Monday, February 28, 2011

A Simple & Delicious Treat {Recipe Included}

If you've been reading my blog for very long, you may have picked up a few things about me:
1. I LOVE to travel (see here and here)
2. I dislike cooking (but love making this and this)
3. I can tolerate cooking if it's in some way connected to my travel :)

So, knowing that, a week ago I set out to cook another favorite from my visits to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic: Plantains! They are delicious, can be a side to a meal (served with salt or ketchup on top), or as a dessert with cinnamon cooked on top.

Why plantains? According to, plantains are "very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Potassium" (see here for other nutritional data). Plantains always need to be cooked-they cannot be consumed like a banana. I'll go step by step through the cooking process with pictures. Side note: There are many ways to cook plantains and many things to do with them-this is simply one way. They can also be mashed and made into little patties-this is also delicious.
Ok, so here we go:

1. Here is a plantain. They can be cooked when they are green, yellow, or brown. The more ripe, the sweeter they are. They need to be cooked differently, so look up directions! 

2. Peel the plantain. This isn't as easy as a banana. It may be easier to cut both ends off the plantain to start the peeling process. 

3. Cut the plantain into small pieces using diagonal cuts. DO NOT cut straight across. Don't make the slices too thick.

4. Warm up a pan (medium or medium-high temp, and cover base of pan with a thin coat of oil.

5. Put plantain slices into the frying pan and let it cook. Once it's browned, flip over and let the other side cook.

6. Voila! There you are! If you want cinnamon or salt, you can put on immediately following removal from the pan. If you want to put another dressing on top, go for it. It's delicious!!!
I'm wondering how this would turn out if it was cooked in coconut oil instead of extra virgin olive oil.

Did you watch the Academy Awards last night? What was your favorite look/movie? 

If you'd like to watch a video on this process, here are a few links:
colombian patacones, fry 6-8 min
ecuador patacones
ecuador mashed plantains filled with cheese (empanadas)
Venezuelan patacones with cheese
 green baked

ripe for plantain fritters

Saturday, February 26, 2011

10 Ways to Develop a Positive Body Image

The end of National Eating Disorder Awareness week is here, but that doesn't mean the conversations on body image should end! In my last post, I discussed some myths and misconceptions of eating disorders, and gave some general information. This is a good place to start. However, moving past this basic knowledge is crucial to changing (and hopefully decreasing) the rates of eating disorders and body image issues.

How many of you, when you were young, heard a parent, sibling, relative, or friend constantly tearing themselves down, commenting on their body imagine (negatively), or engaging in fat talk? As children, we develop patterns of thinking, speaking, and behaving by observing those around us. Because of this, adults have a great responsibility to model healthy behaviors for the next generation.
Although we cannot reduce the causes of eating disorders to self esteem and body image issues alone, these things certainly play a very strong part in the development and maintenance of eating disorders.

Here are 10 ways to Develop a Positive Body image and Increase Self-Esteem:

1.     Avoid labeling food as “good” or “bad”. When you do consume a food you’ve labeled as “bad”, this tends to feelings of being fat, or feelings of guilt. Yes, there are foods that are healthy, and yes, there are “junk foods”. However, the idea of “everything in moderation” tends to work a little better and produce less guilt.
2.     Understand how the media discusses & portrays body image. Comparing to those in the media is unrealistic, because the people themselves do not look like that in reality (or how they are appearing is incredibly unhealthy). Discuss with young child.
3.     Avoid “fat talk”. Instead of focusing on what’s negative about your body, focus on the positives, and what your body (or body parts) allows you to do.
4.     Move every day! It may be really tempting to spend your entire evening or weekend sitting in front of the TV, but this obviously leads to a sedentary lifestyle. Get up and move! This will help you both physically and emotionally.
5.     Remember that skinny is NOT healthy. HEALTHY is healthy! Obviously, there is a correlation with size and health (i.e. obesity is never healthy for an individual), but just because someone is small does not mean they are healthy.
6.     Stand in front of the mirror every day and give yourself 3-5 compliments
7.     Practice reading affirmations on a daily basis to focus on what’s positive instead of degrading yourself daily
8.     Start talking to children when they are very young about a healthy lifestyle., and model what it looks like to live in a healthy manner.
9.     Develop emotional awareness: help yourself or a young child to identify emotions and deal with them (and cope) in a healthy manner. (for example-deal with sadness or frustration in a healthy way, and not turn to food to “make it better”)
10. Identify & Challenge any Cognitive Distortions you might have

