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Psychology + Self Improvement In the 21st Century
Updated: 1 day 17 hours ago

How a Sobering Walk Through a Cemetery Can Help Reinvigorate Your Life

March 23, 2017 - 5:43pm


Thinking about death is often something that we try to avoid at all costs, but could there be a psychological benefit to it?

There’s an emerging concept in psychology known as Terror Management Theory (TMT) that explores how humans respond to the prospect of death.

According to the theory, the thought of death often presents a psychological conflict between having a strong desire to live, while at the same time realizing that death is an inevitable part of life.

This conflict can often lead to terror and “existential anxiety” within individuals, but at the same time it can motivate them to re-evaluate their lives, especially their core values, priorities, and what truly gives their lives meaning and purpose.

In other words: thinking about death can be transformative.

In one recent study published in the journal Society for Personality and Social Psychology, it was discovered that thinking about death can have a positive influence by enabling individuals to re-prioritize their goals and values.

In fact, it was also found that even non-conscious exposure to death – such as casually walking by a cemetery – could prompt positive changes to one’s life, as well as promote more kindness and compassion toward others.

When I first heard about this study, I could immediately relate to its findings.

Back when I was a freshman in college, my depression reached a crescendo. I’ve shared this story many times throughout this site (such as in my post when you have to completely breakdown before you can rebuild yourself) – but in short, I was terribly lonely, unmotivated, and I even flirted with suicidal thoughts a lot.

I began to try small things to help boost my mood and reinvigorate my life with some sort of meaning and purpose again. Some of these things included taking up photography, writing poetry, and volunteering at a local elementary school in the area.

During my bus ride to the elementary school, I would often pass by a cemetery that was only a couple stops away from my destination. And one day I decided to get off at this stop and take a walk through the cemetery.

Of course, being away at college, I didn’t actually know anyone that was buried at this cemetery. I just felt compelled to check it out – especially since my mind had been preoccupied with death a lot during this period in my life.

I would often have destructive and nihilistic thoughts like, “I’m just going to die anyway, so what’s the point of anything?”

But taking a walk through this cemetery was insightful for me. I looked around at all the gravestones, one by one, and I began to think to myself, “These people are no longer alive – but I still am. And I should do something positive with this life, because this is a rare opportunity to have and I won’t always be this lucky…”

“One day I’ll be dead too, but I’m not dead yet.”

That was a very powerful insight for me.

For the next few weeks I stopped by the cemetery multiple times (often with my camera), and I’d take a long and reflective walk by myself. It was a very sobering and grounding experience, but it was exactly what I needed to give myself some perspective about life.

To this day, I still stop by random cemeteries every now and then. It’s a constant reminder to me that I’m still alive and I still have work to do so long as I am still here and still breathing.

Walking through a cemetery helped give me a new perspective on life. It taught me to be more grateful and appreciative for every breath that I have, because our time on Earth is limited and we should make the most of it while we can.

This is very similar to the teachings of the philosophy Stoicism, which often encourages individuals to focus on all of the ways things could be worse (including the concept of death), to help them grow a stronger appreciation for the things they have in their lives.

So if you’re going through a difficult time in your life – or you find yourself questioning, “Why live?” – a walk through a cemetery might be just what you need to bring yourself back to life.

It’s a very simple exercise. Just look up a local cemetery in your area and find a nice afternoon or evening to take a walk through it. You can even combine your walk with a bit of mindful photography to enhance your introspection and reflection.

Of course, other experiences of death (like losing a loved one or having a “near death experience”) can have a similarly sobering effect on our lives and influence us to re-evaluate our goals and values. But we don’t always have to wait for a serious tragedy to occur if we want to gain a deeper perspective on life and death.


Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:


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A Quick Guide to Ashitaba and Its Uses

March 23, 2017 - 10:21am


As adults, many people live on diets of fast food, caffeine, and too many responsibilities. Having so much on your plate – both literally and proverbially — often leaves you feeling run down and may even make you sick. If you are looking for an all-natural way to help your body heal, boost your immunity, and prevent disease, you may benefit from the use of ashitaba.


What It Is

Ashitaba is an Asian herb that has been used in China and Japan since the 15th century. The medicinal plant offers benefits found in both land and marine plants and contains 11 vitamins and 13 minerals. In addition to protein and powerful antioxidants, ashitaba is a source of vitamins B-12 and C as well as B-carotene, calcium, iron, potassium, and essential minerals. It has long been a staple in the diets of people on Hachijo, a Japanese island that is home to some of the oldest people on the planet.


Benefits in Western Medicine

Ashitaba has more than 20 proven health benefits in western medicine. Most commonly, it is known for its vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system, and its chalcones compound, which acts as an anti-inflammatory in people who have arthritis or other diseases that cause inflammation. Ashitaba may also help to regulate blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, reduce joint pain, improve gastrointestinal disorders, and reduce symptoms of PMS. Some people even believe that ashitaba can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson disease, dementia, and even cancer. Finally, it has been known to increase metabolism, which aids in weight loss.


Benefits in Chinese Medicine

Ashitaba also provides benefits in the world of Chinese medicine. Most importantly, it is known to activate the Qi, which is believed to be the circulating life force that surrounds a person. Ashitaba also clears heat as well as acts as a tonic for the liver, spleen, and gallbladder.


How to Use It

Ashitaba is available as a green leaf powder or a chalcone powder. Many people prefer to use the plant as a tea, which is grown in the southern islands of Japan. After it has been harvested, the tea undergoes processing techniques that use low heat, which protects the fresh leaves while creating a powder. Ashitaba should be taken in the form of one-half a teaspoon per day. Simply heat your water and add the powder until it dissolves. If you prefer not to drink hot tea, consider adding the powder to smoothies or juices. 


Things to Keep in Mind

While ashitaba is a powerful antioxidive substance, you should never use it in place of seeing your regular doctor. The tea is meant to aid you in your health but cannot and will not heal all ailments. It is best used in combination with regular checkups, a healthy diet, and daily exercise.

If you decide to try ashitaba, make sure you purchase it from a reputable company that has excellent reviews. By researching the company first, you ensure you are receiving a legitimate product that is high-quality and delicious. Just by drinking a glass per day, you will be on your way to feeling and looking better than ever.


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3 Toxic Things in Your Life You Need to Remove

March 23, 2017 - 6:36am


Working to be the best you can be at any stage of life is sure to be ideal. This can allow you to feel your best and lead a life that is of the highest quality in the process. The good news is that this can be done with the right amount of effort and discipline. By simply taking a long look at the things that may be toxic that can hinder your desire to improve and getting rid of these is sure to be ideal. It’s important to first understand what areas are toxic and then work to get rid of these.


Drugs or alcohol

The challenges of everyday life may have you feeling less than able to simply cope with many of these. This could include loss of a loved, losing a job or even divorce.

It’s a fact that life can be tough and hard to deal with as it moves forward. This may entice you to turn to drugs or alcohol for some type of solace or relief from difficult situations. However, one problem with doing this is that you can easily get addicted to these toxic sources when you consume too much.

If this happens to you, you will want to consider entering a drug detox center and working to get better. The experts at this facility are well-trained and standing by to assist you.


Social media

This has become the age of the Internet. There isn’t much you can’t do online and it’s a fact that people are logging in and out all day to do a number of things.

Social media is one of the top ways of connecting with others these days, and a little of it may be fine, but getting addicted isn’t. When you feel you can’t make it through the day without logging on to some the social media platforms, you may find that you have a problem.

One of the concerns of using the Internet too frequently to connect with others is that you may not value yourself as much. You may look at what others are doing and think you’re life isn’t that great. Additionally, you may not put the amount of privacy on your life that is necessary.

One way to help reduce the toxicity of this situation is by limiting the amount of time you’re online. This could be extremely helpful in allowing you to not devalue your private life and not posting about it more.


Relationships

Being involved with another person is supposed to be a good thing. However, if you’re consistently arguing with this individual, this can cause your life to be more stressful rather than less.

Relationships can be incredibly hard to make work. One person has an agenda of things that must be done, and the other individual may not always agree. It can be extremely challenging to come together, and many any long-term relationship work.

In fact, studies show that 85% of relationships do end in breakups. This is a significant number of people that simply have unsuccessful relationships with others, and this may often be because the relationship is too toxic.

If you’re in a situation such as this, you will want to do all you can to get out of it and fast. Living in a toxic circumstance, such as this can be dreadful for you and your health. You will want to do all you can to have the best long-term health possible to allow for a higher quality of life.

The key to living the best life possible is to find things you can do that will reduce drama and bad feelings in your life and work to move past these as much as you can. Look for areas that are toxic and remove these things first. This may allow you to have fewer challenges that must be dealt with on a routine basis and even allow you to have more peace in the process. You can make the right things happen rather than the wrong ones when you simply know where to focus the largest part of your self-improvement energy.


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10 Lessons I Learned as a Western Man in the Philippines

March 23, 2017 - 6:11am


I didn’t know what to expect when I packed my suitcase.

I was nervous. Having read countless articles about the Philippines, I had a clear picture in mind. And this picture wasn’t particularly beautiful.

I knew that some cities in this country have more bars than houses. Oh, and I also knew that a majority of the population of the Philippines lives in poverty. Basically, I imagined countless bars and beggars on every street corner. I was afraid that I was about to land in hell.

When the plane touched down, my heart started beating faster and faster.

Two weeks after I landed in Manila, all my fears, worries and negative emotions were gone. Instead, I felt happy, relaxed and balanced. It took me less than 14 days to understand that nearly everything I imagined about the Philippines was not true.

Yes, there are some shady bars and there are beggars. But this country taught me more about life, love and about myself than any other place I’ve ever been.

I’m so thankful for this experience that I decided to share the 10 most valuable lessons with you…


1. More Money Doesn’t Necessarily Lead to More Happiness

Of course, it was shocking to see how some Filipinos live. I don’t want to sound rude, but some of the houses in the Philippines don’t even deserve to be called houses. For a vast majority of the Filipino people, the living conditions are really bad.

But that doesn’t prevent them from being happy. It’s insane, but I’ve never seen so many happy people in one place. They are laughing, playing and having fun. Seeing the smiles of people who have so little made me realize something.

It made me realize that money is not everything.

The more time I spent in the Philippines, the more I doubted the Western philosophy of working more and accumulating more material possessions.


2. I Thanked God that I Have Been Born in the West

Even though some of the poorest Filipinos seemed to be happier than some of the richest Bankers in New York, I thanked God that I was born in a Western country.

Like I said, I was amazed at how happy they are. But I was also shocked at how poor they are. This ambivalent experience made me think about all the things that I, as a young man who was fortunate enough to grow up in a Western country, take for granted.

I thought about how many times a day I go to the fridge to get food and open the tap to get water. When you really think about it, this is a privilege.

There are millions of people in the Philippines who don’t have this privilege, no matter how happy they are.


3. Not Every Smile is Real

Let’s be realistic.

Not every Filipino who smiles at you does it because he likes you.

The Philippines doesn’t have the same social security system that you can enjoy in many Western countries. You sink or swim. You sell something or you die. That’s why there are so many street hustlers who try to sell you everything that you can imagine.

You have to be careful. If you trust them too much, you’ll lose a lot of money and go back home with all kinds of things that you neither want nor need.

The same is true for Filipino women. They are beautiful and feminine but not every woman who smiles at you is sincere. Be careful.


4. You Better Stay Away from the Bars

This is the best advice I can give to every Western single man.

Don’t even think about going to one of the many gogo bars you can find in Manila or in Angeles city. Of course, you can ignore this advice and do it anyway. But don’t say that I haven’t warned you.

Usually, the story goes like this:

John, a middle-aged American man, visits the Philippines for the very first time. One night he ends up in a bar. There he meets Joy, a beautiful Filipina bar girl. He falls in love with her and she pretends to be in love with hem. He marries her, builds a house for her and two months later, she kicks him out.

It’s the same thing that happens in Thailand. I’ve heard it a million times. Playing with fire can lead to nasty scars.


