17 Ways to de-stress

How do you manage stress?

By David Joel Miller.

Stress can overwhelm you at any time or anywhere – Here are some suggested ways to turn down the stress volume.

1. Breath.

Pain, Anxiety, Depression, Stress

Pain, Anxiety, Depression, Stress
Photo courtesy of Flickr (marsmet481)

Under stress, most of us forget to breathe. The result is fewer shorter breathes and the overwhelming sense of panic that can follow a lack of air in your lungs.

Slow your breathing down. Take deep breaths from the diaphragm. You should feel your stomach moving in and out. Short fast breaths from high up in your chest can increase the feelings of stress.

Breathe slowly and deeply, pause between breaths. Watch your stress move out each time you breathe out and pause before taking in that next deep breath.

2. Make friends with silence.

There is noise everywhere. We have our radios and our televisions, our iPad’s and other electronics all screaming away at once. Add on people talking at you all day long and a few people screaming for whatever reason and you are bound to feel the stress meter rise.

Think back to that last time you felt really relaxed and distressed. Maybe a vacation in the mountains or at the beach. One thing you are likely to remember about that time is how quiet it was.

Those voices in your head can get awfully loud some days. Learn to quiet your mind down and embrace the silence. I keep a set of headphones at my desk to minimize the noise. Soft nature sounds help, sometimes no sound at all helps even more to reduce my stress.

3. Say a positive affirmation.

Affirmations are those little saying you tell yourself that help you to cope. Don’t lie to yourself or the whole affirmation will backfire. Tell yourself that this may be stressful but you can handle it. This too shall pass or whatever other saying works for you to put this current stress in perspective.

4. Make a list of the good things in your life.

If you keep thinking about all the problems your life story gets soaked through with problems. Most of us have lots of positive things going on. Take those little sparkling moments and hold on to them.

Writing out a list of things that are good, things you are grateful for, can put the rest of your life in perspective. This list, sometimes called a gratitude list, can be a reference guide when things get tough.

The very act of writing down positive things in your life reinforces those things. Thinking saves the thought briefly in one part of the brain. Writing stores these blessings in a second part of the brain. Sharing them out loud with a friend stores them in a third part of the brain. The more of your brain that is full of happiness the less room there is for stress.

5. Stand more.

Stand and get the body moving. Stretch and relax those tense muscles. Tight muscles can be a result of stress but they can also be the cause of your body thinking that the stress is worse than it really is.

People who stand burn more calories than those who sit. Standing is a quick easy way to relax and reduce the stress of the moment.

6. Walk more.

Walking can be very effective in reducing depression. When the body shares the load the mind can get a rest. A quick walk to the end of the hall, the water cooler or the bathroom can refocus the mind and move the stress off the front burner.

7. Make prioritized lists.

The human brain has a limit on the number of things you can keep in conscious memory at any one time. The more you try to keep in the front of the mind the less space is available to work on the current task.

Writing down a “to do list” can free up space in your brain to get this task done. It also reduces the anxiety you may be feeling that you might forget something.

Once the list is down on paper, prioritize those things. Do one big hard thing first and leave the long list of quick things for later when you may only have a few minutes left.

Check those items off your list as you do them and by the end of the day you may find that you are far more productive and less stressed than when you were spending all that time trying to remember all those things you needed to get done today.

8. Feel what you’re feeling.

Feelings are not the enemy. They can convey needed information. Feelings like human friends are not always right. Because something scares you does not mean it is dangerous. Listen to the feelings but then make informed decisions on how you will handle those feelings.

See the post Making Friends with Feelings

9. Look at things that make you happy.

If you run from place to place with no time to take in the joys of life you will only accumulate more stress. Slow down sometimes and notice the pleasant things. Take an extra second or two and taste the thing you are eating. Pause to notice those flowers growing outside your office.

Accumulating those brief doses of pleasure can make the rest of the day less stressful.

Ever stop to really look at the pictures your workplace put up in the hall?

