Memorial Day – What are you remembering?

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

Veterans.

Memorial Day.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Today here in America we are celebrating Memorial Day.

This day, officially called Memorial Day here in the United States of America, is reported to be the descendant of several past holidays where people remembered those who had gone before and had sacrificed to create the life we have.

Established on this the last Monday in May by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, it occurs on this last Monday in May more as a concession to long weekends than any particular remembrance. It appears to be the most closely related to the former “Decoration Day.”

While we now tend to think of Memorial Day as strictly a remembrance of those who died in Military service in earlier times we are told it was a more general remembrance of people who had established our way of life.

Wikipedia reports that this time of year had long been celebrated as the beginning of the spring good weather and families would gather to hold family reunions often at family owned graveyards to celebrate those ancestors who created their lives.

Decoration Day came to be a time to remember those who died and were therefore decorated for their war service. It came to prominence after the American Civil War or The War Between the States as it is sometimes called, largely because that war beyond all other American wars touched everyone in the country. There was almost no family who had not had a member that served in that conflict.

Ancestors and those who gave their lives in the Wars of our country are not the only people who should be remembered on this Memorial Day.

The Memorial Day Massacre of 1937.

On May 30, 1937, police opened fire on a demonstration Of Union Members and their families. In the aftermath, 50 were wounded and ten died. Dorothy Day, an eye-witness, reported that 100 demonstrators were clubbed.

Today union strikes are less likely to be met with violence and death but in those days you risked your life as well as your livelihood to become a union member.

Today as we celebrate Memorial Day it is fitting to remember those who made sacrifices so that we could have the lives that we are able to enjoy.

Whether those you remember are Military members who gave their lives, family members who endured hardships to give their descendants a better life or union and political activists who sacrificed for those to come, we all should take time, in between the barbecues,  to remember that those blessings we enjoy were won by the sacrifices of those who went before.

Hope you are having a good Memorial Day.

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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

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School is back in session.

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

School classroom

School

School went back in session which means all things work related have changed.

schoolroom

School classroom
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

With school back in session, I find my schedule has gotten way busy just at the time readers are checking out the blog and leaving comments. I believe that because of the topics I write about, mental health, substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders, more searches are happening just now on those topics. Some of this is school related.

This time of year, at least here in the northern hemisphere where I live, people start abandoning their outside activities and return to their indoor life. This shifts the attention from fun activities to relationships, careers and to where their life is going. So more interest in the winter, indoor months, in happy life, self-help, self-improvement and relationship issues.

As a result of this increased interest, my list of topics to write about has grown longer while my time to write has been reduced. My teaching and counseling work schedules are keeping me busy just now.

So please forgive me if it takes some extra time to respond to comments and questions and if occasionally there are some gaps in the publication schedule.

Counselorssoapbox.com is approaching one thousand posts and still growing. Thanks to all of you for reading and continuing to be supportive of this endeavor.

What is ahead for the coming months here on counselorssoapbox.com?

A new feature coming up will be a series of posts titled “What is.”  This started as a project for my beginning students and the masters level people I supervise. Knowing the vocabulary of mental health and recovery helps them think about what they will be doing and the issues in the field. These “What is” posts will be shorter than the regular long form ones.

The field is changing, counselorssoapbox and the posts on it need to reflect those changes. We are looking at milder cases of issues and the topic of prevention. The old idea that the mentally ill, addicts and alcoholics were fundamentally different from “normal people” has given way to seeing how anyone can at times have a substance use disorder when their drinking gets excessive and that you can move back and forth on a continuum of mental wellness.

The year ahead, academic not calendar year will need to include more posts on wellness and recovery and some things called strength based recovery. Parallel with those new ways of thinking is the emergence of non-medical counseling and coaching. All of these areas are fertile topics for thought and discussion.

Those who know me well, know that I love seeing clients, teaching, writing and supervising new counselors, because I learn so much in the process of listening to all of you and researching the topics I will write about.

Hope you will all continue to follow counselorssoapbox and thanks for your continued support in all I do. Keep those comments and questions coming and I will do my best to share what I know or can find out about those topics.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

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. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Reduce Stress by saying NO!

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

Just say no.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Ways to say no and cut down on your stress.

There will always be more to do that there will be time to do it. The ability to say no and keep the stress in your life to a minimum is an important component of good mental health. Other people, of course, want you to do the things they want and so they take your yes for a given. Not telling people no can become the same as saying yes. Learning to be more assertive and to tell people no can help you keep your emotional life in balance.

Saying yes too much steals time from the things you really want to do. We would all like to make others happy. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to say no to others. Every time you say yes or more importantly fail to say no you give up a little bit of you.

