Life in Balance

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Change Your Brain Change Your Life

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Suffer from anxiety?  I do, but after reading Dr. Daniel Amen’s “Change Your Brain Change Your Life” I have been able to minimize its effects.  I think it is important to disclose, I am no expert, just a Social Service Worker student at Seneca College, writing this based on my own personal experience.  I feel it is important to share my thoughts on this book as it had positively influenced my recovery and hoping it will for you as well.

My addiction was enhanced by my anxiety. As a second year student at Wilfred Laurier University, my social anxiety escalated to the point where I could not function properly.  My perception was that I was being judged by my class mates, which resulted with me withdrawing from class participation and group work.  Not knowing what anxiety was, I felt as though nothing was wrong with these thoughts and found ways to alleviate them.  My solution was going to Casino Niagara 3-4 times a week which resulted in me flunking out of school and learning to cope with my anxiety through gambling.  Over ten years later, I find myself recovering from an insidious gambling addiction, trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild my life.

In my early days of recovery, a friend suggested that I begin to read.  He was so passionate about how books influenced his life that we went to a book store and he bought me five books.  One of the books was “Change Your Brain Change Your Life”.  As soon as I began reading it I could see the positive guidance it was having on my recovery.  Throughout the chapters, the book gives the reader prescriptions on how to conquer anxiety, depression, obsessiveness, anger, and impulsiveness.  I would like to share some of the impacts the prescriptions had on my recovery.

I feel the “18/40/60 Rule” was a game changer.  Once I read it, within a week my social anxiety completely melted away.  Do you want to know what the rule is?

“When you’re eighteen, you worry about what everybody is thinking of you; when you’re forty, you don’t give a damn about what anybody thinks of you; when you’re sixty, you realize nobody’s been thinking about you at all.”

As I read more about this concept, I also personally reflected upon situations in my life and realized how true this statement is.  Not only have I completely minimized my social anxiety, I have also rid myself of my fear of public speaking, which is quite significant as I would like to become an advocate for recovery.  This rule altered my thought process because I firmly believe in how true it is.  That is, most people are worried about THEMSELVES and how they interact with one another.  Seldom do people have time to judge YOU because they are almost always more focused and concerned on their interactions.  I am truly fortunate because I am now 34 and I don’t care what people think of me and I don’t have to wait until I am 60 to know nobody has been thinking about me in the first place.

Moving forward, I was diagnosed with ANTs in my brain.  Not literally, but this book had educated me on the tendency I had to listen to the ANTs in my brain.  ANTs are Automatic Negative Thoughts and are absolutely debilitating.  It was unbelievable how many thoughts would run through my head in a given day.  Normally, I did not pay attention to them.  But after reading the chapter on ANTs, I was amazed at how many negative thoughts I actually had.  As the chapter continues, the book gives a step by step account on how to battle these negative thoughts, challenge them, and in turn think more positively.  For example, I would always think that I was a failure in life.  These thoughts were all encompassing.  After applying the strategies outlined in the book, I was able to challenge the negative thoughts and searched for ways on how they were not true.  Then I searched for ideas reinforcing how I was a success in life.  Even though I was facing a great challenge, I was able to find ways that enabled me to see the positives.  And once I was able to do this, recovery became just a little easier and much more fulfilling.

Today I have been gamble free for well over a year and a half.  Personal growth books like this one have had a positively influenced my recovery success.  Keep in mind though, what works for one might not work for all.  Having said that, go to the library and give it a chance, you never know.

Jason Applebaum
SSW Placement Student (Seneca College)
Eating Disorders of York Region (EDOYR)

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