Category: Self-improvement


Everyone struggles with negative thinking from time to time. Some people have negative thinking 80% of their day. But how do you change this? The first step is to catch yourself doing it. The fact that you are aware of the negative thinking is a great first step. But then you have to challenge the negative thoughts.

The following are the different thinking styles that could be feeding your negative thoughts spiral. Therapists call these Cognitive Distortions. See if you can recognize the style that you tend to use the most and make a conscious effort to change it.


Also known as Black and White thinking. This is where you see things as all or nothing or thinking in extremes. For example, thinking “either I do it right or not at all” Or “I stumbled on a question in the interview, I ruined it” Or thinking people are either a success or a failure, good or bad, etc.


Emotional reasoning is similar to all or nothing thinking. When you’re emotionally reasoning, you’re assuming that because you feel a certain way, what you think must be true.

For example, ” I feel nervous, I know something bad is going to happen” when in reality, you may just be feeling anxious because you’re doing something for the first time, which is normal to feel that way.


Jumping to conclusions is when you assume something. There are two types of jumping to conclusions: Mind Reading and Fortune Telling.

Mind reading is when you image that you know what others are thinking and feeling. Avoid this by asking questions to clarify how that person is feeling or what are they thinking. Fortune telling is when you try to predict the future. For example, saying to yourself, “I’m not even going to bother asking, they’re going to say no” Unless you are a fortune teller, ask for clarification. Assuming things will almost always get you into trouble.


Labelling is when you assign labels to yourself or to other people. Some examples of labelling are saying things like ” I didn’t get the job so I’m a loser”, “I made a mistake,I’m useless”, “She’s always late to work, she’s irresponsible”

When we label, we’re judging. Be aware of your judgements of others to help decrease labelling.


Mental filtering is when you only pay attention to certain types of evidence. For example, only focusing on your failures and not looking at your successes. Or only looking at the facts that fit what your belief is and dismissing what doesn’t fit your belief.


Overgeneralization is when you take one experience and generalize it to ALL experiences. If you have ever said “Nothing ever works out for me” or “I always loose” you have overgeneralized. This thinking style keeps you feeling low and unmotivated.


Using critical words like “should” or “must”can lead you to feel guilty or as if you have already failed. When we apply should to other people it can cause frustration.

Simply put, should thinking appears to make you think that there is a rule that you have to follow and if you don’t follow it, it’s bad. That’s when you feel guilty and get hard on yourself. This also leads to feeling disappointed with others because you have put on this expectation on them.


This style is when you discount the good things that have happened or that you have done. This thinking style is very common in people with low self-esteem and low confidence who tend to think that nothing they do is good enough.


Magnification is when you blow things out of proportion making something seem more important or worse than it really is. This thinking style is a common symptom of Anxiety and Depression. With anxiety, you think of worst case scenario.

With depression, you can magnify things by thinking the worse of yourself or a situation when in reality there is a solution.

Minimization is the opposite, this is when you inappropriately make something seems less important than it really is. For example, you may be struggling with depression but explain it away by telling family you’re tired or “just in a funk”


Personalization is when you blame yourself or take on the responsibility for something that was not your fault or is not your responsibility to carry.

This thinking style is common when you feel guilty but in reality you did nothing wrong, so it’s not yours to carry.

Another example of personalization is when you assume that what a person does or says is directed towards you, taking things personal. If you’re experiencing this kind of thinking, you will also compare yourself to others, a sure way to keep your confidence low.

If you catch yourself stuck in any of these thinking styles, take a few deep breaths to physically calm down. Then question your thoughts by asking yourself certain questions. Common questions to ask yourself to challenge negative thinking are;

Is this 100% true?

What’s another explanation?

Is this a fact or my perception?

What’s another way to look at the situation?

Am I assuming?

With practice, you’ll become more self aware of your thinking styles and it gets easier to question them and shift your thinking. 

About the Author
Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves adolescents, adults and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA.


How to Start Changing Negative Self-Talk in 4 Steps.

