How to Avoid Irrational Beliefs – Part 1

Generally, our brains are wired to control our thoughts and make connections to find solutions to our problems. However, some of these connections are not true or non-helpful since they are based on faulty patterns or biased perspectives on ourselves and the world around us.

These cognitive distortions are often hard to recognize as they have been reinforced as part of our daily thoughts. Even though they come in many forms, irrational beliefs share a commonality, such as a pattern of thinking; they are flawed and potentially damage our mental well-being.

Here are 3 tendencies out of 11 that we will explore in this post:

The fallacy of change – It involves two different but related beliefs that are damaging and inaccurate:

  1. For instance, being helpless and a victim of fate: “the quality of the report was mediocre since my manager gave me a brief the other day.
  2. Being in complete control of ourselves and our surroundings, hence feeling responsible for the pain and happiness of those around us. For instance: “Are you sad because of me?” 

Remind yourself that complete control is faulty reasoning since no one has absolute control over their situation or other people. Even in a crisis, you might not choose what you do or where you go, but you certainly have a choice over how you mentally approach the event.

Polarized thinking or black and white thinking is irrational thinking characterized by the “all or nothing” principle. These individuals tend to think in extremes, which are either impressive or terrible, and have unrealistic expectations. They are often easily annoyed, feel bitter, and disappointed due to their inability or unwillingness to see gray shades. For instance: an extremely competitive person believes that he/she should be “number one or nothing at all.”

Overgeneralization – This is when you use excessive language in your assessment of people or events. For instance, when you are in a hurry and other drivers are not moving fast enough or are stopped by red lights. So you start generalizing this event to an overall pattern. In this example, the individual’s focus is only on red lights! Or you have failed an exam, and you decide that you are stupid or a failure. The way you evaluate your situation and the language you use matters since you will respond to the pattern instead of just that particular event.

Being aware of your predispositions will help you improve your ways of thinking and mental health. To start, notice how you talk to yourself and examine your assumptions. Identify harmful beliefs and challenge them.

 

 

Featured Artwork by Jeffrey Dirkse

Positive Vibes in 100 Words

In my next series, I aim to share life experiences, the latest tools, and practices to develop a positive attitude and cultivate constructive thought habits.
A positive mindset is to use your intelligence and knowledge to set goals, manage pressures, and change the negative script to a promising one. The message is to recognize that positive thinking manifests ecstasy in our lives, boosts our health and well-being and shapes a valuable self-narrative.
In that spirit, knowing well that no one can keep upbeat all the time, here are positive mottos to live by in 100 words:

Self-acceptance. Live courageously. Express your thoughts clearly. Explore your ego. Break the habit of instant gratification with fulfilment. Have gratitude in your daily life. Step out of comfort zone and aim for growth. Cultivate resilience which is a formula for happiness. Work with your strengths to experience the state of flow. Give meaning to your life by helping others. Focus by being mindful. Choose to reflect and not to agonize. Smile and laugh and hug. Expect good sensibly. Be kind. Forgive. Move away from blame game & take responsibility. Emotions are data, use them wisely. Embrace the uncontrollable. Live purposefully.

Featured image by Konrad Bak

What Are You Scared Of? Positive Vibes Series: Build Courage

Get up and show oomph! Be bold, be confident, thread your way through what people think of you, the obstacles, and everything that stirs up a weakness. Gird up your loins and get rid of your doubts and uncertainties.

Sounds familiar? Well, often, the voices in our head are loud enough to nudge us to take action. Still, we turn the volume down and list all the things that could go wrong and all the possible sufferings that can happen because we are afraid.

Aristotle (philosopher 384-322 B.C.) defines “fear as pain or disturbance due to a mental picture of some destructive or painful evil in the future.” Even though he indicates that wickedness and stupidity are evils, but they do not frighten us. Or we are not troubled by things that are a very long way off, such as death. What makes us anxious and fearful is when things have the power to harm and cause significant pain.

