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How to Increase Self Confidence (Part 1)

How to Increase Self Confidence (Part 1)

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

How do you feel about YOU?

How to increase self-confidence: Self-confidence means having a belief in your own competence to handle things, a belief in your ability to shape your reality and a belief that you are worthy of love and respect.

The feeling-state of self-confidence is elusive for many people. As a therapist and life coach, I often talk to people about how they feel about themselves. Believe it or not, even people that seem like they have it all — intelligence, attractiveness, success, and great relationships — may still also struggle with feeling self-confident. They doubt themselves, and always feel like they need to do more or be better in order to feel “worthy.”

It’s exhausting. It’s also unnecessary.

What I have discovered over the years through my work as a therapist and life coach is that people step in and out of feeling confident. Sometimes we feel more confident than others. I often explore with my clients the times that they feel better about themselves and their lives to see what common elements there are.

This has been an interesting experiment, as I’ve gained insight into specific skills and practices that can help us all feel more consistently confident. Here is one of the core skills I’ve learned over the years about how to cultivate self-confidence and keep self-confidence with you more of the time.

Choose Confidence-Inspiring Thoughts, Intentionally:

When you are feeling the opposite of self-confident (insecure, anxious, incompetent, powerless) it’s likely that you have some core beliefs that are supporting those feelings. For example, you may believe on some deep level that you can’t handle a situation, you’re going to fail, or that you’re not good enough. These beliefs may be so old and automatic that you are not even aware that you are having them. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you decide to take your power back by choosing confidence-inspiring thoughts. Here are some of my favorites:

– “I am strong and resourceful, and competent to handle whatever life throws my way.”

– “My actions in the present moment create my future outcomes. Today I can make choices that lead me to success.”

– “I am a good person. I am worthy of love and respect.”

I know that this may feel goofy, like some seventies-style “positive affirmation” practice, but this is based on decades of research showing that practicing the thoughts that support your desired mood state is a really effective way of helping you achieve it.

As I teach in my Happiness Class, our brains are plastic. The thinking patterns we indulge literally create neural pathways in our brains.

If you are feeling fearful and insecure, it’s likely that there are neural pathways of automatic thoughts carrying you into that bad feeling place. Deciding on, and practicing, new thoughts feel hard at first, but the practice re-organizes your mind. It establishes new automatic beliefs in your competence, power, and worth that will lead you to better feeling moods.

Even more importantly, when you decide to take control of your inner narrative, you become more empowered. 

Now I have an assignment for you: Write down a thought that, if you were to believe it, would make you feel stronger, more powerful, and more confident. You don’t have to “feel like it’s true. Bonus points for making a public declaration in the comments section. I’ll be reading your answers!

I’ll be back in touch next week with step two of this process. Do your homework and meet me back here next Tuesday, and we’ll move forward together.

 

xo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Bad Therapy Happens

 

How to avoid bad therapy: Not all therapists, marriage counselors and life coaches are created equally. Don’t get me wrong, most therapists who are in practice are wonderful, and at the very least, well-meaning.

However, even lovely, well-intended therapists and marriage counselors can be ineffective.  While it may not be harmful to get involved with a therapist who isn’t going to move the needle for you… it can still be a waste of time and money. (Even though therapy and life coaching might not be as expensive as you think, it’s still always an investment in your life.) 

There is a dark side though. Getting involved with the wrong therapist can have consequences.  If you go to mediocre therapy that (unsurprisingly) doesn’t work for you, you may begin to believe that you’re doomed to repeat the same old patterns in your life or relationship. Maybe you stop trying, or settle for what you have come to believe is possible for you. 

There is also a big risk for couples at a fork-in-the-road moment in their relationship. Couples who get involved with a practitioner who advertises couples therapy (but doesn’t really have the education and training to provide high-quality couples counseling) and then “fail” may believe that because couples therapy was unsuccessful for them…. that divorce is the only answer. That is a tragedy, especially when you consider that getting involved with effective marriage counseling could have had a completely different outcome. 

