Solid Blog

All or Nothing Thinking: Why It’s Important to Understand What It Is and Change It

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

“All or nothing” or “black and white” thinking are known to be cognitive distortions. It’s considered to be a distorted way of thinking which can be associated with developing anxiety, hopelessness and depression.

The basic idea is that whenever there is a need for a situation to be assessed (especially if it happens to be a challenging one), a person might hold the belief that there are only two possible outcomes: Usually a worst case scenario or “okay”.

Of course we can casually talk about things being “good or bad” or describe things with exaggeration, but it can become problematic when this is primarily the way an individual has a tendency to think.

This is an example that I often use:
Certain ways of thinking can be beneficial at certain times. For situations and maybe work that requires very specific analytical thinking (like mathematical calculations or coding), applying “all or nothing” type thinking can be extremely helpful.

But not every situation requires that level of strict analysis.

And applying “black and white” thinking to all situations is like using a hammer for every situation that requires a tool. For instance, if you’re looking for a saw to cut down a piece of lumber, a hammer is not going to be the best tool for the job.

A hammer (and any tool and skill) is a good tool and skill to have, but it can be limiting if that’s the only tool and skill that’s used.

One way to identify that you’re engaging in “all or nothing” thinking is if you often find yourself saying “always”, “can’t”, “everyone”, “no one” a lot. This can often be a sign of absolute thinking which might be because of your tendency to engage in the cognitive distortion of polarized thinking.

Another term that’s used is “dichotomous” thinking. It’s what happens when you take a specific event and turn it into a global generalization.

Learning to replace exaggerated thoughts with more realistic assessments will help you to deal with setbacks and feel more hopeful about the future.

Steps to Better Understand and Change Your Polarized Thinking

When all or nothing thinking becomes chronic, it can have far reaching effects on your life. However, there are simple actions you can take each day to gradually achieve more moderation.

Try these techniques:

  1. Change your vocabulary. If you find that you speak in unconditional terms, it is likely reinforcing “all-or-nothing” thinking. I would try replacing words like “always” and “everyone” with descriptions that are more specific and closer to the facts.
  2. Consider what your actual options are. You might try changing your perspective about one area in your life, and once you see that it is helpful, other areas of your life will probably follow. It could be helpful to start by focusing on your “all or nothing” thinking that you might have in your relationships or your health.
  3. Ask for feedback. If you have trouble recognizing when you’re engaged in exaggerated thinking, ask friends and family for feedback. They may be able to see things more clearly than you do.
  4. Seek therapy or counselling. “All-or-nothing” thinking can sometimes be traced back to what you may have previously experienced or learned from childhood, so it can be useful to seek help to sort out the past and move on.

When you are able to know that most situations and individuals including yourself are a mixture of positive and negative qualities, you’ll be able to make more rational, and informed, decisions.

When you can recognize that you are engaging in “all-or-nothing” thinking and begin to change it, it broadens your ability think more openly so you can think more effectively, and avoid the stressors that can come with “black and white” thinking.

A resource I highly recommend to sharpen your thinking skills is a short book called, Five Elements of Effective Thinking. “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking presents practical, lively, and inspiring ways for you to become more successful through better thinking. The idea is simple: You can learn how to think far better by adopting specific strategies. Brilliant people aren’t a special breed–they just use their minds differently.”

The Success of Kawhi Leonard, the 2019 Raptors, and Superfan Nav. “Armchair Human Behaviourist” Breaks It Down.

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Following the epic victory parade in downtown Toronto on Monday, the questions on on the minds of Raptors fans are: Where’s Kawhi Leonard going next? And more importantly, what is HE thinking??

So let’s have some fun and time for me to play “Armchair Human Behaviourist”!

I’m fascinated by what drives individuals to achieve mastery.

As a life performance coach and therapist, understanding things such as an individual’s personality traits, historical background and family interpersonal relationships provides me with a blueprint or a snapshot of what motivates someone and even how someone might make decisions or what kinds of values that person may have.

While this is just for fun and these are just things I am assuming based on my limited observations and details, I thought we can discuss the popularity of Kawhi Leonard and some of the variables that might factor into his decisions during free agency.

We’ll also discuss the role of chemistry in success and winning, and what big life lesson I learned from Raptors Superfan Nav.

Kawhi Leonard

I have previously written about the differences between extroverts and introverts. And although Western society is more favourable toward extroverted qualities when it comes to success, my sense is that Kawhi Leonard is on the introverted end of the spectrum.

