Challenging Negative Thoughts

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Last week we talked about automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions, which are negative thinking patterns that we’re especially prone to if we are feeling anxious or stressed.

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deathtothestockphoto.com

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So now we know what cognitive distortions are and we’re really annoyed that they exist. Why can’t my brain be normal? we ask. Why can’t I live my life without assuming I messed everything up before I even started?

But this is the thing: we totally can. That’s not to say it isn’t hard – if you’ve been observing your automatic negative thoughts since my last post, you know how quickly they come on and how easy it is to just let them slip on by if you don’t take the time to stop and question them. And who wants to do that? When you’re having a negative automatic thought, you’re probably already feeling insecure, sad, anxious, or mentally exhausted. The easiest next step is sinking deeper into your bad mood, not challenging your thoughts.

Here at Morning Wellness, we’re trying to fight the temptation to succumb to “easy.” Easy Sunday mornings, easy listening music, easy math problems…those we’ll take. But responding to thoughts that make us feel icky in the easiest way is usually not the healthiest. “Easy” in these cases often means numbing, distracting, or lying to ourselves.

How can we fight “easy”? We can learn to notice our negative automatic thoughts and challenge them. Let’s walk through it, using the example from my last post: say your boss is usually very friendly, but today she made eye contact with you and didn’t smile. Your brain immediately thinks, “She must think I did a horrible job on that project. I really suck at this job.”

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1.     Notice the negative thought.

We might be used to just having these self-deprecating thoughts and letting them slide, quickly moving on to the next thought. Challenge that. Really listen to the words you tell yourself about yourself. Write it down if you have to.

2.     Identify the cognitive distortion.

Rationally consider the negative thought you just had. Using the list of common cognitive distortions, see if your negative thought fits into one of these categories. When we’re thinking rationally, we can probably pretty quickly identify that our thought is definitely a “jumping to conclusions” scenario. We’re immediately assuming that our boss didn’t smile because she thinks we did a horrible job on our project, and we take that as proof that we suck at our job.

3.     Examine the evidence.

Ask yourself, “What evidence do I have to support my negative thought?” So, you think you really suck at your job. What evidence do you have that you suck? Have you gotten fired from this job? (Answer: obviously not…you’re still a working employee there). Have you been told you’re doing a bad job? Have you gotten demoted? Look for concrete evidence to support your negative thought. Is it there?

A lot of times, it isn’t.

4.     Find evidence that contrasts with your negative thought.

Have you gotten promoted? Complimented on your work by your boss? Oftentimes we are totally bombarded with evidence that contrasts with the negative thoughts we have, but we choose not to accept them, or to some how justify them. “Yes my boss has complimented me, but that’s just how she is.” No!! We have to stop having thoughts like this. We have to accept the positive as quickly as we are willing to accept the negative.

5.     Tell yourself what you would tell a friend who had this thought.

Imagine it was your best friend who came to you with this story. If someone said to me, “Lindsey, my boss didn’t smile at me today. She probably thinks I did horribly on my project and am a really bad employee,” I’d be like “…what?!” But for some reason, if I have that thought myself, I’m like, “Yep, sounds about right.” It truly makes no sense. If we change our perspective and imagine what we’d tell a friend who had this thought, we’ll have an easier time taking our own advice.

To me, challenging negative thoughts is really just about thinking rationally. Not allowing ourselves to sink into cognitive distortions. It’s really taking the time to mindfully consider our thoughts and whether they come from rational, evidence-based thinking.

If this post is speaking to you, there’s a lot online about challenging negative thoughts! I like these links here and here – they’re worksheets intended to be used for therapy, and they’re filled with great questions you can ask yourself when you think a distressing negative thought.

Challenge your thoughts this week! I’m gonna do it too. Let’s see how it goes 🙂

Healthy Choices in the Morning: How They can Change Your Whole Day

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Good morning, lovelies! I’ve got a post today that I’m hoping will especially inspire you if you’re reading in the AM, so grab your coffee, slide open your curtains, and let’s do this.

(And if it isn’t morning when you’re reading, that’s ok. Please keep reading. Dear God, please do not leave. I have readership goals to achieve, here.)

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deathtothestockphoto.com

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This weekend, I had a particularly productive Saturday morning, including (but not limited to!) reading, stretching, yoga, running, working on my blog, and cleaning. All this for a girl that’s susceptible to hours of Internet stalking, donut eating, and ultimately feelings of super crankiness if she doesn’t watch out? That’s pretty good.

It got me thinking of a concept that is so simple and almost certainly leads to better habits and more satisfying days, and that concept is this:

All of our choices are interconnected.

They lead into one another. Healthy choices encourage other healthy choices, and unhealthy choices perpetuate more unhealthy choices.

And the good news: starting our day off with healthy choices makes it way, way easier to continue making healthy choices throughout the day.