10. Carry a worry stone

A worry stone, religious symbol or other personal object carried in your pocket can absorb a lot of that stress you are holding onto.

11. Make time for family and friends.

When you don’t have friends and family around you, then you are all alone. Seek out positive people for a role in your stress reduction plan.

12. A pet can help you reduce stress.

When no one else listens, when you feel all alone, that pet, a dog or cat, is waiting at the door when you come home. A pet is a great example of unconditional love.

13. Be an indoor explorer – look for new experiences.

Check out a new deli or other places to eat. Visit a new store or library. Keep an eye peeled for things you might try that you have never done. A local adult education or college class may offer all kinds of opportunities for new experiences.

There are lots of resources on the internet these days to allow you to take a class at a far off university or learn about something that interests you.

14. Develop a skill.

Is there a new skill you might develop? Something you always wanted to do but never got around to? Take the time to develop that skill and see where it takes you. Those breaks while you practice that skill reduce stress and challenge you to keep working on your self-improvement.

15. Do self-care.

The more stressed-out people get the less time they take for self-care. Do something nice for yourself. Look for ways to treat yourself well.

16. Practice your spirituality.

If you have a faith practice it. Religion or spirituality are comforting when times are tough. If you have a belief make sure that your actions are consistent with that belief. Pray, meditate or engage in other spiritual practices. Those moments of faith can get that stress volume down to a realistic size.

17. Express Yourself.

Write not because you have to but because you chose to. Draw if that interests you. Do this for yourself, not for the approval of others. Dance, pantomime or practice any other expressive skill.

There are my suggestions of 17 ways to reduce stress. Do you have other ways you have found to help you manage your stress?

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.

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

By David Joel Miller.

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

More Self Esteem

More Self Esteem
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Riude)

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.

Surviving sadness – avoiding depression

By David Joel Miller.

How do you cope with sadness when your life goes on?

Sadness is a normal part of life. You feel sad sometimes and then the sadness passes and you move on. Sometimes we feel sadness and we get stuck there. The longer you stay stuck the more likely you are to slip down into the quicksand of depression.

So what should you do when that sadness feeling comes lurking around?

1. Let yourself feel what you feel.

It is OK to feel what you feel. Some things are sad. Sometimes we feel sad just because we do. We hear of someone else’s misfortune and it makes us sad. We see something and we feel this feeling. This is called empathy, the ability to understand and experience what others feel. Put yourself in another’s shoes and you will understand some part of their sadness.

Do not try to stop the feeling the second it comes on. It is OK to experience it. Just do not stay there and wallow in the feeling. Understand that this feeling like all other feelings can pass if you permit it.

2. Share with someone else.

In times of trouble, we need to share our sadness with others. We talk about our pain and grief with friends or family. If you have religious faith or a spiritual tradition you will want to seek out those with like beliefs.

When there is no one that you feel comfortable turning to, when there is no one there or when you do not feel comfortable putting your sadness on those close to you there are professionals that can help. Seek them out.

3. Share with yourself – write it out.

Sadness that continues to rattle around in the head magnifies itself. A first step in getting loose from the sadness is to get it out.

Some people find that journaling, writing about their sadness or depression, helps discharge it. Others use drawing or dance to express these sentiments.

4. Turn sadness into motivation.

A sad event in your life can be the tipping point that turns your life around. Lose someone to a drug overdose and you may be motivated to become a counselor.

How might your sadness, pain, and suffering become tools to help you find your purpose in life?

5. Treat yourself to things you like.

Learn those things that make you happy and make it a point to allow yourself those items on the list that are positive.

6. Budget extra sleep time

Not getting enough rest, being over tired, is a way to let sadness and depression overcome you. Get plenty of rest. Make bedtime a regularly scheduled event.

One type of depression (atypical features) results in people who start to stay in bed all the time. They eat more than normal, like a bear ready for winter and then sleep day and night. If you find that you are tired all the time and just do not have the energy to get out of bed and do things, try setting a time for bed and one for getting up. If that still is a problem consider an evaluation by a professional for possible depression.

