World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999. 2016-12-06T21:35:28Z Madison Ferry <![CDATA[What You’re Doing Wrong When Forming Your Goals]]> 2016-11-29T13:27:20Z 2016-12-06T21:35:28Z goals and ambition way to success guarantee to reach your goal aGoals and habits are strongly correlated. Everyone has goals that they would like to achieve, but most put it off for some day rather than putting a plan in place. This article will help you to break down your goals so that they are much less overwhelming and more attainable.

What Is a Habit?

Habit Definition: A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

Habits are something that we do without consciously realizing. For example, biting our nails, drinking coffee while watching the news, or itching the same spot even when it doesn’t itch. They are something that we once started, and now habitually do on a regular basis.

Breaking the Goal Down

To reach a goal, we must comprise our day of many little habits that lead us to a certain goal. We need this goal to be

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

Otherwise known as a SMART goal. This plan holds us accountable and ensures that it will be harder to give up.

Tell your friends and family when you come up with your goal so you feel more accountable. This will help you to commit to your goal and stay true to it when you are talking to them. Also, do not think about your goal as a fantasy. Think of it as something that is definitely going to happen.

Everyone has goals that they have set for themselves. Whether it is to get better at baseball, lose weight, wake up earlier, or otherwise, it is accomplishable. The key is to make habits out of tasks that lead to that certain goal.

So for instance, let’s say your goal is to be in better shape. To start, you need to make this goal more specific (the first rule of a SMART goal). Is it that you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or stay toned? Let’s say you want to lose weight.

Making a Goal into Habits

To form habits that lead to weight loss, you need to think of small things that would lead to you lose weight. Eating healthier, exercising, and drinking water are all things that lead to success when losing weight. So let’s break those into actionable and measurable items that can become habits.

For instance, drinking water. You could buy a water bottle that is 8-ounces and keep a sheet that you check off every time you finish a water bottle. If you are not at 8 before you go to bed, then you have to drink the ones that you did not throughout the day. To make it easier, turn it into a habit by drinking these water bottles after something you do every day. So when you wake up, drink a water bottle. When you’re driving to work, drink a water bottle. One with lunch, dinner, before bed, etc. Make 8 things you do every day become the habitual time to drink a water bottle and before you know it, drinking water will not be a problem for you.

Do the same thing for eating and exercising. Set a time of day that is convenient for you and commit to doing it every day. Exercise every morning right when you wake up or every day right after work. Don’t wait until that day to decide what time is convenient. We all know that it never will be. So decide on a time beforehand and commit. Plan your meals out in advance and pre-make them. Don’t let yourself think about what you are craving when you get hungry. Just know that you will be eating the meal in the fridge. Eliminating options reduces the amount of work you have to put into achieving your goals.

Don’t plan a time for your goal to end, but rather plan a time that you will reach each milestone. Say that by Friday you want to have lost a pound instead of saying I’ll be done when I lose 20 pounds. The smaller goals that lead to your big goal will seem more achievable.

The Breaking Point

When you feel like giving up, notice what is making you feel that way. If it is that you are tired, plan a 20-minute nap and then turn on some music for 5 minutes when you wake up to get motivated. If it is that you don’t want to drive to the gym, play your favorite songs in the car and have some pre-workout. Whatever it is that makes the situation seem less dreadful, do it! But stick to your plan.

When you start to notice that your tasks are becoming habits, add another task into the mix. You will slowly notice that your life is getting better right before your eyes. Unfortunately, habits take a while to form, but they are worth the work in the long run. By forcing one small change in your day, it could change the rest of your life.

Breaking Old Habits

Now that you know how to form habits, you can use the same philosophy to change your bad habits. If you tend to eat a container of ice cream every time you have a bad day, change it to talking a walk instead. This will eventually give you the same rewarding feeling that the ice cream did, but it will have a positive effect on your day.

For help with your goals or other psychiatry questions, visit

Melody Wilding, LMSW <![CDATA[How to Stop Apologizing for Everything You Do]]> 2016-11-28T19:25:55Z 2016-12-06T16:45:46Z cfuoe1pumaac9voDo either of these situations sound familiar?

You start an email to your boss with, “I’m sorry to bother you, but…”

A colleague plops their papers down on the conference table, knocking your coffee over. “Sorry! Let me get this stuff out of your way,” you say as you begin cleaning up.

Maybe you’ve fallen into this over-apologizing trap or have found yourself saying “I’m sorry” for things that don’t merit an apology in the first place.

It’s a bad habit that can morph into a reflex reaction. This self-defeating pattern of behavior can not only be exhausting to you, but also to everyone around you including your co-workers, boss and family.

Why Do We Apologize So Much?

This apology impulse may have its roots in childhood. Many women (and men!) are taught to uphold the value of politeness. It’s socialized into our psyches that being nice equates to likability.

Apologizing excessively can be the result of a genuine desire to demonstrate respect. It can become problematic, however, when we hold others’ opinions and reactions in overly high regard. Old habits die hard and unfortunately those well intentioned attempts to be deferential can sabotage us years later.

A tendency to over-apologize may stem from an aversion to conflict. Apologizing can sometimes be a misdirected means of claiming responsibility in order to make a problem disappear — a preemptive peace-keeping strategy — regardless of whether or not you deserve blame in the first place.

Constantly apologizing can have negative side effects on your career, from giving the appearance of incompetence to annoying your colleagues and superiors with your self-deprecating style. But the most detrimental and lasting side effect of over-apologizing is how it corrodes your self-image.

5 Ways Over-Apologizing Hurts Your Career

  • Insecurity and self-doubt – Apologizing for popping into your boss’ office at a scheduled meeting time (“I’m sorry to interrupt. Are you ready to chat?“) is not only unnecessary (your boss agreed to that time slot, right?), it may convey a lack of confidence.
  • Insincerity – When you’re repeatedly lied to by someone you stop believing what that person says. They lose face. Constantly saying “I’m sorry” can have the same effect. Unwarranted apologies not only bloat your speech and detract from the clarity of your message, but also dilute the power of the phrase to a point where it may come off as disingenuous.
  • Powerlessness – If you’re the only one always apologizing it can signify a power imbalance, which can erode the relationship and your self-esteem along with it. Here’s where women face a double-bind: female executives who apologize too much may be taken as too timid and passed over for promotions due to a perceived lack of leadership skills. Yet they may simultaneously be criticized for being aggressive if they’re direct.
  • Depending on external validation  Apologizing may be subconsciously levered as a way to seek reassurance. When you say “I’m sorry”, are you hoping your co-worker will say “Nothing to apologize for” or “Oh no, you did a great job on that presentation”?
  • Compromising your professional values – Leadership requires backbone. You have to know what you stand for. But over-apologizers tend to focus on others’ perceptions of what is right and wrong instead of their own. When that happens repeatedly, your personal beliefs and values — huge parts of your identity — get the shaft. Without a clear sense of your personal mission, your career can quickly go astray.

