Dr. Tony Zimbardi, PsyD, LMFT

Author of : Forever Dads

Phone Number: (323) 851-1304

E-mail: drtonypsyd@sbcglobal.net

Primary address:
8235 Santa Monica Blvd.
4th Floor
West Hollywood, CA 90046
Alternate address:
11271 Ventura Blvd., #289
Studio City, CA 91604

MIND

These are several articles I’ve written on the importance of how the mind influences the body and spirit. My hope is to help you see how your thoughts may influence your behaviors, which then can influence your actions. For instance, a negative self-thought ("I’m not good enough") can lead to a negative feeling ("I’m sad and depressed"), which can then lead to a negative behavior ("Perhaps a "drink" will help me feel better"). Downward spirals all begin with a thought. You’ll find that I explore these issues in a light hearted manner as in "Change Your Mind, Change Your Mood, Change Your Life," or from a much more serious perspective as in weighing the pros and cons of medication vs. psychotherapy to treat depression in "Depression: Psychotherapy or Psychotropics: Which Is Right For You?" No matter how you approach it, the trick is not that you must think positively, it just that you must stop thinking negatively. And the mind is where it all starts.

Click on any of the following titles to read more:

"A Man For All Seasons: In Search Of The Elusive Elder Hottie" - Frontiers, Vol., 24, No. 25, copyright April 25, 2006

A Man For All Seasons: In Search Of The Elusive Elder Hottie
Frontiers, April 25, 2006 Vol., 24, No. 25


By Tony Zimbardi, PsyD

This article was inspired by all of those single gay men over 40 who are still bravely searching for love in a community fixated on chronological youth and external beauty.  It is dedicated to my partner Antonio, whom I met when we were both over 40, and who dubbed me his very own, personal “elder hottie.” 

The elder hottie is amongst the rarest of specimens within our gay male community.  He is the 35+ man who is naturally self effacing, lacking in affectation, unusually warm, witty, ageing gracefully; and oozing in quiet, solid, gay male sensuality.  He is what all younger hotties in their 20’s and early 30’s aspire to be by the time they hit their mid 40’s.  Hetero examples of elder hotties include actors Viggo Mortensen in his 40’s; Dennis Quaid in his 50’s, Harrison Ford in his 60’s, Kris Kristofferson in his 70’s and God bless him, Paul Newman in his 80’s!  Sadly lacking are many examples of well-known elder hotties in our own gay male community.  The one whom most readily comes to mind is Rupert Everett, sexy, funny, intelligent and warm in his mid 40’s with a disarming sense of humor and a graceful sleek swimmers build which rivals male runway models half his age.  No wonder the elder hottie is such an illusive creature, he cannot be manufactured in a plastic surgeons office; he is a result of years of careful self-care and self-reflection.  He is like the Macaw, beautiful, yet one of the rarest of birds in a world overrun with the more common, strutting Peacock.  And he cannot be easily captured via slyly laid traps, but can only be secured willingly and lovingly, surrendering only by his own volition.  

The bidding wars for winning him are on par with those of finding good 70’s vintage porn on e-bay.  And whatever you do, don’t be fooled by cheap imitations.  Many forty and fifty-something elder hottie wanna-bees can be found gyrating to dance mixes at circuit parties and pride festivals.  They can be identified by their exaggerated musculature resulting from excessive steroid use, are overly inked with tribal tattoos, and are often spotted shirtless with unnaturally lackluster medium-brown hair courtesy of Just for Men.  This copycat specimen still relies on his external appearance to attract and confuse younger hotties, interested primarily in exploiting the naïve younger hottie for his own personal amusement.  Avoid these faux elders if you can.

