The Power in the way we Think

Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Boundary Setting

I’d like to welcome Ellen back with her second guest post for us! If you remember, in her previous article she talked about boundaries and how they can impact on our sense of SELF. She discussed the signs that tell you how to know when your boundaries are being violated. You can find her previous article here if you’d like to refresh your memory. If you endlessly to give (or take from) others, feel guilty, don’t speak up for yourself or rescue others, chances are that you’ll find this new article helpful.

In it, Ellen talks about how you can set healthy boundaries. This promotes feelings of self-esteem and shows yourself and others that you are worthy of respect, appreciation and love.

Sometimes though, implementing boundaries can be tough. Emotions such as guilt and fear can show up, and others can try to blame you or behave badly, providing you with some difficult challenges and often sending you into hiding. However if you start small you can ease into the groove of boundary setting. Try practising what you want to say, and set boundaries with the little things that really don’t matter much. Once you feel a little more comfortable, move on to some of the bigger things. And as Ellen suggests below, talking with a professional counsellor or psychologist can help.

Check it out …

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Hi again.  Nice to see you.

Last time we talked about personal boundaries – what they are, how they help us and how, if they’re not firmly in place, they can have a negative impact on our relationships and our self-esteem.  Today I’ve got some tips on how to establish strong personal boundaries.

boundaries 2

There are three areas of life in which strong personal boundaries are important.  These are:

  1. Your time.  If you are clear about what you will and won’t do to help other people you will be able to make good decisions about how to use your time.  Your time is yours and while it’s always lovely – and good – to be able to help others, your time is also finite.  There is only so much of it you can give away.  When we bend over backwards to always help others, whether it’s family, friends or colleagues at work, we give away our time and that leaves less for ourselves.  And you and I know that there’s precious little of that to begin with.

So what do we do?

Think about where others might be crossing your boundaries in terms of your time.  Do you have people in your life who are always asking you to help them out? Is there someone at work who requests your assistance to do things you know they are capable of doing themselves? Do you have family members who regularly drop in when it’s not convenient?  Identify where your time boundaries are a bit loose and tell people that things need to change.  Be firm but respectful. Don’t feel afraid to tell others that you’re sorry but you can’t help them this time.  They might be a little put out at first but you will feel better for asserting yourself and they will come to respect your time as yours.  Encourage them to find solutions on their own, and in the case of inconvenient visitors, make a plan to catch up at a time that’s better for both of you.

  1. Your emotions. Your emotions are precious, and they’re  Positive and negative emotions keep us balanced and healthy but you need to protect them with good boundaries.  If you let others say hurtful things to you your ability to manage your emotions lessens and, long term, this can lead to anxiety and depression.

What to do?

Be alert to hurt caused by other people in your life (sometimes we get so used to this behaviour that we stop noticing it – we just feel the hurt) and be ready to say something.  People can say hurtful things without realising the impact that it has.  At other times they might know exactly what they’re saying and they’re trying to push your buttons.  Be clear on what you will and won’t accept from others and tell them when they’ve crossed the line.  Try phrasing it as, ‘When you said…., I felt…. Please don’t speak to me that way.’  This can be hard, it takes practise and it won’t always work out as well as you might hope but if you’re firm and consistent you’ll feel better about you and other people will eventually get the message and their respect for you will grow.

  1. Your values. Have you ever been upset by someone’s behaviour but you weren’t sure why it affected you the way that it did?  You might have been agitated about a partner’s drinking, or a child’s friends or a friend’s partner!  At times we experience what psychologists’ call ‘dissonance’ between the actions of others (and ourselves) and our values.  Our values are our personal standards of behaviour or our beliefs about what is important in life.  If you have strong beliefs – or values – around what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in relation to alcohol use, for example, and someone close to you is drinking up a storm on a regular basis, this can be really upsetting.

So what can we do? 

This is a tricky one because ultimately we can do very little do change other people and the way that they act.  You might find that just being aware that your emotions are stemming from dissonance between your values and the other person’s behaviour can be very empowering.  You can then decide how you’re going to respond.  You might alert them to the issue and ask them to not behave in that way around you.  Or you might chose to remove yourself from upsetting situations.  Talking it through with a counsellor or psychologist can be really helpful too, particularly if the situation is complex.  A bit of brainstorming with a professional can really help you to clarify your boundaries and to come up with ideas about how to handle certain situations.

