Part II: Fixing Your Cognitive Distortions Podcast

Part II: Fixing Your Cognitive Distortions Podcast

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health Pastor Brad looks at eight different ways to “fix” your cognitive distortions (which were covered in Part 1: 15 Cognitive Distortions).  These are eight different ways to change your “thinking default settings” in order to get rid of your stikin’ thinkin’.

Aaron Beck first purposed the theory behind cognitive distortions, and it was David Burns who was responsible for popularizing them with common names and examples of these distortions.

Here are the 15 cognitive distortions that Pastor Brad discusses in this podcast:

  1. Filtering
  2. Polarized thinking/black or white thinking
  3. Overgeneralization
  4. Jumping to conclusions
  5. Catastrophizing
  6. Personalization
  7. Control fallacies
  8. Fallacy of fairness
  9. Blaming
  10. Shoulds
  11. Emotional reasoning
  12. Fallacy of change
  13. Global labeling
  14. Always being right
  15. Heaven’s reward fallacy

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Pastor Brad Hoefs, the host of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, is the founder of Fresh Hope Ministries, a network of Christian mental health support groups for those who have a diagnosis and their loved ones. In other words, Fresh Hope is a Christian mental health support group.

Brad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. He is a weekly blogger for (Bipolar Magazine). He is also a certified peer specialist and has been doing pastoral counseling since 1985. Brad is also the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis, which is available on Amazon or at

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Beware of Only Venting

Beware of Only Venting

By my nature, I am not a positive, grateful type person. I come from a long line of rather easily irritated, sarcastic and snarky bunch who become “prickly” quite easily. We are “venters.” Not inventors, but venters. We vent. That’s just our nature. In other words, we complain about people, situations, and events. We don’t see the glass as half full. Nor do we see the glass as half empty. Instead, we complain about the glass! We complain about what is in the glass. We complain that there aren’t two glasses. In fact, we might even complain that it is a glass rather than a mug. It comes naturally. And we do it quite easily.

So, learning to be thankful and looking at life from a healthier perspective has been a process for me. I’ve had a long road of learning that if all I do is vent (complain) about either a situation or person that has triggered me I will become stuck in a cesspool of emotional dung.

If all you do is vent (complain), it will make you sick. Yes, there’s research regarding venting. (Check it out, Google: Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction,
Anger, and Aggressive Responding by Brad J. Bushman from Iowa State University.)

Venting about things is OK, but not if that’s all you do. If that’s all you do, then you become stuck which leads you to negative rumination and anger. It makes you emotionally toxic. Honestly, I believe that this is a major issue for many most people. And when you have a mental health issue such as bipolar and do talk therapy with a counselor, it is even easier to get stuck in the venting mode. Plus, if you attend a support group that is only “cathartic-venting” it can lead to destroying one’s chances of living well.

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, all I did was vent about it. I rehearsed (vented) over and over how hurt I was by people following a very painful manic episode for nearly seven years.

So how did I move past just venting? I learned to ask myself two questions and remind myself of a few things:

Question # 1: So, what am I going to do about it?

Question #2: Can I change anything about it? (Am I willing to change what I can change? I can’t change other people, but I can change how I respond to them and what happens when I become triggered by them.)

What I remind myself of: I will change what is mine to change. Letting go of what I can not change brings me peace. If I all I do is complain about it then I’m going to become angry, agitated, overly negative and emotionally toxic. Which all leads to going down a very dark, deep hole. Rather, I’m going to be thankful that I can change what I can change and that I’m not responsible for the things I cannot change.

There are still times I slip into old patterns of only venting about someone or something. And it is then that I have to remind myself to ask those two questions. It is at that point that I have to remind myself where only venting will lead me.

How about you? Do you ever get stuck venting and not being able to move forward? What do you do when you find yourself only venting about something or someone?



by Fresh Hope Blogger Kathy Turney

Doesn’t that seem like a strange thing to say; give yourself permission?

