Climate Change: How to Change Your Personal Atmosphere

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Is there a dark cloud of negativity covering your relationships? Are your thoughts about the important people in your life generally anxious? Are even the “good times” in your life seen as temporary because you feel something bad will eventually happen? Then according to research Psychologist John Gottman, you are in Negative Sentiment Override. This is a state where we see our lives through a filter of negativity brought on by negative past events. In other words, we see the worse possible outcome in most situations and relationships. Left unchecked, this condition sabotages relationships and creates severe anxiety which and can lead to crippling depression.

It is caused by allowing our minds to get stuck in a perpetual cycle of negativity which inevitably produces negative outcomes which then produces more toxic beliefs.

Here’s the progression

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  1. An event happens. It could be something someone has said or did that has the potential of being seen in different ways. For example, Your spouse is late for a dinner.

  2. You give a negative interpretation to that event. You might say something like; “They’re disrespecting me and are completely unreliable”

  3. This causes hurt, anger, and resentment which is a result of your negative interpretation.

  4. This leads to an unhealthy confrontation that sounds something like; “I can’t believe you were so thoughtless and inconsiderate, you don’t care about me!” Negative Sentiment Override becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in that we create the environment that we expect.

  5. This negative interaction puts the other person in a “no win” position by either agreeing that they are thoughtless and inconsiderate and that they indeed don’t care about you or they defend against your negative interpretation by trying to justify their actions. This interaction reinforces your belief because, in your mind, there is absolutely no justification for such thoughtless and inconsiderate behavior.

    And now we wait for another situation to “prove” our negative belief about them, therefore, repeating the cycle and putting the relationship into a toxic downward spiral where one or both partners can no longer see any positive aspects of their relationship.


I was speaking to a client who was currently in Negative Sentiment Override and she was describing her husband. She said, in a tone of disgust, “When he gets up in the morning the first thing he does is make his bed!” Instead of seeing that is a positive, or even as a neutral event she sees it as some kind of character flaw. I understand that there is a lot more going on in that relationship that has caused this unreasonable negativity but this is how irrational we become when we see our partners through the lens of negativity.

The most insidious aspect of Negative Sentiment Override is that when we are in it we don’t know it. This is because we think we’re being “realistic” or “sensible” and the other person is the one who is creating the problem. We have ceased to put their lives in any positive context and have become myopically obsessed with attributing the worse possible interpretation to their character, actions, and motives. This is where relationships hit that tipping point and the belief that life would be better without the other person becomes an ever-increasing option.

Negative Sentiment Override is not merely confined to relationships, it can become a pervasive way of thinking as represented by “Murphy’s Law”. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong – or as some modern-day Merphyites have quipped “Murphy was an optimist”. This is not just a “glass half empty” mentality but an inability to see the good and a concentration on the bad that puts a dark shadow over our lives and relationships. If this condition persists our brains develop neurological pathways that default to the negative which then makes it increasingly more difficult to escape anxiety and fear based thinking. It is as if the events in our lives trigger a negative response which then deepens our propensity to cast our life in a negative light.

And when we are in Negative Sentiment Override we often come across as …

What do I do to escape

Negative Sentiment Override?

Recognize you are in it and take personal responsibility

The very first step is to step back and objectively look at your response to the various things in your life. Is your negative focus obscuring the good and beautiful things in your life? If you are regularly experiencing anxiety, regret and resentment then chances are in Negative Sentiment Override. This is not about ignoring the “challenges” in your life or avoiding confronting problems in your relationship. It is about recognizing that you have a choice as to what you focus on. You can choose to look up or look down, believe the best or believe the worse invest in hope or despair. When we have been in negative default mode for a while it may seem like we don’t have a choice but we do and it starts by becoming responsible for our own feelings. No one MAKES you feel anything – you CHOOSE to feel what you feel.


Create a new positive neuro network

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
— Thornton Wilder

Yes, you can actually change your brain. It begins by refusing to allow your mind to ruminate on anything toxic and to meditate on health, uplifting, and healing thoughts. This all starts with developing an attitude of gratitude. It is clinically proven that those who cultivate gratitude in their lives live longer and have healthier and more satisfying relationships. Start with developing positive affirmations and increasing your daily dose of uplifting music and conversations. Turn off the news and media sources that are only about crime, conflict, and destruction. Limit regular exposure to anything toxic whether they be people, places or things. If you are finding yourself in Negative Sentiment Override it took you a long time to get there and you are not going to turn your brain around overnight – but you can change!

