Happiness Answers

How can I know my feelings?

Hi there, when something bad happens, it can leave us feeling sad, mad, helpless, disappointed, shamed, guilty, hurt, pain, and even anxious, it can be very confusing and leave us feeling conflicted about just how we feel, or should feel.  The emptiness you mentioned in your question is very real and painful.  There are a lot of factors that can make a difference such as: this time and what has happened in the past, with the same person or persons,  how we viewed what took place past and present, whether we are conflicted because of what was said, how it was said, when it was said, the surroundings when it was said, whether others were around when it was said--all of this makes a difference.   So not knowing the exact circumstances leaves us giving a VERY general answer. Many times we may have to "decipher" our own feelings and it sounds like that is where you are currently.  The feeling you have of being empty can also come from repeated instances of disappointment, discouragement and even a feeling of despair, which again can leave you confused and conflicted.   I often find many clients going through this type of confusion came from families where they often had to conform, many had learned to perform and did not have the "right" to be angry, the "right" to express their feelings without being ridiculed.  I find often when we don't know how we are "supposed" to react can be because we have not had the freedom, (whether real or imagined) to feel what THEY feel. We tend to conform to the guidelines and expectations of others.  You may have learned how to feel, how to think, how to act in order not to be made fun of, to be punished or shamed.  Making the decision to get in touch with the real you, not the one who has been "acting" or "performing" according to the predefined guidelines and family "rules" may very well help you with understanding your true feelings.  I believe the work to do this will be uneasy--at first, but so rewarding as you move toward feeling, touching, healing and releasing the old for the new.  I speak peace, love, and joy into all of who you are in your wonderful journey of discovery! 
(M.A., LPC)
Answered on 11/03/2022

How do I gain motivation and self worth?

Hi. You can talk back to your thoughts. You can even name it if you would like. You can call it a name like Bobby or something like "the worry monster." When you ask yourself "what if they're right?" reply with "What if they're wrong?" A couple ways to increase your self-esteem is to state a positive affirmation many times a day and also to say or list 3 of your qualities daily. State, "I am enough" repeatedly as you shower. Write "I am enough" on every mirror you own. Listen to an "I am enough meditation." You can find this on YouTube. I recommend one by Marisa Peer. However, if you don't like that one, choose one of your liking. Write "I am enough" on your hand. Set a reminder in your phone that goes off twice a day that says, "I am enough."  Think of 3 of your qualities daily. Write them down in a journal or look yourself in the mirror and say 3 kind things to yourself. Tell yourself the things you would have wanted to hear from your dad or brother, a boss, friend, anyone. Say things like "You're amazing!" "You're kind." "You're successful", etc. Listen to 3 Secrets to Boost Your Self-esteem by Marisa Peer on YouTube. Also listen to Why All Our Insecurities Come From This One Thing by Marisa Peer.  Think of 3 things you did right today. What does that say about you? If you listened to a co-worker, it could mean you're a good listener. If you finished a project, it could mean you're diligent. Another way to think of your qualities is to think of qualities you don't like in others such as lying. If you don't lie then you can say, "I am honest." Or what positive things do others say about you? Write it down.  We are operating from our subconscious 95% of the time. Your subconscious doesn't differentiate from fact and fiction. It will believe whatever is repeated enough. You only believe your dad and brother because you heard it 16 years. It wasn't true. You can reprogram your mind by telling it new affirmations like "I am enough" and reminding your subconscious of your positive qualities over and over again---every single day. Consistency is key.  It's great that you're exercising. Other things that build happiness are practicing gratitude (look up the scientific benefits of gratitude), meditating, positive journaling, acts of kindness, and fostering social relationships. 
Answered on 11/03/2022

What would advice would you tell a 20 year old about something you wish someone told you?

This is a really good question and one I believe a lot of young people are struggling with right now.  If I am going to stay strictly with the question of what would I tell a young adult that I wish someone had told me the response would be: "Work toward self-acceptance - that is key. Have experiences, remember you are young and all of your life is ahead of you.  This is the time to explore, find your passions, your interests and your people and nothing is out of bounds for you.  Find out who you really are and what you like, what you dislike and what you are willing to do and not do.  Be brave, have courage and remember that bravery and courage are not the absence of fear, they are proceeding in the face of fear.  Talk to people, find those who have your back through thick and thin and stick with them.  Give yourself grace and room to make errors. This means letting go of the idea of perfection - allow for mistakes from you and from the people you love.  Feel the feelings, identify what works for you in your belief system and get rid of what doesn't lift you up and improve your life when it comes to your thought processes.  If you have thoughts that are dragging you down, figure out the reasons, take what you need and leave the rest - there is no need to drag your bag of shame behind you throughout your life. You will have your own identity and that identity will grow and morph as you go through life - you will still be you underneath, just with new and developed layers!" That is the beginning of what I would say to a young adult that I wish someone had said to me.  I also wish someone had told me I am doing the best I can with what I have at any given point in time.  This is one of the truest statements I have ever heard and one I tell myself every day, whether things are going right or things have gone sideways somehow.  As an individual it is important to find our own levels of measurement with which to measure ourselves and in the young adult years we are usually still using someone else's measuring levels and believing we are failing horribly.  When we step back and take a real look at whose measurements we are trying to live up to it can give perspective on how we are looking at ourselves, what we are saying to ourselves and our own basic beliefs about ourselves.  Finding someone to help sort all of that out is vitally important and young adulthood is a great time to get started with that process! 
Answered on 11/01/2022

What do I do if I'm worried about my mental health?

