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What Is Conventional Wisdom?

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Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom refers to commonly held and widely accepted ideas and beliefs. It can encompass ideas that are generally held by the majority of people as well as long-accepted expert opinions within a field or institution.

This type of knowledge can have both benefits and drawbacks. Sometimes these ideas allow people to understand the majority consensus and reach conclusions quickly. In other cases, conventional wisdom can make it more difficult to think creatively and come up with alternative solutions to problems.

The modern use of the term conventional wisdom is credited to the economist John Kenneth Galbraith who discussed the subject in his 1958 book The Affluent Society. Galbraith described conventional wisdom as a factor that increased institutional and societal resistance to change.

Signs of Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom is evident in many aspects of everyday life. Some signs that you are using conventional wisdom to guide your decision-making include:

*Accepting certain ideas without question

*Not challenging information that fits with what you expect to find

*Believing that the majority of people think something is true

*Assuming that the majority opinion must be true

*Thinking that something is true simply because it sounds reasonable

*Accepting something as truth due to tradition or authority

Any time you do make an assumption automatically without giving it much thought, you may be relying on conventional wisdom as a guide. It is important to remember that while these ideas are accepted, it does not mean that they are accurate.

Conventional wisdom often relies on accepting things based on faith in the opinions and expertise of others. The problem is that this knowledge isn’t necessarily rooted in verifiable evidence.

In many cases, its genesis may lie in anecdotal observations, superstitions, folklore, misunderstandings, or even badly designed research.

Examples

In the field of politics, conventional wisdom may consist of talking points that are repeated so frequently that they are accepted with little scrutiny whether they are accurate or not.

An example of conventional wisdom in health was the once widespread belief among both consumers and medical professionals that smoking cigarettes was not risky behavior.

It was only after research and significant public health campaigns that people began to change their beliefs about the serious health risks posed by smoking.

Impact

Because conventional wisdom usually goes unquestioned, it can create problems when incorrect ideas gain wide acceptance. This can make exploring new ideas much more difficult.

For example, conventional wisdom used to suggest that ulcers were solely caused by stress. While this idea prevailed for years, it wasn’t until researchers challenged it that the main underlying cause, a specific bacteria, was discovered.

In cases such as this, incorrect conventional wisdom can interfere with a person’s health and the type of medical care they receive.

Conventional ideas can become a form of functional fixedness, making it more difficult to come up with creative ways of answering a question or dealing with a problem. Fixed ideas about a problem interfere with the ability to think outside of the box or find new ways of tackling the issue.

Conventional beliefs can also be very slow to change. Even as evidence mounts to counter an idea, conventional ideas can persist.

The good news is, however, that this type of thinking and knowledge isn’t static. Over time, as research supports new ideas and demonstrates that former ideas were incorrect, changes begin to take hold and flourish.

Tips

If the conventional ideas about a topic don’t seem helpful or accurate, there are things that you can do to challenge them and test new ways of thinking. Some ways you might approach this:

*Explore the history of the idea: Spend some time researching how this idea came to be in the first place. Is there a body of research that it is based upon? What evidence supports its accuracy? Is there any evidence or data that contradicts the idea?

*Research alternative ideas: Spend some time coming up with alternative hypotheses to explain the phenomenon. Research these new ideas and test them for their accuracy.

*Talk to other people: You can also discuss your new ideas with others to get a better idea of how other people might view these alternative explanations. What seems like a good idea to you might strike others as irrational or illogical. Other people may also be able to point out other ideas or explanations that you might not have considered.

When you encounter ideas that are rooted in conventional wisdom, it often makes sense to scrutinize them to assess their validity and accuracy. Questioning this wisdom can help inspire further inquiry that can either support or refute old ideas and potentially lead to new and more helpful explanations.

By Kendra Cherry, Fact checked by Emily Swaim

The Dangers of Bottling Up Our Emotions

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Keeping our emotions close to our chest can often feel safer, but it isn’t always the healthiest way to move through life. This approach prevents us from discussing our needs (which can turn into a cyclical issue) and prevents us from truly connecting with others. Over the long term, bottling up emotions can even backfire in unexpected ways related to our mental and physical health.

Why We Tend to Bottle Up Our Emotions

There are so many scenarios in which we feel compelled to suppress our feelings. For example, we may just want to get through the day, we tell ourselves we’ll deal with the emotion later, we think the feeling isn’t worth exploring, or we try to conceal our feelings in order to make a relationship “work.”

Ultimately, though, we tend to bottle up our feelings for one key reason: it seems easier and safer to do so.

“The reasons we sometimes—or most times—bottle up our emotions can vary, but they all seem to stem from a fear of vulnerability. Out of this fear, we react through self-protective emotional measures,” says Dr. Colleen Mullen, PsyD, LMFT. “Bottling up emotions provides a false sense of emotional safety.”

She says that some people learn, as they grow up, that expressing their emotions isn’t safe. There are different ways this can play itself out in childhood.

For some, the parent is dismissive or minimizing of their emotions, while for others, the parent is scary in their own expression of emotions or threatening to them. For others, it can be an early awareness that the parent is overwhelmed and doesn’t respond well if the child expresses their needs or feelings.

“Those children can grow up to be the adult who becomes stifled emotionally,” Dr. Mullen says. “The stifling, or avoidance, of emotional expression ends up feeling like a fear of being told ‘no,’ abandonment, or being judged negatively.”

Why Hiding Our Feelings Can Often Backfire

Though bottling up our emotions can feel like a good plan in the short term, doing so can adversely affect us in the following ways:

Puts Strain on Our Mental Health

Chronic dismissal of our own feelings can ultimately impact our self-confidence. Over time, we may feel like nobody cares about our needs or desires and that our opinion or voice doesn’t matter.

