How to transform negative thought patterns

October 30, 2009

brain photo blog sizeIf you are indeed serious about transforming your life, the first step is changing the way you think about yourself.

This is much harder than you might think, because your brain loves a good routine or pattern, and it is now stuck thinking negative things about you, as discussed previously.

It’s time to start challenging all of your previous assumptions about yourself , who you are, and why you do the things you do.

You must now begin consciously choosing thoughts that are the complete opposite of your usual negative patterns.

Positive thoughts are stronger and more vivid in nature. Like radio signals traveling through space, the waves that have more force behind them counteract those that are weaker in nature. Eventually, the synapses that support negative thoughts dwindle from disuse.

Just by repeatedly thinking something positive about yourself, something you want to think, on a daily basis, you can make your negative thoughts disappear in about 4 weeks. Positive thoughts will then affect your habitual emotions, your self-identifying belief systems, and your interactions with others.

The most well-known positive thoughts are called affirmations.  I’m sure you’ve all heard of these, but they really do work!  These are the chosen thoughts that replace the negative self-talk from childhood.  My favorite is to stand in front of a mirror, look myself directly in the eyes, and say:

“I love you and respect you exactly the way you are!”

Another way to challenge previous negative brain patterns is to begin questioning deeply your feelings about specific situations.

When you are involved in a difficult situation or feeling bad about a belief about yourself, first write it down.  Then separate yourself from the emotions of the situation and start diving deeper into the root of your unhappiness.  Play the “why” game with yourself.  “This make me feel bad.”  But why?  “Because I feel guilty (stupid, selfish.)”  But why?

In only a few cycles of “whys” you will begin to understand your feelings in much more depth, feel some compassion for yourself, and perhaps give yourself a break instead of feeling bad for the rest of the day about something you said or some other situation.

Your goal is self understanding and compassion.  Learn how to treat yourself at least as well as you treat others in your life!


Can we transform negative thought patterns?

October 28, 2009

Besides working to maintain ever expanding brain plasticity as we age, I believe it is essential that we keep turning our negative thought patterns into positive ones.

The potential to do ANYTHING you set your mind to, is already present within your own mind right now, but unfortunately so are all those nasty little irritating limiting thoughts and doubts. They are always happy to share with you the many perfectly good reasons why you do not deserve or cannot have whatever it is you want.

If you are anything like me, you constantly struggle to reconcile what you feel like you are supposed to do, with what you want to do.  Or perhaps you don’t even know what you want to do or be, because you’re so busy doing what everyone else around you wants or needs you to do.

Why do we keep re-creating the same realities for ourselves?  Why do we repeat the same mistakes in our relationships with others?  It is because all too often we believe everything we think.

The first step in changing this internal limiting mental pattern is to understand exactly how your brain works.   New discoveries in the brain sciences suggest that you can take control of your mind instead of letting it control you.

It is estimated that the human brain has about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses. Each one of our neurons may be connected to hundreds of other brain cells by as many as 10,000 synapses.  The average person thinks between 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day, most of which we are not even conscious of.

Every thought we think is used by the same network of brain cells and synapses—every single time.  Every thought attracts thoughts of a similar nature because neural electrical branches are capable of growing secondary branches leading to similar thoughts.

So our brains have a tendency to hold on to those thoughts we think most often.  What happens in our brains determines what happens in our lives.  That’s why we need to stop believing everything we think.

Subconscious thoughts come to us effortlessly because the synapses that give life to them are wider and information can pass through them more easily. They usually represent the sights and sounds from our past which we have mentally revisited the most often or have affected us on the deepest emotional level—whether positive or negative.

One of the worst difficulties anyone can cope with is to be haunted by negative thoughts that constantly repeat themselves in our mind seemingly without our conscious control.   Negative thoughts serve no beneficial use to us whatsoever and can even drive us insane.

