How Staying Focused While Working Out May Improve Your Fitness Level

Have you ever had a moment during a workout when you cried?  And I don’t mean crying because you are in pain.  I am talking about crying because of the connection between your body and your mind.  Working out is an experience.  It is a spiritual moment with your body.  Physical fitness and exercise is a period in time when you connect to the perfect design of your body.  Exercise allows you to connect with how your body breathes, moves, and works.  It is a moment with yourself.  Catharsis doesn’t happen every workout.  It is rare.  It happens when you connect to your body in a way that is an expression of love and respect for what your body can do.  

Catharsis is known in the field of psychology as an emotional release.  After a cathartic moment there is sense of relaxation, release, and renewal.  Catharsis, although more common to the process of psychotherapy, can happen during physical fitness.  Physical fitness is more than just burning calories, “being skinny”, weight loss, sweating, and throwing some weights around.  No physical fitness is about connecting the mind to the body. Allowing your body to connect with your mind during physical exercise may improve your fitness level and your life!

It is important to mentally connect and stay focused during a workout.  In fact paying more attention to your body and the muscles being used during your workout may improve your fitness.  Researchers found that Individuals that paid attention to their body and the muscle being worked not only enjoyed their work out more but had better outcomes (Neumann & Brown, 2013). Another study asked volunteers to focus on their bicep during a bicep curl exercise and researchers found that attentional focus influenced muscle activity and eventually improved fitness outcomes (Neumann & Heng, 2011).  Staying focused during exercise requires you to think about the muscle you are working and this type of mindfulness has many benefits.  But it is so easy to be distracted.  When you are at the gym there  maybe lots of people, there is music playing, there are sounds, and there are mirrors everywhere.  Paying attention to these external factors keeps you from focusing on what your body is doing.  Perhaps lack of focus or focusing on other things and other people keeps us from seeing the full rewards of exercise.

Mindfulness is defined as paying attention to the present moment experience with an attitude of non-judgmental acceptance (Adams, et al., 2013).  Mindfulness is paying attention to what you are doing in the moment and not thinking about what others are doing or what you will be doing in a few minutes.  Mindfulness has many benefits.  It helps reduce stress, it relaxes the body, it improves thinking, and as we have learned today, it can help the body improve physically.  

But again we so easily get distracted.  Sometimes it is things within ourselves that can keep us distracted.  If you are in the gym and you are focused on time, the number of calories burned, or you are focused on what other people are doing you can lose sight of what your body is doing.  Here is how you can stay mindful while exercising:

  •  Think about what your body is doing.  
  • Think about the muscle that is lifting or moving.  If you are on a bike picture your legs and the muscles of the front of your leg.  Imagine them filling with blood and imagine them fill with power to push the pedals around and around.  Imagine doing bicep curls and see the muscles of your arm red and strong because they are full of blood.  Feel how the weight feels as you bring it up, and think of how the weight feels as you bring it down.  Feel how the weight feels on your hand and feel how your bicep muscle moves as your arm moves up and down.  
  • Focus on your breathing.  The air comes in through your nose and moves down to your lungs.  With each breath you take while working out your lungs get stronger.  Each inhale gives your body the oxygen it needs to send more blood to the muscles that are working.  Think about how with each exhale you are getting stronger.  Every time you exhale air you are releasing hurt, anger, frustration, and pain.  
  • Close your eyes while doing the exercise if you have to.  This will help you block out the other distractions and focus your mind to think about your body.  

This connection to your body will help you breath better, move smoother, and concentrate on the exercise.  Bing mindful while working out will help you shut off thoughts of negativity and will keep you from judging your body in the mirrors.  Being mindful in the gym will help you honor your body for its strength and power and allow you to connect your mind with your body.  

Try practicing mindfulness and focus while you exercise and see how your workout improves.  Better yet, think about how you are improved.  

