Our Thoughts Become Our Reality: The Power of Positive Framing

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Last week I had the pleasure of being invited as the keynote speaker at a women’s conference. I was charged with captivating an audience composed of diverse, wise, sophisticated, spiritual and compassionate women. I was honored, excited and slightly nervous as this was the first time I was asked to be the keynote speaker for an event. I would not allow my fear to overtake this moment as I had powerful and life-changing information to share with this beautiful group of women; and I am not a hoarder of information.

What is framing?

Framing is seeing the world without distortions. It is not putting on our “rose-colored” glasses and being oblivious to what is happening around us.   It is merely viewing life through a different lens and being open to seeing things differently.

How can positive framing improve your quality of life?

One of the main differences between successful and unsuccessful people is the way they view the world. Successful people see opportunities, while unsuccessful people see problems. When we utilize positive framing, we can see the facts in the clearest light. We will not allow negative feelings to distort our view of reality. We widen our lens to gain the strength and clarity to face the problem and find solutions.

I remember how tough the transition was for me from high school to undergraduate school. I felt unequipped with the tools needed to be successful in undergraduate school. My peers had a slight advantage over me as they took college prerequisites in high school. I’ll never forget meeting with my English professor during the first semester of my freshman year. She told me that I would have to work really hard to graduate and she was not sure if I had it in me. At the time, I almost believed her and even questioned if I belonged in college. Sure, I graduated from high school with high honors, rarely studied and had tons of success; but college was new territory. I had poor study skills and struggled with the transition to college throughout the first semester. To my “surprise,” first semester grades reflected my struggles. I was placed on academic probation and in jeopardy of flunking out of college. My parents were surprised and disappointed. I was disappointed in myself. Then 2 things happened. I remember my English professor presenting me with the challenge to graduate college and my dad gave me 2 options, return to school and improve my grades or withdraw from school and get a job. I had the entire semester break to reflect on what would be a life changing decision. I chose to return to school and hit the ground running. Instead of being intimidated by my peers, I joined their study groups and picked their brains. I wanted to learn what they learned. If you want to be successful, spend time around those more successful than you. I had a big piece of humble pie over the semester break and I was okay with not being the smartest person in the room. As a result of my humility and hard work, I found myself on the dean’s list nearly every semester and graduated with honors in 4 years. I do not share this story to impress anyone with my accomplishments, but to press upon you how a shift in thinking can change our lives. Remember, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent of how you respond to it.

How are thoughts, self-talk, actions and habits connected?

Thoughts

The way in which we choose to live our lives ultimately begins with our thought process. In “How Remarkable Women Lead,” authors Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston discuss 2 types of mind-sets; growth mind-set and fixed mind-set. People with a growth mind-set believe that nothing is predestined; their work determines their success. They look for opportunities to learn and grow; understanding that adversity, setbacks and failures are a part of the process; utilizing these lessons as blueprints for success. People with limited mind-sets are stuck and often see their talents and abilities as limited and are threatened by fresh thinking that challenges their beliefs. People with growth mind-sets see the gain, the possibilities and “make it happen.” In contrast, people with limited mind-sets see the pain, the problems and “let it happen.”

What do you read?

If you watch television, what are you watching?

How do you frame setbacks?

Who do you spend the most time around? How do they impact you mentally and spiritually?

For more self-reflection, check out Vitamin C: Healing for the Mind, Body and Soul: The Healing Workbook here.

Self-talk

Be careful how you talk to yourself because you are listening.

Do you speak life into yourself?

What is the first thing you say to yourself when you wake up in the morning? Are you thankful? Do you practice positive self-talk (prayer, recite daily inspirations, etc)? Or, do you practice self-defeating talk (I hate my job. I hate my boss. I have too many bills and so on)? Imagine the direction your day can take by your choice in positive self-talk or self-defeating talk.

Do you talk yourself in or out of success? Which statement best describes you? “It may be difficult but it’s possible.” OR “It may be possible but it’s too difficult.”

Behaviors/Actions

Framing also includes unlearning self-destructive behaviors. If we have been accustomed to negative thinking and self-defeating talk, it is highly likely that we will engage in self-destructive behaviors. Undoing these behaviors will take some time as these behaviors were not learned over night. If we are committed to unlearning these behaviors, we must take action by having the courage to broaden our lens and remain flexible in our thinking which will impact our self-talk and actions.

