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January 17, 2018

I Bet I Can Improve Your Mental Health in One Hour

By Dr. Richard Boyum


We live in a stressful world and we often lack enough coping skills to deal with all the stressful experiences in our life. If you agree to what I have just said then you and I can strike a bargain if you are willing to read further. You and I have agreed to interact together. My bet is that in one hour you can find one or two really good ideas that can improve your hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year coping skills. The result will be a more enjoyable life. If I have got your interest, keep reading. You may perceive of me, the author, as an expert. In reality I am more of a pretty darn good listener. The real experts are the thousands of people I have talked with in counseling situations over the last quarter of a century. It is from them that I have learned and reformulated the ideas that I have put forth n this book. The people I have worked with in counseling have problems, but they also have strengths and insights. Working together these individuals and I have come up with insights that have improved the quality of their lives. It is to these individuals that I have dedicated this book. When you find something in these brief writings that relates to you, you will sense it immediately and be able to begin to put it to use. Our nervous system knows what it is looking for, and when it finds it, it has a way of letting us know. Use these ideas as tools to improve the quality of your life. The tool is good only as often as you use it in a situation where it is best suited. If you are reading this material, you are old enough to understand how and when to use these tools. Are you willing to bet some of your time on the quality of your life in material that is in these pages. In one hour you will be able to get ideas that have been developed over tens of thousands of hours from thousands of counseling sessions. It seems like a pretty good deal to me. The goal in life is often to pass on what we know. New knowledge put to use becomes wisdom. Turn the page of this booklet and of your life. It is now time to begin. We have got about fifty - eight minutes left. - Dr. Richard Boyum

    1. Who is responsible for what?; My boundary is flexible but firm; and Don't take it personally.

      Much of the time we take responsibility for issues that really are not ours or we deny responsibility for the things that are. Ask the question, "Who is responsible for what?" And see if this energy - saving device can't help your decisions about where you put your time and your energy.

    2. Change your worry to concern and your concern to action—otherwise leave it alone.

      We spend a great deal of energy worrying, which is essentially spinning our emotional wheels. If you can take that worry and change it to a concern and take action, you will be better off. If you cannot, leave it alone and put your energies somewhere else. You can certainly worry yourself towards death. It would be better to spend your time and energy doing other things.

    3. As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, we move progressively towards death, one step at a time. If this be the case, we might as well walk rather than run.

      We are a culture of human doings rather than human beings. It is important to be goal - directed and use our time and energies wisely, but sometimes we do not plan and think accordingly. We spend a lot of energy running here and there and then have nothing to show for our actions. Take a little more time, slow your pace down and see if it doesn't improve the quality of your day.

    4. Hugh Prather said, "There must be an old saying somewhere - if something is killing you, get the hell out."

      Emotional pain is energy trying to move. It is an extremely important teacher. Use troubles as a gift to make changes. Face the pain, alter the behavior of the situation and see if your life does not improve.

    5. The most important number in the world is 168.

      It is the number of hours in a week - we have no more; we have no less. Time is a resource in which to use our energies. You manage your time; you manage your life - you waste you time; you waste your life. Make wise choices.

    6. AND SPEAKING OF CHOICE - realize that it is the key component to psychological hardiness.

      We all have choices. We may not always be able to control what happens to us but we can, most of the time, choose the response that we have to situations. There is a strong relationship between choice and feeling like we have a healthy level of control. Become more aware of the choices that you really have.

    7. Practice emotional geometry.

      The shortest distance between two points is the truth and an unbroken line. Too often we triangulate issues through gossip and, consequently, do not speak directly to the person or the issue. Practicing emotional geometry is one of the most essential components of conserving our emotional energies. We waste a great deal of time indirectly communicating or holding back issues that should be communicated and would enhance our growth.

    8. Easy does it.

      This little phrase is a reminder that sometimes we do things in difficult ways when we could be doing them in easier ways. The next time you have a decision to make, look at what might be, in the long run, the easy way to handle a situation as opposed to the difficult way.

    9. Care - front rather than confront your issues.

      Care - frontation is a much more gentle approach to dealing with problems when you are in conflict with another person. In care - frontation, the idea is resolution and making both parties feel better. Very often in confrontation the goal is for there to be one winner and one loser. Consequently, in confrontation there are stronger feelings of both fear and anger. Both of these feelings can be destructive. Think of how your behavior might change if you care - fronted rather than confronted your issues.