Fear is seen as an evolutionary necessity that can help notify a person whether they should proceed in their current direction or find another course to increase the likelihood of survival (Cannon, 1914; Ohman & Mineka, 2001). With this in mind, living a braver life is not to act naively, but to break down those potential problems and build a ladder to face the fears.

For instance, feeling anxious about air turbulence when flying is normal but refusing to travel is a debilitating and irrational fear. What constitutes courage is that you voluntarily take action to accomplish your goals when you have identified the potential problems. Being alert and being fully conscious that things might go wrong is to build the capacity to become braver in the face of challenges and setbacks.

In contrast to existing ideas that tell us to keep away from stress, you can leverage your anxiety and stress by rehearsing the tension and fear. Physical challenging experiences, contests, adventure activities are all character-forming pursuits that develop courage. Taking cold showers in the morning, a ritual that activates stress hormones which makes you think clearly, to engage in high-intensity workouts such as cycling, rock climbing, or running that help with your general health or intermittent fasting, are techniques based on the Stoic philosophy of self-denial that builds resilience against everyday stressors.

Now, in highly uncertain situations, evidently, you have no real control. By adopting a mindset that the only thing you have control over is your response, which is fostered by your values and attitudes towards life, you can transform the uncontrollable to manageable.

As Epictetus said: A Stoic “sage” never finds life intolerable, but sees in every challenge as an opportunity to test and improve oneself:

You should look to the faculties that you have, and say as you behold them, ‘Bring on me now, O Zeus, whatever difficulties you will, for I have the means and the resources granted to me by yourself to bring honour to myself through whatever may come to pass.’ (TD, Book One, Ch. 6, p. 18).

Featured image by Igor Morski

Communicate Clearly – Positive Vibes Series

What separates us from other animals is the use of language. Animals do communicate in many different ways, through smell, dancing, or touching. What sets us apart is our verbal expression and, importantly, our ability to communicate clearly.

It is not always easy to communicate your thoughts, the use of words might be misunderstood, and our bodily gestures might be misread. We tend to say nothing and expect others to understand what we are thinking telepathically. We don’t get off our chest our concerns and blame or accuse others of indifference. We get annoyed, feel defensive, and respond in anger because we tend to ignore or hold on to things that we have not been able to voice with clarity, and the list goes on. Well, until we all evolve and become Professor X, it is to our best advantage to learn and hone our communication skills instead of reacting to our unvalidated assumptions.

Regardless of the concept and whether the conversation is personal, professional, or addressing an audience, the pillars to an intelligent and useful talk are based on:

  • Know your purpose
  • Know your intention
  • Know the meaning

Once you have wiped out the haziness through the process of exploration of your intention and how it all relates to you and your audience, make sure that you practice non-judgment. This attitude will reinforce your efforts to express your thoughts with common sense and gives you the wisdom that a broad spectrum of opinions exists. Be mindful that rational explanations or points of view will probably be presented and that they might be totally in contrast with what you believe.

Often, we engage in communication that the result is unknown; hence, it is advised to make every effort to learn more about the anticipated topic while exchanging your point of view. Remember that our goal is to speak to be heard in our everyday conversations with family members, friends, colleagues, or at a business meeting. In establishing real communication, Carl Rogers, humanistic psychologist, believed that people, especially in insensitive and controversial issues, should give up traditional and legalistic kind of arguments and use a non-threatening approach based on shared and common goals. He was convinced that people stop listening or reading to a writer or speaker who makes them angry and puts them on the defensive. Hence to influence people, you should care about communicating with them rather than pointing the errors of their way. 

Last but not least, cut through the noise, the unambiguity, and always ask yourself why you are engaging in a conversation. The magic of questioning your intention unconsciously appeals to your character’s smart, intelligent, and thoughtful part.

 

 

 

Have Gratitude In Your Daily Life – Positive Vibe Series

When I lie on my back and look up at the Milky Way on a clear night and see the vast distances of space and reflect that these are also vast differences of time as well, when I look at the Grand Canyon and see the strata going down, down, down, through periods of time which the human mind can’t comprehend . . . it’s a feeling of sort of an abstract gratitude that I am alive to appreciate these wonders, when I look down a microscope it’s the same feeling, I am grateful to be alive to appreciate these wonders. 

