Meaningful Psychological Services: Really Useful Thoughts from a Psychologist
Helpful interests, ideas, and resources about psychology, therapy, mindfulness, cognitive-behavior therapy, anxiety, living meaningfully and online therapy.
|Posted on February 13, 2017 at 3:15 PM|
We've all been there. Someone has said something without really thinking about what they said. The words used could have been hurtful, embarrassing, careless, lies, impulsive, or revealing. We likely have experience being the speaker as well as the receiver. We likely have witnessed an emotion such as anger or anxiety speaking through a person rather than the rational mind. We wish we could take back what we said. We wish we could have not heard what was shared. Yes, we have all been there.
How many times have we heard or told people to think before we/they speak? Probably many. This is easier said than done. While expanding on my learning recently, I came across a very helpful acronym that breaks down exactly what we can do to think before we speak. As soon as I learned of it, I immediately knew this was to be the topic this month. It is so important for us to know. I do not know of the original source, but whoever it is- thank you!
Here is how we can T.H.I.N.K. before we speak:
T - is it True?
H - is it Helpful?
I - is it Inspiring?
N - is it Necessary?
K - is it Kind?
Before we use our words, we can ask ourselves these 5 questions. My hope is for you to be an effective communicator, maintain and repair relationships, and use your words to build others up rather than tear them down. Try it and see how you feel.
|Posted on January 16, 2017 at 4:05 PM|
The idea for this month's post was inspired by my toddler. Yes, my 2 year old told me what to write about. Over breakfast the other day, I asked my son what Mama should write about for her monthly newsletter. His response of "How 'bout Count and Big Bird?" inspired me.
My son is a big Sesame Street fan, which means I have read, watched, and listened to a lot of Sesame Street over the past few months. As a child, I loved the show. As an adult and psychologist, I have a renewed appreciation of the program and the lessons it teaches. The current season premiered recently and the theme is kindness, a simple fact that I was reminded of with my son's suggestion.
Kindness- what a wonderful concept to focus on this month. Kindness is often confused with being nice, but there are differences. Telling someone they look great before a job interview when they obviously have food stuck in their teeth may be nice but not very kind. The dictionary distinguishes between the helpful nature of being kind and the pleasant nature of being nice.
There are lots of ways to be kind. If you want to get some ideas, take a look at the first episode of Sesame Street this season. You will see people and monsters being considerate, helpful, and loving to one another. All ways of being kind.
Kindness is good for you, others, and the world. It can even boost happiness. If you are interested in learning more about the research on kindness, take a look at this Greater Good article: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind
Here are some ideas to generate kindness:
Pay it forward- pay for the order of the car behind you in the drive-thru
Take a friend out for coffee
Help someone carry a bag at the grocery store
Offer to help a family member or friend with a household project
Give a loved one a hug
Provide free babysitting for a parent in need
Tell someone the truth in a gentle manner
How can you show kindness?
|Posted on December 13, 2016 at 12:35 AM|
As 2016 comes to a close, I have been reflecting back on the year. What went well? What didn't go so well? What was my biggest challenge? What obstacle did I overcome? Which goals did I achieve? Which changes are a work in progress? When and how did I use mindfulness skills?
As 2017 approaches, I also reflect on the future. What would I like to do differently? Which habits would be healthy for me to change? Which habits would be best to maintain? How do I want to spend my day? How do I want to engage the people around me? What is the healthiest way to interact with my work? What do I want to accomplish this year?
I challenge you to ask yourself these or similar questions. You can use these as a guide. Pay attention and even write down your answers. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.
Now ask yourself this: how can I grow this year?
My hope for you is to develop a growth mindset. This means to approach challenges, embrace criticism, and continue growing through the lifespan. Interested? You can read more about growth mindset and Dr. Carol Dweck's work https://www.mindsetworks.com/Science/Impact" target="_blank">here.
