What to Avoid to Ensure Healthy Relationships

If you think you or someone you know might be in a toxic relationship, you need to know the signs of a toxic relationship. Of course, if your partner or someone you know shows one sign of toxicity, then it doesn’t automatically mean that person is toxic. But perhaps it’s a good thing to address before it negatively affects your relationship.

If you’re in a toxic relationship, it’s very possible that the other person isn’t aware that they are toxic. And they probably aren’t googling “signs of a toxic relationship.” People can develop these toxic behaviors from poor decisions and unhealthy learned behaviors. But even if they have developed these behaviors from unfortunate life circumstances, it doesn’t make their behavior excusable. They still don’t have the right to treat others poorly.

The Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Here are signs of a toxic relationship and what you can do if you’re in a toxic relationship:

Blaming Others

If your partner or friend or family member is constantly blaming others for things that go wrong and can’t take responsibility, that a sign of a toxic behavior. And if you find yourself making excuses for your partner/friend/family member’s bad behavior, then you are enabling their toxic behavior.

Refusing to Acknowledge a Problem

If someone is shutting you down when you bring up a problem you want to address, that’s a sign of a toxic relationship. It’s important to talk about problems and address them.  In a healthy relationship, both parties should be able to take feedback and adjust.

Draining

A toxic relationship will leave you feeling drained. If you start to notice you’re constantly stressed out by a relationship, it might be a toxic one. It can literally take a toll on your body, leaving you tired and drained.

Controlling

Another sign of a toxic relationship includes controlling behavior under the guise of trying to “help.” If someone is pushy with their opinions, especially when you haven’t asked for their opinions, you may be in a toxic relationship.

Taking Advantage

A toxic relationship will include someone who routinely takes advantage of you and your time, may constantly forget what you have to do, and ask for favors when you told them you’re swamped.

Putting Others Down

In a healthy relationship, both parties feel safe and loved. In a toxic relationship, one or both parties will try to make the other feel bad about themselves. This is a toxic behavior.

Manipulating

In a toxic relationship, you’ll notice your partner/friend/family member tries to manipulate you or try to make you believe something that may not be true. Make sure you have other people in your life who can keep you grounded and help you avoid believing the manipulation.

Threatening

If someone is threatening to leave the relationship as a means to get their way, this is a sure sign of a toxic relationship.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship: What Do I Do?

Now that you know the signs of a toxic relationship, what can you do? You might be thinking that it’s time to break it off with the toxic relationship, but you might also be wondering how you can make things work. If your plan is to break it off with the toxic relationship, then break it off and don’t do the on-again-off-again thing, because that can be toxic too. Instead, do what you can to remove yourself from the toxic relationship and remind yourself of the reasons why it’s unhealthy for you.

If you need, find a friend or a family member who can support you in your decision and help remind you why you broke off the relationship. If after reading the signs of a toxic relationship, you think you might be the toxic one in the relationship, don’t think there’s no chance for you! A therapist can help you work through your unhealthy behaviors so you can have happy, healthy relationships.

If you feel like you need to maintain the relationship, first start by finding a good therapist to help you through the process. Chances are your toxic relationship isn’t going to like that you’re going to be making some changes to the relationship, and a therapist can help you through the transition. Remember that a healthy relationship is about both parties doing their part to make the relationship work. You might want to try bringing your significant other to meet with the therapist as well.

Here are some things your therapist will help you learn and practice:

Making Decisions

Take control of your life and try making your own decisions. Don’t let the toxic relationship dictate your every choice. Start by making small decisions. When you do this, you start to feel like you’re gaining control over your life again.

Establishing Boundaries

It’s important to create healthy boundaries with your toxic relationships. Be clear about what you are willing to do and what you aren’t willing to take. There will be push-back against the boundaries you try to create because your toxic partner/friend/family member isn’t used to you sticking up for yourself. Be firm and repeat your boundaries as necessary.

Learning to Communicate

Learn healthy communication skills. If you need to, take a course or meet with a therapist who will help guide you and your partner through positive communication skills.

Separating

If you find that there’s no way the two of you can cooperate to create a healthy, non-toxic relationship, sometimes the best choice is to separate.

For a more comprehensive list of signs of a toxic relationship, read this article on Psychology Today.

6 Ways of Building a Positive Perspective

Every March 9th we observe National Get over It Day. This is a day when we can practice how to overcome the big and little difficulties in life. Maybe you got into an argument, had a stressful day at work, didn’t get the grades you expected in school, have a rebellious child you don’t know how to handle, are in a pinch financially, etc.

