Category Archives: General

13 Things Mindful People Do

-They enjoy the outdoors and the beauty of nature
-They enjoy moments of levity; laughter matters to them
-They enjoy the routines of everyday life
-They challenge their beliefs and are mentally flexible
-They really try to take in information while reading something
-They listen fully during conversations
-They don’t try to avoid or deny emotions. Negative and positive.
-They don’t feel the need to judge others or themselves
-They are naturally curious and love to learn
-They take mini-breaks every hour when working or studying
-They scan their body: am I fatigued, anxious, overwhelmed, irritated?
-They nourish their body with delicious food
-They treasure genuineness in relationships and communicate without subterfuge.

Also see Adding Mindfulness to Treatment.

Mental distress and social exclusion

Her: I usually feel excluded at work; with colleagues, meetings, or in conversations. I’m invisible: I don’t matter.f
Him: One of my best friends recently started dating somebody. I’m happy for her, but she has no time to chat or hang out. I feel like I don’t matter.
Them: My partner has a new job. Everything is about their work. I feel like I don’t matter.

Humans are “herd animals.” We all want to feel included. As much as we will hear “don’t care about what other people think,” “do your own thing,” that’s not how we’re built.

Belonging and ‘fitting in’ are core needs. Long-term social exclusion can lead to emotional distress and a host of mental health problems. One study even found that social exclusion can lead to impaired self-regulation, meaning that people may struggle to make healthy decisions for themselves when they are being socially excluded. For example, if you are feeling alone, you might eat that quart of ice cream or finish that bottle of wine. In contrast, people who are in close, caring, and secure relationships and friendships show elevated levels of oxytocin, which is the love/bonding hormone that keeps us ‘on course’, even at the cellular/neural level.

So it’s completely normal and understandable that you might feel rejected if you feel left out of plans or your friend group or people you care about are having fun without you.

If you feel left out regularly, there are some things you can do to deal with these feelings. We all get left out and ignored sometimes (no one can be liked by everyone), but we can learn to surround ourselves with people who truly want us around. In addition, we can learn to manage our feelings better, so we don’t feel as bad in the times we will be left out.

Accept your emotions
A lot of our hurt comes from trying to deny, suppress, or run away from our feelings. Giving space for our feelings can paradoxically make them more manageable. Accepting your emotions doesn’t mean that you have to love your current situation as it. You can still try to change and improve the things that are bothering you in life.

What does accepting emotions look like in practice? Let’s say you’re feeling left out of family gatherings or friends who are spending time together. Accepting your feelings means saying to yourself: “right now, I’m feeling rejected, and that’s tough. There is nothing wrong with how I feel. I can be still be kind to myself.” Self-compassion is not static; you may have a wave of hurt that takes you by surprise. Contrary to popular belief, self-actualization or Nirvana are not phases that are permanent; you have to soothe yourself as the feelings come.

Make sure you haven’t misread the situation
Sometimes we assume that we have been purposefully left out or rejected, but that isn’t always the case. It’s worth examining the situation and how we feel about it. Note that examining your emotions doesn’t mean shaming yourself for them. Your hurt feelings are still valid even if you misread the situation. Shaming yourself isn’t going to help.

Let’s say that you hear of two friends hanging out together on a day you were free. You may feel hurt and sad because they didn’t ask if you want to join them. Feelings of envy, jealousy, inadequacy, and shame may creep up. Thoughts like, “I guess we’re not so close after all” may fill your mind.

Ensure that you’re making yourself available
How do you deal with the feeling of being left out? Some people share their feelings, while others may pull away in an attempt to protect themselves.

It may come out of a fear of “burdening others” with your needs or presence. Or perhaps it’s a deep fear of abandonment or rejection.

Some people “test” their friends by not responding to their texts for a while. They wait to see if their friends check up on them and “prove that they care.”

The worst communication is tit for tat: they did not respond to me, so I’m not going to text them. They did not invite me so I’m not going to invite them. They don’t care about my feelings, so I’m going to show them I don’t care.

Bottom line is that you do care. You can learn how to make your overall communication appear more friendly and approachable. Just reply to messages and calls. Let people know you appreciate them. Give and receive compliments with grace. These actions send the message that you’re available for new connections.

Check if your expectations are realistic
People have different expectations from friendships and romantic relationships. Some people need a lot of time together, while others want to have a lot of alone time. While some people prefer to have two or three close friends they do most things with, others prefer to have many friends, contacts, followers, and acquaintances.

As we get older, our friendships change as well. As people become parents, they spend more time with their children and expanded families. When they meet up, they cannot be as spontaneous as their friends with no kids. They have to be back home by a certain time to say goodnight to the kids or send the babysitter away. Sometimes they’ll need to bring their children with them and prefer to go to kid-friendly places. This also relates to people who have companion animals who require attention. If they are rushing home to take care of their furry companion, it’s a responsibility that needs to be respected.

We also tend to get busier as we get older. Obligations such as work, juggling work, family both young and old, self-care, and keeping up the house take more of our time. Our interests change as well. You may have had friends you bonded with over late nights, meaning of life conversations, and barhopping, who may no longer have those interests or ability.

In some of these cases, friendships can adapt and grow. You may not see a friend for several months as they adjust to a new job, relationship, or parenthood, and you may hear from them again when things have settled down. Another friend may have moved away but reconnects. With virtual communication and travel, distance is not what it used to be.

Enjoy time spent alone
You’ll feel left out more if you’re not enjoying the time you spend by yourself. Learn how to be. Eat the delicious food, drink the delicious libations, watch your favorite show, read the book that you’ve been saving, light your favorite candle. Just as you nurture people you love, spoil the one who is with you the most.

Remind yourself of your amazing qualities
When we feel left out, we might come up with all sorts of stories about ourselves. You might start thinking: No one invites me because they don’t like me. I’m boring and needy. If I were fun to be around, I’d have more friends. Then, we start to believe ourselves. We feel that we don’t have anything to offer others, affecting how we interact with people, leading to a vicious cycle. Try to make a list of your positive qualities and remind yourself of them often. You can use daily affirmations or put post it notes on your laptop or mirror. Let yourself celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Give yourself a mental high five when you try something new, pay off a bill, or go for a run.

Meet new people
How do you know if you have flaky or toxic friends? If you find yourself extending yourself to others, with your time, energy, finances, and interest, and not receiving the same effort back, it may be time to make new friends.

A friendship that leaves you feeling consistently feeling left out and rejected may be doing more harm than good.

A good friendship should feel overall balanced and reciprocal. There are often periods in a long friendship where one person is busier than the other or needs more support. That’s normal and something you can work through together. But if you feel like you’re the only one giving in in your relationships, you may consider taking a step back.

Talk to a therapist
If you find yourself feeling left out frequently, there may be something deeper going on. It may be that you’re misreading situations and feel left out even around people who enjoy your company and want to include you.

Or you may be struggling to recognize when someone wants to be your friend, leading you to choose unhealthy friendships or put yourself in situations where you will be hurt.
In either case, you may benefit from working one-on-one with someone who can help you identify where you’re stuck. Together, you can come up with solutions on how to remove these blocks and make changes in your social interactions.

Honest communication; or how to express your needs. 
When bringing up sensitive topics, it’s always best to focus on “I” statements. Talk more about how you felt than what the other person did, so it does not come out as an attack. When people feel attacked, they are likely to respond defensively, and the conversation can turn into a conflict rather than coming up with solutions.

For example, if you want to share that you feel left out, avoid saying things like:
“You’ve been ignoring me.”
“I’m always calling you, but you never call me.”
“If you cared about me, you’d have made time for me.”

Be open and honest about your feelings, but don’t expect your friend or partner to “fix” them for you. Listen to what they have to say and try to come up with a solution together.
Takeaway: Being kind to ourselves sets the standard for what kind of behavior we accept from other people. This does not minimize normal human feelings of pain, loss, abandonment, jealousy, even anger.

All lost relationships hurt badly. The one you have with yourself is your constant.

Mantras as Self-Statements

Many people are familiar with the classic psychotherapy strategies of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which include the use of self-statements to combat negative or intrusive thoughts and cognitive distortions (tricks the brain plays on you, particularly when depressed or anxious).

Personally and professionally, I like to integrate the ancient knowledge that comes from mantras as therapeutic work. A mantra is a repeated positive affirmation. It should reflect something positive you’re trying to invoke within you; anything that feels true when you speak it. I like mantras that begin with “I am” because they resonate deeply as truth. You end up speaking it into existence.

What is something you’re needing or wanting to create?
Your intention should come from your greatest place of self-compassion. Go into it without attachment. You may want your mantra to speak to a very specific desire that looks a certain way. But trust me when I say that when you arrive up on your mantra you will feel a sense of resonance.
It will just feel right.

When should we use mantras?
During meditation, walking, upon waking to set intention for the day, sitting in traffic, during a stressful day at work, to unwind at night, in the shower, and so many more possibilities. Verbalizing your mantra, speaking it aloud and repeating it, is powerful. Feel the vibration of the mantra on your lips pay attention as it reverberates through your body. Write it in your journal, on a post it, on an index card taped to your bathroom mirror.

I also use mantras with technology. Put it in your reminders, your Google calendar on repeat, Alexa, pop-ups, text it to yourself.

Some modern day mantras:
“I ignite the many aspects of the goddess within me.”

In Sanskrit: Om Shreem Maha Lakshmiyei Namaha, which translates to recognition of the potential for true abundance in all aspects of life.

Self-compassion and forgiveness
“I accept myself.”

“This too shall pass.”

“I am love.”

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”

Being present
“Be here, now.”

Allowing the universe to guide you
“I am open to the universe.”

“I choose joy.”

“Close your eyes, clear your heart, let it go.”

“I are capable of wonderful things”

‘Labor Day’: On Mental Health; Givers and Takers

In nearly all cultures, the process of socialization teaches us to share, take turns and give back to those who give to us: Reciprocity. We are likely to be shamed or ostracized if we don’t integrate the rules of reciprocity into our behavior. The rule of reciprocation is deeply ingrained in our psyche. This dance of ongoing, reciprocal giving and receiving is also seen as a
characteristic in the majority of successful relationships and communities.

This characteristic has survived and been present throughout human history because it has survival value. The gifted anthropologist Richard Leakey described the essence of what makes us human is this system of reciprocity. He wrote that we are alive because our ancestors learned to share their food, shelter, and their skills in an honored network of obligation. This mutual indebtedness is the valuable means that allows for the division of labor, exchange of goods and services, and the creation of clusters of interdependencies that bind us together in highly efficient units/families/friendships/communities. Humans.

Givers, takers, and matchers: The research
Takers are self-focused and put their own interests ahead of others’ needs. They try to gain as much as possible from their interactions while contributing as little as they can in return. They often emphasize their personal difficulties and the impossibility of providing more to the other person.

Matchers like to preserve an equal balance of giving and taking. Their mindset is: “If you take from me, I’ll take from you. If you give to me, I’ll give to you.” Tit for tat is the social-cognitive style.

Givers are others-focused, and tend to consistently provide support to others, frequently with little or no evidence of any reciprocity.

Reciprocity and Success
Guess which of these types is the most successful at work and relationships based on research? Turns out, givers tend to be the worst performers at work and relationships, across a variety of studies. They’re at a disadvantage across a wide range of occupations, because they sacrifice their own success to help others succeed, and put their own needs behind those of partners and friends.

So that must mean takers or matchers are the top performers, right?
Nope. It’s the givers again. The WORST and BEST performers at work and relationships are other-focused.

Why is that? Since takers develop reputations for putting others last, matchers tend to try to knock them down, research shows. Takers are often seen as narcissistic and unpleasant. In sum, takers rarely succeed in building strong relationships and networks.

On the other hand, folks tend to root for givers to succeed. Everyone loves, trusts, and supports givers, since they add value to others and enrich the success of the people around them. In short, givers succeed because their giving leads to quality relationships, which benefit them in the long run. The mediating variable appears to be interconnection and social support.

At this point, you might be asking: what steps can I take to become a successful giver? How do I stop myself from overdoing it? After all, being a successful giver comes with many verified perks: stronger relationships, increased happiness, and better performance at work.

How to be a successful giver, four hacks:
1. 5-minute favors
Do other people small favors that take no more than 5 minutes – like making an introduction, giving feedback, rapidly returning a text, sending info, and checking in. In the workplace, the home, the classroom, even online, spending time to do consistent five minute favors has been shown to be effective in establishing a sense of giving; importantly, for both the giver and the receiver. Giving does not have to consist of huge amounts of time or resources. Constancy adds connection.

2. Ask for help
Ask a friend or coworker for help on an issue you’re having, without taking up too much of their time. While asking for help doesn’t sound like a quintessential giver move, doing so comes with some surprising benefits. It gives the individual the opportunity to be a giver by acknowledging the expertise and skill set of another person, and it also makes others feel good and capable.

3. Specialize in providing certain ways to support
Pick one or two ways of helping that you enjoy and excel at. This way, you can help in a way that energizes you, instead of exhausts you. Are you a good writer, interviewer, tech savvy, organizer, planner? This trick will also allow you to gain a reputation as a person with a particular expertise you’re willing to share, rather than as a nice person who’s freely available.

4. Keep an eye out for serial takers.
Spot takers early, based on reputation and past experience. Chances are, you will hear from their partners, family members, or colleagues that they have a reputation for being a chronic taker. Armed with this knowledge, know that the chances are that you will receive very little in return for your giving. Make a conscious decision to give, or not.

Here’s to Labor Day 2021.

See also How Mental Flexibility Helps Romantic and Family Relationships.

Happiness Myths

Our myths about things that make us happy… and things that actually don’t

Myth: Money will make you happy.
Fact: It’s stressful when you’re worried about money. In order to be happy, you do need enough of it to cover your basic needs: things like food, shelter, safety, healthcare, and clothing. But research studies in the areas of Clinical Psychology and Social Psychology indicate that once you have enough money to be comfortable, getting more money isn’t going to make much of a difference in how happy you are. For example, studies of lottery winners show that after a relatively short period of time, they are no happier than they were before their win.

Myth: You need a relationship in order to be happy.
Fact: Being in a healthy, supportive love relationship does contribute to happiness, but it’s not true that you can’t be happy and fulfilled if you’re single. Indeed, the research is solid that singles who have meaningful friendships and pursuits are happier than people in mismatched or chaotic romantic relationships. It’s also important to note that even a good marriage or romantic partnership doesn’t lead to a permanent, intense happiness boost. Expecting your partner to deliver your happily-ever-after may actually harm the relationship in the longterm. You, not your partner or your family members, are responsible for your own happiness.

Myth: Happiness declines with age.
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, people tend to get happier with age. Study after study confirms that seniors experience more positive emotions and fewer (and less intense) negative emotions than young people and middle-aged adults. Generally, older adults are also more satisfied with their lives, less sensitive to stress, and more emotionally stable. Even with the losses that come with age, it is the happiest time of life for many people.

Myth: You need to have kids to be happy.
Numerous studies indicate that marital and personal satisfaction actually drops after having children. However, once children leave the home launched as young adults, overall satisfaction and relationship satisfaction for parents actually rises.

Myth: Some people are just happier than others and there is almost nothing you can do to change that.
Fact: Genetics do play a role in happiness. Current research suggests that people are born with a certain happiness “set point.” But that only accounts for about half of our happiness level. Another 10% is due to life circumstances. That leaves 40% that is determined by your actions and choices. That contains a lot of possibilities.

See also On Friendship and Mental Health.

Seven myths that get in the way of relationship effectiveness

  1. Getting even feels good and is worth any negative consequences; you have to get back at people.
  2. Other people should approve of me and like me.
  3. People should know what I want and I shouldn’t have to ask.
  4. I know everybody lies and you can’t trust them.
  5. I shouldn’t have to work at getting what I want.
  6. People don’t deserve me and everything I have to offer.
  7. I don’t have much to offer.

See also How Mental Flexibility Helps Romantic and Family Relationships.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Not everyone will emerge, post COVID, with biceps and abs, the great American novel, a third language, the work pivot, or other fabulous accomplishment. Most of us strive for the greatest accomplishment of all, survival. It’s all too easy for us to look to our colleagues, friends, neighbors, and family and feel like we have accomplished nothing while, somehow, they appear to be flourishing. One client writes me frequently. What am I doing wrong? Am I making the right choices for my family? What should we do next? What is going to happen to us?

The feeling of failure is pervasive.
Keeping up is a myth.

For most of us, the Covid life laid bare things we haven’t looked at in a long time. What are relationships really made of? What do we want to do as a partner/friend/parent? What are our goals, when the everyday structures are removed? Did the old ways even work, or were we fooling ourselves?

Looking through the window of what seems to be the perfect household is highly deceptive.
Mr. Smith is terrified. His company has already laid off employees. His Zoom keeps freezing in meetings. He can barely pay attention anyway. He’s tired of virtual meetings and even more exhausted when he has to go into the office. His Whiskey and Adderall habit is heavier than ever before, but it’s doing nothing to help his abysmal sleep. His boss is annoyed, his wife is annoyed, and his kids are certainly annoyed. He can’t do anything right. He and Mrs. Smith snap at each other about every small thing. There is rarely any intimacy, affection, let alone moments of levity.

Mrs. Smith is exhausted. She is buried by simultaneously being a mother, full time chef, house manager, therapist, and cleaner. She has a little gig on the side called a full-time job, that won’t leave her alone. White wine is her sanity. It starts at 9 am when she works from home. She has noticed that she “randomly” has anger outbursts, or is frequently in tears, for no specific reason. She wishes she could watch the movies everyone seems to be talking about. Her final precious minutes at the end of the day are for scrolling IG, disappointed by the number of her likes, and watching Netflix if she can manage to stay awake. Mr. and Mrs. Smith very rarely sleep in the same bed.

The kids are going out of their minds. No school was fun for a minute, but this is a bit much; masks all day, curt teachers, stressed out parents, not being able to relax at lunch, and no idea what’s going to happen next. They are hanging out with friends and not so secretly take off their masks.

We are all still in personal survival mode. From financial hardship, to medical concerns, loneliness, work worries, uncertainty, and nonstop parenting, there is no current decision that is easy. When you look at others who seem like they’re thriving, believe it when I tell you everyone is struggling. Including Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Work Martyrs and Mental Health

Do you avoid taking leave because you think you are indispensable at work? Do you equate being crazy busy with being important and valued? Do you work yourself to the bone because you believe no one else can do the work as well as you? At social events, do you mostly talk about work? At the end of the workday, are you still thinking about what you didn’t get done?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may be a work martyr. Work martyrs prize hours worked over actual productivity and believe that not taking a break will reap greater professional success. They think no one can do their work as well as them, so they rarely take leave. They strive to show complete dedication to their company and job, often sacrificing other life priorities.

While work martyrs may get a lot done in the short-term, this surge in productivity drops significantly in the long-term. They are also at high risk of burnout. A number of studies have shown that work martyrs have less work satisfaction and a higher level of anxiety.

Do you think your hard work and hustle may be veering into work martyr territory?
Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • You reply to emails as you see them, no matter the time of day or urgency.
  • If you receive feedback that is less than glowing, it severely alters your mood for the rest of the day.
  • You eat lunch at your desk or in the office.
  • You go into work even when you’re sick.
  • You complain to anyone who will listen about your long hours and crushing workload.
  • You silently judge others when they leave work early or take off for family reasons.
  • You can’t remember the last time you spent an entire weekend or holiday away from your computer or phone.
  • You have to do everything yourself because you don’t trust others on your team to do the job up to your standards.
  • At social events you don’t have much else to talk about besides work, because it constantly fills your mind.

If you think you’re a work martyr, here are some suggestions that will help you stop:
Say No
Work martyrs usually have no boundaries and rarely, if ever, say no. Commit to saying no more at work. This requires practice if you, your supervisor, and your team are not used to it.

Ask For Help
Work martyrs rarely ask for help because they worry about appearing to be weak. Consider setting a specific goal for yourself, such as asking for help at work once a day. Start with something small. Reward yourself at the end of the week if you meet your goal.

Stop Being A Perfectionist
Many work martyrs are perfectionists, believing that anything less than perfect is unworthy.

Take A Break
Work martyrs rarely take a vacation. Strive to take time off. Even on a staycation, do not check your email or work messages.

Accept What You Can’t Control
Work martyrs often try to control everything in their environment. If they are part of a team or group project, they feel that they are the one who has to make it work. If something goes wrong on a project, they feel they are to blame.

Also see my post regarding wellness in the restaurant and bar industry, a field that has a high level of burnout and work martyrdom.

Agape and Pet Loss

The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2017 that after her dog died, a woman experienced “broken heart syndrome”—a condition in which the response to grief is so severe the person exhibits symptoms that mimic a heart attack, including elevated hormone levels that can be 30 times greater than normal.

Although grief over the loss of a cherished pet may be as intense and lengthy as when a significant person in our life dies, our process of mourning is quite different. Many of the societal mechanisms of social and community support are absent when we lose a companion animal. Few of us ask our employers for time off to grieve a beloved cat or dog because we fear doing so would paint us as emotionally weak. Studies have found that social support is a crucial ingredient in recovering from grief of all kinds. So, we are not only robbed of invaluable support systems when our pet dies, but we may even get messages overtly that it’s time to get over it.

People who have just lost a companion, or have a furry companion who is ill may find it extremely difficult to keep up with normal responsibilities, even though they are expected to keep performing as normal.

If your pet has been experiencing decline, whether age or disease-related, and you’ve been preparing for their passing, it can be helpful to have a “next steps” plan written down and posted somewhere that takes little effort to recall. In this acute phase, a lot of “easy” things to remember become much harder to recall, as our body is experiencing an intense emotional change and we struggle to grasp the new reality before us. Things around our home or yard may remind us of our loss. See also What Can We Learn from Companion Animals.

Integrate understanding friends or loved ones early on and notify them of your grief. Since grief is fluid, there are times that you may want to be alone with your emotions, and that’s ok. People may even say unhelpful things in an attempt to comfort you at some point such as, “we can get another one” or “at least they are in a better place.” In the acute phase, the most helpful thing is a calm presence and support. Even if there’s nothing more to be said, knowing that you can express your grief and are supported in your pain can make a world of difference.

If there is an unhealthy or no support system, there are online communities such as Pet Loss Grief Support Community at Rainbow Bridge or the Pet Loss Grief Support Message Board.

Embolden Psychology

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.