The Link Between Excessive Social Media And Unhealthy Feelings

Young woman scrolling through social media on her phone

If you frequently feel anxious, stressed, sad, angry, or overwhelmed, it’s essential to identify the source of these emotions. Can you pinpoint a specific circumstance or situation that explains why you feel this way? If not, it’s possible that spending too much time on social media could be contributing to these negative emotions. Anxiety, depression, and other unhealthy feelings are often linked to excessive social media use, so it’s worth considering whether this could be a factor in your emotional state.

Years ago, I wrote a blog about limiting our exposure to negativity on social media. Little did I know then just how much more junk would be “coming down the pike.” 

Social media is here to stay

There are currently more than 20 social networks operating worldwide. However, it should come as no surprise that Facebook dominates the market. Initially created as a platform for college students to connect, it has since grown into one of the largest social networks in the world.

According to statistics, an average Facebook user has 338 friends. This implies that your newsfeed has the potential to receive contributions from at least 338 sources, including any comments posted by them. On top of that, other unwanted Facebook pages push their content on your newsfeed, along with numerous platforms you have access to. All of this combined results in an overwhelming amount of information to process.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of social media

As humans, we are social beings and require the companionship of others to flourish in life. Social media has the potential to broaden our circle of connections significantly. It offers us the chance to feel more linked, supported, and engaged, which can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as prevent loneliness and improve self-esteem. These are only some of the many advantages that social media can provide.

As we scroll through our social media feeds to keep up with loved ones, we sometimes stumble upon content we did not expect to see. While we may come across interesting and helpful content such as educational articles, inspiring stories, recipes, and funny memes, social media platforms can also be a source of disturbing, shocking, angering, and other types of unpleasant information.

Have you ever noticed how often you come across posts, articles, or videos on social media that leave you feeling upset or negative in some way? Even if you’re taking a quick break, it’s easy to stumble upon content that makes you feel sad, angry, anxious, or inferior. For example, you might be watching a cute video of your friend’s child dancing, but the next thing you see in your newsfeed could instantly ruin your mood.

Subjects leading to anxiety, depression, and unhealthy feelings

Here’s a list of the types of posts that I’m talking about that have the potential of turning any warm and fuzzy feelings you might have been feeling into hot and bothered emotions:

  • Politics, Politics, and MORE Politics
  • Multiple warnings of how to recognize the signs of various cancers or other life-threatening diseases
  • Religion
  • Sensationalized “news” stories
  • Civil unrest
  • Protests/boycotts
  • Opinions, OPINIONS, OPINIONS!

Do you recognize any of these hot-button topics? Can we all agree that each subject has the potential to evoke an emotional response? If you don’t think so, look at some threads that follow such posts to know this is true.

Social media and secondhand stress

Social media, especially Facebook, can inform people about sad or traumatic events happening in the lives of others. This includes not just close friends and family but even strangers whom we may never meet. However, this can often cause an increase in stress for many people. It’s a well-known psychological fact that stress is contagious; the anxiety and sadness of others can affect our own emotions, even if we are not directly involved in the situation. Here are a few examples:

  • Devastation worldwide by natural disasters
  • GoFundMe pages for people you don’t know who are going through traumatic situations.
  • Missing or abused animals

Have you ever considered how much time you spend on social media and how it affects your emotions? If reading this blog has made you realize that the daily influx of stressful posts could be the cause of your anxiety, depression, or other unhealthy feelings? I suggest you stay logged off for more extended periods to reduce your exposure to unnecessary and unwanted stress.

“When your mental health becomes impacted by social media, then it is time for a detox.” ― Germany Kent

Suppose you’ve been feeling any of the emotions mentioned at the beginning of this blog. In that case, it’s essential to determine the cause of your emotional distress and take action to address it. Working with a coach is an effective way to explore your emotions and learn coping strategies.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

Who Needs A Good Night’s Sleep? – Why, You Do!

A young woman in bed getting a good night's sleep.

Now that it’s January, hopefully, the busyness of the holiday season is but a distant memory. I don’t know about you, but by the end of all the planning, wrapping, cooking, and events, I usually feel I have run a marathon and am looking forward to the finish line where I can get some much-needed rest. How about you? Unfortunately, that is one present you never find wrapped under the tree – a much-needed rest. However, who says you can’t give it to yourself now? It’s not too late; in fact, it’s the perfect time to give it to yourself to start the new year right. Everyone needs a good night’s sleep. Every night!

Why we don’t get a good night’s sleep 

Because we live in such a fast-paced society, the benefits of a good night’s rest can be easily overlooked. Many of us do not make it a practice to get the sleep we need. We know the quantity and/or quality of sleep our bodies require is important. But too often, we “borrow” time from our sleep, thinking we can make it up later. Does that ever really work?

Sleep deprivation can cause mental and physical distress

Traditionally, sleep problems were once viewed as symptoms of a psychiatric disorder. However, studies now suggest that sleep problems may raise your risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression, along with physical problems, such as a weakened immune system, cardiovascular problems, and other illnesses.

Our brains need time to reboot

During the day, our brains take in a vast amount of information. And instead of that information being directly taken in and recorded, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored. It is during sleep that many of these steps happen.

Overnight, all of the information we ingest during the day is transferred from more temporary, short-term memory to more substantial, long-term memory through a process called “consolidation.” Isn’t it amazing that our brains can do that while in slumber?

Sleeping well is as essential to your health as eating, drinking, and breathing. While you sleep, your brain repairs your body — physically and mentally. In the deepest sleep stages, tissues grow, muscles relax, and energy is restored. Sleep restores hormones, skin cells, liver functions, heart health, and even more. So you see, sleeping is more than just resting after a full day — it’s more like an overall “tune-up” of our mind and body.

