I typically think New Year’s resolutions are overrated. Likely because when I make them, I usually don’t stick with them. But 2017 was different. On January 1, 2017, I made a New Year’s resolution and I stuck with it all year(for the most part). Making this resolution all started after I’d experienced some particularly negative life events. Due to these events, I realized my thoughts and perceptions were becoming more and more ugly. I was constantly falling into what we term in psychology as “cognitive pitfalls”. For example, I’d catastrophize a situation. If I ran into traffic on the way to work, I’d think, “Oh great, an accident on the freeway. Now I’ll be late to work, my first patient will be angry, I’ll feel terrible, and the whole rest of my day will be ruined.” Or I’d start “shoulding” on myself if something didn’t go quite as I planned. Let’s say I was making a quick trip to the grocery store, only to find out the store was an absolute zoo. I’d start thinking, “I should have gone to the store earlier. Now it will take me twice as long. I should have thought this through more… what a time suck.” What I found was that my negative thinking was impacting my overall attitude, life outlook, and ability to experience happiness. So I made a New Year’s resolution to practice finding the ugly beautiful every day.
The term “finding the ugly beautiful” was coined by a patient of mine a few years ago when we were discussing how to “turn the mind” from thinking negatively about a situation to reframing the situation in a more positive light. Here’s how it works: take any seemingly awful, ugly, or negative situation and instead of focusing on how terrible it is, try to find at least one good thing about it. Let’s say it’s snowing and your car breaks down. Pretty ugly, right? Absolutely! And if you think about it, there are many beautiful aspects of the situation: at least you own a car, at least you have a job to earn the money to pay for a car, at least you have a cell phone to call for help, at least you have people/supports in your life you can call. Despite the ugliness of the situation, it’s not all bad. Finding the ugly beautiful is a worthwhile habit because it helps to decrease the personal negative impact any particular situation will cause. It also decreases rumination and puts life into perspective by reminding you that most often, the situation could always be worse. After a year of practicing finding the ugly beautiful, I can honestly say I am a happier person. Try it out, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.