Category Archives: Disconnecting Habits

I do not agree with what you have to say, but..

by Dr. Ken Larsen

The inner turmoil that comes from conflict can rob us of our mental health and happiness.

Much of that inner turmoil, I believe, comes from the compulsion to “be right.”

I recently heard Tara Brach make the claim that the world is divided by those who think they are right.

bullhornI cringe at the lack of civility in so many clashes of opinion. I have to wonder what makes people think that denigrating another will convince them of much of anything.

There seems to be a trend to belittle and call names to those who may have a differing point of view.

Can we simply state our position, and then listen carefully to the other, trying to understand?

A quote from Wayne Dyer recently floated through Facebook.  It got a lot of “likes”.  Here’s the quote:

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”

Most of us strongly oppose bullying.  I believe we need to stop and recognize that the disrespectful attacks on another because their beliefs don’t coincide with yours is a form of bullying.  A bully seeks to overpower another.  This can be done on the playground, or it can happen in the political arena, or any place where opinions clash.  How about the old proverb, “live and let live.”?

The common bond of our humanity takes precedence over our differing opinions.  Aren’t we tired of history repeating itself time and time again with the clashes that lead to violence?  These clashes have an understandable beginning.  One person is convinced he is right and is equally convinced that the other person is wrong.  Can we step back a bit and look at ourselves, listening to what we are thinking and saying about others?  Then ask if what we are doing is getting us what we want.  If we step away from the sort of hostility I am describing, I believe we have a better chance to maintain our mental health and happiness.


Turn your complaint inside out

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN


Complaining is one of the deadly habits that contributes to destroying relationships according to William Glasser. A recent study reported in a Psychology Today blog stated that the most common complaint men have about marriage is the amount of complaining that their wives do. (Anyone else besides me notice the irony of men complaining about women complaining?)

Most of us can quickly name the expert complainer in our own lives. Sadly this is the person we try to avoid. Quite simply stated, complaining is unattractive and detrimental to our Mental Health & Happiness.

So why do so many people, including each of us, engage in this habit?

Our brain is hardwired to notice what is not right in our world. This attribute is necessary for our very survival. When we were evolving as a species it was important to notice when our environment changed enough to put our very survival at risk. When a pride of lions decided to move into the next door cave where we were living it was important that we noticed this change.  Had our brain not alerted us to this danger and we not then taken appropriate action, that would have been the end of us!

This means our brain notices almost everything that is wrong in our world. Luckily most of us do not need to comment or complain about everything that is wrong. But most of us will comment or complain about some things sometimes.

Several of the recent blogs and social media posters writing about increased happiness advocate that people go twenty-four hours without complaining. Great idea. But what are you going to do instead? If complaining is a natural and brain based urge, if you don’t have some other strategy to follow instead you are most likely to fall right back into complaining all over again.

Why not use this natural brain-based ability to your advantage. Every time you notice something worth complaining about you can take this opportunity to start declaring what you want instead. The more you do this the more you will begin to better understand and appreciate what you really want in your life.

So instead of complaining about the lions who moved in next door you could say I look forward to finding a new home where friendly and safe neighbors surround us.

Instead of complaining about the weather you could say I look forward to the next sunny day or Im sorry for me its raining. Im happy for the gardens and flowers that it is raining.

Instead of complaining about some physical ailment that is causing you pain you could say This stomach ache is reminding me to make better food choices in the future or This headache reminds me to spend more time in gentle light to be kinder to myself.

Instead of complaining about all the complainers that surround you, you could say I wonder what these people want that they are not getting?

Go ahead and eliminate complaining for twenty-four hours. And for better Mental Health & Happiness replace your complaining with a declaration of what you want instead.


Overcoming depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and more

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Want to develop, improve and maintain your Mental Health & Happiness? Then you need to effectively follow your psychological instructions every day.

Want to feel less stress, anxiety, sadness, depression, alienation and powerlessness? Then you need to more effectively follow your psychological instructions every day.

Want to stop continually  obsessing over one thought, loss, sadness or failure? Want to stop your never ending internal argument of whether or not to ingest that forbidden substance, whether it be food, drink, or drug? Then you need to more effectively and consistently follow your psychological instructions every day.

sadwomanAre you feeling a complete lack of hope, feeling so despondent that you have been considering ending your life? Maybe you are feeling this right now. Then you need to effectively and consistently follow your psychological instructions right now, especially your instruction to connect in a meaningful and authentic way with one other person.

