Jul 18

How to Handle ANTs to Increase Mental Health and Wellbeing

Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs, can decrease mental health and wellbeing. Learn three ways to handle ANTs to enhance mental health, wellbeing.

Recently, in ANTs—Automatic Thoughts Can Ruin Your Picnic, I explored how ANTs can be pesky little creatures that get in the way of our living life fully. These automatic negative thoughts that pop into our minds in certain situations can cause great stress and anxiety. They can even intensify depression and aggravate other mental illnesses. We all have ANTs (they’re not exclusive to mental illness). Unfortunately, it’s natural for the human mind to get stuck in unhelpful thought patterns that drag us down. (Follow the above link to last week’s post to see a list of common ANTs.)

There are ways to deal with ANTs so they don’t ruin the proverbial picnic of your life. Here are three approaches whose effectiveness has been proven by research.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach to healing that focuses on our thoughts. A fundamental belief of CBT is that events, situations, and people aren’t problems; instead, our thoughts about those things are the problem. Therefore, if we change our thinking, we change our perception, interpretation, outlook, and overall happiness.

To get rid of the ANTs at our picnic, CBT has us identify our negative thoughts and then look for evidence to prove that the thoughts and beliefs are faulty. This approach is supported by research and is helpful for many people (nothing is helpful to everyone, which is why there are so many therapeutic healing approaches).

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach to mental health and wellbeing that doesn’t have people fighting with and focusing on their ANTs but instead has people shift their attention to their values, those things they hold dear, and actions they can take to create the reality they desire.

ACT allows people to define what it is that makes a great picnic and take specific measures to enjoy it. ACT acknowledges that life does contain ants (and helps us accept that fact), but we don’t have to let them ruin things for us.

Passions, Actions, & Relaxations

Another way to deal with ANTs, of getting them out of your picnic, is to be intentional about the picnic you create. We can’t create a perfect, ant-free picnic. Life contains problems and challenges, some small and some big. We do have negative thought patterns that of course we can identify and replace but not completely and permanently eradicate. By pursuing our passions, taking positive actions, and practicing self-care that relaxes and rejuvenates, we can turn our attention to things other than ants and ANTs.

To be passionate about books is a happy passion indeed. Books hold great value for our mental health and wellbeing. This infographic shows just seven of the many positive things books can do for our picnic.

Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs, can decrease mental health and wellbeing. Learn three ways to handle ANTs to enhance mental health, wellbeing.

Fill your picnic basket with good books, lie back, and enjoy getting lost in a book. It’s a great way to beat the ants and ANTs and enhance your mental health and wellbeing.

Listen to the July, 2017 Wellbeing & Words show to hear more! Scroll down to the picnic image.

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jul 11

ANTs—Automatic Negative Thoughts— Can Ruin Your Picnic

ANTs are automatic negative thoughts that pop into our mind. ANTs can ruin your picnic, your mental health and wellbeing. Learn more here.

Are ants trying to ruin your picnic? If you’re human, it’s quite likely that they are. Ants are pesky little critters that love picnics, and ANTs are pesky little (or big) thoughts that love our mind. No matter what kind of ant you are dealing with—the insects or the negative thoughts—you don’t have to let them ruin your picnic.

In the world of psychology, ANT is an acronym for automatic negative thoughts. These are thoughts that pop into our mind without us giving them much thought. From the moment we are born, we begin to take in the world around us. We see things happen, we watch the reactions of others, and we feel and become aware of our own responses and emotions. As we grow and develop, we form cognitive distortions, ways of thinking about ourselves and the world that are our own unique interpretations.

Here Come the ANTs

Think, for example, of two toddlers. Both are outside playing and exploring, and both stumble over a rock, falling to the ground and scraping a knee. Bewildered and a bit stunned, the children turn to the parents to gauge their reactions.

The parent of one child rushes up, very anxious and tense. This parent swoops up the child, frets and worries, points out the problematic scrapes, and tells the child that he should stay away from the rocky area and even sit down out of harm’s way. The child starts to cry, and he begins to learn that the world is dangerous and anxiety-provoking.

The parent of the other child approaches him calmly. The parent swoops him up playfully and assesses the boo-boo in an attentive but silly manner. The child giggles. Then, the parent suggests that they check out the rock. Finding that the rock is just fine, the parent and child move the rock out of the way. The child resumes playing. This child learns that he can fall and get scraped, but that things are still okay.

The first toddler is forming automatic negative thoughts about himself and the world, ANTs that could very well negatively impact his mental health and wellbeing. The second toddler, on the other hand, is also forming automatic thoughts. Some are negative (the rock, after all, was jarring, causing disruption and pain), and others are positive. As these children grow, countless incidents that occur every single day will shape their outlook.

It’s like this for all of us. We form automatic negative thoughts throughout life. ANTs are present, they bother the way we think about ourselves and the world, and they can block the actions we want to take.

ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) Are Specific

Because we come into the world assessing whether it’s safe and if we’re loved and cared for, and because we become worried and anxious when our basic needs aren’t met, we develop a negativity bias that influences our thoughts; thus, we form automatic negative thoughts. For decades, researchers have studied thinking patterns and have developed a list of automatic negative thoughts common to us all (people have these in varying degrees and intensities). In The Feeling Good Handbook (Burns, 1999), Dr. David Burns, lists 10 cognitive distortions, or ANTs:

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking or Black-and-White Thinking (seeing things/people as either all good or all bad)
  2. Overgeneralization (seeing one event or situation as representative of your entire life)
  3. Mental Filter (dwelling on the negatives while ignoring the positives)
  4. Discounting the Positive (acknowledging something positive but dismissing it as insignificant)
  5. Jumping to Conclusions (mind reading—assuming others are thinking negatively of you—or forutne-telling—predicting that things will go poorly)
  6. Magnification/Minimization (blowing things out of proportion or reducing their significance)
  7. Emotional Reasoning (letting your feelings drive your thoughts; if you feel anxious, things must be scary/bad/worrisome)
  8. “Should” Statements (imposing rules on yourself, others, or the world)
  9. Labeling (using harsh labels to describe yourself)
  10. Personalization (unjustly blaming yourself or others for situations, circumstances, etc.)

These thoughts can intrude on the picnic of our lives. When we allow our negativity bias to have a welcome place on our picnic blanket, we make a nice, easy path for ANTs to rush in, multiply, and take over. They even burrow into the picnic basket and creep and crawl on all of the sweet stuff in our lives. Some of the ANTs, such as the ones that discount the positive, minimize the good, or magnify the ants-y picnic, make it seem like we can’t do a thing about our ant-infested life.

ANTs Don’t Have to Ruin Your Picnic—or Your Life!

The wonderful thing about automatic negative thoughts is that they are indeed distortions. Just because we have learned to think something doesn’t make it true. We really, truly don’t have to let ANTs ruin our picnic (because who wants to have an ant-infested picnic in the summer time, or any other time of year?). Next week, I’ll give you some tips for keeping ANTs out of your picnic and filling your picnic basket with things that enhance your mental health and wellbeing.

Source: Burns, D.D. (1999). The Feeling Good Handbook. NY: Plume.

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jul 5

Gain Mental Freedom, Embrace a Life of Wellbeing

Every year in early July, the United States celebrates Independence Day. Many nations joyfully observe their own independence at various times throughout the year. Regardless of where one lives, an independence day is a day that celebrates freedom from unwanted control. The significance of this day goes far deeper than the political realm and touches each and every one of us on a personal level of being.

To live well and embrace a life of wellbeing, we need to experience mental freedom. When we feel as though we are under the control of anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders, brain injury, toxic relationships, or so much more, we often feel caged. Our mental health and happiness suffer. Just as entire nations have broken free from unwanted control, so can we as individuals who want to live quality lives.

You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Here are ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.

Breaking free from what is imprisoning us is a long-term lifestyle more than it is a quick fix. It’s a process of awakening, of increasing awareness of how we’re trapped and why we want out as well as what we want to do when we gain mental freedom.

It’s not dissimilar to an actual prison. If a prisoner desires freedom, he or she could attempt to break out. He’d have to fight against barriers and sneak around. If she were able to escape, chances are high that she would be caught and re-incarcerated. However, if he were to acknowledge why he was there, discover what wasn’t working for him, and visualize the life he wants when he’s free, he could plan steps to achieve true freedom. Once released, she wouldn’t return and would be truly free.

The right to be free from unwanted control (that anxiety, depression, etc.) is fundamental. These tips can help you break free to gain mental freedom.

How to Gain Mental Freedom and Wellbeing

Begin with a vision. Visualize what would make you free. What does mental freedom mean to you? Create a vision board, ongoing collage, journal, or anything else that allows you to represent your life away from unwanted control.

Build awareness and insight. You can’t gain freedom from something vague and undefined. It’s important to know what is trapping you. Fully admit to yourself why/how you feel trapped. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and how these are affecting your actions. You  certainly don’t have to psychoanalyze yourself and dig deep into the roots of your challenges. You simply want to sharpen your awareness of what is keeping you mentally trapped.

Accept what you’ve discovered. Your thoughts and feelings are okay and are part of where you are right now. Like the prisoner who fought barriers and sneaked around in order to escape, if you fight where you are or hide who you are, you’ll be caught and wind up mentally trapped again and again. Allow yourself to be where you are now and put  your energy into moving forward through the mental door and into freedom. Acceptance and commitment therapy teaches people how it’s possible to be accepting of yourself and your life.

