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.


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!


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.


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 — (

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.


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.


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.

7 Tips To Help You Cope With The Unexpected

Distressed woman looking down over a brown rail trying to cope with the unexpected.

Have you experienced cruising through life with things going smoothly, and you hit a bump in the road out of nowhere, causing you to slow down or even come to a screeching halt? Of course, I am referring to being confronted with an event that has stretched the limits of your average ability to cope with the unexpected making it hard for you to continue your daily routine. 

Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, divorce, serious illness, or experiencing a stressful or traumatic event such as a crime, accident, or natural disaster could all be considered a stressful situation that overwhelms your usual coping mechanisms. The event could even be perceived as being positive (marriage, starting a new job), but the stress associated with the event has exceeded your ability to cope with the unexpected.

The event doesn’t necessarily have to happen to you, it could happen to a loved one, and you are affected by watching them go through it.

We naturally experience emotional and mental responses when we go through these situations. But, of course, every person reacts differently, and there really is no right or wrong way to feel. You might even find yourself saying, “I feel depressed.” But are you experiencing true depression?

Situational depression. What is it?

What you could be experiencing is called Situational Depression which is a short-term condition that occurs when a person has great difficulty coping with or adjusting to a particular source of stress like those mentioned above. It has also been referred to as adjustment disorder rather than true depression. However, that does not mean you should ignore it. If situational depression goes untreated, it could develop into major depression.

So, are you having a hard time coping with the unexpected?

Ask yourself if you have any of these symptoms of situational depression:

  • Weight loss or gain — increase or decrease in appetite
  • A depressed mood
  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling restless or slowed down
  • Trouble concentrating or difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of excessive guilt 
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, thoughts of suicide with or without a plan


Have you had a stressful situation occur within the last three months before your symptoms developed?


Do you think your symptoms are worse than expected, or are you having trouble functioning in your job, school, or social relationships?

Suppose you can answer yes to these questions. In that case, you probably are experiencing situational depression. You could benefit from therapy or, at the very least, some self-help efforts to make you feel better. These are all symptoms that both situational and clinical depression share. However, unlike clinical depression, where you are overwhelmed by symptoms for a long time, situational depression should disappear once you have adapted to your new situation. 

Tips to cope with the unexpected

Several ways you might find helpful to cope with depression following trauma are:

  • Allowing yourself time to grieve. Don’t hide or deny your feelings.
  • Talk to friends and family members about how you feel. Ask for support from people you trust.
  • Keep to your daily routine. Even if you don’t feel like it, do your best to eat balanced meals and get plenty of rest.
  • Stay physically active. Even light exercise, such as walking, can help minimize the physical effects of stress.
  • Join a support group.
  • Don’t use alcohol or illegal drugs to cope.
  • Spend time doing things you enjoy (painting, working in your garden, watching a movie, spending time with friends, listening to music, or reading a book before bed instead of watching the news).

Seek help early on

The healing process after a traumatic event takes time, especially if you have experienced a personal loss.

Frequently, people who could benefit from therapy will not seek it because they think their reactions are normal and that they will pass or are ashamed of their emotions. While depression can be considered normal and experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives, that does not mean you can’t benefit from help dealing with the situation causing your distress. Your perception and perspective of life and its circumstances often dictate your mood. If you can change your thoughts, you can change your feelings and behavior. That is where therapy can be of great help.

It has been found that people who are depressed because of difficulty adjusting to their new situation are often the ones who respond most quickly and successfully to treatment. Once they can isolate some of the stresses and causes of their depression, they feel relieved. However, sometimes it is the anguish that they are depressed and the feeling of being out of control that can worsen the situation—so knowing why can free them up to examine how they can improve their situational depression by thinking about the stress differently.

“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.” ― Angela N. Blount

Everyone, at some time in life, will face unexpected events. And most assuredly, some will be harder to navigate than others. But the above tips can make the whole process more manageable. However, if you want to learn additional skills to cope with the unexpected, working with a coach is a great way to do it. They can help you develop the skills and abilities to deal positively with whatever life puts in your path.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together, we can work on strategies to help you move forward through any difficult situations you may be going through right now, as well as ones you may encounter in the future.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

How To Break Negative Patterns In 3 Steps

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Have you ever felt caught in a continual loop of behavior that has had you asking, “Why me?” or saying, “Not again!”. At first, you might have seen the cycle of negative patterns as chance or bad luck, but as time passed, you had to question if you were doing something to attract those situations. We’ll look into that in a minute.

