November 2016

Perception of Challenges and Opportunities

No more excuses—it’s time to face your fear and embrace a challenge. Whether it be a new job, a new class, or a new experience, waiting for anxiety to dissipate before embarking on your next challenge only prolongs that stress and worry.

Theorists believe that new experiences are often the only thing that help us challenge ourselves, understand ourselves, and grow. Being stuck in the same experiences day after day limits our ability to discover ourselves.

Here is the best part – perspective is key to propelling yourself to your destination. If instead of looking at a new experience as a frightening challenge, try to view that challenge as an opportunity. Vocabulary plays a large role on how we perceive situations and how we react to them. The term opportunity implies that it is something positive and to our benefit. This can both tempt and soothe us simultaneously.

Stephen Joseph Ph.D., a Professor of Psychology, Health, and Social Care at the University of Nottingham, explains that one cannot stay in a comfort zone and believe that one learns. Learning is an essential ingredient in the recipe of growth and development.

The down side, Dr. Joseph states, is that every challenge/opportunity, you face the possibility of failure. This is why most make excuses and rationalizations for why they should stay where they are instead of taking a risk towards something they actually want. We make ourselves believe it is better to stay than change to calm our fears. The only problem is that we do not feel comfortable; we feel more uncomfortable knowing that we are not in the place we are supposed to be, not leading the life we want. Being too afraid to go out and make our desired dreams into reality will plague us more so than just fighting the fear of enduring a new challenge.

Facing your fear allows you to face yourself, test yourself, and most importantly, discover yourself. How else will you discover your limits if you don’t test them until you find your ceiling? How else will you know what you like or dislike when you haven’t given yourself the opportunity to try many things that you can pick from? You are limiting your own knowledge about yourself. Authenticity makes people happy; so go out there and explore to truly find out!

In one respect, some people are lucky that it is easy for them to embrace challenges with enthusiasm without the greatest debilitating barrier: fear. On the other hand, some struggle to figure out how to move forward despite their fear. Don’t let fear stand in your way; if you need a little bit of help on how to get started, a talented psychotherapist can listen, validate you, then help you move past your fear and embrace new beginnings.

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Are You Ready to Be Happy?

Philosophers have pondered the question of happiness for millennia. One of the most fundamental questions is “What is the genesis of happiness?” Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, the author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain (2012), describes the communication that transpires in two areas of the brain: the limbic system and the frontal lobes. He describes the frontal lobes’ dual function: thought and emotion. He and other scientists are starting to hone in on the strong connection between our thoughts and emotions, primarily their mutual effects. Davidson excitedly concludes: “The implication is that we can use our thoughts to change our feelings in a very important way – that is, toward happiness.”

Utilizing one’s thoughts to alter one’s emotions is a monumental task. But it is the core of Cognitive Therapy, a branch of psychotherapy that focuses on labeling and changing thought patterns. It takes significant work to make the following changes into lifetime habits for an ultimately happier life. Often, we are not surrounded by people who make us feel loved or supported; this is not an environment likely to produce happiness. The beauty in all of this, however, is that all sentient beings have the ability to create their own happiness.

Here are 15 things that Science, experience, and common sense have demonstrated greatly improve one’s happiness:

  1. Give up your need to always be right
  2. Give up your need for control
  3. Give up on blame
  4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk
  5. Give up your limiting beliefs
  6. Give up complaining
  7. Give up the luxury of criticism
  8. Give up your need to impress others
  9. Give up your resistance to change
  10. Give up labels
  11. Give up on your fears
  12. Give up your excuses
  13. Give up the past
  14. Give up attachment
  15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations

If you genuinely and wholeheartedly attempt to implement some or all of these into your life, you will undoubtedly witness significant changes in your mood. You might notice happier periods throughout your day. You might discover an ability to make meaning of what you encounter. It’s up to you to see the brighter side and really invest in making sure you continue on the path to a happier you.


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Medication for Students: Ineffective and dangerous; but hey, at least they’re convenient.

I am already very frustrated with medical professionals who suggest medication to their patients, especially who are children, without first giving them options for healthier, more effective, and less dangerous methods – like therapy. What’s worse is that non-medical professions like teachers have begun hinting at and sometimes insisting that parents consider putting their child on medication to prevent “inappropriate behaviors at school”, as if the medication assisted treatment near me wasn’t enough for the child. Similar episodes were reported by the School Health Division in The Department of Education in New Hampshire. If I had been one of the parents that had been told by their child’s teacher to put my child on psychiatric mediation, I would be outraged.

Now consider this:

Studies on Behavior Therapy for Children with ADHD as reported by The Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology show that “evidence has demonstrated that when medication is utilized as the only form of treatment, it has not been shown to improve long-term outcomes for children with ADHD.” You cannot solve a problem by masking it or numbing it. If you truly want solve a problem, seek to eliminate the cause – not the symptoms.

As a parent, I would love to excuse myself from taking credit for some of my children’s goofy behaviors; however, it is our responsibility as parents to realize that we are not perfect and maybe their behaviors are as a result of or a response to what we taught them (or didn’t teach them). Understand that your child doesn’t live in a bubble; how does taking medication change a child’s social environment? The maladaptive behaviors in children are in response to a stimuli – ultimately if we want a child’s bad behaviors to be solved, we as parents must observe the stimuli and create change.

Additionally, the Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology discussed the scientific literature on treatment for ADHD which “has shown that behavior therapy is the only type of psychosocial treatment that is effective for ADHD.” This is a game changer. However, standard individual psychotherapy for a child does not any effective behavior change – parents must be involved for successful treatment. The data only solidifies the notion that a child isn’t really the one with the problems – the child is simply displaying the manifested behavior elicited from them. So again, I ask this question (as I do everyone who asks my opinion about whether their child should take medication): how can you fully understand someone’s experience or action if you don’t evaluate them as part of a bigger system? Remember: “The individual is the problem” mind-set solves nothing and helps no one.

Have we as a society grown so intolerant of children? Is that essentially what the message of putting your child on medication was designed to be? Why should we work hard on teaching our children morals, values, behaviors, the rights and wrongs – with today’s gnat-like attention span, who has the time? Even to think about sitting down with their children and teaching them how to control and regulate their emotions doesn’t seem plausible to many parents. For too many, it’s just too difficult, when you can hand your “disobedient child” a “magic” pill, so you and the child can get back to posting on Facebook.


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Original photo before edits Copyright: GettyImages