings.

I remember that my mother used to look at me with admiration and say how beautiful I was. But since I didn’t think I was beautiful, it used to annoy me.

Now that my beloved nephew is a teenager, I find myself looking at him in this way. While he inspects his looks with critical eyes and mostly finds faults, I see a handsome young man with the biggest heart I ever saw, exceptional wisdom, and a unique personality, and he takes my breath away.

4. Think of people who don’t look perfect, who are in happy relationships.

If you insist that a worthy person would want you “if only…” (you had bigger breasts, blonde hair, or you weighed three pounds less or were four inches taller), think of people you know who are in happy relationships with great people, despite not having what you would consider perfect looks.

Create a list of five or more such people to remind yourself that someone out there would find you perfect just as you are.

Recognizing that you don’t need to look perfect to be lovable can help you accept yourself and stop wasting energy obsessing over your appearance.

5. Nourish your body with things that are good for it and things you find satisfying.

On the journey to loving ourselves and our bodies, people often suggest we nourish our bodies with healthy foods only.

Though I largely agree, it’s easy to become obsessive and hate yourself every time you eat something that is considered unhealthy.

Twenty-eight years ago, when freeing myself from an eating disorder, I integrated into my daily diet the foods that drove me to binge eat, and now I no longer feel the need to overeat them.

This way, I eat in a more balanced way, experience greater enjoyment, and eliminate guilty feelings.

And the happiest result of this decision is that it enabled me to lose the extra weight I was carrying and to gain complete freedom from obsessing over food and weight—which means I now feel far more comfortable in my own skin.

6. Don’t force yourself to do mirror work.

Another common recommendation that I personally find ineffective is to do what’s called “mirror work.”  That is, to stand in front of the mirror and praise your body.

If there are body parts that you don’t like, and you feel down every time you see them in the mirror, instead of inspecting them closely from the least flattering angles, look at your body in dim lighting. This will allow you to enjoy the way you look without seeing all the minor flaws that no one but you sees anyway.

If mirror work does work for you, that’s great. But if you are like me, be good to yourself and abandon it.

7. Maintain a strong and healthy body.

Love for our bodies stems not only from liking the way we look but also from feeling healthy and strong and being able to enjoy our bodies’ capabilities.

I, for instance, am really proud of my body, which today is stronger than ever.

The best thing Covid did for me is force me to quit the gym. I’ve started practicing yoga at home, and today I’m able to take much more advanced classes than I did a year ago. Recently I started running on the beach as well, and a few days ago I completed my first six-mile run!

To maintain a strong and healthy body, incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. It may be exercising, dancing, running, walking, or hiking in nature. And if you don’t find any activity that you enjoy, focus on the good feeling your chosen activity provides.

8. Stop talking to and about yourself in an offensive way.

Statements like “no normal man would ever want someone with hips like mine” are not only detached from reality but also extremely offensive toward oneself.

If you already completed step 5 (noting people who do not look perfect yet are in happy relationships), you must have realized that many worthy people choose imperfect-looking partners because of who they are, which is far more important than a perfect look!

So talk to (and about) yourself as you’d talk to someone you love, not from a place of self-loathing. You don’t have to say that the part you don’t like is attractive, but if you stop condemning it, your feelings about it may start to change.

Also, notice when you’re tempted to talk about your physical flaws with other people. The more you focus on your perceived shortcomings, the more you’ll obsess over them, and the less energy you’ll have to focus on the many beautiful things about you that have nothing to do with your looks.

9. Set your boundaries with people who make you feel bad about your body.

It’s important to spend time with people who love your body just as it is.

If you are in a relationship with someone who keeps putting you down for your looks, don’t downplay or justify it.

You may tell yourself that they’re just being honest, but you don’t have to be perfect for someone to love you, and no one who truly loves you would ever judge you for your looks or talk down to you.

Even if they say they’re simply encouraging you to take care of your health, you don’t need to tolerate cruel comments about your appearance or constant reminders that you better not eat so much.

If anyone around you comments on your looks, learn how to set your boundaries with them. Tell them you’re not comfortable discussing your appearance with them and therefore not going to participate in such a conversion anymore, or physically remove yourself from the situation when they start putting you down.

