The “And” Mindset :: My Mental Health

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Sometimes I like to stop and analyze myself. This is probably a common hobby amongst therapists. However, whether you’re a therapist or not, some self-introspection can go a long way! 

Change your mindset from from "or" to an inclusive "and."Today I’m exploring the “and” mindset. It can become second nature to get stuck in the “or” mindset. Either you like the way your own body looks OR you don’t. You want to work out OR you don’t. You are sad and feeling hurt by someone OR the relationship is great. We see it in our kids every day as we parent: We humans just have a tendency to swing one way or the other with very little room for flexibility. Consider the rigid politics of our day! 

What if we change this mindset a little, especially as we process feelings and thoughts within ourselves. We have certainly matured enough since childhood to be able to swing this! Can’t two things/feelings co-exist more often than we give them that possibility? What about trying to say “AND” instead of “OR?”

 

There is a tendency in all of us, I believe, to think in black-and-white terms. Our kids are either playing or fighting. We are either sad or happy. We either like a food or we don’t. We either like a PERSON or we don’t. It’s raining or it’s sunny.

However, this is a reminder to myself and a challenge to other mamas: There is so much life to be lived in the gray areas. There is no need to impose such rigid boundaries on our own emotions. So many things can exist at the same time.

We can be sad about a friendship changing AND looking forward to new beginnings. We can eat a food that isn’t our favorite flavor AND eat it anyway for the nutrition benefits we experience. We can absolutely give our kids a strong consequence AND love them more than life itself.

What a great lesson to teach our kids.

What a great thing to remind ourselves.

The flexibility we can gain in the gray areas with the “and” mindset are worth the efforts of analyzing our inner thoughts. A flexible mindset is one of the biggest indicators of good mental health over the course of a lifetime. 

Aren’t we worth a little bit of analyzing and tweaking to become our best selves? Let me answer that for you with a resounding YES. Your life is precious. It is unable to be duplicated. You are a treasure. 

Once we begin to accept some conflicting emotions, we also receive the benefit of greater self awareness. We can process life’s ups and downs much more easily. We can emotionally give more openly to others around us in need. Because we are mentally flexible (i.e. we experience “and” rather than “or” in our daily self talk throughout the day), life doesn’t throw us the curve balls it used to chunk our way. 

Flexibility not only opens up our personal emotional world to greater acceptance, hope, and fulfillment, but it also opens up the worlds of our little people. We can parent compassionately when we see that many emotions are possible at the same time in our little ones, without those emotions necessarily conflicting with one another.

Acceptance of others starts with our daily inward thoughts, even something as small as changing the word “or” to “and!” 

And at that, I am personally going to go rest now, because I am both exhausted AND fulfilled after a long and busy weekend! 

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Amber has been married to her college sweetheart from Texas A&M, Kyle, for 11 years. They encountered the difficulty of infertility, and it became the biggest blessing of their lives when it pushed them to pursue adoption. Both of their kids (Willow and Jonas) were born in China and adopted as toddlers; attachment has been a beautiful and unique story with each of them. Amber used to teach and then followed her passion to help children as a school counselor before becoming a mom. Although Amber stays at home with her children now, one day a week she gets to practice play therapy as a licensed professional counselor at Family Connections Counseling in Colleyville. Faith, family, and friends are especially important to Amber. On a day off, you can find her playing games, laughing, reading, talking, sleeping, watching a movie, or enjoying family time outside.

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