Why We Need to Keep Our Negative Thoughts in Check

It really isn’t difficult to have negative thoughts. We all have a negative bias based on our survival brain, we have core beliefs from childhood, and depending on our circumstances, we may be feeling crummy which can lead to bleak or defeatist thoughts.

By why is it so important to keep them in check? Because when we give negative thoughts too much attention, we run the risk of misperceiving ourselves and our loved ones. 

Our core beliefs fight for space; they ultimately want more attention than our healthy parts. Negative thinking will feed that core belief until you have yourself convinced of its validity. Misperception. Caution: may lead to self-sabotaging behaviours.

You are feeling blue, crummy, crabby. Your friend tells you she can’t make the coffee date. Negative thinking will have you assuming the worst. Misperception. Caution: may lead you to say something you regret.

You have a fight with your teenager; anger prevails, feelings are hurt and negative thoughts ensue. Soon, you have yourself convinced that you are the worst parent in the world and there is no hope for your teenager. Misperception. Caution: may get in the way of being able to move in for repair and compromise.

We are much better served to not give those negative thoughts too much attention. We want objectivity to come in and allow us to see the situation in a more realistic light; guiding us to stay on track and as a result, feeling grounded and confident in our choices.

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The Experience of Shared Laughter

During the time of my marital separation, I stumbled across a self-care strategy that proved to be quite instrumental in the starting of my day. As part of my morning routine (when the kids were still in bed), I would watch an episode of Three’s Company. One of my all time favourite shows, it brought about good, cozy feelings –  as it reminded me of my childhood – and it would bring a chuckle to the beginning of my day, starting it off on a good note.

We know, scientically, that laughter is good for us. The research behind laughter indicates that a good belly laugh can improve mood and help to moderate stress hormones (hello endorphins, goodbye cortisol!) In hindsight, this makes sense to me now as I realize that I was helping to relax and regulate my body with laughter.

But what about the process of shared laughter? We are a relationship species and thrive on connection. Shared experience becomes a very important part of that process. Shared laughter, then, combines the benefits of both and helps to physiologically soothe us.

Kurt and I always tend to have a show on the go; sometimes a detective show or something action oriented. Lately, we have been tuning into a comedy; watching two episodes in the evening while we sit side by side on the couch (sharing it with our Great Dane of course!) And when I get up from watching those shows, I can feel the effects of shared laughter. A little more relaxed, a little more connected, ending my day on a good note. 🙂

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Does Venting Anger Work?

There was a time in psychology, where the idea was that if we vented our anger, it would be cathartic. Punching pillows while screaming, couples being guided in therapy to hitting each other with foam noodles , a ‘timed’ argument where you could angrily vent everything that made you cross about the person in front of you. It was believed that anger needed to be expressed, and doing so would create a cathartic release. Does this actually work?

Anger is an emotion that elicits a physiological response; it releases hormones that will elevate our blood pressure and cause constriction in our digestive tract, causing arousal – in short, we are primed for a fight.  Anger is also a very common and frequently felt response – think about how many times in a day we may feel frustrated or irritated at something or someone.

Dr. Carol Travis, a social psychologist, and author of the book “Anger, the Misunderstood Emotion,” has this to say about venting anger – “The venting out of anger doesn’t reduce it, it rehearses it. People who are most prone to give vent to their rage get angrier, not less angry.”

When we are venting anger, we are automatically eliciting an angry response in the other person; this will lead to an escalation of anger, not a release. We are much better served to keep our anger in check; to recognize when it is rising and to take a time out in order to process it. Taking a few deep breaths and asking ourselves how we best want to deal with this situation will do more for processing the anger than attempting to vent it.

A blog post about things to remember about anger: https://counselwise.ca/things-to-remember-about-anger/

A blog post about working to change our anger: https://counselwise.ca/change-anger-habits/

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The Fine Line Between Distraction and Avoidance

Got something bugging you? Have feelings that you have the tendency to simply push away? Have an issue you refuse to do anything about?

I often remark to clients that there is a fine line between distraction and avoidance, and only one is good for you. The difference lies in two variables: acknowledgement and action.

When we avoid something that we need to address, or ignore the way we are feeling, we skip over acknowledgement and there is no room for plan, direction or resolution. Quick to dismiss it or ‘let it go,’ we have actually not released it at all for we did not process it; instead it gets pushed down into the core of our being, only to come bubbling back up again. When we move to distraction as a coping strategy, we have acknowledged the feeling or issue, but are not able to resolve it right away – hence moving to something that helps us to cope.

When we avoid, we are allowing fear to lead. When we acknowledge, we lead with courage. Sometimes all that is required is an acceptance of how we are feeling. Allow the feeling to come, remind yourself that it is okay to feel that way and if it comes with a resolvable action, move in that direction. If you can’t act on it for whatever reason, that is when we move to distraction. We find ways to cope (taking some deep breaths, going for a walk, putting on some soothing music), that will allow us to make room for our feelings without completely succumbing to the action urges that tend to accompany.

