Tag Archives: Healthy Couples

Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is one of the most important ways to improve our relationship with ourselves.

Society has taught us to be perfect, work harder, achieve more,  and be the best at everything we do.  While it is great to have goals in life to help us grow and develop, unfortunately, many people struggle with not knowing when to stop and are constantly self-critical.  When our self worth depends on being “better” than others, we become anxious, insecure, and self critical.  This competition and frequent self judgement, can lead to social isolation.  This self-criticism gets in the way of our brain’s social wiring goals – which is to belong and be loved.

Self-compassion is not artificially boosting ourselves up, being too easy on ourselves, or giving up.  It is the actually the opposite – the source of learning, empowerment and inner strength.  Our performance after failure can also be improved through self-compassion, and it helps us maintain peace of mind throughout the day.  

Kristen Neff, one of the leading researchers and practitioners in the field of Self-Compassion says, “Self-compassion soothes the mind like a loving friend who’s willing to listen to our difficulties without giving advice, until we can sort out our problems for ourselves.” 

Self-compassion involves facing mistakes, failure or insecurity in a different way.  Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same support, kindness, and concern you would show to a child, loved one or close friend.  When facing with struggles in life (which we all experience), self-compassion involves responding with kindness rather than harshness and judgement.  For example, “Mallory, that sucks you are struggling with feeling left out of the group.  That feeling is normal and many people feel the same way.”  I like to use my name my self-compassion statements (see my tips on positive self talk).  If you would like to learn more about self-compassion, here is a Ted Talk by Kristen Neff I strongly recommend seeing.

Kristin Neff also has some free guided Loving Kindness Meditations as well – that are a great way to learn how to speak to ourselves differently, especially if you have no idea where to start.

And finally, here is a Self Compassion Exercise that I use with clients and myself, to practise self compassion.  It often does not come naturally, so we need to have a script to repeat to ourselves – until it becomes automatic.  If self-compassion is something you want to work on in your life, I often suggest practising either a meditation, repeating your own personalized self-compassion scripts (set an alarm), and use the worksheet – and then personalize the worksheet to situations in your life that you are currently facing (feel free to get some ideas from family and friends too).

Week 7: Improving Our Relationship With Ourself

A critical part to the Healthier You program, and something I work with almost ALL OF MY CLIENTS on, is improving our relationship with ourself – starting with changing the way we evaluate our worth.  There are many factors that influence how we evaluate our worth including:

  • Societal values
  • Family values
  • Our experience growing up
  • Pressures such as perfectionism, capitalism and the focus on beauty
  • Need for approval
  • Need for control

One thing we know in psychology, is that people tend to be happier, have less psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, and have a steadier positive experience throughout life when they use INTRINSIC VALUES to evaluate themselves, vs EXTRINSIC VALUES.

EXTRINSIC VALUES (the ones we want to be weary of using) includes factors such as achievements, compliments, approval, and social media responses.  There is a big difference of using EXTRINSIC VALUES as a motivator or goal versus using them to evaluate one’s worth.  A common problem people experience when using extrinsic values to evaluate themselves, is they can be doing everything well, and not be getting the feedback they need.  Extrinsic values are often out of our control and we don’t get accurate feedback because we rely on others – such as a boss (who may not be good at giving positive feedback), society (that often has ulterior motives such as to sell us something), or an arbitrary assessment (such as a test that focuses on a small proportion of your knowledge).  The key message is:

WE ARE MORE THAN OUR ACHIEVEMENTS, JOB, MONEY, ATTRACTIVENESS TO OTHERS, POPULARITY, and STATUS.

 

So………what are INTRINSIC VALUES and how do we incorporate them in our lives?

INTRINSIC VALUES are values that tell us about who we are.  These values are typically consistent throughout our adult lives (and often developing in childhood and adolescence).  There is no intrinsic value that is better than the other.  Here is a Intrinsic Values worksheet that I give out to help prompt thinking.  There are many more values a person can use – but Intrinsic Values list will help you get started.

 

Activity

From the list, choose 5-10 values that are true to you.  This may take a few read overs to go from a larger list to a smaller list.  