Not only that, it appears his popularity is directly as a result of his assumed introverted qualities: I’ve heard him described as “stoic”, “quiet” and when he does speak, it’s straight to the point and apparently “f that, let’s get both” when the team meeting initially suggested that they should aim to win one of two in Oakland.

But the one thing he has shown is that he is committed to getting the job done and it turns out, he’s really good at it. World class, in fact.

In my experience, many introverts can get frustrated by their work “not speaking for itself”. It turns out, with Kawhi, his style and quality of play has done that and more from what is being reported and by the fan base.

As for free agency, clearly there are a lot of moving parts and representation and some forth, but again, based on the little bit that I’ve heard and observed about Kawhi, he appears to value relationships and to have a deeper understanding of his value to an organization.

It was reported that when he was first traded, Kawhi asked Raptors president Masai Ujiri, why they had wanted him. That question would suggest to me that he’s someone who has a curiosity to understand how he can contribute and what’s expected of him. Not everyone would ask this specific question.

To me, this speaks to Kawhi being a guy who has a desire to more deeply understand how he fits into the organizational puzzle and what that would potentially mean for him.

Additionally, I have heard it mentioned numerous times that he has credited his success this year to the Raptors organization working collaboratively with him so that he was best set up for him to play optimally.

He expresses gratitude and appears to see the value in having a organization working with him. Perhaps loyalty to shared values is one of his qualities, too.

This is a bit of a stretch, and this is me leaning into my baseball comfort zone here, but perhaps a possible comparison can be made here for Mike Trout who elected NOT to go into free agency to sign with the Angels. Again, maybe a stretch and completely different sports, but these are two athletes at the top of their professions, who appear to be more on the introversion end of the spectrum, who may work/think/act very similarly.

Wouldn’t it be great (especially for those of us in Toronto) if Kawhi Leonard gave preferential treatment to a team he knows shares his values?

Success and Team Chemistry? Is There a Connection?

I mentioned earlier that I am a student of learning what makes people good at what they do. Working with many accomplished people since 2009, I have learned so much about the different ways that individuals are talented, motivated and work toward growth and achievements.

But since my work is exclusively with individuals, I have a very specific curiosity about what are the components that are a part of a team’s success, and the role of chemistry within it.

I know there’s quite a division between folks who are all about talent and stats versus those who believe that clubhouse chemistry is a big factor.

Not having the privilege, experience or hard work of being around and observing teams who are professional and operate on an elite level, I asked the two experienced hosts of The Spin to provide me with their take on team chemistry.

Valuable Life Lesson Confirmed to Me by Nav Bhatia, Raptors Superfan

I like to think that one of my strengths is that I look for a lesson in most everything. And as I was thinking about all that’s happened during this 2019 Raptors run to the championship, I found myself thinking a lot about Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I’m working on things and feeling stuck or discouraged, wondering if any of it would ever amount to anything.

But here’s Nav, who’s been attending Raptors games from the beginning. He’s been grinding as a fan, and a businessman, for the past 25 years!

Not only that, he has shown grace, humility and generosity which no doubt has abundant impact in all areas of his life.

And look at Nav now!

An honourary marshall as part of the Raptors Victory Parade! National, nay, INTERNATIONAL attention for not only being an unwavering Raptors fan, but also for the quality of person he is.

I feel he’s truly an inspiration for working hard and sticking with it, all while maintaining compassion. Also a reflection of what’s possible to achieve when taking and RUNNING with the opportunities that can be found, specifically here in Canada.

These are all examples of people doing exceptional things, but especially when we are able to unpack that these accomplishments are in large part to consistently built and repeated human behvaiours, it’s a reminder that we all have the ability to do exceptional things, too.

Feeling Stuck? Why We Can Feel Stuck and What Can Be Done About It

On this site, in the Solid Blog, the Life Stuff 101 podcast, and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

It’s my belief that we all feel some feeling of being stuck at some point in our lives.

In my experience, feeling stuck is a concern that brings many people to seek out therapy or coaching, or looking for some other resource to help to move forward and feel unstuck.

With that said, however, even if it is something that we might all experience in one way or another, it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to work through.

We can feel stuck about a lot of things:

  • Relationships
  • Work / career
  • Health-related habits
  • Everyday routines
  • Generalized feeling that “life feels stuck”, feeling as though life Is on a hamster wheel or Groundhog Day

The feeling of feeling stuck can be quite persistent.

And for some people, if the feeling goes on long enough, they end up resigning themselves to feeling that way.

Or it’s only when the feelings of being stuck becomes too much is when people are motivated to take action.

Some Ways We Can Feel Stuck

Feeling stuck can happen when you’re struggling with a situation that doesn’t feel quite right or not really aligned with your values.

