For a lot of people, what they want and what they expect can be two very different things. This may include those in their 30’s and 40’s who want to be able to retire, but don’t expect they’ll be able to.
Dr. Jennice Vilhauer is a psychologist, author, and the developer of Future Directed Therapy. On today’s Retire Sooner, she lends her expertise around activating a future-connected mindset to explain ways one can help themselves work toward what they want in life. Wes and Dr. Vilhauer go over depression’s effect on thinking about the future, exercises in flipping negative thinking to positive, and the importance of mindfulness. Wes says that, more than anyone he’s ever met, Dr. Vilhauer has sold him on mindful meditation, and discusses her best-selling book, “Think Forward to Thrive: How to Use the Mind’s Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life.”
Time-Stamped Show Notes from the Video
[00:02:58] Dr Vilhauer explains how depression affects the brain’s Reward Processing Center, leading to a lack of clarity and motivation towards future goals.
[00:08:47] Wes asks Dr. Vilhauer about Future Directed Therapy, the form of cognitive therapy she developed that’s focused on helping people change their expectations and choices for a better future.
[00:11:28] Wes and Dr. Vilhauer discuss ways to navigate your thought processes to figure out what you want, such as writing exercises, shifting your mindset, and practicing mindfulness.
[00:23:06] Wes brings up meditation, and Dr. Vilhauer asserts that consistency in meditation is more important than the quantity of time spent and makes suggestions for best practices.
[00:28:27] Dr. Vilhauer references psychologist Dr. Andrew McLeod’s discoveries about depression and future-thinking at Royal Holloway University in England.
[00:30:30] Wes connects back to Dr Vilhauer’s book, “Forward to Thrive,” which aims to help use anticipation to transform life by increasing meditation time.
Read The Full Transcript From This Episode
(click below to expand and read the full interview)
- Wes Moss [00:00:00]:What people want and expect are often two very different things. The lottery is a great example. Everyone wants to win, but no one really expects to. That disconnect can become a major problem for folks who don’t know how to think ahead to what they actually want out of life. Maybe they want to be better at relationships or start a business, but they don’t expect it to happen, so they never actually take any action. This can happen in the world of retirement planning, too. Some folks think retiring early is impossible, so they don’t even try. Dr. Jennice Vilhauer wants to change all of that. She’s a psychologist in Los Angeles, the developer of future directed therapy, and the author of the best selling book Think Forward to Thrive. Her goal is to get people working towards what they want in life rather than repeating their past over and over again. She gives us some tips on breaking free so you can identify what you desire and take the steps necessary to get there. With two decades of experience and a resume that includes directing psychotherapy programs for Emory Healthcare in Atlanta and Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, it’s no wonder that talking to Dr. Vilhauer was so eye opening. How you think about yourself and your future can make a world of difference. And the time to start is now. I’m Wes Moss. The prevailing thought in America is that you’ll never have enough money, and it’s almost impossible to retire early. Actually, I think the opposite is true. For more than 20 years, I’ve been researching, studying, and advising American families, including those who started late, on how to retire sooner and happier. So my mission with the Retire Sooner podcast is to help a million people retire earlier while enjoying the adventure along the way. I’d love for you to be one of them. Let’s get started. Jennice. Hello. I can’t believe you. So you’ve left us you were here. You were here in Atlanta, and you’ve left us for UCLA.Jennice Vilhauer [00:02:07]:
For LA. I came back to LA. Right, so LA is home. So I was born and raised here, so I kind of came back home. But Atlanta was beautiful. It was very good to me. I loved it there.
Wes Moss [00:02:18]:
But I guess when I see somebody that’s in Atlanta, I always assume that this is where you’re from. And really? You’re from LA.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:02:25]:
That’s what it is, from LA. Correct.
Wes Moss [00:02:27]:
So it was really you didn’t even go to school at Emory, right. You did psychotherapy there, correct?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:02:33]:
Right. So I used to run the psychotherapy program at.
Wes Moss [00:02:39]:
It’s. Also, your TEDx was TEDx. Peachtree. So there’s another reason.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:02:47]:
That was in Atlanta, correct? Yes.
