Seven Inspirational Psychology Quotes and Their Meaning
When life become stressful, many people turn to inspirational quotes for encouragement and to help provide a direction for moving forward. Quotes seem to work by providing a shorthand way of describing a more comprehensive way of thinking about something. Words have power and when we want to think differently about something, expressing it succinctly in a phrase or saying we can easily remember that reminds us that things can change helps us do that. This article presents quotes from positive psychology experts, well known psychologists and other influential people from around the world that will inspire you to think differently about stressful life events.
Our moods are contagious. When those we care about are unhappy, we often become unhappy as well. Similarly when we are happy that mood is contagious. We can literally infect those around us with our well-being and have an enormous impact on not just them but everyone up to at least 3 degrees of separation from us. Research actually shows that those we influence, influence others and those others influence still others.
So your happiness may not only affect your spouse or sibling, but you may also influence the well-being of complete strangers you never even meet. If you are happy this morning, your child may become happier, their teacher may become happier, and their teacher’s hairdresser who they have an appointment with that night may become happier.
Of course, trying to maintain a positive outlook and happy disposition isn’t always easy. It takes work, energy and dedication. Ultimately, it’s clear when you substitute unhappiness into the equation and examine the outcomes, that it is happiness that is truly selfless and unhappiness that is selfish.
Coviello, L., Sohn, Y., Kramer, A. D., Marlow, C., Franceschetti, M., Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. H. (2014). Detecting emotional contagion in massive social networks. PloS one, 9(3), e90315.
There are many ways to view a single situation and how we view it determines how we feel. If we focus on the negative aspects we may come to perceive only what we believe to be negative about a situation and fail to see the good. Likewise if we focus on the positive within a situation we will train ourselves to look for the good and that is what we will see.
Take for example, someone who goes to a party and everyone greets them, is happy to see them and wants to talk with them except for one person who walks past scowling without responding to their greeting. This person can focus on all the people who were glad they were there and the positive interactions that happened. Or they can focus only on the one person who didn’t respond positively to them, assuming it was due to something bad about them.
What we choose to attend to can affect not just our thinking but also our memory. When we create a pattern of thinking about things this can affect what we actually remember about a situation. So in the previous example the person who attends to the positive will remember those parts of the experience while the other person will remember only the one negative part and none of the positive. Being wrapped in negativity leads to misery while being enveloped in the positive leads to happiness. Choose to pay attention to the good as opposed to the bad and this will strongly influence your happiness.
Tamir, M., & Robinson, M. D. (2007). The happy spotlight: Positive mood and selective attention to rewarding information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(8), 1124-1136.
Our emotions are often the most powerful influences on our decisions. Sometimes we feel like we just can’t take it anymore and act to relieve this feeling. Often our feelings and our thoughts get bound up together and the way we interpret, think about and react to our feelings strongly affects what we decide to do. When we feel a strong emotion we try to determine the reason for it. This takes thought. We attribute the feeling to certain things and although the feeling may be transient instead of letting it resolve we act prematurely in response.
So if we fail in a job for example, we will likely feel down in the dumps, upset, depressed, angry or a combination of these things. We may have thoughts about trust, the unfairness of the situation or perhaps how this just proves that we aren’t capable of doing something. This can cause us to decide to forego a certain career path, not trust those in our immediate environments or send a scathing letter to a former boss to even the score.
However, we’ve all likely done something when our emotions were out of control that we wish we could have taken back. Unfortunately, sometimes these decisions and actions can’t be reversed. Remember that feelings and thoughts don’t always reflect reality. Have someone you can check in with when you are feeling emotional who can help you determine if a decision should wait a while until you have your emotions more under control.
George, J. M., & Dane, E. (2016). Affect, emotion, and decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 136, 47-55.
Human beings are social creatures. The quality of our social relationships, and the support we provide to and receive from those in our social realm affect our psychological and physical health and general sense of well being. In order for us to live a fulfilling, satisfying life characterized by mental and physical wellness, we need to commit time and energy to cultivating meaningful relationships. To truly have a positive outlook on life, something that is strongly tied to our physical health, feeling secure, accepted and as if we belong are all required.
