World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999. 2016-07-25T02:44:21Z Matthew Loeb <![CDATA[OCD’s Little Secret]]> 2016-07-11T19:19:57Z 2016-07-24T22:32:52Z OCD's little secretThis is our little secret: I robbed a bank.

At least that’s what my mind spits out. And according to my mind, I am likely to rob again and again.

When I walk into a bank to deposit a check, my heartbeat skips. Sweat trickles down my forehead. A boulder forms in my throat.

Why? Not because of my dwindling bank account or the imperious teller. My sneering mind is ready to pounce. An obsessive-compulsive disorder advocate and consumer, our vivid imagination has a darker side. We have committed unspeakable atrocities according to our deceitful thoughts.

Referred to as the doubting disorder, OCD preys on the sliver of doubt. Rationally, we know the thoughts are irrational. We know they are cruel distortions. But emotionally, they feel powerful. And so believable. Emotion and logic clash in our angst-ridden minds.

This is our challenge. Our minds are frenemies. They are razor-sharp, capable of unleashing powerful arguments and deconstructing complex math equations. But they are also tormentors, skilled at twisting facts into believable half-truths. The OCD, at its shrillest, plunges deep into our psyche.

I think, therefore I am. For OCD patients, I think, therefore I revisit. The past diverts and distracts. We spend hours analyzing our previous thoughts and actions. In the cruelest of mind tricks, we try to logic out illogical thoughts.

But as we painfully discover, OCD contorts our logical, intellectual mind. Our mind’s OCD riddle is unsolvable. But the temptation to “logic it out” — what do these thoughts mean? Did I really commit a horrible offense? — is irresistible. Yearning for certitude, self-doubt floods our core. We are immobilized, fearful of an impetuous action. But our hesitation has ill-advised consequences. Time is finite; our endless vacillating perplexes family, friends, and colleagues. We appear inconsistent and directionless. In reality, we are distracted; smothering the insatiable doubt siphons mental energy. The OCD cripples if we let it.

When meeting with my counselor, we talk about pushing forward, labeling a thought as a meaningless mind trick and tackling daily goals. While the flood of thoughts may be uncontrollable, we control our reaction. We can either succumb to the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings or acknowledge them in a nonjudgmental manner. As Dr. McCann reminds me, the thoughts only imprison you when you let them.

She’s right. For too long, OCD patients live in solitary confinement. We are shackled to the latest anxiety-inducing thought. Sure, you may have robbed that bank. But there is a bigger crime occurring — OCD stealing your healthy, vibrant life. Here is your get out of jail free card.


Stacey Marone <![CDATA[How to Become a Morning Person in 5 Steps]]> 2016-07-11T19:11:35Z 2016-07-24T18:35:52Z how to become a morning personDifferent people prefer to work at different times of the day. Some find themselves most productive in the mornings; other are better as night owls. However, mornings are traditionally seen as the start of everyone’s day. Regardless of whether your body clock is ready for it, you’ll need to adjust to early mornings, especially if you’re in a 9-to-5 job.

You can try temporarily forcing yourself to wake up early in the morning, but it’s difficult if you aren’t fully committed to being a morning person. Want to learn to be a morning person? Here are five psychological tricks to train your brain:

1. Sleep early.

One of the best ways to convince your mind to wake up early is to sleep early. A well-rested body is ready to get going at an earlier time if you go to bed before midnight.

If old habits die hard for you, consider doing this gradually. Try going to bed an hour earlier than your usual time. Once you get used to the new sleep schedule, keep adjusting it until you fall asleep at an hour that allows you to wake up at a desirable morning hour.

2. Prepare your body.

Our minds are attuned to how our bodies react to their physical surroundings. If you’re still geared toward a high-adrenaline task in the middle of the night, then your mind and body are going to take a longer time slowing down and going to bed.

Set a curfew for your nightly schedule. Start preparing your body for sleep at least one hour before actual bed time. Some people find that taking a warm bath helps them wind down from their daily stressors. There are also those who tune into calming meditations for the same effect. Others might prefer something simpler, such as drinking a glass of warm milk.

3. Set a morning ritual.

Morning rituals are just as important as nightly ones. Setting your mental awareness to a daily morning ritual will get it used to this schedule in no time. There are numerous forms of morning ritual that vary from person to person.

What is important here is waking up both mind and body to energize them through the day. Exercise is a common method. You can also choose to eat an energizing breakfast to get the right nutrients. (It’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day when it comes to that.)

4. Reward yourself.

An extrinsic motivator may work best for goals like this one. Reward yourself for every morning you wake up early. It doesn’t have to be a big or conventional reward, just something to tell your brain that something good will happen if you keep up the good work.

Be as positive about waking up in the morning as you can be. Treat yourself to a hearty meal, or take a walk outdoors. Remind your mind that being a morning person is a good thing, and that it can get benefits from doing this.

5. Sleep near the window.

Being in a bright place will alert your mind and body to awaken. A type of eye cell makes it possible for us to be light-sensitive. That’s why people turn the lights off when they go to bed. If they do keep a light on, it’s usually a night light that’s dimmer than the usual.

To awaken your body in the morning and save energy as well, sleep near the window where natural light seeps in. It might be an unpleasant feeling at first, but waking up to the sunrise is extremely refreshing, and before you know it, your mind won’t even notice that this has become a habit.


Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[Adult ADHD: 5 More Tips for Managing Technology]]> 2016-07-22T17:25:50Z 2016-07-24T14:20:07Z adult ADHD and technologyPsychotherapist and ADHD coach Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW, believes that technology is a double-edged sword for adults with ADHD. It helps you be efficient. But it also distracts you from your work. Because before you know it, you’ve spent one hour surfing the web for something you can’t even remember. Or you find yourself sending just one more text when an important project requires your attention. And, inevitably, just one more leads to 20.

“Technology is like a drug, providing that dopamine hit after dopamine hit. It’s really stimulating,” said Eric Tivers, LCSW, also a psychotherapist and ADHD coach. And that’s powerful for people with ADHD since they have low levels of dopamine.

In a previous piece we shared five suggestions on managing technology so it doesn’t manage you—everything from tracking your use to, ironically, using apps to block the internet. Below are five more tips and tricks to try, some of which also include using apps to your advantage.

Ask someone else to create a concrete barrier.

One of Tivers’s clients is a big gamer, who realized that he was playing way too much. He asked his girlfriend to set up the parental controls on his games to limit his use.

What type of technology do you need to stay accountable with? Who can you ask to help you? Maybe it’s your spouse, best friend or an ADHD coach. You might brainstorm together to create an effective buddy system.

