Changing my mindset so I look forward to leaving the house


I don't believe that I have agoraphobia. I'm not afraid to leave the house. However, I find that I experience running errands, shopping, going to meetings, doctor's appointments, even entertainment outings, as more of a burden and a nuisance than a fun thing to do---or just something that has to be done.

I thoroughly dislike having to interrupt my day, get ready to go, gather all the stuff that I need to take with me, etc., to do those busy-work things that I need to do in order to make my life healthier, more fulfilling and fun.

I can't seem to do more than one thing a day. I can't go to an early morning meeting and then come home to do something creative. And, if I want to do something creative, I have trouble getting starting because I dread the meeting I have at 1:00 p.m.

It's not as though I'm writing the great American novel and can't afford to get interrupted but I dread these disruptions and have to virtually force myself to go to them. I like staying home way too much.

I need to change my outlook - from curbstone to Labrador retriever. I have places to go and people to see; so I can hardly sit in my house and not take of my life and other things. If you could see a way to make me improve my outlook so that I can stop dreading events/trips that shouldn't be dreaded (nothing major, just such things that I listed above) that would be a life-changing experience for me.

Thank you for your help.


The best way to change your mindset is to change the thoughts that go along with leaving the house. If the negative thoughts can be re-framed into positive ones, you will be able to talk yourself into going instead of talking yourself into staying home. Here are some ways to make these changes:

1) Cost-Benefit Analysis

It is not easy to make changes, because there are good reasons to keep on doing things the same way. Perhaps there are disadvantages to leaving the house, and advantages to not leaving the house, that need to be considered. When you compare the pros and cons of changing, you can decide if it is worth making these changes—and you can be aware of what might get in the way when you do work on changing. Read more about the cost-benefit analysis in David Burns' book, "Feeling Good."

2) Re-framing thoughts

Examine the thoughts that come up when you think about leaving the house. You may find that you are telling yourself things that talk you out of going. It can be helpful to write down the thoughts that go through your mind when you are dreading a task.

For example, you may say, "I don't feel like going. I would rather stay home." This could be re-framed as, "I know I'll be glad I went."

Or you might say, "Ugh, I just dread going to pay bills." Instead, you could tell yourself, "I'm looking forward to having the bills paid. I'll reward myself by going for coffee as soon as I'm done."

Perhaps you say, "I should enjoy this outing. It should be fun. Something must be wrong with me." Instead, try "Right now I'm not looking forward to this afternoon's outing, but I think it will turn out to be fun."

3) Affirmations

Come up with some positive, encouraging statements. Phrase the statements as if they are already true, and repeat them to yourself often. Examples of affirmations:

"I can do many productive things in one day."

"I like getting out of the house."

"I look forward to doing ______."

4) Scheduling

A routine can make tasks easier to do. You might try making a schedule for yourself that includes the following every day:

- something productive

- something to look forward to

- physical activity

- relaxation

- something fun

It is most effective to keep scheduled activities to a minimum, and not try to schedule every hour of the day. Try to plan easy, relaxing, rewarding activities after the ones that are more difficult.

Scheduling something active at the same time each day (a walk, an appointment, or lunch with a friend, for example) can make it easier to get used to following through with these types of activities. Ideally, try to keep a schedule with a few consistent things, including: getting up at the same time each day and performing self-care routines, going to bed at the same time, and having active time scheduled at the same time daily.

Such a routine helps to decrease the preparation time needed to get out and do things (necessary supplies or materials are already gathered in one place). Outings feel less like an interruption, and fit more within the flow of your day.

You may also find it helpful to minimize interruptions by trying to alternate days, when possible, so that the "productive" things fall on one day, and the "creative" things occur on the next day. Then you do not need to interrupt your creativity to go to an appointment, or feel distracted by an upcoming errand when you're trying to be creative.

5) Pleasure Predicting

Before doing an activity, predict how much you will enjoy it, from zero (not at all) to 100 (completely). Then after the activity, rate how enjoyable it actually was. This can help put things in perspective.

Let's say you have an outing scheduled. It could be shopping, errands, an appointment, entertainment…anything, really. Before doing the activity, write down the name of the activity and your predicted enjoyment. For this example, imagine hat you're dreading the activity, and predict that you will not enjoy it much, say 20%. Afterward, you may discover that you actually enjoyed the activity quite a bit, maybe 65%. The next time you do the activity, you probably will not dread it as much. You can read more about this technique in David Burns' book, "Feeling Good."

When Changing is Difficult

Changing is hard! You might find that some of the negative thoughts are very persistent. You may try the techniques above and still dread getting out of the house. Further cognitive (thinking) techniques can be very helpful for changing your mindset. The book "
Feeling Good " by David Burns, describes how to assess, monitor, and change your thinking. The chapter on overcoming procrastination would be especially helpful, because it helps to change the mindset that keeps us from doing activities.

The fact that you want to look forward to doing events and trips suggests that you will be successful in changing your outlook. The desire to change is probably the most important ingredient to changing successfully.

Good luck!

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