So, there are 10 things you can do to increase your own body image & self-esteem, and be a good role model to those younger then you. I'd like to know What do you do to increase your self-esteem or body image? What do you do to decrease your positive body image?

Friday, February 25, 2011

An Intro to Eating Disorders {Including Myths}

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, so I would be remiss in not mention this in my blog. So, I'm planning on doing a few posts on various aspects of Eating Disorders....
Eating Disorders, like many illnesses, are often misunderstood. It is through education that we develop understanding, support, empathy, and ways to best help those around us.
Some basic information:

In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death  
battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge  
eating disorder (Crowther et al., 1992; Fairburn et al., 1993; Gordon, 1990; Hoek, 1995; Shisslak et al.,  

Unfortunately, these numbers are on the rise, and touch millions of people every year (either people with the disorder or close family and friends). Clearly, this is a HUGE and growing issue. 

I often see a lot of Myths and Misconceptions about Eating Disorders. This can create stress, misunderstanding, arguments, and more pain for the person with the eating disorder. Understanding is KEY!

Types of Eating Disorders
1. Anorexia Nervosa: This is the restriction of food (self-starvation) in order to lose weight. This can be incredibly serious and life threatening
2. Bulimia Nervosa: Characterized by a cycle of bingeing and a compensatory purging time. This can be life threatening as well.  
3. Binge Eating Disorder: This is similar to bulimia in that there are frequent times of bingeing, but unlike bulimia, there isn't purging. Binge eating involves eating many more calories then is normal or healthy. 

Myths and Misconceptions (see this link for a whole listing of myths)
1. Eating Disorders are a Female Problem only: Clearly, looking at the statistics above, one can see that this isn't a female problem alone. The number of males struggling with eating disorders is on the rise. 
2. Eating Disorders are Uncommon: Again, looking at the statistics, you can see how prevalent EDs really are. 
3. Eating Disorders are about Appearance and Beauty: "Eating disorders are usually related to emotional issues such as control and low self-esteem and often exist as part of a “dual” diagnosis of major depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder."
4. Purging only Means Throwing Up: Although throwing up is one means of purging, it is not the only way to compensate for the intake of calories. Other means include laxatives, food restriction, enemas, and excessive exercise. After a person has a high food intake, they may purge through any of these means to try to decrease the high number of calories consumed. So, be aware that throwing up is only one thing to look for!
5. Eating Disorders Are An Attempt To Get Attention: There are a number of factors that can cause eating disorders, and is not as simple as "they just want attention."The behaviors that you see are a struggle of deeper mental and psychological problems. 

This just skims the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to information about Eating Disorders. What's important is that we each become educated on these disorders, understand the myths and misconceptions, and understand what each of us can do to help. 

Here are a few helpful links:
National Eating Disorders Association
National Institute of Mental Health-Eating Disorders
Mayo Clinic- Eating Disorders
Voice In Recovery-Blog

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Experience of Suffering and Loss

The topics of loss and suffering have always intrigued me. We can't get out of this world without experiencing some sort of suffering or loss. Some experience it much more frequently, and to a more intense level. However, we all experience it. As a counselor, I encounter grief and suffering frequently. And one common frustration I hear, and have experienced myself, is the advice received from others. Every person experiences grief, and has therefore found things that are helpful and hurtful in the grieving process. And so, when we see others around us hurting, we want to share our advice with them. This can overwhelm a grieving person, especially if they aren't ready. Instead of dumping information, perhaps ask if they would like to know what helped you, or if they would prefer that you just sit next to them.

