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Spring Cleaning

The process of letting go has been prevalent on our blog… and, well, just one of those things we try again and again. “Spring Cleaning” is coming up for many Americans, and it is that time of year when we physically let things go and throw them away. Throwing things away is permanent, its scary and it means it is gone forever, how extreme?

Eleanor Rooselvelt

The usual spring cleaning losses…

  • Clothes
  • Paper and mail
  • Old gear and seasonal things

Spring is approaching and spring cleaning is on a lot of our to do lists. For some, it’s a big task and it’s easy to procrastinate, or we only do “half” then stuff the rest away to “do it later”. Every year there are more things for us to buy, things we need, want, and things we might have to get because the last thing was out dated. But the old thing might be in the basement or closet somewhere, you know, just in case.

As we accumulate more things, where do we put them? We stuff them in places, or crowd areas in our homes which then become crowded space we can’t use. We start to lose track of things we need daily (keys, wallet, phone) in the mess of clutter that has become our personal space. Some searches end in frustration or anger or a promise to ourselves that we will clean it, when we have time. Just think how this could apply to our experience, relationships, and judgments?

We have these “just in case” things in other areas of our life. Our relationships, our experiences,  our self-image, clothes, and they all have one thing in common- the past. Things from our past might serve us purpose again. The people of our past might care about us again. The old clothes might look good on us again or we might fit into them. What if we need them again.

The longer we are able to hold on to past experiences the more conclusions we can draw through our own analyzations on the present moment. For example, we can over-analyze a fight we got into with someone in the past and start to find blame, judge ourselves, think of the “what ifs” and what-could-have been. We can dig up old experiences of rejection and start to feel incompetent or unwanted again in a new relationship. Sometimes these judgments of what happened and who said what come back and we find ourselves vulnerable in the present.

trash_can

 The other spring cleaning items…

  • Relationships
  • With ourselves
  • With others
  • And then past experiences 

Where do we fit new experience, or new relationships if we are dealing with old? How do we accept past judgment, or fear and move on to experience something new when there is clutter in our mind?

 

Take some time this spring to reflect over the items you may be holding on to and sorting out the ones that may not be serving you anymore.

Here is a process to try:

  • Reflect on the experience, relationship, item etc.
  • What brought up negative emotions? Be aware.

Experience? Person? Thing?

  • Set an intention to resolve, accept, and/or address

   “It is not a part of my identity”, “It does not affect my relationship now”

      OR go to yoga, treat yourself to dinner, call a good friend

  • Take time to process how life is without
  • Repeat when necessary :)

Setting and Maintaining Boundaries

By: Anne Carter, LSW, CADC

The process of developing healthy boundaries takes time and practice, but it can open up an individual’s life to recovery from codependency*. Initially, the concept of boundaries can be off-putting. It can be confusing to know what belongs to who. Some of my clients have reported they believe setting boundaries is mean or cold.  I believe setting healthy boundaries is a loving act. While being codependent individuals can lose a sense of themselves and merge with others. They take on feelings and energy of those around them. During the process of boundary setting, people can take back what is rightfully theirs, and give back the rest.

*codependency: a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another, being highly involved (and sometimes responsible)  in another’s emotions, reactions, decisions, and behaviors. (unhappy, unhealthy relationship)

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At first setting these boundaries can seem difficult and stir up uncomfortable emotion. As time goes on, it will feel more natural. Individual therapy, group therapy, and a network of recovering individuals can provide support during the process of discovering and maintaining healthy boundaries.

 

Below is a meditation from May 13th on property lines from The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie.

Property Lines: May 13

A helpful tool in our recovery, especially in the behavior we call detachment, is learning to identify who owns what. Then we let each person own and possess his or her rightful property.

 If another person has an addiction, a problem, a feeling, or a self-defeating behavior, that is their property, not ours. If someone is a martyr, immersed in negativity, controlling, or manipulative, that is their issue, not ours.

If someone has acted and experienced a particular consequence, both the behavior and the consequence belong to that person.

 If someone is in denial or cannot think clearly on a particular issue, that confusion belongs to him or her.

If someone has a limited or impaired ability to love or care, that is his or her property, not ours. If someone has no approval or nurturing to give away, that is that person’s property.

