Month: December 2011

Good Bad and 2011

So the end of 2011 has come and that means my traditional year in review.  I thought it might be fun to do something different this year by going through each month and citing one good and one bad memory I’ll take with me.  When I say bad I mean more challenging or difficult.  So here goes…

Good 🙂 Bad 😦
January Watched Sherlock on BBC and loved it Fell Down a Flight of Stairs/ Turn 30
February Make great strides in PCOS treatment Receover From Fall
March Work Success Difficult Victoza Response
April Royal Wedding Diabetes Diagnosis (then diagnosis lessened)
May Mom in Town Strabismus Surgery
June Surfing in Hawaii Exercise Pains and Struggles
July Family Reunion Difficult Preparations for Open Water Swims
August Deer Creek Swim Bad Date
September DC Visit Sore Throats
October Slam the Dam Fibromyalgia Diagnosis
November Thanksgiving at My Parents Tonsilitis
December Christmas Activities and Traditions Start of Poler (also great blessing)

Let’s hope for a 2012 with few struggles and tons of joy! Of course, we often find the greatest joy in overcoming the struggles…Still, a little breather might be nice!  Either way I am sure it will be full of growth and discovery.

It starts off with a bang.  In January I have to change my wards into the mid-singles ward.  It will be a lot of change which I am not a fan of but it will be a great opportunity to meet new people and get out of my comfort zone.  I also look forward to 3 open water swims this summer but will probably not get a big trip (have to spend money on trainers rather than plane tickets!).


New Years Eve Sucks

So everyone knows I’m not a woe is me single girl but some days it does kind of suck.  New Years and Valentines being the chief offenders.  I don’t think there are any more ‘coupley’ holidays in the calendar year.

The only thing that makes New Years slightly worse is there is no ignoring it like with Valentines and almost every ‘fun’ activity involves dancing, which I hate.

I have never liked dancing. For starters I have almost no natural rhythm  and I’m not just being modest.  I literally have no natural rhythm. I hate the music typically played at dances. I don’t like club music and find DJs to be obnoxious.  Its also so loud that you can’t talk and you end up either as a wallflower which sucks or gyrating to ‘Everybody Dance Now’ like an idiot. It’s also dark and hard to see anyone so I don’t know how anyone hooks up at a dance but it is the activity of choice for ‘meeting people’ and coupling up in Utah. (Dancing and Utah have a long unfortunate relationship.  They love it there! 😦 )

With dancing out of the picture this year I’m left with the choice of hanging out with my sister and her boyfriend or my parents and their older group of adults from church.  My younger siblings are both doing activities with their friends. I don’t have any friends in California and would rather be hit by a bread truck than go to the YSA dance alone.

So, what’s a girl left to do? Any ideas?

I will probably go to a movie so at least I will be surrounded by people but not have to dance.  (And yes, I go to movies by myself all the time.  In fact, I like it!And no, I will not be seeing New Years Eve because it looks terrible and seeing it on New Years Eve is just depressing).  Normally I don’t mind being by myself.  In fact, I kind of love it!  But on super coupley days it is easy to feel a bit forgotten, left behind.

This is my first New Year in my 30’s and its been a hard year, one I am not eager to repeat.  I am ready for a string of good luck and period of peace (or at least no major medical diagnosis!). I know I’ve had many blessings also but it has been one of the most challenging years of my life.

It seems like 30 is a rough year for a lot of people I know.  It represents a transition both mentally and physically that can be difficult for ‘stay-the-samers’ like me to deal with.

I have never been a big fan of change, especially change I don’t direct and manage, but like a time bomb it comes whether you like it or not!  30 is the first step to being old…Even at church I will soon not be considered a ‘young single adult’.  I will be a ‘mid-single’.  In January I have to change wards and start attending the mid-singles ward, which I am sure will be great but it is a change (which again, I’m not a fan of!).

Maybe I should just plan a trip next year for New Years, go to Hawaii or something like that? That always makes me happy.  Just thinking of Hawaii makes me happy.  I love being home for Christmas but the week after can be rough.  I miss my apartment, car, friends, gym, food, trainer, etc.  At least this year I get my 9 days off of my strict diet.  That’s been a real treat (literally and figuratively).

I wish my family enjoyed traveling during the holidays but my younger siblings would revolt.  I love it! One of my happiest Christmas memories was when my family came to Utah and stayed in our home in Alpine.  It was so nice to not have to worry about all the Christmas stuff and to be able to see my family while still having my own space.  If I had my druthers we’d do that every year.