One way that you can challenge yourself this year is to take the Behavior Change Ahead Course. On sale for $10 now, you will learn the ins and outs of changing our behavior. Choose a habit and make a change with this course.
I wish you health, change, growth, and love in 2017.
|Posted on November 14, 2016 at 2:00 PM|
It's November, which means families are starting to get ready for the holidays. With the fun, family, decorations, friends, parties, and food comes the busyness and stress of the season. Whether it is deciding plans for travel, meals, and gatherings, it can be helpful to share and show thankfulness.
When was the last time that you felt or expressed thankfulness for the opportunity to make these plans? For the amazing problem solving power of our brain to even make plans? For our planning ability to think of "first we can do this and then we can do that"? For the ability to drive and pick up a holiday decoration? Or the freedom to select some online?
All around us- even during the difficulty, the struggles, the hurts, and the fears- there is good. Some days it may be hard to find it, but it is there. We can look for the joy, the good, the humor, the "what's going well" experiences. When you find it, be thankful for it.
It is also healthy to show that you are thankful for the good. It feels so warm and cozy when people express gratitude to us or for something we did. It supports relationships, workplaces, self-care, and parenting.
There are many ways to show your thankfulness. You can keep write down the experiences, people, and things you are thankful for. You can write and send a gratitude letter to someone you are thankful for. You can find hope and express this feeling in your faith. You can tell your children, your spouse, your family, and your friends that you appreciate them and what they do. You can say thank you for taking out the garbage, moving the cars, going food shopping, following directions, or just being there.
While November can be a month to remind us of the importance of being thankful, you can feel, share, and show your appreciation, love, gratitude and hope all year long. I hope that you do.
|Posted on October 10, 2016 at 8:00 PM|
For those of you following this blog for a while, you may remember a few years back when I wrote a piece about taking day-trips for families. While hopefully helpful and interesting, that post was written from a different perspective- the outside observer.
This month, I returned to these same two locations I initially visited, but this time as a mother. How wonderful it is to see the same exact thing from a different perspective. In my case, through the eyes of a toddler.
Being able to see the world around us in a new way is truly amazing. I never noticed how colorful certain fish were or how big a pig could be. My toddler was able to point out different details and offer amusement, saying "wow" at some cool things that we as adults may take for granted.
Of course, traveling with a toddler also presents a reminder about how important self-care is. As adults, we may be on the go all the time and constantly push ourselves to complete our tasks or make the next appointment on-time. With a toddler, however, we can slow down. We can linger here and stare there. We can and should take breaks for potty and food and shade.
We are also reminded that we can see different sides to things. There are many perspectives to each experience in our life. Going to the same place we have been to before but with different people can change the experience. Hearing someone else's viewpoint on their role in a scenario can help us understand the experience better.
We can see the whole world differently. We can care for ourselves, our families, and friends. We can see the moon, the clouds, the trees, the fish, the animals, the grass- everything- in a whole new way. Try seeing the world through a young child's eyes for a while. I bet it will be amazing!
|Posted on September 12, 2016 at 2:30 PM|
I love my job. I love that I get to learn from others. I love that I get to share the happy moments and the sad moments. I love that I get to help someone work through a hurt or anger. I love seeing the world through multiple perspectives.
Being a psychologist is such an awesome job. It isn’t an easy one, of course.
I love that I can feel what others feel. I love that I can share knowledge imparted on to me to give to you. I love that you’re reading this right now. How amazing is it that we can share information together? How wonderful that we can work together to change a family system, a classroom, a marriage, a workplace, or a relationship.
I love that when a client makes a decision to seek therapy and put in intense effort and energy, they are not only feeling better, but getting better. They are not only helping themselves but helping others. They are not only improving one situation but others.
Have you heard about the 6 degrees of separation theory? You can read a little about it here- https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200311/six-degrees-separation
The world is small. Our connections are strong. We may be more connected than you think. If you choose to make a healthy change in yourself, you may be inspiring a healthy change in someone across the country. Amazing.
