Archive for January, 2010

Can we change? Yes we can – if we want to

January 26, 2010

Change is not easy, but it’s simple: if we change our thoughts we can change our lives. Changing our thoughts is not easy, but there’s a process called Cognitive Restructuring which helps us to change our thoughts if we change some beliefs that no longer serve us.

It’s all described in the book Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky.
This is a workbook on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for people who want to change habitual thoughts and behaviours which keep them stuck in a place they don’t want to be. Aaron Beck, the founder of Cognitive Therapy, has written a forward to the book.

Spending time in places such as depression, anxiety, and anger is an unpleasant way to go through life as I recall. A diagnosis of cancer made me wake up and decide to enjoy life instead. I was told to make each day count, so I worked with a therapist and it’s been well worth the time and effort I spent to change my thoughts. I have been cancer free for over 22 years now.

The book describes how our behavior often results from automatic thoughts. Underlying many of these automatic thoughts are our assumptions which may be right or wrong. Assumptions come from core beliefs which have been stored in our bodies since childhood. These beliefs served us as children since other people such as parents, siblings, and relatives have a large influence on the way children think and behave. However, as we mature we’re required to be responsible for our own actions and well being, and the core beliefs may not apply to us as individuals.

Changing our thoughts can be easier if we look at what’s causing us to think the way we do. Many of us would do well to look at our core beliefs and let go of the ones that keep us stuck in a childhood mentality. It’s an exercise that creates awareness – we will no doubt choose to hang on to core beliefs which serve us, but there’s an opportunity to de-clutter the core beliefs which create obstacles. With those obstacles out of the way, it’s easier to move forward to a new way of thinking and a whole new life. The book, Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, is set up as a self help method, and I believe that a person would have nothing to lose by trying it out.

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Self care is a choice

January 20, 2010

Caregivers of all types do better if they practice self care first. Society and religion teach us to think of others before we think of ourselves or we’re being selfish; to which I say “NO, this is not quite right”. Mums, Dads, sons, daughters, friends, family, and professional care givers, all need to take care of themselves before they can be successful at providing care for others. If people care for themselves, it means they value themselves enough to be their best, so they have more to give to others and to the world we live in.

There’s a big difference between self care and selfishness. Self care means taking care of our needs not our wants. Our basic needs include getting enough sleep, feeding our bodies well, being physically active, and managing our stress. Selfishness is shallow by comparison, and often results from the need to satisfy a large ego. Selfish people don’t care about anything that gets in their way, and my guess is they don’t truly love themselves, or they wouldn’t need to act as they do.

Self love is not about idolizing the way we look, or accumulating toys; it’s about who we are, our imperfections, our values, and how much we appreciate being alive. Even though we’re all on a separate journey we all have similar needs, and one of our most basic needs is to be loved. Many of us go through childhood feeling that no one loves us or that we’re not important, so we have to act in a way that hides the feelings of an unmet need. The only living human being we can count on to be there for us on a 24/7 basis is our own self; we need to be kind to that self.

Years ago when I was recovering from cancer I worked with a therapist for a few months. One day she told me she didn’t want to see me again until I could tell her I had done something nice for myself every day for a month. I was upset at first as I was depending on her to help me beat my cancer. However after some thought, I decided to take up the challenge and made a conscious effort to be kind to myself every day. I was amazed at how things changed after a month of being considerate to myself. I called the therapist to say I didn’t need to see her anymore as I felt so much better, and I knew I was on the road to recovery.

There are many aspects of self care and it takes work to adjust from being selfless to being able to love your self as much as you deserve to be loved; self care covers the mind, body, emotions, and spirit. At first it seemed like a daunting task to change and look after me before I looked after others, but once I got the hang of it, everything seemed to fall into place. I now know that if I want to do a good job of being there for myself and for others on a daily basis, the only way is to practice healthy self care.