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20 Ways To Be A Happier Person

20 Ways To Be A Happier Person In 2020, According To Therapists
If you’re going to make a resolution for the new year, it may as well be improving your mental health.

Looking to make 2020 your happiest, most fulfilling year yet?

If your mental and emotional wellness took a backseat in 2019, there’s no better time than right now to prioritize it. (If anything, it’ll make the election year just mildly more bearable.) Your mood affects everything in your life ― your relationships, your work, your self-care ― so improving it should be at the top of your goal list.

That might feel like a huge and lofty task, but small, actionable habits can help you get there, according to experts. Below are the most common happiness tips therapists recommend. Maybe they’ll sound challenging or unrealistic (more on that later), but maybe they just might change your life.

1. Conquer one anxiety

Give yourself a motivational benchmark to start conquering your biggest fears this year.

“Single out the goal of selecting an anxiety that is holding you back, and thoroughly commit yourself to obliterating that fear,” said Forrest Talley, a clinical psychologist. “Hold nothing back in your assault; treat that fear as though it is enemy number one.”

Perhaps you’ve been worried about signing up for a half marathon. Maybe you’re afraid to reach out to book agents because you don’t want to be rejected. Perhaps you’re fearful of having a difficult conversation with a toxic friend or family member and you’re putting it off. Set the goal, pick a reward you’ll get when you complete it, then get to it.

“The thing to keep in mind is that very often happiness is found just on the other side of a doorway guarded by our anxieties,” Talley said. “And the new year is a great time to start kicking down some doors.”

2. Lock down a sleep schedule that works for you

You may think you’re doing OK on sleep, but take a closer look at your schedule. Are you really getting optimal hours? Are you maintaining relatively the same bed time every night?

“Getting a [consistent] good night’s sleep is vital; chronic sleep deprivation is a huge problem, especially for those who work late or are extremely busy,” said Joanna Konstantopoulou, a psychologist and founder of the Health Psychology Clinic. “It’s not just the 40-hour marathons without sleep which can be detrimental to your psychological health, but simply losing an hour or two on a regular basis can have a significant impact on your mind and well-being.”

That last bit is important. If you’re constantly shaving off an hour here or there ― thinking you can get by on five hours a night ― it’s time to reevaluate that sleep schedule.

“Start with small steps by giving yourself a sensible and realistic bedtime,” Konstantopoulou said. “Try to go to bed half an hour before your usual bedtime and stick to it. Evaluate this new habit every day by having a journal and writing down your progress.”

She noted that this new routine will improve your memory, reduce anxiety, and “transport toxins out of the brain” to potentially prevent chronic illnesses.

3. Find one small self-care act that works for you and prioritize it

Pick a you-centric activity and engage in it regularly, said Elena Touroni, co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.

“The most impactful mental health goal a person can set is the commitment to balance workload and responsibilities alongside activities that bring them a sense of well-being and enjoyment,” she said. “When there is an imbalance in what we’re giving out to the world, and what we’re taking for ourselves, that’s when our psychological resources get depleted.”

Her suggestions to get you started? Try beginning each day with a five-minute mindfulness meditation session. Want to go further? “Go to therapy to unravel a lifelong pattern, get a personal trainer, or make time for reading,” she said. “This commitment can be broken down into specific and concrete goals, depending on your personal preferences, but it all comes down to making self-care a priority.”

4. Spend 10 minutes a day outside

Go for a walk during your lunch break, spend a few minutes drinking your morning coffee outside or pick up running. It doesn’t even have to be for a long period of time.

“This year, resolve to spend less time inside and more time outdoors in natural settings,” said Michael Brodsky, a psychiatrist. “Research in multiple countries show that spending time in green spaces can lift your mood and relieve anxiety in as little as 10 minutes.”

5. Regularly practice a simple mindfulness exercise

“Many of us spend our days worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, thus, missing a great deal of what is happening in the here-and-now,” said Anna Prudovski, the clinical director of Turning Point Psychological Services.

Making an effort to be more present “increases the sense of well-being, promotes vitality, heightens our awareness, helps train our attention, improves the quality of our work, and enhances interpersonal relationships,” she said. Sounds pretty nice, right? “Be more present” can feel a little vague, so here’s how you can get started:

Each day, spend five minutes noticing your surroundings and how you feel. Do this by naming five things you see, four things you can physically feel, three different sounds you hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It’s OK if you point out something far away from you. Then take a second to label how you’re feeling in the moment (like, “I’m frustrated,” “I’m bored,” or “I’m excited”). This is known as a grounding exercise, which experts say helps with anxiety.

6. Say nice things about yourself

Roseann Capanna-Hodge, pediatric mental health expert and psychologist, suggested an adjustment to your everyday vocabulary, both in your thoughts and out loud.

“Instead of always focusing on the negative, flip your dialogue to only positive outcomes. For example, instead of saying, ‘If I get that job,’ switch it to, ‘When I get that job.’ Those subtle changes in using positive language helps to change your mindset to a glass half full instead of a glass half empty.”

You can also increase your positive thoughts by stating one thing you like about yourself when you look in the mirror each morning. Cheesy, but worth a shot.

7. Give up or cut back on one unhealthy habit

We know when things are bad for us, which can cause stress. You can curb that by reducing them or giving them up entirely, said Sarah C. McEwen, a cognitive psychologist. Think activities like high alcohol consumption or excessive caffeine consumption.

Getting those things in check “will all help to manage stress levels,” McEwen said.

8. Find a physical activity you love

“Exercise plays a large role in mental health,” said physician Jena Sussex-Pizula. “While studies are ongoing, a review article found consistent beneficial effects of exercise on depressive symptoms across multiple studies.”

How often? McEwen suggests 30 minutes a day if you can. “This [amount] has been shown to produce the most benefit for improving mood and reducing stress levels,” she said.

The most important part is finding something you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s pilates, martial arts, spinning, running, dancing or lifting weights ― just make sure the activity is something that excites you.

9. Try meditation

Haven’t jumped on the bandwagon just yet? Now is as good a time as ever. McEwen suggests meditation for those who want to improve their level of stress resilience.

“A mindfulness meditation practice will have a tremendous positive effect longterm,” she said. “I recommend allocating at least 30 minutes daily, which can be divided into morning and evening.”

Feeling intimidated by the concept? McEwen suggested trying a local class or an app like Headspace, Waking Up or Insight Timer.

“Research has shown that the regular practice of meditation can actually improve your health because it lowers the negative effects of not only high cortisol, but also high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” she said. “Other great benefits of regular meditation include mental clarity and focus, improvement of memory and overall higher level of mental performance.”

10. Stop negative thoughts in their tracks

“Our thoughts are not always reality,” said Judy Ho, a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and author of ”Stop Self Sabotage.” “And we need to get into the routine of challenging them and changing our relationships to our thoughts.”

You can do this by asking yourself a simple question when you’re beating yourself up. Next time you have a negative thought, ask yourself: Does this completely and accurately capture what’s going on?”

Ho said from there, you can transform the thought using one of two tactics. One is called “yes, but” and one is called “labeling.”

“‘Yes, but’ involves recognizing a not so great thing, and [adding] something that is positive or shows progress,” she said. “Example: I did eat three cupcakes while trying to cut down on sugar, but I have been doing a great job with healthy eating and can start fresh tomorrow.”

And as for labeling, try mentally recognizing or acknowledging that the thought you’re having is toxic. According to Ho, this “takes the wind out of the sails of a negative thought and reminds you that a thought is just a mental event, and nothing more.”

