Pathway to Happiness: A Wellness Tool Kit Chapter 2

Pathway to Happiness: A Wellness Tool Kit
Pathway to Happiness: A Wellness Tool Kit

Pathway to Happiness: A Wellness Tool Kit Chapter 2

Wellness tool:  Seek professional help

Which is more important, the body or the mind?  The mind controls the body so some might argue that the mind is more important, yet when it comes to health issues, people are more likely to see a doctor for a physical ailment and try to deal with mental or emotional problems on their own.  Everyone feels low and depressed every now and then. How then, are you supposed to know when your depressive symptoms have reached a point when professional help would be a good idea? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If your depressed mood lasts for more than two weeks, or is seriously interfering with your ability to function at work, with your family, your social life, or you are contemplating suicide, it would be a very good idea for you to consult with a mental health professional as soon as possible and make an appointment.

If you are feeling acutely suicidal, there is no time to waste with appointments.  Take yourself immediately to your local hospital emergency room and tell them there that you are feeling suicidal, or call the suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911.

Wellness tool:  Where to Find Help

Listed below are examples of the types of professionals and institutions who can offer help for depression. The professions and institutions listed towards the top of this list will be more directly able to help you. Those listed at the bottom of the list will be able to provide you with appropriate referrals to other mental health professionals.

  • Mental health specialists, including:
    • Psychiatrists
    • Clinical Psychologists
    • Social Workers
    • Licensed mental health counselors
  • Your family doctor
  • Your employer provided Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • Nearby university or medical school-affiliated mental health clinics
  • Your local hospital
  • Community mental health centers
  • Clergy
  • Your Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) or Health Insurance company [Adamowicz]

Some practitioners classify depression into two broad types:

  • Endogenous (or chemical) depression which is thought to reflect some kind of “chemical imbalance” in the brain.
  • Exogenous (or external) depression which is thought to arise from an external cause like a traumatic life experience, or stress.

Seek a professional who helps you determine the root cause of depressive symptoms.  Certain medications and medical conditions such as thyroid disorder can cause the same symptoms as depression. A doctor can rule out these possibilities by conducting a physical exam, an interview, and lab tests.  Treatment that addresses root causes is more likely to be successful long term than treatment that merely addresses symptoms.

In addition to seeking professional help, using the tools in this booklet can help with externally caused depression by relieving symptoms, boosting mood, helping a person find the root and address it, and regaining confidence and improved control over his or her life.  It may also help those with depression that is based in chemical issues.  Through MRI scans, we now have proof that changes in thinking cause significant, measurable changes in brain chemistry and functioning.

Wellness tool:  Medication

There’s a scene in the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, that is an excellent illustration of the purpose of medication.

Melvin [Jack Nicholson]:  I’ve got a really great compliment for you, and it’s true.

Carol [Helen Hunt]: I’m so afraid you’re about to say something awful.

Melvin: Don’t be pessimistic, it’s not your style.  Okay, here I go…  I’ve got this … ailment.  My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps… I hate pills… Well, my compliment to you is… I started taking the pills.

Carol:  I don’t quite get how that’s a compliment for me.

Melvin:  You make me want to be a better man.

The purpose of medication is to help people be their best selves.  Some people stop taking their prescribed medication for a variety of reasons and sometimes that results in disastrous consequences.  Depression can diminish a person’s ability to reason and think rationally.

Please don’t make a decision to stop taking prescribed medication without getting a second opinion from a doctor, trusted family member, or friend who can help you see the situation clearly and objectively.  Anti-depressant medication plays a critical role in the treatment of depression.  In the right patient, anti-depressants reduce the symptoms of suffering exceptionally well and can be literally life-saving.

It is important to understand that anti-depressants only treat the symptoms of depression, therefore they can’t actually make anyone happy.  Happiness isn’t merely the absence of suffering. Many experts feel that the best approach is to treat the symptoms of depression with anti-depressants at the same time as addressing the underlying cause of the depression itself.

Wellness tool:  Make a choice to do something about it

Most people don’t choose to enter into the world of depression and anxiety, it is thrust upon them against their will.  However, no one is able to get out of the world of depression and anxiety without choosing to do something about it.