Return to your vision. Now you can go a bit deeper and make a plan for creating wellbeing and mental freedom. Reflect on important questions such as:

  • *  Where do you want to go when you are free from unwanted control? This can be a physical destination, a    career, a relationship, etc. What are your passions and your purpose?
  • *  How do you want do be? What kind of thoughts will you have? Feelings? How will you be in relationships?  How will your mental freedom impact how you respond to problems?

Executing Your Escape to Mental Freedom

Often, when we are trapped and controlled, it can seem impossible to take back a life of wellbeing and mental health. Even when you’ve done the above activities, it can be daunting to know how to actually begin to act. That’s normal and part of the mental trap.

An approach to mental health known as solution-focused therapy (or solution-focused brief therapy) gives us a useful tool for moving forward. This therapeutic approach uses scaling to help people feel less overwhelmed and more empowered to move forward.

What you do is consider how you are feeling in a given moment or think of a goal you want to achieve (something that makes you mentally free). Rate this on a scale from 1-10, with one representing the lowest point and 10 the highest. So, for example, if one of your quality-of-life goals is to wake up wanting to get out of bed, where on the scale are you? Then, determine how you can move up the scale just a bit. If you feel that you’re at a four in wanting to get out of bed (Congratulations! You’re not at a one.), what can you do to get to a five?  (See Five Solution-Focused Ways to Beat Anxiety on HealthyPlace for more on this approach.)

You can scale anything. It helps you assess where you are now and where you still want to go, and it helps make your own independence manageable. You can create small steps rather than being daunted by the big picture.

You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Learn simple ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.

As you act, continue to think in terms of lifestyle and what mental freedom truly, deeply means to you. This will fuel the small actions you do every single day to create a quality life of wellbeing.

 You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Learn simple ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.

 

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jun 27

Think Like a Business: Optimize Yourself with Personal SEO

 

Optimizing yourself is part of living life intentionally, of creating your own concept of a life worth living. Determining what makes a quality life and creating a path to get there is a process that in many ways is similar to what web developers call search engine optimization, or SEO. Think like a successful business person and enhance your own personal SEO.

In the business world, SEO is what allows websites to be discovered and helps businesses flourish. To be successful, most businesses need an online presence that includes a website optimized to find and be found by customers. As people who want to enhance our wellbeing, we’re not trying to attract customers. Our goal is different, but we can use some of the primary principles of SEO to optimize ourselves for mental health and wellbeing.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) enhances websites for businesses. We can use SEO principles to enhance our own mental health and wellbeing.

Personal SEO Development

  1. Know what you want, clearly and intentionally.

The first step in SEO for business happens even before the web developer touches the computer. A successful business person defines what he wants to accomplish, what “success” means to him. This business person can’t stop there. She has to have a method of creating success. It’s not enough for a business to create a goal and then sit and wait for it to materialize. Thus, the people behind the business create websites with great SEO so shoppers can find them.

As you begin to optimize yourself for mental health and wellbeing, become intentional about your goals. What, exactly, do you want for yourself and your life? How do you want to think? Feel? What do you want to do? How do you define a life worth living?

Once you know what you want, you are in a good position to optimize yourself to achieve it.

 

  1. What connections would you like to develop and enhance?

An important component for SEO is link building. When a website has other relevant websites linking to it, and when it links to other relevant websites, it becomes more visible. It’s ranking increases so that when someone searches for a topic that matches the business, the website is one of the first to appear in the long list of sites that pop up in a search engine.

If connections are important for websites, imagine how vital they are for human beings. We need relationships with each other to optimize our wellbeing. To be sure, this looks different for every one of us. Some of us are extroverted and are energized by gathering with other people, while others of us are introverted and are energized through solo time. Some people come from big families or live in large areas. Others are from smaller families or towns.  Some people deal with things like agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, or other mental illnesses that keep them secluded.

Personal SEO in the form of “link building” is about quality more than it is about quantity. Think of ways you can reach out to form one or more relationships with others. Consider volunteering in the foster care system, a nursing home, a humane society. Think of ways to strengthen connections you already have. Nurturing relationships is a great way to optimize your mental health and wellbeing.

 

  1. Know your keywords.

Keywords are important to SEO. These are simple words or phrases that are integral to whatever it is the website is about. They’re the words that people use when searching for a topic or product, and they drive the focus of the website.

Having personal keywords can be highly motivating, and they can keep us focused on what we want, thus shaping our actions. Think of your goals, then break them down into keywords. Often, taping the words where you can see them often or creating images to represent your personal keywords and having these images close by will keep you motivated. When you have easy reminders of your personal optimization, you’ll be equipped to make these keywords real.

 

  1. Be patient, consistent, and gentle with yourself, as SEO takes time to build.

Even the most skilled web developers can’t rocket a website to top ranking overnight. What a web developer does is put the elements of SEO in place for the business to build on. Business people have to do a lot of work to keep their website optimized. Businesses take steady and repeated action to maintain their SEO and grow it further.