Above all else, having good personal boundaries starts with knowing who you are and what’s important to you.  Spend some time in self-reflection and feel confident that you have the power to make boundaries work for you.

Onwards and upwards,

Ellen.

If you’d like to read more, here are some great articles.

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/03/10/7-tips-for-setting-boundaries-at-work/

http://happinessweekly.org/2014/03/02/personal-boundaries-why-we-need-them-and-how-to-set-them/

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ellen jackson

Ellen is a Psychologist, author, mum.  Melbourne-born, she spent most of her 20s and 30s in Sydney and now lives in beautiful Ballarat, in the Victorian Goldfields. Ellen writes stuff to inspire and sometimes to challenge.  She knows a lot of stuff about how people work at work, how people are different and unique and how people make the most out of life.  Ellen writes at www.potential.com.au or if you’d like ask a question or share a story she’d love to hear from you! You can email her at psych@potential.com.au.

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What does it mean to have self-esteem?

Hi everyone! I’d like to introduce you all to Sharon, who is an interior designer and Life Coach. She has had some pretty intense experiences in her life and her self-esteem has been impacted as a result. She has made big changes in her life and now she does what she loves in a beautiful part of the country she now calls home.

Sometimes the biggest, most traumatic events can affect your life for a long time. And it’s often a series of small, seemingly insignificant events that can help you turn things into a completely different life.

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It’s a tricky question to answer as the answers will be as individual as people themselves.  For me, having self-esteem means that I live to my own set of values and not those imposed upon me by others – by religion, by the government, by my family or friends.  It means that I am confident enough in my own skin to know that my opinions count, that my voice deserves to be heard and that I am worthy of happiness, just as I am.  Yes I could be 10 (okay 20) kilos lighter, I could exercise more and eat more healthily.  I could spend more quality time with my children and husband and less time on Facebook.  I could read more educational books and less young adult fiction.  BUT, would any of those things make me happier?  Maybe, but maybe not and if I did any or all of these things, for whom would I be doing them?  For myself or for the acceptance of others? 

Blog Chicks sharon chisolmFor many years, as the result of a violent upbringing, I felt like a fraud as a child, feelings that continued as I grew into adulthood and even after I had children.   I had spent years growing up trying to hide the truth about who I was – a scared young girl who felt isolated and worthless and a big part of who I was as an adult was still led by that scared young girl.  I sought attention in the wrong places and from the wrong people and it took me roughly twenty years to realise that it didn’t matter how highly anyone else thought of me, I still felt worthless.  

Back in 2010 I won a coaching award from a prestigious organisation – Best Newcomer Coach of the Year – the judges were all renowned Life Coaches in Australia and New Zealand.  However, for a long time I felt as though I had cheated somehow and persuaded the judges that I was far better than I actually was.  I thought that perhaps they had given me the award out of pity or because they had no-one else to give it to.  I didn’t put my award up on my wall because I felt as though I didn’t deserve the recognition.  It didn’t matter how many people told me that I had helped them because I thought they were just being nice. 

A year or so later I had a big “a-ha” moment and realised that most of my feelings of self-worth, or lack of it, stemmed from my childhood.  I realised that I had grown up feeling like a fraud and fearing people finding out the truth about who I was and what my life was like.  In that moment I realised that I had had no power as a child – it was not my fault that my upbringing was the way that it was and that I did not need to feel shame or guilt because of it.  I was able to let go of those feelings and know in my heart that I had done what I needed to, to protect myself.  So I started to be real about who I was, about my feelings, about my depression following the birth of my children.  I started to speak out honestly about what I had been through and it was incredibly liberating.  I discovered that my voice deserves to be heard and that by sharing my experiences, I am able to help others to free themselves of their own limiting beliefs and feelings of worthlessness. 

sharon chisolm robin williams

Understanding why we behave and think the way that we do is, in my opinion, the first step to gaining control of those feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing.  If we are able to understand why that little voice inside us speaks to us the way that it does, then we can manage those thoughts and find our path to self worth and greater self-esteem.  Having high self-esteem does not mean that you are arrogant or narcissistic, it does not mean that you think you are better than everyone else, it simply means that you recognise the value you bring to the world and to the lives of those around you.  It means that you understand you deserve to be treated with respect  and love and that you have abilities and gifts that can impact the world in a positive way. 

I now display my award with pride on my office wall, because I know that I do make a difference to the lives of others – fellow business people, my clients, my friends and family and most importantly, to myself. 

