10 Mistakes In Thinking That Cause Is The Majority Of Your Stress

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In the late 1970s, a savvy medical doctor named David Burns revealed information that changed the face of psychology: depression is not an emotional disorder. Dr. Burns boldly stated, “Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking.” In fact, his research showed that “intense negative thinking always accompanies a depressive episode.”

In 1980, Burns published a best-selling book titled, “Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy,” which made his work usable to the masses. It sold millions of copies to regular folks and psychologists alike and continues to sell today. His groundbreaking approach now serves as the foundation for an evidenced- based practice called cognitive behavioral therapy that is used by therapists worldwide.

His basic idea: change your mood by shifting your thinking through life transformation. Dr. Burns’ research deciphered 10 specific errors in the way that we unknowingly respond to life situations. Come to find that whenever you have an upsetting circumstance, whether it is mundane – I broke my favorite dishware, or serious – your daughter is flunking out of school, you can change your feelings (and your response to your daughter) by understanding your thinking errors.

He explains, “Your emotions result entirely from the way you look at things.” This is true because we must process information neurologically, meaning, we must understand what is happening first and then we have a reaction through feelings.

Ready to learn the errors? They are as follows:


1.) ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.


2.) OVER-GENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.



3.) MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.


4.) DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way, you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.


5.) JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion. There are two ways we move too quickly into judgment:

            a. MIND READING: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and you don’t bother to check this out.
            b. FORTUNE TELLING: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.


6.) MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”


7.) EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”


8.) SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn’t, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration and resentment.


9.) LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of over-generalization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself. “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.


10.) PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.


Do any of these items sound familiar? Do you have some favorites that you do every day? Don’t despair; it is inevitable to fall into the trap of mistaken thoughts -until now!

Now that you know how you contribute to your own misery you can stop! Start by catching yourself making these errors and reading a life transformation book. Once you recognize that you thinking has become distorted, you can begin imagining a rationale response. I go into this in detail in the next blog called, “4 Steps Psychologists’ Use to Change a Mood.”

In order to become more familiar with these thinking errors, print this blog and tape it up in a location where you can gaze at it daily – your office desk, the side of the computer monitor, or on the dash of your car. Instead of staring at the wall while you brush your teeth you can place this list on the inside of your bathroom cabinet door. As you brush your teeth both morning and evening, review these cognitive distortions that cause you to judge yourself. Get to know them well so you can begin catching yourself mid-thought so your mood can brighten quickly.

2 Secrets for a 30-Minute Vacation That Works

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Is your schedule too hectic to take a vacation this summer? Did you go on a holiday only to realize that you didn’t get the rejuvenation you needed? Even if you have the luxury of taking a frequent getaway the truth is—-we need retreats frequently.

Although a 30 minute vacation cannot substitute for 10 day fishing trip on a pristine mountain lake or a week sitting poolside on a tropical island, it can offer us desperately needed relief and renewal. Just as a catnap is an age-old cure for a sleepy, groggy mind and body, a 30-minute vacation is a miraculous antidote for the stress and strain of modern life.

In order to understand how it is possible to take 30-minute vacations to transform your life it is important to understand why a vacation makes us feel better. Equipped with this information you can scheme up your own mini-vacation as often as you need!

So, what makes a vacation so medicinal? The answer: novelty and attentiveness.

Novelty is anything that is unusual, unfamiliar, fresh, imaginative, strange, different, or untried. And a vacation is fundamentally dissimilar from your day-to-day routine.sun

Think about the last time you drove through an area of town you have never been, entered the home of an acquaintance for the first time, saw a rare bird, or met a new co-worker. When we encounter the unfamiliar our eyes take in more detail, our ears perk up in anticipation, and our witty intuitive sense becomes intensified. Because there are countless experiences you have never tried, there are trillions of options for a 30-minute vacation!

When you have an unusual encounter your mid-brain brain is stimulated to create dopamine, a neurotransmitter that says, “I want more.” Our body literally awakens to the colors, textures, sounds, lighting, sensations, and tastes with increased vitality that quickens the heart, stimulates the mind to learn, and invigorates our body to the toes.

With novelty we become more alive—and this is why vacation is so darn therapeutic. As we commingle with a refreshing new reality that is unfolding in front of and within us our body, mind, heart, and spirit become enchanted and we are temporarily liberated from our troubles.

Although novelty is inherently captivating you can guarantee the effectiveness of your mini-vacation by adding the second critical ingredient: attentiveness. Being attentive means thinking about, watching, and paying careful attention your experience. I will discuss attentiveness in greater detail after we review the Novelty List below.

Are you ready to start your 30-minute vacation?

Jump in by glancing at the Top 10 Novelty Factors list below. Like a recipe, imagine the items as promising ingredients. Which combination sounds fun and easy to implement? The easier it is to implement, the more likely you are to actually take time out and go on your 30-minute vacation.

Hint: The first 2 items are the most influential novelty boosters!

