World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999.2016-02-10T04:28:04Z http://psychcentral.com/blog/feed/atom/ Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Want More Happiness? Learn to Value Your Time Over Your Wallet]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=84867 2016-01-27T19:04:59Z 2016-02-09T22:55:57Z Money Lock

Can you guess?

Most of us have to work, but the importance we place on our jobs and overworking is on us. It’s better for our health and happiness to make the most of our time and enjoy ourselves, and those who value their time stay happier longer.

A study published recently by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that money isn’t a guarantee for happiness; instead, appreciating your time can provide a greater sense of well-being and satisfaction in life.

40 Guaranteed Ways to Ruin Your Own Life (Without Noticing It)

For the study, participants were asked if they’d prefer having a more expensive apartment with a short commute, or a less expensive apartment with a long commute. They were also asked to choose between a graduate program that would lead to a job with long hours and a larger starting salary, or a graduate program where they would end up with a lower salary job with less hours.

In the six studies that had more than 4,600 participants, researchers found an almost even split between people who tended to value their time or money, and that choice was a fairly consistent trait for ordinary things that happened daily and with major life events.

“It appears that people have a stable preference for valuing their time over making money, and prioritizing time is associated with greater happiness,” said lead researcher Ashley Whillans, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of British Columbia.

As the participants got older, they were more likely to value their time over their bank account. Maybe that’s because, when you get older, you start to realize that time is finite and you need to treasure every moment you have. If you work your life away, you may have a big bank account, but your life may be devoid of joy and fun.

“As people age, they often want to spend time in more meaningful ways than just making money,” Whillans said. “Having more free time is likely more important for happiness than making money. Even giving up a few hours of a paycheck to volunteer at a food bank may have more bang for your buck in making you feel happier.”

Terrifying: This Is What Happens to Your Body When You’re Stressed

Time really goes by quickly and if you don’t take as many moments as you can to be present and grateful, you will reach the end of your life weary from all the stresses that focusing on money and work brings.

This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: People Who Value THIS Over Money Are SO Much Happier, Says Study.

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Therese J. Borchard http://www.thereseborchard.com <![CDATA[Does Crying Make You More Depressed?]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=74624 2016-01-06T19:17:41Z 2016-02-09T16:45:07Z “Live to the point of tears,” said Camus.

That’s not so hard if you have treatment-resistant depression or any kind of chronic mood disorder. You learn to take Kleenex with you wherever you go. In the middle of a depressive episode, especially, it happens as naturally as sneezing or blowing your nose.

Two or three days of every month are tearful ones for me. Sometimes the crying is triggered by hormonal changes. Sometimes it is a release of stress. And sometimes I don’t really know why I’m crying. I just do.

Tears are healing in many ways. They remove toxins from our body that build up from stress, like the endorphin leucine-enkephalin and prolactin, the hormone that causes aggression. And what’s really fascinating is that emotional tears — those formed in distress or grief — contain more toxic byproducts than tears of irritation (like onion peeling).

Crying also lowers manganese levels, which triggers anxiety, nervousness, and aggression. In that way, tears elevate mood. In his article The Miracle of Tears, author Jerry Bergman writes, “Suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and peptic ulcers.”

I like Benedict Carey’s reference to tears as “emotional perspiration” in his New York Times piece, The Muddled Track of All Those Tears. He writes, “They’re considered a release, a psychological tonic, and to many a glimpse of something deeper: the heart’s own sign language, emotional perspiration from the well of common humanity.”

But tears can also leave you feeling worse. Someone on my depression community, Project Beyond Blue, asked the other day: “Does anyone else experience a hangover from crying?” The response was interesting. There were those that said once they start crying they can’t stop and feel emotionally exhausted afterward, so they try really hard not to start.

Some wished they COULD cry, that meds have leveled out their emotions too much. One guy said that he can’t cry when he’s in the midst of a deep depression, so it’s a sign of recovery once he is able to shed tears.

There’s conflicting data, of course, just like there is with red wine, dark chocolate, and coffee.

Bergman catalogs the benefits in his piece mentioned above. However, the Journal of Research in Personality published a study in 2011 that found that shedding tears had no effect on mood for nearly two-thirds of women who kept daily emotion journals. Time magazine featured the study and included a quote by Jonathan Rottenberg, PhD, lead author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. “Crying is not nearly as beneficial as people think it is,” he said. “Only a minority of crying episodes were associated with mood improvement – against conventional wisdom.”

I tend to follow the wisdom of a fellow member of Project Beyond Blue who gives herself 20 minutes or a half-hour to cry. She sets a timer, and when the alarm sounds, she is done boo-hooing, and back to work. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but I think the wallowing is what depresses a person more than the tears.

Since I am a crier, and I generally feel better after a bawling session, I like to think of tears as numinous mist. Washington Irving writes, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contribution and of unspeakable love.”

Tears are messengers … I like that.

Join the conversation on Project Beyond Blue, the new depression community.

Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

Crying man photo available from Shutterstock

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Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: February 9, 2016]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=85771 2016-02-08T22:20:28Z 2016-02-09T11:30:43Z the word love written on a lined piece of school paper in ink wiIn the six years I’ve had the privilege of writing for Psych Central, I learned a lot of things. But if there is one essential gift I can take from the experience, it’s this.

No matter who we are, what we struggle with whether ADHD, depression or anxiety, we all want the same things. We all require at the minimum, a level of wellness so we can live comfortably. We all desire love. We all want to feel heard, validated, and understood. And we want the ability to believe that we’re worth it all.

I think if we grapple with anything it’s that. At the heart of all matters is a desire for belonging.

As you go about your week, remember to cultivate connection wherever you go. We can do this by learning about the things that are afflicted our loved ones. We can do by taking the necessary steps to reconnect. Treating others the way we desperately need to be treated is one step toward gaining what all of us truly want and deserve.

Take These Ten Steps Closer to Your Adult Child
(Childhood Emotional Neglect) – You did a good job of taking care of his or her physical needs. But it’s because you failed at this that you and your child aren’t close.