11. Invest in a quality relationship

“If you want to have good long-term mental and physical health, you need to first see if you have meaningful, loving relationships,” said clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland. “Who knows you better than anyone and who do you know better than anyone? Have you invested in that relationship by staying in touch and talking on the phone (not just texting)? And when was the last time you got together?”

Gilliland suggests picking one person close to you this year, and planning to spend quality time together.

“If we’re not careful, we will end up giving our best in places that aren’t good for our mental health,” he said. “Study after study finds that loving meaningful relationships are good for our mental and physical health.”

12. Read self-development books

“Read at least one book on someone you admire, and how they have dealt with the struggles in their life,” Gilliland said. “There are a lot of ways to learn about your mental health, from therapy to self-help to the lives of other people.”

You can pick up many tips and find a lot of inspiration in these motivational books, whether they’re memoirs or expert-backed advice. Need a specific suggestion?

“I have so enjoyed Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography and recent album ‘Western Stars’ where he talks about his struggle with depression and family issues,” Gilliland said. “It’s powerful and encouraging … You can’t help but see yourself in some of his stories, he can paint with words like very few people can. It’s a wonderful way to learn about your mental health without feeling like its work.”

13. Cut back on your social media use

So often we view people’s highlight reels on social media. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy in our own lives, according to experts. And given that research shows spending too much time online is linked to poor mental health, now’s the perfect time to cut back.

“External validation is temporary; it’s difficult to maintain the pressure to chase ‘likes,’” said therapist Jennifer Musselman. “Build your self esteem from competence of something important to you, and by being of service to others.”

14. Set better boundaries

Did you find yourself feeling chronically overwhelmed and stretched thin in 2019? Time to reel that in and make more space for you by setting boundaries.

“This one is more important than people realize, and they have way more control than they realize,” Gilliland said. “If you don’t want to go, then don’t go!”

Consider: Is it something you think you “should” do? If so, then why? In the words of a popular therapist joke, stop should-ing yourself. Set those boundaries to thrive in 2020.

15. Make a progress list each week

Expecting perfection guarantees you’ll feel like a failure at least part of the time, and can lead to serious anxiety.

“Learn the art of progress, not perfection,” Musselman said. “We are setting ourselves up for failure from the get-go [when we expect] to ‘have it all’ perfectly balanced. In other words, we will always feel like we are failing.”

From “doing it all” as a mom to building your entrepreneurial business to perfecting your talent, it’s time to let go of that expectation that things are always going to be perfect. Instead, try writing down the incremental improvements you made each week. Celebrate small successes that eventually will lead to big ones.

17. Get a therapist if you’re able to do it

If you were trying to get in physical shape and had no idea where to start, you might turn to a coach or personal trainer. Mental health works the same way.

There are so, so many benefits to seeing a therapist. And there are affordable options, too: Attend group therapy at a local mental health center, seek free options in your community, opt for a sliding-scale psychologist, find a provider through your health insurance or try an app like Talkspace to get started.

“Getting a therapist in 2020 would be a good goal if you need a therapist and have been putting it off,” Talley said.

18. Write in a gratitude journal

Practicing gratitude “is so essential for a full and happy life,” Talley said.

Instead of allowing your brain to go to a place of anxiety and stress, Talley says to arm yourself with grateful thoughts. Writing them down helps.

“If you wake up and focus on that which you have to be grateful for, your brain becomes better at finding even more [gratitude],” Talley said.

19. Turn your phone off

It’s been shown in many studies that too much tech time can negatively impact mental health.

Become less available via text and email so you don’t feel emotionally tethered to your phone, and spend more time off your devices. Opt for screen-free activities ― especially at night ― that help you disconnect from certain social and work stressors.

“While it’s unclear if sedentary screen time is a marker for or risk factor for depression (as all that has been shown is a correlation), there appears to be a consistent association of increased screen time in patients with depression and anxiety,” Sussex-Pizula said.

20. Reduce food shame and stress through mindful eating

Have thoughts around food, calories, dieting, etc. been weighing on you in 2019? Lisa Hayim, a registered dietitian and founder of food therapy program Fork The Noise, said it’s time to kick this to the curb.

“When we feel nervous, scared, anxious, or even unsure of what to eat or how much, our stress hormones begin to fire,” she said. “Our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, and we’re no longer making empowered decisions.”

Does this sound like you? Are you constantly thinking about what a food choice might “do” to your body?

“Breathe. Your body knows what it wants and how much it wants, when it wants it,” she said. Listening to it is called intuitive or mindful eating: enjoying whatever you want and taking cues from your body when it’s hungry and full.

“Decreasing stress around food choices is not just good for the body, it’s good for the mind and the soul,” Hayim said.

 

By Dominique Astorino   12/30/2019
wellness@huffpost.com.
happiness-comes-from-within-and-is-found-in-the-present-moment-by-making-peace-with-the-past-and-looking-forward-to-the-future

 

6 Things To Let Go Of
If You Want To Be A Tiny Bit Happier This Year

Examining the toxic thoughts and behaviors that you should kick to the curb and advice on how to do it.

Most people kick off January by creating resolutions that drastically aim to add healthy habits to their daily lives (which doesn’t always work, by the way ― and that’s OK). But sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to let some things go instead.

“The new year offers a fresh opportunity, while the weight of the past keeps us in a place of inaction,” said Olecia Christie, a certified life coach and owner of Optix Communications in San Antonio, noting that it’s important to discern when to release the things that no longer serve our own growth and happiness.

With that in mind, here are a few things you should consider leaving behind in the new year, according to Christie and other experts:

Comparing your life to others’ on Instagram

In this era of social media, it always appears that everyone is living their best life — that is, everyone except you. Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, a licensed marriage and family therapist at The Zinnia Practice in California, said you should remember that social media is a highlight reel. Comparing your daily life to a single picture capturing a perfect moment isn’t the best use of your time.

Instead, Osibodu-Onyali suggested engaging with the people you admire in 2020.

“Rather than spending so many hours per week scrolling mindlessly, begin to actually connect with people you admire on social media. Send them a DM, ask for advice, seek out actual mentorship,” she said. “You’ll be surprised how many new friends you will acquire just by reaching out, rather than being a jealous onlooker.”

Letting fear hold you back from something you want to do

Anthony Freire, the clinical director and founder of The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling in New York, said in order to release fear, shame and guilt, you must first “shine a spotlight” on them.

“On your deathbed, you don’t want to be kicking yourself for not having completed your bucket list for any reason, but especially because of feelings like guilt, fear and shame — which are only problematic feelings because you’ve told yourself that you should feel that way,” he said.

Worrying about things you cannot control

It’s unrealistic to suggest giving up worry or stress entirely ― these feelings are a normal part of life. Instead, try to focus just on the worries you can take action on.

“Focus your thoughts on things you can change. When you have a list of worry thoughts, write out what you can change and what you can’t. Work on the situation that you can change, and just release the rest. It takes a lot of time and practice to learn this skill, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that you’ll worry less,” Osibodu-Onyali explained.

For some, this is easier said than done. If you find that you’re unable to manage your excessive worrying ― especially over things out of your control ― it might be worth seeking advice from a professional. This could be a sign of an anxiety disorder, which is a very real and common condition.

