Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Grind Part 9 - Flexing the Negative

Let’s face it for some of us, sometimes being positive is tough. There are times when the best we can do to get started improving our attitude when we are in the grind is to just be a little less negative. It’s important to never give up trying to be positive. Learning to be positive is essential however if we are not there yet, that doesn’t mean we are going to fail. If negativity still creeps up in our head, we can learn to flex with it. 

We are going to call this “Flexing the Negative” based on the idea that if we cannot yet break negative thoughts, perhaps we can bend (or flex) them in a positive direction

In this instance, we take our negative thought, and then use a simple question to flex it in a positive direction, even just a little. We want to provide a small shift toward a positive and attainable goal that isn’t too overwhelming. What a great starting point when smiling and being positive just seems like too much!

Examples of Flexing the Negative

Negative Thought – Flexing the Negative

This sucks – How can I make this suck a little less?

This is too hard – How can I make it just a little easier

This is boring – How can I make it a little more fun and interesting

I feel like crap – How can I feel a little less like crap?

I don’t care – Is there a small piece of this I could start to try to care about even just a little bit?

I can’t take it – What needs to happen for me to endure?


Discussion: Come up with your own negative thoughts and see how you can flex the negative to ask a question in order to bend the negative thoughts into a more positive direction

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Brief Outline for Discussing Violence in the Media

These are some basic questions for guiding group discussion when something tragic happens in the news:


Pick the event you will be discussing


1. What are your THOUGHTS about what happened?


  • RULES this part: 1) Keep it brief so everyone has time to share - 2) Keep it PERSONAL not POLITICAL 


2. What are your FEELINGS about what happened?


  • Use APPROPRIATE FEELING WORDS - Counselor may want to provide feeling chart


3. When you are not in this group, if you need to process this further: Where can you get more SUPPORT?


  • Counselor may want to prepare some local resources



4. Even when troubling things happen in the news we need to keep moving forward in our own lives. What skills will you use to COPE?


  • It may be helpful at this point to transfer into a group about COPING SKILLS



Thursday, May 19, 2022

Knowing What You Don't Know


Knowing What You Don’t Know

If you have heard this phrase hopefully you realize its importance. Just as it is important to have an accurate assessment of your own knowledge and skills, it is also important to realize areas where you are unsure and can use guidance, direction, or education.

Directions – Discuss each of the following parts below, one by one, by sharing personal stories and situations as appropriate as a group, discussing feedback as a group, then moving to the next part.

Note – This group can be useful to the counselor as a way to choose future groups based on the needs expressed in this group. Therefore, it can be helpful to take some notes about group areas of need

Part 1 - “I Got This” – Share with the group a life situation where you are proud to say that you now know what you are doing, and you can manage this life area effectively.

Example – “My life was a mess with Relationships for years but now that my head is clear since I have made some progress in treatment, I feel like I no longer get myself into hurtful and negative relationships anymore and I carefully choose my associates much better these days”



Part 2 – “Working on it” – Share about a life area where you believe that you have a “working knowledge” which is getting better with time and practice. You have not mastered this yet, but you are making progress.

Example – “I struggled with Relapse Prevention for a while, and it is still an area I need to focus on and learn more about, but I am happy that I am definitely doing a lot better than I was just weeks ago”



Part 3 - Winging it – Share about an area that you feel that you know barely enough to fake it for a while, but you definitely need to know more about in order to improve.

Example – “When it comes to Anxiety, I am taking it day by day, and trying new things little by little but I still struggle just about every day, and I need more help and support to master this issue”


List of ideas for topics:

(Just some suggestions, you can use your own ideas)

Relapse Prevention


Managing Emotions

Dealing with crisis situations

Keeping a Positive Mindset (and Attitude)

Having Fun without Substances

Goal Setting

Making Effective Decisions

Coping with Anxiety

Coping with Depression

Anger Management

Stress Management


Coping with Cravings

Quitting Smoking


Social Skills

Finding Happiness

Purpose and Meaning in Life

Staying Motivated



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Brainspace: Strategies for Coping with Negative Thoughts



Opening exercise: Start by thinking for a few minutes about some of the things that occupy your mind nowadays. List as many as you can think of by putting them in the brain picture below. Try to put neutral, positive or helpful thoughts next to the black numbers 1-5. If you have negative or harmful thoughts that occupy your mind, then put those next to the red letters A-E

When everyone has had time to fill out the diagram, 

then as a group discuss some of the thoughts that occupy space

 in your mind in your life today.

The R’s of Managing Difficult Thoughts

Read First – Some people have a chronic mental health condition called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD involves recurring obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that can be extremely difficult to control. OCD is biological in nature and often requires a psychiatric evaluation with a qualified professional who can prescribe medication as needed.

 The strategies discussed here may help someone with OCD but alone they may not be enough dependent upon the severity of OCD

Keep in mind, different strategies listed below work better for various kinds of problems so it may require using a variety or even a combination of these coping skills to manage negative thoughts.

Resolve – Ask yourself: Can I lessen or remove these difficult thoughts if I take care of the source problem?

