Negative Thinking

Hello, all! It’s been so long! I’m afraid I haven’t been in much a writing mood lately, but I figured I should check in and let people know I’m still alive. 🙂


I wouldn’t call myself an optimist. I like to think of myself as a realist. But, let’s be honest, that’s just a fancy marketing-type term for pessimist, isn’t it?

In the past, I have frequently and compulsively let myself mope and ruminate about all the awful things in life. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing with the depression; do I feel depressed because of the negative thoughts, or do I think negative thoughts because of the depression?

When I began treating my depression and anxiety, I had to confront my own thinking patterns. The negative thoughts were not helping me. If I wanted to be happy, I had to learn to think more positively, or, at the very least, realistically about things. Instead of telling myself ‘Today is going to be hellish,’ I had to begin telling myself ‘Today might be a good day; I won’t know until I get on with it.’

The change in perspective has helped a little, though it’s not a pancea. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it, but eventually it starts to feel natural to challenge the negative thoughts. I assume the eventual goal is that you don’t have all the negative thoughts to challenge, but that seems like a distant goal at this point.

Now, here’s my confession: sometimes I still let myself mope and ruminate and relish in those terribly negative thoughts. I do this for two reasons.

The first reason is that it allows for a cathartic release. Once in a while, I curl up in bed and think awful things and have a cry. Sometimes I feel better after. Not always. Sometimes I feel worse. But the times that I feel better allow me to justify it in my own mind.

The second reason is to combat anhedonia. I spend a lot time comfortably – or uncomfortably – numb. Sometimes it seems like I don’t feel much of anything. Letting myself think negative thoughts and feel bad for a while serves as a reminder that I do have feelings, no matter how well I manage to push them down most of the time. I wonder if this doesn’t make me a bit like an addict. Perhaps I’m addicted to feeling bad. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling miserable that there’s a certain amount of comfort in it. Still, I know this won’t help me to get better, so I try not to do this too often.

But let’s look on the bright side since that’s what we ought to do: at least I don’t mope all the time anymore. Any progress is good.

Changing is hard

Changing is hard. Okay, lots of things are hard when you’re depressed. Getting up in the morning. Finding the energy to do everyday tasks. Looking for the will to go on. You know, all that good stuff. But changing yourself and your thoughts is especially hard.

It’s a strange battle, isn’t it? Often, you know what you ought to do or have to do. And often, you just can’t seem to summon up the will to do it.

Let’s say you want to to start exercising more, and let’s say you even found the energy to do it a couple of days. Great! That’s a good start in making a positive change in your life. Then you miss a day, or two, or three, or a month. That change didn’t go so well, and now it’s like you have to start over from the beginning. It can be demotivating.

Or let’s say you’re trying to combat social isolation. You chat with a couple of friends you haven’t talked to in a while, catch up. Everything seems pretty okay, and maybe you’re even feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Then plans you made with one friend fall through and you’re left feeling disappointed and depressed. It’s not really their fault and it’s not necessarily yours. But it can set your progress back.

I know there are changes I should make to improve my life. The problem is that my mind, my depression tells me that these changes are nearly impossible. I think of the cost, the energy needed, the risk and I find it difficult to carry things through. Changing is hard!

And I’m stubborn, really stubborn. I have negative thought processes that have slowly been ingrained in me over the past 20+ years; it might take another 20+ years to rewire those processes.And I’m so, so tired of fighting some days – tired of fighting with myself, with the world. Sometimes I don’t want to change. Sometimes I want to take the easy route.

But I think change can be good. So I try, and try, and keep trying, despite some reluctance and more than a little anxiety.

I don’t think there is some magical way to make changing easier. Take things one step at a time? Get back up when you fall? Pick your battles wisely? It’s all decent advice. But it’s still going to be hard. And it’s still going to seem pretty awful. And it’s probably going to be pretty depressing.

But I hope it’s worth it in the end!