As you know, February kicks off with Groundhog Day on February 2. As a kid, I remember waiting with fingers crossed to see if Punxsutawney Phil was/was not going to see his shadow meaning six more weeks of winter or early spring. It never occurred to me that a rodent seeing his shadow in Pennsylvania had absolutely nothing to do with the weather in my neck of the woods (or elsewhere). Nevertheless, out of curiosity, even though I am older and wiser, I still check in to see if “ole Phil” sees his shadow. Of course, I always hope that he doesn’t. Old habits die hard, I guess!

Speaking of Groundhog Day, have you ever watched the movie titled Groundhog’s Day starring Bill Murray? Murray plays a snarky weatherman who’s forced to cover the story of the weather-forecasting rat (his words) in the small town of Punxsutawney, PA. Long story short, Murray’s character relives the same day repeatedly, driving him nuts until finally, one day, he wakes up to find that it’s February 3, allowing him to go on with his life.


There are many speculations about the above story’s moral, but suffice it to say Bill Murray’s character kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again until one day, he finally got it right. Take a look below at some of the most common recurring negative behaviors and see if any of them look familiar.

  • Habitually being late for appointments
  • Being absent-minded
  • Emotional eating, gaining weight, dieting, then gaining it back
  • Attracting the same (wrong) type of people in your life that results in destructive relationships
  • Constant issues with friends, family members, authorities
  • Being financially irresponsible
  • Sleeping late
  • Not exercising even though you had planned to
  • Getting into arguments or quickly losing your cool
  • Procrastination, disorganization, inability to complete projects, or failure to meet deadlines.
  • Staying too late at work, getting burnt out
  • Addictions, recoveries, and relapses
  • Any unwanted situation that repeats itself


You can only change something if you’re conscious that it’s happening.

1. Identify Your Patterns

The first step to breaking a pattern is recognizing you’re in one. Next, look for something you keep repeatedly doing even though you have vowed not to do it anymore, such as hitting the snooze button too many times (causing you to be late), arguing with co-workers (relational issues), or impulse spending (being financially irresponsible). And the list could go on and on. 

Often the behavior is followed by complaining with the same intensity as if it was the first time it ever happened. Although you know it’s been going on for years. You make statements such as, “Why does this always happen to me?”, “I can’t believe I did that again!” or “People always treat me this way!”. As soon as you hear yourself say such phrases, pause and check yourself. You are probably in a cycle. You don’t have to keep going down that road, though. When you realize what’s going on, make a conscious decision to break it.

2. Getting to the root of the pattern

Like an iceberg, so much of who we are and why we do what we do is hidden below the surface. Getting to the root of the pattern will help explain the “why” you keep doing it. So when you find yourself repeating an unwanted pattern, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What makes you feel like doing it?
  • Where are you when you feel like doing it?
  • When do you do it?
  • Who makes you feel like doing it?

You will find that the root cause isn’t external but stems from your thoughts, emotions, personality, choices, beliefs, or past. Sometimes, decisions have been made early in life to cope with or survive an existing situation. Those decisions can often be carried on into adulthood even though the difficult circumstances are no longer present. But, then, on an unconscious level, they stand in the way of achieving what you desire in life.

Understanding the reasons and emotions behind your behavior will help you focus on how to work through the issues. Because all the behaviors are yours alone, you hold the key and the power to change them.

3. Breaking the pattern

Here’s where the work really begins as you take some action steps. Instead of repeating the pattern as if on autopilot, respond more thoughtfully. Choose to react differently. In other words, do something different from what you have always done at that moment. Yes, it will initially feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but be encouraged; it will lead to more favorable outcomes. 

Be patient with yourself as you work through this process. You only develop your patterns after some time. Therefore, it is unrealistic to think you will overcome unwanted habits overnight. But, just like any other personal development technique, the more you do it, the easier it will become. There’s liberation ahead!

“If you change nothing, nothing will change.” — Tony Robbins

As for me? Now that I have identified my pattern of relying on Punxsutawney Phil “pfft!” to bring me an early spring, I’m going to break that pattern this year. Oh Yeah! From now on, I will be celebrating “Hoodie-Hoo Day” on February 20. What is Hoodie-Hoo day, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Hoodie-Hoo Day is a holiday somebody created to chase away winter and make way for spring. So you go outside at high noon, wave your hands over your head and yell, “Hoodie-Hoo!” And nope, I didn’t just make that up. It’s an actual holiday! Look it up. Hey, what do I have to lose, right?

