Category: behavioural psychology

    What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy?

    What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy or REBT?

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, also known simply as REBT, is a type of psychotherapy and a philosophy of living created by the well-known and renowned psychologist Albert Ellis in the 1950s.

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy’s (REBT) roots are based on the concept that when we become upset, it is not the actual event taking place that upsets us, but rather the beliefs that we hold that cause us to become depressed, anxious, furious… and so on. In other words we are upsetting ourselves. Think of a recent example where you were upset or angry? What were you telling yourself about the situation? What were you ‘demanding’ of yourself…? Or someone else…?

    The idea that our beliefs upset us was first articulated by Epictetus around 2,000 years ago when he said: “Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”

    The Goal of Happiness

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

    According to Albert Ellis (pictured left) and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the vast majority of us want to be happy.

    Who wouldn’t? We all want to be happy whether we are alone or with others. We want to get along with others — especially with one or two close friends. We want to be well-informed and educated. We want a good job with good pay. We want to enjoy our leisure time…

    Unfortunately, as most of us know, life doesn’t always allow us to have what we want or go in the direction we would like.

    And life is so often ‘not fair’. Our goal of being happy is often compromised by, as Hamlet states so well, the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’

    However, when our goals are blocked we still have a choice: we can respond in ways that are healthy and helpful, or we can react in ways that are unhealthy and unhelpful.

    Let’s take a closer look at what makes a belief, or a thought, healthy or unhealthy…

    The ABC Model in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

    Albert Ellis and REBT suggest that our reaction to having our goals blocked (or even simply the possibility of having them blocked) is determined by our beliefs. To illustrate this, Dr. Ellis developed a simple ABC format to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioural responses:

    A. Something happens.
    B. You have a belief about the situation.
    C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.

    For example:

    A. Your employer falsely accuses you of taking money from her purse and threatens to fire you.
    B. You believe, “She has no right to accuse me. She’s a bitch!”
    C. You feel angry.

    If you had held a different belief, your emotional response would have been different:

    A. Your employer falsely accuses you of taking money from her purse and threatens to fire you.
    B. You believe, “I must not lose my job. That would be unbearable.”
    C. You feel anxious.

    The ABC model shows that A does not cause C. It is B that causes C. In the first example, it is not your employer’s false accusation and threat that make you angry; it is your belief that she has no right to accuse you, and that she is a bitch. In the second example, it is not her accusation and threat that make you anxious; it is the belief that you must not lose your job, and that losing your job would be unbearable.

    The Three Basic Musts

    Although we all express ourselves differently, according to Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the beliefs that upset us are all variations of three common irrational beliefs. Each of the three common irrational beliefs contains a demand, either about ourselves, other people, or the world in general. These beliefs are known as The Three Basic Musts.

    1. I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I am no good.
    2. Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don’t, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.
    3. I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don’t want. It’s terrible if I don’t get what I want, and I can’t stand it.

    The first belief often leads to anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt. The second belief often leads to rage, passive-aggression and acts of violence. The third belief often leads to self-pity and procrastination. It is the demanding nature of the beliefs that causes the problem. Less demanding, more flexible beliefs lead to healthy emotions and helpful behaviors


    The goal of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs. Changing beliefs is the real work of therapy and is achieved by the therapist disputing the client’s irrational beliefs. For example, the therapist might ask, “Why must you win everyone’s approval?” “Where is it written that other people must treat you fairly?” “Just because you want something, why must you have it?” Disputing is the D of the ABC model. When the client tries to answer the therapist’s questions, s/he sees that there is no reason why s/he absolutely must have approval, fair treatment, or anything else that s/he wants.


    Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) contend that although we all think irrationally from time to time, we can work at eliminating the tendency. It’s unlikely that we can ever entirely eliminate the tendency to think irrationally, but we can reduce the frequency, the duration, and the intensity of our irrational beliefs by developing three insights:

    1. We don’t merely get upset but mainly upset ourselves by holding inflexible beliefs.
    2. No matter when and how we start upsetting ourselves, we continue to feel upset because we cling to our irrational beliefs.
    3. The only way to get better is to work hard at changing our beliefs. It takes practice, practice, practice…


    Emotionally healthy human beings develop an acceptance of reality, even when reality is highly unfortunate and unpleasant. REBT helps you develop three types of acceptance: (1) unconditional self-acceptance; (2) unconditional other-acceptance; and (3) unconditional life-acceptance. Each of these types of acceptance is based on three core beliefs:

    Unconditional self-acceptance:

    1. I am a fallible human being; I have my good points and my bad points.
    2. There is no reason why I must not have flaws.
    3. Despite my good points and my bad points, I am no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

    Unconditional other-acceptance:

    1. Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.
    2. There is no reason why they must treat me fairly.
    3. The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

    Unconditional life-acceptance:

    1. Life doesn’t always work out the way that I’d like it to.
    2. There is no reason why life must go the way I want it to
    3.  Life is not necessarily pleasant but it is never awful and it is nearly always bearable.

