Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? - Deepstash
Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?

S K's Key Ideas from Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?
by Julie Smith

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DR. JULIE SMITH

Something that science has been confirming to us, and something that people often learn in therapy, is that we have more power to influence our emotions as we thought we have.

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Understanding Low Mood

Understanding Low Mood

Our mood is not only influenced by our thoughts – yes, they might contribute to a low mood but they are not the only influence. Our mood is mainly made up by our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and our behaviour.

It is hard to notice them separately but that it is exactly what we can do to deal with low mood: Break down how you feel into what thoughts you have, what emotions you feel, what your senses experience and how you were and are behaving. Then, you can pick one or a few of these things and change them.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

When we experience low mood, it may have been influenced by several factors from our internal and external world, but when we understand what those influences are, we can use that knowledge to shift it in the direction we want it to go.

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

When dealing with mood, it is essential to remember that it is not all in your head. It’s also in your body state, your relationships, your past and present, your living conditions and lifestyle. It’s in everything you do and don’t do, in your diet and your thoughts, your movements and memories. How you feel is not simply a product of your brain.

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

We can’t just press a button and produce our desired set of emotions for the day. But we do know that how we feel is closely intertwined with the state of our body, the thoughts we spend time with and our actions. Those other parts of our experience are the ones that we can influence and change.

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Breaking Low Mood Cycles

Breaking Low Mood Cycles

We often spiral into even more negative mood states because when feeling low, we often lack the energy to perform our favourite activities that delight us. Hence, after a certain period of time, we end up feeling worse. Engaging in activities that give us instant relief, such as scrolling through social media, are just as harmful.

Reflect on how you deal with certain emotions and whether or not these coping strategies are actually helpful.

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Thought Biases

Thought Biases

Thoughts influence our mood and our mood influences our thoughts, which is why we are even more prone to biased thinking when feeling low:

  • Mind-reading: Making assumptions about thoughts and feelings of other people.
  • Egocentric thinking: Thinking that everyone shares the same values etc. as you do and judging based on that assumption.
  • Emotional reasoning: Thinking that because you feel a certain way, it must be true.
  • Musts/shoulds: Having unrealistic expectations.
  • All-or-nothing thinking: Thinking in extremes.

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Dealing With Thought Biases

Dealing With Thought Biases

Reflect on past moments that were good or bad. Do you recognise any of these biases?

By reflecting on past moments regularly, with times it becomes easier to notice thought biases in the very moment they occur. With that comes the power to recognise that they are not facts but simply biases – they might not be true. You don’t have to find an answer, in fact, there might not even be one, so learn to be okay with not knowing.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“If we can acknowledge that each of our thoughts presents just one possible idea among many, then we open ourselves up to the possibility of considering others.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Controlling Your Thougths

Controlling Your Thougths

It is almost impossible to control what thoughts arrive at your brain, but you can control how much attention you give them. Trying not to think about something is counterproductive. Instead, choose how long you want to stay with each thought.

Metacognition (thinking about thinking) helps to create distance between you and your thoughts. With that, you can analyse them and think of where you would rather want them to go.

When noticing any thought spirals and rumination, say stop, get up and move around a little. Practicing mindfulness and gratitude help with moving your attention consciously.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“The power of any thought is in how much we buy into it. How much we believe it to be true and meaningful.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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How To Deal With Bad Days

How To Deal With Bad Days

  • Be compassionate with yourself and speak to yourself as you would to a friend.
  • When feeling low, it is hard to make decisions, so don’t try to make the perfect ones and instead try to make “good enough” decisions. Smalls steps help you in the long run and build a habit.
  • When analysing your emotions and problems, always think about the direction you want to take. Focus on where you want to go and how you might get there. What would you feel, how would you think and behave, what would your physical sensations be?
  • Focus on mental health basics such as exercise, sleep, diet and social interaction.

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Motivation

Motivation

There are two types of having no motivation:

  • Procrastination: Avoiding something because it is associated with stress and discomfort.
  • Anhedonia: No longer enjoying activities you used to enjoy. It is associated with depression.