Any of this ring a bell? If so, chances are this isn’t how you want to come across in the workplace, nor is it an accurate reflection of your character. It’s time to reclaim your confidence at the office and quit saying sorry as a crutch.

How to Stop Saying “I’m Sorry” So Much: 3 Steps to Take

1. Reflect on how your childhood or early development may be contributing to your knee-jerk tendency to over-apologize.

The better you understand how your early programming may be contributing to your behavior, the more power you’ll have to take action and change.

Do some digging around questions like:

  • What’s the first reaction you have when someone tells you “no”?
  • Was advocating on your own behalf off-limits in your family? Was it encouraged?
  • When you were younger, was it acceptable to speak up and share your opinion?
  • What other major experiences shaped your outlook regarding asserting yourself and respecting authority, particularly at the workplace?

2. Examine the contexts in which your “sorry” impulse comes out.

Start to identify triggers that exacerbate the behavior such as certain people, contexts, moods or times of the day. Pay attention to whether your tendency to over-apologize comes out with some co-workers more than others. For instance, that pushy, demanding client who constantly requests impossible deadlines may send your stress (and your “sorry” reflex) into overdrive.

3. Start replacing unwarranted apologies with accurate statements to communicate your point.

At first this can be a tricky. I often tell clients I work with that there’s no shame in asking for verbal do-overs, particularly with family and friends. For example, if you need to cancel happy hour plans with a friend and find yourself auto-apologizing out of habit, catch yourself and say, “You know, what I really wanted to say is…thanks for understanding. It’s a crazy week with all these upcoming deadlines and I appreciate you being flexible.” Done. Now doesn’t that feel better than spewing out sorry, sorry I’m the worst, I know?

In the long run, apologizing like it’s your job can do more harm to your career than good. Whether or not it’s how you intend to come across, apologizing excessively can project a poor image to customers, colleagues and superiors– one that may incorrectly communicate your desire for approval trumps your self-respect. By speaking more straightforwardly and clearly, you can showcase your skills and feel more confident in the process.

Enjoyed this post? Get the FREE toolkit thousands of people use to better describe & manage their emotions at

Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: December 6, 2016]]> 2016-12-06T00:11:10Z 2016-12-06T11:30:50Z One of the reasons we dread family gatherings is we can’t forget what happened last year. Your uncle’s insensitive remark. Your mother’s judgmental words. And that hurtful thing your cousin said. Part of you is still seething. Another part is afraid of being hurt again. […]]]>

One of the reasons we dread family gatherings is we can’t forget what happened last year. Your uncle’s insensitive remark. Your mother’s judgmental words. And that hurtful thing your cousin said.

Part of you is still seething. Another part is afraid of being hurt again. After all, one of the reasons why you fear intimacy is because of experiences like that.

It’s so tempting on a daily basis to be defensive, and not risk sharing ourselves.

But while being vulnerable to toxic and insensitive people is not the wisest thing, closing up is not the best either.

While you’re attending events and going through your day, remember this. Everyone you meet has similar fears than you. Most people desire the same things you do. And all of us, just want to be heard, accepted and loved.

This may not be the secret recipe to cure your holiday family hangover, but let it at least be a balm. When painful words are spoken, be kind to others and most importantly, be kind to yourself.

The 5 Ways Emotional Neglect Causes Borderline Personality Disorder
(Childhood Emotional Neglect) – As a child, you were taught what you think and feel doesn’t matter. This is your story and a result of growing up emotionally neglected.

Narcissists on Social Media
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – How can a post on forgiveness, and memes on family and love be evidence of a narcissistic person? Lenora explains here.

Five Strategies For Dealing With Toxic People
(Leveraging Adversity) – It’s the post you need to survive through the holidays and beyond. If you’ve wondered how to deal with that hurtful and critical relative, this is it.

7 Types of Parental Abuse
(The Exhausted Woman) – Parental abuse comes in many forms. Read this if you suspect a child has been abused.

5 Ways to Teach a Child to be Mindful During an Ordinary Day
(Stress Better) – The ordinary days are best for practicing mindfulness. Here is a guide to helping your child learn to be more mindful.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[How Obesity Affects the Human Brain]]> 2016-11-27T20:45:26Z 2016-12-05T21:35:37Z Doctor measuring obese man waist body fat. Obesity and weight lo

The number of overweight and obese people (those with BMI above 25) around the world is approaching the two billion mark. This is more than 20% of estimated 7.4 billion people currently populating the planet. The connection between obesity and various chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some types of cancer is well established. Not much, however, is known about how the excess body weight influences the structure and function of brain.

Does IQ Level Determine Body Weight?

Statistically significant correlation between excess body weight and lower IQ level has been demonstrated in multiple studies. What was not clear for very long time is the direction of causality. Does the excess body weight cause the decline in intellectual capabilities? Or maybe people with lower IQ level are more prone to become overweight?

Although some earlier studies concluded that lower IQ level might be caused by obesity, the most recent prospectively longitudinal studies show that this is not correct. These studies demonstrate that one of the risk factors for obesity is lower IQ level.

A meta-analysis published in 2010 summarized 26 different studies on this topic. The main conclusion of this analysis was that there is a strong link between lower IQ level in childhood and the development of obesity in adulthood.

In one Swedish study involving 5286 males the IQ level was tested at the age of 18 and again at the age of 40. At each testing, the BMI of participants was also evaluated. The results clearly show that individuals with lower IQ level have higher BMI.

Another study performed in New Zealand included 913 participants. Their IQ levels were measured at the ages of 3, 7, 9, 11 and finally at the age of 38. This study also concluded that lower IQ level in childhood leads to obesity. People with lower IQ level at the age of 38 were more obese than people with higher IQ level.

Over 3000 people were participating in a study conducted in the Great Britain. The subjects were followed for more than 50 years. Their IQ levels were measured at the age of 7, 11 and 16. At the age of 51, their BMI was measured. Their results show without any doubt that IQ level at the age of 7 can predict higher BMI at the age of 51. Also, the results show that BMI grows faster after the age of 16 among people with lower IQ level.

Another study conducted in the Great Britain involved 17,414 individuals. The IQ level was assessed at the age of 11. BMI was evaluated at the ages of 16, 23, 33 and 42. The results of this study also confirm that lower childhood IQ level leads to obesity in adulthood.

Obesity Leads to Faster Aging of the Brain

Our brain changes during the natural aging process. As we become older, the brain loses white matter and shrinks. But the rate of aging process is not the same for every person. Individual factors may lead to faster or slower age-related brain changes. One of these factors that affects our brain structure is excess body weight. Obesity alters the normal aging process by speeding it up.

Research study conducted at the University of Cambridge concluded that obese people have less white matter in their brain compared to normal weight individuals. The brain structure of 473 individuals was investigated in this study. The data showed that the brain of obese people appears to be up to ten years anatomically older in comparison with the normal weight counterparts.

