Six Ways To Change Your Thinking For The New Year

9Don’t go into a new year with an old mind is a saying from one of my favorite T.D. Jakes sermons. We are usually our own worst enemies because of the way we think and prevent ourselves from living our best lives. We stand in our own way more often than any other person or circumstance can.

While this may make sense to most of us, we all know people who place blame on everyone else as if they had no control over their lives at all.

In order to change this, we have to rewire our minds. We have to change the way we think. We have to change the things we look at and let into our minds. We have to make a conscious decision to live a better life.

Listening to this sermon for the 100th time and thinking about some of the things that are holding people back , I wanted to share six things I think can help us live more authentic and happier lives .

  1. Remove distractions from your life. A friend of mine wrote on Facebook recently, “Fight the temptations, remove the distractions and focus on the goal at hand!”  It’s so easy to be entertained by distractions that serve us no good other than to steal our precious time and keep us from focusing on what’s most important. Many of us claim to not have the time to do the things we know we need to do because we are wasting time on distractions that in the long run are meaningless.
  2. Fill you time with meaningful experiences. Talking about distractions, too many people get caught up in the latest gossip, or know more about what’s happening on some reality television show than they know about their own family and friends. They are so into social media and reality television that their own lives are passing them by. We have to escape from this false reality made up by marketing and media companies and remember that what is real is our own lives and our own family and friends.
  3. Take control of your feelings and actions. Life happens. Sometimes it’s not fair, but ultimately, we are responsible for the way we react to any situation. If we overreact, blow up or let someone else ruin our day, it’s our fault. When we learn to stay calm and react with a clear mind instead of having an emotional reaction, we’ll realize that we can control much more of our life and not just find ourselves hanging on for the ride, being led by our emotions or someone else. Learn to control your emotional responses.
  4. Get out of your comfort zone. Most of us live and die in our comfort zones. We’re afraid to take risk that may pay off with great rewards. We become comfortable with what we have, even if we don’t like what we have. We let fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of pain and even fear of success, paralyze us from living the best life we can live. Success is not promised. We’re going to fail sometimes. We’re going to make mistakes. That’s how we grow. Don’t trade comfort for a lifetime of unhappiness. Regularly practice pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
  5. Live your life. Living in an action word. Stop waiting for permission to live your life. I have a friend who felt stuck in a situation and he said after awhile he felt like he was waiting for someone to tell him that it was okay to move on. We don’t need anyone to give us permission. It’s our life! If we want to do something and we’ve thought about it and feel like it’s the right decision, then we should act on it and not wait for someone else to believe in us or say that it’s okay. Too many dreams are killed because people are waiting around for someone else to tell them it’s okay to act on it.
  6. Look at things like they’re a dessert. One of the things that make us suffer in life are our attachments. Our attachments to things, ideas and even people. We can be so attached that when those things leave us or we must let them go, our entire lives are turned upside down. One way to combat this is to not get so attached. Like going out to dinner, if at the end we have dessert, that is great… we’ll enjoy it and appreciate it, but if the next time we go out to dinner we’re not offered dessert, we don’t get upset about it, we just go, “oh, I guess there’s no dessert tonight” and we move on. We can prefer to have certain things and people in our lives. We can prefer for certain things to happen in our lives, but it’s when we decide that they must happen, is when we set ourselves up for suffering when things don’t go our way. When relationships fail, jobs fail or a new idea makes us have to rethink everything we thought was true about something, being flexible in our thinking will help us to adapt and learn as life changes as it does constantly.

The beginning of a new year gives us opportunities to start over, to let things go and to reinvent ourselves. The greatest thing is, we don’t have to wait for a new year to do these things. We can do this every week, everyday, even every minute if it serves us! If today doesn’t go your way, don’t let it ruin your week. Learn from the mistakes of today and go out and have a better tomorrow!

Please share any advice you have, anything you’re leaving behind in the new year or anything that has helped you start living more mindfully and happy.

-T.