But I don’t know that New Years would suck any less if I was at home.  My friends and I used to have awesome parties but in recent years they’ve died down. (We used to have great Halloween parties also but that has died out too 😦 ).  For me, parties and the like feel a very college, post-college thing to do.  As a 30 year old woman I find it is so much harder to get anyone together. I have lots of entertaining ideas for cute parties but I’m not convinced anyone would be able to come to a party if I put a lot of work into it.  People are just so busy and have other obligations that are more important by the time you turn 30.

I’m also not sure what it means to be 30.  With other ages the expectations are real clear (20’s college, gain a career). I think it is supposed to bring all those experiences with kids but not so much with me. It’s all a bit of a mystery, the 30’s mystery.

Anyway, don’t mean to complain.  I just wanted to get it out there that New Years sucks and I’m pretending like it doesn’t exist.  Be gone 2011!

To my single friends out there- don’t you agree that New Years is a total drag?

Something a Little Sweet at Christmas

No friends I have not gotten off of my sugar fast…what I am referring to is a talk by President Hinckley years ago that has always stuck with me.  It was given at the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional in 1998 entitled The Testimony of Jesus. In the talk he spoke about the festive time of the year and how it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.  At the time Hurricane Mitch had just happened and President Hinckley had been to visit the ravished Honduras people and check on church humanitarian services being performed to help them. 

As he describes the devastation he mentioned a  little girl  he met who had been rescued from the rafters of a flooded home.  About meeting her President Hinckley said:

“They now have beans and rice, powdered milk and cooking oil. That will sustain life but it is not very tasty. I would hope that at this Christmas season, when there will be no gift‐giving among these devastated people, this small orphan girl might receive perhaps a little taste of candy, something sweet and delicious. I must and will see that that happens.”

Evidently after the story the church humanitarian department was flooded with more candy than they could handle!  The reason why this quote has stayed with me all these years is I think it is easy to only stretch so far in serving others, to feel that giving more would be excessive and unnecessary.  Certainly if there are rules for a particular organization or project we need to stay with them but if not, we should try to stretch a little out of our comfort zone to help someone. (I have a 1 up rule in life.  Meaning if I feel I can serve 1 person I will try to serve 2, if I can do nothing I will do 1 etc).

I like this quote at Christmas because as I’m picking out presents it is easy to think- what is the most sensible gift I could get this person?  When really sometimes they need something a little sweet and delicious, something to brighten their day.

I used to have a debate with my Dad about the essential vs. non-essential aspects of our society.  There are many things that are frivolous nowdays but also many that while not technically essential provide a breadth and happiness to our life, which make it sweet and happy.  For instance, music may not be a requirement for sustenance and human survival but I can not imagine being happy without it.

I hope the next example I will use will be taken in the way I intend.  For years I was involved in Sub 4 Santa’s for various organizations.  Literally from high school to my mission I was a leader in gathering presents, trees and food for families in need.  I always found it very rewarding and particularly in college when we delivered the gifts it brought the spirit of Christmas deeply into my heart.

A couple of years ago I was shopping with a group from my ward for our secret santa and I became very frustrated.The gifts being purchased seemed tacky and cheap.  Not something that would last or be special at all.  I’m not denying the good intentions of the gift-givers but I knew we had more money in the budget to spend and even if we didn’t why buy junk that won’t last?  I left the whole process feeling depressed and cress-fallen.  I couldn’t get the image out of my head of 3 little kids that would wake up with plastic, throw away toys and clothes poorly made.   Anyway, it has always stayed with me that if you are going to give then look for items that will truly create joy- not that this has to cost a lot of money.

Like President Hinckley says, “It is His influence in our lives that stirs within us a little more of kindness, a little more of respect, a little more of love, a little more of concern. It is because of Him, and His teachings, that we reach out to those in trouble, distress, and need wherever they may be.”

There have been years I have done big projects like  Sub 4 Santa’s and the Festival of Trees and other’s where I found 1 person to secret santa for (this year my friend and I did 2 girls, so fun!).  Whatever it might be it is a stretch for that year, at that time and I’m always blessed as a result.

