Welcome to the ultimate happiness guide!
I’m going to teach you how to be happy by focusing on everyday habits that may be hurting you more than you realize. I tend to be concrete in my approach to helping people overcome obstacles preventing happiness from shining through. In fact, there’s usually an easy solution to every habit that harms your happiness. It’s just a matter of taking the time to look inward and think about your everyday behavior. Most habits are on autopilot, but they can be switched to manual if you’re motivated to make small but consistent changes to the way you conduct your day.
A Bit About Why We Sabotage Our Happiness
Happiness is something you have to learn how to accept. Otherwise, you will self-sabotage. You default sense of self dictates whether or not you believe you deserve happiness. At your psychological epicenter you maintain core beliefs about your worth, and for many of us these beliefs are distorted so badly that we reject anything good that happens because they’re not in sync with how we feel about ourselves.
Modern technological advances don’t help matters either. The lightning-fast availability of our phones further warps our relationship with happiness. Think about it — your phone allows you to feel like you can escape psychological pain on a moment’s notice and control your world by directing all of your focus to a tiny little, satisfying screen. You jump around your apps looking for anything that sufficiently satisfies your need for stimulation or escape. This habit, repeated 100 times a day, makes life outside of your phone less satisfying.
A Fix for 18 Happiness-Stealing Habits
Below are 18 problems and fixes. Tweaking the ones you relate to can skyrocket your happiness potential.
1. You’re afraid to make a big change that’s weighing on your conscience.
There’s so many directions I can go here. It all depends on what you fear would happen if you actually pursued what you REALLY want. What are you fearing will happen if you make the change you crave? Do you have an accurate view of your ability to cope with the psychological pain that this change will bring? Yes, you can survive for many years like this, but do you really want to? As far as your relationship is concerned, there’s always room for improvement if you want to be with him or her long term.
Your next move toward happiness: Start by working on overcoming resentment toward your partner, listening with (and modeling) a higher quality of attention and promoting open communication about the state of the union. If your job totally sucks, can you self-educate via online courses to build additional skills that will appeal to potential, new employers? Set a timeline for yourself with a commitment to making a switch if your job doesn’t improve. Are you even in the right career that matches your strengths and personality. Consider a few sessions with a career counselor and pick the brain of a professor, headhunter, or a person with knowledge of a field that speaks to you.
2. You think about money way too often. (In the pandemic this is less applicable)
Who doesn’t want more money? We all do, but some people are completely preoccupied with the pursuit of material wealth. An obsession with money detracts steals your life force from most areas of life that require your investment…your ability to value your relationships, the simple joys in life and so much more. But the real problem with constantly wanting more money is how it impacts your fantasy world and your interpretation of your everyday reality.
Your daydreams about what you’ll do with more money create an idealized state of existence that can never actually be experienced. In other words, frequent fantasies about money create a huge discrepancy between what you expect life will be like with more money and the ACTUAL experience of wealth should you gain greater wealth. Even worse, your current reality is steadily downgraded every time you dream of some other financial reality. You’re essentially feeding yourself the idea that life sucks now.
Your next move toward happiness: So what’s the cure, Doc? It’s not a cliche that the best happiness boosters cost nothing. Force yourself to cut back on fantasies about wealth. Think of good times with friends. Dream of your hobbies. Focus more on having a healthy mind and body. One more important point: Your view of money is usually a product of your upbringing. Consider therapy to examine your relationship with money and any unhealthy family influences. The Bottom line: The less you fantasize about money, the more it will buy you happiness.
3. You’re too obsessed with changing yourself, which is making you stay the same.
Ok, now this might seem to contradict what I said about the importance of committing to personal growth, but I mean something different here. Happiness becomes severely limited when you’re preoccupied with changing something about yourself. The most common type of change addiction has to do with weight loss. People who diet constantly are highly prone to limiting happiness because they have trouble celebrating the reality of their existence. Change addiction actually keeps you the same. To make a change you usually have to come from a place of love or fear. If change is generated by self-loathing or low self-esteem, then you will inevitably undo whatever efforts you make to change. Your mind and body need a break from change, and self-acceptance is that place of peace and strength.
Your next move toward happiness: A desire to change requires self-love. You can love your body AND want to lose weight. If you’re trying to cut back on alcohol consumption, you can treat yourself nicely in other ways during the process. If you’re trying to stop smoking, you can work on creating other self-loving habits that promote health and wellness. Work on your self-talk. What do you say in your head that’s mean and degrading? For every three moments of wanting something else, force yourself to think about the things you currently love about yourself with regard to the quality you want to change. Don’t wait for some horrible event to be the motivating force behind change. You’ll regret it.
4. Too many things make you feel guilty.
Guilt is a dangerous emotion. It’s the equivalent of two opposing forces acting upon you at the same time, with the net effect being that you suffer in a powerless and painful state of non-action. One side of you says, “I should really do this.” I have news for you. Most thoughts that start with the phrase “I should” do much more harm than good. Should-thoughts are paralyzing and they RARELY lead to action. (See Albert Ellis, an amazing psychologist who perfected the theory around the shoulds.) If the shouldsrepresent one force that destroy your ability to act to resolve a problem, the other side of the equation is the shame and disgust that you feel about not doing what you think needs to get done. You ruminate about the potential consquences of what you’ve done or failed to deal with and it freezes you. The end result is obsessing about what you should do while feeling terrible about yourself, which hurts you on so many levels because ultimately, you’re stuck feeling the psychological weight of something unfinished and messy. Why? Here’s the answer….
