3 Signs Social Media Is Hindering Your Happiness

How long has it been since you checked your Facebook page or Twitter account? If you’re like most people, you use social media many times throughout the day.

But while you may think social media is fun, studies have suggested that it can take a toll on our emotions. One such study by researchers at the University of Missouri focused on the effects of Facebook on mental health. They discovered that regular use could lead to symptoms of depression if the site triggered feelings of envy in the user.

Professor Margaret Duffy, a co-author of the research, said about the findings, “If it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect.”

Other studies have revealed that most people tend to edit photos and only show the ones that make their lives seem more attractive to others.

It is this constant measuring of ourselves against others that causes unimaginable amounts of grief. I see it on an almost-daily basis. Decent people with much to offer feeling unworthy of happiness because they feel inferior to others. They walk into my office with what appears to be the weight of the world on their shoulders.

I have found much of this weight stems from not feeling as “good, smart, pretty, wealthy, or funny” as others.

If you are now wondering whether maybe your happiness has taken a hit from social media use, here are 5 signs it has:

1.  You Need Positive Feedback to Feel Good

Let’s face it, we all love feeling appreciated. It feels good to get that positive feedback when you post a photo or event from your life. But if you find you only have good days on the days you are getting that positive feedback online, you may be depending on social media too much.

2.  You’re an Instant Gratification Addict

We have become a society of people who seek out instant gratification. While it’s okay to want instant oats and instant movie streaming, having a need to instantly feel worthy and good through social media is very harmful.

If the promise of instant gratification is driving your desire to post or share bits of your life, you may have become too dependent.

3.  You’re Reliving the Popularity Contests All Over Again

I find many of my adult clients care just as much about how many Facebook friends and likes they get as my teenage clients do. It’s as if the adults are reliving the high school popularity contests all over again. At the end of the day, are all of those Facebook friends reallyyour friend?

True happiness is having authentic connections with the loved ones in your life. If you’re paying too much attention to how many online friends you have and not enough on whether or not your face-to-face relationships are healthy, you may have a problem.

The next time you find yourself on your social media sites feeling jealous, envious, or somehow less than the people on those pages, remember that people tend to present very biased accounts of their lives. They, like you, want to measure up to the rest of the world.

Know that every human being is essentially struggling to feel worthy of being alive. It’s something we all seem to have in common. Instead of trying to be better than each other, let’s all instead try to have more compassion for each other.

If you or someone you know is having a hard time with self-worth issues and you’d like to speak to someone, please reach out to me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help.

Stress Management Techniques for People of Color Dealing with Microaggressions

Most human beings don’t get through life without dealing with their fair share of stress. But some people seem to deal with more stress than others. For instance, according to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), both low-income populations and racial minorities have a greater risk of developing mental and physical health issues as a result of stress. The APA report focused on the need for raising public awareness regarding the stress-inducing implications of persistent exposure to subtle biases and microaggressions.

In the meantime, what can these populations do to manage their stress so they experience better health outcomes? Here are some proven stress management techniques to cope with whatever life throws at you:

Reframe

Reframing is an exercise that allows us to see the whole picture. Often times, when we experience a negative situation, we become emotionally wrapped up in the negative. But life is complex, and often there is good to be seen along with the bad. The good may be how we handled a situation or how our friends and family gave us support and strength. When we reframe, we step away from our emotions to look at the situation fully and honestly.

Relax

Stress causes tension in the body, and this tension can result in chronic health issues such as high blood pressure and chronic inflammation. It’s important to learn healthy ways to bring about relaxation. You might try tools such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and biofeedback for managing your stress.

Practice Mindfulness

Over two decades of research on mindfulness shows that it is highly effective in managing stress. Mindfulness meditation involves fully focusing your awareness on the present moment. Through this practice, you accept your thoughts and feelings without judging them. There are a variety of online resources to help you get started.

Move Your Body

When we are stressed, our body experiences the “fight or flight response.” This entails a number of stress hormones to be released into our bloodstream. These hormones make our hearts beat faster and direct blood flow away from our brains and core into our arms and legs so we can remove ourselves from the perceived danger.