At the same time, there are probably a lot of good things happening in your life as well. When we look for it, there are many things to be happy about and to be grateful for: the sunshine outside, a kind gesture from someone, helping those around you, your health, etc.

You can choose to stop ruminating on those negative vibes starting today! You can put your 2020 positive glasses on!

Positive thinking is a tool to create and maintain good mental health. When you spend more time thinking about all the good things happening in your life, you naturally spend less time in negative thoughts.

Positive thinking reduces your risk of depression and anxiety. Positive people are more likely to use healthy coping mechanisms and stay away from destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, self-harm or eating disorders. For example, if a person is having problems at work, positive thinking helps find ways to make the environment more enjoyable or get a new job instead of ruminating on work stress.

Positive thinking can help you cultivate healthy relationships. Think about it, would you like to be around someone with a positive disposition and who is able to look at the silver linings, or someone reminding you of everything that is going wrong?

We can act as a light for others who are struggling and need a “pick me up”. We can choose to surround ourselves with others who uplift us and help us see the sunshine when we are in a dark place.

Healthy and supportive relationships are a big protective factor we can use to overcome and cope with our mental health issues.

Your body also needs positivity!

People who tend to have a positive outlook experience better physical health. Our mind and body are interconnected and always interacting. A positive perspective can encourage our bodies to have a strong immune system.

  • People who focus on the positive tend to live longer than those who would describe their glass as half-empty. They get through health challenges like cancer, heart attacks, and diabetes with fewer complications and are more likely to survive.
  • Optimists have less overall inflammation than pessimists. This means that the aging process goes more smoothly and they are less likely to develop heart disease and other illnesses.
  • People who have a positive attitude get better sleep, eat better, and exercise more than those who have a negative attitude. All of these self-care activities lend to better physical and mental health. For example, sleep deficiency can be linked to anxiety and getting enough exercise has been proven to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • One study showed that people with HIV who were taught positive coping skills had lower virus loads, tended to take their medication more reliably, and felt more in control of their illnesses than those who were simply given supportive counseling.

Source: https://paradigmsanfrancisco.com/positive-attitude-improves-mental-health/

What if I am a pessimist?

Some people naturally tend to expect the worse out of a situation or think about worst-case scenarios in order to be “prepared”. People suffering from anxiety and depression struggle daily with negative and self-defeating thoughts because it is part of their condition. Also, always being happy is not realistic. Difficult things will happen in life that will cause sadness, hopelessness, etc.

The majority of these thoughts are a product of cognitive distortions, discussed in our last post. These thoughts might seem realistic but they are actually based on emotion– not facts or evidence. When we are caught in these distortions our minds tend to expect the worse and make reality seem worse than it actually is. This is when positive thinking can be greatly beneficial!

Positive thinking is a skill that can be learned and developed over time. The important thing is effort and consistency.

Think about when you go start going to the gym. The first time it feels unfamiliar and difficult and the results are not immediate. You look at yourself and notice you haven’t gained any muscle. Somedays you may have to push yourself to keep up with your training.

However, you know that if you keep going, over time you will see and feel the results of your hard work. Months after you started working out you have a toned body, you eat healthier, feel more energy throughout your day, and you’re proud to show off.

Mental health and positive thinking are quite similar. When you practice positive thinking regularly, it might not always be successful, but your perspective towards your world starts changing. You start thinking of everything that can go RIGHT and feel confident to take on challenges.

It is a skill that needs constant practice and is flexible enough for you to mold it to your needs. For example: when you get into an argument instead of thinking of all the things you said wrong, you start actively looking for solutions and compromises.

TIPS TO THINK POSITIVELY

Practice Gratitude

Be thankful for the good things that you have. Your family, friends, coworkers, community. Be grateful for all the little things, like the fact that you have access to drinking water. Little things that we take for granted can be a great source of gratitude.

DON’T MINIMIZE YOUR SUCCESSES

Recognize your efforts and talents when achieving a goal. We have a tendency to downplay our achievements, but we need to learn to celebrate ourselves and be our own cheerleaders.

Avoid White or black mindset

This kind of mindset limits our ability to be happy and undervalues our efforts. White or black thinking leads to seeing all bad when something is not perfect. Even in imperfection, things can be successful and worth it.