5. A Filipino Woman Values Marriage More than a Western Woman

What most Western men don’t realize, especially the ones who love to hang out in bars, is that there are millions of nice, sincere, and educated women in the Philippines. They are everywhere and they value marriage more than the women in the West.

Just think about it. In most Western countries, it’s completely normal to get divorced. Of course, nobody marries with the intention to get divorced, but it’s no big deal if it happens. What about cheating? It breaks hearts, but the government won’t punish you for it.

What about the Philippines?

The Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is illegal. The same is true for adultery. Filipinos can actually land in jail for cheating on their spouses. A woman who has been raised with the belief that marriage and loyalty are the two most important things in life will think twice before she risks her marriage.


6. Your Filipino Girlfriend Wants to Be Your Wife

While dating a beautiful Filipina, I made a painful realization.

I realized that dating in the Philippines is not the same as dating in the West. In most Western countries, you date someone for a certain amount of time and if it doesn’t work out, you move on.

Don’t expect this to work in the Philippines.

No matter how many times you call a Filipina “girlfriend”, she’ll always hear “wife”. In other words, dating is a lot more serious. Once you made her your girlfriend, she expects you to take the next step with her.

Remember, this is a traditional Catholic country. Think twice before you call a Filipina your girlfriend. Always remember that she wants to become your wife.


7. It’s Nearly Impossible to Get Scammed on a Filipino Dating Site

Of course I had to give online dating a shot.

But I was scared. I had the same fears and concerns that you might have when you think about online dating in the Philippines. I mean, you probably read more than one horror story about men who got scammed.

But while testing one of the most popular Filipino online dating sites, I realized that it’s nearly impossible to get scammed on an online dating site. I mean, it is possible, but only if you are naïve enough to send money to a woman you have never met.

As long as you don’t send money, nobody can scam you. It’s really that simple.


8. It Feels so Good to Help

In case you think that I spent all my time on Pinay online dating sites, you are wrong.

I did something else, something far more rewarding. I helped as many Filipinos as I could. Whenever I saw a homeless child, I bought something to eat. And it felt good. I could have never imagined that helping other people feels so good.

One burger cost about $1. The smile of a child I could help was priceless.

This experience made me rethink the way I usually spend my money. You will have the same thoughts when you realize that it can cost very little to have a huge impact.


9. Filipinos are among the Nicest People in the World

Yes, not every smile is real, but that doesn’t change anything about the fact that Filipinos are among the nicest people in the world.

And I’m not just talking about the women. I’m talking about everyone, no matter what gender or social class. I’ve never been to a county that made me feel so welcome. The people are kind, genuine, and extremely helpful.

The people in the Philippines prove that you don’t need a big wallet to have a big heart.


10. It can be Cheap to Live in Paradise

The Philippines is not a particularly rich country. Nobody can deny that.

But it’s rich in nature.

When I think back to the time I spent in Davao, Cebu and Palawan, I remember beautiful beaches, palm trees and crystal clear water.

I was in paradise.

And living in paradise cost a third of what I pay for my tiny apartment in a crowded city in a cold country. This made me think. To be honest, it was the first time I thought about leaving the safe haven for an uncertain life in paradise.

Let’s see what the future will bring…


Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:


The post 10 Lessons I Learned as a Western Man in the Philippines appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

Life: A Game of Chess

March 21, 2017 - 6:13am

This is a guest post from Brady Moller over at Eyes of an Addict, a fantastic site that aims to normalize mental health issues. Check it out!


Life is one big chessboard. People are the chess pieces.

Chess is a strategy board game where all pieces on the board can move in different positions and each with different limitations. All pieces on the chessboard are moved to strategically over power the opponent’s King and this is how the players ultimately win the game.

Chess, the game of life, is a game where every decision made has an impact on the rest of your game. One bad move and your entire game is ruined or in the least, it makes it hard to recover from that bad choice.

Each chess Game consists of 32 initial pieces.

(These pieces make up the human population)

  • 2 Kings
  • 2 Queens
  • 4 Rooks(Castles)
  • 4 Knights
  • 4 Bishops
  • 16 Pawns

It’s clear to see that not all pieces on the board of life are placed equally in the hierarchy of life:

  • The few elite.
  • The powerful reinforcements.
  • The free spirits.
  • The majority – dedicated hard workers.

Some, at first, appear to be lucky to have already been placed in positions of power. Others have to work hard if they have any hopes of “moving up” in life.


Life is one big chess board. All the pieces represent each type of person in this world…


The King

These are the all-powerful influencers and the decision makers. They don’t move around much, but they have a huge following. They are very well protected by all the other pieces and at all costs. All the other players have to move in the interest of these all powerful human

Chess pieces. Interesting thing with these all powerful pieces are that even with all their power, if the ‘kings’ in life do not have substantial backup from those around him, they are almost useless.

Presidents, Celebrities, Royalty, Corporate CEOs, etc.


The Queen

The most powerful piece of all, with unmatched freedom of movement. With all this power though, try as she might, the Queen will always only be second to the king.

The Queen has a lot of influence but if she is not careful, she may easily be replaced by an upcoming pawn. As with the King, powerful as the Queen may be, she is almost useless without the support of the other pieces on the board.

Experts, Managers, Directors of big corporations, Heads of different governmental sectors, etc.


The Bishop

These players remain on their own colour. These ‘pieces’ avoid change at all costs and prefer to remain in their comfort zones. These pieces are crucial to the King’s success and often serve as loyal Devotees.

Conservative or traditional people that generally try sticking to rigid regime, etc.


The Knights

These players represent those that love freedom! They move around the world with their head and their heart. They are the motivators of the world. These are the pieces that encourage change. Their free-spirited capabilities are so unique that not even the Queen can perform these moves.

Nelson Mandela, Priests, Freedom fighters, Activists, Philosophers, Positive Thinkers, etc.


The Rook (Castle)

These are the tall, head-strong and powerful ones. Their almost intimidating power is often used to fight off the bad and protect all the other pieces on the board. These pieces provide support to the rest of the pieces on the board.

Army, Police force, Firefighters, etc.


Pawns

The workers. The most over looked, yet most crucial pieces in the game of life. Without the pawns, the higher powers would be weak, vulnerable. The all-powerful often use these pieces for their own gain. The pawn remains headstrong and looks ahead, knowing that if they work hard enough they will get rewarded and move well up the ladder.
Sometimes, the pawn becomes so fixated on moving up, that they lose their self in the process…..

Construction workers, Teachers, Doctors, etc.

Many of us fall into this category…

In this game of life you cannot just focus on your next move, but rather, you have to focus on your next three moves. The next move you make has an impact on the moves you’re allowed to and will be forced to make in the future.
Every decision you make today will have an impact on your future decisions tomorrow, regardless of where you fit in this game of life.

Sometimes we make decisions fully believing that it was our best decision and ends up being the worst decision we could have made. What’s important though is how fast we are willing to get back up and start again. Each piece has to keep moving. Mistakes are made and learnt from.

Such is the game of life.

In the game of life, which chess piece best describes you?


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7 Common Lies That Prevent You From Overcoming Social Anxiety

March 20, 2017 - 8:06am


Dan Stelter is a lifelong social anxiety disorder sufferer who now lives peacefully and confidently. He now runs a website that offers a safe place for socially anxious people to get the support they need to relax and find happiness, serenity, meaning, confidence, and freedom. Visit the Anxiety Support Network.


Social anxiety lies. All the time.

Whether you consider yourself having “social anxiety disorder,” or just “afraid of people,” your thoughts don’t tell you the truth.

Do you find this perplexing?

I do.

But I didn’t realize it until recently. Even though I’ve had social anxiety disorder my whole life.

Can you relate to this example:

For a long time, my anxious thinking created the boundaries that ruined my life. Years ago, talking to a new person was a daunting endeavor.

Subtly, but powerfully, social anxiety told me, “This is gonna be scary. You’ll be anxious. You’re going to screw up. The other person will see you. They’ll reject you. And you’ll be alone. Again.”

So for many years, I let the power of my anxious feelings define what I did or did not do. When something seemed terrifying or overwhelming, I’d find reasons not to do it.

But it only isolated me. I remained lonely. Anxious. And afraid.

Once I made a consistent effort to disobey social anxiety and its feelings, things got better. At first, it was quite painful. Under attack, my socially anxious feelings actually gained power.

But after confronting each situation, the anxious feelings weakened. Difficult encounters became easy. And social anxiety disappeared in many cases.

I’m rarely afraid to simply talk to new people these days. I run my own business. So, I have to interact with a fair number of people. I have to stand up for myself (still challenging at times). And sometimes, I have to end relationships with others.

But I find it odd that my own mind, through the lens of social anxiety, lies to me. It tells me things won’t get better. It insists the other person has rejected me. It says I shouldn’t try.

In other words, it uses a limitless number of rationalizations to do what is not in my best interest. In fact, social anxiety absolutely destroyed my young life.

So, come along with me as I expose the most convincing lies social anxiety told me. And learn the truth behind them:


1. “Others will think I’m strange when I act different.”

You know you have social anxiety and that others have some awareness of this also. You also know you act differently around those you feel comfortable with versus unfamiliar or entirely new people.

You want to be yourself, the real you. But you’re petrified. Because, those who know you already know the anxious and fearful version of you. If you act differently, others may look at you strangely, and you’ll feel rejected.

Strangers who don’t already know you could also find you unusual.

The Truth: Some will find you strange. Others will like you. 318.9 million people live in the US. Not every person will approve of you. Guaranteed. But many will. Also, guaranteed.

Michael Jackson may have been the most liked pop singer of all time. I never cared for his music. Bill Gates is one of the richest and most powerful people in the world. Many people do not like him. Regardless of who’s president at any time, only about half of the nation likes them.

It’s simply natural that some people like you, while others don’t. What you and those closest to you think of you matters most.

Let go of what you think other people think of you. What they think is their business. Spend your time with those who you connect with the strongest.

Act in new ways. Accept you don’t know what others think. A certain look doesn’t necessarily mean rejection or disapproval. The other person could be surprised because you’re acting differently from the way you usually do. But they might like it.

If you don’t already have strong relationships in your life, you will find them if you keep trying until you learn where you fit.


2. “Social anxiety is too powerful for me to beat.”

The feelings of social anxiety get intense. Some can’t hold a job, don’t have friends, can’t find a significant other, and basically can’t leave their home without paralyzing social anxiety. Signing your name or eating in front of others appears like a monumental challenge.

These overwhelming feelings make it seem as though your social anxiety has won. So, you silently resign yourself to a grim life of misery, loneliness, and failure.

The Truth: You don’t have the power to overcome your fear of people on your own. I don’t know of one person who does.

But with a supportive community around you, and consistent action, you’re almost guaranteed to win. Sometimes, this means limiting or completely eliminating contact with people close to you, like family members or friends who don’t understand and only make your social anxiety worse.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

How true!

Make the five people you spend time with positive people who want to see you let go of your fear. And make sure they help you feel comfortable and deal successfully with your challenges.

Also, realize that you can win. Or, at least open your mind to accepting the possibility.

I don’t like to use quotes unless they’re spot-on. But, Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”


3. “Anxious feelings mean I’m a bad person.”

Have you ever actually found yourself thinking this? Maybe not. But, I realized that I unconsciously believed this most of my life.

When you feel guilty and ashamed, and judge yourself, it’s easy to think feeling that way means you’re a bad person. But if you believe that, you only set your mind up to feed yourself more of the same (and perhaps worse) in the future.

See how deceptive and destructive social anxiety is?

Insidious, isn’t it?

The Truth: You make a mistake when you let your feelings define your self-esteem. Most humans, not just social anxiety sufferers, do this.

It’s a tough, and painful, way to live. Because, your feelings go all over the place. Much of the time they have nothing to do with the facts surrounding you.

So you can’t always trust them.

When those self-judgmental feelings of shame, guilt, and remorse come up, simply acknowledge them. Identify them. Say, “I see you shame, guilt, and remorse. But I’m not going to let you run my life.”

Let them pass through. Realize you’re a worthwhile person, and focus on that thinking instead. Maybe you create an affirmations or gratitude list and work on it at this time.