Example: “My obsessive thoughts about money decreased significantly when I finally resolved the stress by making a budget and started sticking to it for a while”

Root Out – This is like the Resolve strategy just mentioned but this could involve deeper problems in life. Things like trauma, fears, and chronic anxieties can trigger negative thoughts so getting to the root of these issues (which can take time and therapy) can help a great deal.

Example: “I was driving myself out of my mind thinking critically about my looks until I finally got help and processed my childhood experiences where my mother was always putting me down about how I looked while I was growing up. Now that I have worked on this, my mind is much freer and clearer”

Redirect and Replace – Some thoughts are simply better dealt with by distracting ourselves or changing the channel. This is not always easy but when it works it can be extremely effective

Example – “Every time I started thinking about my Ex, I just remembered what a waste of time it is to think about the past and instead I focused on positive goals that I hoped to achieve in my new life since the relationship ended. Since I shifted focus my career has really advanced!”

Reason – Some thoughts are just irrational or unrealistic, and therefore they can be reduced or even removed by thinking things through in a reasonable and rational way. This can take practice.

Example – “Sometimes I wake up in the morning and start obsessing about how things could go wrong in the day ahead. I have learned to reduce those thoughts by reasoning that the odds are my day will have some basic ups and downs but if I make safe decisions, I am going to be just fine, so worrying about what might happen each morning is a waste of time”

Recognize – Finally, sometimes we need to recognize and accept that some things are what they are and therefore, thinking about them is not going to change anything. It can be important to remind ourselves that thinking about the same thing over and over is not going to make it any better

Example – I used to find myself obsessing about my receding hairline until finally I accepted that some men just go bald and as much as it can be uncomfortable to adapt to, it just is what it is. I then gave in and changed my hairstyle to adapt and I am so much more at peace mentally.


Pick a problem in your life from the opening exercise and discuss how you can practice these strategies to manage the negative thoughts


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Self Esteem Word Challenge


Self Esteem Word Challenge

Directions: This is an insight and self-awareness building exercise specific to self-esteem and self-image. In this exercise everyone in the group will consider different descriptive words and then discuss how they feel personally about these word descriptions. As a group go through the list of words provided below, one at a time. Group members are encouraged to share and discuss their personal comfort level with each of the items of the list below, based on their own self-assessment, using the following 1-5 scale as a guideline


5 – I have a high level of comfort with owning this word or phrase in my life today

4 – I have a moderate level of comfort with owning this word or phrase in my life today

3 – I am somewhat comfortable with this today, but I am still working on it

2 – I am not yet comfortable with this

1 – I feel very uncomfortable or awkward with this description


The counselor should carefully guide group discussion, allowing group members to share freely without judgement. It can be helpful to discuss why people have different feelings, thoughts, and reactions. Group members are encouraged to be supportive of one another to help make this easier for others to share their personal strengths and challenges both openly and honestly

Descriptive Word/Phrase List

















Start with: “I have… (Add words below)








Start: “I am a good… (Add words below)”






Relationship Partner

Role Model



Optional – Come up with and try some of your own?


Some Self Esteem Builders:

Engage in Change – It may take time drop a bad habit or work out a deep-rooted personality issue but if we are working to change it, we can start to feel better about ourselves. Making an effort counts


Positive Affirmations – Writing down and saying positive things about ourselves on a daily basis can build self-esteem. Choose words that are realistic rather than overly lofty. For example, “I can do this” or “I am capable” may be better for someone who may be struggling with self-esteem than “I am the greatest” or “I can do anything!”


Positive Self Talk – This is similar to affirmations but a little different in the delivery. Positive self-talk needs to happen in the moment, either before or during a time of challenge. The positive self-talk message we tell ourselves should be specific to that challenge and also reasonable and believable. A good example of positive self-talk would be when faced with a difficult task ahead, saying to oneself “If I give it my all and don’t give up, I will make this work”


Journaling – This is one of those “try it and you may just like it” ideas. People are often resistant to keeping a journal but often when people really give it a try, they find journaling to be extremely helpful. Writing down things that you did well and goals accomplished each day, no matter how small, can be a huge self-esteem builder


Goal Setting – Speaking of goals, they are essential for self esteem building. Choosing achievable goals each day and then conquering them builds momentum and belief in oneself and our abilities. Every time we reach a goal it can build more and more motivation and hope, both of which contribute to improved self esteem


Regular Physical Activity – Exercise, sports, walking, running, hiking, biking, etc. – These all can not only make us stronger and healthier physically, but the increased activity can also make us feel better about ourselves. Try it for a while and you will see!


Insight and Self Awareness – When we look inside ourselves with a mind toward self-improvement, we can find strength, ability, and potential for positive growth. Living in denial is a recipe for poor self-esteem in the long run. Learning to face our fears can be scary at first but incredibly empowering over the long term. Asking ourselves searching questions like “how can I do this better?” or “what reasonable changes can I make to start to improve?” can provide the building blocks for self-improvement and improved self-image


Media reboot – Are you spending a lot of time either watching shows, surfing the net or on social media? These things can rob us of joy especially if they take too much of our precious time and attention. For example, let’s say you spend a lot of time on a social media platform: Ask yourself questions like: “Is this bringing me more joy or frustration?” or “Am I reading material or comments that are making me angry and making me want to argue?” Many individuals have improved their lives by ditching various forms of media.