When we were children, we had to ask our parents for permission to do something or go somewhere.  As adults, we don’t usually have to ask for permission unless it’s time off from our job or from some responsibility.  In general, however, we can eat when we want, stay up as long as we want, etc.

I remember when my kids were in school.  They worked really hard at homework, school projects, and other activities.  They had this tendency, even at a young age, to pile on things.  We do this as adults all the time.  I told my kids when they needed a break just to let me know and they had my permission to take a day off from school.  I wanted to remind them it was okay to take a break sometimes.

As adults. we have a huge load of responsibility.  We work, go to school, we are married, we volunteer, we go to our children’s functions and help them with homework.  We also have to pay bills, go grocery shopping, and clothes shopping for ourselves and our family.  We go to church or other groups we are involved in.  We have to take care of the house and/or the lawn.  The list never stops.

Have you ever given yourself permission to sit and read a book?  How about permission to skip mowing the lawn until tomorrow night?  Will the world come to an end if we don’t get it done? We need rest to be the best we can be.

What about permission for other things like being sad, happy, silly, or feeling lonely?  It’s  okay to have these feelings as well.  As adults, I believe we push those things aside because we don’t think they are important or we feel we are being selfish.  These things are just as important as the physical things we need to do.  One of the things my counselor told me was to say,  “Sandy, you have my permission to be mad”.  “Sandy, you have my permission to take a 30-minute nap”.  Saying things out loud seems to be more effective.  It’s amazing what this can do for your well-being.  You are giving yourself a gift when you give permission to have or do something you need, and I believe this will help you be a better you!!!


Choosing Hope in the Face of Hopelessness

Choosing Hope in the Face of Hopelessness

Hopelessness is serious. Every day people fall into the hopeless hole of hopelessness due to their struggle with a mental health issue. Hopelessness begins to knock at the door of one’s heart when you feel and believe that you have no future. It happens so easily, and it can take root all too fast. Each time we face one of life’s interruptions which change our perceived future hopelessness can settle in and live rent free in our hearts and minds.

Over 20 years ago I faced a life-altering interruption due to having bipolar disorder. At that time I was pastoring one of the fastest growing churches in my denomination. However, following that painful manic episode, which had interrupted my life, I was asked to resign. It was earth-shattering. My position and the church had become my identity. I was devastated to the point of complete hopelessness. I had lost my future. Hopelessness had set in. And the deep dark hole of depression became a shameful guilt place of familiarity for me; months and months of severe depression followed.

For years prior to this interruption I had felt as though I had a monster inside of me that I had to manage.

The more stress I experienced with pastoring a growing church, the more impossible it was to control the monster within me. More times than not, the monster was controlling me. So, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I found out that the monster had a name. And strangely enough, a small ray of hope began to break through the hopelessness what had swallowed me whole.

Why would there be a small ray of hope following my diagnosis?   After all, usually people see the diagnosis of bipolar disorder as the difficult thing to accept. Well, it was because of the people around me who helped me to see that the diagnosis and treatment of my bipolar disorder were a way back to having a future. It was the idea that the bipolar could be treated and I could have a future poked a small pinhole of hope into the darkness of hopelessness. It was not an easy journey, but it was more than worth it. With that small pinhole of hope, I could see a way forward. I began to grieve what I had lost and began to embrace a new and different future; believing that I could live well in spite of having bipolar disorder.

Dr. Sean Lopez, the author of Making Hope Happen, has done extensive research on hope for over 14 years. His research supports what I experienced. When I thought I had no future, hopelessness set in and took over. And when I could see the way to a future, hope began to start. And the clearer the future became for me, the more hope I felt.

Interestingly enough, hope can be borrowed, shared and it can be caught! Think about it, if you hang around a lot of hopeless friends, you will begin to feel hopeless. And if you hang out with people who are filled with hope you will begin to feel hopeful.

So, I have a question for you: How is your hope tank doing? Do you feel like you can see a way forward? If not, do you potentially need to let go of the future that as you thought it would be, grieve it and let it go? Do you need to embrace the new potential future? There’s no doubt that doing this is a process. It is not like switching a light switch on. But, it is a choice.