Old grudges or grievances

Research shows holding onto a grudge or anger for longer than necessary can be toxic for your physical and mental health. Right now is the perfect opportunity to work on letting go of some old baggage “by either working on repairing strained relationships or closing the chapter on relationships that cannot be salvaged,” Osibodu-Onyali said.

This doesn’t apply to people who have severely damaged or hurt you, but could be useful for someone you’ve grown distant with or just no longer envision as a healthy part of your life. You can either choose to move forward or let go.

“Although saying goodbye to a relationship can be tough, the closure can be very freeing,” Osibodu-Onyali said.

What other people think of you

There’s a saying that goes “what other people think of you is none of your business.” It’s important to know what your values are and to be grounded in them, so that you’re not swayed by the thoughts of others. Osibodu-Onyali said she often challenges her clients by asking: “So what if they don’t like you? What happens next?” She said more often than not, the answer is usually “nothing.”

“The truth is that the world doesn’t end and you don’t have to be liked by everyone,” she said. “Stick to your core group of supporters who truly love and respect you, and don’t spend time worrying about the people who don’t quite get you. If they don’t get you, that’s OK. You can’t be a part of every group.”

The need to be right in every conflict

We’ve all strived to win arguments; however, that can cause more stress than it’s worth. Freire said letting go of the need to win “takes up enormous energy because people tend to want to be right.”

“How many times do we fight with someone and we’re simply fighting to be right?” he said. “We say things we can’t take back and later we apologize and think to ourselves ‘I overreacted’ or ‘We fought over something so stupid.’ Sometimes we don’t even remember why we were fighting to begin with. Sometimes trivial things we get stuck on are just smaller manifestations of larger underlying issues.”

These kinds of interactions can often lead to “negative self-talk and anxiety as [we] overanalyze the situation and stress about the impact of the interaction,” according to Elise Hall, a licensed and independent clinical social worker in Massachusetts.

Instead, try looking at a fight as a problem to be solved (experts say there’s one phrase that can easily help you do this with a partner). This can help you let go of the need to be right and put your focus on a solution.

This all might be challenging, but it could be worth it to increase your joy — even just by a fraction.

By Stephanie Barnes      01/02/2020


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The Best Support and Practices For Your Mental Health

A psychologist shares tips on how to find and maintain the mental health support you need.

Mental health struggles can affect anyone. Even high-profile celebrities put on a brave public face to hide their struggles, and no one (not even Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade, who both died by suicide in June 2018) is immune.

But the reality is many people living with mental health issues and other invisible conditions still sweep internal despair under the rug instead of opening the curtain of their own psyche to find answers. This has largely to do with the continued stigma of seeking out mental health support. Sheryl Blum, a Montreal-based psychologist, says the reason many hesitate to get help is due to “discomfort in having to admit there’s a problem and needing outside assistance; shame; and being scared about what they’ll uncover if they come to therapy.”

If you need help, know you are not alone; research has shown that one in five Canadians experience a mental health problem in any given year. Overcoming the long-held stigma against talking to a mental health professional by seeking therapy isn’t an admission of fault—it’s an admission of the desire to be happier, less anxious and more at ease.

Here are a few tips to help you determine if seeking mental health support is right for you, and if so, the next steps you can take.

1. LOOK FOR WARNING SIGNS
Everyone experiences periods of sadness, stress, anger and confusion, but when certain feelings start to take over your life and debilitate you, those are warning signs to get help.  Blum recommends looking for significant changes in behaviour. “One of the things I do when someone first comes to see me is what I call ‘back to basics,’” says Blum. “I ask: How are you sleeping? How are you eating? Are you doing exercise? Are you seeing friends? Are you doing work? I look for the balance, and if there’s an upset in the balance, that’s where I want to start. Those are important signs to look for.”

So how do you know if there’s an imbalance before you talk to a professional? Trust your gut. “If your gut is telling you, I just don’t feel right, something is off—even if you can’t pinpoint what exactly it is—that merits watching, documenting, and noticing if it’s affecting your sleep and your appetite,” says Blum. She also recommends being mindful of an unusual drop in your functioning at school, work and social activities.

2. ENGAGE WITH THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA
There have been many campaigns, like #EndtheStigma and Canada’s very own #BellLetsTalk and #OneBraveNight, that have fought head-on to bring the topic of mental illness to the forefront and provide courage to the public to take care of themselves.

Yes, social media has gotten a bad rap over the years, and there are definitely negative aspects—just as with almost everything in life, there can be cons—however, the creation of mental health initiatives through social hashtags promotes open discussions and enables individuals from all over to bring personal journeys into the public domain. This, in turn, helps normalize the conversation, lets people connect with others struggling, and can act as a medium for discovering recovery resources and support.

3. CONSIDER CHECKING IN WITH YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR FIRST
A primary care doctor can play a critical role in one’s mental health journey. “I think they are the first step,” says Blum. “If somebody comes to me and they have not gone for a physical checkup, I actually will request they do.” She further explains that many medical issues can cause psychological issues. “For example, a thyroid imbalance can cause anxiety or depression, so maybe you need something to regulate your thyroid instead of spending a year in therapy.” And unlike a psychologist, a family physician is able to prescribe and monitor medication if needed. “I think they’re hugely important so that you can rule out anything medical.”

 

mental health tips

4. CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS
With over a half-dozen different professions that provide services that focus on helping a person overcome a concern (like psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed counsellors, and clinical social workers), choosing the right therapist to connect with can seem like an overwhelming hurdle to surmount. Blum describes the process much like dating; you may have to meet a few different ones before you find your perfect match.

Knowing where to look for a mental health professional is a helpful start. Blum recommends online resource Psychology Today, which has an extensive directory of therapists, treatment centres, and support groups. Visitors are able to filter their search by location, insurance, faith, sexuality, age, treatment approach and desired language. Opening up to supportive friends and family about what’s going on is also good. Not only are you allowing them to be part of your support team, but it’s also possible they can share recommendations or experts that have worked for them personally.

5. DO AN INTERVIEW
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few therapists who look promising, opt for a quick consultation call before committing. “I’ll always chat with people for 15 to 20 minutes, no charge,” says Blum. “You can get a feel for what the [therapist] is like, and it also helps me because maybe there’s a problem [somebody] tells me about that’s not my specialty. I wouldn’t want to waste their time, and then I can refer them to a colleague or somewhere else.”

6. MEET THE THERAPIST OR PSYCHOLOGIST BEFORE FIRMLY DECIDING
“You want to try the person out,” says Blum. “Somebody can look really good on paper, but I don’t think reading someone’s bio necessarily gives you a sense of what’s going on.” By going in and actually sitting with and talking to someone, you can get a better feel for whether it will work for you. Then you can ask yourself: “Do I feel comfortable with this person? Do I think that I might be able to trust them as the sessions move on? Do they appear confident? Are they reviewing things like consent? Are they telling me what to expect? Are they answering my questions? Do they have a diploma on the wall? Do I feel safe and comfortable on their couch or in their chair?”

7. TALK IT OUT
Finding the right therapist is one thing, but often an even bigger hurdle is trying to decide which type of support you should receive. It really depends on what your mental health struggles are, and “you might not know what your problem is until you go for help,” says Blum. Her advice? Just begin. If upon talking to a therapist, you both decide that there is another professional better suited to address your mental health concerns, your therapist will be able to refer you to the appropriate person.

Choosing a therapy type, from psychoanalytic therapy to behavioural and cognitive therapy, also comes down to a personal call. “You’ll know,” says Blum. “If nothing is changing or things are getting worse, then it’s the wrong approach.”