Another study conducted on 733 middle aged individuals showed that obesity is strongly linked with the loss of brain mass. Scientists measured body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of participants and used brain MRI to find and identify the signs of brain degeneration. The results demonstrated that brain degeneration is more extensive in people with higher BMI, WC, WHR than in normal weight persons. The scientists hypothesize that this loss of brain tissue may lead to dementia, although there are no hard proofs at present.

Obesity Changes the Way We Feel

Apart from structural changes, obesity can also change the way our brain works. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters which is involved in reward circuits and motivation. One study concluded that concentration of available dopamine receptors in the brain is in correlates with BMI. Individuals with higher BMI have a lower concentration of available dopamine receptors that may lead to a lack of pleasure after eating normal size portions and the urge to eat more to feel satisfied.

This view was confirmed by another study which analyzed the response of obese people to milkshakes during a period of time. Their response was analyzed using functional MRI. The measurements were repeated half a year later and showed that brain response was a lot weaker in people who gained excess body weight between two measurements. The researchers concluded that obese individuals feel less satisfaction when eating in comparison to lean individuals, due to a lower concentration of dopamine receptors in the brain.

The research on the effects of obesity on brain functions are still in infancy but the findings described above are already alarming enough. I think it is important to raise the public awareness about this issue. The negative impact of obesity on general health is well publicized, but hardly anyone ever mentions how bad the excess body weight can be for our cognitive functions.


Chandola, T., Deary, I.J., Blane, D., and Batty, G.D. (2006) Childhood IQ in relation to obesity and weight gain in adult life: the National Child Development (1958) Study. International Journal of Obesity, 30: 1422–1432. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803279

Debette, S., Beiser, A., Hoffmann, U., DeCarli, C., O’Donnell, C. J., Massaro, J. M., Au, R., Himali, J. J., Wolf, P. A., Fox, C. S. and Seshadri, S. (2010) Visceral fat is associated with lower brain volume in healthy middle-aged adults. Ann Neurol., 68: 136–144. doi:10.1002/ana.22062

Kanazawa, S. (2014) Intelligence and obesity: which way does the causal direction go?. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes, 21:339–344. DOI:10.1097/MED.0000000000000091

Ronan, L., Alexander-Bloch, A.F., Wagstyl, K.,Farooqi, S., Brayne, C., et al. (2016) Obesity associated with increased brain age from midlife. Neurobiology of Aging, 47: 63-70. DOI:

Stice, E., Yokum, S., Blum, K., and Bohon, C. ( 2010) Weight Gain Is Associated with Reduced Striatal Response to Palatable Food. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(39): 13105-13109. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2105-10.2010

Wang, G.J., Volkow, N.D., Logan, J., Pappas, N.R., Wong, C.T., Zhu, W., Netusll, N., Fowler, J.S. (2001) Brain dopamine and obesity. Lancet, 357: 354-357. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(00)03643-6

Yu, Z. B., Han, S. P., Cao, X. G. and Guo, X. R. (2010) Intelligence in relation to obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 11: 656–670. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00656.x

This guest article originally appeared on the award-winning health and science blog and brain-themed community, BrainBlogger: Effect of Obesity on Human Brain.

Matthew Loeb <![CDATA[Put Down the Self-Help Book and Embrace Your Quirks]]> 2016-11-27T19:51:16Z 2016-12-05T16:45:09Z image of a stack of hard back books on the end of the pages tone“Be Matt.”

Simple advice but deceptively difficulty.

Yes, I collect vintage sports t-shirts, agonize over two sentence emails, and choke up at sentimental movies. I chew too loudly, mispronounce “button,” and neglect laundry for days, sometimes weeks, on end.

I downplay my proudest moments. My article is leading Psych Central? That smoldering hot mess of a column? I am an admitted people-pleaser, shunning my own needs to appease family and friends. I am punctually unpunctual, arriving into work at 9:02 AM to a red-eyed glare from an unforgiving supervisor.

But after reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, a truism dawned on me. Finally.

Be authentic to yourself. If you are sensitive soul, own it. If you are revel in others’ satisfaction, embrace it. If you are a frazzled flake, own it.

Here’s why: In the change game, we are continually striving to reinvent ourselves. The underlying assumption: We are inadequate or inferior. Unloved or unworthy. We need a self-help manual to lecture us on happiness, a relationship guru to establish meaningful connections, and a spiritual advisor to approve our religious beliefs. Have you scanned your library’s self-help section lately? The books runneth over.

In our perpetual quest for self-improvement, here is the delicious irony: We look at others’ interpretation of happiness. Or fulfillment. Or religiosity. And we deviate from our own perfectly acceptable definitions.

In my case, it was fun. Or my lack thereof. I grew up in middle America: the land of hogs, hunting, and Hawkeyes. For most native Iowans, Hawkeye hysteria is a year-around religion. Returning home to my native state, yes, I celebrate Hawkeye victories with trademark enthusiasm. But as I listened to buddies recount every painstaking detail, I openly asked myself, “Do I really care? Or am I following the Hawkeyes because of my friends’ black and gold obsession?” The answer: as obvious as the Hawkeyes’ staid play-calling.

Over the past year, I have discovered my own definition of fun. It is exploring small-town Americana, thrifting for a vintage antique or prized t-shirt. It is backpacking in Nicaragua or Haiti, muddling through my broken Spanish to exchange a toothy grin with a stranger. It is buzzing through downtown on a vintage bike, grinning as motorists exchange cockeyed glances at my vintage Schwinn.

And as I have discovered fun, this self-discovery has metamorphosed into other personal awakenings: writing, travel hacking, yoga, and an unshakeable love of 90s hip hop. In fact, embracing myself — interests, passions, and, yes, warts has been a revelation. My newfound philosophy (“Be Matt”) has filtered into career choices, relationships, and everyday interactions.

I am more confident and, at times, even emboldened. Writing this column, I wonder how many of us are cheating ourselves out of our true passions or toiling away in unsatisfying careers? Are we afraid our others’ reactions if we step out of — or knock down — the proverbial box imprisoning us?

Be yourself. And that can be as an intrepid adventurist, nerdy bookworm, and, yes, Hawkeye homer.

Neil Petersen <![CDATA[Video: When Holiday Stress Kills Holiday Cheer]]> 2016-11-27T19:47:51Z 2016-12-05T11:30:54Z bigstock-147426923Why is it that as the days start counting down to the holidays, many people find their blood pressure going up?

One reason is that along with eggnog and festive decorations, the holiday season can bring pressure. After all, think of all the things you have to do — you wouldn’t want to ruin someone’s holidays by leaving them off your gift list or letting them go underfed, would you?

These obligations can make the holidays feel less like a time of celebratory good spirits and more like a mad dash to the finish line of the season, accompanied by the frenetic, interminable soundtrack of “Jingle Bells” playing over and over, faster and faster.

OK, deep breath. Now here’s a subversive thought: all these things you have to do, what if you don’t actually have to do them?

