Unpleasant truths you need to face.

By David Joel Miller

Life principles you need to accept.

Truths you need to face

Truths you need to face
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you spend a lot of your time and energy worrying about what others will think of you? Low self-esteem? Do you beat yourself up because you made mistakes and think everyone knows about it? Here are some huge life principles you may need to consider when evaluating your life.

  1. A Hundred years from now no one will remember this.

It is easy to think that “Everyone” knows what you have done and not done. Find yourself thinking badly about yourself? Consider that in a hundred years from now no one will know about your mistakes. There is, in fact, a low probability that anyone will know you ever lived.

Truth is that people two blocks from your house right now may not know anything about you. Very few of us are just that important. Stop worrying about what others think about you and focus on doing the things you think you should be doing.

  1. None of this really matters.

Most of what we do is forgotten by the end of the day. Look in your history books. Those wars and conflicts – the people who fought in these wars are mostly forgotten. People died in labor strikes. A few of us remember, but once you are gone can you really convince yourself that what you bought and what you own will make any difference.

Enjoy it while you can, but as far as I can tell, you can’t take it with you and even the presidents get forgotten.  Be the kind of person you would like to be eventually. Quick can you tell me what President Tyler stood for?

  1. No one gets out of here alive

eventually we all die. The most you get is a line on the tombstone and maybe an obituary in a paper. A hundred years later even your descendants won’t know all that much about you. Live the best you can and let it go.

  1. Things look different depending on where you are standing

Most of what we know or think we know is the result of where we were born and grew up. If you had lived somewhere else your life would have been different. Stop being so sure that things are the way you see them and accept that others are standing in another spot.

What if there was something going on behind that tree that you can’t see?

Most of what we take for truth and surety is only our point of view.

  1. It is always today

You can’t change what you did yesterday and you can’t do anything tomorrow. It is always the same day – today. Live in today and stop looking over your shoulder. Do not leave things you should do for tomorrow. Do these things today.

  1. Average gets lost in the crowd

What to stand out? Want people to think highly of you? Want more self-esteem? Do more stuff. Take chances. Those who are afraid to be noticed do not get noticed.

Want to be exceptional? Do something others do not do every day.

  1. You can’t please everyone

No one can please everyone. Please one group or faction and you anger the others. Do what you feel you should be doing. Please yourself and stop being concerned about what others are thinking about you.

  1. The higher you are the more people throw things at you

Know who the president is? Do they say bad things about him? Did they do that to the president before him and the one before that? If you do something you will get criticized. The more you do the more you get criticized. Are you trying to tell me that people should not criticize you? What – you think you are more important than the president?

  1. If it isn’t scary it isn’t special

New things, especially the creative inventive things, always come with a large dose of risk. Want to be special, do special things.

10. You can’t win if you don’t play

Sitting out the game does not make you a winner. You have to get in there run, pass, catch, and then you have a shot at it. Playing it safe is another name for planning to lose. Life has no safe spots. Stop telling yourself to be careful and start telling yourself that you need to take more risks. Intelligent, thoughtful risks are fine, but everything, even the expected things, have risks.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Hope- the missing Mental Health ingredient.

By David Joel Miller

Without hope treatment for mental illness is ineffective.

Hope

Hope

A large doses of hope may turn out to be the most effective treatment for mental illness. It is an ingredient that has been missing from treatment programs for far too long.

The conventional wisdom, when it comes to mental health, turns out to not be true.  For a long time there has been the belief that there are two kinds of people, the normal and the mentally ill. The result of this thinking error was that we lost hope for those with a mental illness to recover.

Turns out that they is us. In their lifetime half of all Americans will have an episode of a mental illness that should be diagnosed and treated. No, just toughing it out and pretending you do not have a problem will not make it go away.

Mental Health is on a continuum. Some people’s experience of a mental illness will be more severe than others. People on this continuum can move to being more healthy or less mentally healthy. Just like physical health you may not be able to know who is going to get which disorder at which time but we know there are risk factors and ways to keep yourself more mentally healthy.