Your next move toward happiness: Feeling guilty implies that you owe a debt to yourself or someone else before you can authorize yourself to be happy. Ask yourself (or a few well-respected people) if you truly owe a debt. Examples of a debt unpaid are usually either about (1) avoidance, such as ignoring the texts of someone you need to apologize to or avoiding checking your bank account for any unwanted recurring subscriptions or (2) breaking a commitment, such as neglecting your need for “me time” when you have children who depend on you. Maybe you’ve already payed your debt and never fully acknowledged it to yourself. If you think you’re still in debt, pay it! But if you can conclude that no owe nuttin’ to no one, then you’re having what’s considered “false guilt,” which necessitates that you tell yourself 30 times that you have no reason to feel guilt and act accordingly. New mothers are at high risk for this problem.
5. You’ve forgotten how to sit with your own thoughts.
If you can’t be with yourself — uncomfortable thoughts and all — why would someone want to be around you? Do you jump from one vice to another? One app to another? One news site to another? Do you have the patience to sit for five minutes away from your phone? Can you avoid TV for a night?
Your next move toward happiness: Commit to a longer process of developing your spiritual side, which promotes patience and self-acceptance. Read or listen to books by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron. Essentially, you’re probably having difficulty sitting with your thoughts for a long enough period of time. The goal is to recognize that just because you think you need something right now doesn’t mean you have to have it. Interference that prevents you from constantly satisfying your needs can be helpful over the long run. Spend time with someone who can inspire you to figure out which slower-to-develop, longer-lasting happiness generators you can invest in.
6. You can’t shake the nasty habit of procrastination.
If you can relate to this, I’m going to venture a guess and say that you fear failure…and possibly even success (getting what you actually want). Add bad habits to a fear of failure and you have the recipe for avoidance. Think of procrastination as a crafty way to make sure that life verifies your negative qualities.
Your next move toward happiness: First some practical advice. Have you ever heard of functional procrastination? It means doing something not directly related to what needs to get done, but an action that will make you feel like you’re taking care of some other task in the spirit of gaining a sense of personal control. For example, if you need to send an important work email but you just can’t bring yourself to do it, try cleaning the kitchen counter, starting your laundry or cleaning off the top layer of mess on your desk. This allows you to feel more productive and reduces the shame and self-doubt associated with avoidance.
If that doesn’t help, do the task you’re avoiding in your head while engaging in functional procrastination. As far as the email example is concerned, you would construct the email in your head while you’re making basketballs out of useless mail cluttering your desk. Trust me. You’ll feel better about yourself and it will make the dreaded email feel less dreadful.
On a psychological and internal level, strive to have the humility to accept that you need outside help to create better habits and dispel your irrational beliefs about failure. Therapy can be helpful. The risk is that you’ll actually achieve the change you’ve always wanted. Ultimately, you must face what you’re constantly trying to avoid. Keep a log of new events that you want to avoid. Write down all of your beliefs about why you want to avoid. Dispute each belief with or without a mental health professional. Time how long it takes you to face what you’re running from and try to repeat your successes in future scenarios.
7. You believe you should only do what you love.
Ahh. I love the Millennial-esque “DO WHAT YOU LOVE” mentality. It’s a sexy idea, but if you organize too much of your belief system around this purist notion, you’re in big trouble. Why? Because life is not that easy. You will frequently have to do things you DON’T want to do. That’s life! It all boils down to expectations. If you set your expectations too high in the wrong places, it’s a huge setup for disappointment.
Your next move toward happiness: Manage your expectations for how much you’re supposed to love working. I’m not saying you should self-handicap to avoid letdowns. Of course, it’s healthy to aim for a career trajectory in which you’ll eventuallycall the shots and have other people do what you can’t stand. Life becomes so much easier if you train yourself to find value in facing adversity and you push yourself to go one extra step into the land of mental discomfort just to train your mind and body to be stronger.
Learn to love a good challenge even if the task isn’t your favorite. And know that success brings new expectations and obligations that will inevitably take you further from the work tasks you’ve enjoyed the most.
8. You don’t allow yourself to celebrate the little things that make you happier.
What do you consider a reason to celebrate? Are your expectations too high? Your long term health and happiness depends on your ability to shift out of a serious mentality and laugh at life…and celebrate.
Your next move toward happiness: Begin by searching for the smallest increments of happiness — any sign. Create a dance, sing your favorite song, shadow box, karate kick the air…do anything physical or dramatic, even if no one else sees, that celebrates mini-successes. Even more importantly, create a note in your phone that lists every single accomplishment or victory, small or large. Keep adding to it and rereading it. Let yourself re-experience your successes and pat yourself on the back no matter what it is. I don’t care if it’s about not picking your cuticles on the subway or only eating half of a muffin you don’t want to be eating. Just celebrate ANYTHING! Please note that I’m not promoting finding any reason to drink alcohol. I’m referring to healthy forms of celebration.