Also, understand that we each come into the grieving or suffering experience with different personalities, needs, and histories. That's why some things work well, while other things don't help the grieving process. Sometimes, when we keep trying the advice of others, and it doesn't work, we feel frustrated. Maybe we aren't ready, but maybe it's just that it doesn't work with our personality. Just a thought...

Instead of trying to fix others or their pain, can we be there, in community, for others, and experience loss and brokenness together? Can we not dump information on them, but cry with them, support them, and give advice when asked?

One of my personal favorite books in regards to the experience of suffering is A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser. In one moment, he lost his mom, wife, and a daughter in a car accident (they were hit by a drunk driver). Here's a quote on suffering and loss:

"Though suffering itself is universal, each experience of suffering is unique because each person who goes through it is unique. Who the self was before the loss, what the self feels in the loss, and how the self responds to the loss makes each person's experience different from all others. That is why suffering loss is a solitary experience. That is also why each of us must ultimately face it alone. No one can deliver us, substitute for us, or mitigate the pain in us. But loss does not have to isolate us or make us feel lonely. Though it is a solitary experience we must face alone, loss is also a common experience that can lead us to suffering. " (p. 171).

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Latest Comfort Food {recipe included}

Until a week and a half ago, I had never eaten kale, and would have politely passed it on if it had been offered to me. Something about the name and the looks just sounded disgusting to me. However, after reading about Kale being a super food in the February Real Simple Magazine, and seeing numerous people talking about it on twitter, I decided to check it out for myself. I have to be honest-even buying it I felt nervous as I knew I'd actually have to try some of it. So, with trepidation, I set out to make some kale chips. 

Take the kale and cut the leafy part away from the thick stalk:

Then tear the leafy parts into smaller, chip sized pieces. Wash and dry.

Spread on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, and cook on 350 degrees for 10 minutes. VIOLA!

Don't worry, they become crunchy, and they are absolutely delicious! I could eat them all day! Seriously, in the course of 8 days I ate a huge clump (4 baking sheets worth) of them all by myself! Oddly enough, even though I had lots of Valentine's Day candy sitting around, I chose instead to eat these... something MUST be wrong with me!  Simple, delicious, and healthy-my idea of the perfect recipe! 

What's one of your favorite comfort foods? Are there any other ways you've used kale in recipes? 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Learning to Fail Better...

" 'Failing Better' boils down to controlling our emotions, adjusting our thinking, and re-calibrating our beliefs."
-Psychology Today, 2009

I've gotten a lot of great feedback (both in comments section of the blog and on twitter) on my post on Success and Failure. Ironically, tonight I was going through old magazines that have stacked up in my room, and I found an article from the June 2009 Psychology Today magazine entitled "Weathering the Storm." After skimming the article, I was again reminded of something crucial in regards to failure:
It gives us the opportunity to stop, reevaluate, and try again.

Oftentimes, when we fail, we want to give up, or we half-heartedly try again. However, we so easily forget that when we fail, this can be a time of great learning and growth. We forget that we can come out of these times better, stronger, wiser, and healthier people if we deal with these times in a healthy manner, and if we intentionally try to learn from them! This is how resiliency can start to develop-We fall, and we learn how to stand up once again. I know that I'm often incredibly tempted to give up when things don't work out, and I'm so glad that I haven't defined myself as a failure and given up through those times. I definitely wouldn't have gotten my master's or finished my thesis, two of the things I'm most proud of in my life, if I had given up the first or the second time things didn't work right.

We can't prevent ourselves from "failing"-we are imperfect people who will constantly make mistakes, but we can choose what to do once it has happened.

