Jan
06

Positive Journaling – an Example of Positive Psychology

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Positive Psychology Seminar, Anda Jines LCPC (right) with Dr. Lynn Johnson (left)

I recently attended an interesting seminar on positive psychology, which is very much in line with my interest in wellness.  Whereas clinical psychology puts the emphasis on correcting what is wrong, positive psychology puts the emphasis on prescriptions for happiness.

Dr. Lynn Johnson, presented us with the latest research on the effectiveness of positive psychology, as well as a collection of positive interventions, including methods for improving:

  • gratitude
  • strengths
  • lifestyle (sleep, nutrition, exercise, fulfilling work)
  • mental discipline and meditation
  • kindness and compassion
  • optimism
  • connecting with others
  • savoring

He shared a lot of information and ideas… too much to go into here.  But one that especially stood out to me was the positive journal.

Positive Journal

People have a tendency to focus on the things that are bothering them, precisely because they are uncomfortable, painful, overwhelming or require our attention.  The things that go right, however, are often overlooked and taken for granted, simply because they don’t require us to do something about them.  If you feel that you’ve been focusing a lot on negative things lately, it can be helpful to deliberately bring your attention to those things that are positive, even if they’re not very big.  Developing a habit of noticing the positive can help you to boost your mood, feel better about yourself, and feel more motivated.

Instructions:  For each day, write down some positive experiences or thoughts.  The categories below can help you to think of examples.  You don’t have to write something down for every category.  It’s okay to just fill in a couple for each day.  But try to write down as many as come to mind.

  1. Some things that made me smile today are:
  2. Some things that I’m grateful for today are:
  3. Some things that I accomplished today are:
  4. Some kindnesses that I gave or received today are:
  5. Some experiences that I savored today are:
  6. Some things I feel optimistic about today are:
  7. Some ways that I was strong today are:
  8. Some ways that I encountered beauty today are:
  9. Some good self-care choices that I made today are:
  10. Some ways that I connected with others today are:
  11. Some things that I like about myself today are:
  12. Some other positives today are:

This can become a soothing routine, a beautiful ritual, and a healthy habit.  You have several options for continuing this positive journal:

  • You can write your answers on blank sheets or in a notebook.
  • You can incorporate it into a journal that you have already started.
  • You can keep a digital version of this journal, in programs like Word or Excell.
  • You can “journal” into a digital recorder.

What would be most convenient for you?  I recommend that you go out and get a special journal for this, one that visually represents you at your best, your positive mood, what you find beautiful or positive.  That way, whenever you glance at it, it will look inviting and uplifting.  This kind of journaling will help you to more readily notice the positive.  You can also review your previous entries when you want to cheer yourself up.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.  Click here for more about Hoover & Associates.  To make an appointment, call 708-429-6999.

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I recently visited the forests of southern Illinois, and enjoyed the beautiful sights, peaceful sounds, and fresh air of the Shawnee Forest.  It was nice to see some old familiar favorite places, and to explore and discover a couple new spots.

Taking walks in nature with my family are some of my favorite memories from when I was little, and I’ve been traipsing through the woods ever since.  When I was living in southern Illinois, the forest was 15 minutes away.  But now that I live near Chicago, it has become a special treat.

My trip reminded me once again of how good it feels to be out in nature.  Taking a walk is the perfect combination of relaxing and invigorating.  Watching a sunset over a lake is peaceful and soothing.  Taking photos is creatively stimulating and gratifying.  Time together with loved ones, sharing the experience and making memories, is emotionally intimate and meaningful.  Add to that perfect fall weather, and walla!  Just beautiful.

How rarely we get to experience this when living in a large metropolitan area!  It really makes me appreciate the people who have made it a point to set aside some metropolitan land for small parks and green areas. If you‘re one of those people, thank you.

People tend to underestimate the benefits of nature.

When predicting how time in nature will impact us, we expect less of a benefit than we actually get, according to a 2011 Carleton University study.  The study found that people…

felt more positive emotions after the natural walk than they did after the tunnel walk, but… underestimated the positive benefits of a natural walk and overestimated the positive benefits of the tunnel walk. The students in the natural walk condition also reported feeling more connected to nature, an association that was mediated by their more positive emotions.  (read entire article)

Benefits of spending time in nature

There are many benefits of spending time in nature.  A Scientific American article states,

Psychological research has shown that natural experiences help to reduce stress, improve mood, and promote an overall increase in physical and psychological well-being. There is even evidence that hospital patients with a view of nature recover faster than do hospital patients without such a view. This line of research provides clear evidence that people are drawn to nature with good reason. It has restorative properties.

This article goes on to discuss four studies at the University of Rochester which showed that exposure to nature can make people more caring, and more intrinsically motivated.

In short, we become less self-focused and more other-focused. Our value priorities shift from personal gain, to a broader focus on community and connection with others.

