10 Common Psychological Barriers to Weight Loss Series

Are you someone who has a strong desire to make changes in your life but for some reason, find yourself reverting back to old habits and behaviors?  Do you feel frustrated that no matter what you try, you seem to make short-term progress only to lose motivation and confidence?  Have you lost hope that you can be successful in your weight loss goals?  When you think about making positive lifestyle changes, do you see the obstacles as insurmountable and therefore deem your goals pointless endeavors that will inevitably end in disappointment?

In the month of December, I will be publishing a series of articles that outline ten of the most common psychological barriers that inhibit us from achieving our New Years Resolutions and how to overcome them.  In the following articles, I will use weight loss as one of the primary examples; as losing weight is one of the most prominent goals that people set for their New Year’s resolution.   These psychological barriers are also prominent when attempting to make any change in our lives; therefore, you can apply the clinically proven strategies presented in these articles to achieve goals in any aspect of your life that you desire.

The psychological barriers include:
  1. Problem-Focused Mindset
  2. Not Planning for Obstacles
  3. Distorted View of Obstacles
  4. Setting the Bar to Fail
  5. Basing Goals on Comfort Level
  6. The “Baby Step” Fallacy
  7. Failure to Use Our Resources
  8. All or Nothing Mentality
  9. Auto-Pilot Engaged
  10. Waiting for a Day That is Not Today

Action Changes Everything–Take Control Over Your Life

Introduction

Have you ever thought about what you could do in your life if you had more confidence? Could you imagine what it would be like to feel confident, motivated, secure, and empowered whenever you needed to?

For more than a decade, I have had the pleasure of working with some great people.  I have a rule for myself and that is that I do not ask my client’s to try any new approach or use any new tools unless I have used them personally myself.  I started applying this strategy in my life many years ago and just like my client’s, I learned just how much control we have over our lives and how quickly that remarkable changes can happen in our lives.

This article will provide practical adjustments you can make in order to shift out of a problem-focused mindset and learn to fully implement a solution-focused mentality.

How to know if I have a problem-focused mindset or solution-focused mindset?

Many people are aware of which mindset dominates in their lives; however, there are also those who have implemented the problem-focused mentality for so long that they are not mindful that they are even engaging in that style of thinking or how detrimental it is to their quality of life.

You can identify whether you approach life in a problem-oriented way by paying attention to the questions that arise or statements you make/think when you have to face a task that you do not like, which may be indicators for problem-focused thinking.  Your approach can also be manifested by your physical reactions to challenges. If you are someone who is really good at identifying the reasons why you can’t do something or why other people can’t do something, you are employing a problem-focused mindset.  If you are someone who consistently finds themselves feeling indecisive which almost always leads to you talking yourself out of doing things, you are operating with a problem-focused mindset.

How To Shift To Using A Solution-Focused Approach

Absolute Accountability

When I say “absolute accountability” that does not mean that you have to revisit and ruminate on past mistakes and failures. In my practice, I promote absolute accountability because people are coming to find solutions and to become a better version of themselves. Absolute accountability means taking inventory of what areas of your life you want to improve and focusing all of your attention and energy on shifting out of the problem-focused mindset and into a solution-focused mindset.  Accountability is one of the most empowering feelings you will ever feel because you are finally taking control of things that you never thought you had any control over.

Shift from “Trying” Your Best to “Doing” Your Best

Sometimes people think that they are doing their best; however, many times what you perceive as your best is relative to your ideal comfort level. There is a big difference between “doing” your best and “trying” your best.

“Trying” your best means that you tried really hard until you hit some resistance.  Unfortunately, many people will only try doing it their way (which often times is based on trying to get the highest reward with the least effort) but when their way doesn’t produce the reward they desired, they quit.  They will then justify quitting by talking about how much hard work they put in and it not working out.  Unfortunately, many people end up focusing on something that takes hard work and effort but it is not the thing that will help them feel more valued and confident.  Someone can work their tail off but if they aren’t doing the right job, all of the work ends up not producing any changes.

