image_pdfimage_print

Author Archives: shiftct

Page 4 of 6« First...23456

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety

Click to purchase.

Authors: Michael W. Otto and Jasper A.J. Smits  Oxford University Press (2011).

With Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Michael Otto and Jasper Smits, well-known authorities on cognitive behavioral therapy, take their empirically-based mood regulation strategy from the clinic to the general public. Written for those with diagnosed mood disorders as well as those who simply need a new strategy for managing the low mood and stress that is an everyday part of life, this book provides readers with step-by-step guidance on how to start and maintain an exercise program geared towards improving mood, with a particular emphasis on understanding the relationship between mood and motivation. Readers learn to attend carefully to mood states prior to and following physical activity in order to leverage the full benefits of exercise, and that the trick to maintaining an exercise program is not in applying more effort, but in arranging one’s environment so that less effort is needed. As a result readers not only acquire effective strategies for adopting a successful program, but are introduced to a broader philosophy for enhancing overall well-being.

Providing patient vignettes, rich examples, and extensive step-by-step guidance on overcoming the obstacles that prevent adoption of regular exercise for mood, Exercise for Mood and Anxiety is a unique translation of scientific principles of clinical and social psychology into an action-based strategy for mood change. (From the publisher.)

 

 

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice that helps with depression, anxiety and changing behaviour.

 

Using Willpower: Set Yourself Up For Success

Many consider September to be the ‘other’ New Year because its arrival signals the end of summer vacation and the start of school. This return to routine and so-called ‘regular life’ is also a time when many people make resolutions to improve their lives and health. However, by the start of October, when life has resumed and schedules fill it can be difficult to keep up; commitments to new goals often waver. Understanding the psychology behind willpower can help you to harness your strength and succeed in whatever goals you set.

People mistakenly believe that willpower is an internal thing, a quality or an element of personality that some have but others lack. The truth is that we all have willpower and its abilities are limitless. But willpower is like a muscle: we can only use it so much before it tires and needs a break. Retailers know this, so it’s no accident that low-cost-high-profit items like candy and magazines are located near the checkouts in the grocery store – after using willpower to make so many decisions throughout the rest of the store, shoppers are often so fatigued that by the time they make it to the cashier they have little left in the tank to withstand the temptations of sugary sweets and trashy magazines. Knowing how to conserve our important willpower resources and use them effectively greatly improves our chances of succeeding in realizing life goals.

One useful strategy is to break activities that require large amounts of effort into several smaller activities that each require less effort. Consider exercise as an example. It is tremendously difficult to begin an exercise routine because it takes a lot of energy and our environment may be set up to keep us sedentary. At the end of a busy day, going from resting to exercising may require more effort than is available, leaving us open to feeling defeated.

Although exercising does require a lot of effort, it’s easier to start by avoiding using all of it all at once. Instead of doing it all in a single step, focus your willpower only on the very next step in the process: Put on your exercise gear. Once that’s done it will become increasingly more likely that you’ll take the second step and get yourself outside or onto the workout machine. From there it won’t require much additional effort to begin. And once you’ve started, it will be that much easier to increase your effort to something that offers good health benefits.

By focusing on small steps that you link into longer chains of action you can put yourself into contexts where your natural motivations take over and desired goals feel easier to achieve.

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice where we focus on helping people improve their lives.

The Three Questions

The Three QuestionsAuthor: Jon J Muth. Scholastic (2002).

Based on a story of the same name by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, Jon J Muth’s The Three Questions invites readers to consider the very big mystery of why we are all here. Intended as a children’s book, but one that can be enjoyed by adults as well, Muth tells the story of a boy named Nikolai who is unsure about the right way to act. He looks to his animal friends for answers to three nagging questions: ‘When is the best time to do things?’ ‘Who is the most important one?’ and ‘What is the right thing to do?’ Each friend has their own ideas but it isn’t until Nikolai is faced with the challenge of helping someone else (in this case a mother panda and her baby) that he discovers his own answers.

The book features Muth’s signature style of water colour illustrations and is one of his many works that presents complex Zen Buddhist philosophies in ways that are accessible and easy for readers of all ages to grasp. His other series of books features Stillwater the panda and include Zen Shorts, Zen Ties and Zen Ghosts. They are at once beautiful pieces of artwork and invitations to reflect on our own beliefs and the ways we choose to relate to other people. It is through this same lens that The Three Questions crosses the line between children’s book and useful clinical tool.