A true elder hottie can be identified by a body toned more from his genuine interest in health and fitness via roller blading, bike riding and yoga rather than vanity.  His spirit can be identified by his knowledge of eastern philosophy, world religions and practices such as mediation, prayer and daily self-reflection.  His hair color is often a result of something called genetics or heredity, and is often generously sprinkled with natural silver-gray highlights; the twinkle in his eyes, can be attributed to a richness of life experience, and his full, throaty laugh, is often resulting from years of bittersweet memories from friendships present and past formed via political activism and community volunteerism.  He is not sexually interested in the chronologically challenged, sadly for those younger hotties in search of  “daddy.”  For his only interest in men under 35 is his role as mentor and adviser.  The elder hottie has come to understand that there is peace in giving up the need to ‘compete’ with the younger hotties and he understands that in order to retain his status in his community, he must model, recruit and train the younger ones from within our own ranks searching for those brave enough, to take his place one day. 

So, how does one capture the heart of the illusive elder hottie?  Well, that’s the rub.  The reward of being an elder hottie is that only a peer, another elder hottie, can capture his attention.  And it’s not enough simply to be anybody over the initiation age of 35, the trick to capturing your elder hottie is that you must become one first in order to attract one.  And even at that, the elder hottie is like a fine wine: it can often take up to 10 years for him to “season” into the rich, full-bodied textures found only in elder hottiehood, placing many of his kind chronologically, somewhere in his mid-forties.  So if you dare to set out in exploration of this rare gay male specimen of masculinity and grace, be prepared and be patient, everything worth having, is worth waiting for.  It will take time and energy to find such a creature.  But once you’ve found him, you’ll know, there is no mistaking the real thing; and once you’ve found him, you’ll never, never let him go.

"The Home Team: Fighting Holiday Stress as a Couple" - Frontiers Magazine, Vol. 24, No 6, copyright December 20, 2005

The Home Team: Fighting Holiday Stress as a Couple
Frontiers Magazine: December 20, 2005, Vol. 24, No 6

By Tony Zimbardi, PsyD

The holidays can be a time of stress for anyone, and for some of us in relationships, well, what better time of year than the holidays to take out all of our frustration, irritation and exasperation, than on the one with whom we’re also sharing cohabitation, our partner.  For some couples, the holidays are one of the few times of year during which our significant other and our extended families, cross paths.  Bringing “him” home to meet the folks will be a first this year for some.  For others, tension may arise around your family’s religious beliefs and how they may collide with what your family calls your adult “lifestyle.”  So, let me offer a few tips on how to combat holiday stress during the “season” as a team.

Tip #1) Beware “The Big 3”: Sex, Money & Time (together vs. alone).  Most couples can be found fighting about one of these three topics at any given moment in their relationship even without the holidays approaching.  Sex: remember, the holidays can be a very romantic time of year, allow that to spill over from under the tree and on into the bedroom, sex can be one way to work out your holiday frustrations with the one you love.  Money: create a spending budget together with a ‘limit’ so the two of you don’t go broke before the first rent of 2006.  Time: with all the scheduling demands during the holidays (holiday parties, family obligations), make sure you sit down together with your calendars and work it all out so you both feel like you have a balance of time with others, time with each other, and a little ‘time out’ for yourself, too!

Tip #2) If you must take “it” out on each other, fight fair!  Never pick a fight unless you’re willing to bring solutions to the table before you start an argument: a) give your s/o a “head’s up” about what’s buggin’ you before you just “spring” it on him, b) ask permission to vent; and c) be prepared to bring three options for him as solutions to the problem.  If you do this, I can assure you, you’ll be kissing under the mistletoe before Santa’s sleight even hits that new tile roof.

Tip #3) There never is a “good time” to come out to your family about your relationship; One of my 35-year-old clients just came out his folks in order to bring his significant other home for Thanksgiving.  His parent’s response?  “It’s about time you finally told us you’re gay, you’ve been brining around your “room mate” for seven years now!” There simply never is a good time to come out, if it’s not “grandma’s having hip replacement surgery,” it’s “things are rough at work for your father right now.” Don’t wait for a “good time,” the holidays are just as good a time as any to introduce your partner to your family. 

