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

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).

Kicking Off the New Year

As December quickly comes to a close, we begin to turn our thoughts and attention to the new year and what it may bring. 40% of us will set New Year’s Resolutions to tackle during the coming year.

If you have ever made a New Year’s Resolution, you know how hard they can be to stick to. Ashira Prossack, a writer for Forbes Women, wrote,


“Studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them.”

If so many of us set New Year’s Resolutions, why do so many of us fail to accomplish them? The answer is that most of us set vague ideas of what we want to change instead of specific, actionable goals.

How to Create Goals that Last

SMART is an acronym many people use to help them set up their goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

Let’s break them down even further.

Specific

A specific goal is one that you can imagine perfectly in your mind. You can start getting specific on your goal by asking yourself the five W’s:

Once you’ve narrowed it down with those five W questions, you can then ask yourself:

  • What does my goal look like?
  • What does accomplishing my goal taste like?
  • What does it smell like?
  • How does it feel to have accomplished my goal?

You want to be able to imagine all aspects of the goal and try to include the five senses. Make your goal as real as possible — even down to the tiny details. Allow yourself to mentally live in that desired future as if you have already achieved it.

Measurable

A goal is measurable when it can be quantified or given some type of number. You may ask yourself:

Having a goal that is measurable is very important because it allows you to track your progress and know if you need to make any adjustments or changes to your goal.

A couple of examples would include if you want to lose weight you would need to know exactly how much weight you would like to lose. If your goal is to make more money next year, what dollar amount more would you like to make? If you would like to better your relationship with a sibling, how many times a year, month, week, etc will you contact them, phone them, visit them?

If you can’t put a number to your goal, it is not measurable. You might have to get creative to identify measurable goals.

AchIEvable

An achievable goal is one that may take some stretching to accomplish but is still reasonable, realistic, and attainable. To see if a goal is achievable you may ask yourself:

  • What might prevent me from accomplishing this goal?
  • Is my goal something I have control over?
  • What additional resources do I need to accomplish this goal?
  • Do I need any outside help, additional training, etc to accomplish my goal?

Relevant

A relevant goal is one that has meaning to you. It is to ensure that you have the motivation and desire to really accomplish the goal. Consider these questions to see if your goals are relevant to you.

  • Why is this goal important to me?
  • Is it in line with my other goals?
  • Is this goal worthwhile?

Time-Bound

A time-bound goal is having a specific date(s) that you look toward to accomplish your goal. This helps you stay focused and lasered in on your goal. If you can break your goal down into even smaller timelines it will help you stay on track even more.

  • What is my end date for this goal?
  • What do I want to have accomplished six months from now?
  • What do I want to have accomplished three months from now?
  • What do I want to have accomplished this month?
  • What do I want to have accomplished this week?
  • What do I need to do today?

Additional tips

As humans, we take the path of least resistance. Make the follow-through action of your goal as easy as possible.

If you want to start playing the guitar for the new year, keep the guitar out in the open instead of in the closet. If it’s in front of you, you are more likely to play it.

If your goal is to hit the gym three times a week, know exactly which days and times you are going to go to the gym. Are you going to go right after work? If you were to try to go home, change, maybe watch some TV while you eat a snack and then try to get to the gym there is a greater chance of you not going. Try instead to take your gym clothes with you to work so you can head to the gym straight from work.

The less activation energy required for an action, the more likely you will be to follow through.

14 Tip to Increase Overall Wellness

Wellness is a word that is highly used in our society today. What comes to your mind when you hear the word wellness? Chances are that you think of health and fitness which is just one of the seven aspects of wellness.

“The word ‘wellness‘ is generally defined as the process and end state of a quest for maximum human functioning that involves mind, body, and spirit. There are seven dimensions of wellness: social, vocational, intellectual, environmental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.”

The Wellness Council of America

The University of California, Davis had a great addition to the definition. They describe wellness as not just preventing or avoiding illness but making choices that promote change and growth in these seven areas of life.

Here are 14 ways to improve your overall wellness

Social

Social wellness is the connection we have with others. It is our sense of belonging.

1- Communication. The better we are at communicating, the better our relationships will be. Communication isn’t just us telling others what we want or need, but also the way we listen and act when others are talking to us. It is not limited to the words we say but includes our body language, our tone of voice, etc.

Communication is key because it is the way that relationships are strengthened. It is the way to exchange our needs, our wants, our hopes, our dreams, our expectations, etc with one another. When we are better communicators there is less miscommunication and hurt feelings.