Wes Moss [00:02:50]:
Okay, well, good. Well, so again, we’re the Retire Sooner podcast, and we talk a whole lot about the psychology of being able to have a happy retirement. I’ve done a lot of money happiness studies, so your topic is really intriguing to us because this thought around our future expectations, and there’s very few things we anticipate as long as retirement. So we think about it like as soon as we start working, we’re always thinking about, wait, maybe there’s a day that I’m going to be able to stop working. And this is where I want to get into the difference between expectations and our wants. We have this long fantasy of the future when we no longer have to work. Work is an arduous thing for humans. It’s out of 40 things we do on a regular basis. It’s number 40. Actually being sick in bed is number 40. It’s the lowest of our happiness scale. And number 39 is work. So the minute we start working, most people are thinking, well, there’s going to be a day when I maybe can stop doing this, and then I’m going to be free, and I’m going to be happy and fun and fulfilling, whatever that may be. Maybe let’s start with the example that you start out on your Ted Talk about this gap between what we expect and what we want.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:04:08]:
Right? So most people are going through their life creating their future based on the past. Okay, so we tend to predict the future based on past experiences, right? And that past can be not just experiences, but things that we’ve learned, things that we’ve heard from other people beliefs that we’ve developed based on our past. And so people are going through life like recreating the past over and over again because while they might want something, they expect the past to happen again. And so a lot of times what they don’t recognize is there’s a big disconnect between what they want and what they’re actually expecting. Those are two different things. Now, ideally, they could be aligned and they could actually be the same thing. But for a lot of people, those are actually two very different things.
Wes Moss [00:05:05]:
As an example, maybe explain use your lottery example.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:05:10]:
Yes. So I think the lottery sort of example is just a really easy way to conceptualize this, right? So if you ask anybody, do you want to win the lottery? Almost everybody says absolutely, right? Who doesn’t want to win the lottery? But if you ask them when was the last time they actually bought a lottery ticket? For most people, they might buy one once every so often, but it’s not something they do kind of on a regular basis. Most people don’t buy lottery tickets. Why not? Because they don’t actually expect to win right now. In that case, the odds of winning the lottery are actually not very good. In which case, maybe buying a lottery ticket or not buying one is actually okay. But truthfully, we go through life, there’s so many other things where we do have control. We do have the ability to change them. We do have things that we could do to align our actions to make what we want possible. Right. We can’t really control the lottery, but there’s a lot of things in our life that we can control, and yet the expectation that what we really want is going to happen isn’t actually there. So then our actions don’t align, and we end up kind of recreating the past again.
Wes Moss [00:06:23]:
Okay, so I think about this with patients. When you sit down with patients or you help patients, where do you see the inconsistency between the one and the like, what is a common inconsistency? And then what does that lead to? I guess? Does it lead to just in general, being unhappy because we expect one thing, but we really want another? Does it lead to depression? Is it a root of depression? Often, yeah.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:06:54]:
The examples are infinite. Right. So I like to sort of think relationship examples are one, right. So I want a better relationship, but I don’t actually think I can get one. So I don’t really sort of take the actions. Right. I mean, almost every person that I talk to in my private practice, like, at least the single people, they all want to meet somebody, right? But a lot of them don’t actually take actions that would help them do that. Right. They have reasons or excuses or things that hold them back. Right. And what they’re not sort of seeing is the disconnect between what they do want, right. The actual dream that they have in life and the behavior that they’re taking if they’re not matching up. Or a lot of times business is another example. Like, I want to start a business or I want to get a new job, but they don’t actually take the actions to do that. There are dreams that they have in their head, but they’re never really sort of following through on them.