FOCUS on your strenghts

Dedicate a day to each of your strengths and practice them to develop ways to use them effectively. Take advantage of all your talents to make your day better

Generate positive emotions

Choose a song, picture or video that makes you feel good! This is a way to take a break from anything that is going on in your life and can help you laugh a little.

picture your best future

Use visualization to help you achieve your goals. Each day visualize the best day you can have and include as many details as you can. See what you’re wearing, how you’re feeling, where are you, what are you doing. Include all five senses. You want to immerse yourself in this experience.

If you need help relaxing and creating positive thoughts, we can help! Our meditation room is a comfortable and safe place to explore your mental health. We offer enhanced meditation with our David Delight Pro AVE and CES machine. This equipment will guide your brain to a meditative state and stimulate your brain to generate more positive thinking.

If you’re interested you can email us at aspenvalleycounseling@gmail.com or call us at (801)224-1103 for your FREE appointment for our meditation room.

How to Overcome Your Cognitive Distortions

Do you hate failing? Are you overwhelmed with life? Do things just never work out for you?

Sometimes life is hard, but sometimes we make our lives harder than they have to be. We do this by holding onto something called cognitive distortions.

What are cognitive distortions?

The term “cognitive distortion” is a fancy way of describing some of the ways our brains incorrectly process information. Cognitive distortions can be a mixture of exaggerated, irrational, or untrue thoughts that we believe to be true. Cognitive distortions are most commonly used to consciously or unconsciously help us justify negative thoughts or emotions.

It is important to identify your own cognitive distortions because they distort the way we view yourself and the world around you.

Different types of cognitive distortions?

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Here’s a list of some cognitive distortions. Once you go through them, you can figure out which ones you want to work on. After you’ve identified your cognitive distortions, scroll down to the next section to see how you can overcome them.

  • “Should” statements: If you think the words “should, “must,” “ought,” or “have to,” you’re probably about to stumble upon the “should” statement cognitive distortion. When you use these words, you’re using guilt and shame to get yourself or others to do something. These words are a shame trigger and can leave those affected feeling inadequate. This is a cognitive distortion because there is no one perfect way to do something, and when you put expectations on yourself and others, you’re going to be disappointed when things don’t turn out the way you think they’re supposed to.
  • Polarized thinking: Polarized thinking is when you think in extremes or where there are only two options. An example is when you think 1) you have to be perfect otherwise you’re a failure and 2) either you’re good or you’re bad. The problem with polarized thinking is that it views the world through only black and white lenses and ignores all the gray. Life is filled with all the gray in between black and white. A lot of the time you’re not going to be perfect, but you’re not a failure either; you’re going to be in the middle.
  • Heaven’s reward fallacy: When you think that you deserve for things to go right just because you’re doing your best, you are giving in to the heaven’s reward fallacy cognitive distortion.  When you start thinking that life isn’t fair, you decide that somehow it’s God/the Universe fault. This is a cognitive distortion because God never promised life would be easy, even for those who were obedient. Just look at Job’s life.
  • Catastrophizing: You’re catastrophizing when you take a bad situation and exaggerate to make it seem worse. You go into a downward spiral where everything seems like it will fall apart. This is a cognitive distortion because often the disaster you imagine will happen probably won’t happen. Instead of picking yourself up by the bootstraps, you’ll end up wallowing in despair.
  • Overgeneralization: When one bad thing happens, you start thinking it will happen again and be just as bad. You may see one unpleasant event as an unending stream of negative events. But this thought pattern will keep you upset and unmotivated.
  • The fallacy of change: If you think that people will change to meet your needs, you’re putting your happiness in their hands. If you’re only happy when people do as you please, you will often find yourself unhappy.
  • Jumping to conclusions: Assuming what people mean without asking them means you’ll end up making incorrect assumptions about their words and behavior. You’ll often assume something that’s incorrect, which will eventually cause problems in the relationship and lead to unhappiness.
  • Blaming: When you blame others for things that happen, you’re holding them responsible for what you go through rather than accepting responsibility for things that happen. And sometimes, things just happen that don’t have to do with choices you or others intentionally make. But it’s also possible for you to blame yourself for everything, and that’s not healthy either. It’s not possible for something to always be your fault, and it’s not possible that everything is always the fault of others.
  • Negative filter: You’re using a negative filter when you focus on the negatives and ignore the positive. But life has both positive and negative things that happen, so you’re robbing yourself of happiness when you ignore the positive.
  • Personalization: The personalization cognitive distortion is when someone believes the things that are said and done by the people around them are personally directed at them. Someone might make the comment, ” I hate when others are late,” and the personalizer might interpret that their friend thinks he or she (the personalizer) is always late. These people tend to be defensive and argumentative as they think others are always attacking them personally.
  • Control Fallacies: Control fallacies show up mainly in two different ways: external and internal. Someone with an external control fallacy takes a victim stance in their life. They have the belief that everything in their life is out of their control and that their life is a by-product of other people’s actions and choices. On the flip side, someone with an internal control fallacy will believe that they are responsible for the happiness and wellbeing of those around them.
  • Emotional Reasoning: Emotional reasoning is summed up in the belief that what one must feel must be the reality. When we are emotionally charged, we do not reason or see logic as we would if we were in a calmer state of mind. When emotional reasoning is in use, the person feels that whatever they are feeling must be true automatically and unconditionally. It gives the person tunnel vision to all reason, logic, rational, and consequently, all other options.
  • Always Being right: This distortion centers on the belief that one is always right in actions, thoughts, and beliefs. This fallacy is a distortion because there are many varying opinions that are neither “right” or “wrong” only differing. Also, when it comes to relationships, it is impossible for one to always be right. Oftentimes, when two people are fighting both parties are at fault in some way. Just as it takes two to tango; it takes two to fight.