Create relational understanding

If I thought the way you think, I would feel the way you feel

Begin to seek to understand and create empathy for the reality of others. Here’s a statement that I have found very helpful. “If I thought the way you think, I would feel the way you feel. This sentence is a way of bridging the gap between our reality and the other’s reality. When we become willing to truly understand others we shed our prejudice and open up to understanding and connection. We still may have sincere disagreements but they are not tainted with criticism, bias, and resentment.


Turning our thinking around is never easy but very worth the effort. It may be helpful to look at your past and see if there are any negative messages that may be creating unhealthy thinking. These messages are insidious since we often don’t know they are there because they feel normal to us. Messages like, “you can’t trust anyone” or “you aren’t loved” cause us to distort our perceptions. If this is the case it may be helpful for you to get counseling to surface these toxic beliefs.


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Happiness Truly is a Matter of the Heart

What do you really desire in life? What keeps you up at night and gets you up early in the morning? What do you clutch onto so hard that you will protect it with your last ounce of strength?

That is your treasure and that is also where your heart is.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 6:21 NIV

In my work, I see a lot of people who are desperately trying to hold on to something that is not giving them the life they desire. It could be money, relationships, a career or score of other things that seem to melt away the tighter they clutch on to them. The problem is those “things” never satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. I am not advocating quitting your job or leaving your relationships, what I believe we need to do is to no longer see those things as the fulfillment of our desires. In fact, the more we try to make them do that the more miserable we make ourselves.

An example of this is money.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs
— 1 Timothy 6:10 NIV

The point Paul is making in this verse is that when we pursue (love) that which cannot satisfy our souls we end up doing ourselves harm – akin to stabbing ourselves.

God knows we need money, and careers and homes – but we were made for something much more satisfying than this stuff. We were made for God himself.

When we “wonder” it often starts innocently. We become delighted by some new toy or someone strokes our ego. Pretty soon we’re saying this feels good … I want more. So we start chasing this new shiny object and then it happens. That object becomes our treasure rather than the one who ultimately gives all good gifts.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7:11 NIV

Is there anything that we need that he is not willing to give us?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
— Romans 8:32 NIV

This is a call for deep reflection. I confess I am guilty of seeking the gift rather than the giver – of longing for the resource rather than making the source of all blessings my heart’s desire.

Could this be why there is so much depression, anxiety and relational brokenness in our lives? Could we be deceived into believing the lie that something other than our Creator can satisfy our deepest longing?

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Blaise Pascal

"There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ.” 

So are you saying, James, that we’re not supposed to desire anything but God? No, I am saying that we are not to desire anything MORE THAN God. And when we receive what we desire we are to immediately thank him for what we have received.

God has no problems with us asking him for … whatever. But like the excellent father he is, he withholds the right to give us only what is best for us. If we become enamored with the shiny things of this world and he knows that they will cause us to wander off into places that will cause us harm, then like any good father he will withhold these things. Wouldn’t you?

Ask for whatever you wish and if your dearest desire is to honor the Lord and bless him with your life, it will be irrelevant whether you receive it or not because he will give you the ultimate desire of your heart. Your soul will be abundantly satisfied. And isn’t that what we truly crave?

Prayer of reflection

O Lord, I come to you seeking to open my heart to your gaze. Look deeply into my longings Lord and see if there is anything that I desire more than you. Search my heart Lord and reveal any attachments to whatever is not you. You are my source for all that I need. You have promised to graciously give me whatever is necessary. Help me to take my eyes off of all the “shiny things” in this world and fix them upon you. I confess I am so easily distracted. You know all things and you also know that my deepest, passionate desire it to bring you honor and glory in my life. Create in me a steadfast spirit that will live this desire in every area of my life.

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The Most Important Thing to Forget

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Are you looking for the key to happiness? If you aren’t you really should be. I am not saying that we should invest ourselves in some kind of spiritual treasure hunt because there’s no single truth or life skill that will produce perfect happiness, joy, peace or love. But if we are not continually striving to learn new truths and grow in our character then … well, we might as well be dead.

So I’m going to propose a life-skill that, if it is not at the top of your list, it really should be.  I have found neglecting this is responsible for massive heartaches and destroyed countless relationships. It is summed up in this one statement by the Apostle Paul:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus
— Philippians 3:13-14

What I have discovered over and over again in my life is I can not press on toward the goal if I am not willing to forget what is behind me. That goal is not merely a quest for money, fame or a comfortable life, it is a heavenly goal ordained by God.  For Paul, that goal was to, “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. What he needed to forget was that in his former life he was a murderer and persecutor of the Church. I am sure it was very difficult for him to forget the pain he had caused so many people.

