There was a time in our country when the leaves changed colors and the air turned chilly we knew November was upon us. Thanksgiving was the celebrated event and we tried to build gratitude and appreciation into our lives. Well, this week is Thanksgiving, but, the focus really has been turned towards “Black Friday” and revving up our retail energy for the Christmas season. Sadly, we have really just skipped through this holiday and treated it as a smorgasbord of over consuming food, 24 hour football viewing, and frenzied shopping! Yes, I too am guilty of all of the above. What has happened to appreciating this once great holiday of truly giving thanks Where has our “Attitude of Gratitude” gone?
From a psychological viewpoint, gratitude serves to really bring people closer to a like minded and more socially interconnected state of togetherness. Naturally, we feel more socially connected and supported which in turn the relationship becomes stronger and develops. Also, I suggest that we consider gratitude not as a tool, or strategy to be used for ulterior motives, but, it is a more profound appreciation for what we do have.
From a young age, I was taught to live in Thanksgiving daily and to show appreciation for what others did for me. If you think about it, gratitude is the act of being thankful, it causes the human soul to become humble. It’s because we acknowledge these acts of kindness, times of selfless service, or caring from someone else who lifts our heavy heart and strengthens us.
Gratitude is not a public display, but rather in a quiet way, the expression and feelings that create in us a type of purification and mental healing from our life’s troubles and concerns. Some say the gratitude is the mother of virtue. Wasn’t it Shakespeare that said, “Who lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”
I’m of the opinion, that the commemoration of Thanksgiving should last all year. As we approach Thanksgiving week 2015, maybe we should do a little homework (I know the kids are out of school) on this idea by really reflecting on what we should be thankful for in our lives.
So much chaos in the world, yet, on the lighter side, do you realize that Thanksgiving is just a little bit over a week away. Then Hanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are less than a month after that new shopping phenomenon call “Black Friday.” Yes, this truly is the season of giving thanks, spreading cheer, joining with friends and family in seasonal bliss.
However, this is also the time of year that my practice becomes very busy with overwhelmed and depressed clients. Why aren’t they out there enjoying the holiday season? Simply put, it’s the pressure, unrealistic expectations and seasonal blues that get in the way of the enjoyment.
Every year without fail, millions of us pull out the ornaments, prop up the trees, climb up the ladders to hang up the lights, roll out reindeers on the lawn (you know who you are). Let’s not forget the annual family letters that are written (still), cookies baked by the dozens and dozens, gingerbread houses artfully decorated with the kiddos. Then there are all the choirs, school, church and community festivities…oh my!
We are a busy society, did I forget to mention running around searching for this year’s must have gift! What about family visitors for the holidays, cleaning the house, buying all the food and having the carpets cleaned (and the dog needs to be groomed too). You see… seasonal blues!
If we don’t do it all we feel guilty. We look out the window at the neighbor’s house, their lights are up the minute the Thanksgiving turkey was finished. These feeling create anxiety which in turn fuel what we call Seasonal Affective Disorder which is appropriately referred to as SAD This is characterized by apathy and a general feeling of lethargy. Yes, then comes the insatiable cravings for sweets (more brownies and fudge please) any carbohydrates will do! Naturally, your sleep becomes more excessive, concentration falls off, as does being able to collect your thoughts and sustain meaningful conversation.
All these symptoms lead you eventually to feeling sad, low and depressed. I find that for many of my clients the real triggers seem to centered on their present financial circumstances, or memories of holidays past compared with their sadness of the present season.
As we get closer to New Years, I see new clients who really have unraveled as they struggle with unrealized goals and too many opportunities never taken advantage of, so, their depression spirals. The good news is that all is not lost. The sun is a great disinfectant, tools can be learned that will help you cope and work through the seasonal depression. Therapy is a wonderful way to talk through your concerns and really get to the heart of your problems. So, don’t let the pain take away your holiday cheer this year, get help, and enjoy you!