This would be like you paying someone to mow your lawn but instead of mowing, they reorganize your bookshelves and still want the money because they worked hard organizing the books. Or it would be like you going into surgery to get your shoulder repaired and when you wake up, you realize they did surgery on your knee and the surgeon wants appreciation and validation for how hard he worked on your knee.

“Doing” your best means that you recognized what you wanted to accomplish, you assessed what would be the most effective route to take (embracing the idea that your way might not be the best way), you tried really hard, and when obstacles presented themselves along the way, you used them as opportunities to tweak your approach in order to give yourself the best chance of success.

It is very disheartening to feel like you are trying so hard but don’t feel as if you are getting anywhere.  It doesn’t mean you are aren’t working hard.  It means you are not focused on what really needs addressed.  That is why seeing a counselor/therapist can be so beneficial.  There are so many times that someone comes in ready to work on what they think is causing them so many issues.  I would say 9 times out of 10, it is something else.  Since we discovered where the focus really needed to be, we were able to make long-term changes in a short amount of time.

Why does problem-focused thinking decrease motivation and confidence?

Many people who operate through a problem-focused mindset do not understand how much unnecessary time and energy that is wasted. They may not believe in themselves to make the changes they want to make so they justify their inaction by ruminating excessively about the problems and the obstacles. I often use the following analogy when describing a life using a problem-focused mindset:

It’s like a car that is on a giant treadmill which is in neutral.  The engine is running the entire time and the car is burning gasoline.  When you eventually run out of gas, you realize that the car was running and the wheels were turning but you were not going anywhere.  Now you are stranded and you cannot fill the tank back up until the next morning when you wake up and then the whole process starts over.

Reframe the Obstacles

In order to implement a solution-focused approach, we must start treating obstacles as opportunities instead of catastrophes.  We must turn our pain into purpose. Fortunately, with simple preparation, the majority of the obstacles can be identified and dealt with early on; which means you will know exactly what to do if those obstacles present themselves (solution-focused).

Simple Examples of Shifting Problem-Focused to Solution-Focused

Example 1: We noticed that our 3 year old daughter was throwing fits in the mornings a lot because she wanted to pick out her clothes instead of just wearing what we picked out; therefore, we had us trying to get ready to leave while our daughter would go through the indecisive dance that is picking out something to wear.    It was getting frustrating and my wife and I started looking at options where she could still make the choice but not delay us leaving on time in the mornings.  Instead of dreading the mornings or having to get up a lot earlier and strong arming her, we decided to let her pick her clothes out herself the night before.  It was the most simple of solutions that remedied a lot of unnecessary frustration.

Example 2: I know I would benefit from counseling but I don’t have time. 

One strategy that I use in practice with people who struggle with time management and those who experience excessive stress and anxiety because they just can’t fit everything into a day that they “need” to do.  I use the white board to write down how much time they spend doing everything.  I mean everything.  We calculate how many hours per week they sleep, eat, drive, get ready in the morning, church, school, extra curricular activities, etc.  I then take that number and subtract it from 168 hours (number of hours in a week).  On average, those people who claim they have no time had at least 20-25 hours per week that were unaccounted for.  They had no idea what they were doing with that time; which showed us that we have more time than we think.  We just need to prioritize a little more effectively.

Conclusion

You can clearly see how only operating under a problem-focused mindset can be severely limiting in our overall quality of life and growth.  What I have found is that they majority of time, the problems start out as small little flames and it is us who ends up fanning the flames without realizing it.

Anxiety: Your Worst Enemy—Or Best Friend?

Introduction

If you experience regular episodes of exaggerated anxiety, you will likely experience uncomfortable consequences; such as, feeling tired very easily, have difficulty concentrating, experience sleep issues, restlessness, constantly feeling overwhelmed, even easy tasks seem laborious, and eventually can lead to feeling depressed and demoralized.  Unfortunately, many people wait until their anxiety has either caused deterioration in one’s quality of life (e.g. work problems, relationship issues, avoidance, etc.) and/or when they realize they want to have a more meaningful and purposeful life but have been significantly hindered by their anxiety.  One commonality that I notice when working with people struggling with anxiety is that many of them have developed a pretty nasty perception of anxiety.  If people wait until they feel demoralized, they often say something to the effect of “I just want my anxiety to go away.  I don’t want it at all anymore. I hate my anxiety. I just want total comfort”.

