PRESSURE TO &amp;quot;LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE&amp;quot;
I don’t feel improved
When summer approaches, we often have grand ideas of fun, relaxation, and self-improvement such as beach days, eating fresh fruits and veggies, working out, getting a (healthy) tan, going out with friends, meeting new friends, and overall “living your best life.” But when summer ends and reality hits, you may come to realize that you didn’t get an opportunity to do any of that. And you know what? IT’S OK! It’s likely that you will constantly feel unfulfilled if you are always thinking about the things you didn’t do and the ways you should be improving yourself.
What is “opposite action”?
Moreover, if you start to dwell on what you haven’t been able to accomplish with respect to self-improvement, it can inhibit you from taking the action that you desire. In order to avoid this harmful cycle, “psychologists recommend a skill called ‘opposite action,’ which takes you out of the realm of thought and into the realm of action by initiating the opposite behavior of your thoughts.” Instead of feeling paralyzed and going back and forth in your mind about what you did not do, opposite action dictates that you act to resolve the conflict in your mind.
Putting “Opposite Action” into action
An opposite Action is a useful tool for getting over that feeling of disappointment in yourself for not acting towards self-improvement. Psychology Today provides a step by step guide to help you in applying the opposite action in situations when you find yourself battling with your thoughts:
- Identify and name the emotion that you are experiencing.
- Determine whether the emotion is warranted given the circumstances of your situation. (You can also ask yourself whether acting on the urge will be effective in the long-term.) To clarify, the urge could be a strong desire to not do anything at all.
- Then, based on your answers, decide whether to act on their urge or to do an action that is opposite to the urge.
Opposite Action is the opposite of easy
One of the purposes of opposite action is to help prevent “avoidance” behaviors, like when you get so caught up in your thoughts that such thoughts begin to control and paralyze you, rather than the other way around. If you are avoiding doing something that you believe will lead to self-improvement, it actually helps to do the thing you are avoiding. It’s scary and uncomfortable but sometimes that’s the only way to overcome feeling “stuck.” “After doing something repeatedly, you might still feel some anxiety about it but it won’t be so strong [that] you need to avoid that thing in the future.” For example, if you just got out of a long-term relationship and your inner dialogue is telling you that you’re not ready to put yourself on a dating app, the best way to overcome these thoughts is to fight through the anxiety and put yourself on a dating app! Applying this practice is far from simple but once you use it, you will begin to feel more comfortable about applying it in other situations.