9. You’re a “yes, but” happiness minimizer.
Some people can acknowledge it when their mood improves but they’re hellbent on protecting themselves from fully embracing it. If you often say, “Yes, but” when you have reason to be happy, the feeling is probably not sticking around long enough to register in your mind and body. Deep down you believe there are risks to being happy. The “Debbie Downer” in you is addicted to shooting down and flattening happiness.
Your next move toward happiness: The fix here is simple. Challenge yourself not to put into language the “but” part of the sentence. Don’t let that thought enter the atmosphere. Sometimes avoiding giving bad thoughts life helps you to avoid investing in them. Follow the celebratory advice from #5.
10. You’re constantly shopping online.
I love buying stuff on Amazon as much as you do, but if we don’t have a system of checks and balances, then it rarely feels like we have what we need to be happy.
Your next move toward happiness: Pay attention to how often you think about buying things you don’t have right now. Regulate the amount of time you shop online. I’m positive that if you’re shopping online on a daily basis, it’s covering up some wildly neglected or avoided aspect of your life. Are you delaying sending your resume to potential employers? Is your relationship in dire need of more honest communication that would lead to a more powerful connection? The key is to tell yourself 10 times a day, “I’m rich because I have everything I need.” Live it. Breathe it. Believe it. Life will feel more “full” if what you have is celebrated more often.
11. Your phone has hijacked your happiness.
As I mentioned above, your phone may be making you miserable on multiple levels. Often times, its impact is indirect. Phones teach you to value immediate gratification over waiting for something good. They promote “bonding” with your friends via text rather than in person, which deprives you of true human bonding that serves as a protective factor against depression. A phone’s worst crime is that it makes you forget how to simply exist in your own head with your own thoughts, which is a major requirement for happiness. Do you need your phone to be part of every segment of the day?
Your next move toward happiness: If you’re in a relationship, it’s important to assess whether or not you’re choosing to be on your phone at night when your relationship is in desperate need of quality time minus screens. What is the quality of attention you and your partner pay to each other? Do you try to listen while you’re looking at your phone? Commit to time with the people you love and put your phone away. Here’s the challenge:Turn off your phone or keep your it in another room for 30-minute segments of time, even once a day. When you transition from one place to another, such as walking to the train after work, see if you can avoid your phone until you’ sit down. Good luck.
12. You undervalue the importance of personal growth and goals.
I’ll be blunt. If you don’t believe in the importance of doing things to better yourself, then you’ll never be happy. You’re lying to yourself if you disagree with me.
Your next move toward happiness: Focus on who you are for people. What do people get when they spend time with you? What is your gift to the world? Ask someone close to you if you’re not sure. Commit to offering the world something and strive to make corrections when you’re not providing the world this gift. Aside from who you want to BE, what do you want to accomplish in life that isn’t about money, power or titles? Do you nurture your spiritual self or do you avoid anything labeled “spiritual?” Ask a friend to set goals together and hold each other accountable. Create short and long-term goals. Make sure some goals involve hobbies and fun interests.
13. You think you can predict the future and it’s always a grim forecast.
When anxiety meets negativity it compels you to predict that bad things will happen. Negative forecasting makes you grieve painful outcomes before they occur, which leaves almost no room for positivity and hope. This is a devastating form of self-sabotage. It makes people risk averse and less mindful in the present moment. Psychologically speaking, forecasting negative events is way to protect yourself from potentially negative emotional states in case something bad happens. In truth, you’re no more prepared to deal with disappointment just because you guessed something bad might happen. Ruminating about future pain or disappointment is meant to give you a sense of control or mastery…but it doesn’t!
Your next move toward happiness: There are many ways to overcome negative forecasting. The most easily applicable one is to vow to keep all negativity to yourself. Even if you think something bad will happen, don’t put it in language. You’re messing up your life just to be able to say, “I told you so.” Just don’t say it. Well, maybe to your therapist. Another thing to work on is telling yourself that you’ll be able to handle anything that happens. This is hardiness, an implicit knowing that things will still work out fine even if something bad happens.
14. You haven’t yet learned how to overcome resentment.
Do you hold onto resentment from your past? Do you ruminate about things that happened to you long ago? If so, then you’re happiness potential is drastically limited. Resenting someone hurts you exponentially more than the target of your negative thoughts and feelings. It actually eats away at your cells and can cause an early death for you. There are countless reasons to let go.
Your next move toward happiness: First, understand that all of the world is a mirror. What you can’t accept about someone else is what you can’t accept about yourself. This is especially true for family resentment since family members generally share a lot of the same traits and behaviors. Some are learned, some are biologically influenced. If you take a sober look in the mirror, you’ll probably find that you exhibit some of the same behaviors as the person you resent. When you reach adulthood, you have a choice to change your ways. Nothing holds you back from choosing to do things differently, but resentment locks you in place, making it very, very difficult to change. Take responsibility for your part in things. How are you perpetuating the issues you have with someone? What can you own? You MUST own it, accept it. Stop blaming someone else for your problems or you’ll never grow and you’ll never reach your happiness potential.