Tip #4) Set the bar as a team!  Now that one or both of you have come out to your family, remember, your family members are not the ‘experts’ on being gay, you are, it’s your responsibility as the “gay ones” to set the expectation for how they will respond to the two of you. People live up to, or down to our expectations of them.  If you’re both comfortable using terms of endearment in front of your family, they will be too.  Set the bar, high!

Tip# 5) Don’t forget what the holidays are really all about.  The holidays are about getting in touch with your spiritual life as you define it, by spreading “peace on earth, goodwill to all men” as Linus and Charlie Brown were known to say.  Something as simple as saying a few brief words of  “thanks” before your holiday meal with your significant other might be a good start.  As would be “giving back:” a bag full of decent groceries dropped off at the local shelter can make a big difference in someone else’s life and will hardly make one in yours, other than the good feeling you’ll get after. 

So, expect a little stress as a couple; and expect that it’s normal to feel a little “blue” over the holidays, and remember, if you’re feeling this way, your significant other just might be feeling the same way too.  Don’t see your partner as an adversary, see him as a support, it‘ll remind you why you decided to enter a relationship in the first place: to have someone to love during special times of year, like this.  And don’t forget, some ‘ole fellow in red has a list, and he’s checking it twice, if you’re gonna be naughty, remember the part about sex in my tip #1, otherwise, please try to be nice.

"The Warrior’s Way" - Being Alive Newsletter, Issue: October/November 2005

The Warrior’s Way - Being Alive Newsletter, Issue: October/November 2005
 Tony Zimbardi, PsyD

If you are a gay man anywhere from your 20’s to your 60’s, who has the nagging feeling that your life is preoccupied with the need to “compete,” a vague sense of meaninglessness (feeling like you’re spending too much of your time obsessed with your appearance, gossip, the gym, cocktails; and anonymous sex) or finding that “LTR” (long term relationship), then please, keep reading.    What may be going on is that you could be stuck in your “Puer,” On Greek mythology, Puer Aeternus was the child-god who never grew up (now known as your “inner adolescent’ or “boy”). Many therapists report that this state of being is most likely based on early childhood and adolescent “betrayals,” basically, unmet needs around love and acceptance.  As a result, you may have adapted in ways that served you at a particular time in your life.  These adaptations may have even helped you to “fit in” for a period of time with some of the other walking wounded.  However, you may have also been left feeling like a boy trapped in a man’s body.  This way of being is simply and clearly laid out in the book “Gay Warrior: Transforming Betrayal into Wisdom” (Fickey & Grimm, 2002).  It’s a book, which should help you understand how and why you were betrayed, and how to combat becoming a victim, remaining stuck in your adolescence well into adulthood, and powerfully claim your adult gay male “Warrior” within.

The premise of the book: “Gay Warrior” is that gay males are born different from their straight brothers-special if you will.  And, our parents are not quite sure how to react to their special son who is so different from his brothers.  So often, mothers often react by becoming over protective (e.g. the smothering mother) and dads, sensing that his son may have a reverse Oedipal Complex (the psychological theory also based on Greek mythology that Son wants Daddy dead so he can marry his love-interest, Mommy), is a little freaked out and retreats (e.g. the distant Dad).  These are just the first betrayals in a long list that extends from our childhood peer groups on into junior high and beyond and as adults into both the community and political realms. 

Fickey and Grimm propose that many of us react by becoming “victims” of these betrayals and escape into dysfunctional coping mechanisms such as narcissism, sexual objectification of ourselves and others, and the development of dysfunctional personality styles (the good boy/people pleaser, the oppressor, or the irresponsible one). We further betrayal ourselves with substance abuse and process addictions (love, sex, work, perfectionism and doing “geographics,” relocating to escape ourselves).  All of these personality styles and behaviors then keep us stuck in a perpetual state of suspended adolescence well into our 30’s 40’s 50’s, perhaps for a lifetime if one does not “transform” the betrayals into wisdom.