7. Eat regular meals.

Failure to eat on time, lack of energy can result in sad, tired feelings also. This makes it hard to get back into life after a life event that creates sadness. Take care of yourself and that especially means eating in a healthy way if you want to reduce the impact of sadness on your life and mental health.

8. Invest in laughter.

Laughing can be a powerful antidote for sadness. Watch a sitcom, visit a comedy club, tell jokes, and your sadness fades. Not able to laugh when the rest of the crowd does? That is a sign that your feeling has moved beyond sadness to major depression. Laughter is a great medicine, take some daily if possible,

9. Hang out with positive people.

You become like the people you spend time with. You friends are your future. Hang with the winners if you want to win. Hanging out with downers will pull you down.

10. Take frequent short breaks.

When you are down and sad, things can be overwhelming. Do what you can. Do not give up. Do a little and then take a break. Repeat as needed. Be kind to yourself when times are tough.

11. Exercise.

A little movement can brighten your mood. Walk around the block if that is all you are up to. Exercise is a good prescription for depression and a little can be a preventative when it comes to the progression from sadness to depression.

Try to include some exercise in your regular routine to improve both psychical health and mental health.

12. Change the scenery.

Get out of the house. Take your lunch break away from the office. Do something new on your time off. A change of scenery can create a new perspective on life and on your troubles.

13. Learn to say no.

When sad we tend to give in and go along. This can create feelings of resentment. Learn to set boundaries. Do not let yourself be taken advantage of. Saying no to requests that are beyond your current abilities can reduce your stress and keep your sadness from drowning you.

14. Avoid negative people.

Misery may love company, but it loves miserable company. If you want to get out of the sadness trap seek out positive people. Limit your exposure to naysayers and Negative Nellie’s.

15. Plan for time to yourself.

When you are down, too much commotion and too many people can be overwhelming. Include in your schedule quiet time for yourself.

16. Reconnect with supportive people.

Make sure those people you do contact are supportive. Call an old friend. Attend a self-help meeting even if you do not feel like it. Being around supportive people is good for your recovery and for your future mental health.

What other positive coping skills have you discovered that keeps your sadness from becoming a serious depressive episode?

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.

Are you wasting your life chasing mirages?

By David Joel Miller

Stop chasing these mirages and you will finally get somewhere.

Life is full of illusions. People chase after all sorts of mirages and forget to enjoy the view from where they are. Here are some of the more common mirages you may have set your sights on.

1. Making everyone like you.

Chasing a Mirage

Chasing a Mirage.
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Veronique Debord)

Not possible. Some people do not like themselves so they have no capacity to like you. If you bend yourself to try to please everyone you will please no one. In the process of trying to get everyone to like you, you will need to do things that undermine your values and self-worth.

Please enough people, and you forget who you were when you started out.

Make your priority to do things that are consistent with your values and your goals. First and foremost please you and those who like you and want the best for you will be pleased.

2. Being the best at everything.

No one is the best at everything. You will never be the best at everything. You may become good at a few things. With incredible luck and effort, you might be the best at one thing. Pick the areas that you try to perfect carefully. Do not set yourself up for disappointment when you are not number one in everything.

3. Trying to be perfect.

Like being the best at everything, trying to be perfect at something is an impossible to reach mirage. We spend our lives working toward that goal of perfecting something but there is always the possibility that you or someone will take that skill to another level. If you look close enough at anything you can find flaws.

4. Putting things off until someday.

Someday never comes. Every day is today. Most of life’s regrets are about things left undone. Do not let fear and hesitation keep you from doing things today rather than putting them off to that mythical someday.

5. Expecting others to make you a success.

If someone can make you they can unmake you. Having teachers and mentors along the way that help you perfect your skills is a wonderful blessing. Do not think that your successes are a thing someone can give you. Do not also stare at the mirage of believing your failures are the creation of someone else.

6. Finding the person who will complete you.

Two half people do not make a whole person. There is not one person that completes you. Find that person that truly brings out the best in you and together you will grow into the two separate people you were meant to be.

