Category Archives: Mental Health

Combat Stress, Meet New Friends, and Reduce Isolation by Giving Back This Holiday Season

By Jennifer Scott, www.spiritfinder.org

xmas

Do you often choose feel stressed and anxious over the holidays? Purchasing and wrapping gifts, worrying about money, planning and attending parties, preparing meals, decorating, and more leave many people choosing to overwhelm, exhaust, stress, and even depress in an attempt to cope. If stressing, depressing, or anxietying are getting you down this year, why not a take a different approach and volunteer. Here are just a few compelling reasons to consider volunteering as a way to beat the holiday stress while giving back and improving your Mental Health & Happiness.

Volunteering Cultivates Social Skills Development

If spending time alone over the holidays leaves you feeling down and out, volunteering is the perfect fix. Offering plenty of opportunities for socialization, volunteering with a charity that has meaning to you will help you meet new people with similar interests.

Donating your time and energy to people or animals in need can help you overcome the challenges of meeting new people by connecting you with others who are working toward the same goal. Volunteering can even help people who are shy or otherwise struggle with social situations become more comfortable around new people by providing a common ground for initiating conversations.

Gain Professional Experience through Volunteerism

In addition to social skills development, volunteering can also provide networking opportunities that could benefit you professionally. If you’re volunteering for an organization in the same field as your ideal career, you might connect with leaders in the field who can help you land a coveted role in your chosen field.

At the very least, it serves as a valuable resume-booster that can help you advance in your current company or explore new opportunities. So, if finances are a source of stress for you around the holidays, volunteering your time won’t cost you a thing, but it might help you land a better-paying job.

You Can Choose a Cause Close to Your Heart

There are ample ways to donate your time and energy to the greater good this holiday season, meaning that you can choose a cause that’s close to your heart, making the experience all the more meaningful. If a friend or loved one has been given the gift of life thanks to blood donations, consider finding a local blood drive and donating blood in honor of them.

Maybe you’ve benefited from the love and companionship of a service dog, and have a desire to help the animal community. There are thousands of animal shelters all over the country always in need of volunteers to help raise funds and help care for the animals, as well as supplies such as food, treats, and cat litter. If you enjoy spending time with older adults, volunteer to take therapy animals for visits to your local senior living communities.

Volunteering Keeps You Busy

With so many volunteer needs during the holiday season, you can easily fill up your holiday calendar and take your mind off of your stress with plans to help people in need. If you’re not typically a social butterfly who has dozens of invitations to every holiday gathering in a 50-mile radius, there’s no reason to spend a single evening home alone when there are so many ways to get out and about in your community while helping others in need.

Anyone can keep their social calendar filled with meaningful activities by volunteering to help prepare meals for the homeless, offering companionship to homebound seniors, or spending time with older adults at a local senior center or senior living community. Socialization is crucial for the wellbeing of older adults, so these activities are mutually beneficial.

Volunteering helps to put meaning back into the season for those who feel stressed and exhausted, lonely, or depressed over the holidays. From meeting new people and staying busy, offering opportunities for socialization and networking, volunteering provides many benefits, but nothing beats the feel-good vibes you get from doing something selfless for someone in need.

Feeling Out of Balance and Centered at the Same Time Part 2 – Imagination, Skills and Courage

By Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

Following the imagination process through means getting very specific about our thoughts and actions. In the case of our relative, let’s say we have decided to work toward being strong, compassionate and detached (obvious derivatives of powerful, loving and free). We now need to create the thoughts and actions that might accompany those feelings. The list that follows is one version of what our new blueprint might involve.

Thoughts for strong:

“Getting angry is not going to solve anything,” ” I need to put my energy into action rather than reaction,” “ Not confronting my sister about her beliefs does not mean I agree with them,” and “ Closedmindedness and anger are the very things I say I am intolerant of.. time to prove it.”

Thoughts for compassionate:

“My sister made choices on her best information.” “I am scared, Ill bet she has been too.” “We both want the best for our country.” “I can lead the way to common ground rather than perpetuating the conflict.” “Shes doing the best she can with the information she has at the time, as am I.”

