The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘failure’

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

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Emma’s experience with OCD

I’d like to introduce you to Emma. She does her best to parent her beautiful children while living with OCD. She copes with constant obsessions and compulsions every day. Hopefully her experiences will resonate with some of you. Please remember that if you are dealing with similar situations you may benefit from some support from a mental health professional. If anything in Emma’s experiences triggers you, please consider calling Lifeline for a chat on 13 1114.

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When my psychiatrist first suggested I might have OCD, I laughed. Of course not! “People with OCD don’t know the things they do are crazy, that’s why they do them,” I told him. “I’m fully aware that these things I do are crazy, I’m just not sure why I can’t stop doing them.”

In my mind, OCD was Adrian Monk, obsessed with hand-washing and germs and totally oblivious to the fact that he’s completely batshit crazy.

And me? I just have a bit of a thing for even numbers and I’m fussy about how I hang the laundry. Eccentricities. Quirks. Not a disorder.OCD Emma profile1

It wasn’t until the psychiatrist pointed out just how much time these little ‘quirks’  (or as he called them ‘rituals’) take out of my day, and how much of the in-between time I spend feeling anxious about them, that I began to concede that he might be right. In fact, OCD is by definition egodystonic – sufferers are well aware that their actions are irrational and that awareness is the basis for a lot of the anxiety that comes with it. The hand-washing and obsessive cleanliness? A common symptom but not definitive.

When my OCD it was at its worst, I spent most of my waking hours either performing rituals (that’s the compulsive part), or thinking about performing them (that’s the obsessive part). I couldn’t have the volume on my television or radio set to an odd number. I couldn’t take my baby out of the bath unless the digital clock above the bench where I bathed her read an even number. If I arrived home and the clock in the car was on an odd number, I’d pull over to the side of the road just outside my driveway and wait for them to tick over to an even number. When I did the groceries, I had to buy two loaves of bread or four, not three, although I rationalised in my head that one wasn’t technically an odd number because it’s just one. See, totally irrational!

Why did I do all these things? Because in my mind, I believed that if I didn’t do them, bad things would happen. The bad things were rarely directly related to the rituals themselves; I think the rituals were more just a way of keeping my hands and mind busy and in doing so, keeping the churning anxiety at bay.

Perhaps even more distressing than the obsessions and the compulsions however were the intrusive thoughts – thoughts which had no basis in reality but which came crashing into my conscious mind in the most upsetting manner. Perhaps most vivid is the night I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep when I suddenly thought, ‘I’ve never wanted to harm myself because I couldn’t stand the thought of someone else raising my children. But if I kill myself and the children I don’t have to worry about that’.

OCD Emma 3

 

I’d never, not once in my entire life, ever consciously thought about hurting myself. And the idea that such a thought had even occurred in my mind, regardless of how completely ridiculous it was, made me so desperately upset that I lay awake for the rest of the night, terrified to go to sleep lest I wake up to find those crazy intrusive thoughts had invaded my reality.

That was my tipping point, the point where I realised that the OCD was controlling me and not the other way around. I started on medication, and while I was skeptical about whether it would work – in my mind, I still saw the compulsions as behavioural and I couldn’t see how altering the chemicals in my brain could fix that – it did. After about three days, I suddenly found my anxiety levels dropping. That in itself was disconcerting. I’d worn the anxiety for so long like an old familiar coat that living without it took some adjustment. At a fundamental level, I still believed that I needed the anxiety in order to provoke the rituals which prevented the bad things from happening.

In addition to the medication, I also started regular CBT sessions with a psychologist who specialised in OCD. These sessions taught me techniques for living my new, medicated life without the anxiety cloak. I don’t know that medication or the therapy would have worked as standalone treatments, but the combination of the two was incredibly effective.