An example: Waking up feeling crummy, unmotivated, blah, blue. If we ignore these feelings, or fail to acknowledge that we feel this way because we are anxious, depressed, disengaged or grieving, we may follow their lead and stay in bed all day. We have ignored the issue.

Waking up feeling crummy, unmotivated, blah, blue. Deep breath: “I feel so crummy today. There is a part of me that doesn’t feel like getting out of bed. I feel sad. I feel anxious. I know this is a process; I know that I don’t want to leave my bed because of my current circumstances. But right now, those are not in my control; I can only choose what is.” Spending a few minutes in prayer, starting the day writing in a gratitude journal, making ourselves a healthy breakfast. We have moved to distraction.

There is a fine line between avoidance and distraction – and only one is good for you 🙂

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The Pros and Cons of Taking a Passive Position

There are always going to be times when we feel compelled to chime in on an issue. Whether it be at work or in our relationships, sometimes we  feel it necessary to state our concern, opinion or idea. What does it mean to take a passive position? This is not about being passive, but rather taking a position that is more passive in nature.


  • We have slowed down our immediate response button. When we take a position that is passive initially, we allow ourselves time to gather information.
  • We are more receptive to input. Because we have slowed down the process, we tend to be more flexible in our information gathering, and are open to seeing both sides of a situation.
  • We are considerate of others. Taking a passive position allows others to weigh in on the issue without feeling confronted or criticized.


  • People may view a passive position as being non-committal. If we take too long in our information gathering, others may not feel supported.
  • We may be too quiet. Ultimately, our opinion matters; if we are too quiet, we run the risk of diminishing our importance.
  • We miss the opportunity to speak. There is often a window where ideas are shared and solutions are decided upon; remaining too passive might allow us to miss the boat completely.

When weighing in on an issue or needing to express a concern to someone, taking a passive position initially can be helpful in creating an emotionally neutral space and yet if we wait too long, our opinion may no longer hold any weight.  It would seem that what really matters here is timing. Being able to take some time to weigh in objectively and being able to state our opinions or ideas so that our voice matters, is key.

By relying on the principle that ‘anything delivered calmly carries more weight than when it is delivered with anger’ (or in any case, aggression or heightened emotion), we can learn to take a passive position initially, as a way to gather our thoughts before sharing.

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Emotional Eating; Alternatives

Yesterday’s post explored the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger as a way to begin to understand emotional eating. When we use food as a way to deal with emotional needs, we create a vicious cycle; the food temporarily brings us a ‘full’ feeling, but at a cost as we usually create a second emotional response of guilt and remorse.

Perhaps one of the most conscious ways to end emotional eating is to promote and choose ways to reduce overall stress. Second to this strategy are the ‘moments of change’ we must begin to build when we are standing in front of the fridge, looking to satisfy.

  • Begin to examine and implement self-care. Daily. This is of great importance when it comes to finding a sense of balance between our busy lives and the need to care for ourselves.
  • Examine the pace of your life. Busy constantly? The chances that you will turn to food to satisfy an emotional need increases as we spend most of the day too busy to pay attention to our emotions at all.
  • Exercise. You knew I was going to say it. Exercise spaced out over the course of the week counters the effect of stress – it also increases dopamine naturally and allows us to be more in tune with our bodies.
  • Remove the offenders. You can’t eat what isn’t in the fridge or pantry.
  • Replace the distraction. If watching TV puts your mind in a restless argument with yourself about getting the chips out, replace the distraction – take up knitting while watching TV, do a crossword during commercials – those types of activities usually help curve boredom eating.
  • Start a food diary. Nothing like being accountable to everything you put in your mouth. A food diary can not only help us curb the desire to eat just for the sake of eating, it can also help us with healthier food choices and portion control.

These are just some ways that we can begin to curb emotional eating. There are times; however when seeking professional help or additional support will be a necessary part of treatment. When we begin to fill our emotional selves with healthier ways of coping with negative emotions, we live truer to ourselves, feel better physically and can feel more balanced when it comes to processing our feelings.

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Emotional Eating; Recognizing the Difference

To some extent, we can all fall prey to emotional or mindless eating. Sometimes, the food is right in front of us and it tempts us into having some, hungry or not. But what happens when emotional eating becomes our go-to?

Stressed? Reach for something to satisfy. Sad? Reach for something to feel comforted. Bored? Where are the chips?

When we are dealing with a negative emotion, it tends to create an empty feeling inside of us. In order to try and ‘fill’ that emptiness, we reach for something to comfort us – it is not often surprising that we will reach for food. Physically, it does temporarily fill us (hence creating a lovely trick) and certain foods create a surge of dopamine in our brain  (hello chocolate!). Food can also have powerful associations to our childhood – every time Grandma gave us some M&M’s to show us she loved us – we associate food to love. (That doesn’t mean to say that we can never give treats to our loved ones as a way to show them we care. As with everything, balance and moderation is key.)