I love psychology. I love our brains. I love that people work to make healthy choices. I love being a psychologist.
I am in awe when I think about someone somewhere at this moment is experiencing the worst moment of their life and that moment will lead them to contact a psychologist for help. I am in awe that my role can help that person (and others) through that moment. What a wonderful role to have- because of you.
And for that, I thank you.
|Posted on August 15, 2016 at 2:20 PM|
Returning to college or starting college can be both an exciting and anxiety provoking experience. For some, this may be the first time you will be on your own, away from your parents and in a new area. For others, you may be returning to school for another semester of classes, friends, clubs, fun, and exams. For those of you commuting, you may be preparing for the best route to take to get to class, and balancing home life with work life with school life, etc. For parents of college students, you may also be experiencing this nervous excitement. It is a big step for both of you.
Being a college student can be an amazing experience. Yes, there will be the stressors of meeting new people, learning new and challenging information, exams, and independence. But, did you know that stressors aren’t necessarily negative. Interesting in learning more? See this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=154-mh8JbNg&index=3&list=PLbiVpU59JkVZeQPQ1u5mS8U1c0V7J5OJU" target="_blank">video that explains how to make stress your friend. The same stressors listed above can actually be fantastic opportunities. That is, if you view them that way.
Meeting new people- some of you may be saying "eekk" in your mind and experiencing a rise in anxiety. Meeting and getting to know people can be challenging, but can also lead to great friendships, healthy relationships, and professional connections.
Learning new and challenging information- again, some of you may be worried about the difficulty level of the material or whether or not it will be interesting or relative to your major, or about how much work there will be in each course. Learning is a tool for success, growth, and change in your life.
Exams- I don't need to elaborate on the level of nervousness you may be experiencing on this one. Exams can be tough, no doubt about that. Success requires effective preparation, study skills, knowledge of the new material you learned, and time management. Exams allow you to show off your skills, test your limits, and communicate your knowledge to others.
Independence- what a fun yet scary concept. From doing laundry and making dinner to paying rent or buying books, independence in college can be helpful or detrimental to college success. For a healthy experience, remember that these activities, when balanced appropriately with school responsibilities, are good for self-care.
If you want to learn how to meet new people and form healthy connections, embrace new course material and integrate it into prior knowledge, rock your exams, and build an independence that will serve and protect you, check out my series of brief workshops for an awesome college experience. You can listen anytime and on any device. You will learn how to master these skills and more. And best of all, you will learn how to have a meaningful, successful, and fun college experience.
As you return to school, consider if there is an unhealthy habit that negatively impacts your success or experience during the semester. If you want to change this, my habit change course will be helpful to you. You may want to develop better study or time management skills, participate more in class, stop using your cell phone in class, or reduce nail biting. In the course, you will learn how to change your habit safely and effectively using science and research based strategies that are manageable to do. You can try out the first class for free to see if it is a god fit for you.
https://www.freeconferencecall.com/wall/recorded_audio?audioRecordingUrl=https%3A%2F%2Frs0000.freeconferencecall.com%2Fstorage%2FsgetFCC2%2FOrFzI%2Falw7&subscriptionId=5504662" target="_blank">Click here to access the free class
If you would like to access the complete course, which includes an additional three hours of content about the functions of behavior, collecting data, reinforcement, and interventions, as well as a workbook to support your learning, click here or here to purchase.
|Posted on July 11, 2016 at 1:15 PM|
Pay attention to the way these words appear on your screen. What emotions do they trigger? Are you experiencing any external or internal awareness of sensations? As you read this, our brain can practice mindfulness. That is, being fully aware of our current moment, the "now" without judgement. As leading mindfulness expert and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn describes, there is always another now to be in. There are endless opportunities to be mindful. When was the last time you were living in the moment?