There are also cognitive (mental) benefits.  For example, exposure to nature can help you focus.  One way to think of this is as the type of focusing that you can do when you are in a more peaceful environment… clearing your mind, focusing on your senses, being mindful in the moment (while in nature). This experience is soothing, relaxing and grounding.

Furthermore, studies at the University of Illinois linked green views from one’s window with better ability to focus and concentrate, and better memory.  Also, research at the University of Michigan showed that attention improved after an hour in nature.  (see this article for more details)

It’s no wonder that organizations are offering therapeutic wilderness programs.  Here is one organization that offers a well-cited list of reasons why nature is therapeutic.

It’s not too late!

For those of us here in the Chicago area, we are already feeling the chill of autumn.  People are making physical preparations for winter, and are bracing themselves emotionally for what is being predicted as a very snowy season this year.

I would suggest that, as part of your emotional preparation, you make it a point to spend as much time as you can outdoors, while it’s still comfortable.  Even if there’s a slight chill, throw on that hat and sweater and go for a walk in a nearby park or forest area.  Or take another trip or two to one of the larger nature reserves within a few hours drive, like Starved Rock, Turkey Run, or Brown County.  I’m relatively new to this area, so I’m sure you may know of others that you would enjoy, that might be even closer… perhaps in northern Illinois or Michigan.

Remember that a couple of recommendations for mood are to get a half hour of sun each day and to exercise.  Add the therapeutic benefits of nature to this, and you’ve got a great three-in-one plan!

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

 

Categories : Wellness
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Sep
19

Top 25 Free E-Books about Depression

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Educating yourself about your illness, issue or difficulty is very useful and very empowering.  One of the benefits of being human is that we have the ability to communicate ideas to each other through language.  Others have dealt with similar issues as you may be facing now, and still others have devoted years to studying those issues.  You don’t have to find out what they know through your own trial and error.  You can just read about it!  Even if their information doesn’t match your situation perfectly, it can help you to understand what you’re going through, and to cope more effectively.

Therefore, I’m glad to pass along a great resource.  Below is an excerpt from an article listing 25 free e-books about depression, with a link to the entire article:

While it is normal to occasionally feel sad, when a person has major depressive disorder, they experience a severely depressed mood that can remain for years at a time. This is often referred to as depression, which can interfere with daily functioning and cause distress for both the person with the disorder and their family. With an estimated 16 percent of adults suffering from depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, cases of depression are by no means isolated.

With everyone from doctors to therapists to herbal specialists chiming on the subject, reading more about depression can help both patients and caregivers make better decisions. If you are high in desire to learn but low on the wallet, there are options. To help out, we have gathered the below top 25 free and useful eBooks about depression. They are authored by everyone from licensed therapists to those who have suffered some type of depression.  (Click to read the entire article listing the Top 25 Free and Useful eBooks About Depression.)

 

Categories : Depression
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– By guest columnist, Ryan Rivera

There is no denying how powerful a role that anxiety can play in your life. Anxiety itself can be consuming. It can affect your mind, body, emotions and even spirit. It has the potential to put you in a negative mood that affects every aspect of your life. Anxiety:

  • Prevents you from taking risks.
  • Stops you from enjoying neutral events.
  • Makes it difficult to find happiness in your day.
  • Causes short and long term physical health issues.
  • Reduces your ability to cope with life events.

When you suffer from anxiety, your quality of life suffers. That is why it is important to fight the issues that create anxiety. Sometimes these are major life changes, such as ending a serious relationship or finding a new, better job. Yet other times the changes you need to make in your life are much smaller, and may be things that you never realized were creating anxiety at all.

How We Affect Our Own Anxiety

In life, you’ll find that you have a lot of different habits. While many of these habits may seem harmless, often times they only serve to fuel your anxiety and cause it to get progressively worse over time. Below are several examples of habits that may seem harmless but are actually causing your anxiety to get worse.

  • Staying Indoors

Have you ever felt a little sad and anxious, and decided that the best thing for you to do is spend some time alone? According to research, that is one of the worst things you can do for your anxiety. Being outdoors and spending time with others keeps you active, focuses your mind on productive tasks, and helps to stimulate pleasant feelings.

  • Coffee

Coffee may have some health benefits, but caffeine itself is a fuel for anxiety. It is not that coffee is causing the anxiety itself. Rather, it is increasing the effects of the physical symptoms, which cause you to experience your anxiety in a worse way, which increases your overall anxiety. Coffee may not be that bad for you, but when you have anxiety it can make it harder to recover. Cutting out coffee from your daily diet is an important first step in dealing with severe anxiety.

  • Shopping

Many people self-medicate their anxiety by buying something expensive that they believe will bring them happiness. Going shopping for clothes or electronics is a good way to dull any negative emotions, but shopping as a solution to anxiety will only make you temporarily happy. Once the joy of buying something new wears off, you will be exactly in the same place you were, and several hundred dollars poorer.