So here are a few things that the article suggested for "failing better" in life:

1. Lighten Up- Sometimes we just take ourselves too seriously, and we need to develop a sense of humor. Humor allows us to gain a different perspective on the situation, and laughter decreases the heightened levels of stress.
2. Join the Club- Find others who are in your situation, and vent-eventually you will vent yourself out and start coming up with solutions. (A side note: venting can be healthy, but ruminating to the point of just staying stuck is not. Vent, and start looking for the "now what")
3. Feel Guilt, Not Shame- guilt is "something I did", while shame is "something I am"). You may have messed something up, but you are not the mess up or the failure
4. Cultivate Optimism- thinking flexibly and learning to increase your options. Sometimes we stay so stuck on only one option, that we forget to look at alternatives. This generates pessimism instead of optimism. Remember, fight against the cognitive distortions that come so easily and naturally.
5. Ask Not What The World Can Do For You... What can you give back to the world? Sometimes failure gives us to opportunity to be free to give in ways that we couldn't otherwise.
6. Scale Down Your Expectations For Yourself- Are you holding yourself up to unreasonable, perfectionist standards? Set realistic expectations for yourself. It's fine to dream and to push yourself, but if you set unrealistic expectations, you will have no option but to fail. It's a losing game.
7. Harness the Bridget Jones Effect-JOURNAL! It not only gets stuff from inside your head out, but it allows you to view it in a different perspective. This also allows for more discovery, and a reevaluation of things in life.
8. Don't Blame Yourself- If you attribute all your "failures" to being something fundamentally wrong with you, your mood will decrease dramatically, and you will continue to fail again. There is no optimism is constant self-blame.
9. Act! "Failure is an opportunity to change course. Seize it!"

What have you accomplished in life that you wouldn't have achieved had you given up after the first attempt? 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Steps to Wellness in My Life

Remember my post yesterday on running? Well, because it went so well, I decided to take advantage of the great weather again and go running/walking this morning. Unfortunately, I don't nearly have as positive of a report to give. I felt like I had 20 pound weights strapped to both legs, and every step I took was a struggle. I ended up running almost a mile of the two miles that I went... and walked the rest. I wish running was easy and enjoyable for me!

I also really dislike cooking. However, I know that in order to increase wellness in all areas of my life, nutrition is also important. I've been craving some of the food I ate in Ecuador (recaps here and here), so I decided that this weekend was going to include a lot of cooking.

 Kale Chips! Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. I can hardly control myself when they come out of the oven!!

 Dinner Friday night: Black beans, Corn, Spinach, Rice, and Red Cayenne Pepper in a tortilla. Delicious:)

 For dessert I cooked a plantain! This is the first time I've ever made them on my own, and they turned out really well!

 Breakfast Saturday Morning: Old fashioned Oats for Oatmeal, with Cherries, Blueberries, and a little Brown Sugar mixed into it!

Lunch on Saturday: Scrambled Eggs with Chicken, Red Peppers, Cheese, and Tomatoes mixed into it. I reheated the rest of my plantains from last night and put ketchup on them. 

So, there you go- A look into how I eat. Although I've always eaten fairly healthy, as I started to focus on overall wellness 2 years ago, I've been trying to change how I eat too. I'll post the recipes for plantains and the kale chips in the coming days! (thanks to Sarah at The Strength of Faith for inspiring me to start taking food pictures outdoors)

What're your favorite foods to make on the weekends? Anything fun planned for the day?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thoughts of a {Running} Beginner...

I went to bed in a bad mood last night, hoping that I'd wake up feeling happier in the morning. This morning, I was awakened early by the annoying sound of my phone ringing. Although I tried to go back to sleep, I couldn't. I got out of bed in a bad mood. After drinking some juice and eating a Larabar, I decided to catch up on some blogs, and then go out on a run/walk. I don't know if I've ever talked about my love of walking/major dislike of running or not. But, the jest of it is this: I love moving, making healthy choices, and getting outside. Of course the endorphins aren't bad either. However, I feel like I don't have a body built for runs. My joints ache with the pounding of my feet on the sidewalk, and I feel like i can't get enough oxygen. I can really briskly walk 7.5 miles much easier then I can run .5 of a mile. Well, back in December I decided it was time to try and run (at this point I was walking 18-25 miles a week, so I was incredibly active). I ran for .75 mi and my vision started going and was on my way to passing out. So, after some quick consultation on twitter (thanks guys!), I decided to do a walk/run program and mix in a few minutes of running with a few minutes of walking quickly, and go back and forth.