That’s how it is with our mental health and wellbeing. We do things such as define goals, putting links in place for connection-building, and narrow our focus with keywords, motivational phrases to keep us on track. Once these are in place, we build on them, patiently and consistently, over time. Nurturing ourselves is a process. With patience and self-understanding, it’s an enjoyable one.

 
 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jun 20

Self-Compassion and You: A Guide to Turning Compassion Inward

I have a purpose in my life and in my writing: to share stories, information, and strategies so that we all may thrive despite problems and challenges and create our own version of a life worth living. I love meeting and collaborating with like-minded people, so I’m delighted to have discovered Inpathy—their services and their wellness blog The Inapthy Bulletin. I love the below article about self-compassion, something so important but for one reason or another so often neglected.

Enjoy learning a bit about Inpathy, and cherish the article that can make a positive difference for all of us.

Inpathy has a mission to increase access to psychiatry, mental and behavioral health services through telehealth. They help to make a difference in people’s lives by connecting them with licensed professional therapists, counselors and psychiatry providers. Online therapy sessions allow behavioral health providers to meet individuals where they are – at home, at work or in the community – making it both easier and more affordable to get needed care. Inpathy is a division of InSight, the leading national telepsychiatry service provider organization with nearly two decades of experience delivering online behavioral health care safely and securely.

Self-Compassion is a vital part of mental health, yet it is often hard to practice. Learn three tenets of self-compassion to help you turn compassion inward.

Self-Compassion and You: A Guide to Turning Compassion Inward

By: Jen Schiller for The Inpathy Bulletin

 

When we think about the word “compassion,” we often think about it in terms of others in our lives. Describing someone as compassionate usually means we consider them to be understanding of others, selfless and put the needs of the many before their own.

However, the concept of self-compassion is not often recognized or practiced. This concept means that we take those ideas listed above and turn them inward: understanding ourselves and responding in a kind and caring way.

THE THREE TENETS OF SELF-COMPASSION

According to Dr. Kristin Neff’s website on self-compassion, the concept is comprised of three elements: self-kindness versus self-judgement, common humanity versus isolation and mindfulness versus over-identification (Neff).

Self-kindness versus self-judgement is practiced by accepting that no one is perfect, and allowing yourself to make mistakes rather than punishing yourself when they inevitably happen. Self-compassion requires that we recognize our feelings of inadequacy rather than ignore them, and then treat ourselves kindly without dismissing those feelings.

Common humanity versus isolation ties in with self-kindness. This element means that when we do feel frustrated with our perceived shortcomings, we understand that we are not the only ones having these feelings–in fact they are a natural part of being human. “Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone” (Neff).

The final element is one often utilized in meditation: mindfulness versus over-identification. While we cannot ignore our feelings of inadequacy, we should also be careful not to let them define us. Mindfulness is a practice in which we acknowledge our feelings, but do not judge them as good or bad. We simply accept our feelings as a part of ourselves rather than trying to suppress or over-emphasize them.

Self-Compassion over Self-Esteem

In an article for Live Science, Robin Nixon compares self-compassion to another hot button topic: self-esteem. The rise in parenting tactics that include the proverbial participation award have had mixed results, some of the most extreme cases ending in fragility and narcissism later in life (Nixon). Because self-compassion allows you to make and acknowledge your mistakes, as well as recognizing that these mistakes are part of being human, you can learn and move forward as part of a larger community. By contrast, Nixon explains, “…self-esteem is a measure of yourself against others. In order to keep self-esteem high, you have to convince yourself you are better (or, preferably, the best), either by denying your faults and pains or by putting others down, and usually both [10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]” (Nixon).

 Self-Compassion and Your Mental Health

Biologically speaking, “self-compassion deactivates the threat system (associated with feelings of insecure attachment, defensiveness and autonomic arousal) and activates the self-soothing system (associated with feelings of secure attachment, safety, and the oxytocin-opiate system)” (Neff, Dahm). In another experiment where subjects were given a brief self-compassion exercise, the result was lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that causes and heightens feelings of stress. The exercise also “…increased heart-rate variability, which is associated with a greater ability to self-soothe when stressed.” Ultimately, the subjects were both less stressed out and better equipped to deal with stress when it did arise.

A higher level of self-compassion then leads to less suffering and a lower propensity for depression and anxiety. One reason for this is the link between self-compassion and self-criticism; self-kindness and mindfulness allow us to disassociate from criticism while still acknowledging it as feedback about our performance. In their chapter on self-compassion from the book Mindfulness and Self-Regulation, Dr. Kristin Neff and Katie Dahm detail an experiment that showed this correlation in a practical way. “In a study by Neff, Kirkpatrick and Rude (2007), participants were given a mock job interview in which they were asked to ‘describe their greatest weakness.’ Even though self-compassionate people used as many negative self-descriptors as those low in self-compassion when describing their weaknesses, they were less likely to experience anxiety as a result of the task” (Neff, Dahm). The subjects of the study with higher self-compassion also used more “we” pronouns rather than the isolating “I,” connecting them to a human experience and accepting their shortcomings as part of that experience. This understanding mental health struggles as universal rather than unique leads to a higher likelihood of treatment, as there is less shame to admitting that we need additional help dealing with an illness.