I’m here to tell you that it might not be you. You could move forward. Your relationship can be repaired. The problem might be your therapist.

Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

There is a wide variety when it comes to quality in therapists. (And by “therapists” I’m also lumping in Marriage Counselors and Life Coaches too). Education and experience matters, however, so does personality, approach, and the level of energy they put into your success.

Today on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m going to be talking you through the signs that you might have a bad therapist. I’ll also be talking about subtle signs that your therapist might be nice, but ineffective. There are also shady therapists out there; I’ll be talking about how to spot unethical therapists from a mile away.

We’ll be talking about:

The top nine clues your therapist might be ineffective.

Six signs that your therapist may have crossed over to the dark side, and is engaging in unethical behavior.

Lastly, it’s also true that there are fantastic, effective and impeccably ethical therapists and marriage counselors out there. I’ll be sharing some tips on how to find a good therapist and how to choose a marriage counselor. Then you’ll know what to look for so you can connect with a dynamic professional who can help you make real and lasting change in your life.

I hope that these insights help support you on your journey of growth.

 

Warmly,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

P.S. At Growing Self we’re all about scouring the earth to bring you the very best therapists and marriage counselors in order to ensure that working with us means the highest quality evidence-based therapy, marriage counseling and coaching. But… we all know “meh” or downright scary therapists are out there. I shared a couple of my own scary therapist stories in this episode but if you have your own cautionary tales to share, gather-round the campfire of our comments section and tell us what happened! Xo, LMB

 

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Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship

How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Who Do You Trust?

“Gaslighting” is a term that originated from an old movie, where a woman lived with a man in a home with old-fashioned gas lights. The man was trying to drive the woman crazy.

He would consistently turn the lights dimmer and dimmer in their home but denied that it was dimmer and pretended that the light was normal — and the woman began to doubt her own senses. Over time, she went insane.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting, in modern parlance, refers to being made to doubt your own feelings, thoughts, intuition, and judgment when they are, in fact, reliable sources of information that you should trust.

The classic example is in the case of infidelity. One partner will start to become suspicious of their spouse’s late nights working, unavailability during work trips, or odd calls to their phone.

However, when they confront the straying spouse, they’re told things like, “You’re insecure,” or “You’re crazy,” or “Just because your father cheated on your mother you think all men are dogs.”

Or my favorite, the righteously indignant, “How dare you suggest something so horrible, I’m trying to earn a living for our family and working my tail off, and now you come at me with this?!?” 

The net result is that when someone is actually being victimized by their partner, they are made to feel not just that they’re being ridiculous, but wrong. This leads people who are being gaslit not just to doubt themselves, but to feel ashamed of how “crazy” they are. (When, in fact, their own judgment is actually a more reliable source of trustworthy information than their partner is.)

Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

1. Feeling like you’re always wrong. The ringer for gaslighting is when you attempt to check something out, (i.e., “Were you drinking tonight?” or “You’re home three hours late, where were you?”) or express your concerns about something, and your partner gets very angry with you and turns things back on you so that you feel ashamed and inappropriate for having asked.

2. The sudden onset of really bad feelings. If you begin feeling uncharacteristically anxious, depressed, ashamed, or stupid after starting a new-ish relationship it’s a big red flag that emotional abuse is happening.

Feeling increasingly bad about yourself, or more doubtful of your own judgment is a sign that you’re in a toxic relationship where gaslighting is happening. Many times, people in these situations feel increasingly anxious, and even become depressed.

They begin to believe that it’s their own mental health issues that are the source of the relationship problems, as opposed to the toxic relationship that they are having bad feelings about. (Pointing out your oh-so-many-and-very-serious “mental health issues” is a go-to weapon of many gaslighters). 

However, once these “mentally unstable” people  they leave these manipulative relationships they often discover that they’re just fine. It was the relationship that was making them feel anxious and terrible about themselves.

