• Sarah E Davila

I'm Done With Gambling On Emotions

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

I’m back! Both literally (I am back with a second blog post) and figuratively (I am back in a healthy mindset). I am emotionally strong today and I have been for three days now. Woohoo! Yes, I am celebrating. Working in the mental health field I have learned to celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments because they matter.

Opening up my social media on Sunday morning, I was flooded with the usual Memorial Day posts about the real meaning of this holiday, which by the way, I appreciate so much. It is very easy to plan parties and vacations on this weekend while failing to remember the fallen heroes who have made it all possible. So let’s take another moment to honor these amazing men and women who fought and died for our freedom!

I hope all of you enjoyed a fun and relaxing three day weekend. It always seems easier to have a positive attitude on a three day weekend. At least that’s what I was expecting. However, Sunday morning I’ll admit, I woke up in a bad mood. “How is this even possible?” I wondered. It was actually a four day weekend for my husband and me as we planned to travel to Lake Charles to celebrate our 12 year anniversary.

Sunday’s agenda was simple. We got to attend our son’s first All-Star baseball tournament and then we were blessed with the opportunity to leave for The Golden Nugget for a two night, kid-free get away. Shout out to my amazing parents for that one. And btw you are welcome for our donation, Mr. Fertitta.

So when I woke up feeling frustrated and annoyed that morning, I really had to take a step back and re-evaluate my mindset. I’m still not sure what my deal was but I knew that I had had it. I was over it and ready to make a change. I mean, it was vacation day! So why the poor me attitude? That very moment I made a choice. I chose happiness. I chose positivity. From that moment on, the rest fell into place and Memorial Day was a great one.

Later that evening I found myself in the hotel casino watching my husband play his favorite game, craps. I choose to plead the fifth on the amount we did or did not bring home. But seriously, there is so much uncertainty the moment you hit those tables. Why he loves to gamble so much is beyond me. I would much rather buy myself a new pair of shoes or maybe even look into a new swimsuit purchase (that’s for my peeps who read my last blog, haha).

While watching his ups and downs and sharing in his highs and lows, it dawned on me how taking risks for potential monetary reward can have its appeal. But I couldn’t help but wonder, why do I take risks on my emotional state and allow it to dictate the rest of my day? How do I forget to assert control over my negative thoughts when in fact, it would actually up the odds of achieving happiness throughout the day?

Every day I teach my clients how to make this choice. I teach them how to take control over their emotions and to switch unhelpful thoughts into positive, more helpful ones. Yet still, I can (from time to time) personally find this very difficult to master.

Thanks to neuroscience we know that as we participate in new activities our brains create new neural pathways. In the beginning these pathways are undefined and therefore unappealing as our brain's first option.

Imagine that you participated in a 21 day challenge in the middle of nowhere. I’m talking Naked and Afraid type of survival here. You would find yourself needing to create pathways through untouched terrain and would seriously do yourself a favor by bringing along a machete or some type of tool to help you clear that path. However, after a few weeks that path and those behaviors would become much more defined and therefore easier to tackle.

In a similar fashion, our neural pathways get stronger with repetition, and new behaviors eventually become your new normal. Those of you who have mastered a physical fitness regime can probably relate to this. But honestly, was the journey easy?

I’m going to assume that the answer here is no. But what I do know is that I am tired of paying an “ante” every morning as I gamble on whether or not my day will be a winner or if I’ll completely crap out.

From now on, I’m taking my own therapeutic advice and I am going to choose positivity each and every morning, hour, minute, etc. I am going to remain mindful and consistent and practice this skill until it becomes as normal for me as it is to order a cocktail at the pool bar on vacation.

“Fake it till you make it.” I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before. I have a serious love/hate relationship with it. I hear clients say it frequently and sometimes it irks me to hear it because as a therapist I don’t want my clients to have to fake anything. I want them to be able to find the joy in life that they so very much deserve.

However, when it comes to this helpful thought switching technique and to the neurological pathways in my brain, I plan to fully fake it till I make it. My hope is that positive thinking is already a norm for you. But if not, I encourage you to begin making this choice as well and start practicing these skills on the regular. Quit gambling on your emotional state! Learn to control your thoughts so that you can be in charge of how you feel.

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