Black and White Thinking

 

 

I was journaling the other day and wrote “He always says sarcastic things.  What’s wrong with him?”  And continued on my negative spiral.  A few sentences later, I caught myself and realized I was in an all-or-nothing thinking trap.

All-or-nothing thinking has its roots in survival.  When faced with a life threatening situation, we need to make a quick decision.  Fight or flight.  We don’t have time for grey areas.  But most of the situations we face these days are not life threatening.

It is important to honor and understand that part of you that is acting quickly to protect you in some way.

And it is important to learn ways to calm down that part of you so it doesn’t hijack you from being your best Self.

One way is to notice when we are caught in black-and-white thinking and ask yourself:

  • Can I be basically an intelligent person and still do something stupid?
  • Can I love my children and still get angry with them sometimes?
  • Can my partner love me but sometimes be insensitive?
  • Can one part of my life be difficult and other parts be easier and more enjoyable?
  • Can a part of my life be difficult now but in the future get easier?
  • Can some parts of an experience (such as a social engagement or vacation) be awful and other parts of it be OK? *

Of course the answer to these questions is “Yes”, but when you ask yourself these questions, you help slow things down, ground yourself and be more realistic in your thinking.  It’s a way to untangle your Self from that part of you that can get depressed.  I hope this is helpful.

 

*These questions come from the article called “’All or Nothing’, or ‘Black and White’ Thinking and Depression (http://www.clinical-depression.co.uk/dlp/understanding-depression/all-or-nothing-or-black-and-white-thinking-and-depression/)

 

 

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.BethLevineCounseling.com)

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Stop Trying to be Happy

 

Stop trying to be happy.

Yep.  That’s the key to happiness.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, but according to Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, people who focus on being happy are less happy over time.  Dr. David believes that getting to know ourselves, understanding what is really happening for us, slowing down so we can figure out how we would like to respond to our emotions are skills that help us be happier.

Here are some highlights from an interview Maria Shriver had with Susan David:

“One of the first things is showing up. Instead of trying to push our emotions aside or trying to put on a happy face—what I call bottling and brooding—instead, literally drop any struggle that you have within yourself by ending the battle. Not saying to yourself, “I’m unhappy, but I shouldn’t be unhappy.” Or, “I’m miserable in my job, but at least I’ve got a job.”

Really just open up to the fact that we have a full range of emotions. These emotions have helped us and evolved to enable us to position ourselves effectively in the world.”

Emotions offer us important information regarding what is important to us.  In the interview, Dr. David goes on to say:

“It’s important to recognize that our emotions contain data. I’ve never met a mother who’s feeling guilty about her parenting who, at some level, isn’t wanting to be present and connected with her children. Our difficult emotions [point] to the things that we value.

Instead of struggling with whether we should or shouldn’t feel something, it’s important for us to say, “What is the function of this emotion? What is the value? What is this emotion trying to tell me?”

Here’s a link to the interview if you’re interested in reading further:

http://www.dailygood.org/story/1696/embrace-authenticity-how-to-break-free-from-the-tyranny-of-positivity-heleo-editors/

I know that I am not always happy and positive so reading that my happiness does not depend on me being happy and positive all the time made me happy!  I hope it helps you, too.

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Neuroscientists Discover Song that Reduces Anxiety by 65%*

Need I say more?

Here’s a 10-hour version:

 

And here’s an 8-minute version with a cool video:

Let me know what you think.

*https://ideapod.com/neuroscientists-discover-song-reduces-anxiety-65-now-going-viral-listen/?utm_source=Ideapod&utm_campaign=e42b384185-Neuroscientists_discover_a_song_that_red11_12_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b72f288493-e42b384185-54776493

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Happiness

I was feeling down one recent weekend.  As luck would have it, I was doing some research on what makes us happy.

Turns out, we are not very good at knowing what brings us happiness.  Research by Dan Gilbert bears this out.

One of the best kept secrets on what makes us happy is doing for others.  Material goods or achievements are no match for giving of ourselves in promoting our long term happiness.

A 2012 study by Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues at the University of British Columbia shows that toddlers under the age of two are happier when giving treats to others rather than receiving goodies themselves.  But the good news about our capacity for feeling good about giving doesn’t stop there.  The study showed that children are happier when they give their own treats away than giving an identical treat away that doesn’t belong to them.  (http://news.ubc.ca/2012/06/19/giving-makes-young-children-happy-ubc-study-suggests/)

The results of United Healthcare/Volunteer Match Do Good Live Well 2010 on-line study shows that 96% of respondents report feeling happier as a result of volunteering (http://unlimitedloveinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ITS-GOOD-TO-BE-GOOD-2014-Biennial-Scientific-Report-On-Health-Happiness-Longevity-And-Helping-Others.pdf)

So, when my husband came home from his volunteer efforts, taking photographs of cats to increase their likelihood of getting adopted, I asked him to show me his pictures.  Immediately, I felt better as I supported and encouraged him in his efforts and hobby.  I discovered, firsthand, how taking the focus off of me and my ruminations and putting my energies, instead, into helping someone else is a free and easy way to get my happy on.