Kia,   Welcome to BetterHelp and thank you for your consideration. Thank you for asking this great question. I'm Nathan, a licensed therapist, dually licensed in the states of Florida and Tennessee. You can read more about my background and education, my experience and therapeutic approaches by clicking on my name on this page.   “What do I do if I'm worried about my mental health?”   This is a challenging question to answer, but I would reply by encouraging you, as you are taking the first initial steps now! Simply reaching out, and asking the question is a healthy step in itself. At the same time, not everyone is in a place where they are seeking or willing to receive help. If someone is not willing to engage in therapy, counseling, coaching, etc… then they will potentially benefit very little from the process, and possibly waste time, money, and be further discouraged. We do understand that there are basic “Stages of Change” that have been categorized by Motivational Interviewers and Therapists as follows:     1.     Pre-contemplation – this can be denial, or ignorance of a problem even existing altogether.   2.     Contemplation – this can include ambivalence or conflicted emotions.   3.     Preparation – this can include experimenting with small changes, researching information about change.   4.     Action – this is taking direct action toward change(s), and goal(s).   5.     Maintenance – this is maintenance of the new behavior(s), change(s), avoiding temptation(s), managing triggers.   6.     Relapse – this is when an old, unwanted behavior or pattern occurs again.     Thank you again for your honesty and vulnerability. It took courage to reach out Kia, and I am glad you did. You seem to be in that Contemplation stage where you are experiencing ambivalence and conflicted emotions. You have acknowledged that there is an issue, a concern, some type of challenge, a problem, struggles. You also have considered what help may or may not look like, so perhaps you are dabbling with Preparation, but not quite there yet. My encouragement to you is, keep the momentum going. Therapy is not always easy, or something that one enters into without reservations.   What you describe above sounds like Anhedonia. That is a fancy way to say that you can lose interest or pleasure in what you have previously enjoyed, in life itself, and is a key symptom of Depression. It takes courage, and a bit of vulnerability to take that step. I commend you for reaching out and asking the questions. My personal approach explores the importance of balancing, investing in, contributing to our overall, Whole Self Wellness, a Holistic approach. In other words, how can you improve, invest in your Mind (Mental Health), your Body (Physical Health), and your Spirit (Spiritual Health) to be a healthier overall person. I firmly believe you have been designed to operate in health. You have a true identity and I would consider it a privilege to help you discover, rediscover, connect, reconnect with and nourish yourself.   I look forward to connecting with you soon. Have a blessed day!  
(LCSW, QS)
Answered on 10/25/2022

I'm being told I need therapy but I'm having a hard time getting it at all

Hello and thank you for asking this question! You mentioned that you have not been feeling happy for some time and that you have been experiencing relationship issues because of negative behavior. Generally,  when a person is feeling unfulfilled in the life they are living or have not yet processed through past issues, unhappiness and harmful behavior are the result. This leads to internal and external conflict, creating challenges and obstacles in  moving forward. A feeling of being stuck can result in a reliance on unhealthy behaviors to make us feel alive, numb or simply distract us from reflecting upon ourselves.  To turn this downward spiral around, you can begin identifying the principals and values that you want to live by. Living a life that is based on your core values will help you identify how to move forward and become the architect of your life. Core values are the beliefs you hold that drive your behaviors. Basically, how you live your life. Some examples of core values are honesty, reliability, being a hard worker, and commitment. Mostly core values are positive but, at times, people develop negative core values. A couple examples of negative core values are greed and selfishness. Negative core values are generally developed when you have been forced into a difficult situation in which your main focus is on survival. These positive and negative core values are only some examples of core values; there are almost an infinite number of core values. To identify your own core values, take some time to explore the answers to your "why"questions, your "what" questions, and look for trends in your life. What are my priorities ? What are my passions? Why do I  want what I want? Why do I behave in a certain manner? Why is that (person, place, or thing) important to me? What patterns do I see in my life and why do those patterns exist? There are a number of websites you can visit to help you identify your core values. Brene Brown is one of the most influential persons in this area of psychology. Her book Dare to Lead is one of the best books to turn to when trying to identify your top core values and achieving success in creating a life based on those core values.   If you become confused and are unable to identify your own core values, this may be an indicator that you are living your life according to other people's core values. This situation will lead you to live an unfulfilling life and possibly create deep sadness or symptoms of depression. Because when you base your life on another person’s core values you are being inauthentic and therefore having inauthentic relationships with yourself and others. It is important to redirect the lens from focusing on what others may be expecting of you. Focus the lens on yourself and ask yourself the hard questions about how you want to live your life, what it will take to be healthy and create a healthy lifestyle balance. You are the only person you have to live with for the rest of your life, therefore you might as well like yourself, your own company and enjoy the life you have constructed.  Entering therapy is a very personal decision. It is true that many people enter therapy to appease others in their lives, but ultimately you have to decide if you want to invite another person to help you with self-reflection and development of skills to live a healthy lifestyle. Therapy will help you address issues from your past, detach and create a healthy approach to living in the present if you are willing to be honest, open and willing. But it is absolutely up to you. In the end, the most important thing is that you are living a healthy, fulfilling life based on your core values. There is no simple answer to feeling better. It takes honesty, openness, patience and commitment to change your behavior and create the life you want to be living. Whether you do it on your own or with a therapist, working toward implementing tiny steps in your daily life, creating your life based on your core values, and continued effort each day will eventually help you arrive and create a healthy lifestyle balance. 
(MS, LAC, LCPC)
Answered on 10/22/2022

My birthday is coming up this Tuesday and I’ve been really depressed. How can I make myself feel ok?

I'll start with HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY!! It sounds like you have a lot going on and unfortunately none of it will be solved or be better by Tuesday. But there are many things that you can do to start feeling better. First: celebrate your birthday - even if you only do so with a small cupcake and candle from your local grocery store. Celebrate in a public place - at the park or coffee shop. Watch how people are excited to see you celebrate and will offer to celebrate with you! Second: make the decision to be happy - despite your circumstances. Really count your blessings and see (and know) that things could be worse. Third: get out of bed! Put yourself on a schedule. Start getting some outdoor exercise and make plans for yourself. You can't make friends (or money) laying in bed. Fourth: figure out what truly makes you happy and then go get it. Happiness is something that you can give yourself, it is not dependent on anyone else or money.  I think starting with these things may change your outlook and make your day a little brighter. Remember that we take things one day at a time or even by the hour if needed. Nothing comes to us quickly and it will all take time. Accept the time that it takes and do not rush the process.  Many times we tend to forget how much control we really have over our own lives. Recognize your power and take control again. You have the ability to create the life you want. We cannot change the past but you have ultimate control on what happens next. Do not dwell on the past, instead reflect on what you would like to do differently in the future than what you did in the past. Start by being your own emotional support and then add to your tribe (or team) of those who love and care for you and want to see you succeed.  I challenge you to think about what you want out of life and what you need to do to get the life you want. And then start the work to get that life! Blessings to you!
Answered on 10/21/2022

When living with depression how do you regain your sense of self? I don’t know who I am anymore.