A way to tell a true value vs. “nice to have traits” is that if you were to get $500 000 to no longer have that value, would you take the money?  For example, I like being tidy and I know society values it (and those around me), but I would take the money to no longer be tidy.  However, I would not take the money to no longer be kind, helpful or hardworking.  So these are my true values.  Also be aware of the pull towards values that society values – that may not be as true to you.  

Societal values are constantly changing – and remember, this is about finding your own PERSONALIZED values, that tell us about what influences your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  

Questions to Ponder

  • After looking at the list, is this someone you would want to be friends with?
  • Does this give you any new perspective about why you enjoy certain people, and why others seem not to be a good fit in your life?
  • Do your values give you any new deeper insight about a value conflict when you have been upset or hurt?

Incorporating INTRINSIC VALUES Into Your Life

  • Each week or two (set an alarm), rate yourself from a scale of 1-10 of how much you incorporated these values into your life.  A lower score does not indicate poor performance, it means that may be a value that may need expressing or nurturing in the next coming weeks.  Likewise a 10 does not mean perfection, it means you utilized that trait highly during that time period.
  • The above activity is also good to do when you are feeling down or upset.  If you are upset with another person, focus on yourself, and notice what the situation says about you, rather than being judgemental of someone else.  
  • When working on a new goal, such as a healthier lifestyle, studying for a new career, or trying something new, be extra purposeful of using these INTRINSIC VALUES along side when evaluating progress.  For example, put a sticky note with your values on the scale to prompt you.

Week 4 – Happiness and Living Life With Intention

 

This week’s Healthier You Program, we are working on advancing the understanding of mindfulness while being more exploratory and experiential.  (AKA – Let’s Play!)

 
Step 1: Watch this Ted talk: 
(it is about 10 minutes long)
 
Step 2: Go for outside either for a walk, or sit on your backyard deck.
 
Step 3: See if you notice anything differently after watching this video that you have not noticed before.  It could be more detail in an image.  A touch (i.e.. the wind)   How the trees are moving.  A smell.  A sound.  Anything that catches your attention.
 
Step 4: Take 3 pictures each of 3 different things you notice around you that you normally don’t pay attention to
 
* You can do this exercise as a family, couple or individually (but please discuss your experiences together and share your photos with one another).
 
 
 Happy Experiencing!
 

Week 3 – Identifying & Navigating Through Potential Roadblocks

An important step in making healthy lifestyle changes for the long term, (that most people don’t do), is to identify the roadblocks that may limit success.  When introducing an exercise program and a more active lifestyle, it is easy to get derailed and go back to what feels comfortable – especially when a person is tired or has something more appealing they would like to do (Edmonton Oilers game anyone?) 

When it comes to healthy eating, it is often even easier to experience a lapse, as unhealthy tempting options are everywhere – especially because we know through research, that humans only have so much will power.  This is why it is very important to have an honest discussion with yourself – what have been the reasons in the past that I have stopped my healthy changes?  

When other people are around, is it difficult to not follow the crowd?  When you are tired, do you tend to go for the unhealthier choices?  Do you get bored and unstimulated, and stop your routine?  Are you a poor planner – and when life gets busy, you tend opt for unhealthy convenience?  Do you not make yourself a priority and have a difficult time setting boundaries for yourself?  

These questions need to be constantly evaluated.  Most people experience lapses from time to time when making healthy lifestyle changes.  However, it is important to be aware of these roadblocks, and preplan what you will do to prevent them from being ongoing excuses.  Catching a lapse, or even preventing a lapse – ultimately PREVENTS A RELAPSE.  

  • Note – a lapse is temporarily reverting to previous behaviour (i.e. poor eating and not exercise during christmas holidays).  A relapse is a long-term regression to previous behaviour.

Here is a Common Eating Roadblocks handout I use to discuss common barriers to success.  It is also helpful for people to make a similar own personal handout for their own healthy eating roadblocks as well as exercise roadblocks.

Healthier You Psychology Program – Week 1

Motivation, Defining Success, & Intro to Healthy Thinking About Food

 

Are you ready for healthier changes in your life?  Wonderful!!!  

When starting any changes in your life, it is absolutely critical to ask the question: What does success look like?  Most people will answer “weight loss.”  However, it is important not to let the scale dictate everything.  With my “Healthier You” Program, I need you to be aware that measuring weight, while certainly can be a part of measuring success, it is not the all, end all.  And if weight is the all, end all for you, it has too much power over you.

