Remember Your Choice

Thanks to Louise Hay for this quote and affirmation to reduce stress:

“This month I replace the word should with the word could. Could lets me know that I have a choice, which means freedom. I’m now aware that everything I do in life is done by choice – and I make sure that positive thinking and an optimistic attitude guide all my decisions. Once again, life is filling me with wisdom and I am so grateful.”

What You Think About Stress Could Kill You

30+ years ago: Nobody ever connected stress to any physical issues. How could stress in your mind or your emotions ever effect your body? Don’t be silly.

More recently: Now we hear that stress contributes to (and exacerbates) MANY physical illnesses. And lots of research proves that.

2013-present: Emerging research is showing that your mindset about stress (in other words, what you think ABOUT stress) is really what causes the stress-illness connection.

UW-Madison study: Beliefs about stress matter most!

Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and researcher at Stanford University, did a famous TED Talk in 2013 called “How to make stress your friend.”

She talks about a large-scale study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison of 30,000 participants who were followed over an eight-year period.

They asked people to rank their level of stress as low, moderate or high. They also asked the question: Do you believe stress is harmful for your health?

Then they used public death records to see which of the study participants actually died over the eight year period.

Bad news: Participants who had a high level of stress had a 43% increased chance of dying.

Surprising news: Here’s the kicker…. The 43% increased risk of dying was only true for people who believed that stress is harmful for your health!

• Participants with a high level of stress but who did not believe that stress was harmful to their health, had the lowest likelihood of death of anyone in the study (even lower risk than the people who reported the lowest levels of stress)!

What you think about stress matters! In fact, it matters more than your stress level itself!

What is your Stress Mindset?

What if you could think of stress as your body helping you rise to new challenges? What if you could think of physical symptoms of anxiety, such as changes in heart rate and breathing, as helpful to you?

Stress Mindsets are general beliefs about the nature of stress.

• A “stress-is-enhancing” mindset means you tend to believe that stress has the effect of enhancing performance, health and well-being.
• A “stress-is-debilitating” mindset refers to the belief that stress is dangerous, and should be feared because one may not have the internal resources to meet the external pressures.

People with a “stress-is-enhancing” mindset see day to day life stressors as challenges for which they have adequate resources to meet expected demands. Stressors can be seen as opportunities to grow, learn or step up ones game. Stress is seen as a challenge instead of a big problem to be avoided.

A 2013 study of employees at a large financial institution showed that those who had a stress-is-enhancing mindset enjoyed:

• greater life satisfaction
• reduced anxiety
• less depression
• increased optimism
• increased resilience
• increased mindfulness

What do you think?

Recent research suggests that your attitude and beliefs matter a lot. This is not to say that too much stress is somehow healthy.

Can you change the stressors in your life to achieve more happiness? If you think you can’t change the stressors in your life, I challenge you to challenge that assumption. Often times you do have more control over stressors than you think you do.

However, if you’re clear that you can’t change the external… you CAN change the internal – your own mindset about stress. Why not give it a try?

10 MORE Great Ways to Love Yourself

Last February I wrote about Loving Yourself and it was so popular I decided to add 10 more ways to love yourself this year….

Gifts that Say I Love You to Yourself

1. Rest. My Vipassana meditation teacher from Burma says (in his Burmese accent): “Take Rest, Take Rest, Take Rest.” Whether it be sleep or a 2 minute break, rest is a gift to yourself so…Take it!

2. Self-compassion. Are you harder on yourself than you are on everybody else? Stop beating yourself up. Treat yourself with the same kindness, care, and support that you would offer to another person that you care about.

3. Schedule fun. Make a list of 20 things you think are fun. Then put them into your calendar and make your fun just as important (or even more important!) as all your other appointments.

4. Make a list and check it twice. Sit down and don’t get up until you’ve listed 10 things you love about yourself. If it’s very easy, then make it 20.

5. Let learning be enough. Forgive yourself for past mistakes or errors in judgment. Hindsight truly is 20/20 so take the lessons away from past mistakes and they will help you move forward. Self-forgiveness is the antidote to guilt, self-blame and self-criticism.

6. Stand up for yourself. Know that your needs and opinions matter. Be confident in asserting yourself and letting others know what is important to you. You’re worth it!