This misunderstanding, that people without a mental illness can get better or worse and so can those with a mental illness, has impeded out ability to help those experiencing an emotional problem.

Many of our mental health treatment systems are still stuck in that old way of thinking. If the mentally ill are different from the rest of us then they will always be ill and society needs to take care of them and run their lives. That approach is devoid of hope and disregards the role of the person with an illness in managing their symptoms and their life.

If we recognize that mental illness, like physical illness, can get better at times and worse at times, then this tells us that there is hope. Hope for recovery is fundamental to any rational approach to treating mental illness.

If those with a mental illness are not permanently stuck in a hopeless place then there are things that they can do to improve their mental health and wellness. This concept, that people with a challenge can live meaningful lives, that you can recover, is one of the basic tenants of 12 step programs. It seems that recovery works very well for alcoholism and addiction – why not for mental illness?

By recovery or Wellness and Recovery we do not necessarily mean a cure. Some conditions, once you have them, there will always be a risk of a relapse. Both Mental illness and Substance Use Disorders are conditions for which there is a high risk of relapse.

If there are things that increases the risk of relapse then there are certainly things that can reduce this risk. This means to me that recovery from mental illness is not something that the doctor or therapist does to the client, it is something we help the client learn to do for themselves.

Some of you are thinking, yah right! They need to see a doctor for medication. Yes this is true. They need the doctor’s expertise when it comes to medication. But those meds are worthless unless that person has the skills needed to take those meds as prescribed.

Every program I have ever worked at has talked about a subject called “medication compliance” as if getting people to take their meds was something we professionals should make people do. Truth is we get the best results, and so do the clients, when we empower clients to actively participate in this process.

This concept, that Hope is a necessary part of recovery, is not something original with me. The value of hope has ancient roots. When it comes to mental health it is concept that’s time has come.

W.R.A.P. – Wellness and Recovery Action Planning.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a training on a program called “WRAP” which stands for Wellness and Recovery Action Planning.” This program was developed by and for mental health clients/consumers to use in planning to maintain their mental health and to have a plan for what to do if that mental health faced a challenge.

For more on this program see: https://copelandcenter.com/wellness-recovery-action-plan-wrap

Look also at http://www.mentalhealthrecovery.com/

Books about WRAP are available from: https://www.wrapandrecoverybooks.com/store/

As a result of attending this training I am now a certified W.R.A.P.  Facilitator. If you want to know more about that contact me or checkout the links above.

One of the important parts of this training was the discussion of 5 “Key Concepts” that are the foundation of the W.R.A.P. program.

One of those Key concepts? You guessed it. – HOPE.

How do all of you feel about this radical concept – Hope? Do you have some? Do any of you have stories about hope and recovery you would be able to share with the other blog readers?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Times you need to change

By David Joel Miller

10 Warning signs that it is time to change your life

Need to Change

Need to Change
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Dedication and perseverance are important characteristics. Plenty has been written about the need to persevere when times get hard. It is equally important to know when there are things in your life that are holding you back and when it is time to stop doing things that are impeding your progress. Here are some warning signs that things in your life need changing.

  1. You spend all your time looking back at the past.

Your past may have made you who you are but it does not need to define your future. If you spend more time looking back at the things in your past than looking forward to the future you are headed in the wrong direction.

Periodically you need to take another look at the past. What mistakes have you made and what can you learn from those mistakes. Keep these looks back as brief as possible. Develop a pan to move forward and get started. The sooner the better.

  1. You think that your happiness lies in the future.

Do not wait for something or someone to begin being happy. Happiness occurs in the present. If you are not happy in the journey you will arrive at the future with nothing but regrets. Any unhappy now creates an unhappy future even if you reach the destination you are working towards.

Enjoy the trip for its own Sake and the result will take care of its self.

  1. You are full of anger

Anger is a poison that destroys you from the inside out. Change what you can. Accept what you can’t and clear out those angry feelings as soon as possible. The heat of anger can burn you.

If you are full of anger, you need to change you. Demanding that someone or something else change will keep your stuck. Blame others and you avoid the only real solution, changing you.