This Christmas I hope you can each think of ways to serve and bring sweetness into the lives of those around you.  Like President Hinckley can we all be the person who will recognize the needs and desires of our loved one’s and then ‘see that that happens’?   Even if it is just with a smile,  conversation, favorite dish made or an extra shoulder to lean on, you can change the hum drum into something truly memorable. A few years ago I did a blog post on my Dad saying thanks and that meant a lot to him, so like I said it doesn’t have to cost money to be very meaningful. Its all about digging a little deeper and filling a happiness void in our loved one’s lives.  That sensation is Christmas to me!

What’s the best gift you have ever received or given?

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

For all of those that did not send me their address here is my Christmas card.  I designed it with my friend Joan Saunders who has an Etsy store called Bitsy Creations.  I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Thanks for all your support in 2011.  Hopefully 2012 will be less intense (a girl can hope) but we will see…

Christmas Recital 2011

I’ve mentioned on this blog that I have taken voice lessons through Hale Center Theater Orem for over 5 years.  I love having a creative outlet each week and never get tired of the thrill of accomplishment that comes with mastering a new song.  Each month we have a Master Class which is kind of a mini-recital/lesson.  In addition, twice  a year we have recitals.  The first recital I did I was terrified.  I sang  Till There Was You from The Music Man (and easy song) and my hands were shaking  I was so nervous.  I even told my teacher I couldn’t do it but out I went.

Ever since then I learned to enjoy the recitals (It makes me wonder what other things I might excel at that I am avoiding? Hmmm…).  In fact, I always sing better in the recital than I ever do in practice (I am the same way with swimming. Always better at the meets than practice.  I guess I’m a bit of show off and the attention brings out my best… 🙂 )

For this recital I sang an arrangement of The First Noel by Mark Hayes (I try to do a Christ oriented over a Santa each year).  I was nervous because the second verse was different than the hymn version I am used to.  Since I liked the new words I really wanted to get it right but I kept jumbling it up.  Fortunately I said a prayer and the right words came up.  I was also very happy with my mixed tone and how I was able to perform the song.

Unfortunately my stupid camera ran out of memory with one line left-literally a breath away from the 2 high notes 😦 .  Oh well!  At least this will give you some idea.  Everyone had really good things to say. Its fun to see how the other students improve year after year in the recitals and to get feedback. Even some of their parents know me and came up to say I’d improved.

On  a funny note- I’ve had 2 people tell me ‘Thank you for being you’ today.  All I have to say is “You are welcome!”.  In all seriousness, its great to be appreciated for who I am and for being me.  Merry Christmas!

My teacher Amanda and I

Christmas Swimfest 2011

So today might just be the perfect day! You know when you occasionally have those days that are pure fun and stress free? Aren’t those the best?

As any blog reader knows I have become an active participant in Open Water Swimming and Utah Masters Swimming.  In a year full of trials this has been the greatest of blessings.  It has given me goals, a sense of accomplishment, made exercising fun and provided me with a whole community of friends and support.

Its really hard to imagine that I swam in open water on August 5th at the Deer Creek Clinic for the first time. After that fateful swim I said:

“I did it! I did it! I did it! I swam in open water for a mile and held my own with people who had all done it before without a wetsuit. This is the best day of my life!”

And what a crazy, wonderful 5 months of swimming it has been since that first swim!  What a crazy year it has been! With so many challenges, which this blog has dutifully chronicled, I am so grateful to have rediscovered swimming, and that wouldn’t have been possible without the encouragement and nudging of good friends (I swear Jim Hubbard got about 30 emails from me before Deer Creek I was so nervous but I made it through and then did Slam the Dam, then Masters Swimming.  What great experiences!).

Swimming has really been an unmitigated good in my life, and how often can you say that?

Every year I do some kind of Christmas party (usually to show off my tree, which I love).  This year I decided to do something different and give back to the swimming community that has so kindly nurtured me.  So I came up with the idea of a Christmas Swimfest. (For me half the fun of a party is in the planning of it and this one was no exception).  I found Christmas swim caps (they have tons to chose from on  I had enough people, 12, that I was able to get the group rate.) This is the one I chose:

Then to finish the plans I rented 2 lanes at the Gene Fullmer pool in West Jordan (something I’m glad I did because it was super crowded and only $15 a lane, so no biggee). I figured this was a good central location for everyone and it was close to the Golden Corral where we went for a brunch afterwords.  My friend Erin agreed to plan the workout, which was super nice given she had gotten like no sleep this week working on her papers for her PHD.  Thanks Erin!  (I was worried she might start sleep swimming but it was fine 🙂 ).