Dealing With A Breakup

Getting over someone you once or even still love can be very challenging. However, there are scientifically backed ways to help alleviate the heartache and jumping into another relationship is not one of them. Sure it may help take your mind off of your exe, but if there are any unresolved issues within yourself that haven’t been dealt with, you can quickly find yourself living out the same relationship with the same issues, just with a different person. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Time

They say time heals all wounds and science says that is largely true. Give yourself time to get over the relationship. It’s a lot like grieving when someone close to you has died. You wouldn’t expect to get over that very quickly, so why expect any different when it comes to the death of a relationship?

I remember after the end of one of my relationships, I just kept thinking I wanted to get over it and forget about that person right now and for some reason, that only prolonged the process. Don’t stress about it. The day will come when you realize that you haven’t thought about that person in a day, or two or more.

It may feel like it’s taking forever for that day to come, but research suggests that we overestimate the amount of time we think it will take for us to get through the rough patches of a break up.

With that being said, below are some ways to help speed up the recovery process.

Avoid Social Media

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Specifically, avoid checking up on your ex on Facebook, Instagram or what have you. Seeing if he or she seems happy, has moved on or is talking about you, will do nothing to help you move on.

A study in the journal Cyber-psychology found that people who checked up on their exes’ Facebook page are more likely to have negative feelings towards the person, more likely to desire the person and less likely to grow from the break up, which should be one of your main goals.

It can be very tempting to just “see what they’ve been up to” but try by all means to avoid falling into that trap, even if that means unfriending, blocking, unfollowing or just avoiding social media all together until you are strong enough.

Avoid The Halo Effect

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It’s no uncommon that after a breakup, we start to minimize the negative qualities of the person and the relationship, while amplifying the positive. We can start fooling ourselves into thinking that this person was someone that he or she surely was not. Don’t pretend that your ex was perfect.

Instead, dating expert Andrea Syrtash recommends making a list of five ‘must-haves’ and five ‘can’t-stands’ in a potential partner.

Syrtash recommends making a meaningful list and instead of writing down things like, “Must be over six feet tall and have brown eyes”, try “I must find this person attractive”.

Once you’ve completed this exercise, you might be surprised to find out that none of your exes were truly suitable for you.

When I did this exercise I realized that two of my exes I probably never should have dated seriously because they were missing some major qualities on my “must-have” list. Learning that helped me to start looking for more suitable partners while helping me let go of the idea that any of my exes were right for me and that I was somehow missing out on something with them.

Don’t Assume The Breakup Means You Suck

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Your ability to deal with a breakup has a lot to do with the way you see yourself according to a 2016 paper in the journal Personality and Social Psychology.

One of the authors, Lauren Howe, states: “In our research, people reported the most prolonged distress after a romantic rejection when it caused their self-image to change for the worse. People who agreed that the rejection made them question who they really were also reported more often that they were still upset when they thought about the person who had rejected them.”

If however, you have thoughts such as, two people can both be good, descent human-beings and still not workout because they simply don’t belong together, you’re likely to suffer less and move on faster.

Challenge the story you tell yourself regarding what the break up reveals about you.

During one of my breakup I initially told myself that I sucked and didn’t deserve to be happy, but I quickly had to change my narrative by remembering how much of myself I had lost during the relationship (i.e., traveling) and how happier I would be doing those things again and especially if I could find someone to do those things with.

Journal Positively

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Writing down how you feel about the break up can help, but mostly you need to write about the positives of the break up. What did you learn? How did it help you grow?

After one of my breakups, a good friend of mine asked, “What did you learn from her because she was a very good teacher”. At first I was perplexed, but then I realized what she meant. I had put up with and dealt with a lot of toxic issues in that relationship and some of the most powerful things I’ve learned about relationships came from the pain and suffering I went through in that one.

I had to stop telling myself how much I would miss her and start appreciate how much I enjoyed coming home to peace and not having to walk on egg shells.

A study published in 2015 in the journal Social and Personal Relationships found that writing in a redemptive way about how you turned suffering into a positive experience can help you cope better.

Maybe during the break up you learned to follow your gut instincts, to not settle, to not allow someone to make you feel small or that you are stronger than you ever thought you were.

