April Newsletter

April Newsletter Dr. Bando

April is the quarter-mile mark. We officially have 25% of 2019 in our rearview. This is a good time of year to ask yourself how it’s going – though I suppose the answer depends on what measurement tool you use.

The “compare-yourself-to-someone-else” ruler is usually inaccurate, either underestimating or overemphasizing challenges and accomplishments alike. Rather, how are you doing compared to last year, last month, last week, or even yesterday?

If you notice an improvement, capitalize on your progress by taking time to note what is working, and be intentional about continuing on this path. If you identify being in a worse, less desirable place in life than you were, what got you here?

With curiosity and nonjudgment, can you describe what is not working? Can you articulate what you need to move toward positive change? What steps are necessary to turn you toward your ideal path?

My article and practice this month are about tuning in to your experiences and needs, and focusing yourself on personal responsibility as a way to build more of the life you desire. Both my article and featured professional are geared to help you understand how taking that step towards personal responsibility can make all the difference in the world.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

 

FEATURED ARTICLE:

Personal Responsibility Article
The Importance of Personal Responsibility

How often have you been driving and thought: “If that car in front of me would just move out of the way, I could get where I’m going faster?”  

These kinds of thoughts cross my mind often. If that car would move, or if that person would stop using that tone with me, or if so-and-so wouldn’t put me in an awkward position or “make me feel” a certain way, life would be grand!

All of these statements, however, communicate to your brain that your wellbeing is dependent upon someone else.

Let’s break this down . . .    continue reading

FEATURED BLOG/PROFESSIONAL:

Featured Professional Jordan Peterson

Jordan B. Peterson

When focusing on personal responsibility, there is no better colleague to feature than Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. Dr. Peterson was a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto until his straightforward, common sense, and psychologically smart teaching points landed him under attack in the media. Dr. Peterson has been lied about, falsely accused, and physically threatened, all for asserting his firm philosophical belief that freedom of language is essential to ideas and intellectual discourse.

Now a public speaker and author of a multi-million-copy bestseller. Dr. Peterson is a prime example of living your truth despite whatever comes your way, and accepting personal responsibility for your life and choices. I find Dr. Peterson a bright light with qualities to aspire to, and I hope you do as well.

For an example of what Dr. Peterson has to say, check out this video: https://youtu.be/o73pqQ9Gzt4

Visit Dr. Peterson’s website: https://jordanbpeterson.com


WANT MORE?

My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on either my YouTube or Soundcloud pages.


PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…

My guided meditations and practices are available in audio form – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, click here!


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.


Personal Responsibility

The Importance of Personal ResponsibilityPersonal Responsibility Article

How often have you been driving and thought: “If that car in front of me would just move out of the way, I could get where I’m going faster?”

These kinds of thoughts cross my mind often. If that car would move, or if that person would stop using that tone with me, or if so-and-so wouldn’t put me in an awkward position or “make me feel” a certain way, life would be grand!

All of these statements, however, communicate to your brain that your wellbeing is dependent upon someone else.

Let’s break this down… When I say that I want someone else to change their behavior, I am really saying that I don’t like how I feel – and I don’t know what to do about it. I want someone else to change so I can feel better.

Essentially, I have taken all of my “power chips” and handed them over for someone else to manage my life. Let’s look at an example:

I was recently at an airport, and the people in front of me in the security line were taking for-ev-er. One person took a shoe off and gently placed it on the conveyer belt – so slowly that I wondered if she ever intended on having the other shoe join its mate. The gentleman behind her agreed with this pace…

With all of us in line waiting, he leisurely drank his water before proceeding with the security routine. Man, did I have judgments! My head (and facial expressions) were screaming, “Have you never been in a security line?! We are all waiting! How rude! Hustle, hustle, hustle! Knees to chest, people! Get moving!”

I was so invested in their obvious-to-me socially unacceptable behavior that by the time I got through the line, I was huffing and puffing, wondering what could ever possess people to be so inconsiderate. Because of them, I had a stressful experience, and had to rush to my gate despite arriving at the airport in what I thought left plenty of time. I was irritated, and I placed all of the blame on the other people in the security line.