Thoughts for detached:

“Everything doesnt have to be decided and resolved today,” “Her beliefs do not mean I cant express and act on my own,”  “I obviously need to take action to show myself that I am serious about what I say I believe,” and “Our relationship is more important than our politics… she is my sister.”

With these thoughts  in mind, we can now imagine actions that would accompany them. (again, these are not “right” answers, just one version)

Actions for strong:

Make a commitment to be more politically involved. Move conversations to topics which nourish our family not pull us apart. Actually listen to my sister for amounts of time I can handle and show my strength by actually listening. Accept that reality has changed and plot a course that I did not need to in earlier times. Have the strength to change rather than holding onto my old patterns.

Actions for compassionate:

Tell my sister I am happy she won and that I am sure we both want the best future we can have. Forgive myself for not always being the person I say I want to be. Keep a journal to stay focused and write down as a first entry, “I was born not to pass judgement on my family but to love them.”

Thoughts for detached:

Instigate other community building activities in the family rather than just political discussions. Don’t respond in kind to what I perceive as outrageous statements. Pray that both my sister and I find the peaccouplee and courage to heal the wounds that divide this country.

With this information in hand, I have now achieved some early success in the imagination stage.

The second step is Skills. Here is where we explore the reality that although we may know what we should think and do, we may not currently have the ability to do it. We have to self-evaluate to see if we actually know how to gracefully exit a conversation, or not bite at a stupid remark, or reframe the family’s activity, or pray, or even keep a journal. There may be skills we have to learn and practice to be able to bring our imagined blueprint into being.

And the final step is Courage. By now we know what we would be thinking and doing, and we have hopefully learned some new skills to do it, but change can be fearful and fear can only be faced with courage. We may have fears about taking the steps we need to take. Some in this case might be:

“If I back down from fights will others think I agree with them?” “What if I really can’t be more tolerant of others?” “What if I try and fail?” “What if I replace anger with compassion and I lose the fire in my belly to actually take action?”

There fears are legitimate, understandable and normal. We need to remember, however, that whatever emotions we act on become stronger. If we act on our fears by not taking necessary steps to change, the fear will get stronger not weaker. So now it comes to “the moment of truth.” Do I have the courage to face my fears and change myself rather than insisting the world change so I wont have to. I often ask clients, “Do you really not know what you need to do, or do you know what to do but you are afraid to do it?” One is lack of clarity; the second lack of courage.

***

We have all put a great deal of energy into creating what we want and hoping that will continue. When it does not we can bemoan our fates and rage at the world, or we can go about the business of making the changes we need to make to be loving, powerful, playful and free in a world we may not like or want to accept. Our inability to accept reality does not mean that reality doesn’t exist. It simply means we are unwilling to go through the difficult process of imagining our new selves, learning the skills to put those selves into being, and having the courage  to face the fears that come with any major change in our lives.

Wilson

By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

So much of the world appears to be caught up in the belief that any behavior that is not considered usual or normal is the result of a mental illness . . . that there is some sort of chemical imbalance in some people’s brains.  I am often challenged in my group sessions about the behavior of those who have been labeled schizophrenics, when I state that most of what we are calling mental illness is no more than the behavior of unhappy people. Even those who have received this diagnosis have challenged me on this statement.  They seem to want to wear their badge of mental illness to let others know they are helpless and that there is nothing they can do to improve their happiness. I often hear, “Normal people don’t talk to themselves; see things that aren’t there.  So there HAS to be something wrong with their brain.”

Those who have received mental illness diagnoses have been told that they have some abnormality within their brain and that there is nothing they can do about it . . . that they will have to learn to live with it for the rest of their lives while taking medications that drug their brains to cause them to not hear voices and stop seeing invisible people.  These drugs also stop the person from functioning normally by shutting down all of their emotions; having a flat affect; losing interest in the things that they used to enjoy, and losing their ability to be creative.  Ironically, many of these medications prevent the person from overcoming their unhappiness or to discover other creative ways to deal with their unhappiness.