Hi Ruthie, that's a great question. And let me start by saying that I hope I get to work with you personally on these issues. But as for this written answer to your question, maybe I'll start with self-esteem since that is what you started off with in your question. I think self-esteem is made up of various factors, from our self-talk to learned helplessness versus self-efficacy to certain innate personality traits to the way our parents treated us as children and maybe many others. But knowing about the factors influencing self-esteem can only take us so far. What can we do about it? Well, if we go down the list of those factors we could identify some interventions to change self-esteem. First, we could increase our awareness of how we're talking to ourselves, monitoring and journaling about it. Then, we could begin to practice positive affirmations and self-compassion more. We could increase our self-efficacy and avoid learned helplessness by setting small achievable goals and accomplishing them daily. We could study our personality traits through self reflection, observation and feedback from family and friends, and maybe even professional assessment. With that increased insight into our personality, we could begin the process of learning about the strengths and weaknesses of our personality traits, and ultimately work toward self-acceptance and appreciation of how our personality contributes to the betterment of society. Finally, we could reflect on our childhood experiences and how the way we were raised might have shaped the way we think and feel about ourselves. We can seek professional help to increase our awareness and insight into the ways our childhood may have shaped our self-esteem. The next reaction I had to your question is that what you're describing about your situation appears to be a depressive episode. Depression is directly related to self-esteem, weight gain, marital discord, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, fatigue, decreased motivation, and really everything you're describing. So what can we do about depression? There are a lot of options for treatment of depression that have been scientifically studied and shown to be effective. Some of the interventions I mentioned above would be applicable here too. One of the most evidence-based treatments for depression is called cognitive-behavioral therapy. This therapy examines how our thoughts lead to feelings and behaviors, as well as the other way around. As mentioned above, if we can become more aware of our thoughts and self-talk and start to challenge them and change them to be more positive, we'll begin to feel better and behave better. Then, we can try to focus on our strengths and practice affirming self-talk and positive thinking. Another effective treatment for depression is something called behavioral activation. This is in some ways the inverse of CBT in that we can start by behaving better in hopes that this improves our feelings and eventually our thinking. An example of this might be getting up and going for a walk in the park when we feel depressed without really thinking about it, and then we start to feel better and our thinking gets more positive. Another twist on this behavioral activation that can help even more is the idea of not doing just anything, but doing something that is social and altruistic or helpful. You seem to be touching on this intervention already, maybe without even knowing it, when you mention that you do get pleasure from volunteering to hold babies in the NICU and spending time with your sons and grandchildren. One last type of treatment for depression that is newer but gaining a lot of scientific support is something called acceptance and commitment therapy. This treatment says that one practice that can bring satisfaction to our life is clarifying our values and bringing our thoughts and actions into consistency with our values. Now, as for the specific problems you bring up in your question, I would say that if you can heal the inside, then the outside will follow. If you effectively treat your depression and self-esteem, I think you will live a healthier lifestyle, feel motivated to exercise, and not only lose weight but feel better about your body. If you treat your depression, I believe your marriage will improve, or at least you'll have a better chance of working on making it better. If you treat your depression, you'll probably want to return to your hobbies of gardening, baking, and decorating, and maybe you'll even pick up some new hobbies. Your volunteer service to the NICU babies will probably be even more satisfying, and you might decide to give service in other ways as well. You'll continue to enjoy spending time with your sons and grandsons, and they'll probably enjoy spending time with you even more.
Answered on 10/21/2022

Why is life so difficult and heavy?

That is this thing about life: it's not easy. At some point in all of our lives, we recognize that life is not always fair. Life often times has a way of knocking the wind out of us, and it is easy to feel hopeless. Life also has a way of being beautiful; of showing us things about ourselves, helping us grow and do better. We are the ones who get better. Sometimes we think about life in black and white: it is either good or it is bad. The reality is there is a lot of grey within the black and white, and a lot of life is spent in the grey. What do I mean by this? For example, if you take any given day, there are high moments to that day, there are low moments to that day, and there are moments that are in between throughout the day. While it is true that some days are inherently more bad than others (like losing a loved one) or filled with more good than others (achieving a huge milestone in life), most of our days are not all good or all bad. This is also true for life.  The challenge for all of us is recognizing what it is we have control over when looking at how we manage through the rough times and the good times. When we are able to recognize what is within our control, it allows us to feel as though we have some control over our lives, which in turn leads to us feel empowered to make decisions in our lives that can lead to positive change. It is about learning new skills to help manage and cope through  the challenging times, developing the ability to embrace and truly enjoy the good times, and allowing yourself grace and patience for the rest of the in between. These skills are not always natural skills, but they are vital skills to learn to gain better control over yourself, your thoughts and your emotions.  We only know what we know in any given situation, and when we know better, we do better. This in turn leads us to doing better in our own lives and gives us the ability to recognize that when we have a bad day, it is just a bad day and not a bad life. It allows us to breathe through the challenging times, embrace the good times, and find peace and calm in all the times in between. 
Answered on 10/17/2022

How can I stop just going through the motions and begin to enjoy life.