  • Music that Matches Your Mood

It’s well known that music can influence your mood. What is less well known, however, is that listening to music that matches your negative mood can actually cause your mood to be worse. Several studies have shown that listening to sad music because you’re sad will make you feel worse, not better. You should listen to music that represents the mood you wish to have, not the mood that you want to avoid.

  • Complaining

It’s important to talk about your problems, but it’s not a good idea to merely complain about your problems. If you do nothing more than complain, it only leads to feelings of regret and negativity. Your goal is to reduce your anxiety rather than fuel it, so rather than just complaining about what bothers you, talk about what bothers you while looking towards new ways to change it.

  • Skipping Meals

Breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day. It is also a tool to help you improve your anxiety. By skipping breakfast you are making your body work harder, which increases your anxiety and promotes greater physical symptoms. It is for this reason that crash diets, skipping meals, fad diets and anything that prevents you from getting a complete meal should be avoided. Making sure to eat every meal of every day (nutritionally balanced, of course) is important if you hope to fight anxiety symptoms.

  • Working in the Bedroom

Sleep is an important tool for combatting anxiety. Yet going to sleep at night is one of the most common times for men and women to experience severe anxiety. One of the primary reasons for this is that the bedroom is supposed to be a place that is only associated with sleep. Yet many people watch TV, do work, pay bills or play on their phones in their room and/or on their bed. All of these things create energy and stress, and those start to become associated with being in your room. Your room should be your sanctuary, nothing more, and anything that causes you stress should take place elsewhere in the house.

  • Internet and Social Media

These days many people practically live their lives online. Yet the Internet and computer do nothing to cure your stress or anxiety. Although they may be a slight distraction, they are not a substitute for activity and in person social experiences. Your computer also causes you to focus your eyes on light while remaining immobile – two things that keep your mind too activated, and can lead to anxiety later on in the night.

  • Letting The House Get Dirty

Dirt, clutter and allergens may seem fairly harmless, but the more disrepair and filth that builds up around you, the more you will find yourself unable to appreciate your home and its décor. A dirty house creates anxiety, and your own worries about how other people see your home can only serve to fuel it further.

Making the Little Changes

Anxiety is not only caused by serious life problems. Sometimes anxiety can be fueled by something as simple as a missed breakfast, or listening to music that puts you in a fouler mood. While an important aspect of reducing anxiety comes from making some major life changes, other times you may simply need to change some of your habits.

In addition to the above list, spend some time reflecting on your daily life and see if there is anything that contributes to your anxiety. You’ll find that you likely have many habits that seem harmless, but in the end make your anxiety worse.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera is an ex-anxiety sufferer and has more information about anxiety, symptoms and treatment at http://www.calmclinic.com

Categories : Stress and Anxiety
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Aug
24

The Benefits of Humor and Play

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I believe in striking a balance between acceptance of things as they are and working to improve things.  One way that this manifests is in emotional experiencing.  One way to accept things as they are, is to experience whatever emotion may occur… positive or negative.  Sometimes it is appropriate, necessary and natural to allow one’s grief, despair, fear, or anger to be processed.  Conversely, working to improve your emotional state might involve nurturing, cultivating and exposing yourself to positive emotions such as hope, fun, courage, joy, and love.  I’d like to talk about the latter today, with the qualifier that, just as any coping skill, eliciting humor and playfulness are not always the right answer for a particular situation.  We need a variety of coping skills and principles to draw on, so that we can apply them in a variety of situations.  But in that toolbox of coping skills, humor and play hold a special place, endearing and sweet.

Let’s start with a video of piano-comedian Victor Borge to set the mood:

(if you can’t see this embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube)

Increasing Enjoyment and Pleasure

It may seem obvious to say that humor and play increase enjoyment and pleasure in life.  The main reason we are playful is because it’s fun.  But think about this for a moment, and don’t take the meaning of the above words for granted.  What a gift it is for someone in pain, for example, to have a moment of mirth… a smile, a playful exchange.  And what a loss if these were not available.  I propose that humor and play are not only an important day-to-day skill, but can also make challenging situations more tolerable, and can re-charge us to face life’s stress.

Who doesn’t want to find more enjoyment in life?  Why not try to nurture a little more humor and playfulness, no matter what your situation?  Perhaps reviewing the following benefits might remind you of their importance.

Play Early in Life and in Adulthood

We usually think of play as something that kids do, and certainly they do benefit from it.  Initially play helps kids learn to interact, to perceive another’s emotional state, and to respond appropriately.  Roughhousing prepares the young for fighting and hunting, role-playing is practice for various life roles, and games hone our skills and abilities.

An interesting finding is that kids smile about 400 times per day, whereas adults smile about 20 times per day!  Perhaps this is because adults have much more responsibility and often more stress.  We all know some adults who have a knack for humor, and a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies; but for the rest of us, it may require a little more conscious effort to engage our humor and playfulness, and to continue to benefit from humor and play throughout life.  Let’s look at some specific benefits.

