Counselor provides tips for positive thinking

By Nancy Asmus
Staff Writer

Brookhaven College students opened and closed their fists around yellow, lemon-shaped stress relievers. As the students loosened their grips, a “Make Lemonade!” logo expanded. The students relieved anxiety during the Open Book Project’s positive thinking workshop.

Students filled the Feb. 20 workshop to hear Beverly Neu Menassa, assistant dean of student services and counselor, speak about positive thinking. She used personal stories, video clips of Randy Pausch, “The Last Lecture” co-author, and a presentation. The presentation included tips on identifying and changing negative thoughts into positive ones.

Neu Menassa said students cannot always prevent bad things from happening, but they can gain greater control of how they feel. “You feel the way you think, and you can change the way you think,” Neu Menassa said.

The Open Book Project committee hosted the workshop as part of a campus-wide program allowing students to read and discuss one book throughout the year.

This year more than 163 Brookhaven classes read the “The Last Lecture,” co-authored by Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow. The book shares Pausch’s tips on how to fulfill childhood dreams, and has a central theme of positivity.

Student Edward Castellanos said since both authors have died, the message provided more impact. “The timing was just right,” Castellanos said.

Some students’ eyes glistened and they wiped away tears as they watched videos of Pausch sharing his life lessons.
Student Chasity Hernandez said with the daily pressures of life – school, full-time job and kids – she connected emotionally hearing from a man struggling with cancer. “I like how [the authors] came together and brought in things that touch you more on an emotional level, like Randy Pausch,” Hernandez said.

Neu Menassa said negative thinking turns into anxiety, stress and depression. She said whether one is a worrier, critic, perfectionist or victim, what one says to himself or herself in any situation mainly determines moods and feelings.
Hernandez said she recognized the difficulty of listening and hearing negative internal chatter. “You have to pay attention to what’s going on inside,” Hernandez said.

Neu Menassa explained self-talk is quick, automatic and hardly noticeable, and it dictates most feelings for people. She said when hearing the inner beast scream inside, students need to stop and relax with deep breaths.

“You have to first notice the negative self-talk, write it down and then rehearse the positive statements,” Neu Menassa said.
She said over-generalizing a situation is when someone thinks that one bad past experience correlates and applies to all future situations.

Student Faustino Sanchez, a self-proclaimed worrier, said he is prone to shy away from things. “I don’t want to do this because I know how it is going to turn out,” Sanchez said. “Like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Neu Menassa said emotional reasoning leads to believing something is true because of how a person feels, not because of the facts of the situation.

She said students need to look at things objectively and avoid impulse decisions derived from jumping to conclusions or believing they know what other people are thinking.

Neu Menassa told students to see the positive in all situations instead of dwelling on the negative.

The workshop closed with a video clip of Pausch delivering a Carnegie Mellon commencement address with only months to live.

“We don’t beat the reaper by living longer but by living well and living fully – for the reaper will come for all of us,” Pausch said. “The question is: what we do between the time you are born and the time he shows up.”