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Sharon Chisholm The Restful Nest Profile Photo (1)Sharon Chisholm is the founder of The Restful Nest, an Interior Design business and The Organisation Coach, a Professional Organising business specialising in working with women business owners.  An award winning Life Coach, Sharon’s passion is assisting women to achieve business success through effective time management and organised living.  Sharon moved to Australia in 2002 from the UK and now lives on the mid-north coast of NSW with her husband and two children.

Sharon’s business and blog can be found at www.therestfulnest.com.au, which focuses on Interior Design and Professional Organising. Her Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/therestfulnest.

She has recently begun another page called The Organisation Coach https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Organisation-Coach/372596746224720?ref=hl.  This new page is a focus for women business owners who struggle with organising their homes, businesses and lives, and tackles self-esteem issues around these things.

I’m sure Sharon would love it if you took some time to visit her pages and sent her some love.

Why I write …

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post and I feel bad for not posting more often. That said, there is a reason for it and I know that ultimately for my long-term vision, the delays now will translate to the freedom of expression that I yearn for later. I am hoping that this post will help clarify what is going on for me and where I am heading with my destiny.

I have been invited to participate in a blog hop by a lovely lady named Leanda. She writes over at Write to Heal. To find out more about her work please visit her site and check out the incredible work she does. I guess the easiest way to explain a blog hop is to say that it is a tool to assist bloggers and writers to link and network with each other. Readers are also given a chance to learn more about the blogger/writer and what makes them tick. The topic I have been challenged with is “why I write” …

What am I working on?

I work as a counsellor and have been doing so for 10 years. My current job has provided me with the opportunity to transform from a new counsellor with raw talent to a professional clinician. Part of my job is to write and develop group workshops. I have recently launched a range of half-day workshops to help people with a variety of issues that are relevant for our client base. The response to these has been nothing short of amazing and the outcomes have been powerful.

I am also studying a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology. I’ve been performing practicum requirements in a placement workplace whilst simultaneously attending classes on campus, learning about neuroscience (what happens inside the brain when it is impacted by issues such as trauma, addictions and mental health) and how this translates into the day-to-day practice of psychology. This has given me invaluable information in how to utilise my skills with clients.

In the little spare time I have, I am also working on my first book; a small how-to, easy to understand guide on how people can prevent others’ issues impacting on them.

When I look at how much I have been doing at work and what I’ve been doing at university, and when I consider that the university campus is a 4 hour round trip each week, I wonder how I have remained sane. But, both work and study are providing me with some exceptional skills that I can use in my professional life after graduation. I have a clear vision of where I want to be and as much as I want to make it happen now, I have discovered that for the moment, I need to prioritise self-care above the vision, because ultimately to reach the vision I need to get through the qualifications.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

I try to impart knowledge of psychology and the mind. Much of the information out there in this niche seems to be quite technical and can be difficult to understand for people who have no experience with it. I pride myself on my ability to write for people who have no understanding in how the mind works and how changing small things can help them transform their lives in big ways.

Why do I write what I do?

I want to educate, inform, inspire and lead people to live their best lives. I want people to love who they are, to accept and embrace themselves fully and unconditionally. And if I am to support others in their journey, I need to be able to practice what I preach. So I also use my writing as a way to process the stuff in my head and get clarity in my own mind of the direction I am heading and the future awaiting me.

How does my writing process work?

I began writing originally as a way to vent and process the turmoil in my head. I used it as an act of self-care. It has undergone a transformation over the past twelve months or so; from a personal method of self-care to a professional means of communication to impart knowledge and education.

The process is much the same whichever goal I have (personal or professional). An idea will spark in my mind. I’ll often let it simmer for a while, formulating a vision for the final product. When I sit down to write I simply allow my fingers to do what they do. I find that if I just go with the flow and allow my instinct to lead; my writing is strong and powerful. When the words naturally taper off I go back to edit for spelling, grammar and sentence structure, sometimes leaving it a while before doing so to get a fresh perspective.

 

The final part of this blog hop is to introduce you all to three people who will be hopping right behind me and taking their turn in sharing why they write.

 

Glenda Bishop Healthy StoriesGlenda Bishop helps people to live a healthier life by inspiring them to eat better, become stronger, and live a calmer and more content life. She is a Registered Nutritionist, neuroscientist, and personal trainer, who is particularly interested in how your physical health strengthens your mental wellbeing. After becoming frustrated by the mixed health messages that abound across the internet, Glenda founded Healthy Stories to create a place where the science of health meets real life. At Healthy Stories you will find tips for healthy eating and living, delicious healthy recipes, and practical ways to improve your wellbeing.

