feelings

LifeTip: Where Is My Happiness?

Photo by  Evan Kirby  on  Unsplash

Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

Isn’t the ultimate goal for us to be happy?  It’s something that each and every one of us truly wants but we can easily get caught out in the weeds during our search for it.  Whether we’ve fallen off the path or in a new search of it, happiness is something that each of us deserves to experience. So why is this so hard for some of us to find when we all want it so badly?  Perhaps a good place to start would be in taking a look at what happiness really is.

Many clinically-based definitions focus on the consistent state of experiencing positive emotions along with the strong ability to mitigate the damaging effects of negative emotions.  What?? For the rest of us, I like to think of happiness as that emotion that brings about feelings of: pride, excitement, enjoyment, “warm fuzzies”, contentment, and joy. As that first definition suggests, being happy doesn’t mean that you’re immune to sadness, disappointment, frustration, or the “blahs”.  Contrary to popular belief or desire, it’s okay for different emotions to cohabitate (remember the ending of “Inside Out” when the memory balls were multicolored?). An authentically happy person is able to consistently experience that true joy and zest for life and, in turn, successfully work through those “yucky” times with greater ease than unhappy people.

I can almost hear some of you saying, “yea, but what is it?  What will make me happy?” Not that I necessarily want to play that ‘counselor card’, but you already have that answer inside of you.  No one can tell you what makes you happy; only you can identify things that make you happy. So, think on it for a minute. What things truly light up that fire inside of you and leave you feeling like you’re wrapped in a soft, cozy blanket?  For some, happiness is just that – wrapped up tightly in a fleece blanket, snuggled up on the couch watching a movie. For others, it’s out hiking in the greenbelt on a warm sunny day. Others experience happiness in being surrounded by close friends or family members.  The point is, happiness looks different for each and every one of us and it’s our job to figure out what those things are that bring us happiness; we can’t rely on someone else to do that for us.

Still having a hard time pinning down things that make you happy?  Here are a few things that you can do to help:

Practice gratitude:  be thankful for the things that you have and for the people that are around you.  By counting your blessings and reframing your thoughts to ones of giving thanks, you’ll find that you experience more optimism and gratefulness throughout the day.

Cultivate relationships:  we all have an inherent need for human contact and it’s through this contact, that we’re able to create a foundation of security and peace.  Whether it be an intimate relationship or a social relationship, it’s important that we all have a network of people that we can share our happiness with and who can support us when the happiness fades a bit.

Get off your rear:  stop creating a permanent divot in your couch and get out and enjoy the outdoors.  Many studies have shown that sunlight and nature have a tremendous benefit on our mental health and our happiness.  Go explore a new biking trail, join a Meet-Up group, take in some live music, or enjoy a nice café latte at your favorite coffee house.  Regardless of what you chose, get up and do it!

Be kind:  doing nice things for others makes us feel good about ourselves.  More importantly though, being kind to yourself. Treat yourself with the same amount of love, appreciation, and forgiveness that you want others to give you.  To me, loving yourself is the key to true happiness.

This list could go on and on for happiness is found through a multitude of ways.  The bottom line, though, is that you need to take action and hunt down your own happiness.  You will soon find that your true happiness is often right in front of you. Pick it up and embrace it!  Every single one of us deserves to feel that highly sought after joy, excitement, and peace.

LifeTip: Words Hurt

Sad pup.jpg

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”.  Is this right, though?  Do words truly never hurt us?  Well of course they do and they can cut deep.  Sometimes it would be easier to deal with a broken bone or a scraped knee than to try and mend the emotional wounds inflicted by words.

Invalidation is what prompts our feelings of hurt for we begin to feel that the other person’s thoughts/feelings/values are not in line with our own.  This invalidation quickly lands us in the seat of the emotional rollercoaster where we grab onto any and everything that we can to shield us from the pain.  These things that we grasp for are defense mechanisms – ways in which we can minimize or hide away from the yuck.  The most common defense mechanisms are:

  • Avoidance: steering clear of anything that will cause any potential pain or discomfort

  • Denial: trying to believe that nothing is wrong and that nothing has happened

  • Repression: pushing those negative feelings deep down inside in hopes that they’ll never rear their head again

  • Displacement: taking all of our hurt feelings and lashing out at or dumping them on someone else

  • Rationalization: convincing yourself that the words behind that invalidation are actually true

We can reduce these yucky feelings and increase our ability to fight off the hurt by having the right tools at hand.  In developing a greater understanding of what is really going on with our authentic self when we encounter these harmful words, we can minimize the sadness/anxiety/and/or anger that is often prompted by invalidating words.

Check out my latest blog to read more about the power of words and how they impact us all.

 

LifeTip: Rejection Absolutely Hurts

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Rejection can feel like that worst feeling in the world, no matter how old you are or how you may feel like you have it “all together.” Humans are a hardwired to desire to belong. Looking at our evolutionary history, it is programmed in us to seek out connection for survival. Thousands of years ago, we would not be able to survive alone without the support of a group of people. Now we may not need the connection for survival in the sense of staying alive, but our brains are still programmed for seeking it out.

Besides all of the thoughts and feelings that try to justify what happened or question ourselves as an individual, what exactly happens to us when we are rejected? Well, we experience physical pain. Rejection is painful and our brains process it as such; It is the same pain we experience when we are physically injured. A study that looked at various individuals who were rejected from playing a game with two other people noticed that the dorsal anterior cingulate and anterior insult had increased activity. These two regions of the brain are the areas that process physical pain. So, being rejected by friends or having your heart broken is processed similarly to breaking a bone.  

What can you take away from this? First, your feelings are justified and valid because your feelings are real to you, however, your hurt feelings now you have some science to back you up because your brain is processing this rejection like physical pain. Secondly, this pain and experience can motivate some of us to seek out better connections, better ourselves by self-reflecting on one’s contribution to social situations, paying more attention to social cues, and evaluating interactions more carefully because there is still hope for real connection. For those without hope, they may react with anger and hostility because they do not see a reason to try and improve their situation, which will further isolate them, but there is still longing for connection. However, there is still hope!

Joining a therapeutic group is one option that can be very helpful for individuals with or without hope for connection after being rejected. These spaces are created to feel safe and foster healthy relationships and conversations with the assistance of a therapist. It is a microcosm of the “real world,” so group members can practice expressing feelings and act out in vivo situations with other group members and take what they have learned and apply it in their personal lives.

Yes, rejection is awful. Yes, it is so painful (science has your back). And, yes, there is hope for finding connection again.

 

49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child

As a parent, watching your child struggle with anything can be difficult. Whether it be friendships, injuries or one of life’s many obstacles, our instinct is always to swoop in and save them by fixing the problem. But what happens when your child faces anxiety? It’s much harder to ‘fix’ a feeling isn’t it? Thankfully, as a supportive adult, helping a child feel understood is actually more important (and easier for that matter) than trying to solve the problem.

Rather than hide from anxiety or ignore it, we can actually learn a lot from it if we stay curious. Our bodies often signal to us that anxiety is approaching, and when we examine it like a detective, we can start to learn what triggers it. It can also be difficult to know what to say when your child is stuck in an unpleasant emotion, so here are some helpful phrases that you can use to show support without having all of the answers! We’ve put a few of our favorites below:

  • Can you draw it?

  • This feeling will go away. Let’s get comfortable until it does.

  • What do you need from me?

  • Let’s find some evidence.

Take a look and see which phrases fit how your family communicates. No need to reinvent the wheel, just look for the phrases that stick out to you as something you’d actually say at home.