7. Practice being truly present. Learning how to be mindful adds more pleasure and meaning to life. Plus it reduces stress and anxiety. This is a continual practice. You don’t ever have to become an expert – you just need to keep practicing. Start with the intention to “be here now”… and practice.

8. Hang out with the best. Consciously choose to spend your precious time with people who lift you up, who treat you well, respect you, and accept you just the way you are.

9. Embrace this 4-letter word. H-E-L-P. Why do we think we are supposed to do everything on our own? Who made that rule? Asking for help is a sign of wisdom, not weakness. Help is what makes the world go around, and makes us feel connected. It is a gift knowing you don’t have to do it all alone.

10. Celebrate your successes. Acknowledge yourself for all accomplishments big and small. Writing them down in a success journal helps your brain to remember them and builds confidence. Read over your list regularly and see the proof in writing of how truly capable and amazing you are.

“Just Think Positive” Doesn’t Work

Negative thinking is a big problem with both anxiety and depression. It’s so easy for the mind to get stuck in habitual patterns of seeing the negative.  The mind can dwell, or even obsess, on worst case scenarios.  In fact, the fight-or-flight mechanism in your brain is programmed to do just that.

Have you ever been stuck in negative thinking only to have a friend or family member say “just think more positive!”  

Well…duh.  If you could do that, you would have already done it.

newmindset-dreamstime_xs_52555226It is possible to transform negative thinking, but you need to learn HOW to turn your thoughts around to get a new mindset. That doesn’t just happen automatically.  And it doesn’t happen by merely telling yourself to think more positive.

It’s pretty impossible to “just think positive” without learning some specific ways to reframe your thinking.  (This is the whole basis of CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Bottles: Half Empty or Half Full?

My Vipassana meditation teacher told a story of a mother in India with three sons…

She asked her first son to take an empty bottle to the market and have it filled with oil and she gave him three rupees to do so. Her son had the bottle filled and on his way home, he stumbled and half of the oil spilled out of the bottle. He became very upset and ran home crying.  Because he thought he was a failure, he felt shame and guilt and he was afraid to tell his mother what had happened.

Next the mother asked her second son to take an empty bottle to the market and have it filled with oil and gave him three rupees also. This son also had his bottle filled, but the same thing happened. He fell on the way home and spilled half the oil. But this second son was so happy that there was still half of the oil left in the bottle that he ran all the way home smiling.  He told his mother: “Look what happened – I stumbled but I was able to save half of the oil!”

Finally, the mother asked her third son to do the same thing. Unfortunately, the same thing happened to the third son. He ran all the way home very excited. He told his mother: “Look what happened – I stumbled but I was able to save half the oil! Now I can just get an odd job tomorrow and earn enough money to refill the whole jar!”

halfemptyhalffull-stencilThinking: Half Empty or Half Full?

Were the bottles of these 3 boys half empty or half full?

Was their thinking half empty or half full?

The human mind is wired to see the negative first – the bottle is half empty.  But you can train yourself to also see something good in your situation.

• Gratitude is one way to shift out of a negative mindset.

The third son was surely upset about spilling some of the oil.  But he quickly found something to be grateful for in his situation.

Negative thinking keeps you stuck.  Gratitude opens doors to a new mindset. A new mindset is necessary to make change and to get new results in your life.

• Taking positive action is another effective way to turn negative thinking around.

By adding positive action (getting an odd job tomorrow) to a seemingly negative situation, the third son did not get stuck in half empty thinking.  He was able to turn his thinking around and move on with a new mindset.

Next time you find yourself dwelling on a half empty situation, ask yourself:

What is one positive action I could take any way?

One small action can create enough shift for you to start turning those thoughts around, so you can start seeing your glass getting fuller by the minute.

• Imagine a Silver Lining

Close your eyes and ask yourself:

• If I could dare to hope for just one positive thing in this situation, what would it be?
• If I had one wish that could be granted in this situation, what is one positive outcome, or positive aspect, that I would wish for?

Let yourself imagine it even if you can’t see how that one positive thing could actually become possible.  Imagination changes the way the neural pathways in your brain fire up, making way for new thoughts.

