Sorry

Do you apologise frequently and/or unnecessarily? Maybe you suspect you do but your not sure? Spend a few days observing and noticing your “sorry” habits, taking note of how often you apologise and whether you have done it in the appropriate context.

The dictionary meaning for “apologise” is this:

To express regret for something that one has done wrong.

Have you done anything wrong? Do you regret your actions? If not, then an apology is not necessary! Here’s a quick tip for breaking the “sorry-itis” habit.

Replace “Sorry” with “Thankyou”.

Because in many cases that is the true essence of what you would like to say.

For example “Sorry to keep you waiting” becomes “Thankyou for your patience” and “Sorry things didn’t go to plan” becomes “Thankyou for your understanding”.

People respond more positively to gratitude and praise than they do to being apologised to (especially when it’s not necessary) AND the beauty of this approach is that it will put you in touch with what you truly wish to communicate, leaving you not only feeling more satisfied but also having others notice your integrity and authenticity. Give it a try!

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My Journey: Negative Self Talk

For some of us, negative self talk is constantly playing over and over in the background and for others it comes up in response to particular situations. My negative “demons” arrive when I have the opportunity to blame myself for something. My entire life I have been very harsh on myself whenever anything I do has an undesirable result. Sometimes my mind even searches for ways to blame me for things that are not even my fault!

Thanks to ACT and mindfulness I can allow this self talk to come and go gently without causing the difficulty and struggle that it used to. Here’s an example…

Recently I was driving to buy some honey from a family that keeps bees and produces it locally. On the way in the car I had been indulging in some unhelpful thinking about something that had happened earlier in the day. As a result I was already feeling less than average. I stopped just near my destination to get some cash out and fill up the car with petrol when I realised that I had left my wallet at home!

Urges, thoughts and feelings started welling up within me. Rather than give in to the behaviours that would normally follow on from this I just observed: I had an urge to cry, the feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment in myself all at once, I had a strong desire to call my husband and complain about my situation and that negative self talk was in full stead…

You’re useless, this is a disaster, you’re going to run out of petrol, there’s no point trying anything, you can’t do anything for yourself, what a waste of an afternoon.

I sat in stillness and asked myself “What would my confident, positive self do in this situation?” and the answer came to me immediately: “Find out if I can pay for the honey later!”. So I contact the woman selling the honey and made a plan to collect the honey and pay her at another time. This solved one of my problems, but I’m sure you’re not surprised that the thoughts and feelings were still there. I defused, observed, surfed and expanded as I continued on my way. I started to calm down once I had accepted everything happening inside my mind and body but then I was starting to worry about running out of petrol. This started my mind racing again! I soon realised that that this was beyond my control and accepted that IF that did happen that I would be ok.

Phew! What a ride I was taking myself on. I started to think it was over when I realised that I’d taken a wrong turn. Instantly all of my thoughts, feelings and urges returned with more volume than before. I must admit that I had to be very disciplined at this point so that I didn’t revert to unhelpful, ‘automatic’ behaviours. I observed my internal experiences while I turned around and found my way again. This time it was self compassion that helped me through.

By the time I arrived at my destination I had allowed, observed and accepted everything that my mind and body could throw at me and I actually started to feel content, grateful and maybe even a little bit chuffed with myself. I resigned myself to the fact that I may not make it home before I needed fuel and that knew that I would cope if this occurred.

So after picking up my honey, home I went. I was very pleased to have managed so well despite the circumstances and wasn’t even phased when I was stuck behind an incredibly slow truck for most of the journey home. And thankfully I made it home with enough fuel to pick up my wallet and to drive on to get petrol.

Without applying ACT during these events, not only would I have remained in auto-pilot and believed what my mind was saying, I would have also caused myself to suffer unnecessarily. Long standing habits of negative self talk can cause the potential for struggle however ACT techniques have the power to empower you and set you free… just like they did for me!

I’m an ACT-ivist

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that is! I can’t get enough!

Time and time again I see people transforming their lives using simple the techniques of ACT. I have seen ACT succeed where countless other approaches have failed people again and again.

Many ACT approaches may initially seems counter-intuitive and require both practice and discipline however once mastered, ACT can set you free!

I am so excited to use ACT in my own life everyday but also to share these empowering techniques with others. It’s simple:

Accept ‘what-is’, stand back from your thoughts and feelings, act on your true values. That’s it!

Always / Never

Do you use these words? If you do, are you aware of it? I challenge you to observe your use of these words and notice whether or not they contribute to your life in a positive way.

Firstly, these words are often used in statements and thoughts that are not entirely true, such as “You never pay any attention to me” or “I always get left out”. Thoughts like these do little to contribute to your wellbeing as are just complaints about how “terrible” things are and have been. This way of communicating also does not lend itself to finding a desirable outcome and instead insists on perpetuating the suffering.