Ok, that being said, I decided to do that today. I ran/briskly walked 3 miles in 35 minutes, and felt wonderful. I probably ran about 1-1.25 miles of the 3 miles, in 3 different chunks. When I want to quit, I keep repeating "I'm making healthy and positive choices in my life...I'm making healthy and positive choices in my life" and this keeps me moving forward. So, by the time I got back from my run, I felt great, physically and emotionally, and was in a much better mood.

For all you runners: Any tips for sore joints/muscles, breathing/heart rate, or anything else related to running?

What types of exercise do you enjoy doing? Anything you can't stand? How do you motivate yourself when you want to give up in the middle of exercising? 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Success or Failure?

"I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed."
-Michael Jordan

I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.  
~Thomas Edison 

There is no failure except in no longer trying.  ~Elbert Hubbard

Failure doesn't mean you are a failure... it just means you haven't succeeded yet.  
~Robert Schuller

First of all, thank you to all my readers. My little blog has now passed 1,000 views, and half of these have come in the last 4 weeks:) Also, if you've been a reader for very long, you know my love of quotes. I think quotes are something that stick out to us, and can be remembered in moments where we won't remember other things. 

One thing that I struggle with as a counselor is helping people to change their definitions of success and failure. Remember the discussion on cognitive distortions and specifically black and white (all or nothing) thinking? I find that people are often very "all or nothing" when it comes to their definitions of success or failure. Either they have practiced or maintained something perfectly (i.e. work out 3 times in the last week, eat only one dessert a day, or even working on changing distortions) or they have failed. But when there is progress, when there is something that has been learned, that isn't failure. Failure occurs when we stop trying, not when we "messed up" once or twice. This thinking will not only hinder the progress that you are trying to make, but generally lead you to label yourself as a "failure". When we don't have accurate or rational views of success and failure, we will often be a failure much more then a success. 
What You Can Do:
1. Challenge your current thinking on success and failure. Is it all or nothing?
2. Re-write your definitions of success and failure
3. Take the label of a "failure" off yourself
4. Identify the progress you've made in a week and label yourself as successful! 

Question: When are you likely to label yourself a failure? What are you afraid to try because of the fear of failure? 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Recap & 3 Types of Stable Relationships

Remember a few days ago when I discussed how important it was to take care of and love yourself in order to effectively love another (see post here)? Well, before going further, I thought I'd give a little update on how I loved myself on Valentine's day. My valentine's day was definitely the most peculiar, as I spent the afternoon at a funeral. By the time, I was definitely in need of a little self love. I came home and spent a little time sending a couple emails to people close to me, and then headed off to yoga. I spent one hour in a dimmed studio with calming music, focusing on myself, my body, my movements, and my breaths. By the time that hour was over, I felt great. Then I spent the rest of the evening with a great friend, laughing and watching TV. And of course I had a little Skype date later in the evening. Overall, it was a good day, even if it was a much more abnormal. So, that's how I engaged in a little self-love:)

Yesterday I also posted a number of characteristics of love. Like I said, we all have areas of strength, and areas of improvement.
One book we had to read in grad school that I really appreciated was "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and How you Can Make Yours Last" By: John Gottman (1994). 

There are 3 types of stable marriages or relationships. It's good to know what you and your significant other fall under, to understand strengths and areas you need to watch out for...

-VALIDATING: These couples are excellent at communication. The display ease and calm, and can listen to and understand the other point of view and emotions. They go through 3 phases: Listen & air opinions, attempt to persuade each other, and negotiate a compromise. 
   ---Characteristics: Good friends who value “we-ness”, highly value communication and verbal openness, value displays of affection and being in love. 
   ---Risks: May become passionless, romance & selfhood are sacrificed for friendship & togetherness, forgo personal development, can become enmeshed

-VOLATILE: These couples bicker and are competitive, with high levels of engagement. They fight on a grand scale and have an even grander time making up. There are only 2 phases with this couple, because they skip the validation stage: Persuasion, resolving. 
   ---Characteristics: warm & loving, passion fuels positive interactions, masters at making up, see selves as equal, more likely to interrupt each other, he’s nurturing/she’s expressive. 
   ---Pitfalls: quarrelling can consume marriage, violence in extreme cases, use of humor can hurt the partner’s feelings, they censor very few thoughts. 