If you let them, they will take away all of your confidence, all of your happiness, and even your desire to better yourself. The negative unconscious thoughts from our childhoods are particularly brutal because they are the most deeply-ingrained and we have the tendency to believe their messages and then let them define who we are in every life situation.

Fortunately, one of the greatest discoveries ever made about the human mind is the fact that we can choose which thoughts to develop and which to eliminate.

I’ll teach you how next time.

Exploring Your Dark Side

June 16, 2009

dark side of the moon small blog

Hot flashes are God’s way of preparing you for hell!

One advantage to menopause is the opportunity it provides to explore your dark side.

My whole life I have been conditioned to be a nice girl.  Even when I’ve felt angry as hell, I have tended to still hold it in and “play nice.”

Granted if everyone plays nice, the world is an easier place to deal with.  I certainly understand why most of us were taught not to act on every angry impulse we allow ourselves to feel.

HOWEVER, when menopause hits, playing nice flies out the window.  It suddenly isn’t even an option.  It sometimes feels like all those decades of playing nice when I really didn’t feel that way, have finally culminated in my own private nuclear explosion inside my head!

This is the time we are offered the opportunity to, as some psychologists call it, explore our dark side.  It isn’t a bad thing to finally check out the whole other side of your personality, the part that you never showed to anyone for fear that they wouldn’t ever speak to you again.  Face it, this all comes out regularly in our dreams.

Trust me, we all have one, and the more vehemently you resist acknowledging it, the darker it is!  It’s a bit like learning how to release decades of pent up anger.  It’s there and it wants to have a voice!  That is why menopause is so convenient.  It’s the perfect excuse to let her rip!

Unfortunately our dark side emerges right about the same time as we begin losing our ability to remember things, especially if you’ve had a major brain injury recently like I have.  Oh well, perhaps that is also fortunate.  You can release lots of pent up anger and then forget all about the fact it ever happened!

Depression and Anger

May 22, 2009

“Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to WAKE YOU UP!   -Pema

I get many requests for information on the boundless anger which can arise out of midlife crisis.  Here I’ll try to explain further the connection between depression and the rage that often hides beneath it.

Underneath most sadness or depression is an inexhaustible fountain of rage stored up from decades of stuffing most of our feelings.  For women this usually comes from very early training which taught us that being pissed is not lady like.  Nice girls don’t feel and certainly don’t show rage.

For men the same is true, but it is definitely more acceptable for men to show righteous indignation than women.  When men get angry in our society, it is often seen as justified.  When women get angry they are just bitchy.

Most of us become extremely uncomfortable when we feel like our life situation requires some show of anger.  We fear that if we release any of our righteous rage at the circumstances of our life, it will all come roaring out and consume us and everyone around us.

When I was in training to learn how to release my anger in a healthy and controlled way, I would sometimes start hyperventilating at the very thought of really getting angry and expressing myself.  This may come from early learning where any show of anger was punished severely by our parents or others.

Even though most of us don’t have a very positive view of anger, it is actually our best measure of when or whether we are being abused.  Anger comes straight from our own body wisdom and warns us that the situation we face is contentious or perhaps unfair, and we need to react in order to protect ourselves.

Deciding how much anger is required and mediating its release is a method we must learn from carefully studying our own history with depression and anger.  I attended an excellent anger workshop back in the 1980s where I learned all about my own history with anger, and why I felt so uncomfortable accessing and expressing my own anger.  Depression and self-blame is so much more acceptable in our society, especially in women.

But to be healthy human beings we must have access to ALL OF OUR EMOTIONS.  When we are abused or treated unfairly, we must show a strong response to make it clear that this is not acceptable behavior.  Protecting ourselves and our right to be who we are is the beginning of true self-responsibility, self-empowerment and self-respect.

If we cannot access our anger, we also have no access to our joy.

“How to love a 50-year-old man”

April 21, 2009

healthy-interdependence-for-blogis  an interesting Google search that got somebody to this website, but it left me wondering how loving a 50-year-old man is any different than loving anyone else.