References:

Adams, C., Benitez, L., Kinsaul, J., McVay, M., Barbry, A., Thibodeaux, A., & Copeland, A. (2013).  Effects of brief mindfulness instructions on reactions to body image stimuli among female smokers: An experimental study.  Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 15(2), 376-384. 

Neumann, D., & Heng, S. (2011).  The effect of association and dissociative attentional focus strategies on muscle activity and heart rate during a weight training exercise.  Journal of Psychophysiology, (25)1, 1-8.  

Neumann, D., & Brown, J. (2013).  The effect of attentional focus strategy on physiological and motor performance during a sit-up exercise.  Journal of Psychophysiology, 27(1), 7-15.  

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Bikini Comp Tidbits

I have always been a competitive person. Well let me rephrase that I have always loved competition. The psychology of it fascinates me. I love that there is so much anticipation, dedication, hardwork, energy, and focus about performing in a sport or activity. Although I love the idea of competition I have not always been athletic or a competitor. In high school I quit every team sport I tried. I just didn’t care enough. I enjoyed watching others compete. 

I was never overweight during school and I was active; just not fit or athletic. I was often quoted as saying I did not want to sweat. So it is funny how things have turned around in my life. Now sweat is my norm. It took me a long time to get here though. 

After high school I joined thousands of others and went to college. A small town girl at a large private university, I felt I could conquer the world. The only thing I conquered were a few bars and frat parties. All the drinking, partying, unehealthy eating, and late nights caught up to me. I gained some weight. I didn’t let this bother me too much. I learned to love myself at an early age and I knew to love myself despite my weight. However I stayed stuck in this unhealthy lifestyle for many years (after 4 years of college I spent another 2 years getting my masters degree and liboving the “college dream”). I know now that my unhealthy lifestyle was related to my stress, anxiety, lack of energy, poor choices, and being sick all the time. I finally turned things around when I decided to save money and stop eating at resturants. I started losing weight and I had more energy. With all this new energy I started working out. I bought 2 $10 Dance DVDs and worked out in my living room a few days a week. I lost more weight and started feeling better. 

The scientist in me always wants to know more and wants to continue to have education and information. I started reading books on fitness and articles on working out. I hired a personal trainer to show me how to really workout and working out gradually became my way of life. I read so much on how nutrition impacts your body. I may have read too much though because I became obsessed with what I ate. I counted every calorie, restricted, bought only certain foods. I would avoid meals and plans with friends because I did not want to harm my body with food. After reading a particular book I became a vegan. I was proud of my choices. I was being fit and healthy. I got very skinny and had health issues. But I had abs and biceps so I didn’t care. My self esteem started to decrease because I started to feel insecure despite the evidence in front of me.  I started to question and doubt my body and soon became obsessed with my body. This was not good. I weighed myself every day, sometimes two or three times a day. My self worth was based on the number on the scale. One day I was driving to my friends house and I had to pull over and cry. I cried because I “felt fat”. I felt fat because my stomach was not flat.  I ended up driving around for an hour thinking and crying about how fat I was, and I missed going to my friends house that night. I was too “fat” and felt I was better off at home. I went home to workout and cry. I never thought like that before and I knew I had a problem. I called a therapist the next day. I was in therapy for a few weeks and we talked a lot about finding balance. We looked how I can be fit, eat well, and be healthy, and still have fun. Simply understanding that helped me let go of my obsession. 

I was obsessed because I was trying to control something in the wrong way. I had stopped enjoying the art of working out but once I had this insight working out became fun again. Working out and eating well became a choice I could make for me!  It became something I could choose. I can choose to eat cake. I can choose to eat grilled chicken and brocolli and skip the cake. I can choose to workout or I can choose to skip a workout to love on my family and friends. Having a choice gave me power. 

And so my fitness journey has continued for several years. I choose to keep getting stronger. I work hard in the gym and I eat well. (Don’t worry I eat bad sometimes and I skip going to the gym when I should have gone). I love the sport of strength training. It has taught me to love my body. I has taught me I am so much stronger and more capable of things then I originally thought. I love the body strength training has created, and a competitor has slowly emerged!  