Take my Saturday, for example. I had gone to bed early enough that I was well-rested on Saturday morning – this was Healthy Choice #1, and it set the foundation for the whole day. Because I was well-rested, I was able to really enjoy leisurely take some time practicing self-care by reading (HC #2). Indulging in self-care satisfied my need for relaxation, making me totally down to take some time exercising and engaging in physical activity, like stretching, yoga, and running (HC #3).

Working out at the beginning of the day encourages tons of healthy choices, making things that are normally a struggle for me something I want to do — like drinking tons of water, which makes us feel fuller, eat less, and stay energized (HC #4), and taking a cold shower, which boosts our immune system and is great for our skin and hair (HC #5).

Starting the day with a workout also sets up how we eat for the rest of the day. Sure, I may still give in to that Taco Bell craving for dinner, but in my experience, I’m much more likely to follow up my workout with a healthy snack or green smoothie (HC #6), because my mindset is stuck on continuing the healthy choices I’m making.

When we make daily life choices, we feel the results of them. We know how bad it feels to wake up at noon with a hangover, to spend 5 hours watching Netflix, to eat fast food 3 nights in a row and feel our credit card bills racking up. And alternatively, we know how great it feels after we tidy up our apartment, go for a walk, call our mom, practice yoga, or eat a healthy meal.

We feel great. We feel nourished. We feel confident. We start to believe that we are the kind of person who makes healthy choices, and that feels really good.

So my food for thought this week is this: let’s not make it hard on ourselves. Let’s make good, healthy, positive choices from the moment we open our eyes in the morning, so that it’s easy to keep making them. Keep it simple. Start your day off with some morning wellness – let’s see where it takes us.

(Hey, Morning Wellness! Now I get it 😉 

Visualizing Your Best Self

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As I continue to shape and define the kind of site I want Morning Wellness to be, I’ve noticed an instinctual gravitation toward writing on topics related to finding ourselves (through vision boarding, values clarification exercises, and asking ourselves weird-sounding but research-supported therapeutic questions, to name a few).

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rekitanicole.com

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Today I want to share an exercise that’s not only related to defining our goals and desires, but also believing that we are capable of achieving them.

When you think about the big things that you want to do in your life, can you picture them happening? Are your dreams clear enough that you can envision them, and is your confidence strong enough that you believe they could happen?

In doing my own self-reflection, I realized that having goals doesn’t necessarily guarantee confidence that you can achieve them. And that sucks. If I have a professional or personal goal and my mindset is just, “Yeah, I think that I could possibly do that in a couple years if all goes okay,” then how am I going to go about working toward my goals? It’s not an attitude that encourages going the extra mile, taking risks, or making ourselves vulnerable. It encourages leaving everything up to fate and just hoping it ends up okay.

I found this Best Possible Self visualization exercise on the Greater Good in Action website, and I think it’s perfect for anyone looking to define what they want in life and build confidence that they can achieve it.

Visualizing Your Best Possible Self

Picture living the best possible life you can imagine. Reflect on different areas of your life – your career, friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, health, habits, creative pursuits – and imagine them reaching their greatest potential.

For 15 minutes over the course of two weeks, write continuously about this best possible future. Get detailed – where are you? Who’s there? What specifically are you doing? Putting aside your anxieties and barriers, simply write about your best possible future, as if it’s the most possible thing in the world.

Researchers have found that people who completed this practice over the course of two weeks got a positive mood boost.

Why not give it a try? I’m going to! I know that I could use some help in clarifying what exactly I want to make of my life and build my self-confidence around my creative capabilities.

For more details on this exercise, be sure to check it out here.

I wrote Monday about valuing ordinary moments, and this post isn’t meant to discredit that. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of small moments, and I don’t want to ignore them in favor of extraordinary ones. I think there’s a way to balance appreciation for the ordinary moments with working hard to create extraordinary ones.

So, this week’s Morning Wellness reader (and writer) goal: be grateful for the ordinary moments while believing you will certainly live extraordinary ones too. 

When Compliments Get Weird

Good Morning and welcome back to Morning Wellness, the blog that dissects weird and extremely specific emotions that are experienced by maybe no one except me.

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ashleyelladesign.com

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I’m just kidding – I really hope that’s not your interpretation of this blog – but this entry might be pushing it.

Basically, this week I’ve been thinking a lot about when compliments go wrong. I’m not referring to trying to compliment someone but accidentally offending them instead (though that is another cringe-worthy situation) – I’m talking about those moments when you try to be nice to someone but something weird happens in the middle that turns it around and makes you feel like crap.