Try a digital to-do list.

“It can be mightily motivating to stay away from tech distractions when you have a great to-do list or task management app,” said Matlen, author of two books on ADHD, including The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done. Her clients like these apps:

However, make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with too many tasks, said Tivers, who hosts the podcast ADHD reWired. And make sure that you don’t let picking a good app turn into another distraction.

Use unpleasant sounds.

Naturally, we tend to pick notification sounds that are pleasant to hear. Or the sounds that are already built in are positive, such as those for email programs. Matlen suggested finding a .wav or other audio file that you hate or is irritable. “You’ll be more apt to want to turn off your mail program.” (Here’s one website to check out.)

Be sure to self-reflect.

Check in with yourself regularly on how technology is affecting you—especially before you start checking your social media feeds and in the moment that you’re using technology. For instance, Matlen suggested considering these questions: “What should I be doing right now that I need to be doing and that which is good for me? Will I feel better or worse after doing this?”

Set rules for texting.

If texting is a problem, ask your loved ones to only text you during specific times of the day, such as your breaks and lunch, said Matlen, also creator of the online coaching group If it’s an emergency, ask them to call you (on your work phone).

Make your smartphone more difficult to access, she said. For instance, put it in your purse or brief case. Put it in a desk drawer, or keep it in another room altogether.

Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb.” Smartphones also have settings that let you control when you receive texts and from whom, she said. If you’re the one who tends to text, then jot down your text: “who, what, can this wait? Then wait until you’re on your break or after work and text then.”

The best method, if you’re able to do it, is to completely shut off your phone when you’re at work, Matlen said.

Both Tivers and Matlen stressed the importance of not being so hard on yourself. There’s a lot of shame that can come with not being able to follow through. But remember that ADHD inherently makes starting and completing tasks that much harder. And it loves shiny, ever-shifting things like email, texts, video games and social media.

Examine how you use technology every day. Consider when it becomes a problem. And remember that you can use technology as a reward after you complete your work or chores, Matlen said.

Experiment with different tools to see what works well for you. Come up with your own creative solutions. And remember that you’ve got this. It’s not easy. But most worthwhile things rarely are.


John DiPrete <![CDATA[Insights for Success from Neuroscience]]> 2016-07-11T19:07:00Z 2016-07-24T10:30:11Z insights for success from neurscienceFor the seeker of enlightenment, there is nothing to fear and much to learn from the secrets of neuroscience.

Brain tricks — sometimes called hacks — are mental shortcuts designed to enhance life’s success.

The richness of these truths can be documented through the research of neuroscience and its student discipline, embodied cognition.

What follows is a stack of reliable insights known to boost key areas of human life: communication, personal relationships, business management, trauma coping skills, and more. These simple mind tricks are used to tackle the goals of self-esteem, success, and happiness.


To boost communication, listen more. It wouldn’t hurt to be more empathetic, too.

Sounds reasonable, but there’s more: mimicking the speaker, in gestures or stance, enhances the mutual dialogue. Mirroring the other’s actions stimulates particular brain neurons (called mirror neurons) in yourself, which enables you better to understand and appreciate the speaker. (Imitation facilitates social cognition.)

Personal Relationships

Embodied cognition teaches us that the sensual dimension affects the social dimension. Holding a warm mug, sitting on a soft chair, burning a log in the fireplace — all of these warm and touching factors foster friendship. The effect on participants is to embrace a mutual (subconscious) emotional resonance.

Warmth and softness have been found to be associated with kindness, social affiliation, and acceptance. Both create an embodied effect on the emotions. The motor cortex leads the dance in partnership with the higher functions, located in the brain’s prefrontal area.

Business Management

Start with exercise. Exercise seems to exert super-influence on all of the topics listed here.

Let’s include posture. Leadership demands getting things done, setting an example, becoming a role model. Public image is important, along with the proper emphasis on guidance and support. Do not slump. Slumping decreases intelligence and focus.

Here’s a short list on the basics:

  • Cross arms for persistence
  • Lie down for insight
  • Nap for performance
  • Gesture for persuasion

Trauma Coping Skills

Resilience, that’s the name of the game. Perhaps the greatest defense against depression, heartbreak, and just plain pathos is physical exercise. A regular routine should be simple and moderate, but neither too moderate nor too stressed. Find a Golden Mean. The practice of athletic motion boosts the mind’s health, intelligence, and mood. Exercise slows down the onset of Alzheimer’s, too.


Sleep on a regular schedule for at least seven hours each night. Prepare your sleeping area to be dark and comfortable. Shut out noise and meditate. Drink warm milk or herbal tea. Sleep is a potent healer that repairs tired brain neurons, releases growth hormones, and does internal bookkeeping.


Posture is king. All it takes is a minute, according to studies. Open up the arms and legs, stand (or sit) tall, expand the chest, dominate space. The self-esteem pose urges the motor cortex to speak to the inner mind, creating a sense of pride.

Also: Deepen voice pitch. Believe it or not, lowering your voice strengthens the perception of yourself to others, and in yourself.


Think big. Think smart. Think outside the box. One lesson from goal-setting research is to start. That’s right. Just start.

Keep the plan realistic, but accept a challenge. Focus more on the process and less on the outcome. (Find a mutual balance.) Another great hack: express future ideas in writing. Writing has been found to be a fulcrum in lessening fears, organizing details, and encouraging willpower. Finally: increase aerobic fitness to enhance all things.


Gratitude comes first. Think of something to be grateful for. Practice the art at least once a day. Think of something different each time. Keep it fresh. It’s a form of prayer that offers cognitive, well-researched benefits. The greater the number of grateful items you can think of, the better. The more unique the items, the better. In weeks you’ll feel happier.


Once again, posture counts. Those sitting in a constricted pose eat less than those adopting an expansive pose. If you must eat dessert, save it for last: refined carbs stimulate the appetite. Slow down, eat small bites. (It takes time for the brain to catch up and feel satisfied.) Also, sleep well. Proper sleep modifies poor eating habits.

Brain Health

Exercise, of course. Also, learn new skills. Tackle brain teasers, read books, solve puzzles, volunteer, take classes, and socialize often. The emotional effects of great friendships keep the mind resilient.