How to Cultivate Self-Compassion

For many of us, self-compassion is a new idea and will take changes big and small to build up. One practice that cultivates this skill is mindfulness; an element of meditation as well as an element of self-compassion, which requires that you stay in the moment in a non-judgmental way. You can and should recognize any distracting thoughts or feelings, using a method called ‘noting,’ where you choose a keyword to say to yourself or out loud during your mindfulness practice. This is something many guided meditations already incorporate.

In her article “Cultivating Self-Compassion” for PsychCentralMargarita Tartakovsky, M.S. offers several exercises for building self-compassion. These include offering ourselves healing touches or hugs, and reframing our thoughts about our own shortcomings to better accept and understand them as part of ourselves (Tartakovsky). You can keep track of these activities in a journal, a note-taking app on your phone, or simply start practicing them more often.

In her article for Mindful, Carley Hauck also suggests we get used to spending comfortable time alone. This can and should look different for everyone, but the common denominator is allowing ourselves the freedom to do what we want. Hauck explains: “I pick a day, or even a night…and I just slow down. I don’t schedule anything and I just let myself see what I want to do. Sometimes I read a book, write, spend hours in nature, eat exactly what I want and I am craving (and savor it!)” (Hauck).

Ultimately, self-compassion can be cultivated in many different ways and certainly should be unique to each person. One of the best possible results of better self-compassion can be a heightened sense of creativity Nixon explains:

“Presumably because they are not afraid of being mentally taken through the ringer, researchers also think self-compassionate people…have more courage and [are] more motivated to persevere. Those with self-compassion may even open access to higher levels of creative thinking, suggests one 2010 study in the Creativity Research Journal” (Nixon).

How will you treat yourself with more compassion and understanding? Check out our article on mindfulness and meditation apps to get started.

REFERENCES

Hauck, Carley. “How to Choose Self-Compassion.” Mindful. N.p., 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://www.mindful.org/how-to-choose-self-compassion/>.

Neff, Kristin, and Katie Dahm. Self Compassion Online (n.d.): n. pag. Self-Compassion: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Relates to Mindfulness. Mindfulness and Self – Regulation. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/Mindfulness_and_SC_chapter_in_press.pdf>.

Neff, Kristin. “Definition of Self-Compassion.” Self-Compassion. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/#definition>.

Nixon, Robin. “Self-Compassion: The Most Important Life Skill?” LiveScience. Purch, 15 May 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://www.livescience.com/14165-parenting-compassion-life-skills.html>.

Tartakovsky, Margarita. “Cultivating Self-Compassion.” World of Psychology. Psych Central, 22 June 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/22/cultivating-self-compassion/>.

 

ABOUT JEN SCHILLER

About Jen SchillerJen Schiller is a communications professional in Washington DC. She has a Masters in Theatre and a Bachelors in creative writing. She writes for numerous online publications including sub-cultured.com.

 

 

 

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jun 13

Visualization, Wellness, and Hubba

Visualization enhances wellbeing. Hubba enhances wellbeing too. Hubba's health and wellness community joins influencers and brands for success, wellness.

Are you an influencer in your field, a field such as health and wellness? Imagine Hubba. Do you represent a brand? Imagine Hubba. Are you a retailer? Imagine Hubba. And hey, are you a curious consumer wanting to simply explore (but not immediately shop for) new products and information? Imagine Hubba.

Visualization: A Powerful Tool to Enhance Wellbeing

To imagine Hubba, and determine just what it is we’re imagining, let’s engage in a visualization expercise. Visualization is a simple (but not always easy) technique for reducing anxiety, stress, tension, and the negative effects of a great many mental health disorders. As such, this practice is an excellent tool for enhancing mental health and wellbeing.

Visualization allows us to imagine something, such as a place of calm, peace, and happiness, without having to physically go there. With visualization, we call to mind an image of a place, a person, a shape, a color, an object, an action, or a goal. As we do this, we engage in deep breathing in order to foster mindfulness, focus our thoughts, reduce blood pressure, and influence the brain (such as changing brain waves and impacting production of neurotransmitters). Visualization as a regular practice has been shown to help improve mental health as well as help people achieve tangible goals.

Without further ado, let’s engage in a visualization exercise to imagine Hubba.