When Life Is Depressingly Boring
(Overcoming OCD) – An illness, a break from routine, and missing your medication could throw you into a funk. As you’ll read here, awareness can go a long way in helping not worsening your state of mind.

Which Therapy is Right for You?
(Psychoanalysis Now) – You’ve decided to seek a therapist. But an important question to figure out is what type of therapy will work best for you and your issue. This will help.

The Three Different Types of ADHD
(Loving a Child with ADHD) – To help loved ones who have ADHD, you need to first understand it yourself. If you’re still using the term “ADD,” you need to read this.

Managerial Munchausen: When It Enters the Workplace
(All About Relationships) – If something is just not right at work these days, an employee exhibiting this disorder could be the culprit. Read this to find out and then learn what you can do about it.

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Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist? Your Health May Depend on It]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=85049 2016-01-25T18:16:35Z 2016-02-08T22:55:47Z are you an optimist or pessimist?“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”  ~ Roald Dahl

Imagine a beautiful painting hanging on your bedroom wall. Every morning, just upon waking, you meditate on this inspiring work of art. You soon find that this daily practice energizes you and affects your entire mindset throughout the day, encouraging you to look for the beauty in life.

One morning, however, as you’re carrying out your morning ritual, you happen to notice a few of the artist’s mistakes. There is clearly a blob of yellow where there should be blue, you think. And the brush strokes are obvious and messy in the bottom left-hand corner. At first, you don’t think much of it, but over time, the more you focus on them, the more these errors begin to bother you. And not only do they bother you, they begin to irritate you.

Now each morning as you begin your day, instead of enjoying the painting’s beauty, you concentrate and stress over the errors. When you lie in bed at night, your mind is once again drawn to the mistakes. Now — because of your focus — your once-inspiring painting has lost its magic.

While this may seem like a ridiculous thing to do with an beautiful work of art, many of us are guilty of this exact behavior when it comes to real life. Instead of enjoying the magnificent overall picture, we focus on our mistakes, dilemmas, the negative situations or the negative people.

Study after study has shown that we can’t get away with thinking thoughts that are negative, angry or depressing for too long without it taking a terrible toll on our emotional and physical health. On the other hand, when we make a practice of being optimistic, we begin to glow with inner warmth, health and vitality.

In a recent study, published in the journal Health Behavior and Policy Review, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people with the most optimistic mindsets were twice as likely to be in ideal cardiovascular health.

In another study, Danish researchers found that heart disease patients who had a positive outlook on life lived longer than those with a negative mindset. In fact the positive-minded patients were 42 percent less likely to die over a five-year period compared to the negative-minded patients. The findings are published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

There are scores of other studies confirming the link between optimism and good health, with findings ranging from optimistic moms delivering healthier babies to optimistic HIV patients being less affected by the virus.

But what about Grumpy Dwarf, Grouchy Smurf and Eeyore? Don’t we need realists to keep us aware of the bad things in life? To keep things balanced? Actually, no — because staying positive doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to the bad moments in life. It simply means staying hopeful during the bad times and knowing that good can always come from bad, no matter the situation. It means choosing to remain grateful.

Even Grouchy Smurf would have led a far happier life had he made this simple change. After all, hope is a necessary component of happiness. So choose to focus on the beautiful painting of life — not just the parts that upset you — and let it light up your mind and body from the inside.

Optimist image available from Shutterstock

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Melody Wilding, LMSW http://www.melodywilding.com <![CDATA[Networking for Introverts: 4 Secrets to Meet New People]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=85054 2016-01-25T18:11:59Z 2016-02-08T16:45:24Z imagesNetworking can be, at times, awkward and even produce anxiety. The thought of reaching out to people you don’t know to build potential business relationships can seem daunting. How do those “super connector” social butterflies carry themselves with such confidence while others stammer and stutter?

As it turns out, there’s a psychology to relationship building that will not only help you feel more secure when meeting new people, but will also transform your stack of business cards into meaningful connections that may advance your career.

Here are four ways to leverage what we know about human behavior and the brain to become a better networker and to create relationships that last:

1. Position Yourself to Stand Out

Catch people’s eye by standing near the appetizers. Everyone loves food and at events, it’s usually where people’s eyes turn to automatically as they scan the room. Standing by the grub will get you noticed. Plus, a constant stream of people will circulate around you making it easy to float seamlessly from conversation to conversation.

Body language also plays a big role in how people interpret your confidence level. Stand tall, nod while others speak, and keep a smile on your face. These behaviors all project curiosity, self-assurance and approachability, which will keep others engaged and interested.

What you wear can similarly impact others’ perception of you. Wearing bright attention-getting colors, especially red, will project energy, assertiveness and action.

2. Be Unforgettable

Want to create a lasting impression on someone? Make a point to talk with that person either first or last. Think about it this way: Who was the first you interacted with yesterday? The last person? Easy to remember, right? Now, try to name every other person you had an interaction with throughout the day.

Because of the serial position effect, we can most easily recall the first and last things we do, while the in-between activities tend to get muddled. If you make a point to talk to someone at the very beginning or end of the night, you’re more likely to make a memorable impression.

3. Ask Uncommon Questions

What’s the first thing someone typically asks to start a conversation? You guessed it: “So what do you do?” Because we expect most networking openers to ask about our professional work, one of the best ways to stand out and build a stronger connection with someone is to ask uncommon questions. Ask them questions about where they grew up, where they went to school, their hobbies — anything that could reveal a common bond.

You could even do a little research on the person beforehand (that’s what Google and social media are for) to figure out what makes them tick and find some common ground. Chances are people will actually feel flattered if you actually did some research. Getting personal with someone will show that you’re taking a genuine interest in them.

4. Speak with Power

There is nothing more annoying than a conversation filled with “like’s” and “um’s.” These fillers weaken your speech and can give the impression that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Make a conscious effort to speak clearly and concisely.

Also, try to match your tone with the person you’re chatting with. If they speak very loudly with a lot of hand gestures, try to match their energy. For example, you can do this by using more voice inflections and nodding your head more vigorously. Because we unconsciously prefer people who are similar to us, it’s a great way to build rapport.