We all have an inner critic. It’s that little voice in your head that can be your best friend or your biggest bully.

Every time you want to try something new, that little voice creeps in. What if I fail? What will others think? It’s too hard! I don’t have time! All types of negative thoughts start to rush in.

It’s normal to have doubts and fears. But if your thoughts are negative 90% of your day , this will keep your confidence low and it stops you from doing the things you want to achieve.

With practice and consistency, you can train that inner voice to be kinder and more positive. Here are some tips to get you started.

Track your thoughts.

On an index card or piece of paper, draw a line to make two columns. On one column put “negative thoughts” and on the other column put “positive thoughts” For the next few days, when you notice your inner voice being neutral or positive, put a check mark on the positive side. Every time you notice a negative thought, put a check mark on the negative side. Quickly you’ll have a visual of where your thoughts are most of the day. This exercise will help you become more aware of your thoughts, making it easier to switch from negative to positive.

Remind yourself…

Most negative thoughts come from highly critical people in your life, the things you watch on TV, past negative experiences and basically things and people outside of you. If you grew up with parents that always criticized you, it’s not a surprise that you now always criticize yourself. If you were bullied or in an emotionally abusive relationship, that lowers your confidence, causing more negative self talk. These thoughts were planted in your mind by negative experiences. Your thoughts are NOT who you are.

Challenge the negative thoughts.

A simple way to do this is to question your thoughts. When you catch that inner voice being negative ask yourself:

  • Is it 100% true?
  • What’s the evidence supporting the negative thought? What’s the evidence against the negative thought?
  • How can I figure this out? Where can I find the help?
  • Is this something I can control?
  • What do I need to feel more secure? Then start taking action.

It also helps to look for past experiences where you acted strong and confident. That’s evidence that you have acted strong and confident before. It’s in you. You just have to bring it back out.

Train your subconscious mind.

Our subconscious mind is where all of our past experiences and beliefs are. This is also where our “mind programing” is. If you have a program in your mind that you are not good enough, you’ll stop yourself from doing the things you desire because deep down you feel you are not good enough. You can train your mind to think more positively automatically.

One great way to do this is to put up positive affirmations around your home, at work and as a screen saver on your phone.

You can also listen to subliminal messages as you sleep. Look up”confidence affirmations” on YouTube and then play it as you sleep.

Also, constantly plant more productive, positive thoughts in your mind by reading self-improvement books. I’ve written about some of my favorite books here.

To reprogram your mind, you have to be consistent and repeatedly plant healthier thoughts. Doing it once in a while will not work.


Consistently having a negative inner voice could lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety and low self-confidence.

Turning your inner voice into a self-confident friend does take practice. But with consistency, you will notice a shift from automatically looking at things in a negative way to looking for solutions, while also reassuring yourself.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

-Normal Vincent Peale



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About the author. 

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and spanish-speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.


Why You Haven't Achieved Your Goals Yet: and how to overcome them.

If you’re like most people, who have some things that you would like to achieve. You may have goals, dreams and aspirations. Some goals may be small, like going for a walk three times a week. Some goals may be large, like starting a business or saving a large amount of money.

During New Years, many people set goals but by the next month, most have already abandoned their goals. Why is that? Why is it that so many people want to improve their finances, want a healthier body, want better relationships, but a year later, nothing has changed.

Here are a few common road blocks to achieving the things you want and how to overcome them.

You worry about what others might think.

Many people will say “I don’t care about what other people think” But deep down most people do care.

After the initial excitement of your goal, the negative thoughts start to creep it. What will my parents/spouse/friends/family, etc. say?! What if I fail and they throw it in my face?! What if I look dumb?! And on and on…

Caring about what others think limits you. The reality is what other people think has very little to do with you. You may get the relative or friend who will point out the negatives, and that may come from a place of worrying for you. Others just talk from what they “heard” and not from experience.

You really have to learn to think for yourself. As long as you’re not hurting others in the pursuit of your goal, keep moving forward.

