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Have you tried to add in a new lifestyle change such as eating healthier or working out then something throws you off your path and you are unable to maintain the adjustment? According to Brene Brown, PhD, a research professor of shame at The University of Houston, our thoughts about ourselves make the difference to start and maintain behavioral changes. If your self thoughts contain shame statements, this will keep you stuck and prevent you from making the changes that you want.

Brene Brown, PhD defines shame as an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection. Below are a list of tips to be mindful of when we are wanting to change our behaviors:

Name your emotions

The first step to any problem is identifying that it exists. It is helpful to name your emotions and shine a light on shame if you are criticizing or judging yourself so you can identify it is present and then choose a kinder thought. Whenever you name your emotion, it is the first step towards regulating the intensity of it.

The four emotions of self conscious affect are:

  • Shame - I am bad.
  • Guilt - I did something bad.
  • Humiliation - Someone belittles or puts me down but I do not believe that I deserved it. When you believe you do not deserve such criticism this serves as a protective factor.
  • Embarrassment - A fleeting emotion that we have. When we experience embarrassment, we understand that other people have experienced a similar situation before. We are aware this feeling is time limited and will not last long (Brown, Brene).

Ground yourself to come back into the present

Whenever you feel an intense emotion, like shame, you are in a state of stress that makes it challenging to be in the moment. After you identify that you are experiencing shame, practice a grounding technique to come back to the present. Some grounding techniques can be to:

  • practice deep breathing
  • utilize your five senses and identify items you can touch, taste, see, hear and smell
  • go outside and put your feet on the ground or grass
  • take a walk or run in nature

Add in positive and rational thoughts

After you are grounded and in the present, come back to your thinking brain to add in positive rational thoughts(Brown, Brene). By identifying behaviors that you want to change rather than shaming yourself, you will be able to get back on track with healthier habits. An example highlighting this shift is if you decide you want to work out two times a week and last week you work out only once. Do you add judgments to yourself that you are a failure and unhealthy? If so, this will keep you stuck and make it harder to get back on track with your goal to work out twice a week. A re-framed thought not including shame is that I was unable to go to the gym last week because of time. I am going to wake up earlier to have more time so that I can be successful and go to the gym two times a week.

If you are experiencing shame regularly it can take a toll on your mental health. To connect with a licensed clinician for individual therapy or in a group setting in an Intensive Outpatient Program through online Zoom or phone sessions, contact The Behavioral Wellness Group’s front office line at 440-392-2222. To learn more about our IOPs, visit this link.

Brown, PhD, Brene. “Unlocking us.” https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-shame-and-accountability/

Stephanie Cerula, LPCC
Clinical Counselor
The Behavioral Wellness Group 

The Behavioral Wellness Group is a counseling center providing therapy and behavioral health services and assessment including chemical dependency/drug addiction treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and other therapies. We also provide mental health or psychological assessments, and psychological,educational and bariatric testing. Providing services to the following communities in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake County: Cleveland, Ashtabula, Beachwood, Chardon, Concord, Eastlake, Euclid, Fairport, Geneva, Grand River, Highland Heights, Kirtland, Leroy, Lyndhurst, Madison, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Painesville, Pepper Pike, Perry, Russell, Solon, South Euclid, Thompson, Wickliffe, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, and Willowick, from our offices in Mentor, Ohio.