I want to always learn and grow. Staying the same and maintaining is not something that suits me. I will be a life learner and I will be someone to try everything in an attempt to be the best me!  My strength training has brought me to this point. A point where I am ready to compete. I am not competing in a bikini competition to show off my body. I do not want to be skinny or lose weight. I do not want attention or to be sexy. I want to challenge myself. I am competing in a bikini bodybuilding competition for me!  I want to see how disciplined I can be. I want to see my body change with training and focus. I want to show myself that I can!  That’s it!  I want to because I can. 

And I want to share something with you, you can too!  You can have the body you want. You can even compete and shine on stage. You can love your body and love yourself and make choices that you want to make. You choose what you eat. You choose what you do with your body. You choose how you live your life. Isn’t that awesome!?! You can!  

How Stress May Not Only Causing you Emotional Upset but May Be Hindering your Wellness Goals as well.

The immune system is an intricate system of cells and systems designed to protect and guard the body from potential harmful organisms and situations.  Without the immune system humans would struggle to fight infection, illness, and disease (Abbas & Lichtman, 2014).  The immune system not only keeps us safe from illness but the immune system also protects the body from psychological stressors.

A major biological function of the immune system involves blood and the chemical in cells, known as antibodies.  These antibodies are able to identify and attack dangerous organism that come in contact with the body (Abbas & Lichtman, 2014).  The immune system consists of body fluids, hormones, chemicals, and cells that fight off illness.  Medical science uses medicine to improve this system of the body and help protect the immune system from dangerous diseases.  However it is harder to protect the body from behavioral health and psychological illness.  Stress compromises the immune system and leave people vulnerable to not only emotional upset, but to illness, fatigue, and adverse health.

Stress, although a psychological stressor, also stresses the immune system.  The same fluids, cells, and chemicals in the body that protect against disease are negatively impacted by stress (McKinnon, Weisse, Reynolds, Bowles, & Baum, 1989).  Research suggests that increased stress decreases immunity.  Stress decreased immune functioning even when medical treatment was used to improve how the immune system operated (Stanojevic, Dimitrijevic, Kovacevic-Jovanovic, Miletic, Vujic, & Radulovic, 2003).  Stress is responsible for decreasing the resources needed to keep the body well, refreshed, and working properly.

Stress has the potential to prevent the body from being able to adequately protect against illness and disease.  Stress has the potential to decrease the body’s ability to burn fat, metabolize food, and recover from physical activity.

Research suggests that decreasing stress will improve health, fitness, and wellness.  Behavioral practices such as relaxation, mediation, exercise, and self-reflection can reduce stress (Kiecolt-Glaser & Glaser, 1992; Levy, Williams, & Henderson, 2001).  We have the ability to feel better and control our physical health and wellness.

Often times feeling tired, worn out, stressed, and sick can cause a person to feel powerless.  However learning to manage stress and decrease levels of stress can help individuals improve health and wellness.  An interesting research study found that relaxation not only reduced stress but also increased immune system functioning.  Learning to manage stress is a skill that requires practice. We encounter stressors every day, therefore it takes daily stress reduction practices to to keep the body from experiencing the harmful effects of stress.

Physical symptoms of stress:

headaches

stomach ache

eye twitch

muscle soreness (mainly in the back)

changes in appetite – either increased appetite or decreased appetite

changes in sleep – hypersomnia (sleeping too much) or insomnia (not sleeping enough)

tiredness

cold symptoms (runny nose, cough, etc)

heart rate increases

difficulty breathing – shallow breathing or feeling like not getting enough air

sweaty palms

dry mouth

These symptoms can also indicate health conditions but evaluating events in your life can cue you to whether stress may be upsetting you.  Also the following emotional symptoms can indicate stress is complicating your life.