Aside from a mistake I made with the restaurant directions everything went great.  We had a wonderful time and a good workout too! 10 swimmers came, we swam sets, did relays (my favorite. I love racing and I’m very competitive!) and we even went down the large slide at the center.  It was really a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone who came and for all the support this year.  Merry Christmas!

(ps.  There are already talks of more Swimfests.  It should be a great 2012!).

All the Single Ladies

I am not a wedding girl but this has been my favorite wedding cake for years, since high school

The November issue of the Atlantic Monthly is all about marriage and in their words- marriage scarcity. There are lengthy articles full of both statistical and anecdotal evidence but I will try to summarize the ideas as best as I can (I apologize in advance if this is a bit muddled.  My thoughts were all over the place).  The main point is that the numbers of marriages and likelihood of finding a marriage partner is getting increasingly difficult.

Here’s some stats: (excuse the long quotes but the articles say it so well)

“Half the adult population is single, compared with 33 percent in 1950; and 40 percent of children are born to single mothers. Partly, this may be a result of women’s no longer feeling compelled to marry a Mr. Collins. But it also appears to signal that the rise of women is being matched by a decline, not just of male dominance, but of men.

Their plight is serious; men have seen their median wages for full-time work fall over the past 40 years. Among other consequences of such deterioration is what Bolick calls a “new scarcity” that narrows women’s choices for marriageable men just as their other choices in life broaden. It seems, somehow, cosmically unfair that when the strong-minded women of Jane Austen are at last set free, they are being liberated into our Shteyngartian (a bleak  modern writer) society.”


“Foremost among the reasons for all these changes in family structure are the gains of the women’s movement. Over the past half century, women have steadily gained on—and are in some ways surpassing—men in education and employment. From 1970 (seven years after the Equal Pay Act was passed) to 2007, women’s earnings grew by 44 percent, compared with 6 percent for men.

In 2008, women still earned just 77 cents to the male dollar—but that figure doesn’t account for the difference in hours worked, or the fact that women tend to choose lower-paying fields like nursing or education. A 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 found that the women actually earned 8 percent more than the men. Women are also more likely than men to go to college: in 2010, 55 percent of all college graduates ages 25 to 29 were female.”

Does that mean the women’s movement was bad and we should go back to the age of ignorant, submissive women?  Of course not but there is a reality that marriage is getting more and more difficult each day,  Even in the highly matrimonial culture in Utah and amongst the LDS church I am amazed at how many young men there are who have little to no interest in marriage.  It is hard for me to think of a man who is as motivated to find a partner as the women I know.  This quote describes it well:

“What my mother could envision was a future in which I made my own choices. I don’t think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.

But what transpired next lay well beyond the powers of everybody’s imagination: as women have climbed ever higher, men have been falling behind. We’ve arrived at the top of the staircase, finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up—and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.”

I was speaking with a friend on this topic and he pointed out that he has been hesitant to pursue a marriage partner because a feeling of financial inadequacy.   Particularly in a conservative culture like the one I live in there is still the idea that a good husband should be able to provide for a family/wife.

While perhaps this is the ideal I think it is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  Most families can not afford to be single income anymore and with all their education women are increasingly hesitant to give up their careers for family.  (With some careers the debt incurred to accomplish the career literally limiting women from completely giving them up).

I wonder how many men feel like my friend and worry about providing for a family?  Its interesting to me because its not really what I look for in a potential spouse.  I want someone who will be my partner, so we can overcome challenges together.  I want someone that is my intellectual, not necessarily my financial, equal.  I want someone that I can I have a decent conversation with and who likes being with me. Is that too much to ask?

I certainly don’t expect to be taken care of by anyone (not my style!).   I wonder if this is part of the reason for the marriage scarcity- men see it as a burden, women as a blessing? (that is a simplistic generalization I know but I’m speaking of over-all trends not individuals). I know that children make providing for a marriage more complicated but why not conquer that challenge together? The man shouldn’t feel like it is solely up to them.  Even the stay at home Mom’s that I know are essential to keeping costs down in their marriage so they can live off whatever their husband can provide- its a group effort.

With the women’s movement the entire idea of gender has been confused.  Who’s to say what is male anymore or female?  Again, in general I think this is a good thing but it can have negative side effects. In the old world a woman knew where to look for a likely mate and typically those men would be looking for them.  Now the conventions and dating rules are completely smudged together.  This leads to a feeling of ‘winging it’ and hoping to be hit on the head by an epiphany of love.