This winter, a few months after having my son, I eventually got back into exercising and was doing really well with a regular strength program and going to spin class for cardio.  After a few weeks, I was feeling energized, stronger and was proud of myself for investing in exercise after everything my body had went through.  I was even really ENJOYING my exercise routine.  However, one day, I mindlessly stepped on the scale, and saw that I had not lost a pound.  I immediately felt frustrated, defeated and my motivation plummeted.

It took me about a week to change my negative self-talk and refocus.  But I did learn a very important lesson…  that I needed a better way to measure success to immunize myself from my disappointment autopilot self-sabbatoge.  

My suggestion for people who want to make healthier changes in their life such as exercising more or improving their diet, is to create at least 3-5 other ways to measure success other than weight.  Before weighing yourself, it is critical to check in with these other variables (you can use a scale of 1-10 to evaluate).  Other ways to measure success may include: energy levels, how many times you exercised, how many days you have activity, healthy food choices, how many times you avoided unhealthy food choices, how you feel, or even how healthy you were this week overall.  

Another important component my Healthier You program, is to really look at the reasons WHY you want to change.  Here is a sample worksheet that can help you get started:

  • Note – not all healthy lifestyle changes need to involve weight loss

I often suggest to have several copies of your reasons, and review them at the beginning of the day, and during times when you normally struggle (perhaps mid afternoon or mid evening?).  If you are contemplating giving in to an unhealthy impulse, read these reasons for inspiration.

And the final part of this week’s program is to start being aware of your thoughts – with a focus on your relationship with hunger (as hunger is a very difficult feeling for many of us).  Here is a handout that can give some examples of unhealthy thoughts to notice, and some examples of healthier counter-thoughts:

 

Best wishes on your own journey and keep checking back for more program information.

Edmonton Healthier You Challenge

I am thrilled to be partnering with CTV EdmontonBody by BennettRevive Wellness and Maya Nishiwaki, General Practitioner on an exciting and life-changing 12 week challenge to make over the lives of two Edmonton.  If you would like watch the journey of these two amazing couples, you can visit the CTV Healthier You Page.  To learn more about the Georges and Godfreys, and discover why they joined the challenge, see these videos. They will also be discussing their journey on air with CTV Health Reporter Carmen Liebel and on social media ().  Watch for Carmen’s weekly Healthier You stories airing every Thursday on CTV Edmonton at 5:00 and 6:00 pm.

Over the next 12 weeks, I will be supporting these couples in re-training their minds to thinking healthy, and sharing many psychology strategies for them to use throughout their journey and in the future.  Psychology is a very important part of this challenge, as we know that a healthy mind is critical for a healthy body.  The mind and body are so interconnected, and psychological health is a prerequisite for overall health – similar to a well-functioning engine is required for a car to be great.  Just a shiny exterior won’t do!  I will also be making resources available to others who are interested in joining the couples on making their lives healthier.

Check back here for information and resources you can use to join these Edmonton Couples on their journey and make a Healthier You!  Click below see what we worked on each week for the Healthier You Program:

Phase 1: Healthier You – Foundations for Success  

Week 1 – Motivation, Defining Success, & Intro to Healthy Thinking About Food

Week 2 – How to Create a Mindfulness Practice – With Food, Life and Relationships

Week 3 – Identifying & Navigating Through Potential Roadblocks (ie. Difficult Emotions, perfectionism, all-or nothing thinking)

Week 4 – Happiness and Living Life With Intention 

Phase 2: Healthier You – Improve Your Mindset

Weeks 5 & 6 – Decluttering the Mind: Changing Negative Self-Talk to Something Helpful

Week 7 – Improving Our Relationship With Ourself

Week 8 – Self Compassion

 

Phase 3: Healthier You – Relationships

 Week 9 – How to Have Healthy Conflict

Week 10 – Love: Ways to Show Love (and fill your partner’s love meter)

Week 11 – Play: How to Have Fun As Couple and a Family

 

Phase 4 – Planning for Success

Week 12 – Relapse Prevention and How to Continue a Healthy Life

Presented in partnership with:

Maya Nishiwaki, General Practitioner

 

 

 

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