Mindfulness can be an amazing tool in our life. There are lots of mental and physical health benefits when we cultivate being in the present moment, even if it is uncomfortable. In my practice, my clients work on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and eliminating the struggle with negative emotions. This is an excellenthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI&utm_source=Synced%20from%20ACT%20Mindfully%202&utm_campaign=a242dac18d-The%20Struggle%20Switch%20%E2%80%93%20A%20New%20Animation&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b4d93a96fc-a242dac18d-243568409" target="_blank"> video that illustrates this concept if you are interested in learning more. Practicing mindfulness can actually change your brain in very healthy ways and enhance well-being. You can watch Dr. Kabat-Zinn describe this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGtJQNqMXBY&list=PLbiVpU59JkVbFtkacXoByNjHJgGc4AryM&index=2" target="_blank">here.
There are a variety of resources, tools, and interventions available to practice mindfulness. Dr. Kabat-Zinn has authored many resources, including meditation cds, books, workbooks, and videos.
Another excellent resource is the Greater Good In Action Center mindfulness page. Here, you will find an informative video and bullet points describing what mindfulness is. You can also review the many benefits of practicing mindfulness, which include improved physical and emotional well-being.
If you want to dig deeper and access additional resources, my colleague Dr. Anthony Pantaleno provides additional information about the components of mindfulness as well as helpful web links and a recommended reading list on his website. Dr. Pantaleno also offers resources for educators as well as tips for starting a mindfulness practice.
Applying these techniques can lead to many positive benefits, including reduced stress. I hope you find these resources helpful and useful.
|Posted on June 14, 2016 at 12:15 AM|
How are you sleeping? This is a question that may not be often asked, yet the answer certainly weighs on our mind and affects our daily life. Sleep is an important component of wellness. When we feel that we don't get enough of good quality sleep, we may be tired, in a bad mood, lack energy, or make poor decisions.
Understanding the components of sleep is essential to getting adequate rest. Did you know that you may be spending too much time in bed? Did you know that you might actually be trying too hard to sleep or that wearing sunglasses during the day could affect how well you sleep?
There are multiple factors that contribute to sleeping habits and problems. These include medical, psychological, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive components.
Learn how to change habits and explore options for improving your sleep. There is a life without sleeping pills available to you.
In my practice, I am now offering treatment for insomnia using the preferred method for treating this sleeping problem- Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).
This can be used as part of therapy, or as a stand alone service (5 sessions over 6 weeks). For more information about this program, head on over to my service's page and start on the path to a good night's sleep.
|Posted on May 16, 2016 at 1:00 PM|
Welcome to May! The flowers are blooming and the weather is getting warmer. It is a great time to practice being mindful and enjoy our surroundings. Of course, the beauty of mindfulness is that it is always a good time to practice since the only thing you need is the present moment, which we always have. Take a mindful walk this month and notice all the details of the world around you. You might be surprised by what you see (I know I have been!).
For this month, I am sharing an exciting resource with you. This is the first class of my habit change course, Behavior Change Ahead. This class includes information about how to change unhealthy habits and how to understand our behavior. Do you ever wonder "why do I do what I do?" This class will help you to answer this question and can provide you with beginning steps to change an unhealthy habit.
https://www.freeconferencecall.com/wall/recorded_audio?audioRecordingUrl=https%3A%2F%2Frs0000.freeconferencecall.com%2Fstorage%2FsgetFCC2%2FOrFzI%2Falw7&subscriptionId=5504662" target="_blank">Free Class: First 1 Hour of Behavior Change Ahead Course
I hope you find this first class helpful. It is my gift to you. If you would like to access the complete course, which includes an additional three hours of content about the functions of behavior, collecting data, reinforcement, and interventions, as well as a workbook to support your learning, click here to purchase.
Let's change an unhealthy habit together.