Wes Moss [00:07:56]:
Okay. And I think about this maybe with retirement, and I think about somebody who’s in, let’s say, their 30s or let’s say their forty s, and they want to retire, but maybe they don’t. And this is where you start to see maybe the disconnect is maybe they don’t expect to be able to. If you think about your financial future, it’s not an easy thing to get under control.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:08:21]:
Wes Moss [00:08:22]:
I mean, if we look at the statistics in the United States, most people, let’s call it 80% of people don’t have and won’t necessarily have enough money to continue to have the same lifestyle while they were working. So it is tough mountain to climb, certainly not impossible, but it’s a harder mountain to climb. So I guess where I see it, Jennice, is we want to retire. We want to be able to stop working, but we don’t expect that we’ll be able to get there. And then what you’re saying is that in a more practical sense, because we don’t expect to be able to do it, then we just don’t take the actions to really even have a shot to begin with.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:09:01]:
That is absolutely true. Right. But I think creating future experiences is a little bit more complicated than just expectations. Right? So retirement is something in the future that people want, but they might not necessarily know how, right? So there’s so many different steps that go into being able to create a future experience, right? There’s knowledge, there’s actual connection to your future self. So a lot of people live very much in the present or a lot of people actually live very sort of past oriented as well. So they’ve actually done studies to show that not everybody is equally future oriented. Right. We all have sort of in the same way that we all have different tendencies towards just other sort of characteristics behaviorally that we can vary quite differently in terms of where we focus most of our sort of attention, whether it’s the past, the present, or the future. So a lot of people don’t even think about the future that much. They’re very disconnected from their future self. Right? So one of the reasons I developed future directed therapy, which is kind of where my Ted Talk came from, was to give people a whole bunch of skill sets that I saw were very necessary in order to kind of create a better life, to give them sort of step by step ways to begin to develop some of those skill sets and skill sets that are really based on what does the science say actually works? So being able to develop a very vivid sense of yourself in the future really connect to that future self is actually quite important in terms of changing behavior about the future.
Wes Moss [00:10:51]:
Let’s look at relationships maybe for a second where you have someone who you’re counseling and their expectation is that they are not going to be able to find somebody, but they want to find somebody they’d like to. So what is the thought around being able to put yourself into the future and be in the place that you really want to be in? How do we do it? Developing all in the short podcast. We don’t have time for 30 sessions here. We need to figure it all out right now.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:11:25]:
Yeah. So getting someone to develop a vivid sense of their future might include just learning to kind of actually see themselves doing something that they’re not following through on. It’s hard to sort of explain the fact that people don’t do these things, right. I think so much of psychology is really interesting in the sense that we discover that, wow, there’s all these things that people wes assume that they would do. Right? If I want something, we assume they would take the actions towards that. But there’s so many things that people just don’t do. So let me give you an example. So let’s say I have somebody who really wants to meet somebody and they’re on these dating apps, but they won’t actually respond to anybody, right? Or they find ways to sort of sabotage some of the dates, or they do these things where they say they’re working on it, but they’re not actually working on it. Right. So it’s getting people to really just see the direct connection between what they’re doing and the outcome that they’re creating for themselves.
Wes Moss [00:12:34]:
And are you also helping people or asking people to, I guess in the sense, visualize that you’ve overcome some of the gaps we have and what we’re not the actions that we’re not taking. So, look, clearly you’re not taking these actions because you can’t even see yourself in a year from now in a great relationship.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:12:56]:
Well, that’s exactly what happens when you start to analyze, why aren’t you taking these actions? Right. And that’s where we start to uncover these beliefs that, well, I probably won’t be able to meet anybody right. Or I’m not lovable in some way. Right. You start to uncover these beliefs that people are holding that are limiting their actions, that are causing them to take actions that are inconsistent with what they want in life.
Wes Moss [00:13:27]:
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Jennice Vilhauer [00:14:24]:
Yeah. All of my research and work around future thinking started with trying to help people with depression to sort of find that better future. And if we look at the biological models of depression, we see that this one area of the brain is underactive, which is called the reward processing center. Okay, now what are rewards? Rewards are things that we look forward to in the future. And what we find is that people with depression don’t actually think more negatively. They’re thinking less positively. Right. They are actually able to produce fewer thoughts about a positive future. And the way that they think about the future is very let’s say it lacks the clarity and the vividness that somebody without depression might have. Right. So part of what motivates people to action so I talked about a vivid sense of your future self right. Really being able to tangibly connect to that. If your future self is very vague and you can’t really and your future goals are very vague, you have a hard time developing the sort of motivation in the present to get connected to that future, to actually take the actions to make it happen. Right. So I like to use the example of like, going on a vacation, right? So if somebody says, oh, I really want to go on a vacation, I say, well, that’s a great goal, but it’s a very vague goal, right. If that’s your entire goal, you will probably never go on a vacation, right, because to get to a vacation, you have to get something down and very vivid and clear and specific enough to be able to take an action. You actually have to identify a specific city where you can buy a plane ticket to actually get there. Right. So most people’s goals are up at this, or at least particularly people with depression. They have these very vague goals and they have a hard time actually getting there. And there are parts of the brain that are stopping them from getting there, right, so there are parts of the brain that are underactive that aren’t allowing them to sort of have the same clarity, the same vividness, the same connection, to be able to kind of create those goals that would make them take action.