So, how does one transform the betrayal into wisdom?  Well, Fickey and Grimm suggest there are many different paths, some paths are by default (e.g., One example is the person living with HIV who has managed to make lemonade out of life’s lemons, and as a result of his sero-conversion, has found meaning in life by becoming closer to his family; and engaging in volunteer work and/or political activism as a result of his new health status).   Other basic ways which are quite purposeful include coming out (to family, friends, your community and workplace), leaving home, getting in touch with your feelings, learning how to appropriately express your anger, and confronting your own internalized homophobia. 

So, who is the gay Warrior?  Well, he’s someone who has left his inner child behind to embrace his adult gay masculine self.  He deals with conflict directly and honestly, he expresses his anger healthily and appropriately.  He engages in healthy non-codependent relationships (interdependent rather than codependent).  He directly confronts the challenges of being in a gay relationship (dealing honestly with choices such as whether to be monogamous or non monogamous).  He develops his spiritual and political sides, following his bliss both professionally and personally and eventually embraces his masculine paternal role as a mentor and gay elder (giving back to younger generations of gay men coming up and out behind him).     

The journey to becoming your own warrior is about learning how to live your life honestly and with passion.  It’s about being a man, not a boy.  It’s about confronting your fears and finding a peer group of other men or “warriors” who have done the same.  This takes courage.  The author’s suggest it takes “fierceness.”  Few do this without help.  Admittedly, both the authors of the book as well as the author of this article are all openly gay licensed psychotherapists.  All of us endorse the inner journey of psychotherapy as one of the most spiritual paths you can take for yourself.  Through self-exploration via avenues such as psychotherapy and meditation, you can find your truth, bring your darkness into the light, and heal your wounds.  This is the way of the gay warrior!

"Depression: Psychotherapy or Psychotropics: Which Is Right For You?" - A&U Magazine, Issue 33, copyright September 2001
Depression: Psychotherapy or Psychotropics: Which Is Right For You?

Experiencing a Major Depressive Episode is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. You generally experience a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness; changes in both your eating as well as your sleeping habits and often contemplate thoughts of suicide. Likewise, many individuals unhappy with their jobs, their relationship, their progress at the gym or on a diet, also report feeling "depressed." Both of the above scenarios often create a situation where the individual experiencing these feelings seeks either psychotherapy or psychotropic medications (anti-depressants). Is one better than the other? And if so, which is best for you? Current research studies show that traveling either road (medications only or therapy only) brings about the same outcome: The alleviation of your depression. Therefore, a lot depends on you, your personality style and your body chemistry. The first place to start is always with your physician to rule out any general medical condition (or your substance use), which may be leading to feelings of depression. Most men and women don’t realize that thyroid problems or low testosterone or progesterone levels mimic the symptoms of depression. So before leaping down either path, see your doctor first. If your doctor can’t find anything physically wrong with you, the next step is to consider which of three options you have: Medication only, Psychotherapy only, or a combination of both. Again, research shows that any of the three options brings about the same result within approximately the same amount of time: Six weeks to six months. As the disclaimer reads: Individual results may vary, however most individuals begin to feel better within a month to six weeks no matter what choice they make.

So, back to the question of which choice is right for you? Are you the person who feels "depressed" because you don’t like your job, your relationship or your body? Do you easily become habituated to relationships, certain behaviors and/or substances? Then psychotherapy may be the right choice for you. Not only will you alleviate your depression, but also you might gain insight on why you have potentially addictive behaviors. This can lead you down a path of self-discovery and behavior change, which could become permanent. Many individuals report that now that their anti-depressants have kicked in, they have discovered the "real me." Then the question is: Who is the real me? Is it a person dependent on pills for the rest of his life? Or is the "real me" someone whose personality style may be a seven out of ten on a scale of a natural depressive personality "style." In that case again, you may want to work on accepting your natural personality style and making changes, which keep you from falling into familiar traps.