Mindfully, Dr. Laura
|Posted on April 11, 2016 at 1:35 PM|
It's April, and for many of you college students you are preparing for finals in a few weeks. For those of you not in college, this post still applies for any type of test or work presentation. If you suffer from worry, anxiety, or panic symptoms before, during, or after an evaluation, continue reading for some helpful strategies to get you through.
Five Ways To Cope With Test Anxiety
Deep Abdominal Breathing
When we take deep breaths, it is important to make sure the air is getting deep enough. To know if you are bringing the air to the right spot, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Both should be rising and falling as you breathe, but your belly should be rising higher. Picture a balloon inside your belly slowly filling with air and then slowly deflating when you breath out. Focus on the way the air feels or how your body feels taking in this nourishment as you inhale and exhale.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is still important to cover. Our mind and body give us feedback about our environment. This is necessary for survival and healthy functioning. It is why we become fearful in dangerous situations. If we do not prepare for the test/evaluation, our mind says "uh, wait a minute here. I don't know how to process this situation. Alarm, alarm, alarm!" And our body feels the corresponding anxiety symptoms. While taking a test is not necessarily a dangerous situation, there are negative consequences for not performing well on a test. Hence, our mind will react accordingly. Note that this is unlikely to occur if you do not care about the negative consequences or the outcome of the test.
Healthy, Realistic, and Optimistic Thoughts
The way we think affects the way we feel which in turn impacts our behavior. We can be responsible for the thoughts we have about a test. If we interpret studying for a test as boring and a waste of time, we are less likely to prepare. If we interpret the test as a challenge that provides a stepping stone to our career, we are more likely to prepare. Our thoughts about the test while taking it also matter and can influence our performance. It is important to be realistic. If you haven’t studied at all and really never had a good handle on the material, thinking you are going to ace it is unrealistic. Thinking that you will do your best with what you have is more effective. Thinking that one test will make or break your life is also unhelpful and most likely not true.
Mindfulness-Focus on Here and Now When Taking the Test
Every second you have an opportunity to be mindful- to be fully aware of your experience taking the test. This means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, focusing on the test itself, and being aware of any distracting thoughts with non-judgment and acceptance. This is a skill that takes practice. It is a good thing that we can practice any time we want because there is always the current moment available to us. Why not live in it?
Awareness of Cycle of Anxiety and Panic
Sometimes we get so anxious preparing or taking a test that we experience feelings of panic or a full-blown panic attack. While incredibly uncomfortable and terrifying, panic attacks on their own are not usually dangerous. It is important to understand the cycle of panic to stop it before it starts. We may feel anxious and start to notice our breathing and heart rate increase. Once we have had panic attacks diagnosed, we can understand that our body is falsely alarming us to a danger that is not real. Using healthy coping skills (some of them are mentioned above) can make a big difference.
I hope you apply these skills and have some great performances on your upcoming tests!
|Posted on March 14, 2016 at 3:00 PM|
t's time for spring and that means it's time to clean up and clean out! For this month, I am sharing a compilation of videos and interviews to learn about changing your behavior. Let's spring clean together and change our unhealthy habits.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI&utm_source=Synced%20from%20ACT%20Mindfully%202&utm_campaign=a242dac18d-The%20Struggle%20Switch%20%E2%80%93%20A%20New%20Animation&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b4d93a96fc-a242dac18d-243568409" target="_blank">The Struggle Switch:
This is one of my favorite videos. Spend a few minutes learning about how to face anxiety- without struggling with it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8-6XzURntE&list=PLbiVpU59JkVbFtkacXoByNjHJgGc4AryM&index=1" target="_blank">Mindfulness Overview:
This is a 60 minutes special focusing on the application of mindfulness in our daily lives.
Do you want to learn about how to change your behavior? Are you struggling with eating too much, staying up too late, worrying too much, or not exercising enough? Watch these videos for some helpful strategies.
This is a radio interview about changing your behavior in order to be more effective leaders and workers.