Write a redemption story! Don’t simply journal about how bad you feel. That will only make you feel worse.

Talk About It

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Of course as a therapist I’m going to recommend talking about the breakup, although some people may think that talking about it will only make things worse.

In a study published in 2015 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers found that people who participated in research about their break up by filling out surveys and talking to experimenters reported less distress about the breakup and themselves afterwards.

Simply talking about it with a good friend or even a therapist if needed can help you rebound in a healthy way, so don’t avoid talking about it out of fear that it will keep you stuck.

Breakups suck and sometimes they can be devastating, but they don’t have to leave us feeling shattered, empty or lost for long. Like adjusting to anything new, it takes time and that’s okay.

The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The grass is always greener on the other side” and many of us fall victim to this way of thinking. We end up never truly happy with where we are right now because we become fixated on the thought that true happiness lies somewhere else. We never feel good enough about our current situation because  we always feel like something is missing. This causes us to feel unhappy and incomplete. It deprives us from enjoying our present situation.

This can happen with our relationships, jobs and environment. It prevents us from feeling satisfied, secure or stable because we’re always thinking there is something better elsewhere.

In many ways, it’s really a struggle with commitment and is usually based on fear, fantasy and projection.

Fear

One reason we may believe the grass is greener on the other side is because we fear commitment, we fear being trapped, losing our individuality, being bored or being oppressed.

In people who fear commitment, having to compromise certain individual values for the good of the whole may feel like control and oppression. Because of this, they start believing that there is something else out there that will allow them to have all they want, desire and value, on their terms without any compromises.

In reality this is rarely true, but this is where fantasy comes into play.

Fantasy

We want what we don’t have and when we have “the grass is greener” mentality, we create a fantasy that says we can have everything we don’t have without losing any of the things we are currently happy with.

What usually happens however is that once we jump the fence to the other side,  after the “honeymoon phase” and the novelty of the new situation wears off, we tend to realize that there are other things that are missing  there also and find ourselves longing for the other side of the fence again.

It’s similar to the 80/20 rule when you have 80% of what you want, but you put so much emphasis on the 20% you’re missing, that you jump ship to have it, only to find out that now you’re missing the other 80%. Ideally you’ll find the 100% you’re looking for, but because no person or situation is perfect, that is usually a fantasy and this is where projection comes in.

Projection

When we are trapped thinking that the grass is greener on the other side, usually it’s because we are placing our personal unhappiness onto something outside of ourselves such as a relationship, job or living situation. We think that if we can just make those things perfect, then we’ll be or feel perfect and happy.

However, the dissatisfaction really lies within us. This is why when some people change jobs, partners or even locations, after the initial high of the newness wears off, they often find themselves just as dissatisfied as they were before.

The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

The grass always starts off lush and perfect (the honeymoon phase), but eventually it begins to wear down the longer we stand on it. You can jump the fence to the other side, but eventually that grass too will lose it’s freshness. The grass on the side of the fence we’re on, no matter how dull it may look, once watered, nurtured and maintained can become greener.

The grass we have may never be as lush as it was in the beginning (because we get used to it, recognize it’s imperfections, etc.).

Our constant search for that greener grass that will always be shiny and lush is just our internal desire to be happy, stress free and fully satisfied.

However, we are all imperfect people. None of us are without flaws. Therefore, the search for that evergreen grass is just an illusion that will always leave us feeling incomplete and unhappy with our current situation, no matter how good that situation actually is.

Does this mean that you never try to better your situation? Of course note. There are definitely times when you MUST better your situation such as moving from a job where you are unhappy and finding one that is more fulfilling, or getting out of an unhealthy relationship and getting into a healthy one.

However, people who have this “grass is greener” mentality usually have a certain pattern that keeps them from being happy in the present for very long:

Repetition: Constantly looking for something “better”, such as jobs, relationships and location.

Perfection: Always looking for the “perfect” job, environment or partner. They can be in a really good relationship, but leave it because they think there is someone out there just a little better than their current partner and they’ll constantly repeat this cycle, never feeling fulfilled for long.