It can also cause us to feel stressed, depressed, or anxious. In some cases, we may even feel deeply angry or rageful and develop feelings of resentment toward others.

Compromises Our Physical Health

“There is some evidence that bottling up your emotions can lead to physical stress on the body,” says Dr. Mullen. “The stress caused to the body can lead to increased diabetes and heart disease risks. Other effects can be memory difficulties.”

Impedes Our Social Relationships

Nourishing social relationships are vital to our overall well-being. After all, we are social creatures at our core. When we don’t adequately express ourselves, our relationships cannot grow in meaningful ways.

“Human to human contact can help balance our nervous system and allows for a broader perspective, protecting us from digressing into loops of fear and false beliefs,” says Shari Foos, MA, MFT, MS. “Most importantly, unless you are open and honest, how will you ever be seen and known? And if you are not known, how can you possibly be loved for who you truly are?”

Signs You’re Bottling Emotions

While in some cases we consciously push down our feelings, it’s common to do so without even realizing it. Some signs you’re not wholly expressing your emotions include:

*It seems like other people don’t “get you.”

*You’re not getting what you want out of time spent with others.

*You often experience somatic symptoms, such as an upset stomach or digestive issues, headaches, racing heart, and tension.

*You experience growing anger and frustration with the world and others.

*You develop feelings of resentment toward others.

If you think someone else might be bottling up their emotions, there are some things to look out for, as well.

“Signs that someone is bottling up emotions can be detected in choice words, tone, and body language. Some individuals may also unconsciously fold their bodies inward, wring their hands, tap their fingers or feet, dart their eyes, or shake their heads,” says Foos.

She adds, “Their response to being asked something as basic as, ‘tell me about yourself,’ might range from a simple ‘I don’t know,’ to an attempt to change the subject, shut down the conversation, or even leaving the room.”

How to Get Better at Expressing Yourself

Expressing our emotions doesn’t always come naturally. Rather, it’s something that takes practice and a dedicated to honoring ourselves. Over time, we can develop the skillset to process and express our feelings.

Dr. Mullen says, “One of the best ways to become getting better at expressing yourself is to just say what you mean.” It sounds simple enough, but this will take practice. Start small and focus on positive feelings, and over time you’ll build that muscle.

By Wendy Rose Gould

How to Be Happy Again

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Finding New Ways to Be Happy

What does it mean to be happy? There are so many ideas and perspectives when it comes to being happy. By definition happy means characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy.

Truthfully, Your ‘happy’ is whatever it means to you. Of course, not everyone will agree, but that is to be expected because no two people are alike.

Have you been generally feeling down about things lately? What has caused that change? As you may have heard before, getting to the root of an issue will pinpoint the problem and ultimately tell you where you need to start working towards change.

The best way to do that is to compare and contrast; that’s right, just like we did in elementary school. This article will help you figure out what could be preventing you from finding happiness and provides tips for cultivating your version of happiness.

A Comparison List to Find What’s Blocking Your Happy

Before you embark on your happiness journey, it’s helpful to list what makes you happy and what doesn’t. After you make this list, you’ll better understand what you need to work on to bring more happiness and peace to your life.

Below is an example of a list, yours can, of course, look different from this one. This is just to help you get started.

What Makes Me Happy

*Meditation
*Body positivity
*Optimism
*A good support system
*Self care days
*Passion for life
*Less social media
*Positive affirmations
*Exploring nature

What Makes Me Unhappy

*Comparing myself to others
*Body shaming
*Pessimism
*Isolation
*No personal days
*Feeling unappreciated
*Too much social media
*Negative thoughts
*Self-doubt and shame

Now that you have your list, what are you going to do with it? Review it and take a trip down memory lane. Try and track back to happier times in your life. When were you your happiest in life? Channel those moments and see if you can find that part of you again.

You may not be able to recreate those moments, but you can at least get inspired by them. Happiness comes in layers. And you may find that you’d like to explore newer options that bring you happiness, which is completely fine.

If you take a close look at the right side of your list, you’ll see what you need to eliminate from your life to feel happier.

Is shame holding you back? Do you feel overwhelmed or alone? Are you having trouble loving the way you look? If any of these things ring true for you, it’s time to address those negative feelings so you can work past them.

A therapist or other professional can help you address these roadblocks and provide you with tools that can help you overcome them.

Ways to Find a New Happy

There are so many avenues to explore in regards to finding new happiness. Below you’ll find some tips to help you find your idea of happiness.

Find a New Hobby

When it comes to hobbies, the possibilities are endless. And the best part is, it’s entirely up to you.

You can be as adventurous, creative, mysterious, or outgoing as you want. You can try out a new hobby alone or with friends.

According to Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS, a licensed psychologist, “It [hobbies] can serve as a fun distraction, but it also helps decrease stress and puts our focus on something fun and different. The key is to find something that will do just that for you.”

Put Yourself First

As simple as it may seem, a lot of people forget to take care of themselves. Whether it’s because of a busy work schedule, marriage, kids, family, pets, and friends, many people, specifically women, get little to no self-care.

When you put yourself first, your happiness will shine through for sure.

Taking time out for yourself daily can impact your mood, stress level, concentration, and productivity. Allowing yourself a moment to recharge not only allows you to be your best self but opens a window of opportunity to lend help to others.

Exercise

Let’s face it, not everyone is a fan of exercise, but it has so many perks. You are doing your body a service by working out because the oxygen and nutrients to your tissues help your cardiovascular system.