Happy watching/listening! Contact me if you want to learn more about any of these topics.
|Posted on February 15, 2016 at 1:25 PM|
A few days ago, I found myself trying not to laugh out loud while hiding behind the door in my son's room. He had just learned to play Hide and Seek and couldn’t find me. My husband, who did not know we were playing this game, also began looking for me, genuinely not knowing where I had gone. This made the game even more funny. I could see and hear them, but neither knew where my excellent hiding space was. Once they found me, we all laughed together.
When was the last time you played? Play is important not only for children but also for adults. Children learn through play and adults can engage in relaxation, meaningful time with others, and fun through play. Play can take many forms, whether it is building with your children, playing a sports game, or having a dance party. What is fun varies from person to person.
This month, try and play more. Maybe you will find yourself doing the very best job of holding in your laughter hiding behind a door.
|Posted on January 19, 2016 at 6:15 AM|
It's New Year's Resolution time. Did you make one?
Did you know that the calendar doesn't need to tell you when and when not to make a behavior change in your life? In fact, you can make a change when you decide you would like to.
However, it is helpful to join the momentum of support this time of year to help us stick to our resolutions. So, let's jump on, eh?
In order to make a change that lasts, there are several factors that need to be considered.
First, effective goal setting is key. There are a variety of strategies for choosing a goal that you can actually achieve. I recommend choosing a goal that is specific, not too general, and can be observed and measured. I also like to set up baby steps or objectives that assist us in working towards our goals.
Another is enlisting a social support network. If you have worked with me before, we probably talked about your social support. During New Year's Resolution time, social support may be more readily available to you and there may be others in your network who are looking to achieve a similar goal. Perhaps this could be a support for you as well.
If you're interested in learning more, see below for a video about my brand new course Behavior Change Ahead.
Let's get there together.
|Posted on December 14, 2015 at 3:40 PM|
When was the last time you were truly present? When were you just wherever you were?
It is so easy during this season to get wrapped up in the busyness of holiday events, family gatherings, work responsibilities, academic tasks, and traffic.
We can easily become a "do-er" and just do, do, do. Have you ever driven on the expressway and realized that you drove 5 exits, but don't recall passing by any of them? Do you feel always in a rush? Are you feeling stressed out?
This month, I want to challenge you to develop your being skills. I am going to challenge myself as well and I welcome you to join me.
We can practice mindfulness wherever we are. This is being aware of our surroundings and internal sensations and accepting whatever there is to see, feel, touch, smell, taste, and think.
When we practice mindfulness, we can slow down and be while we do.
Let's give ourselves, our family, and our friends the present of being present.
|Posted on November 11, 2015 at 10:00 AM|
Have you ever noticed how beautiful the fall season can be? The air is a bit crisper. The leaves are changing all sorts of colors. There are acorns scattered around for gathering.
Have you ever noticed how ugly the fall season can be? The air is a bit crisper. The leaves are changing all sorts of colors. There are acorns scattered around for gathering.
Did you get what I mean? The way we see things makes a difference with how we feel. We could love the crisp air, colorful leaves, and the sound of the acorns crunching under our feet as we walk. Or, we could dislike being colder, feel leaves changing is a sign of yucky weather to come, and be turned off by the mess of acorns on our properties.
How do you see things?
I want to challenge you to not only look, but to see your environment. The fall season is like our behavior. The leaves don't all change at the same time, nor do they all drop on the same day. Change is a process. We can view this as necessary time needed to create something beautiful, or become frustrated by the time it takes to finish. Yes, the trees look bare in the winter, but the new life in the spring is refreshing. What a wonder to appreciate-the beauty in seasonal changes.
We have seasonal changes in our environment. Our lives have seasonal changes too. Maybe you’re living in a rough season right now. Remember, change happens slowly. It is healthy to appreciate and accept the thoughts and feelings we have and to understand the next season could be amazing.
