Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Song of the Week: Unwritten...

"Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your innovations

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inner visions

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten.

The above lyrics are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels, the lyrics are provided for educational purposes only. If you like the song, please buy relative CD to support the artist.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mental Health Tip of the Week: The mystery of "CHANGE"

What is it that is so mysterious and elusive about change? Why isn't desire to change enough? Why do we lose momentum when we are in the change process? And why doesn't what worked last decade work this time around when trying to make a change?

Behavior change is rarely a discrete, single event; the individual moves gradually from being uninterested to considering a change to deciding and preparing to make a change. For most persons, a change in behavior occurs gradually, with the individual moving from that place of being uninterested, unaware or unwilling to make a change, to considering a change, to deciding and preparing to make a change. Genuine, determined action is then taken and, over time, attempts to maintain the new behavior occur. It is important to remember that relapses are almost inevitable and become part of the process of working toward life-long change.

A little about the five stages of change:

Precontemplation Stage

During the precontemplation stage, individuals do not even consider changing. Smokers who are "in denial" may not see that the advice applies to them personally. Persons with high cholesterol levels may feel "immune" to the health problems that strike others. Overweight individuals may have tried unsuccessfully so many times to lose weight that they have simply given up.

Contemplation Stage

During the contemplation stage, persons are ambivalent about changing. Giving up an enjoyed behavior causes them to feel a sense of loss despite the perceived gain. During this stage, individuals assess barriers (e.g., time, expense, hassle, fear, "I know I need to, doc, but ...") as well as the benefits of change.

Preparation Stage

During the preparation stage, persons prepare to make a specific change. They may experiment with small changes as their determination to change increases. For example, sampling low-fat foods may be an experimentation with or a move toward greater dietary modification. Switching to a different brand of cigarettes or decreasing their drinking signals that they have decided a change is needed.

Action Stage

The action stage is the one that everyone is eager to see the one's they care about reach. Many failed New Year's resolutions provide evidence that if the prior stages have been glossed over, action itself is often not enough. Any action taken by individuals should be praised because it demonstrates the desire for lifestyle change.

Maintenance and Relapse Prevention

Maintenance and relapse prevention involves incorporating the new behavior "over the long haul." Discouragement over occasional "slips" may halt the change process and result in a person giving up. However, most individuals find themselves "recycling" through the stages of change several times before the change becomes truly established.

Relapse is common during lifestyle changes. It can be very helpful to realize that even though a relapse has occurred, the individual has learned something new about themselves and about the process of changing behavior. Focusing on the successful part of the plan ("You did it for six days; what made that work?") shifts the focus from failure, promotes problem solving and offers encouragement. It is not failure until a person stops trying altogether. The goal here is to support individuals and re-engage their efforts in the change process. We all should be left with a sense of realistic goals to prevent discouragement, and have the positive steps toward behavior change acknowledged.

(Info. adapted from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000301/1409.html)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Song of the Week: Call me when you're sober...

"Song of the Week" as requested in the Cbox.

"Don't cry to me.
If you loved me, you would be here with me.
You want me, come find me.
Make up your mind.

Should've let you fall,
Lose it all...
So maybe you can remember yourself.

Can't keep believing,
We're only deceiving ourselves,
And I'm sick of the lies,
And you're too late.

Don't cry to me.
If you loved me, you would be here with me.
You want me, come find me.
Make up your mind.

Couldn't take the blame,
Sick with shame.
Must be exhausting to lose your own game.
Selfishly hated,
No wonder you're jaded,
You can't play the victim this time.
And you're too late.

So, don't cry to me.
If you loved me, you would be here with me.
You love me, come find me.
Make up your mind.

You never call me when you're sober,
You only want it 'cause it's over - it's over.

How could I have burned paradise.
How could I, you were never mine?

So, don't cry to me.
If you loved me, you would be here with me.
Don't lie to me, just get your things.
I've made up your mind."