MOST IMPORTANTLY, TALK TO SOMEONE YOU CAN CONNECT WITH
At the end of the day, the most important aspect of therapy is the relationship you have with your therapist, despite the treatment approach. “There’s nothing that replaces what we call the therapeutic alliance, which is the connection between the therapist and the client,” says Blum. “That alliance is where the magic happens and is the biggest predictor of someone making an improvement.”

It’s often spoken about in hushed tones, but seeing a therapist can make a world of difference for anyone who struggles with mental health issues.

This article is featured on:Mental health in Canada
BY: NATASHA BRUNO


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Experts Urge Huge Expansion of Online Therapy For Mental Illness

A “massive and growing” mental health burden across the world can only be tackled successfully with a major expansion of online psychiatric resources such as virtual clinics and web-based psychotherapies, specialists said on Tuesday.

With resources tight and the global mental health system only serving around 10 percent of patients even now, specialists speaking at the European Congress on Psychiatry (ECP) said the web is the only option for significant extra treatment capacity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week mental disorders – in particular depression – are now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.

Rates of depression have risen by more than 18 percent since 2005, the WHO says, and a lack of support for mental health combined with a common fear of stigma means many do not get the treatment they need. [L2N1H70MW]

Michael Krausz, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and a leading specialist at the World Psychiatric Association, said “E-mental health” should be a major part of the answer.

“Through a proactive approach we can create an additional virtual system of care which could build capacity, improve the quality of care and make mental health care more effective,” he told the ECP.

Web-based psychological treatments such as online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) have proven effective in several conditions including depression and anxiety. Krausz said there is also potential for online CBT to be modified for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Online assessments, web-based psychotherapies,… and online research strategies will significantly change the field,” he told the congress.

Technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence can also be used in certain therapies for anxiety, and various online games and apps are being developed to support treatment of depression in children.

In another example, scientists at King’s College London have developed an avatar-based system to help treat people with schizophrenia who hear distressing voices.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland,; Editing by Stephen Powell)         Mon Apr 3, 2017


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13 Incredibly Smart Tips To Be Happier From Mental Health Experts

Genius tips from people whose job it is to make you feel better.

It’s pretty safe to assume that you want to be happy, because…well, who doesn’t? But how to actually make that happen is a little more elusive. BuzzFeed Life talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.

Of course, everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table and some people might be living with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety that make things more complicated. But hopefully you might be able to find a few pieces of advice here that can help life feel a little easier.
Heads up: Responses were edited for length.

1. Realize that happiness doesn’t mean having everything you want and being problem-free all the time.

“We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond. When we respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and adopt a victim mentality, we suffer. When we choose to respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening for me and what can I learn?’ then we feel a lot more empowered, which impacts our mental state positively.

The biggest misconception about happiness is that we can outsource it — that something external is going to make us happy. Happiness is NOT a constant state. As humans we experience and grow through a variety of emotions. The expectation that we should be happy all the time will leave anyone with an expectation hangover. What we can be is grateful.”

—Christine Hassler, empowerment coach and author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life

2. Cut “should” from your vocabulary, because it basically guarantees whatever you think “should” happen, won’t.

“When we use the word ‘should,’ it’s like this big, judgmental finger wagging at yourself. ‘I should work out more, I should be happier, I should be more grateful.’ It causes us to feel guilt and shame. It depletes our happiness. It causes us to engage in behaviors that are completely against what we want.
Instead, replace ‘should’ with ‘I would like.’ For example, ‘I’d like to lose weight, because I want to have more energy and be a role model.’ That is more motivational, it’s more based on passion rather than the fear and judgment of ourselves that prevents us from being the people that we want to be.”

—Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

3. Remember that your negative thoughts are not true. They’re just thoughts.

“Sadly, many people make the mistake of believing the negative things that their ‘inner voice’ tells them, often without even being aware of their right to question whether these things are accurate! When it comes to mental health care, many people still think you will need to spend years exploring your childhood or past in order to get better. That’s simply not the case nowadays. Catch, challenge, and change negative thoughts.”

—Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York

4. Start your day by reminding yourself one positive thing about your life.

“This can be a small observation like enjoying beautiful weather or something more profound like recognizing you have achieved one step towards a life goal (working in the industry you always dreamt of, have a best friend who you are grateful for, etc). We tend to hold onto negatives a lot stronger than positives so this can be a small way to give yourself a moment to check in with the ‘happier’ thoughts and realities.”

—Jess Allen, LMSW, ACT, NYC-based cognitive behavioral therapist

5. Anyone can benefit from therapy, so consider making an appointment for a checkup.

“There is a stereotype that many people have about the unique person who chooses to see a therapist. ‘They must be an emotional wreck,’ or ‘they can’t take care of their own problems,’ or ‘they must be crazy.’ That last one is probably the most popular and worst misconception of them all!
It takes a lot of insight and emotional awareness to realize that you want to enlist the services of a trained mental health therapist to get the right help you need. Yes, there are some clients who seek therapy when they are at the absolute lowest emotional point in their lives, but there are also just as many who simply want to become emotionally healthier people to enhance their work and intimate relationships. No problem is too small or large when you come to see one of us. It’s all welcomed because our job is to meet you where you are at in life, not where we or anyone else thinks you should be.”

—Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based counselor

work-life-balance

 

6. Don’t think about your work responsibilities at home, and vice versa.

“Be present when present, which requires dropping the guilt. Guilt has no benefits for anyone. When you are at work, stay focused, when you are home, give [it] your undivided attention. Doing your best in each place will keep you sane and feeling good about your output.”

—Samantha Ettus, work-life balance expert

7. Stop checking your smartphone randomly. Instead, give yourself specific times to catch up on social media and email.

“Most people would be happier (and less stressed) if they checked their phone less. A study of college students at Kent State University found that people who check their phones frequently tend to experience higher levels of distress during their leisure time (when they intend to relax!).
Instead of willing ourselves to just check less often, we can configure our devices and work time so that we are tempted less often. The goal is to check email, social media, and messages on your phone just a few times a day — intentionally, not impulsively. Our devices are thus returned to their status as tools we use strategically — not slot machines that randomly demand our energy and attention.”

—Christine Carter, Ph.D., happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work

8. Make keeping up with your friendships a priority.

“People think that when work or school or family responsibilities get busy, then hanging out with your friends becomes a luxury that has to be cut. It’s often the first thing to go, even if people are still going to the gym or binge-watching whatever’s new on Netflix. In reality, making sure to spend time with your friends has enormous mental health benefits, and keeps your stress level in check. It’s a great coping mechanism and a necessity for your health that should not be cut when things get tough — on the contrary, you need it more then than ever.”

—Andrea Bonior, Ph.D, clinical psychologist

9. Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

“A lot of people rush around without devoting a few minutes each week to reflecting and strategizing. We may all recognize we’ve periodically contemplated signing up to volunteer at Big Brother Big Sister, then totally forget. Or we mean to switch jobs and then procrastinate, [then] we’re facing our second year in a position we planned to quickly exit.
As Greg McKeown notes in his book, Essentialism, ‘When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and times, other people — our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families — will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.’
Spend time each week planning ahead — plan activities you may enjoy in the moment and also think bigger, considering what you want long term.”

—Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., clinical psychologist

10. Treat yourself with compassion and lots of love.

“People believe that self-care is selfish, so they avoid doing things that are actually necessities. Self-love, self-care, and self-fulfillment. It’s a lot of self, because happiness starts from within. Self-love includes eliminating negative self-talk and accepting yourself, flaws and all. Self-care means setting boundaries and taking time to refill your energy. Self-fulfillment is all about living your values and having authentic relationships.”

—Rachel DeAlto, communications and relationship expert

11. Don’t forget that your physical health has an impact on your mental health, too.

“Some physical things you can do to create a habit of happiness:
—Honor your circadian rhythm by waking shortly after sunrise and going to sleep a few hours after sunset. Not only do we need seven to nine hours of sleep in order to be happy, but our brain functions better by sharing the rhythm of the sun.
—Incorporate play into your life: Some easy ways to this are when you exercise, do something that makes you laugh, like a dance class, jumping on a trampoline, or playing a group sport.
—Meditate. This can be as simple as an app [like] Headspace.”

—Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist

12. Several times throughout your day, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is OK. Eventually, your brain will get the memo.

“The bills may be piling up with you having no idea of how they are going to get paid. Your mother may have Alzheimer’s, and dealing with that is wearing you out. You may be starting to wonder if there really is someone out there for you. BUT in this moment, your heart is beating, you’re breathing, and you have food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Underneath all the circumstances, desires, and wants, you’re OK. While fixing dinner, walking through the grocery store, driving to work, or reading emails, come into the present moment and remind your brain, ‘I’m all right, right now.’
Over time with repetition, learning to come into the present and calming your brain and body will actually change the neural pathways in your brain — a scientific truth called neuroplasticity — so that this becomes the norm for you.”

—Debbie Hampton, founder of The Best Brain Possible and author of Beat Depression and Anxiety By Changing Your Brain

13. Make a conscious effort to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.

“Too many people neglect to make their mental health a priority! And so it gets forgotten about and put in the ‘too-hard’ or ‘too-busy.’ But just like physical health, mental health really should be considered non-negotiable because without it, we have nothing else.
If I had to limit the key ingredients to happiness and good mental health to just a few I’d say good quality relationships and connectedness, good physical health and well-being, living a life with meaning and purpose, loving oneself and others, and having a sense of hope and optimism for the future.”

—Timothy Sharp, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of 100 Ways To Happiness: A Guide for Busy People.

Jul. 9, 2015     Anna Borges     BuzzFeed Staff
 


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Can We Ever Really Change Who We Are?

As a psychiatrist and novelist concerned with people’s inner conflicts, I’m often asked whether people can truly change.

The answer is: yes, and no.

Most mental health professionals agree that our deeply embedded traits and tendencies are ingrained by the time we’re adolescents. Yes, there can be some minor modifications after that, but our basic way of interacting with others is pretty much set by the time we’re 17 or 18. We interact with others in a fairly inflexible and deep-rooted manner. It’s our “way of being.”

So what about someone seeking psychotherapy because of unhappiness with relationships and how life is going? What about the person who repeats endlessly the same maladaptive patterns of behavior leading to frustration, failure, unhappiness, and even depression? Or the person whose relationships are tainted by neediness, or dependency, or the wish to dominate others; or any other traits that make for problems interacting with people?

You’ll notice these aren’t symptoms such as a phobia, or panic episodes, or an onset of a symptom causing psychic distress. Rather, these are enduring personality traits, not temporary states of being.

The goal of any psychotherapy is to help a person develop a better understanding of one’s self. It’s called insight. Hopefully, by developing an awareness of personality flaws, a person can recognize them, and nip them in the bud before they exert themselves and ruin relationships. If this can be accomplished, the person may experience less conflict or tension with other people, and lead a more fulfilling life.

For example, a man comes for counseling because he’s been fired from three different jobs. During sessions (to which he always arrives late), he realizes that as far back as elementary school, he undermined his own success by tardiness and by not completing tasks on time. In high school, he received Cs instead of As because he never submitted his work by the stated deadline. In business, he repeated the same pattern.

masks

He also learns in the psychotherapy sessions that as a child, being late or dawdling was a way to get much-coveted attention from his parents. Without realizing it, throughout his adult life, he’s been repeating this pattern with every authority figure. This has been the source of conflict, failure, firings and general unhappiness throughout his adult life.

With awareness of this tendency, he can begin working to change this maladaptive and self-destructive behavioral pattern — this deeply ingrained trait. He may not always be successful in this effort, but some positive and adaptive changes in his behavior can occur.

While his trait may not have been eradicated, his behavior and interactions with others can begin to change for the better.

I like to think of it in this simple way: Imagine personality style as a 90-degree angle. If a person can move that angle a mere three degrees, then a significant change in how one interacts with other people is surely possible. This can lead to positive changes.

So once again, can people change their basic personality patterns?

Yes, and no. While they don’t alter their basic personalities, through insight, they can change their behavior and become more skillful in their interactions.

 By Mark Rubinstein, MD 
 
Mark Rubinstein, M.D. is an award-winning novelist, physician and psychiatrist. 
He’s the author of Bedlam’s Door: True Tales of Madness and Hope,
a non-fiction memoir with actual patients’ stories that read like fiction.
For more information, please visit www.markrubinstein-author.com
 


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6 Things You Should Not Ignore In Mental Health Care

By Támara Hill, MS, NCC, LPC 

Do you have a therapist? What about a psychiatrist to prescribe medication? How do you feel about them? Mental health care has become a controversial field for many reasons but most clients and families are fearful of being mistreated, misdiagnosed,  used, misunderstood, controlled, and mistreated. It is a sad reality that fearful and uncertain clients drop out of therapy completely. Others may self-medicate or speak to and learn from family and friends who can offer suggestions or “therapy” for free. In my sessions with clients, I often remind parents and families that they have, what we can conceptualize as,  50% control over their treatment. For example, clients can decide who to see for therapy or medication management, refuse to pay for services that they are not satisfied by, file a grievance if they are not satisfied with their service, among many other things. This article will review and discuss some of the things that you should keep in mind while seeking mental health care for yourself or someone you love.

It is important that we all research what we are being told by a healthcare professional and research the type of medication being prescribed, the diagnosis, and other important factors involved in healthcare. I often provide http://www.drugs.com to my client’s and their families to research medications prescribed. But there are many other sites that can offer education and insight into mental health challenges.There are also thousands of websites, apps, and articles on everything from depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts to sleep disorders, personality disorders, and impulse control disorders. Social media provides  multiple avenues to research and confirm a diagnosis. Unfortunately, there are some clients who simply rely on the knowledge and experience of the therapist or mental health professional treating them. This is not the route to take as independence and self-knowledge will  be the most important tool when pursuing mental health services. Independence begins when you take control of your treatment. Some things to remember to kick-start the process include:

therapy
  1. You (or those close to you) truly do know you better: It is often very disappointing to hear my client’s discuss how overly confident, arrogant, and self-assured their previous therapist or psychiatrist was while treating them. It is even more disappointing to find out that every decision that has been made in the life of a client was influenced by the healthcare professional and not the individual client or those close to the client. Many of my teen clients seek outpatient care hoping that they will once again regain their level of independence in making decisions on the type of medications they would like to try and the type of providers they hope to see. Unfortunately, there are some providers who will take the reigns and do whatever they see fit for a client without truly listening to the needs of the client and family. Don’t forget that you (and those you designate) should be making the ultimate decisions on your healthcare. Recommendations or suggestions by healthcare professionals are just that, recommendations or suggestions but they should never take your freedom to make the final decision.
  2. Professionals don’t always know how to correctly conceptualize your  illness: It is a known fact that the field of psychology is not an exact science. We have come a very long way in studying, diagnosing, and treating certain mental illnesses. We have also come a long way in identifying illness. But this does not mean that we always know what something is,  we always know how to treat  something, or we always know how to make sense out of symptoms. If you haven’t noticed already, the DSM (and its many revisions) is simply a guide to mental health professionals and an organized way to communicate with other professionals and patients/clients who are seeking care. The best way to conceptualize the DSM is to see it as a manual that guides mental health professionals in making sense out of symptoms but does not, in any way, always accurately describe an illness. This is why so many people are misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and are unable to obtain necessary services to treat symptoms. For example, depression symptoms (low level of motivation, anhedonia, depressed or sad mood, delusional thinking or other psychotic features, confusion, appetite difficulties, sleep difficulties, and suicidal thoughts) can be very similar to the negative features of schizophrenia or a personality disorder such as borderline personality disorder. It is likely that a mental health professional (or even professionals) can misdiagnose you or someone you love. This is not unheard of. Motivation to learn about, research, confirm, and even questions symptoms/diagnosis will help you or a loved one avoid confusion and obtain the services that can be helpful in recovery.
  3. Some healthcare professionals are motivated by selfish gain: It is also a known fact that some mental health professionals are in the field for personal reasons. Those personal reasons can include but are not limited to: attention, a certain level of power (through authority as someone who can make decisions on someone’s life, supervising, or making organizational changes within an agency), personal challenges with mental health (one’s own illness, a friend, or family), financial freedom (primarily for those individuals who obtain a doctorate in psychology and can teach at Colleges, write prestigious books, etc.), independence (by having one’s own business or practice) among many other reasons. It is important to add that many mental health professionals are not in the field for financial gain or any other reason than to help and make necessary changes in the field. But it is also reality that some seek internal gratification by becoming a part of the field. That being said, you should question the motivation of a mental health professional and seek someone who truly wants to help.
  4. Everyone with a shingle/degree/certification is not always informed or helpful: It is important to research your healthcare professional before you meet with them. There are all kinds of rating sites that help you determine if you should meet with or continue to do business with a mental health professional. Some ratings can be biased, while others are very helpful. Choose your information wisely and ask around your local area. Word of mouth is sometimes useful in helping you make decisions. It is also important to keep in mind that not every professional with a certification or degree can understand your needs. Finding a competent mental health professional can take time so do your best to research, evaluate, and determine what you need.
  5. Most people know themselves best: Believe it or not, many of us can be our own mental health therapist by engaging in introspection (looking within). This, of course, is not always possible due to the fact that some illnesses are very severe and require professional attention. It is important to avoid self-diagnosis because sometimes it can cause more problems than you think. However, we often know ourselves well and can typically make decisions for ourselves. That being said, it is okay to be the judge of what you need sometimes. A mental health professional will assist you (when appropriate), support you, and offer treatment but they should not make decisions for you, tell you how to think or feel, or control your life.
  6. Arrogance, complacency, popularity, favoritism does not = professionalism: It is sad but a lot of people believe that if someone is overly confident, complacent or comfortable in the work they do (i.e.,their profession), popular, and appears to be favored by reputable people that the person must be competent, friendly, and caring. Think again. We should all aim to avoid judging people based on their status alone. My experience over the past 6-7 years has been that each therapist has a different clinical style, life goals, perspectives on life, trainings, different values and morals, etc. that influences not only their personal life but their job. If you sense the slightest amount of arrogance or notice any negative traits, move on and start researching. You deserve more than that.

 


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13 Incredibly Smart Tips To Be Happier From Mental Health Experts

Genius tips from people whose job it is to make you feel better.

Jul. 9, 2015      Anna Borges

It’s pretty safe to assume that you want to be happy, because…well, who doesn’t? But how to actually make that happen is a little more elusive. BuzzFeed Life talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.

Of course, everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table and some people might be living with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety that make things more complicated. But hopefully you might be able to find a few pieces of advice here that can help life feel a little easier.
Heads up: Responses were edited for length.

1. Realize that happiness doesn’t mean having everything you want and being problem-free all the time.

“We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond. When we respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and adopt a victim mentality, we suffer. When we choose to respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening for me and what can I learn?’ then we feel a lot more empowered, which impacts our mental state positively.
The biggest misconception about happiness is that we can outsource it — that something external is going to make us happy. Happiness is NOT a constant state. As humans we experience and grow through a variety of emotions. The expectation that we should be happy all the time will leave anyone with an expectation hangover. What we can be is grateful.”

—Christine Hassler, empowerment coach and author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life

2. Cut “should” from your vocabulary, because it basically guarantees whatever you think “should” happen, won’t.

“When we use the word ‘should,’ it’s like this big, judgmental finger wagging at yourself. ‘I should work out more, I should be happier, I should be more grateful.’ It causes us to feel guilt and shame. It depletes our happiness. It causes us to engage in behaviors that are completely against what we want.
Instead, replace ‘should’ with ‘I would like.’ For example, ‘I’d like to lose weight, because I want to have more energy and be a role model.’ That is more motivational, it’s more based on passion rather than the fear and judgment of ourselves that prevents us from being the people that we want to be.”

—Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

3. Remember that your negative thoughts are not true. They’re just thoughts.

“Sadly, many people make the mistake of believing the negative things that their ‘inner voice’ tells them, often without even being aware of their right to question whether these things are accurate! When it comes to mental health care, many people still think you will need to spend years exploring your childhood or past in order to get better. That’s simply not the case nowadays. Catch, challenge, and change negative thoughts.”

—Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York

4. Start your day by reminding yourself one positive thing about your life.

“This can be a small observation like enjoying beautiful weather or something more profound like recognizing you have achieved one step towards a life goal (working in the industry you always dreamt of, have a best friend who you are grateful for, etc). We tend to hold onto negatives a lot stronger than positives so this can be a small way to give yourself a moment to check in with the ‘happier’ thoughts and realities.”

—Jess Allen, LMSW, ACT, NYC-based cognitive behavioral therapist

5. Anyone can benefit from therapy, so consider making an appointment for a checkup.

“There is a stereotype that many people have about the unique person who chooses to see a therapist. ‘They must be an emotional wreck,’ or ‘they can’t take care of their own problems,’ or ‘they must be crazy.’ That last one is probably the most popular and worst misconception of them all!
It takes a lot of insight and emotional awareness to realize that you want to enlist the services of a trained mental health therapist to get the right help you need. Yes, there are some clients who seek therapy when they are at the absolute lowest emotional point in their lives, but there are also just as many who simply want to become emotionally healthier people to enhance their work and intimate relationships. No problem is too small or large when you come to see one of us. It’s all welcomed because our job is to meet you where you are at in life, not where we or anyone else thinks you should be.”

—Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based counselor

woman-talking-with-therapist

 

6. Don’t think about your work responsibilities at home, and vice versa.

“Be present when present, which requires dropping the guilt. Guilt has no benefits for anyone. When you are at work, stay focused, when you are home, give [it] your undivided attention. Doing your best in each place will keep you sane and feeling good about your output.”