Jump for Joy
Here is a a little riddle for you, what do Chris Jenner (not referencing the media circus of the family), the Duggars (despite the recent scandal), and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have going on that other families don’t? I’m thinking, I’m thinking, okay…. that’s right each have large families, huh? Yes, it’s true if you want to be a happy parent(s) a large family needs to be in the cards.
Think you can’t do it, oh yes you can! When I was a young husband contemplating with my young wife the prospect of having children, I remember thinking, how can we afford to have children especially more than one? Another pressing concern was when was the right time to start having these little “sleep robbers.” Well, I sought the answers from wise fathers. First, they said, “You can never really afford children, but, if you wait till you think you can you’ll be retired and alone. Second, There is never a “right time to have children and when you’re there on the day they burst into this world, you’ll know what I mean.”
I joke with people who are surprised at the amount of children I have (6) that the odds are in my favor that at least one of them will take care of me when I’m old. It’s tough, I won’t candy coat it. We had four children under the age of five at one point. I changed diapers for a decade (that is 10 years for those of you who are numerically challenged like me). Then there were the 2 a.m. feedings and having to be at work by 6 a.m.. The lack of sleep for both of us was daunting. Our last was a premie (1 lb) arriving four (4) months early then spending 100 agonizing days in the NICU. My incredible wife drove 99/100 days for 3.5 hours round trip each day to be at that NICU with our baby. That was eight years ago, wow time flies and our little girl has blossomed, but not without a lot of health challenges of her own (forgive for being so personal).
There are many joys as well. Seeing them pull together, become independent, make good choices, they have stayed away from the pitfalls of drugs, alcohol, and porn addiction through much instruction, love, and attention. It take tremendous effort, time, sacrifice of your hobbies, time with the guys, and can be so draining, however the results produce happy parents and happy children.
Don’t believe for a second that I haven’t stumbled, tripped, fallen down, and been overwhelmed by the responsibility many times just trying to be a father of a large family. Thankfully, my wife has been our anchor, the stabilizing force through it all. She has taught me so very much! Still, if you are considering a large family, take heart, you can do it and the joy will be immeasurable!
See what science says about large families HERE
Well, school is back in session, homework assignments are being stuffed into backpacks daily, and here in California the dreaded “mission projects” are already being planned and very soon a due date will be given out too. Add in play dates, soccer, baseball, music, dance, karate etc.. and the days just slip away. The children are exhausted and we are too! Uh oh, their homework still isn’t done, but showers need to be taken, lunches packed, stories read, tuck in time (multiple times). Now, that is just an illustration of the elementary age child. We can probably apply this, with a few tweaks and modifications, to our middle schoolers and high schoolers, right?
My point here is that with the business and busyness of of parenting we have a tendency to “over parent,” don’t we. Oh, I say we, but, you know the mom and dad that I’m referring to, right. They make their high schooler’s lunch, they do his/her laundry, and they personally deliver their child’s doctor’s note to the PE teacher so little Jimmy won’t have to run (my apologies to all the Jimmies reading this).
What these parents may not realize they are doing is incredibly damaging, though they mean well? Overparenting, or, overdirecting, or overprotecting each produce the same problem for the child. They struggle to become independent of the parent. Is it any wonder so many millennials still live with their parents well into their twenties? We like to attribute it to finances, however, more likely it’s the chronic hand-holding that prevents them from understanding what to do and how to do it.
This really starts from an early age as we all have witnessed the parent reliving their youth through their child. This was all too often the case when I coached football. It was so painfully obvious, hard to watch, and I honestly felt sorry for the child and the parent. This always reminded me of what Carl Jung had to say about this type of parenting, that the greatest harm to their child was the parents own unfulfilled dreams.
