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Training Our Brains: How to Remove Negative Thoughts with Lifestyle Coach, Simone Krame

Published December 1, 2017    

Backers, meet Lifestyle Coach, Simone Krame. You may recognize her from Use Conscious Living to Overcome Obstacles with 3 Easy Steps, but let's backtrack for a second for anyone who may have missed it.

The Girl

Krame is a few credits shy of receiving her master of arts in clinical psychology with a concentration in spirituality and mind-body medicine from Columbia University,

It was after she enrolled and actively participated in a mindfulness meditation course (lasting a semester in college) that she began to explore her true self, deep beneath the surface.

As she looked within, Krame learned to surrender to her inner voice and finally stopped living life for the approval of others.

Enjoying the outdoors to find peaceShe says it all begins in the mind. If we can learn to shift our negative thoughts to more positive or even realistic ones, we can actively work to discard pointless anxiety that may stem from your chronic back pain condition.

“A critical component to all of this is self-compassion. We all have negative thoughts. I invite people to pause and ask themselves in this unpleasant situation or moment of unkindness, is it really true?” the lifestyle specialist proposes. Krame was introduced to this philosophy by Byron Kathleen Mitchell, also known as Byron Katie, an American speaker and author who teaches a method of self-analysis known as "The Work of Byron Katie."

In the case of someone with chronic back pain, let’s say that the limiting belief is 'my chronic back pain will prohibit me from ever having fun again'.

“I would say is this true? Most of the time, people would hopefully say no or even if they say, I don’t know or yes, I go further. Is this really unequivocally true?” she adds. Most of the time, the answer is no because nothing is definite. Or, we simply don’t know, which is still not a yes. “This can then create a space and allow for other possibilities to enter.”

So, let's create that space and allow for what we think is impossible to enter our lives. Taking Krame as an example, we can see that she overcame her negative thinking and changed the trajectory of her life. 

The Aha Moment

Q: Many chronic back pain patients may have a hard time overcoming fear or living a new normal. For you, how were you able to make a bold life change and live for your passion instead of what you thought you had to do?
A: Prior to graduating college, I struggled with a major career decision. I could either accept a lucrative job offer as a private banking analyst at J.P. Morgan or pursue a career path that was going to nurture my soul, even if I didn’t quite know what that was. While most of my peers would have jumped at the first opportunity, a little voice in the back of my head told me that life is about doing what you love. I knew I needed to trust and the answers would be provided.

During a meditation, it came to me that I needed to reach out to the founder of Canyon Ranch, the most well-respected and premier health and wellness resort in the United States. I had never been to Canyon Ranch and did not know who the owner was. By the grace of God, I stumbled upon his e-mail address and reached out. My intuition led me all the way to a mentorship, a partnership, a career, and one of the greatest opportunities of my life.

Simone Krame finding family time.Caption: Krame enjoys dinner and dessert with Canyon Ranch's Founder, Mel Zuckerman.

And so I packed my bags, moved to Tucson, Arizona — where I knew no one — and my journey with Canyon Ranch officially began. Three years and several promotions later, my “higher self” told me it was time to share my talents in a new capacity. I respectfully transitioned out of my role as the director of guest experiences at Canyon Ranch and started Conscious Living & Lifestyle, a personalized and unique lifestyle coaching business dedicated to fostering and enhancing the inner strength and beauty that lies within each of us.

Q: Wow. What a story. Your website is gorgeous and everything seems to be taking off (Mazel). Was there ever a time when you worried about failure or met a difficult obstacle? How did you overcome it? Some of our Backers face obstacles every day trying to overcome their chronic pain and experience positive productive lives, so any advice you can offer is gold.
A: Thank you so much. I am really happy with it and absolutely. This question really resonates with me. There were and still are many points in my journey where I worried about failure or felt unsure about what the future would hold. When I turned down the job offer from JP Morgan without having a solid alternative option in mind, just a hope in what I wanted to do, I had to have faith and determination that it would manifest. It’s just knowing and believing in that.

It was the same thing with starting my business. It’s a huge challenge and intimating to just wake up one day and kind of start from starch on your own. But, there was this recurring theme that you synthesized so nicely earlier — taking a step back and focusing on what’s really true. Anxiety stems from projecting and worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future.