We need to be willing to be honest with ourselves and try something new…

In order to fully change these habits, it’s important to focus on FACTS and FEELINGS. If you find yourself using “always” and “never” in contexts where the truth is being stretched, see if you can frame what you want to say differently and honestly e.g. “I feel worthless when I’m not listened to” or “I feel as if you are are avoiding me”. Don’t be tempted to simply replace “always” with “sometimes”, “all the time” or “most of the time” or replace “never” with “rarely”.

You need to commit to observing ‘what is’ and accepting what you cannot change. To practice acceptance of difficult feelings, try expansion.

A follow up post about “awfulising” coming soon!

The LOVE tip

Here’s a quick little tip to assist you to release the struggle with difficult experiences and to identify what truly matters. It’s L.O.V.E

Let go. When we struggle with something we wish had a different outcome, we experience negative thoughts, unhelpful feelings and can make ourselves miserable. Letting go is not about avoiding problems in an attempt to get rid of them. Letting go is about accepting what is. Acknowledging that attempts to avoid or control only further the struggle. In this step we need to breathe, get present, take some time out and find space to allow both our internal and external experiences to exist as they are.

Open up. This follows on naturally from the first step. Using expansion or defusion we can find acceptance for the feelings, thoughts and circumstances that we cannot control.

Values. Next we need to decide how we would like to behave from this point forward. We have complete control over our actions so it’s important to proceed with actions that are in alignment with our true values. We do this by asking ourselves “What is important now?” and “Who do I want to be?” or “What do I want to stand for?”. The answers will provide you with a choice about how to proceed.

Engage. In this step we take action motivated by our values. If you are used to responding in an unhelpful way you may need to choose behaviour that is new or foreign to you.

 

Taking the time to let go, open up and connect with your values BEFORE responding to any situation will enable you to stand in your power rather than fall victim to unhelpful habits that no longer serve you.

The L.O.V.E tip is taken from the book “ACT with love” by Russ Harris.

Change Your View

Changing the way you perceive problems in your life could help to lighten their load.

We can be quick to judge situations and people (including ourselves) as ‘bad’ and can find ourselves getting quite attached to the reasons that we use to justify these judgements. By exploring the other possibilities available to us, we can make a conscious choice about which “view” we choose to apply.

For example: Say there’s a barking dog in your neighbourhood. It might seem normal to have the view that “that barking dog is a nuisance that disturbs the peace”, but this view is bound to leave you feeling frustrated! However, when we look at some of the other “views” available to us we can easily choose one that leaves us in a better mood such as:

“that dog just wants more love and attention”, can evoke compassion for the dog, or

“most of the time the dog is quiet but today it’s barking”, generates a feeling of gratitude for all the times the dog doesn’t bark.

This technique can easily be applied to everyday problems and you might even start to notice how strong your attachment is to your view of the world. When you notice yourself judging something or someone as negative, see if you can identify the view that you’re currently applying. Then make a list of all the alternative views that you can think of. Choose one that stands out for you and bring it in to your consciousness, let it replace your original view.

An example from Russ Harris’ “ACT Made Simple”:

Imagine a chair that has four legs but the moment anyone sits on it, one of the legs drops off. Our first instinct is to view the chair as broken or defective – is there any other way to see it? What about if the chair were being used as a practical joke? Or as a prop in a film or play? Or as an art piece? Or even as an example of faulty workmanship?

In each of these contexts the chair functions very effectively to serve it’s purpose.

In another example imagine your are prevented by your partner/children/pets/ from leaving home on time for a scheduled appointment meaning that you will arrive around 25 minutes late. Your natural reaction is to see this as a complete disaster, sending you into a frenzy of panic and distress. How else could we view this situation?

Breathe into and around the uncomfortable emotions, make room for them and allow them to be there, releasing the struggle with them. Ask yourself, “what is important right now?” and “what do I want to stand for right now?” and use the answers to assist you to choose your behaviour. For example you may realise that what’s important now is simply getting to my destination as soon as I can safely and you might decide that you’d like to be calm under pressure.

This is not an overnight process if you are used to responding with worry, despair and panic. Taking a step back from your initial reaction and deciding how you would like to behave will help you on the transition towards the person you want to be, one step at a time.

Another approach is to ask yourself, “How can I be more like the person I truly want to be in this moment?”. Visualise yourself embodying all of the values you hold dear and tackling this situation. If you were in true alignment with your values, how would you behave differently?

Your thoughts, beliefs and perceptions about any given situation will govern your response. Notice if your catch yourself thinking in “shoulds” or “needs” and ask yourself gently “what is really important right now?”. See what answer arises and choose your behaviour based on what is truly meaningful in this moment.

Defusion From Unhelpful Thoughts

Defusion is a mindfulness technique that is useful for dealing with unhelpful thoughts such as painful or traumatic memories, disturbing images, fears or negative beliefs.

The aim is to simply observe the thought rather than becoming a victim to it. Defusion also helps by adding things to the thought – or ‘playing’ with it, so that the words and pictures no longer have an unwanted emotional response.

Try this defusion exercise below.

Subscribe to my you tube channel and hear my other mindfulness tracks here.