Become a Better You

Reviewed Jun 20, 2016


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This webinar will help you learn self-help techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and mindfulness to better manage stressful situations and improve your overall health and well-being.  

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Rachel: Welcome to today’s webinar entitled “Become a Better You!” We are very fortunate to have Marjorie Nichols as our presenter. Ms. Nichols is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has provided behavioral healthcare for over 30 years.

She holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois and has served as a field instructor for the University of Texas at Arlington for social work interns.

In her capacity as an employee assistance program counselor, corporate director of EAP systems, and director of provider networks, she has written and facilitated seminars and workshops for numerous organizations.

She went on to establish her own consulting firm working with group practices, businesses and medical organizations, and behavioral health organizations and without further delay Marjorie I’ll turned thing over to you.

Marjorie Nichols: Rachel thank you and it’s a pleasure to be back. Well, I’m going to start this webinar with a brief story about Mindy. Mindy believed she was not well liked, she was not attractive and she was not valued at her workplace.

And when I asked Mindy to explain to me how she had come to the conclusion that she was not well liked, she said, well, look -- let me give you an example. Just yesterday my supervisor passed me in the hallway and didn't acknowledge me.

Well, Mindy was feeling the symptoms of depression but more to the point, over a month she had struggled with these feelings. She had found examples in her life to confirm her belief about herself.

Mindy had developed a pattern of thinking that was impeding her ability to consider other ways of viewing her life and how others responded to her.

What if we could change our point of view or our perspective? What if we could change the way we confirmed our beliefs or change our beliefs about ourselves and others?

Well, over the next 30 minutes I’m going to give you tips and tools to you that are extracted from several different types of physiology practices.

Applying some of these strategies when you’re feeling the blues or mild depression, anxiety or struggling with emotional eating will help you on your way to feeling more empowered over these feelings rather than a hostage to them.

We’ll began with defining our self-help techniques and then onto defining the benefits of using those tools, it’s important to have an awareness of what keeps us from getting better or what we refer to as barriers, then we move on to strategies.

Let began with identifying one of the four self-help techniques. I'll talk with you all of them. The first is CBT or what is referred to as Cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT teaches people to change negative thoughts of thinking and behaving that may contribute to their feelings of sadness, excessive worry, even helpful body amends to name a few.

There is a psychological term called confirmation bias. It’s the idea that we look the ways to reinforce a belief system of ourselves which is often incorrect or distorted as in the case of Mindy, who looked for confirmation that she was not liked.

CBT teaches us that when we change the pattern of our thinking from defeating thoughts and action to affirming one, we began to improve which dovetails very nicely with the second self-help technique, positive psychology.

Positive psychology is grounded in the belief that we all want to have purpose and meaning in our lives. Positive thinking, being an optimist, provides us a vaccination, if you will, on the harmful effects of life’s crisis, additionally being resilient being an optimist increases our immune system and helps our cognitive abilities.

I often stun new patients that come in to see me as they list all of their problems and tell me how bad it is or how bad they feel or how bad they are and then they stop and wait for me to agree and instead I ask them okay now tell me what's going right in your life?

At first they are uncertain because their thinking has been so focused on how bad things are in their lives and they’re disappointed with me that I haven’t agreed with their assessments.

Then if I say it quite long enough they begin to tell me what is going right and that truly begins the positive therapy with where they feel some fulfillment, some purpose and began to enhance the positives with which they feel and in turn will improve their outlook.

Now I first explored my relaxation techniques. When my first husband had cancer in 1976, we learned that using these techniques could -- not only reduced the pain, but improved his overall outlook and perhaps his health.

Since then, for the 35 years plus, there has been wonderful information that has been written about the advantages of relaxation and meditation techniques, whether it's called relaxation or meditation, what we have learned is that being still, flowing our breathing and letting go of 06:16 inside our head, we overtime improved our concentration focus and improved our sense of calm.

Can you imagine how helpful a daily dose of relaxation technique can be to reduce and eventually eliminate your worry, manage your stress and reduce your negative thinking?

In fact one study from Mass Journal not only pointed out or rather proved the point that I’ve just made, but went on to assert that relaxation improves our overall sense of well-being and therefore I will further that to a conclusion that I've seen in my practice over the 30 years that practicing relaxation techniques or medication gives us a healthier and happier life.