 People’s lies, deceptions, tricks, manipulations, abusive behaviors, inappropriate behaviors, cheating behaviors, and tacky behaviors belong to them too. Not us.

People’s hopes and dreams are their property. Their guilt belongs to them too. Their happiness or misery is also theirs. So are their beliefs and messages.

If some people don’t like themselves, that is their choice. Other people’s choices are their property, not ours.

What people choose to say and do is their business.

 What is our property? Our property includes our behaviors, problems, feelings, happiness, misery, choices, and messages; our ability to love, care, and nurture; our thoughts, our denial, our hopes and dreams for ourselves. Whether we allow ourselves to be controlled, manipulated, deceived, or mistreated is our business.

In recovery, we learn an appropriate sense of ownership. If something isn’t ours, we don’t take it. If we take it, we learn to give it back. Let other people have their property, and learn to own and take good care of what’s ours.

 Today, I will work at developing a clear sense of what belongs to me, and what doesn’t. If it’s not mine, I won’t keep it. I will deal with myself, my issues, and my responsibilities. I will take my hands off what is not mine.

Restructuring Our Thoughts for Successful Change

Written by: Victoria Kessinger, MA

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Restructuring the way we think, is a real thing and it can be done. Before I launch into my topic on how thoughts affect our ability to change, I want to start by focusing on YOU.

  • Take a moment and reflect on your weight, body, or overall appearance.  Close your eyes and listen to your thoughts about weight, body size, how you look…anything that comes to mind.

We will come back to these thoughts…so hold on for just a minute!

As a counselor who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for weight loss, I am constantly observing the way people talk about their weight,  their eating and their exercise habits. I have seen a dramatic contrast between how one talks about their own weight and how they speak about the habits of others.

  • When speaking about our own weight, we often use a harsh tone of voice and focus on our mistakes, shortcomings, and flaws.
  • When speaking about the weight of others, we tend to recognize strengths and progress, and even offer encouragement.

This tendency to be our own worst critic is concerning- it hinders our ability to lose weight.  When we say these negative things to ourselves we experience shame, guilt, sadness, and anxiety.  When we experience these negative emotions, we are less likely to make healthy choices in the future because this negative emotional experience weakens our ability to think rationally and make healthy choices.

I once worked with a man who had struggled to lose weight for over 10 years.  During our work together,  I would ask him to share some of his thoughts about his weight loss and  he would often say, “No matter how hard I try to eat healthy, I am never able to reach my weight loss goal”.  This statement hindered his success because it  influenced him to make poor food choices for two reasons.

1. The statement had an overtly negative tone and therefore caused him to feel a negative emotion.  When he experienced negative emotions, he would attempt to comfort himself with cookies and candies, which in turn would cause him to feel guilt and shame.

2.  The statement did not acknowledge any of his successes (sustaining an exercise routine, wearing smaller clothes, etc).  Not acknowledging his successes caused him to feel hopeless and therefore hindered his motivation to continue working towards his goal.

My client’s experience  is very common, many people trying to lose weight fall into a similar cycle pictured below.

 

Now think back to your own thoughts from the beginning of this…

  1. What kind of thoughts did you have as you began to reflect?
  2. Did you think about the things you wanted to change?
  3. Did you have thoughts about your last meal?
  4. Perhaps, you thought about a workout you skipped?

Today, I encourage you to examine these self-talk statements and, where needed, practice a different method of self-talk that may make your weight loss goals a little easier.

Self-talk is powerful and is one of the greatest influences on our behavior. Much of our self-talk statements are automatic, however, so we often do not recognize how much or how often we talk negatively to ourselves.   In therapy,  I help people restructure their self-talk thoughts so that they have a positive influence on their behavior.  This process is called cognitive restructuring.

Before we walk through the steps of cognitive restructuring, compare the manner in which you speak to yourself and the way you speak to someone you love. This someone could be your partner, sister, father, dog, etc.  It just has to be someone that you care for and support. compassionate and supportive to.

Here’s an example to help you along using my client mentioned earlier.

