perseption is everything reframe for relief

Cognitive Reframe to the Rescue

Cognitive reframe is not just a psychotherapy term. It is that. But it’s more. You can actually do it with your masterful mind and FEEL better. It’s sort of like magic. Or ninja neuroscience.

Here’s how to engage a cognitive reframe: you notice how you’re thinking about a thing: “oh my God, there’s no toilet paper! What will we do?!” For example.

You don’t label that thought. It’s not bad or good. You just notice that’s the way you’re thinking about it and then ask yourself, “Is there another way to think about this?”

The answer is, yes.

You frame it differently in order to have a different impact. For instance, “Wow, someone else has A LOT of toilet paper. I wonder what that stack looks like in their house?”

This is not a joke, although some of you might be smiling. I get that. Those of you who own the toilet paper right now, you’re probably definitely smiling.

This is also not a value judgement about whether you TP hoarders really need ALL.That.TP. This is for everyone else looking at that empty shelf who might actually be in danger of resorting to wash cloths and having a moment of sheer wonder, anxiety, and possible almost-panic. It’s okay. Don’t worry; that feeling can happen to ANY of us. There’s no judgement.

Another cognitive reframe:

There’s nothing wrong with wash cloths.

In fact, they don’t leave TP pilling. (Most of us think that’s a good thing.) And they are reusable. They worked for hundreds of years.

Does anyone remember cloth diapers? Hullo? They have always been a good thing for the environment and very effective in helping the littlest bums learn to hold the pee for the little potty.

When I think cognitive reframe, I think creativity

Know what? You don’t have to actually believe and invest in your reframe, you just have to consider it as a possibility. It loosens the death grip on your ONE WAY of seeing a thing and helps ease the associated suffering: anxiety, heartache, depression, grief. Whatever ails you.

Know who’s good at this?

Kid-minds.

They’re flexible and imaginative and don’t put ALL the stock in the first way of seeing things. Try it. Put on your best kid-mind and dive in. You can do this with anything.

A Cognitive Reframe Story

Some of you know I love a good story. Here’s one: Monday, working from home, I thought I’d do the responsible (and prudent) thing and I ordered some grocery supplies on line. Things like face wash and body wash, mouth wash and deodorant: things no one else will care about so much (except my honey) if I am endlessly working from home. But I care about these things!

(Apparently I have plenty of toilet paper, but not an abundance of run-of-the-mill cosmetic supplies.)

So, I ordered online for delivery. All the cosmetic supplies and frozen vegetables, which, if you know me at all, is almost blasphemy. Fresh is my mantra. But: wrong face scrub, no veggies, sample size pit-juice, and, to top it off, the shopper picked himself up a box of brownie mix which I never ordered, I did pay for, and I did not receive because he obviously took them home as a tip for his less-than-stellar job as my personal shopper. (I really did NOT order brownies! Honestly. I’d make those from scratch… most of the time.)

Of all the things to surreptitiously add to a grocery order!

At any rate, the order was such a fail, I braved the store myself the next day.

And purchased $276 worth of food, beverages, and supplies to get me through at least a month if I were to be quarantined all by myself in my house.

Which is not happening anyway, btw. I’m not quarantined nor will I shelter in place all by myself. There’s My Honey for company (which is not his real name.) And the cat (also not his real name.)

Fast forward to the grocery shelves.

Yes, there were vacuous, bare, clean racks with NOTHING on them where the meat and seafood usually are, where there used to be dairy and bread and paper products.

But do you know what my cognitive-reframing-trained brain did?

It got creative.

What other protein can I introduce?  There WAS packaged meat, just not the freshly cut stuff.

I even remembered to buy sauerkraut, potatoes, and (chicken) sausage in order to celebrate St Patty’s Day with “bangers and mash.”

Personally, I shrug at bread since I consume so little of it, being gluten sensitive, but whole wheat crackers fit that bill nicely.

I bought not-my-brand decaf coffee and chose organic microwave popping corn since all the families with kids off school obviously absconded with the other stuff and the overwhelming sense I had was of…

ABUNDANCE!

I have enough, I am enough, I do enough.