-AVOIDANT: make light of their differences rather than resolving them. They conspire to “dodge and hedge” and “agree to disagree.” Instead of resolving conflicts, they reaffirm what they love and value in the marriage, accentuate the positive, & accept the rest. 
  ---Characteristics: Usually very easy to get along with. 
   ---Risks: Don’t address conflict, negativity can overwhelm interactions, become lonely, they don’t really know each other. 

What'd you do for Valentine's Day? How did you love yourself?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Characteristics of Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
~1 Corinthians 13

Love endures whatever comes its Sounds like a really fabulous form of love, doesn't it? (look at love from a wellness perspective here). This is the perfect, most healthy, most pure form of love we can ever have, and ever give.
Can I be honest about something for a minute? I don't really give this sort of love to others. I may be stronger in some areas then in others, but, because I'm not perfect, I cannot love perfectly. However, it doesn't mean we are doomed! We can still grow and work on how we give love to ourselves and to others. Just as in other areas of wellness, love involves intentionally and actively working on it in order to be truly "healthy." 

Question: What parts of love are you good at giving? How can you work on developing some of the other parts of love? 

Valentine's Day Love

"Now these three remain: Faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love" 
-The Bible (1 Corinthians 13)

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
- Martin Luther King, Jr

"Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring."
-Oscar Wilde

Happy Valentine's Day! I have to be honest, i don't hate Valentine's day, but I don't love it either. I'm not a huge fan of the commercialization of it, but I like the idea of intentionally going to those around us, and expressing our love and thanks to them. Of course this should happen more then once a year, though! 

In yesterday's post, I talked about how we cannot truly love and serve another person without loving ourselves first. If we can't love ourself, we have nothing to give to another. Without loving ourself, we will burn out. Although it's difficult to take time for ourselves in the midst of a busy day, it must be intentionally done in order to stay healthy. 

Myers, Sweeney, and Witmer, in their Wheel of Wellness model (do you remember this post on wellness from a few months ago?), set "love" as one of the 5 life tasks. This is how they describe the Love aspect of Wellness: "Concern for the life and growth of that which is loved; having faith that one’s well-being will be respected; reciprocating by respecting the well-being of another (i.e. trust); ability to be intimate, trusting, self-disclosing with another person; ability to receive as well as express affection with a significant other; capacity to experience or convey non-possessive caring that respects the uniqueness of another; presence of enduring, stable intimate relationship(s); recognition that others have concern for one’s growth; physical satisfaction with sexual life/needs for touch are being met." 

My questions for You:
So, how do you think you are doing health wise in the aspect of Love? What do you need to do to increase your levels of wellness in this area? How do you plan on loving yourself today? How do you plan to show love to others around you?

I would also love to know What your plans for Valentine's day are!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Loving Myself, Loving Others

If you aren't good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you'll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren't even giving to yourself.
~Barbara De Angelis

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features
~Viktor Frankl

Well, tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and twitter, Facebook, the TV, and stores are abuzz with conversations of love. Some love the day, some hate the day, and some people just don't care. But, if we look past the day, there's still this little thing called love. Whether it's love for ourselves, our pets, job, friends, family, or significant other, we all need and desire love, and we also give love to others.

I often witness others (and have been guilty of this myself) giving so much of themselves (in the name of serving or loving others), that they have nothing left to give to themselves. Does this sound familiar to any of you? 
Here's the truth: There will ALWAYS be people who are in need, people that you can give to. If you don't set a boundary there will never be a point to your giving, because people will always take. Many of us were raised with the message that the most selfless thing we can do is to give unconditionally. I feel like I'm continuously fighting against this idea with my clients. 