3. You’re defending your partner, a lot.  Another important sign that you’re being gaslighted by your partner is when you tell your friends or family about something that you’ve been made to feel is “abnormal” for being concerned about, but they react in the same way that you did originally before you were led to believe your feelings were wrong or disordered in some way. (That your partner is actually in the wrong).

If this is happening and you find yourself frequently defending your partner from family and friends and explaining to them that no, really, you were the one in the wrong (again)… you may be the victim of gaslighting.

 

Gaslighting is a Form of Emotional Abuse

Gaslighting is not a quirk; it’s abusive behavior that cannot continue if the goal is a healthy, sustainable relationship. For example, to the great frustration of domestic violence counselors, victims of domestic violence have a very hard time leaving their abusers. Many times, they go back.

The reason for this is that, as a rule, the victims blame themselves for the abuse they are experiencing because their abuser has made them believe they are at fault.  Their own feelings and judgment about their worth, what love should look like, and how they should be treated has been gaslighted out of existence by their abuser.

Furthermore, the hallmark of abusive relationships is isolation. The reason abusers must isolate their victims is that effective gaslighting requires that the person being made to doubt themselves is looking to their abuser for “the truth.” If independent third parties start weighing in to support the perspective of the gaslight-ee, the abuser loses power and control over their victim.

Gaslighting often commonly happens in situations where one partner is actively abusing a substance or has a behavioral addiction. In addition to hiding and lying about their attachment to unhealthy substances or behaviors, addicts will often counter-attack when confronted. They blame their questioning partner for being out of line to question them or their “lifestyle choices.” This leads their partners to doubt their own judgment and start believing they are “too controlling” or “too uptight,” etc, which allows the addict more freedom.

Stop Gaslighting From Happening in Your Relationship

If you’re in a relationship where you’re being gaslighted it’s critical that you get the support of other people. A great therapist, a supportive friend, or even better, a good support group can help you get the outside perspective you need to reinforce your own good judgment.

The experience of gaslighting is being made to doubt yourself (when you’re actually spot on). The antidote is to have other people around you who can look, with you, at the situation and say, “No, you’re right, it is actually dark in here.” With that outside perspective you can begin to trust yourself again, and also view your partner’s manipulations for what they are: Efforts to mislead and control you, by making you mistrust your own judgment.

The answer is not couples counseling. The path forward is not changing your partner; it’s strengthening yourself.

Trust yourself, and do not make excuses for other people’s bad behavior. Your love and patience will not heal anyone — only they can do that. If you’re in a relationship and feeling bad about what’s happening but being made to feel that you’re wrong for feeling that way, run the situation past some friends or your therapist to get outside perspective.

Remember that you deserve to be treated with love and respect and to surround yourself with people who make you feel better about yourself — not worse.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

More on the Blog

Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

Not all therapists, marriage counselors and life coaches are effective. Some are even unethical. Learn how to spot bad therapy on this episode of The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

read more

How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship

Does your partner trick you into believing everything is your fault? Does your relationship make you feel worse about yourself, instead of loved and respected? Warning. Signs. Learn how to recognize gaslighting, and put a stop to it.

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Cutting the cord of a stable career to chase your dreams can be scary, but doing your own thing is often worth it. Get insight into how it’s done on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

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How to Become Self Employed

How to Become Self Employed

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Doing Your Own Thing

 

Have you been daydreaming about quitting your day job and becoming self-employed? Many people share the fantasy of starting a business or doing their own thing, but can hit a wall when they think about how to actualize their goal of supporting themselves without a job.

How to Become Self-Employed

Starting a business or becoming a freelancer can be very satisfying, and sometimes even lucrative. However, as with anything worth having, these things don’t come into existence without intention and a thoughtful plan of action.

It takes time, effort and hard work to build a business or transition into a freelancing lifestyle. It also takes a lot of courage. Many people start businesses only to discover how much work is actually involved. (For example, doing your own thing generally requires many more hours and a great deal more personal inconvenience than a regular nine to five).

