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What did you learn? (DW#526)

Today let us reflect on life lessons learnt from this past year. These lessons could include reflections on what you did that worked, what you did that did not work, lessons learnt in challenging times and/or blessings and opportunities that you discovered even amidst set backs. 

In fact, it is generally in challenging times that we step back, take stock and reflect on what we have learnt and/or can do differently. 

So go ahead, and take a moment to reflect and write down the life lessons that you have learnt this past year. By distilling these lessons and turning them into wisdom, we can learn from the past and not repeat our mistakes (of course we can always make new mistakes :))

Here are some life lessons from challenging situations to reflect on. It can be difficult to write them in positive terms so that we are not embittered by our experiences and we so that we many continue to live with positivity, purpose and peace. 

You can only control yourself. You may wish...

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The closer the goal, the stronger the regret (DW#525)

Psychologists who study regret map a three-stage process which triggers regret: there is action, outcome and recall. In other words, we take an action, we experience the outcome of our action and if the outcome is negative, we feel regret. 

The third aspect of regret, recall is rather interesting. The researchers found that "Feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment are strongest where the chances of corrective reaction are clearest". In other words, the greater (and easier) the opportunity for corrective action which is not taken, the stronger the regret. 

Let’s try and understand this with a couple of examples: imagine you have an exam and you don’t study enough to get a passing grade. What the research suggests is that you will experience stronger regret if you get one or two percent below the passing grade than if you miss the grade by a long shot. 

Imagine you are catching a plane, get distracted, leave late for the airport, hit traffic and arrive...

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What do you regret? (DW#524)

When we are reviewing the past year and reflecting on our stumbles, feelings of regret can sometimes surface. We may begin thinking about how our life would be different or better "if only" we had done this or not done that. 

The pain of regret can be intense and it is very tempting to want to distract ourselves, distance ourselves or push it away. Doing this too quickly can be a mistake. 

Janet Landman from the University of Michigan explains that there are some benefits of staying with the discomfort of regret. 

Firstly, there is information and instruction. Regret informs us that the course of action that we have taken in the past has not led to success. 

Secondly, the pain of regret can act as a motivation for change. It tells us that the course of action has not made us happy and we need to do something different in order to get better results. 

Thirdly, and related to the point above, regret can act as a moral compass. If we see negative outcomes for...

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Looking back before moving forward (DW#521)

Philosopher Seren Kierkegaard said that we live forward but we understand backward. These simple words make so much sense: very often we do not gain understanding of a situation or of our actions until they are in the past. It is only once we see the impact of our actions (both positive and negative) that we gain a perception of whether our decisions were sound. We can see this both in our personal and professional lives. 

Sometimes the impact is so significant that we cannot move forward and we get stuck. We may keep ruminating about our decisions and wish that we had done more to get greater success (if the impact is positive) or, more likely, wish that we had made better choices, if the impact is negative. 

While wishing that we had made better choices is not helpful, it can be hugely beneficial to confront our choices, reflect on their impact and learn lessons from them. It is only by being brave enough to engage in this process can we move powerfully into our future....

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Challenging Cognitive Distortions Summary (DW#520)

Here are the 10 ways to challenge cognitive distortions that we have been exploring over the past few weeks. (and here is the link to catch up on any that you may have missed)

1)    Clear weeds from the garden of your mind [DW#508]
2)    Separate facts from interpretations [DW#509]
3)    Be an observer and develop a practice of thought watching. [DW#510 and DW#517]
4)    Explore what happened and what did you make it mean? [DW#511]
5)    Ask yourself if your interpretations are helpful. [DW#512]
6)    Come up with more helpful interpretations. [DW #513 & DW#514]]
7)    Ask yourself what your wisest friend would advice you in this situation?  [DW#515]
8)    Take the advice that you would give to a dear friend [DW#516]
9)    Develop and use a list of questions to challenge...

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Are you willing to choose happiness? (DW#519)

People who are successful and happy in this world have as many negative thoughts as you and I do. Really. 

The difference is that they find ways to remind themselves to focus on the narrative that they want to live rather than focusing on the mental chatter in their heads. 

Because if we continue to believe every thought that we have, and if our thoughts continue to be negative, it will be very challenging to live a life of positivity, purpose or peace. 
What we allow to settle in our minds and what we focus on will surely become our reality. 

So how about focusing on the narrative that we want to live? How about becoming aware of where our attention is, and being intentional about directing it where we want it to be? 

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List of questions to challenge Cognitive distortions (DW#518)

It is very helpful to have a list of questions already prepared when we want to challenge our unhelpful thoughts and negative assumptions.

Here are 25 questions that we can choose from. When we notice our distorted thinking patterns, lets challenge the validity of these distortions. They can seldom hold up to this type of questioning.

·     Is this thought helpful?
·     What are the disadvantages of thinking this way? 
·     Do I have a trusted friend whom I can check out these thoughts with?
·     Are there other ways that I can think about this situation or myself?
·     Am I blaming myself unnecessarily?
·     Is it really in my control?
·     Is it all someone else’s fault? 
·     Am I overgeneralizing?
...

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Develop a practice of thought watching (DW#517)

As we have been saying, the problem in our lives is not that we have negative thoughts or "cognitive distortions". The problem is that we believe all of these thoughts and assume that they are accurate or true. 

Instead of believing everything that we think, we can begin to notice our thoughts as they come and go without getting "hooked" by them. We can learn to become observers of our minds and its chatter and become aware of how much of it is automatically negative and unhelpful. 

The best way to do this is to intentionally set aside time each day to get silent and observe our thoughts as they come and go. When we notice our minds wandering into negative territory, we can bring our focus back to the present moment without further engaging with those thoughts. 

Once we become intimately aware of how our mind works, we can stop automatically believing and acting on our thoughts. We have a choice. We can notice our thoughts, let them go. Notice our thoughts and let them...

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What advice would you give to a dear friend? (DW#516)

This week, continue our conversation on challenging unhelpful, negative or distorted thinking. 

We have talked about how valuable it can be to consult with a friend when our negative thoughts are getting the best of us. 

Sometimes, however, such a friend is not at hand, for whatever reason. What do we do then?

We can access our own inner wisdom by asking ourselves: what would we tell a friend or a younger sibling in this situation? 

Many of us are very good advice-givers. Superb advice-givers, in fact. 

When someone who is emotionally charged or triggered comes to us, we can look at the situation without the emotional triggers and come up with a balanced perspective. We can see the pros and cons of thinking this way and come up with helpful suggestions on how to combat this negative perspective (especially if we have been reading Daily Wisdom regularly ;) ) 

So while we have all inner knowledge, it can be hard to apply it to our own situation – unless...

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What would your wisest friend tell you in this situation? (DW#515)

Some of us are blessed to have a wise friend or mentor in our lives.

This is a person on whom we can count on to give us a realistic perspective when our mind is doing its distorted loopy thinking. A friend who can set us straight and talk some sense into us for our own good. A friend who is a friend of our relationships because they realize that even if we are angry or upset in the moment, our long term happiness and wellbeing lies in making our close relationships work rather than walking away from them.

This is a friend who is kind and compassionate and yet holds us accountable and encourages us to live up to our best selves and to stop acting like a jerk.

If you were to ask this friend about the situation, what would they say?

How would they interpret this situation?

What advice would they give you on your behavior?

Exactly. Listen to this friend.

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