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With practice you can become more flexible in your thinking

In their book The Resilience Factor, Karen Reivich, Ph.D. and Andrew Shatte, Ph.D. have a wonderful metaphor for examining the beliefs that go through your mind moment to moment. It is called the Ticker-Tape. Imagine the signs that display the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the current news ticker at the bottom of your television screen. Ticker-Tape beliefs are those that run through our mind on our internal “ticker-tape.” Often these beliefs are unconscious. They are very important, however, because they determine how you will likely respond emotionally, and what action you are likely to take, in reaction to an event that happens to you.

It is important, therefore, to be aware of the beliefs that go across your ticker-tape. If you are not, Reivich and Shatte suggest setting an alarm at intervals throughout the day, and then noticing what your thoughts and emotions are when the alarm goes off.

There two primary types of beliefs of which to be aware. These are beliefs asking “why” something happened, and “what-next” beliefs, which lead to concerns and assumptions about what is going to happen next.

Why Beliefs
If you find that you are asking “why” beliefs, you might notice, as Martin Seligman discovered, that “why” or causal beliefs fall into one of three categories:
Personal (me versus not me) in which we attribute an event as being our fault, versus possibly due to the influence of others. For example: “This always happens to me!” versus, “Maybe my team is having a bad day?”
Permanent (always versus not always) in which we explain that something always happens versus recognizing that it does not always happen. For example: “Every time I go on vacation it rains.” virus “There are times I have traveled and experienced good weather.”
Pervasive (everything versus not everything) For example: “This bad news that I have to work this Saturday. Is going to ruin my entire week.” versus “Working on Saturday will give me extra money so that I can take my family out to dinner.”

“What’s Next?”
If when examining your beliefs, if you find yourself worrying about the future and what happens next, this can lead to anxiety if you feel unprepared. If you are having huge negative “what’s next” beliefs, this can make your anxiety so strong that you have difficulty effectively solving problems.

The key to effective, healthy thinking and problem solving is to be flexible and have a balance of “why” and “what’s next” beliefs.

In my next post I will offer suggestions on how to be more flexible in your thinking by challenging your beliefs.

If you are interested in support on becoming more flexible in your thinking and skillful in your decision making, I would be happy to support you along the way! Contact me for an individual consultation.
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.

I love this video that I have provided the link to, below. In many ways it is Positive Psychology applied to life! Positive Psychology is, on the personal level, about nurturing and building character strengths. When these strengths are well utilized, the ripple effect on the world around us is profound. There is one quote at the beginning by Ralph Marston, Jr. that applies to this concept: “What will you do today, that will matter tomorrow?” This reminds me of the Native American principle of thinking about what impact our actions will have on the next seven generations?
There is a wonderful quote about forgiveness, another concept that is well researched in Positive Psychology. “People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway!” The video also points out that it is not often easy to be kind and happy, but encourages us to do so anyway!
I hope that you enjoy it.
If you are interested in learning more about Positive Psychology and utilizing its well-researched principles to improve your life and the lives of others, I would be happy to support you along the way!
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Tips can help Overthinking and Judging

We have all heard the expression “don’t be judgmental.” Yet the reality is judging, overanalyzing and overthinking is very difficult not to do. The media prompts us to judge all the time “Try our product; we are better than those guys.” The news is constantly highlighting who did what that was “bad” – e.g. this guy stole money from his investors – and who is doing well “this 23 year old made millions by selling his new software idea.” When we hear these statements it is easy to think to ourselves, “I am doing better than that guy, or I wish I was more successful like him.”

Social comparison, comparing ourselves to others, in only a very few instances is beneficial. One case might be if you are inspired by seeing a lovely painting and you decide to begin painting so that you can develop your artistic ability.

However, most of the time comparing yourself to someone else and judging yourself as “less than” (e.g. she’s is more beautiful than me, or he makes more money than I make), may make you feel inferior. Judging yourself as “better off” than someone (e.g. he lost his job – thank goodness I haven’t) can leave you feeling fearful or guilty.

Positive Psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky conducted social comparison studies of happy and unhappy people. In the studies participants were placed side by side in a high pressure problem solving situation and the participants were made aware of how they were doing in relation to the other participant next to them. Interestingly enough, happy people felt more upbeat after the task, and felt good about themselves, regardless of whether or not the participant next to them had out-performed them. Unhappy people, on the other hand, were very conscious of their performance in comparison the participant next to them and reported feeling sad, frustrated and anxious if the participant next to them had outperformed them.

Dr. Lyubormirsky suggests in her book The How of Happiness, that social comparison is a part of the habit of overthinking. Dr. Lyubormirsky and her colleague Susan Nolen-Hoeksema suggest the following strategies for overthinking and comparing:

1. Cut Loose of overthinking:
          Distract yourself by doing an activity that will catch and hold your attention.
          Tell yourself, “stop!”
          Talk to a friend or write out whatever is bothering you.

2. Take action by taking small steps to complete a task that may be bothering you.

3. Avoid situations that may prompt over thinking.

4. Put things into perspective and see the “big picture.” Ask yourself, “Will this worry, situation, person, etc. be a problem a year from now?”

I hope that these tips to avoid social comparison and overthinking have been helpful for you.

For support in increasing your happiness and well-being in your personal and professional life, I am available for phone coaching sessions during which I can give you suggestions tailored to your specific situation and needs.

Here’s to your well-being and success!
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.