❤ Michelle

Runs in the Family

Mental illness can have hereditary links. Between scientific evidence and anecdotal experience, I don’t think many people would disagree with this. If somebody in your family has a certain mental illness, you might have it too. You might not. But you might.

I couldn’t really tell you if depression runs in my family. I’m tempted to say it does, but I could be mistaking somebody’s regular old sadness, or temporary bouts of depression for something more serious. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t try to diagnose anybody.

However, I can say with more confidence that anxiety does run in my family. It is especially common in the women. One of my aunts has received medical attention and medication for anxiety. When some of the others talk about their worries, I’m able to recognize the unhealthy thought patterns. I recognize them because I have them myself.

But here’s the thing: we don’t talk about it, not really. Something might be mentioned in passing. Nobody comes out and says “I have an anxiety disorder.” For whatever reason, talking about it isn’t something we do. I’m really no better than the rest of them. I’ve never told anybody in my family my diagnoses. None of us are necessarily hiding the truth, but we don’t face it head on either.

And I wonder how much of the anxiety is learned behaviour. My mother is a worrier. She’ll keep herself up all night worrying about things. I’ve done it a time or two (or three, or four – I’ve lost count) myself. Did I pick up on her bad habits? Did I subconsciously learn to be afraid of things because I sensed that she was afraid?

I don’t know, but I know it can happen. We’ll use the example of my mother again. She hates thunderstorms. She’s afraid of them. I love them, but so does my father. I asked my mother why she’d afraid. She said because her father was. When there was a storm in the night, he’d get up and pace in the kitchen. He was afraid of storms because his mother was afraid. She would gather the children and they would all hide beneath the kitchen table when there was a storm. This fear was passed down through the generations because the children took on their parent’s worries.

What can I conclude from all this? Not much. All I know is that my family is a bunch of worriers and I love a good storm.

Art Therapy: Mandalas

I read somewhere that drawing mandalas (basically, geometric patterned shapes/designs) could be a good way of coping with stress and anxiety. Having a bit of a creative bent, I thought I’d give it a try. A little art therapy is good for anybody, right? So, for a while, I took to doodling mandalas (most often when I was watching T.V or doing some other mindless task that had me sitting down).

I had mixed results with this activity. On one hand, I think it can be useful to get your mind off things because you’re focused on creating your pattern. It gives you something neutral to concentrate on. This is handy if you’re feeling a bit anxious!  On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s a great task for somebody with perfectionist tendencies (like me) because you will notice every wonky line, uneven shape, etc. Perhaps for the especially self-critical among us, coloring mandalas would be more relaxing and less infuriating (You can find lots of mandala colouring pages online that are free to print off!). Colouring is also pretty popular these days as a way of dealing with stress and anxiety; I do that once in a while too.

One great things about this activity is that it’s pretty easy and incredibly inexpensive to do. All you need is some paper and some sort of writing utensil. I used lined paper and a black pen (plus a red pen to colour one). You can make your mandala very simplistic, or very intricate. If you need some ideas, I recommend looking up images of mandalas for inspiration.

I’ll show a few I did (and I’ll try not to mourn my sloppy line work too much haha!):

If you click on the image, it should enlarge. Number 3 is my favourite 🙂

So, if this seems like something you might enjoy, I suggest giving it a go. Just try not to stress about it too much – I’ll try this too!

Worthlessness, Depression, and Unemployment

I am almost impressed by how worthless depression and unemployment can make you feel.

If you have depression, chances are you already question your worth. Unemployment can seem like confirmation of your worthlessness. Job searching is like a really un-fun game to see how many times you can be rejected and still get back up after. Every rejection can make you question your own worth. Am I not good enough for that job? Am I not smart enough, skilled enough, nice enough? Am I not worthy of a job?