However, for some people, the satisfaction that they’re working for themselves is worth it. The desire to be independent fuels the fire of successful entrepreneurs, stoking courage, grit, and the willingness to go forward into an uncertain future.

The Emotional Realities of Self-Employment

We often think of cutting the cord and becoming self-employed as a matter of making a decision, putting together a business plan, and then doing it. However, what many freelancers, small business owners and self employed people quickly discover is that the emotional experience of doing your own thing is often the larger, harder obstacle to overcome than the day to day of running a business.

Dealing with the Anxiety of Uncertainty

For example, many self-employed people struggle with anxiety. Not knowing where the next paycheck, or job, or customer is going to come from can be scary. If you’re going to do your own thing, you’ve got to get comfortable with the unknown and out-of-control aspects of being without a regular paycheck. [Tips for managing anxiety, right here].

Overcoming the Overwhelm of Self-Employment

When you work for yourself, feeling overwhelmed is often part of the job description. Everything from designing a marketing strategy to answering the phones to changing lightbulbs to, oh yeah, actually doing the work that you get paid for is now all on you. Developing excellent personal productivity skills are a must if you’re going to do everything that really does need to get done.

Coping With Criticism

Many self-employed people who are leaving “safe” careers also often need to deal with the implied or overt criticism of family and friends who want them to take an easier, more predictable path. Even though you believe in yourself, you have to convince others. Entrepreneurs feel like they need to prove themselves; that doing their own thing is not just going to be successful, but way better than other options. This leads to an inner sense of pressure to be successful.

Managing Feelings of Isolation

The pressure to succeed can also lead self-employed people to downplay set-backs, and avoid opening up when they DO feel scared and lost. This need to keep up a strong front may protect them from criticism and needing to reassure worried friends and family (especially parents). But shielding people you care about from the hardships of self-employment can also lead to feelings of lonliness and isolation among freelancers and entrepreneurs who are still in the process of building a business.

For people who are running an established business or are now living their dream as a freelancer, it can still feel lonely. It can be hard to relate to people who have a regular job with paid time off, benefits, and the luxury of clocking out. [Learn more about the importance of vulnerability.]

Cultivating Grit

People sometimes ask me for business advice. I tell them the only thing that I know for sure about starting and running a business, which is, “Throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Expect that most of it won’t. Then do it again.” What I am attempting to communicate is that there is no path to success. We’re all making our own way. And, something that every self-employed person has to learn how to cope with is when (not if, friends, but when) things don’t work out the way you wanted them to. You have to pick yourself up, figure out what there was to learn from the experience, and then jump back into the fray to try again (with no certainty of success). This type of grit something that every freelancer or entrepreneur needs to have inside of themselves. [More on how to cultivate grit.]

Freelancing Can Pay Off, Emotionally and Financially

However, for many entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelancers, the trade-offs are worth it. Even though the early years are hard, building a sturdy little (or big) business can be very satisfying. Being able to say, “I built this,” can feel more meaningful than working for someone else. For many entrepreneurs and freelancers, even feeling that their success or failure is theirs alone to create is enormously meaningful.

Learn How to Become Self Employed From Someone Who’s Done It.

Even though doing your own thing can feel lonely, you’re not actually alone. Many people have done it, and you can too. Even better is learning from others about what works, and the things they’ve done to manage both the planning and execution…. And also the emotional challenges of self employment.

If you want the real deal on what it takes to become successfully self-employed, you’re in for a treat. I asked an experienced freelancer, NY-based journalist Michael Stahl, how he cut the cord and started doing what he loved for a living.

Michael shares how he left the security of a great career as a teacher to become self-employed doing something he loved: writing. He’s now regularly published in Rolling Stone, Vice, City Lab, Naratively and more, plus he has a book coming out this year.