Top 10 Novelty Factors

Novelty:  Ideas To New Experiences Visit, Taste, Smell, Hear, And Experience

  1. Environment: Any new store, park, landscape, micro-climate, building, chair in a meeting room, restaurant, side of town, neighborhood, place of worship, side of town, bedroom, car, etc.
  2. Pace: Thinking or Doing: Slow, steady and moderate, fast, frenzied
  3. Socialization: Spend time alone in reflective solitude, join a ‘meet up’ and meet new people, participate in a city park and recreation event or class, attend a local special interest club meeting such as birding or photography
  4. Food: Enjoy unique restaurants, ethic foods, drinks, or even grocery items
  5. Colors: Wear a new color, paint a wall of your room, visit a place that has bold colors
  6. People: Patron a different church service, museum, community event
  7. Routine: Walk a park instead of reading the newspaper
  8. Sounds: A musical event you would not typically attend; a community event you have not patroned such as a farmers market or festival
  9. Temperatures: Is there a windy point in your area? Cave tours?
  10. Activities: Swing in the swings, play crockett in the yard, throw a Frisbee with a friend, go on a horseback riding tour on the edge of town, pick fruit from the local orchard

Ok, great. Let’s do a dry run so you can do this yourself!
Pretend that your first 30-minute vacation will be to stop by a snazzy new upscale bar/restaurant on the way home from work (alone) and to order a small appetizer or drink from the bar. Text your partner ahead of time so you can fully indulge and be free from feelings of worry or guilt.

Hint: If you sit in the bar the appetizers tend to arrive within 10-15 minutes, which is plenty of time for you to get present to yourself and your surroundings and then indulge in a delectable treat. It goes without saying that a good vacation means treating yourself—so do it! Choose an item to eat that is yummy and better yet, entirely new to you! Another suggestion: while waiting for the food, refrain from working or reading depressing news (there are websites that post uplifting news).

How did we do???

Novelty Rating = 5/5. Great job! Our choice included 5 types of novelty: environment, food, smells, people, and socialization!!

Now, on to attentiveness. Did you notice that I didn’t list “pace” in the novelty rating? This is because it in order to ensure that you had actually change your pace we need to address your mind. If your body is sitting at the bar but your mind is darting from thought to thought you have not really changed your pace—and pace is a critical feature of a genuine getaway. Pace and attentiveness are interconnected.

Want to know the secret to slowing down the mind in such a brief period of time? Answer: the more novel your experience the easier it is to clear and steady the mind. For example, if you stand before Cinderella’s castle at Disney World for the first time I can guarantee that you will not be thinking of your burdens—you will only be in the present moment, gawking at the grandeur of colors, lights, sounds, characters and people walking by. When you enter a completely novel environment your mind will become immediately immersed in the present moment and when you are present, your problems cannot exist.

Admittedly the snazzy bar is no Disney World but it is novel, which means you will be more alive than is typical. Once in the novel environment (the bar) you can augment this awakened state by intentionally heightening your senses. So, when you enter the bar, greet the staff, walk to a chair, sit down, and reach for a menu—purposefully slow down your physical movements. When you are unhurried (change of pace) and deliberate (attentive) you have more spaciousness to get lost in your experience—to actually be on a bonafied vacation.

You can for example, indulge in the textures of the furniture, to the lighting and the way it bounces off of the tables, counter, and glasses. You can notice the nuances of the faces of the staff and patrons, the colors of the textiles and décor, and maybe even the feel of the floor beneath your shoes. Allow yourself to enter this little world and become enveloped in it as you would when you slip into the cool waters of a moonlit swimming pool on a hot summer night. And remember, no need to bother yourself with what others are thinking or doing—you are on vacation.

As you sink into your chair and order a delectable delight you can also entertain yourself with your inner world. What are you feeling? All effective vacations give you space to be able to reflect, ponder, and dip into the deep reservoir of stillness within. Freed from obligations you can ponder life’s most important questions: “How am I doing these days? What is my life purpose? Why am I so driven? What makes me truly happy?” When you go beyond simple pleasures and become contemplative you will be more renewed.

The most difficult part of taking a 30-minute vacation is deciding to do it and acting on that decision. Once you accomplish your first one, you will be amazed how recharged you can become in such a short span time. When you get good at being attentive you can even transform a seemingly ordinary experience into a revolution that re-creates you.

The essential magic of vacation lies not in its distance from home or duration but the degree to which you can completely deviate from your norms and become fully immersed in your direct experience. Just like a catnap, the more quickly and deeply you can surrender into the beauty of the now the more potent it will be.


The 7 Secrets To Life-Changing Travel (Founded in Research)

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Are you ravenous for a major life change? Need a reboot? Do you want to know why you are here, where you are going and how you can make the most of your time here on earth? Are you asking yourself, “What is my purpose?” “Am I on the right path?” and “In what ways do I need to grow and change?

As a transformative travel guide and scholar of the topic, I recommend that if you are contemplating these big questions you should get out of the house for at least a week. You need not to go far, far away, or spend gobs of money to begin finding inspiration about your deepest of queries.