Reshaping Your Perspective on Anxiety

In order to overcome the excessive and unnecessary intensity of anxiety that you experience, you first must understand that anxiety is not the issue. The intensity of the anxiety is the issue. 

I ask client’s what they think that motivates them to make sure their children are buckled into their seat belts.  What is it that stops someone from just getting in their car and putting the accelerator to the floor and just run everyone off the road? Why is it that we stop at red lights (most of the time anyways)? What is it that makes us study for a test or prepare for a meeting instead of going in unprepared and careless?  What is it that motivates a police officer to put their bullet proof vest on when going on a call to a potentially dangerous situation?  What is it that motivates us to teach our children not to talk to strangers? What is it that reminds us to put a parachute on before we go skydiving? The answer is: anxiety.

The following list is just a few examples of what we would do if we had zero anxiety:

  • Parents would let their kids go and run with steak knives in their hands.
  • We would walk down dark alleys
  • We would tell our kids they can go talk to as many strangers as they can find. If one offers you a puppy, GREAT!  Nothing can go wrong there.
  • We would do drugs and put no limits on ourselves
  • We would literally not get out of bed in the morning because there would be no sense of urgency to do anything.

But we don’t do that because our anxiety makes sure that we protect our children and ourselves from danger.  We also must ensure the pendulum doesn’t swing too far the other way where we fall back into being overprotective and engage in irrational catastrophic thinking where you approach life planning for the worse possible scenario for everything you do.  In the following section, I’ll explain using an experience we had when updating our alarm system when we moved into our house.

The Home Alarm Analogy

When my family moved into our current home, the alarm system equipment needed updated.  When the alarm company came and updated the alarm, they ended up setting the alarm sensitivity too high.  The alarm would go off when we were sleeping.  It would go off when the dog would bark.  It went off when we were at dinner.  It went off when our daughter dropped a plate.  So, the alarm was working but it was going off when there was no real danger.  That is essentially what happens when someone experiences an elevated intensity of anxiety that is out of proportion with the actual circumstances.  We called the alarm company and they came out and tweaked the sensitivity of the alarm. Notice, I didn’t tell the alarm technician that we didn’t want the alarm to go off anymore.  We still want the alarm to alert us when there is real danger (e.g. burglar breaking in) so we can take the necessary steps to protect ourselves.  So, in effect, a counselor plays the role of the alarm technician who can help you adjust your internal alarm system, so it works in the most effective and efficient way possible.

What’s The Point?

When you are afraid of your anxiety and you choose to either avoid it at all costs or run away from it when you start to feel discomfort, you are essentially treating anxiety like you would treat a bully. It would be like believing that someone has been wanting to bully you and was going to constantly threaten to bully you for the rest of your life but instead you find out that they have had your back this whole time and are the reason why nothing terrible has happened to you.  You then realize how terrible things would be if your anxiety wasn’t there to keep you safe.  Bottom line, the objective is not to eliminate our uncomfortable emotions.  What will enable you to have a more purposeful and meaningful life is to make sure that the intensity of our emotions is in congruence with the actual situation. If someone close to you dies, feel sad.  If you receive good news, feel happy.  If someone punches you in the face, feel angry.  It’s OK.

Positive Vs Toxic—You Might Have Them Bass Akwards

Time for a Support System Overhaul—OR are you just running from accountability?

Introduction

In this article, I am going to discuss the impact of how who we associate with can have a significant influence on our attitude, mood, outlook, and perceived self-value.  You might be thinking to yourself, “Oh here we go again…another article explaining the importance of keeping positive people in our lives and eliminating the toxic ones”.  No…this article will help you to decipher who really is a positive influence in your life and who is toxic.  You also might be thinking that the distinctions are clear and obvious.  Let’s see!

I approach writing articles like I approach one-on-one sessions with my clients.  I don’t waste time explaining things that people already know.  I do not see the point in telling the person who smokes that smoking can cause lung cancer and they should stop.  The fact is that I have never met a smoker who doesn’t know how unhealthy smoking is.