He shares his advice for how to make the transition from employee to “free” (as well as how to deal with the ensuing anxiety) on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Listen to his inspiring story and get insight on how to generate a plan, manage the anxiety, and cultivate the grit that will sustain you as you make your own way.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: Here are links to some Michael’s work, in case you’re curious:

Website: http://www.michaelstahlwrites.com/

https://www.vulture.com/2018/10/interview-ted-alexandro-louis-c-k-jokes-cosby-metoo.html

https://www.citylab.com/authors/michael-stahl/

https://narratively.com/author/michael-stahl/

https://www.rollingstone.com/author/michael-stahl/

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/contributor/michael-stahl

Thoughts on Therapy: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/j5zgm8/im-so-into-therapy-that-i-might-be-self-sabotaging-so-i-can-stay-in-it

Follow Michael on Twitter (@michaelrstahl) for updates about his forthcoming book, an autobiography about pro baseball player Bartolo Colón

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How to Become Self Employed

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Please rate and review the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Managing The Late-Winter Blues

Managing The Late-Winter Blues

Dr. Chelsea Twiss is an individual therapist, life coach, couples counselor and creativity coach. She specializes in helping couples restore emotional and sexual intimacy, individuals heal and grow, and creatives find their voice.

Taking Care of You

 

As a therapist and life coach (and person with my own life going on) I’m well aware that we live in a fast-paced culture with copious demands that cause us to become used to high levels of stress. Human beings are adaptable creatures and we are particularly adept at meeting the demands of our environment, even in today’s world where multi-tasking and juggling multiple responsibilities is the norm.

This time of year can be hard: For many people, the holiday season can be particularly stressful. Fulfilling roles and family obligations arise which often lead many of us to a place of anxious distress. But what happens after all the chaos and events of the season end yet the winter months keep dragging on?

Dealing With The Late-Winter Blues

After the burst of holiday energy subsides, it can be easy to fall into a state of feeling low or a general lack of energy and motivation in the coming months of winter. Depending on where you live, the weather is usually gray and the temperature drops, family and friends depart and it can feel lonely.

This experience of feeling low and resistance to the slowness associated with the winter months can also often put strains on our relationships with others as well as our relationships with ourselves. Often times the inclination is to isolate or pretend to be feeling okay when we aren’t. These responses to feeling low, while they make perfect sense, only serve to further distance us from our connections with ourselves and with one another.

As winter drags on you might begin to wonder if you will ever see the sun again. You can help yourself through this experience by returning to some simple practices that allow grounding and slow-moving energy to flow.

Acceptance & Self-Compassion

Exercising self acceptance and self-compassion is imperative during this time and will ultimately help resolve feelings low sooner than fighting the way you’re feeling. I’m sure you’ve heard these buzz words before and maybe you will roll your eyes at them but these are the first things we often forget to do when feeling low.

Usually our inner monologue becomes something like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I feeling this way?” These statements discourage us from accepting where we are in the present and prevent us from embracing what we are truly needing in the moment. [More about mindfulness strategies here]. Below are some basic ways to practice acceptance and self-compassion when experiencing you’re not feeling great.

1) Check-in With Yourself

The first step to achieving acceptance and self-compassion is to check-in and notice when these thoughts or feelings arise. This first step is very powerful and is a skill that can be used not only to help manage difficult emotional experiences, but also to improve relationships with others.

Usually when we feel something uncomfortable, our first reaction may be to suppress it, deny it or fight it. Learning to roll with the punches and increase self and other acceptance is built on a foundation of emotional awareness. You feel the way you feel for a reason. Sometimes that reason is difficult to ascertain, but for the time being, simply noticing is your number one task.

2) Remind Yourself That It’s Okay To Say No

My mother used to say that nothing is worth doing if you aren’t doing it with a glad heart. This is ironic as my mother is also someone I endearingly refer to as the Queen of Doing Everything – a trait I am afraid I have also inherited. I’m sure many readers can relate that it’s easy to take on numerous tasks, especially when our self-worth is in doubt. Our impulse may be to rev up the engine and force ourselves into overdrive in order to escape feeling worthless or discontent with ourselves, piling on more tasks and responsibilities. But, if we have accomplished step one and have checked in with our feelings, when your friend invites you to their game night and your check-in tells you that your energy just isn’t there right now, it’s not only okay to say no, it’s actually healthy.