 

 

Kate MooreKate Moore is passionate about life. She coaches others in work, life and health to master and love what they do, live intentionally, design the life they want, build a healthy lifestyle and feel at their best. You can find Kate over at Lift Coaching where she blogs about all things life, love, health, work, motivation, mastery, passion, values, gratitude and inspiration related. Kate takes a very practical and action-driven approach to … well, everything and loves helping others get ‘unstuck’ by identifying their personal strengths and using real life skills and tools to change habits and behaviour, and get people where they want to go. You can also find Kate on Facebook where she shares daily quotes, interesting reads, recipes, workouts and lots of other bits of pieces to brighten your day.

 

Emma Fahy Davis is a journo who turned to blogging as a way of exorcising the words in her head while taking a break from the media to raise her five daughters. She blogs at Five Degrees of Chaos about the chaos that comes with having a big family, her experiences with mental illness and living with the legacy of addiction, and about the challenges of parenting a chronically ill child. In between refereeing sibling squabbles and moonlighting as a taxi driver to a relentless army of small people, she can be found hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.

Take Care of You!

You are worthy. Simply because you exist.

By definition, the fact that you are alive, that you breathe the air, that you walk this earth, is enough reason to justify your worthiness.

There are no conditions on this.

No “I can only be worthy if everyone likes me”

No “I can only be worthy if I please everyone in my life”

No “I can only be worthy if I work myself to the bone”

No “I can only be worthy if I take care of as many people as I can”

No “I can only be worthy if I do favours for other people”

No “I can only be worthy if …..” (insert any other idea your brain gives you)

When we put conditions on the way we love ourselves, we restrict so many things in our lives. You end up doing everything you can to please other people or working so many hours you never get time to yourself. Or taking care of everyone except yourself. Or doing things for other people to the extent that you never get time to do the things you enjoy. (Insert any other condition your brain conveniently provides).

Those conditions come about for a variety of reasons. Most of the time we receive certain messages and our beliefs about ourselves are formed by listening to them. They can be subtle or they can be said outright. We hear and interpret the words and we learn to say them to ourselves. We believe them.

Here are a couple of facts:

Those messages are always untrue. The words we use sound true. The emotions attached to the words feel true. However, they always lie. Always.

There is no justification.

The truth is indisputable.

You are worthy of being taken care of.

Simply because you are alive. Simply because you were born.

take care of you mindseteffect

30 Things to do to Yourself

The other day I came across an article that listed 30 things that people needed to stop doing to themselves in order to feel happy and fulfilled. It proclaimed, “when you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you”. You can see the full article here if you’re interested.

The thing is, the language used in this post is worded in the negative. Don’t do this, don’t do that. When I read things phrased in this way I often end up wondering what I CAN do if not the things listed. The brain cannot tell the difference between them. If I told you to NOT, under any circumstances, think about a red car, I’m willing to bet that the first thing that comes to mind is a red car.

So, when we tell ourselves NOT to do something, our brains literally block out the “NOT”. Have you ever tried to tell a child not to run on wet concrete? I bet they run faster! Have you tried telling a child not to eat the chocolate bar in the fridge? I bed the next time you walk by, the chocolate bar will have disappeared and you can see smears across his or her mouth. If you want a child to follow your instructions, you need to tell him/her what TO do, rather than what NOT to do. Walk along the concrete. Eat the grapes (and put the chocolate bar out of sight).

So, I decided to rewrite it. And rephrase it. Let me know what you think:

  1. Spend time with happy people who support you – spending time with people who drain you is tiring! Find some silent presencepeople will stand by you when you’re at your worst.
  2. Face your problems – Yes, it’s hard work. Every person on the planet finds it challenging to face difficult situations. We are built to flounder. To feel emotions such as sadness or hurt. To stumble. Learning and adapting helps mold us into the person we are meant to be.
  3. Be truthful with yourself – it really does help you make those adjustments and to step up when you face difficulties.
  4. Put your own needs first – you are special too, and you deserve to be taken care of. Allow yourself to follow your passion and do something that matters to you.
  5. Be your true self – allow yourself to be who you really are and you will naturally attract the right people who love you.
  6. Allow yourself to move forward and take new opportunities.
  7. Make friends with failure – you learn so much more from getting things wrong than getting them right. Every success has a series of failures behind it. Every time you fail, you get closer to success.
  8. Let go of past mistakes – mistakes help us find the things and the people who are right for us. Every error teaches you something and prepares you for the things that are right for you. Right here, right now, you have the power to shape your future.
  9. Allow happiness to find you – the things that satisfy us are totally free. Take note of the little things and allow them to fill your heart with joy.
  10. Look for happiness within yourself – looking to others for your happiness is fraught with danger and opens you up to being controlled by the other person’s moods. Create your own stability and own your own power for happiness. It starts with what is on the inside.
  11. Be prepared to go after what you want – you can’t make it to your goal unless you take the first step. Take some risks. Make decisions and take decisive action on what you want.
  12. Allow yourself to grab opportunities outside your comfort zone – it’s common to feel uncomfortable when
    found on art.com

