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A little while ago I found myself taking a city bus to the Canada Day celebrations here in Calgary. And what a wonderfully fun day of celebration it was. But as my little family and I waited for the bus to go home that evening, there was a bit of a delay and I found myself getting frustrated and admittedly even a little cranky at having to wait. We had walked many miles during the day, and damn it, I wanted to get home, relax a little, and watch a little mindless TV.
We were sitting in a bus shelter and a light, warm, summer rain was starting to gently fall — I started to realise that feeling upset or angry about the slow bus wasn’t really productive, positive or really much fun. Instead of getting crotchetier, I made a quick decision, I decided to take a few deep cleansing breaths and chose to just be present in the moment and just immerse myself in the bus waiting experience.
Once I simply CHOSE to connect to my current surroundings in a non-judgemental way and just be in that moment, a funny thing happened…
I started to mindfully notice and appreciate all the small wonderful details I was missing when I was cranky. The warm rain was falling and leaving beautiful abstract patterns on the glass and the rain smelled so wonderfully fresh and clean. Outside of the bus shelter, a couple of teenage sweethearts giggled, laughed and held hands as they ran in out of the rain. The rain gently pattered onto the wet concrete and the car tires made wonderful swooshing sounds as they drove by. Thunder rumbled gently in the background and I let my mind wander back to the innocence and wonder of my childhood memories of storms and my grandparents warm and loving house. In just a few minutes of acceptance and immersion in the moment, I noticed I wasn’t really feeling crotchety anymore. In fact, I was feeling calm contented and even relaxed!
Looking back, making the choice to accept the circumstance I was in; immerse myself in that moment and step away from feeling frustrated was a really good one that day for me. Through acceptance and making that positive choice to just be in that moment, I shifted from feeling frustrated to feeling quite relaxed and contented. It was really about acceptance and choice. Once I accepted that the bus arrives when it arrives, not necessarily when I think it should arrive, I started on the path away from my negative emotions. By choosing to immerse myself in the moment and actually making an effort to truly see and appreciate my surroundings I became one with the situation and just lived in that moment as it was, rather than expecting it to be perfect. The acceptance allowed me to enjoy the beauty of that experience
Zen Buddhist Monk Tich Nhat Hahn talks about a similar experience about the mundane chore of doing the dishes:
Thirty years ago, when I was still a novice at Tu Hieu Pagoda, washing the dishes was hardly a pleasant task. During the Season of Retreat when all the monks returned to the monastery, two novices had to do all the cooking and wash the dishes for sometimes well over one hundred monks.
There was no soap. We had only ashes, rice husks, and coconut husks, and that was all. Cleaning such a high stack of bowls was a chore, especially during the winter when the water was freezing cold. Then you had to heat up a big pot of water before you could do any scrubbing.
Nowadays one stands in a kitchen equipped with liquid soap, special scrubpads, and even running hot water which makes it all the more agreeable. It is easier to enjoy washing the dishes now. Anyone can wash them in a hurry, then sit down and enjoy a cup of tea afterwards. I can see a machine for washing clothes, although I wash my own things out by hand, but a dishwashing machine is going just a little too far!
While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes.
At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.
. . . There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes. . . .
If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes.
In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future – and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.
Being mindfully aware can be applied to any of life’s routines, waiting for the bus, washing the dishes, driving to work, or even waiting in a line up at the DMV. (Although even Buddha himself probably would struggle to be mindful and present at the DMV).
So how do you be more present and aware when you’re in what feels like a frustrating place or situation?
Here are some tips to help you wait for the bus or wash the dishes:
Recognise your own impatience or frustration.
The first step to stepping away from negative emotions to a more content and a mindfully calm place is to realise that they are happening and that they are affecting us. How often do we find ourselves frowning or scowling and feeling negative and then suddenly realise what a waste it really is to feel that way? Once we realise we’re feeling impatience or anger or frustration we can understand ourselves better and then start to do what it takes to change those negative emotions to more positive or even neutral ones.
Mindfully make the choice!
The real power we have over any environment is in making the choice to be present, aware and immersed in the experience. We can’t choose our feelings and emotions — but if they are negative we can choose how long we hang on to them — we can choose to not ruminate on them making them bigger than they are.
What can you control?