OCD Emma 2It’s been nearly seven years since I was diagnosed with OCD, and while it’s still there affecting my life in little ways, the medication and therapy combo continues to help me keep it somewhat under control. I’ve also learned some creative ways to avoid the compulsions – for example, I have a lot of rituals around hanging the laundry on the line. The washing must come out of the machine and into the basket in a certain order. It must then be hung on the line in a certain order, the pegs must all match and certain items require specific combinations of pegs. It can take up to an hour to hang a single load, and with five small children, there’s simply too much laundry and not enough time, so instead of battling with my head to try to combat the rituals, I avoid them altogether by drying all the washing in the clothes dryer. Yes, it’s an expensive exercise, and no, it’s not great for the environment, but if there’s one thing that living with OCD has taught me it’s to save my energy for the big stuff and not sweat the small stuff.

I’m open with my friends and family about what it’s like to live with OCD, and it’s even been the source of some amusement – my husband regularly tells people that he got ripped off because I don’t have the obsessive cleanliness thing going on. He reckons that if he has to live with the darker side of the condition, the least he deserves is the perk of a clean house!

I’m also realistic about the fact that I’ll probably need to keep taking medication for the rest of my life. I’ve had a few breaks from it over the years and they’ve generally not gone so well. Without the medication, the anxiety is simply too overwhelming for the CBT techniques to touch. Do I love the idea of pumping my brain full of drugs? Of course not! But it keeps the playing field level, it gives me the upper hand over my OCD and that makes it worth it.

I own my OCD, I will not let it own me. 

OCD Emma 1

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OCD Emma profileOne-time high-flying journo turned SAHM, Emma blogs at Five Degrees of Chaos about parenting on the edge of sanity – navigating her own personal mental health minefield while raising five girls, one of whom lives with chronic illness. You can find her blog here.

 

To FACT or not to FACT

depression drowning breathing

Depression is one of the more well-known mental illnesses. 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives will experience it. That is 20% of the Australian population. Huge numbers! I could sit here tonight and give you the facts about the illness.

I could tell you that while there is no definite cause of depression, there are a number of factors that influence its development. Life events (work or family stress, abusive relationships or unemployment, for example), family history, personality, medical illnesses, substance abuse, or changes in the hormone levels in your brain, for example.

I could also tell you that there are several types of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, where you tend to feel depressed during the winter months when there is less daylight), major depression (which can include bouts of psychosis, melancholy and also includes ante or postnatal depression), bipolar (which alternates cycles of depression and mania – more on this when we cover bipolar disorder), cyclothymic disorder (a milder form of bipolar) or dysthymic disorder (a milder form of major depression).depression stigma

Or, if I didn’t cover these facts, I may describe the types of things people with depression actually experience. A loss of interest in normal, usual daily activities, withdrawing from social contacts, sleeping for most of the day, no longer enjoying the things you used to enjoy, or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, thoughts of worthlessness, life not being worth living, inability to concentrate, tiredness, unhappiness, indecisiveness, change in appetites, sexual drive or weight, churning gut or muscle pains. All these are common experiences.

I might also talk about some of the treatments for depression. For example, various drugs may be prescribed to help rebalance the hormones in your brain (you would need to be aware of the side effects of some of these medications and talk with your doctor about them to find one that really works for you). Or there might be some options if you were to work with a counsellor or psychologist, both of whom could teach you some specific strategies to help you change your thoughts and behaviours. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is commonly used effectively for depression, as is Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) and mindfulness based therapies. Other things that may help are lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, relaxation training and social support (through family, friends, support groups etc).

depression no escapeOr I might be inclined to let you know that to receive effective help the best person to start with is your doctor, who can then refer you to a psychologist or counsellor. You could also see a social worker, alternative health therapist or even a psychiatrist or mental health nurse, each of whom can offer different types of support.

I might even be inclined to link you in with the Beyond Blue website so you can get more detail on depression and where you can go to get help. They even have an online discussion forum. http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression

But I don’t want to give you “just the facts”.

Depression is so much more than mere facts. There is no way that anyone could understand what it is like to live with it just by reading “the facts”. Sure it describes the basic things, but they can never describe the individual experiences.