The above lyrics are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels, the lyrics are provided for educational purposes only. If you like the song, please buy relative CD to support the artist.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mental Health Tip of the Week: Gratitude & Health

When I think of what it takes to be happy, I have discovered that contentment, joy, happiness and gratitude have less to do with circumstances and much more to do with personal choice. I heard a quote a long time ago attributed to Abraham Lincoln: "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." I don't think I believed that as a young person, I still believed that things happened TO me, not that I chose how to react TO things.
More recently I heard someone say "your brain doesn't know when you're kidding." Meaning: for better or worse, the things we tell ourselves--audible or not--our brain "hears" and then sends signals to our body accordingly.
It has taken me far too long to learn these truths. If I wake up feeling tired, in pain, stressed, late--and let my mind wander to those places, my outlook and body sensations follow. Instead, once I notice that inner dialog taking place, I intentionally make a choice and begin reciting to myself (usually silently) what I call my "grateful mantras." Believe you don't have that much to be grateful for? Start simple!
"I am grateful that I can do all my own personal hygiene, grooming and dressing. I am grateful that I can tie my shoes. I am grateful that although I feel pain that it is manageable and does not stop me from going and doing. I am grateful that I can see myself in the mirror to do my hair. I am grateful that I have a reason to get up and go somewhere that necessitates my showering and dressing and doing my hair. I am grateful that I am driving myself to work, and even before that, that I walked to my car under my own power."
Sound silly? Well, I am telling you it works! Choose first, feelings follow. Change your words, then your thoughts will change, then feelings will follow. Okay, that is my small addition to the subject. Now below is more on the subject of gratitude and how good it is for our health and well being.


"Make a Gratitude Adjustment: Count your blessings for a mood boost.

The Snowball Effect

Gratitude is a sentiment we'd all do well to cultivate, according to positive psychologists, mental health clinicians and researchers who seek to help everyone create more joy in life. Feeling thankful and expressing that thanks makes you happier and heartier—not hokier.

The biggest bonuses come from experiencing gratitude habitually, but natural ingrates needn't despair. Simple exercises can give even skeptics a short-term mood boost, and "once you get started, you find more and more things to be grateful for," says Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher at the University of California at Davis.

Your Happiness List

Gratitude needn't be directed at another person to hit its mark. Take just a few minutes each day to jot down things that make you thankful, from the generosity of friends to the food on your table or the right to vote. After a few weeks, people who follow this routine "feel better about themselves, have more energy and feel more alert," Emmons says. Feeling thankful even brings physical changes, studies show. List-keepers sleep better, exercise more and gain a general contentment that may counteract stress and contribute to overall health.

Gratitude exercises do call for a certain amount of openness. Emmons remembers one woman who wrote the same gratitude list every day: "my cat, my dog and my apartment." In addition to slighting her dog as second-best, the woman probably didn't feel the fruits of gratitude, Emmons says, because she didn't put much thought or care into her task. *Exercises "can be done with skepticism, but not with cynicism."*

At First, Fake It

For people who want to activate their gratitude, but feel slightly silly about the exercises, Peterson advises, "fake it until you can make it." Say "thank you" enough, he reasons, and your mind will fall in line with your words. Think you don't have anyone to thank? *Gratitude "doesn't depend on circumstances,"* Emmons says.

You can be grateful for just about anything that you've received in part because of someone or something else. You may feel grateful to your neighbor for a car pool, to luck for meeting your spouse, to nature for a scenic view or to fate or a higher power for your safety. Thankfulness helps you see that you're an object of love and care. Says Emmons: "Your self-esteem is bolstered when you say, 'Hey, people have done things for me.'"

A conscious focus on gratitude may also remind you of unassuming pluses that get lost in the ups and downs of a busy life. "The most important blessings are the ones that are most consistent," such as family, health and home, says Philip Watkins, an Eastern Washington University psychologist. "And those are the ones we take for granted." Grateful reflection helps you pick out and savor the good in life, even if the good isn't flashy.

What's more, *gratitude turns your attention to what you do have instead of what you don't,* Watkins suggests. Consistently ungrateful people tend to think that material goods, such as a big-screen TV, or winning the lottery will make them happy. On the other hand, people who recognize the blessings they have tend to think they'll get happiness from things like fulfilling relationships—which, research shows, are the real sources of satisfaction. Because grateful people don't fixate on money or material goods, they may cut back on envy and nagging comparisons with the Joneses.

Gratitude may chase away thoughts far worse than a desire for a big-screen TV. Traumatic memories fade into the background for people who regularly feel grateful, Watkins's experiments show. *Troublesome thoughts pop up less frequently and with less intensity, which suggests that gratitude may enhance emotional healing.* Thankfulness helps the brain fully process events, Watkins speculates. *Grateful people achieve closure by making sense of negative events so that they mesh with a generally positive outlook.*

When individuals start a daily gratitude journal, they begin to feel a greater sense of connectedness to the world. "The differences are noticed by others," Emmons says. "People who know them say they're more helpful." Thankfulness may launch a happy cycle in which rich friendships bring joy, which gives you more to be grateful for, which fortifies your friendships once again.