Yes, it might seem like the world could end if you didn’t send out holiday cards this year or if you scrapped the tradition of cooking everyone’s favorite dishes and turned Christmas dinner into a potluck — but this is 2016, stranger things have happened.

More importantly, you might find that taking an axe to those holiday traditions that are bringing you more anxiety than happiness makes things more fun for everybody. Remember, the holidays are a communal experience: if one person feels stressed out, it’s going to negatively impact everyone’s mood.

This is a case of less is more. That might be a cliche, but hey, the holidays are all about cliches, so I think we’re on solid ground here. Anyway, my point is that a simpler holiday season is a more relaxed holiday season, which is more enjoyable for everyone.

If you find yourself feeling like you need to stress yourself out for the sake of holiday cheer, take a moment and reconsider. First, your wellbeing is just as important as that family tradition of celebrating the holidays with six different flavors of homemade pies. And second, your holiday stress will likely have opposite its intended effect on the festivities.

In this Ask the Therapist video, Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel Tomasulo talk about something they’ve addressed many times with their clients around this time of year: the “holiday have-tos” and what you can do about them. Watch the video below, and see the Psych Central YouTube channel for more tips on managing stress:

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Naloxone: How Many Second Chances Should a Person Get?]]> 2016-11-27T19:28:29Z 2016-12-04T21:45:40Z upset-young-male

“It’s hard to feel empathy for an intoxicated person who caused a crash when you are looking at innocent people he has killed.”

On November 1st, Wilmington, North Carolina resident Jonathan Hayes plowed his pickup truck into the back of a family car, killing a two-year-old boy, Mason Richardson, and injuring the boy’s pregnant mother and sibling. The fire department and EMS personnel who arrived on scene found Hayes unconscious from an apparent heroin overdose and revived him using the opioid antidote, naloxone. This was the fourth time Hayes had been brought back from an overdose with naloxone.

This incident and others like it have ignited firestorm debates around the country, unleashing grief, anger and frustration at the lives lost to the irresponsible actions of people under the influence. But the ire is often directed at a surprising scapegoat: naloxone. Used to reverse overdose from opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers, naloxone (also called Narcan) has rapidly increased in availability across the country in an effort to reduce overdose deaths. Once a medicine reserved strictly for emergency personnel, in many states naloxone is now available to laypeople through pharmacies or community distribution programs. Advocates for naloxone point out that the medicine saves lives and gives people a second chance to make changes. But others hold opinions such as those published in the comments section of the Wilmington Star News after Hayes’ accident:

“It’s a shame that he was given a second chance to live today, the little boy didn’t get one at all.”

In many places, distributing naloxone to laypeople and their loved ones at risk of an overdose is criticized even without any deaths involved. A pharmacy on Staten Island decided to help fight the local heroin epidemic by offering naloxone for free to anyone at risk of an overdose. The gesture was met with comments on Facebook like this one:

“Disgusting, let’s give this to junkies for free so they can get high again a few hours later.”

Comments like these are disturbing to many, but particularly to people who have been revived with naloxone more than once.

Mike Page, also a Wilmington resident, was horrified when he heard the news of the accident. Page has a two-year-old daughter and he empathizes with Mason’s family and their grief. But Page also has a history of heroin addiction. Today he is living drug free and is a devoted husband and father, a passionate community volunteer, and a peer support specialist who helps others find recovery from drug addiction. But back in the throes of his addiction, he overdosed and was revived at least three times with naloxone.

“It’s unfortunate that it took as many times as it did for me to change my life but that is the reality of this condition,” says Page. “For some people, one shot [of naloxone] is all they need. For others it takes multiple opportunities. Who are we to decide how many chances is enough?”

Naloxone is a hot-topic issue around the country these days. Continue reading about how professionals and society as a whole look at the situation by checking out the original feature article Should We Limit How Many Times Someone Is Saved with Naloxone? over at The Fix.

Norine Vander Hooven, LCSW <![CDATA[Expressing Gratitude Throughout the Year]]> 2016-11-26T19:26:15Z 2016-12-04T16:45:45Z GratefulNow that Thanksgiving is over, and everyone has expressed lots of gratitude to their family, friends, co-workers, over Facebook, and through other social media outlets, does this mean we are done with expressing gratitude? It shouldn’t mean that, but often it does.

Gratitude is a practice that should be expressed on a daily basis. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can increase your level of happiness. Our brain often has a negativity bias, meaning that when we hear something our brain most often goes to the negative thought instead of the positive thought, and stays there longer versus moving to a positive thought. Through expressing gratitude on a regular basis, your brain will automatically begin to go to the positive versus the negative.

It has been shown that you will experience better health, increased energy, better relationships, and a more positive attitude. Additionally, it also a way to help decrease depression and increase your mood. By expressing gratitude, it is not necessarily that you would only thank people as a form of gratitude, it is things as little as being grateful for waking up in the morning, seeing the sun shine, having fresh water to drink, or having good health.

Here are some things you can do to express gratitude and have an overall happier outlook on life:

  • Write in a journal and express three things you are grateful for that day. (Make sure that every day you are writing something different.)
  • Write an email to someone in your life (personal or work), and express gratitude.
  • Do a random act of kindness. By doing something for others, even though it might be a small gesture, provides a good feeling for yourself. This is also really easy for kids to as well.
    • Open the door for a stranger
    • Clean a room in the house that you might not normally do
    • Take the dog for a walk without being asked
  • Meditate or engage in mindful activities. Even if you are able to take 5 minutes to begin with, that’s a great place to start. If this is something that resonates with you, build on increasing your meditation time slowly
  • Tell someone how much you appreciate them.

Expressing gratitude doesn’t have to cost anything except your time and effort. It is the small things in life that people appreciate. You never know how your expressing gratitude might just be the thing that brightens someone’s day. Give it a try, and see how much better you also feel!

Kellie Edwards <![CDATA[Mindfulness and Sleep: Advice from Experts]]> 2016-11-25T20:19:57Z 2016-12-04T11:30:49Z bigstock-132919457
This article is Part Three in a series, click to read Part One and Part Two.

I am just a little bit obsessed with sleep. My own, my children’s and… well… even yours really. Of course I am not alone in that. There are many books, websites, organizations and careers built around getting better sleep!

When you are a new mother, the level of sleep deprivation you experience can be a shock, unlike any kind of tiredness you have ever felt before. It can undermine your health and well-being very quickly, and clearly has flow on effects on your enjoyment of motherhood and your child’s well-being.

I used to joke after a good night sleep that it was better than coffee. I was luckier than some because my sleep debt didn’t accumulate for too long before I was able to catch up and feel human again but it really sensitized me to how much I valued sleep and now I do everything I can to have consistently good sleep.

We are much more informed about sleep and it’s importance to our health, our mood and our effectiveness than we were a decade ago but actually getting enough of it can be easier said than done. The Institute of Medicine estimates that 50 to 70 million adult Americans have a chronic sleep disorder.