Close your eyes and take several slow, deep, breaths. Call to mind images of health, wellness, and vitality. You have access to people and products that will help you create a quality life, your version of a life worth living. You can connect directly with people who are experts in their field of wellness and health. You can meet influencers in the field, brands that are exciting and prominent, and products that help you achieve your wellness goals. Retailers, brands, influencers, and others interested in the cutting edge of health and wellness join in a joyous, figurative dance to build each other up. In this positive community, you naturally increases your success and wealth. You belong to a strong, positive community of influencers, retailers, and brands that all work together to enhance wellbeing.

Why I’m a Hubba Influencer

Hubba is this place of connection, community, and commerce. Hubba brings together top people and companies in a given field (Hubba has many communities, including health and wellness). It’s a place of growth and prosperity, and one where everyone benefits.

I’m thrilled to have been recently invited to join the Hubba community as an influencer in the field of wellness and health. You’ll find my badge, which serves as a link, in the sidebar.

While my books are included as health and wellness books, my main role on Hubba is to offer my influence and expertise to health and wellness brands and retailers. I write articles and maintain regular blogs about wellness. I research to enhance my professional and personal knowledge and experience, and I will write truthfully about how your brand and products improve people’s quality of life.

Imagine Hubba. It’s a community and a place to build meaningful connections. I’m happy to be a part of Hubba’s health and wellness community to join together to create success, prosperity, and lives worth living.

 
 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jun 6

Thrive with TBI: See the World Through Rose-Colored Glasses

My first traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurred more than a decade ago, and since that time, I’ve worked to thrive, to live well in spite of my unique brain injury sequelae. I recently discovered a whole new way to thrive with TBI. I now see the world through rose-colored glasses.

TBI can cause different types of visual impairments and disturbances. For me, my already-mediocre vision worsened, I began experiencing double vision, I developed depth-perception issues that exacerbated my normal clumsiness and rendered me unable to properly give high-fives (much to the amusement of my children), I developed significant sensitivity to light (termed photophobia despite the fact that it has nothing to do with fears and phobias), and headaches (I haven’t had a single headache-free day since 2004). Finally connecting with the right eye doctor has improved my vision and my outlook.

The Meaning of Rose-Colored Glasses

I truly see the world through rose-colored glasses now. My lenses are special FL-41 lenses. As the picture vividly shows, the lenses are pink. They’re rose-colored. They reduce photophobia and make seeing simply feel better. Light no longer pierces my eyeballs to rush along my optic nerves and sear my brain. Admittedly, I still have a headache, but it’s better. (Said headache could be caused by adjusting to a stronger prescription, adapting to bifocals, and by noises given that my brain is overstimulated by both light and sound).

The term “rose-colored glasses” can have a negative connotation, invoking a Pollyana-type image of someone living in denial. It can be an accusation that someone is falsely positive, ignorant of the hardships of life.

“Rose-colored glasses” more accurately describes a worldview that acknowledges the negative but intentionally focuses on the positives in life. Someone who sees the world through rose-colored glasses is someone who faces obstacles and challenges and finds ways to move forward anyway. This is a true optimist; wearing rose-colored glasses, he or she has both a why and a how in life—his vision is on the beauty of his purpose. He sees the hues (roses and pinks) of possibility despite obstacles. She has hope.

The way we perceive our world is significant for our mental health and wellbeing. My FL-41 rose-colored glasses allow me to appreciate the beauty around me on an even deeper level and to feel physically better as I live a life of purpose and meaning. It’s intriguing to me that this positive treatment is happening now, thirteen years after my initial TBI. After so many years of accepting my vision issues as just a part of a brain injury, I see that there is more that can be done. It’s not too late to seek improvements.

Rose-Colored Glasses, Acceptance, and Mental Health

Acceptance is an important concept in the world of mental health. There is even a therapeutic approach that centers on it: acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). It can be a confusing concept, because like the phrase “rose-colored glasses,” acceptance has different meanings and interpretations.

Acceptance does not mean

  • resignation to a bad situation
  • giving up or giving in or rolling over

Acceptance does mean

  • knowing what can’t be changed and making new plans around this fact (for example, after seeing different eye doctors who told me that the only changes to my vision would be changes for the worse, I accepted it as fact and learned how to appreciate imperfect beauty anyway)
  • using the knowledge of what can’t be changed to move forward; sometimes knowing the reality that certain things won’t change helps prevent people from being stuck in rumination and regret
  • having an open mind and being willing to integrate new information (when I discovered that my town has eye doctors and vision therapists that specialize in brain injury, I accepted that maybe there was new information that I could benefit from)
  • keeping ego at bay (sure, pink lenses in glasses that aren’t sunglasses might not be ultra-fashionable, but I’m willing to accept that in exchange for better vision and functioning).

While I am literally seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, it’s just as effective to do so figuratively. Move forward knowing that it’s never too late to make the progress you want to make. Gather tools (for me, one tool is these glasses), intentionally shape your perspective, and create ways to thrive. Whether you’re thriving with TBI or other life challenges, see your world through rose-colored glasses.