Physical Benefits

Physical play helps us to build and maintain strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness.  Laughter can slightly decrease pain, and increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.  Thus it improves resistance to disease.  Laughter and play can also improve your sleep, respiration, blood vessels and heart health.  Some types of play can be relaxing, and a good hearty laugh has been shown to relieve physical tension for up to 45 minutes.

Mental Resilience

Humor and play can help you feel restored.  They can increase your quality of life and your will to live.  How?  For one, play can be a distraction from difficulties, frustrations and fears.  Also, humor eases anxiety, and provides perspective, so that you feel less overwhelmed.  Laughter is also very cathartic!  It releases built-up tension.  For example, a unique brand of humor is especially pronounced in high stress professions such as the military, firefighting or police work, where it helps people to manage high levels of tension.

Furthermore, laughter and play create a mood in which other positive emotions can be put to work.  They add joy, vitality and zest to life.  Humor adds to a positive, optimistic outlook in difficult situations.  Laugher uplifts, encourages and empowers… it lightens our burdens and inspires hope.  Laughter also lowers stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.  Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being.

Brain Benefits

Play stimulates nerve growth in the entire brain, and especially in: the amygdala (where emotions are processed), the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (where executive decisions are processed), the frontal cortex (where most cognition occurs), and the cerebellum (involved with coordination, balance, attention, rhythm, and language).

Lifelong engagement in play activities reduces risk for dementia and other neurological disorders.  People who routinely engage in cognitively challenging games and activities may have as much as 63% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than the general population.  Play also helps maintain cognitive flexibility, focus and alertness.

Additionally, researchers in England have discovered through brain imaging, that one smile can stimulate our brain reward mechanism as much as 2000 chocolate bars or $25,000!

Social Benefits

Humor helps us to maintain relationships, ease tensions, discuss difficult topics, and collaborate more effectively.  Playfulness attracts others to us, puts us in sync with those around us, and keeps us connected.  Smiling makes others see us as more likeable, courteous and competent.

Additionally, light heartedness in relationships allows people to be more spontaneous, let go of defensiveness or anger, release inhibitions, and express their true feelings.  Play refreshes and fuels long-term adult relationships, and it is essential to intimacy.  It promotes the shared enjoyment of novelty, enjoyment of mutual storytelling, and capacity to be open and deeply connected.

Play and Work

I was listening to a radio show recently, about engineers who grew up tinkering with gadgets or machines, and whose play involved exploring the nature of things and the principles of science.  The conclusion of the show was that the decrease in this type of play has led to the decrease in the quality of our nation’s young engineers.  This is a good example of how childhood play can positively influence your work in adulthood.  But being a playful adult can also impact your work, and not just in the negative way that many would imagine.  One company that is famous for recognizing the benefits of playfulness among their employees is Google.

Let’s put it this way:  the opposite of play is not work… the opposite of play is depression.  Play can be quite similar to work, in that they can both be creative, social, active, skillful, imaginative, strategic, motivated, competitive, etc.  By contrast, depression is characterized by a lack of motivation or enjoyment.  Thus, your work can benefit when you can incorporate play into it (in a way that does not get in the way of the work).  This is why finding work that you like is such an important key to living a satisfying life.  But even if your work is very serious or dreary, supplementing it with hobbies and fun leisure activities can carry over a positive attitude into your work life.

Humor and Play in Serious Situations

I was recently invited to present on the importance of laughter and play at Arden Courts,  a memory care community.  As a facility dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, you can imagine that they’re often dealing with very stressful situations, illness, sadness, fear, loss, and perhaps at times, despair.  You might think that this is the last place for humor and playfulness.

There is a time for serious work, conversations, and for the processing of painful emotions.  These should not be ignored… but neither should the need for laughter, play and enjoyment.  It is precisely in such stressful situations that we most need an infusion of cheer and a moment of relief or easing of tension.

I’ve seen some of the best uses of humor by emergency room personnel dealing with a suicidal patient, and by hospice nurses dealing with individuals at the natural end of life.  Recognizing the usefulness of playfulness in serious situations can help you give yourself, and the patient, permission to smile and relax a little.  Allowing laughter and play, rather than demanding a constant somber seriousness, can also encourage family members to spend more time with the chronically ill patient.

Dealing with Day to Day Hassles

Can you think of an example of humor or playfulness when dealing with day to day interactions or hassles?  Making a joke about the traffic, car problems, awkward social moments, the weather, or other common stressors can lighten your mood and allow you to share a chuckle with others.  And although it is normal to commiserate at times by complaining, most of us prefer our relationships sprinkled with a bit of humor here and there, perhaps even while complaining!  You don’t have to be a comedian or class clown, but you might find that cracking a smile every once in a while helps make the day go more smoothly.

Ideas for Increasing Humor and Play

I hope that the overview of benefits above might help you see that time spent in play and humor are not just “unproductive time” that you have to feel guilty about.  Instead, these are ways to increase enjoyment, and ways to recharge and to cope with life’s stressors.