These are your psychological instructions: the urge to feel safe & secure, to be loving with a sense of belonging and connectedness, to be powerful, to be playful, and to be able to make choices with freedom.

Ask yourself these questions:

Who do you feel closest to in the whole world? Who do you share your hopes, dreams, wishes and sorrows with? If you don’t have at least one person in your life that fits these requirements,  start cultivating that kind of a relationship NOW! Your answer could be a pet, or God, or some other similar answer. That’s okay. However, if you can add a real person that would be even better.

Where do you feel important? What are you doing that you know makes a difference in the world, including just your own immediate world? If you can’t give an answer to this question start doing meaningful work, whether volunteer, paid or family work. We all need to feel as though we are making a difference. Make a contribution and know that your presence adds value not just to your own life but the lives of others.

Where do you feel like you have choices and options? Can’t answer that question? Then start  paying better attention to your world and your life now. You have lots of options and choices, including the choice of reading this blog to the end or doing something different. You have more freedom and choices than you realize. You just need to start noticing and giving thanks for all this freedom and choices. (If Viktor Frankl had choices then so do you.)

When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks hurt, tears streamed down your face and your belly got tired? Can’t remember? You my friend are in dire need of more fun and learning in your life. Start doing something, anything to be more playful and joyful. This can include going to a funny movie and watching and hearing others laugh, Laughter is contagious. Find a laughing yoga class near you and attend. Search on YouTube for videos of others laughing and watch long enough until you get tickled too.

Where do you feel safest in your world? This is the place where you seek shelter and comfort when you’re frightened. Don’t have that place? Then create it! If you have to, close your eyes and visualize being in a place from your past or your imaginations where you felt held, comforted and safely in a nest. We all need our own personal refuge.

Now that you have completed this brief needs assessment evaluation, do you have any ideas of what you can do to help develop, improve and maintain your Mental Health & Happiness? Let today be the day you get started.

For better results and greater effectiveness, connect with an accountability buddy. You help your buddy succeed in an area of his choosing, and ask for the help and support you need to succeed in improving your Mental Health & Happiness.

Are you willing?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD,RN

Are you willing to take one action step that will improve your Mental Health & Happiness? This isn’t going to involve a lot of time, money or sacrifice? Well, maybe I spoke too soon. For some people this will take more energy, effort and hard work than it will for others. But it probably won’t mean that you will perspire, grunt or strain.

Here’s the proposition: Stop complaining for twenty-four hours. That’s it. Don’t speak or even think a complaint for twenty-four hours. Go ahead, I dare you.

Complaining is a natural and normal part of the human experience. Our brains are biologically driven to seek information in our environment about what will help, support and sustain us and what is interfering with our good biological and psychological satisfaction and survival. Our brain is driven to behave when there is a mismatch between what we want and what we perceive we’re getting. One of the first behaviors we use when there is a mismatch is complaining.

I’m not warm enough. . . . . .  I think I’m getting a cold. . . . . There isn’t enough light in this room.             

Complaining by itself is not a problem. But continuous complaining without constructive and positive action can be debilitating. Complaining certainly can interfere with relationships as well. You probably know someone who is a constant complainer. Debbie Downer can always find what is wrong in any situation.

You can also be your own Donald Downer. I’ve had my own periods in my life where I’ve complained to anyone who would listen about being so tired of listening to my own complaints!

If you decide to take this challenge and give up complaining for twenty-four hours an interesting thing will begin to happen. Since you know you are not going to complain about all you see, hear, and perceive about what is wrong in your world, you will begin to notice all that is right, in harmony, pleasing and beautiful in yourself and in your world. Instead of talking about how bad it is that you’re not getting what you want, you may begin to talk about what you do want. The miserable day that you might have had will become a wonderful day that you are having, simply because you’ve chosen to stop complaining about what isn’t and started to notice what is.

Go ahead, give it a try. Improve your Mental Health & Happiness by complaining no more, or at least for twenty-four hours.

Are you willing?

All The World’s A Stage

By Mike Rice

Have you ever sat down with your TV remote control and flipped through each channel looking for a movie that catches your interest?  Most people have.  Perhaps I should say most men do.  It tends to be a guy trait.  However, this is not a gender specific behavior.  Everyone does it at one time or another.


So you find something that catches your attention and you get comfortable and begin watching.  Then, in twenty minutes or less, the words, “The End” flashes upon the screen.   One’s automatic response may be, “What the heck was THAT all about?”  The reason it didn’t make much sense is because you missed the beginning and the middle.  That’s the way our lives play out in our families of origin.