Instead, I want to highlight how we (myself included), whether consciously or subconsciously, believe we are adding positive people into our lives while simultaneously eliminating the people we deem as negative or toxic. But in reality we might be doing the exact opposite.

Of course, I realize that there are very negative and toxic people out there and they can be exhausting to be around because of just how pessimistic, gossipy, and untrustworthy they can be.  I do believe that, as a default, we should try to surround ourselves with the most caring and authentic people we can find.  This article is specifically for people who think the best strategy for having a better (or easier) life is to eliminate anyone who will hold you accountable and refuses to tell you how great you are doing when you know it is not true.

There are many times that we think we are adding positive people into our lives but in reality you are just adding someone who won’t call you out on the behaviors you know are either unhealthy, irresponsible, childish, or all of the above.

The process typically goes like this:

You go on Facebook or Twitter to make sure everyone knows that you are doing a complete overhaul of your friends and family.  From the very beginning, you are implying a very clear message: that all of your problems and dissatisfaction with life is everyone else’s fault.  You reassure your Facebook “family”, that you are taking action.  You declare that you deserve happiness and imply that after you eliminate all of these toxic people who keep you down, you will miraculously be armed with the motivation, drive, and confidence that you never had before.

I urge you to be careful with this strategy.  Trying to make changes in your life without accountability will lead you to a dark and lonely place.  Rest assure a reality does exist that is worse than not having the motivation, drive, and confidence to achieve your goals: and that is not having the motivation, drive, and confidence to achieve your goals AND being lonely because you impulsively burned all of the bridges to your only authentic support system.

The whole point of that little Facebook onslaught was to highlight two realities:

  1. Just because people tell us what we want to hear and give us validation doesn’t mean they are positive influences in our life, and…
  2. Just because people call you out on your BS and try to help you; even when you don’t want help (or maybe even deserve it), doesn’t mean they are toxic and negative.
Why This Strategy Usually Backfires?

For starters, you are choosing to spend more time and energy portraying yourself as the person you want people to see you as; rather than just using that energy to actually become the person you want to be.  In order to fuel the justification of our behaviors, we survive on the artificial validation of people telling us how great we are or telling us how amazing of parents we are when they only see how we parent at birthday parties or other social events where we can make sure that we put on a good show. They don’t see you during the week or after work at your house when it’s just you and the kid(s).  That is where reality exists.  And just in case you don’t get all of the comments you were hoping for, you rest assure that since people went way out of their way and clicked a little hand that says like on it, they must really be behind you all the way.  I am a parent and I know that there are times when I get frustrated with our daughter and respond differently at home than I would if we were in public.  IT’S OK!  Stop trying to look like parent of the year and start actually being a good parent.

When Validation Can Be Harmful

When we feel so uncomfortable actually having to face the ugly truth that we are not putting our best foot (or even a mediocre foot) forward, we tend to go into “validation survival mode”.  So instead of trying to make authentic positive changes, we choose instead to eliminate anyone who reminds us; whether directly or indirectly.   Even if the person you are eliminating doesn’t actually voice their opinion or displeasure regarding your behaviors, you might still view them as toxic because anyone who is/appears more successful or better at certain aspects of life than you, they are deemed toxic.

When I ask people how they would describe the most important and influential people in their lives, they typically say: “someone who will tell me the truth even though it might hurt to hear it”.  They realize that a true friend or a worried family member will take the risk that you might dismiss them or avoid them at all costs.  They take this risk because they love and care for you so much that helping raise your awareness of the slippery slope you are going down is worth your disgust with them.  Now you might think that you want honesty, but your reaction to honesty will show your true colors.  Actions always show what your mouth meant to say.

When I think about all of the times that I was making stupid, irresponsible, and childish decisions in my teens and twenties, and some in my 30’s, I had a select few friends and family members that would give it to me straight.