The best combination is two people who are each working on becoming the best they can be.

7. Not needing others or their help.

You successes do not depend on others but no one really goes it alone. We need the support and encouragement of others. The team accomplishes more than the one. What you make of life stands on the shoulders of others who came before you.

8. Trying not to change.

You will change. Time will change you. Life experiences will change you. Standing still is a recipe for failure. Take who you are with you through the process of change that is sure to come and you will become the person you envisioned.

9. Living through others (children.)

Trying to live to make others happy is a terrible burden. You children cannot make up for your failures. You cannot make someone else the successes you wanted to be. What good teachers know is a that they can pass on the lessons of their life to the next generation but what those prodigies do with those skills is up to them.

Trying to live your life through others is a formula for resentments, yours and theirs.

10. There is something out there that will make you what you want to be.

The idea that drugs, alcohol or some other thing out there will suddenly make you more than you are is a common illusion.  Superman’s cape only worked in the comics and the movies.

Thinking that there is a drug, especially alcohol, that will make you who you want to be will lead you off into the sands of the chemical desert.

Are you chasing after any of these mirages? Are there other things you pursue that are not real? Find your way back to the real world and do the work of recovery and things will begin to happen for you.

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.

Making Feelings Your Friends

By David Joel Miller

20 ways to make your emotions your friends, not your master.

Emotional Regulation

Managing Feelings
Photo courtesy of Flickr ( istolethetv )

Sometime near the Victorian era humans adopted the idea that emotions were bad and pure rational thought was good. The result is that a lot of people make a serious effort to stay out of touch with their feelings.

Not allowing yourself to feel sad can result in an inability to feel happy.

Recently studies have shown that top executives who paid attention to their feelings, used their intuition as an element in making decisions were significantly more successful at growing their companies.

Here are some suggested practices that can make those feelings, even the uncomfortable ones, into friends that are providing you with the information you need to create the life you want.

1. Pay attention to the times you are feeling.

Do not ignore traffic lights or sirens. Learn to pay attention to the alarms that go off in your building and in your head.

The first step in making friends with your feelings is to notice when they are trying to tell you something. Like young children, these feelings you have been ignoring may keep repeating their message over and over until you stop and acknowledge that you have felt them.

2. Learn where your feelings live.

Most of us house feelings in particular places. Tension lives in the neck or head. Discussed can make you sick to your stomach. When you get a strange body sensation do not dismiss it. Check it out. Is this a physical ache or pain or is this emotional? A whole lot of undiagnosable pains turn out to be feelings that people mistake for a physical ailment. Yes, psychosomatic pain hurts. It is your emotions that live in your body telling you that they need your attention.

3. Learn the names of your feelings.

If you have feelings, and we all do, after you have identified that you are having this sensation, psychical or emotional, next try to put a name to the feeling. The more names you can attach to feelings the more accurate the information they can provide to you.

4. Recognize that others may not be feeling what you are feeling – empathy.

Not everyone experiences an event the same way. Learn to recognize that others may be scared when you are intrigued. What makes someone else feel excitement may make you fearful.

5. Study and learn about nonverbal expressions of feelings.

More than half of human emotions are conveyed in nonverbal form. We share this with other animals. A growl means one thing and a wagging tail and a whimper another Humans make nonverbal statements all the time.

You probably do it whether you realize it or not.

Ever noticed someone who rolled their eyes when others talk? It is annoying if you are the one who is on the receiving end of the eye roll.

Do you roll your eyes? Make an effort to notice how others express their emotions nonverbally and then challenge yourself to see the times you use the same nonverbal displays of your emotions. You may be surprised that you have been giving off a lot of unconscious “vibes.”

6. Get to know yourself – what makes you feel each feeling.

In therapy, I often ask the client to tell me what makes them happy and what makes them sad. A surprisingly large number cannot list things that produce either of these feelings. They may occasionally feel happy but they have no idea why. If you know what makes you happy you can try to increase the happy experiences in life.

