How do you break a bad habit?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Breaking Bad Habits.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you have some bad habits you’d like to stop?

Many people have behaviors they would call a “bad habit,” they say they would like to stop. Habits by their very nature are things we do automatically, without thought, which makes them extra challenging to stop. Psychologists have studied habits, how to create them and how to break them. There are some things you need to consider if you want to change a habit.

You have been doing the things that have become a habit for a long time. In the early stages of habit formation, it may not take long for something to become a new habit. If a fast-food restaurant gets you to come in for three visits in a row you will probably be a regular customer. Breaking that habit will probably take a lot longer. Highly reinforcing habits such as drugs and alcohol will require even more effort to end.

Is this habit something you can really stop?

There’s a difference between changing a habit that you need and want you don’t need. Many people would like to stop overeating or reduce the amount of food they eat. Humans must eat some food so the techniques you would use to reduce the amount of food you’re eating, would be very different from the methods you would use to end a bad habit such as drug use, that needs to be stopped completely.

Do you really want to stop this “bad habit?”

I’ve mentioned more than once that my purchasing of books has become a bad habit. I buy a lot of books. Sometimes more than I can read. I also download quite a few free Kindle e-books. While I say I need to stop accumulating books faster than I can read them, this is not a habit I especially want to break. It’s easy for me to excuse this habit on the grounds that I’m an author with at least six publish books, and if I’m going to write books, I need to read a great many also. I don’t actually want to stop this habit.

Many of the clients I work with, in my therapy practice, have bad habits such as drug use, which they want to stop completely. The techniques you use for ending a bad habit altogether, are different from the methods you use if you’re only trying to keep your habit from getting out of control.

What techniques can be used to end a bad habit?

First, let’s look at the ways to end a bad habit you want to eliminate entirely. Second, we will look at some techniques for modifying “bad habits” you want to reduce or control. Lastly, let’s look at some methods that might be useful regardless of whether you want to stop altogether or want to reduce the time and money you spend on the “bad habit.”

Eliminate cues that remind you to engage in this bad habit.

Most habits have cues that automatically trigger a response. Your phone rings and you reach and answer it. It’s hard to ignore that ringing phone even when you want to do something else. Turning off the ringing sound may help you avoid answering it when you need to focus on something else. Reducing or eliminating cues is an essential step in ending a bad habit.

People in substance abuse recovery are encouraged to get rid of drugs, alcohol, and any paraphernalia they might use. For recovering alcoholic, that means getting rid of your collection of beer-themed decorations or your collection of shot glasses. People use other drugs should get rid of things like pipes.

Avoid places you used to go to engage in this bad habit.

For an alcoholic stopping at the liquor store, even to pick up a gallon of milk, or some bread is a risky behavior. Hanging out in the bar, even if it’s only to play pool is likely to trigger urges to drink. Hanging out with people who drink or use drugs is also a risky behavior. Seeing them engage in the action you’re trying to stop is likely to cue intense cravings.

How might you alter a habit you don’t want to end completely?

Here are some suggestions for modifying a habit when you don’t want to end completely. Psychologists have suggested these for things such as eating less or not drinking as much.

To eat less, reduce the amount available.

Serving food on smaller plates can help you cut down on how much you consume. Using smaller size glasses can reduce the volume of fluids you drink. Purchasing things like chocolate in smaller container sizes can reduce your consumption. Limiting the amount of food or beverages you consume by using smaller containers will only work if you don’t make repeated trips back to refill.

Use your nondominant hand for eating or drinking.

Using your nondominant hand slows down the eating or drinking process. People who ate popcorn with their nondominant hand ate smaller amounts, especially when the popcorn was stale. Changing how you do something, slows the process down, and may result in doing less of it.

Driving the “mindbus” can help you ignore automatic thoughts.

Sometimes it feels as if they’re a bunch of voices in your head urging you to do things you don’t want to do. I’m not talking about the voices that people with a serious mental illness experience. When you have those automatic thoughts telling you to do things you know, they are thoughts coming from your own brain. But when your mind is telling you that you need some more chocolate or another drink, it’s hard to ignore those automatic thoughts.

In the mindbus technique, you picture yourself as the driver of a bus taking yourself somewhere you want to go. All those loud voices in your head that are trying to distract you are the passengers on your bus. Ignore the noisy urges clamoring for you to turn the bus and take it in a different direction and stick to the route you have selected.

