Mind-Body Connection

Mind-Body Connection

Mind-Body Connection

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “Darkest Days” by Fake Names

Mind-Body Connection

UNDERSTANDING MIND-BODY CONNECTION: Therapy is fantastic for helping you understand yourself and life coaching helps you achieve your goals, but if you’re on a path of personal growth it’s important to view your mental, emotional, and physical wellness holistically. For example, have you ever considered how your thoughts, feelings, and emotions affect your body? Conversely, have you ever observed how your physical health can sometimes impact how you're feeling, or even the way you think? 

Most people are under the impression that physical and mental well-being are separate things to handle. However, your body and mind are interconnected like cogs in a well-oiled machine — they inform and influence each other. When we’re feeling anxious, our breathing and heart rate speeds up, and our muscles get tense. On the other hand, when we're down with a cold, we tend to feel hopeless, helpless, and pessimistic. These effects show a mind-body connection.

In this episode, we'll define the mind-body connection, how it works, and why it's important. By understanding the mind-body connection, you can make remarkable changes to increase your overall wellness. 

If you want to know how to take control of your life and sustain a sound mind and body, then tune in to this episode! 

In This Mind-Body Connection Podcast Episode, You Will… 

  • Understand the mind-body connection and its importance.
  • Find out why what you eat affects your mental well-being.
  • Discover how your thoughts and emotions can affect your physical health.
  • Uncover what happens to your body when you’re thinking negative thoughts.
  • Identify how stress affects your mental and emotional health.
  • Learn things you can do to bounce back when you are feeling low and stressed out.
  • Find out actionable ways to achieve physical and mental wellness.
  • Figure out when you can help yourself feel better through changing your diet or behaviors, or whether cognitive-behavioral therapy or coaching can help.

Thanks for tuning in today. I hope that this episode helps you get clarity and understanding around the way that your mind, emotions, and body all interconnect, and how to use this self-awareness to help yourself stay well and balanced.

Mind-Body Connection

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Mind-Body Connection: Show Notes & Episode Highlights

What Is the Mind-Body Connection?

How do your mind, body, and mood affect each other? 

As we expand our understanding of the human mind, we start to realize how much our emotions and feelings affect our bodies and vice-versa. 

An example of the mind-body connection is that as we approach the winter months, many people experience winter blues. As our bodies react to the cold and lack of sunlight, we may feel exceedingly melancholy. We're also less likely to exercise and get much-needed vitamin D, which in turn, can contribute to how we feel.

You have more control over what you think and feel emotionally and physically than you think. When you figure out how the mind-body connection works, you can expect remarkable results that will surprise you in many ways. 

The Mind-Body Problem 

While mental-oriented strategies you get from therapy are helpful, they do not always translate to dramatic changes

I learned this lesson about ten years ago when I had a client who was dealing with anxiety. We had been working together to address this problem and had tried different methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, mindfulness skills training, and self-care activities. However, nothing seemed to work until he went camping.

He felt less stressed and more organized. He was also able to practice mindfulness — he even went so far as to assume that he was cured. After a while, he went back to feeling bad. 

It was then that he shared how he goes through a six-pack of Diet Coke a day. And so, I thought about having a little experiment. He swapped out Diet Coke for something decaf and not artificially sweetened. The week after the experiment, he came back feeling better. 

Mind-Body Wellness

There is a physical component to our experiences. It’s easy to spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to resolve what we think are mental health issues through talk therapy. However, my experience taught me that the way people think and feel have multifaceted causes. Unless we address the underlying issues in a person’s lifestyle that may be contributing to not feeling well mentally and emotionally, therapy may not be effective.

At present, I ask questions about the physical stuff that we can experiment on, especially when working with a new client who has mood symptoms. These changes have the possibility of creating a dramatic impact on their mood.

Conversely, a person's very real physical symptoms can sometimes be due to the following: 

  • What the person is feeling emotionally
  • What they are thinking
  • What they have previously experienced

Unless these people do deep work in therapy to think differently, manage their emotions, or resolve their historical trauma, the physical symptoms may not disappear.

Improving Mind-Body Wellness

The solution to making ourselves feel better can, therefore, be different than what we think it is. 

Whenever you are feeling low, tired, or stressed out, try out these simple tips in my shortlist: 

  • Consider having a physical check-up 
  • Assess your vitamin levels
  • Take care of your gut health
  • Stay hydrated

These tips can help you feel better — research shows that what you put into your body can boost your mood. For example, depressed mice had their intestinal flora altered. Just this simple change in their gut health made these mice happier!

Body Health and Mind

Note that if you are dealing with physical symptoms, it’s best to consult your doctor. However, if these symptoms come with anxiety, depression, and other related chronic illnesses, you may also consider talking to your therapist.

Now, you may go to your therapist because you think you have ADHD or depression. These conditions are real and valid. However, what you experience may sometimes point to other factors. For example, the medication in an asthma inhaler can create ADHD-like symptoms. Meanwhile, when you feel sick or are injured, your body’s natural response is to keep you in the house. You’ll feel tired, hopeless, and helpless. Are you starting to see the ties to your mind-body connection?

How Does Mental Health Affect Physical Health

Evolutionary adaptation has taught our bodies to be aware of threats around us. When we feel anxious, our bodies interpret this to mean that a threat is approaching. However, the older, emotional part of our brains cannot differentiate between real and perceived danger. So, when we feel anxious, our bodies let out a stress response. 

Furthermore, an interesting study shows that the bodies of people who worry more and experience more stress heal less quickly than those who don't. People who have traumatic childhood experiences also have several long-term health conditions. Our experiences, thoughts, and feelings do indeed change how the systems in our bodies work.

Healthy Mind and Body 

Over the years, I have discovered there are three things that have a huge impact on someone mentally and physically. These are: 

For me, sleep plays the biggest role in this equation. When you lack sleep, you go through physiological changes in your body that increase depressive and anxious thoughts.

Another thing you must consider is exercise. People usually work out to feel healthy, but some do it to change the way they look. I think we must veer away from this kind of thinking — love our body, regardless of its shape.

Another problem is that some people cut back on working out because they are too tired or busy. However, getting into 20 or 30 minutes of brisk physical activity a day can have significant beneficial effects. You’ll be more relaxed, have more energy, and improve the kind of thoughts you are having.  

Lastly, as much as sleep and moving your body are important, what you eat and drink are also big factors in your overall health. You can consult your doctor to see whether you are getting good nutrition, drinking enough water, and taking the proper medicine to help aid in your mind-body connection. 

Sound Mind in a Sound Body

Do not underestimate the power of the mind in changing the way you feel. The way we think creates our emotional reaction to everything. Nothing means anything until you decide what it means. And when you have control over how you're going to interpret whatever is happening in your life, you automatically have enormous control over the way you feel. 

Figuring out what’s in your mind is easier said than done. I suggest you try cognitive behavioral therapy or cognitive-behavioral coaching

Cognitive-behavioral therapy allows you to understand: 

  • How am I thinking? 
  • What are my core beliefs? 
  • What am I telling myself?
  • How do I intentionally shift that to feel better? 

Meanwhile, cognitive-behavioral coaching is best for people who don’t have any mental health diagnosis and just want to improve their mind-body connection. This is not focused on symptom reduction but on helping you figure out the different elements that influence what you are thinking and how you are feeling. It allows you to assess: 

  • How you are thinking and feeling,
  • How your mood state impacts your thoughts, 
  • What happens to your physical process when you’re thinking and feeling.

Resources

  • Subscribe to our website and other platforms to get updates on our latest episodes.
  • Check out the Love Your Body podcast episode with Stephanie Oliver.

Enjoy the Podcast?

Did you enjoy the podcast? What did you learn about the mind-body connection? How do you think these insights can help you take care of your physical and mental health better? Tell us by commenting on this episode. Subscribe to us now to discover more episodes on living a life full of love, happiness and success.

[Intro music: Darkest Days by Fake Names]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: We are heading into the winter season, which can be a really hard time of year for a lot of people, particularly when it comes to the way you feel physically and emotionally. 

I know that you're listening to this podcast because you care about love, happiness, and success, right? If your goal is to feel happy, healthy, energized, to have good relationships, and feel generally content with your life, we need to talk about something very important and that is your mind-body connection. 

I know that that term has gotten kind of a bad rap over the years as being in the realm of questionable holistic healer people, no opinions there, but it is also very, very true that there is an undeniable relationship between the way you think and your physical wellness and the way you feel emotionally. That all impacts the way you behave. And they also all impact each other. 

The way you think impacts the way you behave. The way you behave impacts the way you think and feel. There's this very real interplay that is not understood well by many people, and then to make things even more exciting, there is a very real relationship between your physical health and what's going on inside your body and the way that you feel day-to-day in terms of your mood. Likewise, the way that you feel emotionally can have very, very real physical impacts on the way your body functions, so there is a lot here to talk about. 

Today, we are talking about mind-body connection and more importantly, how you can use the understanding that hopefully, you achieve through this podcast today to create actual, substantial, positive changes in the way you feel and as well as your physical wellness. We have much to discuss on today's episode, and I'm so glad you're here to join me. 

If this is your first time listening to the show, welcome. I am Lisa Marie Bobby, I'm the founder and Clinical Director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. My background, I'm a licensed psychologist, I'm also a licensed marriage and family therapist and I am a board-certified life coach, and I draw from all of those different realms to bring you hopefully helpful information every single week to support your quest for love, happiness, and success, and this show is all about you. 

If you have questions or topics that you would like to hear more about, don't ever hesitate to get in touch with me: hello@growingself.com. You can track me down on Instagram: @drlisamariebobby or heck, you can even call us on the phone. We do that too so growingself.com if you ever want to get in touch. Hey, special thanks also to my regular listeners. I was on iTunes the other day and I noticed that there were a lot of really nice new comments about the show, so thank you so much for leaving those and for reviewing the show not just to make me feel good, although I like that too. When you rate and review the show, it helps other people find this information more easily. You are supporting other people in their journey of love, happiness, and success, so thank you for reviewing it and for sharing these episodes to people in your life who could benefit from the same information that you receive so thank you. 

What Is the Mind-Body Connection?

Okay, so let's dive into our topic today: the mind-body connection, why this is so fundamentally important, and how you can change the way this whole thing works. You have so much control over the way that you think and the way you feel emotionally and physically that you might not realize. When you can figure out some of these mechanics almost, it's a bunch of gear cogs working together, it can really create remarkable results but in surprising ways, surprising ways that you might not expect. 

Again, it's essential that we're talking about this now. I'm recording this podcast as we are lighting into October, and this time of year, seasonal affective disorder is a very real thing for people in the northern hemisphere especially. I think there are a number of different reasons for this but not the least of which is that our physical body changes when it's cold. We might not go out to exercise the same way, we might not get enough sunlight which can impact your vitamin D levels. This can have a surprisingly profound impact on not just your emotional state, but the way that you think. I really wanted to give you some ideas and actionable resources to kind of arm you going into this so that you can feel good all winter long. 

The Mind-Body Connection Problem

I also wanted to share that the information that you might hear on this podcast today could be a little bit different than that which you may hear other therapists or people in my industry talk about. I have to tell you, I came about this understanding kind of the hard way, the humbling way, after more than a few years of practice.

I'll tell you what happened that helped me truly grasp the power of the mind-body connection and create a very just clear example of how, as a therapist, I had really been seeking to help people through the ways that I knew how so therapy and talking about things and then just had some experiences with clients that were like, “Oh, I really need to be paying more attention to these other aspects of life that are so dramatically important.” 

I think in my own career, there's been this, looking back, this progressive evolution in the way that I seek to help people. When I first went into practice, I was very excited about psychodynamic stuff and experiential techniques. I had clients in my office, screaming at therapy pillows in the chair and crying cathartically, which was all great. We had a fantastic time there, magical moments in the therapy room, but I realized that while sometimes that led to change with clients, it really didn't always. It was interesting and they're like, “Wow, I never realized that my father's criticism was so impactful.” They'd walk out but come back next week and things had not really substantially changed for them. 

I found myself going back to the drawing board, and being like, “Okay, so the things that I was taught in counseling school aren't always translating into actionable results for my clients and what can I do differently?” Over the years kind of evolved into more of a cognitive-behavioral lens, which has a ton of evidence-based really solid research to support its efficacy. But even then, I think that's really what kind of led me in the direction of coaching, is how do we move away from talking about this stuff to actually doing it and helping people move forward? That has been my kind of just progression and my own way of thinking about how to be helpful to people throughout the years. 

Something really important changed for me, this is probably 10 years ago. I had been working with a client, who I'm sure would not mind me telling you the story. He's fantastic. We were together for quite a while because he came in, and he had pretty serious anxiety. All the symptoms: very irritable, snapping at people, being kind of reactive in relationships, having a really hard time sleeping, would stay up half the night worrying about stuff, really worried about work, in particular, a lot of future thinking, a lot of what-ifs, a lot of catastrophic thoughts: “If I do this, then this terrible thing will happen.” 

Really, it was very rea,l and he felt very stressed out a lot, that cognitively super problem-focused. His relationship was suffering because of it. We worked for a long time on this, reviewing family history stuff or doing a lot of cognitive therapy techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, which again, have been shown by research to work beautifully. Mindfulness skills training, looking at helpful thoughts versus unhelpful thoughts, shifting into a growth mindset, some strategies to help unhook his mind from problem-focused thinking, ways to sort of self-soothe, self-care activities

We did all of it, and it helped a little bit, right? But not dramatically, and I was thinking, “Okay, well, maybe this is just an organically based mental health thing.” I'm not sure if he was on medication or not. I would need to look at my notes but thinking like, “Wow, this is very entrenched.” Anyway, we're seeing each other week to week and then one week, he came bounding back into my office and he was so excited. Actually, I hadn't seen him for a week. He had gone on a camping trip. I think it had been two weeks and he came bouncing back into the office and he was like, “Lisa, I feel so good. Everything is so good.” 

He was telling me, he's like, “You know, I had the best time on this camping trip. I slept through the night, I found myself just being able to kind of relax and hang out with my wife and have a nice time and nothing felt like it was that big of a deal. I really unplugged from work, and I climbed a mountain. It was so great.” He was just so happy. It had been a couple of days since he's been back and he's like, “Ever since I got back, at work even, I'm able to kind of keep myself organized and not overthink and I'm feeling less stressed out and I'm not feeling grumpy and angry at everybody.” He's like, “I am cured.” 

