The First Step to Being Happy

Dare 2 Hope_chasing joy

Photo Credit: Psychology Today

Some of us just never really seem to find or hang on to happiness for long. And yet there are some people who are happy even when life is really hard. During our lifetime, we will, without question, experience heartbreak or undeserved tragedies. No one is immune; suffering is an unavoidable part of the human condition. So how do some some people manage to stay relatively happy or more quickly recapture their happiness after devestation?

Those types of people take responsibility for their own happiness, and that starts with choosing to be happy.  It is always a choice to be made—and not just once, but daily, maybe minute by minute—even as we are bombarded with reasons not to be happy.

It can be tempting to abdicate our happiness responsibility by blaming our circumstances or others, and sometimes, it would even be perfectly understandable given what’s going on in our lives. But that leaves us helpless. Helplessness is scary because it means we will be stuck and miserable until something or someone else changes. When we realize we can take control of our happiness and are brave enough to own that process, joy becomes possible again, whether or not other things change. Taking responsibility means we are powerful instead of powerless. It’s not easy at all, but it is life-changing.

Ask yourself what keeps you from choosing to be happy. Does taking personal responsiblity for your feelings seem too hard? Does it feel like letting people who have hurt you off the hook? Make a list of all the ways that believing you have no control over your happiness prevents you from having the life you want. Now, make a list of the ways your life would be different if you could cultivate more happiness for yourself instead of waiting for it to happen to you.

After creating each list, consider making a commitment to start choosing happiness and learning how to live that out. Go ahead, it’s okay to chase joy! If you’re a reader like me, a fun book on the topic is The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee.

P.S. Depression can be a biological condition, not just an emotional one, needing medical treatment such as medication so please don’t think I’m saying depression can be cured by thinking happy thoughts! Sadness and depression are not only unavoidable at times, I don’t even think we should try to always avoid them. Though painful (I know from personal experience), they can serve a purpose by adding meaning and depth to our lives. They can grow us and teach us important lessons, like how to reach out for connection or to slow down and take care of ourselves. The point is just DON’T STAY STUCK there longer than you need to!

Be well,
Cherie Signature

DPP_0015bCherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

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Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

Highly Sensitive Person // Dare 2 Hope Blog

The word “sensitive” has a lot of connotations to it—many of which are not flattering. So often it has the unspoken “too” attached to it…meaning, that you take things personally or are overly emotional. Perhaps these are true at times, but there is much more to it than that. And it’s not all bad. First, to see if you are considered a highly sensitive person (HSP), ask yourself these questions or take the online test here:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or loud noises?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • Are you aware and deeply affected by other people’s moods and emotions?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?

If you answered “yes” to many of these questions, congratulations…you are an HSP! That may not sound like something to celebrate if you’ve felt like your sensitivity has been more of a curse than a blessing, but that feeling is usually based on not completely understanding or appreciating the positive aspects of being an HSP. For instance, according to Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, HSPs are often intellectually gifted, conscientious, and detail-oriented, making them exceptionally creative and productive workers. In relationships, they are considerate, compassionate, and able to connect deeply with others, making them attentive and thoughtful partners and friends. An estimated 15-20% of the overall population, HSPs are the visionaries, the artists, and the caregivers of society. Unfortunately, society doesn’t always value the HSP personality, only our contributions!

Try to start valuing the positive aspects of being an HSP and work on accepting the challenges that come along with it. Yes, we are more prone to depression and perfectionism and we have trouble taking criticism. We get over-stimulated more easily than others. Don’t beat yourself up for these things…just realize they are part of the package deal and do what you need to take care of yourself. Every personality has its strength and weaknesses, and it’s good that we’re not all the same!

How has being a highly sensitive person been a good thing for you and those around you?

much love,
Cherie_signature

 

DPP_0015bCherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

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4 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelming Anxiety

Dealing with Anxiety

If you struggle with anxiety, you’re certainly not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in our country, affecting an estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. (source: National Institute of Mental Health). Given that the NIMH also says that average onset is age 11, you might have struggled with anxiety for a long time. Maybe you have even started to believe that being a “worry wart” is just the way you are. While there’s some truth to that, there are lots of strategies for managing anxiety so that it doesn’t take a toll on your emotional and physical well-being (because yes, anxiety has a significant impact on your body!). Whether it’s generalized anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, or some other form of anxiety, here are 4 tips to help manage those emotions.