You get 168 hours of time each week. Spend them wisely. There will always be competing requests for your time. Your boss wants some, so does your spouse or partner. If you have kids they want all of your time they can get, at least until they become teens.

Your friends and family will also want some of your time. So do these people who call you on the phone or pound on your door wanting to sell you something.

Each time you let them have some time because you do not want to be rude or curt, you risk giving away some of the time you had planned to spend on something else.

When your life is over-full there is no room for new people or new activities.

If you let casual acquaintances take up your time, you spend that precious resource on them. If those people in your life ask you for money, whether you have it or not, remember that most of us have to give up some of our time to get that money. The more they ask of you the less there is for yourself or others.

If you have people in your life that take up your time and do not add value to your life, they are taking the place that could belong to someone else. Until you end a bad relationship there is no time or room in your life for a new one.

You can’t start something new till you end something you are doing now.

Any new activity will take time. Going back to school, starting a hobby, doing some traveling, they all require time.

You will not get any younger

Doing things you do not want to do spends your time. You will run of that time reserve eventually.

Saying yes comes at a cost.

Saying yes creates an obligation, to yourself and others. The more the obligations the less the resources you have for you and the things that really matter. No not create obligations and then develop resentments because those other people are taking up your time.

Saying no does not make you a bad person.

If you feel that saying no is selfish or makes you a bad person think again. There are lots of good reasons to tell others no. Having good boundaries protects you and it protects others. Your children need to learn the word no and who but you is better qualified to teach them the power of no?

Giving reasons for your no sounds like you want to be talked into it.

If you have decided that the answer to this request should be no, state that answer and leave it at that. Offering reasons why you would like to do something but can’t just open the door for the other person to offer ways you can do what they requested.

Ever tell a salesman you do not have the money for something right now? And did they suggest using a credit card or time payments? See how your no’s may sound more like “talk me into it’s?”

Offer choices if you might want to do something another time or way.

In getting out of things, offering alternative choices can be a close cousin to saying no. The answer may be more like “I can’t do what you are asking but I can do —.” Consider this option if you do have something you would like to do with or for the person making the request but the original request is something you chose to not do.

Give yourself time to think it over.

You do not have to give everyone an answer the moment they ask the question. Many people have one of two default responses. They either say no to everything and regret it or they say yes to everything and regret a lot of those yes’s.

You can answer that you need time to think it over and then make that decision at your leisure.

Talk or write the decision out.

If you find it hard to make a decision and then stick to it consider writing out the request, the possible options and then what will happen if you say yes, no or yes with some changes and qualifications.

Writing things out can often bring the correct responses into focus. Talking things out with a trusted friend or adviser can help clarify both the right decision and why it may be difficult for you to tell this other person the “No!” you are really feeling.

Do you have difficulty telling people no? How might your life be different if you practiced the “saying no” skill?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

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. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How will you feel when you feel better?

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

Happy children

Happy.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

You feel bad – you want to feel better – but how do you know when you get there.

We all know what it is like to feel bad. When we start feeling bad most of us instinctively want to feel better. But how do you get from bad to feeling better? And if you head off in a direction how will you know if this is taking you where you want to be.

Not everyone feels the same when they feel “bad” so the solution to changing how you feel may be different for each of us.

What is the feeling that you need more of in your life to move from feeling bad to feeling better?

Too much excitement becomes stress. Too much relaxation can turn into boredom. If you are feeling badly there just might be a lack of one of these other feelings in your life.

1. Contentment.

Contentment is the ability to enjoy where you are and what you have, now in the present. It is easy to spend your whole life running after more of this and less of that when what really matters, you, is always there.

Practice the art of contentment and you will feel less of a need for something else to make you feel “good.”

The stress created by chasing something, something else, to make us happy is the very thing that gets in our way. So rather than going after more of this or that consider stopping to enjoy what you have. Contentment, one way of understanding it anyway, is to stand still and enjoy where you are. Life will keep moving on and you will never be the same you that is there right now.

2. Relaxed.

Few people in western society are able to feel relaxed. Relaxing is something you can do anytime and any place if you learn the skill. Being relaxed is not the same feeling as being drugged out, drunk or unconscious.

Relaxed is a combined state where both the mind and the body come together to release the stress and the worries that become such heavy burdens.

It does not help if while we are doing throughout our day we are always rushing to get somewhere where we will be able to relax. Work on being able to relax anytime and any place.

3. Excited.

Ever watch little children play? They can become excited at the smallest things. If we restrict our focus, the things that bring us pleasure and excitement, to a few items, there will never be enough.