The other day I was at lunch with someone who is an authority figure/mildly (okay, majorly) intimidating. She was talking for a long time about her workout habits, which entailed waking up at 4:30 and going to the gym for 6 days a week, plus eating a diet that complements her fitness routine. I was obviously impressed and was also looking for a way to connect with her, so I gave her a genuine compliment and said, “That’s so amazing! I would be so tempted to just not go to the gym, and I could never not eat sweets!”

Her response was something I didn’t expect at all: She tilted her head, crinkled her nose and said, “Really? It’s not hard.”

Like…I was weird for thinking it would be hard to wake up at 4:30 every morning and not eat sugar. I almost can’t even explain it, or why it made me feel so strange. I think it was because I was searching for connection in that moment – a potential bonding experience between us, with me saying, “Wow, that’s incredible, I’d find that so difficult,” and her saying something like, “Yeah, it’s definitely tough, but I’m motivated” – that would leave her feeling good because I expressed admiration, and would leave me feeling good because I was able to give her a compliment.

But instead, her response put me on the defense, and I sort of stumbled over my words. “Yeah! That’s not hard for you? It’s just me??” and she just kind of shrugged, and the interaction just totally did not go as planned. I felt like her response had some deeper implication – that I was lazy and had a bad work ethic because I would find it hard to go to the gym that much – and I sort of quieted up and coiled into myself, ashamed that I had chosen to speak up in the first place.

I’m not writing this to put any blame on this person…and anyway, it’s totally possible that you’re reading this like, “What Lindsey? That is so not a big deal, you’re just sensitive,” which could be entirely true, since I’m a Pisces (just kidding, I have no idea what it means to be a Pisces).

My big realization with this situation was really just that we can’t say anything with the expectation that we’ll get a certain response. Cause we really just don’t know. We only can control what we will do and say, and that’s really all we should focus on: saying what we think is kind, good, and intelligent, regardless of the response we get.

I don’t regret initiating the conversation, but if I had to do it again I think I’d change my response to her reaction. Instead of getting defensive and ashamed, I would just say, “Yes, I find that very admirable,” and be confident in the intention behind my initial comment. I can’t control whether this person thinks I’m weird for wanting to sleep and eat cupcakes, but I can control my own response and let go of my expectations.

Fighting For Our Dreams When It Just Ain’t Happening

This whole blogging experience has been super vulnerable for me, but today I am challenging myself to crank it up a notch and just be really honest about what’s been going on with me lately.

deathtothestockphoto.com
deathtothestockphoto.com

I moved to Los Angeles after finishing my Master’s Degree in Social Work in August.  I’ve really liked being here and am getting used to the California vibes, which are very real and very different from what I grew up with in Illinois. I’ve been held back from really feeling great here though, because of one huge problem: I cannot get a job.

And trust me, I’ve tried. My big barriers are that I don’t have a car yet (and lots of jobs require driving to clients’ houses) and that I am not bilingual, so sometimes it’s difficult to even find anything to apply to. Being in a new city, I also am limited by not really being familiar with the agencies in the area and not having any social work connections.

I have had small spots of hope: there was the agency that found my info and contacted me for an interview but was located way too far from me; the agency that called me to interview while I was home on holiday vacation and found a candidate before I got back to LA; and, most significantly, there was the agency I interviewed with last week that I was really excited about, until the very end of the interview when I was told the job required that the therapists own a vehicle. All of the small hopeful moments so far have ended with disappointment, which has been really hard on my heart.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post because I just want to be real with you guys. I want to remind you that, even though I write about mental health and positive living tips, I have serious struggles just like you do. Life can just feel unfair. I am so positive that I have the passion and skills needed to work at the places I’ve been applying, and I still haven’t gotten a job. These jobs require a car, but I can’t afford a car if I can’t find a job. It’s just this seriously frustrating, disheartening experience, and I’ve been living it over the past 6 months as I work a temporary job to make some money.

During this process, I’ve felt really, really hopeless at times. I’ve worried that I’d have to give up my dream of being a therapist. I’ve worried I’d be seen as a failure by my friends, my family, and yeah, even my blog readers. I’m still a little worried about that.

As hard as it was doing that interview last week and finding out at the last minute that the job required a car, I learned something. I learned from my responses in that interview that I am still, despite all of this struggle, so, so passionate about my future work. 

I had to cry a little (a lot) and heal a bit, but the next day, I was thinking about me, and about any of you that might have a dream that just isn’t happening right now. And I just think that when we are so motivated, and so passionate, and we can just envision ourselves in our dream role so vividly that it absolutely must happen…we’ll be okay. I have to intentionally remind myself:

My passion will lead me to where I want to be.

I am loved by my family and friends unconditionally.

I am more than giving up.

I’m writing this for the reader who can’t find a job, who is worried about the future, who wants something so bad she can taste it but it just isn’t happening.

We can’t stop trying. We’re in the middle of a valley right now, but there will be mountains. We’ll keep up our hustle, but we’ll relax when we need it. We’re in this together.