Eventually, those unpleasant feelings will pass. They always do.

I’ve used this recipe for years. I feel pretty darn good 80-90% of the time. And when those useless and harmful feelings come up, I just let them pass by.

That’s it.

I don’t fight. I don’t argue. I don’t try to will those feelings away. Those tactics don’t work. In fact, they actually give social anxiety even more power.


4. “Something’s wrong with me.”

If you’re like most social anxiety sufferers, you feel deeply flawed, like something’s seriously “wrong” with you. It separates you from everyone else.

You deserve to be alone and isolated. You’re different. So, you have no good reason to try and lead a successful and healthy life that makes you happy.

The Truth: Everyone has challenges that affect their mind. Some moreso than others. Many people do a great job of controlling their external appearances so everything looks good. But it only covers up their real issues. And even makes them worse.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Bernie Madoff was “…[A] nice guy back then,” referring to when he knew him in the 1980s. You’ll recall Bernie created a Ponzi scheme that stole anywhere from $20 – $65 billion, and he’s now on year six of a 150-year prison term for it.

So, appearances aren’t what they seem.

Believing something’s “wrong” with you means you’re judging yourself. Just let go of that thinking when it arises.

Work on having a more realistic attitude. Simply say, “Yeah, I’ve got social anxiety disorder. But that doesn’t define me. It simply makes me human. Just like everyone else.”

After all, social anxiety disorder is simply an unhealthy way of thinking. Since everyone has their patterns, this simply makes you a member of the human race. You have a challenge to overcome, just like everyone else.

That’s it. Nothing more.


5. “More things would go my way if I were a better person.”

Easy to think this, isn’t it?

Social anxiety wreaks havoc and robs you of many of life’s joys. Things like friends, jobs, romantic relationships, and money rarely seem to pop into your life. Stuff everyone else takes for granted because it comes with ease.

So, it’s easy to look at yourself and say, “You know, if I were a better person, I’d have all these things everyone else gets.”

The Truth: Comparing yourself to others is a dangerous trap that only sets you up for failure. When you ask other people about how they got married, found their dream job, or finally saved enough money for a house, you’ll often find they didn’t have a straight path.

Knowing others as you know them now makes it seem as though they’ve always been the way they are. Your socially anxious mind tries to convince you that you will be happy if you only have what everyone else does.

But, the truth is all those things come with their stressors too. Jobs, spouses, friends, houses…they all have their flaws.

What you have in life isn’t under your control. No one else has control over what they get, either.

Paris Hilton didn’t become a celebrity because she’s such an amazing person. She was rich, spoiled, and heir to the Hilton hotel empire. That granted her access to the Los Angeles club scene, where she made a name for herself.

So, express your gratitude for what you do have (even if you think it’s not much). Focus on your own life only, and let go of the desire to compare yourself to others. Think of the next right thing you can do to make your life healthier, and do that. More will come your way as you learn and grow.


6. “I’ll just fail anyway.”

Social anxiety compounds the impact of perceived failure by a hundred times. Having someone say, “No,” feels like an elephant just sat on you.

Every time something doesn’t go your way, you judge yourself. “I should have said this. I should have done that. I never get what I want. Seems like everyone else does. Who cares? I’ll fail anyway. So, why try?”

And to a certain extent, this belief does have truth. Social anxiety ruins your confidence. When you’re unconfident, things have a lower chance of going your way.

I’ve experienced it hundreds of times.

The Truth: True failure involves not trying. That’s it. Living life happily means consistently taking risks and making mistakes.

Do more of what works. Less of what doesn’t.

When something doesn’t work out your way, simply learn from it what you can, and move on.

When I graduated with a Master’s in Social Work in 2009, the Great Recession was well underway. I applied for 123 jobs and went to 14 interviews. I tracked these in a spreadsheet. So I know they’re accurate.

I didn’t get a job.

Finally, I became a self-employed copywriter. I like the work. And it bought my wife and I a decent house.

Speaking of her…do you know how many women I attempted to date prior to her? I don’t either. But I interacted with at least 50 or so.

So, most things don’t work out precisely the way you (or I) would like.

That’s life.

No need to judge yourself as a bad person for not getting what you want. Shrug your shoulders. Learn what you can.

Move on.

You only fail when you give up completely.


7. “See how that person looked at me? I can tell they don’t like me.”

Isn’t this the most common lie social anxiety tells?

A simple look. That’s it. Enough to make you a “bad person.”

A frown. Confused look. Narrowed eyes.

It’s hard to deal with how others react to you sometimes.

The Truth: …But it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. In fact, I found out in sports that a high school coach who rode my case all the time actually liked me.

I dreaded my time around him.

Truly, you have value simply because you’re alive. Everyone, including social anxiety sufferers, deserves respect and love.

And this, no matter what’s going on in your life. Whether you’re doing superb…or everything’s falling apart.

You don’t know how the other person thinks or feels about you. So simply let that go and focus on the next right thing in front of you.

Usually it’s nothing big. Maybe it’s just listening to what the other person says.

Work on finding your self-esteem in the fact you’re alive. You’re you. And no one else.

You’re unique. You have your own strengths. You may not have found them yet. But that’s okay.

You deserve to feel positive about yourself just like anyone else. Not better. Or worse. Just an equal human being ready to perform valuable service in the world.


Next Time Social Anxiety Lies To You, Call It on Its Bullshit

Every human being thinks in ways that lead to self-destruction. So, you’re no different with your social anxiety.

The trick involves learning what types of thoughts take you down bad avenues. Recognize them. Share them with others.

And realize your social anxiety lies to you.

Then you can say, “I see you social anxiety. I know you’re completely full of bullshit. So instead of fighting or arguing with you, I’ll simply let you pass through. Go on your way. I’m not allowing you to define my life anymore.”

Social anxiety creates an almost infinite number of lies and distortions of reality.

You know 7 common ones.

And you have the skills to overcome each and identify any others that come your way.

Armed with this new knowledge, your future only gets brighter.

Love this? You’ll also enjoy this free, 11-part email series that boosts your confidence, happiness, serenity, and connection: 11 Breakthrough (And Proven) Strategies to Keep You Forever Free from Social Anxiety.


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Take Practical Action to Improve Yourself

March 14, 2017 - 6:12am


When you are young, a lot of your goals are external. School determines what you will learn, how you will demonstrate your learning, and when it will be due. Your parents dictate your goals around the house. Even clubs and lessons keep you to a structured set of achievements. When you get older, you start having to develop internal motivation. You still have social and occupational obligations, but the rest of your time can be used to achieve whatever interests you. For some people, simple works well. These people don’t look for personal growth because it isn’t what drives them, but other people are constantly seeking out ways to improve themselves.

If you are always trying to excel, you have determined what being better means to you. Now, you are working to put that set of values into action. The following suggestions for personal growth are broadly based improvement activities. Some of them won’t fit with your attitudes on bettering yourself, but a lot of them will give you ideas and start you off on a new path for self-enrichment.


Read Everyday

Some people will urge you to read a book a day and if that is sustainable for you, go for it! But, most find that amount of dedicated time hard to work into an already full schedule and setting such a lofty goal just sets them up for failure and disappointment. Instead, spend a little time reading each day and reap the benefits. Reading is linked to:

  • Stress reduction
  • Mental stimulation
  • Vocabulary expansion
  • Stronger analytical thinking skills
  • Memory improvement
  • Better writing skills
  • Improved concentration and focus
  • Tranquility

If you have a good library program in your area, you can also do all of this for free.


Take a Class

Just because you aren’t school aged anymore doesn’t mean that continued learning isn’t something in which you should participate. There are always new things to be learned, so why not go to an expert and allow them to guide you through the subject matter? You can start looking at local colleges, but you don’t have to enter a formal learning institution to take a class. You can look for cooking classes, dance classes, symposiums, conferences, and seminars. As long as you are learning, you are improving.


Develop Sleep Hygiene

In the busy modern world, people let their sleep suffer in order to get more done. There is always work to do and things to clean and social obligations to fulfill. That may mean staying up very late. And, even if you get to bed at a reasonable time, you may find yourself anxious about all of the things you need to do, which can trigger insomnia and further sleep deprivation.

Now is a great time to begin going to bed early and waking up early. Be sure to:

  • Establish and maintain a regular sleep routine
  • Avoid naps
  • Avoid staying in bed awake for more than ten minutes
  • Don’t read or watch TV in bed
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks late in the day
  • Avoid substances, like alcohol, cigarettes and over-the-counter medication, that can interfere with sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Hide the clock face at night to avoid stressing over the time
  • Maintain a comfortable quiet room
  • Establish a relaxing pre-bedtime routine


Ask for Feedback

Sometimes, it can be great to return to external motivation to center yourself. Ask people you trust for feedback and they may help you identify blind spots and cement your intentions. These conversations will help you by bringing things to light, but they also give you a chance to ruminate and make decisions about how you will progress from that point on.

Chris Shaffer is a life coach and author. In addition to writing her own blog, she frequently contributes to lifestyle publications as well as write about addiction and free rehab centers in the state.


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The Power of Positive Thinking in Drug Addiction Recovery

March 13, 2017 - 1:18pm


Have you ever suffered with a problem simply to be told by others to keep a positive frame of mind? This mantra is used by many to prompt others into improving themselves and their situation. Drug addicts in particular are accustomed to hearing this sentiment, but does it actually have an effect?

The evidence overwhelmingly points to positive thinking as a key to success in most processes. As the adage goes, think you can and you’re halfway there. If you believe in yourself with regards to positive thinking, you can experience physical benefits as well as mental ones.

During the rehabilitation process, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the negative aspects, especially if a relapse occurs. The simple change of view that happens when you look for the positives instead can have a huge effect on your motivation and desire to succeed.

Positivity doesn’t just have a short term effect either, it can also boost progress over a much longer period too. A long rehabilitation period can wear a person down after a while, so it’s essential to stay positive and look towards the future. One addiction treatment center in Florida focuses just as much on the mental outlook of patients as the physical side. Going for long term rehab in Florida with a center like this can make all the difference to a patient requiring that additional support.

The power of positivity doesn’t stop at the mental side of things, as activities within the brain can actually change the physical side of things too. Endorphins make you happy but they also stimulate blood flow and increase the heart rate, an extreme example of this is when you get butterflies or that warm fuzzy feeling. This can have you feeling much better and reduce the effects of detoxing.

Relationships often suffer when you are in the depths of addiction, but positive thinking can make you a better person to be around. People enjoy the company of those who are positive much more than those with a negative view. If you have relationships in need of repair then simply altering how you view the world can make people much more willing to work with you.

If you’re accustomed to always being the person that takes from others then this mindset can help you to give back. Throughout recovery, you need a strong support system to get you through and it’s always appreciated if you can bring something back into the lives of those that support you. Showing an optimistic disposition and working hard towards your personal goals will help you in this regard.

It can be hard for those with an addiction to be at peace with their own personality and self. Whatever the substance of choice for them was, it was just a symptom of a further unhappiness and insecurity. To give up this mask, the addict is saying that their personality doesn’t need such a mask anymore. This is obviously much easier to do when the person is positive and happy, so never underestimate what this can do.

While the phrase “stay positive” can get really old really quickly, we hope we’ve managed to teach you what it really means. If you’re struggling with an addiction, don’t be afraid to seek help from those around you or a professional.


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The Great Social Lie: How to Navigate Our World as a Liberated Man

March 2, 2017 - 4:13pm


Alan Watts was one of the most influential philosophers throughout the 20th century. He was a huge force in bringing Buddhism and Eastern philosophy into the West during the 1950s and 1960s, and spent much of his life drawing lessons from Buddhism and applying them to modern life.

In his classic book Psychotherapy East and West, Watts compares the goals of Eastern philosophy to Western psychotherapy. He says that each is ultimately focused on the goal of “liberation” from societal conventions.

According to Watts, one of the core delusions that stands in the way of this liberation is the ever persistent “self/other” dichotomy – which he also describes as the “organism/environment” dichotomy.