While you may worry about missing out, it will ultimately feel so good to give yourself what you’re needing in the moment versus denying yourself time that will, in fact, be restorative and prepare you for the exciting things to come tomorrow. If you’re already a natural no-sayer then keep on with the healthy self-care and boundaries, but this is something many people – especially in today’s busy world – generally struggle with.

3) Be Intentional With Your Quiet Time

 

It can be easy to turn on the TV and binge Netflix when you’re feeling low energy and depressed. While doing this is totally okay and feels good, it’s also very restorative to take some intentional downtime, especially when feeling low.

With the distractions of technology available at our fingertips, it can be easy to miss out on the important time of self-reflection that happens when our minds are quietly not focused on anything in particular. Some people spend lots of time avoiding intentional downtime. I often hear things from my clients like, “I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts.” With a few exceptions, it’s often healthy to be alone with your thoughts.

Our brains generally ramp up on anxiety when we haven’t given ourselves time during the day to be alone with our thoughts and so they keep us from sleeping at night or come up unexpectedly at unwanted times.

Intentional downtime can look different depending on the person; it can be as simple as laying on your bed or sitting on the couch quietly for ten minutes, taking a bath, meditating, taking a walk outside or sitting on a park bench and observing your surroundings. Whatever this might look like for you, it is important to give yourself this time to slow down and be present with you. Doing less and taking things off your plate may sound counterintuitive, but it actually often helps resolve feeling down sooner than trying to stay busy does.

4) Say How You’re Feeling

This last point is one of the key factors in maintaining connections with others while feeling down. A giant contributing factor to feeling down can be believing that we have to pretend we are feeling differently than we actually are to make others comfortable. It is important for your own mental health to say how you’re truly feeling when someone asks.

We may worry about disappointing others or making them uncomfortable, but the price of smiling through pain can be much greater than being honest when others ask how you’re doing. This is also an important part of exercising honesty and vulnerability in relationships that matter to us.

The false belief is that we are protecting those we love from a perceived burden when in fact we are distancing ourselves from them by not communicating how we are truly feeling or what we are truly needing in the moment. There is a significant amount of energy that goes into faking a smile for the imagined expectations we think others have of us.

Give yourself permission to say as much or as little as you feel comfortable about what you’re experiencing when others ask. Assert your needs in that moment around whether you need support from someone else or not. It’s okay to say you need some alone time to work through things. Again, the people who truly care about you will understand.

I hope you’ve found some of these strategies for managing feeling down and restoring energy helpful.

Warmly, 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss

More on the Blog

Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

Not all therapists, marriage counselors and life coaches are effective. Some are even unethical. Learn how to spot bad therapy on this episode of The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship

Does your partner trick you into believing everything is your fault? Does your relationship make you feel worse about yourself, instead of loved and respected? Warning. Signs. Learn how to recognize gaslighting, and put a stop to it.

How to Become Self Employed

Cutting the cord of a stable career to chase your dreams can be scary, but doing your own thing is often worth it. Get insight into how it’s done on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

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As winter drags on it can drag down your mood and energy too. Here’s some compassionate, affirming advice for how to start feeling like yourself again.

Nutrition and Mood

Your mind and body are connected, and how you care for yourself impacts the way you feel emotionally. Here are some easy ways to nourish yourself, and boost your mood in the process.

Nutrition and Mood

Nutrition and Mood

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Healthy Body, Happy Heart

 

As a therapist and life coach, over the years I have gained a healthy respect for the limits of traditional talk therapy. The truth is that we’re complex, and many things factor in to how you feel day-to-day. Simply “working through the past” or gaining insight into your self (while fantastic) is not usually enough to actually change how you feel. Certainly, our thoughts impact our feelings, as do our life circumstances. When you make positive changes in either of those areas, you’re likely to feel better.