It is one’s creative ability that leads them to choose the behaviors they discovered to deal with their unhappiness and frustration in the first place.

castawayI saw the movie, “Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks, when it first came out in 2000.  Since then, I recently saw it again on my local cable network and was able to make the connection of how some behaviors would be considered mental illness by some in certain circumstances but not mental illness in other circumstances.  Allow me to explain:

In the movie, after being marooned on a small island in the South Pacific, Chuck (Tom Hanks) found himself without his basic genetic needs.  He had to be creative to survive and began to improvise ways to provide shelter, food, and to hydrate.  He soon found himself without the power to do much about his situation but maintained enough power from within to continue to survive.  Even when he considered suicide, his tested method failed and renewed his internal power for survival.

Chuck’s freedom was now very limited.  He had only a small portion of the island in which he could navigate as most of it was mountainous and surrounded by pounding waves.  He was held in solitary confinement.  He certainly was not having any fun.  All of his basic needs for happiness were not being met to the degree that he wanted.

The first thing he did when he reached the island after his plane crash was to yell out to connect to someone . . . anyone.  Even the sound of dropping coconuts led him to think that someone might be near and he would yell out towards the area where he heard the sounds.  He was missing the genetic need for connecting with others and belonging to the social world he had recently lost.  He still had the image of Love in his Quality World from his deeply satisfying relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), back in Memphis.

From what I have described so far, and for you who have seen the movie, you would not think any of Chuck’s behaviors were the result of a mental illness.  In fact, you would probably think that it was his creativity and improvisation that was able to allow him the ability to meet his needs of survival: shelter, food, and drink.

But it wasn’t long after his initial awareness that he was, indeed, stranded in the middle of nowhere and the odds of being rescued were minimal.  He still had the strong genetic need for love and belonging and after injuring his hand while attempting to make fire, his frustration led to him choosing to throw objects that had washed up from the plane crash, kick the sand, swear, and destroy whatever was near him.  His bloody hand from the injury he incurred left a palm print on a volley ball that had been part of the cargo in the plane.

He eventually created fire and was so elated that he proclaimed to the sky and the sea of his accomplishment in boisterous pronouncements.  “Look what I have created!  I have made fire!”  His power needs were beginning to be met giving him a better sense of worth and success.

After he had calmed down and successfully created the fire, he began staring at the volley ball and saw the potential for something in the bloody hand print . . . a human face.  Since no one was around to offer a need satisfying relationship in the form of connecting with others, he would create his own person to meet this need.

wilson

He made the air hole the nose and erased some of the blood to make the eyes and mouth. The company who made the volley ball was Wilson and their name was boldly printed on the ball. This became Chuck’s compensation for connecting with someone whom he named, “Wilson.”  So far, you may be saying to yourself,  “So . . .  ?  What’s your point?”

Chuck then began talking to Wilson and even answering on Wilson’s behalf to satisfy his need for love and belonging and connecting.  And I would be willing to wager that you would still be thinking, “Well, sure.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  He did it to keep his sanity . . . to keep him from going crazy on a deserted island. . . . to connect with something or someone when no one else was there to connect with”

AHA!

If Chuck behaved like that back in Memphis where he lived, would you still say his behavior was an acceptable way to behave?  One might be inclined to get as far away from him as possible because, “who knows what a crazy person who talks to himself or to inanimate objects might do?” One might also believe he is seriously mentally ill and should be placed on brain meds and in dire need of a psychiatrist.

In an isolating experience, you are more likely to accept Chuck’s unusual or unnatural behavior as typical, rational, and understandable.  But if not deserted on a lonely island, the same behaviors are seen as symptoms of mental illness and chemical imbalances.  The unusual behavior one may create and perform serves the purpose of easing their unhappiness and frustration, at the time . . . just like Chuck on the island.  If he didn’t have Wilson to talk to, and imagine that Wilson was talking to him, he would have felt much more unhappy and frustrated than if he hadn’t created Wilson.

The person who sees things, hears things, and talks to people who are not present, or to inanimate objects, is no different than Chuck.  While they are not physically on a deserted island, they are in a deserted world based upon their choice to isolate or detach from others because of unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.  They have detached from others and can be alone while around others.  Their creativity to deal with their frustration and unhappiness is no different than Chuck’s creativity in producing and talking to Wilson, a volley ball.