In each of our lives, a lot of drama occurred before we were born.  If you don’t know the beginning or the first several acts, the family drama can be quite confusing as we observe and it not make much sense.  By trial and error, as we mature, we watch the drama all around us unfold and efforts or made to figure out what role we will play that will allow the drama to continue.  This is where creativity comes in.   Different roles that result in certain behaviors are tested to see if they will maintain the family homeostasis or upset it.  Upstaging or taking over another family member’s role will lead to resentment and conflict.  Demanding directors will also play an integral part in the roles played by new cast members and tell a member what role they will play.

The role one chooses is also designed to satisfy whatever basic needs a cast member feels may be missing in his/her life.  The greater the unmet need, the more the role or behavior is chosen to satisfy or, at least, ease the frustration, of not having the need satisfied . . . regardless of it disrupting the story line.  In such an example, a whole new story line is created by the new character’s role and more drama is added causing other family members to modify or change their roles.

Older family members don’t like changing roles.  They worked hard to create the role they’ve been playing for years.  So any of the senior cast members may often strut and fret their hour upon the stage, signifying their power by trying to control the new cast member in the family drama.

The late noted conjoint family therapist, Virginia Satir, once stated that 95% of all families are dysfunctional.  If so, then I contend the other 5% are in denial.  We are not perfect parents anymore than we are perfect humans. We learned to parent based upon how we were parented.  We all come with our roles that we developed in our own families in order to get our basic needs met and the methods used to acquire these needs are often passed along to each generation.  The roles that are created to maintain the family drama are retained by the actors to seek others in their personal relationships that will allow them to continue to perform the roles they’ve been playing for years in their family of origin.

In a balanced family, all members are allowed to be what they are innately meant to be.  They are supported for their interests and goals and assisted towards moving in a positive direction.  They are recognized as individuals with different interests, dreams, and needs separate from other members.

In a toxic family, members are told what they are going to be, when they will be it, what they will do, and how they will do it.  Strict rigid rules are prevalent in the toxic family and they may even have rules for those who break the rules.  The toxicity tends to permeate the entire family structure.  It is quite common to see many family members fare much better in life when they are not around those whose thoughts, words, and attitudes keep them stuck and prohibit their happiness.  This is a sad scenario to be sure.  Parents don’t have children with designs of purposely setting them up for a life of misery and sadness.  What a parent has learned and developed to deal with their own life is not a one size fits all approach to their children’s lives.  Thus the words of Dr. William Glasser ring loud and clear:  “If everyone could learn that what is right for me does not make it right for everyone else, the world would be a much happier place.”

What is your work life like?

By Dr. Nancy Buck

A recent radio program I listen to proclaimed that more people are unhappy at work than during any other part of their day, including being home sick and vomiting! Considering the amount of time most of us spend working, that means there is a lot of time that a lot of people are unhappy.

It didn’t take me much thought to return to my own work history. Early in my professional life I worked in a very stressful job as one of the front line people answering calls and dealing with folks who were experiencing mental health and emotional emergencies. One of the biggest stressors about this job was never knowing what each shift might bring. We might spend an entire shift completing crossword puzzles and catching up on paper work. Other shifts might include dealing with a person threatening suicide, or talking with a handcuffed person threatening violence brought in by the police. I didn’t hate my work. But I never got comfortable dealing with the potential dangers of the continuous unknown.

The first community mental health center where I worked happened to be located in an old grand home. Simply through ease of configuring office space, all of the emergency services staff occupied one large office space where we each had our own desk, phone, files, etc. There were a couple of private offices where we took clients for private interviews. The serendipitous advantage of this configuration was that we had colleagues to “return to”who could help us process our strategies as well as our own emotional upheaval in dealing with the last upset and upsetting client. And the rest of the staff working in the agency but not part of the emergency services team knew our large shared office space was the perfect place to take their breaks. They were always guaranteed other staff to “chat”with and to help them debrief and de-stress.

The hazard of being the place where everyone “hung out”was that we were also the dumping ground for complaints, upsets, and shedding of various staff members concerns and emotional turmoil.

Not only did we have to handle the stress of our expected clients in crises, we also were carrying the upset and burdens of our colleagues.

One day we of the emergency team decided we had had enough. It was time for us to take care of our own stress and begin more effective stress management and mental health care.

