June 2017 – Old Dog with New Tricks

One night as we were trying to decide if boot camp should be inside or out, I told the class there was a 30% chance of rain.  One person said well there is also a 70% chance it won’t rain. So out we went outside.  With this soggy spring, we were rained out after 30 minutes. However, we also got half the class outside.  Are you a glass half empty or full person?  Do you perhaps take the half empty into rumination spending hours trying to figure out why the glass is half empty?  Adrian Wells conducted research showing ruminators often think they have a responsibility to figure it out.  They think rumination will lead to problem solving or motivation.  The late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema found that women tend to brood over things more than men.  Men tend to use physical activity to shake off dwelling on things.  She also linked rumination to anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse.

We have long understood we make our bodies stronger through physical exercise.  Researchers are finding that learning new things will keep our brains in shape especially as we move through life.  I was a psychology major so love reading about the brain.  When I was in school we were taught the adult brain was somewhat hardwired.  We did not spend any time on the study of neuroplasticity which is the brain’s ability to develop and change throughout our entire lives.  We can form new neural connections to a much greater degree than previously thought.  So you can teach an old dog some new tricks.

The new tricks apply to not just learning but ruminating.  If you are feeling depressed always seek professional help.  If you just want to be more positive there are exercises that may help.  Several years ago I read a book called Growing the Positive Mind by Dr. William Larkin.  The theory being that you can become more positive by using the Emotional Gym.  The first “exercise” is stopping all negative self talk and giving up being critical of yourself and others.  This one was hard for me at first but is getting easier.  We may have a tendency to notice what is wrong rather than right, especially if we grew up around some “Debbie Downers”.

So how do you get rid of your inner critic?  A Psychology Today article suggests starting by just noticing.  You make a mistake what do you say to yourself?  I am such an idiot, I never get it right, I always mess up, etc.  Just observe your self talk.  Next separate yourself from the critic even give it a name, then talk back to it.  I am smart, I am capable, I am awesome.  Finally replace the inner critic.  The advice they give is something I have been doing for years.  Talk to yourself like your best friend would talk to you.  Be your own best friend.  For more details click here