Often, their frustration is the result of wanting to do one thing with their life while others who are important to them want them to do something else.  They may attempt to take both routes and find it impossible to do.  Consequently, they may become so frustrated that they then choose to take neither route and isolate even more, which further destroys their need for love and belonging.  And since love and belonging are basic genetic needs, they create their own people in their mind and imagination like Chuck did.

The only difference is the circumstances.  You could see Chuck’s dilemma and rationalize Chuck’s behavior because you could relate to being in his situation.  Since you could relate, you deem it normal, acceptable, and not a mental illness at all.  You were living in his world on the screen and silently thinking, “I’d probably do the same thing.”

If Chuck behaved in this manner back in Memphis, you would not see the situation he would be experiencing in his world.  His unsatisfying situation and internal frustration would be very real to him but invisible to you.  Since you have most of your needs met, on a somewhat regular basis, in a world where they are more easily attainable than a desert island, you might be inclined to think and believe Chuck’s behavior is a mental illness.

When Chuck was rescued and came back home, he didn’t talk to things or people who weren’t there anymore.  First of all, Wilson was lost at sea before he was rescued.  When Chuck got home, he was back in a world with people with whom he could connect . . . and it didn’t take brain meds to get him to stop talking to imaginary things or hearing imaginary voices.  He only had to connect with others and those who are important to him.  After five years of living in isolation, his rescue not only saved his life, it restored most of his basic genetic needs for happiness:  Survival, Love and Belonging, Freedom, Power, and Fun.  The love of his life had given up hope for his return and had married someone else.  There would obviously be some emotional pain from that loss because he had maintained the picture of her in his Quality World all those years.  But even losing Kelly didn’t cause Chuck to return to his island surviving behaviors.

Would you say a child who has an imaginary playmate is mentally ill?  Or would you say they are being really creative?  When you dream at night . . . are some of your dreams really “out there?”  Does that mean that you are crazy when you are dreaming or is your mind simply being creative?  If your brain can do that when you are asleep, it is also capable of doing it when you are awake.

In our world, it appears it is much easier to convince others that a person is mentally ill than to convince them that they are sane and only frustrated and unhappy due to unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.

 

The Important Things In Life

By Michael Rice LISAC, CTRTC

In marriage, what tends to bring people together are their similar values.  What tends to keep people together in marriage are their similar interests.  In non-romantic relationships, it seems that similar interests bring people together and similar values maintain the relationship.  Our values are those things that we find that give meaning to us as a person and in society.  They define us as to the type of person we are, or rather, how we want ourselves and others to see us.  We all know that there are many people who say one thing and yet behave in another.  This might be the result of their value not being fully internalized and one that they profess because others have told them they should possess them.

What makes any of our values valid?

I believe that first of all, it must be a value that we have chosen ourselves and not because someone else said we had to have it. Parents often instill many of our values.   Some parents may possess some values that are not acceptable or even effective for the parent.  Many of the values  parents give are indeed valid and helpful.  Therefore, the first rule of a valid value would be:  Something that you have chosen freely and not because someone else said you should possess.


values-memeNext, a valid value is one that you have tested among other values and have found it to be right for you.  If you don’t feel that it is 100% right for you, then don’t profess it to others as your true value just to “fit in.”  How well does the value work for your parent’s life as you perceive it?  Just because Mom or Dad possess a specific value does not mean it is necessarily correct for you.  What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another.

I recall the story told by Mark Twain who said that when he was 18 years of age, he found his father to be so ignorant that he could hardly stand to be around the old man.  When he had turned 21, he said he  was amazed at how much his father had learned in 3 years.

Another criterion for a valid value would be that you have considered the consequences of possessing and acting on a chosen value.  Will this value possibly bring wide spread rejection from others?  Will it cause you to be in conflict with the important people in your life?  Could it possibly result in any hardship for you or even incarceration?  Are you willing and prepared to take criticism for your value?  Are you willing to lose acquaintances because they don’t agree with your value?

Lastly, to be a valid value, it should be one that you profess openly and regularly.  In other words, you walk your talk.

What is important to you?  Have any of your values caused you to lose those who may be important to you?  Many of us have lost friends and acquaintances at one time or another due to our beliefs and this would be due to the conflict of one or more of our values.  However, if it seems to cause conflict with many of those who are important to you, you may want to take another look and scrutinize the validity of your values or find those who have similar values as your own.