Even a simple "thank you" spurs people to act in compassionate ways they might not otherwise consider. People thanked for giving directions help more willingly in the future, social workers who get thank-you letters visit their clients more often, and diners whose waiters write 'thanks' on the check give bigger tips. Call it corny, but gratitude just may be the glue that holds society together."

Content By: Lauren Aaronson
Psychology Today

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Song of the Week: BELIEF

Belief by John Mayer


"Is there anyone who ever remembers
changing their mind from the paint on a sign?
is there anyone who really recalls
ever breaking rank at all
for something someone yelled real loud one time?

oh, everyone believes
in how they think it ought to be
oh, everyone believes
and they're not going easily

belief is a beautiful armor
but makes for the heaviest sword
like punching underwater
you never can hit who you're trying for

some lead the exhibition
and some have to know they tried
it's the chemical weapon
for the war that's raging on inside.

oh, everyone believes
from emptiness to everything
oh, everyone believes
and no one's going quietly.

we're never gonna win the world
we're never gonna stop the war
we're never gonna beat this
if belief is what we're fighting for

is there anyone you can remember
ever surrender with their life on the line?

we're never gonna win the world
we're never gonna stop the war
we're never gonna beat this
if belief is what we're fighting for

what puts a hundred thousand children in the sand?
belief can, belief can
what puts a folded flag inside his mother's hand?
belief can, belief can."

(lyrics © by the artist & used for educational purposes only)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mental Health Tip of the Week: On Procrastination...

Although it is technically true that I engaged in a form of "procrastination" from other things I have yet to do today to look up helpful information on procrastination, I am enriched by what I found today... and I hope you will be too!

(This excellent article found at http://www.stevepavlina.com/articles/overcoming-procrastination.htm)

Overcoming Procrastination:

Procrastination, the habit of putting tasks off to the last possible minute, can be a major problem in both your career and your personal life. Missed opportunities, frenzied work hours, stress, feeling overwhelmed, resentment, and guilt are just some of the symptoms. This article will explore the root causes of procrastination and give you several practical tools to overcome it.

Replace "Have To" With "Want To"

First, thinking that you absolutely have to do something is a major reason for procrastination. When you tell yourself that you have to do something, you're implying that you're being forced to do it, so you'll automatically feel a sense of resentment and rebellion. Procrastination kicks in as a defense mechanism to keep you away from this pain. If the task you are putting off has a real deadline, then when the deadline gets very close, the sense of pain associated with the task becomes overridden by the much greater sense of pain if you don't get started immediately.

The solution to this first mental block is to realize and accept that you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Even though there may be serious consequences, you are always free to choose. If you don't like where you've ended up, you're free to start making different decisions, and new results will follow. Also be aware that you don't procrastinate in every area of your life. Even the worst procrastinators have areas where they never procrastinate. In each situation the freedom of choice is yours. So if you're putting off starting that new project you feel you "have to" do, realize that you're choosing to do it of your own free will. Procrastination becomes less likely on tasks that you openly and freely choose to undertake.

Replace "Finish It" With "Begin It"

Secondly, thinking of a task as one big whole that you have to complete will virtually ensure that you put it off. When you focus on the idea of finishing a task where you can't even clearly envision all the steps that will lead to completion, you create a feeling of overwhelm. You then associate this painful feeling to the task and delay as long as possible. If you say to yourself, "I've got to do my taxes today," or "I must complete this report," you're very likely to feel overwhelmed and put the task off.

The solution is to think of starting one small piece of the task instead of mentally feeling that you must finish the whole thing. Replace, "How am I going to finish this?" with "What small step can I start on right now?" If you simply start a task enough times, you will eventually finish it. If one of the projects you want to complete is to clean out your garage, thinking that you have to finish this big project in one fell swoop can make you feel overwhelmed, and you'll put it off. Ask yourself how you can get started on just one small part of the project. For example, go to your garage with a notepad, and simply write down a few ideas for quick 10-minute tasks you could do to make a dent in the piles of junk. Maybe move one or two obvious pieces of junk to the trash can while you're there. Don't worry about finishing anything significant. Just focus on what you can do right now. If you do this enough times, you'll eventually be starting on the final piece of the task, and that will lead to finishing.

Replace Perfectionism With Permission To Be Human

A third type of erroneous thinking that leads to procrastination is perfectionism. Thinking that you must do the job perfectly the first try will likely prevent you from ever getting started. Believing that you must do something perfectly is a recipe for stress, and you'll associate that stress with the task and thus condition yourself to avoid it. You then end up putting the task off to the last possible minute, so that you finally have a way out of this trap. Now there isn't enough time to do the job perfectly, so you're off the hook because you can tell yourself that you could have been perfect if you only had more time. But if you have no specific deadline for a task, perfectionism can cause you to delay indefinitely. If you've never even started that project you always wanted to do really well, could perfectionism be holding you back?