    found on art.com

    opportunities present themselves. You may not feel ready, but you don’t have to be. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

  13. Fall in love for the right reasons – there is no need to rush. Allow it to happen when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Be open to new relationships – even when old ones didn’t work. There is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some are to teach you what you don’t need in your life.
  15. Run your own race – when you compete with others you do yourself a disservice. Competing takes you away from being your true self.
  16. Count your blessings – you always have something that is worth feeling blessed for. Why would you bother keeping track of someone else’s blessings when you have your own?
  17. Be prepared to get back up when you fall down – life is full of challenges and falling down is inevitable. When you reflect back on those moments you’ll often find they led you to a better place or situation.
  18. Let go of grudges – allow love to fill your heart and let the hate go. When you hold onto grudges you end up hurting yourself more than the person it’s directed toward.
  19. Raise your standards – if you keep your standards above those of the people around you, your heart will always be full.
  20. Give yourself permission to make your own decisions – if you listen to your heart you will always know what to do. There is no need to justify or explain yourself to others.
  21. restTake a break – especially when you feel like you don’t have time for one. The perfect time to take some breaths is when you feel the most stressed.
  22. Find the beauty in the small moments – the best parts of your days will be the small moments. Enjoy them.
  23. Enjoy the imperfections – nothing is ever perfect. It doesn’t exist.
  24. Embrace challenges – some things are not easy. Especially the things that mean the most to you. Embrace the challenge and work for what you want.
  25. Allow yourself to cry – it’s ok to fall apart sometimes, you don’t have to suck it up all the time. You don’t need to have things going well all the time. Crying is cathartic and healing. It gets rid of toxins in your system and cleanses your emotions.
  26. Take responsibility for your life – and your decisions. When you blame others you allow them to control you. Own your power by owning your decisions and actions.
  27. Choose what you do wisely – trying to be everything to everyone will very quickly drain you of your energy and burn you out. Make your choices based on the things that are most important to you.
  28. Let go of your worries – at least some of them. Ask yourself if this situation will matter in one year. What about in three years? Or five? If the answer is no, let it go.
  29. Focus on what you want to happen – rather than on what you don’t want to happen. By doing this you train your brain to look for the opportunities and the blessings.
  30. Be grateful – find 5 things each day that you are grateful for. You’ll soon find yourself inundated with the beautiful blessings in life rather than the missing links.

gratitude breathe it in

Fake It Until You Make It

The language we use can be very powerful. It can mean the difference between getting what we want and being disappointed, over and over again. It can be the difference between experiencing joy and gratitude, or sadness and despair. We can wonder why things never go the way we want them to, or we can do something about it by taking small steps each day that lead us closer to our goal. Our chosen path is very dependent upon our mindset; the words we have in our heads, the things we tell ourselves. 

Cassandra Webb is an author. Tomorrow she will be appearing at an event on the Gold Coast, signing copies of her very first book. It took her a lot of effort, grit and determination to get to this point. She didn’t always believe she could do it, but by taking small steps each day, she has created her dream and made it happen. She has used the power of language to support her. This is the story of how she made it happen. 

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Life is all about attitude and mindset right? Confidence and self-esteem. What about for a writer, sitting alone in their little (in my case messy) office? Not long ago I came across the saying, ‘Fake It Until You Make it’ and I’ve been trying to live by it ever since. This is how.

If writing was my ‘job’ I’d have a start time, a finish time, and a certain standard of work in order to not get fired. At present writing doesn’t pay enough of the bills for my husband to allow me to call it my ‘job’. But I have a “three thousand words a day” goal. I sit down and work my butt off to achieve this goal every day. I sacrifice meals and T.V., sleep and evenings out to get the job done. Because one day I will make it, and writing will be my ‘job’, until then I’m just going to fake it.