In short, what I believed at that moment was:

If they changed their behavior, I could feel better.

Wow, that is a loaded statement! By going down this train of thought (with my emotions quickly following), I just invested in the belief that someone else is responsible for how I feel.

Ugh, no wonder I was frustrated and felt powerless. In this experience, I believed I had fallen victim to someone else’s ignorance. Notice those words? Powerless. Victim.

Now, you might think that this was such a minor incident, how could this really affect how I feel about myself or my place in the world? You also might agree with the judgments I made about the slow-movers at the airport and share my frustration…

Well, the beliefs that we invest our time, thinking, and behavior into are important. They inform the blueprint of how we see ourselves in the world, and how we show up for life… And here’s the rub:

When you expect others to take care of you:

  • You cheat the relationship, and you cheat yourself
  • Your confidence dwindles
  • You begin to believe you cannot do hard things

When you expect others to regulate themselves so you feel better, you burden the other person with the expectation that it is their responsibility to make you feel differently than you do Deep down, nobody wants this responsibility. It is an unwelcome gift. Even if the recipient saddles up and takes responsibility for how you feel, resentment is likely to build. The other person has just received a weight that is too heavy for them to bear.

They have also received the inferred message that you are unable to meet your needs and regulate yourself – so you subtly lose some of their respect.

When you hand over your feel-good expectations to someone else, you cheat yourself by giving yourself the message that you can’t handle the responsibility. Someone else needs to ride in on a white horse and rescue you, all because you are not whole enough to handle things on your own.

When you use phrases such as, “so-and-so made me feel [fill in the blank with a favorite icky-feeling emotion],” it is like a slowly dripping faucet of self-disrespect. You may not feel the impact of the first drop, but eventually, the sink fills up, and you’ve got a big, sloshy pool of belief that others hold the power to “make you feel” – and you become a victim to their behavior.

Talk about a confidence buster!

When you repeatedly tell yourself that others are making you feel a certain way, or thinking that if others would behave differently, that would solve your distressing emotions, you are also telling yourself that you cannot do hard things.

This is one of the most dangerous messages for you to believe! Resilience is built upon knowing that you can do hard things, that you can roll with whatever life throws your way, and that you know as long as you are in your own corner, you’ve got this life thing!

When you start to lose sight of this fact by hoping others will change their behaviors to “make you feel” better, you are in serious trouble.

On the other hand:

When you look for (and accept) your responsibility and volition in all situations, you gain:

  • A sense of empowerment
  • More mutually rewarding relationships
  • Self-confidence and self-respect

If, in the airport, I had noticed my thoughts, “Damn these people for making me anxious and uncomfortable!” here’s how I could have responded:

“Uh-oh, did I just say someone else is ‘making me feel?’ Okay, it’s time for me to get to work here.”

STEP 1: NOTICE AND LABEL when you have just handed over the responsibility for how you feel to someone else.

STEP 2: FOCUS INWARD and QUESTION. Questions I might ask myself include:

  • “What am I feeling in my body?”
  • “What emotion is this I’m feeling right now?”
  • “What about this situation is making me uncomfortable, instead of the many other situations I’ve been through today that I haven’t focused on this intently?”
  • “What interpretation am I having of others’ behaviors in this situation?”
  • “Are there other possible perspectives here?”

This inward focus immediately grows your sense of self-respect and responsibility for your own experience. First of all, you receive the message (from yourself) that you are worth paying attention to – and that your experience is significant enough for you to focus all of your attention in this moment.

Second, by observing yourself in this way, you unglue from your interpretations and reactions and start getting reflective, leading you to other possible experiences. Third, this step is hard – and when you practice turning toward yourself in this way, you learn that you can do it. You gain confidence in your ability to tackle your unchecked reactions.

While you are building all this empowerment, self-confidence, and self-respect, you are also improving your relationship with the other people in the situation!

If I had put this into practice in the security line, I wouldn’t have glared, sighed, rolled my eyes, and in general, treated others with contempt. Perhaps I could have let others have their experiences and I mine, and focused on what I needed in that situation, which brings us to…

STEP 3: IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS and RESPOND. If I had asked myself what I needed in that moment, regardless of others’ behavior, I probably could have used some deep, slow breaths, stopped fidgeting (which was fueling my frustration), and maybe talked to someone or texted a friend for a brief distraction.

