May 27 – Stop Judging Yourself

Good morning!

I woke up with lots of energy today, so I decided to make bagels. Right now, they are cooling, so I’ll let you know later how they turned out. You may remember that I’m working on learning to cook, so this is another step. It’s all part of trying to live a healthier life–getting rid of preservatives in my food!

But you aren’t reading this to talk about preservatives. We’re working on a healthier you, we’re working on active whole-body health, including physical health, social health, and emotional health.

Recently we started looking at ways you might be keeping yourself stuck in habits that make you miserable, and one of those is harshly judging yourself. Judging yourself is different from taking responsibility or being honest with yourself about strengths and weaknesses. Judging yourself is about saying harsh things to yourself.

The title to today’s post is a bit misleading. It’s really unlikely that you can just go from judging yourself to not judging yourself. Instead, start with being aware of judging. Maybe you judge yourself in one particular area, like your appearance or how you talk with people.

!. Practice noticing when you judge yourself.
2. Think of ways you can replace the harsh judgments with a neutral statement
3. Every time the harsh statement comes up, replace it with the more neutral statement.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So the bagels are okay, but not great. A harsh self-judgment might be, “I’ll never learn to cook,” or, “I hate myself; I mess everything up.” What could you replace the harsh self-judgments with? Maybe, “What did I learn?” You might say, “Learning anything new takes practice.” You could even laugh about it, “Well, opening a bagel shop is not in my future anyway.”

How do you judge yourself brutally or unkindly? How can you replace those judgments?

Live a skill-full life. By Karyn Hall, Ph.D., May 27, 2020

May 26 – Mindfulness How Skill: Nonjudgmentally

One of the main ways that we increase our suffering and create stress is through judging. Our brains tend to naturally judge, judge, judge. You know, “She’s a witch,” “He’s an idiot,” “This job is ridiculous,” and “This place is horrible.”  Think of the emotions those statements bring up or make stronger. Saying, “He’s an idiot,” is not likely to help you calm yourself.

Judgments are often shorthand ways of saying things. “He’s an idiot,” doesn’t really tell you much. Do you mean that he makes decisions that don’t make any sense to you? Do you mean that he hurt your feelings?  Do you mean he made a decision that made your life more difficult?  When you are more clear about what you mean, you not only don’t fire yourself up more, but you also give yourself more information about what alternatives you have to cope or deal with the situation.  For example, if he made a decision that made your life more difficult, what can you do? You could talk with him or problem-solve. Maybe you would have to use radical acceptance because you can’t solve the problem. But you would not be stuck in being upset and miserable.

Observe yourself. How often do you respond to situations that you don’t like by judging the people involved?  How does that help or hurt your ability to manage your emotions?

Live a skill-full life. By Karyn Hall, Ph.D., May 26, 2020

May 25 – Mindfulness of your Toes

Mindfulness can help you decrease impulsive behaviors. Practicing focusing your attention can make a difference between yelling at someone you love and waiting until you are calmer. If you delay until you are calmer, you can speak from wise mind and speak in a way that others are more likely to hear. One exercise to practice is “Focus on Your Toes” from Dr. Aguirre.

Identify the feelings that often precede your impulsive behavior. When you act impulsively, what’s usually the cause? It might be feelings such as anger and jealousy. What are the feelings most likely to be triggered in you? Anger will be used for this example, but use the emotion that is most relevant for you.

As you sit or walk, begin to think about the last time that you were really angry. Notice the thoughts, feelings and urges that arise. Breathe normally and pay attention to the urges that arise. When you feel that the intensity of your emotion is high and you want to take action, you have a really, really strong urge, shift your attention to your toes.

Begin by moving your toes; feel your toes against one another, or brushing against your socks or the inside of your shoes. Keep your attention on your toes, shifting your weight while you are seated or as you walk. You can walk around, just keep your attention on your toes and feet. When your mind wanders back to your urges and emotions, ground your attention back to your toes. Continue to focus on your toes until you notice your emotions and urges diminishing. When this happens, begin to smile at how you’ve taken control.

Live a Skill-Full Life. By Karyn Hall, Ph.D., May 25, 2020

May 24 – Finding Compassion

Think about the people who annoy you. That’s right, the people who get under your skin. They may have habits of complaining continuously, or always having a problem, or of disagreeing with all that you say. Maybe they constantly have aches and pains. Maybe they talk on and on or maybe they interrupt you repeatedly. There are so many ways to be annoying!

It’s easy to have compassion for likable people. But what about having compassion for people who are not so likable? Are you able to have compassion for them?

Sometimes the people who are so unlikable are the very ones who need compassion and understanding the most. How do you do that? Dr. Kristin Neff talks about the concept that we are all connected, we are all part of humanity. We are all human beings who are seeking belonging and connection. Recognize that, just like you, this person wants to have friends, just like you this person doesn’t want to suffer, just like you this person is trying to learn about life and just like you this person is seeking to have the best life they can. Their struggles and challenges may be different than yours, but they are trying to live their best life, just like you.

Imagine that you are the person who is doing something that is annoying someone else. Think how you would feel if that person judged you with anger and rejected you. Now think how you would feel if the other person accepted you with compassion, your flaws and all?

If you’d like to learn more about self-compassion, see Dr. Neff’s website.

Live a skill-full life! By, Karyn Hall, Ph.D., May 24, 2020

May 23 – Self Compassion and Difficult Emotions

Did you know that when people are successful in therapy, they don’t usually experience fewer negative emotions and more positive emotions? What actually happens is that they become more comfortable having mixed emotions, both happy and otherwise.

Sometimes we may focus on being happy and content, and see that as positive mental health. We’ve become seekers of comfort. We tend to look at discomfort as meaning there is something wrong or we’ve failed in some way.

You cannot get rid of challenging emotions without squelching happiness, meaning, grit, curiosity and personal growth. Not feeling anger, sadness, or fear would require becoming numb. Being numb would take away joy, love and happiness as well. 

If you eliminated all difficult emotions, then you would also not have important information that those emotions give you. For example, anger is an emotion that many find difficult. Anger in itself is neither good or bad, it’s what you do with the anger that makes the difference. Anger is typically seen as being the fault of someone else, what they did or didn’t do. Usually you believe you’ve been treated unfairly or something/someone is blocking you from achieving goals that are important to you. That’s important information. So, check the facts. Were you treated unfairly? If so, what are your options? Is there a block to your goals? What options will work best in this situation?

Feeling anger not only gives you important information, but it’s also true that feeling anger is associated with a more optimistic outlook and creativity. Anger can help you be more creative!

Sometimes irritation (mild anger) can be a motivator. While angry outbursts are ineffective and regrettable, irritation can spur you to perform better. It’s also true that anger can spur people to fight against injustice. 

Today, be compassionate to yourself about feeling difficult emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, and hurt. Listen to what you need to learn from these emotions.

Live a skill-full life. By, Karyn Hall, Ph.D., May 23, 2020