Why a Hot Air Balloon is the Perfect Metaphor for Overcoming Negative ThoughtsNone By Shelby Skrhak
“But I talked you up,” he said without any strong inflection in his voice. My husband wasn’t upset, just surprised at the last minute change of plans. I had committed to speak to a class of newspaper students at his school, but I needed to reschedule for a last minute photo shoot I was to attend. I emailed my student contact—the newspaper’s managing editor—to let him know I had a scheduling conflict and offered two other dates, which I thought was perfectly reasonable. But those few words from my husband just dropped the floor beneath me and my mood sank. Self-doubt crept in and I felt like I was a big slacking failure for so poorly managing my calendar.
Healthy or not, I’d ordinarily shut down my brain—and shut down my laptop, abandoning any plans I had to work or write that night. But I had too much to do. So I logged in for ideas to write, and found my first Happify track, How to Conquer Negative Thoughts.
Oh, I know how to master negative thoughts. I’m THE master of negative thoughts. But I suppose that’s not part of this curriculum.
The track’s first exercise is a hot air balloon-themed brain game called Uplift. A few rounds in, I’m watching a colorful balloon that I swear is bobbing at the same rate of my breathing. There’s my psychosomatic nature kicking in.
But I’m clicking and nothing’s happening.
Am I doing it wrong? What do I not see here that I should be doing? Am I missing something
Sound familiar? How many times have you gone down this same path, asking these same questions, and concluding it must be something that you’re doing wrong?
All these thoughts creep in as I sit here looking at an illustrated hot air balloon peeking out the right side of my screen, taunting me with short pendulum-like swings that move further and further off the screen.
Finally the balloon teetered off the screen and never came back. I lost my balloon. But knowing that there must be some logic to this exercise and not simply bad programming, I started over—and I'm happy to say, I didn’t lose my balloon this time.
Maybe the game took my mind off what was troubling me that I began feeling better. Maybe simply making a conscious effort to power through my sad mood made me feel better. Either way, I realized that thinking about my mood and mentally working to push through those dark clouds of guilt, sadness and negativity about myself really does have an impact.
It sounds so abstract, but what you think about matters. So, think about what you think about. How do you do this?
Like that teetering hot air balloon, realize that negative thoughts can be just as fluid as that colorful patchwork of fabric floating in the wind.
1. Do something, anything and that balloon will move.
2. Make a movement, physically or mentally, and that floating feeling of negativity will shift.
3. Shift the time and energy you spend feeling sad, and think about feeling better.
So while I scroll back up to the top of this article and still feel the sting of those words my husband said, I’m not compounding it. That’s huge, for me at least. Out of guilt, I emailed the student journalist a second time, saying if rescheduling causes a major conflict, I’ll rework my travel plans to accommodate because his class and the opportunity to speak to them is important to me.
I also asked how many students are in his class. If I’m going to assuage my guilt by giving them free SUCCESS swag, I need to know how much I need to carry.
Shelby Skrhak is the director of digital content and social media for SUCCESS.com, the online destination for SUCCESS magazine. She’s a working mom, journalist and founder of the blog FatHeadDog.com. Find her on Twitter as @ShelbySkrhak.
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