A key principle or mentality that my mother instilled in me is that you can choose to screw up all you want…but don’t cry about it when you have to deal with the consequences. She knew one of the best ways to learn was to screw up, learn your lesson, and do better next time…OR don’t…but you live with that decision either way. That sounded great in theory…until I started making my own mistakes and questionable decisions that put me in a bind; which led to more stupid and childish decisions.  When it was all happening, I thought I wanted someone to tell me everything I am doing is right and for someone to bail me out of these jams I was in.  I felt exactly what it was like to put all of my value and self-worth into what people thought about me.  I was trying to downplay all of those decisions and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was looking for a “poor baby. It’s ok.  You are a good person and are doing your very best”.

But I got what I thought I absolutely didn’t want to hear.  I will not pretend that it is easy to hear the truth; however, it is necessary if we are to truly be accountable and work towards a better version of ourselves.

I was told by a long-time and current friend; along with the very person who gave me life and instilled the mentality in me that “It doesn’t matter what life throws at you.  We don’t give up and that it was my responsibility to adapt to the adversity that either comes my way or that I create myself.  It is not the world’s responsibility to adapt to my bad decisions and tell me my behavior was just justifiable”.

Conclusion

One valuable lesson I learned that I carry with me today is that there is a huge difference between “trying” your best and “doing” your best.  There is a reason why I surround myself with the straight shooters: because I know they will never bullshit me and they will definitely not enable me to continue making immature and reckless decisions by telling me how great I am when my actions clearly don’t warrant that praise.

It is up to you.  You can choose the “positive” people who will give you what you need to justify your behaviors or you can choose the people who actually have your best interest in heart.  You can choose the ones who will tell you want you want to hear or the ones that will tell you the truth. Remember there is more than two categories.  There are the positive people.  There are the negative people.  And there are the “REAL” people.  But just like I was taught: “the choice is yours.  Just be prepared to deal with the consequences of your decision”.

 

Luck Is A Liar: Action Never Lies

If you tell someone to wish you luck, it means you chose not to do the necessary work to prepare for success at whatever you are doing. Start paying attention to the implications of your words. “Good Luck” means “I dont believe in you/myself so I’ll depend on the illusion of luck to trick myself into believing I worked hard enough and if it doesn’t work out, I can BLAME bad luck, my friends, my boss, my family, or the environment, or the media, or politicians, etc…anyone else but the ONLY person that can make your life better.

Luck does not, and will not, help you. It serves as a default excuse that we can lean on when we dont do whatever it takes to succeed. But just like the best pranksters, Luck will pull the chair out for you, put a nice fluffy cushion on it so you dont have to experience any discomfort, give you a wink and a smile, and when you go to sit down, it will pull that chair out from under you and you will feel more pain and discomfort than if you would have just done what you should’ve done in the first place.

YOU can do anything when YOU stop allowing obstacles to dictate whether you succeed or fail.  A life full of regrets is way more painful than the discomfort you experience when you use it to be the greatest version of yourself.

How Lighting Can Improve Your Mood and Confidence

I often use the analogy that the growth process is like adding tools to your tool belt. Many of our clients have tried to overcome life’s obstacles while only carrying one or two tools with them. If a handyman shows up to a house with only a flathead screwdriver but has multiple issues to fix that require other tools, they will likely get overwhelmed and ultimately fail to fix the problems that they were hired to fix. There is not one tool that can help you overcome every issue in your life. My job is to help people add as many tools as they need to overcome any challenge that life presents them.

In this article, I am going to discuss one of those tools. I am going to lay out the benefits of daylight bulbs and how they can have a significantly positive impact on your energy level, motivation, confidence, and overall mood. This is especially important now that we are in September and the daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter. Using daylight bulbs in the fall and winter months has proven to decrease symptoms like depression and lethargy that many of us feel more of during these months when there is a decrease in sunlight exposure

What is a Daylight Bulb and why is it Different?

A daylight bulb is a light bulb which has a color temperature in the “daylight” range of light. The term “daylight bulbs” is used in the lighting industry to refer to both light bulbs with a high color temperature (usually anything above 6000k), and to full-spectrum light bulbs (which have 6500k+ as their color temperature, and a CRI (Color Rendering Index) score of 96% or more.