Remember, confidence and relationship building are not skills we’re born with. It takes time, effort, and practice to become more comfortable with your networking skills, but rest assured these are skills you can develop over time.

Get the FREE toolkit thousands of entrepreneurs and executives use to better describe & manage their emotions at melodywilding.com.

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[A Great Way to Cultivate Gratitude]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=84914 2016-01-25T18:05:09Z 2016-02-08T11:45:46Z cultivate gratitudeWe know that being grateful is important. It boosts our energy and well-being. It helps us to cope with stress. Simply, it brightens our mood and helps us feel good. But sometimes we forget to give thanks. Sometimes, we give thanks only on certain days (such as holidays) and not on others (the days we’re exhausted, overwhelmed, burnt out). Sometimes, we count a few blessings to ourselves but quickly move on to something else.

In his book Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity author and psychology professor Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D, includes practices for cultivating, or growing, our gratitude. Because as he writes, “Through practice, giving thanks grows from the ground of one’s being. Grateful feelings, once buried, can surface if we take the time to notice and reflect… Gratitude is like fertilizer to the mind, spreading connections and improving its function in nearly every realm of experience.”

One of the practices is Gratitude Works! is journaling. Through his own work and others’ research, Emmons has found that including certain elements in your journaling practice helps you gain the most benefit. Below, you’ll learn more about these elements, along with other journaling tips.

Specificity

There’s a big difference between saying that you’re grateful for your best friend and saying that you’re grateful that your best friend calls you every week, listens intently when you’re talking and brings you soup when you’re sick.

Getting specific is more meaningful and helps you feel more grateful. That’s why when you’re journaling about your blessings, include details. Instead of being thankful for your spouse or your job or your home or that holiday, write about specific acts, situations and qualities.

 Surprise

According to Emmons, “All other factors being equal, events that are surprising and unexpected produce stronger emotional reactions than events that we expected or anticipated.” And this plays a big role in gratitude.

For instance, he gives the example of coming home after a long weekend away and expecting to eat frozen pizza. To his surprise, his wife made a special dinner. “My gratitude was off the charts,” he writes. “The surprise of it all made me feel blessed beyond description.”

Similarly, it can help to think about what your life might look like if a certain event hadn’t transpired. This is akin to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In fact, a series of studies conducted by Tim Wilson, Dan Gilbert and their colleagues are actually known as the “George Bailey effect.” In the research article, the authors conclude:

Unlike the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, it is not necessary for an angel to show us what the world would look like if we had never been born. Instead, spending a few minutes mentally subtracting a good thing from our lives might make us feel better. To reinvigorate a relationship, for example, it might be better for people to think about how they might never have met their partner than to recount the story of how they did.

As you’re journaling, focus on unexpected or novel events. Emmons suggests asking ourselves these questions: “What unexpected blessings did you benefit from today? What were you dreading that did not happen?”

Scarcity

Studies also have found that when people are told that life events are limited, they’re more likely to appreciate them—and to make the most of them (like this study). Remind yourself that the good things in your life aren’t infinite. They have a time frame.

For instance, you might respond to these questions in your journal (which Emmons poses): “How would you approach a valued relationship if you knew that the person would soon be moving? Would you treat the time you had left with this person differently? How would you increase your gratitude for having that person in your life?”

Other Tips

When journaling your gratitude, Emmons shares these additional tips in his book:

  • Carve out 5 to 10 minutes at least every other day to journal.
  • “Use the language of gifts.” Think about the good things you received today as gifts.
  • Think about the people in your life that you’re grateful for and why.
  • Write about the things you tend to take for granted.
  • Write about people who’ve helped your loved ones (something we tend to overlook).
  • Write about the negative outcomes that you avoided or escaped or made into something positive.

Nowadays, there’s so much information about gratitude that we might get tired of it and dismiss it. Plus, so many of us are pressed for time as it is. Journaling about your blessings might sound like another task for your already bursting-at-the-seams to-do list.

But gratitude is powerful. In fact, counting our blessings — and writing about them — not only changes our day for the better. It can even change our life. Because we don’t just realize the beautiful things that we already have; we also might start making the most of all that beauty and shaping our days to include those people, places, pursuits, acts and resources that make us oh-so grateful — and cultivating a more fulfilling, meaningful life.

Hand with poppy photo available from Shutterstock

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Gretchen Rubin <![CDATA[These 5 Habits Can Relieve Loneliness]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=84832 2016-01-25T18:27:05Z 2016-02-07T22:55:35Z benchemptyOne major challenge within happiness is loneliness. The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a terrible, common, and important obstacle to consider.

Of course, being alone and being lonely aren’t the same. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s Wall Street Journal piece, Alone or Lonely, the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years. About 40% of Americans report being lonely; in the 1980s, it was 20%. (One reason: more people live alone: 27% in 2012; 17% in 1970).

Loneliness is a serious issue. Sometimes people ask me, “If you had to pick just one thing, what would be the one secret to a happy life?” If I had to pick one thing, I’d say: strong bonds with other people. The wisdom of the ages and the current scientific studies agree on this point. When we don’t have that, we feel lonely.

I wrote a book about habits, Better Than Before, and I continue to be obsessed with the subject. Whenever I think about a happiness challenge, I ask myself, “How could habits help address this problem?”

Here are some habits to consider:

  1. Make a habit of nurturing others.
    Offer to take care of the neighbor’s children once a week; teach a class, volunteer, get a dog. Giving support to others helps create a feeling of connection. For happiness generally, it’s just as important to give support as to get support. Along those lines…
  2. Make a habit of connecting with other people (to state the obvious).
    Show up at the weekly office coffee hour, join a book group, sign up for an exercise session, take a minute each morning to chat to a co-worker.
  3. Make a habit of getting better sleep.
    One of the most common indicators of loneliness is broken sleep — taking a long time to fall asleep, waking frequently, and feeling sleepy during the day. Sleep deprivation, under any circumstances, brings down people’s moods, makes them more likely to get sick, and dampens their energy, so it’s important to tackle this issue. (Here are some tips on getting good sleep.)
  4. Make a habit of staying open.
    Unfortunately — and this may seem counter-intuitive — loneliness itself can make people feel more negative, critical, and judgmental. Lonely people, it turns out, are far less accepting of potential new friends than people who aren’t lonely. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in that way, you can take steps to counter it.
  5. Making a habit of asking yourself, “What’s missing in my life?”
    If you’re feeling lonely, is it because you miss having a best friend, or you miss being part of a group, or you miss having a place to go where everyone is familiar, or you miss having a romantic partner, or you miss having the quiet presence of someone else hanging around the house with you?

    There are many kinds of loneliness. It may be painful to think about, but once you understand what you’re missing, it’s easier to see how to address it. Through habits or otherwise.

If you find it tough to stick to a habit like “attending the weekly office coffee hour,” my book Better Than Before can help (I hope). There, I explain all the strategies we can use to make or break a habit. It’s not that hard to master a habit, when you know what to do.

For instance, you might use the Strategy of Scheduling, the Strategy of Monitoring, the Strategy of Convenience — and you should definitely use the Strategy of Treats — which is the most fun strategy.

If you want to read more about the subject of loneliness, I highly recommend two books: John Cacioppo and William Patrick, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, and Emily White, Lonely (a memoir). Also, in my books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I write a lot about how to build and strengthen relationships.

Most people have suffered from loneliness at some point. Have you found any good habits for making yourself less lonely? What worked — or didn’t work?

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Michael Hedrick http://thehedrick.com <![CDATA[How to Deal with Psychosis the Moment It Occurs]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=85025 2016-01-25T17:30:29Z 2016-02-07T16:45:58Z psychosisPsychosis is defined as being overwhelmed to the point of losing grip on reality. Sometimes this manifests itself as paranoia that people are going to kill you and sometimes it manifests itself as delusions that people are sending you secret messages through their body language or their words.

Essentially psychosis is when you start to fully believe that the things your brain is telling you are true and, for people with mental illness, psychosis is a big thing to worry about.

It goes without saying that a life of not being able to trust your own mind is not the greatest carnival ride in the world, but millions of people deal with it on a daily basis.

It’s also different for everybody, sometimes you get so hung up on something that it start to affect the way you see the world.

Psychosis doesn’t only happen in with mental illness either, sometimes in periods of great stress or trauma normal people can start to believe things that are outside the scope of reality.

Personally, I’ve lived with schizophrenia for ten years so I’m acutely attuned to the things my mind is telling me. Sometimes I lose myself and that’s perfectly normal for someone in my situation, but having the wherewithal to realize that something isn’t quite right is part and parcel of nursing yourself back to sanity.

All that said, I’ve learned some tricks for dealing with psychosis when it happens. These are all part of my tool bag for dealing with that stuff and they’ve worked, to varying degrees for me. Maybe they can help you too.

First and foremost, if you find yourself spiraling into paranoia and delusion, maybe something someone said made you think they were spying on you, step outside for a moment and take a few minutes to yourself. Take several deep breaths, five seconds in and five seconds out and do this for however long it takes to slow your racing heart. Take whatever time you need to yourself to get a grip on the situation, removing yourself is essential in order to quell the constant barrage of messages you think you’re receiving.

Secondly, and this is just as important, talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling, analyze the situation with them being as honest as possible about everything you were thinking and get reassurance that none of what you thought was happening was actually happening. It can be hard to separate yourself from the thoughts you’re having and getting an outside perspective can give you a good look at the reality of the situation aside from the things your brain was telling you.

Lastly, if you have emergency meds on hand, which you probably should, take them. They’ll help to calm you down and reduce the anxiety and nervousness you are feeling from the situation.

While it may seem defeatist to rely on meds there’s no harm in living better through chemistry. That’s the reason they were invented, to help you.

I know it can be hard in the midst of psychosis but take the time you need, talk to someone and take your meds, these are all things that have helped me, they’ll probably work for you too.

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Suzanne Kane <![CDATA[8 Effective Ways to Keep Your Partner Interested]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=84985 2016-01-25T17:24:13Z 2016-02-07T11:45:51Z keep your partner interestedBeing in a relationship involves time, commitment, patience, a willingness to forgive, an openness and vulnerability, and giving without expectation of anything in return. This sounds like a lot of work and it is, but the potential rewards are well worth the effort. Yet even as you work at your relationship, you also need to endeavor to keep it fresh. Here are eight tips for doing so:

  1. Make an effort to be present.
    You might think that being in the same room with your partner is enough to be present. But that doesn’t hold true in a society where it’s easier to text than communicate even when two people are in the same room. Everyone’s buried in their electronic devices. Put the devices on mute. Your physical presence is one way to keep your partner interested, but there’s more at stake than simply occupying space.

  2. Cultivate the art of listening.
    If you constantly look for an opening to insert your comments or find yourself crafting your response even before your partner finishes speaking, you’re not present. Stop thinking and start listening. Your partner will appreciate that you’re not trying to multitask or interrupting. Who knows? This may even ignite a spark that takes your relationship to a deeper level. All it takes is improving your listening skills.
  3. Pay special attention to your “look.”
    Make a special effort when you put together your wardrobe for the day and consider what will make you look your best, shows off your best traits, flatters your physique or is your partner’s particular favorite. For example, if your partner likes you in blue, and you also like it, why not put on that blue scarf or tie? This is a subtle signal to your partner that you acknowledge his or her likes and want to give him or her the pleasure of seeing you wearing it.
  4. Practice simplicity.
    How many times have you caught yourself rambling without ever getting to the point? This habit is annoying at best and it doesn’t do a relationship any good, either. Before you speak, think about what you’re about to say. If you can say it in one sentence, that’s ideal. If not, boil it down to two or three points, max. This is enough to convey what you need to say without boring your partner.

    Simplicity counts a lot in a relationship. Besides, if you’ve known your partner for some time, you both have a kind of shorthand language. He or she will be able to fill in the blanks and get the gist of the idea without a lot of extra words.