This “organism/environment” dichotomy is the idea that you are ultimately a separate thing from your environment, and your environment is ultimately a separate thing from you. Watts sometimes call this the “great social lie.”

When we see ourselves as fully distinct from our environment, we fall into the trap of thinking that we are responsible for every choice and every action we make. But the truth is that we are often being heavily tugged in one direction or another depending on how our surroundings influence us.

Watts reconciles this “organism” vs. “environment” dichotomy by introducing field theory, which is the idea that both “organism” and “environment” are interdependent and constantly feeding off of each other.

In this sense, we are not fully distinct or separate from our environment, but highly intertwined. This is a key insight if we want to overcome what Watts calls the “great social lie.”

The rest of this article will elaborate on what this “great social lie” means and how we can live our lives without falling into this trap (including thought-provoking excerpts from Alan Watts’ Psychotherapy East and West).


The Great Social Lie

We are told that we are a separate “self,” while at the same time we are pressured to conform to many social conventions, including cultural norms, laws, traditions, and morality.

This divide between what we think we are vs. what society wants us to be creates a lot of unnecessary conflict, which strikes at the heart of what the “great social lie” is and why it can be a huge cause of our suffering.

According to Watts, the “great social lie” begins when we are only children. Our parents are often the first source of setting the rules we are meant to live by and pressuring us to conform to what society expects from us.

    “Society is persuading the individual to do what it wants by making it appear that its commands are the individual’s inmost self. What we want is what you want. And this is a double-bind, as when a mother says to her child, who is longing to slush around in a mud puddle, ‘Now, darling, you don’t WANT to get into that mud!’ This is misinformation, and this – if anything – is the ‘Great Social Lie.'” (pg. 79)

When the child sees the mud puddle, they feel like jumping in it and playing. But the parent will tell the child they shouldn’t want to do that – and the child, if disciplined, will adhere to the parent’s wishes and not follow through on their will.

This is a completely understandable scenario within a child/parent relationship. A child often doesn’t know what is best for his or her self, and it is certainly the duty of parents to discipline children and teach them important lessons that they can use later in life.

The real problem arises when the child is no longer a child, and they begin to have a more in-depth understanding of the divide between “what I want” vs. “what society wants.”

    “It has almost always been man’s custom to look for the authority for ethical standards outside ethics, to the laws of nature or the laws of God. We have never felt fully free to base our ethical principles simply upon what we would like to do and to have done to us. There is obvious sense, up to a point, in sticking to what has worked in the past (if, indeed, it has), but equally obvious nonsense in attributing past formulations to a wisdom greater than ours. It is all very well to believe that, ‘Mother is always right’ until you yourself are a mother.” (pg. 174)

The liberated man must eventually learn to navigate their world without needing to look toward an “outside authority” for instructions and guidance. This “outside authority” could be anything: a parent, a teacher, a priest, a therapist, a politician, etc.

All of these authorities represent social conventions that increase the divide between “how we see ourselves” vs. “what society expects from us,” highlighting the schism between the organism and its environment.

Of course, as Alan Watts points out in the above quote, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we abandon all laws, culture, and traditions from our past – especially if these traditions have shown to be fruitful. Blind disobedience to authority isn’t the goal, it’s just another way we get wrapped up in the “great social lie.”

The next half of this article will be about how to see beyond this “great social lie” and how it influences our daily living.


Psychotherapy East and West is a classic book by the legendary philosopher Alan Watts. It dives into the parallels between Eastern philosophy and Western psychotherapy and how each one sheds some light on how one can become “liberated” in the modern world. A very thought-provoking read that is certain to change your perspective on yourself and the world around you.


Playing the Game Without Getting Played

According to Alan Watts, when a student begins studying with a guru in Eastern philosophy or when a patient sees a therapist in Western psychotherapy, the individual often falls into the trap of thinking they need to “one up” their environment in some way.

This is known as the trap of “oneupmanship,” the idea that we just need to get a leg up on our environment before it gets a leg up on us, and we can thus overcome our environment. However, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the organism’s relationship to its environment.

The individual feels that they are bound to their environment and culture, but also feels that they must surpass this binding if they want to be their true self. This creates a “double bind” and it’s one of the biggest causes of conflict and suffering in one’s life.

    “Buddhism sees the fully liberated man as a bodhisattva, as one completely free to take part in the cosmic and social game. When it is said that he is in the world but not of it, that he returns to join in all its activities without attachment, this means that he no longer confuses his identity with his social role – that he plays his role instead of taking it seriously. He is a joker or “wild” man who can play any card in the pack.” (pg. 65)

They key insight here is the difference between one’s “role” and one’s “identity.” A liberated man can still play their various social roles without mistaking those social roles as the whole of their identity.

When it is time to teach, the liberated man becomes a teacher. When it is time to parent, the liberated man becomes a parent. And when it is time to work, the liberated man becomes a worker.

How does the liberated man “play” in these conventional roles, while still recognizing they are not his true nature?

    “It cannot be stressed too strongly that liberation does not involve the loss or destruction of such conventional concepts…it means seeing through them – in the same way that we can use the idea of the equator without confusing it with a physical mark upon the surface of the earth. Instead of falling below the ego, liberation surpasses it.” (pg. 17)

The concept of a “teacher,” or “parent,” or “worker,” (our many social roles) is an abstraction that doesn’t accurately describe what we really are.

These social roles are just conventional concepts we use to navigate our world for practical purposes, in the same way that the concept of the “equator” is something we use to navigate our world for practical purposes, but not something that actually exists.

In this way, the liberated man can fulfill all of his social roles and social duties without losing sight of his true self. The liberated man “plays the game” of life instead of being “played by the game.”

One doesn’t need to over-think the social roles they play in life and how they define us, one just needs to play the social game without questioning the many ways it tugs you from one direction to another.

This concept of “playing the game” is central to Alan Watt’s philosophy. It makes life’s never ending tug-of-war much less serious than we often make it out to be. All that is required of the liberated man is that they recognize they are just “playing.”

One of the best ways Watts describes this process is through the analogy of music and dance.

    “Music, dancing, rhythm – all of these are art forms which have no goal other than themselves, and to participate in them fully is to lay aside all thought of a necessary future; to say ‘must’ to rhythm is to stop it dead. In the moment when he is anxious to play the correct notes, the musician is blocked. In both senses, he stops playing. He can perfect his art only by continuing to play, practicing without trying until the moment comes when he finds that the correct rhythm plays itself.” (pg. 184)

The liberated man “plays” the social roles in life in the same way a jazz musician “plays” an improvisational solo. Neither one worries about hitting the wrong notes, they just focus on the act of “playing.”


Conclusion

Psychotherapy East and West is a really fantastic and thought-provoking book on what it means to be a “liberated” man in the context of both Eastern philosophy and Western psychotherapy.

There’s a lot to meditate and think about on every page of this book. I found myself constantly putting it down to take a step back and digest what was being said.

While I tried my best to summarize some of the key ideas, this article really only touches the surface of Alan Watts’ wisdom. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re looking for a new way to view yourself and your relationship to the world.


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Making Passive Time Together Count in Your Relationships

February 27, 2017 - 8:56am

This is a guest post by Kyle Barichello at Choose Your Wellness, a fantastic site that’s about inspiring people to advance their wellness and create a more fulfilling life. Check it out!


My wife and I see our frequent 4-10 hour car rides, countless dog walks, and moments before bed as moments that provide tremendous opportunity to deepen our relationship. But I always wondered, how do other couples spend this passive time together?

This passive time – or time that we shrug off as just another moment of life – happens day in and day out. By definition, passiveness is not reacting visibly to something that might be expected to produce manifestations of an emotion or feeling. In simpler terms, you’re not actively participating during this time.

When we’re too focused on creating epic moments, we forget about the extraordinary nature of the simplest things in life – the ones that we have to be grateful for. We forget that each moment in life has the potential to be something great.

Couples continue to face the growing challenges of balancing their relationship with the many other important things in life. The difficulty of work-life balance combined with unexpected curveballs makes each moment spent together more precious than ever.

If we are not mindful, the collection of these small moments can quickly turn into years gone by.

It is important in a relationship to have the freedom to develop our own passions but our ambitions can simultaneously take us out of growing together in a marriage.

What I feel makes our relationship unique is that we constantly make use of our passive time. We don’t try to make our time together epic in order to achieve happiness, rather we’re aware that each passive moment can be something much more.

Here’s how we make the most of our passive time.


Car Rides

My wife and I have shared many miles together in the car making several trips from Iowa back to our home town in Illinois over the years we’ve been together. Typically, I would express my annoyance with traffic or flick through the radio hoping to find a good station only to change it moments later.

Michelle would read a book and get lost in her own world. Sometimes an hour or two would pass without us saying much to each other.

All of which made the time drag by.

Our trips were kind of boring. We both saw these car rides as a necessary evil, something we dreaded doing. Until we finally changed our perspective about how we spend the time in our relationship, and we recognized this passive time in the car as an opportunity for growth.

We started listening to podcasts during our long, 300-mile car rides to visit family in Illinois. The podcasts we chose were intentionally meant to generate a meaningful conversation. Often times coming away with a new found perspective on our lives.

We’d branch off into our own discussion and share our interpretations of the deeper meaning. Sometimes, we would get so far off topic that we would forget what spurred the beginning of the conversation in the first place.

We would laugh and continue to listen only to pause moments later and engage in another meaningful conversation.

These passive time talks gave us opportunities to reflect on our values together on a much deeper level. We had mutually beneficial conversations about life, passion, relationships, family and everything in between.

Those once passive miles now serve as a chance to reconnect with each other and grow our relationship to a deeper level.


Dog Walks

My wife is a work-from-home freelance writer and there is quite a bit of variability in her days. Meeting client deadlines, answering emails and building her own blog are all things that she can do any time throughout the day. While she is great at time management, it is easy for her work to bleed into the evening time we have together.

As for me, balancing work with my new passion in blogging is a challenge. Working a 9-hour day and commuting home doesn’t leave much time to advance my blogging passion.

Especially when you factor in dog walks, exercise and dinner.

We used to try and be as efficient as possible in our evenings – one person walks the dog while the other starts dinner – to free up more time for us both to pursue our passions.

But this relationship efficiency was overshadowing the small moments of togetherness. We were missing out on extra moments to reconnect and grow with each other in addition to our passions.

Instead, we started leveraging our time and doing these things together as our walks have become less of a chore and more of something we purposefully try to do. We fully engage ourselves in our walks, having discussions based around our failures throughout the day and how we can improve. We share inspiring thoughts with one another.

This is our pep-talk time where we give feedback to one another and help each other to re-focus our attention on our goals.

This constant effort of brainstorming and planning everything together allows us to come back to the house refreshed, satisfied that we spent time growing in our relationship.


The Moments Before Bed

Possibly our most important moment of each day is the moment we share in bed in the minutes before we fall asleep. Snuggled close, I put my arm around her as she lays her head on my chest. If we don’t make an effort, this closeness can get lost in the busyness of life.

In these moments, we reconnect through a simple touch. We know what this touch represents, and words are often unneeded as we lie in complete peace. We feel the love as we reflect internally on everything we have to be grateful for.

It isn’t a long “snuggle,” as she calls it, but just enough time to express our love to each other each night before falling asleep. We might chat briefly about the great things we did in the day. The wins, the failures, and what we will focus on the next day as we look for opportunities to become even better.

I give a trademark double-tap on her shoulder signaling her that it’s time to sleep, then we kiss and go our separate ways feeling loved and appreciated.

This, is no passive moment.


Summary

No moment is inherently more important than any other and we must always be grateful and explore the many passive moments in our lives no matter how minuscule they may feel.

By being mindful of these passive moments we began to appreciate the simplest of times together as these moments appeared more and more. This open communication and expressly nature of our conversations have led to beautiful and inspiring talks, ones that we will always remember in the collection of special moments in our lives.

As a couple, Michelle and I are blessed and grateful to have the time to do what we desire. But ironically, it is not in the abundance of time we have or the epicness of the things we do that we find the most meaning. It is in the little moments that aren’t even moments at all. The passive time.

All of which give us even more reasons to smile at one another out of the blue.