How can I overcome my cognitive distortions?

Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

If you’ve identified your own cognitive distortions, you’ve completed the first step! Great work! Now, you just have to start recognizing when you’re believing your distortions. Try to catch yourself in the act. When you notice yourself believing your cognitive distortions, tell yourself why it’s a cognitive distortion and try to move away from believing it.

For example, if you have a bad date and you start thinking that all of your dates are horrible, and you’re never going to have a good date, so you probably won’t ever find the love of your life, and you’ll probably die alone, then you are catastrophizing. Stop yourself once you notice what you’re doing and walk yourself through the thoughts. Just because you had a bad date does not automatically mean you will die alone.

By interrupting your negative thought patterns, you can start to overcome your cognitive distortions. Be patient with yourself, and remember that noticing your cognitive distortions will take time, but any small progress is progress.

Try sharing your goals to overcome your cognitive distortions with those you spend time with. If you feel comfortable with it, ask your friends and family to mention when they notice you’re going down the cognitive distortion road.

It will take persistent work, but as you overcome your cognitive distortions, you’ll find life is much more fulfilling and enjoyable.

PsychCentral.com has a worksheet that you can go through to help change your negative distortions. Click the worksheet below.

Cognitive Distortions Worksheet

Get a Little Kindness in Your Life

Happy “Randoms Acts of Kindness” day. Showing love and kindness to others actually boosts mental health. Don’t miss the chance to bring positive energy into the world. The hardest battles are those we fight alone or in private and is never a wrong time to give others encouragement and support. Family, friends, coworkers, or strangers can be a great target for random acts of kindness today.

15 IDEAS TO PASS ON THE KINDNESS

1. Text someone something nice. It can be an encouraging quote you like or just a message letting them know how important they are for you

2. Reply to a post you enjoy. Take the effort of making the Internet a positive and constructive place.

3. Thank someone today. Think of someone that did something nice for you and thank them.

4. Water your plant. Think of your plants as if they were your pets, they need nutrients to look beautiful.

5. Start saving funds for a cause you care about. Pick a charity organization or organize your own event and start filling up that piggy bank!

6. Write down someone’s best qualities. Think of someone that can use some encouragement and give them a list of everything wonderful about them.

7. Switch to paperless mail. Be kind to the environment and reduce the junk mail you get.

8. Foster a pet. Adopting a pet is a big commitment but fostering allows you to enjoy their company and help them while they find their forever home.

9. Be kind to your server. When eating out sometimes we can take our service for granted. Be kind to those behind the counter and brighten each other’s days

10. Cook a meal for someone. Who doesn’t love free food, right?!

11. Pick up trash in your neighborhood. Help your community look beautiful and be environmentally friendly. You and other friends can help pick up trash and recycle

12. Leave a surprise in a library book. Help the next reader get a love attack! You can leave a nice bookmark or kind message for whoever gets the book next.

13. Donate clothes and shoes to shelters. People in the community that might be going through a rough time in life will greatly appreciate it. Share what you can with others in need.