“The FACTS” could never describe how it FEELS to experience the helplessness, the fatigue, the lack of interest in participating in your own life. “The FACTS” could never give you an accurate idea of what it is like to feel like you don’t belong on the earth. They could never show you the frustration you feel when you can’t concentrate on your work or study. And the facts could certainly never show you what it’s like to not be able to play with the children you love so dearly because you just can’t summon the energy. Not to mention the sorrow at watching those same children being sad because they can’t understand that mummy or daddy just can’t spend time with them.

depression cycle sleep pretend

There are so many other things that the FACTS just cannot show you. There is no way that you could ever understand what it is like to live with depression unless you were actually in the middle of it. Only then could you understand how, no matter how HARD you try, you just can’t get yourself moving in the morning. Only then could you understand how the “black dog” sits at your door all day every day and impacts on every part of your life. Only then could you truly GET that living with depression is like being in a battlefield every moment of every day, where you are constantly fighting your way out from underneath an overpowering, suffocating cloud of blackness.

depression lying bastart

And I think that if the people who lived with this insidious illness would want you to understand anything, it’s that one of the most basic things they really need from others is compassion. Saying (or implying) “get over it” does nothing more than lead them deeper into the hole. They need you to stick by them and support them through their daily struggle. To let them know that it’s ok to take a break from fighting the good fight sometimes and to retreat, allowing their heart and soul to heal a little. And to let them know that some days, simply getting out of bed and having a shower is enough of an achievement.

depression things not to say

And I am sure that they would love to know that they are enough. Just as they are, even with this illness.

depression love and care

Resolutions

resolutions comic

At the close of one year and the beginning of the next many people pledge that they will “change their ways”.

Lose weight, stay organised, join a gym, give up sugar, start a business, take better care of family, save money.

In the last few days of December most of us make the resolution to “make it happen”. For the first few days or weeks, or even months, you go great. Then stuff happens and everything falls over. You end up feeling like a failure and start believing that you’ll never be any good at anything.

The following year you repeat the same process. And again the following year. And again. And again and again.

You create a pattern of: set resolution, go well for short period, fail, beat self up, repeat.

And within a very short space of time you hate yourself because you can never do anything right.

Sound familiar?

What if you could change your patterns, achieve what you set out to do and feel great about it?

Here are some tips that may help:

WIN_20131231_195349 (2)