  5. Make it a date.
    Back when you first met your partner, no doubt everything was new and exciting. Each time you went out you likely discovered some new and intriguing bit of information about each other that deepened your interest and heightened your attraction.

    Now that you’ve been together for a while you might think you don’t have any need for dates. You’d be wrong. While setting aside time on the calendar for just the two of you to do something together may not qualify as a “date” in the classic sense, it is a date, nonetheless. It is a time you both reserve to be together. This is a priceless opportunity to enrich your relationship and to keep your partner interested at the same time.

  6. Talk about each other’s dreams.
    Kids, household bills, careers, finances, health and other topics and responsibilities take a large chunk of time in any relationship. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming, leaving little time to contemplate or progress toward dreams. Carve out some time to spend with your partner talking about each other’s dreams.

    Nothing gets your enthusiasm going more than to open up about what really matters to you. Just be sure that this is a two-way street. To make it easier, let your partner go first. That way you know you won’t hog all the time talking about only your dreams.

  7. Little things mean a lot.
    If you want your partner to remain interested over the long haul, one way to keep it fresh is to do things that surprise and delight him or her. It doesn’t have to be an expensive gift or dinner at a fine restaurant. Take over a chore to lighten the load or arrange for someone to watch the kids so the two of you can share a glass of wine and enjoy the sunset.

    Write each other little notes and tuck them away where only the two of you are likely to see them. This is the modern equivalent of love letters, just shortened to get to the point more quickly. Your sentiments say more than words convey. Your partner can’t help but be interested.

  8. Kiss and make up.
    No matter how rough your day is, don’t take it out on your partner. Even when the conversation veers into difficult territory and heated words ensue, resolve to call a timeout before you head off to bed. While you may not be in the emotional state to actually kiss, make it a point to table the discussion for another time. Be amicable and warm and respect each other. On the other hand, there’s no better way to cement your bond than to actually kiss and make up. Do whatever works best for you in the moment.

Woman dressing photo available from Shutterstock

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Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[3 Ways Fighting Can Actually Help Your Relationship]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=84862 2016-01-25T16:59:48Z 2016-02-06T22:55:50Z Couples_Counseling_BSPHave it out! It’s good for you.

There’s something wholesome and good to be said for couples that never ever fight with each other — I just don’t know what it is. That hasn’t been my experience so I really can’t say whether that makes any particular love affair better.

My guess is that couples who never argue or have it out are probably building up a good head of steam inside themselves. Human nature — even for the most zen among us — seems to dictate that we speak our minds rather than bite our lips. The world doesn’t move forward on the backs of lip biters.

10 Reasons You Should Marry an Emotionally Complex Woman

Progress and a better tomorrow are usually the direct result of somebody somewhere raising a bit of Hell about an opinion that they hold.

The same sort of thing would apply to love. Thing is, as beautiful and worthwhile the old idea of two people coming together as one is, it still pretty much goes against the very grain of what makes every individual tick.

See, we’re all designed and built to survive. And when you consider that very basic scientific fact, you might get the gist of what I’m talking about. Still, everything has its limits, and couples who only fight or who always fight are probably way past the point of healthy back-and-forth release.

That’s the complexity of love: We each have to make up our own minds about how much challenge or resistance we want to take from our partners, or how much we really need to dish out. But here’s why it’s actually a good thing to be the couple who fights.

1. You Don’t Have to Play Emotional Hide and Seek.

There’s nothing worse than having to deal with a partner who hides their feelings. I’m serious; it’s a sh*tstorm. I’ve been there and I’ve even been that way at times. I suspect there are many people who manage to maintain peaceful, quarrel-free relationships for years or decades — hell, even forever sometimes — but are dying inside from the sound of their own silence.

A lot of who we are is a result of how we were raise and the environments and parents we grew up with. But when you start to apply that theory to wondering why or how certain couples never argue or hash out their frequent differences with a bit of old-fashioned civil combat, it enlightens the mystery.

A lot of people bury their heaviest emotional stuff down so deep. They might even have a level of emotional stuff they’re willing to expose to their partners just to satisfy the demand for such a thing but the real stuff — the darkness and the blues and the fears and the desires — is kept hidden away like emotional buried treasure.

And guess what? Although people like that may seem docile and content on the outside, they’re often the ones who end up hurting their partners the most, stringing them along for years, until one day they simply can’t contain all the proverbial steam they’ve been building up for so damn long.

By then, their discontent is all that’s left — a discontent which you had no clue about. Everything was peaches and cream, baby. Until the day it all exploded. Is it better to have occasional arguments across the years than one first and last epic ending to it all? Hell yes.

2. You Move Forward in Your Relationship When You Don’t Hold Back.

I wouldn’t put arguing with your partner or spouse at the top of the list of ways to continue getting to know each other. But at the same time, maybe I should.

I was raised in a loud, brash family where people were more likely to holler in your face than bite their tongue for the sake of fake peace. We were chaotic and dysfunctional in ways that would make a lot of these modern Pinterest-y couples flop down on the floor and chuck us their wallets.

20 Things You MUST Accept for Your Relationship to Succeed

That kind of raising made me a little crazy. I’m no super-catch in a lot of departments and it wouldn’t take you long to figure that out on your own. Still, one thing’s for certain: My family loves each other in deep, unbending ways that a lot of families will never know.

We fight. We disagree. We judge and snark and poke fun at each other, but we never hold back. And our bond is as powerful and fulfilling as it was on the days my brother and I were born. I’ve learned a lot about what matters most about love from them.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that my semi-mad childhood is a sure-fire way to look at romantic relationships. However, there’s a lot to be said for the honest, heartfelt back-and-forth that was a constant part of my childhood. It made me understand I never had to keep things inside. It made me confident that honesty with the people I love the most would never cause them to turn their back on me.

And in some strange way it made me feel like every stupid argument we had, we’d get over it no matter what. We had to — and we’d love each other a little bit more because of it.

