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 18 – How I sabotaged a perfectly good conversation with my hubby…

Hmm, why does it seem like when I do a series I end up having some personal experience that tests everything I am telling other people to do. (i.e. Practice What You Preach from the Anxiety Series). Well here’s what happened during Healthy Thinking… and might I add, I may come across a bit neurotic. You’ve been warned.
I woke up yesterday morning in a BAD mood. I don’t think it was due to anything in particular, I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. My husband however woke up in a great mood – best mood he’s been in that early in the morning for a long time! The fact that he was so happy annoyed me more than I can say! Do you ever have those moments where someone else’s happiness (in the midst of your unhappiness) just grates on you to the point where you do everything in your power to make them as miserable as you are? Well. I hate to admit it but that’s what I did. We carpooled to work and he tried to be sweet and jokey and make conversation but every interaction we had felt like nails on a chalkboard to me.
A lot of these thoughts were not happening on a conscious level. I wasn’t thinking to myself “How do I make him as unhappy as possible?” But underneath the surface, that’s essentially what I was doing and the second I walked away from the situation I realized, wow, I was pretty brutal towards him. In an instant, I felt regret.
For the remainder of the day I reflected on what had happened. My hubby and I made amends shortly after but I still wanted to figure out what I could have done differently. We all get in bad moods from time to time but we certainly don’t have to take them out on others. Here is what I learned from this situation:
  1. Unfortunately my bad mood was more contagious than his good mood. This was huge!! By the time he dropped me off, he was in just as bad a mood as me, which didn’t feel nearly as satisfying as my subconscious drives had been leading me to believe. I instead felt terrible and just prayed he would be able to snap out of it and have a great day (which he did – phew)!
  2. What I probably should have done was either opt out of our carpooling arrangement that morning – or – let him know I was feeling a bit cranky and needed some time to myself. We could have listened to music on our drive, driven in silence etc. but instead I held back from explaining to him that I was in a funk and ended up pushing him away.
  3. As I processed what happened throughout the day, my mood didn’t change. Just because I felt guilty for being a brat didn’t mean I was feeling any less bratty. Our emotions tend to be a bit stubborn sometimes. So, by the time he picked me up at the end up the day, I had to make a decision to not be cranky anymore because the last thing I wanted was a repeat of the morning’s fiasco on the drive home. I apologized again and expressed what was on my mind rather than shutting him out. He allowed me to vent on the drive home and we had an honest conversation about what I was experiencing, which relieved the heaviness I had been feeling earlier in the day.

We are all a work in progress. No matter how much self-help we read or advise others about, it can still be a struggle sometimes. But the good news is, when we do make mistakes our loved ones are usually forgiving and we can use the experience to learn something new and grow as a person.

God sure has a sense of humor – If I hadn’t been in the middle of this series, I may not have been as aware of the fact that I could make a conscious decision to change my thinking and behavior in order to pull out of my funk. And then, in order to practice what I have been preaching, I just knew it was something I had to follow through with.

So there! That’s my personal revelation during Healthy Thinking!

See you Monday!



Day 17 – “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

This is a great video relating to what we’ve been going over throughout this series!

Oprah is talking to her trainer, Bob Greene, about how her thinking patterns have impacted her weight struggles throughout the years. As you’ll see in the video, Oprah is describing herself as a people pleaser. How many of you can relate?! She puts everyone else’s needs above her own which has at times,  hindered her own health and well-being. She experienced a big AH HA moment when she realized that at her core, she felt unworthy.

 

Oprah.com

 

Check out the video to find out more and think about how this might relate to YOUR core beliefs!

Day 16 – “I doubt it!”

How many time do you say that in a day?! We all doubt. It is part of the human condition and there are pros and cons to it really…

 

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Pros:

  • If we took everything at face value we could become naïve. Looking at situations critically is necessary to solve problems effectively and come up with the most efficient solutions.
  • If we were too trusting of people, we could get taken advantage of or hurt more easily. Some doubt and self-protection is a good thing!

BUT, there are also cons:

  • Doubting could prevent us from seeing and pursuing opportunities that cross our paths. If we live life doubting our abilities and closed off to new things, how will we ever grow?
  • Doubting can cause is to hold back about who we are and what we believe. Part of growing up is discovering what we believe on the big issues of life and feeling confident enough to express ourselves when it’s important. In the biblical gospels, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Peter’s doubt prevented him from standing up for what he knew was right and ended up causing him great pain. If you believe in something, own it!
  • Doubting could cause us to quit. When superstar basketball player Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity team as a sophomore, did he quit? Absolutely not! He worked hard and became the best player on JV. Don’t allow doubts to cause you to quit; let them motivate you to work harder!