It can also happen when significant life decisions may have previously been made based on the influence of others (parents, family or cultural pressures).

It might also be that unhelpful habits have been developed over time and it can feel as though it’s too late to change.

What Can Keep Us Feeling Stuck

It can be a very powerful feeling to believe that it’s too late or too hard or too ingrained.

We can feel that “things are good enough” or “the fear of failure” because of uncertainty can keep us from achieving our highest potential.

However, here’s a thought that might help:
The top regret discussed in the book, The 5 Top Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware is: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

What Can be Done About Feeling Stuck

You’ll notice that when people talk about being stuck, it’s usually phrased as “being stuck” or also, “feeling stuck”. 

So, the first thing to recognize is that these are feelings, and while it might feel like it, it’s highly unlikely that you’re completely stuck and without choices or options. 

And one way to think about feelings is that they are signals to let you know that something’s up.

Here’s a quick tip: What is one thing that you can do just 1% differently right now? Now go and do it. The small “win” can help motivate you to keep going and to potentially make other changes.

Ways to Work Through Feeling Stuck:

  • Examine your cognitive biases (aka “don’t believe everything you think.”) – We all have automatic thoughts, but many of us are unaware of our own biases shaped by our non-objective values and beliefs. For instance: commitment bias is sticking with a past decision to try and avoid feeling like we may have made a previous mistake or to be a “quitter” which can definitely impact the feelings of being stuck.
  • Develop More Effective Habits – It’s possible for things to change, but it usually doesn’t happen overnight.  As we discussed, the book Atomic Habits is a good place to start. Read more about it in one of my previous posts here.
  • Try Therapy, Counselling or Coaching – These processes can help to identify and to work through why you’re feeling stuck, what might be preventing you from moving toward change and figure out how it can be different.

Happy Pride! June is Pride Month.

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast, and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Pride Month is set in June in recognition of those who stood up to demonstrate against the police raid which took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, 1969. 

The Stonewall Uprising that followed have been considered to be the watershed moment in LGBTQ+ rights history.

(As an aside, while discussing the Stonewall Uprising on the Spin, I had mentioned that it’s the 30th anniversary… clearly, math is not my strong suit: This year 2019 is the 50th anniversary.)

The Necessity of Pride Month to be Acknowledged and Celebrated By Pro Sports

Because of my weekly participation on The Spin’s Wellness Wednesday and The Spin’s focus on sports discussions, I often try to think about sports and the larger impact it has in society.

And in my case, because personal overall wellness is a passion of mine, I think about ways to connect larger wellness discussions in relation to sports.

Pride Month is celebrated in many ways during the month of June… even at MLB games!

It’s no secret that I am a BIG baseball fan and I am glad that in recent years, the MAJORITY of the major league baseball teams have organized Pride Nights as part of the regular schedule.

(It appears the New York Yankees (there will be a pregame commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising on June 25th at Yankee Stadium, but it is not named or officially considered to be Pride Night), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros are not scheduled to hold a Pride Night in 2019….)

In the words of one of my favourite baseball players, Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals:

“To my LGBTQ friends and family – we love you, support you, and we’re grateful for you. I’m proud to celebrate and stand with you because everyone deserves to feel safe and free to be who they are and to love who they love. Love is love.”

Sean Doolittle, Washing Nationals

When it comes to the bigger pro sports leagues in North America, there are still unfortunately very few openly queer athletes.

MLB specifically has had former player, Billy Bean (not the A’s GM) Ambassador for Inclusion since 2004, and the league has been embracing Pride Nights for the past few years.

As the Ambassador for Inclusion, Bean’s role has been to provide training and leadership to the LGBT community, specifically in relation to baseball.

Pro sports have a very far reach with many populations, communities and individuals.

The more there is acceptance and inclusiveness in areas especially like pro sports, the hope is that there will be a larger and wider acceptance and inclusiveness on a bigger scale.

The Wider Scope Importance of Pride for LGTBQ+ Individuals in Relation to Personal Wellness

Pride Month is a time where LGBTQ+ folks can be recognized and celebrated for the diverse individuals and communities they are. 

But also as Sean Doolittle mentioned, recognition also provides more safe opportunities for expression and to have open discussions around how each one of us, queer identified or otherwise, understands difference, diversity and also inherent and ongoing challenges.

“Homophobia as a form of oppression is traumatizing and Pride is an essential way of counteracting the negative effects of hatred and oppression that have historically been present.”

