The Life You Love

Positive Psychology: Gratitude, Affirmations, and Experiences

Let's pretend I know a little bit about history.  Way way back (and actually, even right now), psychology and mental health was discussed in terms of what was wrong and how those wrong things could be treated.  Positive psychology, however, looks at the person's skills, strengths, and interests to  help the person create meaning and purpose in their lives.  Positive psychology doesn't replace traditional therapy, but rather it accentuates it and helps you further improve.

Today, I want to talk about a couple positive psychology techniques that you can try ASAP.  Yep, you can even toss aside your laptop and go try them right after you finish this post.  Some of them may be familiar to you, as positive psychology techniques have become pretty popular in the past few years.  You may have tried them before, you may have thought they were too cheesy to try.  What I ask is that you give them a chance before you decide whether or not they are for you.

positive affirmations

YEP.  I want you to make, "I am..." statements and say nice things about yourself.  Why?  Because positive self-affirmations have been shown to help with stress, negative thoughts, self-esteem, optimism, and other areas related to mental health.  If you prefer good ol' fashioned pen and paper, I recommend putting a list of affirmations somewhere where you will see them.  You can write them on the mirror, leave a list on your desk, put a list in your purse... wherever is best for you.  If you like technology, I recommend setting silent alarms on your phone or downloading an app like I Am.  My favorite app ever, Insight Timer, also has recorded meditations that focus on positive affirmations.

gratitude

If Ariana can make a song publicly thanking her exes for what they taught her, you can take a couple minutes each day to share what you're thankful for.  It doesn't have to be anything huge or life-altering... you can literally be thankful for your morning cup of coffee and the leggings you've worn for 3 days in a row.  This is such an easy practice to begin and eventually, you'll find yourself expressing gratitude during the smallest moments.  Pull out a notebook and write down 3-5 things that you are thankful for or that you appreciate.  Or use an app like 365 Gratitude.  I like this app because it also includes prompts for journaling and you can track your mood.

accumulating positive experiences

I'm borrowing this one from my time as an intern, when I learned Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  One of the emotion regulation skills, which I'm going to break down to its simplest terms, is to plan positive events and then mindfully participate in them.  Positive events can be literally anything that makes you feel happiness or other positive emotions, like drinking a cup of tea, reading, seeing a friend, visiting your favorite store... seriously, anything that contributes to your happiness!  It's basically making time for yourself and practicing self-care.  The catch is that you need to do the activity mindfully for it to be effective.  You really need to focus just on what you're doing and participate in it fully.  If you're someone who struggles to do things for yourself, put it on your to do list and schedule it.  If you aren't taking care of yourself, you'll eventually burn out and won't be able to give life your all.

And there you have it - three positive psychology techniques you can practice right now and every day!  Research has shown that all of these techniques are good for your mental, emotional, and even physical health (yep, it can help with pain!).  You have nothing to lose by trying one or all of them, and I can't wait to see how you practice them.

My First Post-Grad Job // What Is Intensive In Home?

Because I'm 90% sure only my family and friends read my blog, I decided to revamp it as a way to share what's going on in my life.  My first order of business is to update y'all on what's going on in my professional life.  At the end of April of 2019, I started my first "big girl" job.  My official position, Qualified Professional, doesn't tell you anything about what I do, so I thought I would share some more info, while sprinkling in some quotes that show the perspective I take during therapy.


Basically, I'm an in-home therapist for kids with moderate to severe behavioral and emotional concerns.  I work on a team of 3 people (plus an intern that we're very lucky to have!) and I usually see 2 or 3 kids per day, 5 days a week.  It doesn't sound like much, but it can be emotionally and mentally draining.  Oh, and I'm basically on call every third week for a week because we have to have a 24/7/365 crisis line specific to our team and clients.


My week usually consists of 20-24 hours of direct contact with kiddos, 2-5 hours of team/department/company meetings, and probably about 5-10 hours of driving.  Then there's the time I spend communicating with my team and client's parents, preparing for sessions, and of course, writing notes.  I LOVE my schedule because I'm not a morning person and I tend to work from about 1:30pm to 8:30pm.  I know it doesn't sound appealing to everyone, but it works for me.


Each client I see is unique, but they're all children and adolescents.  Like I said, they usually have some moderate to severe behavioral and/or emotional concerns that are preventing them from living their best lives.  Usually, these kids and their families have tried other routes of treatment, like outpatient therapy, before coming to us.  For some kids, this might mean aggressive behaviors and difficulty listening to adults.  For some of our adolescents, this might mean depressive symptoms and suicidal ideations.

You Are Not Your Diagnosis

You are not your diagnosis. There, I said it. Blog post over because you’re officially cured and have no negative feelings towards your diagnosis, right?

Oh, wait... That’s not how this works.
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

When I was diagnosed with depression several years ago, I said, "Nah, I don't want that."  Those are the actual words I said, as if being diagnosed with depression was going to somehow cause the symptoms that I already had.  Y'all, I clearly already had the symptoms of depression... I just didn't have a word to put to them and my therapist didn't have a good starting point to provide treatment.  But I didn't want people to see me as weak or incapable of taking care of myself.  I didn't want to admit that I needed help.  And I certainly didn't want to be labeled as depressed. 

But remember what I said before?  YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS!

A diagnosis is just a starting point for mental health providers and it’s a quick way for you to tell your provider or others what you’re going through. When you say, "I'm depressed," or, "I have depression," it gives people a general idea of what's happening.  For your therapist or counselor, that means they have an idea of what treatment may be most effective for you and know where to get started.

A diagnosis is not "one size fits all." Anxiety that you experience may be totally different than anxiety that I experience. For example, I wake up feeling anxious and it quickly fades. Other people are anxious right before they fall asleep. Both are symptoms of anxiety.

A diagnosis is the way that mental health providers can bill your insurance company so you can continue to receive (hopefully) affordable services.  We can't bill without that diagnosis.  It is possible, however, to see a therapist and not use your insurance, if you prefer not to have a diagnosis.

Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash

A diagnosis is not necessarily forever and it isn't set in stone.  You know how most physical health problems are diagnosed with a swab, test, or x-ray?  You can't do that with mental health.  The best we can do is give you some questionnaires and use our DSM 5 to diagnose.  Sometimes we get it right immediately,  sometimes we begin treating your mental health problems to find that there are some symptoms we hadn't previously uncovered.  That means your diagnosis and your treatment may change.  Plus, some diagnoses are meant to be temporary.  Depression, for example, may be caused by a specific event and may resolve with treatment and time.

A diagnosis does not mean you will absolutely act or feel a certain way.  Remember, mental health symptoms can vary among people and your diagnosis might change over time.  Be objective and honest with yourself when evaluating how you feel and reporting it to your mental health provider.

My point is that your mental health or even health diagnosis is simply a word that quickly tells people what you may be going through.  It's a label that helps you and your providers discuss and understand what's going on.  It does not define who you are or predict how you'll feel or act for the rest of your life.  For more information about diagnosing, I recommend looking on the National Alliance of Mental Illness's website.