When you consider how much time and money we spend on gadget, toys, medication, whatever, you believe might make you feel better at the time, to think that 10 to 20 minutes a day a relaxation and meditation and the art of mindfulness can bring you calm without spending any money at all.

Well on to mindfulness; to quote Dr. Wheel, “Mindfulness is the technique of bringing all of our awareness into the hearing now and to the sensations in our body and in our breathing, for example, rather than leading much of it slip away in the contemplation of the past or the future or other subjects that aren't real.”

There is a great deal of research on the use of mindfulness and emotional eating. Often we’re not aware of what drives our appetite or a craving, but once we eat it, whatever that is, we feel a rush of pleasure at the craving is satisfied.

Mindfulness teaches us to stop the automatic eating long enough to begin to identify what the what is creating the craving to eat; boredom, sadness, worry, fear just comforts, those unpleasant tense feelings are often sooth when we grab comfort food.

The tensions of feelings go away quickly, and a sense of relaxation, companionship and reduction of symptoms occurs once we inject sugar, salt or fat.

Mindfulness teaches us to break the unconscious eating and instead focus our attention on what we're feeling. If it is hunger, well then sit down and eat slowly, unplug and focus on the taste, textures and health in nutritional food is giving you. If you’re eating because of unpleasant feelings, identify it, address it and move to solution. That's going to help break that harmful habit.

Well on to the benefits; when we continue to do the same thing we can expect the same results, right? Using these tools I'll describe will help you move from helplessness to hopefulness, from angst to calm.

The strategies will help you better concentrate, focus and change your life and move you from being broken to reshaping a commitment to you. Remember, no one else can change it for you. It’s up to you.

Now there is a lot of discussion about resiliency. The word resiliency is being nearest quite often now. Companies want employees that are resilient, that are emotionally intelligent.

In fact resilient people are attracted to us all. Resilient people are those that understand setbacks and hurdles help them grow.

They are people that learn from their mistakes, mishaps or personal tragedies and transcend enhancing their personal life, not in spite of their sadness, angst or low self esteem, but because of these concerns. These are people that take on the challenge of change by using a constructive and positive process.

Now in my discussion of barriers listen to what is said and write it down. Positive action begin with understanding the problem and what keeps you from making the changes you need to make to get where you want to go.

Yeah, some of you are probably already thinking oh! I know I need to change the way I’m eating but I don’t think that I'm ready yet to eat differently or maybe you’re concerned that a friend or a family member will try and sabotage you once you start more effective ways of eating or are you thinking you don’t have time to meditate or to consider different ways of looking at your problems.

Well, I'm going to ask you all a question, how long do you need to stay in your problem? Well, you might then respond, well, I don’t really need to be this problem. Well then ask yourself the next question, what is that you do want?

You see staying in the problem long enough begins to define you. You can choose a different way of defining yourself. Are you someone like the character Debbie Downer or can you begin to envision yourself as an optimist, someone who can overcome your worry, your negative point of view, good that’s a great place to start.

Visualizing a goal, a vision of the person you would like to become that’s the start of motivation carried out with an action plan and you can begin to achieve your goal.

Did you know that depression can zap your energy and anxiety, it is drainer too. These two conditions can convince you if you love them, that there is no way you can move out of your doldrums, your negative thinking which in turn creates a negative feeling.

There are so many techniques, so many books, so many authorities, so much research it can be overwhelming, so start with using just a couple of these techniques, changing just one thing about your day, because a day becomes a week and a week becomes a month and so on. When we make a small change it can have a big effect on your life.

Well, let me tell you a little bit about Lizzie, a patient of mine who was depressed. She often had anxiety and she was hypercritical of other people.

In our first visit she described how she felt that she was in a dead end job. She thought others that she worked with were dumb and lazy. She thought, she fought rather with her partner at home way too often she found herself crying frequently.

I explained to Lucy that the way she thought about her job influenced how she experienced her job and in turn how she experienced her coworkers. If she were to change the way she viewed her job, changed her prescription, she might find something she liked about it.