14. Complain less. Sometimes is easy to see everything that’s going wrong. How about focusing on the positive? This is a great leadership quality.

15. Be polite on the road. The stress of traffic can get to anyone. Being kind to someone while commuting can change their whole day!


SHARE THE LOVE

For more ideas visit:

https://www.randomactsofkindnes.org

Crying Over Spilled Milk?

“Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk” Day

The past has a lot of lessons to teach. Reflecting on our past mistakes, misfortunes or failures can be helpful to process emotions. When it comes to mental health, our attitude towards the past can influence our emotions and behaviors in the present and the future. It is healthy to give yourself some time to process past events and allow yourself to grieve. We can learn to avoid making the same mistakes, build better coping mechanisms, value forgiveness and/or memories.

However, when constant negative thoughts about our past or uncontrollable events start invading our mind, we are doing what is called rumination. Rumination diminishes our quality of life because we are unable to live in the present moment. A common phrase for this is to “cry over spilled milk,” which gives us no resolution.

Rumination can be identified when we find ourselves having the same thought over, and over again during a prolonged period of time. These thoughts are usually self-defeating and can feel restricting because they seem to have no solution or escape. People ruminate for many reasons, but the most common reasons include:

1. The belief that by ruminating we’ll find a solution or gain insight to a problem

2. Facing ongoing uncontrollable stressors. Overthinking can give us a perceived control over these factors.

Ruminating is detrimental to our mental health. It can intensify depression and anxiety, decrease self-esteem, impair our ability to process emotions, isolate us, and create unhealthy cycles.

TIPS TO STOP RUMINATING

FIND DISTRACTIONS

When you notice you start having non-stop thoughts about the same situation or problem, find things to distract yourself and help you break the cycle.

– Watch a movie

– Call a friend

– Listen to music

– Exercise

– Do a puzzle

– Read a book

CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS

Most of the time ruminating thoughts are irrational and catastrophic, making our problems seem bigger and more dramatic than they really are. The best way to solve these feelings is to question our thoughts and find your strengths. Ask yourself questions such as

What evidence do I have to support this thought?

Is this thought based on facts or feelings?

Will this matter a week from now, a year from now, or 5 years from now?

What would I tell a friend is this situation? or what would a friend say?

IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS

when you find yourself ruminating take note of what’s going on around you. Who is there, what time is it, what were you doing, etc. When you know what triggers negative thoughts you can work on avoiding or managing triggers.

USE A WORRY MAP

Saying “stop worrying” sounds a lot easier than it is to actually do it. A worry map takes you through different steps to manage worrying. If your worry has a solution do it now or make an action plan. If not, then write down on a list for later and let it go. Use this list for “worry postponement”, sometimes not being able to worry causes…worry! Schedule a time in your day for 15 minutes to worry all you want. However you can’t worry outside the scheduled time.

TALK TO A FRIEND OR COUNSELOR

Being able to express out loud our worries, feelings, etc. can be very therapeutic. Having someone validate our experiences and “get it all out” helps us process emotions in a healthy way and provides introspection.

“To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.” –Jack Kornfield

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Get Your Head in the Right Space

Did you know…? Your body is extremely intelligent and capable of healing. Often when thinking about our health we fail to see ourselves as complex beings. Our mind and body are always connected and interacting to help us adapt to our environment and keep our functioning in optimal condition. However, when afflictions affect the body or the mind, this delicate balance can be broken and cause an array of physical and emotional symptoms.

Nowadays in Western culture, we have a quick-relief approach to our health. When we feel pain or discomfort we can take a pill and hope to make it go away. Unfortunately, this is a temporal fix and will cause the symptom to come back if we ignore its origin.

Taking the time to figure out the root cause of our health symptoms can seem like a complicated and daunting journey. Treating the root cause of an illness requires commitment since it might include changes in lifestyle and creating new habits. Moreover, they might not bring immediate relief to certain symptoms but they will bring LONG TERM RELIEF and enhance your quality of life.

When a health specialist, being physical or mental health, takes the time to look at every factor that might be contributing to discomfort or illness, they are using Holistic Health. A holistic doctor may use conventional and alternative approaches to treat their patients. For example, a patient that complains of frequent headaches might have to look at medications, diet, sleep pattern, stress levels, and possibly therapy if there’s an emotional component to it.