In waiting for the bus, you absolutely cannot control when the bus gets there, but you can control how you choose to perceive the situation and use that time. Use that time to do some deep breathing or other meditation exercises like noticing all of the sensory input you’re receiving — open yourself to the experience, what can you see around you, smell, hear, feel?
Be curious and look for wonder!
Use the waiting time to look around you and be curious about your world. Look at things with fresh eyes. Look for the wonder around you, the beautiful sunny sky, an interesting looking or acting person, a cute giggling toddler, an elderly couple holding hands, a bright and colourful ad or billboard, pretty flowers or a big beautiful tree, maybe the diversity of all of the interesting and colourful people around you. Don’t judge things just explore them and accept them as they are.
Acceptance is key.
Again, the bus comes when it comes. Being frustrated will just make it seem like it takes even longer! Take those deep cleansing breaths and just accept that’s really just the nature of buses!
Use the time while you’re waiting to mindfully make a gratitude list. What are you grateful for? Your family, your job, your shiny new shoes, your recent achievements, your friends, that the bus will be half empty, that the sun is shining, that it’s Friday, that your family’s health is good, that you have a vacation coming up? Gratitude can really help us gain perspective and pull ourselves out of the rabbit hole of negative emotions.
Making the choice to be mindfully aware of the moment you’re in without allowing negative thoughts to interfere can be a wonderful way to lessen the daily stress in our lives — being present can lead to living a more relaxed and harmonious existence.
So the next time the bus is late, just slow down, appreciate the moment and be more curious about the world around you.
If you’re interested in exploring these ideas a little more: Here’s a link to another great blog about learning how to appreciate each moment! http://on-being-real.com/on-being-real/getting-quiet
A Lifetime of Peace: Essential Writings by and about Thich Nhat Hanh —By Nhất Hạnh (Thích.) Da Capo Press; 1 edition (Sept. 25 2003)
Meeting with a therapist for the first time can feel frightening and overwhelming. But there are ways to make starting counselling less intimidating. One of those ways is to make sure you’ve chosen a therapist who will be a good fit for you.
Before committing to a regular schedule with a therapist, there are 4 questions you should know the answers to. These questions can typically be answered in an initial phone or in-person consultation with your potential therapist.
- What Type of Therapy Do You Offer?
Most therapists specialize in a particular kind of therapy such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), Gestalt, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Psychodynamic, or Family Systems. Each of these schools of thought will inform how that therapist works; how they personally believe change and growth occur.
For example, Psychodynamic therapists pay special attention to past relationships and behaviours to help understand current crises. EMDR is used to heal the symptoms of trauma. CBT is used to help us change negative thinking patterns.
It’s also important to understand how your therapist will work with you each week. Will you be assigned homework? What will be expected of you? If you’re seeking therapy for a specific problem, inquire how they would approach it.
- Is Contact Allowed In-Between Sessions?
If it’s important to you to be able to call, email or text your therapist with questions or concerns in-between sessions, ask what their policy is. Some therapists may only allow contact in case of emergency. If this is the case, you’ll want to be sure to ask what constitutes an emergency.
Some therapists may read email messages or listen to voicemails but will not respond, while others will reply or call you back.
Understanding your potential therapist’s policy for contact between sessions is essential to ensure you are both a good fit for each other.
- What Happens if You Have an Emergency?
Once you know what constitutes an emergency, you’ll want to know how they help you handle one. Some therapists will allow you to call them at home or at their office while others will use an answering service that will get a message to them. Still, others may ask you to all a crisis line or go to the hospital.
- How Much Experience Do You Have Treating People Like Me?
You wouldn’t hire a hairdresser to fix your leaky faucet, so why hire a therapist who doesn’t have experience treating people with issues similar to yours. Therapists often specialize in specific areas and become experts on that particular treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask this question to ensure you’re getting the best therapist for your needs.
If they don’t specialize in what you’re looking for, ask if they have any references that do. Often, therapists will refer you out anyway, if they feel that a colleague would be a better fit for you.
Finding the right therapist for you may take some time, but the search will be worthwhile.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help and answer any questions you may have.
When it comes to your physical health, it’s pretty easy to know whether or not you need to see a doctor. If you catch a cold, there’s really no need to make an appointment; however, if you break your ankle, you need to immediately get to an emergency room. But when it comes to your mental and emotional health, things aren’t as black and white.