Common Places you See Daylight Bulbs

Gyms—There is a reason why your local gym is lit with either fluorescent or daylight bulbs. As mentioned in the previous section, daylight bulbs have a mood-enhancing effect and when we are in a better mood, we tend to feel more motivated, energetic and driven.

Stores—Daylight bulbs make colors more true and vibrant than other types of artificial lighting. If you have ever questioned why paint swatches look different at home than they do on the store’s display shelf, lighting is the answer. Daylight bulbs make everything—flooring, furniture, houseplants, wallpaper, paint, and clothing—look its truest color.

Work/School—again, daylight bulbs promote an improved mood and an increase in productivity and mental awareness. Daylight bulbs also have been shown to improve scholastic performance in students

Are Daylight Bulbs More Expensive than Standard Light Bulbs?

Any light bulb with a color temperature over 6000k will produce the desired effects of improved mood, mental awareness, and productivity, but only the more expensive “full-spectrum” daylight bulbs will produce the full range of benefits daylight bulbs have been proven to yield in a business and home environment.

Are Daylight Bulbs More Energy Efficient?

Most daylight bulbs are more energy efficient and last longer than light bulbs on the warmer end of the spectrum. This allows you to save money on replacement bulbs (many LED daylight bulbs last up to 10,000 hours), and making the switch can also save you on your energy bill.

Conclusion

The majority of people fill their homes with the standard soft white light bulbs; which are nice when it comes to cultivating a more relaxed and comfortable environment but they do not help very much when you want to feel more energetic and motivated. At our house, we strategically placed daylight bulbs in areas where we wanted to feel more energized; such as the master bathroom lights above the mirror for when we are getting ready in the morning, in our office, and in our exercise room. We use soft white light bulbs in all of the bedrooms, kitchen, and family room.
Transitioning to daylight bulbs in your home office or professional workspace is easy, and is simply a matter of choosing light bulbs in the 6000k+ range when you next make a purchase.

Why People Delay Seeking Counseling

Many people delay seeking counseling for several reasons. I will highlight some of them tomorrow and discuss how you can overcome these obstacles.