This is how my client would talk about his weight loss progress:

“Last week I was only able to work out two times and I overate over the weekend.  I am not improving”

This is how  he would talk about his wife’s weight loss progress:

“She wishes she had lost more weight but she has made so many improvements to her diet and her energy level has increased!”

When you reflect on this comparison and your own personal experience,  do you notice a difference?  Were you nicer to yourself or your loved one?

Most likely, you have noticed you are nicer to your loved one.  This makes sense because you want your loved one to be happy, feel supported and  be confident.  You probably also want your loved one to succeed, so you say positive and affirming statements to them.

So my question for you is this: Why talk to yourself differently than you would a good friend or a loved one?

If you feel like your self-talk could use a positive boost, here are some simple steps to change your thinking, your words, and start talking to yourself like you want to feel supported, confident and successful!

Step One:

Think back a few minutes to the thoughts that surfaced when you reflected on your own weight, body, and overall appearance.  Pick one of those thoughts and, for the purpose of this activity, choose the most negative one.

Step Two:

 Examine this thought.  Is this causing you to experience any emotions? Would you say this thought to your loved one? If you were to say it to a loved one, how would they feel?  Does this thought acknowledge both the positives and negatives?

Step Three:

Rewrite this thought so that it is strength based, compassionate, and supportive of your goals.  This is the hardest step because it will require you to evaluate yourself in a way that is not natural.  Take your time with this step and try your best to be nonjudgmental.

    Use the following guidelines to help rewrite your self-talk statements

1. Think small. What are the little things you are doing to reach your goal?  This could include carrying a water bottle or adding a piece of fruit to your daily intake.

2. Be objective. Try as much as you can to be nonjudgemental.

3. Focus on the present.  What can you say in this very moment to help yourself stay motivated?

4. Recognize the challenges of accomplishing your goal.  I.e. rearranging your schedule to accommodate workouts or avoiding the danish platter in your office’s break room.

5. Offer support.  Just like you would do for a loved one, show yourself some kindness and understanding.

Step Four:

Speak the new positive thought (aloud or in your head) to yourself as many times as you can.  This step may feel awkward at first but roll with the awkwardness; it will lessen as you practice this activity.

The following is an example how I used this process with my client mentioned previously.

Step One:  He recognized one of automatic negative self-talk thoughts:

“No matter how hard I try to eat healthy, I am never able to reach my weight loss goal”

Step Two: Through  examining this thought, he recognized it caused him to feel hopeless and insecure about his ability to reach his goal.   He also recognized that he would not say it his wife because he would not want her to feel like a failure.  The most significant thing he realized that this thought did not acknowledge the fact that since he began his weight loss journey, he was wearing a smaller clothes, he experienced less joint pain,  and his sleep had dramatically improved.

Step Three: He then rewrote the thought so that it is more supportive:

“Though I do not always eat healthy, I have made many positive changes to my habits, am experiencing success and I am closer to my goal then I was three weeks ago ”

Step Four:  In session, he repeated this statement many times (about 10) and out of session he repeated this thought to himself when he wanted to skip a workout or was tempted to make an unhealthy food choice.  He found that this positive self-talk statement increased his motivation and focus as it helped him recognize his progress.

 

Losing weight is challenging, and maintaining a healthy weight requires an entire lifestyle that supports that goal.  Many people find that they are able to lose weight but are unable to sustain their weight loss long term.  Compassionate, supportive and encouraging self-talk can make this goal more achievable.   

To read more on self-talk and weight loss, check out the work of Dr. Albers, a psychologist who has spent her career helping individuals improve their eating habits.

Enjoying the Process

Written by: Dr. Kristina Pecora

A friend recently asked me “HOW do I enjoy the process?” She is getting back into dating and, frankly, fearing/hating the disappointment of the excitement-rejection cycle. When listening to her latest recount of a guy who may or may not be too-good-to-be-true, I – admittedly in my therapist voice – suggested she “enjoy the process”. She, rightfully, questioned what exactly that is and how exactly to do it.