irritability

diffiulty managing emotions – mood swings

anger

difficulty concentrating and difficulty focusing

easily distracted

difficulty staying on task

forgetfulness

feeling frustrated

feeling overwhelmed

feeling sad

self-doubt

racing thoughts – a lot of thoughts going through your head at one time

feeling hopeless

feeling like something bad is about to happen

These emotional and physical symptoms are uncomfortable and often times people take extreme measures to reduce the discomfort.  People will overeat, sleep in, avoid people, places, and things, neglect responsibility, and stop enjoying activities.  People will increase use of over-the-counter medication, use of illicit substances, increase alcohol consumption, and stop working out and eating well.  These things will only further decrease immunity and make it more difficult to manage stress.

Next time you think stress is the culprit for your emotional upset, physical upset, and lack of wellness try these things instead.

1. Go for a walk

2. Call a friend

3. Watch favorite movie/show

4. Dance/sing/listen to music

5. Journal/Meditate/Engage in spiritual practices

6. Draw/paint/create something

7. Read a book/magazine

8. Exercise

9. Laugh

10. Spend time with close family and friends

Doing 1 or more of these things daily will help keep stress at bay, but during of increased stress engaging in all these behaviors will help reduce stress. Start at the top of the list, and work your way down.  If you still feeling stressed when you reach the end, start at the top again.  These things will only make you feel good, improve yourself and your situation, reduce stress, and improve wellness.

*There are times in life when things are extremely overwhelming and it can be difficult to overcome.  During these times it can be helpful to increase support and to reach out for help.  Cntact a therapist for help.  As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Health Psychologist, Stephanie is here to help.  Please contact Stephanie if you feel need additional help overcoming stress.

I am going to be honest and tell you that cardio is my least favorite way to workout.  It is necessary however.  The classes I teach at the gym are mostly cardio based and cardio is fun in a group format.  There are times when a group class is not available, for various reasons.  And in those cases using cardio equipment in the gym becomes a necessity.  Steady state running is BORING!  And other then burring a couple hundred calories there really is not much benefit for running on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  But there is hope!  I am including a high intensity treadmill workout for you.  High intensity cardio burns more calories, challenges your cardiovascular system, burns more fat, and even promotes strength building.

45 minute Treadmill workout

1 minute – run a nice easy pace to warm up the body.  This pace should be about a jog.

2-5 minutes – increase pace to a run.  This should be a pace that causes your breathing to increase but not cause you to be breathless.

5 minute – increase incline to 1.5 and keep pace the same.

6 minute – increase incline to 2.5 and keep pace the same.

7 minute – increase incline to 3.5 and keep pace the same.

8 minute – increase incline to 4 and keep pace the same.  (this should start to be more difficult and you will feel like you are running harder to keep up with the pace).

9 minute – increase incline to 5 and keep pace the same.  Stay at this incline for 2 minutes.

11 minute – start to slowly decrease incline.  At 11 minutes decrease incline to 4.

12 minute – decrease incline to 3.5.

13 minute – decrease incline to 2.5.

14 minute – decrease incline to 1.5.

15-20 minute – decrease to 0 incline and run at pace.

21-22 minute – decrease pace back to slower jog pace. The next 5 minutes will be an active recovery to prepare you for the last half of the workout).

23-25 minute – increase pace to fast run.  (Now we party).

26-30 minute – tabatas – Sprint for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds for 4 minutes.  Sprint as fast as you can.  Turn the speed up on the treadmill and RUN.  Take your recovery by placing feet on the side so you do not have to worry about changing speed on the machine.

31-33 minutes – reduce speed to slow jog – You have earned this recovery.

34 minute – increase incline to 5 and sprint for 30 seconds – recover for 30 seconds

35 minute – keep incline and sprint for 45 seconds – recover for 15 seconds

36 – keep incline and sprint for 1 minute

37 minute – recover for 30 seconds – sprint for 30 seconds

38 minute – recover for 15 seconds – sprint for 45 seconds

39 minute – sprint for 1 minute

40-42 minute – decrease incline to 0 and reduce speed to jog

43 minute – decrease pace to fast walk

44 minute – decrease pace to slow walk.

