Motivation: Start Lifting Yourself Up and Stop Beating Yourself Down

Motivation, non-judgment, authentic life
Listen to the Audio Version of Dr. Bando’s Article.
Often, clients or prospective clients approach me for help with motivation. We all want to live vibrant lives and maybe increase exercise, change the foods we eat, stop eating late at night, make that health care appointment, or countless other important things. Today passes, then tomorrow, then a week goes by, and we realize we haven’t made that change we wanted at all. We can’t seem to find that Motivation, so we get frustrated and feel defeated. Our self-talk becomes harsh: “Ugh, I am so bad at this!” “Why can’t I just do what I’m supposed to?! It should be easy!” “I’m hopeless.” “I’m an idiot!” We give up for the moment and throw in the towel, abandon our goals, and try to accept things as they are, giving up hope that we will ever make that change.

Finally Fed Up?

Maybe we finally decide to get serious. We are disgusted enough with ourselves that we make a strict plan to ensure we adhere to the behaviors we “should” be doing. Then one day passes, then another, then a week, and then here we are: still stuck, still without change.

Perhaps we even make the change for a brief time. Maybe we start eating in a way that makes us feel nourished and energized while helping to reach a target weight. Then, time goes by, and we are sick of being restrictive and “depriving” ourselves, so we give in and “indulge,” feeling stuck in old behaviors, staying unmotivated, and continuing the cycle.

It’s Time to Get Motivated!

MOTIVATION happens when our goals align with our values, then the behaviors we take to move toward our goals link closely to our values, and we reinforce those behaviors. I know from personal experience that the key factors in staying Motivated are reinforcement, which inspires and ignites Motivation, and punishment, which extinguishes Motivation. When we narrow it down to these two simple principles, we begin to realize how straightforward it is to start down a path to lasting change. By reinforcing yourself with simple things like clear goals, being in tune with what is truly important to you, and staying passionate (by focusing on what works and reinforcing the hell out of it), you are guaranteed to break yourself free from that cycle.

Audio Meditation for Motivation:

Listen to Dr. Bando’s Audio Meditation
To stay motivated and moving toward goals that you value, you must build the muscle of Reinforcement. Finding what you are already doing that is working, or taking very small steps forward, and then rewarding those actions creates sustainable motivation for change. Think of it this way: punishment extinguishes motivation and reinforcement creates, ignites, awakens and maintains motivation. Where you have reinforcement, you can create motivation.

Let’s practice building this muscle:

Start with noticing your breathing. You do not have to change or alter your breath. Simply notice that you are inhaling and exhaling. Pay attention to where in your physical body you feel your breath.

Now, for the next three to five breaths, pay attention to where you feel your breath in your physical body and when your mind wanders away or zones out, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

When you notice yourself wander and bring you attention back to your breath, you can think of this as a weight lifting rep, or an exercise to build your ability to put your attention where you want it.

Now, let’s go further. Using this idea of placing the mind where you want it to be in the moment, recall one thing you did in the past day that was effective. Unless you achieved a huge goal in the past day, this exercise requires you to let go of judgments and find where you were effective. Do not dismiss anything for not being “good” enough or “big” enough. If you were tired and you got up on time, that is an accomplishment. If you felt depressed and did not want to get out of bed but you took a shower, perhaps that was effective. It does not matter how big or small you think this action was, take a moment and pick one effective action you engaged in over the past day.

When you have that behavior in mind, reinforce it. You can reinforce this behavior a number of ways: you can reinforce with self-talk, such as, “Good job,” or “I did it,” or “Nice!” Remember, your focus is on what you did well and reinforcing it. If your mind wanders to telling you that it wasn’t good enough, your practice is to gently bring your focus back to what you did well and reinforce it. You may also reinforce your behavior through soothing touch. Maybe if feels soothing to place your hands over your heart center and notice the warmth, or one hand over the other hand, or gently cup your face with both hands. This is touch that feels loving and sweet. Again, when your mind wanders to you or your behavior not being good enough, gently bring your attention back to what you did well and reinforce it.

This is the practice of increasing your motivation in a way that is sustainable and reliable. You can practice this every day – find one thing you did well and practice turning your mind toward noticing what you accomplished and reinforcing it. When your mind goes toward judgments about you or your behavior not measuring up, this is punishment. It will extinguish your motivation and ability to move forward. It’s not wrong, this is just what minds do, they wander, and they come up with judgments. Your task is to calmly notice when this happens and bring your attention back to reinforcing your accomplishment. Practice, practice, practice this and you will notice your motivation grow and your ability to take more steps toward your goals increase.


When Others’ Opinions Get You Down (and What to Do When You Feel Fat)

judging ridicule others' opinions feeling fat
We’ve all been self-conscious about our appearance, and have at one point or another worried about what other people think of us. Whether it’s how we dress, speak, act, or even weigh, that concern can at times be overwhelming. While it’s important to take in others’ opinions (this gives us a reflection of ourselves and how we are perceived), over-valuing what others think or may think, while under-valuing our own ideas can damage our self-respect. If you’d like to spend less time concerned about others’ opinions and more time embodying your own values, I’ve put together a few strategies that will help you in this area.

Tuning In

Tuning in requires focusing on your internal voice and turning up the volume so that it is louder than the opinions around you. When you find yourself in a situation where you feel over-worried about what someone else may think of you, ask yourself, “What, in my deepest values, do I believe about this situation?” You may also ask yourself how you would respond to a friend who was in your shoes. Would you shame and browbeat her or tell her that you understand where she is coming from and she did not do anything to be embarrassed? The strategies of asking how you feel, what you believe and to what standard you would hold someone you care about, gives you valuable feedback about whether you want to correct your behavior or if the problem is not your behavior but worry thoughts and shame entering your mind and body.

