Category Archives: Happiness

cougar grandma

There is no age limit for intimacy

Human beings like intimacy. We need to be touched and to feel sexually-wanted and attractive. We want to experience the benefits of good old sexual pleasure—the release of endorphins, the natural stress buster. We want to feel good. These needs don’t end as we age, they might change a bit, but they don’t end. 

I read an article the other day about an 83-year-old woman who is using the popular dating app Tinder to find much younger men to have sex with. In the article, she says “My life goal is to change the awful, decrepit view of aging – view and experience, and turn it into something exciting. A life-loving adventure. The depth of life, you can’t avoid it. But the shallowness of good sex, that’s what is good enough for me.”

I found her openness and her passion for life exhilarating. Who said that getting older meant you had to stop having sex? Or stop trying new things? Stop having adventures? Life is short and it is what we make of it. We can choose to enjoy it until the very last drop or we can decide to put an expiration date on certain behaviors because, well, we just don’t feel they are appropriate. But, let’s get real here. We are all human. We all enjoy connection. This is a very basic part of being a person that should be enjoyed to the very last drop. 

Getting old doesn’t have to be depressing. Being older just means we have had more experience, we might be a little frailer or struggle with our health in ways we didn’t use to, but we are still on this earth. Each day gives us a whole 24 more hours to enjoy being on earth. 

Take a tip from grandma Hattie, and love your life. Do what your heart desires. Enjoy being you. 

human connection

Our Need for Connection and What We Can Do About it

Human connection is about sharing experiences, ideas, and feelings with others. It is a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. And, it is crucial to our happiness, our health, and our overall survival as a species.

Yet, why are we so bad at connecting?

In our ever-connected world, where we can catch up with our high school math teacher or college roommate with a click of a button, scroll through images of our coworkers’ weekend adventures, or send a text in a matter of seconds, we are becoming increasingly unconnected. It is damaging to our happiness, our health, and our overall wellbeing. How can a world that is so focused on this idea of always being reachable be drawing us further apart? 

We are spending so much time with our heads in our devices we are missing that authentic face-to-face connection that is so important. We are losing sight of authenticity. It is so easy to leave a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall pretending to care when the reality is we haven’t thought about them in years. We don’t know what is real anymore. We choose what photos we are posting, what information we are sharing with the world and we create our facade, whether it is a true picture of our lives or not. We edit and re-edit ourselves. We tend to share the best in our lives, making things look picture-perfect, but leave out the struggles, the challenges, the stuff that makes us who we are.

There is a reason we used to function as tribes, all the woman working together to care for the families. All the men hunting and gathering. It is the same reason that often people who live alone die earlier and get sicker before they pass. Human connection, the need to connect with others, is at our core as people. 

To fulfill that need, we need to get out into the world and talk to people. We need to have face-to-face conversations. We need to do things together — have family dinners, watch a sporting event, go on a walk, have a picnic, connect outside of our electronic devices. And, we need to be authentic. We need to be our true selves. We need to share, ask the tough questions, open up about our lives and who we are. We need to focus less on finding a connection for ourselves and more on connecting with others. I know it sounds like the same thing but I mean to say that rather than waiting for people to come to you, go to them. 

Your mental health, your happiness, your sense of self-worth, all of it, will thank you for putting yourself out there and connecting. 

How to fit mindfulness into your busy life

The evidence is mounting—being mindful throughout your day can have major impacts on your health, happiness, stress and anxiety levels. It can be a game changer. But, so often I hear — I am so busy. How am I supposed to fit something else in? 

I am here to tell you that being mindful isn’t something you have to “fit” in. It is something you can train your brain to do throughout your days. It is not something that needs to be time consuming. 

Not Another To-Do List Item

Here are some tips to get you started:

1.) Write down reminders—When I first started on my journey of being more mindful I literally wrote things like “Stop, look around” in my phone and on Post-it notes. I stuck them to my desk, my bedroom door, my car console. Every time I saw them it was a reminder to do just that—stop thinking about what’s next and focus on the now. 

2.) Carry a notepad—When something on your must-do list pops into your head, write it down so that you don’t forget it later. That way you are not dwelling on it and can instead focus on the now and complete that task at the appropriate time. 

