Well All, it’s that time of year of again where we are asked to think about all of the people, things and situations that we’re are grateful for. It’s great to give thanks on Thanksgiving but it’s even better to reflect and give thanks on a daily or weekly basis. Ask yourself these two questions: “when was the last time I stopped and reflected on how great my life is?” and “what makes my life so great?” The second question is something we should ask ourselves on a regular basis so that we can remain aware of all that we have to be grateful for. Developing a routine of reflecting on what we’re grateful for is a great way to help ourselves to feel more joy, peace, and less sadness and anger. One easy way to develop this habit is using a gratitude journal and keeping it on the nightstand next to your bed or on your work desk. Keeping it near your bed or on your work desk will help you to remember to stop, reflect and write in it every day. It's good to remember that taking the time to acknowledge what makes our live so great, the better able we'll be to deal with all of the not so pleasant things that happen in our daily lives because we'll know that at the end of the day, we have lots to be thankful for and that life isn’t as bad as it may seem.
Photo by Gabrielle Cole
Sometimes we can get attached to people and situations that aren’t the best for us and it can feel hard to walk away or leave. Along with feeling attached, we can become addicted to the drama we experience with the person or situation. Feeling stuck can also cause us to not to walk away even though we know in our heart that we need to go. Worrying about how others opinions can also cause us to stay and to feel stuck. Whatever the reason, it’s good to weigh the cost on our health when we stay in situations that makes us unhappy or unhealthy.
If you’re feeling like you want to walk away from something or someone but aren’t sure if you should, it can be helpful to ask yourself these questions:
How long have I been wanting to walk away?
Am I consistently unhappy or just unhappy in this moment?
Do I see myself in the same place 5-10 years from now?
Is it worth staying?
What am I worried will happen if I stay? And what am I worried will happen if I leave?
Who in my life can help me when I decided to leave?
Change can be scary but sometimes walking away from someone or thing that makes us unhappy is the best thing we can do for our self-esteem, mental health and even physical health. Remember, when we walk away from the people, things and situations that make us unhappy, we put ourselves in the position to live a happier and healthier life.
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven
Being stuck is often thought of as being problematic. Our worry about being stuck can unintentionally cause us to become more stuck in the process of whatever it is we’re working on. Being stuck doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I think it can be helpful to think of stuck periods as a part of the process. Think of a caterpillar in the process of becoming a butterfly. When the caterpillar is in the chrysalis, it can seem as though nothing is happening but in reality transformation is occurring. It’s easy to overlook the fact that when we feel stuck, we are presented with the opportunity to take a break, reflect, plan and then execute whatever it is we’re trying to do or hoping to create, in a better, more thoughtful way because we allowed being stuck to benefit us versus hinder us. Remember, every perceived challenge in life provides us with the opportunity to learn something and to be better because of it.
Photo by Hutomo Abrianto
There is a lot of pressure in our society to seem like everything is always okay, that we’re always doing great, and to always keep a “happy face” on even when we’re not okay. The reality is, is that there are going to be some not so fun times that happen in life. Life can’t always be easy and stress free.
Many of us have been taught that it’s not okay to be sad or to be angry and to stuff those feelings down or tuck them away. When we’re not okay, we can set ourselves up to feel worse if we try to ignore the feelings and attempt to go through life wearing a “happy face”. Not taking off our “happy face” can unintentionally cause us to feel isolated or alone because we’re not allowing others to know that we’re not okay. Also, when we hide feelings that are considered by some to be bad feelings, like sadness or anger, we deny part of our experience. When we put our “happy face”, we can forget that we human beings are complex with complex feelings. When we pretend that everything is okay, we fail to remember that those less appreciated feelings, like sadness and anger, are part of who we are as human being, and that those feelings are often our body’s way of telling us or reminding us that somethings off.
It’s okay to take off your “happy face” and to experience and share what you’re feeling. If you’re struggling to take your “happy face” off, know that there are people in this world who will support you even when you’re not okay.
Photo by Kaci Kellman
We can get in the habit of doing something we don’t really care to do because we are afraid of taking the first step to create the change we desire. We may stay at a job too long, in a relationship that no longer makes us happy, or hesitate starting a passion project. Also the fear of failure or things turning out badly can cause us to not take action. The longer we wait to take action, the harder it can become to do something different and then we settle. We settle staying at a job that we don’t like, staying with a partner that doesn’t appreciate us, or settle on not achieving a dream. We all have the option to take a risk and face our fears, or to stay put where we know what to expect from our unhappy situation. It’s important to remember that we always have a choice. If we decide to do something differently, we set ourselves up for accomplishing something that we may have thought we’d never be able to do. A small act or step towards our desires and needs, can create a positive ripple effect in our life. Every small or large action that we take can help us to find the courage and the motivation to take more steps towards creating the life we desire and need. Know that the change will be worth it, and take that first step. You’ll then find yourself one step closer to living the life you’ve dreamt of.
Photo By Samuel Zeller
By a show of hands, how many of you have felt pressure to be perfect? I know I have. With every new adventure (getting married, having a child, starting a new career) we can strive to be our most perfect selves. We can want so badly for everyone to know how great we are and that we have every aspect of our lives in order, that we sacrifice our inner peace, joy, and health. The pursuit of perfection can become a vicious cycle if we become to accustomed to trying to be appear as though everything in our lives is perfect and worthy of praise. On top of that, we may fail to realize that we lose parts of ourselves during those moments when we are striving to be perfect. The less than ideal or desirable part of ourselves, that help to makes us who we are as an individual, get pushed away and denied every time we try to be perfect. We can become fractured when we deny the less ideal or desirable parts of ourselves to show or be known which can cause us to experience low self-esteem, anxiety, fear, regret and depression. If you’re struggling to achieve perfection, ask yourself, is it really worth it? Or will it even be worth it 5, 10, or 20 years from now?