Since I graduated, I’ve been looking for full-time work. The job search isn’t going that well. I place some of the blame on the poor job market, and some of the blame on myself. Yes, it doesn’t help that I live in a city that was hit hard by the recession and hasn’t really recovered. Yes, it doesn’t help that I’m overwhelmed by anxiety every time I send out a resume. There are many reasons things aren’t going well. It’s a complex problem. Yet my brain likes to tell me that it’s a really simple thing – I mean, isn’t it clear? I’m unemployed because I’m worthless!

The truth is, I’m probably not worthless. You’re probably not worthless either. I’m not sure if I’ve met a person without any worth.

So how do you combat the feelings of worthless that come with depression and unemployment?

I really wish I knew the answer to that question!

I’ve been trying to do a few things to keep my mood up. I’ve been doing some exercise. I’ve been taking some vitamins. I try to get out of the house once in a while. I’ve been doing some writing (though not on this blog obviously, oops). It all helps a little, but it’s not a perfect solution. I still have to fight the feelings of worthlessness.

But if I stop fighting the feelings, I know I will just get more depressed, and feel more worthless. If that happens, I don’t think I will have the strength to continue my job search, which would make me even more depressed and worthless-feeling. Vicious circle, no? So even though I’m tired and sad, I keep going. Hopefully that’s enough for now.


 

Have experience with depression and/or anxiety and unemployment? Have tips? I’d love to hear your stories or advice, and I’m sure other readers would too! Why not leave a comment below? 🙂

 

Change of Scenery

I fought tooth and nail to avoid spending the holidays with my family and friends this past year. I was in such a bad state of mind that I didn’t feel like being around people (especially when people would be merry-making). I just wanted to be left alone with my misery.

Despite my protests, I ended up ‘going home’ for a visit anyway. In truth, my family and friends didn’t give me much of a choice – they were quite adamant I was going to visit them! And you know what? The change of scenery was good for me.

I totally expected to spend most of my time completely miserable. That’s how I was spending my time, so I figured it would continue. But just being in a different place and around different people helped my state of mind. I wasn’t necessarily all smiles and laughter, but I also wasn’t hobbled by my anxiety and depression. It was okay.

Now that the holidays are over and I’m back in my normal environment, I can feel the miserable state of mind creeping back in. I can’t just pick up and visit my family and friends whenever I want, but I think I can still use a change of scenery as a way of shaking my bad mood.

So, when I’m feeling poorly, I’ll try to switch things up. This might mean going for a walk, or heading to the store, or it might just mean stationing myself in a different room (It’s cold outside, but it’s nice and warm in here! 🙂 ) Hopefully I’ll see some benefit from this.

Anybody have any experience with this? Anybody think this would help them? Drop it in the comments 🙂 I’d love to hear from you!

All the best to all of you!

X

Michelle

Just Breath | Breathing Exercises

Hopefully you know about breathing exercises as relaxation method. There are quite a few techniques – breathing meditation, diaphragmatic/deep breathing, breath counting, etc. I don’t notice much a benefit to using breathing techniques as a way of dealing with my dysthymia/depression (that’s not to say there are no benefits, only that I do not personally notice any). However, I definitely benefit from using breathing techniques as a way to combat anxiety.

I now – finally – use different breathing techniques instinctively. I don’t remember exactly when I first learnt about using breathing, but I estimate that it has taken over 5 years for me to reach the point where I use the techniques without consciously telling myself to beforehand. That seems like quite a while, doesn’t it? But it’s not easy to train your brain, I guess (or at least, it’s not easy to train my brain).

When I feel anxious, my breathing becomes shallow, my chest and muscles all tighten up, and my stomach will get a bit upset. It doesn’t feel great. However, by doing some deep breathing, those sensations go away. They don’t go away immediately (I wish!), but I do think they reduce fairly quickly. Breathing exercises also give my mind something to focus on, rather than ruminating on whatever idea is making my anxious. So, for me, using different breathing techniques is a good way to avoid panic attacks.