Your Values, Thoughts, and Emotions

When you have discovered that you have behaved, dressed, spoken, etc., in line with your values but are still plagued by embarrassment and worries about what others think of you, the first step is DON’T CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR. If you change your behavior when your behavior is not the problem, you are sending yourself a confusing message and shame is likely to build.

For example, Marla (pseudonym) found herself concerned that she was not “thin enough” and felt embarrassed about her appearance in certain social situations. As a result of this embarrassment, Marla would tug on her clothes, check herself often in the mirror, avoid being in pictures, and plan her outfit days in advance in response to excruciating worry thoughts. When Marla asked herself about her values, she realized that she would never ever treat a friend the way she was treating herself. She would never judge a friend based on her weight or fit of her clothes and would not want to associate herself with anyone who would judge in this way. Yet, she had been behaving as though she should be ashamed.

Marla’s strategy became clear: Treat her body as perfectly fine and refuse to apologize for how she looks. This means that Marla resisted urges to tug on her clothes, plan the perfect outfit in advance, and even volunteered to be front-and-center in photos. Initially, her self-critical and worry-thoughts increased, and she felt embarrassment wash over her when seeing a full-body picture posted on Facebook. Marla was determined, though, and she persisted.

Over time, her mind and body understood the consistent message that Marla was sending. The message was, “I will not apologize for how my body looks because there is no reason to apologize.” Her self-hating thoughts and worries about what others thought of her began to quiet and feelings of embarrassment lessened over time. Now, when Marla feels a surge of her old urge to apologize for her appearance rear its ugly head, she knows what to do and prioritizes her mental health and self-respect.

As my wise Zen teacher says, “You cannot force yourself to be different. All you can do is practice every day until one day, you become what you have practiced.”

Your Breath and Sensations

If you find it difficult to tune into your values and priorities, start with your breath. Any of my past or present patients will tell you that at least once per therapy session, I will ask them to stop and notice three inhalations and exhalations. This offers an opportunity to notice what the breath is doing in the body. Stop and try it now – place your awareness on your breath for three inhales and exhales. Notice: Where in your physical body does your attention go as you are placing your awareness on your breathing? Your breath is a readily available sensation that can help you start to tune into your body and then your wisdom.

After noticing how your breath feels in your physical body, you can also start to pay attention to sensations. Start to ask yourself questions, such as, “How does my body feel when I am having fun, trusting myself, following what feels right?” Are you relaxed in some areas, tense in others? Do you notice changes in your posture? How about temperature or a feeling of moving energy in various parts of your body? The more you tune into how your body feels, you will begin to get clear messages from your wisdom and be able to sharply access your values and priorities in different situations.

Now What?

The more you practice paying attention to your breath, listening to your body and feelings, identifying your values and behaving as though they matter, the easier it will become. With any new behavior practice, practice and then more practice is needed to help the new habit stick. As my wise Zen teacher says, “You cannot force yourself to be different. All you can do is practice every day until one day, you become what you have practiced.”

Identify a step from this article that you can put into practice today and practice doing this every day until it becomes easy for you. Then, identify and take a next step. If you are a person who has loud self-critical thoughts, it will take a while for them to calm down and for value-driven thoughts to take up your mind space. Give yourself the time you need and devote yourself to one small practice every day.

If you want additional help learning how to truly experience and enjoy your life, contact Dr. Bando today for an online consultation and start shifting from surviving to thriving!


When Everyone Turns to You, and You’d Rather They Didn’t

Everyone occasionally gets assigned to be the Point Person: the one people turn to for making plans, coordinating, and figuring everything out. The people around you may have the impression you are the most knowledgeable, capable, or willing to do the work. They may look up to you or see you as an authority. For whatever reason, you become the Point Person, the hub of responsibility in a situation or group.

Sometimes it can be preferable to be the “Point Person,” but there will be times that you just do not want the responsibility. You may have been told to “just say yes” or “step up to the plate” when you have been put in this position. People may try to cheer you on, thinking you just need encouragement and that leading or organizing will be good for you, or that it’s your duty. Still, you do not want to do it. So, what now?

Your Health

Consider whether it is healthy for you to take on unwanted tasks. The associated stress increase can cause you harm. We all know excessive stress is harmful, but the chronicity of stress that comes from being a “Point Person” can be especially injurious, because there is no apparent time for your body to realize that the situation is over, signaling that it is time to relax.

Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as mental disorders like depression or anxiety” – National Institute of Mental Health website

when you're the point person, assigned responsibility, appointed in charge

Your Relationships

Allowing others to decide that you are in charge can be detrimental to your relationships. It is best to talk about what you are comfortable with early before you grow resentful for having endured a situation you felt forced into. This can also prevent tensions that would inevitably arise in the course of you trying to fill that “Point Person” role.

Feeling pushed into a default role of responsibility most likely does not help you put your best foot forward and shine. Your performance as an unwilling “Point Person” may disappoint people that matter to you, or matter to your success at work or other areas of your life.

How to Handle Being Elected Point Person

Once you decide how you feel about being the responsible party, you can then set limits that protect you from absorbing more responsibility than you want. Be clear with yourself about what bothers you, what feels right in your wisdom, and how you would like to interact with the project or situation ahead of you. Then you can set parameters with the people looking to you for guidance.