I gave her an assignment to find different ways she could view her job positively. When Lizzie returned she explained to me that she, I don’t know, kind of sort of saw that her job had been some purpose.

Well, she did say that she was good at her job and that when she focused on what she was good at, at her workplace she realized that she made her customers happy, that she added to their pleasant experience of being in her store.

I asked her if she noticed any change in her thoughts about her fears, the one she hated last week, she said to me that, “Well not all of them were idiots. She – next -- well rather she and I worked on her next assignment, which was practicing changing her negative thoughts into positive ones about work.”

So each morning no matter how she started her day, which I of course encouraged to start positively, she was to list, what she liked about work, and to find one colleague to talk to and have at least one meaningful encounter with a peer and a customer and to document this.

“Lizzie”, reported back to me the following session that her workplace wasn’t quite as bad as she thought it had been. In fact she thought may be things had changed at the workplace because things weren’t as bad.

What does “Lizzie”, didn’t realize was that just changing the way she viewed the work environment changed her feelings towards her job, the way she experienced her job, her fears, and her customer. She also reported that things at home had improved, and she wasn’t crying as often.

What ‘Lizzie’ was beginning to learn was that she couldn’t change her job, she couldn’t change the people that she worked with, she couldn’t even change her partner, but she could change the way she perceived, and thought about these things and she could change her attitude, and her feeling would begin to change as well.

She realized that she had some manageability and some influence over others, but when she realized that the manageability she had with the change of thoughts, her feelings, and her behaviors.

Liz began to think about techniques, and considered using and then did, techniques such as mindfulness, staying in the moment, and relaxation techniques, taking in deep breathe, relaxing her body, and she began to realize that she was reducing her anxiety and gain some control over her eating.

Lizzie took to heart just the small changes she had experienced, learning to change her self defeating thoughts into more positive ones and then she was game for more. She had learned that the way she viewed an event or how we all view an event and a person greatly influences how we think and in turn how we act.

As with Lizzie a good starting place with any problem, is to write that problem down and then in turn consider some thing positive about the issue that you are facing.

Writing them down provides us several benefits. One, of course is it gets us immediately thinking about solution. Actually writing it down is a solution in itself and then writing it down shrinks the problem down to finite bits that we can take on and move them to more solutions. ‘Lizzie’ learned that when she changed the way she looked at things, things changed.

So what we have learned so far? One is to change the way you view your problem. There is always another way of looking at a problem. Often our thinking is distorted in because of our distorted vision.

Our vision becomes tunneled, narrowing our view of the world of others, and of ourselves. Monitor our thoughts, check your negative thinking, and your negative talk, and instead use the voice that is infused with positive truth.

We call this instructional self talk. Athletes use it all the time to achieve new heights in their goals. Find your strength, your attributes, write them down and carry them with you.

You will retrain your thinking. So we’re borrowing from both C.B.T and positive thinking. Repeat your positive thinking. When you do this it will quite your negative voice that you have been hearing for far too long and lastly begin to keep a journal of good things that are happening in your life.

Many use conformational bias to reinforce the false beliefs that we have of ourselves or our world, or our views. You need to take on the challenge to reverse the way that you think.

So begin to record in your journal on a daily basis that you can, what good things are happening? This will change your conformational bias.

Okay some of you may be thinking that all sounds good, but I know I won’t keep it up. What we know about change, is that when we attach a new a behavior, say thinking more optimistically to an already established behavior, we’re more unlikely to do it.

So try this. Attach making a list of ten things you’re grateful about, this is going to increase your optimism quota, to something like brushing your teeth, or eating a meal.

You might be skeptical about changing. Here are a couple of more suggestions to help you. Stop yourself, several times a day even if you have to set a timer and monitor, what you’re thinking and ask yourself, am I focused on what’s going right?

Rediscover your sense of humor, smile more often. Did you know when you improve your mood? We get better, because we instill into our daily lives rituals that are focused on improvement.

Dispend this belief. Believe that you can change one negative habit, seek a community of positive people that will encourage you to change; they are optimistic people I hope and if you can’t find an optimistic group of people to hang out with consider a community support group, or professional help.