You don’t believe in yourself.

Believing in yourself is HUGE to pursue any goal. You can have all the talent in the world and all the support from friends and family,  but if you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll find an excuse to stop or slow yourself down.

Even if you don’t have all the resources, when you believe in yourself, you know you’ll figure out a way. When others criticize you and you believe in yourself, other’s opinions don’t affect you.

Many times this comes from past experiences where maybe someone did put you down and was not supportive. That experience contributes to negative thinking.

“Who am I to do this?” “It’s already been done, I’ll just be waisting my time.” “It’s too hard, I can’t do that”

When you experience negative self-talk, you have to challenge it. Ask yourself, “where did I pick up this thought?” “Is this a fact or just an opinion?”

For example, I used to see a woman who would constantly say “Nothing I do is ever good enough” When she began questioning that thought, she remembered always feeling that nothing she did was good enough. She’ll get a good grade on a test, and her dad would say “why don’t you do that all the time?” instead of just saying “good job” And her parents were always comparing her to other people’s kids. Therefore, she was always made to feel that nothing she did was enough, she developed this belief that she was not good enough into adulthood.

It wasn’t a fact, She just kept replaying old childhood wounds.

If this one is big for you, really question it. The negative thoughts may have come from bullies, a verbally abusing relationship, a boss or family members.

You’re afraid.

Being afraid when pursuing something new is completely normal. Fear is not necessarily bad. Instead of letting the fear freeze you and not take any action, prepare for what you’re afraid of.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worse thing that could happen?” Then, “What can I control to prevent that bad thing from happening?” And, “Even if that bad thing happens, how can I get out of it?”

This works for any type of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of things changing.

Use the fear to prepare instead of letting it freeze you. If you take no action on your goal because you’re afraid, you’re short changing yourself and the world of that thing that you could be sharing with others.

You’re feeling overwhelmed.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed that always means that you’re doing too much with not enough time and you’re too focused on the whole goal.

The trick to overcoming feeling overwhelmed is to break down the big goal into smaller goals.

For example, let’s say you want a new job. You go on Indeed and start looking for job postings. You see one you like and apply. After a whole hour of filling out one job application, you start to feel stressed out because you have a bunch more to do.

Instead, set a smaller goal of applying to two jobs per day.

Another example is loosing weight. Let’s say you want to loose 25 pounds (or whatever number). That number seems big. You then start to think of all the things you can’t eat and all the things you have to do to loose weight. Instead of focusing on the 25 pounds, break it down. If you want to loose 25 pounds in two months, divide 25 (pounds) by 8 (weeks in two months) and you get 3.12. So instead of focusing on 25 pounds, just focus on loosing 3.12 pounds each week. 3.12 is a much smaller number than 25 so you don’t feel as stressed out about it.

Whatever you want to work on, break it down to the smallest step. Then focus on one step at a time.

“You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you have to overcome to reach your goals.” – Booker T. Washington

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and spanish-speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.


The “Strangers” Who Guided Me in Life.

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links to products I may receive a small commission for.

When I was in my early twenties, I went through a big transition in my life where I felt lost, confused and helpless at times. It was not because I was living “in the real world”, as I’ve already been on my own at a young age. I just felt confused, lost, overwhelmed and anxious. You may be going through these very feelings yourself.

But throughout this transition I was guided by people who became my teachers during this time of personal growth. People who had gone through similar situations and survived. I learned so much from these people as they guided me in my journey. The really amazing thing was that I never met or talked with these people. These individuals came to me in the form of books.

Non-fiction books are a way to learn from people who can teach you things that you will never learn otherwise. And fiction books allow you to escape mentally, when you physically can’t.

It is not an accident that the world’s most financially successful people READ. Because your self-education is linked to your satisfaction in life and even income since you can learn skills that could be applied to the workforce.

You don’t have to physically read a book. You can listen to the audiobook version as you drive, clean or workout. There is no excuse to not find time to listen to a book or read one.