But for many of us, the danger is not physical but mental and emotional. And so we don’t burn through these hormones and they linger in our bodies causing damage. For instance, one of the hormones released is cortisol, which if levels are left unchecked, can cause high blood pressure and damage to the brain.

Exercise is one of the best ways to burn through these “fight or flight” chemicals. In addition, exercise helps with the production of feel-good endorphins.

These are just some of the ways you can better manage the stress in your life so it doesn’t negatively impact your health. If at the end of the day, you need more help, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health therapist who can provide you with even more stress management tools.

 

SOURCES:

How Focusing on Your Faith Can Help with Depression & Anxiety

It has long been believed that having faith is key to getting through some of life’s greatest challenges. A spiritual practice can often give people the strength and confidence to push through obstacles and make positive changes.

But can faith have a positive effect on depression and anxiety? According to new research, it can.

Your Brain on Spirituality

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, meditation or any other form of regular spiritual practice (such as prayer or religious contemplation) has been linked to a thickening of the brain cortex. The study, which was the first to investigate whether there is any physical evidence in the brain linked to the protective effects of faith against depression, looked at 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history.

At the end of the study, magnetic resonance was used to view participants’ brains, and the images clearly showed thicker cortices in those participants who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not.

But even more significant was the fact that the thicker cortex was found in exactly the same regions of the brain that had shown thinning in people with a high risk for depression.

3 Ways Faith Can Help You Fight Depression and Anxiety

Every individual requires unique treatment methods to combat their symptoms of depression. While cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription medications work well for many people, many others may be helped by embracing a spiritual practice.

If you are suffering with depression, here are three reasons why you may want to focus more on your faith:

1. Faith Offers Hope

A belief in a loving power greater than ourselves can help us feel hopeful, even in our darkest hours. Faith turns wishful thinking into great expectations. And when we start to expect goodness in our lives, we naturally feel hopeful for our future.

2. Your Behaviors Evolve

Whether it’s through praying, meditating, or attending some sort of spiritual service or gathering, faith-filled people tend to experience positive changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Where once you may have had a knee-jerk emotional reaction to a situation, you might now be able to center yourself instead and face situations with calmness and clarity.

3. Your Perception Changes

Faith has a way of helping us see ourselves and our lives differently. Problems turn into opportunities, enemies into friends, and impossibilities into possibilities.

 

While it may take some time before you feel relief from your depression or anxiety, by embracing faith, you will be better able to cope with the symptoms.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression or anxiety and would also like to explore treatment options, please reach out. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-the-questions/201603/4-powerful-ways-spirituality-can-ease-anxiety-and-depression

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/07/31/for-many-with-severe-mental-illness-spirituality-plays-role-in-well-being/137462.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/01/19/how-spirituality-protects-the-brain-against-depression/64698.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1792140

4 Subtle Signs of Trauma: When You’re Dealing with More Than You Think

When you think about someone experiencing trauma, incidents such as a violent or sexual assault or a terrible car accident might come to mind. But there are other, subtler forms of trauma that can negatively affect our lives and hinder our relationships.

Emotional trauma is often overlooked and minimized, and we may think we’ve “gotten over” some emotional pain that we’ve simply buried, and not dealt with. A break up, being passed over for a promotion at work or even a simple but negative childhood experience can cause emotional trauma. Read on to see if you recognize any of these four subtle signs of trauma in yourself.

Overwhelm

Anxiety and stress may develop in the aftermath of trauma, causing you to feel overwhelmed in numerous ways. You might feel out of control, like there is too much to do, or that people in your life are taking up too much of your time and attention. If you often feel as though your life has become unmanageable, this could be a sign that you have some unresolved emotional trauma.

Overreacting

Emotional overreactions are a common symptom of trauma. A victim of trauma might redirect their overwhelming emotions towards others, such as family and friends. Because these undealt with emotions are always bubbling under the surface, any incident that brings feelings forward can unleash these pent-up emotions. If you can recall times when you’ve overreacted, and perhaps have even been surprised at your own reactions, this may be a sign of trauma.