Let me explain: I think that we all need to be serving others and giving to others. Being selfish is not healthy. But being a little selfish is. If we don't take care of ourselves, we won't be able to take care of others effectively. Let me say that again: If you don't take care of and love yourself, you will NOT be able to take care of others for very long. Sure, you will be able to for awhile. But fairly quickly, you will burn out. And, if you are at a point of burn out, you will have absolutely nothing to give to others. It's through being a little selfish (actually, healthy!) and loving ourselves FIRST, that we then have something to give to others. It is through loving ourselves that we can really love another person.

To Love ourselves we need to respect ourselves, and have good self-esteem and confidence. We need to be in healthy relationships, accepting love from others. We need to set healthy boundaries, decrease cognitive distortions, and increase overall health and wellness in our lives. This is an active and intentional process. 

So, my question to you is this: What do you love about yourself? How do you love (take care of) yourself? 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Challenging and Changing Cognitive Distortions

Here is my promised post on Challenging and Changing Cognitive Distortions & Irrational Beliefs. You can see my previous posts on Cognitive Distortions here and here.

One question that I get from many of my clients (and I asked myself this question many years ago when I first started addressing my own distortions) is the following: "Ok, so now I know that I'm thinking irrationally, but now what do I do? How do I start to think differently." I'm assuming you've asked this question yourself, which is why you're still reading! Changing thinking definitely takes time, just like learning how to sign your name. Remember those first few times you tried to write your name? It looked awkward, and maybe you missed some letters. But by practicing over and over again, you finally learned to print and then sign your name. It took time, right? If you had given up after a few times of it "not working", would you have ever gotten to the point you're at now? Absolutely not! The same goes with changing your thinking. So be patient!

Ok, so now a few suggestions:

1. Increase your awareness of the times you use various cognitive distortions. If you aren't aware, you can't make any changes.

2. Cut the words "always", "never", "everyone", "no one" out of your vocabulary. Horrible, terrible, intolerable, and similar words can go too. Obviously these words are occasionally more then appropriate. But in general, they are exaggerations and send us into the cognitive distortion snowball.

3. Stop the "yeah-but...". We all do this occasionally. We do well at something, or someone gives us a praise, and we say "yeah, but I just got lucky this time" or "yeah, but most of the time I fail miserably." Watch the yeah buts, because it discounts your accomplishments and the positive in your life.

4. Ask yourself the following questions: (these are from
  -What's the evidence for and against this thought?
  -What would I tell a friend with the same situation?
  -What's the worst that can realistically happen? How bad would that be?
  -Is it really true that I must, should, or have to...?
  -Am I over-generalizing from a past occurrence?
  -Are there other explanations besides blaming myself?
  -Is there ay conceivable way to look at this positively?
  -Is this situation really in my control?
  -What difference will this make next week, month, or year?
  -Is thinking this way in this situation making it worse or better?
  -What can I accept about this situation?

5. When you identify a cognitive distortion, change it to a rational belief. You will not always believe that the new rational belief is true, but say it anyways. The more you train your brain to think rationally, the easier it will be to get their more naturally!

6. Refute the belief. This sort of goes along with number 5, but tell yourself why the irrational belief isn't true! This is an example conversation you might have with yourself: "I can't stand this person. They are always nagging and being rude and I cannot stand being around them--change to: This person is challenging for me to be around. They sometimes nag and are rude, which can be frustrating. I may not enjoy being around them, but I can tolerate it or I can choose to walk away...".

Remember: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. If you don't practice over and over again, the beliefs won't change. Share the list of cognitive distortions with those close to you, and ask them to help you catch when you are using them in your conversation. If you can decrease the amount of cognitive distortions, you will increase overall health and happiness in life! If you have any other tips or steps to changing that you'd like to add, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tasty New Recipe (& healthy too)!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a cook. I once went through a loaf and a half of bread before I made a grilled cheese sandwich that wasn't ruined. I would love to be a great cook, but I'm not. When it comes to food, the more straight forward recipes are, the more likely I will to actually make it.
Because I was recently in Ecuador, I have been craving rice and beans quite a bit. Therefore, this "recipe" (I hesitant to even call this a recipe!) met my criteria for cooking.