—Samantha Ettus, work-life balance expert

7. Stop checking your smartphone randomly. Instead, give yourself specific times to catch up on social media and email.

“Most people would be happier (and less stressed) if they checked their phone less. A study of college students at Kent State University found that people who check their phones frequently tend to experience higher levels of distress during their leisure time (when they intend to relax!).
Instead of willing ourselves to just check less often, we can configure our devices and work time so that we are tempted less often. The goal is to check email, social media, and messages on your phone just a few times a day — intentionally, not impulsively. Our devices are thus returned to their status as tools we use strategically — not slot machines that randomly demand our energy and attention.”

—Christine Carter, Ph.D., happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work

8. Make keeping up with your friendships a priority.

“People think that when work or school or family responsibilities get busy, then hanging out with your friends becomes a luxury that has to be cut. It’s often the first thing to go, even if people are still going to the gym or binge-watching whatever’s new on Netflix. In reality, making sure to spend time with your friends has enormous mental health benefits, and keeps your stress level in check. It’s a great coping mechanism and a necessity for your health that should not be cut when things get tough — on the contrary, you need it more then than ever.”

—Andrea Bonior, Ph.D, clinical psychologist

9. Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

“A lot of people rush around without devoting a few minutes each week to reflecting and strategizing. We may all recognize we’ve periodically contemplated signing up to volunteer at Big Brother Big Sister, then totally forget. Or we mean to switch jobs and then procrastinate, [then] we’re facing our second year in a position we planned to quickly exit.
As Greg McKeown notes in his book, Essentialism, ‘When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and times, other people — our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families — will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.’
Spend time each week planning ahead — plan activities you may enjoy in the moment and also think bigger, considering what you want long term.”

—Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., clinical psychologist

10. Treat yourself with compassion and lots of love.

“People believe that self-care is selfish, so they avoid doing things that are actually necessities. Self-love, self-care, and self-fulfillment. It’s a lot of self, because happiness starts from within. Self-love includes eliminating negative self-talk and accepting yourself, flaws and all. Self-care means setting boundaries and taking time to refill your energy. Self-fulfillment is all about living your values and having authentic relationships.”

—Rachel DeAlto, communications and relationship expert

11. Don’t forget that your physical health has an impact on your mental health, too.

“Some physical things you can do to create a habit of happiness:
—Honor your circadian rhythm by waking shortly after sunrise and going to sleep a few hours after sunset. Not only do we need seven to nine hours of sleep in order to be happy, but our brain functions better by sharing the rhythm of the sun.
—Incorporate play into your life: Some easy ways to this are when you exercise, do something that makes you laugh, like a dance class, jumping on a trampoline, or playing a group sport.
—Meditate. This can be as simple as an app [like] Headspace.”

—Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist

12. Several times throughout your day, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is OK. Eventually, your brain will get the memo.

“The bills may be piling up with you having no idea of how they are going to get paid. Your mother may have Alzheimer’s, and dealing with that is wearing you out. You may be starting to wonder if there really is someone out there for you. BUT in this moment, your heart is beating, you’re breathing, and you have food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Underneath all the circumstances, desires, and wants, you’re OK. While fixing dinner, walking through the grocery store, driving to work, or reading emails, come into the present moment and remind your brain, ‘I’m all right, right now.’
Over time with repetition, learning to come into the present and calming your brain and body will actually change the neural pathways in your brain — a scientific truth called neuroplasticity — so that this becomes the norm for you.”

—Debbie Hampton, founder of The Best Brain Possible and author of Beat Depression and Anxiety By Changing Your Brain

13. Make a conscious effort to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.

“Too many people neglect to make their mental health a priority! And so it gets forgotten about and put in the ‘too-hard’ or ‘too-busy.’ But just like physical health, mental health really should be considered non-negotiable because without it, we have nothing else.
If I had to limit the key ingredients to happiness and good mental health to just a few I’d say good quality relationships and connectedness, good physical health and well-being, living a life with meaning and purpose, loving oneself and others, and having a sense of hope and optimism for the future.”

—Timothy Sharp, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of 100 Ways To Happiness: A Guide for Busy People.


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The 12 Things Sigmund Freud Got Right

May 6 was Sigmund Freud’s birthday (born in 1856). It has been more or less 100 years since Freud wrote many of his groundbreaking books and papers on the human mind – exploring and theorizing about dreams, culture, childhood development, sexuality and mental health. And while some of his theories have been discredited, many major ideas have been borne out and are still relevant today, according to Discover Magazine. They are a roadmap to our minds and are still useful and accepted – in one way or another – by all educated people, who grapple with the issues of self-knowledge and human motives.

Freud tells a story that few of us want to hear: We do not know ourselves. We do not really know what motivates us or why we do what we do.

Our conscious thoughts are just the tip of our mental iceberg.

In commemoration of Mental Health Awareness month this May, the following list, compiled with help from the American Psychoanalytic Association, are 12 examples of the gifts Freud left to us.

1) The Unconcious. Nothing Comes “Out of the Blue”: Freud discovered that there are no accidents and no coincidences. Even “random-seeming” feelings, ideas, impulses, wishes, events and actions carry important, often unconscious, meanings. Anyone who has ever made a “Freudian Slip” that has left them embarrassed or baffled will attest to the importance of the unconscious meanings of the things we do and say. That time you “accidentally” left your keys at your lover’s apartment may have been an accident; but more likely, at least unconsciously, you wanted to go back for more. From dreams, to Freudian slips, to free association — delving into one’s unconscious as a means of unlocking often hidden or denied fantasies, traumas or motivations is still crucial to gaining the whole truth about human behavior.

2) Sexuality is Everyone’s Weakness-and Strength: Sex is a prime motivator and common denominator for all of us. It is not a message many want to hear. So high is our disgust for these elementary Darwinian principles – that led to human triumph over all other living things — that we spent much of our time denying the dark side of our lives. Even the most prudent, puritanical-appearing individuals struggle greatly against their sexual appetites and expression. One need only look to the many scandals that have rocked the Vatican, fundamentalist churches, politicians and celebrities alike. Freud observed this prurient struggle in men and women early on in Victorian Vienna and extrapolated easily from there.

3) A Cigar is Never Just a Cigar (except when it is): It is a commonly accepted idea in contemporary psychology that everything is determined by multiple factors and also idiosyncratic to the individual. So, nothing is so simply determined. So is it a pacifier? Okay. A penis? Perhaps. A cigar? Sure. However, few would argue that all meanings have profound implications. No controversy here. So go ahead, have a cigar.

4) Every Part of the Body is Erotic: Freud knew that human beings were sexual beings right from the start. He took his inspiration from the baby nursing at the mother’s breast to illustrate the example of more mature sexuality, saying, “No one who has seen a baby sinking back satiated from the breast and falling asleep with flushed cheeks and a blissful smile can escape the reflection that this picture persists as a prototype of the expression of sexual satisfaction later in life.” He knew, too, that sexual excitation is not restricted to genitalia, as pleasure is achieved through erotic attachment to potentially any idiosyncratically defined area of the body, and most definitely not limited to genital intercourse between a male and female. Even today many people have great difficulty accepting this idea.

5) Thought is a Roundabout Way of Wishing: Freud discovered that the mere act of thinking (wishing and fantasizing) is itself gratifying. In fact, what therapists and psychoanalysts commonly observe is that the fantasy is more mentally and physically stimulating fulfilling than the actual, real life action the fantasy is organized around. Is it any wonder that reality doesn’t measure up to the intense, vivid fantasy? Freud’s observation that humans’ attempt to fantasize things into reality is today fully accepted by neuroscientists as the basis for imagination.