Okay, being serious now, we all have patterns in our life, don’t we? And yes, some are just a silly nuisance, but others can be negative behaviors causing troublesome issues. 

If you are at the place where you want to stop the negative patterns and replace them with positive ones, I believe you can use the steps above to make some much-needed changes in your life. However, while it’s good to solve problems on our own, sometimes we all can use a little help. And working with a coach can be a great way to help you stay motivated to reach success. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire 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.

How To Plan For Success In The New Year

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And just like that, with a flip of the calendar, we’re off to a rolling start of a new year. And that provides us the opportunity for a “do-over” or a “fresh start,” if you will. So whether you left last year with more of a “Good riddance” than a “Sorry to see you go” kind of attitude, it’s still the perfect time to plan for success in the new year. 

Now to be clear, I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions here. Those rarely are carried out past the first couple of weeks anyway. I’m talking about looking ahead with a sense of expectancy and setting goals on want you want to accomplish in the new year, THE WHOLE YEAR, and even beyond! 

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a famous french writer, once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” So, unfortunately, you can wish for something to happen, but in all reality, it is up to you to make it happen. 


You are in the driver’s seat. So obviously, you need to make a plan and carry it out. But first, you must reflect on the past year and then decide what to do to make 2023 the best it can be for you.


Think of 2022 as a parking space you pulled into, like at the grocery store. You had a purpose for going there, but now it’s time to leave. To get out of the parking space, you first have to check your car’s rearview mirror to back out so you can go forward to the next place on your “To do” list.


Everyone approaches a new year with different emotions. Some might look back with regret or sadness about things done or not done. Others might not want to let it go because it was a good year for them. I have experienced both scenarios. And that probably goes for everyone else reading this blog. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself and thoughts of reflections that you might find helpful in planning for success in the new year:

  • What would you say was the best thing that happened to you in the past year?
  • What was the most challenging thing you had to deal with?
  • Pick three words to describe the past year.
  • What relationships would you say you spent the most valuable time with?
  • What was your biggest time waster in the past year?
  • What activities would you say were worth your time spent?


So now you’ve looked into the rearview mirror and noted what obstacles might have been in your path over the past year. Next, it’s time to map out the direction you want to take to move forward. Here are some helpful suggestions for you to get you on your way.

  • Celebrate your accomplishments of the past year.
  • Make a list of what is important to you emotionally, professionally, spiritually, and physically. 
  • Pick three words to describe what you want to focus on in the next year.
  • Come up with a plan to cultivate the relationships that are important to you.
  • Weed out activities that robbed you of time that could have been spent on more worthwhile and productive things.
  • Remember, you might have to check your rearview or side mirror once in a while if you need to change lanes to get where you want to be.
  • You’re on a lifelong journey. Take your time, or you will likely get overwhelmed. Stop off on the side of the road periodically and take a minute to smell the flowers along the way. And remember to pat yourself on the back for your effort and accomplished deeds. 


Here is some advice to remember as you travel your road to success. 

  • While carrying out your plan throughout the new year, circumstances outside your control may thwart your objectives. That’s just how life goes. But not to worry, for there’s a saying I heard long ago from an unknown author: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not become broken.” 
  • It’s okay if you have to tweak your plan here or there. The main thing is to stick to your plan and keep working towards the goals you made to the best of your ability.
  • Don’t get discouraged along the way. You will find that consistent and effective effort will lead to success. 

“Plan for the future because that’s where you are going to spend the rest of your life.” — Mark Twain

Having a plan for success means you intend to go somewhere or do something. And there’s no time like the present to get started. Wouldn’t you agree? And working with a coach is a great way to help you stay motivated for higher achievement in your plan for success. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And here’s to a fresh start and your plan for success!

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Handling Your Emotions During The Holidays

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As I was decorating my Christmas tree this year, I was reminded that ornaments and emotions have something in common. And that is that each can be fragile and must be handled with care. I’ll get to the handling your emotions during the holidays part a little later on. But first, I want to share how I concluded that ornaments and emotions have something in common.

Ornaments and Emotions — FRAGILE/ Handle With Care!