Shame

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from emotional trauma to have feelings of shame and self-blame. If you have feelings of shame because of a traumatic event, you may devalue yourself or see yourself as weak. You might feel a stigma from what you endured, and this may prevent you from admitting that you may be traumatized, or prevent you from seeking help.

Daydreaming

Another subtle sign of trauma is “zoning” or “spacing out.” You might feel disconnected from others or have difficulty staying present in social situations. Emotional trauma can cause you to slow down internally, numbing your emotions or causing you to feel exhausted. Because of the trauma you experienced, you may be averse to the expression of painful emotions, so you turn those emotions off. As you withdraw, your relationships with others suffer, causing you further psychological pain.

If these signs seem familiar and you believe you may be suffering from trauma, help is available. A caring, licensed professional trained in trauma treatment can help. Take the first step by giving me a call today, and let’s set up a time to talk.

The Benefits of Online Therapy

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in innumerable ways. But, as stressful as this lockdown has been for most of us, we have learned much about ourselves as individuals and as a nation.

Another silver lining that has emerged from this crisis is a new awareness and embracing of treatment tools that have been available for some time. Telehealth (or telemedicine) and online therapy have been around for decades but are now experiencing a surge in popularity because of the mandatory quarantine.

Once life gets back to normal, will these virtual tools fall by the wayside? It’s doubtful because they simply offer too many benefits to patients and providers.

Here are some benefits of online therapy and why you may want to start making the switch:

Better Access to Care

In some rural areas of the country, it’s not easy to find qualified mental health therapists. Online therapy would provide access to care to anyone that needs it, regardless of where they live.

Better Integration

Online therapy would allow for the integration of behavioral health care and primary care. This will ultimately lead to better outcomes for the patient.

Privacy

Despite the progress we’ve made over the last couple of decades, there is still a stigma attached to mental health treatments. This stops many people from seeking the help they need. Online therapy means an individual can receive help from the comfort of their home without anyone knowing.

Convenience

How often do patients cancel appointments or show up late because of other family and/or work responsibilities or traffic jams? Access to online therapy would reduce many of these scenarios.

Safety

We are currently seeing a situation where it isn’t safe to be around other people. And yet, should a person lose access to mental health care because of illness and disease? Certainly not.

What about unsafe weather? In many parts of the country, there are snowstorms, icy roads, and hurricanes that make it impossible to travel safely.

Online therapy allows people to receive the help they need, regardless of any unsafe conditions.

Access for Disabled Populations

Oftentimes the people who need therapy the most are the very people who find it difficult to leave their homes or navigate the outside world. Online therapy allows bedridden patients and those with debilitating chronic illnesses access to the help they need.

I offer online therapy to patients because I want to help as many people as I can as safely as I can. If you’d like to explore this style of treatment, please get in touch with me.

 

SOURCES:

Is Social Media Bad for Your Mental Health?

Have you been feeling a bit low lately, but you can’t quite put your finger on why? It may have something to do with your social media habits. According to a recent study, social media use can increase depression and loneliness.

For years people have suspected that social media use might have an ability to negatively impact our mental well-being. After all, it’s hard not to feel inadequate or jealous when looking at photos of people whose lives seem so much more perfect than ours. But now research is actually making a definitive link between spending time on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and a sense of loneliness and isolation.

It May be Time for a Social Media Detox

I encourage my clients to take a social media detox every now and then to gain a more positive sense of reality. They often report back to me that the detox offered some amazing and unexpected benefits such as:

Improved Self-Esteem

When you take a break from comparing yourself to other people, you can start to look at how great you and your own life really are.

New Interests and Hobbies

When you spend less time trying to get that social approval in the form of ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, and ‘upvotes’, you suddenly find you have a lot of time on your hands for other things.

Improves Your Mood

Trading in online friendships for real face-to-face ones makes us feel more grounded and connected to people. This can drastically improve our mood and sense of well-being.

