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Where did you succeed? (DW#522)

One of the joys of doing an end of year review is to look back with gratitude on the things that went well, the milestones that we achieved and the successes we enjoyed. 

When we are in the thick of things, it can be easy to ignore the baby steps we are taking towards success. At the end of the year or the beginning of a new year, it is enormously pleasurable to celebrate our successes and give ourselves a small pat on the back! 

If it has been a stormy or difficult year, this can be quite challenging. The challenges or setbacks can often claim a disproportionate amount of our attention and energy. When this happens, just take a moment and reflect on the various domains of your life: social, emotional, physical, professional, spiritual, marital, parental, financial. It is much easier to acknowledge successes when we separate the events and happenings of our various domains. 

For example, even if we suffered from health challenges the past year, our finances may have...

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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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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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Fallacy of Change (DW#503)

The fallacy of change is another distortion which, even we recognize it, can be rather challenging to shift.

This pattern of thinking involves believing that we will be happy if people around us change to accommodate our wishes and desires. An outcome of this type of thinking is to expect that others will change if we just pressure or encourage them enough.

If I just nag my adult son enough, we may think, he will stop wearing un-ironed clothes. Or


If I gently (!) and sweetly tell my spouse that he should not watch so much football, or eat healthy, or cut his hair a different way, he should listen to my solid advice!

Instead of focusing on our own circle of control, we focus our energies on ‘encouraging’ others around us to change. Of course, it seems that the more enthusiastic we get about our agenda for others to change, the more they seem to resist our good advice!!

Now we do need to mention a huge caveat here: let’s be honest. The behaviour of...

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Heaven’s Reward Fallacy (DW#502)

Related to the fairness fallacy, this kind of distorted thinking makes us believe that we deserve a good outcome if we work hard and make sacrifices in the short run.

A lot of women (and parents) who believe they have done everything for their families are devastated when their relationships do not work out. They struggle to find the missing link – where did they go wrong, they keep asking themselves? What more could they have done? They never looked after their own needs and where did it leave them?

Now, wouldn’t it be lovely if things always worked out as they ‘should’?

But each and every one of us knows lots of examples of when hard work and sacrifice did not pay off. Reality is that sometimes no matter how hard we work or how much we sacrifice, we will not achieve what we hope to achieve. To think otherwise is a potentially damaging pattern of thought that can result in disappointment, frustration, anger, and even depression when the awaited reward does...

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Personalization (DW#498)

Personalization is a cognitive distortion where we consistently take the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong with our life. 

When we think like this, everything that goes wrong is all about us, even if there is no way we could have controlled or even influenced the outcome. For example, if we go on a picnic with friends and it ends up raining, we tell ourselves it is raining because of the bad luck and bad weather that follows us wherever we go. 

Now taking responsibility for our life, our words and our actions is the mature thing to do of course but we are not accountable for the outcome of actions and situations beyond our control. 

And we are certainly NOT responsible for the weather :) 

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Recap: Taking action can change your feelings (DW#480)

As a part of our series on emotional intelligence, we have been discussing how we can learn to accept feelings but that we don’t have to wait for our feelings to change before we can take action on our values.

Feelings, as we have been discovering, can often change by changing our behaviour.

Here is a recap of the actions we can take to impact our feelings:

Try power poses to increase your confidence [DW#473]

Smile to increase feelings of happiness [DW#474]
Follow what actors/lovers do on the screen to kindle feelings of love [DW#475]
Boost your own happiness by doing random acts of kindness for your spouse [DW#476]
Act in loving way to feel the feeling of love [DW#477]
Turn fear into courage by taking action in the face of fear [DW#478]
 
Prepare and practice to become confident in any area of your life [DW#479]
 
Which ones did you try? Remember our lives will be positively impacted only by acting upon what we know!

Which ones are the most challenging?

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Name them to tame them (DW#458)

A simple first step towards building emotional intelligence is to notice and label the feelings you are experiencing at any given time. 

Although a simple exercise, it can be challenging at first to name an emotion and it is easy to mistake a thought for a feeling. 

An effective way to begin this practice is to get in touch with the physical sensations in your body. When you experience an emotion, electric signals are triggered by your brain to your body and show up as physical sensations such as changes in heart beat, in pace and depth of breath, in muscle tenseness and change of temperature on your skin. 

You can take a moment to check in with yourself right now. Close your eyes and get present to what is happening inside right now. Begin to notice your breath and your heart rate. Do your muscles feel tight or relaxed? If tight, where is the tightness precisely?
Once you get comfortable with a neutral reading of your body, you may want to practice thinking about a...

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