Wes Moss [00:16:40]:
Okay, so even though naturally they don’t have, I guess, the reward processing center, they don’t have this vivid sense of the future. Right. So if somebody’s listening and has never had any depression, it’s hard for them to even understand because they think, oh, I cannot wait to go to Park City with my snowboard and my friends and my kids and I’m going to go on a snow. It’s so fun just to look forward to that. You’re saying that very often somebody that has depression, they just don’t have that inherently they don’t inherently do that. But does it mean they really can’t do that or they just need a lot of coaching to do that, or is there something in their brain that really disables that future reward center? And then how do you overcome that? And I guess really, that’s what future directed therapy is all about.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:17:34]:
Yeah, so it’s not that they can’t do it, right? I mean, there’s a very small number of people that they actually cannot visualize in their head, but most people with depression, they wouldn’t fall into that category. So for most people, it’s like that ability has just been muted. Right, and the way that you stimulate it is like you would do any sort of part of your brain, is you give it a lot of activity, right. So you really kind of get them to sort of do a lot of exercises around visualization, around imagining their future self, around just the various things in terms of beliefs and expectations about the future. So the more you get someone to actually think about the future in a detailed way and you give them specific instructions for doing this and tools for doing this, the more that starts to stimulate their own ability to do it. Right. So it’s not unlike any other sort of part of your body. It’s when it’s underactive, if you stimulate it, it gets stronger, it gets better.
Wes Moss [00:18:36]:
And does that actually change when it’s working, let’s say, does that actually change some of the chemical composition as well?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:18:47]:
So I can’t say with absolute certainty that we’ve confirmed that in a legitimate study. But what I can say is this there are lots of studies that show that changing your thinking absolutely does change your brain chemistry. Right? So you can think about something, let’s say you think about a loved one, you will produce more oxytocin in your brain, right? If you think about a rewarding situation, you actually do produce more dopamine in your brain, right? And not only do we produce different sort of neurotransmitters based on what Wes think about, we actually change brain structure. Okay? So you can actually, over a twelve week period, start to see the size and the volume of certain brain regions start to shift as well when you start to change thinking. So you are absolutely able to affect the brain in a very physical way based on changing the way you think.
Wes Moss [00:19:42]:
And then how is FDT, that you call it, or future directed therapy, how does that most differ from other psychotherapies or not that I’m an expert on psychology at all, so I don’t even know the other ones. But I think cognitive behavior therapy is a big one. Is this different than that?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:20:03]:
It is. It’s a form of cognitive therapy, right? So the way I sort of think about it is all therapies if you ask any sort of person who practices psychotherapy, what’s the point of this? To help people feel better, overcome difficult challenges in their life and to get to a place where they have a better life, right? Implying a better future of some sort. But the reality is, in terms of the actual techniques that are being used, strategies that are being used, a lot of them are not necessarily future focused. Right? And so one of the things in terms of the development of future directed therapy was it was based on a tremendous amount of research into what is the science of how we create future experiences. And it turns out it’s a very systematic process in our brain. It’s happening for most people so rapidly that it’s outside of their awareness. And if you can begin to kind of slow that process down, make people more aware of it, you actually start to be able to intervene at certain points in that process, right? So you can intervene in helping them change expectations, you can intervene in helping them change how they label certain things, whether they’re sort of thinking about a wanted or unwanted experience and get them to kind of redirect their thinking, you can get them to start to change the choices that they’re making, right? So if you start to slow the process down for them and get them to see these distinct kind of patterns that they’re engaged in, then they can choose differently. And with future directed therapy, it’s just all the work is really about how you create your future experiences and how you begin to sort of take charge of that process. And that’s really what makes it sort of different from other forms of psychotherapy.