Oh my word! There were some empty shelves, but there were aisles and aisles and aisles and plenty of lush, fresh produce, and multiple choices of real food just waiting to be loaded into my cart and organized in my pantry.

And guess what? There was still PLENTY when I left it behind, despite the fact there were so many shoppers in the store, dutifully staying 6-feet apart, allowing turns choosing similar items and lining up with some distance between carts to check out.

Makes me wish I owned stock in Kroger, Cub Foods, Byerly’s, Lund’s or Whole Foods!

Made me proud of us as humans!

We can feed the world, people. And make toilet paper galore. And replace the paper towels that sold out! I hear that PnG (right here in Cincinnati) is thinking flexibly about all kinds of anti-microbial products and sanitizing solutions they will sell to us this year!

For EVERY negative, there is a positive reframe

This is not just half-empty, half-full rigmarole. It actually matters. There is always a different way to look at the darkest thing you’re considering. And it does not need to be related to these unprecedented, strange times. It applies to your relationship. To your parenting. Your money. To your food, your sister, your workplace, your circumstances, your self-imposed, silly limits, and every single other thing that troubles you today.

And if you can’t see the alternative just by getting creative, or you’re having trouble thinking flexibly, call your therapist. Or me. We want to help you. We’ve got ninja magic neuroscience tricks up our sleeves that work. Cognitive reframing is just one of them.

Be well. Be safe. Get in touch. Follow on Inst or FB. Join the Insiders so I can send you Love Letters . Reach out for contact or an appointment. I’m here to help.

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freedom in personal growth through self-acceptance

Personal Growth; it’s human

Personal growth is one of those “given drives” of humanity. You don’t have to work hard at it. And yet, most of us do. (Especially faced with crisis: divorce, break-up, infidelity, death, financial pinch, job change, that extra ten pounds after the holidays STILL not moving after the whole month of January.) We really strive. We work harder. (And sometimes we give up and reach for the chocolate.)

Sure, we get somewhere. We make some progress. Things shift over time. But sometimes that happens despite our efforts and working real hard and not actually because we are giving our attention to the right things. Also, next year or next month we might be on to the next great workout plan or the umpteenth diet. Or talking about the weight or the need to get in shape but doing nothing about it. That too. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Take for example, a seed, planted in good soil. It just needs light, water, and time. It needs to BE left to grow in that beautiful (and just-right-for-it) environment. It needs to not be scooped up and checked on every day or shouted at to GROW. It does not need to be doused with water every single hour or screamed at to GERMINATE!

Personal growth is like that too.

We grow and change and move all the time.

We were made for personal growth.

And yet many of us stress ourselves to the max trying to make it happen! (Um, I speak from experience…hence, I CAN speak.)

Did you see my quote on FB and Insta: What if working on yourself doesn’t work? Crazy idea, right? And yet, it’s true. Sometimes the harder we push the sweatier we get…but we get no better.

Just like that perfect little seed, which in the right conditions, will germinate, sprout and grow incredibly strong, we humans just need to foster the right conditions for our own growing.

It just takes the right environment.

That does not mean become a hermit. It does not mean you need to cloister yourself away or go to an ashram. You don’t need to meditate more or do more yoga or eliminate monkey mind or lie prostrate and say ten “Hail Marys.” Some of those things, in the right spirit, may indeed bring good effects.

In the spirit of more striving and doing and trying, they do harm.

That does not mean we should clear out all the “low-class friends” and all our substandard stuff, nix our connections with family and break up with the boyfriend!

It doesn’t mean we need to get hypervigilant or legalistic about what we consume or say or see.

It means we stop doing the things that actually accentuate our own suffering.

That means you stop shouting at the sweet little seed of YOU that’s in the already fertile ground of life! Stop demanding with your loud, impatient shouts that you GROW or ARRIVE or FIGURE IT OUT or TRY HARDER.

Dang, that’s so harsh.

Be nice to yourself. Be kind. Be gentle.

Lighten up.

You’re already pretty amazing. Like that tiny little seed, you have all the DNA and information IN YOU already to grow into what you were intended to be!

Anyone know that scripture regarding having the faith of a mustard seed being ALL the faith you need?! It’s kind of like that. It’s ALL already in there.