Second, it’s a fact that you lose when you resent. Whatever you think you gain by holding on tightly to resentment is really your loss. The psychological and physical protection you think you get from refusing to forgive is usually an illusion. You don’t have to get close with someone just because you forgive them. It can be a remote act. If you’re saying to yourself something like, “My father/mother/brother/uncle/____ hurt me. They don’t deserve my forgiveness.” Well, maybe they don’t deserve to get the benefits of your awesomeness, but that’s like punching yourself in the head because you can’t stand someone. Talk with a religious figure or someone close to you who is better at forgiveness than you are. Let yourself be inspired. It will lengthen your life.
15. You take before you give in conversation.
Entitlement and habit makes people take before they give. Do you think the world owes you something? Did your parents raise you to believe you don’t have to put in the hard work to get what you want? Are you a poor listener who cuts people off before they finish what they’re saying? Do you hold resentment toward your caretakers? Do the concepts of gratitude and thankfulness sound like spiritual bullshit or something you do on only on holidays? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you can unlock a huge amount of happiness by learning to give before you take. I don’t just mean volunteering or donating. I mean giving in the micro-moments of life.
Your next move toward happiness: First, when you’re communicating in person or via messaging, make it about the other person before you make it about you. Wait for someone else to speak. Then respond to what they say before making it about you. Stay focused on them. This is giving. This will make you happier. For example, your friend texts you….”I can’t stand my boss. How are you?” Don’t answer that question until you’ve thoroughly addressed their feelings about their boss. Give before taking.
Second, commit to improving your listening skills. Listen for what someone really wants from the conversation. You can even ask them, “What do you need from me right now? I want to be as helpful as possible.” If you’re waiting for a chance to speak, then you’re making it about you. Give and then take.
16. You’d rather get a laugh from gossipping than be inspired by sharing great ideas.
Do you find yourself saying to friends, “Did you hear that….?” If you love to be the first one to spread new information about someone in your community, it has to stop here. Otherwise, you have to accept a life of shallowness and unhappiness. A little gossip is fun and can temporarily help you manage boredom and a lack of deep and meaningful relationships, but a habit of gossiping reveals a character flaw in need of fixing.
Gossip is a sign of insecurity and a lack of sophistication. Unhappy people gossip, but you’d only know that if you look beyond false appearances. People who love to gossip are the most invested in keeping up the appearance of being happy. Just check their Facebook or Instagram feed. They’re the ones who look like they’re living a dream life, but whose social media presence lacks depth and meaning. A love of gossip reflects neglect of important areas of your life that could potentially be a source of greater happiness. For example, are you gossiping about the clothing someone wore or a neighbor’s recent divorce? If so, it’s time to commit to focusing on other topics.
Your next move toward happiness: Challenge yourself to only say nice things about people. Nothing negative. Period. But for enhanced happiness, come up with theories and ideas about the world that don’t involve specific people. Find like-minded people who would be interested in thinking big. Gossip is for small-minded people stuck in a smaller world devoid of humility and intellectual stimulation…both happiness stimulators. If you love to gossip, you probably need to look deep within and refocus on what really matters in life. You should finally address whichever facet of your life you’re so actively neglecting, which forces you to focus on your own affairs rather than that of others. Notice that I’m not referring to consuming gossip, a less damaging habit.
17. You never fully grieved the loss of someone important to you.
Did you lose someone important to you in the past few years? If so, have you sufficiently grieved their departure? Has your mood been suppressed or your behavior changed since the loss?
Everyone grieves differently. The way you grieve is influenced by many factors, including culture, religious and family norms. Some people refuse to accept the loss of a loved one, which can delay working through the grief for years. Other people grieve “half way.”
Your next move toward happiness: While it may feel like an impossible task, try to search inside yourself for what you need to move on. I would recommend short-term work with a grief counselor if you feel stuck in perpetual grief or avoidance mode. Sometimes it’s hard to see how the loss of a loved one influences us. Some people don’t feel like they deserve happiness after someone dies. Other people struggle to find hope for the future even after life is rebuilt. Are you honoring this person’s wishes or what he or she stood for? Commit to some act of honor. It will help you to move on and maybe even feel more hopeful.
18. Your word means very little.
It’s time to worship and practice integrity. Do your words match your deeds? Do you practice what you preach? Do you often cancel plans with friends? Can people rely on you? Trust you? Or do they say, “Yeah right” when you vow to do something?
Your next move toward happiness: Be the one who people can depend on. Don’t bail on plans when you already said you’d go. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. Be realistic and predictable in a positive way. Integrity feels wonderful. It makes you happy even if you don’t realize it. Being a person of your word is one of the healthiest habits to strive toward. Why does integrity make you happy? Integrity makes you feel productive and in control of your life. It makes life clean and satisfying, and it draws people toward you because they know they can rely on you, which ultimately expands your support network when you’re in a state of need. Integrity fuels the boomerang of intention and action. Once you’ve acted on your word, you’re more likely to keep it up.
If you break your word, clean it up. Apologize. Take responsibility. Make a new commitment and ACT. Don’t dwell on it. Replaying your integrity failures is one of the most unhealthy, unproductive happiness killers.