2- Find others who enjoy a mutual hobby. Are you an avid Catholic? Do you really like anime? Maybe you’re a triathlon fanatic? Finding others who you identify with and who share your passions is a great way to bond and forge amazing friendships. It can be a starting point for developing trust and feeling a deeper connection with those around you.

Vocational

Google dictionary defines vocation as,

  • ” a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.
  • a person’s employment or main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication.”

Vocational wellness is not only feeling happy in the workplace but also feeling you belong in that particular field of work.

3- Do work you enjoy. You spend a significant amount of your life working so it is very important that you spend your time doing work that is personally rewarding to you.

If you are not currently in a job that you enjoy maybe think about going back to school and studying something you enjoy.

If you are doing work you enjoy but the company is stressful, maybe look at finding another company.

4- Create a vision for your future. We are programmed for growth as human beings and hate feeling stagnant. Part of vocational wellness is expansion and continual growth in our knowledge, skill sets, and involvement.

Create a vision for your future vocational goals and then make a plan of things you need to do to get there. A plan will help you know where you want to go and give you a rewarding feeling as you accomplish those goals.

Intellectual

Intellectual wellness refers to the exercise and nourishment of the mind. It is growth, learning, and enlightenment.

5- Read more often. Did you know that a study by Thomas Corley found that 85 percent of self-made millionaires read two or more books a month and spend 3o minutes or more a day reading?

Reading is a great way to unwind, to keep your mind sharp, improve your vocabulary, expose yourself to new ideas, expand your knowledge, increase your skillset, and always be growing.

6- Find ways to be creative. Creativity helps the brain be more innovative by improving thinking processes, problem-solving skills, and promoting self-expression.

Creativity allows your brain to make things up, to create what hasn’t ever been created, and to dream of a better future. Thinking outside of the box is something that cannot be taught in school, but can be learned through creativity.

Environmental

Environmental wellness addresses nature and our relationship with it. It is being conscientious of the earth and doing our part to protect it.

7- Go green. The popular slogan refers to doing our part in recycling or reducing our human fingerprint on earth.

If your community has a recycling program start participating in it. If it does not, find a local recycling facility where you can take your recyclables.

Recycling can have a great effect on the amount of waste that is dumped and can help clean our oceans.

8- Grow your own greens. Having a personal garden can be very beneficial. It can help decrease the extra materials used for buying store-bought goods, car transportation costs, and reduces water runoff.

Having your own garden and plants in and around your home are also beneficial in cleaning the air of carbon monoxide as well as other pollutants. Natural plants can help reduce chemicals and pesticide consumption.

Emotional

Emotional wellness is taking care of our mental and emotional states. It is making sure we are aware of and taking care of our inner worlds. This includes reducing stress, developing inner strength, and being aware of the positive and negative emotions that we experience on a day-to-day basis.

9- Embrace vulnerability. What?! Why in the world would this be a recommendation? No one likes being vulnerable.

Bear with me.

Dr. Brene Brown, the leading researcher on vulnerability and connection, describes vulnerability as, “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” She says that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”

With her definition not only is vulnerability something we all experience, but it is imperative in order to have what most of us crave emotionally, as uncomfortable as it may be.

10- Find a way to destress. Stress is one of the leading causes of emotional and physical illness. Finding a way to destress that you enjoy can significantly improve your emotional state of being. Different ways to destress are meditation, art or a creative outlet, deep breathing practices, yoga, journal writing, gratitude practices, taking a walk, being in nature, and many many more. There are endless possibilities, the trick is finding one that works for you.

Spiritual

11- Be a part of something greater than yourself. Most people think of spirituality as solely being religious. While this is a very common practice of spiritual wellness, it is not the only way.

To be connected to something greater than yourself could mean being a part of nature, meditating and being more connected with your inner self, or simply the act of looking for deeper meanings in the everyday events that surround you.

Don’t let the typical connotation of spirituality deter you from being curious and exploring your spirituality.

12- Have values that you live by. In Dr. Brene Browns book Dare to Lead she says,

“A value is a way of being or believing that you hold most important”.

– Brene Brown

In her book, she suggests identifying two values that you live by. These values are what help you decide how to act through conflict and hard decisions. They do not change based on the circumstances. These values are what keep you grounded.

You can find a list of values from her book Dare to Lead on page 188. In this list, she gives over a hundred different values to identify from. Identifying and sticking to these values helps create a connection to something greater.

Physical

13- Exercise. Exercise tends to have a negative connotation, but exercise doesn’t have to be grueling and strenuous. Exercise can be simple. The purpose is to get your body moving. Different types of movement include walking, bike riding, dancing, yoga, stretching, and so much more.