The solution to perfectionism is to give yourself permission to be human. Have you ever used a piece of software that you consider to be perfect in every way? I doubt it. Realize that an imperfect job completed today is always superior to the perfect job delayed indefinitely. Perfectionism is also closely connected to thinking of the task as one big whole. Replace that one big perfectly completed task in your mind with one small imperfect first step.

Replace Deprivation With Guaranteed Fun

A fourth mental block is associating deprivation with a task. This means you believe that undertaking a project will offset much of the pleasure in your life. In order to complete this project, will you have to put the rest of your life on hold? Do you tell yourself that you will have to go into seclusion, work long hours, never see your family, and have no time for fun? That's not likely to be very motivating, yet this is what many people do when trying to push themselves into action. Picturing an extended period of working long hours in solitude with no time for fun is a great way to guarantee procrastination.

The solution to the deprivation mindset is to do the exact opposite. Guarantee the fun parts of your life first, and then schedule your work around them. This may sound counterproductive, but this reverse psychology works extremely well. Decide in advance what times you will allocate each week to family time, entertainment, exercise, social activities, and personal hobbies. Guarantee an abundance of all your favorite leisure activities. Then limit the amount of working hours each week to whatever is left. By treating your working time as a scarce resource rather than an uncontrollable monster that can gobble up every other area of your life, you'll begin to feel much more balanced, and you'll be far more focused and effective in using your working time. What would happen if you only allowed yourself a certain number of hours a week to work? What if I came to you and said, "You are only allowed to work 10 hours this week?" Your feeling of deprivation would be reversed, wouldn't it? Instead of feeling that work was depriving you of leisure time, you'd feel you were being deprived of work. You'd replace, "I want to play" with "I want to work," your motivation for work would skyrocket, and all traces of procrastination would vanish.

I also strongly recommend that you take at least one full day off each week with no work whatsoever. This will really recharge you and make you eager to start the coming week. Having a guaranteed work-free day will increase your motivation for work and make you less likely to procrastinate. If you know that the next day is your day off, you'll be less likely to put off tasks, since you won't allow yourself the luxury of allowing them to spill over into your day off. When you think that every day is a work day, however, work seems never-ending, and you always tell yourself, "I should be working." Thus, your brain will use procrastination as a way to guarantee that you get some form of pleasure in your life.

I hope this article has helped you gain a greater insight into the causes of procrastination and how you can overcome it. Realize that procrastination is caused by associating some form of pain or unpleasantness to the task you are contemplating. The way to overcome procrastination is simply to reduce the pain and increase the pleasure you associate with beginning a task, thus allowing you to overcome inertia and build positive forward momentum. And if you begin any task again and again, you will ultimately finish it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Summer Rain and other welcome surprises...

Ever noticed how much more welcome the sounds and sights of rain are in the Summer? After a sweltering few days I was thrilled to see and hear the rain today! (Unlike the long Fall and Winter here in Oregon when we may get rain for up to 30 days in a row.)

On the other hand, when the Fall and Winter come it is the warm sun bravely shining through the cold and gray that is so welcome. The very same sun I shade myself from in the Summer is the sun that I close my eyes and raise my face to in the Winter--hoping to soak in every last warm ray.

As my mind drifts from the sounds Summer of rain, to the pull of my rather large “to do list” today, I am thinking about the topic of the next Mental Health Tip of the Week. I was thinking about posting on "Procrastination"... but I think I will wait until tomorrow to do that. ;)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Song of the Week: Clay & Water

Clay and Water
By Margaret Becker


"These days are passing over me
At the speed of light
And standing here in their shadows
I'm silenced at the sight
Like water on the wind I sense the change to come
All that I've held in like teardrops run.

I am clay and I am water
Falling forward in this order
While the world spins 'round so fast
Slowly I'm becoming who I am.

Nothing ever stays the same
The wheel will always turn
I feel the fire in the change
But somehow it doesn't burn
Like a beggar blessed I stumble in the grace
Reaching out my hand for what awaits.

I am clay and I am water
Falling forward in this order
While the world spins 'round so fast
Slowly I'm becoming who I am.

I will live
From my heart
And I will catch the lines of love as they come
Back to you
I know they'll lead
And into you
I know I'll lean.

I am clay, only clay..."
(lyrics © by the artist & used for educational purposes only)