Common to each of anxiety, worry and depression is the tendency to ruminate, that is, to get lost within our own thoughts, to dwell on the possibility of future concerns, to get stuck in endless loops of doubt and dread and, in the process, lose touch with the real opportunities for calm and connection that are always right there in front of us. In answering Nikolai’s three questions, Muth offers a simple set of lessons that, when practiced, provides an escape from the ruminative traps of anxiety and depression and an opportunity to reconnect with the present moment and those things that really matter.

 

 

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice with a focus on anxiety, depression and change.

The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up For Yourself at Work and in Relationships

The Assertiveness WorkbookAuthor: Randy J. Paterson. New Harbinger (2000).

If you feel guilty saying ‘no’ to unreasonable requests or shy away from expressing your needs and opinions; if you find yourself passively going along with the crowd instead of doing what you want; or if you find yourself exploding angrily after long periods of holding your tongue, then you might be struggling with assertiveness.

Being assertive means communicating your needs, thoughts and opinions in ways that are respectful and preserve the relationship between yourself and the other person. It means really being with another person, listening and connecting with them, and taking the chance to expose more of your true self. Many people never learn to assert themselves and struggle with the consequences of resentment and feeling unappreciated and misunderstood. Not realizing that unassertiveness is the result of our own habits of mistaken thinking we often blame others for our discomfort and fears, weakening relationships and increasing the likelihood of destructive conflicts.

Randy Paterson’s The Assertiveness Workbook is a useful resource to help readers develop the tools and skills necessary to begin communicating more effectively and more honestly. It explains the differences between aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive and assertive forms of communication and offers a variety of exercises to build confidence through regular practice. Coming from a cognitive behavioural perspective, Paterson discusses how thoughts, feelings and behavioural habits all contribute to the ineffective strategies of hiding from and dominating others that people who are unassertive typically rely on. He teaches readers to recognize faulty beliefs that tell us we are inadequate or unworthy of other people’s attention, and structures behavioural experiments to begin changing such ideas through positive practice. He also provides detailed information about how to turn disruptive conflicts with others into constructive experiences that build and strengthen relationships.

The psychologists at Shift Cognitive Therapy regularly work with people who struggle to express themselves and may recommend this book to you as a part of your treatment.

 

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice with a focus on change.

 

Core Beliefs – The ‘I’ That is ‘Me’

If you ask people how old they feel, many will say they feel younger than their years, as if they’re still a kid, existing somehow within the body of a much older person. This happens because we all have an ‘I’ existing somewhere within us that never ages and is somehow separate from our physical body. This ‘I’ is the ‘Me’ that we know ourselves to be, the collection of stories and beliefs that have accumulated over the whole of our lives and contribute to our impressions about who we are and what we can and cannot do.

You can get in touch with that ‘Me’ simply by considering whether you would be willing to do something outrageous. Would you go sky-diving right now? Get on stage and sing, dance or tell jokes in front of a hundred people? Would you run a marathon? Would you switch careers and do something totally different? Regardless of whether that little voice in your head said “Sure” or “Never!” the fact that your little voice said anything at all demonstrates that you too have a collection of stories that tells you who You are and what is and isn’t possible in your life. Psychologists call these core beliefs.

Core beliefs are formed in our earliest years when we have only the most basic ability to understand the complexities of the world. When we feel afraid as children, when we’re separated from our caregivers or when they’re angry, our young brains instantly create terribly unsophisticated stories to explain why those things happened. The theme of the stories often goes something like ‘There’s something wrong with ME that made that painful thing happen. It was my fault.’ (Of course, the stories can be positive as well.) The brain accepts those stories as The Truth, carving them into the granite of our knowledge base, and we move on from there forever believing that that is just how things are.

Core beliefs are tenacious and sticky, meaning that they hold onto their existence with a fierce intensity, bending facts to fit them, blinding vision so we cannot see things that don’t fit and convincing us in so many ways that they are the real truth. Negative core beliefs try to convince us that no matter how much we achieve in life or which positive things happen, for some reason or another those things simply don’t count, we’re not really that good, strong or worthy. The beliefs influence our actions, resulting in choices that seem only to confirm what the beliefs say is true.

Examining and changing disruptive core beliefs, for example through cognitive behaviour therapy with a psychologist, can be a rewarding process. The world can suddenly seem much more open and available when we realize that the ‘Me’ I always thought I was is not the only ‘Me’ I can be.

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice with a focus on change.

Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behavior and Feel Great Again

Reinventing Your LifeAuthors: Jeffrey E. Young and Janet S. Klosko. Plume (1994).

  • Why am I always choosing partners who are no good for me?
  • Why can’t I say no without feeling guilty?
  • Why do I always feel like what I do is never good enough?