Loving What Is

By Dr. Nancy Buck

One of the biggest causes of mental upset and unhappiness comes from our own making. Every time we resist what is actually happening right now in real life we make our own distress and mental discomfort.

You wake up to discover that it is a rainy day. You were hoping for a sunny day to enjoy your morning walk. Boy that is annoying! You’re really trying to get into the habit of getting outside everyday to walk and quiet  your mind. And now you can’t go!

What a perfect evening you had planned. You and a friend were going to have a lovely meal together then go see a movie. You were really looking forward to this. But your friend calls to cancel at the last minute. Now what? You’re fun evening is destroyed. Can you ever rely on this friend to come through?

Oh my gosh. You realize you’re getting sick – again! How many colds does that make for you since the fall? Does your body ever cooperate? You’re really being conscientious, taking special care of your diet, your exercise, your work out routines. And still you keep getting sick.

These are just a few examples of what may happen when what we get is very different from what we want. Upset, frustration, anger and disappointment are not unusual feelings.

But remaining in this same emotional spot long after the disappointment is over then becomes a choice. And with that choice comes the persistence in resisting what is actually happening now. Ever heard the expression “What you resist persists?”

The longer we hold on to our upset, disappointment and frustration about reality not turning into what we planned and wanted the longer we will continue to feel upset, disappointed and frustrated.

What can you do instead? Accept what is.

How? Get curious and see if you can discover the “silver lining” in the new reality of what is.

Need better instructions to follow this idea? Watch the movie Silver Linings Playbook. The whole movie is about our hero learning to make the best he can from some unhappy, disappointing changes and challenges in his life. Once he begins to accept what is actually happening now in his life, he discovers unexpected silver linings!

Want to improve your mental health and happiness? Start looking for your silver linings in your disappointments. When you are open to the possibilities you are more likely to discover unexpected treasures.

 

The Five Basic Needs of Pleasure

By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

The five basic and genetic needs for Happiness are Survival, Love and Belonging, Power, Freedom, and Fun.   These needs will almost always require a connection with someone else in order to both achieve and maintain.  As Dr. Wm Glasser asks:  “How happy and enthused would you be if you were playing golf alone and shot a hole-in-one?”  Your excitement would be short-lived at best.  There would be no one to share in the happiness of such an event, much less, confirm that you did, indeed, get a hole-in-one.

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Try as you might to get your friends excited about your accomplishment, you would get feedback such as, “yeah, right,” or “well good for you.”  There will be no shouts of joy or excitement because they didn’t see you do it and therefore, they cannot share fully in your emotion.  Your continued happiness would be the result of their excitement for you.  Since they weren’t there to witness the deed, all they can do is pat you on the back and say, “nice going.”

The paradox of happiness is that while no one can make you happy, happiness requires a satisfying relationship with those who are important to you.   The golfer who shot the hole-in- one did so on his own, but it would take someone meaningful to him to achieve happiness from his victory.   Had someone else been with him to witness the achievement, he would have surpassed pleasure and would have realized tremendous happiness.

When a person has exhausted all the skills they possess to acquire and/or maintain meaningful relationships, they begin to rely only on those things that they can achieve or do that does not involve another person.  The satisfaction they receive from these behaviors is what they wrongly perceived as happiness.   Pleasure is much more intense than happiness but it has one major drawback . . . it is short lived.  Pleasure diminishes almost as quickly as it is achieved.  Therefore, the behavior that creates pleasure must often be repeated several times to maintain the pleasure received.  Think of the mouse in the lab study that keeps pushing the lever over and over to get his dose of cocaine’s pleasurable feeling.  Happiness is not as intense as pleasure but it generally tends to last for days, weeks, months, and even years.

Five Basic Needs for Pleasure

Pleasure is usually attained without the need or involvement of anyone else or at the expense of another person.