We were both excited and high-fived each other, all of these things that we had been working on just fell into place. He was like, “It's so much easier now. I can do those things that you've been teaching me how to do, like shift into better, more helpful thoughts and not catastrophize and remind myself, my mindfulness skills, and all these things.” It was so good so anyway, we were both so happy and it was like, “Success!” Then, he left the office and came back, and I think it was a week or two later and I was fully prepared, to be like, “Maybe we're done. It worked, great. The answer is all these skills and maybe taking camping trips more often, right?” 

Because my goal is never to keep people in therapy their whole lives. We are here for a reason, we're here to help you solve a problem and then go be happy. So when I saw him again, I thought it might be the last time or he would cut back substantially. He came in and he was like, “Oh, I feel so bad.” He was telling me about what a jerk his boss was being and all this stuff that he was all stressed out about and he was angry and couldn't stop thinking about this and had been up for three nights in a row. It was just like he had fallen right back into it. It was such a dramatic change. 

I was like, “Okay, wait a second. What in the heck happened?” Because it wasn't just work, right? Also, we can't stay camping forever so it's like, “What is happening?” Instead of just kind of doing the same old thing, I was like, “This is so dramatic. There is something else here, and let's just investigate this.” We spent pretty much the entire session talking about: “Okay, what was different when you went camping and immediately after coming back?” We ran through all of it. He had been getting more exercise on his trip, certainly, and had been with friends and unplugged from work, all these are good things, but he gets exercise anyway. 

This is a person who exercised, he had an active social life so it wasn't that different. He had taken vacations before and did not experience this kind of benefit over the course of our work. He'd actually taken a couple of vacations, and he and his wife had gone to a resort and a tropical paradise kind of deal so we're like, “What is going on?” Anyway, so to cut to the point, one of the things that were actually a little bit different is the Diet Coke situation. I was like, “I'm sorry, the what?” He shared a detail about his life that I had not known before because it never occurred to me to ask, it never occurred for him to tell me. 

He's like, “Yeah, usually, I drink a lot of Diet Coke. I will easily go through a six-pack a day. I have them at work while I'm working. I have one with dinner but, obviously, on a backpacking camping trip, I am not going to trundle a case of diet coke with me into the woods.” He was like, “Do you think that could have something to do with the anxiety thing?” And I was like, “I don't know. Let's find out.” 

Actually, I did share that I'm such a nerd. I was a biology major in college, and at one point, I had actually written a whole paper on the impact of aspartame, which is a sweetener that's used in Diet Coke and other drinks, or at least it was. I don't know if it's still around anymore, but it has pronounced stimulating effects on people's nervous systems that look similar to caffeine, actually. Aspartame, for some people, not all people, people have different kinds of just reactions to different chemicals and additives based on their own body chemistry. I have a sensitivity to aspartame, and also a related food additive, MSG, which isn't a lot of things, but if I have too much of it, I'll get a headache, honestly and it'll actually impact my sleeping. That's why I was interested in writing a paper on it in college. 

Anyway, when he told me this, I was like, “Very interesting. Let's have an experiment.” The experiment was no Diet Coke. It's very stimulating between the aspartame and also the caffeine and caffeinated beverages. He was like, “Well, that's easy enough.” He swapped that out for something decaf and not artificially sweetened. Wouldn't you know it, he came back into my office the next week, and he was like, “We figured it out.” That whole experience was really incredibly interesting to me but also very humbling because here I was, and I can't beat myself up too much about this because we only know what we know at the time, but we had been working on anxiety together in therapy for quite a while. 

He was coming in every week, I was taking his money to help him figure this out and was really working very hard to teach him all these cognitive-behavioral strategies that I thought should work. But there was a physical component to his experience that was really creating a lot of these anxious thoughts, anxious feelings, anxiety physical symptoms that were consistent with anxiety: sleeplessness, racing heart, breathlessness, all the things. Until we removed that physically-based variable, he wasn't going to feel better no matter what we did in therapy. 

Mind-Body Wellness

I wanted to share that story with you to illustrate the point and the importance of really understanding the mind-body connection in a different way. Because it is very easy to spend a lot of time and energy and money trying to resolve what we think are mental health issues, completely overlooking all of these physical components of our lives that can have a huge impact on the way we think and feel. Until we address the physical components, all the therapy in the world isn't going to change it that much. That is a hard fact for card-carrying therapists like me to acknowledge. Again, it's humbling, but it's also so true. Since this client, I have seen that be true time and time again. 

Now, when I am working with a new client particularly, a new client who has any kind of mood symptoms, I start with the physical stuff and ask a lot of questions to see if there are any easy stuff we can experiment with. It might have dramatic impacts on the way they're feeling and that don't involve coming into therapy with me for six months every week because that would be fantastic. Not that I'm not super interesting and fun to talk to, just kidding, but really, we're here for a reason. 

That has been an important lesson, and what has also been an equally important and humbling lesson are people that I have worked with over the years who have very, very real chronic health conditions that are not in their heads. They are very real, they are actual physical symptoms that do require treatment. When we unpack this, the reason why they are having those physical symptoms is often, at least in part, due to the way they are thinking and the way they are feeling emotionally and also because of things that they have experienced in their lives like historical trauma. It comes out in the body in very interesting ways years later. 

They have been working with all these medical professionals to resolve all these physical symptoms that again, are real. They are not making them up. They are real things that are happening and yet, it's only when they do this deeper work in therapy to figure out some of their internal processes, and learn how to think differently, learn how to manage their emotions in a different way or process their trauma, these physical symptoms will melt away. Again, sometimes, in very dramatic ways. 

Being able to understand this interplay, I think, is incredibly important for everyone to understand because sometimes, the most direct route for helping ourselves feel better, both emotionally or physically, can be really different than what we think is the answer. Like my client: “I have anxiety; therefore, I should go to therapy.” Makes perfect sense, when the answer was actually something completely different. Here are some of the highlights that I'm going to share with you, things that I have learned over the years. 

Improving Mind-Body Connection Wellness

I just made a little, shortlist for you, especially heading into the winter, things that I would like for you to be thinking about and experimenting with, if you notice that you are starting to feel low, or tired, or stressed out, or even a little bit more anxious. Or even if you have been feeling that way even before winter happened, Lord knows there are all kinds of things for all of us to be stressed out and low about these days in the world. If you were my client coming in being like, “Lisa, I don't feel good,” I would be wanting to know a few things. 

First of all, and this is a real easy one, when was the last time you just had a physical, just a basic physical and your doctor does a blood panel and also maybe even does an assessment of your vitamin levels? We know that being low in certain vitamins and nutrients like iron, if you are low in iron or anemic, you will feel depressed. You will be exhausted and foggy and like, “Ugh, I can't.” Wouldn't it be simple to take an iron supplement or eat more spinach and feel 10x better without coming in talking to a therapist for six months? Sometimes, these things are just super easy. Iron is one of them, vitamin D is one of them. 

As I was mentioning at the top of this episode, particularly if you are like me, I sit in an office all day, basically like a little mushroom festering in my dark office. I need to be sure that I take a vitamin D supplement and make it a point to: “Yes, I wear sunscreen, but also get outside.” Your body creates vitamin D, it synthesizes vitamin D through your skin, so when you get sunlight, a substantial amount of sunlight, it changes your vitamin D levels. That is one of the hypotheses around seasonal affective disorder, is that people in the northern hemisphere, their vitamin D levels drop and this is true for everyone. 

There's also fascinating research on the impact of your gut health and your mood. Fascinatingly, your digestive tract is the second-largest manufacturer of serotonin in your body. Depending on your microflora, so probiotics, prebiotics, it can really have a substantial impact on the way that you're feeling. I don't know if this has been conducted on humans, but in mice, this is kind of gross, but researchers took happy mice as evidenced by being energetic and kind of curious and licking each other and running around their cages, and unhappy mice that were sort of just sitting there and not wanting to run around the maze or interact with other mice, the depressed mice. 

When they took some fecal materials or poop from the happy mice and seeded the intestinal tract of the depressed mice with the bacteria from the happy mice, the depressed mice became happier because of no other reason than the flora of their intestines. Again, very, very interesting to consider these implications and taking a probiotic every day is pretty easy to do for most people. Again, please don't start doing or taking supplements or things that might not be a good idea for you specifically based on my advice. I am not your doctor, but go get some blood tests, see if there's anything there. Vitamin D, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, if you are deficient in magnesium, you will feel anxious. It's just a sort of straight line of magnesium and anxiety symptoms. 

Those are all really easily modified things. It is as easy as taking a vitamin every morning or getting more sunlight. Talk to your doctor about that if you think that it might be a thing for you, or if you don't have any known reason to not take a good vitamin supplement, especially during the winter, it's something you might want to consider. Also, there's some evidence that fish oil supplements can have an impact on mood and that can be another just super easy thing. 

Another thing that many people do not know about, I did not know about this, is the dramatic impact that even mild levels of dehydration can have on the way that you feel cognitively and emotionally. If you are stressed out at work, there are lots of things that you could do, but try drinking a big glass of water. It's so interesting, even if you are not even aware that you are thirsty, there have been so many studies. People who are just the tiniest bit dehydrated will experience more subjective stress, they will perceive things as being more difficult and complicated than they do after as compared to when they're well hydrated. They have this brain fog kind of experience so it's super real, and it's super easy, so drink more water. 

Body Health and Mind

Then also, there can be other things that are a little bit sneakier to sort of ferret out. For example, if I have somebody come in and say, “You know what? I think I have ADHD.” First of all, ADHD is so real and it is underdiagnosed for a lot of people, particularly women. When somebody shows up and is like, “I want to talk about this,” I first asked them about how they're sleeping and have on more than one occasion, referred somebody out for a sleep apnea test and they have come back and said, “Yeah, I had sleep apnea, and I didn't even realize it.” They got their sleep apnea symptoms treated and then “ADHD” was no longer a thing. 

There are also some interesting, and I won't go through all of them, but if you use an asthma inhaler, that can create ADHD-like symptoms because of the effects of the medication. If you have recently been ill, or have gone through surgery, or broken a leg, or something like that, your body will, by default, create an actual, essentially a depressive episode to protect you while you're healing. There's something called the sickness response. 

Your body is an incredible machine that has over hundreds of thousands of years evolved to keep you alive. That's the number one priority. And it has many interesting ways of doing that and one of them is that when you get sick or when you have been injured, your body will make you feel very, very low, emotionally. It will change the way you think. You will become more pessimistic. You'll feel more hopeless and helpless. You will not want to go anywhere. You will not want to do anything. You will feel tired. That is all of the criteria for major depressive disorder. 

It is your body's highly adaptive evolutionary response to keep you in your house, not circulating amongst people that might give you additional germs or to protect you from risking injuring your body again while you're in the process of healing. I've had so many clients come to me after an illness or a surgery and like, “I don't know what's wrong with me.” It's been three weeks or a month later and they have done quite a bit towards healing but they were genuinely surprised to learn that this was a thing. 

They thought it was depression with a capital D, and I think it just helped them to understand like, “No, you can expect that and it's a good thing that this happens. Your body is keeping you alive; it's doing its job.” The period after having a child, the postpartum period, is similar to that, so there are all kinds of interesting physically-based changes in your body and some of them are vitamin deficiencies but also based on your circumstances and your overall health, that can really dramatically change your emotional state and the way that you think.

It is also true, again, that people will commonly experience very, very real physical symptoms that are, again, I want to say, this not in your head. I think that people who hear that physical symptoms, there is a relationship with what is going on inside of them psychologically, it feels very invalidating. It feels like they're being told that they're just making it up or that it's not real; it's all in your head. I just want to say very clearly, that is not true. There are physical symptoms. Anybody who has ever had IBS, shingles, or high blood pressure, or God forbid, a heart attack will tell you that these are actual physical conditions that require treatment, and that they benefit from being treated. There are medications and things that help with this. 

How Does Mental Health Affect Physical Health

What I think is not as well-realized is the impact of the way we feel day-to-day and what that does to all of our sort of physical systems. I think what is also not well-understood is the impact of the way that we think on our emotions and then the impact of our mood state on the way that we think. It's very circular. For example, going back to is the example of anxiety, when we begin to feel anxious, as we often do, being humans, again, we're created to survive in this world and part of that is being vigilant for danger, we're not often in actual physical danger most of the time. 

We are relatively safe: we are sitting in our offices, making podcasts, talking to people, eating our breakfast, driving a car, nothing bad is happening. Because we are so smart and creative, we have these gigantic human brains that are so good at going into the future or replaying events of the past and thinking if this, then that. We are solving potential problems. We are paying attention to what is coming down the pipeline. And we need to finish that assignment by this day so I can do x, y, z. Our brains are always working on stuff and trying to anticipate problems or kind of think: what could be a problem. 

Truly, the problem is that because you are so intelligent and creative, and this is actually worse for people who are exceptionally intelligent and creative, you're good at envisioning things. Particularly if you are a visual thinker, you won't just think about the impact of missing a work assignment sort of generally. You will see your boss's face and see this little mental movie of the consequences of x, y, z or visualize your car skidding off the road into a ditch. 

The issue is that the part of our brains that feel emotions, your brain is built in layers, there's a thinking part of your brain, and then there's a totally different part of your brain that generates emotions based on what's going on in the world around you. That older emotional part of your brain cannot tell the difference between things that you're thinking about and things that are actually happening. 

When you play a mental movie of your car flying off a cliff or your car is actually flying off a cliff, the part of your brain that feels will experience those things similarly. What happens is that the part of your brain that feels emotions will just be like, “Oh my gosh, my car is going off a cliff!” And will squeeze out all these adaptive survival-based hormones, your endocrine system, squirts out adrenaline, cortisol, your breathing speeds up, your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tense. You're preparing for impact. 

You just had a thought in your head, right? You're not actually going off a cliff but your body is like, “No, we're here. We're going to survive this.” Your body is having all these reactions. It changes many things in your body. It changes the way you digest food. It changes the way your immune system works. It changes your circulatory system. You're all awash in adrenaline now. Your body is in a totally different space, and this impacts many physical systems in your body: your digestive process, it impacts what is happening in terms of your blood pressure or your cardiovascular health, migraines, all these things are totally related. 