This is a guest post by Kyle Barichello at Choose Your Wellness, a fantastic site that’s about inspiring people to advance their wellness and create a more fulfilling life. Check it out!


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Communing With Our Demons: Metaprogramming Automatic Thinking

February 24, 2017 - 9:06am

This is a guest post by Erick Godsey at Metaprogramming, a fantastic site that’s described as “Where Science and and Self-Development Take Psilocybin Together.” Check it out!


“Man can know himself only in so far as he can become conscious of himself.”

Carl Jung


One of life’s truths is that voice in our head. Really, it’s more like Pandemonium. We each have hundreds of people in our head. Mom and Dad are the loudest, but our teachers, coaches, idols, celebrities, and heroes are in there too. This article is about how to begin ordering the chaos into a choir. Modern psychology has found that one of the greatest predictors of life satisfaction is what overall style these voices talk to us. It is called our explanatory style. It is teachable and improvable. This post will show you how.


Introduction

If we are humble and perceptive, we’re aware that a staggering majority of our lives are unconscious. Much of our unconsciousness stems from the way we think. We each have that voice in our head, the continuous commentator and critic. Positive psychologists call it our Explanatory Style, Psychoanalysts call it the Superego, Transactional psychologists call it The Parent. Greeks called it their Daimon and Christians call the voice a Demon.

The name doesn’t matter much. What does is recognizing that you are not alone in the house of your psyche. This voice powerfully affects how you view the world, the action you take in the world, and how the world engages with you.

“We make the unconscious conscious by examining our patterns.”

James Hollis

This article has 5 parts:

  • The current metaphor scientists use to understand our minds and this voice
  • The evolutionary reason this voice is in our heads
  • The scientific support for the technique
  • The philosophical foundations
  • The technique

If you’d like to skip directly to the Technique, start at The Foundation.


The Metaphor

The current popular metaphor scientists are using to teach how the mind works is The Rider and The Elephant. Our minds are divided. We have a slow, rational, and conscious mind (The Rider), and we have a fast, emotional, unconscious mind (The Elephant). For more information, check out Dual Process Theory.

Our Elephants and Riders are infected to the degree that our Rider automatically generates negative (non-adaptive) thoughts to deal with emotions coming from our Elephant.

To help visualize how our automatic thoughts influence our lives, I’d like to add to the metaphor.

Have you seen Princess Mononoke? Do you remember the boar at the beginning? That is what most of our Elephants are like when we realize the hundreds of automatic negative thoughts we are programmed with.

In the movie, Nago is shot with a lead bullet. This wound mixes with his hatred for the human who shot him and this allows him to be possessed by a demon. This is an archetype. This is a metaphoric life truth. We are each like this.

Our elephant has lodged inside them a few poisonous thoughts (I’m not worthy. I can’t change. Life is meaningless.) And it is from these early life wounds that our negative thought snakes emerge. By using the empirically tested technique I am going to explain below, we can catch these snakes, defang them, and in the process, learn a great deal about ourselves.

It isn’t easy, it isn’t a quick fix, but The Rider can heal The Elephant.

Before we get to the science, let me cover the most common question asked at this stage.


Where do negative thoughts come from? How do we get them?

This is a fascinating question. It involves biology, genetics, the psychology of learning, cognition, and evolutionary biology. These thoughts come from our parents, teachers, coaches, peers, and culture. Many of our primary wounds were embodied before we were six (this is the consensus among psychotherapy, clinical psychology, depth psychology, and, it’s worth noting, many New Age books.)

My view of reality is influenced by Empiricism and Darwinian Evolution. So, when I went looking for answers, this is my admitted bias. Many researchers, notably Daniel Gilbert, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard, believes that the fundamental purpose of our minds are to enable us to predict what will happen.

The fundamental reason we hear that voice is because our brain is attempting to adapt.

Your brain is always trying to accurately predict the future. The voice in our head is that fundamental process flailing and failing, trying to help us adapt. The unattractive truth is this skill can become very skewed. But, like most things, it can be improved.

Here is a simple example how this kind of programming begins:

If, when we started walking as a child, our parents reacted excitedly at our first steps, we’re being rewarded for success and learning. Our nervous system is being shaped to view success as adaptive.

If, our parents only react when we fall, with a laugh or gasp, we are being rewarded for our failing. Our nervous system is being shaped to view not succeeding as adaptive.

The nervous system cares about adaptation, and we learn to adapt to what our parents needed.

Some parents need a clumsy child, others need a good-for-nothing child. Some need little heros, and some need their child to never grow and stay home to care for them.

This is an oversimplification, but it highlights how the programming begins.

We accumulate hundreds of thousands of these microprogramming moments from our caretakers by the time we leave for school. Most of us make it deep into our teens or twenties before the programming we learned from our parents begins failing us in our attempts to navigate life.

The Promethean truth is that the moment we choose to, we can start reprogramming ourselves. We do not have to live the script our youth set for us. I think this is the essential work young adults should engage. Become aware of yourself so you can reprogram yourself into who you want to be.

“We all have to ‘kill’ ourselves, often in the most gruesome manner possible, to become more than the bloke produced by the collision of History, Genetics, and Accident on the day we were born.”

Robert Anton Wilson


The Science

“It is quite possible to overcome infantile suggestions of the unconscious, and even change the contents of the unconscious, by employing the right kind of technique.”

Bertrand Russell

Science has helped us refine the right technique. They call it “Cognitive Therapy.” But the name doesn’t matter, what matters is that empirical research finds it significantly effective.

This section was originally much longer but as the post grew I decided to trim here but I’ll link to the most robust meta-analysis of the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for those curious.


The Foundation

“The Mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

John Milton

The foundational principle of Cognitive Therapy is that events do not disturb us, we disturb ourselves by the way we think about events. This is an old idea, but it is one of the most important ideas I have ever learned. Cognitive Therapy is a modern and pragmatic manifestation of one of the essential tenets that is in both Buddhism and Stoicism.

“People are disturbed not by things, but by the views we take of them.”

Epictetus

“The whole world is change and life itself is but what you deem it.”

Marcus Aurelius

“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”

Buddha

There have been many techniques offered through the ages on how to realize this truth. The technique I am offering is the most robustly tested and effective technique the Western mind has created. It is not the only way up the mountain, but it is a tried and true path.


The Technique: Belief Farming

Here is how the technique works:

  • Learn the 10 Cognitive Distortions
  • Catch Them
  • Identify Them
  • Dispute Them

Giving ideas their own names helps me remember them. Here is how I look at this:

  • Learn about the 10 Types of Snakes
  • Catch Them
  • Name Them
  • Defang Them


The 10 Snakes: The Most Common Cognitive Distortions

The essence of all the distortions is thinking irrationally and childishly. For each type of distortion I’ll give 2 examples. You’ll notice that a lot of these overlap, which is good news. The more you practice one the more quickly you’ll be able to defang others.

    Note: My girlfriend and I are trying polyamory and yesterday I learned she has another lover. This is the first Other in our relationship and I do find it a curious and funny coincidence that the day I write this post is the day I find out. So I will practice what I preach and use this technique to process my feelings.

    Action: Write these 10 Distortions down. Physically writing improves memory recall, and you’ll be referring to this often.

Here is a cheat sheet you can print off.


1) Dichotomous Thinking
– Either/or thinking, black and white, absolutest. If you fail at one thing, you’re a complete failure.

Example: I can’t share anything I write until It is perfect. It has to be the best.

Example: My girlfriend had sex with another man. A real man’s woman wouldn’t need another lover.


2) Over-Generalizations
– We take a few data points and make sweeping generalizations

Example: No one read my first three blog posts. I’m not interesting. Why am I even doing this?

Example: She found another lover in just a few weeks. She must not of been satisfied with me while we were dating.


3) Exaggerated Negativity Bias
– you look for, and only focus on the negative.

Example: The last time I posted a scientific post on r/psychonaut no one liked it.

Example: She’s fucking another man. *Thinks about specific acts that make the gut churn.*


4) Disqualifying the Positive
– they not only ignore the positive, they are able to alchemically transform the positive or neutral into negatives.

Example: Yeah, almost everyone who read my post liked it and all the comments were positive, but they’re just being nice.

Example: Yeah, she tells me our connection and intimacy is the best she’s ever had but she’s just trying to make me feel better.


5) Jumping To Conclusions; aka “Mind Reader”
– assuming people hold a belief about you, you let this assumption affect you, and you take no action to confirm or disprove the assumption.

Example: My friends are pretending when they tell me how good my writing is. Who can I trust?

Example: I haven’t been enough for her for a long time. I lived a lie.


6) Magnification and Minimization
– If you do something “bad,” you catastrophize, if you do something good, you minimize it

Example: Fuck! I spelled catastrophize so badly google didn’t even know what I meant. I am not meant to write.

Example: I’m not a man. I can’t satisfy my girlfriend. I’m just, not enough.


7) Emotional Reasoning
– You equate emotion as truth.

Example: This feeling of unworthiness about the quality of this post is evidence it isn’t good enough.

Example: This indescribable twisting in my stomach is proof I am not meant for an open relationship.


8) Shoulding and Musterbation
– thinking in shoulds and must generate a lot of frustration, guilt, and shame.

Example: I must write a perfect post before I publish it.

Example: She should’ve waited longer before she found another lover.


9) Labeling and Mislabeling
– Essentially, saying “I am…anything.” Your Self cannot be equated to any one thing you do. You’re an ever-changing verbing whirl of action and thought.

Example: I’m not a writer. I’m a fraud.

Example: I’m not a man. I’m worthless. I’m weak.


10) Personalization
– This is the mother of all guilt. When a negative happens, we find a way to conclude that it is our fault.

Example: Because I’m just no good, thats why my blog isn’t more successful.

Example: My lacking as a man is why she so quickly found another lover.


FUCK! You can see how that kind of thinking could send any human into a downwards spiral of depression, apathy, and self-hate.

Not one of those thoughts are rational or reasonable. Each one is distorted and fundamentally untrue.

The exercise below is the meat of this post. This is how you defang those fucking snakes.


Catching, Naming, and Defanging

You’ll need paper and pen.

First, divide your paper into 5 sections; Emotions, Situation, Distortion, Defang, and Emotions.

(I may need to do one of these over my self-consciousness about my poor handwriting lol.)

In the left most box, fill in what emotions you feel and add a 1-100 scale to show intensity. Then, briefly explain the situation.

Next you’ll identify the distortions. There are almost always more than one.

Once you’ve identified the distortions, you can defang them.

I’m typing this because its long. My insecure ass is tripping over almost all the distortions.

Defanging Musterbation: We agreed together to start our open relationship. There was no reason she “should” wait. That is me imposing an illusory restriction so I feel righteous in being angry.

Defanging Labeling: Her and I are beyond any labels. I am not less in any way because the person I love had a positive sexual experience with someone other than me.

Defanging Ignoring The Positive: I am ignoring a mountain of positive. The relationship I have with her is the healthiest and most loving relationship I have had with any human on this earth. I know deep in my bones that she loves me in a way that heals.

Defanging Emotional Reasoning: I understand that this emotional ping in my gut is an evolutionary response meant to help me successfully reproduce. I understood this before embarking on this journey and I know I have the cognitive tools to deal with this.

Defanging Personalization: My girlfriend’s exploration towards other lovers is not due to my shortcomings. We each are free to love as many people as will love us.

Now take a moment to feel your emotions. Write down how you feel after doing this exercise.

Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. This is a practice to start doing whenever you have any strong negative emotions. You’ll find that there are always some cognitive distortions lurking.


Summary

This is my longest post. It is a lot of information. But it is one of the most important tools psychology has created. It is hard to do, but it is important work.

We have voices in our heads. Most of these voices are automatic thought patterns we acquired early in our life in our attempt to adapt. Many of them are not helpful, and we can reprogram them. We reprogram them by understanding the common ways they distort reality, we then practice catching them, naming them, and defanging them.

Whatever programming we have, we will pass it on to our children and friends. You are responsible for what you pass on. Metaprogram yourself.