That doesn’t mean that depression is somehow your fault, it just means that it requires effort to overcome it. Whether that effort comes in the form of seeking professional help, consistently taking medication, going for a walk, or trying a variety of self help techniques doesn’t matter, what matters is that a person has a desire to heal and takes steps to accomplish that goal.

None of this is by any means to say we can simply decide to believe we can solve a particular problem. Changing any belief, whether consciously recognized or not, is literally one of the hardest things to do, but armed with clearer understanding we can consider steps to help ourselves.

Some experts believe that the true cause of depression arises from a core belief that we’re powerless to solve our problems.  A person can combat that limiting belief by taking action steps (utilizing tools and techniques).  This creates personal accountability which helps empower a person to pull out of a pit of despair.

Wellness tool:  Return and report

Depression often diminishes a person’s belief in his or her ability to solve problems, ability to plan, and ability to have hope for the future. In this way the cause of any depression always reinforces itself.  This condition makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for a depressed person to emerge from depression without outside help.

Enlist the help of a professional, trusted friend, or family member as an accountability partner or mentor. Pick someone you can trust to hold you to your very highest standard. Set a designated time to return and report to each other.  Allow this mentor to help you make a plan of action steps and follow up by returning and reporting to your mentor on a regular basis (daily or weekly) through texting, email, phone call, or visit.

It’s that simple and yet it makes all the difference.   When we know we have to return and report we are more likely to follow through.

The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found the following statistics:

The probability of completing a goal if:

  • You have an idea or a goal:  10%
  • You consciously decide you will do it:  25%
  • You decide when you will do it:  40%
  • You plan how you will do it:  50%
  • You commit to someone you will do it:  65%
  • You have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to:  95%

The likelihood of getting new habits to stick, of following through on your assignments and reaching goals is remarkably higher when you set a time to report back to someone on your progress. In other words, return and report to a person or group that is aware of your goal or assignment.

“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”  — Thomas S. Monson

A note to mentors: you are are not accepting responsibility for another person’s emotional state or for their decisions.  You are not a pseudo professional or replacing a qualified counselor. An accountability partner or mentor’s job is simply to provide regular accountability and follow up.  The time commitment for a mentor is a few seconds a day and/or a few minutes a week.  The question a mentor should ask is not, “How can I fix you?” or “How can I make you better?”  The question for a mentor to ask is, “How can I support you as you work towards your goals?” There is a big difference.

Wellness tool:  Use a goal setting app

Having an app on your phone can be a useful tool to help improve the likelihood of success.  I would personally recommend that the app be used in addition to, not in place of returning and reporting to an accountability partner, mentor, or coach.  Part of the challenge of depression and anxiety is feeling socially or emotionally disconnected from others.  Working with another person increases the chance of feeling connected and decreases feelings of loneliness and isolation.

There are a variety of free goal setting apps available. Here are a few possible resources:

Strides is a powerful and easy to use goal setting app. You can set up reminders so that you never forget to maintain those daily habits that lead to bigger goal achievement. Simply pick a goal (or use a suggested one given by the app), set a target by inputting a goal value or a certain date and then specify the action you need to do to turn it into a habit. The Strides app lets you track it all by day, week, month, year or even on a rolling average. All of your data is synced to your account so you always see your latest stats whether you access it from the web, a mobile device, or anywhere else.

Available on: iOS

Way of Life – If you love to look at charts and graphs of your progress, then Way of Life may be the right app for you. Just pick a goal action, tell the app whether the action is good or bad for you (like eating healthy = good whereas smoking = bad) and then you’ll get a daily reminder to input what you did or didn’t do in terms of your goals. Over time, you’ll have enough data to show you bar graphs, pie charts and other details.

Available on: iOS | Android

GoalsOnTrack – GoalsOnTrack is a web-based and mobile app that helps users develop and stick to goals based on the SMART goal setting trend (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). The app helps you break up big goals into smaller chunks so they’re not as overwhelming, offering unique animations and offline tracking so you can track how long you spend on tasks. There’s also a built-in journaling feature that gives you the opportunity to get specific by writing in detail about your goals and progress.