SIGNS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP

  • being cranky, moody, irritable, short-tempered
  • having a hard time concentrating or staying focused on tasks
  • feel like you are dragging throughout the day, excessive yawning
  • cravings for sugary or fatty foods resulting in weight gain
  • you get sick often
  • feeling forgetful
  • change in appearance, red, puffy eyes, dark circles under eyes, sallow skin
  • feeling depressed

So, what are your sleep habits? Are you consistently getting a good night’s sleep? If you are, great! If not, tonight is the right time to start! Good sleep habits can help you get the good night’s sleep you need. Here are just four habits that can help you to improve your sleep health:

1. Create and stick to a sleep schedule

It is recommended that adults get at least seven hours and usually no more than 8 hours of sleep per night. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Being consistent each night and even on the weekends will help reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you don’t fall asleep within the first 20 minutes, get out of bed and relax, such as reading or listening to soothing music. When you start to feel tired, go back to bed. This might need to be repeated.

2. Design a sleep friendly bedroom.

Your room should make you feel peaceful and relaxed. Look around. Does your room look relaxing, or does it look like a jumbled-up mess? It helps if you keep it clean and uncluttered. Also, keeping the room dark, quiet, and comfortable, usually on the cool side, is best. You should remove any electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, or smartphones, as they can hinder you from sleeping well.

3. Limit what you eat and drink before bedtime.

Eating a heavy or oversized meal within a few hours of bedtime can disrupt sleep. Once you eat, your metabolism fires up, making it difficult to fall asleep as well as sleep soundly. Coffee, sodas, teas, and even chocolate contain caffeine that can take as much as eight hours to fully wear off, so a late afternoon cup of coffee could interfere with falling asleep at night. And while you might consider an alcoholic drink to encourage sleep, it’s not the healthiest solution for a good night’s rest. Drinking can rob you of deep and REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep.

4. Get some exercise.

That is, during the day – right before bed, not so much. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night. However, try not to exercise within 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime. The activities before bedtime should be calm, such as reading, bathing, or using a relaxation technique to promote better sleep.

Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow. — Tom Roth

Many other helpful tips can help induce a good night’s sleep, such as not taking naps after 3pm, managing worries and concerns, and having a good mattress and pillow, etc. Still, the four I specifically pointed out are some biggies.

I can’t stress enough just how vital a good night’s sleep is to your physical and mental well-being. While sleeping well is not a guarantee of good health, it does help to maintain many of your body’s vital functions. There is ample evidence to show that getting the right kind and right amount of sleep each night makes you feel better and increases the odds of living a healthier, more productive life.

 If your sleep regimen needs some tweaking and you want to discover what is in the way of getting that good night’s sleep, working with a coach is an excellent way to get some much-needed answers. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Five Steps To Overcome Loneliness During The Holidays

Woman staring at christmas lights in her hand looking sad

Driving through town this time of year, you can’t miss that it’s all aglow with everyone’s unique version of holiday decorating. Whether Christmas trees glow in living rooms, twinkling orbs of color along roof lines, or yards sprouting with every lighted blow-up imaginable, it truly takes on the image of a winter wonderland! And yet, with all the extra light shining forth, it seems like the darkest time of the year for you. And you are left struggling with a sense of loneliness during the holidays.

The irony is you might even live in one of those houses with a Christmas tree shining out of the front window. And maybe you put it up because it was the expected thing to do at this time of year. Nevertheless even though your tree shines brightly, you feel you live amid the darkness.

Expectations can be a killer

You know that the expectation of the holiday season should bring about a sense of connection with family and friends — complete with beautiful decorations, friends gathering around crackling fires, laughing and bonding with family. But, it’s just not your reality. Instead, your sense of loneliness during the holidays feels overwhelming to you, and if you could, you would hibernate for the whole month of December.

Feeling lonely can make you dread the holiday season more than any other time of year. And watching everyone else (or so it can seem) connect with their loved ones makes your feeling of emotional isolation even more pronounced.

Reasons for loneliness

The reasons for this loneliness can vary but possibly could stem from the loss of a loved one either through death, divorce, separation by long distance, or other circumstances. Or, perhaps the thought of getting to know people makes you uncomfortable. Whatever the case may be, the struggle is real in dealing with loneliness and sadness this time of year.

You might feel that you are alone in your feelings. You are not! Many people deal with loneliness and sadness through the holidays. It is actually quite common. And while you might not be able to rearrange your life to match your imagination of a perfect holiday, you can feel better by learning to approach the season differently. Therefore, I offer some suggestions on how to deal with the loneliness so that you can make your Christmas holiday a little more merrier.

5 Steps To Deal With Loneliness During The Holidays

  • SEEK OUT COMPANY – Loneliness feeds on itself and can overwhelm you if you are not careful. So, the best way to deal with it is to override the instinct to isolate yourself. Call a close friend or family member and go out for coffee or go shopping. Push yourself to get out in society or attend holiday celebrations.
  • VOLUNTEER – Many charitable causes and events provide services to the less fortunate, especially during the holidays. Serving others in need often helps you switch from being inward to outward-focused. It may also help you to realize that your situation might not be as bad as you think. Helping to make the season merrier for others in need can bring about a sense of fulfillment and happiness in your own life.
  • DON’T PLAY THE COMPARISON GAME – When you feel lonely, comparing your situation with everyone else can be easy but also problematic. “TRUST ME,” no one is experiencing the perfect Hallmark holiday season. What you see on TV is a make-believe (and very unrealistic), always happy-ending storyline. You don’t see the actors’ real personalities or the ups and downs of their personal lives. And those Facebook pictures? Just know most of them are edited and polished versions.
  • HONOR YOUR FEELINGS – Having experienced a loss or dealt with exceptionally hurtful situations in the past, feelings of loneliness or sadness are normal responses to what you have been through. Permit yourself to feel those feelings. However, I would like to add that if you can’t sometimes separate yourself from those feelings and instead find yourself engulfed by them, it could indicate a problem.
  • SHIFT YOUR FOCUS – Try redirecting your thoughts to what you do have instead of what you don’t have. Sometimes, you feel incomplete and unfulfilled because you forget to acknowledge any of the blessings and opportunities that have come your way in the last year. Changing your mindset can go a long way in easing those negative feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.