During that transition period of my life there were 8 books that guided me and helped me find my own way. Hopefully they can help you as well.

The way of Transition by William Bridges

If you feel lost, personally, professionally or emotionally, this is the book for you. The author takes you from a state of confusion, tragedy or crisis, to viewing it as a time for incredible growth.

The author makes a point that what you’re going through is not a “break down” but a “break through” in order to grow as a person.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The author was at the point of suicide after falling into a deep depression. But as he was contemplating killing himself, he thought, “I can no longer live with myself” And something about this sentence got his mind going. “Wait, who is I and who is myself? Are they different people?” And these questions took him on a journey of personal development. Today, he travels the world teaching about the power of our thoughts and how to stop living in illusion by replaying the past or worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

99% of us are not taught financial literacy in school. This book started my whole journey into my personal development in my early 20’s. Although this book is about managing money and making it grow, it will force you to question your beliefs about money.

Struggling with money is one of the biggest causes of anxiety and relationship problems. It’s important to learn how money works and how to become financially independent.

Although this is a financial book, it does more than that. It’s about challenging what we are all taught in school and learning for yourself in order to take control of your life.

Conversations with God by Neal Donald Walsh

I heard of this book a few times before I bought it because I thought it had to do with religion. It has nothing to do with religion. Conversations with God is a series of four books, each focusing on a different area of life.

I suggest looking up the author on YouTube to see if it’s something you are open to. Warning: this book could shift the way you view the world.

You can heal your life by Louise Hay

There is more and more research being done looking at the connection between our emotional experiences and diseases. In this book, Louise Hay shares how feelings that are not expressed appropriately or ever dealt with, could turn into different medical diseases.

If you struggle with any medical issues, this book may be of interest to you.

Quarter Life crisis

If you recently graduated from high school or college and feel lost, you are not alone. School has provided a clear path of what we need to do. And adults have told you what to do your whole life. So when you’re all done with school, it can be overwhelming with the many choices you have to make, with little to no guidance.

This book guides you through this big transition period in your life.

The Matrix by Gregg Braden

This book is about different science experiments that have been done that shows that we are all connected by something, an energy or “matrix”. Since we’re all connected, what we do to others, we do to ourselves. For example, if you wish bad on someone, you are actually wishing bad upon yourself.

This book connects science with spirituality in a beautiful way.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

This book is based on the traditions of the Toltecs, an ancient, indigenous people of Mexico. The author makes a point that we are conditioned from childhood about our world and then we just keep living in a cycle based on what we are taught by other people, school, society, etc.

Don Miguel Ruiz shows new agreements that you can learn to help you live a more peaceful, fulfilling life. My favorite agreement is to never take anything personal, as what other people say and do has very little to do with you.

“Never let schooling get in the way of your education.” Mark Twain

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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and spanish-speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.


FOGIVENESS: Letting go of anger and resentment.

Forgive and forget? Not so fast.

I’m sure you have been betrayed and lied to. Most people have. It leaves feelings of frustration, anger, resentment and wanting revenge. Those feelings are not easy to let go of. It can leave you with emotional scars if not dealt with. But how do you let go?

It’s not easy and depending on the situation, it can take a long time to heal.

Part of your personal development and becoming a healthier person is learning to let go of negative feelings that hold you back from living a truly happy life. It is said that resentment is like drinking poison, but expecting the other person to die. I wrote a post about how our thoughts affect our environment, especially our body, here.

Forgiveness is for your benefit, not for the other person. Holding on to past hurts affects your physical and mental health, your relationships and satisfaction with life. The good news is that you don’t ever have to speak to that person to forgive them.  Forgiveness is a process that takes some inner work. It’s about you letting go of the negative feelings and finding peace in yourself.

To start your journey, try these suggestions:

Allow yourself time to heal.

Sometimes you may need to give yourself physical space away from the person who hurt you. You can’t rush this process and feelings typically do get better over time. There’s no specific amount of time until you find peace with the situation. It could be days, weeks, or years. But the longer you hold on to the negative feelings, the longer it takes to live a truly happy, loving life.