Available on: iOS

Coach.me – Coach.me claims to be the leading habit tracking app, even offering personalized habit coaching and leadership coaching as part of its services in addition to its free mobile app. Simply select a goal, track your progress, earn rewards for sticking with it and take advantage of the community aspect by getting involved and asking questions. If you really end up loving it, you can upgrade to hiring a real coach for as little as $15.

Available on: iOS | Android

ATracker – ATracker is all about offering you more insights into how you’re spending your time. For repetitive routines like getting ready in the morning, commuting, answering email, studying, watching TV, spending time online and other routine tasks, ATracker can help you manage it all so you don’t go overboard on the wrong things. Once you start tracking your time for all your daily habits, you’ll be able to see a nice breakdown of it all in a pie chart. You can also get a bigger picture look by looking at your breakdown over the past week, past month or other range.

Available  on: iOS | Android

Wellness tool:  Protect and build self-esteem

We know from dozens of studies that when your self-esteem is lower, you are more vulnerable to stress and to anxiety; that failures and rejections hurt more, and it takes longer to recover from them. So when you get rejected, the first thing you should be doing is making efforts to revive your self-esteem.

Self-confidence does not happen by accident.  It takes effort to achieve.  For many people, self-confidence may appear to have come naturally to them, but it is more likely that they had confident role models in their life and they learned the appropriate confidence building behaviors through watching and imitating them and they habitually do them now.  By practicing these same actions, you can build your own self-confidence.  It comes from repeated practice and small successes which build into large successes.

Wellness tool:  Present yourself with confidence

Self care and grooming make a difference in how you feel about yourself.  Dressing well gives a little confidence boost and encourages others to take you seriously.  Presenting yourself well is not just about the clothes, it’s also about the person inside.  Your body language speaks louder than your words.  Put your chin up, shoulders back, stand straight with your hands relaxed at your sides.  Keep both feet pointing forward and keep weight even on both legs.  This shows you have a firm, solid foundation and you’re not a pushover.  Doing these things will not only make you appear more confident, it actually makes you feel more confident.

Wellness tool:  Smile and look people in the eye

When you smile and make eye contact, it shows confidence and enables others to feel more at ease in your presence.  This improves the quality of your interactions with others.  Smiling also helps you feel happier and improves your mood.

Wellness tool:  Give genuine compliments to others

When you take the time to compliment others, it demonstrates that you feel good enough about yourself to give positive feedback to others.  The compliments should always be genuine and honest.  False flattery will come across as fake.  Start with the people who are most important to you and make a note of all the things you admire about them.  Train yourself to see the positive and find ways to compliment them on those traits.

Wellness tool:  Practice appreciation

Practice appreciation each day and you will eliminate negativity from your life.  When you take the time to appreciate the good things in your life, you start to feel some real joy.  To be happier with your life and have more self-confidence, you don’t always have to improve your life.  You just need to start seeing the good in your life and start appreciating it.

Wellness tool:  Play to your strengths

Often we compare other people’s strengths to our weaknesses.  Fred is so much better at (fill in the blank) than I am.  That may be true, but there are certainly other things that you do well.  Know your strengths and play to them.  Focus on doing whatever you’re best at.  Your self-confidence will receive a boost with each task that you successfully complete.  Seek work in an area which makes the most of your strengths, knowledge and skill set.  Where possible delegate or outsource the tasks which do not suit your strengths.  Strengths aren’t something at which you are perfect.  Perfection is neither possible nor necessary.

Wellness tool:  Accept your imperfections

Successful people focus on continuous improvement rather than perfection. Perfectionism is neither a possibility nor a necessity.  Nobody has ever been perfect and nobody ever will be.  The key thing to remember is that once something is done, it can always be improved.  The feedback loop allows you to continuously improve anything – whether it be a skill, a personal trait, a project, a product, etc.  If you wait for perfection before you take action, you will never start.

Furthermore, in studies on relationships, it seems that people who have the courage to be imperfect have more positive, fulfilling relationships.  It turns out that we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.  People have to be kind to themselves first.