No one will understand me
  • This is actually one of the most common reasons why people DO go to counseling. Unlike our friends, family, and other people in our support system, the most effective therapists specialize in active listening.  Active listening means that your therapist will listen very intently on every word you are speaking in an attempt to fully understand your situation(s); as well as identify themes, patterns, and/or habits; rather than doing what many of our friends and family do; which is halfway listening while also trying to formulate what they are going to say when you are done speaking.  This is no fault of their own; as they are likely just trying to help but one of the most frustrating issues that our clients face is that they don’t feel like they are being heard by their support network.  When it comes to our friends and family, many times they want to offer a “fix” or solution to the problem; however, it is rarely just one thing that makes everything all better.  The most effective counselors put a huge emphasis on learning and understanding your situation.
My last therapist was awful
  • I can only speak for our practice on this one but one of our key principles is that our pain and adversity is what makes us stronger, more resilient, and feel more fulfilled and ultimately paves our path to happiness. Sometimes we have to encounter seemingly negative circumstances in order to truly understand what we actually are wanting; such as learning what we want in a therapist.  Many times we make our decisions on whether or not to pursue something based on past experiences; however, when all we have to go off of is one or two experiences, we are not being fair to ourselves.
  • There are so many different areas of our lives where we continue to search for the right fit for us and refuse to give up on. For instance, how many people fall in love and marry the very first person they date?  Even though the first people we dated don’t typically end up our soulmate, we continue to meet new people, date, and eventually, find the person that meshes well with us.  I think back to an example someone gave me when describing the process of finding a therapist that fit and that she trusted. She discussed how the first therapist she saw was not the right fit for her.  She very intuitively linked this experience to a previous relationship she had.  She said to me that she was in a previous relationship where the guy struggled to trust her because of his past relationships.  She then said, “it was not fair for him to base his trust in me on his past relationships that had nothing to do with me; therefore, I couldn’t use the same irrational reasoning when it came to choosing the appropriate therapist.  I know it wouldn’t be fair to conclude that just because I had a bad experience with one counselor meant that they were all going to be that way”.
  • Many times we do not stick with the first doctor, trainer, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. that we encounter. We shop around a little bit to find the best fit.  This is extremely important and highly recommended when seeking for the counselor that you feel comfortable with.  This is about YOU and finding someone you trust is one of the most important determinants of successfully achieving your therapeutic goals.
  • We know how hard of a decision choosing a counselor can be; which is why Healthfit Counseling chooses to help alleviate the anxiety of potential new clients by offering a FREEphone or in-person consultation so you can ask any questions and get a good idea of whether one of our counselors would be a good fit for you. This takes a lot of the pressure off as a consultation comes with no strings attached and doesn’t cost anything to you.
I Don’t Have Time
  • In my experience, when someone says they don’t have time for something usually means that their mental well-being is not a priority for them. I do an exercise with individuals who either have trouble committing the necessary time to be most effective or those who struggle with time management issues that give people an accurate account of where they are spending their time.  It is a very simple exercise.  All you do is list all of the tasks that take up time in your week and write down the type of task and how many hours or minutes you dedicate to each one.  This includes sleep, work, hobbies, children’s activities, church, grocery shopping, drive time to places you go, family time, etc.  You then take the number of hours dedicated to your weekly responsibilities and subtract it by 168; which is how many hours are in a 7 day week.  This will give you the total of unaccounted hours of your week.  I have used this exercise with hundreds of clients and the lowest number of unaccounted for hours was 29.5.  That is, the person could not tell me what they were doing for 29.5 hours out of their week.  Again that is the lowest.  The highest amount was up in the high 40’s.  Once people start becoming aware of where they spend their time and how much of it is used to just pass time, it is typically pretty easy to find time in the schedule to start working on becoming the best version of yourself.
I Am Weak if I Ask For Help
  • The stigma regarding mental health is improving; however, there is still a lot of room for improvement. When people think “mental health”, they are actually thinking it means mental health “disorder” which cannot be further from the truth.  When we talk about improving physical health, we don’t say that physical health is for people with physical disorders.  Just like our physical health, mental health is just as much about prevention as it is treatment.
  • We challenge the notion that people do not attend therapy because they are weak if they ask for help.
  • Ask yourself:
    • When your car breaks down, do we tell ourselves that we can’t get it fixed because I’m weak if I ask a mechanic for help?
    • When we go get our flu shots or yearly physicals, do we tell ourselves that we are weak because we are engaging in preventative health?
    • When we have a termite or ant problem in our home, do we feel weak when we have to call an exterminator?
    • If our lawn mower breaks down, do we feel weak when we ask the repair person to fix it for us?
    • When our phone malfunctions, do we think we are weak when we call tech support so they can give us the remedy to our problem?
    • Do we see it as weak if someone comes to us and asks for help with something? Not usually.  We see it as a sign of strength when others ask for help which begs the question: “Why is it a weakness for us to ask for help but it is not if someone else asks us for help?” It is time to start treating yourself like you matter.  That starts with learning to be fair to yourself.
I Don’t Want Anyone To Know I Am Going to Therapy

No one needs to know. We understand that this can be a very personal experience.  You don’t have to share everything with everyone.

That said, you may be surprised to find out that more people go to therapy than you think. Should you choose, in time, to share this information with your inner circle, you may find a friend saying s/he has also gone to (or is currently going to) therapy.

However, if you don’t feel comfortable telling friends that you go to therapy, don’t tell them.  An effective therapist will help you manage the pressure you put on yourself.

I’ll Feel Judged
  • Again, one of the reasons why many people attend therapy or counseling is because most therapists promote a safe place where you can discuss whatever you choose to discuss without judgment or backlash. At Healthfit Counseling, we believe that the most effective therapists have experienced and overcame adversity and pain (or continue working towards goals).  Most people have done things they are not particularly proud of and every single one of us has made mistakes along the way.  As therapists, we know how it feels to open up to someone and feel judged.  The fact that we know how unpleasant that feels, makes us even more aware and we ensure that we go into helping people with the understanding that it is not about judging; it’s about understanding and helping you find solutions.