  1. You can’t remember the last time you were happy – life is no fun

If nothing makes you happy, if life is just no fun anymore, you need to change something. This may be a disease called Major Depressive Disorder. That disease needs professional treatment.

But if the case of your life of “no fun” is you, learn to lighten up. Let yourself have fun. Life was not designed to be all pain and drudgery. You have to go through some things but do not volunteer to be the victim. Work on creating the best possible situation in the place you find yourself.

Look for ways to make your life more fun. The little moments of joy add up to a happy life.

  1. You have to hide your real self from others.

If you are hiding who you are, particularly if you do this because you need others to like you, this is a bad sign. If you are not who you want to be, work on changing that. If the problem is that others will never approve of you, then it is time to change friends, change jobs or change any other situations that is keeping you from being your fully authentic self.

  1. You feel you need to change others

Trying to change others is a difficult proposition. You can create the right conditions to encourage others to grow but if you start to feel that your prime objective is to change others, take another look at yourself. Learn to accept others as they are or get as many of these people out of your life as you can and do it sooner not later.

Consistently feeling you need to change others in your life should tell you that you are living a conflicted life. Accept others or change your situation.

  1. You protect others from themselves and the consequences of their actions

If you are trying to protect others from themselves you are living someone else’s life. You need to stop doing that. Let others bear the consequences to their actions. Being over involved in others lives is called codependency and this is a second-hand life. Let others solve their problems and you solve yours.

  1. Nothing interests you any more

Loss of pleasure, not being able to enjoy things you used to enjoy is a symptom of the depressive disorders. If nothing is fun anymore you need to change that.

Look at the things you used to like to do. Have you stopped enjoying them? Why? Is it you being the kind of person you would like or is it the people you are around?

Look for new interests, try to put the fun back in your life. Be open to new activities and new hobbies. Go place you have not been. Take a new route to work. Eat something new. Meet new friends.

If life is boring you need to make some changes.

  1. You live in constant emotional pain.

Pain circuits, especially the emotional ones, were not designed for constant pain. if you are never out of pain look for new positive solutions. Find new ways of looking at things. Let go of anything causing you pain.

Learn to be mindful and enjoy the positive things in your life. A good, mental attitude and learning to live mindfully and in the moment can reduce both physical and emotional pain.

10. You are settling for less of a life than you could have.

If you are settling for less of a life than you could have – why? Look for ways to improve your situation. Design a new happy life and move towards that joy filled life. Life can get better if you just get willing to move out of the place where you are stuck and start living again.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Happy life skills.

By David Joel Miller

Want a happier life? Learn these skills.

A happy life does not just happen by chance. Happiness is not a commodity that can

Happy child

Happy child
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Ben.Millett)

be bought with large quantities of money. Having good skills to manage your money can make life less stressful. Having good happy life skills can increase the level of happiness in any life. Here are some happy life skills you may need to practice until they become automatic parts of your life.

  1. Treasure life’s imperfections

Some scratches, dents and dings do not render a life worthless, defective or ruined. Those imperfections, far from being flaws, are the things that make your life unique. Treasure your life’s imperfections. Those trials have made you who you are.

Accept that sometimes things happen that are not in the plan, experiences you would have preferred to avoid, but continue on your life journey, lessons learned. You are in the process of becoming a valuable antique.

  1. End things that are over

Cluttering up your life with things that no longer meet your needs takes up room that is needed for the new things in life

If your job has become boring or stressful now is the time to look for another. Do you have habits that served you well in your teen or college days? Are some of these habits getting in the way of living a happy adult life? Weed them out.

Are their friends that are harmful? Relationships that are toxic? It may be time to move on and make new friendships.

Do you have habits you have outgrown? Time to declutter your life and make room for new experiences.

  1. Don’t keep fixing things that are beyond repair.

It is common for people, especially people in early recovery to keep fixing a car when it would be far cheaper to get rid of it and replace it with a new ride. Learn what can be fixed economically and what needs to be replaced. Also learn what you or a friend can fix and when it will be cheaper in the long run to get the repairs done by a professional.