Freud

6) Talking Cures: “If someone speaks, it gets lighter” From Freud’s introduction lecture XXV.

Whether an individual’s therapy is based in Freudian psychoanalysis or some other form of talk therapy, the evidence is clear that talking helps alleviate emotional symptoms, lessen anxiety and frees up the person’s mind. While medication and brief therapy can often be effective in alleviating symptoms, talk therapy uses the powerful tool of the therapeutic relationship. The whole person is involved in the treatment, not just a set of symptoms or a diagnosis, therefore deeper and more lasting change becomes possible.

7) Defense Mechanisms: The term “defense mechanism” is so much a part of our basic understanding of human behavior that we take it for granted. Yet, this is another construct developed and theorized by the Freuds (Sigmund and his daughter, Anna). According to Freud, defense mechanisms are psychological strategies brought into play by the unconscious mind to manipulate, deny or distort reality in order to protect against feelings of anxiety and/or unacceptable impulses.

Among the many types of defense mechanisms coined by Freud, i.e. repression, rationalization, projection, denial is perhaps the most well known. Denial is an outright refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. Denial can be personal-for example denying an addiction or denying a painful life experience-but it can also take the form of denying scientific, social and cultural phenomena – for example, the reality of climate change or the Holocaust.

8) Resistance to Change: Our minds and behavior patterns inherently resist change. It’s new, it’s threatening and it’s unwelcome – even when it’s a change for the good. Psychoanalysis got this ubiquitous principle of resistance right, and found tools to bring it to consciousness and defeat its stubborn ability to create obstacles to forward movement, both of individuals and groups.

9) The Past Impacts the Present: This might seem like a no-brainer to most of us in 2015, but more than 100 years ago, this was an “ahh-ha” moment for Freud. Today, many of Freud’s theories on childhood development and the effects of early life experience on later behavior contribute greatly to helping and treating patients whose lives are stuck in repetitive patterns.

10) Transference: An example of the past impacting the present is the concept of transference, another Freud construct that is widely understood and utilized in today’s psychology practices. Transference refers to very strong feelings, hopes, fantasies and fears we have in relation to the important relationships of our childhood that carry forward, unconsciously, and impact present day relationships.

11) Development: Human development continues throughout the life cycle; a successful life depends on adaptability and mastery of change as it confronts each of us. Every new stage of life presents challenges and provides the opportunity to reassess our core personal goals and values.

12) The Price of Civilization is Neurotic Discontent: Freud stated, “The inclination to aggression constitutes the greatest impediment to civilization.” Few thinkers have looked so unflinchingly at human aggression as Freud. While the guns of August still echoed and European anti-Semitism grew rife, Freud wrote Civilization and Its Discontents (1929), declaring: “Man is wolf to man. Who … will have the courage to dispute this assertion?” “Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved,” Freud wrote in 1929, using words as relevant today as then, “but rather, (are) creatures whose instinct (is) aggressiveness.” We continue to meet the enemy…and it is us. Yet if we cannot change, what will happen to our civilization?”

The Nazi invaders in World War II banned and attacked Freud, as did the Communists afterwards. New Yorker editor David Remnick quotes a Hamas leader saying that Israel must be destroyed because “the media – it’s controlled by the Jews. Freud, a Jew, was the one who destroyed morals.”

But Freud did not like America. He thought that Americans had channeled their sexuality into an unhealthy obsession with money.

He wrote to a German friend after World War I, “Is it not sad, that we are materially dependent on these savages, who are not a better class of human beings?”

Ironically, America, in the end, turned out to be a most favorable repository of Freud’s exquisite legacy of ideas.

Posted: 05/07/2015

 


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What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

By Kendra Cherry

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. CBT is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders including phobias, addiction, depression and anxiety.

Cognitive behavior therapy is generally short-term and focused on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. During the course of treatment, people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior.

The underlying concept behind CBT is that our thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in our behavior. For example, a person who spends a lot of time thinking about plane crashes, runway accidents, and other air disasters may find themselves avoiding air travel. The goal of cognitive behavior therapy is to teach patients that while they cannot control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment.

Cognitive behavior therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years with both mental health consumers and treatment professionals. Because CBT is usually a short-term treatment option, it is often more affordable than some other types of therapy. CBT is also empirically supported and has been shown to effectively help patients overcome a wide variety of maladaptive behaviors.

Types of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

According to the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, “Cognitive and behavioural psychotherapies are a range of therapies based on concepts and principles derived from psychological models of human emotion and behaviour. They include a wide range of treatment approaches for emotional disorders, along a continuum from structured individual psychotherapy to self help material.”

There are a number of different approaches to CBT that are regularly used by mental health professionals. These types include:

  •     Rational Emotive Therapy
  •     Cognitive Therapy
  •     Multimodal Therapy
CBT

The Components of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

People often experience thoughts or feelings that reinforce or compound faulty beliefs. Such beliefs can result in problematic behaviors that can affect numerous life areas, including family, romantic relationships, work, and academics. For example, a person suffering from low self-esteem might experience negative thoughts about his or her own abilities or appearance. As a result of these negative thinking patterns, the individual might start avoiding social situations or pass up opportunities for advancement at work or at school.

In order to combat these destructive thoughts and behaviors, a cognitive-behavioral therapist begins by helping the client to identify the problematic beliefs. This stage, known as functional analysis, is important for learning how thoughts, feelings, and situations can contribute to maladaptive behaviors. The process can be difficult, especially for patients who struggle with introspection, but it can ultimately lead to self-discovery and insights that are an essential part of the treatment process.

The second part of cognitive behavior therapy focuses on the actual behaviors that are contributing to the problem. The client begins to learn and practice new skills that can then be put into use in real-world situations. For example, a person suffering from drug addiction might start practicing new coping skills and rehearsing ways to avoid or deal with social situations that could potentially trigger a relapse.

In most cases, CBT is a gradual process that helps a person take incremental steps towards a behavior change. Someone suffering from social anxiety might start by simply imagining himself in an anxiety-provoking social situation. Next, the client might start practicing conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances. By progressively working toward a larger goal, the process seems less daunting and the goals easier to achieve.

Uses of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy has been used to treat people suffering from a wide range of disorders, including anxiety, phobias, depression, and addiction. CBT is one of the most researched types of therapy, in part because treatment is focused on highly specific goals and results can be measured relatively easily.

Cognitive behavior therapy is often best-suited for clients who are comfortable with introspection. In order for CBT to be effective, the individual must be ready and willing to spend time and effort analyzing his or her thoughts and feelings. Such self-analysis can be difficult, but it is a great way to learn more about how internal states impact outward behavior.

Cognitive behavior therapy is also well-suited for people looking for a short-term treatment option that does not necessarily involve pharmacological medication. One of the greatest benefits of cognitive-behavior therapy is that it helps clients develop coping skills that can be useful both now and in the future.

Criticisms of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Initially, some patients suggest that while they recognize that certain thoughts are not rational or healthy, simply becoming aware of these thoughts does not make it easy to stop having them. It is important to note that CBT does not just involve identifying these thought patterns; it is focused on using a wide range of strategies to help clients overcome these thoughts. Such strategies may include journaling, role-playing, relaxation techniques, and mental distractions.

References

British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) Mapping Psychotherapy. (2005). What is CBT? Found online at http://www.babcp.com/silo/files/what-is-cbt.pdf

source: psychology.about.com