“A season of loneliness and isolation is when the caterpillar gets its wings. Remember that next time you feel alone.” —Mandy Hale

I hope you find these suggestions valuable for coping with your loneliness and unhappiness during this season of merriment and the days beyond. However, suppose you continue to struggle with profound loneliness. In that case, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills that can help manage unhealthy emotions. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. Please contact me or schedule your phone call today. Let’s explore your feelings and work towards finding some light to overcome any darkness.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

4 Things That Can Keep You From Being Thankful

Woman smiling at the table being thankful

So here we are in November already (big sigh). And because the holiday of the month is Thanksgiving, my chant for the month will be, “will be thankful! ” (That is, thankful that spring and summer will come again!) Whatever! Back to Thanksgiving. Even though there are different theories on when and how the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, most people understand it to be a day of giving thanks. But what do you do when you just don’t feel like being thankful? 

I get it! Life can undoubtedly deliver setbacks to us all, such as grief over a loss, rocky finances, sour relationships, loneliness, health issues (physical or mental), etc. And the very last thing a person dealing with these types of issues might feel like doing is celebrating by giving thanks. If you are one of those individuals, I hope after reading this blog, you will have found something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and beyond.

However, before I go any further, I want to be clear about something first. Suppose you are genuinely experiencing a dire situation right now. In that case, I don’t want to come across as being flippant or uncaring. There really are times when overwhelming grief or sadness are the appropriate emotions. This blog is more for the person who is just in a general “funk,” shall we say, regarding the holiday as being a time to give thanks.

HOW NEED CAN BE THE CATALYST TO BEING THANKFUL

Imagine living in a world where we wanted nothing or nothing ever went wrong. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? You might think so, but then how would we ever learn to be grateful if we never experienced need? Have you ever really thought about it? Let’s talk about this for a second.

The first settlers that came to America endured many hardships. From sailing the dangerous seas to settling in a land of the unknowns, times were tough! After landing, they had to survive the harsh winter with little food. After losing so many to disease and starvation, those left in the spring planted their crops. After reaping their first successful harvest, it’s not hard to imagine how grateful they were, knowing they would have food to sustain them through the following winter.

If we never experienced hunger, how could we appreciate the food set before us? If we had millions in the bank and financially had no worries, how giddy would we be to find a $50 bill? Suppose we drove the latest model of vehicle on the market. How willing would we be to accept a donated or inexpensive car so we could get around town? If we never had an ache or illness, what would pain relievers or medical technology mean to us? If we never lost a loved one, how would we learn to cherish and hold dear those who have been put into our lives? 

Sometimes, we have so much at our disposal that we tend to take “stuff” for granted. It’s easy to do. And yet, unfortunately, we don’t run out of things to complain about or be unthankful for either. 

SNEAKY THINGS THAT CAN KEEP YOU FROM BEING THANKFUL

  1. Envy  This can be a big one, and it can be ugly. Comparing yourself or your “possessions” to others is a surefire way to feel inadequate, depressed, or a failure. 
  2. Dwelling on what you don’t have – When you are so focused on what you don’t have, it’s harder to see and be thankful for what you do have. 
  3. Hanging on to the past (hurts, let-downs, injustices) – In the world of psychology, there is a term called rumination. It literally means “Chewing the cud.” It’s what cows do—Chew, swallow, regurgitate, re-chew. It’s suitable for cattle but not so much for humans. Ruminating is like a stuck record that keeps repeating the same lyrics. 
  4. Fear of what being grateful might bring – Say what? Yes, some people excel at focusing on their suffering (and sharing it, I might add). It’s a way of life for them to constantly complain, hold regular self-pity parties, and play the martyr. Changing would mean stopping these behaviors and having to acknowledge others’ difficulties and find something else to talk about instead of their own problems. So, for them to be grateful, it could turn their lives upside down, but in a good way!

So now, to answer what to do if you don’t feel thankful. Dig deep and really look at your life. Consider all the things you should and can be grateful for. They are there! Everyone, everywhere, has something to be thankful for. Look past the challenges before you (I know they are there.) If, after looking around, the only thing you can be grateful for is that you had just enough milk to cover your cereal this morning, then “Bye, Golly! Be thankful for that!” 

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS, NOT YOUR PROBLEMS

I have an exercise for you. Get a pen and paper. Write down all the things you can think of that you can be thankful for. Don’t overlook anything! Even things we tend to take for granted, from biggies like food and water, electricity, transportation, nature, family, and friends, right down to things like socks without holes. You should do this for a couple of days as different things come to your mind. Then, I want you to contemplate what your life would be like without those things you wrote down. I believe it will seem pretty grim. So, do you have anything to be thankful for? 

Gratitude helps us to appreciate the moment in front of us, even during trying times. It contributes to increased physical and mental health. While it doesn’t take away the challenges we face, it will help us to see life in the best possible light. I hope this makes sense to you, but this thought just came to me: the nose that smells a skunk also has the ability to smell a rose. So go out there and look for some “roses.”

 “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” — Frank A. Clark

Maybe you struggle to be in a thankful mood and can’t quite figure out why. In that case, working with a coach is a great way to explore your emotions and work together on devising a plan to move forward.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And even though it’s November, I believe we can still find you a “rose” garden to tend to. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This article first appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan

The Tricks And Treats Of Seasonal Eating

Beautiful girl siting outside in the fall leaves

Well, we’ve flipped over another calendar page, and “Hello, October.” I’ll admit that I hate to see my summer packed up and stored away. However, I do appreciate the changing seasons and the experiences they bring. I am also aware that this time of year provides many opportunities (or should I say temptations) for some unhealthy seasonal eating, which carries a level of anxiety for some. 

