Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weeding Your Thoughts and Your Life

I love to plant flowers and grow a garden. As every gardener will tell you,having a beautiful and healthy garden takes tending. You need to water it, feed it, and once a week or so, you must come through and pull out the weeds.

Your life also need tending. Everything goes better if you add positive input, inspiring experiences and people to your life. It is also important to minimize your contact as much as possible with people who are negative,critical,chronically whiny and otherwise emotionally toxic for you to be around.Pursue people and experiences which make you feel upbeat,hopeful,and positive.Seek out people who you resonate with in this way.

Your thoughts also need weeding regularly.Self-defeating thoughts lead to self-defeating behavior, which cycle into a lethargic state and feelings of defeat.For example,we could think "there is no point. I don't have the energy to workout/write that paper/clean house. I'm not in the mood.Things are too difficult. I will probably fail." There is very little chance of a successful outcome with those powerful negative thoughts.

We need to learn to endorse and cheer yourself on instead.Replace self-downing thoughts with more objective and self-endorsing ones.For example, "I'm going to see what I can accomplish if I work on this paper for an hour".Breaking down tasks into chunks can make it easier to start, and you can feel less overwhelmed.Take little steps toward a goal you feel blocked on, and use modest time limits for your efforts.(How do we eat an elephant? One bite at a time.)

Watch your internal dialogue.Try to think in wants, rather than musts or shoulds. Reformulating your self-talk to own your choices will lift your mood.Reward yourself with play or a healthy treat for taking steps towards your desired goal.Watch out for labeling yourself in negative ways, or using ALWAYS or NEVER.Very few things in life are that absolute.

Instead of conjuring up self-defeating emotions, like tiredness, boredom, and discouragement, focus on visualizing success at the task you have been avoiding. Try that on and see how it feels.

David Burns,M.D., in his classic book "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy", tells us that there are mind-sets that keep one stuck and prevent us from moving forward towards our goals. They are:
*overwhelming yourself
*jumping to conclusions
*undervaluing the rewards
*fear of failure
*fear of success
*fear of criticism
*low-frustration tolerance

This week, try to eliminate negative statements to yourself and to others.Use positive words to affirm your goals.Use positive, energized I-statements to get yourself going(I am becoming a more patient/active/positive person.)Put up positive post-it notes to give you a quick affirmation throughout the day.

Sprinkle in some self-care this week. Brew a cup of your favorite tea. Watch a favorite movie.Go for a walk with your dog.Take a bubble bath. Be around someone who encourages you and makes you feel good. Listen to something upbeat or inspiring---for those of you in the greater LA area, I recently found a new radio program on weekdays on KFWB 980am from 2 to 4pm with motivational speaker Les Brown if you find yourself driving at that time.

Don't forget to pull a few weeds from your life and your thoughts this week so that there is room for the good stuff to grow.

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