Depression has traditionally been seen as a mood disorder rather than a thought disorder. Current trends are to see it in the former. For instance, many of us find that when we focus on thinking positively, we look at the world in a more positive way. It’s just like a diet, you will never be successful going on "diets" but if you change your "diet" to a healthy way of looking at and behaving around food for the rest of your life, you can change your basic body type to some significant degree.

There are certain conditions when psychotropic medications are a must, a Major Depressive Episode or Bi-Polar Disorder, for instance. In these cases, medication with or without therapy is highly recommended. A Major Depressive Episode would include at least five symptoms of the types first discussed: Changes in eating, sleeping, fatigue, loss of concentration, depressed mood and possible thoughts of suicide. In this situation your physician will probably prescribe an anti-depressant out of the six classes of drugs available. Medications in these six classes are: Tricyclics (which include such drugs as Elavil, Desipramine and Asendin), Tetracyclics (Ludiomil ), MAO Inhibitors (Nardil and Parnate) Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft), Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (Wellbutrin) and Serotonin & Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (Serzone Desyrel and Effexor). Each class works with different chemicals in the brain and an assessment by your physician on your health status and past history of antidepressants will determine which is the appropriate medication for you.

We have all heard the theory that some depression is "chemical", well that is correct. Depression can occur when there is an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Commonly these are either the chemicals Norepinephrine, Serotonin or Dopamine. In lay terms, these are the "feel good" chemicals in your brain. Anti-depressants prevent these chemicals from being broken down as quickly by certain enzymes in your brain leaving you feeling better than you might otherwise feel. All of these medications have side effects, some may cause insomnia and some can cause drowsiness (a benefit when taken before bed for the insomniac). Many cause dry mouth and constipation. Prozac causes a lack of sensation in the penis and is now being used to treat premature ejaculators (this can be either a beneficial or detrimental side effect depending more on how long your partner likes to make love!). Trazedone can cause a prolonged painful erection, which can only be relieved in the care of an emergency room. So be sure to check with your doctor for all potential side effects before agreeing to such treatment. Like all medication, you must ask yourself: Do the benefits outweigh the risks? In the case of a Major Depressive Disorder, the answer is usually yes.

Another consideration in assessing your depression and treatment is your party habits. Many individuals do not realize that chronic substance use can cause psychiatric symptoms. For example, PCP or other stimulants may result in psychosis; Alcohol and/or cocaine abuse may result in depression and risk of suicide during withdrawal. Chronic use of substances may also result in indirect consequences. These may include aggression towards others or the depression that comes with the realization that one is suffering from chemical addiction.

Do anti-depressants work? Yes. Does therapy work, yes, if you participate. Many people are under the misguided notion that what they are paying for is for their therapist for figure out what is wrong with them and then fix it. What they are actually paying for is for the therapist to help them figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. I’ve also heard the argument that some folks feel like psychotherapy is paying for someone to be in a relationship with you: "rent a friend" is one derogatory term. The bottom line is that they feel uncomfortable paying for a relationship. However, that is exactly what therapy is, a relationship that you pay for. AND RELATIONSHIPS HEAL!

One of my clients recently shared a story of a technique his first therapist employed when he was a very young man feeling down and hopeless. The therapist asked him to share one happy memory from his primarily "unhappy childhood," then he asked my client to share another happy memory, and another. They strung these few happy memories together and created a more positive picture, or more importantly, the basis for a positive lens through which my client could view the world. If you are stuck focusing on the negative for too long with your therapist, something, somewhere is wrong. So, does therapy work? Again, yes if you let it. So back to the question: To medicate or not to medicate? Psychotropics or psychotherapy or a combination of both, whatever your choice, pursue it. If you are truly depressed, you owe it to yourself to do something about it, because you don’t need to be depressed. Follow your doctor’s advice, follow your heart… and your instincts, and things will get better!
"State of Mind: Grief, Stress & Your Immune System" - Pacific Center Journal, Vol. 11, Number 2, copyright Winter 2001
State of Mind: Grief, Stress & Your Immune System

Many of us have an innate sense of a "mind/body" connection and how life’s stresses, (which include adjusting to constant loss), over time can directly affect our health, especially for those of us living with HIV. Therefore, it’s important for all of us to understand the difference between experiencing grief versus the symptoms of anxiety, stress and/or clinical depression. If you remember nothing else, remember this, expressing emotions can be a very healthy thing, because generally you are in touch with and expressing your feelings as sad as they may be. Chronic grief (experiencing multiple losses) on the other hand, can turn into clinical depression and this, over time, can cause an immune response, or more appropriately a lack of immune response, which can be detrimental to your health.