“Men were our classmates and colleagues, our bosses and professors, as well as, in time, our students and employees and subordinates—an entire universe of prospective friends, boyfriends, friends with benefits, and even ex-boyfriends-turned-friends. In this brave new world, boundaries were fluid, and roles constantly changing.”

“We are in a period of sorting out, in which old customs and conventions are being stripped away, and new ones have yet to be firmly established.”

Sometimes this sorting out can be confusing.  I think that’s why so many people are attracted to online dating- it seems simple.  They even have ‘compatibility’ systems that supposedly take ‘the guest work out of dating’ (yes, I’ve seen one to many eharmony ads!).  I have tried online dating 4 times to no avail.  It just doesn’t have the human connection I need to pursue men (or be pursued evidently).  This leaves me with the hope of meeting someone randomly (through church or social activities) or being set up by mutual friends (I’ve only been set up 2 or 3 times by friends on actual live dates)…

As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog I am happy being independent and single.  While I’d like to get married I will not be devastated if I don’t.  I think even in Mormon Utah this type of attitude is becoming more common.  After all, marriage is not something you can make happen. If I want a masters degree, I can get one.  If I want to serve a mission, I can.  If I want to own my own business, I can.  If I want to get married…Not so much.  It just doesn’t’ work that way and like the articles say it is the ‘new scarcity’ in America.

Most singles are reminded of their marital status (especially in a singles ward in Utah) far too frequently.  It leaves me feeling impotent and oddly unworthy- like I am 18 forever and can never progress in some viewpoints without marriage.  A couple of years ago at a family Egg hunt I was put with the children hunting eggs.  None of my married cousins were grouped this way.  It is subtle slights like this which can be very frustrating. To be at the time approaching 30 and still be viewed as a child is very annoying.

Sometimes I admit I can be a bit hesitant to approach this topic because I feel defensive about my life choices- that somehow being single makes me less of a person in some people’s eyes.  Indeed, almost all depictions of single women in the media are either as desperate to marry, needy women (every Kathryn Hiegel movie) or cold ice queen corporate executives (Sandra Bullock, the Proposal, Meryl Streep, Devil Wears Prada).

I am not an ice queen and definitely not needy.  My single friends out there, how do you deal with the stereotypes of not being married? Do you feel looked down upon or marginalized?

I think all singles can relate to being condescended to or belittled because of our marital status- something we have little to no control over.  Again, show me the line to get in for marriage and I’ll be right there. Its just not that easy.

Even worse than the condescension is the pity.  Especially people from my grandmother’s generation often look at a single woman and feel sorry for ‘all she’s missed out on in life’…Urgh!  Its not my fault! I’ve never met anyone I want to marry. Nobody even close!

These articles were actually quite comforting to me to see that its our entire society that has moved away from marriage, not just the men I meet!

How can singles support marriage and remain hopeful of being married without becoming discouraged or jealous?  How do you feel like an equal contributor to society when you don’t have progeny to mold?  I have yet to find such a balance.

I wonder how many other women are like me, content to live a productive life by ourselves until we meet the right one?  We certainly don’t feel the kind of financial or social pressure to marry that at one time existed for women.  In general this is a good thing but it can’t be all positive? Women don’t feel like they need men like they used to.  Good or bad?

In truth, a part of me wishes marriage didn’t exist because then there wouldn’t be this big hole in my life (in the eyes of other people).  I kind of live my life as if it didn’t exist that way I don’t feel lacking or sorry for myself or  like I’m missing out on this huge part of the human experience.  I live a happy life and only occasionally wonder where Mr.  Sunshine might be…?

That said,  I would like a partner to face challenges with.  To me it is depressing to think that such opportunities become smaller each year I get older but what can you do?  (they say you have a better chance of getting killed in a terrorist attack than getting married above 40…).

“But while the rise of women has been good for everyone, the decline of males has obviously been bad news for men—and bad news for marriage. For all the changes the institution has undergone, American women as a whole have never been confronted with such a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be “marriageable” men—those who are better educated and earn more than they do. So women are now contending with what we might call the new scarcity.