We instituted a rule that was posted clearly and in big letters so all could read as they entered:

You are welcomed to join us and will be invited to stay
as long as you . . .
State 3 positives you have experienced today


                        Tell us a really good joke.         

        Thank you for contributing to our good mental health today.
We hope to return the favor.

The results were awesome. At first people didn’t think we were serious. But when we told them we were. And we assured them we would invite them to leave if they could not fulfill one of the two criteria.

From then on things really started to change in our office. And the improvement was not only experienced by the emergency services team, but also by our “visitors.”

Some people took the joke idea as a challenge and would try and tell us a better joke this day than they had the day before. Some people told us they had to wait to enter until later in the day when they had finally experienced three positive things to share.

The biggest change was to the overall environment and tone in our office. People shared with us the positive, up beat and energizing aspects of their world and experiences. Each of us still faced the challenges and stress of our jobs, but we were able to create a work experience that contributed to our mental health and happiness. We asked for what we wanted and needed. And luckily we had good enough relations with our colleagues to get it.


By Dr. Nancy Buck

Are you the person other people go to for a favor, for help, for a contribution to one more charity? Do you feel you just can’t say “no”because you will let someone down?

Have you set clear limits about what you will and will not do for the church group, the PTA, the boy scout or girl scout fair?

In other words, do you have clear boundaries?

Are you afraid to disappoint others? Do you fear you will let someone down if you don’t help out and take on one more project?

Hmm. Maybe the person your letting down is yourself. Imagine agreeing to volunteer only for the events at your child’s school that give you joy and satisfaction. Wouldn’t it be great to know how to set boundaries that don’t disconnect you from others or disconnect your from yourself?

This might help. Before you go to the place, meeting or interaction with the people who impose on you, sit alone in a quiet space. Put one hand on your gut, the other hand on your heart. Practice conscious breathing, taking in deep cleansing breaths breathing with intention. Now follow the rhythm of your natural breathing and “see”yourself at the meeting, with the relative or at work.

What do you want? What are you willing to do? What are you not willing to do? Ask yourself what your boundaries, limits, desires and expectations are?

Are you clear? Stay in your same meditative and imaginary space, and see yourself standing tall, clear and smiling lovingly. Imagine you are asked to do or give something outside of your own boundary or willingness. See yourself smiling lovingly and saying, “I’m so sorry but that won’t be possible this time.”There is no need to give an explanation or an excuse. Practice another imaginary response. “That would be fun. I’m so sorry I cannot do that this time.”Or try “Thank you so much for thinking of me. I’m afraid I must say no.”See if you can actually imagine yourself saying “no”at least three times with love and clarity.

As you enter the meeting, or are approached by your insistent relative or greet your boss, causally put one hand on your gut, the other on your heart, stand tall and clear. Smile lovingly and actually say a loving “no”when a request is made that is outside of your boundary.

Keep practicing this strategy in your imagination and in your life and watch how Mental Health & Happiness improve!


By Dr. Nancy Buck

Perhaps you already know this, but most people are born knowing other people should live their  lives. Opinions are like belly buttons; everyone has one. It’s just that some people have more attractive ones than others. The same is also true about opinions.

And yet, too often other people presume to be an authority about another person’s life, their choices, their life direction and life decisions. And many people feel compelled to tell the world how badly their fellow man is doing.

Often when people gather, time is spent catching other people up. Not only does one person tell of their own life and life changes, but stories may be told about the lives and changes of mutual acquaintances. Sometimes this chat fest turns into a gossip session.

Can you believe . . . or I just heard that they . . . or Next thing you know he will . . . The ending of each of these phrases is the “authority” explaining the poor choices and failings of the person being discussed.

Before you go making a faulty assumption, let me assure you that this activity is not done just by women. Although many men (and women too) accuse women of being the biggest gossips, this just isn’t true.

Telling a negative, or belittling story or disapproving gossip about another person, is too often done to help the speaker feel a greater sense of superiority and power. Putting another person down so you can feel taller or stronger ultimately back fires. A story teller or gossip often looses the respect and esteem of others.

Although gossiping may not be in the official list of disconnecting habits that destroy relationships, it fits. Gossiping contributes to creating distance in relationships between people. And ultimately gossiping can also diminish a person’s relationship with him or herself.

EXCEPT when people gossip positively! If you admire the achievement of a mutual friend, share this news. Admire and praise people loudly directly to the person and to others. Say nice things about other people, about their fine qualities and attributes.