Lack of sleep has been linked to many issues including:

I interviewed Jason Ong, Ph.D., a sleep psychologist at Rush University Medical Center who works with Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomnia, and he had this to say:

Kellie: How widespread is insomnia? How many people have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep?

Jason: Chronic insomnia affects about 10-15% of adults while about 50% of adults will report occasional difficulty falling or staying asleep (i.e., less than 3 times per week).  Women are at greater risk than men for having insomnia, and the risk of insomnia increases with age.

Kellie: What do we know already that helps with insomnia?

Jason: Pharmacological treatments have demonstrated efficacy for immediate relief (i.e., works within the first few days). In studies that examined comparisons between sleep medications and behavioral treatments over the course of 4-8 weeks, both medications and cognitive-behavior therapy  for insomnia (CBTI) are effective.  For long-term outcomes (more than 6 months after treatment), the effects of CBTI tend to be durable, while medications tend to lose their effectiveness.

Kellie: How does mindfulness fit into this picture and why do you think having a mindfulness practice helps people sleep better?

Jason: Many people with chronic insomnia perpetuate the problem by engaging in thoughts and behaviors that actually lead to increased sleep-related arousal.  For example, they might begin monitoring the clock more, spend more time in bed, and also avoid certain social engagements in an effort to try to sleep better.

We believe that having a mindfulness meditation practice can help to reduce emotional distress and physiological distress that is associated with chronic insomnia. It is a different way of working with the problem compared to CBTI or medications. Rather than trying harder to solve the problem, it is about being present, decreasing the effort to sleep, and reconnecting with the body’s cues for sleepiness. In this way, it allows the brain to regulate sleep, thus returning to a place where sleep just happens.

Rather than trying harder to solve the problem, it is about being present, decreasing the effort to sleep, and reconnecting with the body’s cues for sleepiness. In this way, it allows the brain to regulate sleep, thus returning to a place where sleep just happens.

One way to summarize this is to say that we are helping people get out of their own way so that they can re-connect with their brain’s natural way of regulating sleep and wakefulness.

Kellie: What would your top tips be for somebody reading this, who wants to get a better nights sleep?

Wake up at the same time every morning. This will help to strengthen your biological clock and your brain will begin to know when it should be awake. At night, pay attention to sensations of sleepiness (as opposed to fatigue or tiredness). Only when you are sleepy, should you go to bed. Doing a meditation practice (e.g., yoga in the morning, quiet meditation at night) can help you reinforce these behaviors.

Kellie: Are there any other resources you would recommend if people want to find out more?
Jason: The Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine has excellent resources to help explain what behavioral treatments are appropriate for which sleep disorders.  See: What Is Behavioral Sleep Medicine? and The National Sleep Foundation also has resources on insomnia.

When I interviewed B Alan Wallace recently, he also shared how mindfulness helps him get a better night’s sleep. He gives the following advice to those who ask:

  • Finish with the Day: Have clarity in your mind that there is nothing more you need to do today. To release your busy mind and not get caught in loops of your unfinished “things to do” list, have a plan for tomorrow before you get into bed and make a point of “finishing” with today. Have confidence that you can let it go now and not ruminate.
  • Then you move into the restful part of your sleep routine. Alan has a practice of lying straight on his back and slowly taking his awareness down to his feet and the points of contact of his body with the bed and just tuning in to that. After a few minutes he completes that and rolls over for sleep.

Here are some other ways mindfulness helps my clients develop healthy sleep habits:

  • See Each Night as a New Beginning: When we get caught up in stories about all the nights past when we have struggled to get to sleep, we are missing the opportunity to practice “beginners mind” that sees each moment as a fresh opportunity, a new beginning. This is mindfulness of sleep moments!
  • Try Mindful Breathing or Loving Kindness: I have several bedtime mindfulness practices I do with my children that help them drift off to sleep, like here and here. I’ve discovered they work for me too. Try each one for a few nights or get an audio here
  • Accept Lack of Sleep and Just Rest: As Jason said, most people who struggle to sleep get stuck in worrying about that, and trying to force sleep. If instead you can just gently tune in to your breath mindfully, and accept that you are not sleeping right now with the reassurance that even rest is still restorative, you are more likely to relax and drift off to sleep than if you try too hard. Let go of the longing for sleep.
  • Tune in to your own body rhythm and trust your own findings of what works and what doesn’t — these are all suggestions based on what research shows work for many people but may not all work for you. Wind down. Do those sorts of things that you know are going to ease you off into sleep.

There are also a number of proactive things you can do to establish what is known as good “sleep hygiene” or habits that support good sleep:

  1. Turn off all screens 30-60 minutes before bed.

  2. Reduce your amount of light exposure at least 30 minutes before bed. Light increases levels of alertness and will delay sleep.

  3. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time each night.

  4. Have a wind down process that begins 90 minutes before sleep, including a warm shower and mindfulness practice like Alan Wallace’s.

  5. Tune in to sleepy signs and don’t push through them.

  6. Make your bedroom a sleep haven:
    1. No screens or devices – unplug completely.
    2. Cool but not cold temperature.
    3. Make it all about sleep – a relaxing and inviting space that is separate from the outside world and associated only with sleep.
    4. Quiet – use earplugs if they help.
    5. Dark – light prevents the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. Consider wearing a sleep mask (they work).
    6. Lie down and do what helps you relax.
  7. No caffeine in the afternoon – not from coffee, tea or food.
  8. Don’t turn the bathroom light on during night time visits (natural or dim night light best).

If you would like support to sleep better, email me at

May you sleep well

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Telling the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Emotions]]> 2016-11-27T19:28:20Z 2016-12-03T21:35:54Z Thinking

How to break the cycle when you can’t seem to stop reflecting on negative events.

I am sure you have heard it said before, “Feel your feelings. Don’t repress them.”

When a person invests time and resources into personal development, it’s with the hope of becoming healthier in every way. Yet, it is easy to get stuck in old patterns of repression and denial. In this therapeutic purgatory, a person processes and cycles emotions that are better off left behind.

Whatever Follows Your “I AM” Is What You Attract Into Your Life

Repeatedly discussing or ruminating on negative events, using negative language, and/or replaying even a mildly negative event in your head only strengthens the connection in your brain between the experience you are focused on and the negative emotions it evokes in you. The strengthening of this connection is really the strengthening of neural pathways that support negative habits, locking in your belief that “this is just the way things are.”

Whether you engage in this negative cycle over coffee with your best friend or while sitting in a therapist’s office, the results are the same — your ability to change your situation becomes literally limited.

Of course, there are benefits to talking about your experiences.

When going to therapy or telling a trusted friend about painful experiences, a person can gain some valuable things:

  • Insight into our experience.
  • Recognition of patterns in that behavior.
  • Increased trust in others.
  • Experience with bonding and connection.
  • The release of pent-up or denied emotions.