There are two terrific books worthy of your time and energy that cover “over parenting” and allowing your child to fail (it’s not as bad as it sounds). If you’re curious read HERE
Remember when you would come home from school and couldn’t wait to finish your homework and go outside and ride your bike, doing tricks off a homemade wood ramp, skateboarding, or going to a friends house to play a game of nurf football in the street, or what about playing catch with your well worn baseball glove? Do you remember begging your Mom to go swimming at the neighbor’s pool, or shooting hoops until dark? Do you remember when kids actually played outside? I do, but, for the vast majority of families that really never happens anymore.
What has taken over is video games and an increasingly busy lifestyle. Of course, our children are still involved in sports, however, going outside to play with other children their age in the neighborhood has gone the way of the Razor phone. What are the psychological ramifications for these millions of children who no longer play outside and what happens to their view of the world around them?
Certainly this varies, however, I’m treating more adolescents, teenagers, and college students who are presenting with more severe symptoms of depression and anxiety than ever before. The question is why? Well, I find that especially with teenagers and college students there is a sense of the loss of control. Goals are focused on external, meaning those things or possessions that set them apart from others, rather than internal development. There seems to be a poor focus on who they really are, personal insight is very limited leading them to feel quite empty, depressed and filled with anxiety.
Consider this, what playing allowed us to do when we were younger was experiment, explore, and discover who we were. It really was fun, liberating, and exhilarating to be withs friends outside playing. I guess it was our modern day adrenaline rush, our outlet. Now that has shifted dramatically and so has the mental state of our children, and not for the better…
The decline of play
With the recent hacking of the secretive “Let me cheat on my spouse without her knowing” website aka “Ashley Madison,” a national fallout has begun in millions of relationships. I heard that divorce lawyers expect this to be terrific for their business, sadly, this will also keep therapists, psychiatrists, clergy, social workers busy, as well. Many relationships, quite possibly many already in trouble, will be destroyed by the revelation that their spouse has been unfaithful. This will tear both hearts and families apart.
Infidelity is extremely difficult to work through once uncovered because of the betrayal, deep pain, the loss of trust, and terrible deception that led to the revelation. Naturally, the majority will witness the tragic end of their relationship, but, a few will navigate through these treacherous minefields and become stronger as a couple. However, be forewarned, the journey is painfully long, bitter at times, full of guilt for the one who has cheated, and doubt and mistrust play on the mind of the loyal one who stays despite the affair.
What is truly fascinating is the mental state of the person caught cheating who is then then faced with having to take accountability for their reckless behavior and apologize. Maybe you were caught? Maybe you are facing the prospect of deciding to stay or leave the unfaithful spouse? Are you asking yourself, “Can I make it through this?” What is for certain is that there are no easy solutions. There are some very rough times ahead for millions of couples faced with this Ashley Madison Fallout. I think it’s better to say, “Life is short, so don’t have an affair!
Interested in the psychology of a cheater, read HERE
Not only are kids tech savvy these days, but, they are also becoming more irritable, defiant, and exhausted! How often have you found yourself either battling with them over the amount of screen time and then using the screen time as a tool to punish or reward them? How much stress and divisiveness has this caused in your relationship and household?
More and more behavioral problems like depression, ADD/ADHD, and bipolar disorder are the prevailing mental illness labels that are diagnosed because of the electronic overload. Many parents just find it so much less confrontational to let their child play video games to calm them down or pacify the present situation. Most parents come in and feel their at their breaking point and need medication for the behavioral problems that have spun wildly out of control.
There is hope, yet, in a different way that will take some determination and willpower to follow through. If you think about it, when we arrive at a point that our physical health needs to be “reset,” the experts recommend that we “cleanse” with a fast. This actually shocks the body, can rejuvenate, detox, and reset our metabolism which are all positive effects. Well, it’s time to take the same concept and apply it to children who are wearing down because of the screen time overload. Now is the time for an “electronic fast.” You can do this! You know it has to be done and for your own sanity. So, take take control and act!
If you think it’s time for a “reset” then read HERE