Day 21 – Be a Better Thinker

Some final thoughts as we wrap up the series on Healthy Thinking… Again, as always I hope it’s been helpful. I welcome all feedback and any questions you might have as well. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me via my contact page. My newsletter comes out on a monthly basis (I will NOT inundate you with emails every day)! and I also provide great resources and info there as well!

To wrap up, I want to provide some resources to help you on your journey towards Healthier Thinking:

1) Stress Less CD by Dr. Jennifer Fee and Dr. Diana Walcutt. Dr. Fee is a former professor of mine and the purpose of the CD is to facilitate relaxation for the body and mind. Dr. Fee is the Cognitive-Behavioral guru as far as I’m concerned!

2) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dummies. I have not read this one but I do feel that the “For Dummies” books tend to offer easy explanations and some great info on all kinds of topics. If the discussions about CBT have intrigued you check out this book!

3) National Association of  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. This site provides general information about CBT.

4) Adult Children. This is a great book that correlates so well with the content of this series. Some of it has to do with growing up in an alcoholic home and the repercussions of that kind of childhood, BUT, it provides great info for those of us who did not as well! Why do the rest of us struggle with perfectionism, feeling unlovable, overeating or striving, striving, striving to be “good enough?” We all struggle with different things and this book provides some easy-to-read, easy-to-understand explanations. I have recommended this book to MANY people whohave found it quite helpful.

5) Changes That Heal. This is another great book! I would recommend a lot of Cloud & Townsend’s books actually because they are easy-to-understand, pretty quick reads for the most part and packed with great information!

Feel free to contact me if you have questions!

Day 20 – To sum it all up…

Down to the wire folks! Here’s a summary of what’s been covered in the Healthy Thinking series. We’ve gone over a lot and I hope everyone has been able to pull out to least a few tips to apply to your lives.

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Here goes:

1) Learn your ABC’s. What does this mean? Well, when a situation occurs and you feel your emotions sky-rocketed, think back to what just took place and identify the following:

  • A) Activitating Event: What was the situation? Describe it either on paper or in your mind.
  • B) Behavior: What did you do?
  • C) Consequences: What did you think and feel as a result?

See Day 2, Day 3,  Day 5 and Day 6 to review this concept.

2) Begin to recognize your Automatic Thoughts vs. Core Beliefs.

  • Automatic Thoughts: These are repetitive thoughts that pop into our minds all throughout the day. They can be either positive or negative and are essentially are knee-jerk reactions to whatever is going on.
  • Core Beliefs: These are deeply engrained, inflexible beliefs we have been holding onto since childhood. These are much harder to change and greatly influence everything we do.

See Day 7, Day 8,  Day 9 and Day 17 to review this concept.

3) Our thoughts have a massive impact on our struggles with anxiety, depression and anger. By understanding our thought processes we can gain a better handle on these other concerns.

4) It’s not always about us! Often times we personalize situations and make assumptions that other people’s problems are somehow related to us. Let their issues be their issues! If you think they have a problem with you, ask them. If they say no, move on! Don’t stew about it because eventually you will become resentful.

See Day 4 for more on personalization.

5) Be your own best friend.If you can’t accept yourself how will you ever expect others to? We are all a work-in-progress so cut yourself some slack for cryin’ out loud! :)

See Day 10 and Day 11 for more on self-acceptance.

See you tomorrow for the last day of the series!

Day 14 – Depression and our Thoughts

“Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, in looking clearly at thought processes and gradually detaching from them, offers a wonderful sense of having something practical to work with, as you edge your way towards freedom and chip away at the glue sticking you to those depressive thoughts, which can become a complete circular system, in fact, a prison.”

The above quotation comes an article entitled Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression by Sarah Luczaj and in my opinion describes well the benefits Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can have on depression. As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, today we’re going to look at the connection between depression and our thoughts.

Please note: As mentioned in the quote… depression varies in severity from feeling “down in the dumps” to incredibly intense and “prison-like.” If at ANY point, you feel like you want to harm yourself seek help! (Or if you suspect someone you know is feeling that way). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great resource and their number is:  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

This is a tricky one. There are many possible causes for depression (similar to what I described in the anxiety series – Day 2). There is not usually a quick fix. Sometimes we feel down during a difficult season of grieving or relationship problems etc. and eventually it passes but the “time heals all wounds” advice does not work in all cases. There are hereditary and biological causes for depression among others and at times approaches such as therapy, medication etc. are needed to stabilize someone.

