The One Thing You Should Know About Your Mind

Here’s the one, foundational thing that this psychologist wishes everyone knew about how their minds work. 

Licensed clinical psychologist and Peak Mind co-founder Dr. Ashley Smith shares the one foundational thing she wishes everyone knew. Stomachs growl, hearts beat, and minds think. Understanding that thoughts are just productions of your mind and not necessarily meaningful or truthful is important. Furthermore, learning about the glitches in our thinking and the ways in which our thoughts become distorted or twisted is important. With this knowledge, we can set our thoughts aside while we pursue our strengths, goals, and values.  


How to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings

Do you have negative thoughts or feelings? Do you want to get rid of them? Here’s the secret for dealing with negative thoughts and feelings from a psychologist. 

Everyone has negative thoughts and feelings. Whether it’s worries, self-criticism, or rumination or emotions like anxiety, sadness, or anger, we don’t like having certain thoughts or experiencing certain feelings. And we try a lot of things to get rid of them. Unfortunately, a lot of the things we do to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings only makes them worse.  

In this short video, licensed psychologist and Peak Mind co-founder, Dr. Ashley, shares the secret for dealing with negative thoughts and feelings.  


Stop Feeding the Dog: Break Negative Cycles

Imagine that you have a dog. In this case, it’s a big, mean, nasty dog (not your cuddly pet). We’re sitting around the table eating dinner, and this dog comes up begging for food. Just one little bite is all it wants. You give it a bite, and it goes away…

Until tomorrow. The dog comes up. This time, one bite’s not good enough. Now it wants two. The next day, it wants three.

This goes on and on until the dog is eating all of your food – and all of mine. Are you ok with that? I’m certainly not! So what do you do?

You can’t reason with a dog, right? “Go eat your Alpo. This is my pizza!” Dogs don’t speak English.

What’s your next option?

(For the purposes of this example, you can’t get rid of the dog). You could certainly try eating out, but what happens when you eat at home again? Nothing has changed. You could try locking the dog in a kennel while you eat, but has the dog really learned anything? What would happen if you let it out?

Your only real option is to STOP FEEDING THE DOG.

Now, as I mentioned, this is a big, mean, nasty dog. If it comes up expecting a bite and you don’t give it one, what is it going to do?

It’s going to beg, bark, whine, and scratch. Are you going to feed it then?

NO! (I know some of you may be tempted, but if you truly want to eat in peace, you have to be strong here).

EVENTUALLY, if you don’t feed it, the dog will give up and go away. And if you don’t feed it from the table the next time or two it begs, it will eventually learn to leave you alone.

Your mind is just like that dog. You must quit feeding it to break negative cycles.

When you feel anxious and have negative thoughts and you avoid, or otherwise, “feed the dog,” you get relief…but you are pretty much guaranteed to feel anxious next time. You are stuck in a negative cycle, and breaking the cycle can be hard, but it is possible! 

When you have a craving for sweets, and you indulge that craving, “feeding the dog,” you’ll notice more cravings.

When your mind says “You don’t have time for that” and you “feed the dog” by sacrificing self-care, you’re all but telling your mind “I like that thought.” It is going to return, louder than before. 

The good news is, you can stop feeding the dog! You just have to notice the cycle of negative reinforcement. 

Negative Reinforcement

This process is called negative reinforcement. Contrary to what most people mean when they say it, negative reinforcement actually means increasing the likelihood of a behavior by removing something unpleasant. In other words, when something gives you relief of some sort (e.g., from pain, discomfort, by getting rid of unwanted thoughts or feelings), you’re likely to do that thing again in the future. It can create a vicious, self-feeding cycle.

Like scratching an itchy mosquito bite, these actions provide short-term relief while amplifying the problem in the long run.

Fortunately, you have the power to override your mind, to resist feeding the dog, and break negative cycles, if you are willing to endure its tantrum (check out Ascend for more techniques to help with this).

At Peak Mind, we love to say that your mind can be your greatest asset or your biggest barrier. You get to choose.

What amplifying loops are you in?

Are you ready to break negative cycles and stop feeding the dog?

Are you ready to have more positive thoughts and helpful habits? 

“Growth is uncomfortable; you have to embrace the discomfort if you want to expand.”
– Jonathan Majors

P.S. A huge shout out goes to Dr. Marty Franklin, pediatric psychologist and anxiety expert at the University of Pennsylvania. I learned the feed the dog metaphor from him years ago and have used it no less than 1000 times since.


Gratitude Habits for Life

Gratitude gets a lot of attention these days. Hopefully, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the benefits of a gratitude practice. It helps train your brain to notice and appreciate the little things in life and, in doing so, shifts your life experience tremendously. 

Gratitude can increase your happiness and wellbeing, life satisfaction, even overall health while decreasing the stuff we all want less of like anxiety, depression, and anger. Whether its a gratitude journal or expressing gratitude, it is important to practice gratitude. Today, though, I want to offer some new perspectives on gratitude.

