This past year has been tough and a lot of people have lost hope for a better future. But that can change by recognizing that we’re somewhat in control of our thoughts. Did you know that we have about 6,000 thoughts per day? And about 80% of them are negative! That means that we have a huge amount of negative self-talk. We spend a lot of time telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough or not as good as someone else. When we do this often, it becomes a habit. We can start feeling bad about ourselves and lose hope.
The great news is that we can change these negative habits and train our minds to interpret our experiences in a more positive way. Sure, life can be HARD, but our patterns of thinking and the way we perceive the world can make it much harder than necessary.
In the words of Greek Philosopher Epictetus, “We are disturbed not by things, but by what we think about things.” Therefore, if we can change the way we think, we can change the way we feel!
Have you ever expected, even visualized disaster? Have you noticed or heard about a problem and started asking, “What if?” What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you? That way of thinking is called “catastrophizing” where we catastrophize a problem and make it worse by escalating our negative thoughts.
With catastrophizing, we worry that the worst possible outcome will happen. We exaggerate the problem. When you realize you might be catastrophizing, stop and ask yourself the question, “What story am I telling myself?” It might take a moment, but get specific. For example, maybe you are telling yourself that you are ruining your kids and that you are a terrible parent and that none of you are ever going to be happy again. Whatever it is, when you force yourself outside the thoughts and examine them, it becomes apparent how dramatic your story has become.
After identifying the story you’re telling yourself, ask yourself, “What other story could be true?” This is where you use your logical brain and reference facts. An example of this would be, “Patty went through a divorce and it was so hard, but her children are all doing well and she moved on with her life and is thriving. That can happen for me, too.”
When you identify the negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones, you’ll feel better. If you think you are a good person who deserves to be happy, you’ll create a happy life. You’ll see possibilities for the future and have hope. While using these techniques takes mindfulness and work, it’s worth it as it can give you a tool to start the new year off in a great place.
It’s hard to let go of anger: anger at our parents, anger at a former friend, anger at a betrayal, anger at an ex-spouse, anger at ourselves. It’s understandable. Someone has done us wrong and we’re angry. We don’t have to forgive them. We can hold onto the anger for the rest of our lives if we want to. It’s our right to do that. But forgiveness can be healing and enable you to move on.
Holding on to anger can consume you. You start thinking about it all the time. Special occasions can be ruined simply because the person you are angry with is there. Relationships can be damaged as you project what happened to you in the past onto your current situation.
In order to get to forgiveness, you must work through your anger. A beneficial way address anger is to express it. Although anger is a normal emotion, it must be expressed in a constructive manner. Problems develop when the root of the anger isn’t recognized and the feelings aren’t expressed.
One of my clients was angry at her father for leaving her and her mother when she was a child. She carried that anger into her marriage and became angry at her spouse after their child was born. She felt that he was acting like her father even though he wasn’t anything like her father. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Her husband left her.
With some guidance, my client learned how to express her anger at her father and went through all of the feelings she had about him which included sadness, anger, regret and grief. After expressing all of her emotions, she was actually able to forgive him. After forgiving him, she was able to move on in her life and develop a deep, intimate connection with a man.
It’s like a jar with the top on. If you keep the top on the jar, the anger stays inside. But if you open the jar and let the anger out, it goes away. Once you release the anger you can start the path to forgiveness. Remember forgiving the person is for you, not for the other person. You’ll feel a sense of relief when you aren’t burdened by the anger anymore. Through this process, you’ll be amazed at your ability to heal your past wounds, let go of your anger and move on in your life.
Effective methods of releasing anger:
The following blog is authored by guest author, Chloe Pearson, a freelance writer and research specialist. She volunteers for Consumer Health Labs, which aims to help consumers make healthy choices.
When living with any mental illness, routine can be key. Routines are helpful for everyone but they can make profound improvements on the symptoms and side effects (http://www.drugrehab.org/addiction-suicide-veterans/) of mental illness. As stress decreases and your life becomes more reliable, your symptoms can significantly decrease.
If you have PTSD, here are 3 things you may want to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine:
1. A Well-Rounded Diet
Nutritional gaps and deficiencies can trigger or exacerbate a number of symptoms, leaving your illness more difficult to manage. Examples of nutrients that if deficient can affect mood include calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, Omega 3s and vitamins B6, B12 and D.
It’s a good idea to consult your doctor or a nutritional expert to locate where your diet is lacking and how you can correct it. Supplements can always be used to fill any deficiencies that are difficult to correct with diet alone.
2. An Evening Routine
Insomnia is a symptom that plagues many people struggling with PTSD. Whether due to nightmares or simply the inability to fall asleep, this symptom can wreak havoc on one’s mental health.
While there are many medications or supplements you can use to encourage sleep, one of the best ways to do it is to cultivate an evening routine. A series of actions done at the same time each night will help train your brain to release melatonin at the appropriate time which can help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. For example, choose a time during the evening at least 30 minutes before your bedtime to refrain from working or engaging with a screen of any kind. Have a cup of non-caffeinated tea and read a book to wind down. Figure out a routine that works for you and stick with it.
3. Regular and Enjoyable Exercise
Regular exercise that you enjoy not only keeps your body healthy but also improves mental health by releasing endorphins. It reduces stress which can be a major factor in the severity of PTSD symptoms. Exercise can also battle co-arising issues such as depression by boosting mood. Be sure you pick a form of exercise you won’t dread. You don’t want to cause stress by forcing yourself to perform an activity you don’t enjoy. Some fun ways to get moving might be yoga(1), hiking, tai chi, or swimming.
Learning to live with PTSD is simply a matter of learning through trial and error. Of course, you should always seek the help of your mental healthcare provider to steer you in the right direction. A good diet, a routine and exercise do not replace professional treatment. It is a way to make daily life a little easier on your own. Give a few of these suggestions a try and see what works best for you.
Image via Pixabay by FotoArt-Treu
(1) Research on the benefits of yoga at https://www.jenreviews.com/yoga/
Many people have negative thinking patterns. Changing these negative patterns is the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is one of the most successful techniques used in therapy. Some examples of negative thoughts are:
Once in a while, we all have thoughts like these. But if it happens much of the time, these negative thinking patterns can have serious consequences. Our thoughts impact the way we feel and repetitive negative thoughts can lead to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
What can we do about it? The first step is to notice when you have one of these thoughts. Stop yourself from continuing to think about it by asking yourself two questions: What is the evidence that this thought is actually true? What is the evidence that this thought is not true? Because these thoughts are usually distorted, it is likely there will be a lot more evidence that the thought is not true.
After you recognize the thought is not true, replace the negative thought with a positive one:
At first it may feel awkward to do this but it will become more natural with practice. Give CBT a try and let me know how it goes!
Jill Barnett Kaufman, MSW, LCSW and Certified Parent Educator is an experienced clinician who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges and bring more happiness and peace into their lives.