A fascinating study that came a while ago was conducted on two groups of people, as the best research studies are. A control group had a small, superficial skin injury put on their arm. They basically scuffed the surface of their arm, went down a layer or two of skin, put a bandaid on, and sent them home. The second group of people was identified as being chronically stressed. I think that they may have been caregivers, primary caregivers to people or partners, or possibly parents with dementia, hard stuff, but same deal. They scuffed up their skin, put a bandaid on them, sent them home, and then brought them back to measure how quickly their body was healing. 

You might imagine that people who were living in that day-to-day stress all the time had a lot of stuff to worry about, their bodies literally healed more slowly than those of people who weren't bathing in that stressful broth every single day. The impacts of this stuff are somewhat facetiously, but as real as a heart attack. 

Even in the 1950s and 1960s when this stuff was sort of first being explored, cardiologists would notice that they had to change the upholstery on the chairs in their waiting room a lot more often than the pediatrist next door because they had their type-A high-risk cardiac patients who were super stressed out about things. They were worrying. They were fidgety. They were like, “My appointment was supposed to start five minutes ago,” going up and demanding to be seen at the reception desk. 

That's sort of the stereotypical personality of somebody who has a more increased chance of having a heart attack, and it's because of the way they think, the way they feel, the way they relate to others, and the long term chronic impact that this has on what is happening in their body. This is true for all kinds of things. There's a well-researched assessment, it's called the ACE, which explores adverse childhood experiences, aka childhood trauma. 

If you have a high score on the ACE, so you've lived through really difficult scary things as a child, it is strongly associated with all kinds of long-term health consequences. Some of the thinking behind it is that when people experience serious trauma in childhood, it changes the way they're wired physiologically to a degree: being more vigilant, anticipating something bad happening. 

There's a good reason for that but it also shows up in health, and often, it's not until that earlier trauma is addressed and resolved that people can heal from things like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia. These disorders are strongly associated with early childhood trauma. All this stuff is just so real and worth not just thinking about but working on. 

If you are dealing with physical symptoms and you are seeing a doctor and maybe you're getting what you need out of that, fantastic, just consider though that if it's along the lines of anxiety, or depression, or some of these chronic illnesses that show up in your intestinal tract, cardiovascular stuff, whole body kinds of issues, it may be worth talking to a psychologist just to see. You might just wander in and be like, “Here's what's going on,” and they give you an assessment, you walk back out again, nothing changes, that's fine, but what if there is something that is worth talking about? 

You can keep seeing medical doctors and keep doing the treatment and you should, and if you're not getting the results that you want, just consider that there could be other things to investigate, I guess, is what I want to say. 

Healthy Mind and Body

These things are all real and they're also very circular in nature. For example, one of the things that I've noticed in my own life and with a lot of clients is the impact of three things, in particular, both mentally and physically. Probably the biggest one is sleep, I would say. When you don't get enough sleep, your body changes in response to this. Again, everything that happens in your body pretty much is either to keep you alive or to procreate. When it gets very down to the basics, that's why we're here. 

When you consider that if your body is physically stressed, like not getting enough sleep, your body, when it is elevated, it physiologically changes the way you think for you without being asked. It is not in your direct control but when your body is like, “Oh, there's something's going on; there is a threat,” your mind goes into almost vigilance response. Your mind starts looking around for possible problems and scanning your environment for: “What are the bad things that could happen? What should I be worried about? What is going to be really hard? What is just not going to work out?” That problem-focused possible threats, you are designed to do that, it is not your fault. 

Everybody's body disorder does this automatically when they are physically stressed but the problem is that because you are so smart and creative, you will always find something that could be a threat, or could be a problem, or could be a thing to worry about. Since your mind is kind of primed to do that thinking, you will think about that a lot. As a consequence, it will reinforce this physiological, elevated state that will then make your mind even more hyper-focused on the problems and the threats and the things that aren't working out, that aren't going to work out: “This is what's going to happen and it's going to be so bad.” 

When you have that kind of inner thought loop happening in your mind, that is strongly associated with depression and with anxiety. When people experience a major depressive disorder or a depressive episode, that is what is happening. Depression changes the way that your brain works. It changes the way that you think. You have a different internal dialogue happening in your mind when you are struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

There is this interplay between those thoughts, what you're telling yourself, what you're envisioning, and blah, blah, blah, and then, the very real impact that has on your body so now you can't sleep. You're up until three o'clock in the morning worrying about all these things and running through the stuff in your head. That reinforces this physical threat, this physical like, “Oh, no, we're in trouble” physiological response in your body that then cranks up the knob on the depressive thoughts and the anxiety thoughts. 

That's what happens. Another thing that also happens oftentimes with these is when we feel tired, when we feel low, and we don't have any energy, when we're like, “Oh, no, I can't. I don't have time. I'm so stressed. I have to do all these things for work.” What happens when that goes on in your life? What happens in my life is one of the easiest things for me to cut is exercise. Like, “I don't have time or I don't have energy or it's too cold,” all these things so we don't. 

One of the easiest things that any of us can do to combat all of this, both mentally and physiologically, is getting even 20 or 30 minutes of brisk physical activity a day. Walking is just fine. You don't have to go to a gym, you do not have to do anything heroic. You can seriously just jump around with a YouTube exercise video for 20 minutes a day. It has this really significant relaxing effect on your body. When your body relaxes, it starts to relax your mind and make it much easier to shift out of those threat-focused or problem-focused thoughts. It improves your sleep, which then also improves the kind of thoughts that you're having, and your energy levels, which makes it easier to get up like, “Yes, let's do more exercise because I have more energy.” And then, you can think more clearly. You can focus more easily. 

When your brain is working better, the things that felt really stressful problems, you're like, “Oh, I'll just make this phone call. It's not that big of a deal.” All of a sudden, you feel so much better because there isn't this looming thing you've been putting off. When you are taking care of your physical health in these really simple ways, there is this interplay that is huge, hugely impactful much more than that the isolated thing. 

We think about exercising as being good for our health or sometimes, people exercise to change the way that they look. If that is true for you, I will refer you back to the Love Your Body podcast episode that I did with my colleague Stephanie a while ago. We need to move away from that, but physical exercise has a huge impact on your energy levels and the way that your brain works. 

There's also a lot of evidence that getting regular exercise changes the way that your mind works in terms of not just reducing anxiety and depression, although there have been studies that indicate that getting about 30 minutes of exercise a day is around as effective as taking antidepressant medication for reduction of those symptoms. That's something to think about. Also, I just want to say that it is also true that for many people being on medications: antidepressant medications, anti-anxiety medications, or other mood-stabilizing kinds of medications, is a very, very important foundational piece of your overall kind of wellness plan. 

I don't want you to hear me say this and think like, “Oh, I should get off my medications because Dr. Lisa said that I could just walk instead.” Don't do that but you might want to consider adding a nice walk to your daily routine. It will help you feel better, it will help you think better, it will give you more energy, it will help you feel more able to solve solvable problems, and you will get a better night's sleep, all of which have this self-supporting positive impact on your wellness on all of these different levels. 

Sleep and exercise are hugely important, as is nutrition. Visit with your doctor, see if there's anything easy you could try to make sure that you're getting good nutrition, drinking enough water, keeping an eye on whether or not you're taking supplements that are messing up your kind of low-key stimulating things. 

I had another client who could not sleep and it was impacting her so tremendously. Super healthy person, super healthy lifestyle, was not a Diet Coke drinker, no obvious causes, and it took us months to figure out that she was drinking either a shake or it was a supplement, but it had maca. I'm not sure exactly what it was but there was some additive, it was like an herb that for many people probably didn't have any impact at all but for her, it was keeping her up half the night. 

One time, gosh, it's been a while ago but I experimented once with taking St. John's wort, which kept me up all night. I had the weirdest reaction to it. Just look around like, “Are there any herbal supplements or things that I'm taking?” Easy thing to experiment with. If you're having trouble sleeping or if you're struggling with anxiety and you are taking a supplement, what happens if you don't take the supplement for a week? Like that camping trip: “Here's how I feel when I do it. Here's how I feel when I don't.” Then we can have an ABA test. “Now, I'm going to start taking it again and now, what do I notice?” It's okay to have little experiments with yourself. 

Sound Mind in a Sound Body

Also, do not underestimate the power of your mind to change the way that you feel. Very well established that the way we think creates our emotional reaction to everything. Nothing means anything until you decide what it means and when you have control over how you're going to interpret whatever's happening in your life, you automatically have an enormous amount of control over the way that you feel. When you're in control over the way you feel, it has a positive impact, not just on your physical health, but also on your behaviors. 

When we have certain feelings, for example, when you feel worried about something or scared about something, the behavior associated with that is to avoid it, which makes perfect sense if it is an actual threat. But if it is a project assignment that you need to get done for work, and the way that you are thinking about it makes it feel really intense and stressful and overwhelming emotionally, the response will be to avoid that and procrastinate, which will not just make you feel more stressed, but it may actually lead to adverse consequences in your life if you start missing deadlines. Then, you feel really bad. 

Being able to figure out, “How am I thinking?” And I say that like it's very easy to do like we should all be able to sort that out, but the method of doing that is through either cognitive behavioral therapy. The cognitive part being operative here, which helps you understand, “How am I thinking? What are my core beliefs? What am I telling myself? And how do I intentionally shift that in order to feel better and to get better results in my life?” 

There's cognitive behavioral therapy, there's also such a thing as cognitive-behavioral coaching, which is where therapy is the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. If you have arrived in a space where you actually do have major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder that is quite entrenched, and it's impacting your ability to function, you need cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

If you're resonating with what I'm saying today and don't have an actual mental health diagnosis but want to make improvements in these areas, I would suggest cognitive-behavioral coaching, which is not focused so much on symptom reduction, but it's really helping you figure out just all of these different elements. “Holistically, what is the interplay between how I am thinking and how I am feeling, and how does my mood state impact my thoughts? And then, what happens to my physical process when I'm thinking and feeling this way? And then, when I'm in this physical state, what is the impact that is having on my mind and my body?” Hugely interesting and I think very useful and very productive for most of us. 

When I personally start not feeling so great, I've learned this over the years, “Okay, what's changed? What am I doing? What am I telling myself? Am I exercising? No, I'm not exercising. Yeah, I need to go do that.” Very reliably, usually within a short amount of time, it really changes the way that I feel. I've seen this work so many times for my clients, and I think it can work for you too. 

I really hope that this episode, this time we spent together today has given you some ideas for how to support yourself on every level, particularly heading into winter. I hope you experiment with them and see what kind of impact they have, and I would always love to hear about your outcomes or any follow-up questions that you have for me. If you want to leave comments, the post for this podcast is going to be growingself.com/mind-body-connection. 

You can cruise on over, leave comments for me, or get in touch through Instagram, or email on hello@growingself.com, or Instagram: @drlisamariebobby. Leave your follow-up questions or comments so I can address them and thank you, again, for spending this time with me today. I will be back in touch next week with more love, happiness, and success advice for you, and here's more Fake Names with Darkest Days.

[Outro song: Darkest Days by Fake Names]


How To Appreciate Your Partner

How To Appreciate Your Partner

How To Appreciate Your Partner

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “Anything and Everything” by J Lind

How To Appreciate The Partner You Have

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I completely understand the importance of having a great relationship. Working on your relationship through marriage counseling or relationship coaching in order to make it as good as it can be is a worthwhile endeavor. Working on yourself in service of your relationship is also an incredibly noble and positive thing to do. The energy you spend in cultivating a healthy relationship pays off in every aspect of life.

However, truth be told, I’ve also seen a dark side to this quest for self-and-relationship-improvement as well, which is never feeling satisfied with your partner, or your relationship. This type of “relationship perfectionism” can take many forms, including comparing your relationship to what you imagine other people’s relationships are like, having overly high expectations, over-focusing on your partner’s flaws, or overlooking their strengths. This makes it difficult to feel in love with your partner, or even content in a relationship — even a really good one!

Love and Appreciation

Love and appreciation are key to happy, healthy relationships. Getting hyper-focused on relationship problems will actually start to create relationship problems because it shifts the emotional environment away from acceptance and emotional safety, and towards criticism and contempt. When those communication issues are present, even the best relationships will start to feel harder than they need to.

All relationships, just like all people, are a mixed bag with wonderful parts, challenging parts, and “growth opportunities.” Learning how to appreciate your partner for who and what they are is often the biggest area of growth for couples in counseling — and the most fruitful. 

Learning how to show appreciation can be the best thing that ever happened to your relationship. Also, paradoxically, showing appreciation (and feeling appreciated!) for your partner can be one of the fastest and most effective routes to creating positive change and growth in both of you. 

When any of us feel understood and cherished for who we are, we flourish. The same is true for you and also for your partner. On today’s episode of the podcast, I’ll be talking more about how you can release negativity and embrace the type of mindset that will help you and your relationship, heal, grow, and thrive.

In This Podcast Episode: How To Appreciate Your Partner, Learn How To. . .

  • Realize the importance of love, respect, and acceptance when it comes to relationships
  • Learn how to appreciate your partner
  • Understand how people can change, especially in a supportive relationship
  • Learn the importance of letting things go and minimizing control
  • Be made aware of the signs of an unhealthy and overly critical relationship
  • Discover what unconditional love means
  • Accept your partner for who they are and what they can give
  • Learn how to foster kindness and generosity, and stop negative relationship patterns

You can listen to this episode right here on GrowingSelf.com, or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Don’t forget to subscribe while you’re there! If you prefer to read, I’ve also included episode highlights with links to all the resources and additional information I referenced throughout the podcast. Scroll further and you’ll find a full transcript too. 

Thanks for joining me, and I hope that this episode helps you and your partner create the type of loving and emotionally supportive relationship you each need and deserve.

Xo, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How To Appreciate Your Partner

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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How To Appreciate Your Partner: Show Notes & Episode Highlights

Focusing On The Positive in Your Relationship

If your relationship has been feeling challenging lately, you’re probably thinking more about the issues. Wanting a better relationship is normal – and it’s completely valid. 

Often, a partner who initiates marriage or couples counseling has this unspoken hope that they can change their other half in pleasing or gratifying ways. However, the secret to a good relationship isn't in trying to change your partner in a way that agrees with you. 