Richard Dawkins

The concept of gratitude is described in different ways as an emotion, a virtue, or an attitude. Whatever your understanding of gratitude, often, it is defined by a two-step process: 1) “recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome” and 2) “recognizing that there is an external source for this positive outcome.” (Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough). Yet, whatever your disposition with its meaning, interestingly, gratitude is not merely a cultural creation. Scientific research has shown that the concept is embedded in our evolutionary development. For instance, it has been observed that birds, vampire bats, or fish incur some costs to themselves in helping another member of their species, in view that it might be beneficial to them, eventually.

Furthermore, scientists suggest that gratitude has been developed gradually from this “tit for tat” behavior, better known as “reciprocal altruism.” A process that is based on turning strangers into friends who will likely help one another. Further studies on chimpanzees support this idea that these primates share food with another of their kind if they have been groomed or helped by them in the past. Or, studies from neuroscience have observed some areas in the brain that involve experiencing and expressing gratitude. 

Consequently, gratitude is an inherent cognitive response strongly associated with greater happiness and better physical health. A study has shown that people’s heart health improves when they show appreciation, which is related to gratitude. Regardless of how you feel, express, or express gratitude, this emotion undeniably builds stronger relationships, creates good experiences, increases our well-being, and cultivates an optimistic attitude. Not to mention, gratitude has psychological benefits perceived as an intervention to overcome negativity. Moreover, individuals who have a grateful disposition are better protected from various forms of burnout. For instance, athletes who have grateful mindsets are less prone to burn the candle at both ends.

Nevertheless, the ability to be grateful requires seeds of humility and the willingness to develop our disposition intelligently. One of the most effective ways to cultivate gratitude is to keep a journal. Studies have found that “counting your blessings” for ten weeks and keeping them in a gratitude journal increases optimism and improves life satisfaction, self-esteem, and, importantly, decreasing depression symptoms. Knowing well that as humans, we are more sensitive to negative emotions than positive. For instance, we will be miserable if things are taken away from us than if we were to receive a gift. Needless to say that being grateful does not translate into living a modest life with no ambition. On the contrary, gratitude is one of the essential components of self-improvement. It starts with full awareness of what can go wrong, what we can be grateful for, nurture a positive mindset, and build on our skills to reach our goals and progress.

In the meantime, remember:

Learn to be thankful for what you already have while you pursue all that you want.

Jim Rohn

 

 

Featured image by Perfectionist Magazine

Work With Your Strengths To Experience The State Of Flow – Positive Vibes Series

Clearly, it is rewarding to work with your strengths, yet, the question is, how do you recognize your strengths? When it comes to assessing what you are good at, the understanding can become fuzzy. At this stage, you are at risk of underperforming or be conceited, which is different from being self-confident. Consequently, this state of confusion brings about indecisiveness, which is useful if you tend to it. How? Well:

  • Uncertainties and doubts raise questions
  • You will start filling self-analysis exercises
  • Spotting patterns that suggest your forte
  • You reach out to pragmatic family, friends, and colleagues to seek feedback
  • Taking note of what you have learned, you draw a self-portrait and create an action plan to make effective use of your strengths.

Notably, the activity should also include identifying your weaknesses. Upon reflection, recognizing your imperfections and improving on indeed become one of your most vital strengths. Make sure that this self-awareness inspires you and creates a commitment to self-improvement. However, the problem arises if you spend your energy trying to improve your weakness rather than exploring and practicing your strengths once you have uncovered them. J.K Rowling focused solely on her creative mind and writing skills instead of improving her lack of organizational skills. In an interview, she said: “I am one of the most disorganized people in the world and, as I later proved, the worst secretary ever.” For instance, in a sport setting, a soccer coach spots the core strength and ensures that the player is placed in a position to accentuate its power.