But what about you and me? What do we need to forget that is impeding the goal? For me, it is pretty much everything. I must let go of hurt feelings, broken promises, angry and cutting words, and anything else that will cloud my spirit and keep me from being free to pursue the heavenward call.

This forgetfulness is a decision to be free from bitterness and resentment. But let me be clear – forgetfulness does not mean our emotions are suddenly healed or our relationships are magically restored. Emotions have their own timetable for healing. The decision to forget a past injury (whether it is self-inflicted or caused by another) will mean that you will always act in a way that is counter-emotional. This skill is rarely taught in our “do what you feel” culture but is an absolute necessity if you are going to achieve the ultimate goal that calls you heavenward.

Take a moment and assess your current state of forgetfulness.

  • Is there any past situation that caused you an injury that you are holding on to?
  • Are you beating yourself up for a past action or decision you made?
  • Is there someone whom you harbor resentment and anger toward?

If you have confessed the wrongs in your life then the next step is to forget – because God has.

If someone else has hurt you and you are holding on to anger and resentment then the next step is to forgive – because you have been forgiven for much more grievous sins by God.

But if we are unwilling to forget what is behind us then we will find those past things will plant themselves firmly in our future and keep us from experiencing the beautiful life we were meant to live.

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The One Superfood That's Actually Worth The Money (According to Registered Dietitians)

We love playing around with superfoods in the kitchen, but it can get expensive. We asked registered dietitians to weigh in on their absolute favorite, so you can kick your collection off on the right note.

Article by Liz Moody

Turmeric

Photo: Stocksy

Photo: Stocksy

I think turmeric is worth it. I sprinkle it everywhere—in smoothies, teas, on roasted veggies and soups and marinades too. The mood benefits are insane (curcumin, the active ingredient, has been found as beneficial for mood disorders as Prozac), as are the anti-inflammatory, whole-body benefits. Black pepper also increases turmeric absorption, so i try to have a sprinkle of it wherever possible. Try to buy organic, and the whole root will be more nutritious than most shelf-stable powders. 

Carolyn Brown, R.D., founder of FoodTrainers

Cacao

I'm a big believer in sourcing the highest quality and unadulterated as well as sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients that provide the most bioavailable and absorbable nutrients, and this alone usually comes with a hefty price tag. It can be hard to factor quality today, though, with the explosion of superfood products and companies. If I'm being completely honest, though, the superfood that I use almost on a regular basis is cacao. There is nothing I crave more that provides me with the core minerals, mood-lifting, and energizing benefits, and for that result I will happily pay top dollar for both the fermented raw bean, or unprocessed raw bar that has been sweetened with unrefined sugars. 
 

Alle Weil, AADP, founder of Flora Ex Machina

Flaxseed

Photo: Stocksy

Photo: Stocksy

Flaxseeds are best absorbed when ground and provide many benefits to the diet. They are a great source of fiber and help things move along in the digestive tract. Flaxseeds are also are a great vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are protective of the cardiovascular system by preventing and healing vascular damage related to inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of ground flaxseeds are not only limited to the cardiovascular system but assist the body in fighting free radicals, which lead to oxidative stress. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods helps to reduce the risk of certain cancers and diseases related to chronic inflammation. Flaxseeds are also a source of plant-based protein and are easily integrated into the diet. Throw them into a smoothie, top your oatmeal or yogurt with them, or add them to healthified baked goods or pancakes. 

Miranda Hammer, R.D., founder of Crunchy Radish

Spices

Spices! While spices aren't a solo superfood, collectively they are antioxidant superstars, and I try and incorporate them into everything. Remember, antioxidants are the "good guys" that scavenge dangerous free radicals that can otherwise cause damage on the cellular level. Plus they add a ton of delicious natural flavor to any given dish. If you can't take the heat, remember that spices don't have to actually be spicy. Think cinnamon, turmeric, basil, garlic powder, etc. I add cinnamon to my morning coffee, oatmeal, and smoothies. Garlic powder and turmeric are great in homemade soups, whole grain pastas, vegetable sides, and even omelets. The key is to make sure your spice cabinet is stocked and easily accessible, so you remember to use them!
 