Integrity is also about keeping your actions and words in line with your values and morals. Don’t just preach about how others have it wrong. Do something healthy and productive about it. In order to have integrity in this way, you must decide what you believe in. What matters to you? Do you take REAL action or are you just the social media morality police?
Worship and practice integrity. You’ll notice a significant difference in your baseline levels of happiness. In fact, this last habit might be the biggest secret to happiness…that is, being your word.It makes life feel organized and you have a solid guideline for how to act when you’re unsure or when the future feels uncertain.
I hope you found this helpful. May you connect with all of the happiness in the world and find your own.
Which of the 18 habits do you relate to the most?Learn More
Social distance and food storage are occupying much of our headspace these days, but it is just as important to prepare for the mental health challenges that are likely to arise in the coming weeks.
The way I see it, we have no choice but to allocate some of our inner resources toward making smart mental adjustments that complement temporary but necessary lifestyle changes.
In this post, I will cover a few essential, actionable steps you can take to bolster your emotional well-being. These tips represent a starting point for managing your mental health during this strange chapter in our lives.
You Need A Strong Emotional Immune System
First, consider that you have an emotional immune system designed to help you deal with emotional distress, including anxiety, stress and depression.
What is an emotional immune system? It is the part of you that manages your mental response when when potential threat is introduced. Currently, the most common threat to our mind is the fear of us or the people we care about contracting COVID-19. I will assume that you are taking the appropriate preventative steps.
The next threat would be your news consumption. Constant exposure to breaking news about COVID-19 will overwork your emotional immune system, leaving you anxious, even panicked, at random moments. You may justify your constant news exposure by thinking that being informed gives you a greater sense of control, but this is simply untrue.
My concern is that the constant flow of troubling information available on our screens functions like a virus of the mind.
Your cortisol levels are likely to skyrocket, and this is not healthy. Your body does what the mind tells it to do. Sounding the alarm in your body with messages of fear and helplessness may impact your body’s immune system.
This is why it is so important to restrict your exposure to social media and news sites since they bombard you with mostly bad news.
Chatrooms are the less obvious offender. I recommend that you propose to a ban on introducing any breaking news while you are supporting one another in chatrooms and group messages. Any emotional gains from virtual support usually get cancelled out when one of your introduces more bad news.
Consider the following: Most self-care activities, including meditation, journaling, sitting with feelings and other behaviors meant to give you the feeling of control will be less effective if do not reduce your intake of news that usually tells you what to worry about.
Life is harder to manage with so many cues to worry and this is just not healthy for you. I recommend limiting social media and news intake to 2-3 times a day at most, and none before bed.
Cognitive Strategies Go Nicely with Less News Consumption
Once the news floodgates are well managed, you can do more effective inner work. This brings us to a cognitive strategy that can strengthen your emotional immune system. It all comes down to what you tell yourself. As I said, your body is listening very carefully to the messages.
Start paying greater attention to how you talk to yourself when you think about the virus. If you find that you are frequently telling yourself sound something like, “I can’t handle this,” or “this is too much,” then you need to adjust this self-talk.
When you are tell yourself that you cannot handle something, you are telling your body what to do. Sound the alarm! Fire up the fight-or-flight response.
The good news is that your mental habits can be altered by actively substituting alarming messages with self-talk that promotes resilience and hardiness.
Even if you first feel anxious and tell yourself you cannot handle something, you still have the opportunity to say to yourself, “That reminds me of the opposite….” and then state something positive.
I like to say to myself, “No matter what happens I will be ok.”
A variation on this is “I can handle this” or “we will get though this” or “this this hard but we can do it.” Come up with affirmations that work for you. It might sound simplistic but it can be very effective over time. Just stick with it.
Say these messages to yourself at least 50 times a day, including in response to noticing negativity.
Take this self-soothing method seriously even if you only connect with the messages on an intellectual level. Over time your emotional side will join the resistance.
You have the power to alter your mind and body’s response to new information. Use that power and you will increase your faith in your ability to cope, which reduces the frequency of anxious moments.
Refuse to be a passive recipient of bad news. Fight any helpless state with this mental exercise. If you need to vent your anxiety, which is a valid reaction to some of the news we are learning, then call a friend or chat with another adult at home. In addition, you can do things that make you feel in control. Worry about any new onset of OCD later.
It must be said that sometimes the feeling may be so strong that all you can do is sit with it, engage in distracting behaviors or find a way to self-express.
In addition, try one or more meditative approach, even if it means enlisting one of the meditation apps like Calm or Headspace, the latter of which is free right now. Of course, it is normal to feel nervous. We all do to some extent, but you have a choice to turn states of helplessness and stress into empowerment and strength.
Get used to conducting check-ins with your body as you read the news when disturbing thoughts pop into mind. Look for bodily signs of tenseness, stress and anxiety. If you they are present, begin to parent yourself through negative mental states with messages of being able to handle this temporary phase in life. The more you experience yourself bringing negative states into the positive range, the more prepared you’ll be for life’s challenges.