Hi Alfred,   Great question!  I have talked to hundreds of people a year, and everyone has a different idea of what brings them joy and purpose in life.  Mental health is living your life in line with your values and beliefs.  Sometimes those values and beliefs become unclear, and we need to redefine them.  Through therapy we can review what matters most to you and work our way down the order of importance.  When we investigate how you would like to live your life, we then need to ask if you are living in accordance with that value system.  If you are not, then that brings disatisfaction all around.   As you may already know, values come from our family of origin.  The formative relationships established during childhood become the framework on which we build our value system.  However, what becomes important to us as we grow up may change, and the values of our parents may become less important to us, or not important at all.  We begin to establish our own set of values, which may incorporate our family values as well as some new ones of our own.    So, how do we begin to sort through what is important?  I like to first begin by establishing a foundation of what you think your parents valued, what someone important to you values, and the values you would like to live by.  These are all areas that we draw from when establishing our own values.  Next, ask yourself what values do you actually live by?  If they are not in line with the ones you would like to live by, that is a good place to start.     We may have conflicting values that influences your uncertainty of how you want to live your life.  Mental stress or discomfort may occur when you hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time.  This is called cognitive dissonance, and may leave you feeling stuck.  If for example, you value tradition, family and community, but you no longer belief or want to follow the church you grew up in, you may experience mental stress.       I hope this is helpful to you as you continue your own search and exploration of what drives you and gives you purpose.  Good luck!   
(LPC, LISAC, NCC)
Answered on 09/21/2022

How can I stop all these bad things? Im seriously over it.

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with so much rejection in your life right now.  It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done. Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.” This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse. So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary. He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his. Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific anxieties you have around being assertive when people wrong you.   Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc." By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself or that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with this kind of rejection and overwhelming frustration.    As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth and that has been able to get through challenges in your past. Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts. These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments. They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to. Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better. I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to. An example of a centering thought would be, from a client I had that related to nautical themed things, and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy. She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.” To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.” She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others. Hopefully you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and abilities to move forward.       I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this. Doing so can help take weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 07/25/2022

How do i respond to a partner who is struggling with recent depression/anxiety that won’t seek help?

Hi There, First, I want to thank you for sharing your experience and being so open about the struggle supporting someone who is experiencing a mental health issue. It is such a challenging position to be in as a partner because we want to take away the pain that the person is feeling and "fix" the problem or help them find the solution. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I'm sure you know very well that it's not that simple and can be really frustrating to feel that way.  The first thing I would suggest is listening and validating his experience. Since this is new to him and he doesn't typically feel this way, allowing him the space to vent and process is very helpful at times. If he has little to no insight into how to manage these feelings, simply getting them out can be helpful especially in a non-judgmental space. I recognize that listening to the same feelings and thoughts over and over can be frustrating for you, so make sure you are taking care of yourself during the process (more on that later). If he's struggling with other areas like doing chores or caring for himself, helping to take some of the burden off of him could be helpful during this period of time, although you'll want to make sure that you have set your own limits as to how long you feel comfortable doing that. Helping your partner by validating his feelings but reframing them can be helpful, too. When he says things that are disparaging about himself, you can validate what he's feeling (i.e. disappointed that he didn't get the job, frustrated by the lack of career growth, defeated by not getting something he worked hard for) and remind him that although one situation didn't go well for him, it doesn't characterize his entire worth or personality. An example would be, "I know how defeating it is to put all of your energy into something and not get it, but it doesn't mean that you're an idiot." Even though he has the opportunity to re-apply for the job in a year, that might not seem like a possibility for him right now, although it doesn't mean that he won't change his mind further down the road. Sometimes helping people recognize that not getting something they want doesn't necessarily signal failure. It might not be a "no" just a "not yet." In addition to providing a safe space to talk and validate his feelings, showing your partner that you love him can help to mitigate some of the worthlessness that he's feeling. By having constant support and love, it can help him feel more supported during a very stressful and dark time. Remember that you can't be his partner and his therapist, though. Encourage him to seek additional support as a way to help him feel better and to provide a space where he can be completely open and honest. However, we can't force anyone to take action. All we can do is remind them that there are avenues to explore if he's feeling anxious or depressed.  The final thing that I think is really important to remember is that supporting a partner who is struggling takes a toll on our own mental wellbeing. Be sure to take time to fill your own cup. You can't pour from an empty one! By ensuring that you are taking time to care for yourself, you are accomplishing two very important things: giving yourself the same respect and care you give to others and also setting a great example for your partner by showing what it means to care and love yourself. If you find it to be overwhelming to support him, don't be shy about taking your own advice and seek additional support to help you get through it.  I hope that your partner finds the space to begin healing from his struggles and I hope that you take care of yourself during the process of supporting him. All the best to you! Hannah
(M.S.Ed., MA, LPC)
Answered on 07/13/2022

What to do to improve mental health and work-life balance with mental stability and peace?

Dear Nakshatra,   Thank you very much for your message.   I understand that we are going through some fluctuations with our emotions and often it can feel like we are going backwards. However the reality is that the night is always darkest before the dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is because you are trying to move forward in this healing process, therefore when you do experience any kind of anxiety or depression you begin to doubt yourself in this process.   Meanwhile, as a human being we will always have times when we feel anxious or depressed. That is normal and natural. Just like there are days that it rains, there are also days that the sun shines. This isn't a problem to be fixed.    We will only feel more depressed if we constantly compare ourselves with our old selves in the past that seemed to be happier, while we forget that back then we did not have this much on our plate to worry and we did not experience what we have experienced recently that gave us hurt and pain. Therefore it isn't fair to our current self if we always think about how to go back in time, that isn't possible anyways.   To further recover from feelings of depression and anxiety, we must constantly be thinking about how to develop a healthy, positive interaction with ourselves.   Happy relationships all depend on how happy we are with ourselves. So how happy are we?   If you feel like you're on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn't you have learned it by now?   Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you're certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.   If you haven't noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person's need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don't hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can't change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Here are 5 lessons that I learned (still learning) to find peace within ourselves and enjoy true happiness that does not depend on others.   Forgive Yourself: Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else's life. You can't go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you're freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment. Understand That You Are Complete: And understand that, "You complete me," was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too... for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don't feel complete, and latched onto that line like it was the end-all be-all relationship concept is because we're waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole. First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren't, no one else would be able to complete us anyway - it's impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else's hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don't realize we are the only ones who control our happiness. Does this mean if you're unhappy it's your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you're a part of something, not just half of something. The whole "my other half" thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself? Get To Know Yourself: When do you feel you're at your best when you're alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier, and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you. What are your favorite parts of yourself - your appearance, your character traits, your values or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all. Take A Good Look At Yourself: Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don't go thinking you're the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you'd like to change. I've always been shorter than most other people and would have given anything to be "normal" height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.) What are you good at, best at and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven't done yet? What is the best thing you've ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we're asking ourselves. Ask Yourself Questions: To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it's OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself. Take time away from other people and be happily alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for fear some stranger would think I didn't have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other's company as well; we don't just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).   Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it's done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 05/31/2022

Why might I feel these ways and is there a way to feel how I used to, is something wrong with me?