  1. Sex (indiscriminant, self-serving, masturbation)
  2. Food, Alcohol, Drugs
  3. Isolating – detaching from others.
  4. Thrill Seeking – Adrenalin surges. Element of danger.  (Gambling, dangerous risks, Hunting, Torture, history of criminal behavior, video games, car racing, sky diving, bungee jumping,   BDSM, Catch & Release relationships, sex in public places.
  5. Reckless Spending

You don’t need anyone in your life to experience pleasure.  You DO have to have meaningful relationships in order to experience happiness.

Five Basic needs for Happiness,

  1. Survival
  2. Love & Belonging
  3. Power
  4. Freedom
  5. Fun

Once the 5 Basic Needs for Happiness are maintained, the need for Pleasure diminishes from compulsive behaviors to occasional behaviors, or total cessation, and will result in a happier and healthier way of living.

Support Yourself

By Dr. Nancy Buck (originally posted December 4, 2014)

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Good relationships are built on many things, including accepting, encouraging, supporting and trusting one another. But a good relationship with others alone is not enough. Strong mental health that leads to happiness must include a good relationship with YOU. That means we each must consistently accept, encourage, support and trust ourselves most of all. For many  this practice feels like a stretch.

Research suggests that most people have an easier time giving and supporting others with compassion than we do turning that inward. And studies link self-compassion to lower anxiety and depression. Another benefit is increased optimism, better relationships and greater overall satisfaction in life. This practice will improve your physical as well as mental health.

Here’s how to get started:

• Notice when you give or receive acceptance, encouragement, support or trust to or from another.

• Notice when you start discounting, discrediting, blaming or beating yourself up.

• As soon as you notice any of the above moments that lack self-compassion, immediately change to a kinder or gentler thought or statement.

• Continue to practice noticing how you give and receive these kindnesses to your family, friends and loved ones

• Continue to practice noticing and changing all moments of disrespect and lack of self-compassion

Emotional Realities

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted November 14, 2013)

One of the characteristics of mental health and happiness is getting our needs met in and through our relationships with caring other people.

Dr. Glasser describes these needs in a couple of ways.  One, from his first best selling book “Reality Therapy” he points out that we need to “Love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and to others.”

Later, when he wrote “Choice Theory” he listed our basic needs as “Survival, Love and belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun.”

bowlingballs

One way I meet my fun needs is by learning.  Recently I was reading a book entitled “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, MD.  One paragraph jumped out at me because it spoke to ways to grow closer to the ones we love.  Having a wife, three daughters, and five granddaughters, the more I can understand the female experience of life, the closer I can be in these very special relationships.

This is a quote from the book: “If she’s married or partnered with a male brain, each will inhabit two different emotional realities.  The more both know about the differences in the emotional realities of the male and female brain, the more hope we have of turning those partnerships into satisfying and supportive relationships and families.”

I highly recommend this book.

Fake It

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN (originally published November 18, 2014)

I’ve never met a person who didn’t have their days feeling low or down. Sometimes it’s for a very good reason, like a rainy week spoiling your vacation at the beach. Sometimes it’s for no obvious or evident reason at all. And sometimes your down day provides a temporary pause or time-out that you’re sorely needing.

If your blues are getting you down enough so that you’ve decided you want to take action, here are a couple of ideas that might help.

You could do a needs inventory. On a scale of 1 – 10, where 1 is the low level and 10 complete satisfaction, how are you doing meeting your needs today?

safety:     1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
love:        1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
power:     1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
fun:          1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
freedom:  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10

laughingdogWith this information can you plan to do something now, or at the latest tomorrow, to increase your satisfaction for the need with the lowest number?

Or you could just start laughing! Go ahead, try it. Did you know that if you fake laugh long enough, you’ll actually start to authentically laugh really hard?

That’s right, you can fake it until you make it just by laughing, laughing, laughing! If you’re skeptical, try it out now. Or if you just want to give a boost to your present Mental Health & Happiness start laughing now!

And if you discover you enjoy this, not only can you start laughing at any time for no good reason, you could sign up for a Laughing Yoga class in your neighborhood. No kidding, there is an official yoga class and laughter clubs developed by physician Madan Kateria from Mumbai, India. You can start laughing now with a room full of strangers. Together you all start with fake laughter until you are all laughing really hard and joyfully together. At the same time you will be  improving your Mental Health &  Happiness for sure.