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) Today

    Clinical experience and a growing supply of experimental evidence show that REBT is effective and efficient at reducing emotional pain and is particularly effective for treating anxiety disorders. When Albert Ellis created Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) in the 1950s he met with much resistance from others in the mental health field. Today, it is one of the most widely-practiced therapies throughout the world. In the early days of REBT, even Dr. Ellis did not clearly see that consistent use of its philosophical system would have such a profound effect on the field of psychology or on the lives of the millions of people who have benefited from it.

    Demons on the Boat

    Imagine you’re steering a ship far out to sea. Below the deck, out of sight, lies a vast horde of demons, all with enormous claws and razor-sharp teeth.

    These demons have many different forms. Some of them are emotions, such as guilt, anger, fear or hopelessness. Some are memories of times you’ve failed or been hurt. Go to whale watching dana point when you want to have a refreshing vacation. Others are thoughts like “it’s too hard,” or “I’ll make a fool of myself,” or I’ll fail.” Some of them are mental images, in which you see yourself performing badly or getting rejected. Others are strong urges to drink too much, smoke, harm yourself, or overt. And still others are unpleasant sensations, such as tightness in your chest, or a knot in your stomach… Read more here

    Categories: behavioural psychology

    Psychology of a Perfect Diet

    Many of us with an interest in nutrition and health make the assumption that there must be a perfect diet: a perfect way to eat, a perfect nutritional system, the one way of consuming food that trumps all other approaches.

    I know I used to. If you follow this thinking, all you need do is discover this one perfect diet and you’ll hit the jackpot. By finding the perfect diet, you can have perfect health, perfect weight, perfect energy, perfect looks, and live forever… you may ask yourself if the weight loss supplements with the roids logo is part of that perfect diet?

    So, who wouldn’t want to find this perfect diet?

    Now this may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, and I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek here – but the reality is, I see far too many people, including experts, who take this dogmatic stance — there has to be one perfect diet.

    Now the problem with believing there is a one-size-fits-all perfect diet has some important consequences that we should take a look at:

    • It often has us on an endless search
    • We’re constantly on edge trying to find the perfect foods
    • We can become confused and frustrated because so many ‘experts’ claim that they have the perfect way to eat and they all have scientific proof — and many of them say something quite contradictory.
    • We might believe we found the perfect diet, and stick to it for a while only to watch ourselves falling off the wagon, eating foods outside of the diet, craving ‘forbidden’ foods, which then leads to a lot of self rejection and personal turmoil.

    This last point is a particularly important one. That’s because there’s so much nutritional confusion and personal frustration that happens when we’re trying to follow our perfect diet perfectly — and the reality is — perfection doesn’t exist.

    Show me one place in life where we can all be in agreement about what’s perfect.

    • Is there a perfect way to earn money?
    • Is there a perfect way to do relationships?
    • Is there a perfect way to raise children?
    • Is there a perfect way to have fun?
    • Is there a perfect way to move and exercise?
    • Is there a perfect way to have sex?
    • Is there a perfect house?
    • Or a perfect place to live?

    Hopefully you get the point.

    There is absolutely no such thing as the perfect diet.

    There are likely as many excellent ways to eat as there are people on planet Earth. The right diet for any one of us is linked to so many different factors: your age, genetics, preferences, your sex, the environment you live in, this season, your lifestyle, the amount of exercise you do, any health challenges you might be dealing with, your personal goals, your personal beliefs, and all kinds of yet-to-be-discovered factors, and you can even get shredded with these body building essentials if getting fit is part of your goals. Famciclovir is an antiviral drug. However, it is not a cure for these infections. The viruses that cause these infections continue to live in the body even between outbreaks. Famciclovir decreases the severity and length of these outbreaks. It helps the sores heal faster, keeps new sores from forming, and decreases pain/itching. This medication may also help reduce how long pain remains after the sores heal. In addition, in people with a weakened immune system, famciclovir can decrease the risk of the virus spreading to other parts of the body and causing serious infections. Visit to learn more about sexual infections and how to cure them with prescription medicines.