  1. Stop trying to control the uncontrollable.

Most of the things in our lives are out of our control. We can prepare ourselves, we can buy insurance or try to reduce risk, but in the end most things happen whether we try to control them or not.

The majority of the things people worry about, 75% by one estimate, never happen. Spend your time, money and effort working to improve things that have a high chance of success.

Worrying that a family member will get sick will not keep them healthy. Getting your children vaccinated, living a healthy lifestyle and exercise, those will improve your odds.

For maximum happiness, restrict your worrying to only a few high probability events. Better yet, skip the worry and just do the things you need to do to maximize your chances of success when rough times come along.

  1. Admit your faults and mistakes

Hiding your mistakes takes a lot of effort. Happy people are able to admit when they are wrong. Recognized your error and move on. Do not waste time on making excuses. It does not matter who else contributed to your mistake.

Learn from the things at which you are less than perfect. Improve your game. If you miss the shot or the deadline, accept the responsibility. In the long run you will have less to worry about and will be happier.

  1. Do not volunteer to be the victim – not everything is your fault

Do not accept the blame for things that are not your fault. Do not apologize for what others do. Don’t keep putting yourself in situations where you try to rescue others. Trying to control the uncontrollable sets you up to live the unhappy victim life.

  1. Stretch your comfort zone

Avoiding risks does not keep you safe. It keeps you living in a very small place worrying about what might happen. Stretch that comfort zone. You do not necessarily need to demolish it and move to the middle of a war zone. What you should be doing is stretching it out a little each day of your life.

Happy people are able to take some risks, manageable risks, and they enjoy new experiences.

  1. Like yourself – do not call yourself names

Think well of yourself. Do not call yourself names or put yourself down. There is no evidence that calling yourself stupid will make you smarter. What it can do is make you feel bad about yourself. Happy people like themselves and their life regardless of the situation they may be in right now.

Parents who only see the flaws in their children raise kids who do not believe they can do very much. Use positive affirmations, tell yourself that you can. If you did not get positive strokes growing up, learn to give them to yourself as an adult. The result will be that you will accomplish more and be happier along the way.

  1. Things take the time they take

Cut yourself some slack. Do not tell yourself that you should have more or be more at this point in your life. Some things take longer than others. Plenty of very successful people did not find their niche in life until they are older.

I have seen couples meet and develop wonderful relationships in their retirement years. It is never too late to create the happy life you want. Some doors may close but others open if you watch for them.

10. Watch where you are going – plan the future and forget the past

Happy people do not try to drive looking over their shoulder at where they have been. Periodically you may need to look back just to see how far you have really come. Climbing a steep trail can feel like you are getting nowhere but a glance over your shoulder will show you what you left behind.

If you have wreckage in your past, work on cleaning it up and then get moving again. Do not continue to dwell in the land of the past.

11. Do not push yourself till you drop

Hard work is necessary to accomplish things in life, too much hard work is more like self-abuse. Happy people learn that you can’t give at your peak if you do not replenish what you have. Happy people take time out for rest and relaxation. Life needs to be fun, not an incredible grind that you endure until you reach the end of your life all used up.

Learn to practice good self-care if you want to maximize your happiness.

12. Believe in yourself.

If you believe in yourself you will get more done. People who think they can’t won’t. If you believe you can and that you are worth it you will go a lot farther in life and you will be happier along the journey.

Practice these happy life skills each day and watch your life improve.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Today is World Mental Health Day

By David Joel Miller

Raising awareness of mental health issues.

Today is the official World Mental Health Day. Each year on October tenth a day is set aside to remind people about the importance of good Mental Health and Mental Wellness. World Mental Health Day is an initiative of the World Federation of Mental Health and is supported by WHO (World Health Organization.)

The theme for 2014 is “Living with schizophrenia”. Last year’s theme, 2013, was Mental Health and Older Adults.

In North America Mental illness is the largest single health issue. Days of work lost and impairment in functioning as a result of mental illnesses exceeds the disability burden of both cardiovascular disease and cancer (WHO.)