You can increase motivation by:

  • Physical movement, even if it is just a little.
  • Remembering your goals and staying connected with them.
  • Focusing on small but consistent progress and habits, instead of big goals that are hard to keep up with.
  • Learning how to rest and relax.
  • Changing how you think about failure and treating yourself with compassion.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“Once you sustain the habit of prioritizing your healthy behaviours, they will sustain you.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“Science tells us about the things that work for most people. But the detail you can establish from looking at your own life with curiosity adds significant value.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“If something matters to you and could benefit your health, don’t wait until you feel like it – do it anyway.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Doing Things You Don't Want To Do

Doing Things You Don't Want To Do

  • When an emotion tells you to not do an actions that aligns with your values, do the opposite of what the emotion suggests.
  • Build a habit: Make it simple, adjust your environment, make clear plans, reward yourself, know why you want the change.
  • Break bigger goals down into small steps. Take time to rest and recharge.
  • Pre-plan what you will do in hard situations that trigger you.
  • Know who you want to be and how you want your life to look like. What decisions would you have made?
  • Figure out the pros and cons of both the change you want to and of changing nothing.
  • Reflect on your past.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

"The more we repeat an action the easier it becomes for the brain to do it with less effort in the future.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“Repeat a behaviour enough times and it will become a habit.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“The most effective way to solve a problem is to understand the problem inside out.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“You cannot change what you cannot make sense of.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Dealing With Emotion

Dealing With Emotion

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They aren’t facts but simply a possible perspective. Don't push them away, as this will lead to worse problems in the long run. Instead, ask yourself curiously what this emotion is trying to tell you.

  • Soothe yourself using tools that make you feel safe: You can create a little box with pictures of loved ones, a bag of tea, a book etc. that you can turn to.
  • Name the emotion specifically: Use a feeling wheel such as then one from Wilcox (1982) to find out what exactly you are feeling. If you don’t find a name, create your own name.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“You are not your feelings and your feelings are not who you are.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“If there is something emotions are useful for, it’s telling us what we need.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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How To Support Someone

How To Support Someone

  • Show that you care. Listen closely, ask open questions. Don’t give advice unless they ask for it. Help them by cooking a meal etc.
  • They usually have an idea of what they need, ask them how they would like to be supported.
  • Take care of yourself. Have a space where you can express your own thoughts and meet your needs. Set boundaries.
  • Create a crisis plan so that you and the person struggling know what to do in a specific situation.
  • If they have a diagnosis, learn more about it. There will be ups and downs in their healing journey. Seek professional help.

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Stages Of Grief (Kubler-Ross, 1969)

Stages Of Grief (Kubler-Ross, 1969)

There are five stages of grief:

  • Denial: Denying the situation, saying it is just temporary.
  • Anger: Being angry at the person, situation or the unfairness of our world. It is associates with pain or fear, so look at what might be really going on. Perfom physical activities.
  • Bargaining: Ruminating about “what if" and things you could have done better.
  • Depression: Feeling sad and empty. This is part of the process. Don't surpress it. Feel and soothe your way through it.
  • Acceptance: Starting to accept the sitaution. You might not agree with it but you open yourself up to new things.

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The Tasks Of Mourning

The Tasks Of Mourning

William Worden (2011) described four tasks of mourning:

  1. Accept the new reality after the loss: It is okay to feel whatever you are feeling. Have no expectation about how you should be feeling or healing.
  2. Work through the pain of grief: Don’t push the emotions away and instead try to express them.
  3. Adjust to an environment with the loved one missing:  Take small steps and build a life around the loss.
  4. Find a way to stay connected to them while also engaging with life as it is now: It is possible to remember the loved one and continue living at the same time.

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Pillars Of Strength (Samuel, 2017)

Pillars Of Strength (Samuel, 2017)

  • Continue to have a relationship with the person you have lost.
  • Build a relationship with yourself. Focus on the feelings and sensations in your body to build awareness. Listen to your needs.
  • Express the grief in a way that you feel comfortable with.
  • Take as much time as you need.
  • Set boundaries with the people around you.
  • Create a routine and bring a little structure into your day. Take care of your mind and your body through exercise, diet, sleep etc.

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Dealing With Criticism

Dealing With Criticism

Criticism and disapproval often have nothing to do with who you are as a person. People are often critical with others because they are highly critical with themselves. Learning how to deal with criticism healthily can be a crucial skill.

  • Shift your mindset around failure: Use it as an opportunity to grow and improve.
  • Let go of criticism that reflect the values of others but that are not aligned with your own. Identify whose opinions matter most.
  • Understand that people often are more focused on themselves as they are on you. This is called the spotlight effect (Gilovich & Savitsky, 2000)

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Dealing With Shame

Dealing With Shame

  • Know what triggers shame in you. You might have linked these things to your self-worth. However, your self-worth is not dependent on you being perfect and never making mistakes.
  • Reality-check the criticism. Understand that these might be just opinions and not facts. Look at your behaviour and evaluate.
  • Talk to yourself in a way that lifts you up instead of destroying your self-worth. It is okay and normal to make mistakes You always have a chance to improve and do better.
  • Talk about the shame itself. Silence intensifies shame while expressing it can minimise feelings of shame.