3. You Learn to Trust Much Quicker.

There are two kinds of arguers in this world: the typical ones who have to win every meeting of minds and have to feel validated that all their points were made and accepted. They’re the majority of arguers and the reason most couples don’t associate arguing with a healthy relationship.

The other kind of arguers are those who can argue the hell out of something (without throwing sh*t or turning nuts) and fifteen minutes later, let it all go. Neither person gets any kind of crackhead high off of being right. Nobody gloats or pouts or pisses on anybody else’s toothbrush.

The argument itself is a meditative unleashing of all the uncertain winds that have been whipping around in our heads for a while. The clash is just a formality, a reason for the catharsis, a freeing of the pent-up everyday ticked-off bullsh*t feelings we all build up every couple of weeks. We’re human. We get down. We want everything to be different. We wish we were better. We thought there’d be more by now.

It’s natural for us to want to lash out every now and then. It’s not unusual to have this unconscious need to poke your partner a little just to make sure they still have your back. And I hate to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: The very best arguers are the very best forgivers, and the very best forgivers are the very best at trust.

Which leads me to my final point, so walk away with this if nothing else: The best arguers are the best forgivers and the best forgivers are the best trusters and the best trusters are having the hottest sex on Earth.

This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 3 Legit Reasons It’s GOOD To Be The Couple Who Fights.

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Kira Asatryan <![CDATA[The One Word that Can Kill a Friendship]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=84935 2016-01-22T00:08:53Z 2016-02-06T16:45:56Z the one word that can kill a friendshipThere’s this word you use all the time. It’s a seemingly harmless word — it’s close to meaningless, really — but it’s slowly, subversively tainting your relationships. Look back over any recent texts and emails you’ve sent to friends. If they look something like this, you’re caught on this word’s lure.

“I’d love to hang out! But I’m really busy.”

“Sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier! I’ve been so busy.”

“What’s going on with me? Just busy as usual!”

You guessed it. The single-word relationship saboteur is “busy.” It’s a word that’s stealthily driving your friends away, and it’s time to eliminate it from your social vocabulary.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with actually being busy — people can certainly have many obligations and still maintain great relationships. It’s not being busy that drives people away, it’s the word itself.

Let’s discuss the top three reasons it’s time to be done with “busy,” and three ways to replace it with something better.

  • Everyone is busy.
    In this day and age, saying you’re busy is basically like saying you’re alive. Being busy may once have been an indicator of importance; it may once have implied that many people and projects rely on you. Now, it’s a filler word that can be applied to any situation.

    You could be 10 years into your job and be “busy.” You could be between jobs and be “busy.” You could be vacationing a lot and be “busy.” The word itself no longer relates to any specific, making it basically meaningless.

    And meaningless language is a problem for relationships because it doesn’t help other people understand what, specifically, you’re going through. It actually impedes mutual understanding.

  • It’s open to negative interpretation.
    The vague nature of saying “I’m really busy” leaves the real reason why you’re being unavailable open to interpretation. While many people will accept “being busy” as enough of a reason for not hanging out the first few times you use it, eventually your friends will see it as a veil over a more sinister reason for not hanging out. Maybe you don’t like them anymore and are too afraid to say it.

    In other words, “busy” allows others to fill in the blank of your true intentions. Often, they will fill in the blank with something negative. In a worst-case scenario, friends may feel like “being busy” is a way of blowing them off without having to state a reason for doing so.

  • It’s a “not right now.”
    Oftentimes, “being busy” simply means that you have higher priorities right now than seeing friends, which is totally fine. You may be caring for a child or launching a new product; there are lots of legitimate reasons why friendships fall down one’s list of priorities. The issue is that “ being busy” doesn’t communicate any of that.

    In one of my previous posts, 5 Phrases That Can Kill a Relationship, I say that the phrase “not right now” is a relationship killer because it fosters a feeling of rejection. “Busy” is the friendship equivalent of “not right now.” It lacks a sense of caring about the other person and fosters distance as a result.

That being said, just because “busy” is not a word that generates closeness, that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate the same thing in a way that does generate closeness. Here are some tips for telling your friends you can’t right now without hurting their feelings:

  • Be specific.
    There’s an easy way to eliminate the vagueness of “busy” and that’s by telling your friends specifically what you’re busy doing. Of course, being specific takes a bit more of your time and effort — something that can be challenging when you’re really swamped. But it’s worth doing because the difference in how the message is received is significant.

    Let’s say you invite a friend to your birthday party and she writes back, “I’d love to but I’m really busy!” Alternatively, she writes back, “I’d love to but Jack has karate that evening and he specifically asked me to watch him this time. Have some champagne for me, though!”

    Feel the difference? The second message explains your friend’s reasoning, gives context, and communicates that she’s still invested in your happiness. The first message, frankly, is a rejection.

  • Set a timeframe.
    If you’re busy because of an especially difficult crunch time either at work or at home, it’s helpful to make your friends aware of how long this “busy” time will last. For example, if you know your product will launch in a month and your schedule will open up soon thereafter, communicate your desire to reconnect with everyone then.

    Even if the product slips and the month turns into two, your friends will appreciate that you expressed a desire to be together again as soon as you can.

  • Determine if you need to have a difficult conversation.
    And now, it’s time to confront the dark side of “busy.” As we all know, “being busy” can be a method by which we disengage from a relationship we no longer want to have. The kids call it “ghosting” — distancing yourself from a relationship without ever explaining why.

    If you’re using “busy” in this way, it’s worth determining if you need to have that difficult conversation with the person you’re ghosting. While it’s always uncomfortable to break up with a friend, some friendships deserve this attention. In some cases, it’ll cause great sadness to both parties to “busy” a friendship to death.

Try saying goodbye to “busy” and see what happens!

© Kira Asatryan.

Guy with two phones photo available from Shutterstock

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Alicia Sparks http://blogs.psychcentral.com/celebrity/ <![CDATA[Psychology Around the Net: February 6, 2016]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=85702 2016-02-05T18:42:16Z 2016-02-06T11:30:20Z anxiety-depression-college-students

Happy Saturday, Psych Central readers!