  1. Find your passion – you’re much more likely to achieve something if you are emotionally invested in it. So choose something that you can get excited about! If joining a gym and working out on weight machines, treadmills and rowers has you almost falling asleep with boredom, don’t go near it! But if your aim is to get fitter, and you love football, consider joining a team in your community. If it’s not something that really gets your juices flowing, forget it! Seriously. It’s not worth the angst you would put yourself through.
  2. Don’t try to do everything at once – losing weight AND saving money AND staying organised AND being a better parent AND giving up sugar AND quitting smoking. I’m exhausted just thinking about all that! You’ll overwhelm yourself with new things to do and adding it all into an already full weekly schedule puts you behind the starting gate even before the horse is out of the stable! This stuff needs to work FOR you, not against you! Our brains can only hold a limited amount of information at a time, so don’t try to cram too much in there at once.
  3. Take the word “resolution” out of the equation – like diets, they just don’t work. There seems to be a societal smart goals explainedmindset about them. Instead set goals. And set SMART goals. If you really want to achieve them, make sure that they are (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)ealistic, and (T)ime based. Let’s say we use the example in point 1. Your overall aim is to be fitter. You love football and decide to join a team. So, you could set a goal of being able to run the length of the field 5 times without stopping during practice, by February 1, 2014. This goal is very specific. You’ve stated exactly what you’re going to do. It’s measurable. You can count 5 laps of the field. Achievable and realistic? That depends. If, right now, you find running 50 metres difficult, you might like to adjust your goal to something more achievable for you, such as running 2 lengths in 1 month. Or extend the time frame to 3 months. However, if you can currently run 3 lengths without any problems, another 2 lengths inside a month shouldn’t pose too many difficulties. Time based? This one is pretty self-explanatory. You put a time frame around the goal. So running the 5 lengths within the month. Or 2 months. Or however long you think would be realistic for you. Plan it out, and make it work for you. If you don’t think it will work within the constraints you have in your life (other commitments like work, family, managing a house and so on), either adjust it so it does fit, or drop it entirely. It’s not worth the angst.
  4. Create a plan – break your goal down into manageable steps so that you know how much work you need to do to reach it. Start from your end point. For example, for the “run 5 lengths of the field” goal in 4 weeks (Jan 1 to Feb 1), you can break that down. You would need to run 2.5 lengths in 2 weeks, and 1 ¼ lengths in 1 week. If you know that, you can assess whether it is realistic and then plan your training so you can reach each weekly goal. There is a saying that goes something like, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
  5. Reward yourself – let’s say you’ve set your SMART goals, created a plan and scheduled in the steps to reach them. Plan in some rewards for yourself at regular intervals. For example, if you want to lose 15kg in 6 months, set yourself up some smaller goals in there. When you reach 5kg, treat yourself to a new haircut. At 10, maybe try a massage as a reward for all that hard work. And at your biggest milestone, a new wardrobe! You’ll need new clothes by then anyway, right? Whatever rewards you choose, plan them in advance and schedule them in. And use rewards that excite you!
  6. “What if?” scenarios – plan in some strategies for when things get tough. Because they certainly will! Things don’t always go smoothly. Kids get sick, extra bills crop up. Stuff happens. Accept that and go with the flow. The key is to not allow a few hiccups to derail you. So what if your child has to have emergency surgery and you end up sitting by the bed eating vending machine food for a week. What is more important to you in that moment? Being there to support and love your child, or getting into the gym at 5am? Life happens. So your goal is delayed a couple of weeks. Big deal. You could try minimising the impact by calling in a few favours from family or friends and asking them to provide you with some healthy, quick meals while you’re at your child’s bedside. But even if the contingency plan doesn’t happen, don’t stress it. A few weeks out of the rest of your life should not be a big enough thing to derail what you are passionate about. It’s much more important to keep your stress levels down so you can deal with the crisis at hand and then, once you’ve recovered, get back to your plan, revise it, and keep moving forward.
  7. Be flexible – things change. Priorities change. Obstacles crop up. You need to be flexible enough to go with the flow and readjust things as you need to. Don’t allow a few obstacles to dictate how you live for the rest of your life. YOU are way more important for that.
  8. Get very clear on why – you need some clarity on why it is you want to achieve your goals. What values do you have good stuff always worth the work it takesthat the goals you choose help you meet. For example, if you want to be a better parent and you decide that you will schedule a weekly “family night” (whatever that looks like for you), ask yourself why. Why is a family night important? Maybe because you love your family and you want to strengthen the bond within the family unit? Whatever it is for you, get very, very clear on it. Write it down, display it. Have it in your face every single day as a reminder (see point 10 as a creative way to do this).
  9. Remind yourself that you are worthy – of the time and effort it takes to improve yourself and your life. Of the reward you will see at the end when you have achieved what you set out to do.
  10. Create a vision board – I published a post back in July about how to create a vision board. They can be an amazing way to keep you focused and remind you of why you are doing what you are doing.

Note: The more excitement there is, the more likely you are to stick with it. So, find your passion and go get it! Feel free to share your 2014 goals and strategies! I’d love to hear them.

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

Letting go of Guilt

everything i do makes me feel guilty

 

I get a lot of people in my office who tell me they feel guilty. Usually for not being able to do something that they feel they “should have”. This could have been for something like, feeling like they haven’t met the demands or requests of their family, or “failing” in eating healthy foods and exercising. Or it could be something completely different. Whatever it is, the guilt that comes as a result can be debilitating. It can bring you to your knees. Literally.

If we looked up “guilt” in the dictionary we would see two general definitions. www.dictionary.com shows the following:

noun

1. The fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt.

2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

3. conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.: to live a life of guilt.

verb (used with object) Informal.

4. 

to cause to feel guilty (often followed by out  or into  ): She totally guilted me out, dude. He guilted me into picking up the tab.  