10. Practice meditation!

At the end of the day, whether we’re talking about happiness, self-love, or body-acceptance, I recommend practicing meditation (or more accurately, practicing the ability to be present in the moment).

It’s only when we are present here and now that we can clearly see the reality that is in front of us, instead of the distorted reality created by our minds, and feel who we truly are—not just a body but a heart and soul.

When we’re present, we’re simply in our bodies instead of judging them, and thus we’re automatically in a state of self-acceptance. Then our true beauty naturally shines through.

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Why Does Life Suck Even When You Try to Make it Better? (2021)

Are you feeling like life sucks right now? It has been a tough year for many, and it is ok if you are at a bit of a low point right now. It is normal for people to feel like life is out to get us when they face a series of challenges that are beyond their control.

There are a variety of things that can make life sucky, like death, finances, job loss, physical and mental health issues, and other personal tragedies. The list can get rather long! Why is it that when we try to make those things better, life sucks just a little more?

Life can be hard, and it often seems like “when it rains it pours,” but don’t let it get you down! Understanding why life sucks and realizing there are things you can do to make it through the hard times will help you build a new perspective.

“Life is amazing. Even when it sucks, it is amazing, and we should be grateful for every moment.” — Hal Elrod

The biological reason “life sucks”

“Our brains are wired to scout for the bad stuff,” says psychologist and author Rick Hanson. Psychologists refer to this as negativity bias. Our brains naturally give more weight to the negative experiences we go through. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, when something negative (and often out of our control happens) it takes more brainpower to process through. Our brains are on high alert, fixating on the perceived threat, and trying to ensure our survival.

Humans have one biological goal in life, and that is to survive. The need to survive is stronger than the need to procreate. So, when something terrible happens, and we feel threatened, our brain devotes all our time and energy to handle that. This makes us more likely to remember bad memories and troublesome times, more easily than the good times. According to author and Stanford professor Clifford Nass, “We tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events—and use stronger words to describe them—than happy ones.”

While it is in our genetic makeup to focus on the negative and search out the environment for threats, we also have tools to help us learn to change our perspective and rewire our thinking. When we take steps to improve our life, we are usually stepping outside of our comfort zone, and that causes us anxiety and worry, which can make us think that life still sucks. Life might also seem to suck while you try to implement these tools because it requires effort and takes some time.

“Consequently, just because many people think that their life sucks, doesn’t mean that it necessarily does. What is true is that many people make the mistake of comparing their lives to the lives of others.” — Brian Kasperitis

Your thoughts matter

My therapist is always telling me that, “our brain only believes what we tell it.” It really is a fascinating and slightly wacky concept. She told me once that if a person told themselves the sky was purple, often enough and believed the sky was purple, that it would eventually be purple.

The human brain cannot discern thoughts from facts on its own. It relies on us to send it messages, information, and beliefs. So, the more you tell yourself “life sucks” and “the world is out to get you,” the more you will start looking for evidence and believing that to be true. The trick here is to manage your perception and thoughts.

Start by labeling your thoughts. I know this is going to sound a little weird, but with practice and conscious effort, it will become more natural and easier for you to do. Instead of saying, “life sucks,” or my favorite, “the universe hates me,” label your thoughts like this:

  • I am having a thought that life sucks.
  • I am having a thought that the universe hates me.
  • I am having a thought that nothing I do will make any difference.

How does this help at all? Well, it helps you to identify the thoughts you have. It also helps you gain perspective and realize that just because you think something, does not make it true. You can also take some seriousness out of negative thoughts by singing them or hearing them in a funny voice. Kind of how like when I say, “You’re in good hands,” you hear it in the Allstate guy’s voice.

The goal here is to make them sound silly or downright absurd because that will be harder for you to believe they hold much weight. Another trick my therapist taught me was to imagine my thoughts as appearing in the clouds and then watching them blow away. Heck, you can write your negative thoughts down, and then rip the paper into shreds.

You are having these thoughts because your brain is trying to ward off the threats and keep you alert. When we are trying to do things that improve our lives, they often involve change, unknown factors, and hard work.

You can acknowledge that, but at the same time tell yourself that if you can not control the situation, then your brain doesn’t need to worry about it! All of which can make us anxious. Thank it for trying and then tell yourself that you do not have to worry about this. This is where perception really comes into play.