#1. Do some breathing exercises. Our bodies and minds (i.e., emotions) are highly interrelated and we can use that to our advantage. I’m not getting all new-agey on you; there is real science behind why deep breathing works. A quick explanation is that anxiety puts your body in fight-or-flight mode (remember that fun little phrase from high school biology?), and flooding your brain with oxygen basically tells it that everything is fine so that your sympathetic nervous system can calm back down.

#2. Stop the stinkin’ thinkin’. Though not always, our emotions are often triggered by our thoughts. Do you convince yourself that something is a catastrophe when it really isn’t? Do you worry about all the possible outcomes of a situation—usually all the negative ways something could turn out? Do you assume people are judging you unfavorably? Do you tell yourself you just won’t be able to handle if ____ (fill in the blank)? All of these are examples of what we call cognitive distortions because they are irrational thoughts that inevitably lead to anxiety and depression. Practicing more positive, realistic thinking can lead to healthier, more positive emotions.

#3. Get distracted. Ruminating—thinking obsessively about something—is rarely productive. It’s not the same as problem-solving and just ends up wasting a lot of time and energy. One of the best ways to break out of that circling-the-drain trap is to simply do something else, preferably something you enjoy! Get outside to soak up nature for a bit or call a friend. Do something kind for someone else. Engage in your favorite hobby. Wrap up in a soft blanket and sip your favorite drink. Whatever is going to soothe your spirit and refocus your mind in that moment, try that.

#4. If all else fails, try just accepting it. Accepting the anxiety sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? But in certain circumstances, accepting rather than fighting something is a better route because the process of fighting can sometimes give that thing more power and control over you. It’s like being in quicksand… the more you struggle against it, the faster and deeper you sink. Anxiety is usually about self-protection, so acknowledge that and thank your anxiety for what it’s trying to do to help. Try saying something like this to yourself: “I actually have the skills I need to handle whatever might happen so I don’t need to focus on the anxiety so much anymore. It’s still there and that’s fine, but I’m moving on to thinking about and doing other things.” And then do!

There are other tips I can give about dealing with anxiety and I could even expand on some of these, but this is probably enough for today. If you have questions, though, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Be well,
Cherie_signature

Cherie Miller, MS is owner of Dare 2 Hope Coaching and a virtual Health and Wellness Life Coach who helps clients all over the country improve their lives. Her specialty is helping people get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Contact her here.

How to Stop Dwelling on Things – Part 2

Ruminating - Part 2 - Dare 2 Hope Blog

Last week in How to Step Dwelling on Things – Part 1, I talked about what rumination is and the negative effects it has on our mental and emotional well-being. This week I want to talk about what to do about it. After all, we might know a behavior isn’t the best, but if we don’t know how to change it, we’re stuck!

In addition to the problem solving approach I already talked about, here are some ideas of things to try next time you find yourself obsessing about a situation.

Distract Yourself. Sometimes you just need to get your mind on something else. Try doing something enjoyable like reading a book, writing a thank you to someone, doing something active, going outside, or some other hobby you like doing. It can be helpful to make a list ahead of time so that you have already ideas when you need to distract yourself.

Schedule a worry break. Dr. Lauren Feiner recommends actually scheduling 20 to 30 minutes a day to ruminate to help contain it to a specific period of time. At other times of the day, remind yourself that you will have time later to worry and contemplate.

Let go. Once you’ve done your problem-solving on the situation and you’ve figured out what you can control and what you’re doing to do about it…acknowledge what you can’t control and work on letting go of that. No doubt, this is incredibly hard to do, but start by making a choice to let it go—and then keep making that choice every time your mind wanders back to it. If you’re honest with yourself, you’d probably have to admit that you increase and extend your misery by hanging on to things you can’t control.

The good news is that rumination is a thought and behavior pattern that can be changed. It’s a habit, and like any other habit, it takes effort and time to change. But the improvement in your health, happiness and relationships will be worth it!

Do any of these work for you or sound interesting enough to try? What has helped you get over ruminating?

much love,

Cherie_signature