Here are some ways you can tell if therapy is right for you:
It’s common to feel anxious from time to time, but if you’ve noticed your anxiety levels have increased and are interfering with your ability to do normal activities like work, household chores, and sleep, it may benefit you to talk to a mental health professional.
Trauma or Abuse
Trauma and abuse can leave lasting scars that, if left untreated, can negatively impact every aspect of your life, from your relationships to your ability to experience joy and happiness. Coming to terms with your experience by speaking with an empathic and specially-trained therapist can help you to heal.
Addiction can destroy lives and families. Recognizing you have an addiction is often the hardest part.
If you feel that a loved one is suffering from an addiction, whether it’s substance abuse, gambling, or a sex addiction, a professional can help. Often it is a loved one of the individual suffering from addiction that will approach a mental health professional first.
If you find yourself unable to communicate with your spouse and are wondering if divorce is the only answer, seeking couples counseling could help get the relationship back on track.
Obsessive or Compulsive Behaviors
Life can become unbearable when dealing with obsessive or compulsive disorders. If you find yourself consumed by compulsive thoughts and behaviors that are negatively impacting your relationships in life, seeking therapy can be an important first step to gaining control over your thoughts and behaviors.
Difficult Life Transitions
Difficulties such as the loss of a job, a divorce, or loss of a loved one can make a once-peaceful life seem chaotic and unbearable. The emotions that go along with these challenging life transitions can be too much for many people to handle alone. Speaking with a therapist can be an effective way to work through your emotions and grief.Bottom of Form
Although it can feel frightening and overwhelming to take that first step and reach out to a therapist, learning to manage your emotions and behavior is an investment in yourself that can improve your quality of life in dramatic ways. If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.
Thoughts and Feelings and Words
As a Psychologist in Calgary, journaling is a strategy that I highly recommend to many of my clients. It can be a great method for them to get in touch with their core emotions; a powerful way to explore and understand their thought patterns and really come to a deeper sense of self-understanding. I also use journaling in my own life and I really feel it’s a great strategy that can really help anyone who tries it to understand themselves better. I have also seen this strategy help many clients lessen the impact of anxiety and depression on their lives. I have also seen many clients use journaling as a great strategy to help them work out problems and make better decisions in their lives.
Journaling can be a very simple strategy in which we write down our feelings and thoughts on a regular basis, looking for patterns and insights that may help us improve our situation and live a better life. Journaling is a great way to capture and explore the emotions and thoughts that surround the events of our daily lives. It allows us to capture and explore our habits, actions and reactions to our world — it can help us really illuminate and interpret what’s going on in our lives and decide on better, more productive ways of thinking and acting. It allows us to evaluate our thinking, our emotions, and our behaviour in a way we wouldn’t normally do. Usually, in life, we go cruising along on autopilot and don’t make the effort to look at our thoughts, feelings and actions — journaling allows us to actually explore if our thoughts and feelings are really helping make our lives better.
Journaling allows us to take the time to be truly introspective and creates the opportunity for us to look at how we are acting and reacting in our world and perhaps find better ways of doing so. Journaling is really one of the best ways to advance our personal growth and emotional development. By getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down on paper, you can really gain insights you may otherwise never see.
Journaling — Anxiety and Depression
Though regularly writing in a journal seems a simple thing to do — when you’re depressed or anxious it really may not be that easy. Writing about our feelings and emotions takes energy and sometimes too, it can be uncomfortable or even painful to write about the negative feelings and thoughts we have when we are anxious or depressed. But it might be worth it to try. Journaling is a proven strategy for helping people improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Almost always, part of the mechanism that maintains anxiety and depression is a brain that looks at the world through a negative and skewed filter. A depressed and anxious brain often selectively focuses on negative thoughts and opinions and disregards any neutral or even positive alternative thoughts. Journaling for anxiety-depression can really help sufferers explore their thoughts and feelings, help them feel better and look at their world in a more accurate and less negative way. If you do decide to try journaling be sure you check with your mental health professional and if it makes you feel worse — don’t do it.