“If you think your life sucks, it probably does. Do something about it.” — Chris Crutcher

Perception matters, too

Perception is the way you recognize and interpret sensory stimuli and is based on your memories. If we tried something once, and it blew up in our faces, we usually aren’t in a hurry to do it again.

That experience created data in our minds. Perception is the way you interpret that data and life events. There are many factors that influence the way we perceive events, especially those where we feel like life sucks. They include:

  • Our Heredity. Height, skin color, and gender impact the way we view the world.
  • Our Needs. Physiological needs, such as food and water (or lack thereof), influence our feelings about certain situations.
  • Our peers. We determine what is desirable or undesirable, based on the opinions of the people around us.
  • Our interests. We assign value and importance based on how much pleasure or reward we receive from a certain activity or product.
  • Our expectations. Our expectations affect our perception after the fact.

When thinking about the reasons that life could suck, and the thoughts we have about them, it is easy to see how important perception is. For instance, if you look at losing your job as a negative thing because you are going to have less money, less security, and “less” in general, you would perceive that as a bad thing. However, if you look at losing your job as an opportunity to learn a new skill, find a better job, or start your own business, losing your job could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Gratitude and reframing your thoughts will help you learn to find a new perspective on things. Of course, it’s challenging to look for a positive spin on situations that you have always perceived as negative. That struggle alone can add to the feeling that life sucks, while you try to reframe your thoughts and teach yourself alternative ways to think. More struggle means more feelings like things are terrible.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” — Chuck Palahniuk

It will take practice

It will take practice, patience, and conscious thoughts and decisions to accept that sometimes bad things happen in life that we cannot control. We can only control the way we react and respond to these events. If you want to feel like life sucks less, then changing the things you focus on, rethinking the way you think, and developing a new perception will help.

If you feel you are struggling with something that is just too big for these tips to help you out, then reach out for some help. There is no shame in admitting that life is a struggle and connecting with someone who has the training to help you get through it.

A therapist or a life coach will help you process past or current trauma while giving you tools you can use to keep going. Remember, it might be awful right now, but you won’t always feel the way you do right this moment.

Life is like a pendulum, sometimes it swings really far out toward good, and other times, it swings the other way, toward terrible. Ride the wave when you can and reach out for help when you need it. You aren’t alone and people out there love you, even when you feel like life sucks.

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Stop Telling People Time Heals All Wounds

My mother died at 40 years old, back when I was 18. One thing I heard the most was that “time heals all wounds.” It didn’t sit well with me then, or when I heard it again when my brother-in-law, father, and grandfather also passed away.

When my baby niece left this earth at five days old, I heard it again. However, this time I fought the urge to tell my sister that “time heals all wounds.” Yet, it just seems like a blanket phrase that those of us wanting to help our loved ones often say.

While I don’t feel the same as I did the day each of those people died, I wouldn’t say that time has healed me. Should you stop telling people that time heals all wounds?

Here is the truth about time and grief; it comes in waves. It has been nearly 20 years since my mom died, and most days I am more than ok. Then randomly, in the middle of an afternoon walk, I will feel the urge to breakdown and cry for all the things she has missed.

In those moments, the pain is intense and hurts as much as it did the day she died. However, I also go months straight not thinking about her death at all. So, what is the deal about grief, heartache, and time?

“It has been said, time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” — Rose Kennedy

Time and wounds

Time heals all wounds is used to describe how feelings of sadness and grief lessen with intensity the more time passes. The saying implies that just the passage of hours, months, and years, will remove all these feelings. However, it is not just the arbitrary ticking of a clock that decides how long those feelings last. It depends on the person and how they spend their time after a loss.

According to the Center for Grief Recovery and Therapeutic Services, “Time is not a healer. The passage of time may take the edge off of acute pain, but it does not heal pain. On the other hand, time can be used well for healing purposes. When time is used well, in terms of healing wounds, then it is because we do something specific with and within it.”

That is why it feels like time itself has healing power because we spend the time after heartbreak engaging in activities that help us heal. There are several things you can do to help heal grief or encourage a friend to do if they are grieving.

