Category: <span>Self-improvement</span>

Simple Activities To Boost “Happiness Chemicals”

How we feel in life basically has to do with our  “brain chemicals” These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Although we don’t have a way to measure how much you have when giving diagnosis, scientist do know that certain chemicals create specific feelings. Sadness, anxiety, excitement…all these feelings are produced by neurotransmitters.

How much or how little of these chemicals are produced depends on a lot of different things. Genetics, environment, past experiences, and diet to name a few.

The good news is that we can do things, on purpose, to help our body out in creating some of these chemicals. Try to do at least one of the following suggestions, everyday.

Eat organic yogurt. We’re talking about “brain chemicals” but the truth is that most of these hormones are in the lining of our stomach. The health of our stomach greatly affects our mood. Think about it. When you have  a “bad” feeling, or feel nervous, what part of your body do you feel it most? It’s usually the stomach.

Probiotics and prebiotics help keep our gut healthy. Drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in fiber to keep your gut healthy.

Give or get a hug. When you give a long hug to someone that you really care about, and you get that warm loving feeling, the neurotransmitter oxytocin is released. Basically, physically intimate moments releases this hormone. This chemical calms down the amygdala, the part of our brain that acts like an alarm when we think we’re in danger. Oxytocin has been called the “bonding hormone”  or “love hormone” because it makes you feel closer to people.

For women, oxytocin helps in contractions when giving birth and it’s released during breast feeding.

Shock yourself with cold water. Either splash your face with cold water if you’re at school or work, or turn the water to cold at the end of your shower. The cold water stimulates the vagus nerve, a nerve that goes from our head all the way down to the gut. It helps regulate a bunch of bodily functions like the heart, lungs, upper digestive tract, and other organs of the chest and abdomen.

Reminisce about happy times. Remembering happy memories helps increase serotonin. Serotonin does a bunch of things like helping neurons communicate with each other, improve memory, and most popularly known for increasing our mood. Anti-depressants (SSRI, which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) is supposed to help our brain “lock in” the serotonin that we already have by preventing it from “fading away” (This is my explanation of it, not the scientific explanation.)

Watch a comedy. There’s a reason for the saying “laughter is the best medicine”. I completely agree with this. When we laugh we release several hormones responsible for releasing stress and tension and making us feel good, including serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.

Create small, challenging goals for yourself. Remember when you finished up a presentation you worked hard to prepare for, graduated from school after all those years, or completed a challenge you set for yourself? That small rush of pleasure was your brain releasing dopamine, the chemical responsible for reward and pleasure.

Try setting goals that challenge you in some way. It could be something as simple as cleaning up a messy room, or bigger goals like getting a new job, or getting fit.

Write down how you feel. Writing doesn’t necessarily release hormones, but it does calm down the mind. You could journal, or write short stories. A study done at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that writing calms down amygdala activity. As I said before, the amygdala is the part of our brain that acts like an alarm when it thinks we’re in danger. Our brain can’t tell if something is real or you’re imagining it. That’s why just thinking about certain things will cause you to feel stressed and activates the amygdala.

None of us can feel happy all of the time. But staying positive and healthy will help you feel more satisfied with your life. And when you feel satisfied with your life, everyone around you benefits.

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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.

 

 

 

 

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How To Create Goals That You’ll Actually Complete

Goals are the road map that tells us where we’re going. Without them you just live life without a sense of direction. New Years is the perfect time to reflect on where you are and plan for improving different areas of our life for the year ahead. But setting goals is the easy part. Sticking to them and achieving them not so much.

But there is a trick that I use to achieve any goal, small or large. The following is my recipe to create goals that you’ll actually complete.

Step 1. Get clear on what you really want. We have 7 categories in our life. Family, Relationships, Career/Education, Money, Health, Recreation, and Spirituality. Goals always fall into one of these categories. Be honest with your self about what you want to improve or change. Maybe you want to look good, get a job, spend more time with family, or don’t want to be single anymore.

If you don’t know what you want, work backwards. Sometimes it’s easier to know what you DON’T want. For example, maybe you know you don’t want to quit your job, or don’t need to loose weight, but maybe you need to have more fun in your life, or want to improve your relationships. From the 7 categories above, which areas are you the least happy with? Start with that area.

Step 2. Set a specific date for when you want to have completed the goal. It’s ok if you’re off by a few days or weeks. But when you give your goal a deadline, you’re more likely to achieve it. Plus it’s easier to keep track of progress

Step 3. BREAK IT DOWN. This is actually the secret weapon. Any goal that you have can feel overwhelming. Especially big goals. But when you break it down to the smallest steps, it really is not that hard to complete. For example, lets say your goal is to loose 50 pounds by the summer. 50 pounds sounds like a big number and all you can do is think about all the food you won’t be able to eat. But if you count, for example, from January 1st until June 1st, that’s 22 weeks. 50(pounds) ÷ 22 (weeks) =2.27 (pounds) So all you have to focus on is loosing about 2 pounds a week, not the 50.

If the goal is to get a job, think about the small steps that you have to take to get there. Such as Googling companies you’ll like to work at, downloading the Indeed app, and applying to 2-3 jobs a week.

You do this with any goal. Break it down to the simplest form.

Now that you have these 3 steps. Now you have to take action.