Work on getting excited whenever you do whatever it is you do.

4. Loving.

Practice the art of loving. Love yourself first and foremost. If you don’t like you no amount of love from anyone else will fill up that leaking container.

Love works better as a verb. Love and be loved. Try to make it a noun, I have love, I want more love and you may never get enough. Practice loving where you are, who you are with, the things you do and especially yourself.

If you are not able to love, let it go. You can’t do enough to get others to love you. They either do or don’t. Be the best person you can be and love yourself in the process.

That does not mean being selfish. Giving can make you happy also. Just make sure you are not giving yourself away. Being loved should not have a price. If you try to buy love, that is another thing.

5. Caring.

Want to feel good, care a lot. Care about yourself, do self-care whatever that means to you. Don’t know how to do “self-care?” Make that a top priority. Love yourself enough to take care of yourself.

Care about others around you. Care about life and living a good one. If you find yourself no longer caring. Work on finding something to care about

Saying “I don’t care” most often means you do care but are afraid to let yourself do so because you may be disappointed. Let yourself care but accept that the way things are is the way they are.

Remember that old prayer. Change what you can and accept what you can’t. The task of living is to learn the difference.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

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. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

11 rules for Making Friends and Creating a Support System

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

True friends.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Positive social networks can keep you healthy.

Modern society moves at a fast pace. People move a lot and there are smaller families than there used to be. One challenge for all of us is how to create or strengthen those support system. Networking is just as important in your personal emotional life as it is in your professional life.

The best professional networks should include some people who you would want as friends and supporters. Here are some suggestions on how to strengthen those connections with others by making friends, developing networks and strengthening your support system.

1. Shared interests build friendships.

Most friendships develop around shared interests. If you want to make more friends go where people who like the same things as you hang out. Hang out at a bar and you meet drinkers. Go to the book club and you meet readers. The activities you enjoy are the best places to meet people who like what you do. Do not wait till you have friends to do things. Do the things you love first and you will make friends who love the same things you do.

2. To meet new people come early and stay late.

Arriving late for a meeting keeps you from talking to others. So does running off before the meeting ends. If you want to meet others you need to budget your time as well as your money. Come a little early to meet people and plan to hang around a few minutes after meeting ends so you can talk to other like-minded people.

3. Help others – get into services.

Offer to help out. Set up chairs make coffee or hand out programs. Doing things to be of service makes you more a part of the group and is a great way to meet other people.

4. Be a giver, not a taker.

If you are only there for what you can get out of a gathering you are likely to be disappointed. A selfish person is not high on the desirable list. Learn to do things for others just for the joy of giving and you will find that others appreciate you and what to get to know you.

This does not mean that you need to let others abuse you or that you need to buy your way into a group by doing or paying for things. What is important is that to make friends and supporters you need to act like the kind of person they would like to have for a friend.

5. Take someone with you.

Friendships are networks. Invite someone to go with you and you are not alone. They may well invite you the next time. The best way to meet people is through the people you already know. Make sure that the friends you hang out with are positive people. Your friends tend to introduce you to others just like they are.

6. Stay on topic.

If you are in a group that is talking about school activates do not try to take over the group and tell the stories of your last trip to where ever. Even in small-talk conversation try to share about the things others are talking about.

7. Help others join in.

The fastest way to make new friends is to help others to join in. Put your hand out, say hello and you will find you are the go-to person for making friends.

8. Pay attention to the person you are talking to.

Remembering people’s names is a blessing. Work on it. Refer to others by names some of the time. Be careful that you have something real to say rather than punctuating every other sentence with their name. Having someone repeat your name several times in a sentence makes them feel like you are talking to a creepy call-center person.

One way to develop a deeper connection is to really pay attention to the person you are talking with. Look at them and stop looking around. Looking over your shoulder for the next conversation victim tells the person that you are talking with that they do not matter that much to you.

9. Don’t cling on desperately – be ready to mingle.

In new situations, once you meet someone and engage them in conversation be ready to let them go. Having someone you just met latch onto you and follow you around the rest of the evening can feel like you now have a stalker.

10. Try to reconnect. Send emails, friend, connect on social media.

Whenever possible get a person’s contact info. Make sure you send them an email, friend them on social media or give them a call. Reach out to them like you want to be friends not like you are trying to sign them up for your multi-level marketing company.

11. Be sensitive to others needs for privacy.

Some people are all out there. Their life is an open book. Others, they are more private people. Do not push to invade others privacy. Some people keep their social media set to only a handful of close friends and family. Others have 15,000 best friends in their circle.