There’s good news about anxiety, and many of you probably knew this. Anxiety can be harnessed to make us more alert, go the extra mile, and pay attention to details. Anxiety that is not managed can be harmful, debilitating, and rob us of our ability to have a rewarding life.

First and always good nutrition and daily exercise can drastically reduce anxiety, all the more reason to provide yourself with another cost effective solution to your arsenal of tools. Set a timer, remind yourself to get up and move around, take micro breaks. That will save you in the long run.

Now I mentioned that anxiety can be a problem. I found myself in the throes of anxiety some years ago. I had a presentation to do for large group. Thankfully my mild anxiety prompted me to be prepared, to be as well organized as I could be and to plan for just about anything.

But the speaker right before me was awesome. She was funny, witty, engaging, and she was an insider. She worked for the company that I was about to speak to, and was known and loved by many.

I began to hear negative voice inside my head, what if you are not good as ‘Jon.’ People like her. They love her. What if they don’t like you and so on? Well, I couldn’t go on thinking those thoughts; I would have sabotaged any success I had hoped for.

So I did several things. One I took break from her speech, and I found a private place to sit. Secondly I just missed the negative thought. I reminded myself of the hard work I put into the presentation, and also reminded myself that I have been in situations like this before, and I have done well.

Lastly I did some relaxation technique; I relaxed my entire body, slowed my breathing down, which in turn released valuable hormones that further relaxed me and then I asked myself what outcome did I really want?

And that was for me to be helpful to give my audience the information in a way that was understandable, clear, and fun and then I imagined doing just that. The whole exercise took less than five minutes.

So to summarize what I did, I identified with problem thinking was that was going on in my head. I changed the perceptions and the thoughts. I reminded myself with my successes that I had in the past. I looked forward to the outcome, I visualized that outcome, and I got I visualized.

I learned a long time ago that because that we feel little bit anxious, I needed to show up for meetings early, manage my time carefully, and be well organized, and practice deep breathing to control those run away thoughts and feelings that I had.

To that point of relaxation, and calm use mindfulness, focus on what is currently going on, not your fears, your fears reside in the future. Mindfulness reminds us to stay in the moment, to stay in them now.

Practice things like yoga, guided imagery, medication, these all help us focus on the moment not the fears that always reside in the future. As with depression if your anxiety has taken you off, if you’re suffering from it in a debilitating way seek professional assistant.

Well a great deal has been written about emotional eating. We have provided lots of webinars similar to this one on just that emotion and stress eating.

We have some suggestions for you here which begin with understanding that quite often a felling that happened without our conscious knowledge causes to seek comfort that we are drawn to comfort foods and we all know what those are.

Now mindful eating suggests first ask yourself this question am I really hungry? If not, next question what I’m feeling, boredom, anger, resentment, whatever; eating your feelings only serves to feel more of a victim to food, a loss of power. Instead identify the feelings, write down what you are feeling and then began to get in the solution.

Again if you are hungry sit down, unplug, detach from the distraction and savor the taste in each bite. Along with the attention to the meal, practice some other techniques that will slow you down and allow your stomach to receive the food and begin to signal your brain of fullness.

Some of those suggestions include eating on smaller plates, using smaller forks or spoons and eat with the non-dominant hand. Remove the extras from the table, get the temptation out of sight, treat cravings with curiosity rather than an impulse that must be fed pardon upon.

Check-in with yourself and breath through the impulses to overeat, redirect yourself to the conversation at the table or if you're eating alone once the meal is finished clean up, brush your teeth and celebrate the next activity that you’ve lined up, so that you’re redirecting what your attention would have been to overeating to be something that is engaging and fun or relaxing such as deep breathing or yoga.

Well we've only skimmed the surface of the great psychological self-help techniques that I've covered for you. I've utilized some of the guiding principles of cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT and other modalities to just that briefly as well.

So perhaps begin today with just one challenge, using positive self talk to help you move from self defeating thinking to self improvement.

Remember the key ingredient to changing any behavior, begin with the belief that change is possible, act as if and then you’ll become -- use visualization to picture what change you would like.

Be mindful of your thoughts, substitute negative ones with positive ones, seek the change the way you interpret them and people that used to get to you. Monitor your thoughts that are either minefields that lead to disaster or hopeful resilience.




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