How to Train Your Brain

(This blog post was first published on October 4th, 2020)

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. R.D. Laing

Getting in a funk can be surprisingly easy, we often fail to notice the ways that small choices go against the grain of what we are comfortable with and slowly over time we get so used to being uncomfortable; that one day we look at our life and think “how on Earth did I get here?” Getting out of that place can be a lot more challenging. I know because part of my life journey before becoming a Life Coach was recreating my life, if you are in need of change, whether or not you are working with me as your Coach, read on as I have some wisdom for you; especially if there are some things that you want to shake loose before the end of the year! There is something refreshing and energizing about a change of season and since not all of my clients are in the USA, whether you are moving from Winter into Spring, Summer to Fall or Autumn these rules are equally applicable.
Your mind can be your greatest asset or your worst enemy. How does your mind trick you, the psychobabble term is “thought distortions.” My mind wouldn’t do that to me, I hear you chuckle, well have you ever thought to yourself;
➸I ate a cupcake from the break room at work so I may as well pick up drive thru for dinner on the way home.
➸ People will think I am strange if I stop drinking wine with my meal.
➸ I don’t deserve the cost of a gym membership.
➸ I applied and wanted this job, even though it is not what I thought it would be, I have to stay here to provide for my…..
➸ I have failed before so I will fail again.
➸ I am a failure if I do not make the most of every opportunity that comes my way.
➸ If I slow down people will think less of me.
There are as many more as there are stars in the sky, so if you can think of your own, or if one of those rings true for you read on to fully be able to understand how they shape your thoughts and your actions.
Exaggerated Thoughts - when you make a situation bigger than it is, like; I slept through my alarm so my entire day is ruined.
Delusional Thinking - when you tell yourself something you know is not true, enough times that you begin to believe it, like; I don’t deserve to be healthy or happy.
Justification - you put two unrelated things together to justify a decision, like; I have worked hard all week so I am going to drink until I can’t remember him/her/the bills….
Rules Stickler - you give yourself rules that mess you up more than they help like; I must finish all of the food on my plate or I am wasteful.
Mind Reading - you predict what others will think like; If I order a salad they will think I am on another crazy diet.
Black and White Thinking - you classify the results of your actions as falling into only one of two categories like If I don’t make enough money this year to take the family on a two vacation I am a failure.
Now that you know some of the tricks that your mind can play on you think back to the last week.
What thought distortions did you have?
What category did they fit into?
If you had a friend who shared that they had this same thought, what would you tell them about themselves? Write down what you would tell your friend. In what way does that differ from what you tell yourself?
Once you start to notice and can identify your own thought patterns, you are already noticing and by noticing you are aware and awareness is when you can make smarter decisions! (Cue the victory music and dancers!) Ok so, there it might take time to fully become comfortable with challenging the tricks your mind plays on you; but my wish for you is that you have gained a new insight about yourself. If you want to then challenge these tricks, if you have worked with me before you will know I ask the question, how do you know that to be true? Where did your mind create this thought? Was it out of fear, judgement or self-loathing? What is the truth about this situation?
Coaching is not going to stop all of the thought distortions but it will help you to develop strategies to move beyond them. My family and many of my clients have benefited from practicing mindfulness through meditation. Learning how to see negative thoughts, just as they are and letting them pass you by without playing into the emotion can be really powerful. I love the app Headspace for this and for a cute animation on how meditation helps you to see and release them.
One more tip, the power of two little words “Oh well!” If there is anything I have learned is that I can not predict the future and sometimes even with the best of planning things go wrong. Like last week, I slept through my alarm, which meant I was not going to get my exercise time and my black and white thinking kicked in, and I may as well have cake for breakfast too. But instead of eating cake, my thoughts were “Oh well, now what can I do about it?” I walked at lunch and a little more in the evening and those two short walks added into one larger activity. It was not what I planned, but blocking the mind games with “oh well” gives me some space to think about what are the things I can control in my day and space to figure out how I can make lemonade out of lemons. Super simple two little words that can have a huge impact on your day and your outlook on your entire life!
Want more? Take my challenge this week to journal everyday about your own thought distortions with the questions above and write down what you learn about yourself. If you find that thought patterns are coming from trauma and fear it might be time to speak with a therapist. To find a therapist in your area, who works in your area of need and takes your insurance click here and if you do not have insurance but want to find someone near you that specializes in your particular area of need click here.
If you are ready to plan strategies for your future and want to work with me as your Coach please click here to schedule your obligation free, no hassle consultation here.
You do not need to be Thich Nhat Hanh to be mindful or self aware. But learning to be aware is a journey, I hope that you make use of the tools I have shared and give yourself some kindness.
Life is about fun just as much as work!

Keep it simple;
➶ Walk an additional 300 steps a day
➶Make one meal a day a healthier one
➶Got to bed a little earlier
➶Read a book. Did you know that reading biographies can help you plan your life?
➶Try a new hobby, emphasis on try
➶Take a different route to work, but give yourself a good amount of time to do so
➶Spend more time in nature
➶Try the headspace app (if you have been unemployed because of covid you can get this app for free, message me for more information.)

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NOTE: Many of these resources utilize restrictive interventions, like active rescues (wellness or welfare checks) involving law enforcement or emergency services. If this is a concern for you, you can ask if this is a possibility at any point in your conversation. Trans Lifeline does not implement restrictive interventions for suicidal people without express consent. A warmline is also less likely to do this, but you may want to double-check their policies.