Finding a movement that is enjoyable and that resonates with your body has major health benefits. Exercise releases a happy hormone called endorphins, it can increase your energy and focus, aid in bone density, and decrease risks of chronic disease.

14- Diet. Diet affects everything in our bodies from hormones, energy levels, mental processing, emotional states, gut health, and illness.

The easiest way to better the quality of food consumed is to focus on small, manageable changes that move you closer to a healthier lifestyle. This could be changing one of your snacks to a healthier alternative, changing one or two processed carbohydrates that you routinely eat to more complex carbohydrates i.e. whole grains, oats, lentils, beans, fruits,  and vegetables, or substitute some of your caffeinated beverages/juices for water.

These are many simple ways to get a head start on your nutrition and taking care of your body from the inside out. You only have one body after all so take care of it.

11 Ways to Increase Your Inner Peace

August is International Peace Month and was founded in commemoration of WWI on August 16, 1926, at the Democratic Peace Conference in Germany.

While this month was created to foster world peace, this post addresses how we can first develop inner peace within ourselves.

Just as you cannot love others unless you first love yourself, you cannot be at peace with your neighbor if you are not first at peace with yourself. You cannot give what you do not have.

what is inner peace?

Wikipedia says:

Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a deliberate state of psychological or spiritual calm despite the potential presence of stressors. Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy (homeostasis) and the opposite of being stressed or anxious, and is considered to be a state where our mind performs at an optimal level with a positive outcome. Peace of mind is thus generally associated with blisshappiness and contentme nt.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_peace

Stress is the opposite of peace and is one of the leading causes of physical and mental illness in the United States. The American Institue of Stress did a study where they found that

77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
73% of people regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.

This means that most of the citizens of the United States are at least experiencing one symptom of stress in their daily lives and that all of us are subject to it.

By decreasing our stress we allow peace to enter. Here are eleven things you can incorporate into your life for added peace.

11 Ways to increase inner peace

1. Find a way to unwind. You should strive to find one activity a day that helps you relieve stress, let go of negative energy, and take your mind off of the rest of the day.

These types of activities include, but are not limited to, exercising, reading, participating in a hobby, journaling, etc.

2. Breathe. Taking a moment every day to turn inward and focus on deep breathing has massive benefits for the body. It calms the mind down, increases blood flow, lowers your heart rate, lowers the stress hormone cortisol, reduces inflammation, and is a mood booster.

In as little as ten breaths you can reduce your risk of disease and illness while experiencing the positive side effects of deep breathing every day. You can set aside a time every day and make it part of your routine.

Deep breathing is also a handy tool for stressful situations. If you lose your temper, feel flustered, or are getting anxious you can use it as a coping mechanism to calm yourself, take control of your thoughts and emotions, and avoid reacting to the situation.

3. Forgive. Forgiveness can be a healing balm not only to relationships but to the heart as well.

When you forgive yourself and others, you remove the cancerous effects of holding on to pain, hurt, shame, or anger. When you let go of past errors you take your body out of flight or fight and can be at peace with yourself and those around you.

4. Self-compassion. Self-compassion is similar to self-forgiveness.

Kristin Neff’s definition of self-compassion goes as follows.

“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others… [For others], you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, you stop to tell yourself ‘this is really difficult right now. How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?'”

Kristin Ness

In essence, self-compassion is allowing yourself to make mistakes and be gracious to those shortcomings. It is acknowledging your pain and letting it be okay.

Taking care of ourselves emotionally and mentally can relieve pain, suffering, and can increase our self-esteem because we are making ourselves a priority and taking care of ourselves. If we are feeling better, then our peace automatically increases.

5. Slow down. Slow down during your day. Take time to enjoy the moment and be present. Too many times in our culture we either ruminate about the past and what went wrong or are too focused on the future and worry about how we want it to go right.

But you cannot really be in the past or the future, you can only be at this precise moment in time. Being in the moment helps relieve depressive thoughts from the past and the anxiety you may feel about the future.

6. Plan ahead. Plan ahead to arrive at destinations ten minutes early. Being in a rush or driving frantically causes a stress response in our body. Taking the extra time to drive relaxed can make a difference in your day.

7. Set boundaries. Most of the time when we hold resentment or feel hurt by others it’s when they cross some type of boundary. A lot of times these boundaries have never been communicated to the other person.

Example. You make dinner for your significant other every night and then do the dishes and clean up afterward. You feel resentful that your partner doesn’t get up to help you, but you have never communicated this expectation to them.