Setting limits promotes better health and well-being. Some of the benefits of being clear about your boundaries include that you learn more about yourself, you become a more transparent and effective communicator, and you have more time for the things you value.

It can take practice setting boundaries with others. Here are some tips to help you set your boundaries:

  • Do your homework: Ask what others expect of you without assuming.
  • Know yourself and be truthful: Before starting a conversation about your limits, know what you are willing to accept and be honest about it.
  • Negotiate: Be willing to try to find a solution that works for everyone if it exists, don’t accept “solutions” that truly do not work for you.
  • Self-care: Stick with your commitment to take care of yourself.
  • Be assertive: Don’t try to disguise your limits or make them seem like something they aren’t. Be direct and clear.

If you want to learn more about limit setting or other ways to take your health from surviving to thriving, contact Dr. Bando today.


Validation is Good for Your Health

Why Validate?

Everybody craves validation. Even babies need to be responded to as though their experiences are valid and have their needs met. To be told that you matter, and your experiences make sense is a deeply regulating and nourishing experience.

What is Validation?

When you validate, you are NOT saying you agree, approve or condone. In fact, you can validate someone you completely disagree with (more on this later). You can also learn to validate your own experience even when you have self-judgments, such as thinking you “should feel differently.”

Validation is not a compliment or an insult. Validation means expressing that the person you are validating (yourself or someone else) has an experience that makes sense. Science tells us there is a cause-and-effect process to your emotions and behaviors, meaning that if you feel or act a certain way, there is a reason. In other words, your emotions and actions make sense. They come from somewhere.

To complicate things a bit, everyone does not feel validated by the same words and actions. Different people and situations require diverse ways of validating. Sometimes, simply saying, “How you feel makes sense,” can be enough. There are also situations that require spending some time listening and asking questions before the other person feels they have been heard.

Read on for tips on how to validate and understand the benefits to your health.

How to Validate

Give verbal responses to show you are engaged and listening.

This can be “um-hum” or “ah” or “I see” or “keep talking” or “I’m interested in what you are saying” or “tell me more.” You can also ask follow-up questions, “Then what happened?” or “How did you feel about him saying that to you?” Respond with whatever feels natural to illustrate that you are following along and giving attention to what the other person is saying. The key here is to be genuine. If you are rolling your eyes or sighing with boredom while at the same time verbally expressing your interest, this can be experienced as confusing or invalidating.

Express that you are listening with body language.

Instead of slouching back in your chair, looking at the wall, or fidgeting with a pen, look at the person speaking. Watch their expressions and listen as though you are interested. This is a time to practice putting down your electronic devices and silencing them. You can lean your body slightly forward or sit forward in your chair toward the person speaking. This indicates interest and can be reinforcing for many.

validation is good for you

Verbalize you are listening by saying it.

Validation is about recognizing and expressing that what a person is experiencing matters and is real. You can show this by simply saying it. Phrases such as, “I can understand why you feel this way,” or, “It makes sense you would be frustrated,” or, “I think anyone in your shoes would feel this way,” can communicate validation.

Search for the kernel of truth.

If you are trying to validate but disagree and so do not know how to validate the person, the remedy is to get curious. You must take a stance that even if you cannot see it, this person’s experience makes sense and then throw yourself into discovering “the kernel of truth.” In other words, you do not have to agree to validate. You can even disapprove of another’s point of view and still validate. A common type of conversation for this difficulty to arise is in political conversations when you have one point of view and the other person has an opposing view. Or, perhaps your friend tells you about an argument and you agree with the others person’s stance and disagree with your friend. The thing to do here is let go of the content (specifics of the conversation) for a moment and try to identify and make sense of the other’s emotion. While you may disagree with your friend’s political stance, you can still validate that he feels passionate about it or frustrated or whatever the emotion is at that moment. Here, you are communicating, “I may not agree with you, but I still think you make sense and that your experiences are valid and worthwhile, even if we never see eye-to-eye on this.” Through this validating stance, you are accepting how a person feels or perceives a situation. That’s it. You are not approving or condoning; you are simply accepting their experience for what it is.

Validating those you disagree with is an advanced practice. It requires that you let go of framing it in your mind as wrong, illogical, insane, or any other judgments. This exercise further requires you accept that somehow this person makes sense, even if you cannot understand why in this moment. Practice this in less intense situations first until you get the hang of it, then apply it to more emotionally tricky situations. Experiment with validation and investigate the effects it has on your relationships. (Warning: You may experience less conflict and even get your own needs met more frequently.)

Validation is Good for Your Health

If you only learned one skill to improve your relationships, I would cheerlead for that to be validation. Validation is extremely effective in reducing conflict and increasing the bonds between people (this means increased endorphins and all the pleasant-feels and chemicals in the brain and body). Validating others also releases you from the trap of thinking you must tell them what to do, how to feel, what you would have done or otherwise, how to problem-solve their situation. Letting go of the desire to guide or critique others who are perfectly capable of doing that for themselves is a release of perceived responsibility for you, which can be an immense stress reliever. Less stress means lower cortisol levels (regulates your ability to relax and sleep) and often, regulated serotonin (mood regulator).

So far, you have read about validating others. Validating yourself is just as crucial to your health and well-being. People who have a history of chronic invalidation and learn invalidating self-talk suffer profoundly. Chronic invalidation, including self-hating thinking, can lead to depression and symptoms such as binge eating and other behaviors destructive to your health. Your ability to validate yourself is a major strength and allows you to trust your own decisions and wisdom. Building confidence in what you believe, feel and think brings a sense of calm and centeredness that is impossible to attain when you do not trust yourself. Self-validation can promote your general well-being as well as harmonious relationships. Use this short Self-validation Handout/Worksheet to help you practice.