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Understanding Yourself

Understanding Yourself

Saying that you don’t care what anyone thinks is not the way to go, as it displays insecurities rather than understanding that we are wired to care about what other people think. Understand whose opinions you value and whose opinions you care less about.

Understand who you are and who you want to be. What are your values, dreams and goals? When knowing these, you will also know which criticism to take and which to let go of.

Don’t be your own critic, instead love yourself through the process. Speak to yourself compassionately.

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Building Confidence

Building Confidence

Building confidence requires taking action you are uncomfortable with.

We have a comfort, stretch and panic zone (Luckner & Nadler, 1991). In your comfort zone, it is unlikely to develop confidence and leaning into your panic zone is not necessary. Your stretch zone is where you should lean into.

Write down a situation you would feel most uncomfortable in. Identify a similar situation that is less scary. Go on until you find a situation that is slightly out of your comfort zone. Start there and build yourself all the way up step by step. Be uncomfortable for a while, then go back to safety.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“Confident is not the same as being comfortable. One of the biggest misconceptions about becoming self-confident is that it means living fearlessly. The key to building confidence is quite the opposite. It means we are willing to let fear be present as we do the things that matter to us.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“To build confidence, go where you have none. Repeat every day and watch your confidence develop.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Affirmations Vs. Compassionate Self-Talk

Affirmations Vs. Compassionate Self-Talk

Confidence is not really built by speaking positive affirmations. When having low self-esteem and speaking affirmations, you might even end up feeling worse (Wood et al., 2009), as you automatically find reasons to why the affirmations aren’t true.

How you talk to yourself still matters though. Hence, it is better to talk to yourself in a compassionate way as a coach would talk to an athlete: They are honest with the athlete but still encouraging.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

"The way we start to believe something more positive about ourselves is to use action to create evidence for it.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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You Don't Need To Work On Your Self-Esteem

You Don't Need To Work On Your Self-Esteem

Yes, you read that correctly. Self-esteem means being able to evaluate yourself in a positive way and believe in those appraisals (Harris, 2010).

People often suggest looking at your strengths and tell you that you will be successful. However, “success” is often associated with being a winner, accomplishments and being acknowledged by others. This results in comparison or competitive behaviour and thus, feeling worse and inadequate.

High self-esteem isn't linked to performing better or better relationships. Instead, it correlates with arrogance and discrimination (Bauermeister et al., 2003).

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Bouncing Back From Failure

Bouncing Back From Failure

  • Notice changes in your behaviour as they often indicate how you are feeling.
  • Take a step back from your emotions by giving them a name.
  • Notice when you are having the urge to block your feelings. Let them wash over you knowing that they will pass. Soothe yourself through it.
  • Learn from it. Reflect on what you did well and what you could have done better.
  • Return to your values and what matters to you.
  • Try again after working through the experience.

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Self-Acceptance And Compassion

Self-Acceptance And Compassion

Being compassionate with yourself won’t make you lazy but instead can help you keep going (Neff et al., 2005). Accept your mistakes and flaws and know that you are still worthy.

When feeling any negative emotion, let it be shame, sadness, guilt etc., it is always a good idea to feel into the emotion and accept it. Be compassionate with what you are feeling.

You can also write a compassionate letter to yourself while imaging you are talking to a loved one that is in the same situation as you are.

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The Purpose Of Anxiety

The Purpose Of Anxiety

Anxiety is there to keep you safe. However, your threat alarm immediately goes off without you having time to think things through, which is why it is often irrational. It is supposed to feel uncomfortable and intense. Understand that anxiety is trying to protect you – so you don’t want to turn it off completely. Instead, learn how to cope with it.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“To fight fear you must be willing to face it. Escape and avoidance only provides short-term relief but feeds anxiety in the long term.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“If you avoid the thing you fear, you never give yourself the chance to build up evidence in your mind that you can get through it and survive. Just telling your brain that something is safe is not enough. You must experience it. Your brain will need some convincing, so you need to repeat that behaviour over and over. As many times as it takes. The things you do most of the time become your comfort zone. So, if you want to feel less anxious about something, do it as often as you can.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Safety Behaviours

Safety Behaviours

These are behaviours that help you in the short-term, but make anxiety worse in the long-term:

  • Escaping the situation when you are in it.
  • Avoiding the situation.
  • Compensatory strategies, for instance washing your hands when having a fear of contamination.
  • Anticipating worst-case scenarios.
  • Seeking reassurance from a loved one.
  • Safety behaviours, for instance looking at your phone to try avoiding a conversation.