I highly recommend you give it a try and if you like, share your experience.

If my example didn’t inspire you, this video of Lilica, the dog, and what she does for her family surely will.

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Skills to Calm Down: Petting Time and Getting a Different Perspective

Dali is barking and barking at the top of the stairs.  Nonstop.  I can’t figure out why.  Normally, I offer her “petting time,” which as the phrase suggests, is when I pet her and rub her neck.  When I do that, she calms down over time.  I call up to her and “Dali, come down for petting time.”

But she doesn’t come to me and she doesn’t stop barking.  At another time, I might go to her, but I have a broken toe and don’t want to get up from the couch.  She keeps barking.  I think it is on the fourth or fifth time of me offering to console her that she comes downstairs, trots over to me on the couch and then sits next to me ready for “petting time,” whining the whole time, expressing her internal discomfort with something.

She reminds me of how I can get sometimes.  Internally upset and having a hard time calming myself down.  It is important to have people in our lives we trust and can turn to for support, but I also believe we need to be our own support.

It can take a lot of work to calm ourselves down when we are having a strong reaction to something.  It’s good to have a couple of skills to turn to at these times and it’s good to practice these skills at times other than when we are emotionally dysregulated, so we are pretty good at doing these skills.

Here is are some good questions to ask yourself when you are revved up (I got them from getselfhelp.co.uk).

Ask yourself:

  • What am I REALLY reacting to?
  • What is it that is really pushing my buttons here?
  • What is it that I think is going to happen?
  • What is the worst (and best) that could happen?
  • What is most likely to happen?
  • Am I getting things out of proportion?
  • How important is this really? How important will it be in 6 months time?
  • What harm has been done?
  • Am I expecting something from this person or situation that is unrealistic?
  • Am I overestimating the danger?
  • Am I underestimating my ability to cope?
  • Am I using a negative filter? Is there another way of looking at it?
  • What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?
  • Am I spending time ruminating about the past or worrying about the future?
  • What could I do right now that would help me feel better?
  • How would someone else see this situation? What is the bigger picture?
  • What would be the consequences of responding the way I usually do?
  • Is there another way of dealing with this? What would be the most helpful and effective action to take?  (for me, for the situation, for the other person)

These are a lot of questions, probably too many to remember.  I recommend writing down about 6 questions that resonate for you and have them handy for when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed.  By taking time to think through the answer to these questions, you can get a different perspective on the situation and that can help you manage your emotions more effectively.

Please let me know if you find this approach helpful or if you have some other strategies that work for you.

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Knowing Who You Are Through Actions

 

Dali is one of the most strong-willed individuals that I know.  She pursues what she wants with every ounce of energy that she has.  When I had to take my other dog, Oskar, to the emergency clinic, Dali snuck out the front door so as not to be left behind.  On walks, she sits, unmovable, when she doesn’t want to go the way I want to go.  When she desires a neck rub, she sits by my feet and communicates with body language that says it is time.  And there is no alternative for me but to massage her neck.

Pretty good for a 20-pound dog.

Though Dali is getter older and the hot, humid summer is hard on her, she still is clear on what she wants.  She lets me know when it is time to go home.  She makes it clear when she wants to sit and soak in the sun.  And she determines when it is time for her, at least, daily neck rub.

In her honor, I am taking steps to go after what I want.  I am doing art every day, whether painting or writing poetry, even for a few minutes a day.  Taking this first step gave me more energy to do more of the things that are important to me.  I started a Google Group that I’ve thought about for at least a year and am taking a bike ride at least once a week.  I feel better about myself and more competent.

 

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” Thomas Jefferson

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Positive Qualities of Relationships

 

I am sitting on the couch with Oskar, next to me and he moves to get more comfortable and drapes his leg across my leg.  It is comforting to me and I imagine comforting for Oskar since he put his leg there.

This was after Dali and Oskar and I went to a local park. exploring woods we hadn’t been to before.  We all enjoyed the adventure and I felt closer to my companion animals.

According to research, physical affection and doing new things together are qualities of a long-term love.

 

In your relationships, human and nonhuman, make time for contact comfort and exploring the world together.

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)