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Overgeneralizations (DW#489)

Have you ever taken a single event or one piece of evidence and come to a judgment or a conclusion based on that?

All of us (that’s a generalization by the way!) have made a generalization or a broad statement to a group of people or things. Basically, our minds are so hungry for the impression of knowledge and certainty about our circumstances that they automatically form broad, sweeping conclusions based on very little information or experience. This is particularly true when we’re under the influence of strong negative emotions.

The problem with generalizations is that they are seldom true and can be the basis of prejudice and racism if they embody negative assumptions about entire groups of people.

As Albert Einstein said: All generalizations are false, including this one.

In relationships generalizations and overgeneralizations can cause trouble.

When we say things like "She always", "You never", "Some people are so . ." we are making...

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All-or-Nothing Thinking / Polarized Thinking (DW#488)

For the next several days, we will be looking at different types of distorted thinking.

Today let’s look at Black-and-White Thinking which is sometimes also called Polarized Thinking.

Some examples of black and white thinking are:

He is a terrible person

My sister is so beautiful and I’m so ugly.

This option is great and the other one is awful.

When we think in this way, we are unable or unwilling to see shades of grey or a middle ground. Things are either good or bad, right or wrong. In other words, we only see the extremes of the situation.Nothing is okay or good enough or somewhere in the middle – it is either fantastic or awful, we are either perfect or we are a total failure.

While black and white thinking can provide us with apparent security and certainty in the short term, it is fundamentally distorted because people and situations are rarely so simple and easy to categorize. All of us, and most situations in life as...
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Steps to change our thinking (DW#485)

So how do we begin to change our thinking patterns? Here are some steps:

1)   Intention.

As we know, everything begins with an intention. Making the intention sets the program into motion, so to speak.

2)   Learn about distorted thought patterns

We need to know what some common distorted thought patterns are so that we can recognize them when we engage in them

3)   Recognize distorted thinking

This is the ongoing practice part. Here’s the thing: we could get a PhD in ‘cognitive distortions’ (I am quite sure it does exist) but this will not mean that we will not engage in these unhelpful patterns. It is an ongoing practice to recognize when we are engaging in negative or distorted thinking.

4)   Replace with helpful thinking

Once we recognize the patterns, we can replace them with thoughts that will be are more positive and helpful and will uplift and encourage us rather than bring us down.

...

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But why are so many of our thoughts negative? (DW#484)

Hopefully you are beginning to notice that you are having thoughts that come and go, contradict each other and seem mostly negative. If you are, congratulations, you are well on your way to improved mental health and emotional intelligence.

Negative thoughts are perfectly normal and according to many psychologists, may be the default position of our mind.

This is because negative thoughts exist to keep us safe. Really.

Our ancestors survived by constantly being on the lookout for threats, fixing problems as they arose, and then learning from their mistakes. If they were optimists and stopped to admire the sunrise and smell the roses, they may not have survived to give birth to their children and we may not have been here.

They used their imagination to consider potential threats and problems, enabling them to solve the problems before they got into trouble and were attacked by predators.

So thankfully they were able to watch for and deal with trouble before it attacked them and that...

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Don’t believe everything you think (DW#483)

As we said yesterday, most of our thoughts are automatic and negative. When we are having a particular thought, it appears logical and TRUE.

If we get used to examining our thoughts however, we begin to recognize that our thoughts can be unstable and often arbitrary, shifting depending on context and contradicting our better instincts. If we are upset at someone for something, for example, we may begin to develop "tunnel vision", and our thoughts focus only on their negative aspects and ignore the positive ones.

The problem does not lie in the fact that we have thoughts, but in the fact that we sometimes begin to form our personal identities around the things we think. We begin to believe every thought that we have. If I think that someone is mean, for example, they must be mean.

One of the key aspects of self growth, of emotional intelligence and of mental health is to recognize thoughts as passing phenomena of the mind without attaching ourselves to every thought that we have and...

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Do you have ANTs in your brain? (DW#482)

Let’s review some fun facts about thoughts and the way we think.

Did you know that the average person thinks between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day? The thoughts that pass through our brain last only split seconds and range from the mundane -- I need to do groceries, to the significant – My family really matters to me, to the self-destructive -- I'm not good enough.

And did you know that most of these thoughts are the same thoughts we think every day? Our thoughts seem to be on autopilot most of the time and appear to come from nowhere.

AND did you know that the majority of these automatic thoughts are negative. (The reason for this is rather interesting and something that we will deal with on another day)

Psychologists have coined a phrase for these thoughts: ANTs – Automatic Negative Thoughts.

I like to think of them as ANTs eating the positive side of my brain. A yucky but powerful image, wouldn’t you say?

How many ANTs can...

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The link between thoughts and feelings (DW#481)

Over the last little while, we have been talking about the link between emotion and motion – in other words how taking action can change your feelings. 

This week, let’s explore how we can sometimes get to the very source of negative emotions to prevent them rather than changing them once they appear.

Before I explain this further, let’s do a quick exercise. 

Imagine that your family is rushing to get out of the house in the morning and you are trying to do several things at once: get ready for work, make sure the children have everything they need for the day, feed them breakfast and connect with your spouse about the evening plans. It is one of those days and everyone is running a bit late. 

Get the picture?

Now, just as everyone is about to bolt from the breakfast table and get into the car/bus/bicycle, your six-year-old spills the entire box of cereal on the floor. Oooops. Now everyone will be late for sure.

What is your reaction? 

Do you think:...

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What can actors teach us about love? (DW#475)

Have you ever wondered why actors/actresses who play the role of a couple in movies often end up falling in love with each other? Well, of course they are usually young, attractive and spend a lot of time with each other – all of which are predictors of selecting a mate.

There is, however, one more thing: They have to act like people who love each other deeply. They lovingly gaze at each other, touch each other, flirt and generally do things that people in love do. With all of these loving actions, it is not surprising that the feeling of loveoften follows.

What can we learn from this? That if you act like lovers on a set with your significant other, it is quite likely that you can kindle or rekindle the feelings of love.

You don’t even need to spend hours with a makeup specialist. Try it!
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Turn that frown upside down (DW#474)

"When you are happy, and you know it, smile a smile". This is how we usually think of smiling, isn’t it?

However, science now suggests that smiling can trick your brain into happiness — and boost your health.

 
It has to do with our hormones. When hormones such as dopamine and serotonin are low in our brains, we experience feelings of anxiety, depression and aggression. Smiling spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing hormones including dopamine and serotonin which increase our feelings of happiness and reduce stress.
 
And it gets better: we now know that depression weakens our immune system – we are more susceptible to infections when we are experiencing a low mood. Happiness on the other hand, boosts our body’s resistance and increases our immunity. And since smiling increases happiness, it boosts immunity.

The strange thing is that for the most part, the brain cannot detect whether it is a genuine smile or not. It is the...

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Try power poses to increase your confidence (DW#473)

Have you noticed how our posture reflects our feelings?

When we are sad, we tend to look down and frown, when anxious we might tap our feet, fidget or shift our eyes and when we are happy we often smile.

But how we position our bodies doesn’t just reflect how we feel, it can also change how we feel.

For example, if we act confident even when we are not feeling confident, we may increase our feelings of confidence.

According to recent research: "Posture has a bigger impact on body and mind than anyone believed. Striking a powerful, expansive pose actually changes a person’s hormones and behavior, and even have an impact on how you are perceived in the working world," saysWall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger.

And we don’t have to change your posture or pose for long. A few minutes seems to be all you need to have an impact on our feelings.

In her research with Dana Carney at UC-Berkeley, Amy J.C. Cuddy has focused on...

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