One of my proudest moments as a parent was overhearing two women in Walmart. I entered the store a few feet behind my then teenage son David. He knew one of the women in the pair and said a friendly hello to her. He then walked on aiming for his purchase. These women did not know David and I were together or connected. The one who knew David said to her friend, “That is one wonderful kid. He is really kind and considerate. We worked together for a time and he was always willing to help me out.” What joy that gossip gave me!

If you want to improve your own mental health and happiness, stop gossiping and stop listening to other people’s gossip.

But go ahead, share positive gossip and spread good will wherever you go.

How do you calm yourself?

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Recently I have been fortunate to spend grandma time taking care of my grandchildren, ranging in age from 9-months to 4-years, with an 18-month old in between. And if you’ve ever spent time with children you know that their days and lives are filled with moments of great joy and glee as well as moments of upset and sorrow. No one needs to be an emotionally intelligent genius to guess what emotional state a child is experiencing.

During those moments of sadness, upset and crying, I do my best to offer comfort, alleviating and relieving the source of the pain. I also add the extra grand-ma love, hugs and soothing.

What I also get to observe is how each child is learning to provide his own strategies to relax, pacify and self-soothe.

One searches for her pacifier and snuggle bunny to help ease her pain. Another squeezes his eyes shut tight until Mama comes and picks him up. The eldest now makes his grumble grouch face as he stomps about. This same boy use to grab his baby doll Jeffrey, throw himself in his bed and comfort Jeff as he comforted himself.

Learning self-regulation and self-soothing is an essential skill for good mental health and happiness. Some of us are lucky and learned how to do it early in our lives.

And some of us turned to other self-destructive strategies instead. These destructive and failed attempts toward self-regulation include drinking, drugging, over-eating or nutritional deprivation, sexing, gambling, just to name a few. Just like every other person on the planet, these folks experience pain, sadness, anger and suffering. But rather than learning how to successfully deal with the feelings to enable creative and thoughtful explorations of better strategies to get what is wanted and meet their needs satisfactorily, they choose behaviors that suppress, mask, or cover the negative feelings.

What are your self-soothing, self-regulatory strategies? Are they serving you well? Do you feel calmer, more peaceful and better able to face your problems and look for better solutions?


Or have you escaped the pain, dulled and zoned yourself out with your self-soothing choices? Are you now faced with worry and concern about your choices, adding to more woes and self-hatred?

Now is a great time to learn and add new, more effective and responsible soothing strategies. Start making a list of the strategies you know that work and give you strength and comfort. Get curious and ask family and friends what strategies they use.

Just to get you started let me give you a couple: prayer, meditation, slow and deep deliberate breaths, humming a calming song, hugging a friend, or a dog or a tree.

Your turn. . .

You ain’t nuthin but a hound dog!

By Mike Rice

We humans can be pretty resilient when disappointed or when things don’t go our way.  One of the most common ways people declare their unhappiness is by complaining.  When all known skills to overcome one’s unhappiness fail, complaining becomes evident.  We’ve all heard the old saw, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”  But also, the squeaky wheel can also get replaced.

There is a belief that exists that by moaning and groaning, somehow, somewhere, someone will come along with the answer to one’s unhappiness or even resolve their unhappiness for them.  This usually occurs when the complainer has given up on their own ability to ease their frustration.  So they continue to go through life, moaning and groaning and not doing much about their unhappiness except to give up and endure it . . . complaining all along.

Motivational speaker, Les Brown, tells the story of a young man who heard a sorrowful moaning and groaning sound as he was walking down the street in his neighborhood.  He wondered who and why someone was making this sad lament.  He followed the sorrowful sounds as it got louder and louder indicating he was nearing the source.  He came upon an elderly man sitting on his porch reading a newspaper.  Lying next to the old man was an equally old hound dog.  The young man approached the older man and asked:


“Excuse me sir.  Is that your dog making that mournful sound?”
The old man replied:  “Yup.”
The young man asked, “Why is he moaning and groaning like that?”
The old man answered, “’Cause he’s laying on a nail.”
This prompted the younger man to ask, “Then why doesn’t he get up?”
And the old man replied, “’Cause he ain’t hurtin’ bad enough yet.”

Is moaning and groaning resolving your unhappiness or is it just easing your frustration?  Have you found many people to join you in your unhappiness?  Misery loves company but company hates misery.   Whenever you get tired of all the complaining that isn’t making you feel any better, you have three choices you can rely on that will bring you happiness at a moment’s notice . . . guaranteed.