Instead, “it is really about growing in your own capacity for love and appreciation and learning how to create an environment that nurtures growth that brings out the highest and best in both of you.”

Instead of zeroing in on the bad things, focus on the positives of your partner and your relationship. By shifting your view towards what's good and what you appreciate, you can improve your relationship and fall back in love with your spouse or partner.

Can People Change?

Finding the positive in your partner also has to be balanced with knowing your boundaries.

Your partner may hold beliefs or do things that you will not stand for. In this case, it’s okay to draw a line and say that you will not continue in your relationship unless things change. 

If you’re unclear about whether or not your relationship is unhealthy, refer to these past Love, Happiness and Success podcast episodes: 

But if you've decided that you are fully committed to your relationship and want to make it work, here's what you should be ready to give: acceptance, appreciation, and unconditional love.

When couples focus on understanding and appreciation, they foster goodwill and respect. All of a sudden, they stop being defensive. Only from this positive place can real change and improvement occur. 

Stop Negative Relationship Patterns

In a relational dynamic filled with negativity, relationships tend to self-destruct from the pressure and toxicity. 

You may think that this is because of personal differences and issues. Dr. Gottman, psychologist and relationships researcher, labels these as “perpetual problems.” Examples of these include:

  • Personality differences
  • Ways of being
  • Habits
  • Quirks 

These “perpetual problems” exist in every relationship, but here’s the punchline: it doesn't matter. What does matter more than anything else are negative feelings such as criticism and contempt.

Criticism may sound like the following phrases:

  • “Do that differently.”
  • “That's not right. I'm right and you're wrong.”
  • “Why don’t you do this?”

On the other hand, contempt is often expressed in the following words:

  • “You are ridiculous.”
  • “You suck.”
  • “You are hopeless.”

Criticism and contempt create rocky relational dynamics and elicits a lot of negativity from the other person. 

To stop this negative cycle, grasp your point of control, which is understanding: “What am I putting into this relational system and how can I think about this differently? How can I do this differently so that I am no longer part of the problem?

Understanding Your Partner

We are living in our own experience, so we understand why we do the things we do. We might feel groggy because we didn’t get any sleep. Or cranky because we had too much coffee. However, We often don’t have the same information when it comes to other people, even our partners. That’s why, in a negative relationship system, we start to tell ourselves a story focused on our partner’s flaws

To break out of this system, we have to understand our partner better. For this, we can look at outside factors and even internal reasons for why people are the way they are.

Grow, Together

“In addition to all of us individuals having our strengths, we also do have growth opportunities, and so does every relationship.”

So, aside from your partner, you should also consider your relationship as a whole. To learn more about your relationship, check out the How Healthy is Your Relationship assessment and then take our Attachment Style quiz for insight into you and your partner’s attachment styles. This will help you and your partner better understand where you are each coming from so that you can grow together instead of apart. 

So much unhappiness comes from subconscious expectations. They can be:

  • How love should be shown
  • Who should be in charge
  • What should be controlled
  • How people should communicate
  • How people should parent

In short, anything that has the word “should” can be a form of bias or unrealistic expectation. 

“There is a wide range of acceptable behaviors, and there is no one ‘should'. There is no truth with a capital T.”

The gap between what you believe should be happening and what is happening creates bad feelings in many people. Doing shadow work and examining your inner narratives about this situation helps prevent this gap from widening.

Doing this work also allows us to pull ourselves back from feeling hurt or annoyed when we’re not getting all of our needs met. Instead, we can think about what it feels like on the other side: “What is it like to live with me?”

This question is a good starting point towards having a growth mindset. All relationships will eventually encounter junctures that either one or both partners don't know how to navigate. 

When you have unconditional love for your partner and you aim to grow together, you can figure out how to go through difficult times together as well. 

By shifting into an appreciative and generous stance, we can create positive changes in our relationship. But remember: it has to start within ourselves. Only then can we bring that to the table of our relationship and do something great. 

Resources: How to Appreciate Your Partner

Enjoy the Podcast?

Did you enjoy the episode? If so, be sure to share it with the people you love. What were your favorite tips for appreciating your partner? Are there any challenges you’re facing that make it hard for you to understand or empathize with your partner? Tell us by commenting on this episode. Subscribe to us now to discover more episodes on living a life full of love, happiness, and success.

[Intro music: Anything And Everything by J Lind]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you're listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. That is J Lind with the song Anything And Everything, as in, tell me everything about you and let me love you unconditionally for all of it. It's a beautiful song, it is a beautiful idea, and it's one that can be hard to put into practice, can't it? Today, we're talking about how to appreciate the partner you have because we all want an easy, fulfilling relationship that's full of light and love and fun. 

Sometimes, in our quest to create the kind of relationship that we really want, it's easy to get focused on all the things about our partners that are not ideal. While it is true that we all need to work on ourselves and grow in service of our relationships and bring our vessels to the table, it is also true that the royal road to a truly delightful relationship is often less about getting people to change than it is about figuring out how to accept, appreciate, and even cherish our partners for who and what they actually are, as they are. 

How do you find that balance between acceptance and unconditional love, and also growth and people being the best they can be? How do you feel genuinely loving towards your partner as they are, even if they are imperfect? This really is the holy grail of happy, healthy relationships. Creating exactly that is what we're talking about today on The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast so I'm so glad you're here joining me for what I hope is going to be a fantastic conversation. 

If this is your first time listening to the show, hello. I'm so glad that you found me and found this. I am your host, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I'm a licensed psychologist and I'm also a board certified coach and I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self counseling and coaching. I think because of this weird cluster of experiences, I come to this conversation with a little bit different of a perspective of the family therapist, all about systems and understanding how people interact and create positive or helpful interactions with each other. 

But also, as a psychologist, I'm always interested on how individuals are creating their own inner experiences, how people think, feel and behave. Then also, because of my coach training, for me, it's all about what you want to do with this information. Insight is not enough so on the show, we are always talking about topics that go deep. My goal is to help you achieve true understanding of what's going on underneath the surface. Also, then, talking about how we put these ideas into action and ideally, help you create more positive outcomes in your life as it relates to your love, happiness, and success so I'm glad you're here. 

Also, just a side note, if you're a new listener or a regular listener, I am so interested in what you are thinking about or dealing with in your life or what you think would be interesting or helpful for you to be hearing about on this podcast. You can always get in touch with me directly: hello@growingself.com with any questions or comments. You can track me down on Instagram: @drlisamariebobby to ask questions and jump in the pool of the conversation. You can also leave comments on the blog pages of posts or podcasts that I put out. 

I always check those and answer those personally. Anyway, we will have a conversation about what is important to you because that's why I'm here. I really care about that and I do these podcasts to be genuinely helpful to you. Interestingly, I recorded a podcast not too long ago with Jennifer Sands about making meaning after tragedy. 

In a conversation with her, I really kind of came into contact with something that I had known, but I think not fully appreciated: how much I get out of being here with you making these podcasts for you. It really brings me great pleasure and enjoyment to be of service to you so thank you for doing this with me and again, let me know how I can be of service to you because that's why I'm here and I'm listening so thank you. 

Focusing On The Positive in Your Relationship

On that note, to be of service to you today, let's talk about our topic because I'll tell you what, I have been a marriage counselor for a long time, a relationship coach for a long time. One of the things that I see over and over again is how difficult relationships can feel when partners are very much focused on negative aspects of each other, of their relationship, and also the dramatic difference it can make in a relationship and the way people feel about each other. 

When they are able to shift that focus into the things that they really genuinely like and appreciate about each other, it just feels so much easier and it could also be surprisingly easy to do depending on what your goal is. It can be extremely easy, even in marriage counseling, to spend a lot of time talking about problems and personality differences and early family of origin experiences that create these issues in both of you. 

Again, while it's always helpful to have some context for who people are and why people are, it can also really obscure the fact that everybody has strengths and growth opportunities. Everyone has gifts and sometimes, really by shifting the focus and figuring out how we can enhance the good parts of a relationship, it doesn't matter where you come from or why you are the way you are. It's figuring out how to be the best and how to appreciate each other for who you both actually are and honor that and prize that. 

It's just extraordinary when couples can learn how to do that. That's why I really wanted to share this with you. Let's face it, if your relationship has been feeling challenging lately, if you're like most people, you're probably thinking a lot about the issues, right? I have been there too. It's easy to feel irritated or resentful or wish your partner would do something differently, they could talk to you differently, the tone they're using, they could do things that would help you feel more connected or more in love with them

I think that wanting a better relationship is fantastic. Also, let's just acknowledge the fact that you've been listening to this podcast or other relationship podcasts hoping to get some tips just says so much about your hope for yourself and for the relationship and that's wonderful. People can absolutely improve their process, I believe that 100%. A lot of times, when people begin in marriage counseling with me or couples therapy or relationship coaching, yes, there is that hope for improvement. 

There is also often this kind of secret, unspoken hope that by getting involved in marriage counseling or couples therapy, often, and the person who initiates all this and makes the appointment, right? The secret unspoken hope is that this is going to help their partner change in pleasing and gratifying ways, right? I too, again, have been there, right? My husband and I went to marriage counseling. It was fantastic, a couple of years after we got married and that was my secret hope too, just like everybody else. 

That “Oh, this is going to get him to change and understand me and think, feel, and behave in ways that are more gratifying to me, maybe even be more like me because I am right.” I wouldn't have said that out loud at that time but if I'm honest, that was sort of a secret hope. I think that we all are living in our own perspective all of the time, right? The things we feel, the things we think, the way we perceive situations, that is what makes sense to us. 

That's easy. It is much more difficult to really look through the lens, the eyes, the perspective, the feelings, the thoughts, the history, the context of another human and understand how that makes sense and how that can be even strengths are positive, especially if it's something that we disagree with, or be different. This is hard for people coming into the process of couples counseling or marriage counseling and it was hard for me too when I did this and it's worthwhile. 

I have now been, as of October, married for 25 years, would you believe? Even to this day, if somebody invited me to sit down and make a list of all of the things that were different about my husband, I certainly could do that. It would be extensive if I was motivated to do that, it might even be detailed. As I was putting together that list of things, I could probably, if I wanted to, let myself feel bad about some of them, right? Grieved, annoyed. We're all human, right? 

There are always stuff that comes up that's a little bit annoying but the point is that I have learned over the years that just sitting around thinking about things that I'm unhappy with in my relationship, with my husband, are not helpful because I am committed to him and to this relationship and have found other ways of being that are just so much more productive. Not just in having a nice time day to day, but also in creating positive change and supporting growth in both of us because over time, we've both grown and changed so much. 

I see that often in couples that I work with. People do grow and change and evolve and yet, are fundamentally still the same people. Some things, people can change, but things like personality, ways of thinking, core values, core beliefs, those are much more difficult to change. Sometimes they don't change at all and that's okay. My husband is a much different person than he was and so am I. 

It's also true that the things that annoyed me about him and 1996 are still very much alive and well and that's all okay because the secret to a good relationship is not trying to get people to change or to be different so that they meet your needs in exactly the way that you want them to or that they are always agreeing with you or seeing things from your side of the table. It is really about growing in your own capacity for love and appreciation and learning how to create an environment that nurtures growth that brings out the highest and best in both of you. 

Can People Change?

In addition to that, I will say that this work does also mean finding a balance between figuring out your boundaries, things that feel legitimately intolerable for you and that you will not stand for, and that you cannot continue in this relationship until these things change. That's a thing and that happens and that is also very valid. You might be in a relationship where really, legitimately unhealthy, unhelpful things are happening and unless that is different, you cannot continue in this partnership, 100% valid. 

Get clear about what those are and find a way of talking about that productively with a goal of, as you may have learned from past podcasts that I've put out about having healthy boundaries, the goal here is not to say, “I demand that you do this differently.” It is to say, “Here's what I am going to do differently” or “This changes, and here's how long you have to show me that you can do that. If not, here's what you can expect from me essentially.” I will refer you back to the healthy boundaries podcast for more on that subject. 

That is a thing and that does require sometimes working on yourself enough to know when a relationship is actually unhealthy or even toxic and might even be irredeemable when it's time to call it quits. I have made podcasts on those subjects on what is a healthy relationship, leaving a toxic relationship, and also when to call it quits in a relationship. If you look back through the podcast feed, you can find information that I've put out on all of those. 

Again, that might be the case and some things for you to figure out in your relationship, but if you have done some of that work and decided fundamentally that you are committed to this person, that there is enough here for you that you would like to work on the relationship and invest in this relationship, and that you would like to have a more positive relationship with somebody that in your heart of hearts, you know, fundamentally, is a decent person. They have some rough edges, they have some sharp corners. 

There are some things that they do that are challenging or annoying or even hurtful, maybe not hurtful with a capital H, but low grade hurtful. Maybe you'd like to feel more connected, you'd like to have more fun, you'd like to have more communication, or more emotional intimacy. Those are wonderful goals to have in a relationship and the path to creating those are very often paradoxical. They begin with, ready? Acceptance and appreciation and unconditional love. This is a tremendously important paradox and it's true in psychotherapy. 

Back in the day, old school psychotherapists noticed that when people understood themselves and were in a positive relationship with a therapist who understood them, and also unconditionally had positive regard for them that they were not just understood but accepted for who and what they were when they experienced this relationship as being non-judgmental, as being affirming, validating, and appreciative for who they were, it became safe for them to say, “I would like to work on this aspect. I have made peace with these parts of myself and in doing so, I have become intrinsically motivated to continue growing in a direction that would help me feel more positive about myself and get better results in my life and feel better and have better relationships.” 

This is a fundamental paradox of change and it's true for individuals and it is also true in relationships. I have seen it happen so many times. When couples stop fighting with each other and really focus on understanding each other and understanding each other's perspective and appreciating it, there comes this feeling of goodwill and a mutual appreciation and this respect, this unconditional positive regard that all of a sudden, people stop being defensive. Like, “No, this is why I'm right. You're wrong,” and it turns into, “Yeah, I could see how you would feel that way and yeah, I should work on that.” 