Know whether the person you met is open to you just dropping by or do they keep their home a sanctuary for just them and their family.

When adding friends to your support system think first about how public or private you want this relationship to be and make that clear if there is a chance that the person you just met will friend you and show up for dinner.

You will have some friends that are in all parts of your life and others that may be in only a few shared activities.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three 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.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

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.

How to cure low self-esteem – 19 ways to higher self esteem

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

Believe in you.

Self-Esteem.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Ways to boost your self-esteem.

Don’t feel good about yourself? Here are some ways to solve the low self-esteem problem.

1. Stop putting yourself down – negative self-talk causes low self-esteem

If you tell yourself you can’t then you won’t. Telling yourself negative things will keep you stuck. Putting yourself down will not protect you from failure it will protect you from success.

Continued self-criticism is the surest way to lower your self-esteem. Don’t do that to you and don’t put up with others doing it either. Don’t repeat the negative things you have been told to yourself.

2. Do something.

High self-esteem is based on what you accomplish. The more you try, the more you learn how to do things. The more you do the more you will accomplish and the more you have to make you feel good about your life. Make sure you tally up the successes, not just the errors.

3. Stop rating yourself.

Accept yourself as you are. The process of rating yourself points out where you are less than perfect. No one is perfect. There is always room for growth and improvement.

Remember that half-empty glass. Concentrate on doing, not measuring, and you will find that you will have less need of boosts to your self-esteem.

4. Stop discounting the positive.

Learn to give yourself credit for the things you do well. Practice accepting praise and compliments from others. If you do not count your successes then the tally will be only failure.

5. Write out a gratitude list.

Knowing the things that make your life good, paying attention to those things can help you to feel better about yourself.

6. Don’t listen to the haters.

There are plenty of haters in the world who need to pull you down to feel good about themselves. There are those evil trolls under every bridge. Do not listen to them. Do not believe them. Do not waste time on them.

Arguing with haters brings you nothing but pain. Sinking to their level can only destroy your self-confidence.

7. What would your best friend say about you?

Don’t dismiss the things your real friends and loving family might say about you. They know your good and your bad and they like you anyway. What are the good things they see in you? Not sure? Ask them what they see as your skills and abilities. You may be surprised to find how much others think of you while you have been thinking you are coming up short.

Don’t have family or friends that would see the good in you? Work on developing a positive support system.

8. Watch who you are comparing yourself to – looking over your shoulder.

Focus on what you are doing. Constantly comparing yourself to others will cause you to become discouraged. No one wins all the time. Do not compare your everyday life to someone else’s lifetime achievement.

9. Start over each day – past successes and failures do not count today.

Stop beating yourself up for the mistake of yesterday. Each day you start out fresh. Do your best to make today better than the day before.

10. Pick friends that support you.

Surround yourself with people who like you the way you are and will support you. Being surrounded by people who like you is a great way to boost your confidence.

11. Look for the evidence – are you really stupid?

Do not discount all the evidence that you are a worthwhile person. If you only count up the negatives you miss all the evidence that you are a person of value. Not enough evidence that you are accomplishing things? Do more, not less, and you are likely to do some worthwhile things.

12. Avoid emotional reasoning.

If you are sad that does not mean things are going poorly. Just because you feel down right now does not make you a failure. We can all have times when we are discouraged. Being discouraged means you need to take another look at what you are doing. It does not mean that you are not a worthwhile person.

13. Compliment others.

Get in the habit of noticing the good in others. Tell them what you like about them. Cultivate a positive good-seeing vision and you will be more able to see the good in yourself.

14. Accept compliments.

Do not dismiss compliments. You know when people are sincere and when they are buttering you up. Being able to accept compliments and say thank you helps you to feel good about yourself. Stop chasing the positive away from your door.

15. Tell yourself you can – positive affirmations.

Start out each day by saying good things, positive affirmations, and your brain will work on making them come true.

Restart your day at any time by telling yourself that this is a good day. You are a worthwhile person and you do not need to do or say anything to be acceptable.

16. Have a successes resume.

It is easy to remember failures and harder to remember successes. Make up a list of the things you do well. Write them down. Review that list periodically and add to it. You will be surprised how many things should be on that list that you may forget otherwise.

17. Do things.

The more you do the better you will feel about yourself. Do things for the sake of doing not for the success points. The more you do the better you will feel.

18. Play your own game, not the old family role.

Families have roles. You may have been handed the “stupid” hat or the “black sheep” hat when you were born. You can change that role. Stop living down to the things others tell you and the names you may have been called. Stop saying you are stupid or bad and try on a new role. You just might like the “OK person” role.