Jason Winkler, Registered Psychotherapist in Toronto

From a mental health perspective, as a relational psychotherapist and as someone fortunate to have grown up with many queer identified people in my life, I have a relative understanding from my place of allied privilege how crucial it is to know that LGBTQ+ individuals have specific and diverse experiences and challenges, and that who they are can be greatly influenced by their families, the culture and the society in which they grew up. 

And to also acknowledge the greater importance for those in the community to have safe, inclusive and meaningful connections and spaces to be able to explore similarities and differences in order to have a good sense of self.

“None of those things can happen when one has to hide, to compartmentalize, to walk around feeling hated, rejected, shamed.”

Jason Winkler

Speaking of which…

Difficulties as a Result of Those Not Understanding the Importance of Pride (Or What is it with People Who Try to Equate It with ‘Straight Pride’?)

I’ll refer to author James Fell here who posted this on Facebook and Twitter, and a response from Twitter user, Alison Brandon:

Things to Keep in Mind as Queer Allies

Lastly, for those of us who identify as queer allies, it would be valuable for us all to keep in mind:

  • First and foremost, “Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.” – GLAAD
  • Don’t automatically assume that all friends, co-workers and family members are straight.
  • Challenge personal biases and lack of understanding, even though it can be extremely uncomfortable to do.  Resist the assumptions that being an ally means that there is a full understanding of another individual’s experiences.

For more on understanding how to be a better queer ally, check out this article from the Washing Post: Call yourself an LGBT ally? Here’s how to actually be one.

How will you be celebrating Pride?

What are the Mental Health Benefits of Being a Sports Fan?

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

It’s May 2019 and a remarkable thing has happened in our fair city of Toronto, the province of Ontario and our great country of Canada in general:

The Toronto Raptors are going to the NBA championships!!

Full disclosure: I’m fully a “band-wagoner” fan when it comes to basketball and the Raptors. Sure, I was around and excited when Toronto got our very own basketball team 24 years ago. Even went to some games back then, but my sports beating heart undoubtedly belongs to baseball and our embattled Toronto Blue Jays.

That said though, I am fortunate to live downtown and experienced the pure joy and excitement of the Raptors winning over the Milwaukee Bucks to advance to the championships.

It reminded me of the time that the Toronto Blue Jays won back to back championships in the 90’s and my parents and I made our way downtown at the time to walk down Yonge Street. We cheered and gave everyone we passed by high fives along the way. It was an incredible feeling to be a part of this city- and nation-wide celebration.

I was in my teens then and I was a baseball fan before the Jays won the championships. But that experience of belonging and happiness of celebrating along with everyone cemented my commitment to being a Jays fan, it seems, for life!

Being a fan Jays fan has helped me feel like a part of a community of baseball lovers and also, specifically those who love the Toronto Blue Jays.

It’s allowed me to have the ability to make instant connections with others, gives me a break from working when I might take a few minutes to see what’s going on in the baseball world and also the ‘inside baseball’ stuff that’s helped me conceptualize what it takes to being not only a professional athlete, but how the business of baseball appears to be run.

So with the Raptors stirring up the pride and loyalties of many of us here in Toronto, I thought it would be fun to discuss how it can be helpful for mental health to be a dedicated sports fan.

As we know, participating in playing sports can be supportive of mental health and overall wellness… 

But How About the Benefits of Being a Sports Fan?

Being a sports fan can be good for social, emotional and psychological health, even though there can also be a stereotype that sports fans can overindulge in beer, fast food items and snacks. 

While this stereotype can be true of some fans, there are also other fans who are also actively involved in physical and social activities because of their dedication to sports, playing and following as fans.

Four Benefits of Being a Sports Fan

1 – Studies have shown that fans who actively support a local team tend to be socially engaged and have higher self-esteem.  There is a built-in connection with others locally.

2 – Other studies have shown that being an avid sports fan can improve language skills, since fans often have conversations and discussions about sports — whether expressing opinions or translating what they witnessed into their own words.  It’s a much more detailed and conversational discussion than talking about the weather.

3 – A team’s wins and losses can affect energy, mood and hormone levels, such as dopamine and testosterone. 

4 – As we talked about habits in a previous post, sports teaches us that success comes as a result of continued and dedicated repetitions.

Within sports are inherent lessons about the ups and downs, fairness, playing by the rules, the human stories of disasters and triumphs, that’s also true of each of our life experiences, too.

It’s About Balance – Three Warnings of Being Too Invested as a Fan

But like anything else, it’s possible for anyone to be too invested in any sports or sports teams to the point that individuals may be using them as too much of a distraction or have negative impacts in other areas of their lives.