 

 
 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
May 30

Mindfulness for Traumatic Brain Injury, Mental Health

For a long time, mindfulness and traumatic brain injury didn’t fit together for me at all. Thirteen years after my first brain injury (I’ve had three), I still deal with TBI symptoms (check out these eight signs of TBI). I’ve explored a wellbeing technique known as mindfulness for numerous challenges, including anxiety, mood disorders, “ordinary” stress, and so much more. It works to improve mental health. But what about for brain injuries?

Mindfulness has benefits but is hard to do with a TBI. Learn a few mindfulness techniques that work for mental health and TBI.The practice of mindfulness involves quieting the mind, becoming still, and using all of the senses to increase awareness of what is happening in the present moment. I’ve found it helpful for many mental health issues, and I’ve helped others use the technique. However, when I thought of using mindfulness for my TBI symptoms, I’ll admit that I was quite skeptical. When I tried it anyway, it didn’t work — until I figured out how to do it.

Brain injury symptoms are numerous and, like almost anything related to the brain, are individualized. Brain injury looks different for different individuals. For me, the ones that are the most annoying are the ones that loom over me in attempt to disrupt my life. It can be hard to function in the vast array of life tasks that includes work, family, other relationships, organization, problem-solving, and more when wrestling with

  • sensory overstimulation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty focusing properly
  • headaches that make the above even more pronounced

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce these challenges to brain functioning and overall mental health and wellbeing. However, how does one practice mindfulness when one’s brain is overstimulated, uncomfortable, and unable to concentrate?

How to Practice Mindfulness with a Brain Injury

Mindfulness is traditionally the practice of stillness. Similar to meditation, it often involves sitting or lying down and using all of the senses to be fully aware, or mindful, of the present moment. It helps quiet mental chatter, such as worries, fears, self-doubts, negative thinking, and more, in order to induce a sense of peace and enhance mental health and wellbeing.

When concentration and focus are out of reach and the brain is already overstimulated with sensory input, trying to practice mindfulness can be aggravating. It can further disrupt mental health rather than improve it. That doesn’t mean mindfulness should be abandoned or that it can’t work when you have a brain injury, though. When sitting quietly and trying to focus doesn’t work, try these things instead:

  • Practice moving mindfulness. Take a mindful walk, go for a swim, or otherwise move around while paying attention to your surroundings. You don’t have to be still to be present in your moment.
  • Use an object. Having something tangible to feel, study, listen to, or even taste (think fruit) helps a jumpy brain tune in and learn to focus.
  • Do something mindfully. Help soothe a TBI by coloring, building, crafting, or doing any other hobby.
  • Stay far away from screens and technology to give your brain a much-needed break from what it often experiences as overstimulating chaos.

Experiment to see what helps calm your brain and increases your attention on your present moment. Even with a TBI, practicing mindfulness can pull you out of your head and into the moment. When you do this, you’ll decrease your brain injury symptoms and increase mental health and wellbeing.

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
May 23

Can Anxiety Have a Positive Side?

Anxiety isn’t something people often embrace as positive; indeed, people tend to go to great lengths to eliminate if from their lives. That said, very few things are either all good or all bad (that’s part of all-or-nothing thinking that contributes to anxiety, depression, and more). Anxiety can actually have a positive side, and seeing the positive actually works to pull you up and move you forward.

Recently, I had an online conversation about this very thing with a woman named Kay who lives with anxiety and seems to have had experiences similar to my own. We agreed that looking only at the negative is dangerous for our mental health and wellbeing. To be sure, negativity exists and anxiety does have it’s share of negatives; however, anxiety has a positive side, and discovering it can be very helpful in shaping how we see ourselves and the world. Not only does anxiety itself have positive aspects, so do the people who live with it. (Five Character Strengths of People Living with Anxiety).

Kay wrote an article about the positive side of anxiety. It’s great to be able to share her perspective on the fact that being anxious isn’t always a curse.

 

Anxiety Isn’t All Bad

By Kay*

 Anxiety has many negatives, but it has positive aspects, too. Discover examples of anxiety's positive side. Anxiety might feel like its ruining your life, but is it all bad? I have suffered from anxiety since I was a child—I just didn’t recognise it. I thought it was normal to see catastrophe at every turn, to feel like all my nerve endings were on alert, and to be overly sensitive to everything. Perhaps it is “normal,” as there are certainly a great many people who feel the same.

As time passes, we may recognise that anxiety greatly influences our lifestyle. The choices we make when we feel frightened may be different to the ones we make when we feel confident and optimistic. We may choose the same college course as our friends rather than the course which suits our interests. We might remain in unsuitable relationships because we don’t want to be on our own. We are more likely to stick around in dead end jobs because we are too anxious to try something different.  And that’s just the big things in life!  Anxiety may also influence the smaller, day to day decisions and limit our opportunities to enjoy life.