I hope your February is off to a great start — I know mine is! Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this winter so far — one weekend I’m snowed in, and the next it’s, well, almost spring out there!

Anyway, I’ve rounded up some interesting little psychology-related nuggets for you to feast on this weekend, whatever your plans, so sit back and get ready to learn about how a parent’s depression affects children, the argument behind dropping the word “schizophrenia” from our vocabulary, the self-help book even Charles Manson read, and more.

Enjoy!

How Your Depression Can Hurt Your Kids’ School Performance: Honestly, that a parent’s depression also affects his or her child shouldn’t be groundbreaking (just a little editorial opinion)…but why does it seem to affect girls more than boys?

The Psychology Behind Sexual Impulses: While the “spectrum of sexual impulses and fantasies” might be vast, some sex psychologists are comparing “sexual turn-ons to learning a language.”

Should Psychiatry Dump ‘Schizophrenia’ From the Lexicon? Yes, according to psychiatrist Jim van Os, MD, PhD, of Maastricht University in The Netherlands, who believes the array of diagnoses featuring psychotic elements should be “viewed as part of the same spectrum syndrome, with a lifetime prevalence of 3.5%, in which ‘schizophrenia’ represents the minority (less than a third) with the poorest outcome, on average.”

On ‘Happiness,’ A Muddy Word For A Muddy Feeling: Especially interesting for the avid writers and readers out there: According to a new study in The Journal of Positive Psychology, the English language doesn’t include enough “emotionally positive” words.

Anxiety Meds Valium, Xanax And Ativan May Not Lead To Dementia After All: Despite last year’s study that certain benzodiazepines were linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s, a new study suggests that even in the highest doses, these medications actually aren’t connected to any such increased risk.

80 Years Later: How to Win Friends & Influence People Is a Strange Version of Self-Help: Take a peek inside the book that’s influenced everyone from Warren Buffet to Charles Manson.

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Gretchen Rubin <![CDATA[Don’t Fall for the Common Myth that Stops People from Changing Habits]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=84826 2016-02-06T00:52:31Z 2016-02-05T22:55:33Z redcrayonamonggrayPeople often ask me, “Why do we struggle so hard to change our habits? Why do we fail so often?”

There are a variety of reasons, but there’s one big one — a popular myth about habits that leads people astray. It makes them accuse themselves of being lazy, self-indulgent, and lacking in will-power. It causes them to fail.

What is this myth? It’s the myth that there’s a magic, one-size-fits-all solution for habit change.

You’ve read the headlines: “The habits that successful people follow each morning!”; “Follow these 3 secret habits of millionaires!”; “The one habit you must follow if you want to get ahead!”; “The five habits of all highly creative people!”

But here’s what I’ve discovered. And you know this, too — because it’s perfectly obvious from looking at the world around us. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There’s no one “best” habit.

Or rather, there is a one-size-fits-all-solution, which is: Follow the habits that work for you, that help make you happier, healthier, and more productive. What works for you might be very different from what worked for your brother or Steve Jobs or Virginia Woolf.

Often, people make the case for adopting a particular habit by pointing to a renowned figure who practiced that habit with great success. For instance…

  • Maybe we should live a life of quiet predictability, like Charles Darwin. Or maybe we should indulge in boozy revelry, like Toulouse-Lautrec.
  • Maybe we should wake up early, like Haruki Murakami. Or maybe we should work late into the night, like Tom Stoppard.
  • Maybe it’s okay to procrastinate endlessly, like William James.  Or maybe it’s better to work regular hours, like Anthony Trollope.
  • Should we work in silence, like Gustav Mahler? Or amidst a bustle of activity, like Jane Austen?
  • Maybe it’s helpful to drink a lot of alcohol, like Fried­rich Schiller. Or a lot of coffee, like Kierkegaard.
  • Are we better off produc­ing work for many hours a day, like H. L. Mencken? Or maybe for just thirty minutes a day, like Gertrude Stein.

The fact is, there’s no magic formula, no one-size-fits-all solution — not for ourselves, and not for the peo­ple around us. We won’t make ourselves more creative and productive and healthy by copying other people’s habits, even the habits of geniuses. We must know our own nature and what habits serve us best.

In his fascinating book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, from which these examples are drawn, Mason Currey exhaustively examines the work habits of 161 writers, composers, artists, scientists, and philos­ophers. These examples make one thing perfectly clear: while these brilliant people vary tre­mendously in the specific habits they follow, they all know very well what habits work for them, and they go to enormous lengths to maintain those habits.

This “one-size-fits-all” myth is dangerous, and it makes people feel terrible about themselves, because they think, “Well, you’re supposed to get exercise first thing in the day, and I tried to get up early and go for a run, and I totally couldn’t stick to it. See, I’m a lazy person with no will-power.” Or they think, “The secret is to indulge in moderation, and I’ve been trying to limit myself to one-half cup of ice-cream each night, but each night, I break down and eat the whole container. I’m such a loser.”

When I talk to people like this, I say, “No, that’s not true about you! You just haven’t set yourself up for success. There’s a way for you to change those habits, with much better results — because it’s tailored to you.”

Now, I speak of this one-size-fits-all myth from first-hand knowledge, because for a long time, I believed in it, too.

I used to tell everyone that working slowly and steadily was the best way to produce creative work. Because that’s what works for me.

And I used to encourage everyone to get up early, to work in the morning. Because that’s what works for me.

And I used to say that it was better to work in a reasonably quiet, calm, orderly environment. Because that’s what works for me.

And I used to say that it was better to give up sugar, cold turkey, and just never indulge. Because that’s what works for me.

But as I worked on Better Than Before, it became increasingly clear that the opposite habits work better for some people.

  • I’m a Marathoner, but some people are Sprinters
  • I’m a Lark, but some people are Owls
  • I’m a Simplicity-Lover, but some people are Abundance-Lovers
  • I’m an Abstainer, but some people are Moderators

We have to think about ourselves. It’s helpful to ask, “When have I worked well in the past? What did my habits look like then — and how can I replicate them?” Maybe you work more creatively with a team or by yourself. Maybe you need deadlines or maybe you feel strangled by deadlines. Maybe you like working on several projects at once or you prefer to focus on one project at a time.

