Archive for January, 2012

January 20, 2012

Happiness Workshop: Relationships

by Dave P.

Our next workshop will be on February 11th, 2012. This time we’ll continue with positive psychology theories on relationships.

Humans have an inherent need to love and be loved; it’s something that aided us in survival as a species. Those of us who suffer from social anxiety often have difficulties forming and maintaining personal relationships, which results in loneliness, more anxiety, and sometimes depression.

We talked a little about the importance of social support networks in our stress management workshop. For this workshop, we’ll be working from the research conducted mainly by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky. She explains several methods for acquiring and maintaining healthy relationships in her book The How of Happiness.

You’ll also have the opportunity to engage in some CBT exercises such as introducing yourself to the group and participating in the discussions. Participation is always voluntary in our groups; you’re never under any pressure to say or do anything. But you will get more out of the group if you do participate. Exposure therapy is one of the most effective treatments for social anxiety and is usually the behavioral component of CBT.

Also, if anyone ever wants to work on something one-on-one, feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to help. I’m available via email, Skype, or we could meet in a restaurant or coffee house.

January 18, 2012

Today’s a New Day

by Dave P.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 16, 2012

Gratitude Diary

by Dave P.

One way to become a more positive and happier person is to keep a gratitude diary. I have to admit, I’ve been slacking on keeping mine.

I just found a nice online application for keeping a diary, and hopefully it will help me be more diligent. It’s free and has a nice feature that sends you an email reminder with which you can simply reply in order to create an entry. The application I’m using is Penzu.com. There are other online diary sites out there, but this one suits my preferences.

January 14, 2012

Anxiety

by Dave P.

One problem with anxiety in social situations is it makes it difficult to maintain any level of dignity.

January 10, 2012

Allow Yourself to be Human

by Dave P.

Most of us want to avoid pain, but suffering is a part of life. In Buddhism, the First Noble Truth states that in life, there is suffering. There is no getting around it. We all experience setbacks, get our feelings hurt, lose loved ones, and sometimes fail at attempted endeavors. If we fight the resulting emotions, we suffer even more. It’s okay to suffer once in a while. It’s part of being human and can provide opportunities for growth.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) often have severe fear of rejection, which becomes the culprit in anxiety proliferation. We all are rejected at one time or another and it hurts. It hurts even more if we try to block out the pain and pretend it doesn’t bother us.

Experience and accept the pain. Embrace your sadness. Cry if you feel like it. Crying actually is a built in survival mechanism that kills pain by stimulating the release of endorphins in the brain. Let the pain run its course and then get on with your life.

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January 9, 2012

Positive Thinking Exercise

by Dave P.

We have the capacity to become happier and to raise our happiness baseline. One way to do that is to exercise and grow the part of the brain responsible for positive thoughts. It’s about recognizing the good things in our lives and not dwelling on the bad. It’s about showing gratitude for the people, places, and things that enhance our lives.

So start your day off by making a list of five things you’re grateful for. It could be your spouse, a good friend, the Broncos :), your favorite author or musician… anything that enhances your life. Engaging in this exercise every morning can help you become more positive and happier.

January 6, 2012

Goals

by Dave P.

“Our goals lead us forward, they call for the exercise of our facilities and energize our existence.”
~ Nathaniel Branden

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January 5, 2012

Start The Day Off With a Little Gratitude – It Can Make You Happier

by Dave P.

Studies in the field of Positive Psychology have shown that the simple act of making a list in the morning of things you’re grateful for can make you a happier and more positive person. No matter how bad your situation may be, your life still contains elements of wonder and beauty. Just looking out my window, I can be thankful for the blue sky (I’m a bit colorblind, so that’s my best guess), my neighbors (even my Rush Limbaugh loving neighbor), the squirrels chasing each other up and down the trees… There are an infinite number of things we can be grateful for in our lives. We just need to recognize them.

The practice recommended by Martin Seligman — the father of modern Positive Psychology — is to start your day off with a list of five things you’re grateful for. I’ll go ahead and do that here.

In no particular order of gratitude…

  • My wife – it’s good to have someone to love 🙂
  • Our dog – she’s a big source of joy in our lives
  • Our house – there’s no place like home
  • YouTube videos – it’s great to be able to watch concerts of the bands I loved as a kid but never got to see
  • The music jams – I love playing music with other people

Before you go to bed at night, make another list of things that happened during the day that you’re grateful for. It could be your 30 minute workout, a good conversation you had with someone, playing with the dog, going for a walk and appreciating nature, a meditation session, attending a group activity, maybe participating in a sport or game… There are all sorts of things that can serve as a source for gratitude, and if you acknowledge them when you’re ready to go to sleep, it can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. You might also have more pleasant dreams. If there’s something bothering me when I go to sleep, my dreams are often bizarre and disturbing, and I’ll wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat.

During the day, make a concerted effort to do things you can be grateful for. We make our own happiness. You can’t rely on someone else to make you happy.

January 4, 2012

How To Stop The Incessant Ruminations and Worry

by Dave P.

We’ve covered thought stopping techniques in a few of our group talks. The most commonly recommended technique is the issuance of the “stop” imperative when an unwanted thought appears. I prefer a more technical approach, which is performing a cost-benefit analysis on the thought. I ask myself, “What are the costs of thinking that thought and what are the benefits?” For our maladaptive thoughts, the costs are high and benefits are few. So why is it so difficult to stop them from reappearing when we’re just trying to enjoy the day?

The answer lies in our brain structures. Areas of the brain that are used most often grow, and the parts that are used rarely atrophy. Positive and negative thoughts arise out of different areas of the brain. If the region used for positive thinking is used most often, it will grow like a muscle that’s exercised, and positive thinking will take precedence. On the other hand, if we’re consistently thinking negative thoughts and dwelling on bad experiences, maladaptive thoughts are more likely to dominate our thought processes.

People who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders that lead to or result from low self-esteem, spend an inordinate amount of time engaging in negative thinking. The negative thinking part of the brain grows and the positive thinking part of the brain shrinks, which leads to even more negative thinking and less positive thinking.

This explains why it is so difficult to stop the negative thoughts. What’s needed is a combination of engaging in less negative thinking (using thought stopping techniques) and more positive thinking. One way we can do that by showing gratitude for the good things in our lives. We all have things we can be grateful for. By acknowledging those things, we become more positive, and positivity begets more good things in life.

January 3, 2012

Cure For Social Anxiety: Just Get Out There and Socialize! If Only It Were That Easy

by Dave P.

I just watched a video of a popular doctor who was talking about how to get over social anxiety. Her advice was to just go to a lot of parties and socialize as much as possible, and eventually, she said, “you’ll get over it.”

Well, it’s not quite that easy. Going to a social event can have the opposite effect and actually increase a person’s social anxiety.

Going to social events is difficult for people with SAD, often because they suffer from low self-esteem. They’ll go to an event and their anxiety will make it difficult to connect with other people there, and it’s likely they’ll feel rejected. Anxiety also acts as a people repellent, which exacerbates the problem.

When low self-esteem is the root of the problem, only raising that person’s self-esteem can solve the problem.