45 minute.  YOU ARE DONE!

This is a tough workout.  I dread it when I have to do it.  But it is effective.  Enjoy!!

10 “Un”Common Fitness Mistakes That May Be Ruining Your Fitness Goals

So you want to be fit, huh?  Are you working hard in the gym, starving yourself to lose weight, and staying focused on your fitness goals, but not having much success?  I believe fitness is for everyone. I believe that everyone can be lean, fit, healthy, and active. With that being said, I understand fitness is not easy. It takes work, determination, and a little bit of skill. You are determined and you put in the work everytime you make a healthy choice. The skills to be fit can be learned. But if you feel you are not progressing in your fitness lifestyle perhaps it is because of these mistakes. Check out these uncommon mistakes  that you may not have known you were doing.

1. Lack of support

The people in your life and in your environment are very important for reaching, maintaining, and surpassing fitness goals. Social support helps you feel understood, valued, loved, and appreciated. We need support to feel good about ourselves. Research also suggests that we need support for fitness success. Specifically researchers found that college students, both males and females, had improved physical health when they reported a feeling of belonging (Hale, Hannum, & Espelage, 2005).   Furthermore there are countless studies that suggest people that have social support are more likely to start and maintain exercise and healthy eating. What was interesting about a study I read was that friends and family were important for starting exercise. So if you are just getting started try a group fitness class. This is a great way to meet people. Attending the same class every week will build comradre with others in the class. In the classes I teach when a member is missing the rest of the class notices. Talk about accountability. 

If you have been working out for a while but feel stuck in your fitness routine it may be time to look at different support. Research suggests that people that have been engaged in exercise for longer periods of time need more support from personal trainers and friends (Gibbison & Johnson, 2012).  It may be time to bring a friend to the gym with you or to seek a personal trainer. Both of these will help motivate and push you further with your fitness goals.

2. What you eat can hurt your workout.

So many people will spend hours in the gym and work to burn hundreds of calories. However that is almost useless if the diet is not sufficient to properly fuel the body. Literally you are what you eat. The food you eat will be used to break down muscle and rebuild muscle. According to Precision Nutrition, not having the right amount of food can keep the body from burning fat and can cause the body to gain fat.

Lots of people may be taking diet extremes. This will not support health and wellness. In short the body needs calories to function and restricting calories will cause the body to stop burning.  You want your body to be a lean mean fat burning machine. You can teach your body to burn more calories even while resting by eating properly.

3. Physical activity that includes only cardio.

I am not going to get into the whole strength training vs cardio debate here (that post is coming). But what I will say here is that physical activity needs both cardio and strength training. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, from the Department of Health and Human Services, muscle-strengthening activities should be included in exercise routines at least 3 days a week. Americans are recommended to get aerobic activity at least 3 days a week. You do not have to run, cycle, or step for hours a day. Combining strength and aerobic physical activity will move the body in different ways and challenge various body systems.

4. Working out too much

Moderation goes for both eating and exercise. As a continuation from above, it is possible to workout too much. Overtraining happens and can cause your body to struggle with recovering from exercise. Overtraining will slow the body’s metabolism process too. Think of it like this: exercise burns fat, and although we want this to happen, fat is necessary for the body to function. When too much is burned the body will hold onto excess fat in attempt to avoid too much fat loss. The body will keep the fat in reserve and will store it in unwanted areas.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests 1 hour of physical activity a day.

5.  Lack of focus

Being distracted while at the gym can cause you to lose focus. Focus is necessary for working out. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and present in the moment. Thinking about work, stressors, and others while working out keeps you from paying attention to your body and how your body is moving. Research suggests that people that pay more attention and practice mindfulness have decreased health and improved physical health (Roberts & Danoff-Burg, 2010). The mind and the body are connected. The mind controls how your body moves. BodyBuilding.com describes this as the mind body connection. The mind muscle connection can improve your fitness routine by allowing you to focus on your body and the muscles of your body.