We all know every season has its temptations, but I think for the majority, these coming months can prove to be especially trying; otherwise, there wouldn’t be memes like this one:

“I was gonna start dieting, but Halloween is coming up, then Thanksgiving and Christmas candy. Before you know it, it’s BBQ season again, and I’m not about to turn down a cheeseburger.” — Anonymous

Seasonal eating

Since childhood, Halloween has always been the official “kick-off” of the holiday season for me. I’m sure it had something to do with my anticipation of having a bulging pillowcase full of candy stashed in my bedroom by night’s end. Ahh, those were the days of ignorant nutritional bliss!

While I might not be gorging on an unhealthy amount of candy as an adult, the cooler weather tempts me to switch up my daily menus to include some comfort foods and put me in the mood to bake more goodies in the oven. 

And how about those coffee shops like Starbucks tempting us to drive through and pick up their latest seasonal drink? Here’s a fun fact for you: a grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks has 50 grams of sugar and 14 grams of fat. And that’s without the whipped cream! Now toss in a pumpkin muffin and a couple of candy bars throughout the day (that you bought for the trick-or-treaters, wink-wink), and the extra sugar and calories consumed by nightfall could be called downright spooky!

So, does that mean we should avoid seasonal dishes or not enjoy some fall goodies? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, let’s love ourselves more than the offerings and be mindful of just how easy it is to let those extra calories “creep” in. Below are some tips that will hopefully help you (and me) to not “fall” in the fall: 

Be mindful that eating increases in the fall

We eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall. Maybe it’s a biological thing—putting on weight in preparation for the potential winter famine our ancestors faced. Or, could it simply be because fatty, high-calorie foods are more readily available during these colder months? You know, caramel apples, heavy pasta dishes, or pumpkin pie. Whatever the case, starting the season with a mindful approach will keep you a step ahead.

Eat the autumnal colors  

Seasonal eating can be healthy. Autumn is the season of warm, vibrant colors like deep green, dark yellows, and brilliant oranges. Nurture yourself by eating fresh seasonal foods. They are packed with great nutrients like fiber, protein, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, which are good for you.

Set goals and limits 

Remember to be realistic. Moderation is the key! If goals are more open and specific, it will be much easier to rise to the challenge. Establish clear nutrition and health goals (dessert two times a week, one cookie instead of two, a thirty-minute walk five times a week, etc.) 

Pay attention to your wardrobe 

Now that your shorts and sandals are put away, it’s time for roomy sweaters, sweatshirts, and stretchy leggings. It’s easy to lose touch with your body when you are all cozily wrapped up. So remember to break out your favorite jeans, and if they start feeling a little too snug, you will have your first clue that your goals and limits need a little tweaking.

Get outside

Fall is the perfect time of year to get outside and go for a walk or take a bike ride. It’s an enjoyable and easy way to balance out your holiday treats to avoid the dreaded fall weight gain. It’s also a great mood booster to boot.

Keep the stress under control

This time of year brings a certain energy as well as stress with it. The laidback atmosphere of summer is replaced with a building sense of hustle and bustle as we work out new schedules, school, and sports activities for our kids, to name a few. And let’s not forget the upcoming, often stressful holiday expectations knocking on our doors.

A little stress is okay and can be motivating to accomplish tasks. However, persistent stress causes your cortisol levels to rise. And yes, you will feel motivated, but your appetite will also increase. And what kinds of food are you drawn to when under stress? You guessed it, “Feel good” foods. That is, foods high in fat, sugar and salt. It’s called “stress-eating”.

So, with that, I really do encourage you to be mindful in the months ahead. Be good to yourself, make wise decisions regarding the celebrations, and manage your stress level. By all means, celebrate to your heart’s content. But if you are mindful at the beginning of fall seasonal eating, you won’t end the season with regret. And that’s a win! 

If you want assistance in finding ways to navigate this tricky season of treats, working with a coach is an excellent way to develop techniques you can use now and every season throughout the year.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’m looking forward to your call!

In The Pursuit Of Happiness You Can’t Excape The Pain

Smiling woman in the dark holding a lighted umbrella

The pursuit of Happiness: As Americans, we all have the right to pursue happiness. It even says so in the Declaration of Independence. However, what the founding fathers were talking about then is quite different from what the average American today considers happiness to be.

What Is Happiness?

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines happiness as “a state of being happy” or “an experience that makes you happy.” That seemed too simplistic, so I looked up the word in other dictionaries, and they all said the same thing. I kept digging until I could find something a little meatier. And then, I came upon a definition on Wikipedia that summed it up well for me. It said that happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. 

Sometimes, Happiness Is Found In The Little Things

That definition reminded me of an incident involving my dad many years ago. My family was vacationing at a cottage on a lake with other family members. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining down on the lake, making it look like glass. My dad eased himself down in a chair and leaned back with a cup of coffee in one hand and a donut in the other. With a massive grin, he leaned back, let out a happy sigh, and stated, “Life is good!”

At that exact moment, all the circumstances had come together for him, and he was experiencing a state of being happy. That didn’t mean that everything in his life was perfect or he had no problems. It just meant that the simple experience he was enjoying at that moment translated into a period of happiness.

You notice that I said a (period) of happiness. Obviously, that donut and coffee would only last for a short time. My dad also knew he had to go home at the end of the week. And anyone who has gone on vacation knows when it’s over, and you walk back into your home, “life” has been waiting for you to pick it back up where you left it the week before. And, as we all know, life is a mixed bag of ups and downs. It is unrealistic to think that we can stay in a state of happiness all the time, even though we might think we should be able to.