I do experiment with different breathing exercises, but I have three go-to ones:

diaphragmatic/deep breathing: literally just taking slow, deep breaths using your diaphragm (rather than your chest)

4-7-8 counting: breath in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, breath out for a count of 8, then repeat (warning: this one has made me a bit light-headed before; you may wish to slightly modify the count, such as 5-6-7)

4-count breathing: breath in and then count ‘1’ as you exhale; repeat and count ‘2’; repeat again and count ‘3’; repeat again and count ‘4’; keep breathing, starting again at ‘1’ – never count past 4

As a bonus, I find breathing exercises can be a good way to get to sleep. It’s better than staring at the clock, anyhow.

So, if you don’t do breathing exercises, give it a try! If you do, be persistent, because they can be very useful!

P.S. Feel free to share your favourite breathing exercises; I’d love to give them try! 🙂

The physicality of depression and anxiety

I think that some people don’t fully understand how mind can affect body, especially in the case of mental illness. Even I underestimate how the effects of mental illness manifest in my body. I’m good at ignoring and neglecting my body. Which isn’t good! There are many symptoms you might notice in yourself or others. I’m going to talk about some common ones.

Changes in sleep patterns

You might find yourself sleeping more, less, or lighter/heavier than you normally do. I think this often goes hand-in-hand with feelings of fatigue. I know it’s hard for me to get a good night’s sleep when I’m very stressed or depressed. I could easily stay awake all night ruminating. I’ve always been a night owl and had troubles falling asleep. It’s really hard to maintain sleep patterns when you have depression and anxiety, but it’s still good to try. It’s easier to face the world when you’re well-rested.

Changes in appetite or diet

You might find yourself more or less hungry when you’re depressed or anxious. Personally, I’m an emotional eater; I try to distract myself from bad feelings with good-tasting food. Spoiler alert: this method doesn’t actually work. I find I have to keep in mind what my body needs rather than what my mind wants. Staying hydrated is really important too (and it keeps me from feeling hungry when it’s not time to eat).

Pain and tension

This one covers a lot – you could experience back pain, chest pain, joint pain, muscle pain, tension, pressure, etc. I’m lucky in that I don’t experience too much pain in relation to my depression and anxiety, but I do experience a lot of muscle tension. I’m incredibly tense all the time. I clench my jaw. My shoulders are often drawn up. My back and neck are held stiff. My brow furrowed and lips pursed in an unhappy expression. I’ve been trying to correct this. I do a little self-massage, and I practice muscle relaxation. These are both useful, but as soon as I stop thinking about being relaxed, I tense right back up again. I joke that tense is my natural state. I’ve unknowingly trained my body to always be tense, and now I have to train it to relax. It’s not an easy task, but I’ll keep working on it.

Headaches

I think headaches, especially tension headaches, are a really common symptom. I get quite a few headaches. I don’t know if this is entirely connected to my mental health, as headaches and migraines are common in my family, but the depression and anxiety certainly don’t help. I haven’t found a good way to prevent stress-related headaches. When I get a headache, I generally just take some aspirin or acetaminophen (a.k.a. paracetemol) and hope for the best. I know several people who don’t like to take any medication when they have headaches. I couldn’t do that! Kudos to them, I suppose.

Stomach aches

I don’t know exactly how common this symptom is, but it was my first and most noticeable bodily symptom. As a teenager, I had chronic stomach aches, often to the point that I felt quite nauseated. I would get so anxious and stressed out my body was producing excess acid (which I feel is a really weird ‘defense mechanism’). Turns out this hurts! My doctor prescribed me ranitidine (which you might know as over the counter Zantac) to reduce acid production. This worked fairly well for me; I used ranitidine for a long time just to able able to get through the day without an aching belly. My stomach is still sensitive, and I take ranitidine from time to time, but I’ve become more attuned to when my stomach is getting achey, and I’ll try to nip the problem in the bud by altering my diet and doing some stress and anxiety-relieving practices.

