Any tips on how I can just be happier in my life?
Sure. For most people, really experiencing happiness is something that requires conscious effort to uplift your mood. These tips emerge directly from the scientific studies, especially related to positive psychology. These are 6 things you can do the next time you feel “down.”
- Keep a gratitude journal. People who focus daily on what they have that they are grateful for tend to train their minds to “see the glass half full.” If you can’t find much to be grateful for…think again. It may be the smallest experience of the day. You can always feel grateful just for “your breath.”
- Exercise – a walk around the block will engage neuro-chemicals in the brain that that will improve your mood.
- Set goals. We all need small things and larger goals that give meaning to our lives. Start with goals that are small and achievable and do not leave you feeling like a failure. In other words, it is better to say I will talk to one person in my new class each week than to tell yourself you have to have many new friends.
- Plan something to look forward to each day. Engaging in something pleasurable each day is associated with decreased depression and will lift your mood.
- Get connected to others—join a church, community center or take a class on long held area of interest of something that sparks your fancy.
- Get “Outside Yourself” and give to someone else. Volunteer even if you start by being helpful to a neighbor.
What are the best PTSD treatments?
The most well researched treatments for PTSD include exposure and cognitive-behavior therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and pharmaco-therapy. In treatment, I focus on initially building a trusting relationship, then de-conditioning the anxiety and finally re-establishing a feeling of personal integrity and control. I take things at your pace with skills building, especially if you have a history of multiple early traumas.
Who is most likely to get PTSD?
Fortunately, not everyone exposed to a traumatic event develops PTSD. The development of post traumatic symptomology is a function of at least four factors:
- the person’s subjective interpretation of the trauma;
- characteristics of the stressor – magnitude and intensity;
- characteristics of the victim—both internal and external factors;
- and the response of others to the victim.
For example, if two people experience a major life threatening event, one person may look to the positive aspects of how she survived or how she was “protected” by a higher power. The person may also be fortunate enough to have little to no previous history of trauma or mental health issues and good social support from others. She may also have received good follow-up and supportive care from emergency workers. This individual is likely to have an easier recovery than someone with limited internal and external resources.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Human beings throughout history have experienced horrific life events that involve actual threatened death or serious injury, threat to one’s physical integrity of watching another person experience such events. These experiences can change how we view ourselves, other people and life itself. In other words, we may no longer believe that life is just or predictable. Examples of these occurrences include but are not limited to surviving an accident, child abuse (emotional, physical and sexual), sexual assault, manmade and natural disasters, combat stress and learning that you or a loved one has a life threatening illness and experiencing an invasive medical procedures.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- IV-TR (2000), PTSD involves exposure to a life threatening event or watching others experiences such events, along with intense fear, helplessness or horror. In children, these characteristics tend to be expressed by agitated behavior). The PTSD diagnosis requires a varying number of symptoms in each of these three categories that last at least one month that include: 1) persistent re-experiencing of the event via images, thoughts or perceptions, such as flashbacks or distressing dreams; 2) persistent avoidance of reminders of the trauma and a general sense of numbing; 3) increased arousal such as difficulty concentrating, falling asleep, irritability and an exaggerated startle when reminders of the trauma are present.
Read my other tips on PTSD:
Briere, J. (1997) Psychological Assessment of Adult Post-Traumatic States. APA: Washington D.C.
Van der Kolk, B.A., McFarlane, A.C. & Van der Hart, O. (1996). A general approach to treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. In B.A.Van der Kolk, A.C. McFarlane & L. Weisaeth (Ed.), Traumatic Stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society. (pp. 417-440). Guilford: New York.