True Happiness Isn’t About Being Happy All The Time

Let’s take my dad’s experience, for example. Most of us can envision staying lakeside surrounded by loved family members, feeling happy as a clam (and let’s not forget the coffee and donuts). But what if he had to repeat that experience every morning? How long do you think it would take before the novelty of the experience starts to wear off, and he starts complaining, “Is this all we have to eat, a donut?” 

Think of the adventures in your life that made you over-the-top happy. Maybe it was a new car, you got a raise, or you moved into a new house. Can you see where I am going with this? Eventually, that new car will get older and break down; your raise won’t quite meet your needs that you thought it would, and that new house? Well, you quickly found out your next-door neighbors had three dogs that barked all day, and their teenagers loved to play hard rock music loud enough to rattle your windows.

So, let’s go back to one of the definitions of happiness, which states, “Happiness is an experience that makes you happy.” Even though we might think we would like to be happy all the time, it is illogical to think we could. Pleasure alone cannot make us happy. Although endless fun seems idyllic, the reality is often very different. 

Everyone wants happiness, and nobody wants pain, but you can’t have a rainbow without a bit of rain. – Anonymous 

Experiencing something painful provides a contrast for pleasure. Nobody asks for pain or goes looking for it. Still, studies have shown that experiencing relief from pain can increase our feelings of happiness and also reduce our feelings of sadness. Pain may not be a pleasurable experience in itself. Still, it builds our pleasure in ways that pleasure alone cannot achieve.

How Pain Can Bring Happiness

Let me give you a personal example. Years ago, when my husband proposed to me and gave me a diamond engagement ring, I was ecstatic. I showed it to everyone and constantly looked at it in different lights to marvel at the different colors that would shine out of it. But over the years, I stopped doing that. Eventually, it just became a normal part of life — not even feeling it on my finger. Then, one day, I noticed the diamond was missing. Needless to say, I was devastated. We looked everywhere for it, even tracing our steps in a mall we had been to. Even though we could have bought another diamond to replace it, for sentimental reasons, I wanted THAT diamond. I was heartbroken that we couldn’t find it.

I don’t remember now how long I went without the diamond. Still, I DO remember the night sitting on the couch with my husband talking when suddenly he exclaimed, “Look,” and reached down and picked up something (from the shag carpet, I know, that dates me) and held it out to me. It’s hard to believe, but I was staring at my missing diamond!

As you can imagine, I was over the top happy. And in some ways, I was even more pleased than when he gave it to me the first time. All because I felt pain when I thought it was gone forever. In this instance, the pain enhanced the pleasure and happiness I felt.

Embrace The Good, The Bad, And Everything In Between

Yes, happiness ranks high on the list of desires of all human beings. But even if we could have everything we ever wanted, we would still be subject to life’s highs and lows. What is important is how we respond to the circumstances of our lives. That has more influence on our happiness than the events themselves. If we don’t learn to enjoy the little things in life, our well-being will parallel our life’s circumstances. Every time something goes wrong, we will feel miserable (as opposed to disappointed but determined to make the best of things).

We all need to work on a skill for consistent, long-term happiness: to think about the things that fill us with the most joy, focus on those things, and let them brighten our day. That way, no matter what changes, we all will have a variety of simple pleasures to draw from to get us through the bad times.

If you are struggling with the ups and downs of life and would like someone to help you put things into perspective, you will find working with a coach very beneficial. We can talk about pain and happiness and how they work together so you can live life from a more happy and balanced mindset.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know I am here to help. Please contact me or schedule your phone call today. I look forward to your call!

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

How To Handle A Chronic Complainer – Even If It’s You

Frustrated woman dealing with her chronic complaining co-worker.

In my last blog, I talked about three kinds of complainers and the negative effect chronic complaining can have on your physical and mental well-being. As promised, in this blog, we will learn how to deal with a chronic complainer and if there is such a thing as “the right way” to complain.

Are you a chronic complainer?

How many times throughout the day do you find yourself complaining? Indeed, there are endless things to complain about; the weather, neighbors, friends, kids, parents, boss, co-workers, bills, weight, politics, and inferior service at a restaurant, store, or repair shop. And then there’s everyone’s favorite — overseas customer service for cable, internet, or telephone providers (don’t even get me started)!

As you can see, the list could go on forever. So, what do you think? Do you complain more than you should? Or do you live or work with someone whose primary form of communication seems to be complaining? Either way, let’s look at how to deal with both.

4 STEPS TO STOP BEING A CHRONIC COMPLAINER

1. Listen to yourself.

Most complainers don’t see (or hear) themselves as being negative. So, the first and most important step is to listen to yourself and note how much you complain. 

2. Stop and take a breath.

When you catch yourself starting to complain, pause, and take a moment to figure out what triggered the complaint. Then describe to yourself what you are thinking and feeling. Ask yourself if there is a purpose in complaining. In other words, do you see a positive outcome by complaining?

3. Accept responsibility. 

After you have taken a breather and figured out the emotions behind your complaint, seek a solution. Determine what you can do to improve the situation. Then address the people who can do something about it. However, the person who can do something about it frequently is the person you see in the mirror. For example, cutting ties to a bad relationship, better time management, sticking to a budget or taking better care of yourself. Despite the problem concerning you, remember the power to take control and do something about it lies within yourself.

4. Create new habits. 

When an old complaint rises to the surface, avoid falling back into past behavior. Make a new habit by seeing if you can look at it with a positive twist. For example, suppose it’s been raining for three days straight. Instead of whining about it, make it positive by saying, “Well, at least it’s rain and my grass is getting greener and not snow piling up waiting to be shoveled.” (For us Michiganders, that is a BIG plus.) This way, focusing on the positive rather than the negative can improve your mood and maybe change your life!

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE CHRONIC COMPLAINER

Because chronic complainers are typically resistant to solutions, living or working with them can sometimes be quite taxing. The key to dealing with them is to try to understand their mindset. 