7. Stay in the present.

The feelings that matter most are those you are feeling right now. The nervous system is perfectly capable of reliving past experiences and providing you the feelings that accompanied those experiences. Staying in the present allows you to make the maximum use of the information your feelings are providing about your current situation.

8. Make peace with the past.

Most of us remember a lot of things from the past, those past memories are likely to be biased in the direction of painful experiences, memories of mistakes you made.

9. Do not try to live the future before it gets here.

You can dream the future. You can prepare for it and practice for it, but your life is lived in the present. Make that the best possible present and you will create the future you want.

10. Believe in something beyond yourself.

Realistic people know that they are not perfect. We all make mistakes. The more you do the more errors you will make. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Do not expect yourself to be perfect.

Having a power greater than yourself to focus on keeps you from falling into the trap of believing that everything is unsatisfactory.

11. Set good boundaries.

Taking care of yourself is not being selfish. Set boundaries. Do not let others dump their garbage on your lawn or their negative feeling in your lap.

12. Learn to listen more than you talk.

Do not jump to conclusions. A lot of hurt feeling are the result of thinking someone said something to or about you that as not what they were really saying.

It is more important to understand what someone else is saying and feeling than it is to get them to understand you.

The person who most needs to understand you is you.

13. Observe others to see what they feel.

Words can be deceptive. Actions often speak louder than words. Watch what others do as well as say. Learn to read their nonverbal messages and see how they may be feeling behind the words they say.

14. Develop a passion – care about something.

Without a strong passion, life becomes bland. What energizes you? What do you care about? What is your life purpose and passion? Find those things and you will find that those feelings that dwell in your passion will make you a better person.

15. Learn your triggers.

Certain things can trigger strong emotions whether you want them to or not. Does the evening news make you feel informed or depressed? How does the weather and the changes of the season affect your mood states?

16. Do the right thing.

Living a life that is consistent with your values and goals will produce a life with fewer fears or regrets.

17. Give more than you take.

If you have ever helped a child or a person in need, you should have had the experience of feeling good that you could be of service. That feeling of pride in helping others is one of the great joys of life. Do not cheat yourself out of the chance to feel good by helping others. Do not cheat others out of the chance to feel good by helping you.

Do good to others for the joy of feeling good about what you did. If you do things for others expecting something in return then you are setting yourself up to feel cheated. The greatest joy is in the giving. But you can enjoy the receiving also if you accept the gift with no judgment about what it should have been.

18. Set high goals.

Set high goals for your life.  Aim higher than you need to reach to feel good about yourself. You are unlikely to accomplish more than you aimed for but do not be disheartened if you get less than all you have aimed for.

19. Accept failure as a required subject.

The only person who does not fail is the one who does not try. Learn from your misses. Take more shots and see what you may be able to accomplish.

20. Forgive yourself – guilt makes you do better, shame is that feeling of not being an OK person.

Learn the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a normal functional feeling. Guilt is the feeling “I did something I should not have done or failed to do what I should have done.” Quilt gets you to stop doing things you should not do. It can also motivate you to do those things you should do.

Shame is about feeling you are a bad person because you did something or failed in your efforts to do something. Some families are shame-based. They try to control each other by putting the others down for the things that were less than perfect. Do not feel ashamed if you tried and were less than perfect. That is what a human is supposed to do. Try, do the less than perfect, and then try again. If you can hit the bull eye the first time the target is too close.

Aiming higher by accepting that what you do, if done with good motives, is good enough.

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.

Ways to increase your attention without drugs

By David Joel Miller.

Things you can do to improve your attention span besides taking medication.

Attention

Attention
Photo courtesy of Flickr (MrDozer)

This digital age has resulted in a radical reduction in attention spans. Adults average just 4 seconds of time on a website. T. V. shows are chopped up into small segments punctuated with lots of adrenaline, producing sex and violence.

Adult learners get shorter presentations and more breaks. It is as if the whole world now has developed ADHD. Here are some ways you can work on improving your attention span beyond the norm that does not require you to take medication.