Stop Negative Thinking with CBT

cbtthinkingprocess-dreamstime_xs_36181364The best long term strategy for getting rid of negative thinking patterns is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

With CBT, you learn to:

1) correctly identify distorted, negative “stinking thinking”
2) shift negative thinking by refuting it with more accurate, logical thoughts
3) learn very specific tools and strategies to turn negative thinking around and lessen its power over you

By refuting negative thinking over and over again, the neural pathways in your brain literally change and the negative pattern diminishes over time.  Read more about CBT for Negative Thinking

5 Unexpected Ways to Make Lasting Change

How many times have you tried to make a change and it just doesn’t stick? It might stick for a while, but then you fall back into old habits.

News Years Resolution Statistics Data
Percent of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions 45%
Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolution 8%
Percent who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year 24%
People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions

*Source: http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

neural-pathways-istock_000006935562xsmallYour brain is designed to go back to old habits. Neural pathways form in the brain and get very ingrained, making change difficult.

So if you want to make lasting change, you have to use some brain-based strategies to create new neural pathways. That translates into new thoughts and beliefs, and ultimately into change and creation of new behaviors.

1. Do Less and Talk to Yourself More

Don’t get caught in the misconception that you have to DO more to reach your goals.  Doing matters much less than thinking.   Stop focusing so much on the action itself, and focus more on what you are saying to yourself in your mind.

How you talk to yourself before, during, and after the process of change is critical!  

We often sabotage ourselves with negative thinking or limited beliefs about our ability to succeed at our goals. If you set a goal to walk 5 times a week and then your thoughts are about how many times you have failed in the past at walking five times a week, then you are setting yourself up to fail again.

pausebutton-stencilInstead, catch yourself thinking those thoughts and then hit the pause button. Choose a new thought. One possible thought: “even though I’ve tried to walk more in the past, I’m going to give it my best shot now because it’s healthy for me, and I enjoy it and the exercise is a good stress reliever.”

Your new thought makes a new neural pathway – this is exactly what is needed to create change, or create a new habit. This is the whole basis of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

2. Act As If You Are Confident

To help your brain make the changes necessary to actually do something different or create a new habit, Act As If you are completely confident.  Act As If it has already happened.

The “fake it ‘till you make it” mentality really works.

If you are confident and tell yourself you can do it, you likely will be able to do it. So even when you don’t feel particularly confident, Act As If you’re confident.

Act As If you know the change is already happening and you expect it to be manifest completely.   

“Whether you think you can,or think you can’t, you’re right!”

~ Henry Ford 
Creator of the first Model T automobile in 1908

We often stop ourselves from the change we want by fear that we won’t succeed.  This fear can be conscious or subconscious.

Confidence about your success is what will translate into real success.

So acting as if you are confident will turn into real confidence which will turn into real results/change.

3. The Imagination Experiment

• Exactly what would it be like if you reached your goal?
• What would it be like to be the person who walks 5 times a week?
• How would you feel? What would you be thinking?
• What small (or big) things would you be doing differently in your day-to-day life?

Write down all of your answers to these questions.

Now experiment, and start doing those things now. Start thinking those things now. Notice what happens and how you feel.

The key here is using your powerful imagination to line up your thoughts, feelings, actions and energy congruently in the direction of your goal.

4. See With Your Eyes Closed

The human brain cannot tell the difference between an experience that is happening in reality right now, and one that is vividly imagined.

Studies with Olympic athletes and NASA astronauts show that the same parts of the brain are firing when they are imagining their next race/mission, or when they are actually doing it. The muscles of athletes actually fire even when they are sitting down in a chair just vividly imagining.

Spend at least five minutes every single day visualizing yourself and your life after you have reached your goal. Make the visualization very vivid, with as many details as you can picture.

What can you vividly see, here, taste or smell in your visualization?

Enjoy the visualization feel the good feelings associated with your success. Try to let your mind and body feel what it will really feel like after you have attained your goal.

5. Love Yourself the Whole Way

render fractal model - red heart

Last but not least, be kind and self-nurturing as you focus on your goal. Change is usually difficult. The human brain is literally wired to maintain the same habits and to resist change. So give yourself credit for your desire and motivation to make a positive change for yourself.

Honor yourself when you have little successes toward your goal. And it’s just important to honor yourself when you encounter challenges on the way to your goal. Expect that to happen and be prepared to be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that it is all part of the process. Then just recommit yourself to your goal.