For help validating yourself or others, or learning more techniques and strategies that can enrich your life, contact Dr. Bando today and shift from surviving to thriving!


In an Exercise Rut? 5 Steps to Get Unstuck!

exercise rut, healthy habits, staying active

 

If you are in an exercise rut or not exercising at all, you are probably associating exercise with a “have to” rather than a “want to.” If you’re not having fun and exercise feels more like a punishment than a reward, you will not keep doing it. The way your brain is wired, it remembers situations that feel punishing and avoids them. This means that if exercise feels like a chore, your brain will make it harder and harder for you to engage in that activity. You will notice your motivation continue to decrease.

We all know that a sedentary life brings countless health problems. Most people agree that exercise has extreme health benefits: strength and muscle maintenance, slows down the aging process, weight management, mood regulation, skin health, balanced hormones, increases energy, promotes sound sleep, andimproves circulation. Exercise also regulates your brain chemistry, including the neurotransmitter serotonin, a key chemical involved in depression and anxiety.

Since you know exercise is beneficial to your overall health and well-being, how about making it rewarding instead of punishing? Follow the 5 Steps below to get out of the rut and feel vibrant and energized moving your body again!

STEP 1: Identify where exercise could be enjoyable.

What, realistically, would be a step toward enjoyable exercise that you can take this week? Before you respond with, “No exercise is enjoyable,” really open your mind here. Most, if not all of us enjoy moving our bodies in a way that feels good. What way of moving your body feels pleasurable to you? Perhaps you miss going on a morning walk and listening to the birds. Maybe you enjoy the feel of the water when you go swimming. Perhaps you feel powerful lifting weights. If exercise is new to you, think about environments you enjoy being in and how you might inject just a little bit of movement. Perhaps you enjoy that first big stretch before getting out of bed in the morning? No movement is too small. For Step 1, just start identifying where or when you enjoy moving your body. Put judgments aside and think about what feels good in your bones.

STEP 2: Figure out a small and realistic next step based on where you are right now.

Be honest with yourself. If you take advanced yoga classes three times per week, lift weights, and hike regularly, your next step will look very different than if you fancy yourself a couch potato and haven’t exercised in years. It doesn’t matter where you start or how small your first step seems to be. I once had a client who was sedentary, and years ago, she used to love to walk outdoors in her neighborhood. Her first steps toward exercise involved finding and then cleaning her walking shoes. These steps took a couple of weeks, and then she was off and walking. I viewed this as a tremendous success because she had been trying to bully herself into walking for years, with no success. By putting judgments aside (she initially thought these steps were too “small” and “silly”), she was moving regularly, and feeling energized and motivated in a matter of a few weeks.

STEP 3: Take the first step!

This may seem obvious, but many people can get stuck in the planning stages. Planning exercise is not exercise. Once you have identified a first do-able step, take it! Go for it! HINT: If time goes by and you are not taking that first step, break it down further into much smaller steps until you can follow through and take one.

STEP 4: REINFORCE!

There is a reason this step is in all CAPS. I cannot emphasize enough the power of reinforcement. If you respond to the step you have taken by telling yourself it is “too small” or “not enough,” you are punishing yourself for the effort you just put forth and can look forward to another exercise slump and watch your activity level wane. In contrast, reinforcingyourself for doing it, giving yourself positive feedback and being proud of what you are accomplishing is how you can keep your momentum, or build it. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for more specifics on reinforcement and how to do it.)

STEP 5: Keep taking this same step and reinforce it until it becomes easy.

Resist the urge to take on more until you have mastered this step. If you do, you risk becoming overwhelmed and may give up before you’ve reached your exercise goals. Keep taking this step until it no longer feels like a challenge but feels rather easy to do. Once mastered, it is time to increase the difficulty and, you guessed it, reinforce. (Expert tip: Once the step has become easy, reinforce it only sometimes before tapering off the reinforcement altogether. This is called intermittent reinforcement, which is the most effective way to lock in a behavior and make it permanent.)
These steps still apply even if you have an active lifestyle. Are you feeling stalled because you have plateaued, or have been doing the same workout so long that it is easy or boring now? Then make it a little harder, step it up, and move towards a more challenging work out using the five steps above. Immediately jumping ahead to something that is very challenging to you right away can only work if you accept that the road to a new habit or skill is not a straight line. For more on that, visit the earlier article on how change really happens:REINFORCEMENT is the most effective way to achieve lasting change.

Some ideas for reinforcement:

DEFINITION: A REINFORCER is anything that increases the likelihood of a behavior occurring again.

  • TIMING counts!
  • Make sure to reinforce your progress as soon as you can after engaging in the desired behavior. (e.g., You just put on your shoes to go for a short walk to increase fitness. REINFORCE yourself right then. “Nice!” “I did it!” Don’t wait. REINFORCE immediately!)
  • Remember, the brain is making connections. The most powerful connections are made when the behavior and reinforcer happen close together in time. You can do it!
  • Find REINFORCERS that work.

Make a note of the REINFORCERS you want to try from the list below or use the list to help you brainstorm some of your own reinforcers.