 

i regret nothing guilt

Both definitions are about wrongdoing. In other words, if you are guilty, you have done something wrong. Now if we were talking about the legal stuff I would agree with you. But if we aren’t, then things are open to interpretation. Of course there are occasions when we make mistakes and we do or say things that may not necessarily be helpful. And in those situations the feeling of guilt serves as a guide, or compass, to help us to know how to make amends and to follow-up with different choices next time.

The type of guilt I really want to talk about is when we have the perception of doing wrong, but in reality we haven’t. For example, let’s just say that a neighbor consistently asks you to take them shopping. You’ve been doing this for weeks and after a while you realise that it is getting in the way of other things in your life. The neighbour rarely thinks about stuff you need to do and never shows you any appreciation. You want to tell the neighbour you can no longer take her out, but you feel guilty for even thinking about it. guilt rooted in actions of pastGiven that there has been no appreciation or consideration, does it really make any kind of sense that you feel this guilt? As the person who is doing your neighbour a favour, don’t you deserve it? If it were your best friend or your mother doing the favour, would they deserve the appreciation?

So why do we feel guilty about it?

Before I go on, I do understand that the situations in which we often feel guilty are not always as uncomplicated as this example. You put many years worth of conditioning and complex family dynamics into the mix and things become complicated very quickly. Trust me, I get it. That said though, while the dynamics may be complex and a little more challenging to deal with, the concepts in dealing with it remain the same. I’ll come back to the strategies in a second.

fear of judgement mark of guiltThat feeling of guilt comes from expectation. Often the conditioning we have experienced shows its face. We expect ourselves to be perfect. We expect that our coping ability is better than everyone around us. We expect ourselves to have the ability to be everything, for everybody. And when we can’t meet those expectations we feel guilty and “bad” for not being able to. We feel inadequate. We feel like failures.

Guilt is also about “shoulds”. You think “I should be able to cope”, “I should help others. Good sons/daughters/mothers/brothers help their family”, “I should be able to manage better”, “I should help. They won’t like me if I don’t”. You better be careful there, cause you’re gonna should all over yourself! 😉 

Seriously … guilt is only ever a good thing when you really have done something wrong and it guides you to change your behavior. Otherwise, all it does is weigh you down, hold you back from living your best life and stresses your entire system.

To let go of the guilt you need to understand that your wrongdoing is your perception and is not necessarily an accurate one. Sometimes our mind plays tricks on us by sending us messages indicating that we are callous or selfish if we don’t feel guilty. Like most things, we become conditioned to it. Try not to listen to those voices.

A few things to consider:

  1. We also feel guilt when we have a conflict between our values. Using the example of the neighbour I introduced earlier, we value supporting others and helping them through difficulties. And we value our family and taking care of them. If what the neighbour is asking prevents us from doing things for our family, those two values could be in conflict. Being asked to justify your values is like asking someone to justify why their favourite flavour of ice-cream is butterscotch. It is an impossible question to answer. You can continue asking “why” forever without receiving an adequate response. And why does it even need justifying? It doesn’t. So work on getting some clarity around what is really important in your life. If you don’t know, try doing the rocking chair test. Imagine yourself sitting on your porch in your rocking chair in your twilight years. Reflect on your life and think about what you want to be remembered for. The important things.
  2. Have a think about your rights as a member of the human race and of your community. Most people would agree that every human being has a fundamental right to be respected, considered, appreciated. To make mistakes, to say no, to care for themselves. Without the need to justify these to anyone else. As a fellow human, you have those rights as well. Why should your rights be any less important?
  3. Standing up for your rights can be scary if you’ve never done it before. But it can also be super empowering. If you would like to take that stand and aren’t sure how to (or if you’re afraid to), try starting with the little things. Try starting with yourself. Try saying no to something that you know doesn’t serve you, or even try giving yourself permission to do something you’ve been denying yourself for a while.
  4. Allow yourself to be imperfect. You don’t have to do it right all the time.
  5. If you feel like you need some support in taking that stand, talk to someone you trust. Someone who you know will give you an objective opinion and support you in gaining confidence, without telling you what to do. If you don’t have anyone in your life who will be that honest with you, please don’t be afraid to speak with a professional. A counsellor, psychologist, life coach, or similar could be very helpful.

dear guilt

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