Journaling can also be quite helpful when you are feeling nervous. Write down everything that you are worried about in a given moment. It truly helps you to gain perspective and calmness. One further journaling option is to keep rereading your entry containing all of your worries until the words have less emotional power over you.
And remember, do not underestimate your mind’s contribution to your body’s ability to fend off foreign germs.
Check in soon for more tips on managing your anxiety in the time of adjustment.
(Disclaimer: The information shared in this blog post is for informational and educational purposes only. Reading this post does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with the author.)
Something is very wrong. You’re suddenly flushed with intense anxiety and you didn’t see it coming. The anxiety is so strong that it feels like you’re going crazy.
You could just be momentarily freaking out or it could be a panic attack.
Telling the Difference Between a Panic Attack and a Freak Out
If it’s panic, you’re likely to feel a strong need to escape, but not always, as some wake up in the night with a panic attack.
Common symptoms of a panic attack are trembling, rapid heart rate, a sense of impending doom, chest pain, a sense of choking or suffocating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, hyperventilating and tunnel vision.
Panic attacks are commonly associated with tight spaces, crowded places or gatherings where you perceive judgment or failure can take place.
The fear is often irrational, such as the idea that you’ll run out of air on the subway or crash on a plane.
Unfortunately panic attacks tend to repeat and they can come out of nowhere, but the sensations are often familiar (“Huh, I’ve had that feeling before last time I was this anxious.”)
The irrational element present when panicking allows many people to also say to themselves, “I totally know that there’s nothing to fear but I can’t help it.”
Panic attacks are often followed by a depressive experience, even a day later. There’s a strong correlation between panic disorder and depression, especially panic that is accompanied by agoraphobia, which is an anxiety disorder involving the fear of situations in which you might panic, such as a theater or on a bridge. Agoraphobia leads people to avoid these contexts to avoid potential panic attacks. A severe manifestation of agoraphobia is when you avoid leaving home in fear of having panic attacks.
Amanda Chatel, a wonderful writer for Bustle, interviewed me about the distinction between panic disorder and freaking out.
As you prepare for your first session, you may have questions about the process of being in therapy. Please don’t hesitate to write them down and ask me. It can be confusing to figure out how to say everything you want to say in one visit. I urge you to relieve yourself of that pressure and try to trust in the process.
I am highly skilled in building a solid therapeutic relationship, so you can rest assured that you won’t feel judged for what you’re reluctant to talk about. I’m here to help.
Here’s my Huff Post article about starting therapy:
P.S.- You can also call me or email me. I’d be happy to answer all of your questions.
Look around you. Everyone you see is carrying a truckload of childhood memories that contain pain, awkwardness, failure and all things awful.
Look within. The memories are there. Some are more painful than others. Many can be altered to feel less heavy.
Choose one memory that often pops into mind. Make it one that involves a perceived failure on your part. You know, the kind that makes you say, “I should have…”
What mistake do you think your child self made?
Going Back to Move Forward
Picture yourself in the setting at the age you were when the event occurred. What was going on at the time? What was your state of mind?
See the event happen to you.
Allow yourself to empathize with the child in you who suffered from this event. See yourself “failing” at whatever you messed up.
Again, let the empathy flow toward the child within you. The memory might feel awful. It might define some aspect of your adult self, but it doesn’t have to.
Once you’ve re-experienced the event, introduce your adult self to the situation.
Picture you at your current age with your current physical and emotional strength to endure the same event you went through as a child.
Let the event happen to you, but react to it as an adult.
If there’s a child or adult in your memory who contributed to the pain embedded in this memory, relate to them as your adult self to take control.
That’s right. Take control of the situation. Reverse the outcome. Make the memory happen the way you want it to.
You’re now overwriting the memory in a way that reduces the emotional pain associated with the visual recall of the event.
Now picture your current self standing next to your child self who just failed or got hurt or humiliated….and soothe that child.
Say loving things to him or her. Give that child more love and caring that he or she has ever gotten. Enter his or her mind and reflect back how much you understand.
Show the child that he or she is safe and you’re there to help.
Encourage your inner child to go easy on himself or herself.
The memory is now less scary because your adult self would react differently than your child self. You would either succeed where you believe you failed or you would file the memory away in your mind differently as an adult so that it’s not such a pain point.
So often, we think, feel and act like a wounded, angry and frightened child in situations that remind us of the original hurt from childhood.
But we forget that we have a CHOICE to handle the event as an adult with a much more advanced set of skills.
Relive the painful memory in a safe and comfortable way by applying your adult abilities so that the helpless or failing child in your memory is no longer helpless or failing at all.
That’s how you go back in time and fix childhood failures.
(Note: This post is for entertainment purposes only. Use of the above-mentioned technique does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with the author.) Sorry, I had to add this even though you know this.
All the best to you and your inner child.Learn More
I’m going to talk about the unhealthy kind of narcissism so you can get a clearer idea of what we mean by healthy narcissism.
If you suspect (or already know) that you are in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s important to work on the unhealthy ways in which his or her narcissism is manifested.
Here are nine signs you and your partner need to be immersed in a month-long course on healthy narcissism:
1) Your partner can’t tolerate your success.
One giveaway would be if you and your partner cannot be successful at the same time. Instead, you always find yourself in a one-up-one-down situation in which one of you can only thrive at a time.