Exploring ways to increase play and improve humor are outside the scope of this article.  You may already know what works for you… what you find funny, what’s fun for you.  But if you feel that you’ve lost your sense of enjoyment in life, you may want to deliberately investigate options for increasing humor and playfulness in your life. The books cited below, at the end of this post, may be a good starting point.

Qualifiers

Any good coping skill has the potential of being misused, so here are a few qualifiers (just in case):

  • Often, something positive can go awry if you take it too far.  For example, some people try to avoid ever directly dealing with difficult topics, moods, or realities in life by distracting excessively with humor or play.  So don’t be a pleasure junkie, but don’t be play-starved either!
  • Also, as I said in the beginning, play and humor are just two skills in your coping toolbox.  Sometimes they’re not the one’s you’ll want to use, and you may need others.
  • I’m not talking about a mean-spirited humor or laughter at other’s expense.

Laughter Yoga

Let’s leave off with one more video about an interesting recent phenomenon: laughter yoga.  I encourage you to capitalize on the contagious nature of laughter as you watch this.  You will see that in laughter yoga, the exercises start out with an artificial laugh, but that when people do this (especially in a group), it can quickly become genuine laughter.

(if you can’t see the embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube)

References

  1. Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul – By Stuart Brown
  2. The Healing Power of Humor: Techniques for Getting through Loss, Setbacks, Upsets, Disappointments, Difficulties, Trials, Tribulations, and All That Not-So-Funny Stuff – by Allen Klein

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Aug
24

Using Reminders to Help You Get Organized

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Here’s my last installment in my series on getting organized.  Previously I posted about:

Today, I’d like to add some tips about how you can use reminders to help you get organized.

High Tech Reminders

These days many people are using new technologies.  There are lots of electronic gadgets that you can use for reminders.

  1. Your smart phone, pad or computer include programs for calendars, to do lists, and organizers for contact information.  They can increase productivity, reduce stress, and help organize projects (like looking for a job).  I know that many people have phones that can do these things, but they simply don’t use these features.  I encourage you to try out the features on your phone, if you’re not doing so already.  As for a review of the latest gadgets, I’ll leave that to people who are more tech savvy, but suffice it to say that there are many options here that you could investigate.
  2. Digital recorders like the one on your phone can be used instead of note pads.

Paper Reminders

Many people still like the larger format and tangibility of the old fashioned paper options.  But many of these options can also be accomplished in digital versions.

  1. Use an appointment book or calendar to keep track of appointments, meetings, sports events and practices, birthdays, doctor’s appointments, social events, etc..  This can be a schedule book, a wall calendar, or a pocket calendar.
  2. Write a daily to-do list of what needs to be accomplished that day, and keep it with you at all times.  Also write a long-term to-do list of what you would like to do eventually, and check it every once in a while for items you can add to you daily to-do list.
  3. Leave note pads in strategic places to make it easier to jot down notes and reminders (by the phone, in the car, in your jacket pocket, in your purse, beside a bed).  Write things down instead of making mental notes, and make it a daily habit to add any notes you wrote into your calendar.  It may help to always put the notes you write in the same place (like in your wallet, or on a bulletin board).
  4. Put visible reminder signs on your door (to remind you to think about whether you have everything you need before leaving), or by your desk (to remind you to check your schedule), or in the kitchen (to remind you to do certain chores) etc.
  5. Use checklists or charts to plan your chores.  These can help you rotate your tasks so that you get to everything on a regular basis, and can help you divide up tasks evenly between members of your household.

 

Other Types of Reminders

  1. Set alarms to remind you of important events, or set timers to set limits so you know when to stop an activity.
  2. Keep your cell-phone handy, so that if you forget an event, the people waiting for you can contact you easily, and you might still be able to make it.
  3. Use a wristwatch (old fashioned as it may be!) to keep up with the time.  You can also set your watch’s timer or alarm.
  4. Ask the people in your life to remind you of things.  Your spouse, other family members, a friend, or an administrative assistant can be helpful in this.  Some people hire a personal coach that checks in with them regularly about their goals and progress.
  5. Having a routine makes it less likely that you will forget to do daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.  A routine can serve as a reminder.  Plan ahead and develop a consistent pattern.  This applies to morning and bedtime routines, routines when you leave the house or come home, routines related to paperwork, finances, cleaning, and any other regular activities.  It’s important that you make up your own sequences, so they fit you. (But don’t foget to allow some flexibility to adjust to whatever may be a little different each day).