1. Eat a good breakfast.

Low blood sugar or lack of energy can significantly impact your ability to pay attention. Children who eat a breakfast at home before school do much better in their classes before lunch than those students who have skipped breakfast.

It is hard to make your mind go when you are out of fuel.

2. Drink plenty of water.

Dehydration can have a significant impact on learning. Drink more water and you will feel better. Blood feeds the brain and blood is composed largely of water.

Ever tried to think with a hangover? One of the reasons hangovers are so debilitating is that you are dehydrated.

3. Exercise.

Even a few minutes of vigorous walking can improve your ability to pay attention and learn. Exercise gets the heart pumping and speeds the flow of blood to the brain. In one study of the effects of walking on classroom performance, a short walk was shown to increase memory and retention of the material that was taught after the walk. Those who walked did not think they were doing better, they even felt tired after the walk, but their test scores showed an improvement.

A few minutes of running at recess has been reported to reduce behavior problems and improve attention. Staying inside to “catch up” on missed work and try to improve standardized test scores can produce the exact opposite effect.

4. Prioritize – you can’t focus on it all.

The myth of multi-tasking has turned out to be just that, a myth. You can’t text, talk, listen to music and be at your best while driving. We have had to set limits on technology use while driving and we are having the same problem in the classroom and the work site.

If you want to pay attention and learn something, clear your mind of thoughts of other things while working on the new material.

5. Clear out the worries.

Ruminating on problems uses up a lot of brain capacity. If you have a sick family member or had a conflict at home last night then divided attention is understandable.

Work on solving those problems or on shifting your focus and leave the problems for later to later if you want to do well now.

6. Manage distractions.

Turn off the phone. Close the internet connection (temporarily, you can read my blog later) Do not try to pay attention to one thing while monitoring others.

7. Mass attention – Work on one project for a while then switch. Take small breaks at frequent intervals.

In classrooms we give brakes. If you need to eat or use the restroom then you won’t have the maximum attention. If you have several subjects to study, work on one for a while, take a break and then change to another.

Writers are encouraged to work on one project for a while, take a break and then return for another “massed effort.” String together enough of those bursts of focus and the post or book gets done. Sitting staring at the blank page leaves a lot of blank pages in memory.

8. Break tasks up into small steps.

You can’t eat an elephant in one bite. Most worthwhile projects cannot be done in one sitting or standing. Structure your project so you can do one step at a time and over a period of time, you will get it done. Trying to work on all the aspects of a project at once is a recipe for disaster.

If you must work on several steps in a project at once try to chunk the efforts so that you get something done on one part before switching to the next.

9. More than 3 steps – write out lists.

I picked the number three because it works for me. You might need another number. If I go to the grocery store for three items, I can remember that. But if someone asks me to pick up a fourth item, I am at risk of forgetting one of the original three.

If I get distracted at the store because I think of a fifth item to look for it may be all over.

I find that once I exceed a small number of items, to shop for or to do, I need a list so that as one item is done I can move to the next. Trying to remember all of the items or steps in a project risks leaving out a really important one.

Want better attention and concentration make lists.

10. Recognize when you are off focus and then refocus.

Sorry but not very many of us can stay focused on a task for a long period of time. Suddenly for no apparent reason, the mind wanders off to another thing you need or want to do.

Do not obsess when this happens. Gently take your mind back to the task at hand. The more you practice redirecting your mind the more automatic it becomes.

Those are some of my tips for improving my ability to pay attention and stay focused. Do you have any techniques you would care to share?

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.

7 Dos and Don’ts of loneliness first aid.

By David Joel Miller.

The do’s and don’ts of loneliness.

loneliness

loneliness
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Loneliness follows you around. Sometimes that old bugger is waiting just outside your door for a chance to move in. Loneliness is one of the largest causes of relapse. It can take you back to depression, anxiety or drug and alcohol abuse in a minute.

If you hear Mr. Loneliness knocking at your door here are the things you should do and not do to keep yourself safe and headed forward in a happy life.