This is a guest post by Erick Godsey at Metaprogramming, a fantastic site that’s described as “Where Science and and Self-Development Take Psilocybin Together.” Check it out!


The post Communing With Our Demons: Metaprogramming Automatic Thinking appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

Scars Are Beautiful – They Are Proof You Survived

February 21, 2017 - 11:25am

This is a guest post by author and life coach Joe Bellistri, who bases his teachings on a depth of real life experiences. Check him out!


Picture this…my wife, me, and 2 kids driving in the car. I’m in control of the radio (of course)! As I go from station to station, I am trying to find something to get us jamming. Then, suddenly, my daughter yells out “Keep this on!” And we now have a song to listen to. As a parent of 9-year old twins, I am VERY aware of the lyrics of these songs my kids are listening to.

I hear A LOT of the same songs. My daughter’s favorites are yelled out (by her…not me!) as we go. Over time I have been hearing this one song which lyrics really hit home. It’s called “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara.

Some of the lyrics include:

“There’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark
You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are
And you don’t have to change a thing”

Many readers of my content are people struggling with their past. The common theme is something that impacted them in their childhood and still affects them today.

I cannot relate to every situation, but the impact it has on us is always the same. It causes you to doubt yourself and the person you want to be. It causes you to live in the past and suffer almost daily. That is painful.

The thing is…we cannot change the past. It is out of our control. It is part of us. They are our scars. I have a few physical scars. Each one has a story. Physical scars tend to be a source of pride. If you have physical scars, a common question you are asked is, “How did you get that?” The story related to a physical scar typically ends with a tale of stupidity and laughter.

Mental scars don’t offer the same parable. We tend to hold on to those in a very different way. The pain from a physical scar goes away, we just have the reminder. However, with a mental scar the pain does not go away. It is not something we want to talk about and do not offer a story ending with laughter.

We all need to change our view of these scars. It is true, we do not have control of what has happen in the past. However, we ARE in control of our perspective. How you view your past can be broken down into one of two strategies: regret or reflection.

As you think about your past, do not regret your experiences, action, and thoughts. If you have make mistakes, do not dwell on them. Sure, it is tough to recognize mistakes and get past certain situations.

That is not my recommendation. Instead, find value in some of your darkest days. There is value in those experiences. You just need to take some time and reflect on it. In times of reflection, you can learn from your mistakes, you can take stock of how you handle it, and opt not to make those choices again.

Or if you have something in your past that is holding you back, find something positive from that time. Let me offer a personal example of what I mean…

My mother suffered from Muscular Dystrophy from before I was born. My earliest memories I have is her being in a wheelchair. As my life progressed, her quality of life diminished. She went from living at home being cared for and trying to be strong for me, to having to be moved to a nursing home and being cared for full time. The strength of her parenting declined until her passing. As you could imagine this had a dramatic impact on me. To be honest, there were times in recent years where just talking about her would make me sad. That is regret.

I’ll be honest, my past included seeing people very close to me suffer and pass away at an early age. And myself being young, I struggled with how to handle it. These experiences resulted in me being lost, alone, depressed, afraid, angry, and much more. It took me many years to overcome these issues. In short, in took some reflection on my past.

Now in taking some time to reflect on my mother and our relationship, I could find some impactful details that changed my way of thinking. In my time of reflection, I realized some valuable lessons she taught me. The first of which, and the one I will share with you today, is that of inner strength. Throughout my life, my mother showed me the importance of overcoming adversity and continue to be strong on the inside. In her situation, she had significant decline in her physical muscles. However, that did not impact the person she would be on the inside. She taught me that strength starts from within. This is a tremendously valuable lesson I share with others today.

You can choose to let your scars hold you back. Yes, that is your choice. Just just like your fingerprint, our scars are unique to each of us. They can be something you hide from the world or you can recognize they are a source of pride and strength.

Your scars are a reminder of something in your past that you have overcome. You are a much stronger person than you realize. It is time to accept that. It is time to recognize your beauty…inside and out.

Take pride in your journey. The struggle is what created the scars. Getting yourself up from rock bottom is where stories are built. Be the person you want to be…the person everyone else sees.

Your scars are beautiful! So are you! Let everyone else see it too!

Commit to your excellence.

Joe Bellistri is an author and personal performance coach. His writing style is founded in real-life experiences that resonate with his readers. The theme of his writing is consistent, become the Super Hero you have inside of you. You can learn more about Joe by visiting JoeBellistri.com.


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How to Change Your Relationship with Stuff: Recognizing There’s More to Life Than Material Things

February 19, 2017 - 5:00pm

“I wish everyone could become rich and famous so they can realize it’s not the answer.”

Jim Carrey


What’s your relationship with stuff like?

Are you someone who is always seeking more things – whether it be a new car, new phone, new TV, new video games, or new clothes? Do you find it hard to just be happy and content with what you have?

You’re not alone. In much of today’s culture, we are told to glorify our possessions and material goods. And the more we have, the more “successful” we think we are.

This idea that “more stuff = more success” didn’t come out of nowhere. According to Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, our materialistic culture started at the beginning of industrialization and automation when we began to see a huge boom in commercial goods and nation-wide wealth.

In much of the Western world, we have an abundance of stuff. We have more products available to us at cheaper prices than ever before – and this can be a huge blessing, but also a huge curse.

Nowadays corporations bombard us with countless commercials and advertisements telling us that we need their new products and services to be truly happy. Every year there’s a new gadget that becomes the next fad – and we all want to have that gadget so that we don’t feel like we’re missing out.

This material abundance has fed into the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” mindset, which is when we constantly compare our fortunes with that of our neighbors – and we’re always trying to “one up” our neighbors by getting the next best thing before they do.

This materialistic mindset can be very unhealthy. It teaches us that material goods are the only real measure of happiness and success, and that can often distract us from other areas in our lives that are much more important.

As a kid, I’m not afraid to admit that I grew up a bit spoiled. My parents were very fortunate and they would often get me the newest toys and gadgets for holidays and birthdays.

I remember my relationship with stuff being very paradoxical at a young age. I would crave getting some new video game, but then when I finally got it I would quickly grow bored of it and want the next new thing.

This is the paradox of materialism – it creates an endless craving where we never become satisfied. As soon as we get what we want, we find something new to set our eyes upon. We are wired to be dissatisfied.

Can you relate to that feeling when you finally get something new and it immediately loses its appeal? It’s almost as if the seeking of these material goods is more important to us than the actual material goods themselves.

And this makes sense when you realize that a lot of our drive for material goods is based on how it affects our perceived social status. We end up seeking that new car not because we really want it, but because we can’t wait to show it off to our neighbors.


Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life – families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker – all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less.

The documentary is currently available to stream on Netflix and Amazon.


How to Change Your Relationship With Stuff

Do you think you need to change your relationship with stuff? Here are valuable tips and guidelines to help get you started:

  • Pay attention to your relationship with stuff – A good first step to take is to just simply step back and evaluate your current relationship with stuff. Do you crave buying new things a lot? Do you often go shopping on the weekends or engage in “retail therapy” to improve your mood? Look around your home: Do you think you own too much stuff?
  • Focus on values outside of material things – One big theme throughout the documentary Minimalism is that our obsession with material goods often distract us from things in life that are more important, like taking care of our health, doing things that truly make us happy, or building on our relationships with actual people. If you place your “relationships with stuff” over your “relationships with people,” it may be time to reevaluate your values and priorities.
  • Ask yourself, “Does this add value to my life?” – To create a more minimalist perspective, we should look at all of the things we own in our lives and ask ourselves if they are really serving a purpose or function. One valuable tip I share in Organized Home, Organized Mind is from Marie Kondo, who advises we pick up an object and ask ourselves, “Does this add joy?” If the answer is “no,” it might be an object worth getting rid of.
  • Minimize your consumption of commercials and ads – Our culture often has a major influence over how we choose to our lives, so it’s important we remain mindful of the cultural messages we are consuming on a daily basis. If you watch a lot of TV and see a lot of commercials, or if you consume a lot of media that glorifies fame and wealth, those messages can often be changing your perspective and making you feel like material goods are more important than they really are. Try to find ways to avoid commercials by recording your favorite shows and skipping the commercials, or installing an adblocker on your web browser. It could make a big difference.
  • Collect more experiences, not more stuff – One interesting discovery in recent psychology research is that buying experiences is better than buying stuff. While a new TV will eventually grow old and lose its novelty value, a new memory can stick with us forever and keep giving us joy. We can often enrich our lives more if we focus on collecting experiences rather than collecting stuff.
  • Understand there’s more to happiness and success – The whole point of minimalism is to change your relationship with the stuff you own and realize that material possessions aren’t everything in your life. It doesn’t mean you need to get rid of ALL of your material possessions – that’s not practical nor desirable. If you have a book collection and it brings you joy, then by all means keep your book collection. Minimalism is more about changing your perspective about material things rather than trying to live alone in the woods with nothing but a backpack.

These are really great guidelines if you want to start to change your perspective about the material things in your life.

Over the years, I’ve become much less obsessed over material things than I was when I was younger. While I don’t consider myself a “minimalist” per se, there are a lot of valuable lessons we can learn from the minimalist movement that can improve our relationships with the stuff in our lives and improve our overall happiness.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things is a really great documentary if you’d like to learn more about the minimalist movement and what it can teach us. It follows minimalist experts like Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus as they travel the country teaching others “how to be happy with less.”

The film also includes a lot of great insight from a wide-range of professionals, including psychologist Rick Hanson, neuroscientist Sam Harris, sociologist Juliet B. Schor, blogger Leo Babauta, journalist Dan Harris, photographer Tammy Strobel, and many more.

It’s definitely worth checking out or recommending to friends who you think may benefit from a more minimalistic mindset.


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Keeping It Simple: The Emotional Benefits for Children in Sports

February 17, 2017 - 6:34am


Scholars often cite competition as the driving force behind important advances and developments in civilization.

That doesn’t make it easy, though. After all, everyone experiences some wins and losses in life, along with the lessons that come with them. With this in mind, how does one of the most popular forms of competition—sports—affect the emotional development of children?

The answer to this question is significant because children will be inheriting our world when we’re gone. Knowing whether sports can help or damage them should affect how we raise and prepare them for the day when they become leaders and game-changers.

Fortunately, psychologists have conducted several studies. We’re here to summarize some of them for you.



The Good

Because excelling at sports requires a commitment to time and the ability to formulate strategies, children who play can learn to think critically. Also, those who commit long-term (as opposed to only occasionally) nurture the stamina necessary for overcoming obstacles and practice taking the initiative. Furthermore, they can fight depression and teach children to juggle many challenges, activities, and responsibilities.

This is to say nothing of the more obvious benefits—figuring out how to win graciously and cope with losses, deepening a sense of respect for fair play and rules, and learning to be kind to others.

All of these skills are crucial for succeeding in every possible endeavor in the real world. They are best developed in team sports, such as basketball, soccer, football, or baseball. Such sports require cooperation and persistence, thus providing ample opportunities for children to foster the qualities we’ve discussed.


The Bad

There is a shadow for every ray of sunlight, however. The dark side of competition and sports is that when kids feel a huge pressure to do well, they could become overwhelmed. They may respond to this feeling by falling into depression or even lashing out at their peers as bullies.

For that reason, it’s essential for parents and sports administrators to present the element of competition in a non-threatening way. This might be by practicing basketball hoops in the family yard, or even organizing a weekly sports night at home. It must be clear to a child that his or her worth or chances of fulfillment and success are not dependent on winning games.

As long as competition remains lighthearted, children stand to gain significant emotional benefits from playing sports. All you have to do is keep it simple, and the complex but highly rewarding processes of the human mind will take care of the rest.


Further Reading

Holt, N. L. (Ed.). (2008). Positive youth development through sport. New York, NY: Routledge.

Theokas, C. (2009). Youth sport participation: A view of the issues. Developmental Psychology, 45(2), 303-306.

Zaff, J. F., Moore, K. A., Papillo, A.R., & Williams, S. (2003). Implications of extracurricular activity participation during adolescence on positive outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Research, 18, 599-630.