Leah Silberman, R.D., founder of Tovita Nutrition

Collagen

I think purchasing superfoods is a wise investment into our health. When we place importance on consuming superfoods, naturally nutrient dense and full of health-boosting phytochemicals, we are really investing well into our health and prevention of diseases! If I could pick one in particular, I'd have to say collagen powder. It is incredibly rich in amino-acids that provide the body with many health-boosting benefits, and the powder dissolves so well into all kinds of foods it's virtually undetectable (unlike many other protein powders on the market).  
 

—Cristal Sczebel, CHN, founder of Nutritionist In The Kitch

Bone broth

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Bone broth is truly a superfood, it has so many healing properties. While the bones are simmering, collagen, glycine, and glutamine all get released into the broth. The collagen in the broth helps your skin, hair, and nails look beautiful. It evens helps reduce cellulite and wrinkles! On top of that, the nutrients in bone broth help to heal your gut (which boosts your immune system since about 70 to 80 percent of your immune system lives in your gut!) and reduce inflammation.

Bone broth also contains a variety of different nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, and iron that are bioavailable to your body. You know that expensive supplement glucosamine and chondroitin that's recommended for joint health? Well, bone broth is loaded with it. That doesn't even complete the list of benefits—bone broth can also help with sleep, detoxification, metabolism, and anxiety.

Drink a cup daily or add it to your soups, stews, or veggie dishes. If you're going to purchase bone broth only, purchase homemade batches, from a co-op or a quality meat market. Even better, it's very simple to make yourself (and far more affordable!). 

Britni Thomas, R.D., of Nutritional Weight & Wellness

Chia seeds

A great source of omega-3 fatty acid ALA (the plant-based form), these tiny seeds are also packed with filling fiber and even provide some calcium and protein. They’re great for adding staying power to oatmeal, yogurt, and smoothies. Because they absorb so much water and easily form a gel, they’re also useful as an egg substitute or binding agent in baked goods or as a simple way to thicken sauces and beverages.
 

—Jessica Cording, R.D., founder of Jessica Cording Nutrition

If You Want to be Happily Married You'll Need to Get Real Good at This!

Forgiveness is not an option to sustain a healthy relationship. Research has consistently shown that those who experience forgiveness in their romantic relationships achieve a greater sense of closeness and satisfaction than those who hold on to past offences.

First let me state what forgiveness is not:

  • Forgiveness is not trust. Trust is earned through actions that consistently demonstrate integrity. We can forgive an individual for what they have done but we do not necessarily need to trust them.
  • Forgiveness is not a feeling. If we wait until we feel like forgiving someone we probably will not … and if we do that forgiveness will be shallow and easily taken back.
  • Forgiveness is not circumstantial. Forgiveness cannot be tied to any other action or attitude on the part of the one forgiven – if it is then it can (and probably will be) withdrawn with the next offence.
  • Forgiveness is not primarily for the forgiven. When we forgive it is a great kindness we are giving to the one forgiven but it is an even greater kindness we are giving to ourselves. There are several reasons for this but primarily it is because we take ourselves out of the place of judge, jury and executioner and leave that to a greater and more knowledgeable court. As a Christian I find great comfort in the fact that my meager understanding of human affairs and hearts is not what determines the final outcome of anyone. I let the One who “judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart” be responsible for the rewards and punishments. And even if you don’t believe in a personal God who will judge humanity most people believe in the law of sowing and reaping also known as, “what goes around, comes around”. Or as one old salt told me “the world will kick you in the A#@ much harder than I will”.  I also recognize that my opinion is very often clouded by my personal perspective which is usually based upon my needs and desires. So most offences are about me not getting treated the way I think I should be treated and are inherently selfish. Even if I could on some rare occasion be totally in the right why not just forgive it all and be done with the crap that harboring resentment produces?
  • Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness is a key component to being reconciled with another but when it is given it does not automatically produce reconciliation. Reconciliation requires several steps which include repentance, atonement and reconnection and is not unilateral because a true and humble awareness of the offence must be achieved and trust restored.   
  • Forgiveness is not easy. It can often be the hardest thing you will ever do and something that you will need to work at because it doesn’t come naturally. It is not an emotion it is a decision.

So here is a definition of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is a unilateral decision to free an offending party of all personal retribution for their action against you.