After having had a life changing experience in the remote wilderness myself, I spent years conducting research on the phenomenon of transformation-through-travel. Even though there is no such thing as 1-800-change-my-life, research shows that travel is an efficient and economical way to increase the likelihood that you will have a deeply meaningful, if not, life-changing experience.

Here are factors I have found that cause travel to be transformative:

  1. Novelty. The single most important requirement for transformation (other than inner readiness) is novel experiences. A life changing event is, by definition, an introduction to a reality that you had never considered possible. This means that when you start to imagine what you want to do and where you would like to go, consider: the greater the difference between your travel destination and your home in context to the greater potential for transformation. Domestically, this might mean you stay in a B&B in a small, Midwest town if you live in the big city. You spend time in historical sites of a conservative region if you live in a liberal locale, or get cozy with the locals at a volunteer farm if your work is starting to make you feel hardened.
  2. Quality of Preparation. A little bit of research means the difference between a “nice getaway” and “something happened to me there.” Now that you know about novelty, take time to find non-traditional lodging—a vacation rental is just a warm-up. What about a sleeping in a tree house, a windmill, lighthouse or hammock? Make sure to investigate the degree to which you can access the local culture, customs, activities, nature, animals, ecosystems, flora/fauna and everyday life – these are transformative elements of travel.
  3. Inner Readiness. It goes without saying, if you don’t want to change you won’t. Keep this in mind if you are trying to convince someone you love to transform. If they feel restless inside, have a lingering need for change, find themselves super curious about an unanswered question or sense an uneasy feeling in their gut that questions, “Is there something more to life than this?” then they are ready for life transformation.
  4. Intercultural Experiences. Although this is not number two in this list, it is the second most important factor for many people in preempting a transformative experience while traveling. Think about your last travel excursion – did you have an authentic personalized conversation (where you talked about their life and got to know them as a person and possibly vice versa) with someone from that place? The waiter? Tour guide? If you did, chances are you still remember them, the details of the stories and the context of your conversation. You might even remember their name. When we connect with another human being during the altered state of travel, we access something of that place, that land and those people that would have otherwise been inaccessible to us. Make it a point to initiate genuine conversations regularly—get to know the people—ask them personal questions. Better yet, do a home stay, B&B, couch surf or volunteer.
  5. Travel Companions. What do you really need? Being alone? One person? Small group? Anthropology explains that when we leave the structures of daily life and expose ourselves to differences that our mind and heart become opened to possibilities, others and ourselves. The journey itself can quickly foster deep bonds not as easily found during ordinary life. Several studies found that the unique alchemy of interpersonal experiences was crucial to having a major life-change. In case you are wondering, mainstream tour groups tend to leave little room for factors discussed in this list.
  6. Reflection. You will gain much more out of your experience if you are vigilant about what you are learning about others, your contemplation about what you encounter and what it teaches you about how the world works or doesn’t seem to work and yourself. Seek out the deeper meaning of synchronicities that occur along the way and take advantage of activities that stimulate growth or spiritual experience. How will you interpret the meaning of your inner and outer experiences? Daily time in solitude will make a difference.
  7. Post-Travel Integration Activities. What do you do when you return from travel? Just as Judy Garland as Mary Poppins sang, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine, makes the medicine go down” make sure to give yourself theses treats: ruminate about your journey as often as you can and for as many days and weeks as you can allow yourself. Internalized social norms may produce an inner voice that says, “move on” or “get over it.” Don’t listen. Instead, indulge in activities that help to absorb your experiences so that they can become a part of who you are today: look at your pictures, connect with people you met during travel via the internet, talk about your experiences with friends who have endured life-changing events or who enjoy personal growth, and wear clothing (after you wash them), listen to music, and engage in activities that you did while on travel. Remind yourself: It is important that I “go back there” in my mind.

Even though there is no formula for transformation, you can increase the odds that you have a life-changing experience. If the timing is right – you just might have one. The more you get to know yourself and plan ahead the more you will enjoy and even grow happier because of your travel.


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blog_computerHere I am finally blogging, after having written a 200-page master’s thesis, a 400+ page doctoral dissertation, several scholarly articles, and a 400-page popular book! This is funny if you consider the fact that the best grade I ever earned in K-12 English was definitely not higher than a “C.” My ninth grade teacher would probably freak out, and Mother wouldn’t believe it. Actually, I don’t either–how did this happen?
Writing a book was certainly not something I aspired to do; incidentally, neither was conducting research, becoming a college professor, building my own house, or living on the edge of the ocean.
I can blame my parents.
Through their actions, I learned that following my bliss was possible. Doing so led me down a path paved with activities fueled by my love of learning, healing, and helping others. The writing and everything else has been a welcome surprise while doing what makes me happy.
Over the coming months I will be working with editors, publicists, and other folks in order to make the book available by November 2013. In the meantime, I am excited to share information from The Map to Wholeness so you can receive help finding your way through crisis, change, and reinvention. Please enjoy my website, blog posts, Facebook and Twitter feeds, and newsletter, and please help connect me to communities of people who want to learn about transformation and wholeness.

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