3.) Set reminders on your phone/make lists—You will find that you can enjoy the present more when you aren’t thinking about all the things you need to do. So make a list, set a reminder on your phone, whatever works best for you.

4.) Let it go—We spend so much time worrying about what happened yesterday or what is happening tomorrow that we miss out on today. That is what matters. We can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future. The only thing we are in control of is what we are thinking about at the present moment. 

5.) Meditate—I know what you are thinking, “you said I didn’t have to fit in mindfulness.” The truth is you don’t. You can choose to meditate while working out, while taking a walk, while brushing your teeth. It doesn’t have to be an eyes-closed break from your day. You can repeat a mantra in your head at designated times throughout your day. Or, you can pay attention to things like how your feet are moving during your run, the birds in the trees during your walk, your breathe as you brush your teeth. 

The bottomline is being mindful is simple — it is focusing on what you are doing at the present moment and observing. It could mean watching the knife as you cut vegetables for dinner, the movement of the brush on your teeth, the sound your child’s voice as they speak to you, the smile on their face as you read to them. It doesn’t have to be another item on your to-do list. 

How Keeping Secrets Impacts Your Mental Health

Turns out, keeping secrets can actually be bad for you. We all have things we don’t want to share with others for one reason or another. We all have things we were told to “never tell anyone.” But keeping all that information inside isn’t good for us. We need people to talk to. We need a support system. 

Keeping secrets can be stressful because we may want to share that information with someone in particular and are unable to. Keeping secrets can be all-consuming because we have to focus on not talking about them. 

All About The Goal

Research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that the problem with keeping secrets could simply be that it is a goal. Goals that we have yet to achieve are usually something we think about. For example, you are more likely to notice a mailbox when you need to mail a letter or you are waiting for something special than when you aren’t. It is about motivation. 

So secrets may not be stressful because of the information itself but rather due to the act of thinking about the information. They are stressful because they are thought-consuming and therefore can depress your mood. 

Authenticity

The study also looked at authenticity. The study found that keeping secrets, or more specifically thinking about keeping secrets, decreased people’s feelings that they were being their authentic, true self. That lack of authenticity caused them to feel bad about their life and how they were representing themselves.

If you are keeping a secret and feeling not-so-great about it, that is ok. Find the right person to share it with and move forward. It can be helpful to bring it up to a licensed mental health professional who can help you figure out what to do with the information so you can live your best life. 

You don’t need an apology to move on

The other day a friend of mine got into an argument with another and started dwelling on how this person had wronged her. She insisted that she needed an apology. The situation got me thinking. Frequently we hold on to the idea that we need an apology before we can move on, but what we forget is we are not in charge of that apology. 

Yes, anytime someone wrongs you, they should apologize. That is the right thing to do, but it doesn’t always happen. Many times the person that wronged you doesn’t apologize at all or doesn’t apologize in a manner that feels appropriate. Regardless, the apology is out of your hands. 

You have the power

Needing an apology to move on is giving the other person all the power over you. You are relying on them to make you happy. You are dependent on this other person, giving them even more power. This person has already wronged you, why would you want to keep them in control of your emotional state? You should—and you do—have the power to make yourself happy.

You don’t need an apology to move on. You have to make things right in your head by accepting that what happened happened and there is nothing you can do about it. Move on, let go and get back to you. You are the only one who can truly control how you feel. You are in charge of you. Stop giving others all the power. Start focusing on your inner struggle and move forward in your life on your terms. 

You are not obligated to take BS

We all cross people in our lives that put on an act, give us their bullshit and expect that we will just lay down and take it. But, we don’t have to. It doesn’t matter who this person is in your life —a boss, a coworker, a parent, a close friend, a spouse, an acquaintance, a doctor, etc. It doesn’t matter who they are, you are not obligated to take their crap. 

There is no concrete rule book in life, but one thing is for certain—you need to be your biggest advocate. You can’t rely on others. Even the closest people to you will let you down sometimes. We are all human. When someone is treating you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, you don’t need to just sit back and take it. Stand up for yourself and set boundaries. 