Wanting to have their cake and eat it too: Not wanting to compromise. They want to have all of their wants and needs met without having to give up anything in return and that rarely works in life.

Feeling like they need to move, runaway or escape: Always wanting to relocate, change jobs or relationship in order to “start over”. They don’t realizing that wherever they go, there they are. They take them and their deeper reasons for not being happy with them and will most likely just recreate that dissatisfaction somewhere else or with someone else.

Some people are fine with living life like this, in this constant state of not being satisfied, happy or stable for long. If you want a life that is fuller, more stable and secure, then you have to resolve this issue by:

  1. figuring out what are the underlying reasons within yourself that are keeping you from being happy and able to commit.
  2. Work on, nurture and increase the connections to what you presently have in your life in order to strengthen them so that they don’t become unsatisfying.

Once you have an internal place of stability, you’ll find less of a need to keep searching for that illusive fantasy of perfection in your external life.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder
It’s Winter time and the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder and there are some people who will began to experience a sense of sadness that they only feel during this time of year. Some call it the Winter Blues, but what if it’s more serious than that?
One of my clients experiences this. Every year around the Winter time she begins to feel sad, litheness and extra tired. Sometimes she gets deeply depressed and even has thoughts of killing herself. And then as Winter ends she comes out of it. It’s been like this for many years, for more years than she can remember.
She suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

What is SAD?

SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the same time of year each year for atleast two consecutive years.
Say for example that you feel depressed during the Winter, but feel much better during the Spring and Summer months, you may have SAD.
This doesn’t mean that you have SAD if the holidays remind you of a loved one that has passed away, so every Thanksgiving/Christmas you get depressed, that’s called grief. With SAD, there is no real reason for the unset of the sadness other than the seasonal changes.

What Causes SAD?

While some people may have Seasonal Affective Disorder during the Summer months (they usually feel more anxious, loss of appetite),  it’s much  more common during the Winter months due to shorter daylight hours and gloomy weather.
SAD’s prevalence in the U.S. ranges from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska. As a matter of fact, many people develop SAD when they move from warmer parts of the country to colder, northern parts.
It’s thought that the lack of sunlight upsets the body’s biological clock, circadian rhythms and interferes with serotonin, a chemical that affects mood.
Anyone can develop SAD, but it is more common in women, people who live far from the equator, people between the ages of 15 and 55 and also people who have a relative who has SAD.
Symptoms of SAD
SAD is often called Winter Depression and often people think it isn’t a serious disorder, but it is a type of major depression which means it can come with all the severe symptoms of major depression which include suicidal thoughts.
Other common symptoms include:
  • Feeling sad, irritable, or anxious
  • Loss of interest in things you usually found enjoyable
  • Eating more
  • Weight gain
  • Sleeping more, but still feeling drained
  • Difficulty concentrating

Common Treatments

Common treatments for SAD include traditional therapy, antidepressants and light therapy (where you are exposed to artificial light for a duration of time that mimics outdoor light).

One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways of treating SAD is through exercise. Getting outside and going for a brisk walk, especially when the sun is out or doing anything including chores that get your heart pumping (especially if it’s near a window with sunlight), it can help combat SAD.

My client is so accustomed to this disorder that she prepares for it every Winter, mentally and physically so that she can get through this period with as little interruption to her everyday life as possible and she does so very well using all of the tools at her disposal including exercise, friends, her therapist and medication if needed .