Better Sleep 

Many people are on their mobile phone in bed, checking their social media accounts. The blue light from these devices disrupts our sleep pattern. When we put these devices away, we inevitably sleep better.

Able to Enjoy the Moment More

I am a big proponent of daily mindfulness. By being present in our lives, we feel an increased sense of peace and joy. That’s priceless.

So how do you perform a social media detox?

Follow these 4 steps:

  1. Temporarily deactivate your accounts. Don’t worry, you can reactivate them again in the future should you choose.
  2. Remove all Social Media Apps and notification pathways from your devices.
  3. Use a web filtering tool to block social media sites. (Why tempt yourself?)
  4. Be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms and have other activities ready to replace the void.

If you follow these steps and take a break from social media, chances are you will find you feel a whole lot better!

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during COVID-19 pandemic. But that can feel incredibly difficult at times. When not worrying about friends and loved one’s health, there’s also the conflicting information provided by the media and the economic ramifications of the virus that have people on edge.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction as well as stay positive.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol and try and find fun ways to reconnect with your family.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies. Laughter really is the best medicine so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time.

5. Be a Role Model

Remember, your kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. So move about each day calmly and confidently and reassure your kids everything will be okay because it will be.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. What can you do with the extra time that isn’t being used to drive an hour or more each day in commuting? Focus on using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle. Tackle them now, you’ll feel great about it later.

 

If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct sessions over the phone or via Skype, so you won’t even have to leave your home if your state is in lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.ucihealth.org/news/2020/03/covid-19-anxiety

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf

5 Foods to Keep Your Immune System Strong

As the events of COVID-19 continue to unfold, many of us are focusing on how we can keep ourselves and our families as healthy as possible. While social distancing and increased hand washing can be very effective at stopping the spreading of the Corona virus, it is equally important to keep our immune systems strong.

With this in mind, here are some of the absolute best foods you can eat to help support your immune system:

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants. In fact, they contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can boost your immune system. A 2016 study found that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system. The researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get sick with respiratory tract infections and the common cold.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is the aromatic spice that makes curry yellow. It is also often used in alternative medicine thanks to its active compound curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to improve a person’s immune response because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

3. Spinach

Popeye knew that spinach would help him be stronger. But I wonder if he knew how good it was for his immune system. Spinach contains vitamin C & E, as well as beneficial flavonoids and carotenoids. Not only are vitamin C & E great for the immune system, but research shows flavonoids may help prevent common colds in otherwise healthy people. So, it stands to reason it may help protect against other viruses as well.

4. Citrus Fruits

Most of us, when we feel an illness coming on, reach for more vitamin C-rich foods. But what is it about vitamin C specifically that makes it so good for our immune systems?

Vitamin C is believed to increase the production of white blood cells. These are the cells responsible for attacking foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.

Some popular citrus fruits high in vitamin C include:

  • grapefruit
  • oranges
  • tangerines
  • lemons
  • limes
  • clementines

Unlike other animals whose bodies do produce vitamin C, humans must get their vitamin C from the foods they eat or through supplementation. So be sure to add more citrus fruits to your diet.

5. Red Bell Peppers

We can’t talk about vitamin C without mentioning that ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain even more vitamin C than most citrus fruits. So if you prefer veggies to fruits, then be sure to eat more red bell peppers.

While this is not an exhaustive list of immune-boosting foods, it will get you started eating right so you can stay healthy during this pandemic. It’s also important to stay hydrated and eliminate sugars and trans fats from your diet as well.


SOURCES:

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322412

4 Subtle Exercises to Calm Anxiety in Public

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you are one of them, you know how difficult your life can feel most days.

When anxiety strikes, the world around us can become a sort of funhouse, only not that much fun. It’s important to be able to self-soothe in these instances. But how can you calm an anxiety attack subtly when you’re out in public?

 

Breath Work

As soon as you feel the anxiety coming on, focus intently on your breathing and nothing else. Begin to take slow… deep breaths. Inhale for a slow count of three… hold for a count of three… and exhale for a count of three. Slow deep breaths send a signal to our body that we are not under attack and everything is okay.