The way to set up the boundary is to communicate with the person we feel resentful towards the need that is not being met. In the case of the example above you could say something like,

“Honey, I love cooking dinner for you every night, but it would be a huge help to me if you could pitch in and take care of cleaning up afterward. It would mean a lot to me to cook and not have to worry about the cleanup too.”

Setting these well-defined boundaries lets both parties know what the need and the expectation is. It also works for letting people know what is and is not okay.

Creating these boundaries is liberating. It allows you to stand up for yourself and to avoid holding on to dangerous emotions that nag at you. Boundaries make it easier to hold yourself and others accountable.

Letting go of resentment, feeling liberated, and standing up for yourself all contribute to your inner peace.

8. Ask instead of guessing.

PEOPLE ARE DISTURBED NOT BY A THING, BUT BY THEIR PERCEPTION OF A THING.”

— EPICTETUS

Similar to setting boundaries is to ask instead of guessing. Ask instead of guessing means to ask for clarification, for further detail, etc.

If we assume or guess at what the other people around us want or mean, then there is room for error, miscommunication, blame, anger, or hurt feelings.

Brene Brown has a fantastic quote that says,

“Fear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

By being clear in our communication to others and by asking for clarification from others, we create an atmosphere of trust, understanding, and growth. When we feel assured in the situation our peace and calm increases. It also sets us up for future wins instead of future stress.

9. Accept and let go. There are so many things outside of our control. We feel we are in control when we worry about them or try to predict the outcome, but all we are really doing is adding stress to our lives for things we cannot control.

Instead of trying to predict the future or change someone, accept what the truth of the situation is and then let go. If it is outside of your control, let it go.

This doesn’t mean that you have to like the situation but is the acknowledgment that it is outside of your control and you don’t have to take it on as your responsibility. This change in thinking can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.

10. Make time for nature. Nature has a calming effect and is good for the soul. It allows us to slow down, sit with our thoughts, and unplug.

Robert Puff Ph.D in an article by Psychology Today called, How to Find Inner Peace, says that to be out in nature doesn’t mean you have to be standing on top of a mountain. He describes it as, “an environment that fosters stillness and silence. “

This could mean sitting at your desk at work watching the rays of sunshine shine through the leaves of the tree next to your window. It could mean walking outside on your lunch break and enjoying the flowers at the nearby park. It is taking in the beauty of the nature around us and taking time to just… be.

11. Connect with a higher power. This means to connect with something greater than ourselves. This could be worshipping a God or deity, connecting with Mother Earth, the Universe, or good vibes.

Connecting with this higher power is unique to each individual. This increases inner peace by having the belief that there is something greater than us and that there is a purpose or meaning in this life.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) was first mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual edition 4 (DSM-4) in 1994 where it was listed only as a feature of “eating disorder not otherwise specified,” or EDNOS. It wasn’t until 2013 that the DSM-5 recognized binge-eating as a stand-alone disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

To be diagnosed as having BED you must fit the DSM-5 criteria above. The signs and symptoms of BED are common among those who have BED, but may not be all-inclusive. Some people without BED may experience some of the same symptoms, while others who are diagnosed as having BED, do not experience all of the same symptoms as others. It is best to see a psychologist or therapist if you believe you have a binge eating disorder.

Common signs and symptoms are

  • Embarrassed by how much you eat
  • Prefer eating alone
  • Depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating habits
  • Sneaking, stealing, or hiding food from others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor body image
  • Being overweight
  • Dieting without losing weight

diagnosis

Binge eating disorder is much different from simply overeating at a Thanksgiving dinner or a night out with friends. It is where individuals frequently feel compelled to eat large quantities of food that is not normal for a regular person. They also feel unable to stop themselves from continuing to eat.

The DSM-5 has five criteria for diagnosing binge eating disorder (BED).

Criterion 1: Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

  1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
  2. The sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)

Criterion 2: Binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:

  1. Eating much more rapidly than normal
  2. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  3. Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
  4. Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
  5. Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating

Criterion 3: Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.

Criterion 4: The binge eating occurs, on average,

  1. at least 2 days a week for 6 months (DSM-IV frequency and duration criteria)
  2. at least 1 day a week for 3 months (DSM-5 frequency and duration criteria)

Criterion 5: The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

The severity scale is as follows:

  1. Mild: 1-3 binge eating episodes per week
  2. Moderate: 4-7 binge eating episodes per week
  3. Severe: 8-13 binge eating episodes per week
  4. Extreme: 14 or more binge eating episodes per week

Risk Factors

  • Being female. An article from Mayo Clinic stated that binge eating disorder “is more common in women than in men. Although people of any age can have binge-eating disorder. “
  • Being 17-23 years old. The same article said that those in their late teens to early twenties are more at risk of developing a binge eating disorder although it can occur during different ages as well.
  • Family history. You are more at risk if you have family members who have or have had an eating disorder.
  • A history of dieting. Many people with eating disorders have a long history of dieting, especially those that drastically restrict their caloric intake. Those who have binge eating disorder tend to restrict and then binge.
  • Poor self-image. Those who have a poor self-image and feel negative about themselves are at risk of developing an eating disorder.