Questions like these and the problems they cause are often the result of stable beliefs that repeatedly move us to do some things and not others, even when doing so causes pain and unhappiness. Psychologists Jeffrey Young and Janet Klosko call these beliefs ‘lifetraps’ and created the workbook Reinventing Your Life to help people identify and change these destructive patterns. Also known as schemas (pronounced ‘skee-mas’), lifetraps are deep-rooted beliefs about ourselves and the world that we learn in childhood and gradually come to view as ‘Me.’

A good example of this is your own name. When you were born into the world someone gave you that name and, over time, told you and showed you what kind of person you were. ‘Good people do this but not that’ they might have said, or perhaps someone yelled at you when they were stressed out. Over time, your young brain took all of those hundreds of thousands of experiences and cobbled together a complex model that gave you a sense of your identity and your worth as a person. Over your lifetime that sense felt increasingly familiar and you lived as if it was ‘You.’

Using understandable language and case studies as examples, the authors explain how all children have basic needs for safety, connection, self-esteem and self-expression. When the environment allows for those needs to be met, most children develop well enough. However, when a child’s environment is consistently lacking lifetraps can take root. For example, some children don’t have the experience of feeling precious and special; they grow up without a sense of being loved or valued. Some of these children may develop what Young and Klosko call the Emotional Deprivation lifetrap and come to believe that no matter what they do, they will never get the love they need. As adults people with this lifetrap may find themselves being distant in close relationships, not telling partners what they need, and blaming partners for not knowing.

Other lifetraps cause people to consistently believe that they can never truly trust another person, that they are a failure no matter how many successes they experience, that nothing they do is ever good enough, and that the needs of others are always more important than their own.

The real value of this workbook comes in the many tools the authors provide to help readers identify and change their own lifetraps. Each lifetrap is given its own chapter and a questionnaire to determine its applicability. Each chapter also contains useful information readers can use to help change behaviour to change beliefs.

The psychologists at Shift Cognitive Therapy are skilled in working with lifetraps and schemas, and may recommend this book to you as a useful part of your treatment.

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice with a focus on change.

Where is My Mind?

‘Where are my keys? My glasses? My wallet? Where was I going just now?’ These are questions that we ask ourselves all the time, to check-in, to make sure that we know we have what we should and are still headed in the right direction. They help us to orient ourselves because the events of daily life are always nudging us off course. ‘Where is my mind at this moment?’ is another orienting question, but one that we don’t usually ask as often.

The mind has a mind of its own and no matter where we put our focus it inevitably moves on to something else. That the mind does this so automatically is perfectly consistent with many other bodily processes that also happen outside of our conscious control. For example, we don’t typically know how to grow hair and fingernails, the body just does it. Thinking happens similarly: You can decide to think about something specific, like the name of your teacher from grade 3 or the route to a particular store, but as soon as you release control of your mind, it will take off somewhere all on its own.

The challenge for people who struggle with anxiety, worry or depression occurs because the body’s fight-flight alarm and defence systems activate all by themselves, depending on what the mind happens to be thinking about. When the mind is off in the future, thinking about difficult things that might happen, the body feels fear. When the mind is back in the past, thinking about difficult things that have already happened, we feel emotional pain. These physical and emotional reactions can occur even when there are no actual threats or dangers in front you in the present moment. This is the same process that allows you to almost taste or smell your favourite food even if you’re only imagining a plate of it floating in front of you.

Try this exercise to begin coping better with anxiousness and depression. Find a place where you can sit quietly for a few minutes. Starting with your finger on the word ‘Present’ above, move it like a needle on a gauge so it’s consistent with where the focus of your mind is meandering to. You might be surprised by how much your mind jumps from past to present to future and back.

Use this same exercise the next time you feel anxious, stressed, worried or depressed. Check-in with your thinking and see where your mind it at. If it’s off in the future or back in the past, bring it back to whatever is happening right now, in the present moment. The present moment is the only one we have and it’s the only one we need to cope with, ever.

 

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice with a focus on change.

The Role of Attachment in Infancy on Later Mental and Physical Health

The opening line from an award-winning video (see below) produced by two Ryerson University psychology students says it all when it comes to the importance of mental health: “It’s not possible to talk about health without including mental health.” Approximately 1 in every 5 Canadians experiences a mental health issue at some point in their lives and the quality of early childhood relationships can both buffer against and contribute directly to such problems. The video, which won the students a scholarship from the Psychology Foundation of Canada, is about the role of attachment in infancy and physical health outcomes later in life.