It is a known fact that when you use your strengths, you will be happier. The evidence lies in extensive research based on positive psychology interventions. The idea that brings your focus on using your “signature strengths” in a new way. A treatment method or “intentional activities aim to cultivate positive feelings, behaviors, or cognitions” (Sin and Lyubomirsky, 2009, p. 468). Hence, if you aim to progress while maintaining and boosting your mental state’s well-being, learn to leverage your strengths to reach your goals. And remember strength is characterized as a trait that:

  • Energizes you
  • Makes you stronger
  • Makes you thrive
  • It engages you
  • Fulfills you
  • Notably, it leads you to be in the zone or a flow state – a mental state that keeps you fully involved and feels with joy so that you are entirely absorbed in the activity.
Jean Michel Bihorel

Featured image by Bruno Birkhofer Photography 

How To Control Yourself When Your Emotions Get The Best Of You!

Have you recently sat down and unpacked your thoughts and asked yourself: what are the things you repeatedly do that keep you from reaching your potential?

Why this question? Because how you live your life matters. How you deal with your emotions matter. For most of your life, you acquire knowledge to have a point, to set goals, and lead a meaningful life. You probe into your conscious and allow your intelligence to guide you constructively. You tap into skills & capabilities nested in you due to your education, experience, and privileges in life with its triumph and setbacks.

If your perspective is that the world is in progress, you are a firm believer in growth and advancement. Indeed, this point of view starts with self-progress. A mindset that understands positive thinking is about emotional agility and not avoidance. We all hear disturbing news, and every day there is a painful event happening in one part of the world. However, the reality is that evolutionary progress is taking place, and we are moving forward.

So, next time your enthusiasm is ebbing away, or you feel stressed, sit down to investigate your inner feelings and thoughts. Make sure to remind yourself of the dynamic of your emotions and your ability to wean off the habit of instant gratification with mindfulness techniques. (You can refer to the mindfulness series to learn about the foundations of practice).

Few points to think about:

  • Recognize the emotions you are facing
  • Label them – Upset, fear, anger…
  • Understand that you can step out of the unpleasant situation to gain control and re-energize
  • Negotiate with yourself on how to express your feelings, whether is anger or worry, at the right time and in what dosage
  • Re-orient yourself. This process entails deciding to act in a way that is in harmony with your rational self & values.
  • Align your behavior with your goal and detach your intention from ego
  • Use your imagination for the best outcome.

It is crucial to control your emotions before taking any initiative as your best judgment is unavailable when you are boiling with anger or scared.

Remember that you choose a path of stagnation that will lead to depression or the sweet sake of manifesting yourself congruently with your potentials and powerful, capable self.

 

Featured image by Rodney Smith.

 

 

 

Stop Judging – Take Back Your Power! Foundation of Mindfulness #1

At times, we form an opinion or conclude, deliberately or otherwise, only to find out that the story in our head is polluted. By judging, we work hard to build a wall and to protect ourselves and live securely. The problem with this stance in life is that it often prevents us from making meaningful and genuine connections with oneself and others. Although judging is an instinct, you can be aware of it and control your impulses. When you adopt a mindful outlook, you embark on the intelligence and wisdom track. The non-judging approach is the protective gear that will support you against unsound decisions and irrational reactions in life. Releasing judgment is stepping over self-made barriers to see and grasp “things as they are.”

Todd Schorr Art
Todd Schorr Art

The myths and sensationalized stories are good examples of our preconceived judgments. Overall, the side effects of judgments such as fear or condemning bad and good categories in our mental descriptions create prejudices, biases, and stress. The habit of categorizing is useful for filing systems, but when it comes to our life relations and connections at times, it limits our perspective and growth.

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Todd Schorr Art

How to remove the obstructive judgemental attitude? 