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Dealing With Anxiety

Dealing With Anxiety

  • Try staying in the situation and soothe yourself through it.
  • Try breathing techniques such as box breathing and move around.
  • Thoughts are not facts, get some distance between you and your thoughts, write them down.
  • Fact-check, how possible the situation you’re anxious about really is. Shift your spotlight of attention to more important thoughts.
  • Practice and receive compassion as it is the opposite of anxiety.
  • Reframe the situation, see it as an opportunity.
  • Focus on your values and who you want to be.

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Thought Biases That Make You Feel Worse

Thought Biases That Make You Feel Worse

  • Catastrophizing: Thinking of the worst possible outcome.
  • Personalising: Making everything about yourself.
  • Mental filter: Focusing even more on negative things instead of positive ones.
  • Overgeneralizing: Using one event to make judgements about all other events.
  • Labelling: Using one information to make global judgments about you as a person.

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Fear Of Death

Fear Of Death

The fear of death underlies all of our fears. We know that it is inevitable and that it could happen any time. Accept that you will die sooner or later.

There are three types of acceptance of death (Gesser et al., 1988):

  1. Approach acceptance: Having beliefs about an afterlife.
  2. Escape acceptance: Seeing death as a relief from suffering.
  3. Neutral acceptance: Seeing death as a neutral and natural part of life.

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The Good Side Of Facing Death

The Good Side Of Facing Death

Many people that have been close to death come back stronger and wiser. When accepting death, we can cultivate a more meaningful life because we then know what we want to achieve before dying.

  • Reflect on how you are avoiding death, why you might avoid it and how you can accept it.
  • Reflect on how you want to feel in your death bed. How do you want to leave the world behind? What would your daily life look like in order to achieve that?

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“If you were able to write just a few words on your own gravestone, what would you most want it to say?”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Your Body Under Stress

Your Body Under Stress

When stressed, your sympathetic nervous system activates, preparing your body for fight, flight or freeze responses. It activates your body so that you are more alert and have more resources available to deal with the situation at hand.

This is a helpful response in the short-term. However, long periods of stress without any rest are damaging. Your body becomes depleted because of all the energy it gives you, without getting relaxation and time to recharge back.

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Eliminating Stress

Eliminating Stress

… is almost impossible. Society thaught us that stress should be avoided at all costs but often this is not realistic: Most of the time we do not choose to feel stressed - we do not choose to lose a person or to have a car accident. Instead, try to learn how to replenish after stress.

Avoiding stress should also not be the goal as it is neither good nor bad. This entirely depends on the amount of stress: Both too little stress and too much stress are not good. A healthy balance is needed for optimal performance.

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Causes Of Stress

Causes Of Stress

Here are a few things that can lead to stress:

  • Control: Feeling incapable of dealing with the situation or not having proper resources for it.
  • Reward: Wanting to achieve a financial goal, social recognition etc.
  • Community: Lacking social interaction and a sense of belonging.
  • Fairness: Perceiving inequality.
  • Values: A mismatch between your values and the demands you are facing.

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Recognizing Stress And Burn-Out

Recognizing Stress And Burn-Out

The mind and the body are interacting and exchanging information constantly.

When stressed, you can see the effects in your behaviour as well: Changes in sleep, appetite, more irritability, having problems to switch of and rest, problems with concentration and focus, more prone to addictive behaviours, headaches, stomach problems, sexual problems, muscle pain etc.

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Making Stress Work For You

Making Stress Work For You

  • Try breathing techniques or meditate. There are different kinds of meditation, find one that works for you.
  • Turn towards others, seek out social interaction.
  • Set goals that are bigger then yourself, it can increase your satisfaction with life (Crocker et al., 2009). Don’t make goals to compete but to contribute.
  • Incorporate more mindfulness in your day such as showering or walking mindfully.
  • Embrace the feeling of awe: It is the feeling of wonder and feeling small (in a good way) compared to something bigger, for instance when looking at the night sky with all the stars and the moon.

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Coping When Stressed

Coping When Stressed

  • Mindset: Reframe how you perceive stress. See it as something useful that gives you more energy and makes you alert.
  • Language: Use a language that is helpful such as affirmations. However, affirmations should be realistic and not too over-the-top.
  • Reframing: Look at the situation from a different angle. It is an opportunity to grow rather than a problem. Shift your focus to something bigger and broaden your view.
  • Failure: Build a different relationship with failure. It is part of the process. Take responsibility and practice self-compassion at the same time.