Wes Moss [00:21:48]:
Well, also, I can imagine that for some people, it’s hard to necessarily figure that out, so the further out we go. So I think about, let’s say a teenager versus somebody who is 50 or somebody who’s 70 that’s already about to be retired. The person that’s 70, I could see how you can visually figure out to a high degree of certainty what you really expect or what you want, let’s say. Whereas somebody who’s in their 40s or fifty s and they’re looking way out into the future, it feels like that’s a little harder, that’s a little bit of a bigger leap. And then relative to somebody, let’s say, who’s a teenager that maybe they don’t really know, let’s say a teenager with depression, maybe they don’t know exactly what they want. Do you run into that as an issue and a challenge to figure this out? And then how do we overcome that?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:22:37]:
I would say that’s probably one of the biggest obstacles people have. It’s like, I don’t know what I want. Right. That’s something that so many people say over and over again, I know what I don’t want. Most people are extremely good at figuring out what they don’t want. Right. But what I tell them is that if you know what you don’t want, then you actually are closer to knowing what you do want than you realize. Right. Because in order to know what you don’t want, you have to have some point of reference to recognize that there’s something else that you want instead. Right. So if you don’t want, let’s say, a job that feels meaningless, well, what do you want? Well, I want a job that feels more purposeful. Right. So there’s always a flip side to what you want. In order for us to know we don’t want something, there has to be what we want on the other side somewhere that we can sort of have that as a reference point. Right. So an exercise that I give people that is really helpful is that I tell people, if there’s a certain subject and you feel like you’re stuck, you don’t know what you want, take a piece of paper, fold it in half lengthwise on one side, write down everything that you don’t want about that situation. Right. So let’s say you’re unhappy with your job. Yes. Just like that. And on one side, you’re going to write down all the reasons why you are unhappy with that. Right. Just list about everything, as many as you can think of, and then you’re going to go to the other side and you’re going to take the inverse of each one of those things. Right? And so I don’t like my boss that yells at me. I’d like somebody that is supportive. Right?
Wes Moss [00:24:20]:
Everyone in the room, their heads are nodding. Their heads are nodding here in the studio.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:24:25]:
So you can start to see that just creating that inverse list starts to give you something that you can work with. Now you might need to take that list and create a lot more detail around it and get it to be a lot more specific before you can start to take action on it. But it gets you out of the mindset of being focused on what you don’t want to. Now you’ve got a sort of destination that you can work with and begin to make more clear in your own mind so that you can start to think about what is it that I do want? And I would say that that is one of the most significant things that anybody can learn is to shift from what I don’t want, thinking about what I don’t want all the time, to recognizing that they’re doing that and to redirect their thinking to what they do want in a situation. Instead.
Wes Moss [00:25:18]:
I think we are all so guilt. I mean, maybe I’m projecting. I think we’re all so guilty of that. It’s so much easier to say this is not what I want because it’s almost reactionary and then it’s a much harder thing to answer for all of us internally about what we do want. It takes, I guess, more thought and more time. Well, you don’t want that and you don’t want this. What do you want? Well, I don’t know.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:25:44]:
That’s exactly what happens. Right? That happens in every session. Right? I’ll listen to someone tell me their whole long list of what they don’t want and then I’ll say tell me what you do want. And what do they say? I don’t know. Right? And part of that is actually a cognitive process that’s happening in your head, right? So when you are focused on what you don’t want, there’s a part of your brain that is literally suppressing your ability to think about what you do want. Okay, so our brain works on this kind of activation inhibition model. So when one train of thought is active, it sort of suppresses a different sort of the opposite. Okay? So one of the reasons it’s so hard to think about what you want, it’s because you’ve got so much sort of momentum going behind all of those thoughts about what you don’t want all the don’t wants. Right? So it’s almost like you have to literally shift tracks. I like to think about a train track and you actually have to shift onto a different track and start getting going in a different direction. There’s literally a shift that has to happen mentally in your brain to get you to begin to start to think about the things you do want, right? So it’s more effort, but it’s the thing that’s required in order to change anything in your life. If you want to start to take action towards something, you need a destination, right? You need to know what you’re aiming for.