A professional [insert your desired field] has a certain way of presenting themselves. Even an amateur soccer player still runs onto the field in all the right gear. So even though I’m not a ‘professional’ writer, time and consideration is still required before I sit behind my little stall at the markets. Yes, I’m ‘faking it’, but I’m not going to sell any copies of my book sitting at the markets in my swimwear unless my book involves swimming. The same goes for a job interview with a law firm. If you turn up looking like a mechanic fresh from under a car you’re chances of success are pretty low.

‘Faking it’ means trying to be the best you can, even when you think the limits are beyond you at the moment. It doesn’t mean slipping into a mindset that allows you to believe you are already the best there is. It’s a hard distinction that involves being your own best friend and worst critic at the same time.

If you could peep through my window when I’m editing you’d probably think I’m insane. According to me I’ve written a masterpiece, but everyone gets rejection letters and I’ll be crying and laughing and patting myself on the back whilst I hack up my beautiful literary baby and try to make the masterpiece worthy of a publisher. You can’t ‘fake’ good writing, but the professional attitude of someone who can improve through criticism? Yes you can fake that.

I signed up for my first big event this year. It’s called Indie Authors Down Under and it will be held at the Gold Coast on the 22nd of March. http://www.indieauthorsdownunder.com/

When I put my name down and secured my little stall three months ago I didn’t even have a book in print. The printed version was available through Amazon, but I didn’t have any copies to physically sell myself! I was drowning just in the idea of have to talk to so many people and try to ‘sell’ them something.

There was nothing for it. I could have let the opportunity pass or I could ‘fake it’. With the help of my local writers group we got together and held a market stall over the Christmas period. I needed to do a test or dry run. The same way some couples do a pre-birth rush to the hospital to check they know the way and how long it will take etc. I was nervous, and for those of you who don’t know me I suffer from anxiety so nervous is an understatement. I had muscle spasms running across my back, and an ache from the tension in my jaw, my hands were noticeably shaking and all I wanted to do was get out of there.

There was only one thing for it; I had to ‘fake it’.

I squared my shoulders, mentally told myself to smile, and began shaking hands. It wasn’t easy, but it also didn’t kill me and amazingly two fantastic locals purchased my book.

We all have a different idea of what exactly ‘making it’ means. Some successful writers have million dollar bank balances, others have the luxury of a household name or movie deals. And maybe all of the above would be nice, but even those writers who have ‘made it’ still feel like lounging around the house in their old socks with their hair undone some days and on those day’s even they have to fake it.

I’ll be ‘faking it’ on the Gold Coast on the 22nd of March, and if you happen to come along to the Indie Authors Down Under event I’d love to see you.

This is the event: http://www.indieauthorsdownunder.com/

And this is me: http://www.cassandrawebb.com/

 

The “battlefield” in your head

I’ve been thinking about this post for a little while now and what it needs to include. I have had a couple of people ask me for some tips on how to combat the battle they have in their heads about what they put in their mouths.

High fat, high sugar, high carb, versus low-fat, no sugar, whole foods.

Junk food versus healthy food.

Bad foods versus good foods.

Bad versus good.

This is a battle that I am more than familiar with myself. My weight has been “battle worthy” my entire life, and my mind the “battlefield”.

I believe that pretty much every diet program around promotes eating healthy foods and avoiding the unhealthy ones. Makes sense, right? But what constitutes healthy versus unhealthy? This is up for debate and it has certainly been a contentious one. The promotion of the diet programs and the huge amounts of media coverage seem to deliberately aim to impact our emotions. A lot of them would have us believe that the only way for us to live happily is for us to follow their program, whichever one that happens to be. We get told that the only way for us to control ourselves is to follow their program. In other words, to purchase their product. It is a selling tool.

This post is not intended to debate the effectiveness of such programs. Rather, it is to point out that in trying to convince you to purchase their product, they need to have you believe that you are currently doing the wrong thing. That by eating the foods you currently eat, you are making the wrong choices. And then by definition, purchasing their program will mean you can make the right choices.

Right versus wrong.

The thing is, when we start following the programs and we receive the message that we are making good choices by eating healthy foods, we set up a neural network in our heads (see previous post on this here) that is triggered every time we make a “bad” choice by eating chocolate or pastry or lollies (or whatever). And so begins a cycle of beating ourselves up and feeling guilty for each and every choice. The more we try to control it, the worse we feel. We end up feeling inadequate and unworthy, even for minor deviations from the plan.

