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Happiness Found in a Clutter-Clearing Move

In my study of happiness, one thing that has surprised me is the disproportionate effect of clutter. In the context of a happy life, clutter seems trivial -- yet over and over, I see how drained I am by the presence of clutter, and how cheered I am when I get clutter under control.

One of my Secrets of Adulthood for clutter is: Put things away near where they want to be.

When I find myself moving an item from Point A to Point C, over and over, it's time to figure out if we can store it at Point A or at least at Point B. Instead of storing my husband's overnight bag with the rest of the luggage, which was inconvenient, we decided that it "belonged" in the bedroom closet. Instead of sitting out in the hallway for days at a time, for various family members to trip over, it gets stowed without delay.

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4 Tips on Cultivating Mindfulness When You Live in a Busy, Bustling City

I don’t live in a big city. (In fact, the only noises I typically hear are birds chirping or cats in heat. Don’t ask.) But I’ve lived in NYC and have been visiting my family there several times a year for over a decade. So I have a fairly good grasp of what it’s like to be surrounded by a cacophony of car horns and ambulance sirens, a flurry of feet pounding the pavement, and hours (many hours) of traffic. Though it has many perks, city life is rarely peaceful or serene.

That’s why I really like the book Urban Mindfulness: Cultivating Peace, Presence & Purpose in the Middle of It All by Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and founder of In it, he addresses specific problems that plague city dwellers and gives readers a variety of strategies to feel more calm and fulfilled. (He lives in NYC, so I think he knows what he’s talking about.)

He breaks his book down into exercises you can do “At Home,” “At Play,” “At Work,” “Out and About” and “Anytime, Anywhere.”

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An Open Letter to the DSM-5

As the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders continues to develop, there has been more and more reaction from professional groups with concerns. The most recent of these is an open letter that was sponsored by group of American Psychological Association divisions, and you can read it here: Open Letter to the DSM-5.

The biggest complaint here is that the DSM-5 development committee appears to have departed from the "atheoretical" approach that the past two version of have taken, in favor of a clear biomedical approach. The DSM-5 also seems to be changing the very definition of mental disorder by adding the criterion: '[A behavioral or psychological syndrome] that reflects an underlying psychobiological dysfunction.'

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6 Tips to Improve Your Self-Esteem

People are often confused about what it means to have self-esteem. Some think it has to do with the way you look or how popular you are with your friends or others. Others believe that having a great body will help you gain self-esteem, while others think you actually need to have accomplished something in order to have good self-esteem.

Boiled down to its simplicity, self-esteem simply means appreciating yourself for who you are -- faults, foibles and all. It seems like other cultures don't grapple with self-esteem as much as Americans do, perhaps because of the emphasis we seem to put on materialistic indicators of self-worth (like what kind of car you drive, what school your kids attend, what your grades are, how big a house you have, or what your title is at work).

The difference between someone with a healthy or good self-esteem and someone who doesn't isn't ability, per se. It's simply acknowledgement of your strengths and weaknesses, and moving through the world safe in that knowledge.

Which brings me to the question I'm often asked -- how can I increase my self-esteem? Here's how.

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Be Happier: Wake Up Earlier

My happiness project has turned me into a sleep zealot. If I want to feel happy, calm, energetic, and mentally sharp, I must get enough sleep.

At the same time, though, a resolution that has also boosted my happiness is "Get up earlier." A few years ago, because I wanted a calmer, less hurried morning with my family, I started getting up earlier -- and I enjoyed it so much that I've started setting my alarm earlier and earlier.

I started at 7:00 a.m. with the rest of my family, then moved to 6:30, then 6:15, and now 6:00. I love the early morning so much that I'd wake up at 5:00, but that would mean a bedtime of about 8:00 p.m., which just isn't workable. I can barely stay up to a normal adult hour, as it is.

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What To Do When He Cheats, Then Leaves

This guest article from YourTango was written by Virginia Feingold Clark.

Breaking up is hard enough, but when there's another woman involved, it's doubly difficult. It doesn't matter if she is drop dead beautiful or looks like moldy cheese; either way feels like someone stuck a knife in your back.

It's particularly hard to overcome the heartbreak when another woman comes into the picture because you feel out of control. Any chance you might have had to work things out with him seems to vanish because he now has this new woman in his life.

Your shaken ego will desperately try to repair it's hurt pride by urging you to find out why this happened — as if finding an explanation could make you feel better. You'll scrutinize his feelings and begin to assume all kinds of reasons why he picked her over you.

This won't fix your heartbreak. This will only end up with you blaming yourself up for lacking something that she must have.

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Upcoming Movie: A Dangerous Method

What happens when history collides at the intersection of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung?

Potentially, some pretty interesting fireworks. So that's why I'm especially looking forward to the new David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) flick, A Dangerous Method.

The movie centers around the relationship between Jung and Freud after the young Dr. Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on a new Russian patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). But Jung and his more experienced teacher, Dr. Freud (Viggo Mortensen), both fall under the spell of Sabina, driving a wedge between the two men.