Reliving and rehashing negative events becomes unproductive when you pass the point at which you are able to articulate how you came to be in your current state, as well as to identify, feel, and connect with your past and present emotions. When this point is reached, you risk in doing increasingly more harm than good, as you’ve moved past feeling the emotions and into replaying them.

A person can get stuck in this place, perpetuating the problem rather than solving it. Without knowing what healthy emotions look like, it’s hard to know how to work with them.

Here is a brief look at the fundamental nature of emotions.

What Healthy Emotions Look Like

Healthy emotions are emotions that match the experience. For example, a person gets angry if someone violates a boundary and lets the offender know. Or, a person gets sad after a disappointment and cries. After the emotion passes, and unless the situation is extreme and the person is unable to deal with the intensity of the emotion, the individual is done with the emotion completely.

What Emotions Should Not Look Like

Emotions should not become an event that is played over and over again in the mind each time the negative emotions are re-experienced. Healthy emotions do not last for days and weeks without reprieve. Alternatively, it is also unhealthy to repress emotions and pretend that everything is fine.

What Our Emotions Mean

Feeling feelings means being aware of how situations and experiences impact you so that you can use this information to make the best possible choices for yourself in the future. Emotions are part of your guidance system.

What Our Emotions Do Not Mean

Emotions are not meant to become a story about how life will be for all time or in situations like what was experienced. They are not predictive of the future, of who you are, or of what you are meant to have.

5 Practical Ways To MAJORLY Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

And here are 3 ways you can truly heal from the past to create the life that you want to live in the future.

  1. Clear Your Emotional Baggage.

    Just as repeating negative experiences in your mind helps lock them into place, you can do things to help oust them. The goal is to disconnect the negative emotions that are stored with painful events so that as you remember the event without having to experience the negative emotion. When simply talking through your experiences does not seem to shift them, techniques such as EMDR, EFT “tapping”, and MER help you do just this.

  2. Create Your New Way of Being.

    When you let go of repressed emotion and the stories that you have around it, you need to have a vision for what you are trying to create for yourself in its stead. If you do not create a new vision of how you want to be, then you have no choice but to do things that maintain what always has been.

  3. Reinforce That New Way of Being.

    It isn’t enough to simply come up with a vision of how you want to be. You need to take actual steps in the direction of your vision to reinforce the results that you are getting. Daily deliberate action and acknowledgment of your progress are critical to seeing the kind of transformation you want to see.

True transformation must involve these critical steps.

You need to learn about emotional intelligence so that you can be more skillful in your day-to-day life.

You need to release emotional baggage so that you are free to encounter life in the present.

You need to create a vision of who you want to be, and then take action to be that person each and every day.

This guest article originally appeared on What Healthy Emotions REALLY Look Like And 3 Ways To Get Them.

Suzanne Kane <![CDATA[6 Ways to Stay Busy to Avoid Sadness]]> 2016-12-06T03:44:32Z 2016-12-03T16:45:48Z Diverse Group of People Community Togetherness Concept

“Active natures are rarely melancholy. Activity and sadness are incompatible.” – Christian Bovee

Sometimes, you’re just sad. Whether it’s the holiday season, your birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion, you can inexplicably feel sadness. It may be that the occasion itself reminds you of a loss, especially if the loss was recent, painful or protracted. You might be sad because you know you didn’t behave with the best of intentions. You could also be sad because you did nothing when you knew you should have done something.

Perhaps you are sad because you tend to sit at home and mope about what’s wrong in your life. It could also be that you have a physical condition that needs attention or diagnosis by a medical professional and you’ve been putting off getting a checkup, worried that there might be something seriously wrong. These can result in sadness. They also have one thing else in common: inactivity.

The best prescription to get over sadness — not clinical depression, mind you, which requires professional help, but general sadness of a temporary nature — is to get busy. That’s right. Get out and do something. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Be with people 
    At the top of the list is the advice to be around others. Sitting at home will do nothing to help erase sadness. If anything, it will exacerbate the emotion and prolong its presence. While going out to be with others may be the last thing you want to do, it’s the best thing you can do to avoid sadness or get past it.
  2. Find a hobby or join a club 
    Maybe you aren’t a joiner in the strict sense. You like to think of yourself as independent. That’s fine. It doesn’t preclude you from becoming a member — even a temporary one — of a club. If you have an interest in reading, a book club or discussion group is a natural. There are groups that meet in a physical location and those that convene online. If you like a certain genre and there’s no club or group available, consider starting your own group. There’s nothing like active discussion on a topic you’re passionate about to keep sadness at bay.In a similar vein, if you’ve always had an interest in model trains or woodworking or painting with watercolors, there’s likely a group of people who meet regularly to engage in the hobby. Exchanging ideas and tips, showcasing efforts, and participating in congenial conversation is always a good recipe for countering sadness.
  3. Participate in neighborhood activities
    While the holidays are a perfect example of times when neighborhood activities tend to be offered, a look at the local newspaper or checking websites for community organizations should reveal activities open to the public. If you know a neighbor who’s active in such organizations or always seems to know where there’s an event happening, ask him or her what’s on the calendar and if you can attend together. Granted, some activities might not be your first choice, like quilting or tree-planting, but keeping an open mind and going along to get out and mingle with people could very well overcome your initial objections. Besides, you don’t have to keep going if you find you don’t like it. On the other hand, you might meet some rather interesting people in the process, regardless whether you fancy yourself a quilting regular or not.
  4. Travel 
    It’s long been recommended to travel to broaden your horizons, see something new, meet new people, get out of your routine. Travel can also lift temporary sadness or funk for several reasons. It switches your routine and causes you to make plans, pay attention, be on the lookout for landmarks, historical sights, places of interest, restaurants, rest stops, gas stations and shops. There’s an element of anticipation, discovery, and the excitement of going where you’ve never been or revisiting a favorite spot. If you don’t have several days, go away for the weekend or a day trip. Travel works well to overcome sadness and create positive memories.
  5. Go to school 
    Perhaps getting a degree or applying to college is neither applicable or desirable. The concept here is to broaden your horizons, learn a new skill, add to your knowledge, and bring you in contact with others. It could be enrolling in a community workshop or taking an online course, asking a friend to teach you something he or she is proficient at, gathering books and literature to help with a home improvement project. The “what” matters less than the pursuit of learning. When you actively pursue something that interests or intrigues you, the spark of excitement will tend to dampen feelings of sadness.
  6. Adopt an attitude of learning something new every day
    This means that you must expose yourself to learning opportunities — of which there are many. Look in the newspaper or go online to find current events. Take in a movie with a friend. Help your neighbor or a friend. Think of the opportunities you have from the time you get up until you go to bed as one constant stream of learning venues. Even if you do something daily, try to incorporate some new twist into it. For example, if driving to work is boring, switch the route. If you normally eat lunch sitting at your desk alone, ask a co-worker to join you outside in the courtyard while you have lunch, or go for a walk together after (or instead of) eating.