Zhong, C., & Leonardelli, G. (2008). Cold and Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold? Psychological Science, 19 (9), 838-842 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02165.x

Stel, M., Dijk, E., Smith, P., Dijk, W., & Djalal, F. (2011). Lowering the Pitch of Your Voice Makes You Feel More Powerful and Think More Abstractly. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3 (4), 497-502. DOI: 10.1177/1948550611427610

Allen, J., Gervais, S., & Smith, J. (2013). Sit Big to Eat Big: The Interaction of Body Posture and Body Concern on Restrained Eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37 (3), 325-336. DOI: 10.1177/0361684313476477

Snyder, S. (2011). How Your Coffee Mug Controls Your Feelings.

Dean, J. (2011). 10 Simple Postures That Boost Performance.

Dean, J. (2011). 11 Goal Hacks: How to Achieve Anything .


Caleb Shreve <![CDATA[Bipolar Lenses]]> 2016-07-08T20:43:49Z 2016-07-23T22:35:30Z bipolar lensesExplaining utter darkness to someone who has only lived in the sunlight would be a difficult task. They would have to believe you and trust in something they have never experienced. If you haven’t experienced the darkness, perhaps after reading this you can help someone out of it.


When my eyes open in the morning, my mind goes from slumber to 100 mph. “I don’t know why I haven’t thought that! I need a (brain singing the Three’s Company theme song) new car! If I sold my current car and (dang I need a burger) sold my Xbox and TV I could afford the down payment and if I sell those baseball cards in the attic I can still pay rent! Wow! I am so handsome today! I know that I flunked out of college, but I am smarted than 90 percent of people so does it really matter? I want donuts. What DVDs do I have that I can sell to afford them?”

Hours later:

“Why did I sell that stuff? My wife is going to be so upset and those donuts were not worth it. Maybe I can buy them back. I’ll just need to grab my wife’s card when she is napping. No I can’t because that will cause (you will do it) problems (you will do it) and (you will do it) I don’t want….

Back at the store:
“Didn’t you sell us these today?” (They noticed! You are so stupid!)

“Yes… I didn’t really mean to (you know they think you are crazy, right?)

Drive home:
“How do I explain this? (Say you got her birthday gift and it was a surprise! Her birthday isn’t for months and you can make that money back to really buy something!)

At home:
“I am so sorry I took your card, sweetie. I know I said I wouldn’t. Well, no, I feel fine. It wasn’t mania. Whatever.”

At night:
“I can’t sleep.” (You need a new guitar.)
“I want to sleep.” (Your kids will never love you when they experience what you are)
“I have to try to sleep.” (Work in seven hours) (Work in six hours) (Work in five hours)

At work:
Exceed in everything and then some due to my insane level of energy.

At home again:
“Can’t sit still … need to go.” (You are a terrible father) I just need to run to the store (stay with your kids, they love you. Are you a bad person?)
Rinse and repeat for a few weeks, then…

The middle

I am me. The Caleb I was when most of my old friends met me. The Caleb that loves to write music and play basketball. The Caleb that knows this can’t last long and soaks up every moment he can. I love the middle.


As I wake up, I wish I hadn’t. Take a look at my work to-do list and experience a high level of anxiety. That mental voice is not so active, but neither is mine. I feel a cloud of doubt and dread follow me all day, turning into a thunderstorm when faced with human interaction or hard times. The cloud sucks the life and desire for anything out of me.

I feel the weight of all my bad choices compounded with the reality that I am a finite being who will likely be forgotten soon after I am gone. Nothing I have done makes a difference to anyone. Trying to match my manic or normal self while depressed is next to impossible. I do not want to be around anyone due to the anxiety that they realize how messed up I really am. I try not to leave the house for as long as I can and wear the same clothes for as many days as I can.

I sometimes plan to take my life, but when I see my children and imagine what their future looks like without a dad I change my mind. This time.

I am not suggesting that mistakes someone makes while manic or depressed don’t count. But I am hoping you can see how choices made in the extremes haunt the individual.

If a friend ever comments they are contemplating suicide, get them immediate help however you can. 1-800-273-8255 is the suicide prevention hotline and dialing 911 is an acceptable option as well. If your friend was having a heart attack there would be no hesitation. If they mention killing themselves, then I promise they have thought about it seriously.

Even the best friend in the world is no substitute for therapy. There are medical professionals who dedicate their lives to helping the mentally ill and it will do much more than any amount of “being there” can.

Take off the logical glasses you see life through and put on your empathy lenses. We might try to take advantage of your kindness. We might seem like we don’t care that you care. We might make you think we don’t appreciate you. But we appreciate it more than you can imagine.


Sarah Newman, MA <![CDATA[The Importance of Getting Comfortable with Discomfort]]> 2016-07-25T02:11:47Z 2016-07-23T18:35:45Z Yoga by Cara Neil on FlickrWhen we exercise, are we strengthening more than just our body? In a recent article, Brad Stulberg explained how working out strengthens the mind. Physical exertion means having to face something that many of us avoid every day: Discomfort.

“In a world where comfort is king, arduous physical activity provides a rare opportunity to practice suffering,” Stulberg writes. After interviewing various athletes and reviewing research, he found the psychological benefits were clear. Withstanding physical discomfort taught the athletes to stay in the moment and adapt. They learned to divide real risk from perceived risk (something every stressed out person struggles to do). Athletes face discomfort with courage and even embrace the pain.

There’s something about physical exertion that grounds us in our body. Makes us feel completely one with ourselves. As a sexual abuse survivor, picking up an exercise routine was the first time I truly felt “in my body.” Dissociating from my body was my way of coping with the trauma. When I exercised, I felt the strain of my muscles, the sweat, the tension, and the warmth. There was no way to maintain coordination and stamina without being there in my body — timing cardio, counting reps, getting ready for an incline.

I finally felt encompassed by a physical boundary and wanted to learn more about it. The more strength and endurance training I tried, the more concerned I became with what I put into my body. I needed to stay hydrated and consume energizing and restorative whole foods.

As my body grew stronger, I actually felt powerful for the first time in my life. I lived in denial of the abuse for most of my life, but as I grew accustomed to discomfort, these uncomfortable issues naturally began to surface. I was beginning to deal with my memories and feelings bit by bit, until it was time to begin therapy.

I still work out on a regular basis. I know my physical limitations and how to gradually, patiently push them back. I know the parts of my body that need the most care: right shoulder, ankles, thoracic spine. I’ve learned to respond to pulls, tears, and overstressed muscles. I tend to my body like a garden. That’s why embracing the pain of exertion can feel comforting.

Supportive friends often told me that trauma survivors are some of the strongest people in the world. I understood what they meant, but I didn’t feel strong until I started working out.

Getting comfortable with discomfort helped me to face the past. Feelings of disgust and shame were crippling but somehow manageable. I could reach out and ask for help without feeling weak and helpless.

