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PROFILE MARCI SHIMOFF
© NOVA JANUARY 2011
continued from page 22
We need to separate out the cognitive
junk, to rewrite the negative software and
create new mind software and a new set
of unconscious attitudes. Learn to manage
our thoughts and our feelings and we
learn to manage our lives.
One of the most effective ways of
taking charge of your mental monologue
is cognitive restructuring, in which the
very first step is to identify that critical
voice. Simply observe what it says.
Identifying the negative voice and taking
a step back from it enables us to take
control. Cognitive restructuring enables
us to identify and step back from the
negative feelings, rather than getting
caught up in them. If we recognise our own
internal dialogue, we can then challenge it
and change it.
To identify the negative mental
monologue, listen for negative messages
and words such as:
● Could have
● Should have
Other words include "can't do" and
"why me?". Get the picture? They're all
the negative words tumbling around in
our heads that degrade us and tell us that
we are useless, hopeless, no good and
The monologue also becomes
Personal, Permanent and Pervasive.
Personal means the problem becomes
ours; we created it, not the outside
circumstances -- it was our fault. Permanent
refers to the continual, negative ending
downward spiral that we create in our
minds after a single negative event and
refers to words like "always" and "never".
Pervasive means the problem is general-
ised to everything around us and becomes
Once the negative monologue is
identified, set up a dialogue with a positive
counter voice which deconstructs and
counters the monologue, creating a more
realistic and positive perspective. We can
do this in our heads, but it's much more
powerful to write it down. The best piece
of paper is in a journal so that you can
keep it all together.
Begin to question your thoughts and
Question the accuracy and the evidence by
using the questions below.
● Is it logical?
● Is it true? This will determine if it is
really happening and if it is a current
state. Ask yourself if the thought is really,
really true. If not, why not. List all the
reasons it's not true and keep adding to
● What would you say, and how would
you treat a close friend in a similar
situation? Get in touch with reality by
asking yourself what you would say to
your best friend if they undermined
themselves the way your inner critic
does to you. What would you say to
them? Perhaps that's what you should
be saying to yourself, rather than beating
yourself around the head. So write it
down. Become your own best friend.
What are the consequences of the negative
thoughts? The continual catastrophising
and increasing pervasiveness of the three
Ps. Put it in perspective.
● How will I perceive this problem or
issue in the future, in a year or two's
time? Will it be catastrophic or will it be
● Has this happened in the past, or a
similar situation? What was the outcome
of that past experience? Was it so
devastating and catastrophic? Did it
really nearly kill you or destroy every-
thing you had?
● How important is this actual situation
really in my life? What is important in
● What is really the worst thing that
could happen in this situation?
● Is there anything that I can find positive
in this situation?
● What are the alternatives?
● Why could have it have happened?
This simple technique has proven to
be extraordinarily powerful in changing
people's way of thinking and their lives.
Once your inner dialogue and fears are
written down, you can revisit and add
to them at any time to remind yourself
of the real situation, not the world your
busy mind conjures up in an attempt to
keep you subdued.
An important part of many forms of
positive cognitive therapy is about putting
our lives in perspective. We are richer
and generally better off than any previous
generation, yet we have more stress
and mental problems than ever before.
Whenever you want to put your life in
perspective remember this little story set
in a small village...
A man loved his wife but found it
hard living with the in-laws so he went to
the wise man of the village and told him
his troubles. The wise man said, "Do you
have chickens?" "Yes," replied the man.
"Then bring these into your home," said
the wise man. He did so, but it did not
improve the problem, so he went back
to the wise man and said the problem was
no better. The wise man then asked him
if he had dogs and, once again, he replied
"Yes." "Then bring them into the house,"
said the wise man. So the man went
away and did as he was instructed. But
the problem did not improve so he went
back to the wise man who then asked,
"Do you have cows?" "Yes," said the man.
"Well bring those into your home." So the
man went away and brought the cows
into his home. But the problem still did
not improve. So a week or so later,
frustrated and with a very full house, he
went back to the wise man and said, "I
now have my in-laws in the house,
chickens all over the place, all the dogs
and the cows -- the situation is intolerable.
Your suggestions have not improved my
situation but rather made them worse. So
what should I do now?" asked the man.
To which the wise man replied, "Take
all the chickens, dogs and cows and put
them outside and come and see me in a
One week later, the man returned to
the wise man who asked him how the
situation was and he replied, "Much better
It's time to change your perspective
and learn to appreciate everything you
have. You are not the same person you
were when you developed these patterns.