Wes Moss [00:27:10]:
In all of your years of therapy, have you seen, let’s call it as an example, retirees, or maybe somebody that’s gone through a life transition that has been really let’s say the simplest question is somebody who retired, and it’s just not what they thought and they’re just not happy because of it. Have you ever seen that, where they thought things were going to be good and then they ended up in, hey, wait, this is way different than I thought, and now I’m kind of depressed about it?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:27:36]:
Yeah, well, absolutely. I think that happens a lot because we’re actually quite poor at predicting emotional states in the future, right? Like, what we think we’re going to feel when we get there. But I think the thing to understand about what I consider to be your future is that it can be five minutes from now, five days from now, five years from now. It’s not necessarily something that’s far away. Right. In fact, for most people, it’s actually easier to start with the near future and work on changing that than it is to think super far away. But it’s the same exact process cognitively, and it’s the same exact set of skills that actually you start to learn. But if you start small, start with, all right, I’m not happy right now. What do I want? I’d like to feel better in this moment. Okay. Is there something I can do that will help me get there? Right. What can I do right now that is just something that I can feel better about. Right? And it’s these small shifts of starting to go from being focused on what you don’t want to redirecting to what you do want. What can I do to get me there? That it’s like you’re changing your thought process, and you’re starting to kind of make that more of a mental habit, and eventually you can go out as far out as you want to, but you have to start with this process of just getting onto redirecting the subject.
Wes Moss [00:29:05]:
I would say I’m in the business of the happy retiree. Right? So we’re always talking about, here are all the things you should have prepared for when you stop working. It’s a really long list of stuff because you’ve got all this fulfillment and socialization and financial confidence that just kind of ends pretty quickly when you stop working. And then it’s a little bit nerve wracking financially, it’s dramatically different socially. And then just fulfillment wise, it’s really hard to replace the day to day of what we get out of work, even though we may not love it, and we rank work really low on what we like to be doing in the. World, but we also get a lot out of it that we know goes away when we stop it. So it’s a really hard transition when we stop our primary career. And I do see people struggle with that, even though having three to five core pursuits in life is a big elixir for that, it’s not always that easy for people to figure it out. So to some extent, I guess I see it, and I don’t know how to counsel people out of it, except for you’ve got to replace your purpose. Does future directed therapy talk about does that happen? Or you end up talking to people about their purpose, their future purpose in life?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:30:22]:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think in the case of retirement or layoffs right. Or just anytime you lose your job, for a lot of people, your whole sense of identity, people don’t realize how much of their core identity is wrapped up in their career. Right. So I think that that’s something you absolutely need to think about, you need to plan for. But I also think it’s a trap that before you even retire, you can try not to fall into. Right? Like try to not allow work to take up, be your only identity in life. Try to really kind of work on developing your sense of who you are before you retire. So it’s not such a shock, right. Having other connections, other things you do, maybe in the community, just other involvement, other sort of hobbies interests, things that create your sense of self so that you’re not sort of exclusively being defined by what you’re doing at work.
Wes Moss [00:31:28]:
How about mindfulness? I think about how does FDT fit into mindfulness? I think about maybe gratitude is something that is maybe something that we can quickly start to appreciate if we focus in on it. So tell me about how this fits into maybe mindfulness as well.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:31:49]:
Sure. Well, huge fan of mindfulness and meditation. Right. I consider them essential, but not necessarily sufficient activities to get you to create your future. Right. So why is being mindful so important? It’s because it’s in this present moment that you have the ability to be conscious enough to recognize, let’s say, automatic thinking or unhelpful thinking and then begin to kind of redirect yourself or to override it. Right. So even just the idea of switching from what I don’t want to what I do want, you have to have the present moment awareness to recognize, oh, I’m focusing on what I don’t want in this situation. Right. What can I do differently? Right. So mindfulness is the best tool we have for increasing the amount of time that somebody’s really able to sort of spend kind of being more consciously aware. Right. So there’s these two systems in our brain, the kind of fast system, which is the automatic thinking, all of the old sort of thought patterns and behaviors that we have, which is really the majority of our thinking throughout our day. And that is what’s dictating so much of what people are thinking, doing what they’re believing, their habits, all of the way that they are kind of experiencing their life. But then there’s the conscious sort of slow thinking that we use when we have to learn something new, when we have to be deliberate about something. And that’s the mind that we are increasing more awareness of and more ability to kind of be in when we’re practicing mindfulness, right? That conscious deliberate thinking and that’s the thinking that lets you change your life because it’s what lets you see the automatic thinking so that you can start to override it and do something different.