It's just amazing. I think we're sort of conditioned to believe that we need to fight for our rights and that the way to get people to change or to promote growth is to be not aggressive about it, but very direct about it. While there's certainly a time and place for direct communication, people tend to respond better to all of us when we're in a positive relationship that feels good for them and that makes them feel like they want to be better partners for us. That's to say it very plainly but that's true. 

Now, again, if you are in a really, fundamentally unhealthy relationship where that is never going to happen, you should know that so that you can make different plans for yourself. Again, I have more information about that but for everybody else, if it's a generally healthy partnership that deserves a little time and energy and growth work to make it be fantastic, there's a lot of opportunity. Here is why, here's why this is. We just look at this from an individualistic perspective of how people do change and grow is through that self-acceptance and self-compassion process, but there's also a lot of research in the field of couples counseling around what happens in a relational dynamic where there's a lot of negativity. 

Stop Negative Relationship Patterns

I often refer back to the work of Dr. John Gottman, who has just done beautiful studies to explore relationships, healthy relationships that grow, and also relationships that ultimately fail. He has noticed, along with other researchers, that when negative relational cycles take hold and in particular, certain ways of being in a relationship take hold, it's just so toxic for both people and the relationship will self-destruct under that pressure. 

Interestingly, this is also true in the context of the fact that all relationships, all relationships have a certain percentage of stuff that Dr. Gottman has labeled perpetual problems. These are personality differences, ways of being, habits, quirks, stuff that is never going to be different and is not ideal feeling for one or both partners. Those are perpetual problems. They exist in every relationship and here's the punchline, it doesn't matter. Does not matter that your relationship has perpetual problems. 

It doesn't matter that you have angry fights, does not matter that you have bad habits, or don't communicate perfectly, or have annoying quirks, or even have significant differences in values, interests, ways of being, routines. There is all of this commonly present in the very best relationships and it does not matter. What does matter more than anything else are negative things happening such as criticism and contempt, compared with positive things that we're putting into a relationship: kindness, appreciation, gratitude. 

When things like criticism and contempt are very high in a relationship, it creates so many difficult relational dynamics and it elicits a lot of negativity from the other person. Criticism would be like, “Do that differently. That's not right, you're doing it wrong. Why can't you x, y, z?” Contempt would be, “You are just ridiculous. You suck, you are hopeless.” Kind of a meta message is, “My way of being is so much better than your way of being and I think that you might even be a bad person.” 

Criticism and contempt will tank our relationship and when those kinds of expressions or feelings are very much alive in a relationship, things start to get really bad. When you are critical and contemptuous in a relationship, i.e. when you are focusing a lot on the things about your partner that you wish were different, that will automatically create a negative response to you. Your partner will start responding to you negatively. They will begin behaving in unloving and unkind ways to you because they feel judged and criticized. I'm not saying that this is your fault. 

Relationships or systems, meaning that people fall into these patterns where they are having reactions to each other's reactions. I'm sure that if you are feeling critical and contemptuous of your partner, it's because that you have had experiences with them where they're doing things where you're like, “Ah! Stop.” It doesn't feel good to you. The point of control any of us have in our relationship is not saying to somebody else, “You need to be different so that I can have a better reaction to you.” 

It is understanding, “How am I reacting? What am I putting into this relational system and how can I think about this differently and do this differently so that I am no longer part of the problem? How can I be doing my best to keep my side of the street clean, to work on myself, and to be as positive and productive as I possibly can and the situation. Because if anything is going to change in this relationship, that's going to be why, is when I start taking responsibility for me.”

In a relationship where you're focusing on the problems, it is very, very easy to slip into criticism and contempt and frustration. That is not helpful and it isn't productive and it will make things worse. It will damage your relationship in the short term, but I'll tell you, that will also really begin to severely damage a relationship in the long term because here's what happens. When you have had experiences in your relationship over a long period of time that have been disappointing or hurtful or annoying or you're trying to tell your partner to change and they keep not changing, we are also all vulnerable to something called the fundamental attribution theory. 

That is a big, fancy term for saying something that, I think, has a lot of common sense wisdom, which is this: when we understand why people do what they do, we can either look at the situation and the context and say, “Oh, okay. That's why they behaved that way. They had a bad day, they were having a reaction to something that I said that maybe rubbed them the wrong way.” 

We can look at outside factors that help us understand why people behave or we can look for internal reasons why people are the way they are. “They are a negative person. They have character flaws, they are fundamentally unable to be loving and emotionally intelligent. They are broken in some way.” It's how we understand why people are the way that they are. Every single one of us humans walking on this planet is vulnerable to — when it comes to us and the way we behave — we have many situational reasons why we do what we do. “I'm tired, I didn't get enough sleep last night. I drank too much coffee so I was a little bit raa!”

We are living in our own experience, we understand why we do the things we do, we have reasons why and they're often true, but when it comes to understanding other humans, it is much harder to do that because we don't have all the information. We don't know that somebody drank three cups of coffee or didn't get enough sleep last night. We look at somebody who's being kind of aggro and we say, “Oh, that's a bad person right there” or “Wow, what's wrong with them?” 

When we have been living in a negative relational system with our partner for a while, we can begin to attribute a lot of this dispositional causality, meaning we start to tell ourselves a story about our partner that is focused on their character flaws, their personality flaws, these sweeping things about them that are negative and hurtful or unhealthy and that are never going to be different. That is why relationships end, is when people have been telling themselves that story about their partner to the point where they have come to believe it. 

I have much more information on that topic in yet another podcast that I did, which is how to stop a divorce and save your marriage. If any of this is feeling familiar to you, you should probably check out that podcast as well. This is super important to know because, again, when we have high standards and high hopes for a relationship and want it to be great to the point that we are focusing a lot on negativity, the biggest risk to your relationship is making those mistakes around perceiving your partner in such a way that kind of allows you to feel almost entitled to be critical and contemptuous of them. 

That it goes on long enough that it really begins to change your belief about who they are as people, how they are irredeemably unhealthy or too different from you, or “We're just not compatible.” Where do you go after that? There's no growth possible if you have convinced yourself that is the reason that you're having problems in your relationship. The answer is to become self-aware that this is a thing that we all do and we're all vulnerable to it. I also am vulnerable to this and everyone is. I'm not saying that with any criticism but it's just a fact. 

Grow Together

How do we become self-aware of our own tendency to think in these ways and then very intentionally and deliberately find different ways of thinking and feeling and behaving that will be much, much healthier for you and for your relationship and will actually promote the growth and positive change that you want? Because people can change and that's a question that I get a lot, “Can people change?” I have people ask me this who are in long-term relationships. “Can people change?” 

Sometimes, I also do dating coaching and people will meet somebody and start a new relationship and already be thinking, “Okay, is this who this person is? Can this be different? The short answer is yes and no. Again, many things about our personalities are hard-wired. I actually am going to be going in-depth into this in another upcoming podcast on compatibility and personality variables that often trip up many couples, honestly because these are things that are kind of baked in and that can't be different and that's okay. 

We'll talk about why that is, but it's also true that even though we all have fundamental ways of being, we all have life experiences that shape us, cultures that shape us. Every family of origin has a unique culture that shapes us. We will always see the world and other people through those lenses. We also have fundamental attachment styles that are very difficult to change. We can become very self-aware and intentional and over great many years, change attachment styles that were formed in very early childhood but that's okay. 

You can have a good relationship anyway even if you have an attachment style that's a little off-center as many people are. There are also other things like ways of thinking, core beliefs, even if somebody is kind of ADD, that is never going to be different and again, doesn't matter. Being different is not the goal. It's figuring out how to be self-aware and to use tools and skills and strategies to be a fantastic partner anyway, and also to embrace this new idea, which is all ways of being come with gifts.

They are strengths. There is light and dark in all things and it's very easy to get real fixated on problems and to completely lose sight of the gifts and opportunities and really positive things that people are bringing to the table, not in spite of their challenges or differences, but because of them. It's coming into a relationship with this kind of perspective that can really change everything. I will say, in addition to all of us individuals having our strengths, we also do have growth opportunities and so does every relationship. One easy way just to get a snapshot as to what some of those strength and growth opportunities are for your relationship is just to do a simple relationship assessment.

I have put one together on our website. There are many others, of course, but if you'd like to take my How Healthy Is Your Relationship Quiz, it's at growingself.com/relationship-quiz. It's about 22 questions, it's fairly high level. We have much more in depth relationship assessments we use for our clients, but I'll give you a snapshot on a number of different domains that are really important for most couples around what are strengths for you. 

I bet even if your relationship has been feeling difficult lately, it's unusual for somebody to take that assessment and not have any strengths or positive aspects about your relationship or about your partnership. If you've been feeling kind of “Ughh” about things lately, that might be a good place to start. It also offers, I think, a more structured roadmap around like, “Okay, here are things that we can work on” as opposed to just falling into bad feelings about each other because that tends to not be productive. In addition to embracing this idea of strengths, growth opportunities, and gifts, and all things, it is also really important to have an appreciative relationship that is founded on positivity to also become self-aware about your, and when I say your, I mean our, expectations about what should be happening in a relationship. 

I cannot even tell you, as a marriage counselor, how much unhappiness, and even mayhem, stemmed from people going into relationships with unexplored, and often subconscious, expectations about what relationships should be, what love is, how love should be shown, who should be in charge of what, how people should communicate, how people should parent. I don't know if you're noticing a pattern in what I'm saying here, that “should” word is the apparent part of this because we all have our biases about what should be happening that are very much coming from our life experiences, our cultural norms, what we learned in our families of origin or from other people. 

There actually are many different ways of being that are all just fine. There is a wide range of acceptable behaviors and there is no one “should.” There is no truth with a capital T. There are, if you imagine, kind of a bell curve at the extreme ends of that bell curve. There are sets of behaviors that are actually not helpful for anyone. There is abusive behavior, there is neglectful behavior. We don't want to go into those corners, but there's a wide range of behaviors in the middle of that that are actually okay. 

Getting very stuck on things being the way that you were taught they should be is just a recipe for unhappiness. One of the easiest ways to shift into appreciation and positivity is to get clear on what you were taught and what subconscious things might be bubbling around in your brain about what should be happening. Because that is often the cause of a lot of unhappiness and bad feeling, is like when there is a gap between what we believe should be happening and then what is actually happening in a relationship with ourselves, with friends, at work. 

This is not just unique to relationships, but the bigger that gap between what you believe should be happening and what is actually happening is what creates bad feelings for a lot of people. Sometimes, when we have feelings of distress or dissatisfaction, that's a signal to us. Like, “Okay, maybe I do need to make some changes here.” A lot of times, the easier way is like, “Okay, what am I telling myself about what should be happening? What is my own inner narrative about the situation?” 

When we can tap into that, that's really very, very powerful. I've additionally done some podcasts around getting in touch with your shadow self or how to understand subconscious thoughts. There are a lot of applications for those things in many areas of our life that if you're interested, you can just look back in the podcast feed for those episodes, as well. I'm going to put links to all these stuff in the show notes for this episode too so it'll be all in one place for you. 

When it comes to our subconscious beliefs about what our relationships should be, there are a lot. Think about just for a second what your ultimate relationship dream fantasy if your relationship was as good as it could possibly be. Most people, it's some combination of being with a person who really knows you, gets you, understands you inside and out, and loves you for exactly who and what you are, who does not judge you, or criticize you, but understands your point of view, who has compassion for your pain and for the things that you've lived through in your life, and who knows that you are doing the very best that you can do like every single day, you are trying really hard. 

Your ideal partner is somebody who you can be vulnerable with, who is emotionally safe for you, who loves you unconditionally, and who knows and has compassion for everything about you, even things in your past that you might feel bad about or even ashamed of like it's okay. Also, in addition to that acceptance, somebody who inspires you to be your best and who lifts you up, who encourages you, someone who you can learn from, grow with, build a beautiful future with together.

There's that but also you'll have somebody who doesn't expect you to be perfect. They accept your imperfections and instead, I think, focus on your growth, your wins, the best part of you. You are working so hard and trying so hard, are doing such a good job and you are better today than you were six months ago. Really seeing the impact of how hard you try, and if we wanted to get real granular, this ideal person also has a great relationship with their parents and with your parents, but who is also really good at setting boundaries. They are super patient, they don't ever yell at the kids. 

They're great with money, but they're not controlling. They're just good with money. They're fun. They like to do the things that you like to do. They make you laugh, they're easy to talk to. They're fun to have sex with. They smell good. They are hard workers but not workaholics. They are great parents. They're conscientious. They're successful in their careers. They're responsible, but they also like to have a good time. They're interested in you. They're interesting, they're educated, they have lots of friends, they're socially savvy but they really want to hang out with you. They're hot. 

They do things around the house without being asked. You don't have to bug them about it, and basically, they're psychic. They know what you're thinking, what you're feeling, what you're needing, what you're wanting without you ever having to say it. They shower you with love and attention, they make you dinner, they buy you presents, and feeling their love and appreciation of you no matter what. 

Okay, so as I'm saying all these things out loud, I just made this little list, but I have heard all of these things from couples that I work with, even me in my own life. If any one of these are feeling a little bit out with my husband, it's very easy to say something about that. When we think about this all as a whole, dump it all out, all of the expectations, all of the hopes and ideas that we have about what a relationship could be, I think it becomes easier to see that, “Oh, nobody can actually be all of this.” I think here is a moment of humility like, “I am not all of those things. I can't do all of that consistently every single day perfectly for my husband. 

I try to do most of those things sometimes but not all the time and yet that hope, that true need that we have inside of all of us is that hope to be unconditionally loved and accepted for who we are, even if we don't always say the right thing, or do the right thing, or even know what to do, that we make mistakes but that we're seen for the best parts of ourselves and not the worst parts of ourselves, right? I think just keeping that idea in mind, the things that we want from others, “How do we be that?” 

That's the real work that is available to any of us in a relationship and very consciously pulling ourselves back from getting hurt or irritated or annoyed when we're not getting all our needs met and thinking about “What's it like to live with me? Who am I?” I think, from that place, that growth mindset, that commitment to acceptance and unconditional love and positive regard can also be nicely combined with this growth mindset and this idea that we all have a responsibility to grow and learn and be the best that we can be. 

In every single relationship, there's going to be a lot of that happening throughout a long term relationship because we don't all learn how to be perfect parents or manage finances perfectly or talk about sex. Who gets taught how to have those conversations? Communication skills are not overtly taught unless you go to Montessori School for your whole life, emotional intelligence. These are things that people go to coaching to learn how to do because you don't get taught them otherwise.