Our actions are based on past learning experiences. Raise your hand if you ever failed a test! Most of us experience an unsettling feeling in our stomachs when it’s time to take a test. Some call it test-anxiety. Our fear of failing another test is based on past experiences, and may affect how we take action, or if we take action. People who are discouraged and struggle with limited mind-sets tend to live in their fears. When we can reframe our experiences, we see the world differently, allowing us to pursue opportunities. In other words, feel the fear and do it anyway!

Habits-doing something religiously day in and day out. A regular practice that is hard to give up.

Good habits can include looking both ways before we cross the street, bathing, practicing awareness of your negative thoughts throughout the day, taking a few minutes per day to express gratitude.

If we make a habit of practicing good habits; these good habits ultimately become our reality. How wonderful would it be to make positive framing a habit?!?!?! “We first make our habits and then our habits make us.” John Dryden

Framing is an approach utilized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)-a goal oriented, short-term therapeutic approach used in psychotherapy to challenge one’s distorted thinking, inviting individual(s) to change thinking and behavior patterns that are keeping them stuck. We use this approach at HandinHand Counseling Services, LLC, and click here for more information.

Framing is hard work. By no means am I trying to simplify this process.   In order to get better and experience change, you must to set an intention to practice this approach to life. Remember, you are competing with yourself daily to be a better person. You are the wild-card. You have the power to make positive changes; if you desire.

“Our fear is not that we are inadequate. Our fear is that we are powerful beyond measures.” ~ Marianne Williamson

What are some ways that you can use framing to improve your quality of life?

When the leaves turn brown, does your mood turn blue? Tips for preventing seasonal depression

The summer is coming to a close, the mornings are getting a bit brisk and the days are shorter. The turning of the leaves, the images of crisp colorful tans, oranges, and browns creates images of fire places and hot chocolate. Although these are very common and likeable images, the change in season can cause seasonal depression in some of us.

What is seasonal depression?

Seasonal depression, often referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), is a form of depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall, worsening in winter and ending in spring. It is more severe that the winter blues or “cabin fever.” In order to be diagnosed as having S.A.D rather than a first occurrence of depression, one must have a pattern of recurring depression during winter months.

What are the causes of seasonal depression?

S.A.D has been linked to a chemical imbalance precipitated by shorter days and decreased sunlight in the winter; with January and February being the most difficult months. Our moods are partly influenced by sunlight, melatonin, serotonin and Vitamin D. With that being said, melatonin, the hormone associated with sleep decreases when it is light. Serotonin, the hormone associated with elevated mood increases when it is light. Vitamin D helps the body maintain increased levels of serotonin during the winter. Residents of snowy, northern U.S. cities are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and may not even know it.

What are the symptoms associated with S.A.D?

The symptoms of S.A.D mirror those of depressive disorder, which include

Sadness

Anxiety

Irritability

Loss of interest in regular activities

Withdrawal from social activities

Inability to concentrate

Extreme fatigue/lack of energy

Heavy, leaden sensation in limbs

Increased need for sleep

Craving for carbohydrates and accompanying weight gain

Preventative measures for S.A.D:

Exposure to light-get outdoors and enjoy the natural light, open the blinds and turn on the lights.

Exercise regularly-one of the most natural “anti-depressants” is exercise! There are many studies that show exercise can improve the mood in people with mild to moderate depression.

Balanced diet-I know, sometimes we want our comfort foods to take away the pain. There is nothing like comfort foods on a cold, wintry day. By no means am I suggesting that we shouldn’t treat ourselves once in a while. However, we must be able to differentiate between treating ourselves and emotional eating. Eating a well balanced diet will increase energy levels.

Social Support: Stay connected with your social circle; continue engaging in regular activities and daily routines.

How is S.A.D treated?

Treatment approaches to S.A.D are dependent upon the severity of your symptoms. Exposure to light (Get outdoors early in the day to expose yourself to more natural light), during winter months light therapy is recommended by some doctors and/or anti-depressants.

The change of seasons is yet another life transition that most of us experience at least quarterly. Although each of us experiences some sort of change in seasons, it affects us differently. If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, please talk to your doctor, contact a licensed therapist at HandinHand Counseling Services, LLC or reach out to family and friends. Please know that you do not have to suffer through this alone.

If you are interested in a free 15 minute consultation, I can be reached at WinterBlues-Postvitaminchealing@gmail.com.