Fair enough! So let me try to explain. First, here are my basic steps to enjoying the process… then I’ll explain what I mean:

  1. Commit to the moment
  2. Have no agenda
  3. Spend most time focusing on yourself

Now, the steps defined:

  1. Commit to the moment

You may have heard people talking about “living in the moment” or “being in the moment”. Its not a new thing – Jon Kabat-Zinn built a career and a stress center in Massachusetts out of teaching people to live in the moment, built on the Eastern meditation practices of mindfulness. Modern day therapy often focuses on being mindful, incorporating not only relaxation, but a focus on the moment as helpful in combating today’s chaotic environments. It’s also been a common theme here on the CBM blog.

What this means is to be present. Try not to anticipate the future or dwell on the past. Try to let those thoughts pass you by on their way from one ear to the other and out, and enjoy what is now now. The old Chinese Proverb says it best: Chop wood, carry water. You cannot do both at the same time. So you might as well do what you are doing right now, and find some joy and contentment in it.

  1. Have no agenda

Building on the previous concept of the moment, having no agenda means committing to whatever is happening at the present without focus on the past or the future. That means, not giving the past or future power to influence the present.

People who dwell too much on the past tend toward depression – they look back and see mistakes, regrets, times they were harmed or cheated. People who look too much to the future tend to be anxious – they look for ways to make sure the future is bright, good, successful…ways to ensure happiness. But looking backwards or forwards means we have some idea of how this life should happen. Like we have control over each interaction with our boss

… or how each friend feels when we are honest about their cooking

… or which person at a networking event will choose to give us business

…or how to ensure that this online date will really, really like me

 

 

Having an agenda means that we are not open to the developing process of life. Not having an agenda, relinquishing control to the moment, means we see all the nuances and subtleties and unexpected opportunities of the human process. We are not focused behind or far ahead. And we don’t weigh others down with expectations or fights for control.

  1. Spend most of the time focusing on yourself

Focusing on yourself does not mean acting selfishly. Instead, inward-focus is a great way to make sure you stay in the present moment.

  • When you take a moment to close your eyes and listen to your heartbeat, you are enjoying the present moment of your physical being.

  • When you lock eyes with the person across from you and pay attention to what they are saying, you convey the message, “I am here for you. I am giving of myself to you right now.”

  • When you put time and effort into activities you enjoy – that challenge you physically or mentally, that make you think or feel, that allow you to enjoy your body and your mind – your face and body language and attitude to the world reflect that. Other people see that you can make yourself happy, that you know yourself, that you can find some peace and contentment in this chaotic world. And what could be more attractive than someone who knows and can be peaceful within themselves?

These three steps are some general ways of finding your own process, and finding a way to enjoy it, even when it is uncomfortable or difficult.

Defining your process and your way of enjoying it takes a long time, and the patience to make mistakes and pick yourself back up to start over. I think it is best done within the supportive environment of therapy. Or at least done with the aid of a good friend over a long period of time. I can admit that I am still working on my process, but that the work done so far has given me more enjoyment and a brighter outlook on life.

Say Hello to the New You

Written by: Andrew Rehs

Are you ready to say hello to the new you? Whether you are successfully working towards a goal, revisiting old goals, or not sure where to start, this article will empower you to reach your desired goal by strengthening your mindset around that goal using 5 key ingredients. It is nearing the end of the second month of the new year, and statistically speaking, most resolutions start to lose steam at this point. Whether this sounds like you, or you are just looking for a dose of motivation, these psychological tools will surely put you closer to your goal…without even leaving your seat!

 

Before we dive into those 5 ingredients, let take a minute to focus on how we view goals. Some call them resolutions, some call them lifestyle changes, some simply call them goals. Are you looking at your resolution as a solution to some problem within yourself? That may be why some encounter problems with their resolutions! Who wants to focus on what’s WRONG about you? Instead, I recommend using a different term altogether – ‘lifestyle change’ perhaps, or ‘new direction’. By viewing them as resolutions, it could be cognitively counterproductive, as simply a way to resolve something. You are a great person with many positive attributes…own it! So, instead of fixing what is wrong, utilize what is right. It may be more beneficial to view these as measurable and realistic. Instead view them as goals towards lifestyle changes. Goals are mentally positive; resolutions are naturally negative as they are a fix to a deficit. One may be already starting the path to success a step behind.