Humans don’t do well in social isolation. When things aren’t going well, don’t convince yourself it’s better not to bother anyone or that people will just get annoyed with your problems. We all need others, and we need the support others can provide for us even more when life is stressful. Reach out and connect with friends and relatives not just in times of hardship but in good times as well.
Robins, S. P. (2010). Awakening to the Concept of" Interbeing". Interbeing, 4(2), 39.
According to James, life isn’t about always taking the easy road. When you always do only what is easiest for you and avoid what you don’t like you will limit your options and possibilities. The longer you go avoiding what is difficult, the harder it will be to face life’s difficulties in the future. You are reinforcing your avoidance of what is unpleasant by eliminating the discomfort or anxiety you feel when anticipating doing something you don’t want to do. Yet sometimes the greatest learning experiences and opportunities to achieve happiness come about through adversity and challenge. It is during these times that you learn the most about yourself especially about your strengths, and how they can be used to bolster your weaknesses.
Turning back to the last quote, it’s also important to remember you don’t need to face the tough things alone. Ask for help and let others rely on you when they face something difficult. It is through this process that we build stronger bonds to each other and find the confidence to meet the challenges life gives us.
It doesn’t only have to be the big things in life to which we apply this quote. Challenge yourself to try something new or tackle something you may feel you aren’t great at doing. Even if you aren’t entirely successful at the activity you will learn new skills and knowledge from the experience. Try taking a class, beginning a workout routine or starting a blog. You never know what will come of it. You may surprise yourself by learning you are good at something you thought you weren’t or that you enjoy an activity you were certain you wouldn’t.
Buckingham added to this quote, saying: "To know whether you should be turning from the path you're on, you have to be alert to the signs you see along the way. The practice of looking for the strong moments in your everyday experience and tipping your life toward them will serve you immeasurably."
In other words if you have determined a path to travel in, yet you become so set on following it no matter what you won’t see the warning signs that quicksand is ahead or the turnoff for a much better path. People who slog ahead without considering if they should continue on the path they are on or perhaps choose another one often miss out on opportunities to better themselves and their life.
Sometimes we do this because we are afraid of change or of failing. We tell ourselves we have spent a lot of time and money on education to get on this path and that it is irresponsible to decide we would be happier on another one. We may settle for mediocre convinced disappointment is part of being an adult instead of take a chance with the possibility of experiencing something extraordinary. No matter how convinced you are that the path you are on is the right one for you, never stop looking at the road signs along the way to see what else is out there.
It's easy to blame the way we feel on others. It lets us take the pressure of responsibility off are shoulders. It also makes it unnecessary for us to make an effort to respond in ways that address the problem, either directly or by moving past it. Directly, we can confront the person making the statements, talk with them, determine what might be useful in helping the situation. Of course, this may not always correct anything, either their perceptions or their desire to continue talking down to us and about us. At this point, we can find the strength to move past it and change our focus from trying to change someone else’s behavior and perceptions to living life in the best way we can without worrying about those who need to belittle us.
The way to do this is to realize that we have a choice in how we perceive and think about what is happening in our lives. When we understand we have a choice in the explanation we come up with for what happens in our life and the meaning we give them, we will also realize we have a choice in how we feel and how we respond.
The next time someone says something that leads to you feeling inferior, depressed, upset or distressed, consider the way you are thinking about it. Are you acting as if they are right? Are you assuming they have the right to say things to hurt you and giving them the power to do so? Do you believe that since others are listening to and believing them there must be validity to their assertions? Do you feel they are better than you and more deserving of respect or decent treatment?Sometimes assumptions and beliefs that we have about ourselves and others are not even conscious. Dig deep and try to figure out why this person has the ability to hurt you. What gives them them that kind of control over your emotions and actions?
Once you determine the answer to these questions make up more positive and empowering assumptions, beliefs and meaning for what is happening and own it. You might try telling yourself that someone who needs to hurt others has their problems with self esteem such that tearing others down is the only way they know of building themselves up. Remind yourself that someone like this is worthy of pity not respect or admiration.
These types of thoughts alone may not completely alleviate your negative emotions. However, they might take the edge off enough to allow you to make different decisions about how you choose to respond which also can affect how you feel. Choosing to do something different and letting go of attempts to change minds that don’t want to be changed are two first steps to refusing to let others make us feel small.
© 2018 Natalie Frank