How to Think Assertively

think assertivelyMany people develop beliefs that lead to avoiding conflict in the short term, but create long term resentments and loss of self-respect.  Beliefs that interfere with self respect include:

  • “saying no is selfish”
  • “Making requests of others is self-centered”
  • “It’s wrong (selfish, bad) if someone gets upset with me” and
  • “I should sacrifice my needs to others”
  • I can’ do it.  I’m stupid.  I’ll mess it up.

Everyone worries about standing up for themselves to some degree.  But, if you’re stuck in thoughts that you don’t deserve it or are fearful of the consequences of asserting yourself, it may be helpful to counteract some of your beliefs and worries.

Some thoughts that might give a person the courage to act on their own behalf include: Continue reading “How to Think Assertively” »

The Story of Emotion

Where do emotions come from? Are they simply a wave that rolls over you, unpredictable and unchangable?

Emotions are triggered by events in our environments or in our bodies. Something happens that starts the process of an emotional experience. This could be anything from rain outside to feeling sore from exercise.

It is our thoughts about an event, not the event itself, that determines the emotion we will experience. If it is raining, you might think “I hate the rain” or you might think “At least it’s not snow.” Those two different thoughts will result in very different emotions.

You will feel the emotion as physical sensations in your body. A few examples are that sinking feeling in your stomach, your heart racing, a lack of energy or a burst of energy.

Verbal communication is the ability to name and label the emotion. What does that sinking feeling mean? How about sweaty palms and a racing heart? The ability to name and label your emotions adds a feeling of control and actually can decrease their intensity.

Finally there is an action urge with each emotion. Fear causes us to want to run or hide, anger causes an urge to approach and attack, happiness to reach out to others.

Prompting Event: Something happens
Interpretation: What do you think about he prompting event?
Body Response: What physical sensations do you feel? How does your face change?
Verbal Communication: Can you name the emotion? Can you communicate it verbally to others?
Action Urges: What do you feel

Understanding the story of emotions is an essential step in beginning to change how you feel. You can begin to change how you feel by finding ways to have more pleasant experiences or by changing how you think about the events that are already happening in your life.

Non-judgmental Mindfulness: Changing Your Thinking

Good, bad, fair, unfair, superior, awful, excellent, dreadful, worthy, shoddy, should, shouldn’t.  If this is the soundtrack in your mind, then this exercise will help you to re-focus on the skill of non-judgmental.  Part of our mind is constantly comparing our experiences with others we’ve had or holding them up to some expectations we’ve created.  These judgments happen in our minds, can trigger intense emotions and distract us from the moment. If you’re trying to concentrate, but you keep getting distracted by judgmental thoughts then it’s time to practice non-judgmental thinking.

In order to change your thinking, you must focus attention on your thoughts.  Notice them as clouds floating in the sky.  They change and pass with time.  Bring your awareness to the content of your thoughts.  Observe each time a judgmental word or thought crosses your mind.  At this point you can either simply allow the judgment to float by or you can begin to change your thinking. 

To change your thinking, try to describe the situation, rather than judge it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  You can acknowledge whether something was helpful or harmful for you, acknowledge how it made you feel or simply describe to yourself the observable parts of the situation, without placing a value on them.

It’s very hard to think in non-judgmental terms, but it’s an important skill to learn.  Judgments have a significant effect on the way we feel.  They also can cloud our perceptions and leave us responding not to a situation as it is, but to a situation as we’ve judged it to be.

Positive Thoughts for the Holidays

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Within our mind we experience a ceaseless flow of thoughts. Ordinarily our attention wanders a lot, we are lost in our thoughts and only superficially aware of what is taking place within or around us. With mindful observation of our experience, we grow more sensitive to what we are perceiving, feeling, thinking, and doing. Try to practice controlling your attention by bringing your thoughts to a pleasant past experience. Thanksgiving and the holidays often bring a wide variety of emotions. To start the season on a hopeful note, you may choose to focus on a positive Thanksgiving or holiday experience.

Take a moment and remember a time when you felt hopeful, bright, cheerful, content or confident.  You can choose any experience, but focus on one in which you felt a pleasant emotion.  As you are remembering the experience, notice what made you feel these good feelings, remember how your body felt, were you flushed, did you have a warm feeling, were your muscles relaxed or tense, and remember how you expressed your positive feeling.  What did you do with your positive energy.

If you find you are distracted by other thoughts, feelings or memories that come up, simply bring your mind back to your breathing and then refocus on your positive memory.  Trust in this moment and allow it to unfold without  analyzing, judging or doubting it.