Wellness tool:  Be prepared

As you practice, you realize that you are capable of dealing with challenges and your self-confidence grows.  Preparation isn’t just for the big things.  It is something you can do each day.  By being prepared for each day, the day goes better, and the incremental results add up to big improvements over time.

Wellness tool:  Set effective goals and work to achieve them

When your life has direction and purpose, you know where you’re going and what you are trying to achieve.  You then set goals which will help you to consistently work towards these objectives.  With the accomplishment of each goal your self-confidence receives a little boost, as you see that you can achieve whatever you want from life. You don’t need perfect self-confidence.  You just need to have enough self-confidence to take on your next goal and believe you can achieve it.  Achieving your goal will then take your self-confidence to a new level.

Wellness tool:  Embrace whatever it is you love

Consider this quote from the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”  Self-confidence naturally improves when you make more time to focus on the things you love by eliminating those things which add no joy or value to your life.  One of the most important things that you can do it to make room for the things that you love in your life.  Often when people are stressed and pressed for time, one of the first things that they cut are their favorite hobbies.  However, hobbies that you love fill you with positivity which helps to boost your happiness and health.  It also makes you feel more in control of your life, which adds to your self-confidence.  Taking the time to discover what you love and what makes you feel happy and blessed, is a great way to identify where you should be spending more time in your life.  It’s a way to care for yourself.  Caring for yourself will always boost your self-confidence.

Wellness tool:  Always do your best

No matter what kind of work you do, you can strive to do your best at it.  This allow you to feel more confident about your performance.  Always doing your best is a core value.  Values ensure that you set yourself the highest standards to live by and you hold yourself to those standards. When you always give your best, you also build a reputation with friends, family, colleagues and customers which enables you to receive positive, self-confidence building feedback.

Wellness tool:  Accept disapproval

Approval seeking is a disease.  It leads to you sacrifice your own needs, wants, and desires to win the approval of others.  Nobody who is worthy of a place in your life would ever require you to sacrifice your own happiness to please them.  People who expect this will strip you of your self-confidence and they need to be shown the door.  No matter what you do in life and how well you do it, there will always be people who disapprove of you.  In the movie “The Greatest Showman” Charity Barnum gives this advice, “You don’t need everyone to love you, just a few good people.” When you give up the need for approval, you’ll be free of feeling compelled to impress people.  Instead, you’ll become more authentic and real with yourself.  Prove to yourself instead of to others that you are competent and confident and others will see it anyway.

Wellness tool:  Self-talk

What words do you use to describe yourself?  I am (fill in the blank).  Do you find yourself repeating phrases like: I’m a failure, I’m an idiot or I’m too fat?

As you repeat those words and phrases over and over, your brain accepts those things as true even when they’re false.

If you want to feel happy, it’s time to select from a new set of adjectives to describe yourself.  Here is a list to help you get started.

I am __________.

Happy, joyful, confident, charismatic, optimistic, playful, creative, inspired, loving, loved, worthy, valued, appreciated, successful, compassionate, abundant, beautiful, radiant, prosperous, supported, humble, trusting, fearless, accepting, open, grateful, cherished, genuine, intuitive, articulate, redeemed, forgiven, clean, faithful, influential, generous, kind, capable, strong, healthy, energetic, wise, peaceful, safe, useful, trustworthy, blessed, loyal, experienced, helpful, skilled, organized, brave, brilliant, improving, accepting, forgiving, firm, undaunted, obedient, inquisitive, observant, eager, content, courageous, disciplined, imaginative, visionary, teachable, virtuous, supported, lovely, supportive, praiseworthy, secure, decisive, hopeful, willing, empathetic, progressing, active, intelligent, resilient, authentic, safe, divine.

Wellness tool:  The power of repetition

Some people seem to have it all.  Confidence, happiness, success, love, belonging, etc.  While others struggle with low self-worth and loneliness. Studies have been done to determine what makes the difference.  There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it.  Personal belief.  The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.  That’s it.  They believe they’re worthy.

Somehow, we have to convince our minds that we are worthy of love and belonging.  We need to convince our minds that we can be happy now.  Fortunately there are tools that can help with that.