1 – Be aware that it has been reported that sports fans can get so emotionally involved in intense competitive situations which can then trigger cardiac issues, like a heart attack and also have an impact on mood.

2 – There can also be issues of being so involved as a fan, that an excessive amount of time can be spent on following sports to the detriment of relationships, and personal and professional responsibilities.

3 – Overindulgence in alcohol and less healthy foods, which can lead to less than ideal overall health, which will also impact mental health and mood.

Sports, at its best, are a reflection of life but with specific constraints, rules and stats, so that it’s often a relatable escape. As always, the key is to find the right balance.

In my case, as I’m just jumping in right now as the Raptors are about to enter into their first championship in franchise history, I’ll be throwing on my new Raps gear and cheering them on with the rest of super fans here in Toronto. Go Raps!!

How to Develop Better Habits for Change and Self Improvement

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

What’s the Secret to Making Changes?

Identifying areas for improvement and understanding the need to make a change is one thing, but how to go about making changes is a totally different thing altogether.

Developing Better Habits

Building better habits is the equivalent of the law of compound interest of self improvement.

Habits are the foundation for changes, whether it is for self care, better productivity or overall consistent and ongoing improvements.

Many of us are more often focused on goals and outcomes, with less emphasis given to the need for developing better habits and the continued ongoing process of engaging in helpful habits.

In my work, I often discuss the importance of process and the time it takes to make changes, but today’s discussion will be focused around the work of James Clear and his book, Atomic Habits, in which he has established more clearly defined systems around developing better habits.

Connecting Identity to Our Desirable Habits and Outcomes

It is difficult to connect the promise of a future outcome to motivation, as we can be more tempted by short-term satisfaction over longer-term promises. 

However, it is more meaningful when we can clearly connect our identity to our actions.

Your identity shapes your habits and your habits shapes your identity. Every habit is like a vote for the type of person you want to be.

For instance, ultimately the goal is to become a runner, not to run a 5k.

Making changes doesn’t come easily or quickly.  The key is to think about change as a process, rather than an immediate change.

Relishing Long Term Benefits

Humans are not naturally wired to prioritize long term benefits over immediate rewards therefore it’s more difficult to favour sustained work over immediate gratification.

And when we are striving for improvement, goals are necessary, they are not sufficient. The key is in the in process.

For that reason, the path to developing better habits looks more like this:
Identity => Process => Outcome

Four Laws of Behaviour Change

Adopting a desirable habit:
• Make it obvious – cue
• Make it attractive – craving
• Make it easy – response
• Make it satisfying – reward

Breaking an undesirable habit:
• Make it invisible
• Make it unattractive
• Make it difficult
• Make it unsatisfying

According to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, he believes that there are two fundamental habits to develop: Exercise and reading.

Exercise because taking care of the physical self, can also be contributing factor to managing emotional health as well. And reading because it can help to be resourceful in solving any problems.

I would definitely agree with James Clear, but I would also add that developing a habit to also support mental well being is also important. Whether it’s setting aside time to make a habit of journaling, meditating, or engaging in talk therapy, I look at it as one of the foundational habits to help support the other helpful habits to build upon.

What is Self Care and Why is the Right Kind of Self Care So Important?

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

For some people, the idea of self care can seem self-indulgent or selfish. There is a significant difference between being self-absorbed or narcissistic versus considered and thoughtful self-care.

Self-care is about taking good care of ourselves and our overall well-being.

That way, we are able to minimize mental and physical health issues and not cause problems at home or work or in our relationships.

Which in the long run, is also about ensuring that we can be at our best for others.

Author Audre Lorde has said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”

What is Self Care?

Over the past few years, there’s a wider acceptance that it’s not possible to do things very well, if you don’t take care of yourself first.

And it shouldn’t necessarily be considered to be a reward, rather, part of an overall balanced lifestyle.

There is a difference between avoidance and impulsive self soothing versus considered and strategic self-care.

And the difference can most often be made between a short term relief versus actions that contributes toward long term well-being.
The key here is that it’s ultimately about balance.

Why Self Care is Important.

As human beings, we have a finite amount of energy at any given time.

Self care, then, is about fuelling ourselves.

Because it’s one thing to practice self-care, but it’s also important to put that energy out into the world.

Taking time to eat nutritiously, moving regularly, and spending time with friends and loved ones can feel like “wasting time” or being unproductive. 

In fact, studies have shown that taking breaks correlates to being more productive by getting refocused and being more energized.

Additionally, self care can:

• Help to manage stress more effectively.
• Reduce the possibility of burnout.
• Help to recharge and re-engage.