 

Tips to Make Your Reminders More Effective

  1. Break up large tasks into smaller steps to make them more manageable, and write down deadlines for these smaller tasks on your calendar.  If you miss a deadline, write down or enter another one for the same task.
  2. Separate the concrete from the gravel.  Appointments and events which cannot be changed, the concrete, should be entered in your planner first (work, classes).  Once the concrete is set, you can pour in the flexible things that have to be done, the gravel (errands, phone calls).
  3. Prioritize when writing to-do lists and deadlines.  Consider both how important something is, and how urgent it is.  For example, you can rate each item as A (high priority), B (medium priority) and C (low priority).  As are both urgent and important.  Bs are either urgent or important, and Cs are neither urgent nor important.
  4. Another way to prioritize is to number the items on your list, in the order that you want to do them.  Make sure the urgent things get done on time, and that the important things are scheduled at a time when you can do your best work.
  5. When overbooked, learn to say no to low priority demands.
  6. Keep your calendars and to-do lists in an easily accesible or place (e.g.: in your smart phone, in your bag), so you can check them often, especially before committing to new activities or appointments.

I hope that all these posts about getting organized came in handy for you, and that you found a few new tips to use.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Jun
19

Motivating Yourself to Stay Organized

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Here’s my third article in the series on getting organized.  The first was on organizing your stuff, and the second was on organizing your paperwork.  This article focuses on twelve ideas for motivating yourself to stay organized.

1. Set realistic goals and deadlines, and avoid perfectionism!

Your goals can be challenging, but they should also be achievable.  Recognize that you can’t do everything perfectly, and that doing your best or getting started on something is better than not doing anything at all because you’re overwhelmed.  Also, consider that you don’t have to do your best at everything, some things are good enough when they’re just good enough.  And not everything has to be done immediately!  Prioritize as best you can, divide your goals into small steps, and work your way through them one at a time.  Use deadlines for each small step to help motivate yourself.  This usually works better than having one big deadline at the end of the year.  If it helps, call them lifelines instead of deadlines.  If you miss a deadline, then make another one, this time with a higher priority, or problem solve about what went wrong, and adjust your plan as necessary.

2. Make your goals clear.

Instead of saying that you want to get your house organized, say that you want to (for example) get in the habit of hanging up clothes and putting away clean laundry.  The more specific you are, the more likely you are to do it.  Also, be specific about the circumstances in which you want to do specific tasks.  Think of it in terms of “if… then.”  For example, “If it’s Wednesday, and if I haven’t exercised yet that week, and if I don’t have to work late… then I will exercise before dinner.”  Setting up such formulas for yourself can help prevent you from talking yourself out of doing what you need to do.

3. Tackle one small thing at a time.

Decide what it is that most makes you feel disorganized, out of sorts, or unfocused.  Consider what would make the biggest difference, for example: the permanent pile of newspapers by the sofa or the crammed kitchen table?  Think about what you could organize in time chunks that are manageable for you.  If you only have the motivation for 15 minutes, then what can you get done in 15 minutes?  Letting the small successes encourage you can lead to larger successes.

4. Know when you work best.

Working on things during your peak times can make hard tasks easier.  If you are at your best in the morning, tackle the more challenging jobs then.  If you’re more productive and focused in the afternoon or evening, then schedule accordingly.

5. Make your tasks as interesting as possible.

Doing some tasks with other people can make them more fun.  You can also use music to set a fun or energizing atmosphere while working on something, or you can make a game of it, like when challenging yourself by racing against time, or adding humor to the experience.  Use bright colors to catch your attention, especially when organizing paperwork, or for kids’ storage.  Also, remember that organizing is part of decorating.  The storage furniture that you choose can add an interesting and unique style to your home or office.

6. Do what you’re good at as well as things that are challenging.

Share tasks at home and at work by trying to match each person up with the tasks that they’re best at, and dividing up unpleasant or challenging tasks evenly.  For example, have each house-member write down chores and responsibilities that they: 1) like to do, 2) don’t mind doing, 3) would rather not do, or 3) really don’t like.  Then negotiate a fair division, considering each person’s abilities, likes and dislikes, other contributions (like whether they work outside the home), and any other relevant factors.  Also, alternate doing something that you enjoy with tasks that you have to do.  That way, the things you enjoy are a break and a reward.  Also, find ways around your weaknesses so that you have more time to focus on your strengths.  For example, if you don’t like to cook, then get cupcakes from the grocery store for the potluck, rather than convincing yourself that you have to make them from scratch.

7. Reward yourself.

When you meet a goal or deadline, give yourself an appropriate reward for the effort.  You may want to make a list of your favorite activities, foods, TV shows, trinkets, and places to go, and then treat yourself to a reward after accomplishing something.

8. Take time to relax.

Schedule breaks into each day and week to rest, play, move around, and re-energize.  Pace yourself so you don’t get exhausted.

9. Be flexible.

Acknowledge and anticipate that some of your projects, deadlines, and obligations will not turn out how you planned.  Don’t beat yourself up over this, but adjust accordingly and learn from your mistakes.  When you realize you didn’t live up to your expectations, think about similar future situations and how you can approach them more effectively.  Life demands flexibility.