Maybe all I needed was to acknowledge that I felt frustrated, that my interpretation was that I was being disrespected, and I would have been able to let it go. Perhaps I would have decided to ask for the people in front of me to move more quickly, or request they let me go in front of them. The point is that I did not ask myself what I needed, so I did not receive the message that I cared about what I needed… And I certainly was not able to provide it for myself.

Even so, I still have…

STEP 4: REFLECT. Although I am not proud of my behavior in the airport, and it is not a representation of how I wish to walk through the world, I can still face it and move forward.

Notice your ineffective behaviors in retrospect, and walk yourself through what went wrong. Thinking about how it could go differently the next time, as I just did, facilitates change. After this exercise, I can tell you with 99% certainty that the next time I am frustrated in a security line, I will think of this example. When you wake up to the moment, you have a chance to make a choice and do things differently.

 

Here is a practice for what to do when you believe someone is making you feel a particular way:

A PRACTICE IN PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

(Listen to this practice on YouTube)

First, let’s take a moment to settle into this present moment. Let’s put our attention on a few things that are right here, right now, starting from the outside in. First, take a look around you, noticing the shapes, colors, light, and dark. Take a moment to notice where you are, using a beginner’s mind, and take in the environment around you.

Now, turn your attention toward sounds. Place your attention on your ears and notice any sounds or silence that floats through your attention.

Now, can you notice your body? Perhaps you can notice the bottom of your feet on the floor, the parts of your body touching another object, like a chair or your clothes. Begin to notice parts of your body in contact with other objects.

And finally, bring your attention to your breath. You do not need to alter or change your breath. Simply notice that you are breathing, in and out. Notice the quality and length of your breath, knowing there is no way your breath is supposed to be in this moment, and just allow your breath to flow, however it is occurring right now.

Now, shift your attention to a recent time you believed someone “made you feel” a particular way. It could be that you were annoyed waiting in a line or sitting in traffic, or perhaps you had an argument with a loved one. Whatever the situation, bring it as vividly as you can into your mind’s eye.

Now, pay careful attention. Focus on the point when you had the experience that this person was “making you feel” a certain way, or thought that if this person changed their behavior, you would feel differently. Say to yourself, “Ah, I just handed over responsibility for how I feel to someone else.” That’s STEP 1. You just practiced the skill, NOTICE AND LABEL. Instead of being a slave to your reaction, you’ve gained some wiggle room for a different experience to emerge!

Let’s practice STEP 2: FOCUS INWARD and QUESTION. First, put on your curious, nonjudgmental cap and start investigating. This is the part where you act like a scientist and explore what was going on for you, in your body, in the moment that you gave responsibility for yourself away. If you’d like to pause here and give yourself some time to reflect or write, please do so!

Some questions you can ask are:

  • “What am I feeling in my body as I am recalling this moment?”
  • “What emotion am I feeling?”
  • “What about this situation made me uncomfortable?”
  • “What interpretation am I having of others’ behavior in this situation?”
  • “Are there other possible perspectives here?”

Another helpful practice during STEP 2 is to write out just the facts on one side of a paper, and your interpretations, opinions, and evaluations of the facts on the other side of the paper. This is an exercise in separating the facts from your personal experience.

You may decide to pause and spend some more time on STEP 2. It is important to understand your experience with some clarity before you are able to move on to STEP 3: IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS and RESPOND. Given your new, more complete understanding of the experience by completing STEP 2, you can now ask yourself what you needed in that moment.

A helpful way of asking can be, “Given everything as it was in that moment, and given that I cannot change others’ behaviors, what did I need?”

You can ask yourself, “How may I have responded to myself if I were able to attend to my needs and take care of myself in that moment?” Now, your job is to listen. Give yourself the space to hear about your needs.

By engaging in this practice, you have already completed STEP 4: REFLECT. By taking the time to reflect on this situation, you have set the stage to do it differently next time. By engaging in this exercise, you have given yourself the message that you matter and are worth the time.