2) You have suspicions that your partner lacks basic empathy.
How many times have you witnessed your significant other insulting other people with very little justification for his harsh words? (This can be a sign of other personality disturbances as well.)
3) Your partner has trouble supporting you emotionally during small, everyday situations that upset you, but when terrible events are happening, he or she loves the feeling of being needed and steps into the supportive role with ease.
Some narcissists require you to need them in order to ignite their powerful, caring side.
4) Your partner is extremely successful in his or her career and it seems like he or she has stepped on other people’s heads to achieve an elevated status or title.
Yes, many narcissists run the show. This is where narcissism can be a blessing as much as a curse.
5) More than a few people have described him or her as “self-referential.”
Yes, another dead giveaway is when your partner is constantly thinking or saying, “What does this say about me?”
6) A textbook sign of narcissism is that your significant other constantly needs to be admired.
Does it seem like your partner looks inward to find value or does the world need to reflect his or her greatness…all of the time?
7) It’s implied that you always have to let go of your needs and meet your partner’s expectations for how a particular situation is supposed to happen.
Do you have an equal say in what you do together? Is he or she constantly punishing you for not meeting expectations?
8) Your partner shows a huge blindspot in recognizing how his or her actions impact other people.
This is also about empathy, but I like to talk about it more in terms of someone lacking the ability to place him- or herself in your shoes and see the world from your eyes.
9) Your partner tends to speak with pathological certainty when sharing his or her own opinions.
Pathological certainty is when someone seems like they’re in the business of making other people bad or wrong. It’s as though they’ve made the choice to be right instead of happy. Many narcissists always have to be right. This is the unattractive side of narcissism.
Equally as important is figuring out if you’re, in fact, the narcissist in the relationship.
Whether it’s you or your partner who grapples with unhealthy narcissism, check out Techealthiest for more on how to transform unhealthy narcissism into something healthy.
The official way to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)Learn More
Welcome to the first step in getting over Trump anxiety.
“YOU’RE scared about what Trump will do to you? Then how scared should I be? I’m gay AND a foreigner!”
This is what so many conversations on the streets of New York City sound like.
Yes, much of the country has been overtaken by an intense and unfamiliar strain of anxiety founded upon the belief that President Trump and his minions are about to unleash a campaign of totalitarian, uber-bigoted hell on people whose backgrounds and beliefs conflict with his political agenda.
So many Americans fear that Trump is going to ruin our country, one bad decision after another.
While I am not free of fear with regard to the possibilities, I remain hopeful that he will surprise us in a positive way. (Stay with me!)
I certainly can’t guarantee that Trump won’t get drunk on power and make a total mess of the country.
What I CAN say with certainty is that much of your happiness potential over the next four years will be determined by how you choose to approach Trump’s presidency.
Herein lies an amazing opportunity.
The starting point for conquering your fears about what Trump will do as president begins with acknowledging that a gift has been given to you at this exact time in your life.
A gift? You mean Trump? REALLY??
Yes, a gift.
The gift I’m referring to is a rare spike in passionate ferocity and motivation that Trump’s presidency brings out in you.
The key is to channel this energy into your efforts to grow as a person and to do more than just cope with what upsets you.
How about striving to thrive in the face of political circumstances that will otherwise drain your energy and leave you bitter, helpless and sick?
Since President Trump is here to stay for at least four years, it’s in your best interest to do more than rant on Facebook and refuse to accept reality.
In no way am I suggesting that you stop advocating for what you believe in. Instead, I’m challenging you to find a way to sublimate your anger and frustration into actions that create personal health and wellness, as opposed to sickness and depression.
Here are a some important factors that will determine your happiness potential during Trump’s presidency:
The extent to which you’re willing to give Trump a chance and see what he can accomplish for our country.
Your acceptance of a learning curve for Trump in which he has to stink up Washington before he figures out the lay of the land. Essentially, I’m referring to your patience.
Your personal ratio of healthy advocacy (in the form of action) versus social media ranting.
Your belief in the value of committing to your personal growth.
The extent to which you let yourself be exposed to friends and family who take an unhealthy approach to Trump’s presidency.
Most importantly, your happiness will depend on recognizing that your coping strategy during the election probably won’t work for you in 2017.
You have no choice but to take it to the next level.
The main point here is that if you are one of the many who vowed to have a fabulous 2017 and you also fear Donald Trump, it will be necessary to view your anxious state as an opportunity to grow exponentially as a person.
I will help you get there. This is how I want to help you, but it requires that you seize this moment in time as a rare chance to be the best person you can be.
If you can’t see the opportunity hidden within a dark and murky situation, then you’ll probably flounder. You’ll keep feeding your helpless side and cling to depression like a much-desired addiction.
I don’t want that for you. I want you to thrive, to prosper, to flourish no matter who is in office.
I implore you to see overcoming Trump anxiety as an amazing opportunity.
Stay tuned for my next post in which I will continue to guide you toward getting over your anxiety about Trump’s presidency.Learn More
Why do we invest so much time and effort watering the roots of the relationships that make us happy, yet when we’re grappling with a sour mood, our ability to see the world from someone else’s eyes feels impossible? Does this ever happen to you?