    But don’t let this frustrate you.

    Nutrition is an ongoing journey. It’s an exploration. It’s a fascinating experiment. We live in a time where our bodies are changing, our nutritional needs are very different than they were 1000 years ago, the world is a different place, we’re under a lot of environmental pressure from new toxins in a poor food chain — so our nutritional needs are ever-changing and ever-evolving. That’s the good news.

    When you really let go of trying to find the perfect diet, you can relax.

    You can be an explorer

    You can have a smile on your face and test out new approaches, new foods, new supplements, or the latest diet if you really want to – and see how it works for you.

    Now you can view this journey in two ways: problematic and disappointing, or fascinating and exciting. Your choice.

    The desire for perfection in any area of life is a form of simplistic wishful thinking. Perfectionism is a dream that we need to wake up from. The alternative is to continue sleepwalking and not understand why we’re constantly feeling out-of-balance, disempowered, uncertain, and always looking for answers about why our health or our eating habits aren’t perfect.

    The field of nutrition is a bit messy. It’s a bit unstable…
    Our lives are a bit unstable…
    These are the times we live in…

    So, let’s embrace that and do our best to celebrate it.

    Are you willing to let go of being perfect? Are you willing to admit that your quest for perfectionism often leads to confusion and self-abuse? Are you ready to embrace uncertainty and be a nutritional explorer in your own life?

    Just say yes, and your relationship with food will blossom like never before…

    Think Like a Thin Person, Lose Weight and Keep It Off

    Weight loss is not about what you eat, it’s about why and how you eat.

    So many of us struggle to feel comfortable and confident with our body and I really think it’s time to change this. So today I want to share with you some powerful insights into how thin people think and how it can help you lose weight without dieting, read this post on sodapdf for better editing and note taking.

    Please take just five minutes right now and read this post. You’ll be glad you did. By the time you’ve finished reading this you will have the tools you need to start ‘thinking thin’. I promise you, weight loss will be a joyous consequence.

    Do you find that when you look at a thin person you think any of the following?

    • “She must starve herself to look like that!”
    • “She must have the ‘skinny gene’”
    • “I bet he has a really fast metabolism”
    • “She’s probably really miserable because she must be hungry!’

    Well think again 

    Did you know that people who are naturally thin and people who constantly battle with their weight are very different?  Not just on the outside but on the inside too.

    Many people mistakenly believe that genetics plays an important role in our shape and size but recent scientific evidence suggests differently.

    The biggest difference between people who are thin and people who battle with their weight isn’t metabolism or genetics.

    It is a mind-set

    People who battle with their weight have a very different mindset than those people who don’t seem to gain weight easily. People who say they can eat what they want, chose to eat and think very differently from those who have to watch what they eat.

    What can you do?

    One very powerful thing you can do right now in order to lose weight and keep it off is to think like a thin person.

    People who are naturally thin share some common characteristics that people who are always dieting or struggling to lose weight don’t seem to have.

    1. Thin people can tell the difference between hunger and desire. When they see something that looks tasty, they will tend to consider whether or not they are hungry before making a decision.

    2. If they have eaten and are not hungry they won’t eat. Simple. They pay attention to how their stomach feels, and if they feel any type of inflammation they will listen to their body and take the patriot health alliance products. You can also get injectable fillers in Beverly Hills, CA for your dermal care.

    3. Thin people are comfortable with feelings of hunger. They can tolerate hunger and wait until the next meal time without feeling panicky.

    4. Thin people don’t dwell on feelings that accompany cravings. They can better tolerate food cravings without giving in.

    5. Thin people eat to the point of feeling pleasantly satisfied. In other words, they leave room for more and feel better that way. They tend to feel uncomfortable if they overeat and avoid becoming excessively full even if there is delicious food still left on the plate.

    6. Thin people have a better and more realistic understanding of how much they eat. If a thin person overeats which isn’t very often, they will tend to eat less at other meals to keep in balance and don’t make a big deal of it.

    7. When they are emotionally upset they don’t turn to food for comfort. If anything they tend to lose their desire to eat. Comfort eating can cause you to become self-critical, undermine your confidence and feel worse than you did before you sought comfort and thin people have a better understanding of this.

    8. Thin people don’t see weight gain as a catastrophe. They quickly address the issue by controlling their eating and exercising more.

    9. They believe they can make good decisions. They don’t think that intuitive eating is unfair. Contrary to what most people believe, thin people do make an effort to maintain their weight and stay healthy. They accept limitations of smaller portions or eating healthier food without feeling that life is unfair.