Psychosomatic Illness and Symptoms

Pyschosomatic illness refers to physical symptoms that are caused by emotional distress and other mental health disturbances rather than an organic cause in the body. A common misconception is that psychosomatic symptoms are not as serious because they are caused by emotions. However, they are very real and need to be treated just like any other illness. Our mind has a great influence on brain structure and functioning, and in effect, our brain influences physical functioning.

Common health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as high stress, can cause various physical symptoms besides emotional changes.

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Racing heart
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweaty or trembling hands
  • Digestion issues
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakened immune system

MINDFULNESS

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Mindfulness allows us to heighten our awareness of the present, our surroundings, what we think, and our sensory experiences. The first rule of mindfulness is to learn to accept things as they are.

By practicing mindfulness we gain self-awareness and self-compassion, we allow ourselves to look at our advantages and defects without judgment or biases. When doing this, we also learn to look at others with a different perspective and more empathy.

Research shows that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.

The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes.

Simple Mindfulness Tips

  1. Schedule quiet time. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just anywhere where you can take a time out.
  2. Observe the present moment. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment.
  3. Let judgments go. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
  5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

NEUROFEEDBACK

Neurofeedback can help you treat the root cause of your symptoms: your BRAIN.

Neurofeedback is a treatment that allows you to train brainwaves to improve and enhance their functioning. The brain receives feedback to produce changes in brain patterns that are associated with positive outcomes in physical, emotional and cognitive skills. This treatment does not require surgery or medicine and is not painful. Feedback usually consists of watching images on a screen, which could be a game or a movie.

If you wish to know more about neurofeedback and train your brain to a healthier state please visit: https://aspen-wellness.org/nft/ or call our office for questions (801) 224-1103

Photo credits to Marc Bourcier Photography

7 Ways to a Positive Perspective

We’ve all heard the adage, “Be positive!”

What is all this hype about positivity? Some people who haven’t jumped on the positivity bandwagon might argue that their cynical outlook on life is a more realistic way of seeing the world, while those who try to force themselves to be happy are just lying to themselves.

So which is right? Which perspective and outlook on life has the greatest benefit? Is it all a matter of preference?

The realist perspective is one that humans developed long ago. This view on life is the brain trying to self-preserve, avoid potential threats, and stay safe. In the past, these threats were life-threatening, but our world has dramatically evolved since the pre-historic era. This approach doesn’t yield as many benefits as it once did our prehistoric ancestors.

Photo by Lidya Nada

What’s so great about being positive?

A positive perspective is not an easy one. It can be especially hard when difficult situations and annoying occurrences arise.

While positive thinking is nothing more than the way you decide to view each situation, it can make your life a whole lot easier. Being positive won’t change your situation, but it will help you get through the tough times.

Why is this? Have you ever had a day where you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and then got up to eat breakfast and knocked over, broke, or spilled something?

Or have you ever been angry and felt like the whole world was conspiring against you? This happens because the things you focus on become magnified.

When we have a negative focus, we tend to find all the things that are wrong with our life or the day. On the flip side, when we train our brains to find the positive things in life, we find them.

What can I do to be more positive?

The critics of positivity have it right when they say that it is difficult to will yourself positive. Positivity is like a muscle and when you work it out, aka practice positivity, it grows stronger.

If you’re looking to work on living a more positive life, here are some things you can try:

Photo by Freshh Connection

Be grateful

Brene Brown, a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and connection, found that the happiest people (or who she calls “wholehearted”) all have one thing in common; they all have a gratitude practice.

When you begin to train your brain to see the positive things in life, it is hard not to be happier.

Think about it this way- there are only so many things you can think about at once, so if you are focusing on what you’re grateful for, you won’t be thinking about the negative.

A gratitude practice could be many different things. Listed below are just a few.

  • Journaling daily about what you are grateful for
  • Having a grateful practice with someone else where you both share what you’re grateful for each day
  • Incorporate gratitude into your daily meditation or prayers
Photo by Bruce Mars

Listen to positive music

Finding upbeat or calming music can be a great way to change your mood. Look for music with lyrics that will empower you and help you notice the good things in the world. Try to avoid music that will bring you down.

Look for the Lesson

No matter how positive you may be, there will be instances where times get hard. In these instances, it can be helpful to look for the lesson to be learned or to see what you may not have understood before.

While you may not be happy-go-lucky all the time, positivity can make the hard times a little more bearable and help you manage the rough waters.

