Friday, January 4, 2013

Breaking Free of Negativity: Part 4 – Mental Filter



In an audio system, a high-pass filter is used to direct appropriate frequencies to a tweeter while reducing the low frequencies that could damage the speaker. If you just used the tweeter, you would only hear the high frequencies of your music. With just these frequencies, music would sound thin. The low frequencies are usually sent with a low-pass filter to a woofer. When combined, the music sounds full and melodic.

Sometimes I unknowingly set up my own filter that directs only negative thoughts and interpretations to my brain. Using a negative-pass filter, I feel as though there is no good in the world.

heading3 Gratitude Journal

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To counteract the negative-pass filter, add in a positive-pass filter. A gratitude journal can be that medium. By adding in a mode for the positive thought frequencies to be enjoyed, we can counteract the negative thoughts that make life dull and flat.

Jason Marsh, with UC Berkley's Greater Good Science Center, explains that over the years multiple studies have been completed on the impact of gratitude and specific practices that can impact health and happiness. Keeping a gratitude journal has been studied multiple times with varied results. While some studies report benefits such as better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness, other studies show that gratitude journals don’t work.

Wanting to understand more, he interviewed Robert Emmons, Ph.D. Dr. Emmons shared the following evidence-based tips to reap the best rewards from your gratitude journal experience:

  1. Don’t just go through the motions. Take the mental energy to focus on being happier and more grateful while you write your gratitude entry.
  2. Focus on depth rather than breadth. More benefit is gained from spending the time to delve into the details of one item for which you are grateful than by creating a superficial list of things.
  3. Focus on people. Contemplating the people that you are grateful for is more rewarding than focusing on things.
  4. Try subtracting. Focus on what your life would be like without certain blessings.
  5. Savor surprises.  Events that are surprising tend to carry stronger emotional weight.
  6. Moderation. People who wrote once or twice per week had greater increases in gratitude than people who wrote three to seven times per week. 

Dr. Emmons instructed to associate each entry as item as a gift. His exact instructions are:

Be aware of your feelings and how you “relish” and “savor” this gift in your imagination. Take the time to be especially aware of the depth of your gratitude.

In addition to the scientists, prophets have also expounded the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. President Spencer W. Kimball invited us to record our blessings:

Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives. Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity. - Spencer W. Kimball (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 349)

More recently, President Eyring shared about the blessings that he has received from focusing on writing about the blessings we see in our lives:

As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done." ("O Remember, Remember," Ensign, Nov 2007, 66–69).

You can take a 14-day gratitude challenge at Not only is it a sharable gratitude journal, but it’s also a scientific tool that helps improve the world’s understanding of gratitude.

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Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal by Jason Marsh via

Ten Ways to Become More Grateful by Robert Emmons via

Stumbling toward Gratitude by Catherine Price via

Ways to Show Gratitude Daily via BYU Women’s Conference (2006)

Gratitude via

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Breaking Free of Negativity - The Blame Game

Breaking Free of Negativity
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Pitfall - Playing the Blame Game
The blame game is like The Song That Never Ends: yes, it goes on and on, my friend. Naturally I want to be innocent when I encounter a problem. Blaming others lets me walk away guiltless. My instinct is to let my inner protector blame others for a situation rather than let my inner critic pick at my conscience. However, when I deny my fault in a situation, I communicate to others that I am  perfect and do not need to modify my behavior. Giving all the blame to others stunts my growth and hinders finding a solution.

When I admit that I have made a mistake, I have an opportunity for learning and growth. I allow myself to see a weakness and turn it into a strength. Denying problems doesn’t lead to growth.

When I blame others I draw the line of opposition between me and others. Solutions are hard to find when the room is filled with Cold War hostilities. When I accept my part of the situation, I draw the line of opposition between my team and the problem. I would much rather have a team working together tackling a problem than feeling lonely and overwhelmed trying to solve the problem by myself.

Antidote - Have a Piece of Pie 

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No, I am not recommending emotional eating. When you find yourself in a corner with the world attacking you, remind yourself that problems are divided like pies. Pies are meant to be shared and not eaten by just one person. The same applies to fault. Take your piece of pie and focus on improving your part. You don’t have to stress about the rest of the pie. It will get eaten, don’t worry.

Dr. Rick Hanson has some tips that will help you eat your own slice of pie. His post Hush the Inner Critic provides discrete steps for using your inner protector to help put your inner critic in perspective:

  1. Remember the feeling of being cared for by someone in your life.
  2. Bring to mind several of your good qualities based on fact not on flattery.
  3. Acknowledge the facts of your error. Be open and honest. Allow yourself to note facts that are difficult or hurt.
  4. Sort the facts into three categories: moral faults, unskillfulness, and everything else.
  5. In an honest way, take responsibility for your moral faults and unskillfulness. Acknowledge that you are not responsible for everything else. Say the following: I am responsible for ______ , _______ , and _______ . But I am not responsible for ______ , _______ , and _______ .
  6. Acknowledge what you have already done to remedy the situation.
  7. Decide if there is anything else that needs to be done to repair the situation.
  8. Actively forgive yourself. Then say: I forgive myself for ______ , _______ , and _______ . I have taken responsibility and done what I could to make things better.
These steps for forgiving yourself can also be applied to forgiving others. I have found that clear communication can help me understand the situation better and work toward a solution rather than getting stuck playing the blame game. Here are my favorite communication strategies for dealing with interpersonal challenges:

Listening Session
Instead of telling your communication partner what is wrong or how it should be solved, listen first. To keep your communication partner from feeling attacked, let them decide when to have the listening session and be sure to let them know your intention is to really understand their perspective. During the listening session your job is to actively listen.

Straight Talk
Straight talk is a strategy recommended in the LDS Resources on Marriage pamphlet: Improving Communication. The purpose of straight talk is to find solutions and build intimacy.
  1. Share your self awareness by stating your sensations, interpretations, feelings, and actions.
  2. Understand the issue by inviting your communication partner to share their self awareness.
  3. Speak for yourself. Avoid speaking for your communication partner. (e.g. “That’s not what you really meant,” or “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”) Avoid speaking for no one. (e.g. “One might assume,” or “A lot of people like chopped liver.”)
 What strategies do you use to identify when you are blaming others?