Here are some tips to work through our natural feelings of doubt:

  1. When you recognize your doubt, try to determine the following: Are you being wise by not jumping into something without thinking it through? Or is your doubt preventing you from taking a reasonable risk and possibly pursuing something great?
  2. Evaluate your concerns. When we experience doubt, we more specifically dealing with worries or concerns about a situation. So write them down and think through the validity of your concerns, weigh out the pros and cons and make a decision about whether you can set them aside in order move forward.
  3. Recognize your capacity to handle more than you think you can. Oftentimes our doubt play on our insecurities and weaknesses making us feel incapable of dealing with anything. That’s a lie! You can do, feel and be more than you think can! Most of our limitations are set by ourselves. So realize that while there may be some discomfort, you can deal.
  4. Seek wise counsel. Find someone who has traveled a similar journey and find out their perspective.
  5. Push through and see what happens. If you determine your risk is reasonable and worth pursuing, push through! Unfortunately your doubts may not go away but they don’t have to stop you either! You may be pleasantly surprised at the result.

I would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment below or contact me!

Day 15 – Anxiety and our thoughts

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have a passion for helping people who struggle with anxiety. I have dealt with my own difficulties with this in the past so it is important to me to try to pass along some of my own learnings to others. Today we’re going to address how our thoughts are connected to our anxiety.

I’d like to keep this brief since there is a lot of information already on this site in the Anxiety Series. I do feel it’s worth mentioning again though because our thoughts play such a huge role in our anxious feelings. Let’s look at a few of the ways they are linked:

1) Rumination – Yesterday’s topic, rumination, was described as a potential cause of depression but it can also create anxiety. If you’re spending an entire day or evening going over and over again in your mind a small mistake you made earlier in the day, it is likely highly if you aren’t feeling “down,” you’re feeling anxious. I have done this myself. Earlier in the week I accidentally forgot a coffee date with a friend and stood her up! I felt terrible! I apologized of course but it kept crossing my mind repeatedly throughout the night causing a great deal of anxiety until I finally, intentionally, decided to let it go.

2) What If? – There is a post about this in the Anxiety Series. Are you someone that always thinks about the “What Ifs?” What If’s are a huge cause for anxiety, as your mind absolutely spirals considering all the bad things that could potentially happen in a given situation. Yes, bad things can happen and they do happen sometimes. But worrying about every little thing that could go wrong won’t prevent them from happening nor will it give you any more control over the situation. It will only create stress and anxiety!

3) Do you focus a lot on what you don’t want or don’t have? Of course it’s good to have an idea of what we do and don’t want out of life. That helps provide structure and boundaries so we don’t say yes to everything but rather focus on that which really matters. However, if you spend the majority of your time concerned about everything you’re trying to avoid in life or prevent from occuring, you’re gonna miss what IS happening NOW. One of the major struggles for people dealing with anxiety is an inability to live in the present!

Like I said, I am gonna keep this brief. If you are interested in reading more about anxiety, check out the Less Anxiety in 21 Days on this blog. Topics include: types of anxiety, strategies to reduce anxiety, personal stories and more!

Questions? Comments?

Day 13 – Anger and our thoughts

Moving on in the series… I hope you enjoyed the break on Friday and got a chance to check out the article I linked. How great is it that we have the potential to live longer lives simply by thinking positive thoughts? That’s such good news and a much easier fix than creating massive lifestyle changes in order to elongate our lives, although those are important too sometimes!

For the next few days I am going to get specific about how our thoughts relate to  certain struggles some of us face. Today we’re going to look at how anger and our thoughts are connected.

First of all, ask yourself these questions…

1) Do you know what gets you angry?

2) Do you know when your anger is escalating?

3) Can you identify what’s causing the anger?

4) Can you control and de-escalate your anger?

To some of you, the above questions seem obvious, but a lot of times we feel emotional (anger or otherwise) and we are not even sure why. In fact, many people do not see the link at all between their thoughts and feelings (none of you who are reading this series though of course)!

As I have stated before, I will state it again… get to know your thoughts! Become friends with them. Learn how to talk yourself down from an extreme emotional state if need-be, just like you would for your best friend.

Remember a long time ago in the series when we first talked about Automatic Thoughts (Day 3)? We’re going to take a look at those again today as they relate to anger.

There are a few main triggers for anger:

1) Feeling like you are being ridiculed in some way or thought of as inadequate by others.

2) The fear/concern that you are going to be harmed.

One you recognize your own triggers, you can begin to address them the same way we have discussed with other Automatic Thoughts (Day 6). The biggest thing is to ultimately get to a place where you can think through the validity of your automatic thoughts and even replace them with new, more balanced thoughts.

A couple other tips about anger…

* If you have a hard time knowing when you’re starting to get angry and all of a sudden you’re so mad you want to punch something… pay attention to your body. Notice if you’re clenching your fists, if your jaw tightens, if your shoulders are so tense they’re practically touching your ears etc. Try to stop yourself before your anger gets so intense in the future.

* Take responsibility for your feelings. Rather than yelling at someone and blaming them for whatever made you angry, let them know how you feel instead. Use “I” statements. They can’t argue with your feelings… you feel how you feel right? This approach is assertive but less agressive than the “You! You! You!” blaming approach.