But we make things harder for ourselves.

Why?

Because, rock bottom, we actually believe we have to DO more and BE more and TRY harder, GIVE more, and STRIVE in order to EARN it…whatever IT is.

But we don’t. You don’t have to DO more. You do enough. You don’t have to be more. You ARE enough. Trying so hard and giving more or proving something or earning it mean nothing. You are on the planet and you are human. You are HERE for heaven’s sake.

And that is enough.

Give yourself a little credit.

Carl Rogers, a founding psychologist once said in his book, On Becoming A Person, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

And you’ve heard my Love Equation (TM) because it is the absolute FOUNDATION of all my work, my practice, my approach to helping, to my life and my movement in the world: Love is to See accurately, Understand (deeply) and Accept unconditionally.

Then and only then can real personal growth happen.

So don’t yell at the tiny seed of you or the germinating you or the sprouting you, the seedling, the juvenile or young adult you. Just enjoy the process. Set the course for where you want to go and then believe that you will get there.

Ask the gentle “how” questions along the way, not the pressing analysis and demanding definition questions “why” and “what.” Then wait. Allow the answer to come. Let the growth and the change you want happen naturally. Because the right conditions for such change…any change you wish to make… truly do begin with seeing yourself accurately, understanding your humanity, and offering yourself unconditional, warm regard.

  1. Gentle up
  2. Believe that you will grow and that you are enough
  3. Decide where you want to end up and then
  4. Reach for the sun in that direction.

You will GROW. And you’ll be surprised; it really is amazing how quickly and easily things change when you aren’t striving so hard.

Need help? I coach people through this all the time. I’d love to hear how it’s going for you and let you know how I can help.

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stay motivated by changing your inner dialogue

Staying Motivated

There IS a secret to staying motivated and it is completely within your control. That’s the good news. Putting the secret to work to benefit you takes just a little conscious effort on your part. (For you super-lazy people, that’s the bad news.)

For the rest of us, staying motivated is actually easier than you think right now. And sure, some of your “anchor” reminders or aspirational images truly may help you focus on where you’re going. I won’t say that’s complete hogwash. After all, I am often caught saying “we have in our lives exactly what we believe we deserve.” And I stand by that. So those anchors and aspirational images actually do help you envision what you deserve…as long as they are not accompanied by an inner dialogue that completely negates everything they stand for.

If you look at that anchor photo of the beautiful house you will afford, or the lovey-dovey couple joyously cavorting on the beach in their elder years, or the svelte model in the exact jumpsuit you have hanging in your closet waiting for you to drop 15 pounds…and you say to yourself “fat chance, sucker, who do you think you are? That’s not you; you’ll never get there…”

…well, it’s not the image or anchor that needs to change. It’s your inner dialogue that needs to adjust so your motivation has some staying power! And the key to staying motivated is shifting your inner dialogue.

Shift the Inner Dialogue to stay motivated

Psychology Today did an article on Silencing your Inner Critic several months ago. Since I keep the magazine in my lobby at Luwandi Counseling and Coaching here in Cincinnati, I observe what people pick up. Other issues have been recycled, but reprints of that one article has been requested more than any other.

Maybe part of the reason is that I talk about this in sessions. It relates to being gentle, (a theme song everyone who knows me hears over and over) and it’s one of the best ways to stay motivated when the rest of therapy (or life) is a struggle.

Why on earth are we hard on ourselves?

Many of us think it’s what actually gets us motivated and moving. That’s rarely authentically true. Usually there is fear under the harshness and well, fear just is NOT as good as faith (or love and respect.) Ask any kid who ever had a harsh parent.

Did that harshness really engender respect and make any child a better person? I have met adults who heard that harshness and gritted their teeth and vowed to prove that parent, coach, or teacher wrong! But it was anger that motivated, not the harshness itself.

Sure, I’ve had clients who internalized the harshness and passed that harshness, critical, and bitter bile onto their children, hurting the generation to follow. But no one was better for it.

And yes, fear keeps us running for a while. All of us have imagined wolves or rabid dogs (of some sort) chasing and nipping at our heels and it DID keep us moving and striving. But it’s exhausting after a bit. It’s super exhausting after years… or decades.