Of course, when starting a business, or anything for that matter, we project and we worry about all the things that could go wrong. But, I keep bringing myself back and remembering that those are the possibilities that haven’t even actualized.

And coming back to what’s true in the moment. What am I actually experiencing right here, right now? What is true and what is speculation based on fear?

I’ll never forget what my yoga teacher once told me years ago. It really stuck with me — fear is false evidence appearing real.

The Change

Q: As our Backers know, negative thinking comes with the territory of chronic pain conditions. What would you recommend to our readers as a way to train their brains from a negative to a positive thought?
A: The negativity — it’s ingrained in us because of our actual evolution. When we were living in the hunter-gatherer days, if we didn’t scan for negativity, like what’s behind that rock, we wouldn’t have survived. The fact for whatever reason, on an evolutional level, is that we haven’t been able to shake that negativity, but there are things we can consciously do to reprogram our brains. Just like strengthening a muscle, if we want to strengthen that muscle, we have to strengthen our skill set.

We, as humans, tend to have something called a “negativity bias” where there could be nine things that went right in our day, but we only focus on that one bad thing— whether it’s a comment someone said to us, or we were late to work. I find that the practice of gratitude really helps us to reflect on at least one thing that went really right. Even if you have one of those days, where everything else is awful, there is still one thing, no matter how small, that was a positive.

Q: When it comes to chronic back pain, our weeks can be filled with bad days and more bad days. How can someone remove the personal negative stigma even though their pain may never go away?
A: Sometimes we have bad days and we can’t avoid them. In terms of having a bad day that is something typical, I found that breathing into the pain, just sitting with it, and breathing into it, really getting intimate with it — the exact location of your back pain helps.

Your back is huge. So, when you say that your back hurts, where in your back are you feeling that pain? Pinpoint it. You might state, “Ugh my back is killing me.” Think about it for a second. Is it your upper back? Is it just the lower back? Try to get even more specific. Is it the lower left side?

Continue to get really intimate with your pain, breathing into it — and exhaling it all out. I found that if you can breathe into your pain, sit with it, focus on your exact discomfort, and identify it, the pain lessens. That’s just been my own personal experience with it.

Then, you want to tap into doing anything that makes you happy and gets you into that flow state, which is really a space when you are so engrossed with what you’re doing, it’s just this major present moment awareness.

You want to get yourself moving in a way that feels good for you. Whether that’s taking a gentle walk through nature or doing some stretches that you feel comfortable doing, something that doesn’t feel like a chore. At the end of a long day, something that you know will always make you feel good.

Q: What positive actions can a chronic back pain patient take to improve their quality of life and overall enjoyment?
A: If someone asked what’s one thing you could do forever and you had to reply without thinking, what would you say? Well, say it — and that’s what you should be doing — painting, drawing, singing, or dancing — there are so many different things — just anything that gets you out of your head. Anything that will allow you to release the negative energy from the day to do something that makes you feel good.

Elaborating a little further, I think investing the time to take care of yourself with what you are putting into your body is very important as well. If you feel emotional, stressed out, or annoyed, it might be tempting to indulge in something sweet or comfort food. From a health standpoint, sugar causes inflammation in the body and also makes you feel irritable or anxious. So those food choices may not be the best to turn to when trying to improve your quality of life when you are faced with a new obstacle. Many people don’t think about this, but especially when you are in physical pain, what you eat is very important to both how you feel and how you heal.

Going outdoors can serve as a great mental escape.Caption: Krame (left) and her good friend, Erin (right), enjoy a beautiful Arizona day with Krame's furry friend, Diesel. 

The Takeaway

  • Listen and respect your body and mind when it's talking to you
  • Have self-compassion
  • Take risks and don't be afraid to dream big
  • Your pain is real
  • Recognize the negative thoughts and literally say the opposite
  • Keep it moving in any way possible
  • Eat clean
  • Be grateful for even the small things and yourself

Regardless of who you are and the depth of your chronic back pain, there are tools and steps you can employ daily to train your brain. If you don't know where to start, check out Conscious Living for yourself and wait patiently for her long-awaited expert Q&A. It's on. 

Last change: February 26, 2018