11 strategies for increasing well-being:
- Remember that you are a survivor. Most likely, you have survived some manner of crisis, loss, trauma, hardships, and difficult family life. In surviving these experiences you have called upon inner strengths that can continue to help you in some way.
- Watch your thoughts. Most of us say things to ourselves we wouldn't utter to another. Weed out harsh, defeating thoughts and replace them with more positive, empowering ones.
Learn to recognize negative self-talk and then interrupt it by saying, "stop." Lastly, give yourself a positive comment like, "I can do this," or "I like and accept myself," or "I deserve to be happy."
- Master your universe. Increasing a sense of control over your life will improve your health and wellbeing. Studies show, for example, that prisoners who are allowed to control the lights, TV, and placement of chairs are happier.
Employees who participate in decision-making report higher job satisfaction. Also, research demonstrates that time that is filled, planned and used to pursue life goals can create a feeling of confidence and sense of personal control.
- Train yourself to recover. Some lucky people are born with temperaments that are less reactive to stress, but the rest of us can cultivate resiliency with practice.
Work to free yourself from feeling victimized. You are now, instead, a problem-solver. Just like a world-class athlete you can train and stretch your comfort zones in order to grow new emotional muscles. Look for alternative solutions to recurrent problems.
- Fake it till you make it. While it's true that traits and attitudes affect behavior, it is also true that our traits and attitudes follow our behavior.
In other words, we are just as likely to "act" our way into a new way of thinking as we are of "thinking" our way into a new way of acting. This is partly because our actions trigger more positive responses from others, which contribute to our wellbeing.
- Nurture self-esteem. Research has shown that one of the best predictors for happiness is not satisfaction with income levels, friendships or even family life, but rather satisfaction with one's self.
People feel better about life in general when they are at peace with who they are. Make an accurate self-appraisal (be realistic - not too harsh or too easy.)
Work on overcoming adversities and bouncing back from failures. Break difficult tasks into small steps. Your competence will grow as you master each step toward the larger goal. Assume responsibility for your actions.
Look realistically at what you can do to be more successful. Maintain your integrity by living in accordance with your own values. This will help engender your sense of self-worth.
- Keep the faith. Developing optimism will enrich your life and boost your immune system. Optimists don't see setbacks as proof of incompetence, but rather the need for a new approach.
Research has shown that people who are depressed blame themselves for failures and attribute successes to circumstances. Learn to take credit for your successes. Don't beat yourself up when you make a mistake, but rather work to correct it.
- Get, give and laugh. GET the support you need to begin to feel better. Ask for help from friends, family, or others.
Also, expose yourself to positive stimuli. Research shows that even watching a puppy or the ocean on video can create a measurable reduction in stress.
People also experience elevated feelings of happiness when GIVING to others. Just witnessing others give, behaving honorably or acting heroically enhances wellbeing. When all else fails, learn to LAUGH at your foibles.
Humor is one of nature's healthiest mechanisms to help us gain perspective.
- Remember you live in a body. Depressed women tend to resort to passive pursuits like ruminating, watching TV and eating. Depressed men are more likely to reach for alcohol or drugs.
All of these behaviors exacerbate depression. The following will reduce it: Exercise builds stronger hearts, physically and emotionally.
Study after study proves that regular exercise, especially to your favorite music, will help you to lower tension, raise your energy and manipulate your mood upward.
Research also shows that activities that combine socializing and physical activity and require moderate skills are the best (skiing, salsa dancing, biking with friends).
Eat a good breakfast and smaller meals throughout the day. This will help stabilize your blood sugar levels, which can stabilize your mood. Limit alcohol consumption! Excessive drinking will only increase feelings of depression. Get enough sleep.
- Find your life's meaning. This is no easy task, but it is the most fundamental assignment we face as human beings.
Your purpose is about the kind of person you want to be and the things you want to achieve in your life. What do you love? How do you want to live your life?
This might mean remembering your childhood dreams and sources of pleasure or experimenting with things you've wanted to try but thought you couldn't.
- Enhance your feelings of connectedness. Isolation is the enemy of good mental health. Developing connections with the deeper aspects of yourself, your peers, family members and community will help to create more vibrant health.
Consider taking a meditation class or yoga, go to a religious service, or get a regular massage (research shows that these soul-nurturing activities reduce depression).
Call a volunteer center about volunteer opportunities. In one study, volunteer work generated more joy than anything except dancing. Call a friend. Studies show that, due to novelty, spending time with friends tends to lift your mood more than spending time with family. Be sure you choose good listeners who won't expect you to "cheer up" immediately.
Many insurance plans cover therapy. If finances are tight, Family Service Agency of Marin offers services on a sliding scale. Whichever path you take, please accept our best wishes on your journey toward good health and happiness.
As leaders of Family Service Agency of Marin, Betty and Marianne are championing Raise Your Spirits…During the Downturn, a public awareness campaign to help men and women in our community who are feeling blue. In addition to the 11 strategies for coping, the campaign also promotes the fact that if these strategies don't work and budgets are tight, therapy is available through Family Service Agency of Marin on a sliding scale payment. Any listener can come in for help.
About Betty Wood and Marianne Gabelman:
As leaders of Family Service Agency of Marin, Betty and Marianne are championing Raise Your Spirits…During the Downturn, a public awareness campaign to help men and women in our community who are feeling blue.
In addition to the 11 strategies for coping, the campaign also promotes the fact that if these strategies don't work and budgets are tight, therapy is available through Family Service Agency of Marin on a sliding scale payment. Any listener can come in for help.
We're in a mental health crisis.People in the Bay Area are feeling anxious and depressed for very real reasons. In fact, as the severity of stressors deepens there is a direct correlation with the rising of depression and suicide in our community.But there's good news.
While our temperaments, current situations and histories have a profound effect on our present day lives, they don't have to be a life sentence.
In fact, research demonstrates that adults can cultivate attributes like optimism, resiliency and a more positive attitude. And it's true that all individuals and families have unique strengths upon which to build.
For more information, visit www.fsamarin.org