    10. Thin people manage their weight better when they reach their ideal weight. They view healthy eating as a way of life rather than the means to an end. They have a positive way of thinking about food and weight that isn’t dependent upon what size they are.

    11.They don’t break off a healthy eating diet just because they have reached their target. They stay with the plan.

    So if you:

    • Confuse hunger with the desire to eat.
    • Like the feeling of being stuffed full.
    • Fool yourself about how much you eat.
    • Comfort yourself with food.
    • Have a low tolerance for hunger and cravings
    • Feel helpless and hopeless when you gain weight.
    • Focus on feeling that things are unfair.
    • Stop dieting once you lose  the weight.

    Chances are you will continue to struggle with your weight.

    My advice to you is very simple: Think like a thin person and you will experience amazing results because weight loss is not about what you eat, it’s about why and how you eat.

    Start today, think like a thin person for just one day. Take five minutes out this evening and reflect on the decisions and actions you made. Were they different? Write down your thoughts and experiences so that you can see in black and white how this mindset shift affected your behavoiour.

    Now I would like to hear from you. Drop me an email and let me know what you think. Or do the homework and let me know how you got on. I read and reply to every email I receive and I would be happy to help if there was anything you found challenging or if you’d like to share some successful insights that would be wonderful too!

    Effective CBT Tool to Help Stop Emotional Eating


    How to address emotional triggers using the ABC model.

    Most of us are familiar with the term “emotional eating” and it’s the number one reason why people eat when they are not hungry. I’m going to share an effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tool which will help you address the triggers that lead to emotional eating.

    It’s really important to be able to discern between emotional hunger and physical hunger, and to be able to address the cause of emotional eating. While the two sensations may feel very similar, it is only as we become attuned to our body that we can differentiate between them.

    The biggest problem with emotional eating is that it does NOT make you feel better, less stressed, whole, or happy. Unfortunately, it has the EXACT OPPOSITE effect, and actually makes you feel worse. After eating something due to an emotional trigger you end up feeling guilty and frustrated with yourself.

    There are two simple principles to help you distinguish between emotional hunger and actual hunger:

    1. Emotional hunger is a sudden and impulsive feeling.

    Whereas actual hunger is gradual and doesn’t become urgent until you are starving. Typically when you are hit with an urgent pang for a particular food then some emotional trigger is involved.

    1. Emotional hunger cannot be satiated with food.

    When you eat as a result of an emotional trigger, as opposed to a physical trigger, you will find that you can continue eating. You may be familiar indeed with bingeing, which is an extreme form of emotional eating. This is where you can eat the whole packet of biscuits and still not feel satisfied. Food cannot fill the emotional deficit that you are experiencing. Physical hunger is easily satiated and once you eat something the feeling of hunger is replaced by a feeling of fullness.

    Like anything, the more you practice tuning into your body the easier it will be to identify emotional hunger.

    How can you overcome emotional eating?

    There are two simple and extremely effective steps:

    1. Awareness
    2. Recognize and address emotional triggers

    The most important thing when it comes to addressing emotional eating is awareness. 

    • Put your attention right now into your body.
    • Put your attention right now in your stomach.
    • Are you hungry right now for food at this moment?
    • Every time you’re about to put food in your body, ask yourself, am I hungry right now?
    • How hungry am I?
    • What am I hungry for?

    Emotional hunger is different.

    Typically when you are hit with an urgent pang for a particular food then some sort of emotional trigger is involved. If you trace back your thoughts to the moment before you felt the urge, you’ll discover that there was a dialogue taking place in your mind. So many people turn to food as a way of trying to cope with something else that they are struggling with.

    Whenever you feel yourself getting stressed, anxious, sad, bored, upset, or are experiencing pangs of emotional hunger I have a very effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy exercise that I want you to use. It’s called an ABC sheet. I absolutely love this tool and find it extremely helpful in addressing emotional hunger, so please use it!

    The key with this is that you must physically go through the exercise in written form. It will only take a couple of minutes and will help you recognize and address the triggers that lead to emotional eating.  

    Below there is an example of a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ‘ABC sheet’ to help you learn to address emotional eating. The first row provides the headings and the second row tells you what to do.  Try it out whenever you feel yourself experiencing the pangs of emotional hunger. Going through the process of actually writing the thoughts out is really cathartic and will help reduce and often eliminate the bad feelings.


