Most of us believe that our perceptions of events are accurate and reasonable. We believe what we think is true. We make immediate decisions on what our thoughts are telling us and, unfortunately, sometimes we make more of the situation then there is.

If a group of people were talking and one person made a remark, part of the group could interpret that to be negative. Another part of the group could think nothing of it, and still others could think that it was upbeat and helpful. We all have our own frame of mind. It comes down to our cumulative life events. Our mind evaluates what has happened to us over our lifetime and uses that information for present situations. We store and analyze the past and use that in our everyday lives. This becomes a reactive, automatic way of living.

The way you react could affect how you handle a simple situation such as your boss making you change midstream with another project. This did not make you happy, and you could not understand why you had to go to the other project before finishing the first. It seemed to be causing more work. You could not get your mind off of how inappropriate and wasteful this change was. Keeping your attention on the unfairness of your boss causes stress and frustration, and this may impact your happiness, relationships, and job performance.

An event could happen where a co-worker in a meeting makes a comment that seems to put you in a negative light. They should not have said what they did. Throughout the rest of the day, this situation kept coming up in your thoughts. The actual act of what that person did caused the initial pain, but the story you made after the event caused more problems. You kept thinking about this all day and your ability to do your job and your happiness was greatly affected. That night you still had not let go, and you could not relax. If you could have been aware of how you reacted to the situation when it happened, you could have just let it go.

When you feel a situation is causing you to react negatively, practicing breathing awareness can help. Take a breath or two and try to be aware of what is happening. Imagine yourself as an unattached bystander looking from the outside in—or put yourself in the other person’s shoes and feel what they are feeling. Allow yourself the ability to see it for what it is and not take it personally. This can ward off instinctive, reactive behavior and can shed new light on the situation. The key is to let go of the negative stories we create about past and future and develop the ability to truly live in the present moment.