Accepting discomfort helps me tell my story, even when met with invalidation, because I know it’s temporary. It doesn’t last forever.

Public Domain Image by Cara Neil on Flickr.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[7 Fun Ways to Connect with Your Partner]]> 2016-07-08T20:42:14Z 2016-07-23T14:20:58Z fun ways to connect with your partnerWhile your connection with your partner is a serious thing, you don’t have to go about it in a serious way. Being playful and silly with each other is powerful. So is engaging in exciting activities together.

According to research, sharing novel, highly exciting experiences with each other can dramatically improve your relationship. “The novelty gets the brain’s reward chemicals of dopamine and norepinephrine flowing, repeating the factors present in the early stages of falling in love and bonding,” said Susan Lager, LICSW, a psychotherapist specializing in couples work at her private practice The Couples Center PLLC, in Portsmouth, N.H.

She also stressed the importance of activities that focus on sharing and teamwork, along with “open, expansive conversations,” which can become a significant source of connection.

Below are seven fun ideas for connecting with your partner on a regular basis. Some are super simple, and others take a bit more effort.

Cook together.

Certified Imago Relationship therapist Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, LPC, suggested couples cook together, because it lets you work as a team. You might make a meal at home, while playing your favorite music. Or you might participate in a cooking class.

Take turns creating mystery dates.

Lager suggested each partner serve as the “Fun Captain,” planning a mystery date for next week or month. When you’re the “Fun Captain,” pay attention to your partner’s ideas about intriguing activities and places, and incorporate those preferences into your date, she said.

For instance, maybe your spouse mentioned that they’d like to explore a new seaside town. So you find a great place to eat lunch, a pretty park to explore and an art gallery you know they’ll love.

Also, be sure to take care of things, such as reservations, tickets or scheduling a babysitter, if needed, she said. This way your partner doesn’t have to do any “work.” Keep your agenda a secret, only telling your partner what they might want to wear, she said.

“Through these experiences you’ll exercise your empathy muscles as you imagine and plan activities both of you will enjoy.”

Consider the arts.

Derhally suggested taking a dance class together, such as ballroom or salsa. Take an improv comedy class, or go to a murder mystery dinner, she said. Other ideas include taking classes on painting, pottery-making or photography.

Try the “jar exercise.”

Lager, also a self-help author and BlogTalk Radio host, created this exercise to help couples focus on novelty and surprise. Basically, each partner has their own jar of different activities.

To create your jar, write down on a small piece of paper a new, seasonal activity you’d enjoy doing. “It might be kayaking on a new river in the summer, or a winter hike in an unfamiliar woodland area.” Fold your paper, and place it inside your own jar. Then take turns picking mystery activities from each other’s jar.

You also can use this exercise for physical touch, “another important source of connection,” Lager said. “The key thing here would be for each to honor the other’s fantasy regarding what type of touch in what physical context would feel safe and fun.

Throw a PJ party.

This tip is from Robyn D’Angelo, a licensed marriage and family therapist and The Happy Couple Expert, who helps people all over the globe create epic relationships that last. Buy some of your favorite treats. Put on your favorite tunes. And don’t discuss how much or how little either of you will be wearing to your PJ party, she said. “[Y]ou just might be pleasantly surprised.”

Get curious.

“Curiosity allows you to learn new things about each other—your respective desires, memories and dreams,” Lager said. “Having a partner witness your inner world in this way enhances intimacy and connection.”

She encourages couples to ask each other open-ended questions once a week—in a private, peaceful space, without their digital devices. Make sure that your questions don’t focus on problems or chores. “Envision these conversations as a two person, ongoing journey of intimate exploration, not one of solution-focused issues.”

Lager shared these sample questions:

  • What TV shows, books or movies do you enjoy? Why?
  • What dreams do you have for your life?
  • What do you enjoy most about your friends and family?
  • What’s on your bucket list?
  • What brings you meaning and joy?
  • What made you laugh the most this week?
  • What’s your naughtiest fantasy?
  • What famous person would you like to have dinner with? Why?

Use technology for creative ideas.  

Technology can often chip away at your bond. But you can use websites and apps to strengthen your connection—rather than tearing you apart as one partner checks email, and the other texts about something they’ll only forget minutes later.

D’Angelo suggested using the app Karaoke Anywhere at home, on a road trip or in your hotel room. It’s certainly a fun way to serenade your partner.

You might remember the game MASH, which stood for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House. As she explained, “This game was like palm reading and tarot cards for kids: You found out where you’d live, which crush of yours you’d marry, the kind of car you drove and how many kids you’d have. Today, it’s a silly game you can play online with your partner.

There are so many fun, fascinating ways you can cultivate your connection with your partner. Use this list as a jump start to come up with other creative ideas together. And remember that while all relationships take work, that “work” can often include having a great time.

Subbotina Anna/Bigstock

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Psychology Around the Net: July 23, 2016]]> 2016-07-22T20:55:08Z 2016-07-23T10:30:50Z main-adult-adhd


That’s me, readers, sneezing my brains out as I type this. You might remember I mentioned being sick last week? Well, this week, allergies decided to fill the void my common cold left behind.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me and, as a matter of fact, I’m going to stop here and leave you to peruse this week’s latest news about psychiatry and eugenics, using mindfulness to launch your career, some interesting results related to the self-esteem of women around the world, and more, because I’m headed to my pharmacist.

(They’re used to people looking like something the cat dragged in, right? RIGHT?!)

Adult Women Diagnosed With ADHD May Face Increased Risk Of Mental Health Conditions, Suicidal Thoughts: According to a new study conducted by the University of Toronto in Canada, there’s a link between women with attention deficit hyper activity disorder (ADHD) and other serious mental health conditions as well as physical conditions, such as physical pain. The research also showed women with ADHD are more likely to suffer from insomnia and were more likely to smoke.

Psychiatry is Edging Dangerously Close to Eugenics: Dr. Robert Berezin, a private practitioner and psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, believes “history is repeating itself”: that today’s psychiatry practices are reverting back to eugenics (simply put, movements to improve the human population’s genetic quality) and comparing today’s pharmaceutical psychiatry to yesteryear’s lobotomies.

Marriage Isn’t Always Fun (And That’s Okay): “When I hear people talk about marrying their best friend, I internally shake my head at their naivety. Do they really think it’ll stay that way? Dating and best friends are always fun. Marriage and spouses are not.” Writer Christine Skoutelas weighs in on comparing dating your best friend and being married to your best friend isn’t exactly accurate, but that it doesn’t mean it’s any less fulfilling.; in fact, for many, it can me more.