10. Humor and willingness.

Have a sense of humor about your disorganization or forgetfulness.  If you can be a little relaxed about it and laugh about your tendency to be messy, others will forgive you more easily and you will feel less defensive, making communication easier.  Also, the guilt that many people feel, in an attempt to motivate themselves, often backfires and paralyzes them.  So don’t take it too seriously, but allow some lightheartedness to make the task lighter.

11. Accept the ongoing process.

Because being organized is a process, there will never be a time when all the work is completely done.  Life changes, people change, and the way you organize will continue to evolve.  Notice and celebrate when you find a better way to organize something, instead of focusing only on what remains undone.  Learn to accept organizing as an ongoing and creative part of life, and perhaps even to enjoy it.

12. Remember that organization is a skill that can be learned.

The good news is that there are many tips and techniques that you can try out, to see which work best for you.  The bad news is that, as with any skill, it takes time and effort to learn to be organized.  But the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more it becomes automatic.  So don’t give up, even if you’ve slipped up for a while.  Just pick an area, and try again.  Each time will be a little easier and you’ll get better at it with practice.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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May
18

Hoover and Associates Collaborating with Peace Village

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Anda Jines at Peace Village Tour

Hoover and Associates, the group of psychologists and counselors that I work with, has been collaborating with Peace Village for about a year now.  Peace Village is a wonderful independent living and assisted living community in Palos. We offer psychological services for their residents.

Recently Peace Village, along with Alden of Orland Park and Autumn Leaves of Tinley Park, hosted a progressive tour of all three facilities.

We were invited to present an informational table at Peace Village, along with four other affiliates of Peace Village.  Each facility had several affiliates present informational tables, to supplement the tour of their facility.

It was interesting to learn more about the various older adult services available, and I appreciate the opportunity to share our information with other professionals.  The turnout was also pretty good, considering how cold and rainy it was that day.  And the lunch offered by Alden of Orland Park was an excellent example of their chef’s abilities.  Although Peace Village is known for their excellent dining as well.  Hmmm… maybe we could get them to do a cook-off some day?

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

Categories : Mental Health
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Swimming in a sea random mail, magazines, photos, receipts, notes, bills, and other paperwork?  Try these tips.

1. Have a special place for special paperwork.

For example, have a box, envelope, file or folder where you put all the bills that still need to be paid.  Have another place where you put stubs of bills that have already been paid.  Have one place for coupons and advertisements, one place for memorable newspaper articles, one place for car records, one place for medical records, etc.  A file cabinet makes this easy and compact.

2. Use charts to help you keep track of bills and expenses.

Make copies of a blank chart that includes the following information:  Across the top list categories like: amount overdue from last month, amount due for this month, total amount due, amount paid, date when you paid it, check number, and the amount still overdue after this payment is made.  Down the side list all the different bills you have.  Across the bottom, write the totals of each column.  Fill in one chart each month or each time you get paid.  This helps put all your bill information in front of you at once, helps you stay mindful of how much money you have to spend, helps you make decisions about where your money needs to go, helps you not forget to pay a bill, and helps to catch billing errors.

3. Use color-coding to organize paperwork and to grab your attention.

Color makes things more memorable, and appealing, as well as easier to recognize, organize and navigate.

4. Use a checkbook register to keep track of money in your account.

And compare your register to your bank statement (preferably on the day the statement arrives, so you’re less likely to forget).  If it is difficult for you to write down each expense as you make it, then make it a routine to keep receipts in your wallet and write them down at the end of each day.

5. Use an address book

…or a rolodex, or a bulletin board, or a business card organizer; to help you keep track of contact information, instead of having countless pieces of paper floating around, with mysterious phone numbers that you don’t recognize any more.

6. Go digital

Use computer software to keep track of finances, addresses, phone numbers, appointments, etc..  For those who are computer savvy, getting their finances organized with financial software, and paying bills online may be easier, quicker, and more interesting than the conventional methods.  E-mailing instead of sending paper letters can also cut down on clutter, and it’s faster.

7. Throw out old newspapers and magazines

Newspapers and magazines are a common source of clutter, and are often found in a variety of places other than your magazine rack (if you have one).  The most important and effective way to manage these bulky materials is to get your trashcan out and use it!  If you find more than two unread back-issues of a particular subscription, or if you find yourself putting a week’s worth of unread newspapers in your recycle bin, don’t send in the renewal notice when it arrives, cancel your subscriptions, and only buy them when you really want to read them.

8. Use shelves and filing cabinets

If you want to keep a specific article for future reference, cut it out and file it in a filing cabinet.  Throw the rest of the magazines and newspapers away, with the possible exception of a few choice issues that you keep.  If you decide to keep a stack of old magazines, don’t just stack them up in the corner, but put them neatly on a shelf.  If you don’t have enough room on your shelves then you either need more shelving, or you have too many things that you are holding on to, and you need to prioritize and decide what you will get rid of.