 

Let’s get started. Take a look at your personal goals right now. Whether you are well are your way, or “failing to launch”, these small alterations could make a big difference. Consider this a psychology boot camp. If you started with 10 resolutions, that may be your problem right there. Starting with three may give you a much better chance at reaching two goals than if you start with 10 things you semi-desire change in. Make sense?

 

Starting with the first (of your three) most serious goal, we are going to mix in 5 powerful ingredients to strengthen it. Making these simple changes to the way that you think already puts you miles ahead of where you were before…without even breaking a sweat. To give you a better idea of what I am talking about, I am going to use one of the most popular resolutions…weight loss. Let’s assume that your goal was to lose weight (for your health, both mental and physical, do not be too ambitious with your weight loss goals). This is how it may look:

 

STEP ONE – Make sure that you know when your goal is met.

This is a big mistake people make when creating lifestyle changes. They lose site of the finish line before the start of the race. Many people make goals such as wanting to lose “some” weight, read “more” books, smoke “less” cigarettes, etc. These are all good for improving self, but there is no way to know that you are making progress towards the end, because there is no end. Instead, make sure that there is a way to measure your goal, like this:

I want to lose 10lbs vs. I want to lose weight.

 

STEP TWO – Be sure that your goals are positive (removing “negative” wordage or vocabulary from your thought process).

This will help you articulate what is being created from this goal, focusing on the end result and not what you are reducing. In our culture, we focus so much on ridding ourselves of things which already puts us behind psychologically. Examples include LOSING weight, QUITTING cigarettes, LESS stress, REDUCE debt. You see how these are all using negative words? You would be surprised how much this gets in the way of mental success. Instead, it may be helpful to view your goal in an affirmative way like this:

I want to weigh 240lbs (assuming you currently weigh 250lbs) vs. I want to lose 10lbs.

STEP THREE – Be as specific as possible! One is much more likely to accomplish a goal if he or she has a better idea of the path towards that goal.

Runners compete on a course or track. If they competed in a vast piece of land with no sense of direction, it would be very difficult to consider it a competition. Remember, the more focused your goal is, the more motivation you can pack into it. Sticking with our weight loss example, look at the difference between a specific goal and a loosely organized resolution:

I want to weigh 240lbs by running 3x per week for 45min and abiding to a strict nutrition regimen vs. I want to lose weight by going to the gym more (does this sound familiar?)

 STEP FOUR –Try thinking of your goals as if they are already happening, or even already happened!

This is the part where I usually lose my clients. There is a little psychological secret in powerful goal setting that goes against our grammatical rules in the English language…but if you could not tell from my blog already, grammar isn’t everything!

This is something that may sound strange when you say it out loud but already puts you ahead of your “2014” self. Many studies in the field of psychology, business, philosophy, and even metaphysics have shown us over the years that thinking of goals in present tense helps us achieve these goals quicker (and stronger). This is how it works:

I weigh 240lbs vs. I want to weigh 240lb

STEP FIVE – Create a finish line.

Now it is time to put it all together with this crucial component. Ask any counselor, therpist, motivational speaker, or mentor and they will tell you that an essential ingredient to any good goal is a realistic deadline, which in turn makes it even more measurable, attainable, and real. There needs to be a finish line to call it a race (whether that “finish line” is literal or figurative). Staying with the weight loss example, here is how a good deadline works:

I want to lose 10lbs by April 1st, 2015 vs. I want to lose 10lbs

Notice I did not use all of the other rules in that last example. I wanted to see if you were still paying attention. Now, let’s try and put all five of these rules together. If you create a powerful goal using a positive, detailed, past or present tense, and measurable deadline, your goal should look something like this:

I completed my goal of weighing 240lb by April 1st, 2015 committing to a strict regimen of running for 30 minutes 3x/week and abiding by a healthy, well rounded diet.

It may seem like a wordy goal, but if you thought of all of your goals like this, you will put yourself at a psychological advantage, thus putting yourself miles ahead of…yourself. This year is YOUR year and anything can be accomplished if you believe it can. This may be the third year in a row you have tried to lose weight, quit smoking, and decrease debt, but it may be the first year you have tried to view your goals using powerful ingredients. Remember to hold yourself accountable for your goals, and keep them in plain sight. My recommendation for this is to take a dry erase maker and write the “details” of your goal on your mirror to remind you every morning where you are at for the weekly components of the goal. For instance, if you want to start running three times per week, right “Run” on your mirror with the numbers “1, 2 and 3” underneath it. This will allow you to simply mark through the number with your finger, holding yourself accountable for your goal and keeping it where you can see it.