Five Ways Mindfulness Will Launch Your Career: From Apple and Google to Yahoo and even Starbucks, businesses everywhere are advocating mindfulness practices to their employees. Check out these five ways practicing mindfulness can improve your work performance now and in the future.

Personality Can Change Over A Lifetime, and Usually for the Better: “[W]hile personality traits are relatively stable over time, they can and often do gradually change across the life span. What’s more, those changes are usually for the better. Many studies, including some of my own, show that most adults become more agreeable, conscientious and emotionally resilient as they age,” says Colby College psychology professor Association for Research in Personality executive board member Christopher Soto.

British Women ‘Have the LOWEST Self-Esteem in the World’: According to the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, a quiz of 10,500 women aged 10 to 64 from 13 countries showed that British women have “the lowest self-esteem scores in the world.”

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[6 Tips for Developing Your Own Inspiration]]> 2016-07-08T20:42:06Z 2016-07-22T22:35:48Z Butterflies set free by two hands

You already know what’s right for you — yes, really!

Everywhere we turn, we’re constantly drowned by other people telling us what to do and what to think (oh yeah, and how and when to do it, too). After a while, all of those voices start competing with each other, making finding your way in life rather confusing!

Quiz: What Is Your Personality Type Based On The Words You Use?

The best way to find some peace of mind and confidence about your life choices is by developing your own intuition, which you probably already know is that voice inside you that never lets you down. You know…that quiet but persistent voice that just won’t shut up until you do what’s right for you.

Feel out of touch with that inner voice? Well, what if you could strengthen and develop that voice to serve as your most loyal, best friend — the one true friend that never competes with you and is always in your corner cheering you on? The one who knows your deepest secrets and desires, never judges, and just helps you?

Yep, that’s the true role of your inner voice — it’s an inner GPS system that has only your best interest as its sole destination. When there is nobody else around, guess what? You can still count on the voice to guide and support you.

Here’s the good news: Developing your intuition is one of the most enjoyable projects you can tackle.

The steps below work in different ways but are similar because they help calm down your busy, conscious mind and allow the quieter, wiser subconscious mind to surface. Here are six ways to successfully begin getting in sync with the “true blue” inner voice inside of you:

1. Spend Time in Silence Every Day.

Practice just listening and wait for what enters your thoughts. I promise silence won’t kill you (even though it feels uncomfortable at first when you’re not used to it). Just like you can’t truly hear a friend talk over the din of a loud restaurant; you can’t hear your inner voice speak over the din of your loud mind!

2. Spend Time Outside in Nature.

When you exercise, do it outside. Play a game with your kids or pet, go for a walk, eat lunch at a park, etc. More time out in the fresh air is obviously better, but even just five minutes in nature works wonders to help you ground back into yourself.

3. Do Things That Truly Bring You Joy.

Create space in your every day for little things that make you laugh or giggle out loud, the activities that push happiness up inside your chest and fill it so full it has to explode outwards. Play with your dog, watch a funny video online, dance around your living room, hang out with friends. Joy helps clear out cobwebs in your mind that block you from hearing your inner truth.

4. Write in a Journal, Every Day if Possible.

Write your questions and then wait in quiet silence for what answers come to you. And then write it down without censoring.

5. Write Down Your Dreams.

Each morning, jot down what you remember about your dreams from the night before. Watch for patterns and messages in the dreams.

6. Exercise.

Walk, do Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates — doesn’t matter. Moving and then relaxing the body helps the mind open up.

Now wait… are you thinking you “don’t have time” for activities, or, perhaps, they sound awful but you still want to see if you can get your inner voice to speak a bit louder?

Why not incorporate aspects of these exercises into your existing day? Commute without headphones, drive without outside media, put a picture of your favorite spot in nature (e.g., a waterfall, island, mountains, garden) on your workspace, replace a chipped coffee mug with one you adore, buy soap with a scent that makes you swoon, listen to music that makes you happy or energized. See, that’s not so hard, is it?

Need more ideas? Add thoughts and ideas to your to-do lists, recall your dreams before getting out of bed and think about them while you’re in the shower. Incorporate exercise into your routine by doing five minutes of stretching every hour, walk rather than drive to get your afternoon coffee or pick your kids up from school, whenever possible, take the stairs, etc.

But the most important step is — make sure you take a moment to pay attention to your thoughts and see what surfaces before, during, and after you do these activities (the big or small version of them). This is how you’ll see (and feel) your own insights and wisdom grow stronger.

Don’t Let People Shame You For Being Your Goofy, Open-Hearted Self

So what’s the difference between all those gnawing, negative messages we tell ourselves (like: “You’re too fat.” “You’re going to look foolish.” etc.) and our true inner guidance? If it’s intuition, the voice is usually direct and strong, but is never hateful or harsh. You feel calm, strong, confident, at peace, happy, and energized when you hear it.

Over time, your self-confidence and peace of mind grow to the point where you feel unstoppable! It never pushes you into a situation where you feel unsafe, threatened or deeply uncomfortable.

Feel inspired? Do this now:

Go for a walk with whatever you have on your mind — intend on receiving some sort of guidance from your intuition. Just walk outside and enjoy what enters your mind. If your mind is a bit mixed up and confused at first, keep walking until you get a sense of calm and an answer that gives you a sense of assurance.

Conversing with your intuition is not only a lot of fun but it takes us on a heart-felt journey to places we often avoid but it does it in a gentle, kind way.

I know whenever I’m facing a problem it’s usually because I’ve avoided dealing with something in the first place.

It seems easier to charge ahead with my big bold ideas than pause and ask myself what would be the smart choice sometimes. But often, that’s exactly what’s needed. And it’s as simple as talking to ourselves!

This guest article originally appeared on 6 Easy Ways To Be Your Own Damn Therapist!

Suzanne Kane <![CDATA[8 Healthy Reasons to Ditch Your Bad Habits]]> 2016-07-08T20:41:53Z 2016-07-22T18:35:41Z healthy reasons to ditch your bad habitsThere comes a time of self-reckoning in everyone’s life. After months and possibly years of indulging in known vices and allowing yourself to slip into bad habits, you realize that this isn’t what your life is supposed to be. While you’re not quite sure where to begin, you know that you need to do something different. Consider these reasons for changing things up.

1. Feel better about yourself.
The decision to change is never easy. The pros and cons for doing so will occupy a lot of time at first. But once you commit to a decision to make a change, you will start to feel better about yourself. The fact that you’re taking proactive steps is reinforcement that only builds over time. When you start seeing improvement as a result of the actions you take, your mood lifts and your perspective changes. It’s no longer a corner you’re backed into, but a wide open path that beckons.