Prevalence

The National Eating Disorders Association did a study in 2007 where they found that 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men had a binge eating disorder during their life.

They went on to say, “This makes BED more than three times more common than anorexia and bulimia combined. BED is also more common than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia.”

BED is by far the most common form of eating disorders, yet most people do not receive treatment. The same research from the National Eating Disorder Association stated that more than half of those with BED did not receive treatment at any point in their lives.

If many people do not seek treatment for binge eating disorder, it would make sense that it would have a higher prevalence compared to the other eating disorders.

But why wouldn’t they seek treatment?

One reason why many do not seek treatment could be that a lot of people who have BED may not even know they suffer from it. Instead of realizing they have a disorder, they simply think they lack self-control and don’t know how to diet properly.

Another reason why they might not reach out for help is that they are ashamed of their problem and afraid of the stigma and labels that are associated with those who have mental health problems.

Treatment

The main goals of treating a binge eating disorder are to help the client gain control over their eating binges, learn healthier eating habits, work on depression if present, and work on positive self-image or self-confidence.

There are various methods of treating binge eating disorders if seen by a mental health professional. The Mayo Clinic suggested the following types of therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT may help you cope better with issues that can trigger binge-eating episodes, such as negative feelings about your body or a depressed mood. It may also give you a better sense of control over your behavior and help you regulate eating patterns.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy. This type of therapy focuses on your relationships with other people. The goal is to improve your interpersonal skills — how you relate to others, including family, friends, and co-workers. This may help reduce binge eating that’s triggered by problematic relationships and unhealthy communication skills.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy. This form of therapy can help you learn behavioral skills to help you tolerate stress, regulate your emotions and improve your relationships with others, all of which can reduce the desire to binge eat.”

To find a therapist in your area you can go to Psychology Today at www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists.

From there, make sure to check the specialties of the therapists you look at or try calling their offices to see if they work with eating disorders. If you or a loved one suffer from BED, getting help is always the best option.


Technology’s Affect on Mental Health

In this day and age, our lives are hugely supplemented by technology. Without our phones, laptops, tv’s, wireless routers, and Bluetooth devices our world would crash.

But is there a price to be paid for convenience and speed?

These devices, that most of us spend ten-plus hours on daily, emit something called blue light. This blue light can be detrimental to our health.

Technology’s interference with our circadian rhythm

The National Institute for General Sciences describes circadian rhythm as

“physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm.

Natural factors within the body produce circadian rhythms. However, signals from the environment also affect them. The main cue influencing circadian rhythms is daylight. Changing the light-dark cycles can speed up, slow down, or reset biological clocks as well as circadian rhythms.”

The body produces a hormone called melatonin which is known as the sleep hormone. This hormone regulates sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin production is affected by the light and dark cycle of our environment.

Darkness signals to our brain to begin producing more melatonin and when there is more light in the environment the brain is signaled to stop melatonin production.

Technology is used around the globe twenty-four hours a day. When technology is used at night, the blue light that is emitted from our devices interferes with our regular melatonin production and therefore our circadian rhythm.

Without melatonin, it is hard for our bodies to fall asleep and/or have the quality of sleep that is needed for recovery. A 2017 article found in Translational Psychiatry stated that “sleep disturbance is an important factor contributing to the onset and maintenance of mood disorders,” among other health problems.

American Psychological Association released a study that showed that the rates of mood disorders and suicides have dramatically increased in the last ten years. While it may still be somewhat controversial, studies are beginning to show the correlation between technology use, sleep disturbance, and the rise in mental illness.

What you can do

Harvard Health wrote an article about blue light stating,

“Researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they’re not suitable for use indoors at night. Glasses that block out only blue light can cost up to $80.”

The Harvard article went on to describe how other colored light may have some effect on melatonin production, but that blue light was by far the biggest culprit in decreasing melatonin production. By decreasing your blue light exposure at night you may save yourself from experiencing health problems down the road.

Along with blue-blocking glasses, there are apps and filters that you can put on your phone and computer to block the blue light at night.

For further study check out these additional articles: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/should-you-be-worried-about-blue-light

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/