Hope is truly a choice. For me as a Christian, hope is not only a choice, but it is sure and certain. Paul reminds us that no matter what our circumstances might be there is a future because the Lord will work all things out together for our good. (Romans 8:28) So, I certainly may not “feel” hopeful, but I choose to believe Romans 8:28 and that means that there is a future. It may not have been the future as I thought it would be, but it is a future.

So, again, my question is: how is your hope tank? Is your hope tank empty? Is being a caregiver sucking the hope right out of you? Do you see a way forward into the future?

Are you strong enough to make the choice of hope? If not, I have some hope you can borrow.See, I know because of the storms I’ve been through in my life that God is at work in all things. He is with you. He has not left you. He won’t leave you. And He is FOR you and your entire family! He has a plan. It may not be the life you and I planned prior to bipolar showing up, but in spite of us having bipolar disorder He has a plan!

Everything may not be “good” right now, but all is well because of Him. He has heard every single one of your tears as a liquid prayer.   Look for that little tiny bit of light coming through the “pin” hole poking through the hopelessness you might be feeling. Choose hope. Choose it minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day and your feelings will begin to catch up. There is a future and joy is included in it.

Check out Brad’s weekly podcast at

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12 Keys to Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis

12 Keys to Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis

Here are 12 key things that I have done and still do to live well in spite of having a mental health challenge:

  1. Developed a wellness plan and have stuck to it.
  2. Decided what I would think about; not letting my brain be on automatic pilot.
  3. Accepted that living well was going to be challenging work I had ever done but was still less painful as staying sick.
  4. Found activities and hobbies that took my mind off of “me” and the disorder.
  5. Grieved the loss of my future as I knew it and then began to dream about a new future. Choosing not to become bitter that I had bipolar disorder. (For me, this is when I used my faith a lot. I hung onto and clung onto Romans 8:28)
  6. Set new goals for my life based upon my “new normal“.
  7. Stopped blaming others, stopped judging others, stopped trying to control others and took responsibility for me.
  8. Decided that life was too short to hang with negative individuals and friends who made me miserable. (Yes, some people who literally can suck the hope right out of you are in your life “permanently”. So, in spite of that, look for friends and people to be with that speak hope into your life.)
  9. Decided that life was also too short to dwell on the past and let it keep me from moving forward. So, I processed my grief with my therapist so I wouldn’t get stuck in it. (Even if you have been stuck in it, you can get unstuck.)
  10. Stopped focusing on my mistakes and beating myself up for them. Instead, I decided to begin to learn from my mistakes.
  11. Decided that progress was more important than perfection.
  12. Hung onto the belief (sometimes desperately) that I did not have to be locked in the hellish ride of bipolar disorder.

What about you? I’d love to hear from you what you are doing to live well in spite of having bipolar disorder?  These things work for me.  What is working for you?  I have a long list of things I have done in order to live well (that’s my definition of mental health “recovery”).  You can see the complete list at:   In fact, on the website you can add what is working for you.

Check out Brad’s podcast at:

Freedom from the Thoughts of Shame

Freedom from the Thoughts of Shame

The other day I answered the phone and was greeted with, “This is a phone call like you have never heard before. My name is Jim and I can tell you how to make the cash roll in!”

I hung up.

Get rich schemes abound.

Manipulative people take advantage of you for their gain.

Are you being conned by the master manipulator, depression?

Depression twists your thinking, convincing you of lies that cause shame. Shame takes your life and feeds your depression.

Shame is a set of beliefs that you are defective, worthless, that you deserve misery. Some of these thoughts may ruminate in both our conscious and unconscious mind. 

These thoughts may include:  I’m stupid. I’m unattractive. I’m a failure. I’m a bad person.I’m selfish. I just don’t have what it takes. I hate myself.I don’t matter. I’m defective. I shouldn’t have been born. I’m unlovable.

These automatic thoughts steal from you and feed depression, worsening its hold on our lives. Depressive illness may bring on these thoughts. We can then be manipulated making depression worse.