An important first step in attempting to eat more mindfully is to begin by recognizing the differences between physical hunger and emotional hunger:

  • Physical hunger tends to be gradual whereas emotional hunger tends to come on suddenly and feels urgent.
  • Physical hunger will be satisfied by any type of food (you will reach for a variety of food groups generally), whereas emotional hunger is all about the cravings.
  • With physical hunger, when we are finished eating, we feel satisfied. Emotional eating will create a feeling of guilt.
  • With physical hunger, we tend to pay attention to the cues that we are full and we stop eating. With emotional hunger, we often eat until we are uncomfortably full.

Knowing the difference between that our body needs and what our mind needs when it comes to eating is a good first step in curbing our habit to reach for food to satisfy an emotional need. Tomorrow’s post will look at healthier substitutes when dealing with emotional hunger.

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Imposter Syndrome and What to Do About It

Yesterday’s post defined Imposter Syndrome; today’s post looks at ways that we can begin to challenge those pervasive thoughts.

Because Imposter Syndrome is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that tend to persist despite evidence of success, one of the ways we can begin to challenge the underlying fraudulent feelings is to focus on the evidence of success. We can begin by writing down our accomplishments both at home and at work as a way to objectively view our own proficiency. This challenges our core belief of inadequacy.

Another way to challenge these feelings is to begin to understand how they formed in the first place. What was your experience growing up in terms of achievement and success? What were both the spoken and unspoken rules in your family as to how success was measured and how did you fit into those rules?

When we can combine both an understanding of how imposter syndrome may have developed and the factual account of our success, we can begin to recognize that the beliefs of inadequacy we have held onto for so long are historical and no longer serving a purpose for us. From there, we can begin to consciously replace our automatic thoughts with more accurate affirmations; leading to a more realistic view of our accomplishments.

“I bring value to this organization.”

“I deserve the respect I have earned at work/home.”

“I am successful because I work hard.”

“I am accomplished.” 

Changing our core beliefs can be challenging at first, but with practice and persistence, we can get there – freeing ourselves from their perpetual cycle; one positive affirmation at a time 🙂

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What is Imposter Syndrome? Definition and Cause

We all have moments of self-doubt. Sometimes those thoughts come into play when we are feeling insecure about something, or our confidence is down. Imposter syndrome, however tends to be more pervasive. It is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that tend to persist despite evidence of success. In other words, if you often think “Eventually, someone is going to figure out the real me and see me for who I am,” you may have imposter syndrome. It is about the inability to internalize our own success. People who suffer with imposter syndrom tend to have chronic self-doubt and feel intellectually fraudulent.

Imposter syndrome tends to be linked to core beliefs that most likely started in childhood. Often linked to an association of ‘achievement = love,’ coupled with the message that “It was never good enough” can create lasting effect. Comparing children’s success in the home can also contribute. Imposter syndrome can develop in people who tend to have perfectionist traits, who believe they have to accomplish tasks on their own or believe that you must be an ‘expert’ in something to fully be successful. People with imposter syndrome often will work harder than anyone else in the room.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Tomorrow’s post will look at step to take if imposter syndrome is taking up too much space in your life 🙂

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Emotional Intelligence; Post 5

In our last post about Emotional Intelligence, we look at the fifth component of EI: Social Skills. When we think about social skills in the context of emotional intelligence, it is about the art of being able to effectively communicate with others, being influenced by both your emotions and your ability to read into what other people are feeling. Social skills include being able to convey our point of view while respecting someone else’s, being able to manage conflict, being able to manage change, co-operation skills, being open to work as a team member, and leading by example.

Ways that we can increase our EI social skills include:

  • Build your self-confidence. Don’t like small talk? Practice it. Don’t like confrontation? Take a course on conflict management skills. Create a bigger window of opportunity for yourself to practice your skills and increase your confidence.
  • Keep your established relationships healthy. When we are actively working on the relationships we have, not only is it good practice for the outside world, it emphasizes the importance of good social skills in relationship.
  • Emphasize a collaborative climate. When we work towards creating cooperation both at home and at work, we focus on the importance of the relationships in accomplishing tasks.
  • Smile. You’d be surprised at how far a smile will go in letting people know that you are open minded.
  • Practice gratitude. Saying thank you is a simple and effective social skill.

Five components of Emotional Intelligence. EI starts with Self-Awareness and understanding our own emotions which leads us to being able to manage them – Self-Regulation. From there, we can use our emotions to reach our goals through Motivation. Once we have a good grasp on our own emotional intelligence, we move towards Empathy, and the art of understanding other people’s emotions and finally through Social Skills, we can secure healthier environments for ourselves and others.

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