Photo by Mark Adriane

Be nice to yourself

For most people, they are their worst critic. Positivity begins from within. If you find that you often have negative self-talk or negative beliefs about yourself, you may want to work on these thoughts/beliefs.

Some things that may help negative beliefs or self-talk include the following.

  • Become conscious of your negative self-talk. This will give you insight as to the circumstances that trigger these thoughts. It will also help give you some insight into what beliefs you may hold about yourself.
  • See a counselor or therapist to learn skills to process your beliefs. Therapists are a great resource for gaining insight as to when and why negative beliefs formed and how to overcome them.
  • Change the way you talk to yourself. If you often say “I am….” statements, try to change this instead to a statement about the action itself and not you as a person.

E.g. “I am a mistake,” versus, “I made a mistake.”

  • Replace negative statements with more encouraging statements

E.g. “I’m so fat!” versus, “I may not be where I would like to be, but I’m

working towards it. “

Smile

A smile is a win-win for everyone. A simple smile from you can transform someone else’s day, but it also has positive effects for you.

Did you know there’s research showing that smiling (a real smile that includes “smiling with your eyes”) can actually make you happier?

When one smiles, the body releases a happy hormone into the bloodstream. So beware, if you smile, you’re bound to be happier than you were before. Try it!

Act

Take control of your life! There are things that aren’t in our control, such as the weather, other people’s actions, etcetera; however, there are many things that are in our control.

If you find yourself becoming annoyed, bothered, angry, sad, or any other reactionary emotion, take a moment to reflect on what part of the situation is in your control. Once you figure that out, take action and change what you can, and accept what you can’t.

Photo by Alex Alvarez

Assume the best

This one might be the hardest to implement, but it is especially helpful in those situations we can’t control that involve other people. When you are reacting negatively to the actions of other people, tell yourself this phrase, “They are doing the best they can” (Brene Brown, Rising Strong).

When we assume that others have good intentions and that they are doing the best they can with the tools they have, we then respond with more compassion, patience, understanding, empathy and are emotionally in a better place to know how to correctly handle the situation(Brene Brown, Rising Strong).

LEARN MORE ABOUT DEPRESSION

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
― Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral’s Kiss

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

Mental illness affects tens of millions of people in the United States. Depression is by far the most prevalent, representing 99% of all mind-brain illness. (Schizophrenia and major psychotic illness represent the remaining 1%). 

The umbrella of depression encompasses Major Depressive Disorder and its related mood disorders including bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety disorder, and suicide.

Depression is a common, but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities; such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

If you experience these symptoms consistently for most of the day or nearly every day for 2 weeks you might be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Depression doesn’t look or feel the same for everyone. Different individuals might be affected by all symptoms or just a few, with varying degrees of intensity.

This also means different individuals will benefit from different treatments or mental health approaches and diagnosis. It is important to note mental health is greatly influenced by physical health and some symptoms might be caused by a physical condition. Please talk to a doctor as well as a mental health professional.

Depression is a condition that can bring many questions. The journey towards emotional health can seem scary, confusing, or daunting at times because it requires us to acknowledge something is not right. In order to be able to overcome our struggles, first, we must be aware of them and, second, decide what actions can we take to improve what is not working or hurting us.

When working towards building healthy coping methods and making healthy changes in our lives, it is always important to focus on things that are within our control by making realistic goals.

Focusing on factors we can control in our lives helps us feel empowered and take charge. Controllable factors include what we say and do, our perspective on different situations, how we handle and act in relationships, our self-awareness, our eating, sleeping, and exercise, etc.

Identifying factors that we can control helps set realistic goals we can reach, increase introspection, encourage healthy behaviors and boost self-esteem.

DEPRESSION MYTHS DEBUNKED

  1. DEPRESSION IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD

Depression is a psychological, social, and biological disorder. It can be chronic and takes treatment to manage. Someone who is depressed can’t just shut it off or “suck it up.”

The general public only sees the emotional side of depression-like acting out or not acting like yourself. If we took the time to realize that depression is a condition that causes physical issues as well, maybe we would see that depression is a real disease that takes time and treatment to manage.

2. MEDICATION IS THE ONLY WAY TO HANDLE DEPRESSION

Medication is only one way of treatment. There are other treatments that might not require medication or will work together with it. Therapy techniques including CBT, EMDR, DBT and Art therapy can help depression. Neurofeedback targets specific brainwaves training that can help enhance brain functioning and help depression by boosting positive thinking and self-awareness.