 

Bet On Your Strengths

pushupcs700_0I suck at math. I always have. It got so bad that I almost didn’t graduate from high school because I just couldn’t get through algebra.
In college, I had to take every math class twice before I could pass it. I became so comfortable with it that I knew the first time I took College Algebra or Statistics, I knew it was just for practice.
It was frustrating and it made me even doubt what the hell I was doing in college in the first place.
Eventually I got through all my college math courses. I even got decent enough that I passed Research Methods and Advanced Research Methods on my first try.  By then I had learned I needed to read my math books just like they were any other text book and teach the material to myself. Still, I was never good at advanced math, I just learned how to get through it.
I was unhappy for a lot of my high school and early college years because I struggled and focused so much on my weakness with math. It wasn’t until later when I started focusing on my strengths like art, writing and behavioral sciences that I became happy. Only then did I really start to feel smart and like I belonged on a college campus.
I literally felt free when I didn’t have to take another damn math class and was able to actually focus on what I was good at.
A Deficit Mindset
Many of us spend much of our lives unhappy and unsatisfied because we are constantly focusing on our weaknesses. We focus on the things we aren’t good at and neglect the things we are good at.
People who suffer from depression, low self esteem and anxiety are especially notorious at this.
Many of their personal stories paint them as victims and not victors. They feel weak and only focus on their weaknesses, not the strength it took for them to even survive the sometimes traumatic experiences they went through.
When people have this deficit type of mindset, they tend to not only focus on their faults, but also the faults in others instead of focusing on their positive qualities and seeing other people for who they are.
This type of mindset can affect any of us.  If we focus on or weaknesses and try to become better, of course we can improve, but we will probably never become great at it and we will expend a lot of time and energy for minimal gains.
What if we used that same amount of time and energy to focus on something we are good at?
Sticking with the math analogy, I know someone who has a great business mind, but she isn’t particularity good with numbers so she hired someone who is and that has allowed her to take a lot of her energy off of the finance part and focus more on creating the business of her dreams.
Had she allowed the fact that she wasn’t good with numbers scare her from starting a business or bog her down with late nights balancing books and getting frustrated, her business may not have been as successful as it is. She may have never been free to do the things she was good at doing such as marketing and networking.
FOCUSING ON YOUR STRENGTHS WILL MAKE YOU HAPPIER
By putting all of your energy into your strengths and not so much on your weaknesses, you’ll not only be happier,  but you will start taking your life to a new level and start living more authentically.
I have a client who was recently very depressed and suicidal. On paper she is very successful. She’s smart, married, has one child, makes six figures, has a beautiful home and a luxury car. She has accomplished everything she has ever dreamed of, but she is unhappy because she’s always afraid of losing it all.
She worries about losing her husband, losing her job and losing everything that comes with that. Although she is brilliant, she is constantly telling me about all of her faults. It’s like she doesn’t even see her strengths. She’s focusing so much on her weaknesses and worried that other people will see them, that she is filled with anxiety and depression.
Her “weaknesses” are keeping her unhappy, distracting her from the wonderful life she has right in front of her, and serving absolutely no purpose at all other than driving her crazy.
We don’t have to pretend we don’t have weaknesses. We have to embrace them, except them and then focus on our strengths. Our strengths are our keys to living more authentic lives.
Focusing on your strengths can boost your confidence and overshadow your weaknesses. 
One last example from a couple I counseled.
The wife was so focused on her husband not being a “manly man”. In her eyes, a manly man fixed cars and was a great handy man. That simply was not her husband. He was mechanically challenged. She focuses so much on that area of “weakness” that she was very unhappy in the marriage.
Through strength based counseling she learned to see her husbands strengths. First of all, he was a good man, a good husband and a terrific father. He adored her and the kids, took care of business and yes, maybe when the sink got clogged he was clueless to fix it, but that’s what handymen and plumbers are for. She actually fell in love with him all over again when she learned to focus on his strengths. She had almost stopped seeing him for the things she had falling in love with him for.
Unfortunately, many people never learn that and she could have ruined their marriage simply because of her world view of what made a man a real man and focusing on what she perceived as her husbands faults.
Many people do this to themselves. They are living day to day unhappy because they are constantly focusing on their deficits instead of embracing their strengths. They drive themselves to unhappiness, misery and even suicide.
“You need to bet on your strengths and don’t give a f*ck about what you suck at,” is one of my favorite quotes by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
I’m not saying not to challenge yourself. I believe we need to challenge ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations in order to grow. What I am saying is, if you suck at something, don’t let it tear you down. Find something you are good at and become even better at it. That’s what’s going to take you to the next level.