I’m of the opinion that recognizing these physical symptoms is important. Recognizing them can help you be more aware of your mental state (e.g. ‘I haven’t been sleeping well…possibly because I’ve been anxious about x‘). Plus, you can treat the symptoms if you notice them; this might not be as effective as treating the overall cause, but I think it could still give you a little relief and improve your quality of life.

If you have any experience with or tips for dealing with stuff like this, please do share! 🙂

Guest post @ Life of MI

Michael from lifeofmiblog.com asked me to do a guest post on the blog, so I wrote a little about my experience with mental illness and my perception of self. I thought some of you might be interested in checking it out.

Here’s a little excerpt to get you started:

Sometimes I have a hard time separating myself from my mental disorders. That’s the thing about chronic ailments (In my case, dysthymia, a form of chronic, lower-level depression) – it is with you so persistently and for such a long time that you get tangled up in it. I forget where the mental illness ends and where I begin. Read the rest here…


More posts soon!

-Michelle

Promo + Q&A with Aleks Srbinoski, author of “Maximum Mental Health”

cover of "Maximum Mental Health"

“Maximum Mental Health” by Aleks George Srbinoski

I recently had the chance to ask Aleks some questions about himself and his new book, “Maximum Mental Health”. Read on to learn more, and pick up some tips that may improve your own life


Tell us a little about yourself.
I am an Aussie born and raised in the beach town of Wollongong an hour south of Sydney. I am a fully qualified Australian Clinical Psychologist with my own practice and the author of 8 books. In terms of psychology, I am also a trained hypnotist and Positive Psychology (the study of happiness and peak performance) practitioner. Outside of this, I love humour and story-telling. I have a background in comedy, theatresports and love the martial arts. I also have a degree in creative writing and plan to return to fiction and screenplay writing later in life.

What drew you to your career?
I’ve always been fascinated by the question “why do people do what they do and how could they become better?” I believe (and plenty of research supports this claim) that there is nothing more satisfying than helping others. I’ve always felt medicine, teaching and psychology (to name a few) are noble professions as they are based on service and the advancement of others. I personally, have always wanted to be part of both sides of psychology, that being helping those with depression, anxiety and other forms of psychological distress as well as exploring happiness and peak performance and how we can all better ourselves.

Give us a run-down of the book. Who is it for? What is its purpose?
The book serves a dual audience. It is a book for self-improvement enthusiasts who really want to better understand themselves and maximize their life and it also acts as a treatment manual for those with depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties. I distilled a decade of clinical experience and research and refined every thing I have learned into 20 simple life principles to follow. I break those principles into 4 categories (4M’s) of superior mental health. They are Motivation, Mood, Meaning and Mastery. I cover just about every core area of life including nutrition, sleep, optimism, meaning, peak performance, self-image, exercise, relationships, social skills, achievement and more.

What inspired you to write this book?
Loneliness and abandonment! My partner went overseas to visit family for a month and due to work commitments, I was unable to join her. My partner and I are from opposite sides of the world and the first 5 years of our relationship was primarily long-distance. During those early years, I learned the power of finding a creative and meaningful outlet to deal with lonely situations that cannot be changed. It sure beats drugs and alcohol and you feel much prouder afterwards 🙂 One of the greatest skills of life is to channel both positive and negative emotions into creative expression.

So when she left, I decided I would use the time to write my next book. The goal was to complete an entire draft by the time she got back. Then the question became, what to write about? Since I would use writing as a tool to help me cope and remain focused on something positive, a flash of insight suggested I should use the book to help others do the same. Every time she goes away, my mental health is put to the test and I tend to respond by exercising even more than usual, having even better nutrition, getting good sleep, staying optimistic, practicing mindfulness (especially when feeling lonely), seeing friends and family more often and being creative. As I prepared to do these things and started to research my previous materials the idea snowballed into creating an entire life enhancing manual.