    Whenever you notice yourself feeling at that point where you want to eat for emotional reasons, as opposed to feelings of actual hunger, do an ABC Sheet. Whether it be boredom, sadness, emptiness, stress, loneliness, anger…or whatever the feeling is!

    This very simple formula can help you overcome emotional eating:

    1. Differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger 
    2. Use the ABC sheet whenever you feel the pangs of emotional hunger

    By now I hope you are clear on how to differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger, and you have a powerful tool to use whenever you feel the pangs of emotional hunger.

    Over the next week I want you to really start to listen to your body and check in every little while and practice body awareness. If you recognize that you’re not actually hungry, don’t eat!

    If you recognize that you are experiencing a craving due to emotional hunger, then I want you to pull out a piece of paper and go through the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ABC exercise. It’s really important that you physically write out the exercise as opposed to just thinking it. The idea here is that you are interrupting the feelings, acknowledging, and addressing them. This will help combat the need to fill the feeling with food and will help you overcome emotional eating for good!

    Why Diets Fail: 4 Effective Psychological Strategies to Achieve Lasting Weight Loss

    The truth about why diets fail.

    Did you know that average caveman had to run 16 kilometers a day to catch his prey? Unfortunately, we are no longer moving even half as much as that, with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle dominating in western society.

    Today 44% of the diabetes burden and 23% of the heart disease burden up to 41% of cancer burdens are linked to obesity. In the U.S.A 75% of adults are overweight. We are currently living in a time where obesity kills more people than starvation.

    There is a common misconception out there that losing weight is easy if you just eat less and move more. But this is an over simplified premise and is one of the central reasons for why diets fail. If calories in is less than calories out, you lose weight right? While physiologically this is correct, human subjectivity is far more complicated than that. There are so many misconceptions and assumptions about how easy it is to lose weight.

    A recent survey asked dieters, ‘what weight loss are you aiming for ?’ The average dieter wanted to lose about 25 kg. After 12 months of eating less the dieters had lost on average 6kg (8kg with exercise). This is a lot less than you would expect. Out of everyone that started out only 50% were still making the effort to lose weight after 12 months. Unfortunately our expectations do not align with reality. They are perpetuated by the media and lose weight fast programs as we try to lose weight with sheer power alone. So we set ourselves up to fail.

    A further complication has emerged from research conducted by UCLA which was reported in the American Psychologist,  is that once we lose the weight we gain at least some, if not all of it back.

    “You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back,” said Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people.”

    Mann and her co-authors conducted the most comprehensive and rigorous analysis of diet studies, analyzing 31 long-term studies.

    So weight gain has some serious physical health consequences and it is very challenging to maintain weight loss,  but what about the psychological consequences?

    We need to stop ignoring the psychological aspects of weight loss

     To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.

    I had a client who was carrying over 50 extra pounds of weight and she just couldn’t enjoy the good things in life. She couldn’t enjoy a special occasion, or getting dressed up. She hated going to weddings and having to shop for clothes that fitted her. Emotionally she was struggling and ultimately she was depressed. There are so many people who are severely unhappy with their body and yet they struggle to lose the weight.

    Why diets fail, from a psychological perspective

    1. Most diets are structured around deprivation

    ‘I’m not going to eat the thing that I want because I am trying to lose weight’.

    This is a position of punishing yourself and eventually you are going to cave in and eat the thing you love, because we are fighting against the ‘pleasure principal’. This is the fact that we are hard wired to experience pleasure and avoid pain, so prohibiting the things we love to eat simply will never work. Going against this basic human instinct is one of the main reasons why diets fail, often quite quickly.

    2. We rely on self control

    We have this idea that if we have enough will power weight loss would be easy.

    But what psychological research tells us is that we only have a finite amount of self control. Think of will power like a muscle, when you use it, you get tired. And that’s what happens with self control: when you exert self control you become fatigued, this is what’s known in psychology as ‘ego depletion’. If you need in anti fatigue supplements, consider using gut repair supplements.  When we experience ego depletion we are less able to use self control again. So we give in or give up! This is one of the core reasons for why diets fail.

    3. When dieting we rely on the psychology of thought suppression or what’s known as the ‘white bear effect’.

    What this simply means is if your told not to think about a white bear, what do you end up thinking about? A white bear!

    It works the same way with a craving for a food you want. If you tell yourself ‘I can’t have that cheese burger, it’s really bad for me’ then all you can think about is the cheeseburger.  This happens because when we try to suppress a thought, on a preconscious level we then must scan for the thought that we are trying to suppress and that means that we have to be aware what the thought actually is. So it keeps popping up in our consciousness and then we have to keep repressing it. This is a very tiring to do and why diets fail!