Self Care Can Look Like Different Things for Different People 

Sure, vacations and nice nights out can be thought of as self-care, but not everyone has access to be able to do those things. 

Nor, is it possible to do for everyone all the time. 

It can be very basic: 30 minutes playing an online game, video game, or playing a musical instrument.  Or reading, cooking, creative writing or journalling.

The key is to finding right type of self-care that works for you.

Think About Self Care as Part of a Routine

When establishing a self care routine, it’s best if it’s:
• Simple
• Something that’s do-able on a daily basis

Essential Ways of Practicing Self Care

Finding balance is key and practicing self care might mean that there are a number of things that are a part of your specific routine.

They might include:

Nutrition, movement & sleep.
These are three essential areas that can get compromised especially when things are so full and busy, but without these fundamental building blocks, we can find ourselves unbalanced in our overall well-being.

Carving out dedicated time for personal self-care.
This is something that’s going to unique for everyone. Again, think about something for you that’s simple and repeatable on a daily basis.

For some people it might be a daily walk with a loved one, while for others, it can be sports or working out, or for others, it can be a daily meditation practice. It might also be a combination of things.

The important thing here is that everyone find something that’s do-able on a regular basis.

Engage in meaningful relationships. There are some experts that are calling loneliness a public health crisis. Feeling isolated and alone can increase the risk of overall health issues including more rapid cognitive decline to cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Practicing self care doesn’t necessarily mean doing things or having to be alone.

What is the Mind Body Connection?

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Why the Mind Body Connection is Important to Understand for Better Mental Health

As a helping professional, those of us who work using a holistic approach, believe that overall health means having health and that there is a connection in all the area of our lives, including the mental and the physical.

This is often referred to as Mind Body Connection.

And while I work from the basis of this belief, I do want to be sure to clarify that I am not a somatic or body-based trained practitioner, but I will be providing some suggestions to gain more body awareness and therapies.

Mental Health is Not Just Noticeable By Differences in Mood and Behaviours

We often think about our emotions and mental health specifically in relation to mood or behaviours, but based on the Mind Body Connection philosophy, it can be valuable to also consider the impact our emotions can have on our physical selves as well.

Some people might think of the idea of the Mind Body Connection as ‘woo-woo’, but the National Institute of Health a government agency in the US, publicly acknowledges that overall health has a connection with physical and emotional well-being and uses the term “mind body connection” in their literature

In the US, it has been reported that over 75% of primary care visits were considered to be stress-related.

There may be people who don’t realize that they are having emotional difficulties until its noticeable in the physical body. Even then, they may not realize that it is emotionally connected.

Many people who consult their family doctor for a physical concern, such as issues with sleep, lack of energy, higher blood pressure, heart palpitations and so on, may find that many of those issues can also be connected to an emotionally-related concern, as well.

Chicken or the Egg?

There is so much inter-connection between emotional and physical health, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which came first: the mental distress or the physical ones?

Not exercising regularly, nor eating nutritionally, or practicing self-care may mean that there could be other less desirable behaviours like using alcohol, tobacco or other substances for self-soothing.  These can lead to poor emotional health. 

But then, feelings of anxiety and stress can make it difficult to practice consistent overall self-care.  It’s important to consider the on-going need to balance both the necessity for care of physical and mental health.

Compromised emotional health can lead to a weakened immune system, which can leave you more susceptible to colds, flus and infections.

Many people may not realize that their physical symptoms may also be a sign of emotional distress. 
They can include, but not limited to:
• Chest tightness or pain
• High blood pressure
• Shoulder, neck and back pain
• Headaches
• Heart palpitations
• Decreased energy levels and tiredness
•Upset stomach

Importance of Deep Breathing Properly

Something I learned a few years ago that was a total light bulb moment for me was that many of us don’t know how to breathe properly or at the very least, don’t know how to really take deep breaths.

Here’s something that totally illustrates the mind body connection: When we continually take shortened or shallow breaths, it keeps signalling to the brain and nervous system that there’s something stressful happening.

The shortened breath is the body’s way of getting access to do something quickly, like running away.

But when we continually breathe in this shallow way, we can habitually feel stressed or in some kind of danger.

Deep breathing practices are important because it’s an immediate way to signal to the brain and body that it’s safe to relax, and often the mood and physical symptoms of hyperarousal will turn itself down.

Tips to understand the connection between emotional and physical health better

(Especially some of the symptoms above are present.)