What you are experiencing is so very common. you are not alone in this at all :) Sometimes we can feel this way and it can be chemical, hormonal, or maybe there are some unhealed wounds that are there but don't feel like they are the issue. Sometimes we can feel this way and it is because we don't have the social supports (friends, family, mentors) that can help clap us up. From what you have shared, it sounds like there is an element of feeling not supported as well. Therapy is a safe space for you to unpack those things that are weighing on you. It can help to unload and be vulnerable with someone who is able to also validate your experiences. What you think does matter. What you feel does matter.  The other thing mentioned is the idea of losing self. I would bet that you actually haven't lost self. I would bet that maybe the pieces of self are there- but are murky or blurry to a point that you cannot identify them as easily. Remembering who you are could very well be the antidote to what you are feeling. So often, many people come to therapy with depressive symptoms or symptoms of anxiety- underneath all of that- the real issue is losing sense of self. Once we reconnect with those pieces, then you may very well feel some sort of relief.  One thing that could help is to think about the answer to this question: If you could change 3 things in your life, what would you change? Once you identify those things, that could show you some secret desires that you have for self after all. Another helpful thing would be to reconnect to your "why". Our "why" is our purpose. It is the action that connects us to who we are. It is a reflection of our values. Essentially, personal identity isn't based on the thoughts that we have- it is based on the things we find important (values). When we are fulfilled individuals, we are individuals who are living, breathing, and acting on our values daily. This helps us feel purposeful and rooted in self identity.  I hope this information helps you along your way :)
Answered on 05/14/2022

Depression

Hello Chocolate, Good morning and so glad to see you reached out.  I can feel the profound heaviness of what you wrote and what you are carrying right now.  So to reach out for support from that place says a lot about who you are and your want for better. Depression is real and overwhelming.  It is a constant and exhausting dark cloud that makes you feel scared, alone, and lost.  The good news is that those are the loudest feelings right now but they are indeed not the only ones.  I can see you love your family deeply.  There are some barriers that are real and in the way and talking and communicating about them will get them out of your head and help your problem solve what you want in your next steps.  You deserve freedom from these depressive and fearful feelings and you are capable of finding it! Depression does not get to sit and live with you and does not get to rule your life.  This is a moment....a hard moment - but not a "last forever moment" and that is hard to see when you are struggling with depression. You are not alone, you are not wrong, and you are worthy of feeling better.  Depression is a symptom not who you are!  You deserve therapy and you are capable of creating what you want!  A lot of times, there are small pivots or changes that can be made in supporting you climbing out of what must feel like a deep dark hole.  Having a support system to talk through, verbally process, and be vulnerable with can be a game changer when you are in big feelings like theses.  Mental Health Therapy is a good support to walk with you on your journey.  Helps remind you that you are not alone, your value is BIG, and that you are worthy of fighting for a life that you find has peace, joy, and a better work life balance.  When you are feeling these feelings its for a reason, so to be able to sort through them is helpful, supportive, and healing. You are worthy of healing, I wish you great things on your journey!
Answered on 05/11/2022

How can keep myself without being sad?

Becoming sad from time to time is a natural human emotion. However, when sadness begins to happen too often, lasts too long or takes over your life and relationships, it can cause a strain in many areas of your life. You have to find new ways of coping. Sad feelings don't have to take over your mood or ruin your day. It seems that you tend to worry a lot about your relationships with others and expect a great deal of attention from them. It is good that you have recognized your feelings when you don't get what you want. Knowing your emotions helps you to better understand and accept yourself.  Now that you have identified why you are sad, it is time to start working on ways to feel better. It is time to start doing things that make you happy without depending on the help of others. Positive thinking is a great way to get started. Even if you are sad, think of one or two good things about yourself or your situation. Next, try thinking of solutions to getting what you want. Sometimes our friends and family are unaware of what is going on in our lives unless we tell them. Remember, they have busy lives and are dealing with many things too. So, an example solution would be to give them the attention you want from them. Ask them how they are feeling and how their day has been. This will lead to interaction on both sides and them asking about your feelings. Last, put yourself in a good mood! Do things that you enjoy! It could be something as simple as playing a sport, riding a bike, dancing, running, taking a walk, reading, or listening to your favorite music!  Overall, learning to deal with sad feelings takes practice. It doesn't just come overnight. You have to work at it! We shouldn't depend on others for our own happiness. When you do things to take care of yourself, think in positive ways, and show that you care and have concern for others, you then begin to make room for a more positive and happy you!
Answered on 08/26/2021