Photo by Jonathan Hoxmar
Life can be full of hard-knocks, and at times it can feel as though we can’t get a break. Throughout life we will experience the loss of a loved, job, housing or something else that impacts our sense of comfort. When we experience a difficult loss or a series of losses, we may question if we’ll be able to go on living. We may feel stuck and not sure how to get away from the pain and discomfort we are feeling. The pain can be so blinding that we forget that help is nearby and that we are not alone. If there is something painful that has occurred in your life, there are people who can help you get through it.
People often ask me why I chose to become a psychotherapist. The answer is simple but complicated just like life. I’ve experienced my fair share of heartbreak, pain and struggle. I also know how important it is to have someone to walk the path towards healing and recovery with versus walking it alone. I also know how hard it can be to admit to another person when the hurt and pain becomes unbearable. As difficult as it may be during moments of extreme emotional pain, remember that there is always help nearby. Taking that step towards a helpful hand will require you to be vulnerable and admit that you can no longer carry the weight of the pain by yourself. If you do not feel comfortable allowing a friend or family member to help you, reaching out to a support group, spiritual or religious leader, or counselor can be helpful.
Photo By Gus Moretta
Daydreaming is sometimes frowned upon by people because it’s an activity that some believe is a waste of time. What some people may not realize is that daydreaming allows our creative side to take over. When we daydream, we give ourselves the okay to think about all the possible answers to the question “what if?”
Daydreaming can also give us the freedom to think, and to reflect on what is and isn’t working in our lives. For example, if we’re not happy at our job, we can daydream about a job that will make us feel fulfilled, more effective and happier. Daydreaming can also help us to map out and create action steps towards obtaining that better job.
It can be helpful to remember that during the times that we allow ourselves to think about all of the infinite possibilities that we become limitless. Happy daydreaming.
Photo by Tyler Nix
I think it’s safe to say that most of us at some point in our life have had to deal with self-doubt. Sometimes the reasons behind our self-doubts are easy to pin down, while other times we struggle to figure out what’s causing the self-doubt. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote “self-doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will”. Self-doubt can stop us from applying to a dream job, approaching a potential mate or even starting a new project. So why do we doubt ourselves? What makes us doubt that we’re capable of completing or achieving something? Some people may say that it has to do with a lack of self-esteem, while others may say it has to do with not having the skills we think we need to accomplish the task. Some would even go as far as to say that we develop self-doubt after we fail at something. In any case, self-doubt has a way of causing us to limit ourselves. Sometimes we may struggle with not focusing on our failures and regrets. Thinking negatively about ourselves and our past mistakes, can become automatic and cause us to feel stuck or unable to move forward. It’s good to remember that self-doubt and negative thoughts, can be combated by being curious about what’s happening internally, and by focusing on positive thoughts and outcomes. If you’re struggling with self-doubt, ask yourself “what is it that I’m scared of?” And “what will I miss out on if I allow doubt to stop me from having _____?” It can be helpful to think about the many good things you’ll gain from not allowing self-doubt to stop you. Additionally, I think it can be helpful to also ask yourself when you feel self-doubt creeping in, “am I sabotaging myself and if so, what will I get out of it?” Sometimes change can be so scary that we allow self-doubt to stop us, so that we can remain in a place that feels safe (because it’s familiar and we know what to expect) even though we’re unhappy.
In moments of self-doubt, try to also focus on the many successes you’ve had throughout your lifetime. I bet there are many amazing things you do each and every day that requires a lot from you, whether it’s raising children, dealing with stress at work, supporting friends and family or participating in physical activity. Self-doubt doesn’t have to rule your life. Through curiosity, reflecting on our past successes, and the benefits of what we’ll gain if we don’t allow self-doubt to stop us, we can achieve whatever it is that we desire.
Photo By Redd Angelo
I recently watched the movie Blindspotting, which takes place in Oakland. It was fun and interesting to see many familiar streets around the Town, and to witness the movie characters as they tried to navigate the gentrification that’s happening in the Bay Area. I won’t ruin the movie for you but will only say that there is a lot of subject material around identity and labels. I walked away from the movie reflecting on how I’ve struggled at times with the many labels and traits that make me who I am as person. I also thought about how natural it is to do a lot of questioning and searching as we try to figure out who we are while remembering that some of the ways in which we identify in this moment, can and may change in our lifetime.
As I’ve continued to reflect on the movie, I’ve thought about what it means to be something (whatever that may be) and the conflict that can arise within ourselves when that something is challenged by other people, or when other people assign a label or trait to us that we don’t agree with. For example, say you think of yourself as a generous person and then someone tells you that you’re a selfish person. It can make you feel crappy when someone tells you that you have a negative trait. We may feel discomfort and emotional pain when other people label us as something that we don’t identify as because the label can cause us to negatively question our awareness or thoughts about ourselves. These negative labels can have a lasting impact on us which can be hard for us to let go of.
I think it’s important and healthy to reflect on and challenge a label that someone else gives to us, that doesn’t feel right. Sometimes during our reflecting we realize that we need to do some work to grow into being a better person. While other times we get to practice not internalizing negative comments about us by other people. I do also think that it’s important and healthy for us to reflect on, and question, our own thoughts and perceptions about ourselves when a label is given to us by a person we know, trust and respect. I think it’s safe to say that because we as humans are so complex that we don’t always see or acknowledge all the traits that make us unique. Sometimes the people that we know, trust and respect can show us the parts of ourselves that we don’t see. These special people in our lives also provide us with the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and what makes us so unique.
Photo By Darius Bashar
Christina is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Oakland California.