6. Poor form

Lack of focus and distraction in the gym can cause poor form. Lifting too heavy can cause poor form. Confusion about exercises and machines can create poor form. Not asking questions can lead to poor form.

Poor form looks silly.  Not isolating the muscles correctly is not helpful. If you want to see progress you need to complete the workout through the full movement.  But most importantly poor form can lead to injury. Think about what muscles the particular exercise is engaging. Think about how that body part moves and stay with movements that align with the direction the joint is made to move. And if you do not know how an exercise works a muscle or joint, ask someone!

7.  Lack of confidence

Lacking confidence during physical activity will lead to poor form and distraction. Lacking confidence will keep you from challenging yourself while working out. Lacking confidence will prevent you from progressing because you will doubt your ability to improve. If you lack confidence in the gym try to fake it to make it. Check out bodybuilder.com for videos on how do to exercises. This site gives great workout plans too. Try an exercise with a lighter weight and if you can complete 12 reps with the weight and think you could do a couple more, go up a set of weights. Lifting stronger will help you feel confident. Or try a different group fitness class. When you can complete a new workout you will feel accomplished and your confidence will soar.

8.  Staying focused on the number on the scale

I remember a time I weighed myself every single day. There were some days I weighed myself numerous times a day. I became obsessed with the number on the scale. My weight determined my success. The thing about weight is it is not a constant. It changes day to day, with food and water, with workouts, and with hormones. You may attain your “goal weight” today but in 2 days it could be different. And that change may have nothing to do with your hard work, your dedication, and your progress. Focus on your energy level, focus on how you feel, focus on how your clothes fit differently, and focus on the changes you see in your body, your workouts, and your health.

9.  Expecting immediate gratification

Burning 500 calories in the gym today will not cause you to lose weight or drop a pants size today. Your body is one whole flowing system and in this large system there are smaller working systems. Blood, energy, food, and oxygen need time to break down, be processed, transported through the body, and then used to keep the body working properly. Although the body works quickly and efficiently it takes time for the body to change. It takes 18 years for us to grow to adulthood so patience while engaging in any physical fitness routine goes a long way. The fit people you see in the gym did not wake up that way. It took me 8 years to get to the fitness level I am at today. Ask another fitness expert and they will tell you they have been perfecting their craft for years.

10. Stress

Yes exercise can decrease stress. But stress can also harm your activity level at the same time. When we get stressed we want to do whatever we can to make the stressed out feeling go away in the fastest and quickest way possible. There is lots of research on this issue. In fact during times of increased stress people engaged in more unhealthy behaviors (Krueger & Chang, 2008).  Even people with intentions to engage in healthy behavior of physical activity were less physically active during times of stress.  You can over come the sabotage of stress by making a plan. Plan to workout and plan to eat well. People that were stressed but had a plan for physical activity and healthy eating were still successful when they kept to their plan.

These are easy mistakes to overcome.  It takes awareness, planning, support, and knowledge, and awareness, planning, support, and knowledge will improve your fitness activities and push you toward progress.

Wings and Guns Workout

Here is a back (wings) and biceps (guns) workout for you. Go heavy, go hard, or go home!

Warm up with the above exercise. 3 sets of 12.

Set 1:
Bent over row. 3 sets of 12.

Bicep curl. 3 sets of 12.

Set 2:
Lat PullDown/high row. 3 sets of 12.

Row. 3 sets of 12.

Preacher curls. 3 sets of 12.

Set 3:
Wide grip PullDown. 3 sets of 12.

Close grip PullDown. 3 sets of 12.

Cable bicep curls. 3 sets of 12.

 

What you See is Not Always What you Should Believe. How Your Brain Can Trick you, Guide you, and Motivate you. Part 4

The last few weeks we have looked at how thinking drives behavior and emotions. What you tell yourself will nfluence your feelings and your reactions.  The emotions you experience are a normal reaction and all humans have the same emotions. How we all repond is what makes us unique. Your reaction can either harm you or help you.