There are those people who would suggest that the ideas associated with this way of thinking have become so ingrained in our society that even the idea of making a choice off the chosen program will have us believing we are inadequate. Really? An idea?? Since when have we been condemned for having a thought run through our heads? But isn’t that what many of us do?

If this sounds just a tad extreme to you, that’s because it is.learning new way to think

We start by feeling guilty for having a chocolate bar. We feel horrible about ourselves and start thinking that we have blown the diet so we may as well just give up. This leads to 2 large packets of potato chips. We feel guilty some more, believe we are completely useless, so we stop exercising, call ourselves all kinds of disgusting names and then reach for more food because it hurts so much!

Sound familiar?

You’re probably fighting a few things here. Firstly, you have a physiological addiction to all the foods you’ve been ingesting. The sugar, simple carbs, artificial sweeteners, salt. Our bodies go through withdrawal symptoms when we try to stop that cycle and it sends our brains into overdrive with cravings in an attempt to get “fed”. I am not an expert on this stuff and don’t profess to be, so I would suggest that if you want  more information on it do some research for yourself.

Secondly, as outlined in the previous post on firing and wiring neurons, you’ve got firmly entrenched neural pathways at play. It’s difficult to change these. Again, I am not an expert, so feel free to do some independent research, beginning with the books I have suggested in my previous post.

Thirdly, you’re fighting cognitive patterns. These are essentially a neural pathway your brain has created for the way you think. You eat the food and your brain automatically takes your thoughts to “I’m useless/worthless/hopeless because I can’t control myself”. It is a well-practiced pathway and I am sure you are used to its experience. It creates more feelings of inadequacy and suddenly you’re in the never-ending cycle you’re so used to.

So, what do you do about it?

My first suggestion is to think about things a little differently. So much of our energy goes into “good” versus “bad”. Healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables are in the “good” category, while chocolate and chips are in the “bad”. While it is human nature to categorise things, do we really need to do this for our foods? How is it helpful for us, when we go from “I ate some bad food and therefore I must be a bad person”? Does that way of thinking support us in achieving a happy, balanced life? Does it support you?

Why can’t we simply have one category: FOOD?

Or could we choose to have often foods and sometimes foods, the way they teach kids in schools? Or maybe use the traffic light system. Red light foods, orange light foods and green light foods?

Whichever categories we choose, they are just that. CATEGORIES.

Without the emotion attached.  You eat a chocolate bar. FULL STOP.  You eat some fried fish. FULL STOP. You eat a fried mars bar. FULL STOP.

So what? One chocolate bar or fish fillet or mars bar (or whatever) does not dictate how you live your life. One chocolate bar, fish fillet or mars bar does not dictate your happiness. One chocolate bar, fish fillet or mars bar does not dictate your worth. One chocolate bar, fish fillet or mars bar does not dictate what you put in your mouth for the rest of your life.

One chocolate bar, fish fillet or mars bar (or whatever), MAY influence the number on the scale you see when you step on it, but since that number is simply a reflection of your relationship with gravity (full stop) and could never EVER tell me about the amazingly wonderful person on top of the scales, why would you allow it to influence the way you feel about yourself?scale and worth

Instead, try thinking of them simply as choices. Sure you may choose the chocolate or fried fish. And it may even result in you moving a little further away from your goal number on the scales. The next choice you make to put something in your mouth could be a choice that may move you closer to that number.  And providing we are making more choices to move us closer than we make to move further away, we are overall moving closer. Correct?

One teeny tiny choice at a time, we can choose to end the battle and ultimately win the war (which, in my opinion, needs to be more about our internal happiness and is therefore more related to our self-talk rather than the number on the scale). Remember this. That number will never be able to tell you how incredible you are as a human being. And the simple fact that you are living and breathing means that you are worthy of that happiness. You are amazing, right here, right now.

let yourself be amazing

Whenever you catch yourself in the pattern of thoughts you are so used to, chances are you aren’t really aware of the things going on around you in your immediate environment. Does it feel like you’re kind of off with the fairies? It can be useful to practice some mindfulness activities. Engage your senses. Sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste. Mindfulness is about bringing your attention into the here and now. So to bring your mind back into the moment, try focusing on the things around you. If you are doing the dishes, pay attention to the feel of the water on your hands, or the cloth between your fingers. If you’re walking, note the smell of the flowers, the feel of the sun/wind/rain on your face. When you’re eating, slow down and really taste your food. Smell it. Feel the textures. Drink in the sight of it on the plate. Make it a real dining experience.