Substitute a positive behavior for a negative one.

If you have urges to eat some more chocolate, select a carrot or other fruit instead. Instead of heading to the bar go to an AA meeting or religious service. Rather than eat mindlessly go for a walk or do another exercise. By substituting positive behaviors for negative behaviors, you reduce your bad habits and improve the quality of your life.

What bad habits do you want to modify or end altogether?

For more on this topic, you might want to check out the British Psychological Society podcast on Breaking Bad Habits.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

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Grow Your Power.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

No Power?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Empowerment – growing your power.

Ever wish you had more power? Would you like to be more in control of your own life? Do you feel helpless to change your life? There are ways to increase your power, be more effective and have more of the things you want in life.

No matter how much or how little power you feel you have today, you can begin to grow that sense of personal power, step by step, starting today.

You may have learned to be helpless, been in a situation where no matter what you did, you were told you were wrong. Your efforts may have been invalidated and unrewarded. People may have taught you to be helpless. If you learned to be helpless you can unlearn that way of thinking.

Right now, what are you doing to enlarge your feelings of personal power? If not today, when will you begin to take control of your life?  Here are some ways to grow that personal power.

Look for areas in your life where you can take control.

If you focus only on the areas that are out of your control, you become debilitated and paralyzed. Focus on your choices.

When you think you have no control, you make it so. You may be in a situation where you are dependent on others. You have more control than you think. You may not be able to control your situation or surroundings, but you can control your attitude. You can think like a victim, or you can think like a survivor and be a participant in your life.

Look for help or a mentor to develop your skills.

If you are in a low power situation, an abusive relationship or poverty, look for resources that can help you. Teachers, counselors, or mentors can help you to grow your power.

Can’t find a person to help you? Look for books on changing your life.

Begin making your own decisions.

Look for areas in your life where you can decide for yourself. Large or small, it does not matter, begin the process of thinking about how you feel about things and what you want. Cultivate the habit of making as many decisions about your life as possible. Especially pay attention to how you feel about things. If you feel helpless you may be giving up your power to someone else without even noticing you are giving your control away.

Try new things to grow your self-esteem.

Are you going for ice cream? Look for a new flavor to try. You may like it. You may not. Check off that one from your to-do list. The more experiences you have in life, the more you can adapt to change. Like it or not change is a part of life. Doing a wider variety of activities increases your sense of competency.

Volunteering to help others make you more confident.

This is a great way to try on new behaviors. In 12 step groups, people will become secretaries of meetings or chair a meeting. The experience of trying on a new behavior can increase your self-confidence. You may surprise yourself with how well you can do something.

Practice leadership to improve your confidence.

In many residential treatment facilities, the group selects client officials. Each week as clients come and go, these officials change. Clients frequently tell me this was the first time in their lives they have been in a leadership role. They discover talents they never knew they had.

Do something for yourself to feel more confident.

Taking good care of you is not being selfish. You can’t be of service to others if you don’t have it to give. Self-care is important. Making yourself a priority tells you that you are worth being cared for. Feeling good about yourself, knowing you mater will enlarge your sense of personal power and control of your life.

Make something “your own.”

Find something that brings joy to your life. Do you have a favorite author? Which sports team is “your” team? Do you crochet? Do you cook Italian? What interest or activity says, “you?” What is your religion or spiritual connection?  Feeling that there is something you connect to makes you feel more anchored, more a part of the community.

You’re going to spend your whole life with you. Invest some time in getting to know you.

Learning a new skill will make you feel more competent.

Expanding your skills is a great way to make you feel more competent and useful. Is there something you always wanted to try? If not now, when will you do this? Look for someone in your life who has this skill and ask them to teach you. Go to places where people who have this skill hang out and learn from them. Clubs, online blogs, and short-term classes are all great sources of information. Stores sometimes teach courses on how to use the products they sell.

Get more education or training, and you will feel more confident.

Opportunities for education and training are more available than at any time in history.  There are plenty of adults of all ages back in school, learning a new skill. Check out some of the online tutorials which show you how to do something. Staying current on your skills makes you feel better about yourself.

There are some suggestions for creating empowerment and growing your personal power. Have you found any other ways to feel more competent and in charge of your life?

Leave a comment and share with the rest of us the things you have done to empower yourself and grow that personal power.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

How to stay mentally well.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Mental Health or Mental Illness

Mental Health or Mental Illness?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Being mentally well involves a lot more than not having a mental illness.