  • Be mindful- Recognize the judgments that unfold whether you are performing a task or when you are in fight-flight mode. Observe how your mind describes the situation: as mundane, suspicious, energetic, or any other attribute that influences your behavior or reaction to that particular circumstance. For instance, to observe our judgemental mind, practice breathing. Set a time and start paying attention to your breath, and indeed, your oblivious mind will begin harassing you by labeling your practice as boring. Basically, the approach is not to suppress your judgment but to be aware of it.
  • Don’t take it personally – I remember that when our son started high-school, the amazing principal recommended that as the parents of young teenagers, do not take their withdrawn behavior and uncommunicative reactions personally. Instead, be continuously loving, caring, and have a set framework of rules. Don’t snoop; they will eventually talk to you and tell you all about their adventure but on their own time. It was great advice, one that kept the peace. Or, as adults, it happens that you will encounter disagreements. As long as you remember that the conflict is not about you, it helps to detach the “me” connection and give others the benefit of the doubt.
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    Todd Schorr Art
  • rame – This approach is about not changing the facts but having an open mind to recognize that people have different ways of doing things or different perspectives. Instead of getting angry or miserable, channel your energy to pause and reflect. The challenge is to dive underneath the anger, and your oxygen tank is your ability to reframe. With regular practice, the efforts to reframe a situation become a habit, immensely rewarding, especially when you encounter setbacks. Reframing a problematic situation or dire circumstance allows you to transform the problems into possibilities and remain healthy, composed with a positive mindset.

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    Todd Schorr Art
  • Self-reflection – As soon as you start judging, try to ask yourself whether you have had the same or similar behaviour.

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    Todd Schorr Art
  • Don’t blame yourself or others- As much as the blame game is an easy defense mechanism, indeed, it is unproductive and unpleasant. The tendency to distort our self-esteem with blame is inept. Instead, see things as they are, and break away from blaming yourself or others. Again reframe the situation, replace words such as should to could or losses to learning experiences to make a pathway for much better opportunities.
  • Be a friend to yourself – Connect with your strength, intelligence, and love yourself. Dismiss negative thoughts and destructive criticism. When you stop judging, you will distance yourself from gauging others and assume an impartial approach in life. One that helps with mastering your mind.

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Todd Schorr Art

Featured image by: Todd Schorr

Trust – Foundation of Mindfulness # 4

“In practising mindfulness, you are practising taking responsibility for being yourself and learning to listen to and trust your own being.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

In a world full of endless choices and challenges, self-doubt is the non-stop humming in the background. The overwhelming feeling from the incoming mixed messages in our head is confusing and debilitating, and exhausting. Feeling stuck or lost happens when our brain cannot make sense of the outside information or process the internal feeling associated with the new context.

Our capacity to feel confident and make decisions based on our authentic self is to shield our brain from the bombardment of mixed messages from the outside world and the numbing of our useless tweets in our head.

It is possible to learn how to trust yourself and start making decisions, yet; you have to accept that emotional vulnerability is part of the formula. Growth and transformation are not possible without the willingness to be exposed to discomfort and anxiety.

You can cultivate trust by shifting your attention from external and pointing it towards yourself. Paying attention to your emotions, experiences, and thoughts with a nonjudgmental attitude builds confidence in yourself and your potential. Gradually, you realize that all the incapacitating walls you have built over the years to defend yourself against challenges are not that daunting. As you learn to trust your inner resources, you grow confidence in your strength, and the threats weaken in whatever might come up.

Ways to increase self-trust

  • Be aware of your thoughts and feelings as much as you are focused on what you are doing – Whenever doubt creeps in, retreat, contemplate and identify the source of the emotions. Do not reject or judge your feelings; being uncertain means that you don’t have enough knowledge. This insight gives you the clarity to charge ahead and learn.
  • Be conscious of signals from your physical body, cravings, pain, or pleasure. As your body continues to perform its function, such as breathing or blood circulation, the concept of trust moves from perception to reality. An abstract idea manifests in the form of a physical system. This realization gives you no reason to doubt your capacity.
  • Make a list of all the qualities you like about yourself. Once you become aware of all your capabilities and virtues, you have created an intimate relationship with your trustworthy self. Rationally, when you are competent, reliable, and sincere, there is no reason not to trust yourself.
  • Recognize those poor choices you have made in the past that do not define your nor set in stone your path and destiny.
  •  Respect your feelings as much as you respect others.
  • Express your views and give input when you do have an opinion.