In an ongoing relationship there will be many times when we are inadvertently offended by our partner and we exercise unilateral forgiveness without our spouse even recognizing it. It is the sign of a healthy relationship to let go of small offences without letting them become the seeds of bitterness that blossom into full blown resentment. However, to maintain an intimate relationship, we must be willing and able to talk about our hurts to one another. Out of these conversations arise the intimate insights that make good relationships great. The willingness to forgive is at the core of these conversations for if we are unwilling to forgive then what is our ultimate objective?

Here are the benefits of forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness opens the door to restoring relationships. Like I said forgiveness does not automatically restore relationships but without it restoration is impossible.
  • Forgiveness reduces anxiety and harmful ruminations. Who really suffers when we hold resentment in our hearts? That’s right we do!
  • Forgiveness promotes genuine humility. When we forgive we naturally reflect on how many times we too were forgiven and that is humbling.
  • Forgiveness removes ammunition from the next relational conflict. It is common for old relational wounds to surface during the heat of an argument. This is truly like throwing gasoline on a fire. When we forgive we take away this flammable material and it is much easier to focus on the problem at hand.
  • Forgiveness most closely aligns ourselves with the heart of God. If you want to have a rich, powerful, deeply satisfying relationship with God then get good at forgiveness because that is God’s primary message to us.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you
— Colossians 3:13 NIV

I hope this is helpful. Please let us know if we can ever be of assistance. We are here for you!

Huh … What’d you say? How to Predict a Failed Relationship

There are a few iron clad predictors of lasting relationships according to John Gottman’s forty years of research and one of those predictors is what he calls “turning to” rather than “turning away” from your spouse. Let me explain.

I’m sitting on the couch very quietly minding my own business reading the latest news of those incredible Cubs and how I’m sure they are finally going to break the 108 year old world championship drought … but I digress. So while I’m reading, my sweet, beautiful and extremely talented wife chooses to ask me a question about the menu for the week. Let me say upfront that I am not one of those discriminating fussy eaters. There is almost no food that I do not enjoy and especially anything that Cheri would prepare. So I almost never have any opinion about her meal planning and what’s more, I think she should know this after numerous times of her asking and me responding with; “duh … I dun know”. So do I choose to enter once more into this dead end conversation or do I ignore her question and remain engrossed in fantasying about the Cubs? If I choose to be silent then I am heading right into one of the leading predictors of relational trauma. It is so easy to do and obviously (at least to me) so justifiable. Why respond when I know exactly what the outcome of the conversation will be? Am I not entitled to pick and choose which conversations I engage in and which I leave to parish from neglect?

Marriage can be a beautiful dance of give and take, call and response that binds the two together into an intimate friendship.
— James Tillman

If I am committed to loving my wife and being the husband that I believe God wants me to be then I am also committing to communication even when it is inconvenient, seemingly unnecessary or uninteresting. Yes, I am committing to connecting with my wife whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Please understand that I am saying there won’t be times when we ask not to be interrupted or we may respond by asking for time since we are in the middle of something. What I am saying is healthy marriages are about a hundred little moments throughout the day when couples share their thoughts, feelings or observations with each other. Marriage can be a beautiful dance of give and take, call and response that binds the two together into an intimate friendship. But let me give you some whys. When we turn toward rather than away from our partner it …

  • Defeats propensity toward selfishness
  • Opens up opportunities for shared encounters
  • Shows respect
  • Improves communication
  • Breaks down barriers
  • Demonstrates loving kindness
  • Sets a great example to our children

If it is such an important part of a healthy marriage why don’t we do it? The bottom line is that we cease making our relationship a priority by making it less important than our comfort, convenience or a particular interest of the moment. That article about the Cubs will still be there in a few minutes but the chance to connect with my wife over something that interests her will not. It doesn’t even need to be a long dialogue. Turning to your partner can be as simple as acknowledging them with a grunt, a laugh or a quick statement of agreement. However, if you want to supersize your “turning to” skills then go out of your way to acknowledge your partners statement with your own thoughts, feelings or observations. For me that would go something like …

Cheri: So baby what would you like for diner this week?

Me: (looking up from my beloved Cubs article) Diner? Let me think. You know I’m not picky, I like everything you make. What would be fun for you to cook this week?

Okay, I’m not that good but you get the message. Turn to not away when your spouse is speaking to you and you will find a friend, companion and someone who you are blessed to share your life with.

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are committed to you becoming all that you were created to be. If ever you need support or encouragement please let us know. You can contact us a connect@totalwellnesscenter.net.