 

REMEMBER THIS: This is YOUR TIME. Say hello to the new you. I would like to end this blog entry by sharing some of the best advice I have ever read by the insightful business author, Brian Tracy: “If you do not have goals yourself, you are doomed to work towards someone else’s goals for the rest of your life”. Go forth and MAKE!

LGBTQ Supports at CBM

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By Cynthia Holmes, MA, LCSW

Chicago CBM is PROUD to support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, etc. community!! Some ways we can support you:

LGBTQ+ COMPETENCE IN A COUNSELOR: LGBTQ+ folks can be challenged by anxiety, depression, relationship issues, life changes and stress just like everyone else. While everyone is different and will bring their own experience to counseling, you should not have to educate a clinician around the basics of gender and sexuality. You deserve a therapist who is familiar with the needs of the community and who will offer a safe and affirming environment to work through any issues you are facing and help you live your best life.

COMING OUT: Whether you’re still figuring out your sexuality or gender, if it’s the first time you’re coming out, if you are considering coming out at a new job or role, or to that one last person you’ve been afraid to be your true self with, we can work together to help you live an authentic life.

EMBRACING YOURSELF, YOUR GENDER and/or SEXUALITY: LGBTQ+ folks can face a disproportionate amount of judgement, discrimination, shame and many other negative things in society. This can often become internalized and can affect our sense of self-worth, self-loathing, self-confidence; we can experience internalized homophobia, judgement, anger and shame. These are examples of unjust baggage that may hold LGBTQ+ folks back in life; in success, relationships and happiness. You deserve to work through these limitations, leave the baggage behind and live a happy life!

I’M OUT, NOW WHAT? Sometimes we spend so much of our lives in the closet, we’re not sure what to do once we’re out! We can also feel intimidated, inexperienced, lonely and unsure of what to do or where to start living an authentic life. Therapy can be a great safe space to help work through feelings holding us back and practicing stepping out of our comfort zones and into a fulfilling life.

TRANSITIONING: You already know your physical body doesn’t match who you are inside – congrats on embracing your truth! You may want a place to talk through your options to make the best decision for you, before taking any action. You may want a supportive environment to talk through the changes you will experience as you transition. You may need a letter for surgery. You might want support in dealing with friends, family and the workplace. Transitioning is different for everyone and it can be incredibly helpful to work with a therapist as you’re going through such a big life change.

PARTNERS, FAMILY & FRIENDS OF LGBTQ+ FOLKS: Sometimes, no matter how much we love a person, we may not understand the changes or decisions in their lives. Sometimes their decisions directly impact our lives and we need a safe space, with a therapist who understands, to work through our feelings and reactions. It is often helpful to get your own therapist to work through these things so that they do not do damage to the relationship with the LGBTQ+ person in your life.

For all these reasons and many more, Chicago CBM is happy to support LBGTQ+ folks and their partners, families and friends! Please contact us to see if we are a good fit for you.

Our Chicago CBM LGBTQ+ specialist, Cynthia Holmes, is a bisexual cisgender woman who is out, proud and very active in the LGBTQ community. She believes everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin, be able to embrace their gender and sexuality and live a happy, authentic life.

She is a graduate of the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and the University of Michigan’s Women and Gender Studies program. She recently obtained her License in Clinical Social Work and has been working in the social service field for 15 years.

Cynthia’s passion is with Gender and Sexuality, and she specializes in helping Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) and other folks with the coming out process, feeling more comfortable in their own skin and living full and healthy lives. She is happy to work with partners and family members as they process a loved one’s coming out or transition and how it impacts their lives.

She also works with adults going through life transitions, overcoming obstacles and creating positive changes. Her methods are empowerment and strengths base approaches to collaborate with individuals to help them live their best lives.

Introduction to Mindfulness

by: Caitlin Liddle image1

 What is Mindfulness?