The endorphins that you receive from exercise and physical activity are like little sprinkles atop a cupcake. All it takes is 30 minutes of movement to gain those natural “feel-good hormones” to improve your mood and health.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Your diet is more important than exercising because what you put in your body determines how your body responds. A healthy balanced diet will positively affect your mood and overall being. If you eat poorly (fried, high sodium, high-sugar foods), your organs will respond negatively. As a result, you will either have hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, or worse—all of the above.

“There is a relationship between food and mood. We have mood swings when we don’t eat a balanced diet, but we also have mood swings when we don’t eat. We become irritable, lack concentration, and focus without proper nutrition.”— RACHEL GOLDMAN

This doesn’t go to say you can’t treat yourself sometimes, but having a balanced meal with baked or grilled protein and vegetables will make your body stronger and your mind happier.

Choose Your Company Wisely

Choosing the company you keep is so imperative in life. Unfortunately, not everyone means well, and it’s important to be aware of that.

“Having a good support system is known to help improve our happiness and well-being; just knowing that others are there for you goes a long way,” says Goldman. Make it your priority only to allow people in your life that are beneficial to your mental health as you should be to theirs. Some friends can be toxic, and you won’t even realize until you end the relationship. Happiness is contingent upon your personal and professional life choices.

Happiness is defined differently by every person. Though the things listed above are suggestions, you can use them as a starting point to gather an idea of your own.

Dr. Goldman also noted that having a routine and structure helps us feel grounded and balanced. Pets and plants have also shown evidence of positively impacting our moods.

It All Starts With You

If there is something in your life that isn’t bringing you happiness you have to let it go. That can be relationships in any magnitude: family, friendship, or a spouse or partner. It will be difficult, but is it worth your peace of mind?

If you are unhappy with yourself, who’s responsible? You guessed it, You! Be gentle with yourself and take baby steps. If you desire to lose weight, don’t attempt to quit what you’re doing cold turkey, that seldom works. Wean yourself off of your bad habits, and each day will be a little easier.

If you want a better job, or if you want to start your own business, don’t quit your job, start saving until you can leave and be your own boss. Try to slowly eliminate stress from your life and you will begin to see results.

Happiness Is Possible, Again

The good thing about being happy again is, if you’ve lost it, you can find it. It is attainable whether you decide to reach back or move toward unchartered territory for a new place of happiness. Of course, life is unpredictable, and we aren’t promised 365 days of joy, but we can strive to have more good days than bad. But even in those bad days, we can appreciate the good that we’ve experienced.

Results from a study demonstrated that engagement in meaningful activities as captured by hedonic and eudaimonic well-being processes might promote well-being outcomes.1

This is quite intriguing information because hedonic focuses on pleasure, and eudaimonic pertains to meaningful purpose. To obtain happiness, you must have both. That’s why it’s essential to engage in things you enjoy, and it’s often suggested to turn hobbies into careers. As the saying goes, “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” And that’s where the pleasure comes in; if you enjoy the engagement process, pleasure will follow.

By Candis McDow and Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD

What to Do When Your Summer Reality Doesn’t Live Up to Expectations

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The new normal is coming just in time for a safe and social redo of last year’s isolated summer. With it, the answer to that question is going from a far-off hope to a potential reality.

Travel, concerts, parties, and whatever else you fantasized about in those dark days all await. However, for a myriad of reasons, this summer may not be the whirlwind return to society you’ve had in mind—and that’s OK.

“People have felt the immense loss of fully engaging in their lives and are excited to reclaim those connections and activities, but it’s likely that some have set themselves up for disappointment by setting unrealistically high expectations of how active and productive they’ll be,” says Isabelle Morley, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist with her own practice. “It will be hard to live up to our own fantasies.”

There are also serious logistical reasons people may not be able to embrace summer as they planned. “People may have limited budgets because of job loss during the pandemic. Others may still be physically recovering if they contracted COVID-19. Some kids may require summer school due to the oddities of the school year,” says Mia Rusev, LCSW, CCTP, case therapist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

This summer can act as a fresh start, but it requires care and self-awareness to make it one. Here’s how to manage your expectations for this summer and what to do if summertime sadness arises.

Be Realistic About What Activities Will Look Like

Simply because things are opening up, that doesn’t mean your favorite pre-pandemic activities will look the same.

“Some people have a fantasy that things will go back to ‘normal’ instantaneously and are putting an enormous amount of pressure on this summer to fulfill their unmet needs and result in happiness,” says Sage Grazer, LCSW, a licensed therapist specializing in relationships and co-founder of Frame, an online therapy matching service.

Listen to Your Needs

You’ve been through a terrible time and made it through. Shouldn’t you want to go out and celebrate it? Not necessarily or yet. There is a critical difference between wanting to want to immerse yourself in the world and actually feeling ready and willing to do it.

“Some people may feel hesitant about re-entering society while others have lost touch with their social network and have to rebuild or find new relationships. Give yourself permission to feel lonely and disappointed, and remind yourself that you have many more summers to see people, have fun, and fully live your life,” says Morley.

Avoid Comparison

No matter your needs, it will inevitably be difficult to see other people living new, louder lives. “If you feel like everyone else in the world is having fun except for you, don’t let this feeling spiral. You are not alone,” says Morley.

Curiosity may lead you to check social media more often and, ready or not, feel jealous of your friends’ adventures. It’s critical to remember that you do not see the fear and anxiety others may have. “People only tout their happiest moments—it looks like everyone around you is in ecstasy all the time. No one is going to post family arguments, financial difficulties, or other ‘dirty laundry,’” says Rusev.

Determine What You Want

So you know what other people are doing but how do you want to spend your summer? Rusev suggests creating a summer bucket list with things you and your pod wish to experience this summer. It can include activities such as playing a sport, going to a nearby park, or finally going to a spa.

If your funds or time are low, determine what the priorities on the list are and plan in advance to ensure you can do them.