2. Regain your self-esteem.
Feeling like a failure is probably nothing new. After so much self-indulgence, ignoring the needs of others and pursuing only that which made you feel good at the time, your self-esteem is likely at an all-time low. Even being rich and successful doesn’t protect self-esteem when you constantly undermine it with unhealthy behavior. Yet rebuilding self-esteem is possible. It just takes time. As you commit to finding new and healthier ways of living, each step you take is one step closer to stronger self-esteem.

3. Be respected again.
Somewhere along the line, your word didn’t mean anything anymore. You couldn’t be counted on. You didn’t show up. People lost respect for you and you lost respect for yourself. Facing up to what you’ve done in the past is no easy task, but it is the first step on the road to changing your behavior today. If you want others to respect you, you have to demonstrate by your actions that you’re worthy of respect.

4. Reconnect with friends.
Feel that twinge of regret that you no longer spend time with friends you’ve known for a long time? While you were bent on pursuing your habit of choice, most of those friends didn’t fit in your selfish lifestyle. Whether you pushed them away or they chose to leave doesn’t change the reality that they’re gone. You can, however, take steps to rekindle friendships once you’ve made the break with your self-destructive vices and habits. If they’re true friends, they’ll welcome you back.

5. Mend important family relationships.
No doubt some of your errant behavior has wrought havoc in the family dynamic. It may have come to the point of complete estrangement. But your family is one of the most important elements in your life, so why would you walk away from that? Granted, it’s tough to mend fractured bonds, but it’s certainly worth every effort you make. Besides, once you’re no longer consumed by self-indulgent habits, you’ll have more time to focus on being with those who know you best and care about you most.

6. Remember what you did.
Memory loss is a damaging consequence of excessive drinking and certain drugs. Binge drinking often leads to blackouts, the inability to remember what you did when you wake up after a night of heavy drinking or drugging. Researchers now believe that cognitive impairment in longtime drinkers can improve after a year of abstinence. If you’re fed up with all the lost yesterdays, making the decision to change your ways can help ensure you can cherish the new memories you make.

7. Be inspired to change.
The more you get out of your self-absorbed bubble and rejoin the world, the more you will be exposed to opportunities to broaden and enrich your life. One success can be the spark that fans a blaze of inspiration to follow your dreams, pursue goals and be the best you can be. Instead of the inward-looking fixation on vices and bad habits, you’re ready to look outward and ahead.

8. Find joy in living.
Life is more than mere existence. At least it can be. Now that you’ve embarked on a journey of change, the reasons why you did so will continue to encourage you to keep moving forward. With renewed self-esteem, feeling better about yourself, enjoying newfound respect, reconnecting with friends and mending important relationships, you’re making exciting memories. You will find that the more you are open to new experiences, to learning and discovery, the more joy you’ll find in living.

Every day offers some new opportunity. Those bad habits you held onto for so long? They’ll have no claim over you now that you’ve embraced healthier behaviors, committed to live life in the present with zest and optimism, and opened yourself up to enriching relationships and growth experiences.


Audrey Mitchell, LCSW <![CDATA[Black and White Thinking: Finding the Space Between]]> 2016-07-23T02:38:49Z 2016-07-22T14:20:10Z black and white thinkingYou’ve heard it before: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!”

This is a frequently used saying, but what does it really mean? Picture it. Baby, covered in strained carrots, yogurt and dried cereal. I’ve been there. You put the little chubby giggle monster in the water, and it just gets gross. Things are floating around, and the water changes into this murky swamp of ick.

Does that water make the baby less precious and snugly? Not at all. They are separate things. Gross water. Baby. Gross water does not make gross baby. We can put that together so easily with the baby metaphor, but not so easily with other situations.

Everyone has been on a diet at some point. So you’re kicking butt with the boiled chicken and sweet potatoes. You have clocked about 8,000 steps on your Fitbit, and it’s only 3 p.m. You haven’t eaten sugar in three days, when boom. Someone brings donuts into the break room at work. You wrestle with it for a good 13 seconds before succumbing to the sugary goodness. One little donut won’t hurt.

As soon as you have inhaled the last drop of glaze on your finger, regret sinks in. “Well,” you say, “I’ve already blown it. I might as well have another one.”

There you have it. The relapse story of every diet in history. Baby-bathwater. Familiar? You, and a million patients I’ve worked with — oh, and me too.

That’s just one of many examples. How about this one? You’re in a relationship that is in the beginning honeymoon period, where everything is a little more awesome and glittery. You’re still getting to know each other and feel a jolt of adrenaline when the other texts or calls. Then life happens. Your person has a bad day and exhibits human emotion. Conflict. Oh no. It’s all over. Perfect love can’t be like this! So you break up. If it’s not perfect all the time, it can’t be true love.

In therapy, we call this black and white thinking. This means you are only able to see one extreme or the other but not the space between, where balance resides. This is one of many cognitive distortions or problem thinking styles. Cognitive distortions are the ways we train our brain into thinking about things that perpetuate anxiety and depression. They make us act strangely, lose sleep, and jump to conclusions about situations when we have no evidence to support them.

All of us engage in black and white thinking from time to time, but the important thing is to acknowledge it when it happens, and talk yourself through the thought problem, in order to find balance.

A good way to start playing with balanced thoughts is to bust out a notebook or journal, and write the thought down that’s eating you up:

  • I am unlovable and will be alone forever. (Very common black and white thought.)

Then, I ask people to come up with times this statement wasn’t exactly true. I will have the person list three or four instances in which he or she felt loved.

  • Well, my dog thinks I’m wonderful.
  • One of my co-workers gave me a card for my birthday last summer.
  • I have had a few people tell me that I’m a trustworthy person.
  • I did have a boyfriend once, and he was nice to me.

The next part can be challenging: coming up with a balanced statement that isn’t as harsh as the first one.

  • Although I can feel alone at times, I do have people and animals that care for me in my life. If they care for me, I must have some worth.

Repeat this exercise frequently if you struggle with black and white thinking. It trains your brain much like a muscle. When an unbalanced thought shows up, it’s not welcome and you don’t automatically believe it to be true. Over time, people will stop thinking these thoughts because they serve no use and are easily discarded.

A big chunk of therapy is working through these thinking problems. If you experience black and white thinking in your own life, pause, breathe, and bust out a journal to process it before making any rash life decisions.