Depression is the largest single cause of disability. The good news is that today the emphasis in the treatment of mental illness is on wellness and recovery. Many people who have had episodes of serious mental illnesses have gone on to have happy and productive lives.

Consider today how your life or the life of someone you know has been affected by a mental illness. What would it mean to you if you or someone close to you could recover from that condition? No one should have to face a mental illness alone. There is help available in many places. We hope that this day, World Mental Health Day will focus awareness on the need to do more to help those who are currently experiencing a mental illness.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Learning to love yourself.

By David Joel Miller

If you do not like yourself you make it hard for others to like you.

During the growing up process you can accumulate a lot of negative attitudes towards yourself. Someone told you that you were less-than or not worthwhile and you may well have believed them. An important part of recovery is learning to like and eventually to love you.

Developing a healthy respect and appreciation for yourself does not mean that you get conceited. It does mean that this relationship you will have with yourself needs to be positive.

You will spend more time with you than with anyone else on earth. Wherever on earth you go when you sleep you will wake up with you. Learning to like you is an important skill.

Work on being your own best friend and start treating yourself the way you would want your friends to treat you.

Here are some tips for become that best friend and learning to like you.

  1. Make time to be with you

Do not consider time alone down time and go frantically searching for someone to be with or something to do. Learn to enjoy your own company. Take a walk, read a book or just sit mindfully and meditate on nothing in particular. Enjoying your solitude can make interacting more enjoyable also.

  1. Treat yourself the way you would want to be treated

Do not abuse yourself physically or mentally. Do not call yourself names. Nurture yourself.  Ask yourself if you would treat your best friend this way. If the answer is no, don’t do that to yourself either.

  1. Ask yourself questions and write those answers down

When you first meet a new person you ask them lots of questions. Make up a list of the things you might ask a new acquaintance and then think how you would answer those questions. Write the answers down and periodically look over those statements.

Explore who you are and how you became that person. For some the best way to get reacquainted with themselves is to write out their autobiography. You do not need to have lived an extraordinary life to have had some extraordinarily interesting experiences. What are some of your life experiences? Where were you when an event in history happened? How did you feel when you heard about an important event?

  1. Compliment yourself – recognize your achievements

Make sure to give yourself compliments. Learn to recognize when you do something worthwhile and you will be less compliment starved when you are around others.

Knowing a list of the things you have done well can help offset those self-doubts that your life has not been enough and you have not done great enough things.

  1. Inventory the ways you feel loved and then practice this

What things do others do for you that make you feel valued and loved? Practice doing these things for yourself. Becoming more self-loving opens up a place for you to express love and positive feelings for others.

   6. Monitor your feelings and take action when needed

Your feelings are just as valid and important as anyone else’s. Respect and honor those feelings. If you find yourself having an unexpected feeling find out what that is about.

Feelings and intuition can be powerful voices for good if you will just learn to listen to them.

  1. Make meeting your needs a priority

Getting your needs met should not be an afterthought. Learn to make your needs a priority.

  1. Believe that you deserve to be loved and no one can do this better than you

Work on experiencing love and on having plenty of it.

  1. Take yourself on a date

Do something nice for yourself. Travel; go to a movie or dinner alone. Do not look at this as being lonely but as carving out some time to be fully present with yourself.

10. Keep a list of the things you have accomplished in your life – no discounting

Write down all the things you have accomplished in your life. Did you play a tree in the Second grade play, write this down. Do not dismiss this as only a second grade play. This was an accomplishment for the second grade you. Add up all those achievements and pull out that list for another look during times when you doubt yourself.

 11. Keep a blessing or gratitude list

Stop thinking that only the things others have matter and you don’t matter. Tell yourself that you have things others only dream of. Do you have a house? Do you have running water and electricity, even if it is just some of the time, this is more than some people have.

Has anyone ever loved you? Have you ever loved someone else? Be grateful for those experiences even if they had to end. Write this list of gratitude’s out and keep adding to it.

