• Choose reflection over reflex: We get caught up in tough thinking patterns because we do not take a step back to consider other points of view. When we find ourselves stepping into a thought loop, it helps to catch ourselves and try to consider other ways of looking at the situation.
  • Bring softness, not hostility: We often assume the worst about other people when they say something we don’t agree with. Even if people are behaving or speaking in a way we disapprove of, it is useful to remember that they have a story behind their perspectives. The stronger the negative feelings we have about people, the more it might help to get to know them better. This helps us develop empathy and connectedness.
  • Be curious, not judgmental: The mind is complex and can go anywhere, if given the chance. Although it is tempting to think our understanding of life is all there is to know, being open and inquisitive to things that are confusing and unsettling helps us stay flexible. If our mind goes to unpleasant and defeating places, instead of beating ourselves up over it, we should welcome the thought and reflect on what we can learn about ourselves by holding onto it, instead of throwing it away.

Christopher W.T. Miller, M.D., is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst practicing at the University of Maryland Medical Center and an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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