And sometimes, just be with yourself and sit in the solitude. Breathe. Commune with nature. Notice everything you can about the things around you. Focus on the way your breath feels in your lungs, pay attention to your chest or stomach rising and falling. Don’t try and change anything, simply pay attention to it. Be curious, without judging.

Don’t expect things to change immediately. Your brain will kick in with the automatic response again and again. It likes things to stay the same, so it will hit you harder with stuff when you try to make some changes. Persist with it when you catch your mind wondering, your brain is just doing its job.

 

Play with it and see how it goes.

mindfulness senses

They made me ………

“He made me angry” “She upset me”, “They make me so frustrated!”

Do these comments sound familiar to you? Have you ever heard your friends or family using them, or caught them coming out of your own mouth? If so, then this post is for you.

How are our emotions “created”? Many people believe that they come out of nowhere. Essentially, that emotions spontaneously create themselves and we have no control over them. The reality is that they occur after something happens. Some kind of event. You might see something, you might hear something, or even feel it. Your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) come into play. And emotion is the result.

The diagram below shows an example of how this works. Let’s say that you have grown up with people telling you that you’re an idiot. Most of us know that if we are told something often enough, we start believing it. So when we get given the “data” from our senses, our internal programming jumps up and shouts at us: “You’re an idiot, how could you do/be that” etc.

You might feel angry toward the person who said it, along with an internal sense of sadness and worthlessness. You’ll also feel the physical sensations that come along for the ride. The racing heart, the muscle tension, heaviness like your body wants to sink into the ground, and so on.

CBT diagram 1

I regularly hear statements like “he/she/they made me feel upset/angry/sad/nervous” (insert appropriate words that fit your experiences). There is often a feeling of being disempowered, like the emotion has all the say in what “it” wants to do.

Think about it. When you have an event, you experience that event through your senses. You HEAR comments, you SEE people and body language, you FEEL things against your body, you SMELL aromas, you TOUCH objects. And when your senses do their job, the information they obtain is taken into your brain. Your brain processes the data it has just collected, makes judgments about it and interprets it. In psychological terms, it undergoes a cognitive process. In other words, it THINKS.

The interpretation that comes out is impacted by a combination of all the experiences we have had between the time we were born. Culture, family, school, social interactions. All of these influence the way we think and interpret the events in our lives. An example of the process is outlined in the diagram below – someone says the words “You’re an idiot”, your ears hear those words, takes them in and your brain calls on all of your previous life experiences. It then goes through a thinking process, makes judgments and spits out the verdict. “I shouldn’t have done that”, “I’m such an idiot!” and so on. As a consequence of these thoughts, you may feel angry, sad and worthless.

CBT diagram 2

It’s important to note that this entire process, from when you first hear the words to you feeling the emotions, happens in less than a split second! In less than the time it takes to click your fingers, your brain has already given you those thoughts and probably another 50 variations on the theme.

Think for a moment about the first time you learned how to drive a car (or when you did anything for the first time). When you got behind the wheel you had to think about where to place your feet, your hands, which buttons you needed to press, when you needed to indicate, who/what was outside the car and where they/it might be located, when to accelerate, brake, and if the car had a manual transmission, when to change gears. Pretty confusing and challenging, right?! Now think about driving after you’ve practiced for a while. Ever had the experience of driving through a set of lights and then suddenly half turning your head back and asking yourself, “was that light green?” Your driving skills have become so practiced that they are now automatic and you can do it without thinking about it consciously.

Our cognitive processes are exactly the same. We learn how to think! We get used to thinking certain things about ourselves and become so practiced at it that it becomes automatic. Useless, worthless, idiot, stupid, silly, etc. And we believe all those things, we take them inside ourselves and they become a part of our identity, at the very core of our being. So, when we hear the words once again, “You’re an idiot”, our automatic thoughts jump in without us even being aware of it.

This is the key. If our emotions are a result of the cognitive processes inside our heads, it means that nobody can make us feel anything. Knowing and really understanding this gives us power and choice. It means that our emotions are our responsibility.

The next question becomes, given that this is an automatic process, what can we do to make some changes so that we have control? The first step is to become more aware of our automatic thoughts. Try picking yourself up on your thoughts and write them down when you catch them popping into your head.

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