Chronic complainers view the world rather than themselves as being negative. Hence, they feel justified in complaining about their irritating and unfair circumstances. 

Therefore, you won’t be too successful in convincing them that their circumstances aren’t as dire as they believe. In fact, if you try, you’ll quickly discover they have a boatload of other troubles to try to convince you otherwise. Therefore, try using one of the three tips below to see if you can get a more favorable outcome.

3 TIPS TO DEAL WITH THE CHRONIC COMPLAINER

1. Give them what they want. 

The main reason complainers complain is to get sympathy and emotional validation for their perceived difficulties, so go ahead and give them what they want. You will find the best and quickest way to shorten the complaint session is to validate their feelings, convey sympathy, and then redirect their attention in another direction.

2. Recognize a genuine call for help. 

Even chronic complainers will have valid and legitimate complaints at some point. If you sense they really want help, still offer sympathy but quickly follow it up with pertinent advice. Or better yet, ask them what it would look like if they could have the perfect outcome for their situation. Then have them think of some things they could do to make it happen. This process will likely motivate them to handle future complaints as well.

3. Set some boundaries. 

And finally, when the chronic complainer is someone close to you, setting some boundaries is essential. Let them know you want to be there for them, but having the same conversation repeatedly is not doing either of you any good. Be open and honest with them about the effect the complaining has on you. Convey that even though you would like to help them, the constant complaining is also causing you to become stressed. You might encourage them to talk to someone qualified to help them manage their issues more successfully.

And lastly, learn to complain the right way. 

When you have a legitimate complaint, go to the person with the authority to do something about it. To be most effective, stick to the facts and know what you want for your desired outcome. 

There will be other times when you need to vent, and that’s okay! It’s actually healthy for you to do this when you do it in the right way. So, go ahead and find someone you can trust and blow off a little steam. Voicing frustrations in small doses can be a great stress reliever. However, make sure those vent sessions don’t turn into a cycle of complaining to anyone and everyone without the purpose of resolving your issues. 

“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle

If you know you spend too much time in the complaint department and are tired of getting nowhere, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn techniques to change your mindset and make much-needed changes that can have meaningful consequences on your life.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, and I am here to help. I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together we can work to uncover the hidden feelings leading to this behavior and find a solution for a better and more optimal outcome.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Could Complaining Be An Unhealthy Habit?

Woman complaining to her husband

Most of us know that certain habits like smoking, overeating junk food, or lying on the couch all day contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle. But what about complaining? Could complaining be an unhealthy habit? Well, it could be. It depends on what kind of complainer you are.

Have you ever paid attention to your daily communication? Or, how much of your conversations contain complaints or negativity? You might be surprised to learn that complaining has the potential to be another bad habit that can wreak havoc on your health.

Three definitions of the word complain

1) To say that something is wrong or not satisfactory — (Cambridge English Dictionary)

2) To express grief, pain, or discontent — (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

3) To express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault — (Dictionary.com)

Many years ago, my husband and I went out for dinner at a then-popular restaurant in town. I ordered a specialty hamburger that looked and smelled delicious when it came to the table. However, after the first bite (and here I apologize in advance), I discovered a foreign object in my food. Okay, if you must know—it was a long black hair. I know I know, I said I was sorry! 

Of course, I complained to the powers that be because something was definitely wrong and needed to be corrected. The waitress was as repulsed as I was. Ironically, my family was unaffected and proceeded to enjoy their meal. However, I chose to sit and sip my water, refusing to get anything to replace the hairy burger. Needless to say, even though I knew it was an unfortunate accident, I never could go back there. Truthfully, I may still be traumatized by the dining disaster.

3 Types Of Complainers

  • Venters
  • Problem Solvers
  • Chronic Complainers

Venters express emotional dissatisfaction (frustration, anger, disappointment, etc.) about particular experiences. Venting (blowing off steam) helps to relieve the inner tension they feel from a difficult situation. They vent, looking to receive attention and sympathy from their friends. They aren’t necessarily looking for advice or a solution to the problem; they want validation for their feelings.

Problem Solvers look at the problem, know it is vital to change it and create a plan to do so. Unfortunately, as one study suggested, these types of complaints make up fewer than 25 percent of all complaints.

Chronic complainers never seem to be satisfied but love to dwell on the problem and ignore solutions. They really feel their lives are full of hardship and challenges. They also seek sympathy and emotional validation.

My complaint at the restaurant obviously fell under the “problem solver” category. However, I will admit I have done my fair share of “venting” in other instances. Complaining comes naturally, and we all do it to some degree. In fact, without having to be taught, we start complaining while we are yet but mere children. I’m sure every child knows the phrase, “Quit your complaining!” And Lord only knows how many times we’ve uttered the phrase as a parent. And yet, the beat goes on!

Why Do We Complain?

Well, to begin with, it’s easy. And most people need to realize how often they do it. For them, it’s just become an old habit, and like most habits, it becomes second nature. Others find complaining an easy way to start a conversation or create a bond with those around them (a long line at the cashier, the traffic, the weather, etc.) Or some complain because it’s easier than finding and carrying out a solution, thereby avoiding responsibility. But mostly, people are just looking for validation for what they are going through. 

Can You Complain Too Much?

Yes, you can! Chronic complainers—you know who they are. When you see them coming, you’re weary before they even start talking. Nothing is ever good enough for them, and there’s always something wrong. Their focus is on the problem, and they ignore any solution offered.

As I stated before, most chronic complainers believe their lives are full of hardships and challenges, always getting the short end of the stick. And in truth, some people do have extra challenges in life. However, here, I am not speaking about such cases. Chronic complainers’ perceptions of their hardships are deeply seated in their sense of identity. If you were to come up with solutions to their problems, they would not be happy to hear them. Why? Because resolving the issues would then remove the public recognition of their hardships and threaten their identity and sense of self. They may even get upset with you and lament that you don’t understand their problems’ complexity.