If you would like to learn more about seasons in our lives, feel free to contact me by phone, e-mail, or any of my social media accounts.
|Posted on October 16, 2015 at 6:05 AM|
Have you ever looked at a big project and felt like you would never get it done? Maybe you felt overwhelmed by the amount of work or defeated by the challenges that stood in your way. Maybe you want to quit smoking but the idea of a life without cigarettes is foreign to you. Perhaps you want to move out on your own but you are struggling to find a job that pays enough. Maybe you want to lose weight, but you haven't changed your eating habits.
Big changes are the result of small successes. It's like climbing a ladder. We can't get to the top without climbing the steps. If you have a broad goal in mind, such as being healthier, having a better relationship with someone, quitting your job, or getting into college-think about all of the steps on the ladder to get there.
Now that you have thought of the steps, start at the bottom. The most important aspect of this is to celebrate each step that you take and succeed in. Punishment decreases behavior. Reinforcement increases behavior. If you want to stop working at your goals, then punishment is the way to go. If you want to reach your goal, reinforcement is your friend and punishment is your enemy. Don’t punish yourself along the way!
What ladder are you ready to climb?
|Posted on September 11, 2015 at 9:00 AM|
Have you ever seen the same thing many times and then one day it looked different to you? I recently decided to head the opposite direction (for example east instead of west) on the route I take for my daily (as long as the weather cooperates) mindful walk. Do you know what I saw? The whole route differently. New plants, backyards, trees, sides of houses, cars, potholes, and light posts. I walked on the very same roads I had walked on hundreds of times and a whole new panorama of interesting things to enjoy was illuminated just by walking the opposite direction. This experienced has inspired me to explore areas in the neighborhood I hadn't yet seen, knowing I would have to turn around once I reached a dead end or a cul de sac on which I did not live - taking the risk of the residents wondering who I was!
Making behavior changes in our lives is very similar process. We get into a habit and get comfortable (even if it is an unhealthy habit) with our daily routine. It is hard to see things differently. It is hard to see that there could be other roads not taken or routes untravelled. We are afraid to take the risk.
Change happens when we take the risk. Change happens when we see things differently. Change happens when we are mindful of our environment. Change is hard work. But Change can also be very rewarding!
Change is within our reach. Though it might be difficult, change is possible. It might be as simple as making a left instead of a right.
What do you want to change?
I am working on a brand new behavior change course to help people learn how to change unhealthy habits and behaviors. It is going to be an awesome program to participate in. In order for me to put together a great course, can you take a minute and help me?
In order to make sure that I address the concerns that most people might have concerning changing unhealthy or disruptive behaviors, I would really appreciate it if you could answer the following brief questions. Please note that your responses are only to help me create a more successful program. I will not be using your names in the course, but may share some of your responses to these questions. I would be happy to get suggestions from anyone else that you know too! Just ask them to email their answers to me. See my email address below.
Here are the questions:
What is the biggest hurdle you face when trying to change a behavior?
What is a behavior you have tried to change in the past but was unsuccessful?
You can post a comment here or send me an e-mail at [email protected]
*Please remember that internet communications are not confidential. Please see http://www.meaningfulpsychservices.com/policies-resources for more information.
If you would like to answer but are not comfortable with posting a comment or sending an e-mail, you can also call me at 631-484-9679.
|Posted on August 7, 2015 at 9:15 AM|
Shortly after deciding the topic of this month's post, my plan was reinforced by watching Pixar's new movie Inside Out. What a great way to view and learn about our emotions! Once again, Pixar had me tearing up, laughing, and adoring this wonderful gem of a movie. Isn't it funny how some children's movies are so appealing to grown-ups too? I suppose this is a goal of Hollywood since children can't take themselves to the movies so parents should have some fun too!
Ok-back on topic here. My goal for this month is to discuss the importance of experiencing a healthy range of emotions. When I set up therapy goals with my clients, we work together to design goals that are reflective of a healthy and meaningful lifestyle. Not only is a goal to be happy all the time unrealistic, it is unhealthy.