* Use relaxation strategies to help control your anger. I have explained a few helpful techniques in detail in the anxiety series on this blog. They are:

a) Progressive Muscle Relaxation

b) Counting backwards

c) Visualization

I hope this helps! See you tomorrow!

Day 12 – Don’t Worry, Be Happy

We have covered a lot of material so far in this series so I want to veer away for a bit and break things up. Rather than continuing to delve into what healthy thinking looks like (and doesn’t look like) let’s remember why we’re even thinking about this stuff. It’s because we want to live long, meaningful lives right? We are trying to grow ourselves personally so we can become healthier people and make positive impacts on the lives of others.

Courtesy of Josephine Tesauro

So… today I want to affirm that by sharing a BBC News article on the benefits of positive thinking. Research is being done which reveals that worrying less could lead to a longer life! Not only is that great news but I can also promise that you will feel better every single day if you stop worrying.

Take a look at the article and let me know if you have questions or comments! Enjoy the weekend and I’ll see you next week!

Day 11 – I love myself… not!

As we talked about yesterday, self-acceptance is one of the hardest things to achieve. It is so much easier accepting others, forgiving them for their mistakes, loving them… than it is to show that same grace towards ourselves. And it’s sad that we, as humans, can be like that because unless we love ourselves it is gonna be difficult for others to love us!

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So how do we do this? Well, I am going to offer some suggestions… they may seem simplistic but they are just a start. If you genuinely struggle with this (and we all do to some degree), I would recommend seeking support as you work through it. Anywho… here goes!

1) Value your own uniqueness. This is a process. As a kid we want to be like everyone else and it’s hard to fathom ever being okay with what makes us different and special. We were all created with our own unique characteristics and no two people are exactly alike. These differences allow us to learn from others and allow them to grow as they learn from us. We complement others because we are different. If my husband and I were exactly the same we would have some major blow-out fights about a few issues I’m sure! In fact, we are both incredibly stubborn and that can cause huge problems for us when we are trying to resolve fights! It takes a lot to get one of us to give in! We would accept ourselves more if we saw value in the reality that everyone is different and we are our own unique contribution to the world.

2) Use the “best friend argument.” Would you ever allow your best friend to speak about herself the way that you think and speak about yourself? Heck no! If your friend was complaining about how she looked or was unable to forgive herself for a simple mistake you would knock some sense into her! (After providing some affirmation first of course)! If you can be so forgiving to a friend who messes up, why can’t you show yourself the same compassion?

3) Understand what self-acceptance isn’t. It is not just making excuses for yourself when you make a mistake. You still need to take responsibility for your actions, but at the same time allow yourself to let things go, rather than beating yourself up all the time. Even when your actions lead to negative consequences, you at your core are a worthwhile human being and one event in your life does not define who you are.

While all of the above tips are fine and good in theory, I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not always easy! You must come to terms with the fact that you are not perfect, nor will you ever be perfect. So when you slip up a bit, it’s okay! Just get back on the horse, as they say!

I hope this is helpful. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any thoughts/questions! See you tomorrow!

Day 10 – Self-Acceptance

Hello! As we’ve discussed the past few days, Core Beliefs reveal a lot about a person’s self worth. If someone believes they are unlovable at their core, how much self esteem could they really have? I shared my own story a few days ago (Day 8) and when I was living and breathing the belief “I am unlovable” I considered myself a pretty low priority, both to myself and to others. I didn’t take care of myself very well and I accommodated as much as possible to the wants and needs of others, rather than considering my own desires.
So today’s topic is all about acceptance – acceptance of yourself and acceptance of others. This is different than simply telling yourself you’re great, believing it and moving on with your life. Self-acceptance and the stereotypical “rah rah” self-esteem boosters are two entirely different things. Self-acceptance is much deeper. It involves an intrinsic belief in yourself that is not easily swayed by external circumstances. People may disagree with you at times, disapprove of what you do and even cut you out for reasons unbeknownst to you. These types of interactions are difficult and can bring pain to even the most self-assured person! However, they do not change the fact that you are valuable and loved.
Here is the truth:
  • We are humans and therefore are NOT perfect!  We can’t expect ourselves to do everything right all the time. It is totally unrealistic!
  • We are always changing and developing. As time goes on, we encounter new situations and people that help us to grow.
  • Even our mistakes help shape us into the people we are meant to become. We may take the long, hard road instead of the easy one, but even the detours can be used for good… to teach and strengthen us.
  • We can’t “rate” ourselves in the same way we rate a movie or a product; we are far too complex.
Because we are always changing, aging, growing… we need to have a flexible attitude about who we are and about life. What may exist in your life today may not be here tomorrow. And possibilities that seem out of reach one day may not be the next. Remaining open and flexible allows us to embrace all kinds of opportunities that may come up.
There are a few different ways to approach self-acceptance and like I have stated many times, it is a process. You can’t simply tell yourself one time to be more self-accepting and suddenly feel completely different. Tomorrow I will get into some strategies to develop a more accepting attitude toward yourself. See you then!
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