If anyone’s going through something similar and wants to talk about it, my email is morningwellnessblog@gmail.com. Sometimes companionship can be really healing. I wish the best for you, and thank you, readers, for letting me feel comfortable in my vulnerability.

Let’s stay strong & do this.

How I Self-Cared in January

I was planning to go easy on the posting this week — I just made my big move from WordPress and feel like I may still have some site-designing to do. BUT this is my last post of January and I made a commitment to write about my self-care practices at the end of each month, so I’m doing it! I’m trying to stick to the goals I set for myself this year – crazy, right?

Relax & Glam

I took a long vacation from work for the holidays, and I took advantage of it by pampering the f out. My sister got me my first Lush products – a face mask and a bath bomb – and I couldn’t believe how much I loved them! If you’re a bath-taker, I highly recommend you try a bath bomb. It’s kind of a chalky sphere that you just drop into the bath water once you’re done filling the tub, and you watch it fizzle, spilling out an amazing color and scent. It must have essential oils inside it to make it smell so good, and I also thought it made my skin softer. It’s perfect for when you really deserve a treat. The face mask I got was freshly made, so it had an expiration date of about two weeks after purchasing, and I thought it was cool that the ingredients are so natural. 

Read

I’ve been loving Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly so much that I’ve already written a post based on it…and I haven’t even finished the book! No matter how much I love a book, I can find myself getting eager to start the next one about halfway through the first, but I’m really trying to stick to intentional reading this year. I want to commit to one book (or okay, one fiction book and one nonfiction book) and use that as motivation to read more, finish the book quicker, and move on to the next one! I’m certain I’ll write more posts based on Daring Greatly. Brene uses actual research to support her thoughts, but she writes in a seriously approachable way. Her book is sort of a model for what I want this blog to be; a resource that inspires women to get comfortable with their thoughts and emotions, take ownership of them, and always try to be the best version of themselves possible. 

Listen

I’m a pop music lover through and through, which often leads to embarrassingly over the top enthusiasm when a Justin Bieber song comes on at a restaurant. In high school and college I was a true music elitist, which in some ways was great, because I just loved music so much that assessing it as good or not good and analyzing why was fun and meaningful for me. But in another way, it kind of negatively influenced my ability to just think, “Hey, I like this song!” without internally agonizing over whether I was too embarrassed to listen to it. So…thats something I’m working on. But in the meantime, I’m comforted by the album Art Angels by Grimes, a super up-beat, feel-good pop album that also is something you can talk about at parties for a couple extra cool points. 

Etc.

  • TV: This month I finished watching the Netflix series Making A Murderer. Guys…I don’t even know if I’d recommend it. It’s super depressing in regards to how the social justice system works, and it just really crystallizes the ways that class, education, and family history shape what happens to us. Definitely an interesting and eye-opening series that has taken the nation by a storm because it makes just that crazy of an impression on you.
  • Health: This month I stocked up on mason jars so I could have easy grab-and-go containers for smoothies and overnight oats. These are some recipes I’ve been using: Peanut Butter Overnight Oats (really perfect for bringing to work) and a Berry Smoothie with only a few ingredients!
  • Fitness: I wrote about my 2016 goal to get more active, and I’d say I’m doing…okay. Which is a lot better than bad! I have been stretching almost nightly and am going to do this yoga video for the second time this month today. This goal is allowing me to practice the thought that doing something (no matter how small) is always better than nothing.

How did you practice self-care this month? Comment below!

I’m Moving! (On the Internet)

In my Introduction post, I wrote about how I had tried blogging before and it had never really worked out consistently. I’m almost three months in to posting on this blog twice a week, and I’m so thankful that I’ve stuck with it.

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It’s not always easy – I do a lot less laying around and watching makeup youtube tutorials. But writing these posts and updating this site is something I genuinely look forward to, and it’s something that I take meaning from. It’s helped my confidence, and it has helped me feel connected to the mental health world in a way that I really value.

That being said, I’ve decided to go all in. I have really liked using WordPress, but it’s time for a little upgrade. I’m moving to Squarespace, and along with it is coming a dot-com address. Which feels very serious and very awesome.

I’m going to try to figure out how to get this site to redirect to my new one, but I wanted to post about it here first because a decent amount of my web traffic comes from WordPress Reader. I’ve found such incredible value in your comments and discussion, and I am so grateful for every word you have read.

If you are a WordPress reader and you still want to see me in your feed, you can!

  1. Go to WordPress Reader
  2. Click the “Manage” button next to “Followed Sites”
  3. Click the blue “Follow Site” button
  4. Enter in http://www.morningwellness.com

And you should be all set! Again, thank you for all of your support, and I am super excited to be upgrading my site and continuing to talk mental health and wellness with you smart, insightful, amazing women ❤

Lindsey