“I’ve learned… That love, not time, heals all wounds.” — Andy Rooney

Why you shouldn’t say time heals everything to someone

Megan Wildhood reminds us that, “Our brains are wired to form a response to our environment; what changes our minds is experience.” When we tell someone that time will help them, it implies that they just have to wait long enough and they will feel better, without doing any processing or work on healing. They actually need to have experiences to help heal. This might be crying with a loved one, laughing with a friend, or learning techniques that help with grief.

Megan also points out that, “Time itself doesn’t heal all wounds. Time seals and conceals all wounds unless something different happens.” If we think of these emotional wounds in the sense of physical pain, you can see why this is a problematic philosophy.

Let’s say you cut a giant gash in your leg and did nothing to help it heal. No washing it out, no stitches, nothing except waiting for it to ‘heal.’ Well, chances are you would die of an infection. Or maybe have to have your entire leg cut off. Now, if you washed it and stitched it, it would likely heal (painfully) and with a gnarly scar. If you went the extra step further, and applied antibiotic ointment, took a pill for the pain, and applied scar cream, you might have an easier time and a less noticeable scar.

The time that passes is the same, but it’s the activities that differ. When it is all said and done, no matter what you do, you will probably have a scar there forever. Depending on the severity of the damage, it might still cause you intermittent pain. Incredibly painful things do not just go away because some time passes.

Implying that someone needs to just wait a set period and then they will feel better does them a disservice to their healing process. Grief isn’t something you can just wash and stitch, but there are things that people can do to help heal.

“People say that time heals all wounds, and maybe they’re right. But whit if the wounds don’t heal correctly, like when cuts leave behind nasty scars, or when broken bones mend together, but aren’t as smooth anymore? Does it mean they’re really healed? Or is it that the body did what it could to fix what broke.” — Jessica Sorensen

Things you can do to spend your time while grieving

Socializing is probably not high on your list of things to do after a devastating loss, but it helps. Now, I am not saying go to go to a party if you don’t feel up to it but lean into your circle of friends. Let people come over and cook a meal with you and eat together. Take the invite from a friend to take you to run some errands, even if it is going to the grocery store.

Grief is heavy to carry, and if you have people around you to help you shoulder the burden, then please let them in. Their support, love, and understanding will help you heal more than isolating yourself.

Maybe your friends and support system mean well, but you don’t feel like they understand. If you are looking for someone who has been through something similar to your experience, then consider joining a support group. While no one’s grief is the same, a support group will bring you together with people who have been where you are.

While some counseling usually happens in a support group, you might want to look at finding an individual counselor. The time spent in therapy can help you name your feeling, understand them, and process them healthily. A counselor can also help you use tools like meditation to reframe the way you think about your feelings.

They might even help you establish some rituals that honor your loved one, or help you handle tough days. They help us work through our grief while remembering our loved ones and can include things like:

  • Visiting your loved one’s grave
  • Carrying something that was important to them
  • Lighting a candle for them on special occasions

However, you work through your grief, just know that it is important to do so. A grief counselor will help you come up with ways that work for you. The healing will take time, but you won’t heal by time itself.

“The defects and faults of the mind are like wounds in the body; after all imaginable care has been taken to heal them up, still there will be a scar left behind, and they are in continual danger of breaking the skin and bursting out again.” — Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Other things you can say instead

It is so difficult when someone you love and care about is hurting, and you are trying to find the right thing to say to them and help them feel better. Instead of offering “time heals all wounds” you could give these sayings a try.

“I don’t know what to say, except I am sorry that you are hurting.” It is ok for us to not have all the answers sometimes. We can let people know we don’t always know how to help, but that we love them. We are here to listen if they want to talk. We are here if they just need a shoulder to cry on.

“Take it one day at a time, you won’t always feel the way you do right now.” Taking life one day at a time is excellent advice for nearly anything, but it works in painful situations too. Let them know that if one day seems too hard, they can take it hour by hour too.

“I’ll check in with you tomorrow.” Maybe your friend doesn’t need your help at this moment, and that’s ok! Reassure them you will be there and then follow through.

These sayings can convey to your friend that you feel for them and want to offer love and compassion to help them through a hard time. The support they receive, the ways they learn to cope, and the experiences they have over time will help them heal. Maybe they will help someone else heal someday too, in time.

“Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.”  Gautama Buddha

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