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Dealing With Shame

Dealing With Shame

  • Don’t make it part of your identity. You are not a bad person just because you did something wrong. State the specific  behaviour instead of making global attributions about who you are as a person.
  • It is normal to experience failure. You are not the only person in the world feeling like that.
  • Treat yourself with self-compassion. What would you say to a loved one in your situation?
  • Talk to someone you trust about the thing you are ashamed of. They will probably show kindness and compassion.
  • How would the person you want to be deal with this? What could you do that would make you feel proud?

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Happiness

Happiness

You don’t have to be happy all the time. It is completely okay and human to have ups and downs. Things that make your life meaningful don’t always bring you joy and satisfaction but also fear or pain and yet they are still worth it.

A good place to start is knowing what you value most in life. When having clear values it is easier to distinguish between what to focus on and what to ignore and to keep going when meaningful things get tough. However, know that your values can change over time.

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Knowing Your Values

Knowing Your Values

  1. Figure out areas in life you want to focus on, e.g. relationships, work, health, personal growth. You can also identify character traits that are important to you, e.g. honesty, independence, fairness, empathy, self-awareness, bravery.
  2. Identify how satisfied you are with each area or trait by using a scale. How could you improve the ones you rated the lowest?
  3. For each area or trait, write down a specific goal you could reach. Make goals based on your identity and not on the outcome.
  4. Translate the goal into a small day-to-day behaviour. Repeat it as often as you can so that it becomes a habit.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“The focus is not on what you want to happen for you but on the kind of person you want to be, the contribution you want to make and the attitude you want to face life with, no matter what happens.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“Linking the intentions to your sense of identity allows the new behaviours to continue way beyond the initial goal.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Relationship Myths

Relationship Myths

We often hold beliefs about what love should look like based on what movies or society told us. These are often not true and keep us from building healthy relationships.

  • “Love shouldn’t be hard”: Ups and downs or normal.
  • “Be as one”: It is normal to disagree as you are two different people.
  • “Be together always”: It is okay to spend time apart and do things separately.
  • “Happily ever after”: You might drift apart and come back together again.
  • “Relationship success means staying together at all costs”: If the relationship does more harm than good, it is okay to break up.

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Attachment Styles #1

Attachment Styles #1

  • Anxious Attachment: They need a lot of reassurance, tend to be clingy, have people-pleasing tendencies or avoid conflict. Their partner might feel controlled and their fear of abandonment might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Build a sense of safety independently from your partner.
  • Avoidant Attachemt: They have a hard time opening up, avoid intimacy and try to keep their independence at all times. Their partners often mistake this as a lack of love and that they don’t want or need connection (but just like everyone else, they do).

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Attachment Styles #2

Attachment Styles #2

  • Disorganised Attachment: They show a huge variety of behaviours: difficulties in dealing with emotion, fear of abandonment, dissociation etc. Learn to manage both the fear of intimacy and separation.
  • Secure Attachment: They have a healthy balance between closeness and independence.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“While the anxiously attached person must work on tolerating the vulnerability of self-reliance, the avoidantly attached must build up tolerance of the vulnerability involved in opening up to a close connection.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Building Better Relationship

Building Better Relationship

  • It is possible to change your attachment style. Build self-awarness of your patterns. Understand your style and figure out small actions you can do daily.
  • Having good quality friendships help a lot with feeling satisfied in a relationship (Gottman & Silver, 1999), so focus on them too.
  • Respond to your partner with care, attention and acceptance. Show gratitude even for small things.
  • Learn how to deal with conflict productively.
  • Understand you own values and those of your partner.
  • Identify how and who you want to be in a relationship.

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“The way to ensure that your everyday actions are led by intention, rather than reactive, is to step back every now and then and reflect on how you want the picture to look.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“As we can’t force change upon others, the focus is on understanding and identifying what we can do as individuals.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“Working on the self helps your relationship and working on your relationship helps the self.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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DR. JULIE SMITH

“The best time to seek support for your mental health is any time you become concerned about it.”

DR. JULIE SMITH

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Therapy

Therapy

Going to therapy is okay and can be helpful for everyone. If you can, give it a try and if you don’t have access to it, try to learn as much as you can about recovery and use the support of loved ones.

While reading the book, I have realised that practicing small things such as breathing can add up to a huge change. Dr. Julie Smith is also huge on journaling and self-reflecting.

You have probably already heard of most of the things and exercises in the book but have you ever tried them seriously and regularly?

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IDEAS CURATED BY

sonnixo

Psychology student with a passion for learning and developing as a person.

CURATOR'S NOTE

Dr. Julie Smith offers tools and knowledge from therapy to deal with emotions and life circumstances effectively, covering a huge variety of topics such as stress, confidence, low mood, anxiety, motivation, relationships etc.

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