It’s time you put down the harshness and fear and realized it just does not serve you anymore.

There is a better way!

Shift your inner dialogue from harsh to caring (not permissive or anything goes, don’t worry!) I know at first it can feel like you’re hiking cliff-side without guard rails, but You have Got this! (I say that even though I secretly think that phrase is so overused!)

But seriously… get a hold of yourself, keep your eyes in front of you. Resist the fear and just proceed one step after the other.

Notice when your inner dialogue gets harsh. It happens any time you call yourself names, when you disparage your efforts, or label your behavior as worthy of disdain. First notice, and then replace it with something you can believe.

Replace the inner critic with a Cheerleader

I’m talking the kind of cheerleader you can believe. Which means you don’t go from zero to a thousand if your mind is just going to laugh at you. Begin in gentle increments. But begin.

You’re not an idiot. You’re not a slob or gross or a klutz or hopeless. Start with easy phrases like “you got this” if you can believe it. Encourage yourself with soothing, encouraging phrases you might tell a small child. Cheer yourself with things you’d say to a very dearest friend. Be GOOD to you.

Just a note

Yes, being good to you IS different than being indulgent. In my office, I like to talk about waking up your true self, the “Gentle, Benevolent Observer” who is really your higher self, your higher consciousness, the higher self, your functional adult…all the same part of each of us as humans. You’ll recognize her when she acts like her name. You’ll know him when he shows up performing the duties his name describes. Get in touch with THAT part of you. It’s the YOU who prevails, succeeds, breaks habits, makes new ones, and reaches the goals your heart desires.

Need help with that? Of course, reach out. Shoot me a message on the contact page or JOIN the Insider’s Club and get my Love Letters.

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make behavior change easier woman on bed contemplating behavior change

Behavior Change: why is it so hard?

Behavior change might be on your agenda this time of year. Maybe besides losing the holiday weight, it’d be nice to drop a few additional pounds and get in shape. You’ve been swearing you’ll afford that vacation and this is it! Maybe this is the year to find love or really improve relationship once and for all. You’ve said it before but this truly is the year to pay attention to your health, finances, or relationship!

I know you’re ready and you’ve been trying really hard for the past couple weeks.

Still, some stats tell us only 8% (or up to 18% in the optimistic findings) successfully keep our New Year’s resolutions. If you’ve almost given up already, you’re not alone.

But don’t let the statistics fool you. Humans are highly capable of behavior change. It’s part of what separates us from other life forms.

The way you go about doing it is what sets apart those who manage to transform their lives (er, their bodies, bank accounts, or relationship experience) and those whose movement in the world remains relatively the same year after year, decade after decade.

Successful Behavior Change

It helps to understand some things about the human animal. We were made to conserve energy. Keep that in mind when you decide what and how to change and make it as easy on yourself as possible. You’ll give yourself the best chance of making that change permanent and be more likely to achieve your desired outcome.

Here are three great things to do to make it as easy as possible (and 10x more likely it will stick.)

1. Combine behaviors

Combine an already-habit with a desired one for easy behavior change. For instance, examine what you do automatically that produces a “good” return on your investment. It might be brushing your teeth. Do you automatically brew coffee first thing? Maybe it’s watching your favorite show. Every single one of these things you do “almost without thinking” has a positive return for you (or you wouldn’t have made it a habit in the first place.)

Just so you know, I am not arguing the good in caffeine or TV viewing… or brushing your teeth, for that matter. I’m not arguing anything. The point is to pick something that you do automatically and that you LIKE because it’s pleasurable, easy, or has a good payoff…even as small as liking the feeling of a clean mouth.

Now, marry that to something else beneficial. Maybe you want to drink more water. Or add a daily stretching routine. Maybe you’re trying to add some meditation. Do it while the coffee brews. The stretches don’t have to be long. Even three minutes of meditation makes a difference. Getting hydrated in the am while the coffee brews is a perfect time for that. Meditating while brushing your teeth? I say it’s possible.