I learned this lesson from an old car I used to drive. The car was battered, and it had a lot of miles on it, but it ran, and it got me where I need to go. Periodically I took it to a mechanic to get it serviced. There wasn’t anything broken on the car, but it didn’t always run as well as I would have liked. On the freeway, if I got up to a certain speed, the car would start to shake and become hard to control, so I had to slow it back down. But when I tried to accelerate it took forever to get up to speed, and the things that the mechanic fixed didn’t seem to make any difference. This car had an air conditioner, but it never seemed to be able to keep up once the air temperature outside got above eighty degrees.

Finally, that old car did break down, and there was no fixing her this time. I bought a much newer car and was quite surprised at how much easier it was to drive my new vehicle. It accelerated rapidly, and it didn’t shake when I got up to freeway speeds. Not only did the new cars air conditioner cool on high, but it could also make the car feel downright cold.

Just as there was a long-distance between a car that ran poorly and a car that didn’t run. There can be an equally large distance between a condition that is so severe it’s diagnosed as a mental illness and you’re being fully mentally well.

Here are some tips on how to improve your mental health and be mentally well.

Try some of these tips to improve your mental wellness.

Don’t let your thoughts control you.

There is a difference between your thoughts and the truth. Not everything you think is accurate. What you need to do is separate helpful from unhelpful thoughts. Just because something scares you doesn’t mean it is dangerous. Don’t fall into the perfectionist trap of believing that if you’re not perfect, you’re a failure.

Get honest with yourself.

Many people have these little stories they tell themselves. It’s easy to blame other people for what’s wrong in your life. Many people self-handicap. They tell themselves they can’t do something which then becomes their excuse for not trying. When I work with people, who were in recovery from substance use disorders, I discovered many of them had told other people lies so often they come to believe their own stories. You’re going to spend your whole life with you make it an honest relationship.

Being real is essential for good mental health.

Be true to yourself. Don’t go through life being a fake and living for other people’s opinion. Don’t fall victim to the “impostor syndrome.” Do what you can do the best of your abilities but don’t ever doubt that you do have some abilities.

Be true to yourself; avoid dissonance.

Living your life by someone else’s values will not be satisfying for you unless those are also your values. Many people have three separate selves, who they think they should be, who they believe they are, and who they wish they were. The farther apart these three selves are the more dissonance. Accept yourself the way you are rather than trying to become some ideal perfect person. Work on improving the who you are and consider living the life of the person you want to be.

Knowing yourself is part of being mentally well.

Self-knowledge will help avoid fuzzy boundaries. Avoid being enmeshed or codependent. Your thoughts and feelings are your own. You must live your own life. You can share part of your life with others, but you can’t live their lives.

Don’t dump your stuff on others.

Psychoanalysts spend a lot of time looking at things called transference and countertransference. Don’t assume because you’re angry that everyone else is. If you had a problem with your father, don’t treat all men as if they were your father. Try to see each person as a unique individual who may not feel or think the same way you do.

Double-check the blueprints you developed in childhood.

A lot of the problems adults have are things they learned between the ages of eight and eighteen, which turned out to not work as adults or to not to be true. Crying may have worked well to get grandma to give you candy but falling down on the floor, and crying won’t get you a raise, and it may get you fired. No one learns everything a hundred percent, and your parents could only teach you what they knew. Reexamine those old templates you stored in your brain about how you should be and how you should interact with others.

Learn to calm yourself down.

Small children are dependent on their parents to soothe them when they’re upset. As we grow, we should learn to regulate our own feelings and to self soothe. Don’t believe that other people can control the way you feel. You may not like the things others do, but you don’t have to become angry or hurt. Just because you feel agitated does not mean you have to act out.

Look for improvement opportunities rather than failures.

Making mistakes is a part of life. Everyone does it whether you see their failures or not. Don’t beat yourself up for every mistake. Learn from your experiences. Continue to get better at living life. Life will give you a lot of challenges. Just because you missed the target once don’t stop trying. You will either learn from your mistakes, or you will keep making the same ones over and over. Grow because of your experiences rather than giving up.

Start now working on your mental health and wellness as well as your physical health. Some things may be out of your control but take control of things you can. Just avoiding illness is not enough. You deserve to have the best life possible.

