Tag Archives: psychology

This Summer, Get Your Life Back Together

This summer is all about big and scary changes for me. What about you? What areas in your life — mental, financial, relationships with siblings or spouses, diet, etc. — need the most improvement? What makes you frustrated or unhappy is the area that needs the most work. Let summer 2013 be all about making healthy steps forward, not backward.

1. Mental Health 

Do you wish you had someone to talk to in confidence? Do you feel depressed, angry, hopeless or frustrated and not sure how to get out of this mess? Gather up your courage and locate a mental health professional. Focus on practical methods of therapy that will help you to focus immediately on the major issues and he or she will guide you to make the necessary changes in life.

  • Find a therapist at therapists.psychologytoday.com and enter your zip code.
  • Choose someone that specializes in areas you need work on (eg: anxiety or substance abuse, marriage counseling) and that accepts your insurance or offers a sliding fee scale — one of the most common reasons for putting off seeing a therapist is the thought that one cannot afford it — not true!
  • Make an appointment for next week.

2. Physical Health

Feel sluggish all the time, tired, and winded going up a few flights of stairs? Recently gained weight? Never exercise? It’s time to change.

  • Start small — 3 times a week for about 30 minutes.
  • Make it easy — take a walk after dinner. No purchases required to get fit.
  • Make it fun — involve your friends/family. Play tennis, play tag with kids, go to the beach and walk along the shore, go swimming, take Zumba, etc. Find something you like.
  • Make it last — attach the habit of exercising with something you already do everyday. Drive past a gym on the way home from work? Keep your gym clothes in your car and head there immediately before going home. Need to watch a certain show every night? Exercise during that program.

3. Spiritual Health

  • If you are religious and have been slacking on going to your church/temple/place of worship, it’s time to recommit. It’s a great place to feel a sense of community and faith like nowhere else and feel like you’re part of a bigger whole, which is comforting. Also, start reading your passages and reflecting silently, too. How can you be a better Christian/Jewish/Buddhist/etc. person today? Can you volunteer, help someone, read a new passage, pray, be closer to nature?
  • If not religious, you can still work on your spiritual health. Practice saying a mantra everyday that makes you feel empowered. Or go to a quiet place of nature and reflect silently.Take steps everyday to remain positive in your life and believe in the magick/karma/The Secret. Meditate. Do yoga. Feel more in tune with your body & soul. Align yourself — become more balanced.

4. Diet/Nutrition

  • This is an important step. Diet has a profound impact on the way we feel, think, and our ability to perform/function in our daily lives. Take this summer to practice eating habits that make you feel better. Journal what you eat, at what time, and how hungry you were. Note how it makes you feel after eating and what emotion you were feeling. Note trends in how you feel hours later or the next day, too — especially if you eat a lot of carbs (sluggish, tired, bloated). Change your habits one meal at a time and become more conscious of the calories you consume — though you don’t have to count them, it’s a good idea if you want to lose weight.
  • Eat cleaner, local, organic foods — search for local farmers markets in your area.
  • Eat more vegetables. Every meal. And try a new veggie once a week or so.
  • Drink water, not calories. An easy way to lose weight and feel better is to drink more water and replace sodas/juices/etc. with water.

5. Social Life/Happiness/Relationships

This is an important one to work on. Ask yourself honestly: How can you be a better…daughter, mother, son, father, wife, husband, friend, relative?

  • What relationships in your life are fading and need TLC? Who can you call that will brighten their face? Catch up with old friends.
  • Ditch the toxic people in your life, as well. If you feel negative when you’re around, make bad decisions like drink/smoke, or if they treat you badly, ditch them. Life is too short to hang around with awful friends. You can always make new friends that align with your goals. Seek them out.
  • Do something that makes you happy everyday. Even if it’s a little bit selfish. If you are not happy everyday, than what is the point of living — seek help if you are feeling depressed, and seek ways to bring happiness into your life on a constant basis.
  • Make an effort to be social, friendly, and confident — even if you don’t feel like it, fake it. It will get easier, I promise.

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If this article helped or inspired you in any way please let me know what you will be working on this summer. I have my own list and I’d like to see what you will be up to.

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Convince Yourself to Hit the Gym: Jillian Michael’s Mind Trick

In an interview with Shape magazine, Jillian Michaels shares her top mind trick for working out when she doesn’t feel like it:

SHAPE: On those days you just don’t want to work out, how do you convince yourself to get out of bed and do it?
JM: I play mind games. I tell myself how grumpy ill be if I don’t work out and think about how lethargic I’ll feel the next day. I promise myself that I will just do 15 minutes and if I am still miserable I’ll stop. There hasn’t been one time I didn’t stay to finish at least 30. Once you are there and the endorphins kick you, you find the strength to power through.

You can read the entire article here.

Why does this work?

  • You turn a negative thought: I don’t want to workout today — into a positive one: Okay, I’ll just do 5-10 minutes and stop.
  • You give yourself permission to start by lowering expectations — it can be overwhelming trying to exercise for 30 min, 45 min, 60 min 4-5 days per week. By saying it’s okay to just START NOW, and say it’s okay to stop if you want, you bring yourself on that machine or to push play on that workout video.
  • After starting, the hardest part is over — Jillian Michaels says that she has never stayed to finish at least 30 minutes of her workout — I guarantee that you will, too.
  • Even if you do decide to stop after 10-15 minutes, SOMETHING is always better than NOTHING. Studies have shown that 3 bouts of 10-15 minute exercises can be just as effective as one long workout.

So get going! Some last inspiring words from Jillian:

Start giving yourself all the affection and attention that you give others, and I promise that not only will your attitude and self worth change, but your waistline as well.

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February, or the month of GSD

So January is almost over, and PROGRESS-WISE, that leaves me barely a stone’s throw away from where I started since 2012 ended.

I figure since February is such a short month (28 days!) that it’s time I mentally, physically, and metaphorically get shit done. Hence, Feb 2103 = Get Shit Done Month (GSD for short or if you don’t like swearing).

I’ve been lurking over at jessicamullen’s blog for a while to generally inspire myself and to think more positively about stuff. I’ve been trying to inject pieces of positiveness into the universe, take risks, and do things that terrify me, like participating in my classes. Just recently I took the plunge and gave myself a raise, technically speaking, on Fiverr: instead of getting 500 words for $5, I’m charging $5 for 250 words. And people are still ordering from me! My fears have been abated. I deserve more. I write good (er..well). People like my work. I’ve been committing to going to classes like it’s my job. I like learning when I’m there. I like my teachers. I like feeling productive, instead when I skip I feel useless and generally crappy.

the only thing that I’m not working on at all is my weight situation, which is, er, a huge problem. I’m tired of gaining and not losing. I want to be healthy, happy in my own skin. But I’m not acting like I want to be those things. I’m behaving like I want to be unhappy, unhealthy, and uncomfortable. I have to reverse this horrible habit. So this month I’m mostly going to concentrate on going to the on-campus gym (which is right there and, free) after classes at least three days per week for 30 minutes to start. The weather is a tad less wintry and awful, so I’ve been walking to school some days, which takes 15 minutes one direction. I will end up not taking my car completely when it is consistently warmer out.

I’ve been adding healthier things in my diet, but I also eat a lot of nonhealthy things, and just plain unfood. Cookies, chips, and other things I inhale to distract myself from other things just has to stop. It’s time for lettuce. tomatoes. broccoli. Things that make me feel better after eating, not worse. not things that make me sick. figuratively and literally.

I also need to make my DAYS more productive. How do business people act? People who freelance professionally? People who have the lifestyle I want? I need to emulate that. People who create multiple streams of income online do not sleep until 2pm. People who freelance professionally do not stay up until 3am eating cookies (I think).

These people wake up early, at a set time everyday, exercise first thing in the morning, eat a real breakfast, get their work done early and don’t bullshit on the internet half the time, and keep their house clean and orderly. They manage their time well and don’t have to rush for deadlines, well unless they like the rush (don’t all writers? we like punishing ourselves this way, don’t we). They know how to get into FLOW and FOCUS. They take breaks and eat regular, balanced meals. They still have plenty of time for other creative and social activities. They know what to do to avoid getting depressed or feeling hopeless.

This February, I will GSD. Will you take the challenge with me?

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The “Better Life” Epic Brainstorm List

My previous post has me thinking about how I want to be looking back at my life 5 years from NOW. I want to be leaps and bounds away from where I’m at currently, in multiple areas of my life, physically and mentally.

So here’s how I’m going to do that: epic brainstorming sesh.

I’m going to uninhibitedly thing of anything and everything that I want my life 5 years from now to consist of, include, become, do, have, and think. because in order to change, you must first write it down. so do it with me.

i will be 100-120 pounds thinner. i will eat a low-carb paleo-inspired diet rich in greens, healthy proteins, and whole foods. i will regularly engage in exercise, and become someone who likes running. i will participate in 5Ks regularly for the fun of it, especially the Color Me Rad event. my brain won’t be foggy and it will be easy to concentrate and focus. my mind won’t wander; mostly, because i will be eating the right foods and giving my body vitamins and nutrients. i will drink plenty of water, and almost never soda. i will learn to love coffee with either  splenda, truvia, or drink it black. i will drink tea mostly, unsweetened, if i desire a caffeine boost. i will have protein shakes for breakfast and make delicious smoothies. i will walk to places that are close by. i will play tennis at the park. i will go hiking for fun, and explore nature around me. i will take a jog by the beach at sunrise. i will take hard boot camp classes and kickboxing and feel healthy and strong like a woman should.

i will have an office space in my next apartment that is solely for me; with inspiring notes, pictures, and words of wisdom. i will have a bookshelf or kindle with the best books on it and read my favorites and discover new authors that i love. i will make a good amount of money writing; i will have increased my rates to one i feel comfortable working for, and my clients love my work. i get new exciting projects all the time and more people recognize my work online. i will have finished a novel and will mostly self-publish online as an ebook. i will be working on other novels and projects all the time; always many projects half-finished. but i am a productive worker, i get things done when i need to and i don’t have a hard time concentrating or focusing. i make enough money online through freelancing and website projects that i do not have to have a job, but i do anyway because i like working. i have enough money saved for an entire year of emergency income, and i am never late on bill payments. my husband and i have a one-bedroom in a southern state because i hate the snow, and he is going to grad school. our love life is amazing and we go stronger and closer everyday. i have a good circle of friends and i talk to out of state friends regularly online. i am networking with other bloggers and freelancers.  i am taking online web design classes and paying off student loans from my bachelor’s degree. my part time job utilizes my love of psych to help children, adolescents, or mentally disabled kids in some way. i am thinking of going to grad school for a teaching degree before we start a family. i am contacting agents to realize an important dream of mine, to become an offline published author, with a real physical book with my name on it.

just writing this out makes it sound a little more do-able. i am excited for my future, for tomorrow, next week, and to see how the next five years will pan out for me.

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Experimenting with Brain Waves

brainwavesI’ve been writing pretty exclusively on Fiverr and I get to write about the most interesting things sometimes. One of them is a couple articles about brainwave entrainment. Me being a Psychology major, I dig stuff like this, so I enjoyed researching. Soon, I found myself intrigued, and I looked at YouTube to try listening to some binaural beats myself.

Supposedly, brainwave entrainment is supposed to train your brain to sync to a lower frequency. The lower frequencies, called deta, theta, and alpha, allow you to get into a higher mental state through meditation and relaxation. Each frequency corresponds to a state of consciousness; deta is actually the brainwave dominant when sleeping or unconscious. Theta and alpha are the goal brainwaves for inspiring relaxation and getting away from beta, which at a higher frequency, promotes anxiety and high-strung behaviors.

There are a number of programs to buy, but I like sticking with free for now, so I found a couple that actually help me to focus. There’s a few different choices that have different effects like monaural, binaural, and isochronic. I just listen to different ones and see what effect they have on me, and if I can handle the sound. It helps to sit or lay comfortably, and focus on breathing like any other meditation. Instead, you are listening to specific patterns with headphones that help you to focus. On the mind level, it promotes theta or alpha brainwave frequencies.

People say that it helps to inspire focus, creativity, a better meditation experience, more relaxed lifestyle, and some even attribute it to letting go of negative thoughts and actions. I find that even if it is just another way to help me to relax, it is a good thing to try. I lay down, close my eyes, and think about a word or a thought that I want to think positively about.

Here are some videos I dig:

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3 Ways to Immediately Live a More Fulfilling Life

westie painting leftoversHave you ever thought to yourself, “there must be more to this life?”

There is. You just have to figure out what it is.

Stop living your life absentmindedly, going through the motions, and self-medicating with food, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Stop hating your life each morning, swearing under your breath as you brush your teeth. Stop yelling at your spouse or kids because you are so stressed at work and stop being disgusted with yourself. The time to act is now. Grab a pen and piece of paper, and find out what you need in your life to be happier.

1. Do what you love. Stop what you don’t.

There’s no point wasting your time being miserable. Focus on what you enjoy in your life and make a strong effort to replace time-wasting activities with activities and hobbies that make you smile or lose track of time.

DO: Try drawing in a sketchpad, painting on a canvas, reading a good book, hand-writing in a pretty journal, taking pictures with a real camera (not your iphone), going outside and laying in the grass. What makes you happy? Munching on chips probably makes you (temporarily) happy, but choose a more spiritually rewarding or creative task. The key is to replace a negative aspect of your life (what is harming some aspect of your life in any way, big or small, literally, morally, spiritually, or mentally), with something constructive and positive.

STOP: Get rid of mindless web surfing, bad television show-watching, sitting on the couch, sleeping in, toxic friends, smoking, over-consumption of alcohol or indulging in high-caloric food, social media….and anything else that bring no worth to your pleasure or career, things that give you anxiety or are tedious, and things that are not critical to your life and have no sense being in it.

Consciously remove yourself from that negative situation (caught yourself in front of daytime TV again?). If you cannot leave the room or environment (you hate your job, but you need to pay bills? See number two), use some quick relaxation exercises to calm yourself down and bring yourself in the present moment mentally. Stop shutting out your emotions and realize what behaviors or feelings are bringing you to desire this harmful activity.

Example: I mindlessly surf Facebook when I am bored.
What is at the root of this activity? What am I feeling? Boredom.
Why do I feel bored? Because I have no one to talk to, and I feel lonely. Because I can’t sleep, so I’ve logged onto the computer to waste time and distract myself.
What am I distracting myself from? My current financial situation.

This example shows how to write out and get to the root of your stress/worries that is causing the negative behavior. Free-write uninterrupted until you hit the gold-mine.

The next step, of course, is to figure out proactive ways to solve your problems. But first:

  • Remove yourself from the situation.
  • Calm yourself down and get back in the present. Realize why you are doing this behavior.
  • Physically get up, change gears, and begin doing the activity you’d rather be doing — the one that brings you joy, is productive and creative, and more fulfilling to your life.
  • Keep consciously changing gears until you replace the bad habit completely.
  • Feel infinitely better and more creative.

2. Get a job you love – the smart way.

It is easy for self-help books and blogs to say, “if you don’t like your job, QUIT.” But seriously, we all need to pay the bills. Sometimes the only job out there is one that is mind-numbing, below your pay rate or skill levels, or has a horrible and stressful work environment or co-workers. The smart way to do this is to look for your dream job — on the side. Keep your job for the necessities in life: utilities, rent/mortgage payments, car payments, gas, food, clothes, and insurance. But when you’re out of work, fill an hour or so per week hunting down that job. Update your resume, make an account on Linked In or SnagaJob, search Indeed or Monster for open positions, practice job interview questions. Glassdoor is a great resource for getting the inside scoop on job interviews, salary levels, and workplace satisfaction. Discover companies in your area and contact them.

Make a deadline for when you would like to quit. If you find it hard to work without pressure, type your letter of resignation now, and seal it in an envelope addressed to your manager. Bring it to your manager in the two weeks before your previously chosen last day.

Note: you may be tempted to find a job and rush in there, tell off your boss and stick up the middle finger and waltz out the door. DON’T. Remain professional and civil, and you will keep a reference for your future jobs. Also, most managers will not provide a positive reference to your employers if you do not provide the two-weeks-notice or more; please see your employee handbook for specific information for your job. Do not lose out on your reference, especially if you’ve been at the job for more than six months. Consider this a stepping stone to your true job.

If your employment relationship includes either an explicit or implied contract that says you must give two weeks notice of resignation and you don’t, your employer might have the right to take punitive action. For example, your employer might legally have the right to deny you termination benefits, such as accrued vacation pay. (source)

You may consider taking this hour or so every week to contribute your time to starting the business you’ve always dreamed of (see youngentrepreneur.com), starting a website to monetize/sell products/blog, or advertise for handy man work or cleaning positions on your local Craigslist. These side endeavors, with some hard work, and time/money investments (dependent on the nature of the project), will lead to a decent side income or may even a replacement to your paid-per-hour or salary job position. (See SmartPassiveIncome.com)

3. Be a constant learner.

A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.
~Chinese Proverb

One of the greatest joys of life is that there is much to be learned — everyday. Seek out opportunities to learn something. Whether it’s a new word (like this one), a new language (great list of free language learning tools and sites), a program (like Photoshop), or something extremely out of your element (for me, it’s politics), the most fulfilling life is one that is full of constant learning. Here are just a few amazing online free resources.

  • Khan Academy – online courses/videos.
  • W3Schools – learn HTML, Javascript, CSS, ASP, PHP, etc.
  • Codecademy – interactive code-learning program for beginners.
  • Reddit.com – millions of amazing subreddits with opportunities to learn everyday with user-uploaded content and interesting debates like r/psychology, r/science, or this question/answer format r/IAmA (posters claim they are some interesting person, prove it, and answer reader’s questions). You can literally search anything and they will most likely have a reddit for it.
  • Tell me why? – random tidbits of knowledge and facts in a blog format.
  • DumbLittleMan has this great list of free online resources for learning something new everyday.
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Learn to Forgive: What Are you Holding Onto?

It’s easy to be angry. Thinking about all of the ways different people in your life — past and present — have wronged you, betrayed you, broke your trust. Shutting yourself off from making new friendships and loving the few people you feebly keep in touch with. Hiding. Anger is really just hiding the fact that you’re hurt. You may think that you are teaching those people a lesson by staying angry with them, shutting them out from you, and thinking about the ways they make you angry, but you’re dead wrong.

By being angry, you are keeping yourself unhealthy and depressed. Anger eats away at the soul, and causes physical anxiety, depression, and negative effects of stress. When you are first angry at something or someone, it is a natural process in separating yourself from the situation and establishing your feelings — “yes, I was hurt, and I don’t want that to happen again.” But there comes a time where you must learn to forgive — for your own good.

What have you been angry about for too long, that is eating away at you? Do you feel like it is time to stop being angry, and begin the forgiveness process? Are you scared of what to do next? Maybe you don’t know how NOT to be angry.

Begin the process today with just a pen and paper.

Write a letter addressed to the person you are angry at. If it’s not a person, write it addressed to the situation that you remember. Write out all of your feelings, your memories of what happened. Don’t censor yourself, or edit yourself while writing. Just get it out. If doing this stirs up tears or feelings of anger or anxiety, let it come out. Make sure you include what happened, why you are angry, and what you don’t want to happen again and why. Include how it makes you feel — at that moment, and right now.

When you are done, crumble it up. Rip it into pieces. Shred it. Burn it (in a safe place). Destroy it.

Let this be a symbolic method for you letting go of those negative feelings. You don’t have to forget about it, but you must forgive. It is time.

If your goal is to contact the person again and remedy the relationship, write an email or call up the person and ask them if they have some free time to talk to you about something important. Let them know how you feel, and that you are ready to move forward in time and wish to remedy the relationship. If they are ready as well, the both of you can start the process towards moving forward with your lives and letting go of the negative feelings associated with the event in the past.

Forgiving someone is not about forgetting the event, or saying it was okay or unimportant. It is about freeing yourself from staying angry and learning to come to terms with what has happened. So what are you holding onto?

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Why You Eat When You’re Sad

This is an extension of the post I did a few days ago called How to Stop Emotional Eating – For Good. Emotional eating can take many forms, but most people can probably agree that it is when you are sad that the cravings for cookies and ice cream start calling. I wanted to do a more in depth exploration of why this happens, and of course, ways to help overcome it.

Stress.

The number one reason we will eat is due to the stress that negative emotions cause us, especially sadness. Most times, stress goes hand in hand with depression and can either be a symptom or a factor in being sad. When we’re stressed, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which creates cravings for unhealthy foods and stores these extra calories in the belly, the visceral fat region which is a danger zone for heart attacks. Some people also feel the need to soothe their oral fixation caused by anxiety or any other emotion, which can be soothed by the repetitive motion of picking up handfuls of food into the mouth.

So how to reduce stress? There’s plenty of techniques, but here’s just a few to get you started:

  • Meditation – it sounds corny, but it really does work. Search around for some meditation videos on YouTube like this one or this one, and lay down face up (or however you’re most comfortable) with arms down your side and preferably headphones on. Listen to the music, or the music with guided meditation (helps with imagery). A good meditation session will leave you less stressed and relaxed like you’ve just woken for a nap.
  • Nap – if the meditation isn’t your thing, then you can take an actual nap. It doesn’t quite solve anything, but it does help you to sleep on some hard decisions.
  • Deep breathing – breathe deeply through your nose for about 5 seconds, hold for just a sec, and slowly release through your mouth for about 5-10 seconds. Do this for a couple of minutes, especially at moments of high stress, and see how you feel.
  • Yoga – yoga is another thing that’s not for everyone, but if you like it, you’ll love it. You can also do some basic stretching (not yoga-y) while using the deep breathing technique to really reap the benefits. You can do a quick pose when you’re feeling stressed at the office, or you can do it every time you wake up (and do the Sun Salutation).

Numb or Distract Ourselves.

Going back to the pain/pleasure principles discussed in the How to Stop Emotional Eating – For Good article, people don’t like to feel pain and will instinctively find any way to stop pain and increase pleasure. This often includes distracting ourselves from difficult news or emotions. Food is a way to distract ourselves from the pain and to induce pleasure with the chemicals and sugars found in foods. The repetitive act of eating is soothing, as well as the sensations of food which cut off our thoughts.

Habits/Learned Associations, such as from Childhood.

Most moms can admit to using an ice cream cone as a pick-me-up for their children when they get a minor injury, such as falling off a bike. However, if used enough times, the child can learn to associate good feelings with food. Food is seen as the way to make the pain go away, or to stop crying. Maybe moms should start using carrots instead of cupcakes, and the world will be a better place 🙂 Ahh, but even though this may be an ingrained response from childhood, it is fairly simple to unlearn the association. One way is fear – imagine spiders and other gross things on your favorite junk food item or literally throw dirt on your junk food item before you’re about to eat it (a waste of food yes, but for an important point). Or as soon as you feel a craving for that specific treat, such as ice cream, pinch your wrist very hard. Soon you will learn to associate the junk food with pain.

As an example: One time I spent far too much time on Youtube watching gross videos about decaying animals, just for the curiosity of how flies and maggots play the role in the circle of life. I had also watched a fascinating time lapse of all kinds of fruit decaying and molding in a bowl. Unfortunately, the next day my sister gave me a cherry to eat, and I literally could not stomach the thought of eating that cherry. It disgusted me to look at the fruit and be reminded of that video. So it can be done. Next time I’ll try to find something about ice cream.

Ignoring the Larger Problem(s).

This is related to numbing/distraction, but usually the problem is far worse than normal thoughts throughout the day. Perhaps you have a dark secret that even yourself cannot bear to think about – do you have a sudden urge to eat potato chips or the like? Some people hide their disparity about their failing marriages or their cheating husbands by gorging on food at night because they can no longer cry about it, or the food helps them ignore the problem. This is when it is time to see a professional, to uproot these issues. Being raped or molested is another huge reason girls will overeat, as a way to provide a buffer so that they won’t be noticed by predators. Short of seeing a therapist, which is highly recommended (especially if you’re eating to cover up feelings about serious depression or suicidal/harmful thoughts), you can try these things:

  • Journal! Write it out, and tackle your feelings head on. Write a story about it, in third person if you must, and share it with someone. Chances are there are a lot of people who can relate, too. Sharing makes it easier to go through the experience.
  • Pick up a creative hobby to do instead of eating. Can’t write or talk about it? Try drawing or painting. You don’t have to be good at it, just do it for the therapy.
  • Try CBT therapy on your own. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a technique that many therapists are skilled in. You can try a simplified version by yourself, if you’d like: CBT’s goal is to find out the reasoning behind your behaviors and to try to alter your thinking patterns and inspire better behaviors. For example, your undesired behavior is that you eat too much, and your cognitive functioning is that you eat because you’re sad. Write out why you do this, and find the real problems. If you’re crying, or it feels hard, then you’ve found the real reasons. Once you’ve pin-pointed the thoughts that are making you do this behavior, then it’s time to find out how to change those thoughts and therefore your behavior. Whenever you think a negative thought, change it into a positive. Work on your self esteem. Change your surroundings so that you can change your problem. And then you can also consciously work on changing your behavior. The two are related, so you’ll start seeing improvement both ways. It’s usually a long, difficult and drawn out process – which is why professional help is recommended. I’ll write a post more about CBT later, however.
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How To Stop Emotional Eating – For Good

Eat Eat Eat Me... Hunger is a basic sensation that all creatures feel and respond to with the appropriate action: to eat. Hunger stems from the very basic idea of stimulus and response as well as the pain principle. The body realizes that there is a lack of nutrients caused by an empty stomach. The body then releases chemicals that inflicts an uncomfortable feeling of emptiness, weakness, and desire to eat (called appetite). The body searches for food to stop this discomfort. This then additionally becomes motivation – a call to action.

So hunger is already very complicated, even in the state of nature. Operating on biology, chemistry, motivation, the pain principle, and the most basic behavioral psychology of stimulus and response. This is important to understand. For a more thorough explanation, click here.

The pain principle – we don’t like feeling pain. It is a natural self preservation tool used to survive in the state of nature. Hunger pangs, terrible contractions of discomfort which begin 12-24 hours after not eating, can be so painful that it is difficult to concentrate on anything else. Add to this state the decreased level of blood sugar and general feeling of lightheadedness and anxiety, and hunger can be almost unbearable. Most people living in developed countries rarely feel real hunger pangs because they are able to eat at normal intervals – every 3-4 hours or so. However, the biological response is still rampant, and once the first sign of discomfort hits, many people instinctively race to stop the pain.

Motivation – The most basic ideas of motivation stems from the pain and pleasure principles. There are two types of motivation – extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic is when we are motivated by external things, like a piece of cake, when then stirs a biological response. Intrinsic motivation is internal, and could be anything from a thought or a memory that triggers the same biological response. Motivation is the desire to act to accomplish a goal or fulfill a need, such as eating or sleeping

Behavioral psychology – the most basic theories of behavioral psychology stem from the stimulus and response theory. A stimulus is noticed, a response follows due to that stimulus. The stimulus could be anything – a rabbit sees movement in the bushes, and flees to escape a preconceived notion of danger. the rabbit knew to flee because last time she saw movement in the bushes, a snake came out and lunged at her. The fear response kicked in from seeing the stimulus and caused her to flee. Now the rabbit knows that whenever she sees movement in the bushes, that she must run to avoid getting eaten. In humans this could transfer over to almost anything. The alarm clock makes an annoying buzzer sound, you shut it off and get out of bed. The commercial shows a delicious looking cheeseburger, you decide to buy from that restaurant that night.

What does this have to do with emotional eating? Everything.

When we eat, it is meant to fulfill a need. In nature, this need is strictly biological. We eat to stop the hunger pangs, and we eat to gain nutrition and to feel satiated. As a complex society, hunger means something completely different. We eat because we’re hungry, yes, but we eat for other reasons, too. We eat because we are bored. We eat because we are tired. Angry. Frustrated. Stressed. Sad. Annoyed. Happy.

Eating just got so much more complicated. Eating is no longer just a necessity, it is a social function. Eating is everywhere, at funerals, weddings, work meetings, movie theatres, and eating is shared as a community. Eating is also done after buying or cooking the food, not after hunting or gathering for hours or days. Eating is an easy task, and we don’t even have to cook at all to eat – we just pay other people to. Eating is done on purpose, and it is done as a social obligation. It is also done absentmindedly, when one is not paying full attention.

How do we stop emotional eating for good? We start paying attention.

  • Next time you eat, take note of the time and how you felt right before eating. Note how hungry you felt (on a scale of 1-5) and your mood.
  • Then write down exactly what you ate, including portion sizes and beverages. Note the time when you are finished.

Do this for a day, or a few days, to get a better view, and then sit down in a quiet spot and take a good, hard look. Do you notice any patterns of eating when not particularly hungry (at a score of 1 or 2), or only waiting to eat until you are starving (5) and then eating a large amount in one sitting? How about your mood? Do you eat when you are happy, sad, or mad? How long does it take you to eat? If you are eating in less than 5 minutes, then you are waiting too long to eat, or you eat too fast and don’t feel satisfied because you don’t notice what you are eating. The general rule is that the body needs 20 minutes before it realizes that it is full.

  • If you are not eating when you are hungry, wait until you feel like you’re at a 3-4 before eating. Consciously force yourself to wait until you feel physically hungry. Don’t just eat because it is a certain time of the day (“lunch time”) or because that’s when you’re friends are eating.
  • If you are waiting until you are at a 4-5, find out why you wait until you’re starving until you eat. Do you have a pattern of eating large meals in-between longer periods of time? Do you, for one reason or another (which you should find out and write down), skip meals?

Steps to Stop Emotionally Eating

If you are eating when you are sad/depressed/angry, catch yourself the next time you realize what you are doing. Stop yourself in your tracks and ask yourself, are you really, physically hungry? Do you need to eat to gain fuel and nutrition, or do you feel sad and need to distract yourself with food?

Physically remove yourself from the eating area and go somewhere else where no food is allowed. Stay there for at least 20-30 minutes, if not more.

Bring something to do, such as a journal to write in, polish to paint your nails, or a favorite book to read. Keep a stash of things to do and keep them around you so that whenever the feeling strikes you, you can distract yourself.

Do this every single time you find yourself eating when in a depressed state. Soon the process will become automatic, and you will disengage the link of [sad + food] to [sad + something else]. 

A lot of people have found that writing is the most helpful, so that they can write out their feelings and get it off their chests and away from their minds. But you can pick anything that is not food and that is ideally creative and constructive, not destructive. Find something that you genuinely love to do and find yourself getting lost in.

List of things to Do Instead of Eating

  • write a poem
  • write a short story
  • draw a picture of yourself
  • draw a picture of your pet
  • make a list of things you love about yourself
  • make a list of your goals and how you’re going to reach them
  • watch your favorite movie
  • watch a new movie
  • play a video game
  • find an online game to play
  • write a letter (real or online) to a friend
  • call a friend
  • go to the movies and skip the snack line
  • go to the mall and just walk around the area, avoiding the food court
  • go to a new park and walk around or enjoy the view
  • go to the beach and read in the sun
  • go play tennis
  • go read a book
  • write a book
  • paint a picture
  • go through your closet and organize your clothes
  • clean your entire room
  • listen to music really loud and dance in your room
  • talk a walk around the block with your dog or a friend/family member
  • start a blog or website
  • talk to people on forums
  • play with your pet
  • use stumbleupon to find interesting new sites
  • go through your photos and re-organize them or make a scrapbook
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How Positive Psychology Can Help Improve Your Life

Most psychology topics deal with dysfunction or mental illness, and it can take a toll on how we feel about the state of human life and question the intentions of people. However, the burgeoning field of positive psychology explores what makes life worth living, which can be a radical inspiration in the midst of  this crazy/beautiful life.

There are many things that the science of positive psychology has taught the world since its introduction just over a decade ago, such as that most people are happy and resilient and that strong relationships are critical to one’s sense of happiness, but perhaps the most significant one is that the good life can be taught. It is not by fate or genetics that people become happy. Happiness and feeling satisfied in one’s life truly is a journey that must be discovered through trial and error, of break ups and make ups, of reading and learning and experiencing all that life has to offer. So how can this scientific breakthrough help your life?

Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment. Grow out of your comfort zone and do something a little bit crazy. Explore a new city or town, meet a new friend, try a new dish. Take a class you would never have thought to take, read a book in a genre you thought you’d hate. Try a new exercise, a new fruit, make a recipe from scratch. Bake vegan brownies. Browse around Wikipedia and learn something new. Discover new heroes and inspirational figures. Watch the sunrise, watch the sunset. Learn a new sport, learn a new language. Try a new hobby. Try painting. The ideas are endless.

Keep your mind flexible by always reading and learning something new. Read a new blog article per day (such as this one) or a new chapter in an inspiring book. And keep your heart full by nourishing your relationships with your family, friends, and significant other. Give hugs and kisses, and talk on the phone and in person. Have deep, meaningful conversations.

Think about the positives, not the negatives. Whenever you catch yourself thinking a negative thought about yourself, catch it and re-write it in your mind so that it states something positive. Review an affirmation everyday and read your goals to keep your vision in your mind. Free write every morning in a journal and get out all of that negative thought garbage out of your head and literally rip up the page and throw it away. On a new page, write 10 things you love about yourself and 10 things you could do today to work towards your goals on improving yourself.

Think of your goals in a positive light, not negative one by stating that you wish to achieve financial abundance, not to get out of debt. Work out everyday to become a healthy, thin person instead of losing weight. Say that you want to only put healthy things in your mouth, don’t say that you want to stop eating junk food or drinking alcohol. Think of what to replace in your life, not what to get rid of, which usually has a negative connotation. Think back to operant conditioning, where the positive reinforcement system is better than a negative punishment. Think of giving yourself positive things in your life to increase good behaviors, rather than thinking of always adding punishment or decreasing good things to decrease bad behaviors. Not only will this way of thinking help you think of life as more satisfying and positive, but it also tells you more clearly what kind of life you are after, and not what you are not after.

Inspired by Psychology Today’s What is positive psychology and what is it not?

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