  • Congratulate yourself (“Good job!” “You did it!”).
  • Make and enjoy your favorite flavor of tea.
  • Write a smiley face on your list next to the task you accomplished.
  • Stop and notice sensations of pride in your body.
  • Enjoy a small bit of nourishing food you enjoy and really taste it (e.g., a sip of fresh orange juice, a small piece of chocolate).
  • Look in the mirror and say, “I’m really proud of you.” Mean it and take it in. Feel the effects.
  • Choose an activity you enjoy to reward yourself (e.g., coloring, a favorite TV program, listening to a favorite song, play with Play-Doh).
  • Dance around the room.
  • Pat yourself on the back or give yourself a hug and feel the effects.
  • Gently rub the back of your hand while acknowledging your efforts.
  • Keep joyful pictures on your phone and take a moment to look at them and enjoy.

The key, no matter how many good tunes are on your iPod or what new sport you’re trying, is that you reinforce yourself- give yourself credit for all the work you do, even and especially when you are moving towards your goals but have not hit them yet.

For professional help with changing habits and creating a thriving life in alignment with your values, contact Dr. Bando today.

 


Do You Have a Sugar Addiction?

 

Can you tell yourself before dinner that you won’t be eating sweets, even all the way up until you order, and then your mouth spontaneously orders dessert? Or you tell your friend “no thanks” for a cookie, and then find one in your hand, on the way to your mouth? If so, you are not alone. And you may have a sugar addiction.

If you are not sure about the use of the word “addiction” in relation to sugar, chew on this: Recent research is not using the word lightly when it finds that sugar IS biologically addictive in the same sense as heroin. On top of that, studies are finding many more reasons to avoid sugar that we previously have only suspected.

 

addicted to sugar, sugar addiction, health psychologist

 

We now know that sugar poses a threat to your heart health, impairs your ability to feel full, damages your liver, contributes to obesity and you can be genetically predisposed to overuse it. There are numerous important reasons to address sugar addiction, and seemingly no benefit to high sugar consumption. If you find yourself eating or drinking sugary foods and beverages often, it is essential to your health to question if continuing this way is in your best interests.

High-sugar foods and drinks are easily accessible today. It is often quicker and cheaper to find high-sugar foods than it is to find food containing fresh, whole ingredients. Sugary desserts are available in convenience stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and at every company or family party. It feels like the stores and manufacturers are telling us sugar is what most of our diet should be. In short, sugar is hard to quit!

What Can You Do About It?

NONJUDGMENT and REINFORCEMENT

Stop telling yourself that sugar is “bad,” you are “bad” for eating it or otherwise flogging yourself for having sugar in your life. Why? Because punishment is the least effective way to create lasting change. Judging and shaming (punishment) yourself for eating sugar, even after you have committed to calling it quits, may just make it harder to stop.

The brain pairs unpleasant or pleasant experiences with the situations that caused them. If, for example, you try to curb your sugar intake and then end up eating ice cream at the end of the day, your brain will remember what happens next and catalog it for future use. If punishment occurs, the behavior will be harder to change. If you mentally beat yourself up for not succeeding, your mind associates your efforts to limit sugar with this mental punishment and essentially, starts to give up. When you try to put further efforts toward decreasing sugar in your diet, you will find it increasingly hard to motivate yourself, and your brain will tell you, “What’s the use?” while throwing its hands up in the air and then reaching for dessert.

If, however, you end up eating ice cream at the end of the day and instead sigh, acknowledge this behavior is not in line with your goals and your stomach feels uncomfortable (nonjudgmental honesty), you are starting on the path to change. Then turn your mind towards noticing that you turned down that donut earlier in the day and say, “That was fantastic! Good for me. I want more of that.” (reinforcement). Now you are greasing the wheels of change and your brain will remember this too. (Reinforcement is very powerful in creating change and there can be some nuance to it. Check out some of my other articles specifically related to reinforcement for clarification.)

In short, when you find yourself being harshly judgmental about a behavior you want to change, stop, notice what you are doing, and describe it nonjudgmentally, in terms of cause-and-effect (e.g., if I do this, then I suffer that consequence). Then, turn your mind towards a behavior you have recently engaged in that is in line with your goals (or find a behavior in line with your goals to engage in in that moment) and reinforce (reward) yourself. If you are used to being critical toward yourself, you may have to lower your standards here. It is perfectly acceptable to reinforce the smallest of steps, even if you just thought about taking steps to change, the fact that you thought about it can be reinforced.

THERE ARE NO SMALL STEPS

As mentioned above, in our society sugar is practically shoved down your throat and is in almost everything that comes in a package, including savory food. Recovering from an addiction, especially one that is in every store and restaurant across America, is difficult. Don’t expect it all to change overnight. Take small steps and reinforce them (see the NONJUDGMENT and REINFORCEMENT section above). For example, you might start with just reducing (not eliminating) the amount of sugar you put in your coffee or tea or decreasing the amount of soda you drink just by leaving a few sips behind. Reinforce these seemingly small steps and you will gain momentum and watch these steps add up.

ASK FOR SUGAR ADDICTION HELP

If, despite your best efforts, you cannot curb your sugar intake and are experiencing problems as a result, ask for help! You may want to contact your healthcare professional or reach out to a health psychologist, such as myself. Health psychologists help people make sustainable changes to their health. We take the guesswork out and help you move toward your goals in a way that is streamlined and rewarding.

If sugar is causing a problem in your life, take one of the steps mentioned about today and start shifting from surviving to thriving!