9. Make a scrapbook of kids’ art.

If your refrigerator or walls are covered in kids’ pictures, then buy an inexpensive scrapbook (or two) and put the older pictures in there.  When you have a new picture to put on the fridge, then take an old one off and add it to the scrapbook.  That way family will have a wonderful scrapbook to look through when they visit, and you won’t have to drown in the chaos of too many pictures every time you’re in the kitchen.  You can also use scrap books for other random, but memorable pieces of paper.  Binders can also be used to create a scrapbook.

10. Use photo albums.

Some people have boxes full of old pictures, half of which are out of focus, with the heads cut off, or with a finger covering the lens.  If this has become clutter for you, then pick a weekend to sit down and pick out which pictures you want to put into a photo album.  Once you’ve decided how to organize them and have put them in the album(s), then the rest can be tossed, or can be used by the kids for art projects.  Another way to condense pictures is to make a collage, frame it, and hang it on the wall.
If these ideas aren’t enough, then ask your friends what they do to keep their paper clutter in check, or look for more ideas in a book on controlling clutter.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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The environment you live in makes a huge difference in how you feel.  If your space feels chaotic and dirty, you might not feel as comfortable or calm as you wish.  If you’re often frustrated because you can’t find something, that’s added stress in your life.  So, here are some tips for taking control of your stuff.

1. Start Big, and then get more detailed if necessary.

Begin by deciding what goes in which room.  Put kitchen stuff in the kitchen, bathroom stuff in the bathroom, kids’ stuff in their room, etc.  Then categorize the things in each room.  For example, separate food from dishes, clothes from toys, and papers from trinkets.  Think about whether you want to move any of the areas from one room to another (like when combining all the family’s coats and shoes in one place instead of having them be separate).  Then arrange each area so that things are compact, accessible, and pleasing to the eye.  Do these before getting sucked into the tiny details of a drawer, cabinet, or filing system.

2. Use closet, desk and drawer organizers, storage boxes, dressers, shelves, hooks, containers…

Use anything that helps you to keep personal belongings organized and compact.  Label things clearly and make it a daily or weekly habit to put things in their designated spot.  When necessary, adjust your organizational system to make it work more smoothly (for example, making things you use often more easily accessible, and putting things you rarely use towards the back).

3. Create a desk-work space.

Do you find yourself going to five different places in your house to get a pen, paper, stamps, bill, and checkbook?  It helps to have one place set up especially for paper-work.  Also, having your papers in one place, keeps them from cluttering up the rest of your house.  Make sure your paper-work space is well lit, has room for storage (shelves, trays, drawers, file cabinets), and has the tools you need (pens, stapler, paper, trash can, etc.).  Also, having a phone or computer right there may help.  You don’t need a whole room for this, just a corner will do.  Set up your space to minimize distractions.  Use headphones, soft music, or white noise (like a fan) to shield other noise.  However, if music is a distraction, then avoid it.  Also, angle your table or desk away from anything distracting (TV, busy doorways, windows, people).  This will help you stay focused on your desk-work until you’re done with what you needed to do.

4. Miscellaneous stuff can be a challenge to organize.

Here are some ideas.  Hang a key rack with labeled hooks right by the door.  Purses and fannie-packs can be hung on similar (if larger) hooks, next to your coats and umbrellas.  Place a shelf or table near your door for items like sunglasses or other items you want to remember to take with you when you leave the house.  As for small items like rubber bands, puzzle pieces, toy parts, batteries, etc… designate a drawer or a box to be your miscellaneous place.

5. Get rid of excess stuff.

Ask yourself: “Is it useful?”  This means that you use it regularly rather than “well, someday it might come in handy.”  Also ask yourself, “is it beautiful?” and, “do I love it?” If you said yes to any of these questions then keep it, but if not, then what is the purpose of keeping it? Sometimes, even if it is useful, you might have too many of the same item, in which case you could get rid of a few.

6. Take it one step at a time.

If getting organized is a big change for you, be patient with yourself and develop one habit at a time (or focus on one area of the house at a time).  For example, decide what would make the biggest difference to you.  Washing the dishes?  Hanging your keys by the door?  Keeping the table cleared off?  Pick one task and work on it for a month.  Hopefully, by the end of the month, you will have made this a habit.  If not, then you might have to problem-solve about what went wrong.  Each month add another task while continuing the previous ones.  You may want to start with common areas, like the kitchen or living room.

7. Use routines to help you stay organized.

Doing chores more regularly and frequently makes them more manageable.  Do the tasks that need continuous attention (cleaning, organizing mail, doing dishes, picking up, writing down expenses, paying bills) regularly and in small increments.  Schedule them into your daily or weekly routines, so that you can prevent overwhelming pile-ups.

8. Use reminders to get yourself to clean regularly.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about using reminders to help you get organized.

9. Stay motivated.

You can also use rewards to motivate yourself, but you just may find that having a clean, comfortable home, and less tension with your house-mates, is a reward in itself.  If you need motivation help, stay tuned for an upcoming post on motivating yourself to stay organized.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

Categories : Stress and Anxiety
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