However, there are things we can do to prevent depression, specifically related to our thoughts, and that will be the focus for today.

The main concept I want to describe is called rumination. Essentially it’s this: When we mull over distressing situations, interactions, events etc. from the past. It is impossible to move forward with the future if we’re stuck in the past! Can you relate to any of these situations?

  • You have to bail on a friend who you promised you would help with a project. You call at the last minute and cancel and then feel terrible about it, continually thinking about it and feeling guilty for the rest of the night. You can’t seem to let it go.
  • You accidentally offend someone at work. Your words were unintentional but you saw the hurt look on your co-worker’s face and can’t  get it out of your mind. You feel “blue” the rest of the day.
  • You move to a new place and have a hard time making friends because you’re so focused on your old friends. You feel like you’ll never meet quality people like them again and spend the majority of your free time reminiscing about all the fun times of the past. In the meantime, you neglect to invest in community at your new home and are sad that you spend so much time alone.
  • You’ve been cheated on in the past and have been struggling to trust men ever since. You keep replaying the many conversations you and your ex had surrounding the affair and cannot fathom ever being in a trusting relationship in the future. Your dwell on this often, find it hard to concentrate on anything and feel lonely and depressed.

Horrible things happen sometimes. And this is not meant to make big events seem unimportant! However, ruminating on events of the past can make us depressed, unmotivated and feeling stuck.

Here are some thoughts about rumination:

  1. When ruminating, we tend to focus on the negative. Everything that went wrong or could have been handled differently repeats over and over in our minds.
  2. When runimating ,we become stuck in our thoughts taking us away from community. The support of others is absolutely crucial and if we get too wrapped up in our own thoughts and isolate ourselves, we have a higher liklihood of becoming depressed.
  3. When ruminating, we expend a lot of energy replaying events/interactions  in our minds and it can decrease our overall energy.

So… the moral of the story? Leave the past in the past! There is nothing you can do to change it, even though we lead ourselves to believe on some level that obsessing over things gives us more control. It’s not true.

Continue going over the faulty beliefs talked about in Day 3 and try to create more balanced thoughts. This will help a lot. (Are you noticing a theme throughout the series)?

Till tomorrow… :)

Day 1 – CBT

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” – Epictetus

As we get started today with the topic of Healthy Thinking, I want to explain the specific perspective I’m going to be writing from before I jump in. There are many schools of thought in the psychology world and many different ways to approach the same issues. While I may dip into more than one modality throughout this series, for the most part I am going to focus on one: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT.

Many theories address the way a person thinks, albeit through varying lenses. However, the premise behind CBT specifically deals with the fact that our thoughts have a direct impact on the way we feel and the way we act. Thoughts, in and of themselves, are not a peripheral issue in CBT, but rather one of the driving forces behind the theory (hence the cognitive part of the name).

Research has shown that CBT is effective in treating a variety of disorders such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’ll address, later in the series, how our thoughts interact with such disorders as the ones mentioned above.

Photo by Fenichel: Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis

A brief history lesson on CBT: Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, psychologists such as Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, emerged with a theoretical orientation that greatly differed from the traditional methods originally developed by Freud. Rather, they favored the perspectives of certain philosophers who believed that the root causes of emotional disturbances exist in the way we view life and in our thoughts. Instead of using psychoanalysis (a la Freud) to treat people they used a more directive approach specifically looking at the thought – feeling – behavior connection. Through the years CBT has been adapted and developed into the approach therapists now use today (some of which will be explained throughout this series… although in less technical language and more applicable to our lives). :)

The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists is a great resource to learn more about CBT for anyone who might be interested.

So… Why is all of this important? (Aside from being so interesting, right)? Well, as I am going repeat throughout the series our thoughts impact everything we do. Therefore, my thinking regarding this series impacts both how I write it and how you read it. Now that you know a little bit about the lens through which I will be filtering a lot of what I write, you’ll have a better understanding of everything from here on out as well.

Looking forward to digging in deeper tomorrow! See you then!

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