I decided to develop simple and practical principles around improving every key area of life, but also use all my experience to address mental health as well. It was also a unique idea that I believe is very much needed, considering 25% of people are diagnosed with a mental illness each year and over 50% of people are overweight, over 50% are high stress sufferers and over 50% of people will have long term relationships fail.

I have never come across a book that was able to address mental health and life enhancement at the same time. I also wanted each chapter to be practical and succinct. Thus the 20 principles for maximum mental health were born. When she returned, I had completed the first draft and then I did what was best for my mental health, which was set the book aside for awhile and enjoy catching up with her!

You make reference to things like hypnosis and mindfulness, what other sources do you draw from?
My clinical training was in two distinct types of therapy. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) which is based on learning to re-shape your thinking and create more empowering beliefs and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which is a mindfulness based therapy that focuses on the importance of behaving towards what is important to you regardless of how you think. Both are highly valid therapies and I use elements of both. At the same time, in my final year of clinical training, I came across the Positive Psychology movement (the study of happiness and peak performance) and became totally enthralled.

I studied everything I could find on it in those initial years and built my whole business and life around the idea of happiness. After finishing my studies I embarked on being a Clinical Psychology career but also spent some time in working in Neuropsychology (study of the brain) and at the same time continued with my personal studies in Positive Psychology and by extension self-improvement in general. That is why I also have a good understanding of exercise, nutrition, sleep and other areas that are not traditionally taught in psychology. Hypnosis was a skill I developed much later after many years of searching for quality materials, teachers and training. A highly skilled hypnotist can obtain some amazing results but unfortunately most hypnotists are poorly trained. However, once I found the right resources and reached a high level of skill, it soon became one of my favorite disciplines.

What helps keep you happy and healthy?
The best way to answer this question is to use my own “fulfilling happiness” model which I created and do my best to live by. There are 7 positivity pillars I developed based on the positive psychology research I conducted.

  1. Pleasure – This is the foundation of happiness and we all need it. It involves immersing yourself in the things you enjoy. I love spending time with my partner – and all the naughty and nice things that involves :), joking with friends, and I really enjoy being outdoors whenever possible. For example, I enjoy training in martial arts, but whenever possible, will train at the beach where I can get sun, sand, scenery and a wonderfully refreshing swim afterwards. Love it!
  2. Power – This refers to developing empowering and optimistic thinking patterns and beliefs. I’m constantly reading and listening to podcasts that stimulate my mind and build my confidence (which is also quite pleasurable). I also have my own podcast on happiness and entrepreneurship on itunes. It is called The Fulfilling Happiness Edge.
  3. Performance – This refers to doing activities you enjoy and giving it your all so you can hopefully find “flow” (a naturally occurring peak performance state). Whether it is writing, speaking or practicing my sports, I really enjoy focusing to the best of my ability and performing well. I once heard a statement to the effect of – a professional is always overprepared – and that is what I aim to do. I like to make the most of every opportunity even when I know it is unlikely to lead to anywhere special in terms of an external reward, the internal gratification is reward enough.
  4. Prosperity – This refers to financial and psychological/spiritual prosperity. The foundation of prosperity is gratitude which I practice regularly. I firmly believe most people in the West are highly spoiled and yet struggle to appreciate it. When you are grateful you instantly become rich. I also believe in constantly searching for new financial opportunities and to be aware of what is happening in your life and around the world financially. I firmly believe “no one cares more about your money than you do.” In other words, educate yourself and don’t rely on financial planners or others to take care of your money.
  5. Passion – This refers to finding the activities you love (based on your own unique strengths) and doing them regularly. Early in my career, I knew that being a psychologist full time would not sustain me. That is why I also write on a range of topics, speak, do organizational training and am constantly exploring other creative pursuits like theatresports, fiction and martial arts.
  6. Persuasion – This refers to being a great communicator as success in any area of life is usually reliant on your relationships. It’s important to know how to communicate effectively and positively. I’m always exploring and working on my communication and performance skills. I love studying the more professionally orientated things like nonverbal body language, facial expression, stage presence and the more personal like he best way to build a relationship with lovers, friends, family and clients.
  7. Purpose – This refers to developing a meaningful life. Personally, finding meaning is something I have always sought to do. I believe any profession that helps others is noble and meaningful and I love the idea that through my books I can help people from all over the world who I will never even meet. Outside of my work, I deeply value my partner and the struggles we went through to be together and my close friends, family and all my clients – even the difficult ones 🙂