Even as women have seen their range of options broaden in recent years—for instance, expanding the kind of men it’s culturally acceptable to be with, and making it okay not to marry at all—the new scarcity disrupts what economists call the “marriage market” in a way that in fact narrows the available choices, making a good man harder to find than ever. At the rate things are going, the next generation’s pool of good men will be significantly smaller.”

How do you think this marriage trend affects our society? Why do you think there is this divide between motivated (marriage and otherwise) women and men?  How has the changing definitions of manhood and womanhood affected our society and marriages?  What of these changes are good and bad?  What, if anything, can we do to encourage marriage?  Please read the articles. I think you will find them as fascinating as I did. I don’t know if I’ve done them full justice (they are quite lengthy) but at least this can be an introduction of sorts.

Come On Get Happy!

Today I was in a happy mood.  My skinny skirt fit again and my hair was full of curls.  And since the name of my blog is smiling-lds-girl I better give you some proof of such smiling! I have experienced a hard year but still try to be quick with a smile or a laugh.

All seasons are beautiful for the person who carries happiness within. (best quote ever)

– Horace Friess

(I wish I could start up my own online dating site that wouldn’t let in the tools because I think these pictures are real cute!)

“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and ahappy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are bblessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out cfaithful to the end they are received into dheaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.” My Mission Plaque scripture.  I truly am a smiling lds girl because I have been so blessed and am so happy. Smilingldsgirl!

Hope you are all having Merry Christmas seasons.

Merry Christmas!

Wonder of Cellophane

So this year I don’t have much money to spend on gifts (I’m afraid I spent all my money this year on trainers, races, doctors, and eye surgery…sigh).

Fortunately I don’t have a ton of gifts to buy being single and all.  I also have made a deal with my trainer- no cheats carb-wise or sweet-wise with at least 4 days of exercise a week, and I can have the entire time I am home (9 days) off!  This doesn’t mean I will go crazy but just knowing I can take a breath and not be so strict is super motivating.

This fitness goal combined with my budget created a challenge for my friends gifts.  Where I would usually give a plate of cookies and homemade candies I had to come up with something else?  Here’s what I did:

Included in this little package is:

1 honeycrisp apple (from Harmons.  THE BEST APPLE EVER!)

1 good quality navel orange (also from Harmons)

2 apple and 2 berry Clif Fruit Ropes (I buy them in bulk from the Clif Bar’s website)

What do you think? Would you be disappointed or grateful to get something instead of the traditional Christmas sweets? My friends seemed to enjoy it (in fact, one of my visiting teaching girls was looking forward to my monthly honeycrisp apple!)

I personally learned from making these gifts that anything looks better wrapped in cellophane with a nice bow on it.  Nice to know…:) I’d love to hear what budget and diet friendly gifts you come up with this year. Please share!

Ok.  Its way late.  Better go to bed!

Feeling Good

So, its the holidays- the season of Joy and Gladness.  Anyone else out there feel the occasional winter blues?

I was visiting with a few friends today and we all started talking about how stressful this time of year can be and not really for the shopping, decorating, budgeting requirements countless Christmas specials would have you believe.

The weather and propensity for illness are part of the yuletide stress but it also seems to be a stressful time for every job.  Whether it is end of the year responsibilities, finals or a million other things December brings loads more work than other months.

As my friends and I vented our stress we started talking about all of the things we ‘wish we could do’ or that ‘we should be doing’.  Do you ever play this mental game?  It made me think of my favorite book on cognitive therapy- the classic Feeling Good by David Burns.  In the book he describes how distorted thinking tears us down. For example,

“I think the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ are almost always unhelpful and should(!), wherever possible, be deleted from your vocabulary. ”

I love this idea.  Take ‘should’ out of your vocabulary.  (I quoted this exact quote to my friends tonight.  You’d be surprised how often I end up quoting this book.  A few months back I recommended it to my trainer and the other day she quoted it back to me. Funny being quoted from your own recommendation!).

Not that we shouldn’t set goals or be ambitious but doesn’t a goal mean we are doing something, not feeling guilty for not doing something?  Guilt saps us of our positive energy and it distorts our self-image.

Anyone else feel this way? Ironically it seems like the time periods we are doing the most is when most of us feel like we should be doing more.  In my experience women are particularly bad about this.  Nothing is good enough (that old comparison bug can be so deadly!)

In the hopes of being helpful here are other forms of distorted thinking that Burns talks about (it really is such a good book.

The 10 forms of distorted thinking.  I’m sorry but I just think this list is SO BRILLIANT.  Which distortion do you relate to the most? How can we do more to support each other? Really, share your thoughts!