Here’s some more information on journaling as a strategy for anxiety/depression:
Journaling and Problem Solving
Journaling is also a great way to help us get some perspective and solve our problems. How often do we really sit down and really look at a problem from a few different perspectives? We usually just think about it a little bit and then go with our gut and make a decision. That’s great sometimes, as our intuition and hunches can often help us make good decisions — but many problems might be better solved by actually looking at them more in depth. Journaling allows us to slow down, look at different perspectives and can really help us make a make a measured and reasoned decision. Writing things down allows us to better see all of the sides of a problem — writing can give us a clarity we may not otherwise see.
We can really only concentrate our mind’s power on the small parts of any problem we’re trying to solve. Although our brains are powerful problem-solving machines, they are still quite limited in their ability to look at all the parts of any complicated problem we may be facing. For example, close your eyes and picture the house you live in — notice you can really only see one view of it at a time. Can you see the front and the back at the same time? Not so easy. The same thing happens with a problem we’re trying to solve — we’re only really able to see a little piece of the problem at one time. Journaling gives us the ability to really look at all of the possible angles and perspectives of a particular problem. A powerful decision-making tool indeed.
Journaling: Getting Started
So, how do you get started — what should you write down in your journal?
A good place is to start with buying a journal that appeals to you, maybe it has funny cats on it, or it’s a particular design or colour, or maybe it’s a beautiful leather journal that appeals to you. Get something that appeals to you and makes you want to write in it!
One brand that is a bit spendy, but very well made and attractive, comes from the Moleskine brand: http://www.moleskine.com/
You can also journal electronically on your laptop or even try a Smartphone App like this free one at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stream-journal-easy-journaling/id972439087?mt=8
So what exactly should you be writing down? There is no right or wrong way to do this.
Here are some great ideas to start with.
Try to look candidly and objectively at the thoughts and emotions you’ve written about. Be frank with yourself, but be careful to not let the journal become a place where you beat yourself up or where you harm your self-esteem.
Sometimes it can help to just let a stream of consciousness flow and go with it!
Find a peaceful time and place to journal every day — make it a part of your self-care regimen.
Remember there is no right or wrong way.
Here is a link to a great website with many more great ideas on how to start journaling:
Keep your journal private — it’s important that you should feel free to share absolutely anything in your journal. Do whatever you feel is prudent to protect your journal and ensure that others aren’t able to access your private thoughts.
So give it a try for a few weeks and see if this method can help you reduce stress, solve life’s problems and find some new perspectives and ideas to improve your world.
Self-doubt can be debilitating. It can hold you back from pursuing your dreams and living the life you really want. Self-doubt can also make it hard to complete necessary daily tasks and make simple decisions.
The good news is, it is possible to overcome self-doubt and quiet that negative self-talk. Here’s how:
1. Take Charge Immediately
When inner doubts start to creep up, many people let them spin out of control and fully take over. Once this happens, it’s incredibly difficult to regain control.
It’s important that you take charge immediately and stop the negative talk as soon as it begins. In your mind, speak to yourself and say something like, “No. Nope, we’re not gonna do this.” Should the negative talk start-up seconds later, talk to it again and put it in its place. Be firm with it! Doing this interrupts your thought patterns – which are basically thought habits – and eventually, your inner self-doubter will realize you’re serious and maybe even retreat.
2. Remember, You Can Always Make Adjustments
Many times, people are so fearful of making mistakes, they take no action toward their goal. But reaching a goal should be thought of as going on a wonderful car trip. You have a map and a basic route planned out, but along the journey, you may decide you want to hop off the highway and try a scenic byway instead. You may decide to backtrack and stop at that cute little souvenir shop. Sure, all of these changes to your initial itinerary may add a little time to your trip, but you’ll still get to your destination. And you’ll get there with more photos and T-shirts and wonderful memories!
Trying to plan every single move you will take to get to your goal can be exhausting and impractical. Just take the first step, then another, and then another… and remember, you can always change your mind and adjust along the way.
3. Talk to Someone
Self-doubt can easily become distorted and exaggerated when you keep all of your thoughts to yourself. But, when you speak to someone and let those thoughts out into the light, you have the chance to hear how exaggerated they may be. Also, talking about your doubts with a therapist who is supportive is a great way to gain a fresh perspective.
If you or a loved one is afflicted with self-doubt and is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.
So what is an authentic life and why is it so important to our mental health and well-being? Authenticity as a concept comes from philosophy and existential psychology/psychiatry and really has to do with how well a person is able to be true and honest to one’s own individual needs, personality, temperament, spirit/soul and/or character, despite the extraneous pressures of the outside world. The modern, outside world puts pressure on us to conform to the world rather than expecting the world to conform to us.