A couple of years ago, I was looking for new tree ornaments to prepare for the coming Christmas season. I had been to the usual places you would typically go to find them, but nothing had yet caught my eye. Then, of all places, I happened to stop into a furniture store, and lo and behold. There they were. They were hanging on the store’s display tree. I was so excited I had found just what I was looking for.

However, my excitement was somewhat diminished when I found out the only available ones were the five on display. Even the warehouse was out (I had wanted at least fifteen). So, I decided to take the ones they had in the store and call them good. Well, long story short, when the worker helping us went to remove the ornaments from the tree, the first one slipped through their fingers and hurtled to the ground, and broke in half. Now, I was down to a precious four. A couple of days after this little experience, I got to thinking. And this was when I correlated the fragility of ornaments and emotions together.

Five things I learned from a broken ornament

1. Fragile things need to be handled with extra care.

ORNAMENTS:  After the first ornament crashed to the floor, the worker taking the next ones off the tree handled them with extra precaution. 

EMOTIONS: The holidays can stir up diverse memories and feelings, some pleasant and some heartbreaking, leaving us with fragile emotions. Our hearts ache over loved ones who are no longer with us. We find ourselves feeling alone due to splintered relationships, or maybe our children have grown up or moved away, leaving us with only memories of Christmases past. Or maybe living with depression make the holidays especially hard for you. Whatever the case, sometimes we need to give ourselves or others some extra love at this time of year.

2. Things can still be beautiful even when they are broken. 

ORNAMENTS:  At first glance, the ornament lying on the ground looked unscathed. But as I picked it up, I could see the whole back part was missing. But you know what? It was still beautiful, and I even considered taking it home and hanging it on my tree. I knew if I positioned it just right, no one would see the parts missing.

EMOTIONS:  And that’s where we come in. There’s not a person on earth who has not felt broken at some time in life. Even though we started this life as a perfect little bundle of joy, we have incurred scrapes, missing pieces, and jagged edges along life’s journey. Each blemish and missing piece tells our story. It’s what makes us who we are. And each one of us is unique and still beautiful in our own way. 

3. Some things can’t be replaced. 

ORNAMENTS: Welp! As my ornament “bit the dust,” I knew I couldn’t replace it. “Oh well! C’est la Vie.” Now I have some old ornaments of my grandmother, who has long since passed on. And no one or nothing can replace her, but when I unwrap those ornaments year after year, they hold a special memory of her in my heart.

EMOTIONS:Throughout life, anything lost is only sometimes detrimental. Therefore, it’s a good reminder for us to emphasize things that matter. A broken ornament? “Pfft!” But taking time to appreciate what we have and cherish those we have in our lives right now? Yes, very important! 

4. Sometimes, you just have to sweep up the broken pieces and move on. 

ORNAMENTS: Okay, I’ll be honest with you. Once I told the salesman, “I’ll take all of them,” in my mind, that meant the ornaments were mine. In other words, “BE CAREFUL WITH THEM!” So, when the first one was “yanked” (maybe a slight exaggeration) off the tree, I was a little miffed (okay, more than a little)! But what could I do about it? The damage was done.

EMOTIONS: There’s a lot of water that’s gone under the bridge called life. So as you gather with family and friends over the holidays, don’t let past hurts and injustices overshadow this season’s joy. Forgive, forget and move on!

5. There are more important things than ornaments. 

ORNAMENTS: Sure, it bugged me that the store didn’t have the number of ornaments I needed. And then more annoyed when they broke one. But after my initial huff, I realized it was no big deal. Good grief! It was just an ornament! 

EMOTIONS: There will always be little annoyances in life and things that don’t always go according to plan. By putting things into perspective, we will learn not to “sweat the small stuff.” Too often, things like looking for the perfect ornament or the busyness of getting everything done for the holidays receive more care and attention than where it truly belongs. And that is our family, friends, and the other people in our world.

“The only way to get over the pain is to face it, embrace it, hug it and learn the lessons embedded within it.” ― Adele Theron

Wow! Who knew you could learn so much from a broken ornament? Honestly, I believe that little ornament means more to me now than before it broke. There are many broken people in our lives and around the world. One of them might even be you. Yes, it is Christmas time, but only sometimes is it the most wonderful time of the year. And even though adversity can make us stronger, sometimes, getting there requires a little extra help and special care. 