Zarrett, N., Lerner, R. M., Carrano, J., Fay, K., Peltz, J. S., & Li, Y. (2007). Variations in adolescent engagement in sports and its influence on positive youth development. In N. L. Holt (Ed.), Positive youth development and sport (pp. 9-23). Oxford, England: Routledge.

Zarrett, N., Fay, K., Li, Y., Carrano, J., Phelps, E., & Lerner, R. M. (2009). More than child’s play: Variable- and pattern-centered approaches for examining effects of sports participation on youth development. Developmental Psychology, 45(2), 368-382.


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Spiritual Emptiness

February 16, 2017 - 2:13pm

This is a guest post from Brady’s Eyes over at Eyes of an Addict, a fantastic site that aims to normalize mental health issues like addiction, trauma, and PTSD. Check it out!


Voids.

They’re meant to be filled.

As human beings, we often experience that feeling of “emptiness.” Often this is covered with numerous material goods, which may help at the time, but does not last very long. Some people may resort to substances to try fill the void, others may resort to relationships, food, sex, gangs or even isolation.

More often than not, we would find that the void we so desperately try to fill cannot be filled by escaping or through external physical means. It cannot be fulfilled by change of demographics. We may try changing who we are in an attempt to fit in and even if we achieve a new feeling of belonging, the emptiness remains. The void remains. More often than not, the voids we seek to fill is because of our soul’s natural spiritual craving.

Now before we go any further, I am not referring to any set religion, although I feel that religion is a form of spiritually, I think it’s important to realize that religion may be effective for some, but it may not be effective for all.

Personally spiritually is having that external higher being I can rely on. An unexplainable higher power that helps me and serves as a reminder that, no matter what, I am not alone. Knowing and accepting that I can sometimes not do everything on my own and that I do need help. Putting one’s pride aside and asking for help is one of the most humbling experiences. It is a close-ness with a higher power of your understanding.

Spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves.

Spiritual Values

The way I see it, the void may not necessarily be caused by the lack of spirituality, because spiritually is a very broad concept. It’s what spirituality represents for me. So the void is not necessarily due to a lack spirituality itself, but by the lack of spiritual values.

Spiritual values often guide us and assist us to live a clean and healthy life. A happy life.These include values of honesty, of kindhearted-ness, of humility, of compassion, of love, forgiveness, tolerance and many other positive values.

One of the most powerful ways to grow our spirituality is to reassess our core values.

Now I don’t want to debate about what spiritually is, as this is a very broad topic and I will go into that in more detail in an upcoming post, the main intention for this post is to hopefully create self awareness. One of the scariest moments for myself was when I fully believed that I am living a value filled life.

    I was then asked the question by a close friend; “Okay cool, so what are the values?”

I found myself very uncomfortable, muttering, stuttering and started shouting out a whole bunch of nonsense that I thought was the “right thing to say.”

    “Uhm… Honesty, integrity, er.. love”

    A close friend of mine simply said;

    “I don’t believe you”

It was then that I came to realize that I did not actually have a defined set of spiritual values that I strive to live by on a daily basis!

More importantly, I realized that the spiritual values I strive to live by is not the crap that comes out of my mouth. It’s what everyone else sees. So I can have a defined set of spiritual principles I strive to live by. That gives me a goal, something that I know I need to work towards. But what really counts is how others see and experience these values. My value may be compassion and love for all, but if others do not experience this, then I may need to reassess and see where I might be failing.

Perhaps I claim to have unconditional love and compassion as a value, yet I hold onto deep and dark resentments and as a result the values aren’t actually lived fully, as a result, this prevents me from living out my values of unconditional love and compassion to the fullest.

    What are your values?

    Have these values been defined?

    More importantly, are you living out these spiritual values to the best of your ability?

    Is there anything holding you back from living out these values which needs to be attended to?


If you want to check out more post from Brady’s Eyes check out Eyes of an Addict.


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You’re Afraid of Negative Thinking – And It Makes You Weak!

February 15, 2017 - 5:28pm


One big indicator of mental health is not fearing any single thought you may have.

It’s easy to become obsessed with our thoughts – especially what we consider “negative thinking.” We try to wrestle with these negative thoughts inside our heads, or push them down so they just go away and we no longer have to think about them anymore.

But this aversion to “negative thinking” is actually a tremendous weakness.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve engaged in a lot of “negative thinking” over the course of my life. And many thoughts I’ve had were just downright scary, grotesque, and obscene – thoughts I probably wouldn’t want to share with anyone.

I used to believe that I had to completely eradicate this type of thinking from my life. I saw every negative thought as a symptom of my corrupt and sick mind, and I kept trying to find a cure so I’d never think a negative thought again.

However, my perspective on “negative thinking” has changed a lot since that time.

What I’ve come to realize is that it isn’t always the content of my thinking that needs to be fixed or changed, but my response to my thinking that makes all of the difference.


The myth of “cognitive agency”

One of the most important findings in psychology is the myth of “cognitive agency.”

Cognitive agency is the idea that we have complete control over our thoughts at anytime and that we can consciously change them whenever we want.

Nowadays most psychologists recognize that we only have control over a small part of our minds at any one time, but most of our mental activity takes place unconsciously.

If you’ve ever tried meditation, or just observing your thoughts as they unfold, you’ll often find that random thoughts seem to pop in and pop out without much logic or reason. This is a fundamental aspect of our minds that can be very important to accept.

The myth of “cognitive agency” is one topic I covered in my article 7 Ideas in Psychology That Must Die, and it’s one of the most important things I’ve discovered throughout my self growth.

In self help circles especially, we often believe that our thinking is something that we have complete control over – and that we can just change our thinking on a whim – but this false belief actually makes us weak and incapable of accepting how our minds actually work.


Your mind is just playing

Our minds are designed to play with new ideas and imagine hypothetical scenarios.

Dreams are one of the best examples of this. Most of the time there is no real logic or reason behind our dreams, because it’s our minds just throwing together different experiences and trying to prepare for imaginary situations that will likely never happen in the real world.

Driving a monster truck through the city with Hulk Hogan? Throwing toys at a T-Rex in my living room? Showing up to school naked while riding a skateboard?

These are just some of the things my mind has cooked up on its own while I’m dreaming, but none of them ever seemed very relevant or practical to my life (I don’t even skateboard!)

The point is: Your mind likes to play and create just for the sake of playing and creating. It’s like a child with a bucket of red paint, a white wall, and no adult supervision – eventually, it’s going to create a mess.

This creative aspect of our minds can be both good and bad. It can become a source of inspiration and motivation (like when we imagine all the good things that can happen to us), and it can also become a source of sadness and despair (like when we imagine all the bad things that can happen to us).

However, if you recognize your “negative thinking” as just a byproduct of your mind’s inherent creativity, you begin to realize that there’s nothing actually wrong with you – it’s just your mind doing what it does best.

Recognizing this playful nature of our minds plays a big role in my article Free Won’t: Why You Shouldn’t Take Any Single Thought Too Seriously.


How to respond to “negative thinking”

Once you accept that “negative thinking” is just a part of how your mind works – and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with you – you can then take a step back and choose how to best respond to this type of thinking.

Here are 2 main pathways for how to respond to negative thinking:

  • Make Note and Disengage – Tell your mind “That’s an interesting thought you had there,” and let the thought just pass you by. You don’t need to think more about it. You don’t need to dive into the depths of your mind to figure out where every single “negative thought” originates from. Just thank your mind, let it knowing your paying attention, and move on. If anything, think of it as a temporary “mental hiccup.”
  • Play Along and Engage – “Negative thinking” is also worth engaging in from time-to-time. Your mind can often bring things to your attention that you’ve been ignoring – and just because it doesn’t feel good to think about something doesn’t mean it isn’t worth thinking about. Ask yourself, “What is this negative thought trying to tell me? Is there something I can do about it?” Play along with the thought for awhile – it doesn’t mean you need to act on it, but it might be worth entertaining before you dismiss it.

Acceptance is the foundation to both of these pathways when it comes to managing our negative thoughts. It isn’t until you fully accept a negative thought that you can choose whether to properly “engage” or “disengage.”

Clearly, there is no point in pretending our “negative thinking” doesn’t exist when it actually does – we need to be honest with ourselves – and even the most positive minds in the world have their fair share of negative thoughts.

By trying to ignore or deny the “negative thinking” in your life, you are only making yourself weaker because you’re not allowing your mind to do everything it is naturally designed to do.

As I point out in Reframing Your Dark Side: Embracing Your Shadow is Key to Genuine Mental Health, our negative thoughts and emotions can often serve an important purpose in guiding our lives. And although we may not realize it, we’d often be lost without them.

When you try to only think positively, it’s like a bird trying to fly with only one wing – we need to accept both the “positive” and “negative” to have an honest, balanced, and fully functioning mind.


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The post You’re Afraid of Negative Thinking – And It Makes You Weak! appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas

February 9, 2017 - 11:07am


During the holiday season, Americans have a skyrocketing trash output of about a million extra tons of garbage every week. From food shopping to gift shopping and decorating, you can see the trash output increase in your own home. There isn’t any question that the holidays are a magical and fun time for those who celebrate.

What’s better than attending parties, buying and giving gifts, cooking up your best dishes, volunteering and sharing in a sense of community? There isn’t any other time of the year quite like it. The spirit is contagious. Gratitude is a wonderful feeling. Still, we all want to do our part to have a more eco-friendly Christmas.


Decorating

1. Use food as decoration. It is biodegradable after all. Since food is a big part of the holidays, it can be used as table centerpieces. Think persimmons, cranberries, even pinecones.

2. Use LED lights. Looking at Christmas tree lights can be spellbinding; it is a sight to behold. Even as adults, Christmas tree lights evoke warm and fuzzy feelings. And, you can still have Christmas tree lights – just use LED holiday light strands. They consume 70 percent less energy than incandescent ones. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Energy– it only costs $0.27 to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days. In comparison, it costs $10 for incandescent lights. Fun fact: Did you know the first Christmas trees were lit up with candles? Talk about a fire hazard.

3. Stay away from inflatables. These decorations are fun, but they can cost around $2-$9 per month in energy costs. You can limit your energy use by displaying decorations such as ribbons, wreaths and other decorations that don’t consume energy.

4. Use extension cords. Some decorators use string lights to lengthen holiday displays. All that does is consume more energy. It’s much more eco-friendly and energy-efficient to use extension cords.

5. Use automatic timers. Don’t leave your lights on all night. No one will notice them when everyone is asleep. Set the timers to turn them off when you hit the sack.


Preparing food

1. Buy local produce as much as possible. For starters, the food will be fresher and taste better. Plus, they require less transportation– which, helps to conserve fuel and reduces carbon emissions. Look for local farms that produces local turkeys, hams, cornish hens, chickens or the proteins of your choice.

2. Use glass or ceramic pans for the oven. These types of pans heat faster than metal ones. As a result, you can set the temperature 25 degrees lower than the recipe suggests. You also want to stay away from disposable pans and disposable plates, plastic flatware, and Styrofoam cups.

This is the time of year to break out the good china and use cloth napkins. They are easy to wash and can be reused over and over again. In addition, they take up little storage room until next year. When it comes to beverages, serve them from pitchers or gallon jugs instead of individual bottles or cans.

3. Use a slow cooker. For side dishes and small meals, slow cookers, microwaves and toaster ovens are much more energy-efficient than the oven.

4. Keep the oven closed when cooking. What happens when you peek? Ovens lose a lot of heat, and then, use more energy to heat back up to the right temperature. It's better to turn on the oven light, and look through the window.


Shopping

1. Look for gifts that are eco-friendly. Ask a retail associate to help you. If you are shopping online, it is as simple as typing “Eco-friendly gifts” into your search engine of choice.

2. Look for energy-efficient electronics. Many of our loved ones would like electronics for holiday gifts. Search for the items that promote energy efficiency. A quick note: laptops require 50 to 80 percent less energy than a desktop.

3. Buy ENERGY STAR® appliances. Just look for the logo, as it is easy to find. These models can decrease energy usage up to 40 percent.