So how DO we love another with enough closeness and distance and acceptance of our differences?  The first question is WHY we love any one else.  Is it only because they fulfill some of our needs?

Or because we find new and interesting parts of ourselves by hanging out with them?  Or simply because we feel good being around them.

When I first met Mike over four years ago now, we both immediately felt seen and appreciated in ways neither one of us had ever experienced before.  We also felt understood without much explaining necessary.  The best way I can describe it is that we created a unique energy field between us when we were together.

There was absolutely no question that we  completed each other in some very essential and yet indescribable ways, like we had been searching our whole lives and yet never really expected to find such a safe place to be in the same space with another human being.

How do we love each other?  By caring enough to notice everything about how each of us are feeling moment to moment.  By being sensitive to when we really need to be alone with ourselves, and when we need to be together to experience true connectedness.  By telling the other when we’ve had a bad day and crave extra attention and love.  By taking full responsibility for ourselves and our actions towards each other.

I now know more than ever that mature love is defined by being more concerned about the health and comfort of the one you love than yourself, but in a healthy way.  It’s called healthy interdependence instead of co-dependence.  I believe it is the highest level of human connectedness, feeling strong and loving enough within yourself to have something to offer others.

It’s probably best to think of learning to truly love yourself as your basic training ground for learning how to love others well.  How do you know when you are loved?  How do you feel about yourself right now?

Recent Book Reviews

February 18, 2009

I have been so touched by a few reviews I have received recently of my new book Midlife Magic.  I actually sold a copy to the woman at my bank when I went in to open my business account.  She has a great name: Laura Lee just like me!  So I asked her yesterday what she thought of it.

She said she loves to savor it during her “quality time” on her breaks from work.  Her main comment was: “Laura, you are very REAL in your book.  No mincing words for you!”  Loved it!

Then Brigit, a wonderful new Australian friend I made through this blog wrote:

“I’ve loved your book. ‘Hang on, it all changes,’ is a truth we so often forget when we are going through our tough times, and sometimes we need to be reminded of it.

Your book lives by my bedside. I can open it at any page at the end of a day, and go to sleep feeling positive.”

Brigit also took the time to write a more complete review on her own blog today.  Go see her cool blog: Brigit just lost one of her jobs so she definitely feels our pain!

I enjoyed her final comment:   “Midlife Magic has bits of magic on every page!

Let your best self start shining through!

January 31, 2009

The secret to positive midlife transformation, is the slow, gentle process of falling in love with yourself all over again.  We probably all remember a time when we were very young and found ourselves simply delightful. This was long before the world told us to quit being so full of life.  Much like my new puppy, every new thought and action seemed exciting, like a first discovery, and the world was our oyster!

Crazy as it may sound, you can actually recapture that feeling in the midst of a midlife depression. After acknowledging your grief over the many disappointments of life and aging, try turning a new leaf. Begin putting all of your energy into remembering how optimistic and cool you used to be, and then add on to that how amazing you have become over the past 30 or 40 years.

What happened to that kid who loved him/herself so much? The world happened. We had to learn all the rules and reasons why we couldn’t allow our true selves to blossom at that particular point in time. Well, guess what? It’s high time for your best self to start shining through…in fact it’s now or never!

For me, this was a time of rediscovering all the positive, creative things I loved to do, but had not done in ages, things like watercolors, writing poetry, walking my dogs in beautiful, natural settings, and redecorating my house in all my favorite colors. I also kept a journal where I focused on what was great about me, instead of my old pattern of complaining about what a mess I was.

With divorce and unemployment I lost a lot of “security” but gained a wonderful new sense of freedom. Now I truly could do anything I wanted…who was there to stop me? Luckily I had months of severance and unemployment checks to free me up for a time, and help me decide what was next.

My point: you get to choose what happens next, and no one else can choose for you. I recommend the path of self-respect and love over the path of negativity and destruction.