First I lined up all the ingredients...
1. Sweet Corn
2. 1 can of Black Beans
3. Frozen spinach
4. Jasmine Rice (I used my rice cooker for the first time and it turned out really well) -i used about 4/5 cup of dry rice

After cooking all the ingredients, I threw them in a bowl together, and threw a little red cayenne pepper on top for extra health and flavor...and....Viola:
Ok, so these photos were taken on my phone, and I can guarantee that it tasted better then it looked. But, it was cheap, easy to make, and delicious. The above ingredients made enough for 4 decent sized portions of food, and the flavor got even better after the first meal!

I didn't have much free time tonight, so this is as much as you're going to get tonight. Information on Cognitive Distortions and how to change them will be coming soon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Identifying Cognitive Distortions, pt 2

In yesterday's post, I began to discuss Cognitive Distortions, and listed the first 5. This post includes the other 5 types of distortions.
Again, this information is from D. Burns, 1980,Feeling Good

6.     JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
a.     Mind Reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.
b.     The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
7.     EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: I feel it, therefore it must be true.
8.     SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
9.     LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “he’s a louse”. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
10.     PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible for. 

The Next Step:
Ok, so now you have the different cognitive distortions. However, if you read through this list and then go on in life, these irrational beliefs will continue to play out in your life. Why don't you take a little time and come up with examples of how you have engaged in each of these cognitive distortions. Tomorrow's post (hopefully!) will be on steps to change these distortions!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Identifying Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive Distortions are basically irrational beliefs that we create and repeat to ourselves. These distortions decrease mood, and increase stress, anxiety, frustration, and guilt. (Click here for other posts in this series). If we cannot identify and change our distortions, we cannot be healthy individuals, and, at the very least, we will make life much more difficult for ourself.

The following are the first few types of cognitive distortions (from D. Burns, 1980, Feeling Good).

1.     ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
2.     OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
3.     MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and drwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.1.      
4.     DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
 5. MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick." -This is also known as awfulizing

So What Can You Do?
We cannot change our distortions until we identify how and when we think them. Watch yourself the next few days, and try to catch yourself in these irrational beliefs. Once you know how you think, you can begin to change. When you catch yourself saying (or thinking) a distortion, immediately change it. You don't have to believe the new statement, but say it anyways. This practice will start to change your patterns of thought, thus increasing mood and decreasing stress and frustration. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Is There Hope In Winter?

-Sarah Ban Breathnach

By this point in the winter, I'm yearning for the days of spring and summer. I'm sick of walking carefully so I don't slip on the eyes, sick of getting up early to clean the ice off my car every morning, and I'm sick of feeling cold to my bones. I enjoy the beauty of freshly fallen snow, but hate the slush that comes after. After the recent Winter Storm of last week (click here to see some pictures from Tuesday), I was ready for a weekend of warmer weather to melt the snow and ice. However, yesterday I woke up to an even bigger snow storm, which didn't let up all day. Needless to say, I was annoyed. 

This morning, as I was complaining to myself about the cold, I paused to think about the changing seasons. Although sometimes the winter seems hopeless and never-ending, the thing that keeps me going is the reminder that Spring WILL come. No matter how Winter is, how cold, how icy, how endless, or despairing it feels, we carry around the knowledge that Spring will come, and with it, cheerful sounds of birds, bright colors of flowers, warm sun, and hope come as well. Isn't this true with life too? 

In life, we hit seasons that are like Winter. This season may be brief, or it may seem to last forever. Sometimes it feels like we cannot survive the season, that there's no way that Spring will come. But just as Spring will always come after Winter, so it is true in our life. When we hit winter, we hold onto the hope and the knowledge that spring will come, and with it joy, happiness, and color will return. So, as much as I hate winter, I'm so thankful that I experience all 4 seasons, as it's a wonderful reminder for my personal life as well. 

And of course, I couldn't end this post without some pictures of the nasty little storm we got yesterday! 

 View while driving to the Movie Theater. Very poor visibility. 

 Look at those huge chunks of snow falling!

 Look how thick the snow is on the top of my car!


 Bird in the tree...

Even if I dislike winter, I still think this is absolutely beautiful...