3 Signs You Might Be Struggling with Binge Eating

Whether or not you suffer from an eating disorder, it is typical in our society to experience unhappiness with our body or the way we eat. Unfortunately, we exist in a society that is very appearance-focused, and that really does not allow for diversity in the way we look. This is a cultural norm, but we can work to change this by taking one small action today:

The next time you see someone you have not seen in a while, do not comment on how they look. Refrain from saying anything regarding their appearance and instead, make a comment focusing on how you feel about being with them such as, “It is so good to see you,” or, “It’s nice to get to spend some time with you.”

This simple, easy step gives the message that we are focused on seeing the person in front of us, and not evaluating their appearance.

 

Many of us are familiar with eating disorders, perhaps seeing depictions on television or in movies. Some of us are also personally challenged or have friends or loved ones who struggle with their eating. What you may not realize is that eating problems can include a range of behaviors, outside of the more commonly known Anorexia and Bulimia. One eating behavior is sometimes casually called compulsive overeating or food addiction, but when it reaches a diagnosable level, psychologists label this Binge Eating Disorder.

You may have reached this page through an internet search because you are already worried about your eating patterns, or somebody else’s eating behaviors. You may simply be wondering if your own problems with overeating would qualify as binge eating. Let’s look at three signs that you might be struggling with overeating or even binge eating:

  1. You Eat a Lot of Food in A Short Amount of Time

One of the characteristics of Binge Eating Disorder is that you eat quite a lot of food in a very short amount of time. Up to 10,000 or 20,000 calories may be consumed in just one sitting, compared to an average calorie intake of approximately 1,500 – 3,000 calories a day. Consuming this significant amount of food in one sitting is called binging. People often say that during these times they can “zone out” or lose track of what is happening around them. When binge eating, you often feel guilt and shame afterward. You may or may not engage in compensatory behaviors like self-induced vomiting, food restriction, or excessive exercise. In fact, food restriction can trigger the binge in the first place.

What can you do?

Eat regular meals throughout the day. This means that you eat roughly at the same time each day and do not go longer than about four hours without food. Research confirms that episodes of binge eating typically occur after a period of restriction (not receiving enough nourishment). While this suggested step is not sufficient to treat Binge Eating Disorder, it can be a part of eating disorder treatment and help if you struggle with occasional binge eating. Please note: The suggestions given in this article are not a substitute for treatment from a healthcare professional. Seek help if you are suffering from a serious disordered eating condition.

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  1. You Have a Hard Time Stopping Eating

Another characteristic of binge eating is that it is hard to stop eating and there is a feeling of a loss of control. Binging is often called compulsive overeating because you may feel compelled to keep eating and as though you are not able to stop. People also call it food addiction because it can feel very much like an addiction, something you need or depend on, and are unable to reduce. Once you have started binging, it can feel impossible to stop eating despite how full you feel. Those suffering from compulsive eating often keep eating past a feeling of fullness, to a feeling of extreme physical discomfort or even in pain from the amount of food.

What can you do?

Seek help. If you find yourself unable to control your eating behaviors, you most likely could benefit from the support of a healthcare professional who specializes in binge eating. This can be a challenging behavior to change, but with the right help, change is possible. Take the guesswork out and get help from someone who knows how to help you extinguish binge eating behavior.

  1. You Have Other Mental Health Concerns

Overeating and Binge Eating are often associated with other mental health concerns. You may also be struggling with anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, self-doubt, or other troubling emotions. The relationship between these sorts of problems and binge eating can be reciprocal. In other words, one can lead the other and vice-versa. Often, we turn to food for comfort or self-soothing to cope with emotions. Finding relief in food feels helpful in the moment, but it is ultimately a maladaptive coping technique. To resolve this concern, you want to learn alternative, more effective coping skills.

What can you do?

If you are worried about your own eating behaviors, then you may consider going to therapy for Binge Eating. There are many ways a therapist can help you. Research has identified Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as a helpful approach for Binge Eating Disorder therapy. DBT can help you learn new skills, such as mindfulness and behavioral strategies that will allow you to approach food and eating differently. These skills will also provide healthier, more effective ways of coping with your emotions. Consider contacting a DBT therapist and asking about their approach to Binge Eating Disorder treatment today.

 

 

 


5 Signs You Know a Therapist Could Help You with your Relationships

 

Relationships are one of the most delightful and challenging aspects of life. The closer the relationship, the more our emotional buttons get pushed. When we experience intimacy with others, circumstances often challenge us in ways we are never stretched on our own. This is both difficult and a blessing. By giving us the opportunity to grow and change, relationships can also bring the chance to heal and shift into a whole new way of being. Whether this brings to mind a relationship you have with a friend, family member or significant other, opportunities to transform and flourish are abundant.

 

You may know that you need relationship help, but don’t know where to begin. Sometimes therapy focused on your relationship goals may be just what is required to get unstuck. Here are five specific signs that working with a results-oriented therapist could help you improve your relationships:

 

 1- You Have a Tough Time Communicating Effectively

 

Our communication skills affect the quality of our relationships. Maybe you often feel misunderstood by others. You may communicate in ways that make it difficult for others to understand you, such as by expressing too much emotion or sometimes shutting down. Perhaps your communication breaks down even more during times of stress.

 

Working with a therapist can help you develop new skills and strategies that will help you communicate more effectively. A therapist can teach you skills that will help you better describe, express, and assert your thoughts, wants, and needs, while at the same time, reinforcing the other person and ensuring they continue to like you and want to maintain a close relationship. (This is borrowed from the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) DEAR skill. If you choose a therapist trained in the DBT model, you will have access to learning all the Interpersonal Effectiveness skills relevant to you and your goals.)