How to cope with childhood trauma in adulthood

Dear FoxyMoron,   Thank you for your message and diving deeper into reflecting the traumas and the abuses that you have gone through, and what they meant to you and affecting your life at the moment.   This is indeed a painful process that can cause some emotions rising on your end, that is also because for a very long time we have been simply coping with these wounds through our defense mechanisms, rather than actually looking at them and processing them. Therefore it's important that you practice the tools that we talked about before (how to make yourself feel safe and grounded when these emotions rise) so that we can practice living with and manage these emotions rather than going back to our defense mechanisms.   As you have said, perhaps we have learned to deal and cope with these abuses and traumas by making explanations for them, validating them, and even accepting them as a part of our lives. While we have learned to move on without processing these traumas, we could still the effects they bring especially in the form of anxiety and even panic when we are being reminded or triggered by events and people who have inflicted these wounds on us.   To truly move on and not let these traumas affect us, we need to learn to bring closures to these wounds and bind them up. I am glad that you are aware of the need to bring closures, I'll explain more here when it comes to closure.   A lack of closure frequently prevents people from moving forward with their lives and achieving all that they could. It makes it more difficult to reach goals, find self-happiness or make meaningful relationships. For this reason, it is important to find a sense of closure with any situation that you feel is holding you back.   Closure is any interaction, information, or practice that allows a person to feel that a traumatic, upsetting or confusing life event has been resolved. The term has its origins in Gestalt psychology, but it is more commonly used to refer to the final resolution to a conflict or problem.   Closure means finality; a letting go of what once was. Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what's finished to something new. In other words, closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.   People seek answers and explanations: They want to know why. However, finding answers does not necessarily end the pain. Sometimes a person who seeks closure finds that an explanation makes no difference, or that it actually worsens their pain. Others find that closure may simply be a starting point for moving past a painful event. Though the trauma is not resolved, the person is better able to work through it. Seeking a definitive way to finalize grief and move on belies the importance of the grieving process. Simply putting an end to one's painful memories may be more harmful than helpful.   In some cases, though, closure is a profoundly transformative experience that does allow the person to move past the traumatic event. For example, a victim of abuse may need to confront the abuser and see them imprisoned before he or she can begin to feel safe again. In acknowledgment of this, the criminal justice system is increasingly recognizing the need for closure by instituting programs allowing victims and their families to meet with offenders in a controlled setting.   Unfortunately, there are times when the closure is simply unattainable. This may be true in situations where someone moved locations or passed away before being able to resolve a problem. In some cases, the other involved person is simply unwilling to engage. In times like these, it can be easy to become bogged down by the lack of closure. It can be easy to cover up the underlying problem with meaningless coping mechanisms like substance abuse. With time and effort, there are many ways to move past unattainable closure to live happily once more.   The most important part of moving on from a lack of closure is taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally. This is also why we have begun our therapy process with a focus on self-compassion. Self-compassion is the core of why we want to bring closures and bind up these wounds because they make us feel better and they are the best decisions we can make for ourselves.   When we bring closures to our traumas, we need to keep in mind that we are doing this not because we have to, but we want to. When we practice forgiving those who have wounded us and let them go, we are not agreeing / accepting / acknowledging what they have done and not holding them accountable, we are simply letting go of the bitterness, resentment, and hatred that we have to hide with us all these years.   As for our physical health, engaging in adequate active exercises could be helpful. Improving your physical health through diet and exercise can help to improve self-esteem and emotional well-being, both of which are essential to moving on from unattainable closure.   Meditation, hobbies, and social interaction are all great ways to nurture your mental health and find the inner happiness that makes a lack of closure bearable.   While self-care is essential to moving on from a lack of closure, it is often not enough to resolve the problem altogether. One great exercise to help you move forward is to write a letter to the individual that you have not received closure. In this letter, you can describe all of your feelings about the situation and how you wish things had ended. Once the letter is complete, you can bury it, burn it, or simply throw it in the trash. Writing an unsent letter can help you get those feelings out that are hiding painfully inside and find a sense of self-resolution.   Forgiveness is another essential component to finding a sense of closure at times that closure cannot otherwise be achieved. Forgiving a person that caused you pain can sometimes seem like an impossible task. However, it is possible with daily efforts. We can go into details later regarding forgiveness, one step at a time.   To move past unattainable closure, you may also need to forgive yourself for anything you feel you did wrong in the situation. If you blame yourself for a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, or anything else, it will be impossible to move on and find inner happiness.   I'll pause here to learn from your thoughts, looking forward to talking with you more. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 08/20/2021

How do I start healing from childhood trauma? It feels like two steps forward, one back.

Dear Audge1995,   Thank you for your message and diving deeper into reflecting the traumas and the abuses that you have went through, and what they meant to you and affecting your life at the moment.   This is indeed a painful process that can cause some emotions rising on your end, that is also because for a very long time we have been simply coping with these wounds through our defense mechanisms, rather than actually looking at them and process them. Therefore it's important that you practice the tools that we talked about before (how to make yourself feel safe and grounded when these emotions rise), so that we can practice living with and manage these emotions rather than going back to our defense mechanisms.   As you have said, perhaps we have learned to deal and cope with these abuses and traumas by making explanations for them, validating them, and even accepting them as a part of our lives. While we have learned to move on without processing these traumas, we could still the effects they bring especially in the form of anxiety and even panic when we are being reminded or triggered by events and people who have inflicted these wounds on us.   To truly move on and not let these traumas affect us, we need to learn to bring closures to these wounds and bind them up. I am glad that you are aware of the need to bring closures, I'll explain more here when it comes to closure.   A lack of closure frequently prevents people from moving forward with their lives and achieving all that they could. It makes it more difficult to reach goals, find self-happiness or make meaningful relationships. For this reason, it is important to find a sense of closure with any situation that you feel is holding you back.   Closure is any interaction, information, or practice that allows a person to feel that a traumatic, upsetting or confusing life event has been resolved. The term has its origins in Gestalt psychology, but it is more commonly used to refer to the final resolution to a conflict or problem.   Closure means finality; a letting goes of what once was. Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what's finished to something new. In other words, closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.   People seek answers and explanations: They want to know why. However, finding answers does not necessarily end the pain. Sometimes a person who seeks closure finds that an explanation makes no difference, or that it actually worsens their pain. Others find that closure may simply be a starting point for moving past a painful event. Though the trauma is not resolved, the person is better able to work through it. Seeking a definitive way to finalize grief and move on belies the importance of the grieving process. Simply putting an end to one's painful memories may be more harmful than helpful.   In some cases, though, closure is a profoundly transformative experience that does allow the person to move past the traumatic event. For example, a victim of abuse may need to confront the abuser and see them imprisoned before he or she can begin to feel safe again. In acknowledgment of this, the criminal justice system is increasingly recognizing the need for closure by instituting programs allowing victims and their families to meet with offenders in a controlled setting.   Unfortunately, there are times when the closure is simply unattainable. This may be true in situations where someone moved locations or passed away before being able to resolve a problem. In some cases, the other involved person is simply unwilling to engage. In times like these, it can be easy to become bogged down by the lack of closure. It can be easy to cover up the underlying problem with meaningless coping mechanisms like substance abuse. With time and effort, there are many ways to move past unattainable closure to live happily once more.   The most important part of moving on from a lack of closure is taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally. This is also why we have begun our therapy process with a focus on self-compassion. Self-compassion is the core of why we want to bring closures and bind up these wounds because they make us feel better and they are the best decisions we can make for ourselves.   When we bring closures to our traumas, we need to keep in mind that we are doing this not because we have to, but we want to. When we practice forgiving those who have wounded us and let them go, we are not agreeing / accepting / acknowledging what they have done and not hold them accountable, we are simply letting go of the bitterness, resentment, and hatred that we have to hide with us all these years.   As for our physical health, engaging in adequate active exercises could be helpful. Improving your physical health through diet and exercise can help to improve self-esteem and emotional well-being, both of which are essential to moving on from unattainable closure.   Meditation, hobbies, and social interaction are all great ways to nurture your mental health and find the inner happiness that makes a lack of closure bearable.   While self-care is essential to moving on from a lack of closure, it is often not enough to resolve the problem altogether. One great exercise to help you move forward is to write a letter to the individual that you have not received closure. In this letter, you can describe all of your feelings about the situation and how you wish things had ended. Once the letter is complete, you can bury it, burn it, or simply throw it in the trash. Writing an unsent letter can help you get those feelings out that are hiding painfully inside and find a sense of self-resolution.   Forgiveness is another essential component to finding a sense of closure at times that closure cannot otherwise be achieved. Forgiving a person that caused you pain can sometimes seem like an impossible task. However, it is possible with daily efforts. We can go into details later regarding forgiveness, one step at a time.   To move past unattainable closure, you may also need to forgive yourself for anything you feel you did wrong in the situation. If you blame yourself for a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, or anything else, it will be impossible to move on and find inner happiness.   I'll pause here to learn from your thoughts, looking forward to talking with you more. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 08/02/2021