Based upon a true story, Spielrein was admitted in August 1904 to the Burghölzli mental hospital near Zürich, where Carl Gustav Jung worked at that time, according to Wikipedia. "While there, [Sabina] established a deep emotional relationship with Jung who later was her medical dissertation advisor. The historian and psychoanalyst Peter Loewenberg argues that this was a sexual relationship, in breach of professional ethics..."

Click through to learn more and view the trailer.

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Depression and Dysthymia: What It Feels Like

Dan Fields, a consultant to the Grief Support Services of the Samaritans, recently crafted a beautiful piece that articulates what his dysthymia feels like.

I think his description does a better job of communicating the subtle signs of male depression than any list of symptoms I could throw at you. I have excerpted his profile from the helpful site, Families for Depression Awareness. However, I urge you to follow the link because he explains later in the piece what has worked for him.

I've struggled with depression at greater or lesser intensity since my teens. The word "depression" suggests sadness, and this is certainly one aspect of the disorder.

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4 Psychologist-Recommended Books on Relationships

Some people dismiss self-help books as drivel or a collection of common sense advice that they already know. But there are many books that offer valuable insight into improving one’s life. You just have to know which ones to pick up.

That's where a psychologist can come in handy.

Below, several couples therapists share their top-rated books on relationships. Regardless of the state of your relationship, you just might find many kernels of wisdom in these resources.

1. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson.

According to clinical psychologist Lisa Blum, “Hold Me Tight is one of the best books I can recommend for couples because it is a powerful antidote to the pain, distress and hopelessness that so many couples feel.”

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Anxiety and Panic

Practices in Mindfulness: A Weatherphobe Accepts Snow in October

Weather used to make me anxious.

Extremely anxious.

Growing up on the East Coast, I have undergone more blizzards, ice storms, death-defying drives to school, broken tree limbs over roofs, and week-long power outages than I ever really signed up for, and over time, those experiences turned me into a complainer. A loud one.

Every year, as soon as winter touched down, I would begin to pout. And then moan. And then compulsively check the Weather Channel, hoping against hope that maybe the predictions had changed overnight, and those 13 inches of snow would just miss us. I would routinely get sad 24 hours before a big storm, and downright miserable if said storm occurred in the early spring months. I hated everything about winter, but lacking any real reasons to move south, I would just sit it out and let my mood darken for months on end.

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Best of Our Blogs: October 28, 2011

It was during my most vulnerable years that I felt best about my body. Ironic isn't it? When I flip through the pages of old yearbooks, I see a smiling face and someone who was too busy worrying about being a teen to obsess over flabby arms or thick thighs. I was neither big nor small, but just right. My legs were not slim, but they helped me play tennis for three hours a day and hike on the weekends. And I was as much in love with a big bowl of fresh greens as I was with a generous helping of ice-cream. It was surprisingly a good time for me body image-wise.

It was in my twenties that things began to change. I was appalled when I saw a girl who looked to be about 10 years old say, "I'm so fat" to her girlfriend. Friends of mine began pinching non-existent fat on their thighs. One girl wanted to buy fat burning skin cream to use on her cheeks-her face, not her behind. A few people commented on my "big legs" and I too started obsessing over movie stars in magazines. Looking back, it was a friend telling me to stop reading "that trash" that I began to see how far I had come from where I had been.

Recently, I was watching The Rosie Show on OWN when I caught this:
Rosie: "You were saying your mom put you on Weight Watchers when you were 10?"
Actress Sara Ramirez: “Yeah I was pretty young. It’s generation to generation. A lot of these body image issues get passed down. I was trained pretty early to see food as either an obsession or just a very negative, horrible thing that I had to feel guilty about.”
Although I never reached a point where I was obsessed or felt guilty about food or my body, I have empathy for those who do. I was probably just a hop, skip and a jump away from getting there myself.

As a teenager I already knew my body was good enough. Being immersed in a fat-hating culture made me forget. One of our posts this week reminded me of that. Diet isn't just about losing weight. Diet is the fuel we give ourselves to live healthier lives. Scroll down to see what I mean.
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Using Mindfulness To Alter Your Mood

This guest article from YourTango was written by Dr. Vickie Change.

Mindfulness is at the core of Buddhist meditation, while also being found in a number of European philosophical and spiritual traditions. Some believe that this is because mindfulness is an inherent human capacity. The current Western, psychological notion of mindfulness is defined by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn as intentionally bringing moment-to moment awareness to the present experience with an attitude of openness and acceptance. Simply put, it is living in the here and now.

Mindfulness is also called heartfulness; reflecting a compassionate awareness towards ourselves and others. Practicing mindfulness is a way of tuning into our full experience; using all of own senses. For instance, to practice mindful walking, start by noticing how your body feels standing upright. Notice whether you are balanced equally on both feet, or have any aches or tingles in your legs, back or shoulders. Feel your feet in your shoes or your hands at your sides. Shift your weight from one foot to another as you start to take a step. You might say to yourself, "lifting, moving, and placing" as you move your foot forward and take one step. Slow down so that you can feel each individual movement.

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