“Authenticity,” as a psychological concept was defined about 15 years ago by psychologists Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis, as:
“the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise.”
While the Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology defines authenticity as:
“Psychological authenticity refers to emotional genuineness, self-attunement, and psychological depth. To be authentic is to live with one’s whole being in the moment, without guile or hidden agendas”
In other words, people who are authentic, live and act in ways that are true to their own sincerest core version of themselves. They “practice what they preach”.
Authenticity can help you live a fuller and happier life in a few different ways. Authentic people are usually able to lead more connected lives as their relationships with others tend to be more genuine and authentic as well. People who are authentic in living their lives also tend to be mentally healthy people because when you live a life true to yourself and your needs this leads you to be more content and comfortable in your own skin. When your view of self is congruent with how you live your life there is less room for internal conflict and this gives you the room to lead meaningful lives.
When we’re growing up, no one really tells us about the importance of living authentically. We’re told that many other things are much more important, things like always behaving properly, getting good grades, making the sports or debate team, going to the right college and then getting the right degree in the right field and then getting the right job and then starting your RSP’s. We effectively learn to make choices based on what other people and society think we should do rather than on what we think we should do, or even what’s really best for us.
Then suddenly, one day we wake up to find ourselves in unrewarding, thankless jobs and/or in unhappy, empty or unbalanced relationships. We find ourselves wondering about the lack of meaning in our lives, even though we make six figures and have all the accoutrements of a supposedly good life — like the big house, the right clothes, this seasons $1500 handbag and the new SUV or sports sedan.
At its very essence, authenticity requires us to start to explore our own self-knowledge and self-awareness. And to begin that process of discovery, it takes real courage! We have to look at ourselves honestly, looking at our life and probing at all of our past life choices. From the moment you ask yourself:
Am I living an authentic life with purpose and meaning?
Am I being true to my core self?
Am I living in accordance with my core beliefs?
Am I truly acting in authentic, genuine ways with the people around me?
Can I be myself around others or do I find myself putting on a mask?
By looking at these questions and self-exploration, you can begin a brilliant journey of discovery, self-fulfilment and maybe even end up living a more full and meaningful life.
Here are some great ways to start on that pathway to authenticity.
Developing Self-Awareness & Self-Reflectiveness
To be truly authentic you have to be self-aware. You have to thoughtfully and honestly consider who you really are at your core — and you even have to include and explore the parts of your personality you may not like quite as much. By engaging in the regular process of self-reflection and introspection you can figure out more about your true self and then discover and plan to live in a way that’s consistent with that self-identity. Great ways to become more self- aware and reflective can be through:
- Going to a good therapist that can help guide you on the journey to self-discovery.
- Learning strategies for quiet contemplation, meditation or even regular being in nature can all give us the time for more effective introspection.
- Regular journaling can be an excellent way to discover who we truly are. Here is a blog I wrote on journaling. https://roberthammel.com/can-journaling-help-improve-life/
Kindness, Empathy and Compassion
Authentic people tend to be of “good character” and really genuinely care about other people. One of the best ways to live a truly authentic life is to learn how and why it’s so important to be kind and compassionate to others. This may mean releasing yourself and others from the insidious and destructive process of holding onto anger or sadness from the past. It may also mean releasing yourself from judging others and developing a sense of acceptance instead. Interacting with the others in your life in healthy and empathic ways can truly help us lay the groundwork to living a more meaningful and connected life for yourself.
Develop A Clear Vision and Visualize
You can look at your life and find what hasn’t worked for you in the past, but do you have a clear idea of what it is you really and truly want? Who do you want to be? How do you want to act or look? Is your job fulfilling, is your marriage a good one, are you a good parent or a good friend? If not, what career might suit you better? How can you improve your marriage or be a better parent or friend?
You have to really explore, imagine and visualize your authentic life. Have some fun dreaming about it and fashioning your “new improved self” in your mind. Visualize as many parts of it as you can and really envisage how it would look and feel if you lived there in those different ways. Developing a clear and vivid vision of where you’re going, makes it so much easier to get there, and especially if the going gets tough or you have to make some big life changes to be true to yourself.
Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
Having an Open Mind
People who make the effort to keep an open mind are also probably better at being authentic. People who are authentic have truthful beliefs about themselves, their abilities, and their self-worth — an open mind allows you to really see yourself accurately and fairly. If you see yourself fairly and accurately, then it’s easier to start making the changes you need to examine your beliefs and values and have a happy and mentally healthy life.
Your “life” up until today, was created based on a set of beliefs and thoughts about yourself and the world that you developed and held. However, maybe you were trying to please other people, like your parents, friends, a spouse or even a boss, rather than being your authentic self. Or, perhaps others in your life were unkind to you or put you down and this has unfortunately caused you to have flawed, inaccurate views about yourself or the world around you. To be authentic you need to challenge some of these pre-existing beliefs that may be holding you back and keeping you stuck in an uncomfortable life that may not fit who you are anymore!
“Always be yourself and have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and try to duplicate it.” Bruce Lee
With an open mind, you can actually begin to study your thoughts and beliefs and hold them up for a more accurate inspection. We can try to really see them for what they are. Maybe you’ve never thought you were talented enough or good enough or smart enough or attractive enough. Ask yourself why you might believe this flawed view of yourself. Did this belief truly come from you, or is it from your parents whose expectations were maybe way too high or perhaps from your sixth-grade teacher who challenged and criticized the way you saw the world or thought you were lazy? Or maybe it was from being bullied or neglected by the cool kids in high school? Regardless, the point is to really be open to the possibility that the view you take of yourself and your world might actually be flawed and inaccurate. You may be living based on assumptions about yourself that may not be true. That critical sixth-grade teacher very well may be wrong about you!
If you take some time for some thoughtful introspection and examination of your beliefs about yourself you can try to understand where they came from and decide if they are truly serving your best interests. For some, believing a flawed view of themselves can lead to a lifetime of heartache.
Find Some Help
Examining, taking apart your life, and then putting it back together again is no small feat and there may be times you feel upset, angry, sad, frustrated, confused, or even overwhelmed. While friends and family may lend a kind ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on, they can’t necessarily help give you what you need to really examine and then change your life. A therapist, on the other hand, is a great collaborator to have in exploring and providing practical tools that will help you explore your thoughts, beliefs and emotions and help you on the path to an authentic life.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” — E.E. Cummings
Heppner, W. L., & Kernis, M. H. (2007). “Quiet ego” functioning: The complementary roles of mindfulness, authenticity, and secure high self-esteem. Psychological Inquiry, 18(4), 248-251.
Lopez, Shane J. The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology. Blackwell Publishing, 2009
Millions of people deal with stress and anxiety on a daily basis. Whether it’s a result of phobias, depressions, or post-traumatic stress, anxiety can take a toll on our mind and health.
If you deal with anxiety you most likely have looked into ways you can help calm your emotional rollercoaster. Perhaps you’ve even tried some self-help techniques in the past. While these methods can provide some relief, it’s often temporary.
To rid yourself of overwhelming anxiety once and for all, you’ve got to get to the root cause of it – the underlying factors. A therapist can help you identify and eliminate these underlying factors.
If you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, here are 3 ways therapy can help:
1. Uncover Root Causes
Like any other health issue, effective treatment gets to the root cause. For instance, your doctor can either prescribe a medication to try and manage your hypertension symptoms, or she can request you clean up your diet and exercise, addressing the root causes of your high blood pressure.
A therapist will assist you in accessing your emotional world so you can study your thoughts and feelings and uncover patterns. Often, unhealthy beliefs and thoughts lie at the root of anxiety. Once you identify what is causing you anxiety, your therapist can begin to create a plan to help you face these underlying issues calmly and confidently.
2. Therapy Helps You Change Your Behaviors
We’ve just talked a little about therapy helping you uncover the thoughts and beliefs that are causing the anxiety. Those thoughts and beliefs are not only making you feel bad, they are causing you to have certain behaviors that may result in negative consequences.
For instance, your anxiety leads to insomnia or denial of intimate social connections. Therapy will help you make lifestyle and behavioral changes. You’ll learn how to cope with difficult situations in a more relaxed manner. Therapy will help you to stop avoiding certain people and situations and develop a calmer and more balanced sense of self.