There are many lessons that can be learned from Inside Out. I will do my best to avoid spoilers, but I forgive you if you stop reading now and return after you have seen the movie (and I hope you do). The movie outlines a fascinating view of our brain map and emotions. We see core memories, personality traits, long-term memory, imagination, and filing systems. We also see how emotions play a large role in our behaviors, actions, and choices. We also see how emotions are kicked into gear by how we interpret the environment.
As a parent, I understand the desire for our children to be happy all the time. I even noticed myself on Team Joy for a while there. Sadness was dragging us down. A deeper look into our lesson here is that Joy isn't everything we need. Each of our other emotions play a key role in our well-being. When working together and in healthy amounts, our emotions keep us safe, and allow us to take risks, experience happiness, connect with others, cry it out when needed, get feedback that something is wrong, identify poor fit in our environment, laugh, resolve conflicts, have our own opinions, be resilient and develop our own personality.
I hope you will be able to spend time being mindful of having a healthy range of emotions and expressing them appropriately. Enjoy some time with friends and family, catch a movie (I definitely recommend Inside Out), read a book (perhaps my e-book The Summer it Rained: How Boppy the Beagle Learned to See the Sun Behind the Clouds), and pay attention to your emotions when they are activated. There is some good information available to you there.
|Posted on July 10, 2015 at 9:00 AM|
Several years ago, I experienced a panic attack (yes, psychologists can get them too). I was sitting in the middle of a packed movie theater with friends when another movie goer had a medical emergency that was very scary and yucky (I'll spare you the details) and involved 911 and several medical professionals. The scene played out in the theater and blocked the only non-emergency exit. Faced with sights and sounds of the other person as well as being in the middle of a row with people on either side of me, I panicked.
Panic attacks occur very suddenly and sometimes can feel as if they come out of nowhere. Other times, we are able to identify an event that sets it into motion. Let's break this down using my panic attack example. The trigger was the medical emergency. The way that I interpreted this event ("I'm trapped," "are they going to be ok?" "why hasn't the theater stopped the movie and gotten us out of here?" "what's wrong with that person?") affected the way that I felt (nervous, sweaty, breathing rate increased, dizzy, tingling). The cycle of panic continued. I then interpreted the feelings as being more severe or dangerous ("I'm going to be sick," "why do I feel like this?") and then the feelings intensified (sense of derealization, heart rate increases, lose feeling in hands, stomach upset). Thankfully, I recognized the symptoms as a panic attack and was able to utilize coping skills to break the cycle and prevent symptoms from getting worse. I was able to stay for the remainder of the movie, rather than leave once the scene was cleared. If I left, I would have reinforced my anxiety by escaping the situation.
For a long time after this experience, I struggled with returning to that theater. This is called avoidance. The problem with avoidance is that you feel better in the short term (e.g., "good thing I didn’t go to that mean and scary movie theater because I feel better now") but the longer we avoid, the harder it is to go back. Family and friends would invite me to go, but I would work hard to get everyone to choose a different theater so I could avoid going back. This was the wrong thing to do!
Once I finally decided that this was ridiculous and unhealthy, I went back. This is called exposure. The first time was pretty uncomfortable. Over time, it became easier and easier to go to this theater. This is because I had to actively work on breaking the connection between the movie theater and having a panic attack and/or witnessing a scary medical emergency. The more I went and nothing scary happened, the easier it was to go. I also paired the exposure with relaxation techniques. This is to help replace the scary environment with a relaxing one.
If you are avoiding a situation that has an uncomfortable memory for you and is a place where you should be otherwise safe in, I invite you to decide to change this. A psychologist can assist you with the necessary tools and skills to regain the courage and the strength to return to your movie theater, wherever that may be for you.
It feels great to be able to see movies in this theater again, and to be able to share this story with you (which is another form of exposure, by the way).