I am emotionally dependent on my partner. What can I do to help myself?

Dear Luna,   Thank you very much for your message.   I understand that we are going through some fluctuations with our emotions and often it can feel like we are going backward. However, the reality is that the night is always darkest before dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is that you are trying to move forward in this healing process, therefore when you do experience any kind of anxiety or depression you begin to doubt yourself in this process.   Meanwhile, as human being we will always have times when we feel anxious or depressed. That is normal and natural. Just like there are days that it rains, there are also days that the sun shines. This isn't a problem to be fixed.    We will only feel more depressed if we constantly compare ourselves with our old selves in the past that seemed to be happier, while we forget that back then we did not have this much on our plate to worry and we did not experience what we have experienced recently that gave us hurts and pain. Therefore it isn't fair to our current self if we always think about how to go back in time, that isn't possible anyway.   To further recover from feelings of depression and anxiety, we must constantly be thinking about how to develop a healthy, positive interaction with ourselves.   Happy relationships all depend on how happy we are with ourselves. So how happy are we?   If you feel like you're on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn't you have learned it by now?   Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you're certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.   If you haven't noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person's need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don't hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can't change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Here are 5 lessons that I learned (still learning) to find peace within ourselves and enjoy true happiness that does not depend on others.   1. Forgive Yourself   Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else's life. You can't go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you're freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment.   2. Understand That You Are Complete   And understand that, "You complete me," was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too... for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don't feel complete, and latched onto that line like it was the end-all be-all relationship concept is because we're waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole.   First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren't, no one else would be able to complete us anyway - it's impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else's hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don't realize we are the only ones who control our happiness.   Does this mean if you're unhappy it's your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you're a part of something, not just half of something. The whole "my other half" thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself?   3. Get To Know Yourself   When do you feel you're at your best when you're alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier, and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you.   Here's a personal example: I had a spider vein on my lower leg and didn't feel comfortable in shorts for years. I finally had it removed and couldn't believe how much better I felt. My posture and confidence in shorts was much improved. Some things are easily fixable and for the others we may need to adjust our perspective a bit.   What are your favorite parts of yourself - your appearance, your character traits, your values or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all.   4. Take A Good Look At Yourself   Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don't go thinking you're the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you'd like to change. I've always been shorter than most other people and would have given anything to be "normal" height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.)   What are you good at, best at and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven't done yet? What is the best thing you've ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we're asking ourselves.   5. Ask Yourself Questions   To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it's OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself.   Take time away from other people and be happily alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for fear some stranger would think I didn't have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other's company as well; we don't just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).   Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it's done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 05/26/2021

Why do I suddenly feel lonely when I'm alone despite me being a loner for a long time?