3. Therapy Offers Continued Personalized Support
All change is hard, even change that’s ultimately good for you. One of the biggest benefits of therapy is that it offers continual personalized support. Your therapist wants to see you succeed and will offer encouragement and advice without judgement.
If you’ve been living with anxiety, know that you don’t have to deal with it alone. If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” Viktor Frankl
We all have problems, issues, trials and tribulations in our lives. Everyone. The reality is that no one leads a charmed life without some kind of problems. Depression/anxiety, marriage problems, difficult teenagers, taking care of aged parents, financial problems, stress at work, health problems. No one gets a free pass. This is the human condition. So how do we start to make things better? How do we start to make a change when we feel that it’s hopeless?
Building a sense of hope
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”. Helen Keller
Are you a hopeful person? Do you wake in the morning with a sense of optimism and positive expectations? Take a look at your environment at home and work. Do you have coworkers, friends and family around you that are hopeful and positive? Do you feel connected to them in positive ways? Do you feel a sense that you are capable and effective in your daily life? Do you feel that you are acting from a place of safety and security or do you feel that you are constantly reacting?
Most importantly, ask yourself: Are you willing to work on those areas in which you are less than hopeful? Are you willing to work on yourself and begin changing your attitudes? Your unique outlook on your own life is the key to strengthening your emotional core, sense of optimism and building resiliency in your life. So how do we start to do that?
Accept the present
One of the most important things that can help us start to make change is to take a deep breath and accept our present circumstances, especially if it feels that they really suck right now. I don’t mean you should stop trying and just accept the suckiness. Just that maybe, sometimes we spend so much time fighting and railing against our negative present circumstance, that we don’t use our energy wisely. We spend our energy whinging and complaining about how bad things are and how much it sucks rather than looking at how to move forward and gain some traction in making our world better. To start the process of change we have to accept that our world is truly full of bittersweet paradox. There will always be good and bad in our life but we always have a choice in how we choose to look at our world and what we do to try and make things better.
When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor Frankl
Take an inventory and set some goals
The first step in building hope, and starting to change, is asking yourself: What do you want your life to look like? What’s going right and what’s going wrong? To really build a sense of hope, we have to set our sights on goals and a future that’s realistic and achievable.
Ask yourself, what do you really, really want to change in your life that would really make things better? A good place to start is to ask yourself the Miracle Question, a thought experiment taken from Solution Focused Therapy.
If tonight while you’re sleeping, a miracle occurred, and your life improved (in realistic ways), what would look differently in the morning and how exactly would it look differently? Describe this new and improved world in detail. Although obviously our world usually doesn’t have miracles asking yourself this question is a great way to stop focussing on the problem and start looking at the possibility of a world where the problem has been dealt with and your life has changed and improved.
Once you’ve really figured out what you want to change, a good next step to do that is to set some SMART goals. SMART goals come from management guru Peter Drucker. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic and time-sensitive.
- Specific — the goal is targeted and not too general or vague.
- Measurable — the goal can actually be quantified/measured so we can see success.
- Achievable and Action Oriented — the goal is something that you can actually work towards.
- Relevant and Realistic — the goal is something you can actually achieve with the skills and resources you have
- Time Bound — the goal has a beginning and ending and a realistic timeline. Next week, next month, six months from now?
Perhaps the most important part of setting goals is actually making the effort to set them! You can’t hit a target if you don’t have a target to aim at!
Develop the conviction that change is possible and things can get better
One of the foundational building blocks of change is starting with the belief that change is possible in your life. Without this firm belief in place, it’s really hard to move forward.
You need to have a firm belief, with little doubt that the achievement of change is a possibility. Decide for yourself that being hopeful and starting change are possible and realistic. Visualise and even fantasise about what your life will be like after you make this change. How exactly will it be better? How will it feel? What will improve?
Try to use positive language and positive self-talk
Part of developing a “firm belief” that we can change is through using positive language and self-talk. I’m sure most of you have heard the term “self-talk” or the term “inner voice”, or even the intimidating sounding “critical inner voice” or “negative self-talk”.
But what exactly is self-talk or the inner voice? Well, it appears to be a form of natural and automatic “inner dialogue” that pops in and out our conscious thinking. It takes the form of thoughts, expressions, suggestions, ideas and concepts that transmit themselves into our “consciousness” and into our awareness. It is often this “little voice” that guides our day-to-day behaviours and tells us we should “call our mom, catch up on our paperwork or try harder at some task”. No, the little voice does not mean you are crazy. Pretty much everyone has a little inner or self-talking voice to some degree.