The man or woman you love so much is sitting right in front of you, but all you can think about is how you won’t give in until they not only acknowledge how you feel, but tell you that you’re also RIGHT!. You’re even willing to ruin a date night, sabotage an opportunity for intimacy, or avoid talking to them for days until they submit. You’re furious and you can’t step out of it.
We’ve all been there. We usually reserve this type of behavior for the ones we love the most or have known the longest. If we are feeling unheard or misunderstood, we may forget to listen. If we feel accused of wrongdoing, we may dodge responsibility at all cost and focus on convincing the accuser that they’re wrong.
If a deep-seated insecurity fuels the need to be right, then the fight to prove rightness can potentially go on for days, weeks, months, and even years. The need to be right and the tendency to make others wrong tends to promote long-term resentment and animosity in relationships. This state of mind may suppress the immune system and invite illness into the body, and it is likely to limit our repertoire of problem-solving behaviors.
I find that an overinvestment in being right tends to promote more frequent states of dissatisfaction in relationships and with life in general. Depression may promote the need to be right (and vice versa). When we feel low, the act of making other people wrong can give a temporary lift to our sense of self-importance. The problem with this kind of lift is that it only lasts for a brief moment, and as soon as the high of asserting our rightness passes, we either sink back into a depressed state, or we feel even lower than we did before we made a heavy investment in making someone wrong. In more intense states of depression, we often lack motivation to perform the activities that we usually enjoy. Our energy is devoted to completing the most basic of tasks, as we do our best just to get through the day. In this state of decreased motivation, the mental energy available for entertaining the perspective of others is often quite limited.
The truth is that we are all forced to endure depression at some point, although its severity, duration and impact on our functioning varies from person to person. Depression typically involves periods of sad mood, decreased motivation, and a heightened tendency to avoid feelings and situations that normally brings us a sense of connection, purpose, and fulfillment.
When we are feeling significantly depressed, we may experience anger that is directed inward toward the self, or outward toward other people or the world as a whole. These angry feelings may take the form of an “addiction” to making other people wrong. In such a state of mind, our world becomes very small. We see with blinders on. There is only one way and it is our way. Hence, when anger takes over, our ability to see things from someone else’s point of view can become severely compromised, especially if our tendency is to cope with our anger by punishing others (and giving ourselves the illusion of ridding ourselves of negative feelings) by making them feel as we feel. An openness to entertaining multiple perspectives may also be limited if we typically handle our anger by withdrawing and avoiding conflict, which tends to minimize opportunities for rectifying disagreements.
Anxiety is similar to anger in its influence on perspective-taking abilities, as it can promote a narrowing the lense of our perspective at the expense of appreciating alternative vantage points. When we are anxious, our mental resources are channeled toward coping with the belief that we must prepare for a feared event. This preparation creates a self-preserving state of mind that narrows our perspective to a limited number of possible outcomes. We repeat to ourselves in one form or another the idea that “I will not be OK if this event happens.” When we are gripped by high anxiety, predicting a catastrophe requires a huge amount of mental energy, which deprives us of the energy required to appreciate someone else’s perspective.
Would you like to achieve lasting states of positive emotion? Would you like to feel more strongly connected to your loved ones, and to your world in general? If so, cultivate your ability to see someone else’s perspective, and recognize the impact that your words and actions have on the ones you love; this will tame your innate human need to be right. Your willingness to acknowledge the perspective of others, even if you disagree with their stance, is one of the most important mental muscles to build.
How to Build Empathy and Improve Perspective-Taking Skills
Here are a few brief suggestions for assessing and improving your ability to appreciate the perspective of others.
1) Conduct an honest assessment of how invested you are in making people wrong, especially the people closest to you. Ask a trusted friend or family member to give their opinion on this. Try to be open to their feedback, especially if you are both emotionally invested in the relationship. When it comes to how often we feel the need to be right, we are usually poor self-evaluators.
2) Practice the art of listening without interrupting. Avoid telling others how they should feel. Try to listen well enough to be able to convey to the speaker what you just heard them say, and then share what you learned from them.
3) Try to embrace the idea that there are “two rights” in every disagreement between two people.
4) Seek professional help if you determine that your need to make others wrong significantly interferes with your relationships, or if you can see that depression, anger, or anxiety present obstacles to appreciating others’ perspectives.
5) Practice doing gratitude exercises. This is one of the most powerful ways to cultivate the ability to appreciate others’ opinions and struggles. There are many self-help books available to assist you with this.
6) When you are sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop, or another setting conducive to “people-watching,” imagine what life might look like from the eyes of someone you are observing. Try to get in touch with what this person might be feeling, even if you are guessing . Do this exercise at least once a week.
7) If you recognize that you are particularly depressed or angry on a given day, take a pause in each interaction with the people you love and acknowledge to yourself (or to them) how your negative mood may be making you more argumentative or less understanding. Sometimes our loved ones deserve this “heads up.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you commit to improving your ability to adopt another person’s perspective and avoid the habit of making other people wrong, I am confident that you will like the way that it makes you feel. It might even bring you closer to the people you love.Learn More