    10. Be self-aware instead of self-conscious.

      Self - awareness is really about an internal locus of control. It is making decisions and trusting your own intuition. Self-consciousness very often is defined as having an unusually high focus on what others think of you. People who are self-conscious very often have difficulty in making decisions and taking actions. They are prone to a great deal of guilt and shame - based behaviors Consequently, self-awareness is simply a healthier approach to dealing with issues. Remember, you are not your thoughts , feelings, or experiences; you are the awareness of each of those .

    11. Feel bad about mistakes rather than guilty or ashamed.

      This is related to the previous item. When you feel bad, you can take action to feel better. It is a function of internal locus of control. Both guilt and shame often have an external basis. When you are guilty, you are guilty forever. Shame diminishes your sense of self. You can take bad and turn it to better by taking action. Take an action that you do feel bad about. Take appropriate behavior and see of it doesn't allow you to feel better.

    12. Practice ultruistic egoism.
    13. Ultruistic egoism means that ultimately you can only be as good with other people as you are with yourself. Self-care, self-respect, self-responsibility, and self - knowledge are the components, like table legs, of love. When you do the things you need to to take care of yourself, you cannot help but make contributions to others and to the world. Selflessness equals selfishness. Self centeredness in which a person takes care of themselves and their needs eventually translates into ultruism. We are more likely to help others when we feel good and take care of ourselves. You can't give to other people what you don't have yourself.

    14. Periodically HALT yourself.

      H equals hunger. What do you hunger for at this point in your life? A stands for anger. Anger takes up a lot of time and energy. You need to find ways to resolve, dissolve, or, in appropriate ways, discharge your anger. L stands for loneliness. How connected are you to other people? We know that support systems are an extremely important part of mental health. Are you taking time to be close to other people, to share with them? T stands for tired. Who or what are you tired of? What would you need to do to energize yourself in that particular area? When you periodically HALT yourself, you get in touch with ways of maximizing your energies.

    15. True intimacy is about being truthful with yourself and at least one other human being.

      Intimacy is an important part of human experience. Take time to identify how honest you are with yourself. Denial is not a river in Egypt. By learning to be more accepting and seeing things clearly, we can travel lighter in the world. We are more likely to see ourselves as both ordinary and extraordinary persons. We also need to have at least one other human being that we are connected to - someone who really knows us. Taking the time to address that issue becomes a form of lifeline for each of us.

    16. Stop trying to do your best and start doing as well as you can.

      When you focus on doing as well as you can, you put both eyes on the task. When you focus on doing your best, you are looking with one eye on the standard and only one eye on the task. Research shows that when we stay focused on the task rather than on what others think of the end result, we do better. In fact, we eventually transcend our best. In reality, in doing as well as you can, you will have a lot of "C Days" but C means making satisfactory progress. By doing so, paradoxically, you will end up having more "B Days" and "A Days". Try each day to do as well as you can. Remember, you cannot always control the circumstances in your environment.

    17. Practice the Railroad Crossing theory of communication.

      Remember what we learned to do at railroad crossings—Stop, Look, Listen and Proceed with caution. When we communicate with others, imagine how much better the communication would be if each party Stopped what they were doing, really Looked at the other person, really Listened to what they had to say, and when it was each person's turn to talk, they Proceeded with Caution. Communication would be a lot healthier and a lot safer. The next time you are ready to talk with someone say Railroad Crossing and see what happens.

    18. Be willing to admit mistakes. Be able to say "I Blew it".

      We need to internalize and communicate to others that we are all mistake makers and that we would like to own up to our mistakes without being criticized or judged. The great Greek philosopher, Anonymous, said that if it is gravity that pulls the world down, lighten up. The burden of trying to hide mistakes takes a lot of time and energy. We need to find ways to own up to the mistakes we've made and take action immediately to rectify the situation. In doing so, we have more energy for other issues and we define ourselves in more human terms.

    19. Keep a healthy balance between your built - in joy detector and your built-in crap detector.

      Our minds are constantly surveying the environment, looking for good and bad experiences. For reasons that are sometimes difficult to understand, we often pick out the negatives more than the positives. Spend a little time each day for a good news report. Find pleasure in the little things. Research shows that people who do this have a lot more energy and simply feel a lot healthier.

