Archives for July, 2012
When we talk about mental health, we often talk about problems. We focus on how to reduce anxiety and depression, lessen conflict in relationships or ease uncomfortable symptoms for good reason. But we often overlook the importance of creating happiness. We might even assume that happiness just comes if we decrease our problems. We forget that happiness is something that we have control over. It's something we can make a conscious effort to increase. Happiness, of course, is great. And it goes hand in hand with decreasing problematic stress and other mental health problems. If we’re happy, then we’re not stressed, anxious or depressed. If we’re happy we’re better able to cope with mental health problems.
Each person has a particular set of beliefs about the world. Our beliefs come from our past experiences and natural tendencies of our character. Believing that you and the world around you must be perfect in order for you to be happy is a common character trait. Doing your best can make you feel competent, proud and in control of your life. But when you believe that perfect is the only road to a happy life, you will find yourself dissatisfied. The pursuit of perfection doesn’t make us happier or ease stress. In fact, seeking perfection does the opposite. It is linked to increased stress and a number of other emotional, physical, and relationship problems, such as anxiety depression or eating disorders.
How often do you have stress headaches or difficulty sleeping? Does stress ever make you short of breathe, jittery or tense? Most of us experience some of these and other physical symptoms of stress. Clenched teeth, knots in your back, waking at night and queasiness are all common reactions to stress. In fact, many of us go through our days on automatic pilot, barely registering the affects stress has on our bodies. Physical symptoms of stress are extremely uncomfortable and can interfere with our ability to function on a daily basis. Over time, we can end up exhausted and feeling unable to calm down, relax tight muscles or lessen other aches, pains and physical signs of stress.
Most of us harbor some sort of secret dream and summer is a great time for dreaming. It is normal to yearn to achieve something that has always felt slightly out of reach. We may wish to write a novel, play the piano, learn a second language, learn to figure skate or surf. As we grow older, we often put our dreams on hold and assume that learning new skills is for the young. Psychologist Gary Marcus, PhD. put that assumption to the test. What he found was that learning is not necessarily the domain only of the young.
Really. It’s as simple as that. And as complex. Mindfulness is not necessarily setting aside time in your busy day to meditate. It is about being present and aware during the moments in which you are living your life. The challenge is to bring a sense of calm, centered awareness to everyday life. This includes times when you are angry, in an argument, feeling pressure, stuck in traffic, mowing the lawn, watching TV, working, talking on the phone, emptying the dishwasher, thinking about times you’ve been hurt, avoiding problems or eating. Some activities don’t require a lot of extra effort to bring a sense of calm and awareness. But others, such as difficult interactions and painful thoughts are hard to be mindful of. These are the times when mindfulness in daily life can feel complex.
In the first half of this year, readers really connected with a few posts filled with practical strategies to reduce problematic stress. These posts are aimed at improving your ability to cope with life's uncertainties and reducing the pressure that can leave you fatigued, spinning your wheels or unable to enjoy your life. 10 Thoughts that May Be Stressing You Out Check out common stress-inducing thoughts in this post and a few tips to respond differently to them. 2 Things You Can do Right Now to Decrease Anxiety and Depression Whether it’s college life, a new retirement, changes at work, a new baby, health crisis or conflict with the in-laws, life can be full of uncertainty and pressure. This post has two very practical strategies to decrease the anxiety and depression that can accompany difficult times.