In any relationship, we should, I'm going to use the word “should,” we should all expect that at some point, we are all going to run into points where like, “Oh, I don't know how to do that” or “My partner doesn't yet know how to do that,” but shifting into that growth mindset, this basic idea. “These things can be learned. People learn how to do this, we can learn too and let's figure out how to learn it together.” This will always ebb and flow over time. Case in point, my husband and I now have a 13 year old. We had figured out how to parent a younger child. Now we're like, “Oh, we're doing this.” I think we're both running into walls and have different perspectives and different ways of being. 

Trying to figure out what's a middle path and how can we kind of grow in our new approach to parenting a 13 year old, which is a total different ballgame and in a way that honors and respects both of our perspectives, but it's also the best interests of our child. Trying to figure out how to learn how to do this together really intentionally because it's very, very easy for especially parents to get into passionate conversations about how parenting should be happening, right? 

There are so many parts of a relationship where it's easy to do that. Money, who does what, priorities, time management, so many things, figuring out “How do we grow here and resist falling into negativity around it.” I think the principles that do hold true for good parenting also hold true for positive relationships and marriages and that we have warmth, unconditional love, unconditional positive regard and support and kindness and appreciation and generosity and high standards. This basic idea that people really should be trying and striving and growing and learning in the service of a loving relationship, that's good parenting and it's also good relationship skills for everyone. Applying those ideas to your marriage is what tends to work. 

Okay, I could go on, but I feel like this is probably enough information for one episode. I do hope that this conversation about learning how to appreciate the partner you have has helped you appreciate the importance of doing this — how it can lead to so many damaging and destructive things in a relationship while ironically, we think that we're trying to make it better, it's actually making it worse. How by shifting into this appreciative, positive, generous stance, we can actually begin to create really positive and powerful changes in our relationships, but it has to start with ourselves and then we can bring that to the table of our relationship and do something great with it. 

This podcast is going to be at growingself.com/appreciate-your-partner. growingself.com/appreciate-your-partner. There, I will include links to all of the past podcasts that I've referenced. You'll find a link to the relationship quiz that I mentioned. I will also link to some other articles about how to support appreciation, love, respect, healthy communication, and also some resources to the things that might be growth areas in your relationship. 

How to manage finances as a couple, how to talk about differences in sexual desire, communication skills, emotional intelligence, we all have stuff to learn and learning and growing is a solvable problem. In that spirit, I will let you digest all of this and I will be back in touch with you next week with another episode of The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. Until then.

[Outro music: Anything And Everything by J Lind]


Reinvent Yourself

Reinvent Yourself

How to Reinvent Yourself

“I want to reinvent myself!” Is this you? Are you wishing you could just cast off the old, tired, annoying or boring parts of your life, drop that old baggage off at the Goodwill and drive away: free, fresh, reborn? Me too. Everyone craves a good fresh start sometimes —  the chance to leave behind the old things that are no longer serving you, and be a better version of yourself. 

You might already have ideas about the aspirational “you” you’d like to become: What you’d look like, or what your life would be like, or even how you’d feel. Energized, excited, happy, productive, interesting (and with nicely manicured nails). But how to get away from the self you are now? The one who feels tired, disengaged, disorganized, and happy to just sit on the couch and watch Netflix rather than reading articles like this one.

Help is here. I’m a psychologist and life coach who has helped countless people reinvent themselves in positive ways, and I have personally been through a number of my own personal “moltings” as well. If you’re ready to reinvent yourself, you’re in the right place. On today's episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m sharing lots of actionable advice that you can use to begin your personal reinvention process today. 

Reinventing You

First of all: I have good news and bad news:

  1. It is absolutely possible to reinvent yourself, but
  2. The process of actually doing so is easier said than done.

Just wanted to manage your expectations about what’s in store for you.

Here’s the problem: You can make big, dramatic changes in your life relatively quickly and easily. You can cut off all your hair, quit your job, sell all your stuff and move into an RV. You’re free! Reinvented! Right?? Not so fast.

This kind of “personal reinvention” through changing of circumstances is relatively simple. It’s just a matter of logistics and chutzpah. The bigger issue is that you are still you, no matter what color your hair is or whether you’re sitting in an RV instead of at a desk. 

Whether your hair is pink, blue, or brown, under the fuzz, you will still have the same core beliefs getting triggered, the same habitual ways of thinking, the same self-concepts, the same personal habits, the same ways of communicating, and the same reactions to the world that you always have. Without a deep dive into rearranging your inner experience on a more substantial level, sooner or later, you’re going to wind up feeling pretty much the same way you usually do, and creating the same set of circumstances that you were trying to escape in the first place. 

“No matter where you go, there you are.” — The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (motion picture) (1984).

Changing your circumstances is easy. Actually, authentically reinventing yourself? More complicated.

Reinventing Your Life

True, authentic reinvention that leads to substantial, permanent change is an internal process: not an event. It can’t be bought, or created in an industrious weekend, like the way you’d “poof” a hall closet into a mini-office with a nifty drop-down desk. It requires deliberation, self-awareness, and intentional effort applied over time. 

But the good news is that once you achieve it, it’s yours to keep. There’s no going back from authentic, inner transformation. You earned it fair and square, and nobody can ever take it away from you. 

But how? How to actually change yourself and reinvent your life on a substantial level? 

If you’re feeling overdue for a personal overhaul and ready to move forward, I’m here to help. On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast I’m doing a deep dive into the psychology of reinvention to give you some actionable strategies for releasing your old stuff and embracing your aspirations.

Episode Highlights: Reinvent Yourself

In this episode, we’ll be discussing:

1. Reset For Reinvention

Did you know that there are certain types of life circumstances that essentially act like glue, holding you in place? (Even if you want to change?) That’s why I’ll be sharing some life-hacks to help you break old patterns so that you can get out of a rut.

2. Catalysts of Self Reinvention

Timing is important when it comes to personal reinvention. Just like the ocean tides get higher at certain times of day, there are times of life (even times of the year) where the forces of reinvention are working with you or against you. I’ll share what those “magical moments” are, so you can be ready to jump on them the next time they come around.

3. Reinvention and Motivation

To reinvent your life you do have to have motivation in order to make it through the twists and turns you’ll encounter along the way. But… what’s motivation? Lots of people think that motivation is a feeling of excited determination that gives us the strength to do hard things. Newp. Motivation is actually much more common than that, and it’s around you all the time. But it’s in disguise. I’ll explain what motivation really is, and how you can get it — and keep it.

4. Self Reinvention vs Homeostasis

Everyone who tries to reinvent themself will, usually fairly quickly, encounter what feels like an energetic elastic band snapping them back into place. Hello, homeostasis! Homeostasis is the fancy word for the fact that the systems we’re in currently are all disinclined to support your personal reinvention activities. Unless you’re actively managing homeostasis, any personal reinvention efforts are going to feel like swimming against the current — I’ll show you what to look for, so you can stop them from sabotaging you. 

5. Reinventing Your Life By Using Your Strengths

Remember at the beginning of this article when I started by speaking out loud about our shared fantasy that we could just rid ourselves of all the parts of us and our lives that we don’t like, and be done with them forever? Sigh. That is not even remotely how this works! The truth is actually much nicer: Genuine reinvention starts with you figuring out all the wonderful things about you and your life that are keepers, and then how to use all that goodness as the raw materials to build up the things you want more of. True, authentic reinvention isn’t about purging. It’s about “empowered embracing” and self-love. I’ll share how.

6. Reinvent a Relationship

If one of the hardest parts of your life is a relationship, good news: you can reinvent a relationship too. If you’ve been feeling super frustrated with your partner lately, I’ll be sharing the tricky paradox for relationship reinvention that can be easy to miss. (But empowering, once you learn it). 

7. Superficial Reinvention vs “Sleeper” Reinvention

Did you know that one of the most powerful and transformative kinds of personal reinvention can actually happen without you even realizing it’s happening? This is called a “sleeper” reinvention, and it is the exact opposite of the superficial reinvention that we try to force to happen (i.e.,  the ones that fizzle fast). When you know how to get in conscious alignment with a “sleeper” nothing can stop you. I’ll share why this is, and how to make it happen for you. 

Reinventing Yourself on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast

Personal reinvention is exciting, complex, and so, so, worth it. I love this topic, and I’m so glad to be discussing this with you on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Tune in to learn all about how to reinvent yourself, and then be sure to leave any follow-up questions for me in the comments. 

Your partner in growth!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Reinvent Yourself

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Eyelids, “Furthest Blue”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. 

[Intro Song: Furthest Blue by Eyelids]

Dr. Lisa: The band is Eyelids with the song Furthest Blue. I liked that song for our show today because it's the idea of creating this idealized future. Somewhere off in the distance but close enough so that we can see, right? I thought that would be a wonderful intro for our time together today because today we are talking about how to reinvent yourself in a very intentional and also meaningful way. That's the important part.

True Reinvention

I think the idea of reinventing oneself, having a fresh start, a new life segment where you get to be different, is so appealing. Because it's this sense that it's possible to step from one plane of existence into another and just a different direction, a different trajectory. It almost has a whiff of magic about it. This idea that you could say legitimately, to yourself and to others, I am different now. That was then, this is now. Things have changed. I think that we all want to have that experience in some ways but it's a lot easier to say that than it is to actually do it. I mean, how does one accomplish a reinvention? 

The accessible parts of reinvention are the ones that we can often buy or do. It's parts of reinvention that are physically obvious or even circumstantial. We can, you can cut off all your hair, you can quit your job, sell your house and move into a van. You can do the act of reinvention and in some ways, achieve it in the sense that you're living in a different reality or maybe looking different. But, you can't quit yourself. You can't cut off a part of your personality. Unless you know how to do a much more meaningful reinvention process, you're still going to be the same you. Thinking the same thoughts, harboring the same core beliefs that then become your filter for the world. You'll have the same reactions to people. You'll say the same things or do the same things in your relationships and basically show up the same way you always have, just with a capsule wardrobe and short hair and from the driver's seat of a van. We have to go deeper. 

Homeostasis

Another aspect of reinventing oneself that I also don't think gets enough air time, frankly, and that can really create a stumbling block for many people is this. This often, I think unspoken fact, that we are all inhabiting systems in the world that create this almost gravitational force on us. The technical term for this is called homeostasis. It's something that we're all susceptible to. It can be really easy to blame yourself for getting into a rut or not being able to change things easily and effortlessly. But the fact is that we're all interconnected. We're living in the context of these systems that tend to hold us in place. 

The people around us are behaving in predictable ways, they're interacting with us in this sort of usual unexpected ways. We then sort of slide into interacting with them in normal and expected ways that they expect from us and that we just do without thinking about it. This is true in our personal relationships. Also even patterns of behaviors with our jobs or our families that we all have these roles and responsibilities. Even routines, like getting out of bed at a certain time. This is what I do in the morning. This is what I have for breakfast. All the systems essentially pull for us to be a certain way which is the way that we have been and then when we try to reinvent ourselves or be different, particularly with people or in the way that we're approaching our roles that involve other people, the system is trying to push us back into place. 

When we attempt to reinvent ourselves in substantial ways, there can often be this pushback, where people don't really want us to be different or they're not ready for us to be different. They're surprised. They're trying to interact with us in the same old way which then leads us to slide back into those old patterns. I know that this is very kind of heady stuff. It often happens outside the realm of consciousness. It's not something that we think about while it's happening, it's just something that happens. I really wanted to talk about this as well because if you're not ready for that and aware of it as a thing, it will in very subtle but yet effective ways to sabotage your reinvention process. I wanted to speak to you about that today as well.

Because this reinvention business is actually much more complicated than it sounds. To create real and lasting change in yourself and in your life. It takes intention, self-awareness, and often quite a bit of applied energy over time. It's so worth it to do. You don't have to accept the hand that you got dealt. You are empowered to create your own way. You absolutely get to decide what parts of your life are working well and what parts no longer serve you so that you can reinvent yourself at will. You can do it. On today's podcast, I'm going to be talking you through a step-by-step process that shows you how to create a personal reinvention plan that is meaningful and authentic, and most important, lasting. That's our goal for today's episode. 

If this is your first time listening to the podcast, and you're wondering what in the heck you have just stumbled into. I am Lisa Marie Bobby. I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. My background, I'm licensed as a marriage and family therapist. I'm a licensed psychologist. I am also a board-certified coach. The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast is all about helping you grow and have better relationships, and achieve your most important personal goals. On every episode, we talk about different aspects of that all for your benefit. 

The Process of Reinvention

On today's episode, I really wanted to talk about reinvention because it felt just so relevant right now. I think this topic is relevant for all of us. As I record this, we’re hopefully, fingers crossed, coming out the other side of this very strange pandemic experience that we've all lived through. Also, I think me personally, I think I'm going through the same thing as many of my clients and probably you too. There's this time and space in life for us to reevaluate, “What have I been doing? Do I want to keep doing that? What do I want to do differently in the future? Who am I?” It's sort of existential questions. 

If you are one of my regular listeners, you may have noticed that for the last, probably a couple of months, I have been serving up some of my best of episodes for your benefit. There are episodes that I enjoy and was thinking might be helpful for you. But also, I think I've been going through my own reinvention podcast process as well as a personal process. One of the things that is so intrinsic to a real reinvention is being able to step out. When you step out, it gives you the opportunity for time and space and clarity, that you can then step back in and do things differently going forward. 

But in the interim, that time that you do step out and give yourself some space, there are things that need to be happening under the surface in order for that to be a meaningful process. That is what we're talking about today on the show. I hope to give you some very actionable ideas and even assignments. As you listen to this episode, you might want to grab a notebook and write some things down because I have some questions for you. Today's podcast is going to be experiential in nature. I'm excited to share some of these things with you.

Let's tackle this. Let's talk about the process of personal reinvention. As mentioned previously, reinvention can be an outward process. Sometimes you changing something about the way that you look or changing something circumstantial. However, I will also tell you that when these things happen in a real and lasting way, they are always connected to an inner process of change and rebirth. Sometimes I think that reinvention can even seem superficial. Somebody gets a dramatic haircut or something can be the manifestation of an actual inner rebirth. The outward sign is just a physical symbol of that but it's still very important. 

While it might seem silly to part your hair on the different side or throw out your skinny jeans, or whatever it is, it can actually be attached to very substantial things. But the substantial things still have to be there. I'll give you an example. My son, he recently turned 13, and he has always been this sweetest, nicest Hufflepuff kid. For years, he had long hair. He had his headband collection. He was rocking this whole Lords of Dogtown thing for years, literally. On the cusp of his 13th birthday, he's like, “Mom, I want to cut off my hair.” Of course, okay. It's your hair, we can do it. But he picked out the photos and we made the appointment and he got all his hair cut off. It’s a very short haircut.

In that moment that he came home and now I'm interacting with this child who looks so different. It was like, “Whoa, who are you?” It was like a stranger in my house. But also noticing how substantially his personality has changed, his ways of being have changed, his communication, his ways of thinking, because he's really has changed from being a child into the stage of early adolescence. His hair, I think for him, was a very meaningful and symbolic representation of his inner change. That was legitimate and important because it was communicating to us in the world, “I'm not who I was last year. I am not a kid. I'm different. I want you to see me as different and treat me as different and interact with me in a different way.” I think none of this was conscious for him but it was also extremely real. This is a different kid and we need to approach him differently. The boundaries are different. Our expectations of him are different. That change in his hairstyle was the manifestation of this inner reality. 

That's what I'm talking about, is this meaningful reinvention because it's the same for you and for me. It requires this inner journey. I'm going to be sharing again, some steps for how to do this for yourself. I also want to warn, not sure what you're expecting here but  I'm going to be coming at this from a coaching perspective, rather than a therapeutic one. I mean, love therapy. I'm a psychologist. I'm a marriage and family therapist. However, for this sort of process, this growth process, I don't think that a therapeutic model is very helpful for people, not nearly as much as other ways. As a therapist, the goal of therapy is healing. Therapy is for the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. A therapeutic approach would say, “All right, let's talk about what the problem is. Let's talk about how you were impacted or perhaps possibly damaged in some way by your life experiences growing up.” Or “What are the hard kind of painful parts that we need to exercise.” 

As a coach, and I think this is why I'm so invested in a coaching model, I think that those ideas are simply not helpful to people who are wanting to do a substantial recreation. I think it holds people in the past. While insight is always helpful, I think that it is negative and self-limiting. I think it can really hold people back. For that reason, I want to walk you through more of a coaching process in order to intentionally cultivate reinvention that I hope feels more positive and more empowering for you

Where we're going to start with this is exactly from this place. I think many times when people think about reinvention, it starts with this long list of all the things that you don't like about yourself and all the things that you want to jettison into the past, “I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to be that way anymore.” It's a moving away of things that you don't like. This idea, that I can be different, I can change these dramatic things about myself that I think are not really honoring to who and what you really are. They're also not empowering. They are also, that approach, can be very disempowering because when we don't honor who and what we really are, we're trying to force change that is not natural to us. It doesn't honor our strengths and because of that, it's often not successful. 

I want to prepare you for that. Reinventing yourself isn't changing everything about you. It is understanding the best parts of you and intentionally growing those. I will also tell you and just to be radically honest with you, as I always am, that reinvention is also circumstantial in the sense that there are certain life segments that meaningful reinvention is simply much easier to do. It's often related to opportunities to step out of your old patterns and ways of being so that you can have time and space to achieve perspective.

There's also this component of pattern disrupt. There's a catalyst for reinvention. The motivation for why, but also the opportunity to, in a very real way, disrupt the old pattern that you have been in. That goes back to this idea that we were talking about in the beginning of homeostasis. When we are in our same routines and around the same people and having the same interactions, we get sucked into this way of being that's very, very, very difficult to get out of. A true reinvention requires at least to some degree, the ability to step out of those old patterns for enough time and space to develop a certain objectivity and really get out of that well-worn path that's very, very easy to fall into.

For example, say that one of the things about your life that you'd like to reinvent is a relationship. If your relationship is feeling difficult and you're working on yourself, maybe you've been working with a coach around like, “Okay, how am I showing up in my relationship? What can I do differently?” And you have decided that you are going to take responsibility for the way that you are communicating with your spouse. They say something snarky to you and instead of doing what you usually do, which is maybe saying something back, you say, in a very gentle and respectful way, “I hear what you're saying. I'd like to hear more about your perspective. I'm not sure that we totally agree but I'm here to listen to you and to understand you because I love you.” That's a totally new thing that you're doing for the first time because of your own personal growth work. Your partner is still thinking about you in the old way. They have had many, many, many, many experiences with you previously, where you have behaved differently. 

Now all of a sudden, you're doing something new and different and it does not compute for them yet. You say something very gracious and gentle and lovely and they say, “Stop screaming at me. You're so controlling. I just can't even take it.” And they storm out of the room. Because they're hearing what you would have said three months ago, in their mind, even though in reality, you just said something very, very different. That you are different but they have not acclimated yet. They're still reacting to you in this very old, well-worn way. That's very normal and that is one of the reasons why people in couples counseling are, “Why this isn't working?!” Is because even though they're trying to be different and showing up and doing things differently, their spouse or partner is reacting to them in the same old way and that feels frustrating and it feels disempowering. 

This is that homeostasis that I'm talking about is that even if you are very deliberately reinventing yourself and intentionally being different, the systems that you inhabit are going to react to you as the way that you were previously, not the way that you are now. Because of that, those systems are going to pull you to slip back into that old role. In the example that you say something very kind and gentle to your spouse and they just react with the same old hostility. It's difficult to not get frustrated and be like, “Darn it! I've been trying so hard! How dare you treat me that way?!” All is lost at that point. You’re off to the races. That’s what I'm talking about. It’s how can you step out of that old system for long enough and dramatic enough way so you get perspective. Also, it kind of resets the system. It’s turning your computer all the way off and back on again, it's like a fresh start. 

Having space can be incredibly important. Not always something that I advise if you're trying to improve your relationship but something that can be a very dramatic system reset for couples that have been struggling for a long time, is a very intentional separation. Not for the purpose of an off-ramp towards a divorce but a separation where each person has time and space to slow down, reevaluate themselves, and reevaluate the other person. Maybe combined with some really intentional marriage counseling, or even mean relationship coaching, where the clock resets and you're like, “Okay, we are really legitimately going to give each other a fresh start and a pass and a new chance. I'm going to learn who you are all over again and I'm going to learn who I am all over again because we're not the same people that we were 10 years ago when we got married. We both changed substantially. Let's find out who that person is.” Sometimes having that that distance can be super helpful. 

Breaking Patterns

There are other life segments where reinvention is much more possible. There are developmental stages or life transitions that really pull for a natural reinvention process. I mentioned one, my son making that transition, from late childhood or early adolescence. That is very real and that's a significant transition. Other transitions are moving in with a partner or getting married. Certainly, parenthood can be a very natural new transition for couples and individuals. A new job, moving to a new city, leaving a job, leaving a relationship. It's like there's this path kind of opens up in front of you and that old pattern has been disrupted, sometimes smashed to smithereens. Can’t do what you have done in the past, right after you bring a new baby home, right? There's this whole opportunity to recreate who you are, who you want to be, how you want to handle these situations differently going forward in this natural reset. 

To a degree, I think that the whole COVID pandemic experience has given some people a natural reset in the sense that it disrupted the systems, disrupted the patterns enough to allow people some time and space for that reflection. But not everyone. I mean, I can't even tell you over the last year, how many more people, I think, who have been busier than they've ever been in their lives. They're overwhelmed and burned out. They haven't had a moment alone with their thoughts. There's this myth that everybody in the world has been sitting around baking things and watching Netflix and that is absolutely not true. For many people, I think that the COVID pandemic experience has actually been the opposite, where people have less time and space to be self-reflective. It's okay. I just I say that out loud because I don't want you to think that you should have had some kind of experience when it wasn't actually your reality. Just to honor that. 

Look for ways to break the patterns. If there is a natural life segment that you're experiencing, a transition into something or out of something, that can be really helpful. I've noticed that sometimes even seasons, particularly a transition from summer into fall, can be a very interesting open door for a reinvention and even a thoughtful vacation. Even a staycation can be the opportunity for a reinvention because it allows you to pause and simply stop doing what you have been doing and then when you come back into the space that you had been inhabiting previously, if you allow yourself, you'll see things a little bit differently. 

How many of you can relate to this very simple example? I remember, once my husband and I, we took a trip with our family that was a pretty substantial trip. When we came home, I walked into my house and I was like, “Man, this place is grubby.” I’ve kind of intellectually known like, “Yeah, we should probably, it’s time to paint.” Before we left but when you're in the space all day, every day, you don't really notice it that much but I came home and was like, “This is bad. The walls.” It was the catalyst for finally taking action and getting the house painted. A very minor example. It's just an illustration of when you re-enter, it's like, “Oh, yeah. I didn't really notice that in the same way before.” That can be really powerful. 

Finding Your Motivation for Change

Then the other piece of reinvention, aside from breaking the pattern, and getting space is also motivation for change. You have to have that. I think that another thing that can mess people up, if they want to recreate themselves, or some aspect of their life is not getting really clear about their why or what's at stake. There's this idea of, “Yeah, kind of nice to do that.” But when it's not really attached to a very core and powerful thing, we don't have the anchor of energy and motivation to sustain a true reinvention. Because it takes a lot of energy and a lot of intention over a sustained period of time. 

If you're thinking about making a change in your life but if you really check in with yourself and like, “How important is this to me?” If the answer is something like, “Yeah. It'd be nice, but only if it was easy.” We can just stop right now because it's not going to work. That's not a bad thing. Timing is very, very important when it comes to personal reinvention and you can't force it. If that is the case for you, you can listen to the rest of this podcast and get the takeaways and tuck it away for later. Just know that in order to really reinvent yourself, you have to feel it or be in the kind of life space where you have to. There's no other choice. If somebody, if a couple or an individual has a baby, for example, there is no other option except to reevaluate the way you've been doing things. Or starting a new job, you're forced into a situation where you're gonna have to do things differently. If it's just a personal preference or something that you want to work on or with yourself, that you have to feel it, you have to connect with a why.

I would like for you to consider, when you think about your reinvention process, “What's it for? What's the purpose? What would change for you? What would be different on the other side of this if you were successful? How much do you care about that outcome? Is it valuable to you?” I would also just like to present this idea that sometimes, many times actually, when it comes to a reinvention process, that is one that we generate and do because we want to not because we have to, it is motivated by dark emotions. I think that's another difference. 

In my perspective, as a coach, I think a just traditionally trained therapist will think of feelings of anxiety or sadness, or resentment or anger, as being negative things that we need to fix and may go away and stop and heal and they're disordered in some way. As a coach, I look at those and I think, “How does that make sense? Tell me why you're feeling angry or frustrated, or nervous. Let's see if we can understand what that is trying to tell you that we should listen to and honor.” There is so much wisdom that comes from our dark and even hard emotions and it's not bad. It's very, very good when you listen to them and allow them to influence you and take positive action. That is your emotional intelligence talking to you. I think that our lives are all better for it when we listen to those feelings instead of push them away and try to embrace them. Because at the end of the day, that's all we have, right? How we feel. That's our understanding of what is important to us and when we can crack into that, that is often the voice of our motivation. If we can do something constructive with it, of course. 

Those are the two core pieces of genuine and authentic reinvention, is taking a step away, making contact with motivation. I will also say just for the purposes of this podcast because as you know, I like to be comprehensive. There is also such a thing as a sleeper reinvention, as I think of it. There is a reinvention process that people can go through that is less intentional in some ways because they're not consciously going in as “I am going to be different when I'm on the other side of this.” It's more of a slow burn that happens through an inner process or by being in a different set of experiences than you have been in the past that changes you in a substantial way that I think of it as molting.

Birds will go through phases where they lose their feathers and they grow in new feathers. It's a mess while it's happening but like old ways of being are sort of sloughing off and new ways of being are emerging from underneath. There is a subtle reinvention happening on the inside of you that you don't even notice until later. For example, say you start a new job that calls for a different skill set or a different way of thinking than you have been in the past. As you get into that, and simply start doing that over six months or nine months, or a year, you will notice that it has changed you by virtue of being in a different system. 

Different relationships can have that impact on us, if we're around people that pull for us to be differently. Sometimes going to school or moving out, you are forced to acquire this different skill set or way of thinking. Certainly too, being in coaching, even sometimes therapy can create that, where you're invited to think and feel differently over and over again to the point where it actually does change the way that you think and you feel and you behave. Ideally, that is an intentional process. That's why I'm making this podcast for you today is how do we make it intentional. But there are also times that we are changed because we go into a different environment over a sustained period of time. Then at some point, we realize that we are different. At that point, sometimes external manifestations of change then occur, where we show the world that we're different because we've already achieved it on the inside.

Again, changing yourself and reinventing yourself is often not just around changing your circumstances, although it can change you over time. Most of the time, when we decide to be different, we do things differently, we try to anyway, or we change our circumstances, and hope that the external systems that we’re attempting will have that impact on us. But the reality is that we take ourselves with us wherever we go. You can sell all of your things and move to India or Tibet and you can go there and you will still be thinking your same thoughts and processing the world through your same inner filter and holding on to your same values. Therefore feeling pretty much the same way as you are right now, even if there's a different setting around you. 

You bring yourself with you. Although you do have a new opportunity to get much more intentional about what you're doing because you are no longer in the old system that you were created in. Our systems forge us to some degree which you can certainly think of if you think about your family of origin experience. The way that your parents communicated the expectations that they had a view of all of us. They shape the way we experience the world, the way we think of other people, the way that we communicate. It isn't until we leave that system that we get to decide who we want to be going forward. 

That's where we are now, at the cusp of this reinvention process where you get to be different. Particularly, if you are in a transitional life space or feeling motivated or having the opportunity to break free. Here is what to do next in order to dig in and make this genuinely transformational. The next thing that you do, that is the activity that makes the change, is to, first of all, get real serious about self-awareness in a different way. I am going to invite you to do something that you might not expect which is to really think about what it is about yourself and your life currently, as you are right this very second and is your life is right now that you really, really love, and appreciate. What is working?

Drawing on Your Strengths

I know that this may be a little bit surprising because I think, again, when we think about reinvention, it's this idea of moving away from something that we don't like. Jettisoning an old identity or way of being that we don't want to be anymore. Thinking about all the things that you don't like about yourself and what you want to be different. When we do that, say, “I don't like all these things about myself. I want to be this aspirational, better version of me, who can do all the things that I'm not currently doing and have this personality that I don't have and think about the world in this way that I don't.” That doesn't work. Humans don't work that way. 

I have tried, personally. I have worked with a lot of people who come in for help in either therapy or coaching with that as the goal. “I don't like all these things about myself and I really want to be different. I would like you to help me be different.” Okay. That’s not how this works. You have to use what you have to build something new. What do you have? That's why authentic self-reinvention starts with taking stock of your strengths, or your strength clusters, I should say because our personality strengths, our traits, show up in clusters. They all go together. 

For example, one of my signature strengths and the things that I like about myself, I am very flexible. Flexibility, I think it goes along with creativity, openness to new ideas. I don't get attached to outcomes. I mean, that's just my way of being. It's easy for me to shift into a different direction. I tend to stay in the present. Those are strengths, all good things. Except, there is also the kernel of recreation within that because there are light and dark aspects to all things. For example, for the flip side of my strengths, I'm flexible, right? I'm like, “Yeah, okay. Let's do that instead.” That means that I can say yes to things and the moment that I can have the intention to work on something on Wednesday afternoon at two and then something else happens, and I don't do what I had originally planned to do, and it gets pushed off and the managing time, staying in alignment with structured plans. That is a dark side of my strengths. 

When I want to be the best version of me, and create the reality that I want, I need to be thinking about what my strengths are. Also, what the growth opportunities are and how to use my signature strengths in order to shift the parts that aren't working for me. I'll tell you that this is a very different way of thinking about reinvention. I know that and I've been there. I mean, I can't tell you how many times, especially when I was younger, I would try to reinvent myself, be like, “Okay. I'm scattered and disorganized. I'm going to be a super-organized person. I'm going to create this beautiful schedule divided into 15-minute increments of time and I'm going to do this and this and this and this.” That never worked. 

Of course, it never worked because that is not who I am. It is so out of alignment with who I am. It would work for somebody else who had a totally different personality and way of operating in the world. But we have to be reality-based when it comes to who and what we are for reinvention to really be meaningful. But also, I think that reality-based, “Who am I? What aspects of myself can I use to build something different and new?” It’s important. Because if we try to be something or someone that we aren't, and will never be, that when we try to be that aspirational thing that's so different, it won't work and it will make you feel really bad. Your big reinvention plan will fall through and you get mad at yourself and you think, “What is wrong with me? Why can't I do that? Other people can do that. I'm following the manual of make a schedule, set a timer, do these things. This works.” It doesn't work for me and that is bad, “Why won't it work for me?” 

What I'm telling you is that there's not a cookie-cutter approach to reinvention because you are not a cookie. Your reinvention process needs to be much more authentic and real for you. It starts by saying, “Who am I? What do I love about myself? What am I good at? What are my strengths? What are the things that I appreciate about me? Even more importantly, what are the things in my life that are really working very well for me right now and that I don't want to change? What do I want to carry forward with me and continue to cultivate and to grow?” 

Because the truth is, there are so many wonderful, legitimate, valid, fantastic ways of being in the world. It's so easy and tempting to fall into this trap of overvaluing one way of being over another. We can get very judgy and discriminatory even with certain ways of being are better than others. It's not true and it's also not helpful. If you want to start with reinvention, let's start with who you are and what about that is fantastic. 

You can even pause this podcast for a couple of minutes. If you want to take out a notebook or open up a blank screen on whatever device you're on, and just spend a few minutes really thinking about and writing down. Not the things that you hate and you want to be different, but what are my best qualities? What do other people like about me? What are my favorite things about myself? What can I do that isn’t as easy for other people to do? What is working? What have I done in the past that worked really well and I'm proud of? What would I like to do more of in the future? Take a minute. Write that down. 

As you do, you'll be uncovering your signature strengths. Once you've given yourself the opportunity to really sit with the parts of yourself that are wonderful and strong and that you want to keep. Now, you can also think legitimately and with compassion about some aspects of your current life experience that maybe you're not in love with. Not in a blistering self-critical, unhelpful way. But if I could have this be different, what would I want it to be instead? It could be a life circumstance, certainly. It could be something about yourself that you are carrying into situations that isn't working as well as you would like it to. Totally valid. 

And what you would like to have be different? What do you desire? What do you imagine would be different for you? If you had that desired outcome in the future? What's your Why? You can say, “Well, I want to be happy.” But what does that mean? What does that mean to you? What is happiness according to your definition? If I want to be in a different place or want to have more money or have different friends. Okay, why? The circumstances are never in and of themselves the outcome. It's what do those circumstances mean. Even, “I want to have a job that pays me more money.” Okay, fine. Why? What does money even mean to you? Is it about security? Is it about having fun? Is it about being able to do more things or being free? Is about showing love to others? I mean what does it mean? You have to find your why. What is your motivation?

Pause me again, and think about that, and write it down. Okay, now we've taken stock of your strengths and the things that are going well. We have also taken a realistic look at the things that you would like to have be different. Here is the hard thing. Stay with me. If you imagine that you are standing right now in a stream, okay? You're in this stream and the stream is flowing in one direction currently. It is flowing in a way that creates the reality that you are currently inhabiting. What you are doing, what you have done, is creating the reality that you're existing in right now and you want this reality to be a little bit different. If you imagine the direction that this stream of time, energy, effort, who and what would you need to be doing to create this different outcome because that is the core of empowerment. 

It is what do I need to do differently in order to feel differently. To have a different result in my life to create a different circumstance. Because the corollary of this, and this is the hard part, is what am I currently doing that is creating the reality? The parts that I don't actually like that much. This is a challenging concept. It is the core question of your reinvention. What are you currently doing that is creating or maintaining the parts of your reality that you are not in love with right now. If you're having a negative reaction to this idea that you have been creating the reality that you're currently existing in, at least in part, I first want to let you know that that is very, very normal to have a negative reaction to that. It is a sign of disempowerment, that if the core narrative is that you haven't created it. You are a victim of circumstance. You have, in no way shape, or form, any impact on the creation of your current life space. That is incredibly disempowering.

That right there is the core idea that will blow open the door to your actual reinvention process. It’s this concept that I co-create. The reality that I inhabit through the way I think, the way I feel, and the way I behave. I'm not talking about the power of manifestation or whatever, I mean, I'm not even gonna go there. It is what are you doing every day that is either creating or maintaining the world around you. How are you participating? The reason why this is so important is because as soon as you say, “I am directing the flow of this energy into the direction that it's currently going.” 

The corollary idea is what is the strength that I can draw upon, that is going to shift what I am doing in the moment, in order to change the direction of this and create this new reality that I would like to have instead. It's hard to do. Genuine reinvention requires that identification. Because it is not about the haircut, it is not about the capsule wardrobe, or quitting the job and jumping into another job. It is what have I been doing over and over and over again, that has created this, and then which of my strengths can I apply? Something that I'm good at. Something that I already know how to do. Something that I can do more of deliberately and grow in order to change my outcome. That is true recreation and reinvention that will work. It’s not jettisoning at all. It is what am I doing well.

We can see this a lot in relationships. I often see people in relationships who are maybe not feeling good about the relationship. This concept is super difficult for them because when they think about reinvention and how they would like things to be different, it primarily centers on what they would like to have be different about their partner. If only they could do something differently or not do that or change the way they're doing it. Be nicer to me, be more like me. Our shared lives together would be so much better. They have not a ton of awareness around how they are co-creating the experience of their relationship with their partner. 

Almost no one ever asks, “What is it like for my partner to live with me? How does it feel to be with me? How is the way I am behaving in the relationship, the way I'm communicating the way, I'm showing love and respect, or lack of, and thinking about how they feel or what they would like to have for me right now.” Those are very difficult to wrap your arms around but that is what we do actually have the power to change and to control. That piece of reinvention. That is what is accessible. When you really turn that energy focus back on yourself around, ”What am I doing that maybe isn't working that well and what are my core strengths? What do I do well? What does work well and how can I do more of that?” You can recreate a relationship or at least you are able to do everything within your power to recreate a relationship or reinvent a relationship. 

The other side will always have free will and systems are powerful but that's accessible to you. It's also important, I think, to get clarity around, “What am I maybe not even conscious of that I have been unconsciously or unintentionally doing that is getting in my way, that is getting in the way of the outcome that I want?” I have seen it so many times, I know it's true for me. It is probably something that is a flip side of one of your core strengths. 

For example, and this is going to be very different for you right, because we all have different strengths, but what I do to get in my own way, is I'm too flexible. I make a list of 500 things and then get distracted by the thing that's most exciting and go into that direction. It takes me five hours to do something that should take one hour. I mean, that’s when things don't work for me that well. I need to take stock, again, of what are my core strengths. My reinvention process has to be around what is accessible to me that I can do that is natural for me that maybe I'm not doing enough of right now but that would change my experience if I did. 

For me, it's creative problem-solving. It's thinking of new ideas. It’s also because I'm a doer. I think my personality is very amenable to taking chances and trying things and being sort of experimental. I can experiment with doing things differently that maybe I haven't done before, to see what happens. Many times I do get better outcomes when I do that. But it's around just reconceptualizing these ideas around. “What do I have to do and all the things that I want to do and maybe I don't have to do all the things” and creative problem-solving around, figuring out what matters the most for me. 

But for you, it's going to be different. If your core strengths are, say that you are very structured and you plan things and you're very organized, you may find that the dark side of that, it’s creating outcomes you don't like. It can be very difficult to change plans or that can be uncomfortable if you don't really know with certainty what the outcomes are going to be. Or you may find yourself trying to control different situations. That is difficult to do. It can create a lot of anxiety or there can be a lot of apprehension of paralysis or not making the right decision. These are the flip sides of the same strength. 

In that kind of case, your path to reinvention is to say, “Okay, how can I be very, very deliberate and use my strengths of being thoughtful and being focused and being organized to deliberately shift the parts of this that are getting in my way?”  It could be for you, creating a new routine that helps you step away from getting locked into a direction that's taking you in the wrong way. It could be planning activities that very deliberately bring a different kind of energy into your life. Because you are structured and organized, you can plan that and stick to it. 

For other people, if your strength is really one of empathy and just having really connected loving relationships, you may find that the dark side and the thing that that does require recreation, is that maybe it's difficult for you to set boundaries with other people. Maybe you do too much for other people that is not just limiting their growth, but making you feel resentful land exhausted and stuck. You have to take care of people, right? 

When you tap into your core strength of empathy and compassion and generosity and turn that towards yourself, as opposed to outwards towards other people, that reinvention process will change everything for you. Because not only is it addressing the core issue that's creating the outcome that you don't like, you are using your strengths to solve that problem. You are intentionally saying, “I want to grow this part of myself that is already working, how can I make it work better? How can I make it work more?” That is the reinvention process that will change all kinds of other things in your life. It's a much deeper, meaningful, more engaged process that starts on the inside. 

Just to recap, it requires being able to disrupt the pattern. Step out so that you get some objectivity and also so that you get a breather. That you get some space from all the systems that want to suck you back into the old way of being. You need to have that motivation, “Why do I want to do this?” Also the recognition that it's going to take some time, applied pressure over time. Then getting really clear about what are your strengths? What are the things that are working? Combined with what is your desired outcome. How is that different than what's currently happening? 

Then once you have those things in place, that really honest reflection around what am I currently doing that is creating the outcome I have and which of my strengths could I intentionally use to shift this current into the direction that I want it to go. Then that is the thing that I'm going to be very, very deliberately, intentionally, and in a focused way, recreating. That is the true seat of my reinvention. If I focus on that, lots of different things will change for me. I will be truly transformed not just on the inside but in the outer expressions of my life, too. 

I know that's a lot of information but as always, I wanted to give you the honest real deal inside scoop. Hopefully, I've presented these ideas in a way that you can make use of. That's my intention. It’s to be helpful to you and to go deeper. I don't just want to give you trite things, I want to give you stuff that will really work and be to your benefit. That is why I'm here every week on The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. 

Thank you so much for spending this time with me today. If you have follow-up questions, come visit me at growingself.com. You can check out the blog, we have all kinds of other not just podcasts, but articles and advice from all of the many talented therapists and coaches I have the privilege of working with. It's all there for you. Come by any time. Bye. See you next time.

[Outro Song]

Episode Highlights

  • True Reinvention
    • Reinventing yourself goes beyond making physical and circumstantial changes.
    • Unless you undergo a meaningful reinvention process, you're still going to be the same you.
  • Homeostasis
    • We're living in the context of systems that tend to hold us in place. 
    • So, it can be difficult to reinvent yourself inside a system that pulls you back into your old ways.
    • However, you don’t have to accept the hands you were dealt. You can decide to drop the aspects of yourself that no longer serve you. 
  • The Process of Reinvention
    • Meaningful reinvention requires us to go into this inner journey.
    • Many people have the misconception that you must change everything about yourself in order to reinvent yourself.
    • However, it’s more about understanding and developing the best parts of you.
    • Having space and intentional separation can be a dramatic system reset, especially for struggling couples. 
  • Breaking Patterns
    • A pattern disruption may help you in your journey of reinvention, as it forces you to change your ways.
    • You can look for natural resets such as finding a new job or moving somewhere else, to facilitate natural reinvention.
    • Even the changing of seasons or a staycation can be an opportunity for reinvention. 
    • These events allow you to pause and come back and see your situation differently.
  • Finding your Motivation for Change
    • It takes a lot of energy and intention to stage a true reinvention.
    • When your reinvention is not anchored to a very core and powerful thing, you won’t have to energy to sustain it. 
    • Ask why you want to reinvent in the first place and if your reason is not compelling enough, take a step back and do it some other time. 
  • Drawing on Your Strengths
    • Some people think that reinvention is about moving away from something that we don't like.
    • However, it’s more important to lean on our strengths when we’re trying to change our situation. 
    • Figure out what your core strengths are and use them to deliberately shift your circumstances. 
    • Also, recognize that you are an agent in your own life. That way, you will be empowered to act on your reinvention.  

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