Power of Gratitude as a Competing Response

In the world of habits, there’s a treatment approach called Habit Reversal Training. A key component of HRT is the use of a competing response, which is an action that is incompatible with the habit you are trying to break. For example, if you’re trying to break a nail biting habit, you might clasp your hands as a competing response when you feel the urge to bite. It’s really difficult to clasp your hands AND bite your nails at the same time. Consistently using a competing response trains your body to replace the undesired habit with the new one.

Rumination, worry, complaining, and negativity are mental habits, and ones with far worse consequences than nail biting. These mental habits involve stewing on negative thoughts, indulging them in a repeating and amplifying loop with the effect of dragging down your mood and pulling you out of the present moment. I propose that we try gratitude as a competing response for these mental habits

It’s surprisingly difficult to tap into gratitude – really tap into it – and also get stuck in negativity. When you find yourself getting wrapped up in those negative thoughts or starting down a spiral, challenge your mind to find something in that moment to be grateful for. Be sure you don’t just go through the motions, though. The goal is to truly activate grateful feelings to help buoy you against the negativity and to help keep you grounded in the present moment.

When Gratitude Backfires

I’d argue that you’d be hard pressed to find a situation in which tapping into gratitude isn’t possible or isn’t helpful. That said, be mindful that gratitude doesn’t become fuel for guilt. That happens when your mind uses gratitude to minimize your painful experiences.

It might sound something like this: “I don’t have a right to be sad. I have so much to be grateful for. I haven’t been hit as hard as others.” Sentiments like that take gratitude, which is an expanding and bolstering practice, and turn it into a mental whip with which to flog yourself. The resulting guilt is unnecessary and underserved.

Research shows that grateful people are generally happier people, but gratitude doesn’t negate pain. It’s a “both and” not an “either or” practice. You can be both hurting AND grateful. You can use gratitude as a lifeline to keep you from drowning in the negative mental habits that intensify your pain but not to eliminate pain completely.

Your daily gratitude practice can start small. Spend time every single day just tapping into feelings of gratitude. Acknowledge the reality of your present situation and find some small bright spot. 

In this moment, I miss my family who I haven’t seen in eons because of COVID AND I am grateful for grocery delivery and a warm sunny day.

In this moment, my heart hurts for those who were affected by the recent shootings in the U.S. AND I am grateful for feeling well rested this morning.

In this moment, I am SO OVER this pandemic AND I appreciate my Brandon Sanderson audio books that I love so much.

In this moment, I am grateful for you, that you’re in our community and that you’re a part of the movement to make life better.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”
–       Ralph Waldo Emerson

P.S. If you like this post and want to understand gratitude even better, Dr. April and I just recorded a podcast episode about gratitude habits and toxic positivity. We go so much deeper into these topics. It was such a great conversation!


The Power of Suffering: Growing Through Life’s Crises

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It’s a fact of life that we’re all going to experience adversity and suffering in our lives. So many factors and events are outside of our control, and despite our best efforts to create the perfect life, tragedy still occurs. How does a person overcome personal adversity?

But, psychological research shows us that it is possible to grow from tragedy, rather the simply be consumed by it.  Going through difficult times filled with negative thoughts can affect your state of mind and degrade your mental health over the long term. But in the face of adversity successful people learn more from the tough times than when everything is going right. It is in dealing with adversity (and overcoming adversity) that we build the resilience for smaller problems and find our greatest personal development. In tragedy, we find a better day, life improves with challenges.

This week on the podcast we’re speaking with David Roland. David is a writer, presenter, and psychologist from Australia. For much of his career, he worked as a clinical and forensic psychologist, and on the outside, he had the perfect life.  

After experiencing PDSD, depression, and ultimately a stroke, David devoted this latter half of his career to helping people move through suffering and grow as a result of adversity.  

In this conversation, he offers some things for us to think about in terms of how we cope with trauma and tragedy and how we might ourselves grow when we’re faced with life’s challenges. Not only that, but he offers such empathetic and kind advice about how we can be a supportive companion to others who might be experiencing suffering, rather than the awkwardness and distance we so often feel compelled to feel when others are going through something difficult. 

Life will not always be perfect. We all will experience adversity in our lives, and it is absolutely critical that we develop skills for coping with it and growing as a result. You won’t want to miss this powerful episode.  

Learn more about David Roland and his books at . 

At the beginning of the episode, I mentioned a new quiz that we’ve recently released to see how you rank on 2 new factors that contribute to burn-out, overwhelm, and the feelings of guilt we tend to feel when we take time for ourselves. You deserve to feel calm, balanced, and supported in being your best self. The first step is the self-awareness of the factors that might be working against you. Head over to to see how you rank on these 2 new cutting-edge factors and get access to a set of tools to help you move through it.