Our Wedding in Paradise: From Facebook Friends to Newlyweds

992214663One of my favorite pastimes is talking sports, especially football.  A little over 3 years ago, I was invited to a sports group on a social networking site.  Some of the debates can be quite aggressive as most fans take pride in the teams they support.  However, the comments of my future husband caught my attention.  Not only did he have an exceptional sports IQ, but he had a calm and classy demeanor.  He would not react to aggressive or belligerent comments.  He always handled these debates with class.  Immediately, I thought; who is this guy????  I admit that I spent time stocking his facebook page to obtain as much information as possible before sending a “friend request.”  His facebook page was filled with positivity and I did not notice a “Mrs. Nance.”  Before I could send a friend request, he beat me to it!  For the first month of our cyber friendship we did not chat outside of the sports group.  One night I was having difficulty staying asleep and posted the status “Insomnia.com.”  Who knew this would be the facebook status that would change our lives?!?!  Insomnia.com led to private inbox chats, which led to 12 hour phone conversations.  I had never felt this connected to someone, let alone someone I had not yet met in person.  Initially some family and friends were not in favor of our relationship.  “How well do you know him?”  “Are you really going to visit him in NYC?”  “You met him on facebook!!!”  “What if you get catfished?”  These were a few of the responses I was met with upon telling family and friends about my new love.  While these were all valid points, I had to take a chance and do something different.  Our first attempt to pursue an intimate relationship ended as a result of distance and our careers.  I grew unhappy with the distance and wanted out of the relationship.  Bil understood my position and encouraged me to date other guys as he wanted me to be happy.  If we were meant to be together, we would find our way back to each other.  About six months later, we got reacquainted through our love of football and engaging in candid conversations.  We agreed we would remain friends until a face to face meeting.  January, 2013 we met in Washington DC at the presidential inauguration and we connected immediately.  Being in Bil’s presence was comparable to old friends playing catch up.  He asked me to be his queen and told me one day I would be his wife.  He even sent pictures of engagement rings.  We spent time in Pittsburgh and NYC.  I developed more respect for Bil each day.  He made so many sacrifices for our relationship and he believed in my vision to open a private counseling practice in Pittsburgh.  He believed in me so much that he relocated to Pittsburgh because he saw my vision was needed in Pittsburgh to carry out the task of generational healing in the communities.  Being supportive, respectful, honest and having open communication were the key ingredients in taking our relationship to the next level.  He led by example in demonstrating the meaning of putting someone else’s needs first.  More importantly, he expanded my view of being a good partner in a healthy relationship.

The proposal:

Bil actually proposed twice!  We went together to pick out my engagement rings and our wedding bands, but he still surprised me with the proposal.  We were casually hanging out in our home, I turn around and he is down on one knee.  I nearly lost my breath.  I starred at the ring the entire weekend and had a permanent smile pasted on my face.  A month later we went to NYC so he could propose to me in the place he dreamed of since childhood where he would ask his love to be his wife; under the Brooklyn Bridge.   Most people may not know that I am very shy.  Although I love public speaking, I get really shy when I am the center of attention.   There were so many people around and although I was nervous; all I saw was Bil.  After the proposal in NYC; we were ready for our destination wedding in Ocho Rios, Jamaica!

Our wedding day:

The week leading up to our wedding was filled with so many emotions.  I could not focus on work or business.  I was ready to marry my love and share this joyous occasion with family and friends.  Not only were we getting married; we were getting married in Jamaica and we had 50 guests in attendance.  We had 50 people who love, support and took time away from their busy lives to celebrate our special day with us.  From the time we left our house to drive to the airport I was able to relax and take in every moment.  Even when something went wrong, I was still able to relax.  Upon arrival in Jamaica, it was hot!!!  We stayed on Sandals resort and the staff treated us like royalty.  The activities, spa, music, guests and food options were amazing!!!  The resort had 15 restaurants which included various ethnic foods.

My favorite memories from our wedding were watching our families bond, my mom, grandmother and bridesmaids helping me get dressed, advice from my married friends, wedding day prep talk from close family, my father walking me down the aisle and both of my parents standing united to give me away to Bil.  The laughter, dancing, champagne toasts, line dancing and photos are special memories that will remain in my heart.

A little over two weeks into our marriage and it still feels like our honeymoon.  People often ask if it feels any different being married.  The biggest difference is the name change.  I have to get used to people calling me Mrs. Nance.  The Dj at our reception was calling “Mrs. Nance” to the front of the room and it didn’t dawn on me that he was talking to me until people told me he was talking to me!  The wedding was a fun celebration and I will forever cherish every second of this joyous occasion.  I could not have picked a better partner to traverse through life’s journeys.

I would like to hear from you!  What are your key ingredients to staying happily married?