Wes Moss [00:33:35]:
How often should we be doing this? So where do you find your most efficient time of mindfulness? Is it meditation? Is it 20 minutes a day? What works for you and what do you see? Work for a lot of people. I want to do meditation and I at least will practice at night and I’ll try to at least do five minutes of mindfulness, which I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but at least it’s a little bit. How much do you recommend?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:34:05]:
Yeah, well, so I am a big meditator. I try to do minimum ten minutes every day in the morning. If I can get to 20, I’m happy with that. But the consistency is more important than the quantity, right? So if you are consistent five minutes every single day, that’s better than 2 hours on a Saturday, right? So the change happens when you are being consistent. And the way that one of the reasons that so many people give up on meditation is because they do it a few times in a row and they’re like, oh, I didn’t really feel any difference and they don’t really do much for me, right? And so they kind of lose interest in it. And the thing is, the change that you feel, it’s very subtle and it happens over about, let’s say about two to three weeks. If you’ve been doing it consistently every day for about two to three weeks, suddenly what happens is you start to notice, oh, that thing that would have really upset me, didn’t bother me so much, right? You start to notice your mood just slowly starts to kind of feel a little bit better every day. You’re just not quite as irritable, you’re not quite as upset, you have a little bit more clarity, right? So it’s this subtle change that takes place over time, but it’s big enough that you really will start to notice it. And then the way that people really notice it is when they’ve been doing it consistently and then they stop, right? So something happens, they get busy, they just stop for about a week and then they’re like, oh, why am I feeling so lousy all of a sudden? Right? And then they realize I’ve stopped the thing that was helping me feel good. Right. So meditation absolutely works. Consistency most important thing. If you want to just general recommendation, I’d say like ten minutes a day is something good to aim for.
Wes Moss [00:35:56]:
I think that I’ve had meditation specialists on this podcast that didn’t sell me as well on meditation as you just sold me on it.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:36:06]:
That’s because I practice selling it every day to every person I talk to.
Wes Moss [00:36:10]:
Say, you’re really good at that. You’re good at selling meditation. But again, so you do that as just an augmentation. That’s not FDT. That’s not future directed therapy, is it? Meditation is not or do you actually make it? Is that part of the overall prescription with you?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:36:31]:
It’s part of the course that they go through when they go through the FDT course. It’s part of the program. I believe meditation benefits all forms of psychotherapy. Because, as I said, if you want to make any change in your life at all, right, doesn’t matter what it is, you have to have that conscious, present moment awareness to recognize what you’re doing wrong or recognize the old behavior and then be able to say to yourself, oh, I want to do something different. Right? So meditation is giving you that conscious awareness to step out of old patterns of behavior.
Wes Moss [00:37:11]:
Before we wrap up today, tell me a little bit about your book, Think Forward to Thrive. When did you publish it? And tell our audience a little bit about it?
Jennice Vilhauer [00:37:20]:
So I think it was published back in 2014. I put the book out there because I had been doing the future directed therapy program for about five years at Cedars Sinai. I was working with a lot of people that had depression, having really just amazing results with it, and I wanted to get it out to people as quickly as possible just to have these tools right. And in a very step by step way that they could do on their own. Because I recognize the dissemination of a therapy model can take decades. Right. And so I knew that that was too long. I wanted people to have access to this material. So that’s why I published the book. It is pretty much very similar, almost the exact sort of material that was covered in the course that we used to do at Cedars Sinai. And it really is a step by step process for how to understand how you create future experiences and how to begin to really take action to get yourself going, to be able to put that awareness or that understanding into practice.