Do one nice thing for yourself each day as a way of loving yourself, and thanking yourself for working toward this positive change!

 

Quote – The Goal is Fun

“You think the goal is to be over there, and we say the goal is the journey over there; THE GOAL IS THE FUN you have along the way on your way to over there.
 
man-jumping-air-guitar-istock_000004760764xsmallAll is well and you will never get it done. Life is supposed to be fun. No one is taking score of any kind, and if you will stop taking score so much, you will feel a whole lot better — and as you feel a whole lot better, more of the things that you want right now will flow to you. You will never be in a place where all of the things that you are wanting will be satisfied right now, or then you could be complete — and you never can be. This incomplete place that you stand is the best place that you could be. You are right on track, right on schedule. Everything is unfolding perfectly. All is really well. Have fun. Have fun. Have fun!”

— Esther and Jerry Hicks

 

Intentionally Create The New Year of Your Dreams

What are your wildest hopes and dreams for Your New Year?
 
Are you ready to let go of  old patterns that have been making you unhappy?
 
What new and wonderful things are you ready to let into your life?
 
Change your thoughts, change your feelings, change your life! Di Philippi, Holistic Anxiiety Therapist
 
I offer you this 3-step ritual to allow you to honor 2015 and then consciously create Your New Year. 
 
Give yourself the gift of stopping long enough to become aware of your past year, so you can decide what you want to continue into 2016 and what you want to get rid of.  Most of us are so busy going, going, going that we lose perspective on what our past year was really like. 
 
Step 1: Remember
 
writing-stencilI like to sit down and look at  my calendar from the past year and review month-by-month. This reminds me of my choices during the past year…how did I spend my time?…who did I spent it with?…did I have a good balance of work and play?…what were the major things going on in my life in the past year? Find some concrete way like this to remind yourself of how your year really played out.


St
ep 2: Release

 
Get some loose leaf paper. Write down anything you want to let go of from the past year…worry, anxiety, regrets, mistakes, things you wish you had not said or done, pain (physical and emotional) that you want to let go of, old patterns you want to change, activities you no longer want to participate in, negative thoughts you want to stop thinking. Those things are in the past. Write them down and choose to let them go right now.
 
They do not need to go forward into 2016 with you.
 
Now rip those pages to shreds as you release those things to the past. Throw those shreds of paper in the garbage. What I literally mean is, take them outside of your home out the to garbage can and be done with them right now. Say “Good Bye. I release all this right here and now.” Now turn around and don’t look back as you return to your home, ready to create a truly NEW year.


Step 3: Re-Focus
 
Write down your answers to these questions about 2015:
  1. What are the 3 best things that happened to me?
  2. What were my 3 biggest challenges?
  3. What was the single biggest time waster in my life during the past year?
  4. How did I grow (emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, physically)?
  5. What 3 words best describe my past year?

Write down your answers to these questions about this NEW Year 2016:

  1. If I had 3 wishes for 2016 what would they be?
  2. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  3. What 3 words would I want my loved ones to use to describe me this year?
  4. What 3 words do I want to guide my NEW year?
  5. What 3 people or resources could help me to get all these things?
  6. What 3 steps could I take to help me move in the direction of these wishes?

Quote – Control My Thinking

I believe in you! Di Philippi, Holistic Anxiety Therapist“The only thing I ever have any control of is my current thinking.
This thought, the one I am thinking now, is totally under my control.”

— Louise Hay

Make 2016 what YOU want it to be!  

3 Steps to Your Dreams in 2016

greatideaWhat I love about each New Year is that it always brings opportunity.

Energetically you can allow a fresh start: letting go of that which you are ready to release, and opening up for transformation and healing.
 
This is the ritual I use every year to honor the year that has just passed, and then to consciously create my New Year.
 

Pause for Reflection

First, I invite you to give yourself the gift of stopping long enough to become aware of your past year. Most of us are so busy going, going, going that we lose perspective on what our year was really like.   Just STOP for a few minutes and go through these 3 Steps.
 
Step 1: Remember
 
writing-stencilI like to sit down and look at my calendar from the past year and page through week-by-week and month-by-month. This reminds me of my choices during the past year…how did I spend my time?…who did I spent it with?…did I have a good balance of work and play?…what were the major things going on this my life in the past year? Find some concrete way like this to remind yourself of how your year was filled. Take time to remember.
 