1. Do practice thought-stopping.

When Mr. Loneliness whispers his message of pain in your ear, drown him out with the positive things you tell yourself. Tell yourself to knock off those thoughts and think about something more helpful.

There are lots of books and articles out there on how to stop negative thoughts and replace them with positive thinking. Make use of thought-stopping.

2. Do reach out to people who are supportive.

Mental health and substance abuse recovery professionals all agree you need a support system. You also need to make sure that those people will really support you in times of need. Mom may let you stay with her but when you are depressed, lonely or feeling like picking up will she know what to say?

Make it a point to maintain contact information for all the people who are supportive of you. If you are a member of a support group or a 12 step community get a list of phone numbers, email addresses or other contact info.

Each day reach out and communicate with someone in your support system. Some people will be there for you and some will not. Some can help with physical things like a ride but are not able to listen to how you feel. Others will be glad to listen to you but can’t, for a variety of reasons, give you a ride.

Know who will support you and in what ways.

Remember support systems are a two-way street. Sometimes when you call, just to check in, you will find that the other person needs to talk more than you do. Be there to support them also.

3. Do pull out your gratitude list.

When you are depressed, lonely or fiending for a drink it is easy to see what is wrong in your life and hard to remember the things that are good.

Whatever you call your lists, gratitude, things that are helpful, things that make you smile, a WRAP plan, write these lists down and keep them close. That way when there is a time you need to see the happy, positive things in your life, you can pull that old gratitude list out and remind yourself the things you are thankful for.

If your lists are thin, work on these lists with your friends, supporters, sponsor or professionals. Often others can see the good in you and the changes that you are making long before you can.

When you are tired and there is still a climb to get to the top of the mountain, it is easy to forget how far you have already climbed.

4. Do not pick up drugs, alcohol or another addiction.

Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling sexual addictions, these were the old solutions to that lonely feeling and the other pains you wanted to avoid.  These are the solutions that did not work.

Remind yourself that more of the same gets you more of the same and no matter what do not reach back for an old addiction. Keep moving forward.

Things can and do get better. People do recover from all manner of problems and you can too.

5. Do not rush to hook up with someone to hold that loneliness at bay for a few minutes.

The old saying was “marry in haste and repent at leisure.” Most people spend more time shopping for a used car than for a baby’s mother or baby’s father.

Trying to cure loneliness by jumping into a new sexual relationship is a prescription for disaster. When the novelty of the experience wears off you will find yourself in worse shape than before.

It takes two healthy people to create a healthy relationship. Two people can help each other but you can’t fill the hole in your heart with someone else’s private parts.

6. Do not invite Mr. Loneliness to move in and live with you.

Beware making your life all about loneliness. Do not wear your pain on your sleeve for all to see. You can get caught up in rehashing all the reasons you are lonely and find out that you were the prison guard that locked you inside that lonely cell. Do not torture yourself and call that being realistic.

Being alone may be your condition right now but Mr. Loneliness is a cruel person who does not make a good long-term companion.

7. Do not isolate and hope the feeling will pass.

The cure for loneliness is not avoiding people. It is getting comfortable in your own skin and in being around others.  Reach out for help. Do not expect others to fix you. It is the interactions with others that cure loneliness, not the having or being had.

Try these loneliness first-aid tips and see if this procedure keeps Mr. Loneliness away. If you find he has already moved into your life while you were not paying close attention then stay tuned for an upcoming post on ways to get Mr. Loneliness out of your life.

Some people will find that once they let go of Mr. Loneliness they are frantically trying to get someone in their life, anyone, to keep them from feeling lonely, they do not know what to do by themselves. We have a post in the works for that topic also.

Not sure when these posts about Mr. Loneliness and his gang will appear, they are scheduled out into the future, so watch for them and check the topic list to the right of this page for more on the adventures of Mister Loneliness.

Have you had some experiences with Mr. Loneliness? If he is gone – how did you get him out of your life?

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.