Look here for more information on Mental Health and Wellness.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Ways to improve your mood in minutes.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Unhappy emoticon

Unhappy.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sometimes a low mood is a mental illness; sometimes it’s not.

Everyone has days when they’re feeling down. When that down feeling goes on too long, and it interferes with your life, it becomes a thing we know as clinical depression. Treatment for depression can involve three separate approaches, medication, counseling, and changes in thinking and behavior. For that occasional blue moon, medication is not recommended. Using chemicals to change the way you feel can result in a substance use disorder.

Talking to people whether you’re in counseling or have a support system is useful even when your down mood hasn’t reached a diagnosable mental illness. People who incorporate talking and active behavior reduce the risks of developing depression, and these tools can be used to prevent relapse if you have been treated for depression.

Being more active will improve your mood.

Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous for you to receive benefit from it. Walking as little as 20 minutes a day can improve your outlook on life. More important than the intensity is the frequency. You can’t sit on the couch every day and then expect to make up for it by exercising all day on Saturday.

Getting into motion has lots of benefits. Many people report that they don’t feel like doing anything, but once they start moving, that sluggish feeling disappears.

Going outdoors makes you feel better.

Brighter light helps your mood, so does fresh air, and being in nature. If you’ve ever been to the mountains or the lake you probably felt better. Researchers believe that there are healing benefits for humans being around nature. The recommended dose of mother nature is at least two hours a week.

Connect with positive people to improve your mood.

Positive outlooks on life are contagious. Humans are social animals, and they tend to copy the people they spend the most time around. Pick your friends wisely. If you hang out with gloomy people, the joy leaves your life.

We all need a support system. It’s terrific if you have one person in your life you’re close with. But a support system needs to be more than one person. Having good Friends keeps you connected and prevents Loneliness.

Improve your self-care.

Get plenty of sleep on a regular basis even if you have to cut some things out of your life to do it. Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. When you’re tired, hungry, or thirsty, your mood suffers, and you become irritable.

Scratch something hard off your to-do list.

When you have difficult tasks on your to-do list, don’t procrastinate. The longer that hard-to-do project sits on your to-do list, the more anxious or depressed you’re likely to become. Tackle that challenging project first, and as you see progress, towards your goal, you can take pride in your accomplishments.

Taking back your environment will make you feel better.

Straighten the things around you. Do a quick cleaning up project. Eliminate clutter. A little bit of rearranging can make you a lot more comfortable in your surroundings.

Do something for someone else.

Doing for others is a proven way to elevate your mood. Any time you spend doing for others is time you’re not thinking about your challenges.

Learn something new to build a sense of accomplishment.

The process of learning something can elevate your mood. Learn a new skill. Study something you’ve always wanted to know about.

Read a book to spark your imagination.

Lots of people watch TV or online videos. But there’s something about “reading” a book that has a lasting impact on people. Whether you read a physical paper book, read an electronic version, or listen to an audiobook, you will engage your imagination. Videos show you everything. Books suggest things, leaving you to fill in the details. Reading more can increase your creativity and make you feel better.

Acting as if you are happy makes you happier.

One way to break out of a down mood is to smile more. People who smile begin to feel happy. People who laugh more are more fun to be around.

Being happy makes you a better person.

Being happy is not selfish. It makes you an easier person to be around. Happy people are easier to get along with, more productive, and more likable.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Five David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

How will you solve that problem?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Problem and problem solving

Problem solving.

Is your life full of problems?

If you’re one of those people who seems to go from problem to problem, maybe it’s time to change the way you handle problems. Problems can cause you a lot of unhappiness, derail your life and result in depression and anxiety, or they can simply be one more thing you must handle today. Unresolved problems can fester and damage relationships at home and work.

The problems you don’t tackle can undermine your self-esteem and hold you back from the life you want to have. Here are some simple steps you can take to move from a problem-filled life to a “problems handled” way of living.

This approach is often used by companies or businesses, but you can easily modify it for solving personal issues or family and relationship problems.

Define the problem accurately.

A couple comes in for relationship counseling, the problem they describe is that they are constantly fighting over money. Before this couple can solve this problem, we need to get more specific about what the problem is. For some couples, this is largely a financial problem. Scraping by from month-to-month, not being sure you’ll be able to pay the rent and the power bill can put a strain on any relationship. The solution will be learning some financials skills.