Allow yourself to be angry or sad. Emotions are meant to be expressed in order for them to pass. Pretending that everything is okay only prolongs the healing process. Cry, scream, complain to someone, whatever it takes to express your emotions but in a safe way.

Reconnect to inner strength/spirituality.

Some situations cause extreme deep hurt. You physically feel your heart aching and it’s hard to think about a time that you won’t feel the pain any longer.

This is a time where your faith helps carry you through.

Prayer, meditating and spending time in nature are all ways that have been shown to give you strength during difficult times.

Change your perspective.

A teenager who molested a relative had to learn that behavior from somewhere. What drives someone to kill another? What did the person gain from lying? Why does the person have a history of cheating? What could drive a friend to do something that they knew would hurt you?

Try to see the situation from the other persons perspective or from a neutral person’s point of view. Again, this is not to justify their actions, but to allow you to be open minded and practice empathy. Ask yourself, why would someone do what they did?

When you look at the situation from “neutral eyes”, it helps you separate your feelings from what the situation is, helping you soften the negative feelings you feel.

Also, there’s a reason that you feel so strongly about the situation. When that happens, the person who you feel did you wrong, pressed a button in you. What is it about what they said or do that really bothers you? Maybe there’s something deeper in you that you need to resolved?

Approach your feelings with curiosity, instead of judgement.

Express what you’re feeling.

If you could and feel ready, express to the person how their actions made you feel. If they’re someone you can’t just stop talking to and remove from your life, you have to make the decision of allowing the person to gain your trust again. If fixing the relationship is what you want, you have to give the person a chance to prove themselves. Continuously bringing up the hurt just keeps you living in the past, and what you want is to move forward.

Not being able to speak your mind makes it a bit harder to let go. If you can’t have that last talk, one exercise you can do is to write them a letter.  If they were sitting in front of you, what would you say to them?  At the end of  the letter, finish off with telling them “I’m working on forgiving you” or “I forgive you”, if that is how you feel. Write as if you’re speaking directly to them. But don’t send it to them. Destroy it when you’re done. You might have to do this several times to start shifting how you feel.

If you meditate, another exercise is to picture them in front of you and picture yourself  telling them how you feel, instead of writing them the letter. Or you can do both exercises.

Try to find purpose in the situation.

How can you tell a mother who lost a child to a drunk driver that “everything happens for a reason”? Or a rape victim. Or any victim of a tragic crime or horrible situation.

Sometimes things happen in life that are so unfair that there is no explanation.

Part of the healing journey is giving the situation a purpose.

I once knew a mother whose 8-year-old daughter, her only child, was shot in the head by accident. After years of treatment, she ended up being one of the biggest advocates for gun safety.

Another mother, who lost her teenage son to a car accident caused by a drunk driver, goes around to different high schools around Prom or Homecoming time, and talks about the dangers of drinking and driving.

And the parents who lost a child to suicide after being bullied, and now advocate for anti-bullying laws to be passed.

Finding a way to give the situation purpose could help you soften the pain. Again, forgiveness is not about acting like the hurtful event did not happen. It’s about finding peace with it.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes.

Reflect on the times you have hurt others and they forgave you.

If it’s yourself who you need to forgive, remember that we all make mistakes. Take responsibility for your actions and learn from them as to not repeat them.

No human being is perfect and we are all in our own journey. Learn from mistakes in order to move forward with your life. As Bill Clinton once said, “If you live life long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person”.

Unless you somehow loose your memory, you’re not going to forget about the event. But over time as you heal, you’ll start to forgive. How do you know when you have finally forgiven? When you can think or talk about the event and not have any negative feelings towards it. You might even feel sorry for the person. As long as you have any negative feelings towards the person or situation, you still have some work to do. Remember, it’s not about you being “friends” or happy with the situation or person, it’s about you not holding on to negative feelings.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.


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