The Relationship Kryptonite–Jumping to Conclusions

Introduction

This article explains how jumping to conclusions can have a significantly negative impact on our relationships and what you can do about it. Relationships in this context include intimate relationships, friendships, co-workers, etc. Unhelpful emotions are preceded by unhelpful thoughts and self-talk. Unhelpful thinking styles are subconscious habits that we use; especially as a result of perceived negative events. In the following sections, you will learn about when these unhelpful thinking styles are most prevalent; as well as strategies to not only recognize when you fall into these negative thinking traps; but also to change those thoughts into more accurate and helpful thoughts that will ultimately make you feel better; thus giving you more motivation. Unhelpful thoughts are generally catastrophic, self-defeating, illogical, inaccurate, and rigid. Conversely, helpful thoughts are generally reasonable, self-enhancing, logical, accurate, and flexible.

We are all guilty when it comes to using this thinking error. We draw a conclusion without having any evidence or knowing if there is any evidence to support it. We often make decisions or behave according to our “gut” or off of a “hunch”. It can be uncomfortable challenging our thoughts because we always want to believe that our thoughts reflect reality; but that is not always the case.

There are two ways in which we jump to conclusions—predictive thinking and mind reading.

We fall into the trap of mind reading when we assume we know what someone else is thinking without having any evidence that supports our thoughts. For example, you are having a dinner party that you have had planned for 3 weeks. About one hour before guests are scheduled to arrive, you get a phone call from one of the couples who state that they are not going to be able to make it. Many people would jump to the conclusion that “they probably have something better to do” or “they think I am a boring person”. Another example is when deciding whether to go to relationship counseling or not. One might tell themselves “I’m not going to see a counselor. They will just think I’m crazy and blame me for everything wrong in our relationship”. As you can see, jumping to these conclusions without having any evidence that supports the claims can cause intense negative emotions and also can severely limit someone’s growth. That is, you unknowingly create unnecessary problems for yourself when the situation likely does not warrant it.

The other form of jumping to conclusions is ‘predictive thinking’. We can also get into trouble when we start trying to predict the future. That is, making predictions about what is going to happen in the future. Making predictions; especially negative predictions is a sure fire way to increase anxiety and stress. These are often predictions where you overestimate the negative emotions that will come from a future event. For instance, let’s say that you are going on a date with your spouse as a way to rekindle the relationship. One or both of you might start thinking “what’s the point? It’ll just right back to the way it was”. Going off of the earlier relationship counseling example, one might surmise that relationship counseling is just going to create more problems and bring more out that I don’t want to mess with”.

Application

When the person called and said that they could not make it to your dinner party, you could’ve interpreted that in a few different ways; which would bring about two different sets of emotions. If you jumped to the conclusion that the person “has something better to do” or “they don’t like me…they think I am boring”. You can see how these two interpretations can evoke a myriad of negative emotions and can cause friction within the relationship; especially if you do not address it with your friend. In comparison, you might think “I hope everything is ok. I will call them tomorrow” or “maybe one of them got called into work”. This is not to say that your first assumption may be false; however, to be fair, if we are going to jump to the worst possible conclusion, we have to be at least open to a more positive outlook.

By recognizing that you are jumping to conclusions, you are being more mindful; which means you have more control over the thinking that causes negative emotions.

Exploratory Questions

The following are examples of exploratory questions that can help you start recognizing when you engage in this style of thinking:

1. How do I tend to jump to quick conclusions?
2. In what specific situations do I jump to these sorts of conclusions?
3. What evidence and facts to I tend to often overlook?
4. Why do I tend to jump to conclusions? Do I gain some value from it?

How to be more mindful of my automatic thoughts

To move from unhelpful to helpful thoughts, one must challenge their negative automatic thoughts (NATs) by asking the following solutions-focused questions:

1. What is the evidence for what I thought?
2. What alternatives are there to what I thought?
3. What is the effect of thinking the way I do?
4. What thinking errors am I making?

If you or someone you know wants to improve the quality of their relationship, please visit www.healthfitcounseling.com for more information.