 

Talk to Yourself

In your mind, remind yourself that you are having an experience but that you are NOT that experience. While you feel that something is wrong, remind yourself that you are actually safe and all is well.

 

Visualize

Think of something that calms you. This may be your childhood bedroom or your grandparent’s home. It could be your favorite beach or your own bathtub. Simply put yourself IN that space. Use your full imagination to feel yourself there and allow the calm to settle over you.

 

Practice Listening Meditation

If you’ve never tried listening meditation, I highly recommend it for everyone. But it can be especially beneficial when you are feeling anxious, and here’s why. Listening requires you to stop thinking. Try it now. Stop reading and instead listen to all of the ambient sounds there in the room with you, outside the door and window.

What do you hear?

Let your sense of hearing grow and grow, picking up more subtle sounds. The buzz of the lights overhead… the noise of the ice maker… a bee at the window… your dog’s collar down the hall…

It’s actually a very fun exercise to do. And in order to REALLY GIVE SOUND YOUR FULL ATTENTION, you can’t think while listening. It’s a bit like trying to juggle while standing on your hands, it simply cannot be done.

Much of our anxiety comes from our anxious thoughts. It’s our reptilian brain trying to keep us alive by alerting us to all of the dangers around us. But when we meditate, this mind chatter goes away.

 

When an anxiety attack comes on, life can feel unbearable. The next time this happens to you in public, try one or more of these techniques.

And if you’d like to speak with someone about your anxiety, please get in touch. I’d be happy to explore treatment options.

Why Every Man Should See a Therapist

While women are often the ones who seek therapy, typically making up nearly two-thirds of therapy patients, multiple studies have shown that men benefit more from the process. But men rarely seek therapy because they just don’t like the idea of opening up to a stranger and sharing their feelings.

Therapy, then, isn’t a very naturally masculine process. But I want to encourage men to push past their discomfort and seek therapy anyway because it can really help in so many areas of their life.

Here are some of the reasons why every man should see a therapist:

Men Often Struggle with Their Identity

Many men today struggle with what it means to be a man. Decades ago, the definition was more clearly defined, but nowadays a man can get completely lost. Should they be masculine or is masculinity somehow toxic? Should they show their emotions or not? Should they protect women or is that somehow belittling women?

It is entirely confusing for men, and many have had to grow up without a father figure in the home, or fathers who were there but emotionally absent. And so men look to media and advertising to find clues about who they should be, and this can be incredibly damaging.

Therapy can be a space where men can learn to define themselves on their own terms.

Gain Understanding and Tools for Your Relationships

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? That’s putting it mildly!

In their day-to-day interactions, men tend to live on a logical plane of existence whereas women live on an emotional one. No one plane of existence is right and no one is wrong, it is simply how the two sexes are wired.

But, since men tend to struggle to express their feelings and express themselves in a way their female partner can relate to, the relationship can take a hit and the two can grow apart.

Therapy can help men safely explore their own feelings and learn how to relate to women in a language women understand.

Become the Best Version of You

Seeing a therapist doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with you. Often therapy can be a way to explore who you are, what you want, and how to reach your goals. In other words, therapy can be a means by which you become the best version of yourself. If you hit the gym x times per week to get into the best physical shape of your life, why not hit the therapist’s office each week to get into the best mental and emotional shape of your life and be a total package?

Get Help for Substance Abuse

Studies have shown that men are far more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress and depression in their life. Therapy can show you how to cope without the need for these substances.

Lower Your Suicide Risk

There has been a disturbing rise in instances of suicide among older American men. This is most likely a result of men not believing they have the right to seek help. When you’ve got to be the strong one all the time and fix other people’s problems, seeking outside help simply is not an option.

But it IS an option. Men need to get help with their issues so they don’t turn to suicide.

Help with Fatherhood

As I mentioned earlier, many men grew up without proper role models. They then find themselves a father, unable to cope with the challenges and responsibilities. Therapy allows men to discover who they want to be for their children and come up with a game plan to develop this side of themselves.

If you are a man struggling with these issues or any others and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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