However, something that many therapists and life coaches (and physicians, and psychologists for that matter) miss is the dramatic interplay between physical and emotional wellness. The mind / body connection is not new-age hocus-pocus; it’s a fact. What is happening in your body impacts the way you think and feel. Likewise, the way you think and feel impacts your health. (I could bore you with a detailed explanation of the fight-or-flight stress response and it’s impact on cognition, immunity, sleep cycles and more, but I’m going to restrain myself today). Winning!

Nutrition and Mood

One big piece of the mind / body connection that has been largely overlooked in the past by the mental health community is the relationship between your nutrition and your mental and emotional wellbeing. Being deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients can have a significant impact on the way you feel, and according to recent research, by treating these deficiencies many “mental health” symptoms can be relieved. [More: Natural Remedies for Depression]

This is big news, particularly because it is very easy to become nutritionally malnourished in America these days. Much of the standard, processed American fare that is consumed by most of us regularly (pastas, sodas, fast foods, chemical sweeteners, pretty much anything bread-based or with potatoes in it) has little to no nutritional value.

Even conventional fruits and vegetables, if they’re grown on overworked depleted soil supplemented with sub-par chemical fertilizers can be nutritionally depleted and therefore have less nutritional value for you than you might think. It’s easy as pie (eating pie, that is) to become deficient in important vitamins and minerals, which can lead to a multitude of health problems as well as create feelings of anxiety and depression. Strategic incorporation of foods high in vitamins and minerals, and/or vitamin supplements may be extremely helpful in lifting your mood or calming a worried mind.

I’ll go over a few vitamins and minerals that have been found to be linked with mood, for your information. My big disclaimer here is that I am not a nutritionist or dietician and can’t offer any specific advice on supplements that you should or should not be taking given your unique health situation. If you think that you may be deficient and would like to get on a good nutritional plan I would recommend sitting down with a registered dietician or a naturopathic doctor.

Nutrients That Are Known To Impact Mood

Iron and Depression

  • If you’ve ever been anemic I don’t need to tell you that if you’re deficient in iron you feel awful. Tired, lethargic, inability to concentrate, loss of interest in activities you once found pleasurable…. Sounds familiar? Sounds like something from an anti-depressant commercial, doesn’t it? The effect of not having enough iron is similar to that of depression, particularly in the physical experience of depression (tired, withdrawn) but also in the experience of isolation, loss of pleasure, loss of energy, and overall depressed mood. Anemia (iron deficiency) is associated with higher levels of depression. It’s not unheard of for someone’s chronic “depression” to finally lift when their nutritional deficiencies are addressed appropriately.
    • Fun facts about iron: Iron is more absorbable from natural food sources than it is from supplements, so it’s best to get it from dietary sources if you can. It’s also more absorbable when taken with vitamin C. There is lots of iron in red meat, but if you avoid red meat or are a vegetarian and not conscientiously eating other sources of iron like spinach and broccoli, you can easily become deficient in this mineral. Iron supplements can be very helpful, however you can also take too much iron, so a safe bet would be to find a high quality multivitamin with iron in it.
    • For more info on depression, check out: Is it Depression?

Magnesium and Anxiety

  • I recently found out something fascinating about magnesium. It’s actually often given to people in hospital emergency rooms because deficiency in this mineral is so widespread, and deficits are associated with serious health problems like muscle cramps, heart spasms, high blood pressure, abnormal heart beats, and even seizures—as well as intense anxiety. Speaking generally, high amounts of magnesium are associated with relaxation, calm and “looseness” whereas low amounts of magnesium are associated with irritability, anxiety, and tenseness, both physically and mentally.
    • Fun facts about magnesium and mood: You can take magnesium as a supplement (but do your research, as some variants are more absorbable than others) but anther good way to get magnesium in your system in through Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) in your bath. If you want to go the dietary route, add dark leafy greens and beans to your diet.