  • Write down your goal on an index card or small piece of paper, with the deadline and any small steps that you have to take. It’s been proven that people that write down their goals are more likely to complete them compared to people who don’t write them down.
  • Put the piece of paper or index card somewhere you’ll see it every day. This could be on your mirror, in your car, in your wallet or planner. It really doesn’t matter as long as it’s somewhere that you’ll see it often. Even take a picture of the paper so that you also have it saved in your phone.
  • Try to take one simple step every day or week that brings you closer to your goal. Anything from buying new gym sneakers, cleaning out your closet for the new clothes you’ll be buying, doing a little research, or asking someone for help IS a step. Remember that when working towards goals SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. Try to do something daily no matter how small it is. This will make it easier to start and keep the momentum.
  • Look at your goal first thing in the morning and right before going to bed. The first 20 minutes after we wake up sets the tone for the rest of the day. Don’t believe me, try stubbing your toe or waking up to yelling and tell me if you’re in a good mood after. When you look at your written goal, visualize how it would feel to have already achieved it. This is supposed to be fun. Picture yourself shopping for the new clothes that you’ll need to buy because you’re fit, or feel relaxed because you know that things always work out for you.

IF you have supportive people, it’s okay to share your goal with someone. But if the people around you tend to be negative, I suggest keeping your goal to yourself and just let the results speak for its self. Goals are personal and you’ll quickly be discouraged if you share it with the wrong person.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. And remember to subscribe below to continue regularly getting great posts like this one.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.

 

 

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10 Books to Improve Your Life

Sometimes in life we’re stuck in bad situations. Maybe you live in a house where you don’t feel comfortable but can’t afford to leave. Or feel stuck in a school or job full of drama. Whatever it is, sometimes you can feel helpless. But that is not true.

We can’t control other people or the circumstances that life gives us. But we can always control how we react to people and things. When you can’t physically escape your circumstances, you can always escape with your mind.

Here are 10 self-improvement books that I’ve read and feel comfortable promoting that they can help improve your life by helping you see things differently. Because as Dr.Wayne Dyer says, “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change”

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Mental Health Resources

Pretty much everyone knows the benefits from therapy. But not everyone has the time or money to be able to get one-on-one help. With today’s technology, there are so many other resources that could help you. And if you are in therapy, some of these resources can complement the help you’re already getting.

http://openpathcollective.org

Open path is a website where you can get online therapy from $30-$50 a session with a licensed therapist.  This is a great resource if you don’t have health insurance.

National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)- provides education and support to increase awareness and understanding of mental health.

There are many apps you can download. I wrote a blog post on some of my favorite mental health apps. I would suggest typing the mood you’re in in the app store search and download a few to find a few of your own favorites.

ulifeline.org online mental health resource for college students

National Suicide Hotline- text START to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-8255

GLBT National Help Line 1-888-843-4564

GLBT National Help Center for Youth. 1-800-246-7743

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7223

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673

Psychology Today to find a therapist near you.

Center for Complicated Grief to find a list of resources for when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one.

Center Link is a center to support the LGBT community.

IMAlive lets you chat with supervised peer volunteers when ever you feel so down that picking up the phone to talk is too much. You can chat with someone and know that they will not judge you.

National Center for Victims of Crime provides resources of crime victims,  from bullying, physical abuse, stalking, and even terrorism.

National Eating Disorder Association

OK2Talk is designed for teens and young adults. The site is an online outlet for people to share their own stories. Good to find support and discuss coping with a diagnosis.

Co-occurring Disorders. Co-occurring disorders are when a person struggles with both a mental health disorder and addiction.

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25 Coping Skills

Here’s a list of coping skills to try when you’re feeling really stressed out, worried or depressed. Try to do at least 2 things on this list every single day.

  1. Talk to one person about your feelings. Supportive friend, family or therapist.
  2. Have a “lazy” day or hour where you do NOTHING.
  3. Go for a walk in nature or a quiet environment.
  4. Help someone out by volunteering somewhere or help someone who you know needs help.
  5. Do a random act of kindness, on purpose.
  6.  Write out what you’re thinking as if you’re talking to someone. Then destroy it.
  7. If you don’t like writing, record yourself instead. Like a video diary.
  8. Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for and write at least 3 sentences of why you’re grateful for that thing. Think bigger than your life, like being grateful for having the sight to read these words, or that your family does not do arranged marriages.
  9. Color/paint/draw/doodle.
  10. Listen to music.
  11. Create play lists for different moods.
  12. Take a bubble bath.
  13. Take a hot shower. Before turning off the water, turn the water as cold as you can stand.
  14. Clean/organize your environment; room, house, desk, etc.
  15. Play/cuddle with a pet.
  16. Search “guided mediation” on YouTube and listen to one.
  17. Watch a funny movie or video.
  18. Create a vision board with pictures of things that you would like to do and have.
  19. Play games. Video games, board games, or games on your phone.
  20. Take a nap or just make sure you get enough rest.
  21. Read something that makes you feel good.
  22. Pamper yourself, like doing your hair or painting your nails.
  23. Watch your favorite movie or TV show.
  24. Write down or think about 5 good things you have going for yourself. For example, if you hate your job, at least you have a job. If you don’t have one, think about your strengths that will get you one, such as being responsible or being a hard worker.
  25. Create and stick to a daily schedule. Scheduling out your day will give you a routine and a sense of accomplishment.

 

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, adults, and Spanish speaking families in  Lehigh Valley, PA.

 

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