 

relationship help, Therapy for your relationship

 2- You Speak or Act Without Thinking and Hurt Those Your Care About

 

We all have times where we say something without thinking or get ourselves into a sticky situation as the result of acting impulsively. You may even intentionally lash out at those you care about without knowing why. If this happens to you often, it can harm the relationships you want to maintain, and working with a therapist can help.

 

A skilled, results-focused therapist can teach you to line up your behaviors and words with your values. Therapy can help you develop the skills to slow down and behave with intention. Becoming more mindful about your actions and words, and then learning new interpersonal skills and language, can help move you towards your relationship goals.

 

 3- You Have Difficulty Balancing Your Needs with The Needs of Others

 

Sometimes in an effort to maintain relationships, we sacrifice our own needs. You may be so focused on getting your needs met that you fail to compromise, and your relationship breaks down. In any situation, there are three things you need to balance. These include objective goals (what you want out of the specific situation), the maintenance of the relationship, and personal needs or self-respect. (See a qualified DBT therapist to learn more about these interpersonal priorities.)

A therapist can help you better discern your goals in different situations so that you can prioritize how you want to balance them. When your goals for your needs, the relationship and your self-respect are in equilibrium, you are more likely to be happy with the outcomes for yourself and your relationship.

 

 4- You and Your Partner Frequently Disagree and Argue

 

No two people can agree on everything. Everyone comes with their own life histories, personal values, opinions, wants, and needs. Each person also comes to the relationship with their own communication style. If you and your partner frequently disagree that can be okay if you are able to talk through those differences without consistently sacrificing your own or the other’s needs.

 

However, if it seems that your disagreements often lead to arguments, then you may consider counseling for help. In a safe environment, a therapist can help you to gain an understanding for balancing your own and your partner’s (or friend’s or family member’s) needs. A therapist can also help you talk through specific issues and diffuse ongoing conflicts.

 5- Something Big Has Happened for You, Your Partner, Or Your Relationship

 

Life brings ups and downs. When one person in a relationship experiences significant life changes, it can be challenging for the other. Sometimes relationships undergo monumental changes such as a transition from being single to marriage, during a loss (such as miscarriage), or if there has been infidelity or breach in a friendship.

 

Meeting with a therapist can help you and your relationship as you navigate through the changes. Therapists can provide an outlet for support, reflection, and accountability. A therapist can also help you learn how to work through problems and changes with your partner, balancing both of your unique needs and the needs of the relationship.

 

Find a therapist who you feel comfortable interacting with, where you feel safe to disclose information and try new strategies. Therapists well-trained in and practicing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) help their clients learn mindfulness and interpersonal effectiveness skills to optimize handling conflict in relationships and interacting to bring more fulfillment and closeness.

 

To find out if therapy could be the right fit for you, speak with a therapist who specializes in DBT or helping people navigate their relationships and start shifting from surviving to thriving today!

 

 

 

 

 


5 Thoughts to Help Cope with Anxiety in The Moment

Anxiety can feel overwhelming, often involving unpleasant physical sensations accompanied by rumination that just won’t stop. Anxiety can creep up and spoil an otherwise pleasant moment. The very best thing you can do to cope with anxiety when it rises is welcome it in! It’s entirely counter-intuitive to do so, yet it works. In fact, it is the most effective treatment for anxiety.

When you try to avoid feeling anxious, push it away, or try to distract from it, you are feeding the monster and anxiety will continue to grow. If you attempt to escape anxiety, you are learning that anxiety is something dangerous to be feared, which in turn increases your experience of anxiety. When this happens repeatedly, you become more and more anxious. When you not just face anxiety, but welcome the experience in, you will learn that anxiety is not to be feared, you can cope with whatever comes your way, and then, and only then, will anxiety subside and become tolerable.

Use these to encourage yourself to cope with anxiety in-the-moment.

 

 1. “This is a moment of suffering”

Acknowledging that you are in a painful moment is a first step toward tolerating it. Taking a mindful approach by simply labeling that “this is a moment of suffering,” can help you notice and attend to what is happening. When you mindfully label this experience, it can give you some space to decide how to respond. Instead of being caught in the hurricane of anxiety, you can take an internal step back, put words on your experience, and have a moment to get a little perspective to cope with anxiety. Acknowledging when you are in a moment of suffering is also a first step in the practice of mindful self-compassion, a therapy developed to alleviate human suffering.

 2. “I can do it”

Anxiety and fear can make you freeze up, holding you back from some task you need to do or a goal you want to go after. Remind yourself you can do it (after all, you made it this far). Sure, it may not turn out perfect or exactly as you want. However, when you commit to trying, there is hope that it can work out. When you try, you also get a chance to learn. Saying to yourself, “I can do it,” reminds you that even if you are feeling so anxious that you are sweating and shaking, you can still continue to put one foot in front of the other, gently moving toward your goals. Anxiety and fear may come along for the ride, and they don’t have to stop you from getting to where you want to be.

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety in the Moment

 3. “I can get through this”

Maybe you have tried something new, and it’s not working out. You may feel like your world has crashed down and thoughts like “I can’t cope with this” and “I can’t get through this difficult situation” may cross your mind. Anxiety is a common trigger for the belief that we cannot cope or we can’t make it through. Remind yourself you can get through this. Chances are, you have already faced challenges in your life. Each time, you managed to make it through and learn from the situation – you may have even ended up with a better outcome. Draw upon this inner reflection on strength and resilience to get through this situation too.