Is “mindfulness” familiar as a current buzzword, but you’re not really sure what it means or how it works? Have you heard it come up in yoga, at work, or in your therapist’s office?   Mindfulness may seem elusive, but it’s really a very simple idea. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a prominent meditation scholar, defines mindfulness as:   “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” This may seem so basic and obvious, but if you think about, how often are you really doing this? In today’s society, it’s common to be multi-tasking—doing work while listening to music while talking on the phone. Judgments are also often a daily part of our lives—“that movie sucked”, “my boss is a jerk”, “ brussel sprouts are gross.” While these examples may seem relatively benign, judgments about ourselves and others and being stuck in our head worrying about the past or the future can contribute to significant mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. If I’m judging myself as “a bad person” and my job as “stupid and pointless,” and ruminating about this all day instead of focusing on tasks that need to get done, chances are I will be experiencing a lot of emotional distress. Mindfulness can help us identify judgments as just thoughts, not as facts, and helps us practice focusing on what matters to us. To learn more about what mindfulness is, a good place to start is: http://www.mindfulnesscds.com

Benefits of Mindfulness: 

Mindfulness, through a variety of research studies, has been proven to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve focus
  • Improve relationships Improve memory

To find out more about these and other benefits, go to http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx and http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm.

How do I get started?

To practice mindfulness, you will always have what is called an “anchor”, a focal point for your attention. During the course of the exercise, when you notice getting distracted from the anchor, by thoughts, feelings, judgments, bodily sensations or external noises, (which you will because you are human) gently and non-judgmentally bring your attention back to the anchor. Throughout the exercise, make sure you are breathing deeply and evenly, diagphramatically (through your stomach).

2 simple exercises to try:

Set a timer for 5 minutes. Close your eyes and sit upright. The anchor will be your breath and counting to 6 on each inhale and exhale. Every time you notice having judgments about yourself or others, or your mind wandering, notice that thought or distraction, and bring your attention back to your breath and the counting. At the end of 5 minutes, gently bring your attention back to the room.

Practice a simple activity “One-mindfully.” Instead of watching tv while eating dinner while checking your email, just eat dinner. Observe with your senses the way the food smells, tastes, feels in your mouth, noticing any urges to check email or distracting thoughts coming up and bring your attention back to focusing on your meal. This can be done with any simple task. Other examples are washing the dishes, taking a shower, putting on lotion.

Trust that Good Will Come

By: Casey Burden

It’s a new year, and just like every beginning to the new year, we hear a lot of talk about what changes people hope to make for themselves in the year ahead. The ideas and fantasies bring excitement and perhaps, for a short time, we do see some action on making these goals a reality. What about when the excitement dissipates and we revert back to what feels more comfortable in the patterns of yester-year?

 

Change. People don’t like it. We enjoy thinking about change and maybe even talking about it, but thinking and talking is very different from taking action. In order to get to the point where we take action towards our goals, we need to invest in setting ourselves up for success…and plan and prepare for the process. This is an impossible task to do alone. We need support. Support can look like journaling, individual therapy, group therapy, meetings, outreach calls, readings, meditation, etc. These are some of the tools we can put in place and utilize to hold ourselves accountable while also being healthy outlets for the challenges and successes the journey will bring.

 

Shame and isolation are two possible outcomes we experience when we feel we have failed our goals. They can lead to depressive feelings, low motivation, and esteem challenges. Support and accountability combat the shame and isolation which can keep us stuck. This year, I challenge you to not only come up with your vision for 2015, but to surround yourself with a lot of support. Plan your process, know where you will turn and what your efforts will be to get there. Have the courage to do things differently. Have the courage to change.

Quote from Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon:

“My thoughts are my teacher. Are they teaching me to love and appreciate myself and others, or are they teaching me to practice isolation?”

Tree pose

Activity

Meditate for a moment on the year ahead. Make a list of personal goals. In a separate list, make a list of professional goals. Don’t limit yourself. If anything were possible, what would you like to see for yourself? Next, make a list of what you are ready to let go of (things, attitudes, people, patters, behaviors, etc)…

*This activity is modified from More Language of Letting God: 366 New Daily Meditations

Busting Excuses

by Dustin Morici

What are your goals? More importantly… what is keeping you from them?