In her book "Heavenly Hurts, Surviving AIDS-Related Deaths & Losses", author Sandra Jacoby Klein describes normal grief as responding to comfort and support. She goes on to describe how even when one is in the process of their experiences of grief, one can also openly express anger and sorrow; And, one is still able to experience moments of enjoyment in life. Depression, on the other hand, does not accept support, may be evidenced by irritability (rarely anger), has generalized feelings of guilt and exhibits a pervading sense of hopelessness.

Based on her work at UCLA, Dr. Margaret E. Kemeny lectures on the immune system, her research indicates that individuals regularly expressing their emotions related to traumatic experiences showed a higher immune cell response and helper T-cell proliferation. Those studies also indicated that this led to fewer visits from the study participants to their health care providers than those studied who were not expressing and experiencing their emotions. So, the message is that expressing "normal and healthy grief" can be beneficial to the immune system. Chronic grief, however (such as that which comes from dealing with prolonged HIV progression, loss of a child, loss of members of one’s friends or fellow support group members) is another story. Chronic grief left untreated, can lead to clinical depression and a decline in immune functioning. So how can we help the immune system during a particularly rough period? Well, the good news is treatment is available, such as entering cognitive/behavioral therapy and support groups. Research has shown that both have the power to affect immune functioning.

Kemeny’s data suggested that the individuals who progressed fastest from being asymptomatic to receiving an AIDS diagnosis were those who believed they would get sick and die of AIDS. Hence, the phrase "Unrealistic Optimism" was coined in acknowledgment of those who seemed to have an attitude that they would not become ill despite evidence to the contrary. It is notable that this work was done prior to the availability of protease inhibitors.

In the 1989 article The Transformative Power of Grief, author J. Schneider explains that when we experience the loss of a loved one, we have a three-fold task before us.
1) We must acknowledge the loss.
2)
We must experience and express the pain.
3)
We must "get beyond" the loss, this meaning to re-establish a new life that reflects the absence of the beloved.

Klein offers several suggestions as well:
1)
Seek support from friends or counselors who are capable of simply asking the following question: "What would be most helpful for you at this time?" Sound too simple? Just try it with a friend who has suffered a recent loss.
2)
Surround yourself with individuals who can allow you to talk about all the multiple losses.
3)
For those of us experienced in grief, to teach others and share our experiences when appropriate. What that means is not to make their time to talk about their grief, your time to talk about your grief, but rather to share or acknowledge a similar situation and how you were able to get through it.

Kemeny suggests that there are four major life themes that effect outcomes for those dealing with grief, loss, stress and their affects on the immune system. These themes are:
1)
The motivational realm. This means finding meaning in one’s traumatic experience. Her work concluded that most people typically find meaning through giving and receiving love; being creative; realizing the preciousness of life and finding their spirituality; And, staying engaged with life (doing volunteer work or setting new personal goals such as art classes or going back to school for vocational rehabilitation).
2)
Stress Management. Understanding the detrimental effects of chronic stress, which is often, evidenced by disengagement from life and a defeated attitude which can lead to immune suppression.
3)
One’s belief system. It seems that those who were quick to anger, have a negative view of life and a basic "cynical mistrust" towards others were those who characteristically had the highest mortality rate.
4)
The social realm. Having just one confidante, meaning having at least one person you can "really talk to," leads to higher immune function and lower mortality rates.