If you are dealing with fragile emotions as we head into the holidays. A time of year that can come with expectations and a whole array of emotions, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills to help manage them.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. So, therefore, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And I believe together; we can help you move forward to find the beauty even in the shards of brokenness.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

4 Reasons Why Practicing Gratitude Is Good For You

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In honor of this month being November when we celebrate “Thanksgiving,” I thought, what better topic to discuss than just that? Giving thanks, being grateful, and gratitude. And why practicing gratitude can be beneficial to our emotional and physical well-being. 

“Thank You!” Two little words can mean so much — or maybe not. I would hazard a guess to say that on occasion, we all probably throw that phrase out there without much thought or feeling behind it. How so, you might ask? Let me explain.

Do you remember, as a young tot, your parents teaching (and reminding) you to say “Please” and “Thank you?” I know I taught my children to say it. And it is good manners, and we should do that. But, if I am honest with myself, I’m not sure if I was always teaching them to practice gratitude or just teaching them good manners. I mean, after all, what parent wants their children to be thought of as rude and ungrateful? I want to think that my intentions were always for the right reason, but I’m not 100% sure.

A lesson to be learned

When I was about six years old, I was excitedly waiting my turn to open my Christmas gift in front of the whole family. You know, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandmas and Grandpas — the entire gang. And when I finally ripped the paper off and opened the box, the only thing that popped out of my mouth was, “I already have one of these!”. Well, needless to say, my parents did not appreciate my candor and outright honesty! 

The “talking to” I got on the way home must have made a big impression on me. And I’ll tell you why. Because when I finally had kids, they knew  the drill. It didn’t matter what was in that gift when they opened it. They were expected to smile and say, “Thank You!”. In fact, my children got to the point where they would pipe in and finish my little mantra before any family gathering where there would be presents. So the goal was to teach my children that even if they didn’t like what they got, they should recognize that the gift giver thought enough of them to give them a gift, and for that, they were to be grateful regardless of what was inside.

So, how important is it to be grateful? Robert A Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. In addition, he has researched and written many books on gratitude that reveal why gratitude is good for our bodies, minds, and relationships. I want to share a couple of key points of his research.

What practicing gratitude can do for you

 1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something. When we do that, we can enjoy its benefits and will be less likely to take it for granted. We notice the positive more, allowing us to appreciate life’s pleasures as they come.

2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions. Emotions like envy, resentment, and regret can destroy our happiness. You can’t be grateful and envious at the same time. They are conflicting feelings. Research that was done by Emmons’ colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-An Tsang suggests that people with high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.

3Grateful people are more stress-resistant. An interesting finding in several studies showed that people with a grateful disposition in life recover more quickly in the face of severe trauma, suffering, and adversity. He believes gratitude gives people a perspective that guards them against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety amid negative life events.

4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. When you are grateful or practicing gratitude, you sense that someone else is looking out for you or maybe has somehow provided for your well-being. You are mindful of your network of relationships, past and present — people who have helped you along the way to where you are right now. You can change how you see yourself when you acknowledge how others have contributed to your life.

If you look for goodness, you will find it

There is goodness in our world. We have all benefited from it in some way. Of course, it doesn’t mean that life is perfect and that we don’t have discouragements and burdens along the way. That would be unrealistic. But we can strive to make it a habit to be present in our daily living and recognize all the good things in life that we get to enjoy. 

It can be such simple things that we take for granted every day. For example, the next time you brush your teeth, consider that all you have to do is turn the knob, and instantly you have fresh, clean water. You didn’t make that happen — it took lots of people to make that happen. 

Another part of practicing gratitude is figuring out where the goodness comes from. When it is not because of something we did, we must acknowledge others. Or even higher powers, if you are of a spiritual mindset, to give thanks for the many gifts received. Whether big or small, they have helped us to attain goodness in our lives.

Gratitude takes practice, just like any other skill. Thanksgiving Day is an excellent time to start, but don’t stop there. Keep practicing it daily so you can reap the benefits all year long. I’ll be right there with you practicing it too! 

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” — William Faulkner

Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop new techniques to incorporate into your life as part of a healthy mental and physical lifestyle. And now, in closing, it would be appropriate to give thanks to you, my readers, for reading my blogs. I hope you find them informational and inspiring. So, “THANK YOU!” for checking in to see what’s new, and I wish you all a very “Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know I am here to help. Therefore, please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’d love to work with you as you make daily changes regarding gratitude that can lead to big results in improving your satisfaction and success in life. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.