How can we manage these thoughts of shame? The acrostic SHAME can be a pattern for breaking this downward shame cycle.

S—Support groups. You are not alone in dealing with these thoughts. Finding a group of safe people where you can hear others tell their story and where you can share yours. Talking helps identify manipulative thoughts, discover maladaptive behavior, and ways to disarm shame.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NIV

H—Honest thinking. You have been manipulated by the lies of depression. Shame thoughts are lies that need to be exchanged for truth. Identifying these thoughts and replacing them can change your feelings and behaviors. Therapy for this is called Cognitive Behavior Therapy.  It is highly effective at creating positive behavior.

“Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:2 Message

A—Appreciate life, even in the smallest details. It is impossible to deeply grateful and feeling shamed simultaneously. Gratitude resets your mind, changing your focus to the positive from the negative. Intentionally keeping a gratitude journal is a tool that many have used.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”Col 3:16

M—Marvelously Made. You have been made in the image of God. Yes, the image is tarnished but you are still marked in your Creator’s image. He sees you as a Masterpiece of His handiwork. The Good News of Jesus is that God loves us. Period. Nothing you do can make God love you more. Nothing you do can make God love you less.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalms 139:13-14

E—Empathy. Depression bullies you with its lies. Learn to be compassionate to yourself. Imagine one of your children confided in you they were having shame creating thoughts. What would you say to give confidence and encouragement? Say these things to yourself. Step out of yourself for a moment and empathize with your inner child that is hurting. Having compassion for yourself changes your inner world.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Mph 4:32 NIV

You can use the SHAME model to defeat thoughts and feelings of shame that depression causes.

When you hear the lies of depression, hang up the phone.


How I Dealt With People With People Who Didn’t Understand My Mental Health Issues

How I Dealt With People With People Who Didn’t Understand My Mental Health Issues

By: Stan Popovich

Throughout my 20 years of personal experience in dealing with fear and anxiety, I had a challenging time in getting my friends to understand my issues with fear, stress, and anxiety.

Most of my friends and relatives were understanding and very supportive of the fact that I struggled with fear and anxiety, however, there were times some of my friends were not very supportive. The problem was that some of these people got on my case and did not understand my situation. In order to deal with these people, I did the following.

The first thing I did was to listen to the mental health professionals and not my friends. My friends meant well but I realized that the professionals knew my situation since they were trained in the mental health fields. These professionals knew what I was going through and were properly trained. So I made the choice to listen to them and follow their advice and not my friends.

I also realized that my goal was to overcome my fearful situations and not to please my friends. I realized that I wasn’t going to waste my time arguing with my friends who were giving me a difficult time. I realized that this was not a public relations event where I needed to get everyone’s approval. This was my life and my focus was to find the ways to manage my fears.

I told my friends that the best way for them to help me was to learn more about my situation and to be more understanding. I suggested they could talk to a mental health professional, read some good books, or attend a support group where they could learn about my situation. This would give them some idea of what I was going through and hopefully would become more supportive. I also asked some of these mental health professionals on ideas on how to deal with people who were giving me a difficult time.

Some of my friends took my advice and others didn’t do anything. I eventually made the decision to distance myself from people who gave me a difficult time. This seemed cruel however I realized that if I had friends who were hindering my progress in getting better that it was better if they stayed away from me and go bother someone else. As a result, I distanced myself from those people who wouldn’t make an effort to help understand what I was going through. I surrounded myself with positive and supportive people.

It can be difficult dealing with people who get on your case and who do not support you. Many of these people think they know what is best for you, but the fact of the matter is that their advice could make things even worse. I had one friend who thought he knew everything, but the fact of the matter was that he didn’t have a clue and he gave me bad advice. Always listen and follow the advice of a mental health professional and not your friends.

I made the decision that I wanted to overcome my fearful issues and that it was not my job to get everyone’s approval. No matter what you do in life, there will always be people who will not agree with you. I realized that my mental health was more important than pleasing people who were close minded and stubborn. My advice is not to waste your time and energy on these people.