When I teach on this topic, people will say, “What? I do this all the time! Does that mean I’m crazy?” No, you aren’t crazy, you’re human. Unfortunately, our minds play tricks on us, and taunt us into feeling like we will never be good enough. Don’t always believe what you think. With continued practice, these thinking issues can be overcome. At that point, the rest is just gravy. Or donut glaze.


Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: July 22, 2016]]> 2016-07-21T21:34:06Z 2016-07-22T10:30:42Z

“Nothing has ever come easy for me, and I think that’s a really good thing.” – Zooey Deschanel

Woman doing meditation near the ocean beach. Yoga silhouette.With my birthday coming up in a few days, I’m mentally running through the same list of what I’ve done, have yet to do and acceptance for the things I will never do. There are things that are particularly hard like getting to a place of forgiveness or accepting that certain things and people will never change. Yet, there’s peace in floating in the river of what is instead of fighting against the current.

Every decade pushes me forward. It shapes and molds me into who I’m supposed to become. The process isn’t painless, but it’s necessary for the evolution of my soul.

At every milestone and hidden within every moment is a chance for growth. If you listen carefully, you will hear it ask, “Do you see me? Will you forgive me? Will you love me?”

Those that keep themselves busy won’t hear it or if they do, they purposely bury it under things, people, and drama.

Will you take this post as a sign to change? Will you read our top blogs this week on relationships, plagiarism and inter-generational trauma and see it as an invitation to start paying attention? What will you do?

10 Signs You Are Married to Someone with a Personality Disorder
(The Exhausted Woman) – Your relationship has always been a challenge. If you wonder if something is wrong with your marriage, you need to read this.

What to Expect When you Marry a Narcissist
(The Recovery Expert) – If you think your relationship has trouble now, here are the things you have to look forward to if you marry a narcissist.

What is the Opposite of Anxiety?
(Stress Better) – Are you relying on courage or peace to get you through anxious feelings? Renee shares something more powerful to crush your anxiety.

Inter-Generational Trauma: 5 Ways It Impacts Families
(Caregivers, Family & Friends) – It’s the trauma many therapists miss. Here’s why it’s important to ask and explore family trauma from past generations.

The Psychology of Plagiarism: 3 Ways People End Up with Their Own Name on Someone Else’s Words
(Single at Heart) – Melania Trump’s recent speech is a reminder that plagiarism happens more than we think. As you’ll read, sometimes it’s blatant and other times it’s due to these things.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Dear Friends: Why My Anxiety Ruined Our Relationships]]> 2016-07-08T20:40:09Z 2016-07-21T22:35:09Z Silhouette Of Sad A Woman Depressed Sitting Alone On Meadow.

It’s not for the reasons you think.

Dear Ex-Friends,

You might have remembered the first time we met. More than likely we instantaneously clicked and thought we would become BFFs. We probably called each other almost every other day and planned out life events together. We probably really loved to be in each other’s company because we were just “so much alike,” and I couldn’t speak highly enough of you.

10 Things Your Friend With Anxiety Wants You To Know

Do you remember that time we saw that concert together? How about that time we sung karaoke until 3 AM and got piss drunk? Or that time I was there for you when your jerk of a boyfriend dumped you? What about the time we said that we would be best friends forever, no matter what?

Then almost overnight, “no matter what” happened, I began to withdraw and would find character flaws about you that I didn’t like. I started to put distance between us because I was pretty sure you were obsessive and possessive.

Our phone calls started to lessen and lessen; I was pulling away because I felt smothered. I started to think that your obsession with me was crazy. I started wondering if maybe you might need some clinical help. So I did the only rational thing: I broke up with you.

I found reasons not to like you anymore because quite honestly, you terrified me. Even after the breakup, I would receive email messages, phone calls, and text messages telling me that I was making things up in my head that didn’t really exist. You actually thought I was being overly sensitive and kept pushing me farther and farther away. Until one day, you gave up or I made it perfectly clear that we were no longer friends.

Today, as I sit here blogging about my past relationships with all of you (and I have a lot of exes), I start to realize that it really wasn’t you — it was me. You see, after finally having karma bite me in my own ass last year (someone actually dumped my dumbass), it sent me on a series of questions that begged to ask “What was wrong with me?” and “Why don’t people like me?”

As pathetic as this sounds, I really believed I was somehow damaged. I realized at that lowest point of my life that I needed to find help, and quickly; I felt myself spinning down a rabbit hole. What came of it began to answer some of the questions that both you and I have, and what really went wrong in our relationship.

I want you to know that I started psychotherapy and am now seeing a therapist every week. Through my therapy sessions, we have started to uncover that I have General Anxiety Disorder and Cyclothymic Disorder.

Most everyone is aware of anxiety. It’s that gnawing feeling you get in your gut before a test or butterflies before you do something out of your comfort zone. General Anxiety, however, is living every waking moment of your life under the pretense that something awful is about to happen, or someone doesn’t like you, or is gossiping about you. It affects 4.2 million people in the United States alone.

Unlike, GAD, most people have not heard of Cyclothymic Disorder (or simply Cyclothymia). Cyclothymia affects only one to five percent of the population. Not because it’s special, but because it is usually misdiagnosed as Bipolar II or ADHD.

Cyclothymic Disorder is a very mild form of bipolar disorder. We still ride the same waves, but our waves are much smaller and less intense. It’s like riding a six-foot wave instead of a monster 50-foot wave.

Chances are, when we met I was riding the high of the wave. Since I go through cycles and they can be frequent, I most likely was funny, smart, witty, and over-the-moon positive. Just f*cking happy. Like, all of the time. My nickname is Sunshine, and I’m pretty sure I got that when I was riding that wave like a pro-surfer.

This was when we started to make future plans, and ebbed out our scheme for world domination. Lots of drinking, dancing, singing, and more drinking ensued. Everyone loves a happy drunk. I was probably really productive during this time, too, and you would have seen me just “loving” everybody or my job. Everyone at work loved me, too, so you weren’t the only one to be disappointed at the end.

I am no pro-surfer, however, and like every good wave, there are mushy waves that are impossible to ride, or waves that you catch and wipe out immediately on. I’m sorry to say that these are probably the waves that killed our relationship.

I became a recluse and would stay indoors to binge-watch TV. I would also lose a lot of weight (25 pounds) due to being malnourished. My digestive issues were so bad that I went months just eating rice and fish, because nothing else would stay down.

Dear Grown Women: Let’s Stop Being So Damn MEAN To Each Other

I would write poetry, or just sleep all the time because getting out of bed was really difficult that day. This is the crash that happens with Cyclothymia. I’m sorry, friend, but those were the most extreme and difficult days to face.

