I am on a mission not to become a grumpy old lady. I have decided to make this my life’s work and it is not an easy assignment! I want my natural default pathway to be one of strength, calmness and peace, regardless of what is going on around me. OK you can stop laughing now! I said I am learning, not necessarily doing – yet.
I want to be able to deal with life as it comes without getting reactive, defensive & snarky. And I don’t want to listen to the negative voice in my head that relentlessly gives me her (incorrect) version of life. These are the things that may make us irritable.
There are many reasons we can become downright bitchy as we get older. Some folks have a legit rational explanation, like my friend who had a nasty house fire recently – she may, understandably, be a tad surly these days. But most often crabbiness is a habit we allow ourselves to fall into over the years. We actually train our brain to complain and by the time we are in our golden years we know no other way. For many it seems to be the natural default as we get older. Here are a few reasons I think this happens:
Genetics & the way our body is made
There is an ancient part of your brain, the Reticular Activating System, that’s designed to spot danger. This trait was very helpful back in the day when you were on the lookout for raging barbarians or the sabre tooth tiger but it’s much less useful now. The RAS is the reason you have an inherent tendency to think negatively – you’re are hardwired to do so. You may be naturally more negative than others depending on your personal genetic imprint of what’s been passed down through generations, your family’s outlook of the world and how all this info works together in your body. If you’ve been dealt some bad cards in the irritability department it just means you have to work a little harder not to be crabby – but it’s doable!
We weren’t taught how to feel good. We were taught that Prince Charming will come and we will live happily ever after, the ‘prince’ being in the form of the partner, house, kid, weight loss, job, car, vacation, huge Instagram account or whatever. ‘Once that thing arrives I know I will feel good and that feeling will last longer.’ How’s that been working for you, not so good, right?
If you’re hanging here with me, following my work (thank you SO much for that) you likely know, somewhere deep inside your gorgeous self, that there is NO prince/object/event that will make you eternally ‘happy’. What’s going to make you feel good for the rest of your life lives inside of you. It’s always there for you to access, you just have to know how and DO THE WORK to find it and keep it.
Choosing to not become a grumpy old lady requires a set of skills that you can learn, and you must choose to use those skills every single day. It will be hard at first because you may rather just be snarky than make the effort required to move away from the irritability (and many times this is the path you’ll take because being grumpy is much easier than fighting it, I speak from experience) but as you practice, day in and day out, it become easier. You will no longer default to being crabby. Many bitchy people got that way because they allowed it to happen slowly and gradually without checking themselves. (Caveat here belongs to people in chronic pain which puts those folks in a completely different world than the rest of us. A world we can’t understand. A person dealing with unrelenting pain has a different job to do to retrain their brain, however the same tools will be helpful to a degree. Just saying it’s not the same for those folks so cut them some slack, please.)
When do YOU feel bitchy? When you’re hungover or a couple hours after you accidentally ate a whole chocolate bar. When you have too many tasks to possibly fit in the time you have to do them. When you’ve been running around doing for other people for too many days in a row. When you need sleep. When you just left a coffee date with someone who wafts around in a cloud of negativity and tries to control you – as she calls it ‘caring’. When you have to do something you don’t want to do. When you haven’t moved your body in far too long. When. When. When.
Right?!? Grrrrr. These experiences are called LIFE and they happen daily and it’s impossible to wish them away. So then how do we fight the Battle of the Bitch, what can we do to stop getting a little more irritable every year? First of all Dear One, understand that it takes effort. Those lovely, zenned out folks you know…they are working real hard to be that way, and you can do it too!
Here are a few tips from a novice beginner who is working to ditch the bitch:
1. Breathe. Take a breath and give the thing that’s making you crazy a little space. This will often calm down the nag inside of you. Walk out of the room or count to 10 (a nifty trick we teach little kids that works surprisingly well), do something other than simply react – focusing on your breath is a good place to start. You can learn to automatically do this by committing to a daily meditation practice. As I understand it, meditation trains your brain to focus on something other than the voice inside your head. We need this skill to silence the irritability, I simply don’t see any other way, please tell me if you have one.
2. Watch your language and tone of voice. Cut the drama when you talk, calm down, only talk about things that are directly related to you. Grumpy folks talk a certain way (start to notice that) so don’t be one. I’m not saying you need to fake it (although sometimes you do), I’m saying there is no need to needlessly complain. There’s a difference between advocating to make change and complaining – the grumpsters are complaining about the problem and the others are working to fix it.
3. Watch for the Happiness Robbers in your life such as sugar, gluten, lack of movement, watching crap TV, surfing the net mindlessly…pay attention. This stuff affects your neurology and can make it very difficult to stay clear, calm and rational. I deeply know this from decades of experience. If you find it’s not working for you change it. I said this is doable, not easy!
Here’s the thing Sweetie, I’m not making this stuff up, there is research on all of it. People who report experiencing greater well-being DO certain things which alter their neurophysiology. Just like grumpy old people have done certain things to create theirs over the years. So, here’s to doing the work! Thanks for tuning in, if you like my work please share, that would be so awesome!
Until next time ….