You have also taken a stand. You will engage with yourself and others with integrity. Don’t expect it to be perfect… That’s life! It’s an eventful journey of learning. You can keep practicing, and you will start to notice your relationships, both with yourself and others, shift for the better.

Come back to this any time you need it – and please, keep practicing!


March Newsletter


In just a couple of short days, Spring will officially be upon us. This change in season, with its blooming flowers, and new foliage on trees, tends to revitalize many people. It is a time to shed winter clothes, shake off the cob webs, and take care of those projects that have been put off for the last few months.

For some, it is difficult to shake that winter bleh. I have even known someone who has seasonal depression in reverse. When others are brightening up in the Spring weather, he withers, feeling more pressure to feel sunny, and becomes down in the dumps as a result.

If you feel the pressure of being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for Spring, read on! Even if you do feel revitalized, I have included a practice in this month’s edition that is invaluable for year round well-being.

In this newsletter, I continue my series on Chronic Illness and Mental Health. With an estimated 45% of Americans suffering with some sort of chronic illness, chances are that either you or someone you know are struggling. In part 3 of this series, I discuss Diagnostic Problems and Invalidation. This month’s guided practice focuses on SELF-VALIDATION, one of the most effective tools for quality of life, chronic illness or not. Also, meet the inspirational Elana Amsterdam, a NY Times Best Selling Cookbook Author who also suffers from Celiac Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Whether Spring makes you sing or your tune fizzles out, please know we are in this together! We are all doing our very best as we navigate our way through this messy, challenging, wonderful life. I truly believe life is way too short just to survive, that’s why I help people thrive! Happy Spring!


FEATURED ARTICLE

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 3: Diagnostic Problems/Invalidation


Autoimmune and other disorders that may present with vague or a diffuse cluster of symptoms, or are difficult to diagnose, seem to be at an all-time high. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association estimates that approximately 50 million Americans live with an autoimmune disorder. On the other hand, the National Institutes of Health, also a reliable source of information, claims that only 23.5 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disorder. The NIH recognizes less than half of what is reported by the AARDA. Why the discrepancy? NIH funded studies include only 24 diseases/disorders, while recent studies by the AARDA now include upwards of 80 to 100 diseases/disorders. Research is ever-evolving and it is hard to keep up!

You can see why chronic illness may be a confusing subject for so many people when two reputable organizations who lead our understanding of what diseases exist, supply different numbers based on what they consider to be different facts. Currently, conventional Western medicine does not seem to know how to detect or diagnose many of these diseases accurately.

Continue reading


FEATURED PROFESSIONAL

Meet the beautiful and inspiring, Elana Amsterdam; health blogger and author of three cookbooks geared towards the support of health and healing.

Often, when clients of mine have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, they struggle with the question of what their life will look like going forward. It is because of people like Elana that I can continue to offer them hope and encouragement. Rather than shirking into the darkness of chronic illness symptoms, Elana states, “My goal was simple. To be of service.”

In addition to her books and the many free and autoimmune-friendly recipes she makes available on her website, Elana shares her struggles and successes of living with MS with her readers and also promotes and volunteers for non-profit organizations she believes in.

What I love about Elana:

  • Her candor. She does not sugar coat the experience of living with chronic illness. She shares her struggles in a relatable way that preserves the truth without getting caught in the bell jar.
  • She LIVES with chronic illness, not suffers.
  • Her RECIPES!!! OMG, does this lady know how to cook. She has certainly spiced up my gluten/processed-free kitchen and brought bread back to my life whenever I want it. (Did I mention she has tons of Paleo and Keto recipes? AND you can search for recipes on her site by special diet requirements.)
  • She gives back. Before I ever spent one dime on purchasing her cookbooks, I benefitted from her tasty recipes and bright Instagram posts. Her life purpose of being of service shines through – anyone who is interested can benefit from Elana. She is a contributor.

You can read a piece of her story here.


WANT MORE?
My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on either my YouTube or Soundcloud pages.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.


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.

binge eating disorder, overeating problems California therapist

  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!

 

 

 

 

 


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Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando