Observing—and Talking Back to—Your Thoughts

In my last blog, I talked to you about the importance of having a personal “Mission Statement” when it comes to your self-improvement. After all, until you know and name exactly what it is you want to improve, you can’t make a solid, lasting plan.

So, by now, I hope you’ve committed your Mission Statement to paper, so that you can refer to it and build on it in just a few minutes.

But, first, I want you to consider this: Why, in the past, have you been unable to improve?

After all, if you’re like most people, including me, you’ve made yourself all types of promises:

“I’m going to yell less, organize my house, cut off toxic people, spend quality time with my loved ones, get control of my finances, limit my phone addiction, and get healthy.”

Sound familiar? Of course it does. How do I know? Because wanting to get better—and then even better than that—is how we’re made. It’s part of the human condition.

But, what happens most of the time? I’m sure I don’t even have to tell you.

We either never start down the right path, or we start something that we not only don’t finish, but also backfires?

And then here come the negative thoughts, right? “I can’t do this,” “I always fail,” “That was a waste of time and money,” “Some people are just meant to be heavy, poor, and out of shape, and I’m one of them,” and “Why do I even try?”

I get it. I’ve lived, it too.

But here’s what’s different now. A. You have a realistic plan/”Mission Statement”, and B. This time, you are not just going to change what you do, but how you think. You are going to HEAR and observe your inner voice putting yourself down or telling you to go ahead and just have that one cookie, cigarette, or game of Candy Crush, but you’re not going to LISTEN TO IT. You’re going to tell it gently, but firmly to “shush.” Then you are going to replace that bad stuff with some healthy and positive thinking.

Ok, look at your “Mission Statement” and I’ll show you how.

Underneath it, I want you to write down every single thing you can think of that you’ve told yourself in the past that has stood in the way of your success. For example, if your objective is and has been weight loss, your list might look something like this:

“I’ll start on Monday.”
“I’ll start after vacation.”
“I’ll start after such and such big event or party.”
“I’ll start after the holidays.”
“It’s okay if I treat myself today because I’ll get right back on track tomorrow.”
“It’s okay if I treat myself today because I’ll just eat less tomorrow.”
“I’ve heard of a great new plan and I want to hear more about that before I start.”
“I have to cook for my family, so there’s no way I can be the only one watching my calories.”
“I have no time to cook, so eating out is fattening.”
“I can’t start now because this is truly a stressful time.”
“It’s in my genes.”
“Diet food is expensive.”
“It’s not like I’m looking be attractive and meet a mate anyway.”
“How am I supposed to exercise on top of the diet?”

Do that for yourself, please.

Now, I want you to go back and re-read that list. What does it look like? Does it look like rational reasons or does it look more like excuses or unrealistic promises to yourself?

Next to each of your statements, I now want you to write down next to them, why each of these is not a legitimate excuse. I know you know the reasons.

For example, for

“I have no time to cook,” you might say, “I can make time to cook by spending less time social media or by waking up early.”

Next to

“Diet food is expensive,” you might say, “There are all kinds of sales on healthy food, eating out is actually more expensive, and not being healthy is the most expensive thing ever—emotionally, physically, and financially.”

You get the idea.

That, right now, is all I’m asking you to. You’re getting your brain ready for changes, and we’ll talk more next steps in my next blog.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading. You’re on your way!

Dr. Jessica

Here’s my “Mission Statement.” What is yours?

I want you to go back to your school days for a minute, and remember what every project, paper, and experiment started with. Whether you called it an objective, a thesis statement, or an introduction, it was, in essence a “Mission Statement”: a cut-to-the-chase summary of what you planned to accomplish in the hours, days, or weeks that followed. You needed to understand and plainly state THIS in order to be successful.

Well, that same strategy also applies when it comes to improving your mental health and, of course, your physical health. As a psychologist, life coach, and, most importantly, a human being who has also faced her own share of challenges, I’ve learned that understanding and conveying exactly what you want to accomplish from the get-go is key.

So let’s start here. I’ll go first.

Here is what I, Dr. Jessica, hope to accomplish here, in this blog, and as a professional. Here is my “Mission Statement.”

“I want to show everyone who reads my work and/or comes to me for therapy that their self-talk is key to their self-improvement, and I want to impart strategies to make sure that everyone’s self-talk becomes more healthy, kind, supportive, and self-motivating.”

Yes, I like the sounds of that!

Now, how about you? In a few lines, I want you to write down or type exactly what you hope to improve in your life. Commit it to paper, so you can refer back to it and make sure you see it through.

Do you want to lose weight? How much? By when? What is motivating you? What has held you back in the past? Be realistic and healthy. Write it down.

Do you want to get in shape? What does that look like to you? What do you hope to do with a stronger body? How do you want to accomplish this? Write it down.

Do you want to improve your relationships? Your finances? Your job situation? Your home? Your moods? Your time-management abilities? Your education? Whatever it is, be realistic and specific, and write it down.

Take your time. You may have more than one area you’re struggling in (most of us do!), and you may need some time putting your goal or goals together succinctly.

My next blog will focus on how to put a plan for your desired changes together.

I look forward to sharing my empathy, perspective, and knowledge with all of you in future weeks and months and I thank you wholeheartedly for your time and trust. I guarantee you two things: 1. A healthy outlook can make what seems impossible, possible; and 2. With practice, my techniques can turn short-term shifts of thinking into permanent improvements.

See you soon. Have your “mission statements” ready!

Dr. Jessica

Family Affair

Hello again, Everyone!

As I'm writing this, I am just back home from a day that included a bike ride with my twins to their school this morning, and a long walk with my stepson on the way home from his.

Guess what?

My day wasn't supposed to include either of these things. I was supposed to drive all three boys to school, work out during the day, and then have a family dinner tonight. But...things didn't go as planned. So, what did I do? I manipulated my schedule to accommodate my two biggest priorities: my family and my exercise. I squeezed both in and everybody's still happy. Including me!

Now, don't go thinking, "Well, that's her…I'm not like that." Believe me: I wasn't always like this, either. But when I became a mom and had a lot of weight to lose as a result of carrying twins, I took a step back and reprioritized. After a few months, I realized that I had developed new habits. You can, too.

Episode 6 of Mission Makeover is about the role of family when it comes making any sort of life change. The best way to ensure this, I've found, both personally and with my clients, is by including your loved ones. Support is incredibly helpful. Inclusion encourages support.

To achieve this:

Communicate. Let your loved ones know what you're up to and how they can support you. Tell them what you need, whether it's pep talks, keeping you company, giving you regular reminders, keeping certain foods out of the house, etc.

Be flexible . As I showed you in my example above, don't let a change you can't control sabotage your priorities. Be creative. If it's raining and you were planning to be exercise outside, find a solution. If you are invited to a big eating/drinking event, eat part of your meal beforehand so you are not starving when you get there. If someone you were hoping to meet with cancels on you, don't throw in the towel. Think about what else you can do. Control YOU. If it's important to you, you'll make it happen. Keep your loved ones included in and apprised of your change of plans and priorities.

Plan ahead . And by that I don't just mean plan for your plans. Plan for what happens when your plans fall apart. In other words, have healthy snacks, foods, and water around the house and in your bag, keep sneakers and workout clothes in your car, have music and phone numbers of the people who are important to you on your phone. Expect things to change because so often they do.

Be a role model. Shows like "Mission Makeover" and many others are successful because motivation is contagious. So stay motivated and show your family that change is doable and how. Of course, if you're a parent, you're going to want to teach by example, but do not underestimate the impact your positive changes and thinking will have on everyone in your life...spouses, parents, friends, colleagues, EVERYONE.

Be consistent. If you've ever had any sort of speech, physical, or occupational therapy, you know that the exercises and techniques you learn are to be done both when you are with your therapist and when you are away from him or her. The same is true for your mental health. You need to review your goals daily by keeping a journal, reading motivational materials, and/or having someone you love check on you to see how you're doing or remind you to stay the course. As a Life Coach, I text my clients every single day to show them support. Who, in your life, can do this for you?

Whatever you focus on becomes your reality. Choose to focus on what you want and communicate that to your loved ones. I guarantee it will bring you to increased joy and health.

As always, I'm wishing you both,

Dr. Jessica

Taking It Up A Notch

Greetings, Mission Makeover Viewers:

I hope this finds you well and working toward your own self-improvement. Remember, it's never too late to start making healthy changes, mentally and physically. I support you, and hope that our show has been inspiring you as much as it's been inspiring me.

In Episode 5, you watched our wonderful contestants begin to take their nutrition and exercise routines to the next level…and you saw our experts give them tips for keeping snacking sabotage…physiologically…at bay. Great and important stuff!

Now, I'd like to talk to you about the psychological components of these things…because, of course, what's going on inside your head is just as important to monitor and change as the rest of your body.

Let's talk about exercise first.

Finding the courage to try something new, for most adults-including me-is hard. But… it's also necessary. Why? Listen carefully: Keeping things fresh and taking calculated risks are good for your brain. Adventures are what you remember. They keep you present. They are equal parts scary and exhilarating… and are 100% stimulating.

And courage…well, that's not the absence of fear. Everyone has fear. In fact, it's brave to admit what you're scared of. What courage is then, is the ability to try something despite the fear. So, can you be scared and brave? ABSOLUTELY. That's what real heroes are.

Now, I'm not telling you to do anything unsafe. That's ridiculous. But I am encouraging you to try something different with your physical activity…regardless of your age or fitness level. And I am also recommending, whenever possible, that you take your activity outdoors. Connecting with nature and breathing fresh air is key to well being.

Pause for a second. What's going through your head right now?

Is it, "Great idea, Dr. Jessica. I'm on it!"

Or, is it, "No." Are you thinking, "I'm not athletic," "It's cold out," "I can't do that stuff," "I'll embarrass myself," "I'll be the worst one," "I'm too old," "I don't have time," "I've been hurt," or, "I have allergies."

I get it. I've been there. I'm still like that, too, sometimes.

So I also know that these are excuses that all have solutions. You're putting yourself down and you're blaming. You're creating your own demons. Dr. Daniel Amen calls them ANTS or "Automotive Negative Thoughts" and Dr. Brene Brown calls them "Gremlins." Whatever their nicknames, they are bad things we create to hurt our own progress.

There's always SOMETHING you can do. And that begins with replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones. Try substituting phrases like, "Here's what I CAN do," "I will be so proud of myself when I'm done," "I'm worth it," "Life's about taking risks," "Maybe I'll surprise myself," "I remember a time I did something that scared me…and LOVED it," and "The only one I need to impress is me."

You may want to choose you own music and go into your own head for a brain vacation while you move. You may want to surround yourself with like-minded, supportive people. Whatever works for you, do it. And understand that when you are driven by fear, you're never full of life. You deserve to be full of life.

Speaking of excuses, how often do you use them and sabotage a successful weight-loss effort? All the time, right? So, when you feel yourself weakening and you are so tempted to reach for that bad-for-you sugary, salty, deep-fried, yummy treat, replace these usual phrases…"It's just one" "I've been so good" "I'll start again fresh tomorrow," "I deserve this," "I'm stressed and need this" with one of these, "I've gotten through worse," "This is nothing," "I've worked too hard to blow this now," "This feeling will pass," "I'm stronger than this cookie," and "I'm going to feel so great tomorrow that I resisted this."

You will thank yourself in the long run. You'll be healthier, more confident, have more energy, and will be so much happier.

You deserve it!

Until next time…stay strong and step out of that comfort zone!

Dr. Jessica

Team Comes Together

I'm a big fan of planning, which is good…because as a busy wife, a mom of three young boys, and a therapist/life coach with a busy practice, it's totally necessary. Ask me about any aspect of my life and I'll show you a to-do list that's six-feet long. We all need a system to manage the chaos.

And that's what Episode Four of Mission Makeover is all about: Getting organized. During this week's show, the contestants are equipped with lots of amazing tools to encourage their health. There's a great workout plan…a fantastic diet/nutrition/supplement program…and awesome gear. Success is inevitable with all this stuff, right?



Because while all of these things are INCREDIBLY useful and helpful to our ladies, there is another tool they'll need in their planning arsenals.

The knowledge that every road to success is paved with ups, downs, twists, and turns; the understanding that if you're going to embark on a life- and habit- changing journey you're not only going to have to work hard and steadily, but you're going to have to expect the unexpected.

And this applies to all of you as well…whatever goals you have.

Because the truth is that even if you do everything prescribed and everything right, there are going to be days, weeks, and months, where you are just not where you hoped. That may be a weight or fitness goal you don't meet (some weeks, you may even be up a few pounds). Or, it may be an interview, audition, test, or date that doesn't go your way.

And I'm not saying these things could happen. I'm telling you, they WILL. Why? Because despite the best planning and organization you will do, not everything is in your control.

And don't feel singled out or sabotaged. These kinds of things happen to everyone sometimes. You need to expect them so that you stay the course regardless. You need to know this because it makes the victories twice as sweet.

There's a saying-and though it's a bit cliché-it's true: Life is a journey, not a destination. This also applies to all the parts of your life, including working toward your goals. So keep in mind, that journeys have delays, layovers, rainy days, lost luggage, and sunburns. So, should you not take the trip? Of course you should! Go for it! But, please, don't be disarmed by the setbacks. They really won't matter in the long run.

When it comes to meeting your goals, BE Prepared. Do as much as you can TO prepare (for instance, if you're trying to exercise in the mornings, lay out your clothes, water bottle, and music before bed; if you're dieting, have healthy snacks at hand), but also understand that you'll have your share of challenges. Do not lose focus.

Wishing you clarity and peace,

Dr. Jessica

Knowledge Is Power

Hi, there, everyone.

It was great to be in this week's episode of Mission Makeover and to show you that there is a real person behind my name, face, and words. I hope you got a sense of my energy, and what I am and have always been about: helping others by sharing my tools for success.

First, a confession: I had NO idea how I was going to come across on tv. Would I look ok? Would I seem authoritative? Inspiring? Would the show-s editing represent me as I am? Between us, I lost more than a little sleep over this.

You see, everyone has insecurities. We just have to be aware of them--and let ourselves feel them--in order to conquer them. That's how I manage mine. And that is exactly what I did with the contestants this week; I guided them to name, feel, and then reposition ("flip") whatever-s has been hurting them. I wanted these brave women to identify exactly what in their pasts and their thinking has stood between them and their health.

Now, in my practice, whether I am working with children, families, couples, or adults, I use physical, tangible tools whenever they makes sense. Sometimes, an item can serve as a visual reminder to reframe a client-s negative thinking. Other times, like during this episode, it can represent the source of one-s pain…the THING that-s holding someone back.

The blue crystals that I shared with the contestants this week were used to represent their "kryptonite", their weakness. I helped the women identify and label exactly what has been weighing them down, both literally and metaphorically. Why? Because whether their kryptonite was guilt, anger, abuse, fear of abandonment, or any combination of these things, acknowledging it...looking at it... is where real transformation begins.