Keep the pests away

With all the cooking and sweets, you might notice a few unwanted roommates. The best way to keep bugs out of your home is with ultrasonic pest repellents. They work remarkably well, without the damaging and harsh fumes that come with extermination. Not to mention, they are much safer for our pets. They are also non-toxic.

One of the most popular ultrasonic pest repellents on the market is the Crave Greens plugin, which can be found on Amazon. Although, there are many to choose from. Read the reviews and descriptions before purchasing. You want to get the most effective plugin for your needs.


Prefer to travel?

The holidays are for enjoying your time off. Sometimes, that calls for a travel adventure. To keep it eco-friendly, choose one of these greener destinations.

1. Costa Rica. This country is known for its eco-conscious boutique hotels. The country also has a sustainability policy, which relies on most of its electricity to be produced from hydro-electric dams.

2. Galapagos Islands. These islands are located over 600 miles off of the coast of Ecuador. They are also almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. Moreover, around 90 percent of the islands are designated as national parks.

3. Bhutan. This country is deliberately developing tourism slowly in an effort to preserve their natural resources and protect their culture. They also have a set tourism tax that is returned to the communities. You will find breathtaking wildlife in its many conservation areas.

4. New Zealand. Who can forget the amazing scenery in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies? In fact, 20 percent of the country is made up of natural parks. Why not spend Christmas surrounded by natural landscapes or going whale watching?

5. Slovenia. Its capital, Ljubljana, was voted the European Green Capital of 2016. It states that it is the first European city to move towards zero waste. They have installed special bins that charge users based on how much waste is disposed. Furthermore, its city buses run on natural gas.

As you can see, you have many options for enjoying an eco-friendly Christmas. They aren’t difficult to follow or implement. Plus, you’ll lose the guilty conscious of having too much waste or using too much energy.


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The Three-Step Daily Checklist for a Calmer, More Balanced Life

February 9, 2017 - 7:14am


Plain and simple, stress has become synonymous with our day-to- day lives.

But is that healthy?

It’s only natural to get bogged down with financial burdens and personal hardships that take their toll on us mentally; however, what happens when you have trouble bouncing back?

From home to the office and beyond, stress follows us everywhere we go and can be dangerous to our health and well-being if we allow it to build too much. The numbers don’t lie in regard to the widespread pressures of society and their potential dangers:

  • 77% of the public regularly experience physical symptoms related to stress
  • 33% of people believe that they are living with “extreme” levels of stress
  • The annual cost attributed to stress-related health issues exceeds $300 billion

Maybe you’re tired of your job. Perhaps your romantic relationships aren’t where you want them to be. The question remains: how can you take a step back and stop being so stressed all the time?

The solution for many isn’t a miracle pill or a long-term vacation. Instead, consider taking some smaller steps day-by- day to embrace a simpler, balanced life. The subtle changes you make today can reap huge benefits for you mental and emotional health down the line.

Take a look at the following list and see which principles you can start applying to your daily life.


Make The Most of Your Mornings

How you decide to start your morning is instrumental to how your mood will be for the remainder of the day. If you constantly wake up exhausted, sluggish and annoyed, you’re obviously off to a poor start.

In response, you need to make sure your morning routine ticks the following boxes:

  • Stop smashing the snooze button: strive to instead wake up naturally or train yourself to get up at your first alarm (otherwise you run the risk of destroying your quality of sleep).
  • Make sure that you’re comfortable and not waking up with any aches or pains: if you constantly have cricks in your neck, for example, it’s probably time to start shopping around for a new bed.
  • You should never feel rushed in the morning: it may be necessarily to start going to bed earlier or waking up earlier to make this happen.

On the flip side, the successful habits of so-called “morning people” include giving yourself time in the morning to read, make your own breakfast and get in some light exercise. Also, you should take a few minutes every morning to assess your daily goals and look forward to the day ahead versus scrolling through your phone or freaking out over the morning news.


Divide Up Your Day

As you go through your daily routine, whether that be at the office at home, you should try to practice mindfulness as means of assessing your decisions in a level-headed manner. In other words, you should strive to think about even the smallest of your decisions to ensure that you’re not putting yourself in a stressful situation.

For example, mindfulness might mean making the conscious decision not to rush to McDonald’s for lunch because you’re trying to lose weight and you know that such a meal would ruin your diet. Perhaps you receive an email from a co-worker that makes your blood boil and you want to respond angrily; however, by taking a step back you realize that doing so would be a rash decision with harsh consequences.

Being mindful is about being aware of your own actions and understanding their long-term implications. Don’t rely on snap decisions, but instead take the proverbial chill pill and think before you act.


There’s Always Time for You

Day after day, you should make it a goal to spend at least one hour per day doing something that you want to do. Productive activities such as jogging or reading a book are deal; however, time spent doing anything you enjoy can indeed be valuable.

Similarly, you should make it a point to give yourself something to look forward to each and every week, whether it’s a weekend vacation or trip to movies. Doing this helps you understand that happiness is always around the corner and that even the most tedious days will pass.

Don’t let stress get you down. Take the steps to make your days more manageable by starting off on the right foot, practicing mindfulness and making time for yourself. You may be surprised at how quickly you notice changes when you shift your mindset.


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How to Make Content Creation NOT Boring

February 9, 2017 - 6:45am


Let’s be real, not every business or industry is exciting. Think of dry cleaners, an insurance agency, a tax office and more. These are the types of businesses that make more people say “oh,” rather than “ooh.” Yet, being sexy is not a requirement for achieving profits. Plus, every business needs a constant flow of prospects and customers.

In today’s society, that can be achieved through online content. Your blogs, web copy, social media posts and videos are methods for helping customers find out more about your business. This survey shows that 61% of customers feel better about a company that produces content on a regular basis. In fact, many prospects find out about a company through content.

Yet, how many times have you tried to write content only to realize how boring your niche is? You know you need to produce content, but how can you make it more exciting? The only way to do that is to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. You really just need to understand your readers’ pain points, then provide them with the right solutions. Here are a few tips to ensure your content is not boring.


Helpful things are not boring

A 2013 Charbeat study showed that most readers only read around 60% of a piece of content. They skip the other 40%. Why are they only reading about half of the content they find interesting? It could be short attention spans, but it could also be that they don’t find your content useful. In order to stop being boring, you need to become genuinely helpful.

It helps when you provide content that people actually need. This includes writing educational content that is relevant to your audience. To illustrate, if a self-employed consultant wants to learn how they can get the most deductions on their taxes, you might write an article on that. It would not be boring for people searching for that type of information. If you're worried about it coming off as lackluster, focus on make it as educational as possible.


You don’t need to put too much thought into it

If you spend all day doing research, you’ll never get to writing. You need to do just enough research to answer they why, who, where, when, what and how. If you can answer the traditional WHs, then you can create a compelling post. You might be surprised when your content generates more traffic than breaking news. Some topics will always be interesting.


Convey your expertise

As the business owner, you are the expert regarding your industry. Don’t rely on someone else to come up with topics for you. This is especially true when you are the only person who understands the intricacies of your business. If you don't understand your business better than anyone, then you are probably in the wrong business. As a result, you should be coming up with the topics for your target audience. Keep it to topics that are:

  • Relevant
  • Reflect your brand
  • Engaging for your current or potential ideas

Exciting topics are created by industry experts – that is you.


Write like a human

While it’s true that you are an expert, you don’t want to add too much business jargon. People need to understand and relate to your content. Write naturally so that it is easier for readers to comprehend your message. Think of how you are conveying your message. Does it sound like you got hit over the head with a briefcase? Would you talk that way in real life? Why make your content difficult to read when it could be quite simple?


Think like your readers

If you were visiting your blog, as a prospect, what would you like to see? What types of topics would interest you? What types of questions would you need answered before making a purchase decision? If you can’t come up with answers, ask a friend for some input. Try to sell him or her one of your products and services. Then request some questions. You might immediately come up with interesting ideas for exciting content. Here are some other questions to ask:

  • What problem can I solve?
  • What would happen if a prospect does not buy my product or service?
  • Why would someone be interested in my company?

When writing your content, you should use the above questions as a frame of reference. To stand apart from your competition, you want to focus on what could happen if a customer does not purchase your products or services.


Make it specific

You want to be helpful, you want to write like a human but you also want to be specific. Consider specific examples and scenarios that you can share with your reader. You can do this much more easily after you have put yourself or a friend in your readers’ shoes. There are massive amounts of generic content online. You can find hundreds of variations on titles such as “How to Boil an Egg” or “How to Find a Date.” They are just so broad that they don’t resonate with anyone.

To make your content more exciting, have a specific angle on a popular topic in your industry. You want to address specific points that helps to solve a problem for your readers. So, yes, you will attract a particular read. But, that is the point. If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Use each piece of content as a platform for attracting a specific customer. This way, your readers will be more inclined to peruse through the entire piece as opposed to only 60%.


Get emotional

Hey, we all get emotional sometimes. We like it when we realize we’re not alone. So, in your content, don’t be afraid to share emotion. Make your readers laugh, or tug at their heartstrings. Yes, this can be done even in boring industries.

Content is a must, but it is more than just copy. It should bounce off the page. Don’t limit your ideas through words. Address problems, paint a picture, relate to your audience, write the way you speak. If you do these things, you’ll find that writing content is also more exciting because you are engaging yourself.


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Keep a “Jar of Awesome” for When You Need an Extra Boost of Motivation

February 1, 2017 - 6:36pm


Can you name 3 victories you’ve had in your life over the past year?

For many of us, it can be difficult to reflect on our past and recall positive memories. This is due to a strong negativity bias in our minds – which is why when we reflect on our past we often replay the negative memories and not the positive ones.

But our past can be a very healthy source of motivation and inspiration, especially if we focus on the right parts.

In Tim Ferriss’ new book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, Ferriss shares a great tool for self improvement that he calls the “Jar of Awesome.”

The “Jar of Awesome” is a jar filled with tiny notes that remind us of our small victories and positive experiences.

Then when you find yourself down and needing an extra boost of motivation, all you need to do is pick out a random piece of paper from your “Jar of Awesome” and you’ll be instantly reminded of a positive experience from your past.

The ability to easily recall positive memories and identify the “small wins” can be a very important aspect of happiness and well-being.

For example, one recent study published in Psychology and Psychotherapy shows that recalling positive memories can help improve our mental health and boost positive emotions.

The “Jar of Awesome” helps us to cultivate more gratitude by reminding us of the many things in our lives that went well. It can also be a fantastic source of motivation and inspiration – by reminding ourselves of our “success stories” from the past, we feel more capable to continue creating new “success stories” in the future.

Here’s Tim Ferriss on how he uses his “Jar of Awesome”:




Check out Tim Ferriss’ new book Tools of Titans if you’d like to learn more awesome self improvement tools, techniques, and exercises.


How to Create Your Own “Jar of Awesome”

Here are simple step-by-step instructions on how to create a “Jar of Awesome” of your own and how to use it to maximum effect.

  • Find an empty jar and several pieces of paper.
  • Start by writing down between 5-7 “small wins” in your life.
  • Write each “small win” on its own piece of paper, then place it in the jar.
  • Create a label for your jar and title it “Jar of Awesome.”
  • Keep your jar on your desk (or wherever you do most of your work).
  • Whenever you need an extra boost of motivation, pick a random paper from the jar and read it to yourself.
  • Give yourself a moment to reflect on the “small win” and let the positive emotions surface.
  • Put the paper back in the jar once you’re done reflecting.
  • Whenever you have another “small win,” write it down and add it to the jar.
  • Keep adding to your collection. The more “small wins” you have saved, the more positive memories you have to draw from and be inspired by.

The “Jar of Awesome” can be a very powerful tool for motivation and inspiration. The more you build on it and the more “small wins” you add to your collection, the more powerful it will be.

This is important because we often don’t remember the many “small wins” we have on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. By taking the time to write them down and save them somewhere, you are creating an excellent source of motivation for yourself, especially during tough times when it may be difficult to remind yourself how awesome you can be.

So try it out for yourself and create your own “Jar of Awesome!”


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