So, now you know that it’s okay to be an "unrealistic optimist," just tell those well meaning individuals who might suggest you’re simply in "denial"...phooey. And remember too, that if nothing else, stay engaged in life. Whether you’re HIV positive or negative, being a part of all the madness is what keeps us human, and apparently, keeps us quite healthy too.
"Change Your Mind, Change Your Mood, Change Your Life" - IN Los Angeles, Vol. 3 Issue 7, copyright June 5, 2000
Change Your Mood, Change Your Mind, Change Your Life: 10 Tips on How to Stop those Negative Thoughts and Improve Your Outlook!

"I’m good enough, I’m smart enough…and doggonnit, people like me!"
- Stuart Smalley (character), -SNL


For those of you who remember Al Franken’s Saturday Night Live parody on the self-help movement, you probably recall how hilariously he represented everything wrong with the self-empowerment school of thought. The movement was based on the notion that "positive thinking" and "positive affirmations" work. Guess what? They don’t. Recent research indicates that there is no "power" in the whole "power of positive thought" movement. What has been shown to work however, is not thinking negatively! Why is this? Well, there are many reasons, but basically, it’s because most of us respond to the world based on some very basic deep-seated beliefs about the world and ourselves. The school of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which has been proven to work in clinical studies, calls these beliefs schemas. These are core beliefs that reflect how we feel about ourselves; one example might be "I am unlovable." Someone with this schema may not go around actually saying that, but might go around saying something to the effect of "I’m unattractive" or "no one would ever really want to have a relationship with a person like me." These thoughts, many of which were formulated in childhood are based on some of those awful early childhood experiences and can last well into our adulthood. So how could a few positive affirmations possibly have a chance against the power of a lifetime-full of traumatic childhood memories? So, where is the power? The power is in stopping these automatic thoughts. CBT is all about learning how to identify "automatic negative thoughts," which we all have by the way, and, to STOP THEM! No, I didn’t say it was easy, however, it is effective. Many studies have shown that whether people with mild to moderate depression participate in CBT, go on psychotropic medications (anti-depressants) or do both, the outcome is the same; within four to six weeks their mood improves! Why? Not because the individual is thinking positively, but because he is thinking less negatively, negative thoughts lead to negative feelings, which lead to a negative mood. This mood over time can lead to clinical depression. CBT works, so here are ten helpful tips to help you think less negatively; and, improve your mood at the same time!

Tip # 1 Stop taking everything so personally!
"Personalizing" means thinking that all situations and events revolve around you! Yes, we all like to have a sense of "special-ness" but this desire can be our downfall. For instance, you’re at work, in a meeting, and while giving your presentation you see several co-workers whispering and rolling their eyes. For many of us, we automatically have that negative thought "they must hate my presentation, they think it’s stupid, I’ve made a fool of myself." When in reality there are other possibilities: they may be just plain rude, period; They may all be focused on their own automatic negative self-thoughts about how their presentations can’t possibly measure up to yours; Or, someone may have told a joke or passed gas. The point is, it’s not always about you, so stop taking everything so personally.

Tip #2 Stop Catastrophising!
Catastrophising is when you continually attribute extreme, horrible consequences to the outcomes of events. For instance, you ask the cute guy or girl at the gym for their phone number and he/she politely declines. You then go home and tell your roommate that you think you’re headed for a life filled with utter desolation, emotional and sexual unfulfillment and have indeed realized that life may possibly not be worth living. Get over yourself! That person at the gym may have a partner, may have just broken up with someone, or he may be having a herpes outbreak and would have said yes otherwise. The world is not going to end; You will meet another man, STOP CATASTROPHISING!

Tip #3 Labels are for canned goods!
Don’t label or mislabel people or situations. Labeling or mislabeling often involves language that is colorful and/or emotionally loaded. When your boss gives you a suggestion on how to improve your work, your thinking "he’s a jerk" or "I’m a loser" never helps. Take what’s helpful information, and throw away what’s not, including the label.

