Tag Archives: self-help
I came across some interesting research recently in the field of anxiety. A study from the University of California Berkeley has found that trying to numb out while anxious may not be very helpful. Instead engaging the brain in various cognitive tasks can help. We have for years encouraged people to distract themselves from repetitive anxiety provoking thoughts. This approach is still valid because we want the brain to calm itself down and recenter. The point is that the anxious feelings will not last forever and that if you are distracted you can slow the mind/body down in a way that helps a person relax and move out of the anxious state.
This recent study Sonia Bishop (you can find the full study here and also another great study by Bishop on anxiety here) looks at how the anxious individuals have trouble accessing a part of their brain that would allow them to be distracted by a regular task. Basically what this means is that if you are experiencing anxiety and look to do a load of laundry to distract yourself, the way your brain is wired may not be as open to using the task as a distraction (which in turn the hope is that it would relieve a bit of anxiety).
So … what should you do? Bishop’s study explore the idea that an anxious individual might do better off distracting themselves with a mind game like chess, sudoku, or some kind of puzzle. This is because an anxious person needs more stimuli to distract them then a task their brain already knows the answer to. The brain needs something with a bit more kick to help it regulate in an anxious state than it might if you were feeling calm. Once the brain is stimulated and activate (by something not routine) then it can jump outside the normal anxious producing thought process.
Next time you are feeling anxious… try challenging your brain. You might just find you are more relaxed, enjoy yourself, and even learned a thing or two. This new research seems like a win-win all around.
For those of us that suffer from anxiety and depression, thinking negative thoughts is pretty much what we do. We know intellectually and emotionally that it isn not healthy for us on multiple counts to continue this stream of self imposed misery. Yet, somehow our natural way (genetics, brain chemistry, environment, upbringing, or circumstance) brings us back time and time again.
This is where taking some action on the cognitive level can help. First let me say that I realize what I’m about to ask you to do may seem silly, forced, or even just down right lame. I am fully aware of this, as I have thought all of those things myself. I will not pretend to myself or you that consciously working on your thoughts is easy or fun. It feels odd when your brain isn’t used to thinking in a positive way.
So here it is. We will go with baby steps here. When you think about something that makes you anxious or sad, force yourself to think the opposite. For instance, I often have super fearful/negative thoughts about my back pain. When I catch myself thinking “This will never end, I’ll be broken forever, I suck.” I will know that it feels real to me AND I will say out loud (although you do not have to) “This can end, I can be better than ever, and I am glorious.” Now the second may not feel real but it is at least providing some sort of positivity in my brain that is swamped with negatives.
The point at first is not to have you feelings 100% different. This is a process. This approach provides a couple things for those that try it:
1) You can laugh at how silly you feel doing it.
2) You are trying something different which may actually have good results where your auto-pilot does not.
3) You are one thought at a time telling your brain to connect in a different way. You are literally teachin git a new way to think.
4) You are stopping the constant self-infliction and choosing to put in some level of positivity.
5) You are learning a fuller range of emotions by reminding yourself that it is not just sad/worried but also happy/calm.
There is more to this than just doing a see-saw of thoughts. But this first part is worth trying, as an action step towards changing those thoughts that you do not want. You have trained your brain for a long time to be negative… dont’ expect it to feel easy or good introducing positivity. However, you have been with the negative long enough it is time to bring about something inspiring.
It is about that time of year again. You have made it through the first two holiday rounds and the final one is upon us… the New Year. With this celebration comes the tradition of resolutions.
Research by Miller and Marlatt (2005) shows that exercise, dieting, and decreasing in drinking/smoking all are high on the list of things people resolve to change for the upcoming year. These are great and I encourage everyone to make changes towards a happy and healthier lifestyle.
However, there are areas of your life that could also use a bit of a boost. May I suggest that you consider working towards a goal of more self-esteem, a more loving perspective towards yourself, or even taking a bit more time for relaxation? It may not appear at first glance that these things are worth setting up as a resolution, but I assure you that you will not regret the effort.
Imagine for a moment that someone is asking you if you made any resolutions for the new year and you smile back saying that you are going to say 10 positive things to yourself everyday. The person asking can’t help but respond in a positive way. There is a cycle of positivity that immediately is created the moment you start sharing you desire for personal growth. It is just how these things work.
And while working out is good for your mind, body, and soul… so is encouraging self consideration. You can always make time and space for kindness towards yourself. There is no excuse due to weather, feelings, sick, or being busy. You can easily make the positive thoughts habit without much effort at all.
Oh yeah, Miller and Marlatt (2005) also talk about in their research about how if you want to make a resolution stick one of the best tricks is to, “Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the better you will do.” How nice the researchers agree that you should spread the word on your new choice to be much more loving to yourself.
Go forth and take on the new year with gusto!
We all things that make us smile. There are little quirks that we indulge in that maybe are ultra popular, ultra cliche, or ultra cheesy but for whatever the reason we feel better when we partake. There is a name for these little bits of fun “guilty pleasures.”
We may not be proud of taking pleasure in watching Grey’s Anatomy, playing video games, drinking Starbuck’s coffee, reading romance novels, singing to 80′ music in the shower, or checking the lolcats every morning.
However, I would challenge that these happy little moments should be put in the same thought process of guilt. If you take pleasure even for a moment in something that makes you smile, forget the hardship of life, or helps you recenter… then I say go for it!
Life is tough enough and why shouldn’t we let ourselves watch our favorite movie for the 17th time if it makes us happy? We all need a break from the monotony, stress, and concerns of our lives. Also when we can take little moments to take-a-breather we are all the more able to deal with real pain when it comes our way.
We invest in our own lives with each choice, each day, and each interaction. It only makes sense that we would also make a point of enjoying ourselves in ways that feel luxurious to us for whatever the reason. You don’t have to tell anyone that you like to make rice crispy treats once a month as a way to relax and splurge, but I would encourage you to be brave and proud of who you are.
There is no shame in finding joy… take it where you can and embrace it 100%. The more you take ownership of your own happiness the more you have the ability to increase it. There is no need for guilty with pleasure. Love your life and your choices and your happiness!