With habits, as with happiness, the secret is to figure out ourselves. When we shape our habits to suit our own nature, our own interests, and our own values, we set ourselves up for success.

This is so important that in Better Than Before, the first two chapters focus on self-knowledge. Once you know yourself better, you can figure out how to use the other nineteen strategies more effectively — and with less frustration. It’s not that hard to change your habits, when you know what to do.

What have you learned about yourself and your own unique habit fingerprint — and what works for you? Any thing that surprised you?

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[3 Myths about Healthy Marriages that Most People Think Are True]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=84906 2016-02-05T23:19:09Z 2016-02-05T16:45:24Z Happy Marriage MythsThere are many myths about what a healthy marriage looks and feels like. When we start seeing these myths as facts, we get into problematic territory. Many myths create unrealistic standards, which when we bring into our homes and apply to our relationship can hinder them. For instance, if you think you should only attend therapy when your problems are dire, you might be waiting way too long.

Below, Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, LPC, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, shared three myths and the associated facts, along with several practical tips.

Myth: Our problems are too minor for counseling

Many of the couples Derhally sees feel shameful about going to therapy because their friends say that it means they shouldn’t be together or they’re a lost cause. But Derhally is actually a big proponent of attending therapy or a workshop early on in your relationship when issues are still minor. For instance, you might attend premarital counseling.

Most of the unmarried couples she sees find that their issues can be resolved. And when they work through them before getting married, they create a strong foundation and a renewed bond, said Derhally, a certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Washington, D.C.

“[N]o one in life teaches us how to be in a relationship, what contributes to relationship dynamics or conflict, and effective communication skills for couples.” Even couples who have good relationship skills will come in for a maintenance session or to reconnect, she said.

That’s because minor issues can evolve into big problems. “Problems in marriages can arise when we keep things under the surface for a long time because they don’t feel like something egregious or a big deal.” Addressing those feelings and concerns stops them from metastasizing.

What issues do couples typically work through? According to Derhally, these might include anything from resolving conflict in a peaceful way to appreciating each other’s differences (“instead of being triggered by them”).

When is a good time to seek therapy? For instance, seek therapy when you have trouble communicating with your partner, you keep having the same argument without any resolution, or you feel disconnected from your partner, Derhally said.

Myth: Monotony is bad for my relationship

We often hear in the media that monotony is bad for a marriage. We’re told that we must keep things fresh and exciting or our relationship will be doomed.

But while it’s important to spice things up, Derhally said, it’s more important to appreciate our spouse in the everyday. “Routines and predictability also bring a level of safety and stability in times when everything else seems chaotic.” Feeling safe and trusting our spouses are important for a healthy relationship. Plus, it’s simply impossible to sustain excitement in a relationship all the time, she said.

How can you appreciate your partner? “It may sound morbid but I tell people to try to picture your life without this person. What would your life look like and what would you really miss?” Derhally also suggested focusing on your spouse’s positives and on the good your partner brings into your life versus the negative and what your spouse isn’t doing.

Myth: I have to put my spouse first. Always.

Derhally frequently hears people say that a successful marriage involves putting your spouse first and foremost. “While it is true that your partner should be a top priority, to think that your partner will and should always be your number one partner is unrealistic.” She shared this example: You have very young children whose needs have to come first (since they can’t care for themselves). Or you have a sick parent who requires your care and attention.

Instead Derhally suggested thinking about it this way: “Your partner should always be one of your top priorities.” Maybe your spouse is “equal to the needs of the children, and sometimes external factors require your partner to be present for someone else.” The key is for couples to come back to each other and reconnect regularly.

For more, read Derhally’s piece, a response to this viral article about “how American parenting is killing the American marriage.”

“If we accept the reality that relationships can sometimes be boring, sometimes be monotonous [and] that life will throw us curveballs [which won’t] always allow our spouse to put us first…, we can find the beauty in imperfections in our relationships,” Derhally said. Because relationships are messy, and they don’t necessarily follow smooth paths. And we can refocus on the strength of our bond, she said.

Happy couple photo available from Shutterstock

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Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: February 5, 2016]]> http://psychcentral.com/blog/?p=85632 2016-02-04T23:14:45Z 2016-02-05T11:30:09Z Happy Makeup Blond Woman Hugging Herself With Natural Emotion OnMy biggest dreams came true early in 2016.

For the past few years I’ve been struggling with two chronic illnesses. This year, I learned I was healed of both.

I think a variety of things led to a change in my health. There were the usual things like diet and exercise. For example, eating more whole foods and eliminating processed foods, and doing more meditative exercises like yoga and hiking and less high intensity-high endurance ones. But I came to the realization that none of it would have been possible unless I accomplished one thing first.

I had to believe I was worth it.

In order to be successful with your 2016 goals, whether it’s lose weight, or find a meaningful friendship, you need to start with our first post this week. Learning how to love yourself will be the thing that finally takes you to where you want to go this year.

Applying the 5 Love Languages to Self-Love: How to Love Yourself
(The Psychology of Love) – You’ve probably heard it before, but before you can love others, you’ve got to learn to love yourself. This post shows you how by transforming the ideas from a bestselling book’s secret on romantic love to self-love.

5 Simple Steps to Create a New Habit that Sticks
(NLP Discoveries) – Habits may be the key to your success in 2016. Learn how to make them stick with these tips.

Unloved Daughters and the Problem of Friendship
(Knotted) – Do you struggle with finding lasting friendships? This could be the reason why.

Overweight? The Cause May Not Be What You Think
(Leveraging Adversity) – If you think a lack of exercise is causing your weight gain, think again. Find out what’s a major risk factor to obesity and what you can do to combat it.

“Victim” isn’t a Dirty Word, so Don’t Revictimize Me!
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – When Lenora publicly shares her personal past, she gets a response she didn’t expect. In fact, many victims share the experience of getting re-victimized through shame.

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