    20. To get along a little better down on the planet, follow two basic rules:
      Rule No.1 - To get along better on the planet, don't sweat the small stuff.
      Rule No. 2 - Remember that down on the planet, most everything is small stuff.

      As human beings we spend a great deal of energy in getting upset about things that, in a relatively short period of time, we will forget. The weather didn't turn out the way we wanted; we spilled something, we missed by a few minutes something that we wanted to see. A great deal of energy goes into being upset about the small stuff. Take a few minutes to sit down and sort out what in your life is really worth the energy investment and what is big stuff and what is small stuff.

    21. Balance your work and your play.

      Too often in our culture we are always working to prove something, working to accomplish something. Human beings at any age need time to play. Play is an attitude such that when we do that activity, the rest of the world falls away. When we play, we stay fully in the moment without judgment. This is essentially the core definition of self - acceptance. We need to be able to do activities that are playful at least several times a week. They can be solitary; they can be with others; they can be inside or outside; they can be physical or passive; they can be sport or a hobby or a craft. You need to decide, but you need to take some time for some healthy play.

    22. Stay in touch.

      Human beings need to do things for other people. But as part of that process we need to emotionally or physically have positive touching experiences with other human beings. A pat on the back, a hug, a high - five, or just a warm greeting is an important part of human experience. The fail to thrive syndrome that we see in very small children who are not touched occurs in more complicated ways in adolescents and young adults and older adults as well. Be sure to build healthy touching experiences into your life.

    23. Love - accept - forgive - and be happier

      This is a wonderful little formula for better mental health. It is one of the most powerful, motivating forces in the world—giving yourself permission to love what you do and who you do it with in a more profound kind of way. In many ways, love is letting go of fear. Acceptance means to see things clearly for what they really are. We need to let go of some of our built - in biases that come with the territories that we are raised in. It may give us a better and clearer picture of life's opportunities. Forgiveness means to let go in order to gain perspective. It does not mean to forget. In fact it is important to remember. But if we hang on to all of the bad and awful things that have ever been done to us, we get so bogged down that we do not have the energy to deal with life's day - to - day activities. When you forgive someone else and/or yourself, you are essentially lightening your load. You can go back and use what you have learned from these issues as you need them. The end result of loving more, accepting more, and forgiving more is that you simply will be happier.

    24. Believe in something bigger than yourself.
    25. Research shows that people who are connected to a positive calling or spiritual belief cope better in difficult times. Take some time to find that source of energy for yourself.

    26. Follow the yellow brick road.
    27. Dorothy, in the "Wizard of Oz" had a goal. Symbolically, that goal was to get to where she needed to be in life. That is the goal for all of us. To do that, she learned that she needed to use her head (brain), have feelings about her convictions (heart), and to allow herself to be vulnerable enough to take the risks to accomplish her tasks (courage). Assess how the use of your brain, your heart, and your courage helps you achieve your life goals in becoming what you are meant to be.

    28. Periodically reevaluate your functional fiction.

      A functional fiction is a series of thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and feelings combined with our experiences that provide us with the recipe for living our lives. Evaluate the degree to which your fiction is functional versus dysfunctional. A functional fiction creates a positive perceptual set that allows us to always know that even if we cannot control a situation we still somewhere, someplace have a choice. Remember, we often respond with perception as if it were reality. Think of your functional fiction as your values system.

    29. Consider the following Dichotomies.

      Be a heroic rather than a tragic figure in your life. Do things the easy verses the hard way. Finally choose peace over chaos. Heroes have problems, but they always stay on the path to becoming what they are meant to be in life. Reasonably fulfilled and reasonably happy individuals become your own hero. Do not believe in a tragic soap opera ending for your life. Life is difficult enough. Understand that easy may be difficult, but you can avoid making choices to make things truly harder on yourself. Finally, trust your intuition and your inner feelings regarding experiences. A sense of peacefulness and comfort is a wonderful barometer of how well you are doing. Feelings of chaos that may be fear, anger, or simply losing your own sense of direction should tell you to stop and move in another direction.