  • Speak to your family doctor. Consider asking your doctor, “I don’t think my physical concerns are emotionally related, but is it possible that they may be?”
  • Consider starting a mindfulness, yoga practice or other physical practices like martial arts. These practices can help with developing body awareness.
  • Seek out Somatic Therapies. A combination of talk therapy and specific training in understanding physical responses to emotions such as Sensory Awareness, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Traumatic Release Exercises.
  • Check out meditation and deep breathing apps. Like Headspace, Calm, Breathe or apps for that would guide through deep breathing.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the Mind Body Connection today, but to truly think about what’s required for overall health, it’s necessary to be aware of the health-related connections between the mental and physical.

Understanding Anger as an Emotion and Learning to Manage it More Productively

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

*** As an additional note in relation to this post, the discussion is about understanding anger from the standpoint that every one of us as human beings experience anger. But if there are concerns about yourself in relation to anger or the anger of someone else in your life, please do seek help from an anger management or mental healthcare provider. ***

For many people anger is… Road rage or losing your temper at a drop of a hat, or yelling during conflict or maybe even violence.  But what exactly is anger anyway?

So the reality is this: We all get angry. Anger is often considered to be “bad” and most of us get the message from an early age that we shouldn’t feel angry.

We’re often told: “Don’t be angry” or that it’s unacceptable to feel or express anger.

While in actuality, anger is neither good nor bad, what you choose to do with the emotion of anger can make a huge difference in your life.

Anger is Often Misunderstood

The emotion itself isn’t either positive or negative.  It’s what can happen as a result of someone being angry that can have a negative impact.

On the other hand, if there is anger due to an injustice or some kind of wrongdoing, and actions are taken to improve things, it can be considered to have a positive impact.

Having a better understanding about anger and what might be the cause of it, can be the first step to addressing it more effectively and managing things better when you’re feeling anger.

All Emotions Have a Purpose

Emotions exists to help us survive, avoid danger and can motivate us to be more thoughtful or to make changes.

If all emotions have a purpose then, anger as an emotion is a signal that something is requiring our attention in some way. 

It usually doesn’t feel great to be angry. 

But feeling badly and maybe feeling out of control or doing something destructive or hurtful when there’s anger, is what makes anger as an emotion complicated and maybe also misunderstood.

Anger Itself is a Secondary Emotion 

Anger is usually felt as a defense from more vulnerable feelings like, sadness, disappointment, hurt or fear. 

It can be really challenging for many of us to allow ourselves to feel these vulnerable feelings.

Whereas feeling angry can feel less scary, than maybe feeling sad or fearful.

It’s the defensiveness interconnected to anger that can manifest in undesirable or regrettable ways.

Tips on What to Do When You’re Angry:

Take a Break

Take a time-out and even better, go and get some exercise or go for a walk.

If you’re noticing that your heart is racing and your mind feels “sped up”, these are cues that taking a break, taking some deep breaths and letting out some physical energy could be helpful to be able to think things through more clearly.

Don’t Suppress Your Feelings of Anger

BUT be aware that anger does not need to be expressed through overly physical or verbally aggressive means.

Trying to ignore it or compartmentalizing feelings of anger can lead to passive aggressiveness, depression, anxiety and lowered self esteem.

Try to understand the underlying reason for your anger.

Remember, anger is a secondary emotion and there are other feeling or feelings that you’re protecting. 

As discussed above, take a break, some deep breaths and try to think or journal it out. 

If you find that you’re stuck with the same thoughts and feelings, it can be helpful to talk it out with someone your trust who can help navigate you through it.

Know When to Seek Help

Everyone experiences losing their temper at different times. 

But if it’s a regular occurrence of if your anger feels out of control, and you’re getting feedback from others that there may be a problem, seeking an anger management program or psychotherapy can be part of the solution.

Dealing with Anger is a Part of Life 

Just because you might have learned unhealthy ways of dealing with your feelings of anger up to this point, doesn’t preclude the possibility of learning new strategies.

Resources to Learn More About and Understanding Anger Better

Books about emotional intelligence like The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F*ck by Mark Manson can be helpful as it discusses the importance of seeing things from a different perspective.

For men, there’s a book I highly recommend called I Don’t Want to Talk About It by therapist Terry Real.

For women, Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Anger is a helpful resource.

What are the 5 Love Languages? And How Can It Help You and Your Relationships?

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages is a relationship model and concept conceived by Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a couples therapist in the US.

After working for many years with couples in counselling, he identified that there was a pattern in the ways couples described dissatisfaction in their relationships. 

He came up with the concept that there are different ways that individuals express love and they can sometimes not align (or be speaking the same “Love Language”).