1. All-or-nothing thinking. This is when you look at things as absolutes : good/bad, success/failure, black/white. There’s no room for shades of grey. For example, ‘If I don’t get an A on this test I’ll be a total failure,’ or ‘If this relationship doesn’t work out I’ll be lonely and miserable for the rest of my life.’ In both cases, neither helpful nor true.

2. Overgeneralisation. You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat, or take one situation that doesn’t work out to mean that life is always this way. ‘No-one really enjoyed that lasagna – I must be a terrible cook,’ or ‘My partner seemed really grumpy with me last night. I think she’s going off me.’ As with all these forms of distorted thinking, we fail to look at the bigger picture. Perhaps she was tired, not feeling well, had a stressful day at work, was preoccupied with money worries, had an argument with a friend on the way home… there could be a dozen good reasons, but you assume it’s all about you and extrapolate that out to make it a large-scale, global catastrophe.

3. Mental filter. You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives – so, if your university tutor marks an essay and, in the middle of a glowing assessment, he includes one mild criticism, that’s what you fixate on. Think of a beaker of clear water – it only takes a single drop of ink to make it look murky and cloudy. In the same way, obsessing about a single negative remark and ignoring all the compliments or praise is a surefire way to darken your mood.

4. Discounting the positive. You reject all positive experiences by telling yourself, ‘They don’t count’, or ‘They’re just saying that to be polite.’ If you get an A-, you tell yourself it should have been an A+. If your boss praises you for a brilliant piece of work, you immediately shrug it off and say it was all down to your team, or anyone could have done it. This is a particularly unhelpful way of thinking because it drains all the joy out of life and constantly makes you feel inadequate and unappreciated. Not good.

5. Jumping to conclusions. This is when you interpret things negatively even though there are no facts to support your conclusion, and falls into two categories:

a) Mind reading. You immediately assume that someone is thinking negatively about you (‘I just know this girl thinks I’m an idiot. She obviously finds me really boring.’)

b) Fortune-telling. You predict that things will turn out badly (‘I definitely failed that test.’ ‘I’m bound to be the one who gets made redundant’).

In both cases, the key is checking out the evidence – in the vast majority of cases you’ll find your negative assumption was quite wrong.

6. Magnification or minimisation. You exaggerate the importance of your problems and less-desirable aspects of your character, while minimising your desirable qualities. ‘I wish I didn’t lose my temper – I’m a horrible, angry, unpleasant person,’ or ‘Yes, I’m quite good at maths, but I’m terrible at writing essays.’

7. Emotional reasoning. This is when you assume something is true because you feel it so strongly it must be, assuming that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are. ‘I feel sure this plane is going to crash – let’s take the next one,’ or ‘I’m so worried about my best man’s speech, it’s bound to be a disaster.’ As with distortion 5, if this is true you have an uncanny ability to predict the future!

8. Should statements. I think the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ are almost always unhelpful and should(!), wherever possible, be deleted from your vocabulary. This can work two ways: you can either tell yourself that you should do this or that, have done something better, be more skilled at something else… or that the world should be a certain way. It’s so unhelpful because should (like must, have to and ought to) have a punitive, critical edge that makes you feel bad. And if you apply shoulds to the world (‘This train should be on time! Now I’m going to be late’) it’s a guaranteed way to crank up your negative feelings.

9. Labelling. This is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying, ‘I didn’t cook that spaghetti very well – I’ll concentrate a bit more next time, you tell yourself ‘I’m such a rubbish cook! Why am I a failure at everything?’ This is not only unhelpful but inaccurate – are you really a failure? At everything? Have you never succeeded at a single thing in your life then? Was every meal you ever cooked rubbish? Of course not. Also watch out for labelling others: ‘She’s such a bitch,’ or ‘He’s a nightmare.’ Again, neither true (she may be bitchy sometimes, but is that the totality of her character?) nor helpful.

10. Personalisation and blame. In the first instance, you hold yourself completely responsible for something that is only partially, if at all, your responsibility (‘I know there’s a recession on, but it’s still completely down to me that my business failed.’) In the second, you blame others 100% for your circumstances or problems. In both cases, the key is to be realistic and fair – you might have made some mistakes with your business, but countless businesses fail during a recession, so stop beating yourself up! Instead, take responsibility for your mistakes, learn from them and move on.