From Black & White to Full-Color Thinking

Black & White to Full Color Thinking

Things never turn out right.
I screw up everything.
Every time.

It’s called black-and-white thinking. It has us thinking in absolutes, and it slams the door on the full-color range of possibilities. If you find yourself stuck in black and white thinking…

1. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Sad? Disappointed? Angry? Overwhelmed? Just feel your feelings. Name them. “I am feeling really angry right now.” Or “I feel so disappointed.” Don’t let overwhelming feelings do your thinking for you. Take care of yourself. Go for a walk.

2. Check to see if you’re falling into negative explanatory styles, e.g. seeing problems as all-encompassing, permanent, and all about you. See if you can frame the problem/issue as a) very specific, b) temporary, and c) existing, at least in part, outside of yourself.

3. Ask yourself, “What constructive steps can I take to fix this particular problem?” Rather than focus on the problem, focus on the solution.

4. If you find yourself engaged in black-and white thinking, try opening up your negative mantra by looking at the words you’re using. Here’s an example. “Things never turn out right.” What things? This one thing? Two or three things? Be very specific about the exact things are you talking about in this moment “Never.” Really? As in, not once, not ever, not even a little? Or just a few times? Or just one time? “Turn out right.” What does that mean? If you mean “to my liking,” is there something that can be done about that? Are your expectations too high? Too low?

Start paying closer attention to the things that do go right–even the seemingly little things like getting out of bed, taking a shower, enjoying a meal or having a conversation.

If black-and-white thinking has become a habit, it may take a good bit of self-monitoring, time and effort to start changing the pattern. But don’t be discouraged! The more you notice it, the more you’ll be able to turn it around and open yourself to full-color thinking.

©2015 Suzannah Ferron, MA, LMFT. All rights reserved.

Nature Nurture

Too much stress doesn’t just feel bad. It is bad.

Stepping outdoors has long been considered a panacea for life’s stressors. Now research agrees. One of the best ways to reduce stress and enhance your sense of wellbeing is to be nurtured by nature.

Being in nature is associated with lower levels of cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland that kicks into high gear under times of stress. Too much cortisol can negatively affect your memory, learning, immune functioning, bone density, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart health and mental wellbeing.

It turns out that connecting with nature is a great antidote. Time in nature can help you relax and focus, and improve your mood.

hawaiiPath In Japan, taking brief, leisurely strolls in the forest is called “Shinrin-Yoku” or “Forest Bathing”, and it has long been a popular way to deeply de-stress, relax and reconnect with the slower-paced, more oxygen-saturated natural world. Forest Bathing, which combines the exercise of walking with the therapeutic effects of being out of doors and inhaling the essential oils released by the trees, can help build immunity and positively affect mood.

Organic gardening is another way to connect with nature and replenish your mind-body- spirit. Tending a vegetable garden, growing herbs or plants on your porch, and native xeriscaping are all ways to get your hands in the dirt. Organic is essential, as it invites a deeper, healthier relationship between yourself, plants, the soil and the interconnected ecosystem.

Time spent bonding with animal companions is being increasingly recognized as having a positive physiological effect on humans, and it’s good for the animal companion as well. Even a few minutes spent with an animal companion can be a positive experience for all creatures involved.

When was the last time you spent some time outdoors or with a companion animal?

What are some ways you can spend time in nature or with an animal companion this week? Even today? Perhaps this very moment?