Then spend a few minutes journalling about your past year. There’s no format here, no right or wrong way to do it. Write whatever comes to your mind after looking back on how your year unfolded. 
 
 Step 2: Release
 
Get some loose leaf paper. Write down anything you want to let go of from the past year…regrets, mistakes, things you wish you had not said or done, pain (physical and emotional) that you want to let go of, old patterns you want to change, activities you no longer want to participate in, negative thoughts you want to stop thinking.
 
Do not get caught in feeling bad about the past, feeling guilty, or feeling bad about yourself or your year in any way.  Make this list without judgement.  Instead, make this list with simple, objective clarity about the things that you want to let go of and be done with.  Those things are in the past. Write them down and choose to let them go right now. They do not need to go forward into 2016 with you. 
 
Now rip those pages to shreds as you release those things to the past. Throw those shreds of paper in the garbage. What I mean is, take them outside of your home out the to garbage can and be done with them right now. Say outloud “Good Bye. I release all this right here and now.” Now turn around and don’t look back as you return to your home, ready to create a truly NEW year. 
 
Step 3: Re-Focus
 
Write down your answers to these questions about 2015:

  1. What are the 3 best things that happened to me?
  2. What were my 3 biggest challenges?
  3. What was the single biggest time waster in my life during the past year?
  4. How did I grow (emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, physically)?
  5. What worked in my life during the past year? What did not work?
  6. How much love did I share? With whom were my most valuable relationships?
  7. What 3 words best describe my past year?

Change your thoughts, change your feelings, change your life! Di Philippi, Holistic Anxiiety TherapistWrite down your answers to these questions about this NEW Year 2016:

  1. If I had 3 wishes for 2016 what would they be?
  2. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  3. What 3 words would I want my loved ones to use to describe me this year?
  4. What 3 words do I want to guide my NEW year?

The Lost Art of Slowing Down

Hand writing So Many Things in To Do List with red marker isolated on white.

You’re always on the go.
You have a never-ending To-Do list.
There’s always too much to do and too little time to do it.

This is what people tell me every day.

As a culture, we have created a super fast-paced, busy lifestyle for ourselves. The holidays contributes to this: so much to do, so many places to be, so many errands to run.

Over the years, we’ve learned how to speed up and now the problem is that we have forgotten how to slow down. You want to slow down, yet you just can’t seem to do it (can’t seem to find the time!).

The Cost of Not Slowing Down

The obvious cost: stress and anxiety are on the rise with over 40 million people in our country suffering from anxiety.

The not-so-obvious cost: when you never slow down, you start to live life on “autopilot.” Life is driven more by outside activities and influences, rather than being guided by YOU – by what YOU really want and need to feel happy and healthy.

When you operate on “automatic,” you will automatically keep
getting more of what you automatically got in the past.

You have to slow down for a moment to connect with yourself and find out how you really feel. What do you really want?

You may feel like you can’t change the situation…too many responsibilities and expectations seem out of your control. It feels like life is happening TO you (autopilot), instead of you being in charge of your life and your happiness.

Turning off the Autopilot

A New Year invites us to slow down. Stop long enough to reflect on what you loved from this year and what you didn’t love. You’ll need a little quiet time and a paper and pen to make notes.

Breathe deeply and imagine what you’d like to have different/better in your life. What inspires you and makes you feel good?

Slow down and you’ll you have a better idea of the way you want your life to be instead of the way autopilot created it.

Taking Charge

success_failure-signs-istock_000003986459xsmallOnce you have that vision of what you want, how do you create it?

Creating something new in your life requires 3 things to be congruent:

  1. Your thoughts and words
  2. Your feelings
  3. Your actions

Thoughts
Slow down enough to stay conscious of your thoughts. Everything that has ever been created started as an idea or thought. Choose your thoughts deliberately. Think about what’s important to you. Think specifically about those things you want to be different and better. Think about them every single day.

Feelings
The way you feel is always a result of the thoughts you’ve been thinking. Slow down enough to pay attention to your feelings. If you’re not feeling good about how your life is being created, it’s a sign to stop and think more about the vision you want to create.

Actions
Slow down and ask yourself: What small thing could I do today to bring me closer to what I really want? Move consciously in the direction of your vision one little action at a time.