Start With Small Goals

Once you have an idea of what you actually want to do or see, take tiny steps to get there. “If your big goal is to get to a music festival, start with something smaller like a gathering of a few friends locally as you take steps towards a larger goal,” says Grazer. “Identify the big picture goal and all of the smaller, digestible goals that will lead you there.”

Especially if the idea of going out still causes you stress—a very understandable response after so long avoiding it—ease into it by spending time outside with friends and family or assisting your neighbors, says Rusev.

By Sarah Fielding and Fact checked by Nicholas Blackmer

How to Rekindle A Relationship

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There are many reasons why you may want to revisit a former relationship. Perhaps you’re seeing your ex in a different light or circumstances have changed in your own life. Maybe you moved back to your hometown and want to check out a former crush. Maybe you’ve grown and realize that your last love was a keeper after all.

Or for some of you, perhaps you are in a long-term marriage that is worth reviving and you just need pointers on how to jumpstart it. Either way, you’re looking to rekindle those special feelings between the both of you.

Here’s what to keep in mind if you desire to rekindle a relationship with someone you were fond of, dated, lived with or were married to before. And, for those of you currently hanging in there with a challenging relationship but are still committed to it, here’s how to get the relationship back on track.

Restarting a Previous Relationship

Sometimes after a breakup, the person you left behind looks more appealing. Seeing that significant other dating again and happy might just re-spark your interest. Maybe you’re be swept up in remembrances of the fun times, happy vacations, and loving years. The terrible arguments and differing paths you were both headed in don’t take center stage in those memories. You might just be romanticizing your time together.

Consider the Reasons You Split Up

First, ask yourself why you both broke up. Was it your decision or their’s? What was the reason for calling it quits? According to Dr. Amy Keller, PsyD, MFT, “If you split up for seemingly good reasons (domestic violence, substance abuse, or chronic infidelity) ask yourself if you really want to throw yourself back in the mix?”

Our emotions help us make decisions and thrive but they also can take over our clear-sighted thinking. Clearly if the other person had complicated issues that weren’t addressed, you want to be wary about why you want to get back together.

Keller cautions, “Just because you miss someone doesn’t mean that you are meant to be with them. This is how memory works with most people—we remember the good and the bad gets fuzzier in the distance.”

Ask Yourself If You Think the Relationship Can Actually Work

What if you’re questioning their potential? Maybe your love interest makes a good living, comes from a good family or is a good parent, and is overall a decent and kind human being. On the other hand, maybe they’re also a workaholic who doesn’t keep their promises. Are you hanging on to the hope this person will change when they don’t want to change?

Make sure you’re realistically seeing this special person for who they are right now and not seeing them through rose-colored lenses.

Also, if you find yourself second guessing yourself and asking “if, then” questions, it’s time to look at your previous relationship objectively. As Keller reminds, see if you’re doubting yourself. Are you asking, “If I had only done more of something (e.g., been more patient, done more therapy etc.), then would we still be together?”

Keller says it’s important to remember that these thoughts are indicative of the bargaining stage. This is where you might be blaming yourself or wishing you did or didn’t do something, but it’s possible none of that would have changed the outcome of your relationship.

Rather than allow our analytic minds to attempt to solve the problem of having pain, loss, and emptiness, per the above, Keller suggests we transform the process by thinking about what she calls “pain with a purpose.” The idea is to “use the pain, learn from the past, and let it pass.”

What If Your Heart Hurts?

If your heart aches for your ex, you may think it’s true love and meant to be. Though our hearts may be hurting, our brains are very much involved in our romantic affairs. Based on research about love, the brain is busily working away through hormones and neurotransmitters when it comes to sex, romance and attachment at various stages of a relationship.

You might enlist your brain in positive, future thinking and put your attention less on the past or present and instead on what you desire in the future.

Think about what kind of relationship you want to build together? How will you know you have this kind of relationship? Is it possible to create something long-lasting and solid with this particular person?

Creating a Healthy Dynamic

So, you don’t want to cut ties despite being broken up, separated, or divorced. Or, maybe you’re currently remaining in a relationship that has difficulties. Maybe it’s a long-term marriage, let’s say, but you want to find ways to revitalize it.

No matter the situation, you’re interested in mending what was rickety in the relationship and create something healthier together.

Relationship and intimacy expert, Alexandra Stockwell, MD says, “When relationships end, it is usually for a good reason (even if one or both parties don’t want it in the moment).” She finds the main problem with restarting a relationship is the danger that people go back to an unhealthy and unproductive dynamic.

By Barbara Field

Quick Ways To Deal With Sudden Anxiety

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If your anxiety is sporadic and getting in the way of your focus or tasks, there are some quick natural remedies that could help you take control of the situation.

If your anxiety is focused around a situation, such as being worried about an upcoming event, you may notice the symptoms are short-lived and usually subside after the anticipated event takes place.

Question your thought pattern

Negative thoughts can take root in your mind and distort the severity of the situation. One way is to challenge your fears, ask if they’re true, and see where you can take back control.

Practice focused, deep breathing

Try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate which should help calm you down.

Use aromatherapy

Whether they’re in oil form, incense, or a candle, scents like lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood can be very soothing.

Aromatherapy is thought to help activate certain receptors in your brain, potentially easing anxiety.

Go for a walk or do 15 minutes of yoga

Sometimes, the best way to stop anxious thoughts is to walk away from the situation. Taking some time to focus on your body and not your mind may help relieve your anxiety.

Write down your thoughts

Writing down what’s making you anxious gets it out of your head and can make it less daunting.

Identify and learn to manage your triggers

You can identify triggers on your own or with a therapist. Sometimes they can be obvious, like caffeine, drinking alcohol, or smoking. Other times they can be less obvious.