Like anything, you can establish an intellectual trust with yourself by setting the intention, paying attention and practice. For more information, please refer to mindfulness meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

 

 

Letting Go – Foundation of Mindfulness #7

Changing the habit of non-acceptance

  • Let the sensations come and go
  • Do not take things personally
  • Acceptance is not choosing over your preference
  • Let go of control; not everything is what we imagine nor what we believe
  • Do not react to the unwanted situation
  • Take your focus away from what you agree or disagree
  • Recognize that flaws do exist in life, in people, and your doings and point of views
  • Detach yourself from distressing thought by not giving too much weight to it
  • Create a supportive slogan for yourself to accept things as they are in challenging moments

Ultimately, by allowing things to be as they are and staying neutral, you will learn to cultivate an acceptance attitude to reduce your anger, remain calm, and eventually find solutions. Remind yourself that the sensations that you feel are magnified. Just like in a horror movie, the knife is on the kitchen counter, but it does not mean that you will be stabbed with it. Being mindful is to know that you don’t have to solve everything nor to change it at once.

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Art by Alex Gross

How to let go

The body

  • Observe your hurtful and discouraging thoughts
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing and imagine that the frustrating emotion flows away with your exhalation

Emotions and feelings

  • Instead of ruminating on the story and inflating the situation with fear and panic, take it at face value
  • Sometimes it is best to engage with the negative thoughts and to confront them with counter argument
  • Know that if something doesn’t go your way is not the end of the world, not necessarily other bad things will continue to happen
  • Set an intention to realize the root cause of the negative thoughts, tension and frustrations
  • Journalling your feelings is helpful and sometimes physical venting like yelling off into a pillow works
  • Recognize that you have a choice to bid farewell to the hurt
  • Create peaceful images to call to mind as a support system
  • Realize that you are not in the centre of the universe
  • In frustration ask yourself is this who you really are? Then align yourself with your peaceful and intelligent self

When you cultivate peace in your attitude towards life, you are diffusing fear. Instead of kicking yourself and others over mistakes, past hurts or old injustices, learn to detach and let go of the anxiety that is brewing from the fear, criticism or offence.  It is satisfying to expose with rage the wrongdoers, vicious people or storm over unfairness but letting go with compassion and forgiveness makes you stronger. The idea is not to ignore nor to tolerate or to yield to unjust but to see things as they are! Your strength to analyze the situation with its risks and being able to shut off the anxieties which cripple and bring you to a depressive mood gives you the control over your emotions and allows you to accumulate the best possible outcome.

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Art by Merelle Fabien

For further information refer to “The Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Feature image by Michael Bergt

Change Your Mindset​, Change Your Life!​ – Introduction

“The most important question anyone can ask is: What myth am I living?”

Carl Jung

Self-deception, confirmation bias, seeking perfection, fixated on innate talents sum up a mentality stuck in quicksand. Imagine that although a landscape was colorful, ever-changing, and adapting nature and everything in it is minding its survival, you are stuck in the quicksand. You try to smile and reach for the exposed oak tree’s root only to twig that your grip can support you for the utmost couple of hours. Then, a rustle, and all of a sudden, a smile appears on your face hoping for Robin Hood to your rescue. However, the relief is short-lived as there are numerous quicksands in the forest. Getting out of this undesirable situation, you will need support, but most importantly, you should change your mindset.

Mindsets created by habit, by experience, by the snippet view of the world around us can radically be shifted from static to dynamic way. Our ability to embrace change and transform our lives is profoundly linked to our acknowledgment that change in attitudes is conceivable and achievable.

Instead of fueling our brain with the undesirable, ego-centric, and non-learner frame of mind to avoid challenges or threats, we have the potential to develop a mindset that leads to an excellent and fulfilling way of life.

In the following posts, together, we will delve deeper into the mind’s matters and explore practices and school of thoughts about positive psychology, mindfulness, fixed & growth mindsets to get rid of limiting beliefs and nurture the best version of ourselves.

I would love to hear your comments, insights, experiences, suggestions & your goals for 2020, #goals2k20!

 

 

Featured image by : Olya Khaletskaya