Another couple has plenty of income, and their expenses would be manageable if they could agree on how to spend their money. What we need to establish is whether this is a relationship issue or is it about power and control? Maybe one of them is a saver, and the other wants to spend. If one’s goal is a large savings account and the other’s goal is to do lots of traveling the problem to solve is not financial, but how they make decisions.

For couples whose problems are primarily fighting about money, the real issue may be that they barely have enough income to survive. When you live a life where what you earn each month is less than what you must spend, and you make up the deficit by using credit cards, eventually something must give, either before bankruptcy or after. The stress of unpaid bills can result in a lot of irritability and arguments.

Start any effort to solve your problems by creating an as specific as possible definition of the problem.

Who owns this problem?

What if your problem is someone else? Your partner makes you angry, or your kids won’t behave. It’s hard to develop a plan for anything you can do when the problem is someone else. There are three possible approaches, try to change the other person, change yourself, or stay miserable while insisting that things shouldn’t be the way they are.

While it’s difficult, it is sometimes possible to change the other person. Every relationship, especially couples and families, develop a pattern of how they relate to each other. Therapists call this the “family dance.” If you want to change the interaction, you must change the dance, and you begin this by doing different steps than you’ve done before. As you change others will be forced to change in response, though they may not always change in the way you want them to change.

Both changing yourself and the process of encouraging others to change are skills you can learn. You might want to look at the posts about problem ownership and behavioral modification.

Generate possible solutions for your identified problem.

Once you are clear on what the problem is and who needs to make the changes, you can begin to generate a list of possible solutions. Let’s take the “fighting about money” problem.

It may be hard work, but a first step would be to develop a budget. You need to know how much money is coming in each month and where it is going. The couple needs to agree on how important savings are to them. What percentage of each month’s income do they plan to save? Saving should include putting something away for retirement. A small amount saved each year can grow to a substantial amount over your working lifetime.

You also need to prioritize what you spend your money on. That mixed coffee drink can be a nice treat. But if you add up what you spend on those lattes and compare it to the cost of making a pot of coffee and taking a mug with you, having the money to pay the power bill the first of the month may be worth more than those daily splurges.

Solutions you might consider for solving your financial issues could be ways to earn more income, ways to reduce expenses, or sell something you have, to raise some extra cash. Many people find that their payments on expensive cars or credit card balances are the hole the drains money faster than they can earn it.

Solving financial problems is often painful, but if you don’t solve these problems, the stress can damage your mental health and destroying your relationship.

Explore the advantages and disadvantages.

Any effort to solve a problem comes with pros and cons. The last real estate downturn forced people to choose between making large payments for houses that were worth less than what they still owed on them, or giving up their dream home.

To solve a specific problem, you may have to give up something or do something you don’t wish to do. Evaluating your options can be difficult. You will never have all the information you would wish for. But eventually, you must choose to change something, or you will choose to continue to live with the pain of an unresolved issue.

Implement your selected solution.

This step trips up a lot of people. The couple decides they need to let things from the past go and focus on the future, but the next time there’s a disagreement about raising the kids or spending money all that past stuff gets thrown into the argument.

You may have decided to stop splurging on little expenses, and the next day, when you feel a little down, you start spending again. If you decided the way to solve your financial problems was to stop making impulsive purchases and pay down your credit card debt, be careful of making exceptions and buying something just this one time because you want it.

When you have these little slips and don’t follow your plan, don’t beat yourself up and don’t toss the plan away. Accept that you’re not going to be perfect the following the plan. Redouble your efforts again the next day.

Evaluate the results you are getting from your plan.

Whatever the problems you’re trying to solve, you need to do periodic reviews and evaluate whether what you’re doing is moving you in the right direction. Some problems may be easily solved. Others may require effort over a long period. Don’t get discouraged. Do give yourself credit for the effort you put in and for whatever results you achieve.

Modify the solution as needed.

Be careful about getting locked into one solution. Some ideas you may have had for solving your problem won’t work. Others may take more effort and time than you’re willing to put into them. Make whatever changes you need to make to reach your goal.

What should you do if your solutions don’t work?

At any point in the process, you might want to seek out professional help. For financial problems, you may need financial counseling. For work-related issues, you might need to see an educational or career counselor. For mental health and emotional problems consider therapy. If the problem is your relationship consider couples, marriage, or family counseling.