Repetition is a powerful tool to change our thinking.  Cognitive scientists describe a phenomenon called the “mere exposure effect, which shows that people feel a preference for things simply because they are familiar.  It is interesting because it have no basis in logic.

A parallel manifestation of the same psychological phenomenon that causes us to rate familiar statements as more likely to be true than unfamiliar ones.

This is why it is so dangerous when we repeat over and over in our minds things like: I’m not good enough, I’m a failure, Nobody cares about me.  Even though there is no basis in logic for these statements, we believe them to be true simply because we repeat them to ourselves over and over again.

There is a way to combat these beliefs using the same principle of repetition.  By creating positive statements about ourselves and repeating them over and over it can create a new healthier positive belief system.

It won’t be easy however, as David McRaney explains in his acclaimed psychology book “You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself

 “Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do this instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens those misconceptions instead. Over time, the backfire effect makes you less skeptical of those things that allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.”  

In other words, our brains fight to protect the information that we already believe to be true.  If I already believe that I’m stupid and worthless and there is any information that contradicts that belief, I will automatically reject it to protect what my brain already believes to be “true.”

It will be an uphill battle to overcome those intact, but incorrect, beliefs.  If I give a half hearted attempt to overcome those old beliefs by doing occasional positive affirmations and declarations, it will actually backfire and make my original beliefs stronger.  In order to win this war of beliefs, I need to be relentless and consistent.  Don’t start unless you’re willing to finish. Don’t start unless you’re willing to commit.  Don’t start unless you want to be happy.  Don’t start unless you want to feel loved and appreciated.  Don’t start unless you want to feel confident and successful.

However, if you do want to feel worthy of love, belonging, happiness, confidence, success, etc. repetition is the means to retrain our brains and accept those things as true.

Wellness tool:  Positive affirmations and declarations

“As a man thinketh, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7

 

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,

And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes

The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,

Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: —

He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:

Environment is but his looking-glass.

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, published in 1903

When we believe, “I’m enough” … then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.  Brene Brown

Positive affirmations can be used to reprogram your thought patterns and change the way you think and feel about things.  Declarations are things that you declare to be true.  I will use the terms synonymously.  They work through the power of repetition to retrain the brain to accept new beliefs and new beliefs actually create change.  They can help us feel like we are good enough.  There is a common belief that when things change then I will be happy, but the reverse is actually true.  When we are happy, then things change.

There is an infinite variety of positive affirmations available.  You can look online to see examples or make up your own.  I recommend that you select at least 5 that mean something to you personally.  I wouldn’t use generic statements that feel phony or contrived.  The more it applies to your situation, the more likely you are to accept it as true.  Remember that your mind is going to try to reject these things as false.  It doesn’t mean they’re actually false, it means they’re unfamiliar and that will change over time with repetition. [Popova, Repetition]

Some possible affirmations are:

  • I like myself.  I am enough.
  • I am worthy of being loved, valued and appreciated.
  • I am loved, valued and appreciated by other people.
  • I see the good in others, and others see the good in me.
  • I am learning and progressing every day.
  • I am brimming with energy and overflowing with joy.
  • I am confident and charismatic.
  • I add value to other people’s lives.
  • My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil
  • I use my talents to lift and serve others.
  • I am a generous giver and an excellent receiver.
  • I choose to live each day joyfully and gratefully.
  • I acknowledge my own self-worth; my confidence is soaring.
  • Everything that is happening now is happening for my ultimate good.
  • I am a powerhouse; I am indestructible.
  • I radiate beauty, charm, and grace.
  • My obstacles are moving out of my way; my path is carved towards greatness.
  • I wake up today with strength in my heart and clarity in my mind.
  • I am at peace with all that has happened, is happening, and will happen
  • I am learning and growing through joy and success
  • I choose to live each day joyfully.  I am happy and grateful to be a part of the flow of giving and receiving of the abundance available all around me.
  • I know I am worthy, valuable and that I belong because I am a child of God.
  • Every day I am getting better and better in every way.
  • I am successful now.

Choose at least 5 and write them down. Repeat them each 3 times each morning and evening.

 

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