Wes Moss [00:38:24]:
This is not to cure depression necessarily. This is for anybody to have a clear vision of their future.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:38:34]:
Absolutely anybody can use these tools. That’s absolutely correct. Right. So it started with the idea that I wanted to help people with depression, but these are tools that really anybody can use to improve their life, to create better future experiences. For themselves just to increase positive emotion in their own life.
Wes Moss [00:38:56]:
Yeah, I don’t know if I I’ve never heard before the thought around people who and again, I’ll probably botch this here, but those who have depression, it’s not as though they have more depressed thoughts, but they have less positive thoughts. Explain that to me one more time. That’s really interesting.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:39:14]:
Yeah. So this is Andrew McLeod’s discovery. So he’s at Royal Holloway University in England. Back in the he published a lot of work around this idea. So he managed to separate the idea of future thinking, positive future thinking, and negative future thinking. He’d created a test for this, and he demonstrated that people with depression were actually not thinking more negatively. They were thinking less positively. They had more difficulty producing more of that sort of positive future thinking, which was actually very sort of revolutionary for our field, because prior to that, there was this kind of common sort of acceptance that people with depression were just very negative thinkers. Right. And it turns out that that finding that Dr. McLeod had actually mapped on to all of the biological research on depression, which shows this kind of underactive reward system. Right. So if your brain has a difficult time producing or anticipating rewards, well, then naturally you’re not going to be able to sort of create positive future experiences, thoughts about positive future experiences. So his finding really mapped on to what they were already finding in terms of the sort of biology of what’s driving a lot of depression for people.
Wes Moss [00:40:35]:
And again, that goes back to there’s no reason that somebody who already can do that can’t also enhance how good they are at seeing their future self and creating a visualization of what they really want. And again, that kind of goes back to your book, Think Forward to Thrive. The better we get at that, the more of the reward processing center that we’re stimulating.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:40:58]:
That’s exactly right. Yeah. So it’s already been shown that you can actually increase people’s ability to do this with cognitive exercises, with strategies that they can learn. All right.
Wes Moss [00:41:12]:
The book. Think forward to thrive. How to use the mind’s power of anticipation to transcend your past and transform your life. Thank you so much for being here. I feel like I’m going to start meditating at least ten minutes every single day. I’m going to up my meditation time. But you’re right, you get busy and you stop doing it. That’s the problem I have with four little kids running around the world trying to I’ll try it, and then it’ll get interrupted, and then I won’t remember again. But maybe it’ll make me easier to work with here in the Retire Sooner podcast.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:41:51]:
Yeah. I think the thing that you will find is that when you prioritize yourself, everybody else in your life benefits, because I think that’s the biggest sort of thing that stops people from taking care of themselves is they always feel like they don’t have the time right? But when you make time for yourself, everybody else actually benefits because they get a better version of you writing that.
Wes Moss [00:42:14]:
Down, because I’m going to use that quote when you take care of yourself, everyone else benefits. That’s all.
Jennice Vilhauer [00:42:21]:
Absolutely, very true.
Mallory Boggs [00:42:23]:
Hey, y’all, this is Mallory with the Retire Sooner team. Please be sure to rate and subscribe to this podcast and share it with a friend. If you have any questions, you can find us at WesMoss.com. You can also follow us on Instagram and YouTube. You’ll find us under the handle Retire Sooner Podcast. And now for our show’s. Disclosure this information is provided to you as a resource for informational purposes only and is not to be viewed as investment advice or recommendations. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There is no guaranteed offer that investment return, yield or performance will be achieved. Stock prices fluctuate, sometimes rapidly and dramatically due to factors affecting individual companies, particular industries or sectors, or general market conditions for stocks paying dividends. Dividends are not guaranteed and can increase, decrease, or be eliminated without notice. Fixed income securities involve interest rate, credit, inflation and reinvestment risks and possible loss of principal. As interest rates rise, the value of fixed income securities falls. Past performance is not indicative of future results when considering any investment vehicle. This information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Investment decisions should not be based solely on information contained here. This information is not intended to and should not form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax or investment advisor before making any investment tax, estate or financial planning considerations or decisions. The information contained here is strictly an opinion and it is not known whether the strategies will be successful. The views and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only as of the date of production and may change without notice at any time based on numerous factors such as market and other conditions.
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