The quality of your thoughts is what determines how you respond to the situation. But as we have explored, our thoughts are not always right. We may be feeing upset, discouraged, and defeated for no good reason!  Our thinking can frustrate us and trick us to believe that we are no good and not worthy. I have seen so many people give up on goals and hopes and dreams because they thought they did not deserve it. You do not have to settle and do not have to settle. I am here to tell you that changing your thoughts can make your dreams a reality. Changing your thinking will cause you to respond to life in a different way. If you want to feel better about yourself, accomplish goals, have more confidence, and become the best you you can be try these tips:

  1. Stop listening to negative thoughts. They will not help you!  They are most likely a lie.
  2. Fill your head with positive thoughts. Write down 10 positive things about yourself. Try not to focus so much on physical attributes. Think about who you are as a person. For example, “are you a good friend?”, “are you loyal?”, “are you a hard worker?”
  3. Read these 10 qualities aloud to yourself. Saying it helps your brain believe it!
  4. Think about good things you have done. Write it down. Think of a time you helped someone, think of a time when you got the answers right, think of a time you made someone laugh or smile. There is no behavior here that is too big or small. All the good things you have done are GOOD THINGS!
  5. Read these things to yourself aloud. Remind yourself of things that are good about you. Make your brain hear the truth.
Sometimes it is a challenge to even know what we are thinking. The brain can be so full of thoughts that it is a struggle to identify a specific thought. Here is how you can start to identify thoughts that trick you and get you down.
  1. Evaluate the situation. Ask,”What is going on?”, “What is making you feel this way?”
  2. What do you think about this situation?  What do you believe to be the case?
  3. How do you feel?
  4. What do you want to do?
This will help you identify any negative and harmful thinking. Now you can use your brain to challenge negative thinking and, instead, use your brain to motivate you.
  1. Think about how you want to feel?
  2. Think about what you want to do?
  3. Is this more helpful? If so, let this new thinking be your guide.
  4. If this new thinking is not helpful, think about what would be helpful. Ask yourself, “what will help me feel better right now?”
I understand it can be a challenge to change self-talk and to think more positively. When we are upset we can get stuck on negative thinking. Try these tricks to switch your brain to more positive and helpful thinking.
  1. Journal. Having a daily dairy helps you learn more about yourself.  As you write daily you see your growth, successes, frustrations, and obstacles.  It is helpful to go back and read your journal to see how much you have grown.  A journal can help you see how you have overcome adversity in the past.
  2. Do something physical. It does not have to be a strenuous workout. Simply getting up and going for a walk can refresh the brain.
  3. Be creative. Try listening to music, dancing, drawing, and cooking. These outlets stimulate the brain with positive energy, fill the brain with feel good chemicals, and can help the brain refocus on more positive thoughts.
  4. Talk to someone. Call a friend or family member you trust.
  5. Try laughing. Watch a funny movie or television show or read a funny book.
  6. Try relaxing or meditating. Relaxing the brain can slow down and pause negative and harmful thinking. When thinking is slower it is easier to insert more helpful and positive thoughts. Below you will see a video of a relaxation exercise. In just about 10 minutes each day you can fill your mind with postitive and loving thoughts. This practice will retrain the brain to think more positively. You can teach your brain to think better in just a few minutes every day.
These should be daily practices.  Everyone struggles with negative thinking. The ones that stay motivated, focused, engaged, strong, and confident are able to use positive and powerful thinking to stay that way. Don’t let your brain trick you. Use it motivate you, inspire you, and encourage you.
*As a licensed professional counselor, Stephanie has helped hundreds reframe negative thinking.  She has helped people improve their mood, change harmful behaviors, and improve self-esteem. Please contact Stephanie if you or someone you know could use some help breaking free from negative behaviors.