These are the days I would think that you didn’t really like me and were probably gossiping behind my back. These are the days that I would think to myself that you would be much happier if I wasn’t around. These are also the days I would find time to write you an email or a text starting to distance myself.

If you asked me out for dinner, I probably had some lame excuse like, “I’m broke,” or “I don’t feel well.” While there may have been some truth to it, the real one was a lot harsher than what you think. I just didn’t like myself and felt your life would be better without me.

With Cyclothymia, you never want to hurt yourself or others, so there is no worry of self-harm or suicide. The damage becomes real, though, and I tear myself up for being stupid, unlovable, and worthless. These are also the times that my job performances began to suffer because of my low-self esteem, and instead of being on top like I was in the beginning (with an over inflated ego), I was now on the opposite side of the spectrum, hating myself and my job.

Panic attacks would come and I would find myself feeling faint and lightheaded. The once proud “Employee of the Month” was now sulking and tired at work, and couldn’t explain why, a few weeks ago, her dream job was now a job from hell.

I wish that I had known about my disorder a long time before we broke up. I know that there is nothing to do to ever rectify the damage that I have done to our relationship. I feel awful for the way I left you, and there is no way to come back from that.

All I can do is ask for my new friends, and the ones that have stuck by my side, to keep supporting me and understanding that I am going to have good days, and bad days. I might even have a few “normal” days mixed in there, too. If you can do that, I will champion for you no matter what.

I am a very loyal friend if we can get through this together. If I start pushing you away, don’t push back. Let me be. I may just need time to recharge. I’m like a battery: I start off fully charged and ready to be with everyone, everyday, then my battery runs lows and I need to recharge, sometimes for weeks.

But I always come back, friend.

This guest article originally appeared on To My Former Friends: I’m So Sorry My Anxiety Ruined Our Friendship.

Jane Tornatore, PhD, LMFT <![CDATA[Possibility: More Powerful than Depression]]> 2016-07-08T20:35:24Z 2016-07-21T18:30:04Z possibility: more powerful than depressionWhen you are depressed, your mind sees no possibilities. You feel stuck, with no change in sight.

Depression is brilliant. It is an amazing example of “we are what we think.”

When we are depressed, our thoughts consist of things like “nothing will help,” “it’s useless,” and “I can’t do it.” These thoughts get even stronger when well-meaning people give suggestions on how to stop being depressed. Of course, these ever-so-helpful suggestions come right after we have gone on and on about how hard our life is. Right?

Of course, I have a suggestion. Let me rephrase: Let’s look at another possibility.

Depression is one-track thinking, and that track is “nothing will make any difference to my life.” Black and white thinking is part of the misery — and the thoughts are always black. Depression hates options.

Thoughts are patterns of neural pathways. When we are depressed, our neural pathways are constricted to repetitive, limiting thoughts. Change your thoughts and you change your neural pathways. Change your neural pathways and you change your depression.

Here is an exercise to do just that. At least five times a day, think of three possibilities for how something, anything, might happen.

For instance, to get out of bed you could get out your normal side, scoot over to the other side to get out, or you can do a cartwheel off the bed.

Clearly, all the possibilities don’t have to be boring, or even likely. The point is, stretch your thoughts, your neural pathways. Don’t go on to assess the feasibility, just think of the possibilities. If you practice this, after a couple of days your mind automatically will start to consider other options.

I started this practice a couple of weeks ago. Last weekend, I was sitting at my desk answering emails. My lamp, for the zillionth time, fell off my desk. It has been doing this for years. It is top-heavy, with three little wire legs, and it tips easily. As I was once again picking up this endlessly annoying lamp, I was struck with the thought “you could get a new lamp.” Brilliant! I could just buy a new lamp!

I realize some of you are thinking “Really? Jane thinks this is brilliant?” We all have our blind spots; getting rid of something that still works is one of mine.

The fact that possibilities exist is antithetical to depression. If you think non-depression-sanctioned thoughts, you give yourself more perceived options. As you have more perceived options, depression has less power to limit your thoughts. The less limited your thoughts, the less depressed you become.

Ergo, possibility is more powerful than depression.

Even if you aren’t depressed, try the three possibilities exercise. It will increase your creativity (at least in thoughts), I promise.


Neil Petersen <![CDATA[Video: Materialism and Happiness]]> 2016-07-08T20:35:16Z 2016-07-21T14:20:56Z materialism and happinessApple’s iPhone 7 is coming out this year, and it’s going to be the greatest iPhone yet. Maybe the greatest smartphone yet. It’s going to complete your life.

At least until the iPhone 8 comes out. That’s really going to be the greatest iPhone yet.

Buying stuff is fun because the coolest phone or shirt or toaster or whatever always seems to be the one we don’t have. Once I buy this snazzy new gadget or item of clothing or household appliance, then I’ll be happy!

Of course, we know in our heart of hearts that it doesn’t quite work that way. You get the iPhone 7, and pretty soon you get used to it. It might even start to seem boring.

The solution? Well, that’s why Apple comes out with a new iPhone every year.

We all know buying stuff isn’t going to bring us real, genuine, bona fide happiness. But what’s the alternative? Not buying stuff? That doesn’t sound very fun.

I’m going to suggest that the alternative is being grateful for the things we have. Now wait, wait! Before you close this tab and go back to searching for luxury smoothie blenders on Amazon, hear me out!

Many times, the only thing stopping us from being grateful for what we have is that we don’t take the time to do it. It’s not that everything we have is dull and worthless. And it’s not that we’re inherently ungrateful or unsatisfied.

It’s just that to be happy about what you have, sometimes you have to set aside a brief minute simply to reflect on why you’re happy with what you have and what you like about it. Wanting something new often wins out over appreciating something old only because seeing an ad and wanting the thing in the ad is an automatic response, while savoring what we already have requires a brief moment of deliberate, self-initiated effort.

This doesn’t only hold for material possessions, by the way. Taking a second to reflect on what you’re grateful and what you already have in any aspect of your life can make a big difference in how you approach life — you might even find that it’s as rewarding as buying stuff!

That’s not to say happiness is about never buying anything again, either. C’mon, the iPhone 7 does look kind of cool. But when you free yourself up from buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff, you get better at making purchases that actually add something to your life.

In this Ask the Therapist video, Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel J. Tomasulo give some tips on how to break the cycle of endless consumerism and gain more perspective on your shopping habits. Watch their advice below, and see the Psych Central YouTube channel for more Ask the Therapist episodes.