Before getting into the Love Languages, here’s ONE BIG IDEA to understand when it comes to relationships:

"No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love."

Your idea of love is not necessarily your partner or loved one’s idea of love.

No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love. 

Another way of putting it is, how we show love is also usually how we expect to receive love.

Understanding this one idea can make a big difference in the quality of a relationship.

There are Different Love Languages?

Right now, if you and I were trying to communicate in two different languages, we may get by being able to understand the simple things.

But eventually, there are going to be limits to the clarity and depth of trying to understand each other more fully. This may lead to only having a vague understanding to getting frustrated.

The same idea applies to being in a relationship where you and your loved one might have a very different way of expressing love, affection, and appreciation.

Especially in a romantic connection, the first few months to two years, the chemistry or the initial “in love” feelings might either mean that you don’t see or ignore things that you might have thought were quirks, which ends up becoming irritations or frustrations later in the relationship.

It’s at this point or even from the beginning, that understanding how you and your partner receive and express love can be helpful for the continued growth and lasting ability of the relationship.

What are the Five Love Languages?

A reminder that many of us are a combination of the five love languages, which again, is a demonstration of how unique and individual we can each be.

This post is meant to be a summary of the concept behind the Love Languages.

If you have been feeling that there are gaps in your relationships (romantic or other loved ones), it’s possible that by integrating these concepts into your understanding of relationships can be valuable.

1) Words of Affirmation – Verbal compliments and meaningful, kind words, while negative or critical feedback can potentially be especially painful.

2) Acts of Service – Express caring through actions, such as planning time or an outing, doing chores or taking responsibility to do things for the relationship is seen as meaningful. In other words, doing thing you know that your partner would find meaningful. Unfollowed through commitments and lack of action may have negative impacts.

3) Receiving Gifts – It’s not so much about big, lavish gifts (although those who like receiving gifts, may in fact, also likes these kinds of gifts). But it’s more the thought and effort that’s appreciated. Little surprises or a personal handwritten note can hold deep meaning. Forgotten special occasions or gifts lacking meaning may feel difficult for those whose love language is Receiving Gifts.

4) Quality Time – What’s most meaningful for these individuals is to have the full, undivided and one-on-one attention of their partner. No cell phone and any other distractions. Cancelling, not paying attention or being distracted may be perceived as uncaring. In a nutshell, these those who crave quality time are looking to experience time together without distractions.

5) Physical Touch – Holding hands, hugs and cuddling goes a long way. And while sexual intimacy is also important, it’s generally not just about sex.

In fact, when it comes to physical touch as a love language it can be helpful to ask, “Does non-sexual touches make you feel love?”

I do want to mention an important caveat here, which is true for all the love languages, but especially for Physical Touch, if there is any trauma that an individual has experienced, there may be some challenges for someone to be able to be able to “speak your love language”.

This is where more ongoing discussions with your partner or work with a couples therapist can help to navigate having both safety and individual needs met.

What’s Your Love Language?

"Childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults."

Often childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults.

It can also be helpful to think about how you like to prefer to express care for those you love and care for.

And because the internet has pretty much everything, Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages website has free tests you can take to get a better idea of your love language.

What’s Your Loved One’s Love Language?

Just as it’s valuable to know your own love language, for a more fulfilling relationship, find out your loved one’s love language.

While you can be attentive and be curious about your partner or loved one’s love language by noticing how they appear to express love, it can be much more direct to start an ongoing discussion about your individual love languages.

You can start by asking, “What can I do that feels loving to you?”

While we’re mostly discussing romantic partners here, love languages can be applied to family members and friends, too.

It can be especially powerful to have an understanding of your child’s love language.

Fill Up the “Love Tank”

Gary Chapman, who originated the idea of Five Love Languages, also offers the concept of the “Love Tank.”

When I work with clients, I have sometimes used the idea of making deposits into a relationship “savings account,” of sorts.

The “Love Tank” is a similar idea where you and your loved one can use it as a way of communicating about your love language and needs. For instance, if the two of you are on board with the idea, you can ask each other something like, “What can I do to help fill your love tank right now?”

Or if you’re looking to see how you can start improving a specific relationship, you can conceptualize the other person’s Love Tank and genuinely work toward speaking their language.

More Knowledge, More Self Awareness, More Personal Resilience

Just like the other personality models we’ve been discussing, understanding your love language is just a little more information that can provide you with details and insights about bettering all areas of your life.

While you and your loved one’s languages might differ, working together to improve your relationship through understanding each other’s needs can move toward a stronger and deeper relationship.