In our day-to-day we often find ourselves pushing aside our dreams in favor of what is easy in the moment.

“Want to go for that run?” . . . “It’s too cold. “

“When are you going to start that project?” . . . “I am busy today, maybe tomorrow”

Life’s perfect circumstances rarely fall into our laps. It takes planning to find motivation where you might have none. Here are three easy tips to help you bust excuses before they start.

Plan out your Day

We all know the phrase “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.” There is usually time to find in your day. Setting a time period for tasks can help you move swiftly by giving you a goal to shoot for. Structure will also keep you from acting on a whim and doing something that completely throws off your day.

Meet your Needs

Head off the cravings that pull our attention away from our goals by making sure your needs are met. Maybe you didn’t go on that run because you did not feel safe outside or sheltered from the elements.  Maybe you’re hungry…

Get that warm jacket on, strap on some reflectors and find somewhere to run with plenty of people!

maslows-hierarchyexcuses…excuses…excuses…

Motivate your Mind

Our brains can be our best friends or our worst enemies. Rather than allowing your head to begin thinking of things it would rather be doing start to visualize yourself completing a step towards your goal or think about how nice it will feel to accomplish that goal.

Self-talk also works! “I will feel good once I accomplish this”

Last winter I thought it was too cold for me to ride my bike. The excuses stared to pour in… “I don’t like to exercise inside…I can’t be expected to train in THIS… my glasses fog up from my breath, it is unsafe to not see.. my face might get frost bitten..I don’t want to pay for a gym membership…”

 

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Be careful what you hide behind, the solution might just be a little ridiculous…

Move to Lose that Bad Mood!

weight_loss

Many people have resolved to move more, get in an exercise routine, or lose weight in 2015. There are plenty of reasons for doing this – general physical health, dealing with a health condition like diabetes or heart disease, or the personal satisfaction of being in shape.

But we have all heard the frustrations of not sticking to these resolutions.

  • The average resolution lasts for 11 days
  • Its too cold outside, and the treadmill/gym/classes are intimidating
  • It takes a long time to see the results of these resolutions and people lose steam, motivation, even hope

Perhaps that is because we are all looking for the wrong results…

What if I told you that you could FEEL better just 10 minutes after exercising? And what if you could experience these GOOD FEELINGS after just a few minutes of activity?

Researchers in exercise science and psychology have been studying the mood boosting effects of bursts of activity and intervals for a while now. Articles have appeared in magazines, journals, and blogs, from the American Psychological Association to the New York Times, talking about how short bursts of activity can improve your mood. Short bursts of activity (as few as 10-15 minutes!) can

  • work as a powerful antidepressant
  • decrease anxiety and stress
  • improve your focus and memory
  • help you sleep better
  • And who doesn’t need a mood boost these days?!?

As a therapist, I’m constantly looking for ways to support clients outside of the appointment. As some of you may know, I also work in research on this very practical question. At Northwestern University’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (http://cbits.squarespace.com/#welcome), my colleagues and I use scientific principles to create web and mobile apps to help people treat their symptoms of depression and anxiety.

One of our latest offerings  – MoveMe – encourages users to move for short periods of time to feel a mood boost by providing easy access to

  • Links to exercises that fall in the category of mood boosting bursts to do every day to help you feel healthier, happier and stronger
  • Reminders and notifications to help motivate you to be active in your everyday life
  • Easy scheduling using your calendar to help you plan and do activity that will help your mood

Ultimately, MoveMe can help you remember that a little activity goes a long way to improving your mood. And if you can feel happier and healthier after just 10 minutes of activity, this just might help you keep moving for longer…and see those results you’re looking for in those resolutions!

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If you’re interested in trying MoveMe out yourself, head here!

 

MoveMe is currently only available for Android user systems, but there are other mood-boosting apps out there that seem promising. I’ve reviewed a few, and here are my top two non-MoveMe recommendations (and if you’re downloading MoveMe now, you can link to these from the app!)

 

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout

Nike Training Club

 

My message for everyone out there today is this: Getting up and moving for short periods of time – even just 5 minutes – can help you feel happier, healthier, more energized, and boost your mood.  So the next time that couch is calling, ask yourself – Would it be worth doing a little activity to help me feel even better?