Tips # 4 Stop Magnifying (the negative) & #5 Minimizing (the positive)!
Don’t magnify bad or minimize good situations! Example: Your roommate tells you that the shirt you’re wearing really shows off your body but also thinks another pair of jeans would look better with the shirt. You in turn, minimize his comment on the shirt by not even acknowledging the compliment, and respond to it with something to the effect of "So you think these jeans make me look like I have a fat ass?" A better response might be "thanks, I really like this shirt too, what might match it better? My jeans from the gap, or my old faded pair from Eddie Bauer?" This is one scenario where it is definitely okay to emphasize the positive as the song goes, and DON’T magnify the negative, especially when it doesn’t even exist. This is called paranoia, but that’s another disorder and another article.

Tip #6 Stop Overgeneralizing!
Overgeneralizing is when you see one negative event as a never-ending pattern. Remember junior high sports? How many of us still attribute those adolescent disappointments to today’s events? For instance, you get asked out for a game of tennis and respond with "Oh, I was terrible at sports in high school, no thanks" meanwhile your thoughts are going off in even worse directions. You find yourself thinking, "why should tennis be any different, I can’t play sports, in fact, I just suck at everything I ever try." This is a perfect example where a positive affirmation such as "I see myself as an excellent tennis player" would not work. But, stopping yourself from overgeneralizing would work, because the truth is, even if you do suck at tennis, there are a lot of things in
life you’re really good at. Don’t forget it!

Tip # 7 Stop that All or nothing thinking!
I once facilitated a "singles support group" where one of the participants made a comment to the effect "If I can’t have Antonio Sabato Jr., then I don’t want anyone at all." And that person wondered why they were single? Life is made up of shades of gray; Few situations or people are ever black and white. Don’t allow your thinking to polarize you into no win situations. The fact of the matter is that the world is made up of a wide array of men and women. For the same percentages of men who look like Antonio or women who look like J-Lo, there are an equal percentage of those who look like Quasimoto, and the truth is, there are a lot of wonderful folks somewhere in between.

Tip # 8 Don’t Mind-Read! (Unless you qualify as a potential employee for the Psychic Hotline)
How many times have we come home from a party where no one spoke to us and we said to ourselves " Everyone there thought I was fat and ugly!" Now, we all know couples whom we feel are "mismatched" couples, you know, the one where one of them looks like the Calvin Klein underwear model and the other looks like Shelley Winters. There is no accounting for taste. Who are you to project your negative self-thoughts into the mind of another? Maybe no one at the party spoke to you because you didn’t speak to anyone else? It couldn’t possibly have been that scowl on your face.

Tip # 9 Stop Comparing! (his apples, your oranges…whose are bigger?)
If every 55-year-old woman in this country went around obsessing "Cher has a better figure than mine." Well...there would be an entire generation of middle-aged women flinging themselves into the Grand Canyon. We all have different body types, different temperaments, and different communication styles. Save the comparison shopping for the super market and focus on being your own personal "marketing expert", accentuate your good traits and don’t put any energy into what you feel aren’t your best assets; Unless of course you’re willing to do something about them.

Tip # 10 Stop Your Negative Mental Filter!
Having a negative mental filter is when you pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it to the point where all of your reality becomes darkened by this view. It’s just the opposite of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. The more you dwell on your negative thoughts the more you develop a negative view of yourself, others and the future. This is known as the negative cognitive triangle; And, it leads to depression. Cynicism and pessimism are traits that cause stress and only lead to a downward mood spiral as well. So, one last time, I’m not saying, "If you can’t think positively…" What I’m saying is, don’t worry about thinking positively, just worry about not thinking negatively. This takes constant work; this is one of the reasons why people go into therapy, to get coaching on how to retrain their natural (negative) thought patterns. A therapist can serve as a coach. You can change your thinking with help, or alone. So remember, if you follow these ten tips to stopping those damn negative and persistent thought patterns you’ll find that your mood and outlook will improve. You can do this, how do I know you can? Because you’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggonnit, people like you!

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