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Retrain Your Brain

Retrain Your Brain

Melissa R. Rich, Ph.D.

I can’t count the number of times over the years I’ve seen people who aren’t in a great emotional state. They may feel:

  • Sad/depressed

  • Anxious/worried

  • Stressed

  • Unmotivated

  • Stuck

Odds are you’ve felt one or more of the above at times in your life – I know I have. And it’s one thing to be there for a few hours but I don’t know anyone who wants to live there long term.

There’s a very simple way to move past those feelings. I’ve shared it with 100s – maybe 1000s! – of clients over the years. It seems so simple that lot of people miss it or just don’t believe it will work so they don’t even try it.

Here it is – change your thoughts. Let me explain. If you pretty consistently feel anxious and/or worried, your thoughts are probably running along these lines:

  • What if __________ happens? That would be terrible!

  • How am I going to ________? I’ll probably be a total failure!

  • What should I do if they say ________? I’ll end up looking stupid and everyone will laugh at me!

You’re doing what is called, “catastrophizing”. There are 2 parts to this:

  1. Predicting a negative outcome for the situation

  2. Jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome does happen, it will be a catastrophe

Let me give an example:

  1. Sam is worried about doing a poor job giving a presentation at work.

  2. Sam imagines that giving a poor presentation would be a catastrophe. He becomes convinced that if that happens he will lose his job, never be able to find a new one and end up homeless and on the streets.

The solution is not to take the negative thoughts at face value but throw up some logical and convincing arguments to counter them. So let me show what that might look like.

Catastrophizing thought “I have that big math exam coming up tomorrow. I’m terrible at math – I know I’m going to flunk it! I’ll end up having to drop out of school and that will be horrible!”

Countering thought“Ok, math isn’t my best subject but I’ve been studying for the past 3 days and I know the material pretty well. On the last test I made a high B and I only studied for 2 days. I may not make the highest grade in the class but I won’t flunk – and I should get a pretty good grade!”

Catastrophizing thought “I have that date with Tom tomorrow and I still can’t believe he asked me out. I’m not nearly as cute as the other women he dates and I’m nowhere near as exciting. I just know I’m going to bore him to death and he’ll never want to ask me out again!”

Countering thought “It’s true that I’m not like the other women he’s dated but he did say that he thought I was interesting and he enjoyed talking to me. We both enjoy old movies and we have the same kind of dog. We actually have a lot in common. I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about.”

Can you see that once you change your thoughts your feelings will shift as well – for the better? It works like a charm! So if you don’t like the way you’re feeling, take a look at your thoughts. Changing them can go a long way!

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