Military Spouse Magazine

DEC 2018

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Page 27 of 35

G O O D A D V I C E Why Does Everyone Else Look So Happy? By Dr. Kendra Lowe, Air Force Spouse Dear Dr. Kendra, Lately, I've noticed that I am constantly fighting growing resentment and negativity toward the military and I really want it to stop. I am surround- ed by amazing military spouses and read their posts on Facebook, that are always so positive and thankful. I know this is how I should feel, but I just don't. And I feel guilty about it all the time, which then makes me feel even worse, and then more negative thoughts…ugh! I just don't want to feel this way anymore and wish there were a way that I could be more thank- ful too. Any ideas? Sincerely, Searching for the Good Dear Searching, Don't judge a book by its cover. This is a psychologist's bread and butter. The old adage has stood the test of time because at the root is truth. Our outside does NOT always reflect our inside. Stop for a moment and picture the "perfect" military spouse; the one that has it all together. What does he or she look like? Young or old? An accomplished career? A veteran military spouse? Volunteers an insane amount of hours to church? Has four children? Leads support groups? Cer- tified Crossfit trainer? Always looks fabulous? Can you see him or her? Of course you can because we have all met those individuals who appear to have it all. But do we re- ally know him or her? Probably not. By default, we end up comparing ourselves to something unattainable, and those unrealistic expectations can generate the negative thoughts you mention in your letter. The reality is you, my friend, are not alone. Research reflects that at any given time as much as 80 percent of our thoughts can be categorized as negative. Negative thoughts are "normal." This means that the military spouses you compare yourself to also have periods of resentment or frustra- tion with military life. The real concern I have for you is if you begin to believe these negative thoughts are true. The good news is, negative thoughts can be ha- bitual, and as with any habit, can be changed. However, old habits can be hard to break and new habits hard to form. A great way to intentionally start this process of change is through the Habit Replacement Loop (HRL) that has clear steps: 1) Awareness. You have achieved this step. You know you have a negative pattern and you want to change it. 2) Intentionally replace a negative habit by choosing/substituting a positive behavior. Carry a journal everywhere you go. When you have a negative thought, please write down three positive statements in your journal. 3) Eliminate negative triggers. Ask yourself if there are cer- tain times of the week, month, or year, or within the military PCS cycle that you notice more negative thoughts. Eliminate the triggers you can, and prepare for those you cannot. 4) Buddy up. Find someone to confide in and ask if they want to also try a positive journal. 5) Pick your friends. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and what you are trying to accomplish. 6) Visualize. See yourself as a more positive person. 7) Be persistent. Practice positive self-talk. Keep repeating the behav- ior and it will eventually stick. Choose to have more positive thoughts; if you believe you can make the change, the change becomes real. Reach out to other military spouses and make personal connections. Learn about their stories in person and you will discover you are not alone. Facebook, as you mention, is the ultimate paradigm of posting what we want people to see on the outside while masking the inside. This should not be our measure of a successful military experience. Be real, be open, and be honest, as you compellingly exhibited in your letter. Sincerely, Dr. Kendra H Illustration by George Peters 28 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / DECEMBER 2018

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