Adverse Health Effects Of Complaining

Over time constant complaining can have a tremendous, although negative, impact on your brain function and adversely affect your physical well-being. When you complain repeatedly, your brain rewires to make future complaining more likely. It’s a process scientists like to describe as “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” And before you know it, being negative will be easier than being positive, regardless of your situation. 

Chronic complaining leaves you with a life full of dissatisfaction and frustrations. And suppose you believe you are powerless to do anything about your situation. In that case, it leaves you feeling helpless, hopeless, and like a victim. With your life so full of complaints, the frustrations and feelings of helplessness accumulate over time, eventually impacting your mood, self-esteem, and overall mental health.

The effects of excess complaining also take a toll on your physical health. How can that be, you ask? Well, It’s as simple as this: As you rattle on with all of your complaints, the more your cortisol (stress hormone) levels increase. Over time, it weakens your immune system, raises your blood pressure, and increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other adverse maladies.

“What’s the use of complaining about something you have no intentions of changing?” ― Mario L Castellanos

Often, the problems we complain about need solutions. And yes, sometimes our complaints are justified. But, while chronic complaining is not helpful, neither is suppressing your thoughts and feelings. Both can lead to long-term stress and health problems. 

Stay tuned for my next blog to learn how to deal with chronic complaining and if there is such a thing as “the right way” to complain. And in the meantime, if you are stuck in a cycle of complaining, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn techniques to change your mindset and make much-needed changes that can have meaningful consequences on your life.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, and I am here to help. I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Relationships: Healthy Responses To Conflicts And Skills To Deal With It

Asian man and woman in a disagreement needing healthy responses to conflicts in their relationship.

If you are in or have been in a relationship with someone, you have experienced conflicts. And disagreements are bound to happen even in the best of relationships. Because when you put two people together, it’s a sure bet they will occasionally have differing opinions. So learning how to have healthy responses to conflicts rather than avoiding them is crucial.

Things can certainly get dicey when conflicts arise. I think of the TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond. Ray and Debra could fight like no other. However, if they were married in real life and acted that way, significant harm would have unquestionably come to the relationship. So while the make-believe fights were hysterical on TV, I recommend handling them more respectfully and positively to strengthen the bond between those involved. I can only cover some things there is to know about resolving conflicts in one blog. Still, I can give you some healthy ways to respond when you dispute with a relational partner.

HEALTHY RESPONSES TO CONFLICTS

Being able to recognize and respond to important matters

It’s vital to come together to discuss both sides of the issue. Explain to each other exactly what the conflict involves. At this stage, you say what you want and listen to what your partner wants.

The ability to seek compromise and avoid punishing

A healthy relationship involves a give-and-take mentality. In other words, compromise. If you expect to get what you want 100% of the time, you will only set yourself up for disappointment. Compromising takes each person doing their part to ensure a reasonable exchange.

In regards to punishing, sometimes, out of hurt or anger, people want to punish the other person when they don’t get their way during a conflict. This response not only does nothing to help the situation but, in fact, makes the situation far worse and causes more hurtful feelings.

Having the willingness to forgive and forget

This might be one of the harder healthy responses to conflicts. However, resolving the conflict is impossible if you are unwilling or unable to forgive. Holding onto grudges from past hurts or resentments makes it extremely hard to focus on the current situation. Unfortunately, our brains do not come equipped with a reset button regarding forgetting. We cannot just press “erase” and “reset” to clear out all unpleasant memories. 

So when I say “forgive and forget,” it doesn’t mean you will not remember a past offense. It just means that after you forgive, you choose to remember with no ill will toward the other person. It’s important to remember when you can’t forgive someone, it is a weight that YOU carry that will negatively affect your life and the people around you.

A belief that resolution can support the interests and needs of both parties 

Both partners must view their conflict as a problem to be solved by them. It isn’t about one or the other getting the best deal for themselves but finding the best solution for them. They each have to actively participate and make an effort and commitment to work hard together, finding fair and acceptable solutions to both as the goal.

SKILLS TO UTILIZE DURING A CONFLICT

Manage stress while remaining calm

Managing and relieving stress in the heat of the moment is key to staying balanced, focused, and in control of yourself. Otherwise, you will become overwhelmed and need help to respond healthily and constructively. The best way to quickly and reliably relieve stress other than talking to someone close by is through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. However, because each person responds differently to sensory input, you need to discover things that are soothing to you.

By staying calm, you will be more in tune with your feelings. In addition, you will also be able to hear what the other person is saying and be able to pick up on their non-verbal communication as well. 

Having emotional awareness

Emotions drive our behavior. But, many individuals don’t know how or why they feel a certain way. So for them, they are likely to need help communicating effectively or resolving disagreements. Even though it sounds simple enough, not everyone is in touch with their own feelings. Many ignore or try to stifle strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. However, connecting to these feelings is essential to handling conflict and enjoying better relationships.

Control your emotions and behavior

Be open, honest, and remain respectful. Communicate your needs without threats, deception, manipulation, or attempts at punishing the other person. Mutual trust is a fundamental issue in a healthy, long-term relationship; neither partner should do anything to weaken it.

Having a negative or distrustful attitude is harmful to this process. Likewise, approaching the conflict with a superior (hard-nosed) attitude or a feeling of inferiority (being a soft touch) is also detrimental.

Pay attention to non-verbal communication

Have you ever been conversing with someone and heard their words but believed they were saying something different with their facial expressions or body movement? 

Sometimes the most important information exchanged during conflicts is communicated non-verbally. When we can “listen” for what is felt as well as what is being, “said,” we can connect more deeply to our own needs and emotions as well as to other people. Listening this way can help you determine what the other person is trying to communicate. 

Responding in a calm tone of voice, a reassuring touch, or a curious or engaged facial expression goes a long way toward easing a strained exchange. Your ability to accurately read another person depends on your own emotional awareness. Therefore, the more you are aware of your own emotions, the easier it will be for you to pick up on the non-verbal clues that can reveal what others are feeling.

