“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
A common issue that leads a person to seek counseling is their belief that they are unhappy, yet they are not able to verbalize what would make them happy. The individual can identify multiple reasons why they are unhappy, even blaming situations (finances, job, school, arguments) or others (spouse, parents, teachers, peers) for their unhappiness. Some people believe they do not deserve to be happy or they are waiting for a future event, situation or person to bring them happiness. Their perception about their unhappiness can even lead to physical manifestations, broken relationships and self-defeating behaviors such as substance abuse. The counseling process can help one examine their beliefs, expectations and define what “happy” might look like. Making your mind shift or change beliefs about being happy is an individual process. For some, the shift occurs quickly and easily, while others may struggle and shift at a slower pace. Either way, the professional counselors at pinnacle Counseling are ready to help you as you make up your mind to be happier!
Is your plan is place? An earlier post gave a few what not to’s for your resolutions this year (NY Resolutions: A Counselor’s Perspective). Here are a couple of suggestions for resolutions that work for you. Don’t worry if you haven’t developed a well-defined resolution or set of resolutions. Now is the perfect time.
Be specific. Broad generalizations are not your friends. Set specific, measurable goals with a specific verifiable, objectives along the way. If today is day one of your new program, you should do something today toward your goal and feel good about it.
Give yourself two months. What you are trying to do is replace a disorganized, unfocused, or unhealthy habit with the habit of your choice. Research indicates that you need to practice a new behavior about 60 times before it becomes a habit. If you are talking about an everyday discipline, that means you’ll need about two months to turn a new behavior (cleaning the kitchen every night before bed, walking every morning, not smoking on the way to work, not placing clothing on the floor of your closet) into an established habit.
Reward yourself along the way. Feel good starting day one. Recognize that the change you are seeking is already underway. Imagine how good you’ll feel at day 60. Think about it. How you get there starts on day one and continues for every day thereafter. Think about spreading that good feeling of accomplishment out, from day one to day sixty and every day in between.
Despite advances in mental health, the term “Nervous Breakdown” is still a term commonly used in our culture. In the past, the term was used frequently and covered a variety of mental disorders. While the term is a metaphor and is not a clinical or medical term, or indicates a specific mental illness, the description of symptoms can indicate an underlying mental disorder such as depression or anxiety. A nervous breakdown could occur after a prolonged period of feeling emotionally or physically overwhelmed, or exhausted with the demands of life or an external stressor, and to the point a person is unable to function in day-to-day life or feeling as if they are not able to cope with life at all. In the past, treatment for nervous breakdowns usually involved hospitalization, heavy medication, and even lobotomy. Thinking of a person as weak or unable to “fix” their own problems perpetuates the negative stigma of mental illness. Life today can be complex and stressful. Many people do not know effective coping strategies and are still hesitant to seek professional help. If you think you may be having a nervous “breakdown” or had one in the past, consult with us at Pinnacle Counseling.
Stressful events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job or home, or serious/chronic illness can actually affect the grey matter in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This region of the brain is responsible for self-control, emotions and physiological functions such as proper glucose and insulin levels. Stressors can affect our mood centers and skew our ability to regulate pleasure and reward. Prolonged exposure to stress can actually shrink the brain. Brain volumes in the mood centers are linked to depression and anxiety. People who have brain shrinkage seem to be more vulnerable when faced with a life trauma or sudden adverse event as the effects are magnified and their ability to cope is compromised.
Brain-enhancing activities to combat stress and make our brains more resilient to stress are recommended to diffuse some of the potentially harmful effects stress can have on the brain. Some valuable stress relievers include exercise, meditation, taking a daily dose of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid-an Omega 3 fatty acid) and maintaining strong emotional relationships.
Changes occur all day long. An appointment gets cancelled, you encounter a detour on the way home, you were anticipating roast beef for dinner and you got chicken. It’s what life is and while you might get a bit frustrated, you learn to roll with it. But what about the big changes? Job transfers, marriage, divorce, children, medical changes and the death of someone you love. How do you learn to adapt with the changes that will affect the rest of your life?
Whether you’re leaving the community that you’ve built strong relations with or having to bury a loved one, you will feel anger because it wasn’t your choice for this to happen to you. Healthy coping skills result in better emotional stability. Poor coping skills result in anger and resentment.
First, it is helpful to recognize that you are in the midst of change and that change is part of you. Instead of thinking about all the negative issues, try making a list of all the positive benefits of this change. Visualize all the possibilities and write them down. Make up a “to do” list if there are things you need to accomplish before the change happens. Call a friend and discuss your fears and ask for their advice. If you feel that you can’t get past your fear, anger and resentment you may need to talk to a professional. In talking with a therapist you will get an unbiased opinion and they will be able to give you some insight and the coping tools so that you can move on and embrace your changes.
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” ~ Jim Rohn