B Vitamins, Depression, Anxiety and Energy Levels

  • These important vitamins play a role in the formation of neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that mediate interactions between neurons and other structures in your brain. When your neurotransmitters are depleted, or not in balance people frequently experience a disturbance in their mood as well as in their overall energy. Antidepressant medications work by increasing the amount of available neurotransmitters you have via various mechanisms. It’s been found that people deficient in B vitamins often have symptoms of depression as well. There are a number of important B Vitamins but the major players associated with depression are Thiamin, Folate, B-6, and B-12.
    • Fun facts about B Vitamins: Foods with the most B Vitamins tend to be animal products like fish, red meat, eggs, and dairy. Unless they are very conscientious about getting enough of these vitamins from other sources (whole grains, nuts and seeds) Vegans may be at risk of becoming deficient, especially in B12. However there are plant based B12 supplements.

Vitamin D, Depression and Illness

  • Having low levels of vitamin D has been associated with depression, fertility issues, inflammatory responses and a less efficient immune system.
    • Fun facts about Vitamin D: Milk products are commonly fortified with vitamin D, but in addition to drinking milk you have a fast, easy and free source: Sunlight. Spending just a few minutes in the sun with bare arms and/or legs will give you more than enough vitamin D to boost your mood. Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight in cold, dark winter months may be one factor associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People with darker skin living in northern latitudes and dairy-avoiders are even more vulnerable to this deficiency. Reason #374 to get some fresh air and exercise outside!

Fish Oil, Mood and Cognition

  • The helpful fats in fish oils contain molecules that help create the neurotransmitter seretonin, and also seem to make your cells more permeable to the neurotransmitters that regulate your mood. There’s enough recent evidence between the impact of fish oil on mental health symptoms that a forward-thinking psychiatrist may even prescribe them to you along with your anti-depressant medication.
    • Fun facts about fish oil: You can get your daily dose of Omega 3’s, the active ingredient in fish oil through natural sources such as fatty fish and flax-seed oil. However, if salmon burgers are not your thing, fish oil supplements are widely available now. Supplements vary in quality. Check labels to make sure that your selection has been tested for mercury and other contaminants.

Probiotics and Mood

  • We know that the neurotransmitter serotonin impacts mood. But did you know that the second largest serotonin-producing factory in your body, after your brain, is actually your gastrointestinal tract? Numerous studies have shown that the quality of your healthy gut bacteria can have a significant impact on your serotonin production and consequently, your mood. Fascinatingly, one research study took gut bacteria from happy mice and sad mice, and swapped them. The sad mice demonstrated more behaviors associated with happiness in mice (sniffing? running on their little wheels? the study did not elaborate, sadly), and the formerly happy mice became sadder. Poor mice. However, the takeaway for us is this: Probiotics impact mood.
    • Fun facts about probiotics: Natural sources of probiotics include fermented foods like kombucha, kimchee and sauerkraut. Supplements are also available. High quality probiotics can be pricy, however when you consider the impact they may have on your overall life satisfaction they’re worth it. Other ways to support your gut health is by eating high quality, high fiber, plant based foods. Apparently, roughage supports the growth of healthy bacteria.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Friends, I could go on. (Want to talk about exercise and mood? Don’t get me started!) But the point is that the way you feel on the inside, the way you think, and the way you react are all impacted by the way you care for yourself physically, as well as emotionally. That’s just one of the reasons why the counselors and coaches of Growing Self are such strong advocates of self-care. If you’ve been feeling not-so-hot lately, it may be a good idea to take a look at how you’ve been eating and caring for yourself physically.

You are a WHOLE being. You have thoughts, feelings, behaviors, relationships, and you are involved in different systems to boot. All of these impact you. It’s always helpful to talk about your feelings in order to understand yourself and develop compassion for yourself. However, you may move forward faster when you partner with a coach or counselor who will also support you in taking action to make positive changes in all parts of your life. You’re worth taking good care of!

All the best to you,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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