Being busy will not remove all traces of sadness immediately, but it is an excellent start. When you are involved in activity, focused on what you’re doing, you’re not giving in to moroseness. You’re doing something positive and proactive to help lift your spirits and replenish the feeling of joy at being alive.

If you start to feel sad, put some activity into your schedule. Start now. You’ll begin to feel better in no time at all.

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Psychology Around the Net: December 3, 2016]]> 2016-12-01T17:10:17Z 2016-12-03T11:30:12Z {Flickr photo by asenat29}

{Flickr photo by asenat29}

Happy Saturday, sweet readers!

It’s pretty dark and rainy in my neck of the woods today, which doesn’t give me much Christmas spirit (I’m finally decorating today…or hoping to, anyway); however, such weather does do a little something interesting for my overall spirit.

Have you ever heard the term “pluviophile”? Basically, a pluviophile (a term that derives from “pluvial,” meaning “of or relating to rain”) is someone who — you guessed it — can find joy and peace of mind during rainy days.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the sunshine as much as the next person. However, for some reason, rain puts me in quite the contemplative mood and, according to Lifehack, it might actually make me in tune with a few things (though this isn’t too scientific!).

Anyway, there’s your extra thought for the day. Let’s move on to all the new mental health news from this week!

10 Gifts to Ourselves for Minimizing Holiday Stress: For those of you who spend a lot of time and money picking what you hope will be the perfect holiday gifts, you’re undoubtedly aware of how stressful it can be; however, you might not be as aware of the importance of giving yourself a few gifts, too. Here are 10 gifts you absolutely should wrap up for yourself — and probably give yourself — this holiday season and all year long. (HINT: Nearly all of them are FREE.)

Pregnancy and Low Self-Esteem Have Put a Stop to Our Sex Life: Pamela Stephenson Connolly, a patron of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists, offers one new mother advice on how to overcome her lack of interest in sex due to pregnancy (and her overall low self-esteem, which started years before the baby came).

Army Says It Fairly Dismissed Soldiers With Mental Health Problems, Brain Injuries: An Army report ordered by Secretary Eric Fanning concludes commanders did nothing wrong when they discharged more than 22,000 soldiers for “misconduct” after returning from Iraq and/or Afghanistan, despite those soldiers being diagnosed with mental health problems and even brain injuries. Psychiatrist Judith Broder, who received the Presidential Citizens Medal for organizing the Soldiers Project from President Obama, calls the report “unbelievable” and “bizarre,” while Senator Chris Murphy says he doesn’t the the Army “understands the scope of this problem.”

Mental Disorders Top National List of Health Conditions: According to a recently published Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Index, mood disorders and substance abuse are at the top of the list of health conditions that negatively impact Americans with commercial health insurance. The BCBS used data from more than 40 million of its own customers.

Hallucinogenic Drugs Could Soon Work Like a ‘Surgical Intervention’ for Mental Illness: Two studies — one at Johns Hopkins University and one at New York University — are the first major studies to research the “effects of psilocybin [“magic mushrooms”] on patients dealing with depression and distress related to facing the end of life,” and the results left researchers hopeful that they can get consent from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a third study — one that is necessary before the FDA will consider approving a new drug.

Do Android and iPhone Users Have Different Personalities? They sure do, according to a recent (albeit small) study conducted by the University of Lincoln, Lancaster University, and the University of Hertfordshire.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Could an Antidepressant Prevent Depression After Traumatic Brain Injury?]]> 2016-11-23T21:16:34Z 2016-12-02T21:45:07Z brain trauma

The prevalence and functional effects of depressive disorder following traumatic brain injury are significant. Now, sertraline may be effective for preventing depressive symptoms after TBI.

A group of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine evaluated 94 patients aged 18 to 85 years who had been hospitalized for mild, moderate, or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Most of the patients (n=92) were Caucasian and more than half (n=56) were male. The research team randomized the patients to receive either 100 mg daily of sertraline (48 patients) or placebo (46 patients) for 24 weeks or until symptoms of a mood disorder occurred.

Overall, sertraline was effective at preventing the onset of depressive symptoms compared to placebo. Sertraline was also well tolerated and adverse effects in both treatment groups were mild. It is unclear how long the effects of sertraline last in this patient group.

The incidence of TBI is rising and it now is a major cause of death and disability. TBI can occur from injury, stroke, falls, motor vehicle accidents, and violence. People suffering moderate to severe TBI are at risk for depression and loss of life roles. Life satisfaction declines in this population, so prevention of depressive symptoms is imperative for maintaining health and function.

Sertraline, an antidepressant, has been used to treat PTSD but its effects in TBI are still being defined. The results of the study, which were published in JAMA Psychiatry, need to be confirmed with larger sample sizes and in multicenter trials. Further, a question remains if combining sertraline with cognitive behavioral interventions will optimize long-term outcomes.


Almeida OP, Hankey GJ, Yeap BB, et al. Prevalence, associated factors, mood and cognitive outcomes of traumatic brain injury in later life. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2015;30(12):1215-1223. PMID: 25703581

Ashman TA, Cantor JB, Gordon WA, et al. A randomized controlled trial of sertraline for the treatment of depression in persons with traumatic brain injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2009;90(5):733-740. PMID: 19406291

Hien DA, Levin FR, Ruglass LM, et al. Combining seeking safety with sertraline for PTSD and alcohol use disorders: a randomized controlled trial. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2015;83(2):359-369. PMID: 25622199

Jorge RE, Acion L, Burin DI, Robinson RG. Sertraline for preventing mood disorders following traumatic brain injury. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2189

Juengst SB, Adams LM, Bogner JA, et al. Trajectories of life satisfaction after traumatic brain injury: influence of life roles, age, cognitive disability, and depressive symptoms. Rehabil Psychol. 2015;60(4):353-364. PMID: 26618215

Schneier FR, Campeas R, Carcamo J, et al. Combined mirtazapine and SSRI treatment of PTSD: a placebo-controlled trial. Depress Anxiety. 2015;32(8):570-579. PMID: 26115513

This guest article originally appeared on the award-winning health and science blog and brain-themed community, BrainBlogger: Antidepressant May Benefit Traumatic Brain Injury.

Melody Wilding, LMSW <![CDATA[Reached Your Goal But Still Unhappy? 4 Steps to Take]]> 2016-11-23T20:58:26Z 2016-12-02T16:45:24Z untitled3Do these sound like promises you’ve made to yourself?

Once I get the promotion, I’ll feel like my career is on track.
After this busy period, I won’t have to work so much and can spend time doing things I enjoy.
When I make six-figures, I’ll be financially secure enough to move across the country/start a family/write a book.

In our goal-oriented society, setting an objective to work toward is often a powerful motivator that drives professional and personal progress.

In theory this may not sound like a bad thing, but what if when you achieve that goal, life doesn’t really look or feel any different? For example, have you ever completed one project only to realize that there’s now even more to do, meaning you’re further from the work-life balance you so desperately crave? Others may relate to the confusing feeling of finally getting or a raise or promotion, only to remain haunted by anxiety and a sneaking sense of disillusionment.