Those boundaries can take many different forms. It might mean ignoring calls or texts from this person. It might mean ending all interactions. It might mean being straight with them. You can tell this person that you won’t put up with whatever they are doing. Be honest with them and yourself and be your biggest advocate. No one knows you better than you. No one is inside your head feeling what you are feeling, seeing things the exact way you see them.

Even if you are someone that doesn’t like conflict, you are afraid of letting someone down, or you worry about how you are seen, what about you? The ball is in your court. You can protect yourself and separate yourself from toxic situations. You don’t have to leave all the choices up to others. You can make the best choices for yourself. Trust me, even if it is hard to make the first move you will feel better in the long run. 

Turn your bad day around with these tips

Life is not easy. We all have days where we feel on top of the world and we all have days where we feel the gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe. It is part of being alive. But, just because a day is off to a bad start doesn’t mean it can’t end on a good note. There are ways to turn a bad day around. 

Next time you are having a rough time, consider trying some of these tips:

1.) Recognize that you are in control of your happiness: Even on the worst of days you still have the power to find the positive. Your negative energy can rub off on the people around you, contributing to your downward spiral of a day. If you switch it up, laugh it off, and embrace the positive you can change the way you feel and impact how others interact with you. 

2.) Determine the problem: What is causing your day to be bad? Is it just dumb luck? Or a bad mood that is making everything so much more difficult to get through. Identify the problem and squash it. Maybe you were late for a meeting and now your boss is angry with you. Switch up your mood and focus your energy on a project that could help you recover from this mishap. 

3.) Be grateful: Look around, think about the good in your life, find something to be grateful for. Yea so you were late to work, but you got to listen to a really good song on the way. You lost your temper on your child and you feel awful, but at least they made it to school in one piece and when they get home you can hug them and tell them you love them and recover. You are alive, you are breathing, you are well. However small or big it is, there is always something we can be thankful for. Finding something to appreciate will help to lighten your stress and maybe even bring a smile to your face. 

4.) Laugh: There is research that shows that even forcing laughter can lift our spirits. Make yourself smile, laugh, watch a funny animal video, look at a picture of a loved one, laugh at whatever is making your day unpleasant. 

5.) Be accepting: We all have bad days. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Forgive yourself. Let go of the moment. Strive to move forward. 

6.) Change it up: If you are struggling, change your routine for the day. Make things different. Maybe instead of working through lunch, ask a friend to meet up, go for a walk, or hideaway for a power nap. 

7.)Stop feeling like a victim: Maybe the cause of your bad day is something that happened to you and you feel victimized. Even if you are the victim of something, stop dwelling on it. The more we feel like a victim, the more we wallow in self-pity and feel sorry for ourselves rather than putting in the effort to appreciate the good in our lives.

No matter what your day has in store, learn to celebrate the small victories — you got out of bed this morning, your hair looks fabulous, that zit on your nose is finally gone, you crossed some things off your to-do list, your spouse loves you, your kid brushed his teeth without needing to be told, etc. You can move beyond the bad and turn a day around, you just have to want it. 

The Power of Solitude

Many of us are afraid to be alone. I am talking really alone, no cell phone, no wifi, nothing but you and your brain. But, choosing solitude every once in a while can have great benefits for your mind and your body. 

When we are constantly connected to the outside world we tend to lose touch with ourselves. We feel the need to compete with those around us, we get sucked into other peoples problems/struggles, and we can begin to feel overwhelmed in the day-to-day. We tend to ignore our own needs and desires because “there isn’t enough time.” We get bogged down with decision-fatigue and our judgment gets clouded. 

Rest your brain

Making the choice to spend time with yourself can give your brain time to rest. It can free you from decision-fatigue and enable you to make better choices for your life. It can help you to rediscover your sense of self, allow you time to listen to YOU and reflect on your goals and your needs. If that time is spent in nature, which often is the best place to find solitude, it can provide a renewed harmony with the natural world. Solitude allows you to escape sensory overload, stimulate creativity and awaken your spirituality. The list goes on and on. 

Now I hear you, “I don’t have time for that.” Well, taking these moments for yourself can also make you more productive, giving you more time to do the things you want to do. The amount of time you choose to be in solitude doesn’t have to be long. It could be in the form of daily meditation. It could be a couple hour hike or a run/bike ride/walk (without music). It could be a spa day by yourself. It could be a night at a hotel by yourself away from the chaos of your home. 

The main thing is you need to really be in solitude, free of distraction. That means no phone, no internet, no playlist. It is time for you to connect with you and that is hard to do if you are distracted. It is about practicing mindfulness. Lean into your sadness, embrace your insecurities, breathe, and reconnect with yourself again. Take a break from the real world for a moment. Relax. Breathe. And feel confident that you can re-enter your life with a clear head. 

Social media may be affecting your self-esteem

It is commonplace these days to pick up your phone at any moment of downtime and peruse social media platforms. Research shows as many as 77 percent of us, according to Statista, have at least one social media account. 

Maybe you frequently post pictures of your kids or your dog or read about the happenings of old friends or colleagues. Whatever your reason for turning to social media, its use could be impacting your overall mental health. 

It might seem harmless, a way to combat brief moments of boredom in our constantly moving world. How could seeing what your friends or even strangers (if you are part of a group) are up to impact your mental health? It’s because whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you are comparing yourself to others. You are thinking “wow she looks great,” “they have such a beautiful family,” “I wish I was that successful,” the list goes on and on and on. 

The Best of the Best

Let’s get real here — the majority of pictures and posts we are seeing on social media are the best of the best. They are painting these perfect pictures of our families, our careers, our travels, and our friendship circles. 

A variety of studies, according to Healthline, show a link between social media use and decreased overall self-esteem and increased anxiety and depression (especially in our children). People have reported feeling more lonely after visiting a social media platform. It is kind of odd when you think about it — the very thing that is supposed to bring us closer together may actually be making us feel more alone. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are benefits to social media— increased awareness of certain issues, sharing of news, communities of support, and an ease to connect with those far away from us. But, it is also important that we recognize the negative impacts these types of behaviors are having on our health. 

Take care to recognize the amount of time you are spending on these websites and how you feel when you get off of them. Then, work on limiting yourself so that you don’t continue to harm yourself mentally and emotionally. Choosing certain times of the day or week to unplug is important. 

How many times a day do you turn to social media? How does it make it you feel?

boundary title

Boundaries and Relationships Intersect

Boundaries in any relationship — whether between family or a romantic partnership— are extremely important to maintaining a healthy, happy relationship. That being said, there are logical and illogical ways to set a boundary. 

boundary graph

Let’s talk about Joan (a fictional client). Joan is very close with her father who lives in another state. They have always talked frequently, sharing news of their days. Joan recently got married and is beginning her life with her significant other, but Joan’s dad’s (we will call him Joe) calls are getting more frequent and are beginning to cause issues in Joan’s marriage. Joe is calling Joan every morning before she goes to work, waking up others in the home, and every evening. He is hurt when she doesn’t answer and begins to worry if she is ok—sending her multiple texts and calling repeatedly. Joe just loves his daughter and misses her, but Joan is feeling smothered and overwhelmed. She is trying to build a new life with her husband and her dad is making it difficult for her to do that. How should she approach this sticky situation?

Joan could call her dad upset and ask him to stop calling her and stop texting her nonstop. She could ignore her feelings and struggles and keep letting the calls come in, while building resentment against her father. These are opposite sides of the spectrum. One is establishing a boundary but in a major, and hurtful, way. The other is failing to set a boundary at all further harming the relationship. 

A more logical way to establish a boundary would be to come up with a happy middle ground. She can explain to her dad that the frequent calls are playing a toll on her marriage and instead offer to call her dad on her way home from work a few times a week. She can explain to him that while she still loves him dearly, and he will always be her dad, she also needs to work on her marriage. By setting a boundary like this she is maintaining the integrity of the relationship. Her dad might be disappointed at this news, but he will likely be able to get over it and understand.

Boundaries are all about protecting yourself, your relationships, and living your happiest, healthiest life. If you need help with establishing a boundary, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who can help to guide you.