    30. Developing life goals statement.

      Complete the sentence, "My life goals are", think about what you want in your work life, your personal life. The kind of experiences that you would like to have. Your goal statement can be a sentence or two or up to a paragraph. Realize that you cannot do a goal, but know that you can do steps to a goal. Ask yourself, where are you in accomplishing your goals and what steps you need to take to get back on track. Again, we are meant all to become the selves that we are meant to be. Trust your own response to the question, " How an I doing?", " Am I on track?", " How far do I have to go?", " Am I enjoying the goals that I have accomplished?".

    31. Keep an ongoing daily to do list.

      We all have more things to do than we have energy. We need to keep in mind the task that we need to complete. Periodically ask yourself " What is truly the most important use of my time at this moment?" and do it now.

    32. Live fully in the moment without judgment but with insight and awareness the sweet spot:

      This is as good as it will ever get. The more time you can experience in this state of mind the healthier you will be. In order to do this you must ask yourself the question what am I trying to prove and to whom am I trying to prove it to. It is important to remember that the search for self or other approval is the death of self acceptance. When you can let go of his way of thinking it is much easier to live in the moment without being caught up in judgments.

    33. Enough!

      While choice is a good thing there comes a time when it is appropriate to say enough. There is no perfect choice. Too many choices can become a form of conspicuous consumption. Don't end up with a "wait" problem. Waiting for the perfect person or the perfect job may cause you to lose one of your better opportunities. Trust your ability to know when enough is enough and therefore increase your overall happiness.

    34. Know power - will power - way power.

      This little formula will help you achieve your goals. Know what you want as your life goals. Have the energy and determination to achieve those goals. Then, define the steps internally and externally that you must do to make those things happen. In other words, know what you want, have the will power to do it, and determine the ways to accomplish the task.

    35. Find a way to keep a relationship with someone else at the center of your life.

      We are social animals. We need to be in touch with another. Each individual must do this in his/her own way, and define what that type of relationship is. People who have a relationship at the center of their lives tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer than individuals who are alone.

    36. Back Plan.

      Think of what you would like your life to be like in 10 years. Now starting with today, ask yourself what steps you must take to make those plans come true.

    37. That's just the way it is... So what can I do now?

      There is tremendous power in acceptance of everything that is good, bad, and inbetween. When you accept something for what it is in a non judgmental way you empower your self with more choices in how you can respond. Try doing this with yourself, others and situations in your life. Facing the truth may indeed set you free.

    38. Take a moment and think about someone who's values and behavior you really respect.

      Now make a commitment to be a be a little more like that person today. Research shows that when you do this, you have a better day and feel better about your self.

    39. Remember that you are not the content of your thoughts, feelings or experiences......you are the invisible awareness.

      This idea gives you just enough distance to become a choice maker in your life. instead of saying " I am really down today"...say instead " what I am aware of is how down I am feeling". When you do this, you are in a position to make a healthier choice.

    40. Know your core values.

      It is important to know what you value because core values often determine behavioral choices. If you can rank your top 3 values you are most passionate about, for example, if your primary core value is close relationships with others, how does that affect your choices and actions? Awareness of core values can often lead to both happier and healthier behavioral choices.


    NOTE TO THE READER: Enough stuff is enough stuff. Take a moment to look at a clock or a watch. Figure out how much of the hour that has been promised you is left. With the time that is remaining, review all of the items that you have just read and identify those that seem most relevant to you. Reread those carefully and let those items "soak in". Finally, go back through those items one more time and identify one to three items that you most wish to incorporate into your thinking. Identify specific ways of behaving and acting that you can use to put those particular items to use for yourself.

    For example, if you have decided that you tend to take responsibility for things that are naturally yours, how are you going to begin to put whom is responsible for what to use? Plan/ take whichever item or items you have selected and put them to use in practical applied ways one day at a time. At the end of each day, determine how you have altered your thinking and your behavior to make this particular change in your life. When you can document to yourself how this change is being applied, be sure and congratulate yourself. Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator. Positive self - talk will cement the behavioral change in your life.

    One final note. The map is not the territory but this booklet is a map that helps make traveling the territory of your life richer and fuller. If applied the way it should be (remember easy verses hard) the quality of your mental health will improve. For the one - hour you have spent reading will indeed be worth your time. You read this because you believed it would help you. That belief, often referred to as the placebo effect, is very powerful. Believe, keep practicing and when you find time reread the parts that may again and again improve the quality of your mental health.