This disconcerting let down has name. Commonly known as the arrival fallacy, it’s a psychological thought trap high-achievers are all too familiar with.

Here’s how the arrival fallacy works along with what you can do to counteract it and reach new heights of success.

The Arrival Fallacy: What It Is And How it Works

The arrival fallacy — a term introduced by positive psychology expert Tal Ben-Shahar in his book Happier — operates on the idea that in the process of working toward a goal, you come to expect that you will in fact reach it.

Anchoring on a future goal triggers reward centers in the brain, inducing a cognitively soothing effect. That feeling of accomplishment becomes part of your day-to-day identity. You readily adjust to this new state of being so much so that actually attaining a goal turns out to be less satisfying than expected.

While dedication to continuous personal improvement is admirable, it’s a slippery slope. When we get too caught up in future outcomes, we may attach to an unattainable illusion of perfection. We seek goal after goal, hoping something will make us happy, which reinforces a cycle of self-doubt and not feeling “good enough.”

Instead, it can develop into a cycle of searching for external things — accomplishments or material objects — to fulfill and complete us. There’s always new goals to take the place of those that have already been fulfilled. We go for bigger clients, seek larger raises or want to lose 15 pounds instead of five. We keep upping the ante.

Moreover, oftentimes once we reach the place where we thought we’d be happy, there’s new challenges and responsibilities to face. Getting a promotion may mean working longer hours, launching a side hustle involves constantly seeking new business and losing weight may incite jealousy among co-workers or mean fewer happy hours and fancy lunches, straining your networking strategy.

Steps to Overcoming the Most Common Goal-Setting Mistake

What the arrival fallacy teaches us is that although you may fill your life with evermore ambitious goals and projects, sometimes reaching these heights does not necessarily deliver happiness. Yes, as cliché as it sounds, it’s the journey not the destination that teaches lessons, reveals simple pleasures, brings new people into our lives and instills in us a genuine, internal sense of contentment.

All this isn’t to say that setting goals or shooting for success in a particular area of your career is a recipe for unhappiness or failure, rather it’s how you allow that goal to dictate your daily mood that can bring you down.

Striving for self-improvement is essential. Here’s how to do it in a healthy way that accelerates success.

Rediscover Your Mission

It can be easy to become so unshakably transfixed on achieving professional objectives such as banking a certain salary or earning a prestigious job title that your original purpose is forgotten. Mired in busywork and the daily ins and outs of your duties, you may lose sight of the bigger “why” that drives you. Without a sense of purpose, you climb the ladder of success with profound emptiness.

When this happens, dedicate intentional time to re-orient back to your mission. Take a day or two to refocus. You don’t have to travel anywhere. You can simulate a professional mini-retreat by asking yourself big questions like “What would I be doing if money wasn’t a problem?” or “When do I feel most alive?”

Through this internal exploration you may come to realize is what you covet more than a promotion or raise is the opportunity to make a meaningful impact, lead a team or simply feel more validated and appreciated at work.

Value The Process Over The End Result

In study after study, social scientists like Daniel Pink have found that external rewards and traditional financial incentives don’t improve employee performance. They may actually backfire, making it difficult for people to come up with creative solutions.

Instead research shows high achievement is the result of intrinsic drivers–that is, a desire to do something for inherent interests, self-fulfillment or enjoyment. Motivation increases when people have the desire to perfect their craft. Successful people enjoy the learning process and don’t mind when it continues beyond an expected time frame. They relish in the journey to mastery. They focus on the happiness cultivated along the path to a particular goal, not necessarily a material outcome.

Try savoring how satisfying closing a huge sale feels, how deeply loved and seen you feel when family take note of your accomplishments or appreciate the increased recognition your company is receiving in the industry.

Commit to a System

Setting an audacious goal–like publishing a book or launching a startup–can be a fantastic catalyst for change, but it’s not enough. You must commit to a process of taking action on a consistent basis.

Start with the question, “What could I do daily that would guarantee a result and move me forward?” to design your habit system. If you’re an aspiring author, create a weekly writing schedule. If you’re an entrepreneur, devise standard operating procedures to streamline your efforts. Whatever it is, it has to be an action you can sustain over time.

Recognize that Success Is Fluid

Understand that metrics of success — whether related to career, fitness, love or whatever else — are fluid and dynamic. There is always a higher rung in the ladder and over time your targets change. The ideal career when you’re in your 20s may be a poor work-life fit by the time you turn 35.

Instead of prescribing to career milestones society dictates you should have reached by a certain age or salary bracket, keep your options open, define success on your own terms and embrace the many opportunities you encounter on along the way.

Rather than work to attain a “cure-all” end goal, it’s important to view life as a succession of practices that build a imperfect yet wonderful big picture. Greatness comes from years grit, effort and many stumbles along the way.

Enjoyed this post? Get the FREE toolkit thousands of people use to better describe & manage their emotions at


Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: December 2, 2016]]> 2016-12-02T00:15:07Z 2016-12-02T11:30:30Z “I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one.” – Mary Oliver, Upstream You only need to turn on the television or open a newspaper, and you’d see […]]]>

“I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one.” – Mary Oliver, Upstream

You only need to turn on the television or open a newspaper, and you’d see it. I went to a holiday work party last night and it was inescapable. The election is still affecting us.

For those who have felt ignored or oppressed, who have been bullied or discriminated against, it might even feel re-traumatizing.

To protect ourselves, we respond in anger.

Perhaps the election unearthed some unhealed parts of yourself. Use the situation as an opportunity to grow. Unless we pause to be conscious of how we’re feeling we’ll never create positive change.

The only answer is healing. We might do this through therapy, or by redirecting our attention to things we can control. Doing so, reminds us there is hope in the world and we can do something to increase it.

Speaking of which, our top posts are all about building trust, self-healing and learning how to empower yourself.

10 Signs You Have Trust Issues and How to Begin Healing
(NLP Discoveries) – Do you have an issue with trust? Here are the surprising things you do when you’re afraid of being betrayed.

4 Relationship Red Flags Unloved Daughters Miss
(Knotted) – Wonder why you constantly find yourself in unhealthy relationships? These are the common problems that come from being an unloved daughter.

A Hypothesis on Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Benefits of Solitary Life
(Reflections on Applied Behavior Analysis) – A recent research article offers an evolutionary perspective to understanding autism.

Know Yourself, Love Yourself, Be Yourself: 3 Keys to Recovering from Codependency
(Happily Imperfect) – The solution to overcoming perfectionism and codependency is here in this post. With the holidays, it’s the perfect thing to read right now.

Helping Clients Eliminate Cognitive Distortions
(Psychoeducation in Psychotherapy) – We’re taught math and english in school, but how about managing anger or stress? Whether you’re a therapist or need help in these areas yourself, these worksheets help teach the necessary life skills we didn’t learn in school.