If you want to see the model – visit fulfillinghappiness.com/coaching

Sometimes in the depths of depression and anxiety it can be difficult to motivate yourself to make life changes or do the things that will help you get well; what’s a good first step?
There are two principles to keep in mind here. The first is to understand the more you move, the better you feel. When feeling depressed, embarking on an enjoyable activity will really help. Usually the more physical it is, the better. However, sometimes people feel stuck and require a bit of an emotional boost. Therefore it helps to have a specific list of immediately accessible “pleasure prompts” at hand to build positive emotion and motivation. To assist, I’ve added a short excerpt and technique from “Maximum Mental Health” below.

Unfortunately, sometimes people can fall into depressive and de-motivated moods. The secret in this scenario is to create a list of pleasure prompts. However, this can be hard for someone to do alone when they are feeling depressed. With patience and by asking the right questions, I can get even the most stuck person to create a list of at least a dozen things. Of course, having a trained professional to assist is a luxury most people don’t have when needed most.

There is a better option which is to act now! You should create your pleasure prompts list when you are feeling fine and continue to add to it whenever a new idea comes up. Ask friends and colleagues what they enjoy and if you enjoy them too, add it to the list. One of the advantages of modern technology is not only can we put our list on our phone so it will be with us wherever we go, we can also easily and quickly access video, audio and text when we need it.

Pleasure Prompts List and Set-up: Right now, create a favorites list. Don’t think, just write. All you need is at least five in total. Write down 1-3 of your favorites in each of the following categories: songs, jokes, books (book passages), poems, videos/movies, sports, hobbies, sensory joys (bath, massage, intimacy, cooking), friends, games, dances. Keep this list in your wallet or electronically on your phone and make these options easily accessible.

Put your favorite songs, images or videos on your phone (or links for where they can be easily streamed), your favorite jokes, poems and books (or at least book passages) on your desk and in your phone. Have maps and apps for key places of interest. Keep special folders with cherished photographs and social activities to do alone or with friend’s.

As a general rule, avoid computer games and alcohol as they can be addictive and depressive in the medium to long term. Stick with prompts that normally inspire or rejuvenate you. Even if you are not feeling inspired at the time, the principles of “acting now” and “movement” will lead to greater pleasurable momentum. The key is not to overthink it. If struggling, immediately scan your list and do the first thing you find that you can start without delay. That is why your list should always be with you and ready. When in doubt – open, scan, pick whatever seems easiest and begin!

The more you engage with the activity, the more effective it will be. If you’re going to listen to your favorite song, listen deeply or better yet, sing along as passionately as you can. Dance freely, read that poem out loud, make that bath just right, turn off the TV and your computer and put your phone on airplane mode and really talk, walk or play games with your friends, colleagues or kids if suitable and so on.

Where can readers get the book?
The direct link to the book is http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U3SRQJM

The book is available on Amazon.com. Simply type in Maximum Mental Health and you will find it.

You can also visit MaximumMentalHealth.com for a free chapter.

Where else can you be found online?
As part of Maximum Mental Health, I also give away 3 mindfulness recordings and a unique “holiday escape” relaxation recording. Although it is better to have the book first, so the recordings are placed into context, they can be freely obtained at MentalHealthHypnosis.com

If you enjoy podcasts and have an interest in happiness and entrepreneurship, visit – http://ow.ly/FdICv

My blog and a range of other materials is at – FulfillingHappiness.com

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