Remember it is just your conditioning. ●
'Learn to manage our thoughts and our feelings and we
learn to manage our lives.'
Peter Dingle is Associate Professor
in Health and the Environment at
CAB AUDITED FOR INTEGRITY
continued from page 7
"I believe happiness is a skill, a practice,
something we develop through creating
Inspired by her own desire to be
happy, Marci has spent more than 30 years
researching this deceptively attainable
state, including interviewing 100 people
from all walks of life who are "deeply,
unconditionally happy". She calls them
the Happy 100 and they all seem to live
by three guiding principles or universal
laws. The first is what expands you makes
you happier (the Law of Expansion), the
second, the universe offers you support
(the Law of Universal Support), and the
third, that what you appreciate, appreciates
in turn (the very familiar Law of Attraction).
Recent studies in positive psychology
have pointed to a finding that Marci
believes should be headline news and it's
that we all have a "happiness set point".
Importantly, it's been discovered that
no matter what happens to us, whether
good or bad, we will return to our
original happiness set point --
hover around it unless we do something
consciously to change it". While it's 50%
our genetic makeup, another 40% is
determined by our habits, thoughts
and behaviour and only 10% by our
circumstances. "That 40% is the part we
can most influence to reprogram our
happiness set point to a higher level of
peace and wellbeing," says Marci.
Along with the inspiring stories of
the Happy 100, Happy for No Reason
has achieved great success with its down
to earth tools to help us all raise our
happiness set point. Marci teaches that
happiness habits fall into seven main
categories encapsulated in the metaphor
"building your inner home to happiness",
with the home having a foundation, four
corner pillars, a roof and a garden.
The foundation, says Marci, is to take
full responsibility for your happiness
rather than waiting for it to happen to
you. The four corner pillars represent the
mind, heart, body and soul. The "mind"
pillar signifies not believing everything
you think. "It has to do with changing
your neural pathways so that your
attention is directed more towards what
is actually working in your life, savouring
the positives, not the negatives."
The guiding principle for the "heart" is
to "let love be in your life, to live with an
open heart, with gratitude, forgiveness and
loving kindness" (the subject of Marci's
latest soon to be released book Love for
No Reason); the teaching around "body"
is to acknowledge that as our body is
designed to support our happiness, "let
your cells be happy" with the correct
foods, exercise and sleep; and the final
pillar, that of the "soul", is all about
connecting to a greater energy or force,
whether we call it God, Spirit, the Divine
In keeping with other teachings
which strongly point to such "soul
connection" as vitally important, Marci
says she found it to be an ingredient
shared by all 100 of her research subjects.
"I found they all had some sense of being
connected to the greater energy of the
Continuing her house building
metaphor, having a secure "roof " relates
to living an inspired life by truly following
your purpose and passion, while the
"garden", the final segment of the "inner
home for happiness", can be filled either
with weeds or beautiful flowers. It all
depends, says Marci, echoing wisdom
since time eternal, on those with whom
we surround ourselves. Troublesome
people encourage a garden choked with
weeds, while those who nurture, inspire
and love us allow us to bloom.
An engaging and lively conver-
sationalist, it's hard to imagine Marci as
ever anything but happy! But she tells me
she's had to learn her lessons the hard
way -- "I came out of the womb with
existential angst. I had a great family with
a great upbringing, but I was an unhappy
kid with a dark cloud around me that
persisted through my teenage years."
Her greatest teacher was her father,
"the happiest person I have ever known",
who lived until the age of 91. His advice
to his teenage daughter was blissfully
simple, "Honey just be happy." When she
protested that she wasn't born happy
unlike him, the penny dropped that
she'd just have to find the answers herself.
Now 33 years later, Marci has heeded
her father's advice and also discovered
her own path to the happiness that
eluded her as a young person. "I'd say I was
hugely happier now than I was back then.
doing very well. But now I'd say I'm an A
"And it also works for thousands of
people who've written or emailed me and
come up after I've given speeches to tell
me these happiness habits have changed
Somehow, the knowledge that this
accomplished woman struggled with
unhappiness too, but has found a way to
bring the sun into her life makes her advice
that much more authentic.
Marci Shimoff will appear at the World
Wellness Project Summit in Melbourne
from February 24-26. Register now at
www.worldwellnessproject.com or call
1300 300 516
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