Behavioral problems such as excessive anger or a substance use disorder are likely to require professional help also. If your relationship is full of conflict, a relationship counselor can help you work through the conflict.

Don’t feel that it’s a sign of weakness to seek professional help. Athletes have coaches and businesses hire consultants. Sometimes the investment of a few dollars spent on professional help can pay off in huge improvements in solving your emotional and relationship problems.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Becoming more resilient.

By David Joel Miller.

Resiliant

Resilient. 
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How do you get back up when life knocks you down?

Resiliency is the key to getting back up when life knocks you down. Resiliency is a skill that you can learn, but it requires practice. When you’re going through difficult times, it can be hard to imagine life getting better. Here are some tips for improving your resiliency and learning to bounce back from adversity.

Shift your focus from where you are to where you’re going.

When life has knocked you down, avoid wallowing in the mud. When your down, it is tempting to spend your time thinking about how bad things are and how unfair it is. It’s inviting to look for someone to blame. Don’t make the mistake of believing that there is something inherently wrong or defective about you. Don’t become paranoid and believe your difficulties are caused by others who are out to get you.

Do spend your time planning for and working to become the best person you can. Learn from your mistakes. Change what you can. Do the work you need to do to change where you are.

Strengthen or develop a support system.

Humans do best when they are part of a group. When times are tough, you will find out who your real friends are. If there are ruptures in your support system, try to repair those relationships that you can fix. Evaluate the people you spend your time with. Hang out with negative people, and you will become more negative. To be a healthy, happy person, you need to have positive people in your life.

Stay connected to family, friends, faith, support systems, and your community. When times are hard, your connections are vital. Friendships cannot be one-way streets. If someone only takes from you but never gives, that’s not a friend. If you have a particular faith or religion, make sure you stay connected. Stay involved in positive things in your community.

Contribute to the world around you.

Doing things to make the world a better place will improve your self-esteem and self-confidence. Do what you can. It’s not necessary to donate large amounts to causes. If you can afford to, give small amounts of money. More important than the money you give, is the time and the giving of yourself.

The smile you give some may be exactly what they needed. If you give a smile, you may get one in return.

Identify the areas in your life you can control.

Sometimes bad things happen, and they are out of your control. You may have an illness. You didn’t pick that sickness. Pretending you’re not ill will not help. Suffering in silence is not a virtue.

What you can do may be significant. You can see a doctor. You can take your medicine as prescribed. You can illuminate unhealthy habits. Quit smoking, give up or reduce your drinking. Get plenty of sleep. Get up off the couch and move around as much as you are able.

When you start looking for the things that are in your control you may find many opportunities to improve your life. Small improvements here and there can add up.

Identify and develop your skills.

The situations in your life will change. The skills you learn in one situation may be useful in the next situation you encounter. Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Identify the strengths you have and build on them.

Develop the good parts of yourself.

Begin by identifying the good parts of you. If you have trouble thinking of those parts right now, ask yourself what a good friend might say about you. Maybe you’re creative. Some people are naturally curious, and they love to learn new things. Perhaps you are a kind person or someone who cares about fairness. Do you have a good sense of humor? Whatever your qualities look for ways to strengthen them and to build on them to create a better future.

Learn to manage stress.

Stress is a part of life. As long as you live, you will experience stress. Even good things can be stressful. Learn some simple stress reduction techniques. You may find that deep breathing can slow down the floods of emotion that can overwhelm you. Many stressful events have both good and bad features. Avoid focusing on only the distressing parts of the situation.

Practice coping with adversity.

Use the small, everyday problems as an opportunity to identify your strengths and to practice your coping skills. Coping with everyday irritations develops your coping skills for the big challenges in life.

Increase your self-confidence.

In parenting education, we tell people to build resiliency in children by catching them doing something right. Hopefully, you had people in your early life who gave you praise for the things you did well. If you didn’t get that praise, start today to recognize and acknowledge your accomplishments. If you have difficulty accepting, compliments learn to compliment yourself and receive the gift of a compliment rather than returning it as being of no value.

Avoid shaming and guilt tripping yourself.

The field of positive psychology tells us that shame and negative motivation does not spur people to do better. Recognize what you can improve on but don’t fall into the trap of believing that calling yourself names and beating yourself up will result in doing better. Making a mistake does not make you a “bad person.”

Try to fix the things you can and accept the things you can’t. What other ways have you found to increase your resilience? What will you start doing today to create a better future?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.