    So when you’re trying to lose weight and the cheeseburger thought keeps popping up its important to acknowledge the thought. Say to yourself ‘tonight I’ll have a cheeseburger’.  You must indulge your thoughts and cravings in a positive way. You can have the cheeseburger, tell yourself ‘I’m going to make it myself and it will be full of healthy non-processed natural good quality ingredients and it’s going to taste fantastic’.

    Psychological research has found four key factors behind successful weight loss:

    1. Don’t view your weight loss approach as a diet

    People who successfully lose weight and maintain the weight loss do not undergo deprivation & self punishment because this is not sustainable in the long term. They do not battle with themselves on a daily basis to stave off foods they love.

    2. See it as a positive lifestyle change

    So think about making changes in your life, to the way you think and the way you behave. Successful weight loss is about treating your body well and with positivity and kindness. Its about improving your life, not just losing weight.

    3. A personalized approach works best

    Eat the foods that you like and do the exercise that you enjoy. Make sure it fits it into a schedule, commitments and preferences that work for you. That is why I don’t encourage my clients to prescribe to any specific food program, you should eat anything you like as long as you seek out the best quality you can afford and eat when you feel hungry.

    4. To achieve successful weight loss and to maintain it, you need the right supports.

    The right advice and the right strategies to deal with things that make weight loss difficult from a psychological stand point is essential. You need to be taught the right cognitive skills, you need to have enough leverage to commit to achieving your goal. You also need the right emotional and environmental supports.

    Categories: behavioural psychology

    Control What You Can and Ignore The Rest

    I’m sure you’ve heard the Serenity Prayer? It goes like this:

    “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

    Reinhold Nieburh came up with it around 1934. The Stoics were preaching that basic idea… oh… about 2000 years earlier.

    The Stoics were really big on control. But they weren’t control freaks at all. A key part of Stoicism is just asking yourself: “Can I do anything about this?”

    If you can, do it. If you can’t… then you can’t. But worrying achieves nothing but stress.

    What the Stoics are saying is so much of what worries us are things that we have no control over. If I’m doing something tomorrow and I’m worried about it raining and ruining it, no amount of me stressing about it is going to change whether it rains or not. The Stoics are saying, “Not only are you going to be happier if you can make the distinction between what you can change and can’t change but if you focus your energy exclusively on what you can change, you’re going to be a lot more productive and effective as well.”

    Here’s a quick visual to help get the point across:

    So, next time you’re worrying, pause and ask yourself: “Do I have control over this?” If you do, stop worrying and get to work.

    If you don’t have control, worrying won’t make it better. And going back to the first point, it might be a good idea to ask yourself what your belief is that’s causing all this worry… Yup, it’s probably irrational.

    So sadness, anger and worrying are irrational responses and they’re not the right way to react when things happen. So what is the right way to react to stuff that doesn’t meet your expectations?

    Accept Everything — But You Don’t Have To Be Passive

    This is the bit everybody has trouble with. Nobody likes the word ‘accept’ — we think it means ‘give up’ — but it doesn’t.

    Let’s look at it this way: what’s the opposite of accept? Deny. As in ‘denial’ — and nobody ever recommends denial.

    Albert Ellis told people they’d be much happier if they removed the word ‘should’ from their vocabulary. ‘Should’ is denial. You’re saying your expectations deserve to override reality:

    • “My kids shouldn’t be misbehaving!” (News flash: they are)
    • “Traffic shouldn’t be this bad!” (Um, but it is)
    • “It shouldn’t be raining!” (Say it louder — complaining might work this time…)

    Denial is irrational, and as we just learned, irrational beliefs are where negative emotions come from. So the first step is to accept reality. But that doesn’t mean you have to be passive.

    You accept the rain. It’s here. Denial and shoulds won’t change anything… but that doesn’t mean you can’t grab an umbrella.

    Acceptance to us means resignation but to the Stoics it meant accepting the facts as they are and then deciding what you’re going to do about them. The problem is that because we have expectations about how we want things to be, we feel like acceptance is settling, when in reality we have no idea what could have happened instead. This awful thing might have saved us from something much worse. Or maybe this is going to open us up to some new amazing opportunity that we can’t yet conceive. The Stoics are saying, “Let’s not waste any energy fighting things that are outside our control, let’s accept them, let’s embrace them and then let’s move on and see what we can do with it.”