 12. Love without strings – unconditionally

Love as many people as you can as much as you can. Love does not mean being the victim. That is not love, it is bondage. Have you ever had a pet that loved you unconditionally? Look to this memory for a model of what unconditional love should look like.

 13. Forgive yourself daily.

You may or may not be able to forgive others but make self forgiveness a priority. We all live, we all make mistakes. Accept that this is part of being human and so is forgiving you.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books  

How to tame and train emotions and feelings.

By David Joel Miller

3 step process for making feelings a part of your recovery.

Emotional Regulation

Managing feelings
Photo courtesy of Flickr (istolethetv)

 

There was a time, back in the Victorian days when feelings were suspect and the goal was to stop feeling and to think logically. This approach has resulted in feelings and intuition getting a bad name.

If you have struggled with an emotional or mental illness, say depression or anxiety, it is hard to keep in mind that in smaller doses that anxiety or sadness could have been your friend. A little bit of anxiety can keep you safe in dangerous situations. But if that anxiety beast has gotten unruly, you need to get them back to being well-behaved.

People who have abused substances, taken drugs or drank to help them be less anxious will find their emotions have gotten out of control like a house full of unruly children when the parents are away. Using alcohol to sleep or to not feel leaves you exhausted the next day and beyond.

Feelings can tell you things, provide you with information you need if only you are willing to listen to them. If you grew up around others that did not pay attention to feelings, yours or theirs, or pretended they did not have feelings, you may be at a disadvantage when it comes to managing your emotions.

Learning to manage your emotions, feel what you need to feel but not let your emotions take over complete control of you requires you to develop a better relationship with your feelings.

Here are the three basic steps to learning to make peace with your emotions

Step One – Recognize that you are feeling

Many people are accustomed to ignoring their emotions. Whether you are recovering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse or any other life problem the first step to integrating feelings into your new recovered life is to become aware that you are feeling something.

Our bodies hold on to emotional feelings even when the mind is trying to ignore them. If you say that someone is a pain in the neck, check your neck. If your stomach is upset look inside to see if there is someone or something “making you sick to your stomach.”

These body sensations are your nervous systems way of telling you that something is wrong. Remember that you have lots of nerve cells outside your brain. Once estimate places the number of nerve cells outside that brain at over fifty per cent. You have nerve cells throughout your body for many reasons. One of those reasons is to convey information, especially emotional information to the brain.

Learn to recognize that you are feeling something. Look for where in the body that feeling is staying. What psychical sensations do you feel? Does this rev you up or shut you down.

Step Two – Name that feeling

When you do not have a word for something it is more difficult to think about that item. To learn to make emotions your friends you need to learn their names. There is a lot of difference between being sad and being angry. Learn to recognize what you feel when you feel it and then name that feeling.

When you first enter a new field you do not have the vocabulary to talk about that field. New on a job you may find the old timers see and react to things you had not noticed. As you get more familiar with things you learn their names and you respond more readily.

For an example of this take a look at my difficulties in understanding what a friend was talking about when I knew nothing about her area of interest. In this example I could not remember or talk about something because I did not know enough about it to recognize it when I saw it.

What purple glass? Memory and the expert effect

Step Three – Apply your feeling change tools

Once you recognize that you are feeling something, are able to describe where in your body you are feeling it and then are able to name that feeling you are well on your way to learning how to manage that feeling.

There are all sorts of feeling management tools. Many people are required to attend an anger management class because they never learned to follow these steps. If you just suddenly find yourself furiously angry then you are at a loss to know what to do about that anger once you have it. But if you learn to recognize that anger is coming on and how it is affecting you, there are all kinds of tools you can use to avoid excess anger and to manage that anger once it arrives.

Tools that are used for anger management work, most of the time, when they are applied to other feelings. One of the early stage feeling management tools is the process I have described above. Learn to recognize that you have feelings, identify what that feeling is and then decide how you will respond.

Other emotional regulation tools include cognitive tools, changing your thinking and behavioral tools, physical things you can do to manage emotions. For more on tools to manage feelings look at other blog posts here on counselorssoapbox.com and keep an eye out for my book, in progress, which is nearing completion.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books