One of the best ways to build a sense of hope and optimism is to challenge any negative self-talk/thoughts rather than avoiding or ignoring them. Is your “inner voice” telling you that you’re not good enough, or that you’re goals are just too hard and unachievable? Here is an article on how to change and challenge your inner voice if you find it’s really overly negative and critical: https://roberthammel.com/shut-up-quieting-the-critical-inner-voice/
Remember that Buddha said:
All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.
Look to your past to build hope for your future.
Take into consideration all the things you’ve already done in your life. Remember and chronicle your earlier achievements and successes, make a list or journal about them. What challenges have you overcome before? We all have a list of success and achievement that we can look to help build our confidence that we can indeed change. In fact, the reality is that one of the constants in human life is change! Evolution shows that we are constantly evolving adapting and changing… it’s “natural” to change and improve and “unnatural” to stay stuck in a negative rut!
Be around positive, optimistic and energetic people.
Who in your life fills you with that sense of hope and positive energy? Are the people you hang around with helping you feel more hopeful and positive or are they draining your energy with whiny negative attitudes? Water seeks its own level, so make an effort to be around people that support your vision for a better future and want what’s best for you.
Put in the effort, beginning with your commitment to start
Fostering hope and starting to change requires the courage to take that first step. Close your eyes, pinch your nose and jump!!! Take that first step in the right direction and be committed to yourself and the process of change.
Think about why you’re doing this, focus your attention on the goals you’ve made, and fantasise about how it’ll feel and what your life will look like when you complete this important change into your life. We’ve all had the experience of wanting to start an exercise or diet “next week” — when next week just keeps getting put off, and it never actually happens. Make the commitment to begin — and then follow through. Don’t expect a miracle and that everything will change overnight. Becoming more optimistic and positive requires you to check on and even “adjust” your attitude every day and maybe even a few times a day!! Realise it’s a process and it will take work and time! Sometimes change requires us to take two step forwards and one step back.
Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.~ Christopher Reeve.
Look for inspiration wherever you can find it
What charges your battery and makes you feel inspired? Look to your spirituality or faith, to inspirational reading or music. Some people even look to nature and being outside or even to running, hiking or other physical activity that makes them feel inspired. Look for things that “light your fire”. Really try to care for yourself and perform “self-care”, here’s a link to some self-care ideas: https://roberthammel.com/7-steps-to-emotional-self-care/
Start to keep a journal
Chronicle your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Journaling can be a great way to help you understand why you have been feeling lost and start to change to a more positive and hopeful way of being. Choose a suitable place to sit down and just start writing about your thoughts, attitudes and feelings; what you are thinking, or whatever seems important to write about. You can also use your journal as a way to document the progress toward your goals. Journaling is also a great way to keep track of how far you’ve come and how much you’ve accomplished in the journey to completing your goal of change. Buy a new journal that’s appealing to you; a pretty cover, leather covered, nice paper or whatever appeals to your sense of aesthetic. Here is a great place for journaling ideas https://journaltherapy.com/journal-cafe-3/journal-course/
Accept that sometimes change is a bit painful
Finally, we have to realise and accept that sometimes in life, we have to be in an uncomfortable place to move forward in positive ways. Feeling a bit distressed often just means that we are breaking out our “comfort zone”, that we are growing and we are learning to live our life in a better way! Making the effort to change can seemingly require a Herculean effort at first, but that’s why it’s worth it!!! There really is some truth in the tired cliché, “No pain, no gain”. Making a change often takes effort and time, and sadly there are usually are no shortcuts. Change your self-talk and tell yourself that even though it may be difficult and hard at first; it’s worth it, you’re growing towards a better life, that it’s only temporary, and that it will get easier!
Good luck and Godspeed in starting that change in your life! Also, remember that seeing a Psychologist for therapy can also really support you in making changes in your life!
There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow. Orison Swett Marden
This blog is not intended as medical advice, treatment or diagnosis and should in no way replace consultation with a mental health or medical professional.
Drucker PF. The Practice of Management. New York: Harper & Rowe, Publishers; 1954