Dear Pretty,   Thank you for your message, also your courage in acknowledging the loneliness you have been feeling. I hear you and I feel you. Through your words, I could feel how lonely you are and how depressing it is to feel trapped in loneliness.   If you allow me to, I would like to connect with your loneliness by also sharing my loneliness as well. When two people share their loneliness, perhaps we would not feel all so alone. :)   I moved across the ocean a few months ago, to be precise from the US to Japan. A one-way ticket of a few thousand miles away from my friends, soulmates, and the city I've lived in for more than a decade. For a while, I was distracted by the excitement, the settling in. But the mild hum of anxiety underneath it all alerts me of what I've been most afraid of since deciding to leave my comfortable life: loneliness.   Loneliness used to terrify me, it still does at times. I think I feared that if I felt lonely, I'd lose my mind and develop an attachment to an inanimate object or something, like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. I couldn't sleep alone until I was 10 (hold the "Attachment Issues" remarks). I couldn't spend more than a night away from my family until I was 18. My understanding of loneliness was conflated with rejection, inadequacy, and worthlessness. It meant failure, and worst of all, it meant I had to be with myself and only myself.   Loneliness was mixed with boredom. When I felt lonely I suddenly forgot what I was supposed to do. Everything feels so empty and time seems to have stopped. I struggled to find anything that would motivate me or give me excitement.   It's not like loneliness has transformed into a totally benign feeling for me, but I am learning to do things like move across the country alone and not have a panic attack (yet!). And although I'm tempted to pack my schedule and text my friends until I develop carpal tunnel to avoid feeling lonely, I know that would just be a recipe for anxiety and shame.   So rather than trying to prevent loneliness, I'm going to try using the techniques and reminders I have for the past few years to cope with the discomfort. Here they are and I would like to share them with you:   1. Every single person on the planet feels lonely sometimes.   Loneliness, like most other feelings, is there to tell us something important. It's there to say, I yearn to connect. I want to love and closeness.   Our society tends to pathologize it by portraying lonely people as flawed, weak, or not enlightened enough; yet these are unhelpful products of our independence-valuing culture. Loneliness is normal, healthy, and universal.   Remember that the family member you see as the most independent, and both counterparts of the couple you perceive to be in the healthiest, happiest relationships, feel lonely at times. They also feel sad, angry, hurt, anxious, and inadequate at times. No matter what you're experiencing, I promise you there are hundreds of thousands of others feeling that same thing at that same time.   2. Actually, everyone is alone.   I remember a therapist once told me, "The longest relationship you'll ever have in your life is the one with yourself. So why not try to have a better relationship with yourself?" Romantic relationships end, people, die, but you're with yourself always.   Hunter S. Thompson said, "We are all alone, born alone, die alone...I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important." So remember that: you may be alone, but you are also the only person who can fully be on your team.   3. We are all connected after all.   In Buddhist philosophy, there is no self and no separation between you and me and the air we breathe and the food we eat. OK, I know this might be a tough one to grasp, but hear me further. Think about it: one moment, a plant breathes in carbon dioxide, which becomes part of the plant, which then expels oxygen, which becomes part of the air, which we then inhale, which then becomes a part of our blood. Similarly, one-moment lettuce is part of the ground, then we eat a salad and it's part of us, then.... you get the idea.   We're all connected to each other and to the rest of the universe. Perhaps this is too abstract for you to swallow, and that's fine. But don't dismiss it just yet. Observe your environment for yourself and notice how everything is connected. It will make the loneliness less acute.   4. Loneliness will always pass.   Loneliness makes each second feel longer, heavier: it feels like time is frozen and our pain is eternal. But loneliness, just like any other thought, feeling, or sensation, is impermanent. Uncomfortable as it is, remembers that it will come and go. Remind yourself of this when as you breathe through the discomfort.   5. I can make space for loneliness and practice being kind to myself.   When I'm feeling lonely, I'm tempted to turn my back to that loneliness — to beat myself up for feeling it, telling myself that I'm pathetic. Then I run away from it, perhaps to Facebook or the fridge or the nearest form of chocolate.   But sometimes, if I can catch myself on autopilot, I can look inward and offer myself a soothing statement. Something like, You're hurting right now. You want to feel something else. It will pass, but remember it's OK to feel lonely and means you're human.   In doing so, we create enough space to do react to and ease the pain of our loneliness in a more serving way, perhaps by listening to music, journaling, practicing yoga, or calling a loved one if the loneliness is momentary; or by volunteering, joining a support group or class, or reevaluating the relationships in our life if the loneliness is chronic.   Pema Chodron says, "Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in...When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down." So invite your loneliness in.   Thank you for sharing your loneliness with me and allowing me to share my loneliness with you. Although I am unable to take away the feelings of loneliness for you, I can and I am more than willing to be here for you to share your loneliness with you.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 05/25/2021

I feel always unhappy, why is it?

Dear Erin,   Thank you very much for your message.   I understand that we are going through some fluctuations with our emotions and often it can feel like we are going backwards. However the reality is that the night is always darkest before the dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is because you are trying to move forward in this healing process, therefore when you do experience any kind of anxiety or depression you begin to doubt yourself in this process.   Meanwhile, as a human being we will always have times when we feel anxious or depressed. That is normal and natural. Just like there are days that it rains, there are also days that the sun shines. This isn't a problem to be fixed.    We will only feel more depressed if we constantly compare ourselves with our old selves in the past that seemed to be happier, while we forget that back then we did not have this much on our plate to worry and we did not experience what we have experienced recently that gave us hurts and pain. Therefore it isn't fair to our current self if we always think about how to go back in time, that isn't possible anyways.   To further recover from feelings of depression and anxiety, we must constantly be thinking about how to develop a healthy, positive interaction with ourselves.   Happy relationships all depend on how happy we are with ourselves. So how happy are we?   If you feel like you're on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn't you have learned it by now?   Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you're certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.   If you haven't noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person's need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don't hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can't change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Here are 5 lessons that I learned (still learning) to find peace within ourselves and enjoy true happiness that does not depend on others.   1. Forgive Yourself   Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else's life. You can't go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you're freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment.   2. Understand That You Are Complete   And understand that, "You complete me," was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too... for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don't feel complete, and latched onto that line like it was the end-all be-all relationship concept is because we're waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole.   First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren't, no one else would be able to complete us anyway - it's impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else's hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don't realize we are the only ones who control our happiness.   Does this mean if you're unhappy it's your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you're a part of something, not just half of something. The whole "my other half" thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself?   3. Get To Know Yourself   When do you feel you're at your best when you're alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier, and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you.   Here's a personal example: I had a spider vein on my lower leg and didn't feel comfortable in shorts for years. I finally had it removed and couldn't believe how much better I felt. My posture and confidence in shorts was much improved. Some things are easily fixable and for the others we may need to adjust our perspective a bit.   What are your favorite parts of yourself - your appearance, your character traits, your values or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all.   4. Take A Good Look At Yourself   Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don't go thinking you're the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you'd like to change. I've always been shorter than most other people and would have given anything to be "normal" height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.)   What are you good at, best at and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven't done yet? What is the best thing you've ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we're asking ourselves.   5. Ask Yourself Questions   To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it's OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself.   Take time away from other people and be happily alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for fear some stranger would think I didn't have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other's company as well; we don't just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).   Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it's done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else.   I'll pause here so that I can learn from your thoughts.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 05/18/2021