And yes, combine a good thing with a less healthy habit: drinking a beer after work for example. If you already drink the beer, adding the additional more healthy behavior will, in fact, still make a significant difference.

2. Small behavior change first

… because small behavior changes last. (See what I did there?)

We all get pretty gung-ho when it comes to behavior changes. And yes, when you get good insight and put action to it, you will see some pay offs that make a difference right away.

But do not underestimate the power of small, incremental changes added over time. These will change your life. And if you combine them with things you already do, you will barely feel the difference.

Don’t believe me? I just committed to contributing an additional 3%…just THREE percent… to my long-term investing. At a super-moderate yield, in ten short years, that 3% alone will net an additional 75 THOUSAND dollars. SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND BIG ONES. And that’s not even combining it with other investing. That’s JUST the 3% figured alone.

Not a friend of compound interest yet? You need to meet.

I will barely feel that three percent allocation. In fact, I pretty much won’t. It’s being moved from one account draw (where it earns absolutely ZERO) to the other.

Is that the only financial change I’ll make and call it good? No. But I am not all black and white and hot and bothered about this one either. I am not waiting until I have something HUGE to invest. I am not requiring myself to get all my ducks in a row before I start moving small amounts that will make a big difference. Which leads me to this:

3. Conquer all-or-nothing thinking

It never helped anyone. Ever. Honestly.

All-or-nothing thinking just keeps people stuck. It keeps them having the same experience in life and in relationship over and over and over again. It fosters paralysis. And a collasping, “ah just screw it” response when a little snag comes up.

Just change one little thing today. One little thing next week. (Not tomorrow either…give yourself at least a week if not THREE weeks to make a real adjustment.) At the end of the year, that’s 52 (and if you did one every 21 days that’s still SEVENTEEN) additional corrective improvements. That’s a lot of improvements.

It’s not true that you need to figure it all out or make drastic changes or that you can’t move until everything is prepped and ready to go. It’s not that six sessions of marriage or relationship counseling will transform your relationship forever. (There should be some movement in six sessions, and you should gain insight but a lot of that is going to be small, internal, and make the biggest difference implemented in real changes practiced over time.)

Look, we love dramatic transformations. We love rags-to-riches and underdog victories and come-from-behind wins. We love get-rich-quick schemes and fast happy relationships that form and gel into a “happily ever after” in an hour and 43 minutes. That’s all good. These are pretty sweet stories. But they are not common, realistic, and they are not even the whole story.

Gentleness, my friends, is the key to getting over black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking. Just try being gentle and rigid at the same time. You can’t. You CAN, however, be gentle and loving while being firm at the same time.

Gentle is key in Behavior Change

I know some of you think you need to be hard on yourself to get results. You think if you’re not punishing or pushing yourself, you’ll wimp out and cave to the other extreme. That’s the very nature of all-or-nothing thinking and it does not serve you. Not sure what gentleness looks or sounds like?

It’s a good loving, inner cheerleader. One that doesn’t let you off the hook (indulgent or permissive) and doesn’t have you feeling like a piece of crap (harsh and shaming.) It sounds a bit like this: “hmmm, my pants are tight. Back to salads and fruit for lunch and no snacks from the break room. You can do that.” And then when considering the snacks while walking by them says something like, “You’re good. That impulse will pass in a few minutes. Keep walking.”

That gentle voice does not say things like “Holy crap, you’re fat! You deserve to wear tight pants as a reminder to get your ass in gear.” And then, walking by the snacks says “Your damn pants are tight. Don’t even look at those cookies, Fatso. That’s right, keep walking.”

One of those voices is loving and the other is not. Loving always wins in the (short and the) long run. Choose loving, gentle, and firm. No matter what the topic for your desired behavior change, gentleness will serve you. Harshness will just add to you feeling worse. Who wants that?

You can do it.

Real change happens over time when it’s combined with other habits, starts and stays small and incremental, and allows for gentleness in the process. Real change is woven into the fabric of daily life and compounds into transformation over time.

Need help? Of course, I’m here for you. Whether you want help setting incremental, helpful goals, being accountable to someone, understanding how gentleness works in your life and inner dialogue, or finding the right approach to meeting your goals and objectives, I am here to help.