    So, next time things don’t go your way, don’t deny reality. Accept it. It’s here. Then ask if you have control over it. If you do, do something. If you don’t, ask if your beliefs are rational.

    That’s how you go from: “It shouldn’t be raining! We can’t go to the park! The day is ruined!” to “Yeah, it’s raining. No park today. Let’s watch an awesome movie.”

    Alright, we’ve covered a lot of Stoic methods for beating bad feelings. That covers defense. Let’s talk offense. In the next article we’ll look at how you can improve your life…


    Events Don’t Upset You — Your Beliefs Do

    events and beliefs

    We all like a bit of ancient wisdom. But how many of us have actually read any of the Classics? How ancient wisdom, the Stoics and Albert Ellis can help you

    The funny thing is, we’re more likely to live happier lives if we visit the classics section of the book store than the self-help aisle. So, if we don’t read the classics, how can we learn what one group of brilliant dead blokes —The Stoics — had to say? Well, let’s have a go…

    Events Don’t Upset You — Beliefs Do

    So, you get dumped by someone you’re totally in love with. Feel sad? Yes. The world feels like it’s going to end. I think we’ve all been there… Let’s move on… Same scenario, but afterwards you find out that person was actually a psychopath who killed their last three partners. Feel sad you got dumped? No, you’re thrilled…

    So, clearly getting dumped isn’t the important issue here. What’s changed? Actually, nothing other than your beliefs.

    If you lose your job and you believe it was a lousy job anyway, and you also believe it won’t be hard for you to get a better job, you’re likely not going to be too bothered.

    However, if you believe it was the greatest job ever and believe you’ll never get another one that good — you’re devastated. Emotions aren’t random. They follow from beliefs.

    So, let’s move on to the Stoics. They believed there are no good or bad events, there’s only perception. Shakespeare put it well when he said: “Nothing is either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” What Shakespeare and the Stoics are saying is that the world around us is indifferent, it is objective. The Stoics are saying: “This happened to me,” is not the same as, “This happened to me and that’s bad.” They’re saying if you stop at the first bit, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens to you.

    Does this sound too simple? Well, yes, actually it is that simple. But this philosophy is what led renowned psychologist Albert Ellis to develop Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (or REBT) which was the first form of the more-widely known Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) pioneered by Aaron Beck and now well accepted as one of the most effective treatments for depression, anxiety and other disorders, including disordered eating.

    Most Bad Feelings Are Caused by Irrational Beliefs

    Next time you’re feeling negative emotions, don’t focus on the event that you think ’caused’ them. Ask yourself what belief you hold about that event. And then ask yourself if it’s rational:

    • “If my partner dumps me, I’ll never get over it.”
    • “If I lose my job, my life is over.”
    • “If I don’t finish reading this post, the writer will hate me forever.”

    Only the third one is true. The other two are irrational. And that’s why you get anxious, angry or depressed.

    Revise your beliefs and you can change your feelings: “Even if I lose my job, I can get another one. It’s happened before and I was fine.”

    So, you’re revising your beliefs to overcome sadness and anger. Great. But what about when you’re unhappy because you’re worried about the future?

    In the next article, Control What you Can and Ignore the Rest, we’ll look at the Serenity Prayer, the Buddhist angle and more about the Stoics…


    Mindful Eating and the Positive Effects of CBT


    Just like all skills, health and well-being can be cultivated through training and practice by using mindful eating and the positive effects of CBT

    Whether you’re learning to play the piano, moving from a sedentary life to an active one, or developing more effective ways to handle emotional triggers, the same type of neural circuitry is at play. One of the most inspiring advancements in recent neuroscience is that the neural pathways in our brains are ‘plastic.’ What this means is they change in response to training and experience.

    Now, this is wonderful news! What it means is we’re not stuck with any set of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors if we don’t want to be. If we’re willing to commit to learning, training, and practice, we can change anything that’s not working for us.

    One of the reasons I love CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is because it’s basically all about changing neural circuity. Instead of focusing on rules about when, what, and how much you ‘should’ be eating, CBT guides you through a process of rewiring yourself from the inside out. By using this rewiring process, you can begin to think differently, address emotions and other triggers more effectively, and make choices that support greater well-being.

    Positive Effects of CBT

    Because this change in neural pathways is based on awareness and intentional decision making, it has far reaching consequences in other areas of your life, not just eating and activity. For example, CBT guides you to identify thoughts and feelings that might be driving your desire to eat when you’re not hungry. You can then pause to intentionally decide if you’ll eat anyway, redirect your attention, or meet your real needs.