Attachment’ refers to a system that is hard-wired into humans and other primates that seeks to maintain emotional closeness and physical contact with parents and other caregivers. An obvious physical benefit for very young primates is that proximity to a caregiver greatly increases the chances of surviving infancy. However, from a longer-term perspective, these early, emotional connections contribute to brain structures that enable the individual to be resilient to emotional stressors over the entire lifespan, an important feature considering that issues like anxiety and depression, which can affect both mental and physical health, often begin at times of high stress and significant life events.

Attachment manifests through a caregiver’s responsiveness to an infant’s emotional needs and bids for connections. When infants feel uncomfortable emotions, like sadness, fear and anxiety, they reach out to their caregivers. When caregivers consistently ease that discomfort, children feel soothed and learn that there is a safe haven in the caregiver that the infant can return to when feeling upset. Over time, repeated experiences like this become encoded within a young child’s brain as mental models that say ‘I can handle this,’ ‘I’m not alone in this,’ and ‘I am a worthy person.’ Interestingly, over time, this consistent and positive attention from the caregiver also contributes to the development of brain structures that enable the child to regulate its own emotionality in times of stress and upset. The link between attachment, mental health and overall health come from research that consistently shows that infants who have less certain (also known as ‘insecure’) attachments to their caregivers are more likely to experience colds, have more frequent visits to family physicians, and are more likely to experience depression and withdrawal, anxiety and physical disease, compared to infants with more certain (also known as ‘secure’) attachments to their caregivers.

Child-health experts featured in the video advise that attachment can be enhanced by even small changes in parenting. For instance, they suggest that parents can greatly boost their child’s mental wellbeing and physical health by protecting them from stressors that the child is too young to handle, by striving to enjoy the child and to express that enjoyment both implicitly and explicitly, and by working to ensure that the backbone of the family remains strong by also attending to the caregiver’s own needs and the needs of the parents’ own relationship(s).

 

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy is a psychology practice with a focus on change.

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think

Mind over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
Authors: Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky. Guilford Press (1995).


Mind over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
is a classic among cognitive therapy workbooks. The world renowned and highly accomplished clinician-authors present step-by-step instructions to help readers learn to cope with the symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, shame, low self-esteem and problems in relationships. It begins with a description of the cognitive model, explaining that thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interrelated and influenced by daily life events. From there, it goes on to teach a variety of tools readers can use to change their lives. It is easy to read and carries the examples of three individuals throughout the book to illustrate the entire range of coping tools.

Its simplicity and ease of use are two reasons why this book is such a valuable resource. The authors gently guide readers through the initial processes of learning to see how upsetting thoughts affect feelings and actions, and into the more difficult tasks of beginning to challenge the validity and usefulness of those thoughts. The book helps readers to explore the historical origins of their negative self-concepts and to begin making changes in behaviour to improve self-esteem and eventually enable readers to get where they want to be. Worksheets are ready to be copied for practice in the real world and each follows examples that show exactly how to use the skills, gradually building towards the goal of effective coping.

Mind Over Mood is one of the most commonly referred self-help workbooks because it is easy to use and yields results when the exercises are followed. Also, because it provides such detailed instruction it can be a useful supplement to sessions with your therapist, keeping you on track and moving forward between therapy sessions.

 

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice with a focus on change.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Willpower
Authors: Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney. Penguin Press (2011).

Every once in a while a book comes along that really helps to make sense of why things happen as they do. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength is one of them.

Drawing from decades of social psychology research, psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and journalist John Tierney provide interesting and easily digestible explanations of what we know about human willpower; not just how we struggle with it, but how we can harness it to get us what we want. They explain, for example, that the will is like any other strength: it has a limited supply of energy, that energy is depleted as we use it, and we have a single stockpile of it to use on every one of the various challenges we face. When you appreciate that we spend close to four hours each day trying to control our thoughts and emotions, resisting urges and maintaining efforts towards chosen goals, it’s easy to understand why it can be so hard to find the energy or drive to tackle other challenges, like starting to exercise or finishing chores we don’t really want to do.

The authors present a number of proven strategies to increase the chances of success when changing routines. These include making sure you keep your engine fueled with adequate sleep and quality food, changing only one thing at a time, and learning to ‘play offence instead of defence’ by using limited willpower resources to create sustainable positive routines rather than spending valuable resources scrambling to cope in emergencies.

Making positive changes in life is hard enough. Give yourself a leg up by working with your strengths, not against them. Call us if you continue to struggle. Psychologists are experts at behaviour change.

 

www.shiftct.com
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice with a focus on change.

image_pdfimage_print
Page 4 of 6« First...23456