Use humor

Once you control stress and emotion, your capacity for joy, pleasure, and playfulness is set free. You can avoid many confrontations and resolve conflicts by communicating humorously. However, let me make this perfectly clear. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you laugh with the other person and not at them. Otherwise, you will set off a whole new round of fighting, if you know what I mean.

When humor and play are used to lessen tension and anger or put the situation into perspective, the conflict becomes an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.

“Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit. Conflict avoidance is NOT the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems and poor communication.” – Harriet B. Braiker

Most people would like to resolve their conflicts healthily, but for some, for various reasons, they have never learned how. And while the concept of “healthy conflict resolution” is easy to understand intellectually, it is not as easy to apply and use consistently. It can, however, become easier once the skills and trust are developed.

So, are you struggling with healthy responses to conflicts and wanting to explore better ways to resolve disputes positively and healthily? In that case, along with the tips listed above, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn additional techniques to enhance your conflict resolution skills. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, and I am here to help. Please contact me or schedule your phone call today. And I look forward to offering you more personalized support as you develop the skills to have strong, healthy, and successful relationships moving forward.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

4 Effective Communication Skills For Enhancing Your Relationships

Co-workers sitting around a table using effective communication skills

Communication is one of life’s most essential skills. It’s a fundamental pillar of any relationship. And while we all talk and listen, how efficiently we carry that out is up for debate. Nevertheless, effective communication is vital to a healthy and happy relational partnership.

Within a relationship, two emotional human beings bring their own experiences, history, and expectations with different levels of communication skills. The good news is effective communication is a skill you can always learn and improve upon. 

Communication is a learned skill

We all began learning how to communicate as young tots. As a parent, I couldn’t wait until my children said their first words. So I would coax and praise them when they started talking. And when they began stringing words together to form sentences, I was sure I had birthed geniuses. But unfortunately, I don’t think I put as much effort into teaching them how to listen. In fact, as time went on, it became abundantly clear I had not!

Because we all learn how to communicate uniquely, it can be curious or frustrating when we find ourselves not being understood by the person we are trying to relate to.

Indeed, we can all attest that just because we hear someone talking to us does not always mean that we are listening to them. And unfortunately, some of us are much better at talking than listening. So, to have good communication in your relationship, you need to have both.

What is effective communication?

Authentic communication is so much more than just swapping information. It’s about grasping the emotion and intentions behind the statement. Effective communication is a two-way street. You want to convey your message so that it is received and understood precisely how you intended. Likewise, you want to listen in a way that enables you to gain the whole meaning of what is being said to make the other person feel heard and understood.

How to improve your communication skills

1 . Become an engaged listener  

People tend to focus only on what they want to say. Still, effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening means understanding the information and emotions the speaker is trying to communicate to you. When genuinely engaged in what is being said, you will pick up on the subtle intonations in someone’s voice that tells you how that person is feeling, making them feel heard and understood, which can then help build a more robust and deeper connection. 

2. Pay attention to nonverbal signals  

We’ve all heard the adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” especially when we deeply care about what we are trying to communicate. The way we look, listen, and react to another person tells them more about how we feel than words alone can ever do. And if you have ever been on the receiving end of an eye roll, I’m sure you will heartily agree that this is true.  

Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement gestures, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, breathing patterns, and even muscle tension. These signals indicate to the person you are communicating with if you are being truthful, whether or not you care, and how well you listen. When your nonverbal signals correspond with your words, they bring clarity, trust, and respect to the relationship. Conversely, nonverbal cues that don’t match your words can generate mistrust, tension, and confusion.

Understanding and using nonverbal communication can help you communicate what you mean, connect with others, work through challenging situations, and build better relationships with those at home and in general. 

3. Stay calm and in the present

Disagreements will happen. And when they do, you must be aware of and control your emotions. For example, suppose you are already feeling stressed about something. In that case, you are more likely to misread the other person and respond in a way you might regret later. Therefore, remaining calm will, in many cases, help the other person to stay calm. If need be, take a moment to destress yourself and the situation by taking a break until you feel relaxed enough to go forward. 

As far as staying in the present, stay on topic. Too often, when we are upset, we find ourselves bringing up past offenses and using them as ammunition to try and win the argument. That is not the time to bring up old hurts. Save that for another time when you are not in the middle of a dispute, keeping it from escalating and growing larger. 

4. Create and maintain a respectful relationship

Mutual respect is a straightforward concept. It means that you treat your partner thoughtfully and courteously. However, sustaining respect throughout a relationship takes effort. Because we are human, if someone begins to treat us negatively, inconsiderately, and disrespectfully, we tend to respond in kind. When you set that pattern, it feeds on itself. The disrespect grows until most interactions contain sarcasm, inconsideration, criticism, accusatory, and demeaning behavior. Sometimes the lack of respect isn’t so apparent, though. Ignoring your partner or indifferently responding might be more subtle but is equally corrosive to the relationship. 

Everyone desires to be valued for who they are and what they bring to the relationship—mutual differences in thoughts, feelings, and values being accepted and respected. When disagreements arise, it’s okay to be angry, but you should also remain respectful. And if you need to express a negative thought, you can do it positively. You can be assertive by expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs openly and honestly while respecting others and not being aggressive, hostile, or demanding. Effective communication is not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others but understanding the other person.

Ask most therapists, and they will tell you that good communication is at the heart of any successful relationship–Sophie Winters

Developing your communication skills and abilities is a lifelong process. And while nobody is a perfect communicator, you can work to communicate better by trying a few of these suggestions. In addition, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn additional techniques to enhance communication skills.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you are looking for better communication in your relationships, consider being the one making an effort to improve, which hopefully will encourage the other to come along for the ride. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.