Focusing on the negative impact anxiety has on our life can really get us down. But have you ever looked at it through different coloured glasses? In other words, have you ever considered that there may be positive aspects to your anxiety? And positive aspects to you yourself? Anxiety doesn’t necessarily say negative things about you.

Anxiety’s Positive Side

I’ve Rarely Met an Anxious Asshole

People who suffer from anxiety are often kind and compassionate by nature. We may feel things deeply and be sensitive to other people’s emotions. We want (need!) everyone to be happy, so that is often motivates our interactions. We tend to play the role of peacemaker because conflict increases our anxiety. You may be riddled with anxiety, but chances are you are a nice person with a good heart. Pull that bit up to the surface!

We See the Negative but We Keep Going

Anxiety creates many automatic negative thoughts that plague us day and night, such as catastrophizing situations and seeing the bad before the good. That said, those of us who suffer from anxiety can be strong and keep going despite being anxious. How else would we talk our way down from whatever dizzy, anxious heights we have reached? To do so, we consider the positives in the situation, or the good that will come from continuing on. Next time you are catastrophizing, rather than focusing on how your mind reached the catastrophe, concentrate instead on how you have been able to move it back down a gear.

Our Anxiety can bring Achievement

You might think that being a high achiever brings high anxiety, but what it if works the other way? If anxiety means you can never sit still, or your brain never stops whirring, then you may be in a great position to channel this into your goals. If your employment prospects have suffered at the hands of anxiety, could you turn this around? Could anxiety drive your potential? Overthinking can be a terrible affliction but it might also mean there is a genius in there. Sweating over the small stuff might mean you have a great eye for detail. Your anxiety could lead you to achievements, and you just might find that your achievements help to banish anxiety.

Being Anxious Can Involve Being Caring

There is no question that anxiety may have a negative impact on your relationships with other people. But remember that it can also mean you are a great person to have around. If you’re emotional, you might be more open and loving towards your nearest and dearest. We can use our sensitivity as a strength and reach out to those around us. Experiencing anxiety can help us help others understand themselves. Further, our sensitivity can help us respond positively to the needs of others, be they human, animal, or plant. We may be full of worries and “what-ifs,” but that often equips us to care for other people, other things.

So there you have it!  These are just a few examples showing the upside of anxiety. Think of it this way: anxiety might rule your life, but it doesn’t have to ruin it. There’s always a flip side so don’t focus on what your fears do to you; ask yourself what they can do for you.

*Kay considers herself to be a professional worrier – not because she gets paid for it but because she is so good at it! She is ‘mid forties’ and lives in Scotland where she runs her own online business.  It has taken her a long time to recognise her anxiety disorder but, now that she has, she’s happy to share.  Her survival technique has always been to look for the upbeat aspects of anxiety and to see the funny side.  That is the basis on which she has started her own blog – “Worried Sick”.  You can find it at www.worriedsick.co.uk 

Anxiety has many negatives, but it has positive aspects, too. Read some examples of anxiety's positive side.

Feeling love and a desire to move forward for loved ones is a big positive.

 

 

 
 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
May 17

Another Book Giveaway for Mental Health Awareness Month

Enter a giveaway to win a book for Mental Health Awareness MonthIt’s time for another book giveaway for Mental Health Awareness Month! Five people have already received one of my mental-health-related books, and five more winners will be randomly selected at the end of May. Each will receive one of the books in the graphic on the left.

Mental health means many things, and it means different things to different people. What surprises people sometimes is learning that mental health isn’t the absence of mental illness. In general, mental health refers to the experience of emotional, physical, and overall life wellbeing. Mental health a contentment with who one is and the quality of one’s life.

 

 

 

Defining Mental Health for Mental Health Awareness Month

How we define all this individually can vary greatly. Take, for example, the various characters or information in the books I’m giving away:

 

What does mental health mean for Isaac in the novel Twenty-Four Shadows?

Isaac Bittman has trouble fully feeling love and happiness. To him, mental health means experiencing these things.

 

What does mental health mean for Brian in My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel?

To Brian Cunningham, mental health means stepping out of his shell and helping someone despite his anxiety.

 

What does mental health mean to Penelope in the novel Leave of Absence?

To Penelope Baker, who lives with schizophrenia, part of mental health means working again.

 

What does mental health mean to Elizabeth in the novel Losing Elizabeth?

To Elizabeth Carter, mental health is having enough good things in her day to smile as she falls asleep at night.

 

Learn how the self-help book Break Free: ACT in Three Steps can help you define and achieve mental health.

Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps is a self-help workbook designed to help you achieve your definition of mental health.

To enter this giveaway for mental health awareness month, answer this question in the comments at the bottom:

What does mental health mean to YOU? 

Sharing this post on social media using the below buttons will enter your name into the drawing twice!

 

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share