Long-term problems, such as financial or work-related situations, may take some time to figure out — is it a due date, a person, or the situation? This may take some extra support, through therapy or with friends.

When you do figure out your trigger, you should try to limit your exposure if you can. If you can’t limit it — like if it’s due to a stressful work environment that you can’t currently change — using other coping techniques may help.

By Ally Hirschlag and Reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP

How To Tell Your Friends You’re Depressed

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Deciding to tell the people you love that you’re struggling with depression is a big step. Not only is it challenging to find the energy to reach out to people, but there are naturally worries about how the news of your diagnosis will be received.

Unfortunately, there are too many misconceptions about mental health and what it means and the last thing you need is to be judged negatively because of it.

But, opening up about your depression is one of the most effective ways to get the help and support you need at a time when you likely feel vulnerable and alone, especially if you choose to disclose your illness to people that you know and trust.

Remember though, you are in control and you get to choose who knows and who doesn’t. Just don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from opening up to the people who care about you.

If you’re considering disclosing your diagnosis to the people close to you but just aren’t sure how to start the conversation, here are some things to consider.

Why You Should Talk About Depression

Naturally, the prospect of disclosing your depression to other people is scary. You have no way of knowing for sure how they will respond.

But choosing to tell the people closest to you about your diagnosis and your struggles can be very healing, especially if they offer support and encouragement.

In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, simply talking to a sympathetic person can reduce your stress level and improve your mood.

Likewise, letting other people know about your depression provides a safety net of sorts, especially if your condition worsens or if you need help or support.

In some cases, you may even want to share your crisis plan with a few trusted friends or family friends. This way, they know how to respond if your depression hits crisis level or you start talking about suicide.

The key is that you try not to deal with depression alone. Being depressed already heightens feelings of isolation, loneliness, and hopelessness.

You can help counteract these feelings by surrounding yourself with supportive people who remind you that you are not alone and that you are loved—even when you don’t feel that way.

What to Consider Before You Disclose

Ideally, the people around you will be empathetic and understanding, but in reality some of those closest to you may be uneducated about depression and what it means.

Some People Don’t Understand Depression

People may want to help you but are not sure how, or they may believe some of the myths that society buys into about depression.

For this reason, you need to be aware of the fact that not everyone will understand what you’re going through.

Consequently, you may want to carefully choose who you disclose this information to and when.

Start by making a list of the most supportive people you know. Typically, these people are the ones you should tell first. Remember, not everyone knows how to offer emotional support though.

If you have friends or family members who lack this skill, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. It just means that they may not be the best ones to invite into your journey. In fact, telling them—particularly when you are vulnerable—may be counterproductive.

How Many People Should You Tell?

There is no right or wrong number of people to tell. In fact, the number will be different for everyone. Some people choose to tell just one person, and others benefit from telling many of the people in their life.

You are the expert on your situation and can decide what is best for you.

How You Feel About Your Depression

As you prepare to tell other people about your depression, it also can be helpful to consider how you feel about the diagnosis first.

In other words, what are your perceptions of depression as well as your expectations of yourself?

Understanding your feelings and coming to terms with your diagnosis helps you be more confident about sharing with others without feeling afraid or ashamed.

Disclosing Your Depression

When you decide to talk to your friends about your depression, it’s natural to feel uncertain and a little apprehensive. But, you shouldn’t let these feelings stand in your way.

Remind yourself that sharing details about your depression and what you’re going through can be very healing and in the end will benefit you in a number of ways.

Plus, having a few supportive people in your corner when things feel overwhelming, can do wonders for your mood. Good friends remind you that you are worthy and that your life is worth living.

So, if you have decided to invite a close friend or family member into your journey, here are some tips on how to talk about your depression:

*Pick a day and time when you’re feeling OK and you feel like talking. You don’t have to force yourself to discuss your depression if you just don’t feel up to it or if you’re feeling particularly vulnerable.

*Choose a casual environment for sharing the details, like while taking a walk, shooting hoops, or having a cup of coffee. Not only will the activity improve your mood, but doing something together that you enjoy provides a good distraction in case one or both of you need to gather your thoughts.

*Share as much or as little information as you want because there are no guidelines on what people have to know. Never feel obligated to share everything and if they ask a question you’re not comfortable answering, simply respond with “I’m not ready to talk about that yet.”

*Rehearse the conversation in your head or write it down because sometimes, in the moment, you can forget to mention key things you want your friends to know, so it helps to be prepared.

*Try not to worry about what the person will think of your situation. Remind yourself that they love you and want to support you even if they don’t know how.

*Let the person know how they can help as your close friends will want to help if they can. So, think about what you might like from your friend. Maybe you just need them to be there for you or maybe you’d like them to join you at your first therapy visit. You might also ask them to hold you accountable for any actions that may harm you, like drinking while taking medications.

*Remember that their reaction is not a reflection on you, regardless of how your friend responds. It’s also not your fault if they’re not supportive or understanding. And, if they try to discredit you, gently remind them that you’re the one living with depression and that you know yourself best.1

*Refrain from getting into debates about depression because it’s not your job to educate your friend or defend your diagnosis. While you can point them to resources for more information, don’t expend a lot of energy trying to change someone’s opinion.

*Set some boundaries if needed, in other words, if your friend wants to “fix” the situation or tries to become your therapist, gently remind them that you’re already seeing a counselor and what you need most from them is their support and encouragement.

*Remember, talking about depression demonstrates that it’s OK to talk about mental health and that it’s not something to hide or be ashamed of. You may be surprised to learn that they also are struggling with a mental health issue or have a close friend or family member that is.

*Congratulate yourself on having the courage to share your diagnosis with another person. You have just taken another step forward in your recovery and healing.

When it comes to talking to others about your depression, you’re not obligated to tell anyone that you are depressed unless you want to tell them, including family members, friends, and coworkers.

If you feel like certain people in your life won’t understand or are unsafe, by all means keep the information to yourself.

Keep in mind though that telling other people you are depressed can be both beneficial and healing. You shouldn’t have to go through this experience alone, especially if there are friends or family members who would be understanding and supportive.

Reach out to those closest to you and invite them into your life. You might be surprised how much better you will feel just by having a few supportive people around you.

By Sherri Gordon and Reviewed by David Susman, PhD

Common Misconceptions About Psychotherapy

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What you can and cannot expect from psychotherapy

In my experience consulting with patients who are considering whether or not to pursue psychotherapy to improve their mental health, the path to this decision is as varied as the people who travel down it.

Sometimes, it is the concern of a friend, partner, or family member that is the tipping point for an individual to seek help. In other cases, a teacher, school, colleague, or employer is insisting that mental health needs be prioritized above all else so that a person can return to school (or work) on better psychological footing.

Often, adults themselves are aware of ways in which they would like their relationships to be better, their mood or anxiety to feel more manageable, or of specific behaviors that they would like help to change; in these cases, people choose to seek therapy in the interest of personal growth, symptom reduction, and overall improved quality of life.

Regardless of how you might arrive at the decision to try psychotherapy (or the type of talk therapy you choose), you will arrive at your first session with a set of expectations which might include some misconceptions about the psychotherapy process.

Why Are There Misconceptions About Psychotherapy?

If you don’t work in the mental health field, you may benefit from improving your mental health literacy (i.e., knowledge about mental disorders). This certainly makes sense and is not unique to the field of mental health. After all, non-lawyers don’t typically know much about litigation. But it might make it hard for you to know if you or someone you are concerned about have reached the point when you need to seek therapy. (See this related post to distinguish ‘normal’ anxiety from generalized anxiety disorder). And it can add hurdles to successfully initiating psychotherapy or being willing to stick with it.

The most readily accessible information on psychotherapy comes from media portrayals. Research has shown that people do form conceptualizations and expectations of psychotherapy based on the illustrations they see in television and film. And whereas you might be able to balance out fictionalized, sometimes-damaging depictions of other professionals like physicians or teachers with your real-life experience receiving medical care or education, it may be more challenging to counter stereotypes of mental health clinicians, or the overall process of psychotherapy.

What Not to Expect from Psychotherapy

Understanding what not to expect from the experience can help you approach treatment as, as I like to think of it, an educated consumer with an open mind.

Here are some important things to understand about psychotherapy which address several of the common but misguided expectations you should try to leave at the door before you enter your session:

Don’t Expect a Quick Fix

There are a very limited number of problems for which one session of psychotherapy will be all the treatment that is required (Exceptions to this might include single-session exposure therapy for some specific phobias in adults, teens, and children.).

Psychotherapy can be a short- or long-term commitment.

The first several appointments are typically used for you and your therapist to determine if (and what kind of) therapy can be helpful. You will be asked to talk about the specific concerns that led you to seek care, as well as elements of your broader medical, social, and family history that will help the therapist get to know you better.

For some people, it is quite uncomfortable to talk openly about their symptoms and history. For others, this is in and of itself a powerfully relieving experience. Regardless, it is highly unlikely that meaningful, lasting change or resolution for longstanding patterns of thinking, relating, or behaving can be adequately achieved in a handful of appointments.

That said, it is reasonable to expect structured, present-focused approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, or acceptance and commitment therapy to be time-limited. Psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, on the other hand, which focus on the exploration of unconscious desires and processes are likely to require a greater time investment.

In Most Cases, the Process Will Not Be Easy

Psychotherapy is work. It will require you to take a hard look at yourself. You will not be alone in this; your therapist will be working hard too.

You will work together to (1) develop more awareness about exactly what is causing you a problem (for example, particular ways of thinking, ways you are avoiding facing your concerns, expressing or coping with various emotions, or communication style), (2) understand how your current patterns are serving you well and not so well, and (3) experiment with different ways of thinking, doing, relating, and coping.

Along the way, there are likely to be moments when you feel worse before you feel better. Talking about traumatic experiences, for example, might disrupt sleep. Confronting ways in which others have treated you poorly, or you have mistreated others, can lead to sadness and anger.

Facing something you are afraid of—be it a rollercoaster, raising your hand in class, or deciding to get a divorce—can create more anxiety in the short-term. In your ‘feeling worse moments’, remember that the old patterns felt bad too. Perhaps it’s worth giving it some time to see if this tough moment will give way to something better in the long run?

Talking With Your Therapist Is Not the Same as Talking to a Friend

The therapeutic relationship differs from other relationships. It is not reciprocal, not a “two-way street.” You will likely share intimate details of yourself with your clinician, and he or she will not be responding in kind. This is not intended to be harsh or withholding, nor is it any kind of indicator of your trustworthiness or likability to the clinician.

Rather, your therapist sets limits around if they will share personal information in order to keep the focus where it needs to be—on you and your goals—and in some types of therapy, to help you makes sense of your assumptions (or projections) about him or her as another way to learn more about yourself. The boundaries set by a therapist in some instances can also model for you ways of limit-setting with others.

Your Therapist Will Not Usually Tell You Exactly What to Do

Because your therapist will not be directly living out the consequences of your choices, he or she will typically refrain from overt instruction. There are certainly exceptions to this—namely, if there is a concern for your safety or anyone else’s—that might lead your therapist to be more candid and directive with you than usual.

Rather than telling you what to do, your therapist will ask you questions to help you determine what you want to do—and why.

He or she will reflect back what you’ve said to help you hear it with ‘fresh ears’ and facilitate a thorough examination. Your therapist may guide you to consider other options you had not imagined or to think through the positive, negative, and ‘somewhere in between’ consequences of taking a particular path.

If you work with the same therapist over an extended time frame, your therapist may be able to remind you about prior decisions (and their consequences) or flag repeated patterns. This may inform how you proceed with decision currently in front of you, or how you cope with its outcome.

Don’t Expect to ‘Click’ With the First Therapist You See

As unique as the therapeutic relationship is, it shares in common with other relationships that it involves two people coming together.

You are clearly the expert on you, and you arrive at your therapist’s office with particular temperament and personal style, a perception of the active problems, and an idea of your goals for therapy. Your therapist is the mental health expert, and he or she is greeting you with their own particular therapeutic style, areas of clinical experience (including the type of therapy practiced, age or diagnostic group(s) typically served, etc.), and temperament.

You may not “click” with the first therapist you see or it might take more than one appointment to decide if they’re a good fit. You may need to see more than one clinician for multiple sessions before you find the right therapist.

By Deborah R. Glasofer, PhD and Reviewed by David Susman, PhD

Six Ways to Feel Better About Being Single

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Sometimes being single can feel freeing or even empowering. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want without having to worry about what your partner is doing. But there are also times when being unattached can be lonely and frustrating.

COVID-19 has only helped to exacerbate these downsides for some single people. After all, it’s one thing to feel good about being on your own when it’s your own choice; it can be much harder to cope with when you simply can’t start a new romance because meeting face to face is too risky in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

Even if you are struggling with feelings of isolation and longing for a partner—or at least some romantic prospects—there are things that you can do to help feel better about being single.

Change Your Perspective

FInding ways to overcome loneliness and feel better about your single status isn’t just important for your state of mind; it’s also important for your health. Feelings of loneliness, including romantic loneliness, can have a serious impact on a person’s health and well-being.

Feeling isolated, unsupported, and lonely is linked to decreased immunity, worse sleep, lower cardiovascular health, and increased mental health problems.

Your perspective on your relationship status can play an important role in how you feel about being single. One study found that people who viewed themselves and being voluntarily single were less likely to report feelings of romantic loneliness.

*Stereotypes that portray single people as sad, lonely, insecure, and less satisfied

*Social pressure to find a partner and start a family

*Perceptions of single status as a source of individualism and independence

*Younger men are more likely to say they are single because they want to be free to date and not settle down.

*Younger women are more likely to say they are single in order to avoid being hurt or because they don’t feel they are desirable partners.

*Younger adults—both men and women—are also more likely to say that they were single because they lacked strong flirting skills.

*Young adults are also more likely to say that being single was due to a dislike of commitment.

*Older adults, by contrast, were more likely to report being single in order to have the freedom to do the things they want.

Consider finding ways to reframe your perspective. Rather than focusing on the downsides of being single, focus on the aspects that you do enjoy or the freedom that it brings.

People who felt that being unpartnered was involuntary, however, were more likely to feel emotionally lonely. How you feel about being single can be influenced by a variety of things.

Work on Your Goals

If you’re feeling frustrated by your single status, finding other goals to work on aside from building a relationship can help you feel more confident and empowered. Your goals might focus on your professional life, your hobbies, your family, your health, or other things you’d like to accomplish.

Things you might try include:

Other factors can also influence your perceptions of why you are single, including sex and age. For example:

*Taking a class or enrolling in a program to advance your degree.

*Keeping a journal to help track things you’d like to improve.

*Learning a new language or taking up a new hobby.

It can be anything—the goal is to stretch yourself and work on learning new things about who you are right now and who you want to be in the future.

Not only can this help you develop a sense of satisfaction with your life as a single person, but it can also help you get to know yourself a bit more so you are better able to see what you want in a life partner.

Stop Comparing

If you’re feeling down about being single, it can be tough to see your friends and family moving forward in their relationships. But it’s important to avoid comparing yourself to others, whether they are your family members, close friends, or online acquaintances.

The reality is that you can never know all of the details of another person’s life or relationship. What looks like a perfect, fulfilling relationship in a social media post might look a lot different in real life.

And just because someone else’s relationship is perfect for them, that doesn’t mean that it is something that you necessarily want. Instead of engaging in social comparisons that leave you feeling like you don’t measure up, focus on finding happiness in your own life and accomplishments.

Invest in Other Relationships

It’s also important to remember that your relationships with other people—your friends, family, and others—are also important to your well-being.

In other words, feeling like you have plenty of social support from the important people in your life is essential for protecting your mental health.

So while you’re single, focus on strengthening those non-romantic social connections. Make plans with friends—even virtual meetups, if need be. Keep up on what’s happening with your loved ones, whether you chat on the phone a few times a week or interact online.

Building new social connections and making new friends can also be beneficial. Joining online groups, volunteering for causes that are important to you, participating in local sports clubs, or even starting something like an online book club can all be ways to build your social support network.

And in many cases, cultivating social support might even lead to meeting someone you are interested in romantically.

Focus on the Benefits of Singlehood

While there are benefits to being in a relationship, research also suggests that being on your own can come with its own set of benefits.2For example:

*Spending more time finding the right relationship means you might be more likely to find a partner who is well suited to you.

*You have more time to spend pursuing things such as getting an education and finding a rewarding career.

*You have more time to get to know your own preferences, needs, and deal-breakers, which can ultimately help you choose a better long-term partner.

Meet New People

Even if you’re not ready to settle down right now, it can be helpful to spend time dating or meeting new people. Online dating apps can be a great option but friends can also be a source of new connections.

And if going out on dates in person isn’t an option, virtual meetups can be an excellent alternative. Consider an online video date where you can meet and chat while both enjoying a meal or other activity can help you get to know new potential love interests.

Plus, many people feel like ‘meeting’ virtually can serve as an icebreaker. When and if you finally do meet in-person, you might find that you feel less nervous and have more to talk about.

By Kendra Cherry

How to Stop the Negative Chatter in Your Head

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A neuroscientist explains how to curb unhelpful thoughts

Did you make your New Year’s resolutions?

I hope you put “cognitive reappraisal” on the list. Psychologists use this term to refer to the practice of replacing negative thoughts with ones that are both more positive and true. People who control their self-talk in this manner have better mental health, more life satisfaction, and even better-functioning hearts, research shows. Experts say the technique, which is central to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is an important skill to master during difficult times. The good news is that you can do it at home.

Ethan Kross is an experimental psychologist and neuroscientist who specializes in emotion regulation. He is a professor of psychology and management at the University of Michigan and director of the Emotion & Self Control Laboratory, where he studies the science of introspection, or the silent conversations people have with themselves. He has a new book coming out this month called “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters, and How to Harness It.”

Here are edited excerpts from my conversation with Dr. Kross.

Does everyone talk to themselves?

Dr. Kross: Yes. There are lots of ways we use language internally. We use it to keep things fresh in our heads, like repeating a phone number. We try to simulate what we are planning to say, like when we go on an interview or a date. We talk to ourselves when we’re trying to control ourselves or when we are trying to solve a problem. When we are doing something difficult we mentally walk ourselves through the steps we need to take.

Self-talk helps us to author the stories of our life, to capture stories that explain what we have gone through. Even if our self-talk is negative, that doesn’t always mean it’s bad. We can learn things from painful experiences that help us grow and improve.

How much time do we spend in self-talk?

We spend between a third and a half of our waking hours not focused on the present. And engaging in nonverbal reasoning, or talking to ourselves silently, is a significant portion of that.

Inner speech can take a compressed form, which allows our words to flow at a rapid pace. One study estimated that people can think to themselves at a rate that is equivalent to speaking 4,000 words per-minute out loud. A contemporary State of the Union address is about 6,000 words and can last over an hour. So you are getting the same verbal punch thinking to yourself for about a-minute-and-a-half as you would if you listened to an entire State of the Union address.

But sometimes self-talk can sabotage us?

Unfortunately, sometimes we go inside and verbally introspect hoping to find an answer to our problems, but we end up making the problems worse. We worry, ruminate or catastrophize. We end up getting stuck and start spinning in negativity. And that is what I call “chatter.”

Chatter can sabotage us by undermining our ability to think clearly and perform well. It can also interfere with our relationships, because it can lead us to push people we care about away. And it can impact our physical health.

Do tough times make our negative chatter worse?

This is the chatter event of the century. Political instability. A once-in-a-hundred-years virus that is causing us to not socialize directly with others. Tribalism. Civic unrest. Political divisiveness. Unemployment. A shaky economy. We don’t have a lot of control or certainty right now, and when we lose those qualities we try to regain them. We typically go inside and become introspective to do that.

Can other people make our self-talk worse?

We often want to talk about our emotions or share our feelings with others, to get help and improve the way we feel. But some people just help us keep the chatter active. We need help to broaden our perspective. Yet they get us to relive that event over and over. This is co-rumination, a vent session.

I am very deliberate in who I go to for help when I am experiencing chatter. I think carefully if this person is just there to hear me talk or can give me advice or help me put the experience in perspective.

Let’s talk about tools to control chatter. How can broadening our perspective help?

When we experience chatter we narrowly focus on our problem. What we want to do is zoom out. Think about our experience as something that many people deal with. Think about other people who have experienced something similar and have endured it.

One of my go-to techniques is to think about the 1918 flu pandemic. We got through it and endured and excelled and we will do it again. Doing this is empowering. It gives hope.

Tell me how to use “distanced self-talk.”

There is a lot of research that shows we are much better at advising other people than ourselves. So it can help to think of yourself as if you are someone else. One way to do this is to use “distanced self talk” and coach yourself as if you were advising a friend. Use your own name. “Ethan, here is how you do this.” Many people do this intuitively without knowing why.

Does it help to reframe your experience as a challenge?

Yes. It can be as simple as telling yourself: “I can do this.”

You can also reinterpret your body’s response to chatter. The next time you feel your stomach turning in knots before a big presentation, rather than interpreting that as a cue that you can’t perform, think of it as a signal that you are rising to the occasion.

You write that rituals can be helpful. How?

Rituals can provide us with a sense of order. They can help direct our attention away from the problem.

You could even create your own ritual, such as before you give a talk. For example, remind yourself of advice you’ve received by someone you value, take three deep breaths and clench and unclench your fists twice.

How does our environment affect our self-talk?

People crave a sense of order and control. But when we are experiencing chatter, our thoughts are spinning. You can compensate for the lack of order in your head by creating order around you. By organizing your space. Cleaning the kitchen. Tidying up the bedroom. Going for a walk in nature can help clear your mind.

One of my favorite topics is awe. How can experiencing awe help us control our negative thoughts?

We experience awe when we are in the presence of something vast that we have trouble explaining. Some people get it from religious experiences. Others from looking at the sky or at an incredible piece of art or by attending an amazing concert. When we experience chatter we are narrowly focused on our problems. Experiencing awe shows us how much broader the universe is. And that puts things into perspective pretty significantly.

By Elizabeth Bernstein
https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-stop-the-negative-chatter-in-your-head-11609876801?mod=hp_lead_pos13