    If you choose to eat anyway, instead of doing so automatically and out of habit, you’ll be fully aware of the likely outcome and can then enjoy eating mindfully and without guilt. If you choose to redirect your attention until you are hungry or meet your underlying needs, you’ll have a different experience that will propel you one step closer to your desired future habits. Whichever choice you make, you’re re-training your brain to pause in the face of an impulse or urge, weigh your options, and then consciously decide what to do next.

    Pause, Think… Act

    You can probably see how applicable this process can be to virtually everything else in your life – and most of my clients quickly see that connection too. For example, let’s say you notice that you feel irritated because your child’s room is a disaster… again. Instead of automatically reacting with a disciplinary yell — which doesn’t feel great and doesn’t seem to help in the long term anyway — you pause, weigh your options, and decide whether and how to respond.

    Or perhaps you receive yet another email from your boss with a tight deadline with more work than you can reasonably do. Before complaining to your co-worker or sending off a return email you’ll later regret, you pause, weigh your options, and decide whether and how to respond. It’s hard to think of a situation where this process of identifying, pausing, and intentionally choosing wouldn’t be valuable for you.

    However, as with most things in life, there is a catch… This type of rewiring takes training and practice. Caring for ourselves and making decisions that support our greatest interests are skills — skills that can undoubtedly be developed if we’re committed to doing the work. And, like most worthwhile life changes, the outcome is well worth the effort!

    As you work on sharpening your mindful eating skills, think about what other areas of your life have you started to shift too?

    Self Compassion and Emotional Eating


    Many of us eat for emotional reasons — when we’re sad, angry, happy, stressed, or lonely — we find ourselves eating so that we feel better. And eating works!


    Unfortunately, we usually feel worse afterwards — both emotionally and physically. More often than not this triggers a cycle of  beating yourself up — quite literally adding insult to injury — as the guilt and shame become yet another trigger for emotional eating, feeding the eat-repent-repeat cycle.

    Now, what would happen it we agreed the first step to breaking this cycle is self-compassion instead of self-criticism? How might that help? And more importantly, where would we start?

    How does self-compassion help with emotional eating?

    As difficult as it may seem to get our heads around, being understanding and forgiving of yourself for overeating will help you take the next step to finding other ways to meet your emotional needs.

    After all, we don’t eat for emotional reasons because we’re ‘weak-willed’… ‘stupid’… or ‘out of control’… We do it because it works!

    Blaming, shaming, criticizing, and finding fault for attempting to care for yourself only backfires. Imagine you were teaching a young child something new… would blaming, shaming, criticizing, and finding fault help or hurt? The way you speak to yourself has just as much power! You may be feeling afraid that if you are ‘nice’ to yourself, you won’t change. However, the exact opposite is true! You care for yourself because you accept yourself, not so you’ll accept yourself.

    So, how can you begin to respond with self-compassion when you overeat?

    Three Ways to Nurture Self-Compassion

    Gently acknowledge that you were doing the best you could in that moment.

    Validate your thoughts, feelings, and actions as being normal and understandable given the circumstances. “Of course!” It’s like saying, “I totally get why you thought, felt, or did that!”

    Of course you ate! Who wouldn’t want to feel better when they’re sad, angry, stressed, or lonely — or magnify the pleasure when they’re glad? This validation and unconditional acceptance creates a safe environment for experimenting with new thoughts, feelings, and actions.

    When you overeat, validate the choice as being rational at the time: “Of course you __________________!” This gentle, understanding self-talk will open the door to exploring how you might do it differently next time if you don’t like how it turned out.

    Bring Non-judgmental Awareness to the Situation.

    Mindful eating is all about bringing nonjudgmental awareness to your choices and experiences with eating. Non-judgment is essential because it provides a more objective understanding of what happened and why.

    One tactic you can try is writing about an overeating or binge eating episode and identifying the ‘voices’ that show up. Non-judgmentally recognising how your Restrictive Eating, Overeating, and Binge Eating voices drive the cycle will give you a great opportunity to cultivate your own Self-Care Voice.

    Cultivate Your Self-Care Voice

    Your Self-Care Voice wants the best for you. It is unconditionally compassionate, affirming and accepting. Your Self-Care voice is the voice of kindness and wisdom. It is like a loving parent who guides you to learn from your mistakes, face your challenges, and loves you unconditionally, faults and all.

    Fiona Wilkinson