19. Stop keeping score all the time.

Life only happens for so long and then it is over. A hundred years from now no one will remember your mistakes. Life is about having the experience, not the score. Enjoy the trip.

Really your worth as a person does not depend on your algebra test score or your golf score.

There are my suggestions – 19 ways to cure low self-esteem. Most involving putting away the tape measure and accepting yourself the way you are. Do you have any other suggestions? What has helped you to feel good about yourself and the things you do?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

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. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Learning to Pay Attention

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

Attention sign

Attention sign.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Paying attention is important.

Sometimes staying focused is vital. We were all told repeatedly to pay attention. Some people have been told they have an attention deficit.

Were you ever taught how to pay better attention?

Better attention is a skill you can learn. If you have ADHD there are skills you can develop that may not cure your condition but they can go a long way to getting your attention defects under control.

Try these ideas to increase your ability to pay attention.

1. What is the goal of paying attention to this information? Why might it be useful or fun to know this?

It is hard to pay attention if you can’t see a use or benefit to knowing this information. Learning and attention are emotional. If you like the topic you can learn it. Don’t have any interest in the subject? Then you will need a really good reason for your brain to bother to pay attention.

2. What do you need to focus on right now?

Every minute of every day there is all manner of things that are vying for your attention. At any given moment you need to make the decision. “What do I need to focus on right now?” If your mind wanders, do not beat yourself up. Just gently pull that mind back to the thing it needs to focus on right now.

Practice focusing your attention and it will improve.

3. Prioritize – make a list.

Writing out a list and then checking things off as you do them can help keep you organized and your mind working on one thing at a time. Get overwhelmed trying to focus on a lot of things and you will hop from channel to channel without getting the gist of anything.

4. Clear the mind of things you do not need to remember right now – mind dumps.

If you are trying to hold onto an idea or thought that you will need later, you use up some of the mental capacity you will need to be able to pay attention right now.

Have things you need to do after work? Write out a list and put it in your purse or pocket. Now you have only one thing to remember, the list, not all those things you need to do later. The fewer things in short-term mental storage the more capacity to pay attention to new things in the right now.

5. Do the big things first.

If you start with the small things you can spend all day jumping from thing to thing and at the end of the day you will still have those big things to do.

Start with the big thing first and when you reach breakpoints you can easily do those small things.

6. Break big projects into smaller parts.

If you try to build the whole house all at once you can leave out things. Break the project up into small components. Focus on one part at a time. A written list helps to make sure you did not leave anything out. If as you work on this big project you think of more steps, add them to the list. Do not keep stopping one thing to work on another. Jumping from one part to another is a sure way to undermine your ability to pay attention to any part of the project.

7. Single-task.

Multi-tasking is a myth. It may work when you need to hurry through things and none of them need any real attention or accuracy but the more you try to multitask the worse your attention to any one part becomes.

8. Cut out the distractions.

You know the things that distract you. Try to find ways to eliminate or reduce these distractions. When I am writing the sound of voices distract me. I keep wondering what is being said. I wear headphones and have some nondescript instrumental music playing. This works for me to reduce the distractions. The headphones work by the way even if there is no music playing.

Find what works for you to reduce distractions. Turn off your phone if you can or move it to mute. Shut down the email or the social media while you work. Tell others around you that you need to concentrate so please stop talking. Do whatever works for you within the laws and the social setting.

9. Create a work kit or place.

If you can have a set place for your work do so. If you need to move from place to place create a box or bag that includes all the things you will need. Do not have to run back and forth to find pens, pencils or paper, Keep some of all these things in your bag. Even you computer users may need a small pad of paper and a pen in that computer case for the time you need to make yourself a note or when the power is off.

10. Add more steps to the list as needed – skip the things you can’t do for now.

As you are working on your project or your list, there will be things you can’t do right now. Do not dwell on those things. Skip this and move on to the next thing. Having that thing on your list eliminates the need to remember to do it later.

11. Do focus sets – 10-minute blocks and repeat.

Chunking, doing things in small short blocks, and then taking even a micro-break can help improve focus. In teaching, I find I need to move around the front of the room every so often to keep the students listening. As a student, I found that even shifting my position in my seat could help me refocus my attention. A leg that is falling asleep takes precedence over most lectures.

12. Push through to the goal.

It is tempting to stop one thing and do another but if you are close to the end and there is the chance you could finish one thing now, try pushing through to the end and then crossing this off your list. One less thing to remember to get back to improves your ability to concentrate on the other things going on in your life.

There are my suggestions for exercising your attention paying brain muscles. What have you found that helps you stay focused?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

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.

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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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.