 4. “I am here now”

One of the biggest causes of anxiety is the tendency to live in the past and the future, rather than the present. Sometimes, you may dwell on the past with regrets. You may worry about the future and what could be. This adds to anxiety by keeping your mind spinning in many different directions and adding the pain of the past and possible pain of the future to an already difficult moment. Use gentle reminders to pull yourself into the present. You can also support a present-focused mindset with mindfulness techniques, such as slow, deep breathing or noticing and labeling your surroundings, such as describing the shape and color of objects in your environment.

 5. “I am okay”

Fear is a hard-wired response that you have developed through many years of evolution. Fear tells you a threat is near, and you must take action. However, fear does not always fit the facts. Anxiety is fear run amok and the fear of possible threats. When you feel anxiety, check things out. Look at your emotions and the facts of the situation. Evaluate whether that anxiety is well-founded or a false alarm. Sometimes your anxiety is well-founded, and you should react. Most of the time, anxiety is your mind working in overdrive and there is no real life-or-death threat in your path. In those cases, remind yourself that your brain is trying to keep you safe, but you are okay. It helps to notice the fear so you can cope with anxiety and understand that it is the experience of it and, you are okay.

If you struggle with persistent anxiety, you might benefit from the help of a therapist. Mental health providers who use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can help you recognize and challenge your thoughts, tackle anxiety, and provide one-on-one solutions empowering you to manage and cope with anxiety. If needed, contact a qualified therapist to help and start shifting from surviving to thriving today!

 

 


4 Tips for Returning to Therapy

For an audio recording of this post, visit here: Dr. Bando on Soundcloud 

When you make the investment of time, energy and money in therapy, you want to experience progress and change. If you’ve been in therapy before but haven’t achieved the results you want, you may be wondering what you can do to make those changes. Talk therapy can feel helpful, allowing you to have some real ‘aha’ moments and gain insight into the cause of your problems. However, talk or what’s called “supportive” therapy often does not help you change and meet your goal. Often, what is needed is to learn practical, concrete skills that will help you foster lasting change and healing. This can be achieved through treatment with a results-oriented therapist.

If you’re thinking about returning to therapy and want to create more effective change, here’s what to do:

Four things to keep in mind.

1st- Know That Returning to Therapy Takes Readiness and Commitment

If you have decided on returning to therapy, that’s a great sign that usually indicates you have some readiness and commitment to do what is needed to make changes. The most important first step is finding a therapist who aligns with your goals and who you feel comfortable working with. This can help you stay committed and focused.

Many clients prefer a results-oriented therapist who will work with them to make specific changes toward goals, rather than attending therapy indefinitely. The right therapist can help you identify and build upon your goals from the start and keep you motivated to do what is needed for lasting change.

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2nd- Develop A Plan

While the idea of planning your therapy might seem strange, having a goal and a plan in place makes it much more likely you will succeed in making changes. Sometimes people attend therapy to just talk or vent, but to transform your life you need to work systematically to plan and implement change.

The therapist you choose to work with should develop a case formulation within your first few sessions. This formulation offers expert reflections and additional insight on your current situation. A skilled therapist will indicate a thorough understanding of your unique situation and collaborate with you to make sure this formulation is on target. By the third or fourth session, you and your therapist should have treatment goals and a treatment plan that will guide your future sessions, help you better understand what to expect out of therapy and ensure you both keep your eyes on the prize and moving toward your goals.

 3rd- Take What You Learn in Therapy Outside the Session

One benefit of therapy can be receiving support from your therapist and leaving sessions feeling relieved or empowered. Keep in mind, this is not enough. If you are working to make changes, then you must take the work done in therapy with you, outside of the session, and into your day-to-day actions. A therapist focused on getting you the results that you want will probably ask you to do “homework” or to practice new skills throughout the week. It is essential to follow the recommendations of your therapist and do your assigned practices so that you can reap the benefits of therapy and translate them into your daily life. Practice in between sessions is imperative to change. It also arms you with information about what happened when you tried these new skills, and you and your therapist can troubleshoot and hone the skills in your next session. Your practice and feedback are invaluable in helping you and your therapist stay on track with moving toward your goals.

Depending on your therapist’s style and theoretical orientation, they may be able to implement additional ways to help you achieve change. For example, therapists that have been trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) might ask you to complete weekly Diary Cards, so you can plan to try out and practice newly learned skills and then keep track of what happened and have a straightforward way of reporting this in your next session.

4th- Discuss Problems with Your Therapist

 Therapy does not always happen on a linear path without hiccups. At times, problems may arise. Whether you felt misunderstood by your therapist, your homework did not seem to hit the mark, or you are not making the changes you expected as quickly as you wanted, it is important to talk about this honestly with your therapist. This can be an excellent time for you and your therapist to revisit your identified goals, refine your treatment plan, and figure out any adjustments that need to be made. Although it might seem like a challenging conversation, talking with your therapist about what is not working may help you discover some factors that are holding you back or halting change, making this a valuable part of your treatment. Do not underestimate the value of the feedback you give to your therapist. Once your therapist knows your experience, thoughts, and feelings, he or she has the opportunity to respond effectively, make any necessary adjustments, and this ensures you can get the quality care you want and need.

With the right approach, you can make effective and lasting changes when returning to therapy, learning new and valuable skills that lead to a more rewarding and satisfying way of life.

Remember, life is too short to just survive, that’s why I help people thrive. I’m Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando, licensed psychologist. Thank you for reading and best wishes to you in making the lasting changes you want.

 


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Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando