Emotional Well-Being Blog

How to Achieve Happiness

By: Randi Platt, M.Ed.

With the science of Psychology turning towards everyday experience, research is helping us understand how to achieve happiness and emotional well being with greater consistency. Contrary to popular belief, it is not important to build self-esteem.  The surprising news is that it is important to learn to feel compassion for self and others.  Those who regularly spend even brief amounts of time feeling gratitude, sending good wishes to others or being a good friend to themselves report greater happiness, connectedness and health. 

Tis' the Season

By: Joanne Perilstein, Ph.D.

Many people  feel excited about the  coming  holiday season and begin planning, and remembering past celebrations and  good family times together.  The media  and ads often hype the coming season  both because it is a shared  experience in the mass market and also  because it is a productive way to  encourage  shopping to boost sales and business.  The  festive lights and special events are also  ways to increase excitement and celebration.  So what’s wrong with it all?

The thing that can go wrong is that  people  build up their  expectations and typically remember only the  positive aspects of previous family experiences.  Then when reality strikes and there is conflict  at the dinner table among family members, or rekindling of old  strains and resentments and jealousies, people become greatly disappointed and dispirited. 

What to do?  Manage your expectations.  Try to be realistic when  imagining your family visits.  Keep in mind that it is very difficult for us mere mortals to live up to Norman Rockwell paintings.  Realize that family members  have flaws  and  try to concentrate on giving rather than getting.  Contemplating  what you are grateful for and trying to create meaningful experiences with loved ones  can counteract  some of the inevitable  disappointments that might occur.  Then if things go well, it will serve as an added benefit to the gratefulness and meaningfulness you are working on constructing. 

Here’s hoping you have an enjoyable  and meaningful holiday season!  

Spring Fever

We are approaching that time of year when many of us experience spring fever….a time when we feel energized and want to do many things from outdoor activities to spring cleaning within the home. At the Rittenhouse Women’s Wellness Center, I work with two groups of people: those wanting to pursue weight management and those wanting psychotherapy. From the weight management point of view, spring is a time when many of us prefer to exercise through outdoor activities which can nicely complement a healthy diet in pursuit of weight loss. Physical exercise is very helpful in maintaining a positive mood and outlook on life, so much so that the American Psychiatric Association is now recommending exercise as a strong treatment for the reduction of depression. An increase in social activities, which also may occur in the spring, is also useful in combating depression, or simply emerging from the winter blues! However, individuals who suffer from depression or bipolar illness are best advised to avoid excessive activity which might interfere with regular sleep patterns. Both individuals troubled by depression or bipolar illness are best served when they respect their need for regular sleep patterns. So the solution is simple: enjoy the springtime and the expanded activities that it often offers. If you want to begin an exercise program, this is the right time to start. Just remember to pursue your activities in moderation to avoid physical or emotional strain.

Overcoming the Winter Blues

Ever notice that in the winter, perhaps between November and March, you just feel sort of in the dumps? Maybe your motivation is lowered, you feel sad, things don’t seem as pleasurable as usual and your interest in work, socializing and entertainment seem to lose steam? Perhaps you also feel more moody, sad or irritable and even want to cry at times? If so, maybe you are having a bout of S.A.D… or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It isn’t totally clear what causes this, but there are several ways to treat it.

First of all, realizing your own vulnerability towards depression at this time of year is a good first step to solving the problem.

Some interventions that may help include the following:

Buy a full spectrum light. These can be found online (Northern Lights is a great brand). Try to use it in the morning before dawn. This can help extend the daylight so that your spirits lift.

Increase exercise. Often the cold weather discourages us from exercising. However, if we actively combat this tendency by self consciously increasing our exercise, we might find that the depression lifts.

Psychotherapy. If the depression really begins to interfere with work or socializing, psychotherapy can be helpful.

Medication. In some instances using anti depressants in combination with  some of the other interventions listed will also be helpful, especially if initiated at the beginning of the winter in November.

Nutrition. There is evidence that proves that good nutrition can also improve your mood.

In any event, don’t despair too much because inevitably winter ends and spring will emerge once again!

For more information on our psychologist, click here.

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