3. EVERYONE EXPERIENCES DEPRESSION THE SAME WAY

People who experience depression may have physical differences in their brains than the average person. These differences don’t always act the same way in everyone’s brain. The changes in the brain, plus hormone changes, can influence the severity of moods, thoughts, and physical issues.

4. DEPRESSION IS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS

Depression does not discriminate. You do not decide to become depressed. The only reason depression is viewed as a weakness is that society has stigmatized the condition. Depression is a biological and psychological condition that has nothing to do with how strong you are.

5. DEPRESSION COMMONLY HAPPENS TO WOMEN

t’s not that there isn’t any depression in men, it’s just that men don’t talk about it as often as women. In the U.S., four times as many men die by suicide than women. Some men believe that talking about their emotions is silly or pathetic. Some men avoid treatments for depression in fear that they will no longer appear masculine or strong.  Some symptoms of depression in men, additional to the ones mentioned above, include anger, unable to meet daily responsibilities, loss of interest in sex.

“The strongest people are those who win battles we know nothing about.”

– Unknown

“Don’t let your struggle become your identity.”

– Unknown

Source: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

Attachment styles

What is an attachment style? An attachment style is how each person behaves and interacts in their relationships. At a young age, we tried to figure out how to fit into our social circles. Based on how our parents or caregivers treated us, we figured out how to interact with people and develop our own attachment style.

Your personal attachment style that you learned from childhood follows you throughout your life. It is how you interact and behave with your family members, romantic partners, and kids.

Understanding what attachment style you have will help you understand your relationship difficulties and give you an insight as to what to work on. The healthiest relationships are built when both individuals feel a secure attachment to one another.

Attachment styles

Secure attachment

If you have a secure attachment style, you’ll seek out stable relationships and feel safe opening up emotionally. You’ll also feel comfortable asking for what you need. Secure adults will be able to reach out to their romantic partner in times of need but also attend to the needs of their partner.

Anxious attachment

If you have an anxious attachment style, you’ll desire closeness but may not feel as though you are ever able to get close enough. You’ll end up questioning yourself a lot, wondering if your romantic partner really loves you, and you’ll regularly seek out validation. If you have an anxious attachment, you might end up seeming clingy and do things that push your partner away.

Dismissive attachment

If you have a dismissive attachment style, you tend to distance yourself from people. When confronted with conflict, you’ll emotionally shut down and choose not to show your emotions. If you have a dismissive attachment, you may feel isolated from yourself and others.

Fearful-avoidant attachment

If you have a fearful-avoidant attachment, you may have grown up in a home where you detached from your feelings because of trauma. While you will desire connections with others, once the relationships become emotionally involved, your past trauma may affect how you see the relationship. If you have a fearful-avoidant attachment, you may have very rocky relationships and fear being abandoned – but also fear being close to others.

How do I develop a secure attachment style?

Now don’t get too discouraged if you’re not happy with your personal attachment style. The good news is that you can develop a secure attachment style.

  • Start taking note of when your behaviors are anxious, dismissive, or avoidant
  • Think about how you feel and what you need
  • Try to express your feelings and needs to someone close to you
  • Set healthy boundaries with those you have relationships
  • Model your behavior off someone with a secure attachment style
  • Work with a therapist to help you change your attachment style

Understanding SHAME.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” -Brene Brown

What is shame?

According to Google shame is, “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. According to Brene Brown, a research professor at the University Of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work,

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.  Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting and competing social-community expectations.”

She went on to say on Oprah Winfrey’s Supersoul Conversations, “I think shame is lethal. I think shame is deadly. And I think we are swimming in it deep.”

Brown explains that feelings of shame can quietly marinate over a lifetime. “Here’s the bottom line with shame,” she says. “The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.”

By keeping quiet, Brown says your shame will grow exponentially. “It will creep into every corner and crevice of your life,” she says.

The antidote, Brown says, is empathy. She explains that by talking about your shame with a friend who expresses empathy, the painful feeling cannot survive. “Shame depends on me buying into the belief that I’m alone. Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy.”

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

Brene Brown

Brene has many books and videos one can watch to learn how to beat this pervasive monster. Brene shows us how we can stop a shame spiral with these tips:

  1. Know your shame triggers and reality check them
  2. Talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love
  3. Reach out to someone you trust
  4. Tell your story

You can find some very helpful tips on shame and how to conquer and coexist with it here: