Guest Post: 4 Steps to Avoid Burnout

Times are tough for therapists. Providing mental healthcare these days is challenging. Therapists find themselves in the midst of many perfect storms. Global changes, social unrest, tremendous upheaval, and trauma in the lives of their clients can mirror the struggles in their own lives, potentially leading to burnout.

Being a therapist is a beautiful, noble, and worthwhile undertaking. It is our life’s work. Yet often it is a slog. Clients may report a bit of progress, but then things fall apart. Our efforts to get through to them come up short. We can become lost and hopeless ourselves, watching people we have grown to care about continue to suffer and struggle.

In these situations, compassion fatigue and burnout can become a real risk. When we are worn down and exhausted, it can be difficult to give to our clients. The work that once inspired us can become draining to the point that it impacts our own wellbeing. When we feel burnt out, we need to find inspiration and reconnect to what it means to be a therapist.


Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Inspiration for the Weary Therapist: 4 Steps to Avoid Burnout

Here are 4 accessible steps for therapists to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue during challenging times:

1. Practice Real Self-Care

Self-care is vital for therapists. We learn from very early on in our training that we need to take care of ourselves to care for others. Yet what does self-care look like when you are at a level of weariness and burnout?

When we are in a lot of pain, our output to input ratio changes. If we are guilty of giving too much to our clients and not receiving enough from our lives, then we need to change the way we think about healing so that we do not give more than we take in. We must be okay with simply being present with our clients. We do not need to move mountains or do the work for them. As a therapist, you have to care for yourself too. We must strive for a healthy work-life balance to feel whole and avoid burnout.

Practicing self-care and attention, even in session, can help avoid burnout. Have a coffee in session. Sip it slowly. Take in the light that’s streaming through the window. Our clients need us to be present and alive when we’re meeting with them.

2. Practice Presence

What do you need to be present in session even in the face of others’ pain? Will always having food or tea with you help? Do you need different cushions on your chair? How about comfy clothes? A fan in the heat of summer? You may need a whole little apothecary on the table next to you to symbolize that you are present and caring for yourself while you care for your client.

Contrary to what we may have been taught, we do not need to hide our pain from our clients. We can let them know what we are going through. Clients benefit from having a full human being with them who is giving, receiving, experiencing joys, struggling, and even suffering themselves. Giving yourself permission to be a full person that is comfortable in the therapy room allows you to be truly present.

We need not clear everything out of our mind, be totally empty, and have no distractions in order to be present. I have seen new therapists who won’t remove their gaze from the client in session. That is too rigid. Instead, to avoid burnout, it helps to stay relaxed and open. We don’t need to override being human to be present in session.

3. Receive Care

Giving and receiving are connected. To effectively give to our clients and avoid burnout, we need to be adept at receiving. Receiving a breath, receiving a hug, receiving food, receiving sunlight, receiving sleep, and receiving company with people are all simple ways of taking in life so that we have more to give. Excessive giving can be a defense against receiving, as it can sometimes feel vulnerable to receive. To be impactful at giving to our clients, and to understand the control and power we have as therapists, we need to work on our ability to receive, and remove any barriers to taking in life.

For instance, how do you receive gifts from clients when they give you a present to express their gratitude? We are supposed to give to our clients, but the tables turn when they give to us. It is important for us to be open in those moments and receive the gratitude being offered. Instead of saying, “Oh, thank you very much,” and then putting the gift away, we might instead make a show of it, and ceremonially receive what they bring. Being fed by them in some way might help us be even more effective at feeding them overall and help to avoid burnout.

4. Embrace Your Humanity

Therapists are human too. When we are in pain, we need to be able to embrace our humanity and care for ourselves. To be effective at managing our clients’ pain, we must respond to our own suffering with warmth and self-compassion. Otherwise, we cannot practice real, deep compassion for others. When you give others a break for being a certain way, but won’t let yourself be that same way, it is not real compassion. It is unnecessarily beating yourself up, thinking that you need to be strong to help.

It is human to be weak. I have been surprised when I start hinting to clients that I don’t have it all together, they respond more effectively to treatment. When we are vulnerable with clients, we are sharing with them what it is to be human – that we are not always doing well. We acknowledge that the human experience is varied, that we are not ideal, but instead very human.

To avoid burnout, may the person you are be the same as the therapist that you are. May who you are in the therapy room be the same as who you are outside the office. You will feel way more at ease. Let your clients see you. They want to be seen and they want to be able to see you. Remember that your ability to see others only goes as far as your ability to be seen.


About the Author: David Klow, founder and owner of Skylight Counseling Center and Skylight Healing Center, is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). He is the author of the new book, Inspiration for the Weary Therapist: A Practical Clinical Companion, from Routledge Press.


Guest Post: Can a Plant-Based Diet Impact Your Mental Health?

According to the CDC, more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their life. Depression and anxiety are among the top conditions that people suffer from.

As our society becomes more aware of mental health and more attuned to improving it, a number of potential solutions and aids have come to the surface.

One of the most recent theories is that a plant-based diet could help improve your mental health and reduce the effects of anxiety and depression. Today, I’ll examine this theory and show you some of the top research-based evidence so you can decide for yourself!

Can a Plant-Based Diet Improve Your Mental Health?

Obesity and physical illness aren’t the only drawbacks of an unhealthy diet. It’s no secret that our dietary choices have a huge impact on our mental health.

Our body needs specific vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to support optimal hormone production and healthy brain function. Without them, our hormone levels can fluctuate drastically, resulting in symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • And more…

Simply put – when we’re not eating healthily, our bodies will ultimately suffer, both physically and mentally.

Plant-based diets tend to be a lot healthier, compared to the average American diet that’s full of meat, sugar, and highly-processed foods. As a result, plant-based eaters tend to consume more plant-based nutrients than meat-eaters.

Meat does contain some essential nutrients. However, as long as vegans are supplementing with the best plant-based trace minerals to make up for this, they shouldn’t be negatively affected by the lack of meat in their diet.

Can a Plant-Based Diet Help Depression & Anxiety?

A growing body of evidence points towards the idea that a plant-based diet could improve your mental health. A recent study of 219 individuals revealed that those who adhered to plant-based diets were around 6% less likely to suffer from depression.

Six percent may not seem like a huge difference, but it’s certainly relevant. For those who suffer the daily effects of a mental health condition, a pharmaceutical-free solution (no matter how small the chances are) is certainly worth looking into.

Cognitive Dissonance & Plant-Based Eating

It’s easy to see how proper nutrient levels can correlate with healthier brain function. However, there’s a deeper aspect that’s just as relevant.

The American Psychological Association (APA) published a paper showing that many who suffer from depression also suffer from cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort that occurs when an individual’s beliefs about themselves don’t line up with the life that they actually live. It can also happen when an individual holds two conflicting beliefs at the same time.

For example, a part of you might really want to change your diet, improve your health, and start a plant-based lifestyle. The other part of you might also really enjoy meat, junk food, and other unhealthy things in your life.

Until you make a solid decision to follow one path or the other, you’ll likely feel uncomfortable. Sustained over long periods of time, these feelings can develop into depression or anxiety.

Once people commit to living a healthier lifestyle (which may include a plant-based diet), the positive decision can often feel like a weight lifted off of the shoulders. Stress, guilt, and indecision are replaced by focus, positivity, and clarity, which are naturally healthier emotions.

Not All Vegan Food Is Equal

When considering a plant-based diet to improve your mental health, it’s important to keep in mind the type of vegan food that you’re eating.

Not all vegan food is healthy.

Unfortunately, there are lots of unhealthy, highly-processed vegan foods that can be detrimental to your health.

I always recommend that plant-based eaters stick to natural, healthy whole foods, whenever possible.

Vegan Probiotics & Mental Health

Gut health often correlates with mental health. The healthier your gut biome is, the less likely you are to suffer from conditions like depression and anxiety. When your stomach is healthy, it’s able to absorb more of the nutrients it needs. Probiotics can even improve your body’s ability to create and absorb serotonin!

While vegans may not be able to consume yogurt (which is the biggest source of probiotics), the best vegan probiotics contain all of the essential bacteria needed to support a healthy gut!

Conclusion – Can Going Vegan Improve Your Mental Health?

As long as you’re consuming healthy whole foods and vegan nutrient supplements, then you may see improvements in both your physical and mental health! Vegan diets tend to be healthier than non-vegan diets and are more positive and ethical.

Combined, all of these things can lead to a happier state of mind, which can reduce the effects of depression and anxiety.


Guest author Emma Wilson is the creator of Vegan Calm, your guide to everything vegan!

12 Top Free Apps for Meditation

A list of 12 top free apps for meditation and mindfulness. (No subscription fees!)

Compare app ratings for apps for meditation from the Apple store, Google Play, and Psyberguide. (All ratings are based on five stars.) Please feel free to add your vote!

Image by Esa Riutta from Pixabay

12 Top Free Apps for Meditation

Calm Harm

“An award-winning app developed for teenage mental health by Dr. Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, using the basic principles of an evidence-based therapy called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).”

5 and 15 minute activities to comfort, distract, express, and release. You can also use this app to practice guided breathing, to log your activities (and self-monitor), and to journal.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.4 stars (556 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.3 stars (1,982 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.00 (credibility) and 4.28 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

COVID Coach

“The COVID Coach app was created for everyone, including Veterans and Service members, to support self-care and overall mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Challenges and tools, including meditations and guided imagery. You can also use this app to find online help or to learn more about mental wellbeing.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.8 stars (708 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.6 stars (274 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 2.67 (credibility) and 4.49 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Healthy Minds Program

“The ground-breaking Healthy Minds Program uses neuroscience, contemplative traditions, and skill-based learning methods to help you develop the skills for a healthy mind, now in the palm of your hand. Translating pioneering neuroscience into tools for everyday life, our unique framework guides you through the four pillars of the science of training the mind.”

Guided meditations for awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.9 stars (672 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.7 stars (1,032 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.67 (credibility) and 4.38 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No, but you must sign up for a free account

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Insight Timer

“We offer the largest free library of guided meditations on earth and the world’s most loved meditation Timer, for free.”

95,000 guided meditations, stories, and soundscapes for sleep, recovery and healing, stress and anxiety, performance, health and happiness, relationships, and spirituality. You can also access live events, discussion groups, and classes.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.9 stars (305K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.9 stars (125,993 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.33 (credibility) and 4.38 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No. You have the option of creating a free account.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

IntelliCare: My Mantra

“Mantras are phrases we repeat to ourselves that highlight our strengths & values and can motivate us to do and feel good. A mantra helps you become your best possible self and My Mantra is designed to help you get there. As part of the IntelliCare suite of apps, My Mantra lets you create these motivating mantras and construct virtual photo albums to serve as encouragement and reminders of these mantras in your life.”

A simple top free app for developing personal mantras to inspire and uplift.

  • Apple Store Rating: 5 stars (2 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: N/A
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.67 (credibility) and 2.78 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mindfulness Coach

“Practicing mindfulness means grounding yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful for reducing stress and coping with unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness Coach will help you practice mindfulness meditation.”

Mindfulness training and practices. You can also use this app to set goals and log your progress.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.7 stars (4K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.8 stars (5,230 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.00 (credibility) and 3.30 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MindShift CBT

“Break free from anxiety and stress using this free evidence-based anxiety management app. MindShift CBT uses scientifically proven strategies based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).”

Learn about anxiety, listen to guided meditations, track your moods, journal, and set goals with this top free app.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.4 stars (206 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.0 stars (1,432 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.67 (credibility) and 4.29 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No, but you must sign up for a free account

Rating: 4 out of 5.

MyLife Meditation: Mindfulness

“Fit mindfulness seamlessly into your daily life, with meditation, breathing, yoga, guided journaling and more.”

Track your moods and listen to guided meditations.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.8 stars (17K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.6 stars (25,805 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 4.33 (credibility) and 4.48 (user experience)
  • Subscription: $9.99/monthly (Non-premium content available without subscription, account sign-up is free)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Oak – Meditation and Breathing Exercises

“Oak helps you decompress by transforming your meditation practice from an experiment into a habit. We support you from your first session to your 500th, with mindful, loving-kindness, and sleep meditations as well as unguided sessions and breathing exercises. Individualize your meditations by duration, and customize with silence or calming background sounds. Oak tracks your progress and encourages you to continue building a healthy meditation practice.”

Meditations and breathing exercises for relaxation and sleep. You can also access a mantra meditation course with this top free app.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.8 stars (28K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.2 stars (119 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: N/A
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Smiling Mind

“Smiling Mind is a unique tool developed by psychologists and educators to help bring balance to your life.”

One of top free apps for meditation with guided meditations and tools for mindfulness.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.6 stars (341 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 3.8 stars (3,704 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 4.67 (credibility) and 4.84 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No, but you must sign up for a free account

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Tapping Solution

“Lower your stress levels, reduce anxiety, overcome fears, relieve pain, get better sleep, and so much more. All made possible with access to hundreds of meditations in the Tapping Solution App. You’ll learn how to use Tapping (also known as EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques), to lead a happier and healthier life.”

Tapping meditations and audiobooks.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.8 stars (7.4K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.6 stars (6,098 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: N/A
  • Subscription: $94.99 yearly (some content available without a subscription, account sign-up is free)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

UCLA Mindful

“With this easy-to-use app, you can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere, anytime with the guidance of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. Scientific research shows mindfulness can help manage stress-related physical conditions, reduce anxiety and depression, cultivate positive emotions, and help improve overall physical health and well-being.”

Basic and wellness meditations, as well as videos and podcasts.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.7 stars (63 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.2 stars (107 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: N/A
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

apps for meditation

For more resources, visit the Resource Links page.

Guest Post: How to Develop a Happiness Mindset

Guest Post by Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Happiness is all about mindset. Many believe that happiness depends on external factors, but this is not the case. Happiness depends on your mindset. Absolute happiness can exist even in the face of adversity when you have a positive mindset. 

Setbacks will always be a part of life. No one can avoid hardships or problems, not even monks or saints. When problems arise, you can tackle them head-on. And when there are joyous moments in life, you can savor them. And when you can remain relatively unaffected by whatever is happening around you, you can create a mindset of absolute happiness. 

“If you want to be happy, be.”

Leo Tolstoy (Russian Writer)
happiness mindset
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Tips for Developing a Happiness Mindset

Here are nine mental health tips for cultivating happiness and developing a happiness mindset.

Have gratitude for everything you have.

Human beings have a disgusting trait. They tend to focus more on the negative aspects of life than the positive. Oftentimes, people are more concerned about the things they do not have instead of the ones they already possess. Hence, they become unhappy. 

When you dwell on the things you’re missing out on, it is easy to be unhappy. For example, you may feel resentful when you don’t receive a raise or promotion at work. However, when you look outside of yourself at the millions of unemployed people in the world, you may feel better. (At least you have a job!)

Have gratitude for everything you have. Gratitude helps to develop positive emotions, enjoy experiences, tackle adverse situations, and build healthy relationships. When you have gratitude for even the small things in your life, you feel happy. 

“Happiness will never come to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.”

Anonymous

Develop a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset.

There are two kinds of mindsets. The first is the fixed mindset, and the second, the growth mindset

In a fixed mindset, you are resistant to change. You are rigid in your way of thinking and are not concerned with self-improvement or personal growth. When you encounter challenges, you choose to not learn from them. You tend to defend your position blindly. Hence, you become an angry, irritated, fearful, and unhappy person. 

In a growth mindset, you crave learning and personal development. Whenever there is a challenge, you view it as an opportunity for improvement. With a growth mindset, you evaluate the situation, acknowledge the drawbacks, and focus on the skills you need to be successful. You do not have an inflexible, narrow mindset and are not driven by ego. Instead, you embrace any new challenge as a learning opportunity. Thus, you become happy and content. 

If you want to be happy, adopt a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset. Regard every challenge you face as a medium to grow and prosper. 

Make a list of the things that make you happy.

To foster a happiness mindset, make a list of the things and memories that make you happy. Every morning, jot down a few words or phrases (i.e., friends, a favorite vacation, a beloved pet, your favorite meal, a brand new car, etc.). Add to your list daily. Once you have a list of considerable length, devote 30 minutes to reviewing it. In those 30 minutes, reflect on the people, places, events, and things that bring you joy.

Do not overthink or judge yourself.

Human beings have 6200 thoughts per day. And not all of those 6200 thoughts are positive. You experience both positive and negative thoughts. Try to not dwell on your negative thoughts, and do not overanalyze them. When you overthink things, you may worry unnecessarily and feel unhappy. Also, do not be ashamed of your negative thoughts. It is okay to have negative thoughts; just don’t let them overpower you. For a happiness mindset, let the negative go, and instead, focus on the positive.

Think about the best moment of the day.

Before going to sleep at night, think about the best moment of your day. It will bring a smile to your face. Did you love the food your significant other cooked for dinner? Or, if the meal was mediocre at best, be happy that they took out time from their busy schedule to prepare something for you. (It’s the thought that counts, right?) Relish in the feelings of happiness and gratitude as you drift off to sleep.

Focus on your goals and the journey rather than the obstacles.

You will face obstacles in life. Sometimes, you will fail and fall flat on your face. But you can pick yourself back up. Focus on your goals and on the journey itself, not on stumbling blocks you encounter along the way. When you’re fixated on a problem, you become discouraged and are thereby less likely to look for the solution. Subsequently, you get stuck, and happiness may seem out of reach. 

To get unstuck, develop a plan, and then take action to achieve your goals. Get back on track with a renewed focus, and fight until you succeed. Your vision of success will help you move forward as you continue on your journey.

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

Ben Sweetland (Author and Psychologist)

Think positive thoughts about others. 

When you think negatively about the people in your life, you become incapable of maintaining healthy, genuine relationships. Misunderstanding and miscommunication can lead to conflict. Heated arguments or giving the cold shoulder generates hostility.

As much as possible, assume that others have positive intentions. For a happiness mindset, do not judge their words, actions, or motives. Judgments cloud your heart with unhappiness. 

Stop comparing yourself with others.

Each life is precious. Every journey is different. 

Now, envision that you’re scrolling through Facebook. You probably see smiling, attractive faces and happy, perfect families. In comparison, your life may seem dull or pathetic. Suppose you just went through a painful breakup, and when you view your home feed, all you see is your friends getting married or having babies. You may feel disheartened. If so, remind yourself that Facebook only reveals a tiny piece of the picture, not the full story. You are looking at edited highlights of your friends’ lives. You don’t know what happens behind the scenes. For a happiness mindset, stop comparing your life with others, and write your own story.

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.”

Mandy Hale (Author)

Seek medical help to regain your lost happiness.

Happiness leaves your life when you develop severe depression. Depression is like a thief. It steals optimism and joy. If left untreated, depression can lead to hopelessness and mental anguish and will rob you of the ability to feel any pleasure or enjoyment. It may impact your relationships with others, in addition to affecting sleep, appetite, and energy levels. 

Unfortunately, the stigma associated with depression and other mental disorders may prevent people from seeking the medical care they need. Many view mental illness as a choice, a weakness, or even a put-on. In reality, the brain, like all other internal organs, is susceptible to illness.

What would you do if you were having heart palpitations, dizziness, and chest pain? Would you ignore your symptoms… or would you ask someone to drive you to the nearest hospital? Certainly, you would seek immediate medical care. Urgent health issues require treatment; likewise, urgent mental health issues require treatment. 

When there are chemical imbalances in the brain, your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are affected. As a result, you experience depression, anxiety, etc.

If you are depressed, consult with a psychiatrist to learn about available treatment options. After assessing your symptoms, the psychiatrist will recommend one or more medical treatments. The first line of treatment for depression typically consists of medication and psychotherapy. However, if your symptoms persist despite continued treatment, your doctor may prescribe an alternative treatment, transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy, or TMS therapy. 


What is TMS therapy? 

TMS therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves the delivery of recurring magnetic energy impulses to the parts of your brain that regulate mood. The magnetic pulses stimulate targeted brain cells to enhance communication between different parts of your brain, restoring balance. When TMS therapy is given at regular intervals, it is called repetitive TMS (or rTMS). TMS therapy reduces symptoms of depression and improves mood. TMS therapy is also effective for decreasing symptoms associated with OCD, PTSD, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, etc. This treatment is painless and has little to no side-effects. It does not involve sedation. Even after undergoing a session, you can drive back to your home without any hassle. That’s the best part of TMS therapy.


Conclusion 

In conclusion, to cultivate a happiness mindset, you must master your mind, not the other way around. True happiness comes from within and is not influenced by external factors. 

To develop the happiness mindset, practice gratitude, strive to improve yourself and learn, reflect on the things that make you happy (daily), be kind to yourself (and others), be solution-focused, compare self with self (not anyone else), and seek psychiatric care for depression.

happiness mindset

Guest Author: Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Ralph Macey, a professional writer since 2008 and medical health/patient care coordinator at savantcare.com since 2014, writes articles on all mental health-related subjects. He holds a degree and two professional certifications in his field and continues to upgrade his knowledge with additional classes and seminars. He also provides mental health consultations and private fitness instructions for free in his local community.

36 Resources for Finding Happiness

This is a list of websites, books, free printable PDF workbooks, and free online courses for finding happiness.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

Lucille Ball

Authentic Happiness | A University of Pennsylvania website developed by the Positive Psychology Center with resources including readings, videos, research, questionnaires, and more

Center for Healthy Minds | A University of Wisconsin-Madison website with a mission to “cultivate well-being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind”

Feeling Good | A David D. Burns website with free articles, assessments, podcasts, and more

The Greater Good Science Center | Free toolkits, articles, quizzes, courses, and more from the University of Berkely

Gretchin Rubin | Happiness resources from “one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature”

The Happiness Trap | Free resources from Russ Harris

International Positive Psychology Association | A professional membership organization dedicated to promoting the science of positive psychology

Positive Psychology | A science-based positive psychology platform with articles, trainings, and more

Pursuit of Happiness | A nonprofit site dedicated to providing articles, quizzes, quotes, courses, and more

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. | Resources for wellbeing

Thnx4 | An online gratitute journal

Zen Habits | A blog for implementing zen practices into daily life

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It (David Niven)


Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment


Feeling Great: The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety (David D. Burns)


Flourish (Martin Seligman)


The Happiness Advantage (Shawn Achor)


The Happiness Hypothesis (Jonathan Haidt)


The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT (Russ Harris)


Hardwiring Happiness (Rick Hanson)


The How of Happiness (Sonja Lyubomirsky)


How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything: Yes, Anything (Albert Ellis)


No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering (Thich Nhat Hanh)


Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes)


“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”

Martha Washington

6 FREE PDF WORKBOOKS


For additional printable workbooks, see Free Printable PDF Workbooks & Manuals – Mind ReMake Project.


“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Shulz

6 FREE ONLINE COURSES


finding happiness

15 Sites with Free Coloring Pages for Adults

Coloring can significantly improve your mental health and wellbeing. Research indicates that coloring reduces anxiety symptoms, enhances mindfulness, improves mood, and reduces stress. Coloring may also serve as a tool for self-reflection and self-awareness.

free coloring pages
Image by A_Different_Perspective from Pixabay

This is a list of printable coloring books and free coloring pages for adults.


15 Sites with Free Coloring Pages for Adults

1. Therapeutic Coloring Book

A 35-page PDF coloring book from Rec Therapy Today. Most of the coloring sheets are images of animals, including a panda, a peacock, a Pegasus, a dolphin, and more!

Art to be art must soothe.

Mahatma Gandhi

2. Relaxing Patterns Coloring Book

Another PDF coloring book from Rec Therapy Today (53 pages). Free coloring pages consist of swirls, shapes, flowers, and other designs.

3. Coloring Pages for Adults (from Faber-Castell)

A modest collection of printable free coloring sheets. Color a bird mandala or an enchanted fairy! There are also several holiday-themed coloring pages.

4. Adult Coloring Book for Mindfulness and Relaxation

A 51-page PDF coloring book with 31 mandala designs from the site Healing from Burnout. The coloring book includes 8 bonus templates for creating your own designs!

5. Stay Well, Stay Inspired

A 16-page coloring book with uplifting quotes and writing prompts from the American Library Association.

6. Coloring Craze Books

A collection of coloring books from Coloring Craze. The books aren’t free, but you can download sample free coloring pages. Books include Motivational Quotes & Phrases, 30 Day of the Dead Coloring Pages, and Stress Relieving & Relaxing Patterns series.

7. #ColorOurCollections

A collection of free coloring books from libraries and other cultural institutions from around the world. Download and print coloring pages from the New York Academy of Medicine Library, the Getty Research Institute, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and many more!

8. Louise Lawler

Photographer Louise Lawler worked with children’s book illustrator Jon Buller to create this unique 12-page coloring book. Each page is a black-and-white version of one of her photographs of places where art is displayed.

9. A Mathematical Coloring Book

A 38-page coloring book by Marshall Hampton with mathematical models and geometric structures (such as the Sierpinski triangle).

10. Monday Mandala

An ad-free site with printable mandala coloring sheets. You can also sign up for their email to receive free coloring pages in your inbox!

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.

Thomas Merton

11. Adult Coloring Pages (from Crayola)

A small collection of printable coloring sheets. Choose from designs such as “Art with Edge Sugar Skulls,” “Lennon and McCartney Yellow Submarine,” or “InSPIRALed.”

12. Coloring Castle

Free coloring sheets, including mandalas. Additional categories include holidays, animals, food, nature, space, sports, etc. Great for kids too!

13. Super Coloring

Free coloring sheets and books to print. You can download coloring books like “Forest Animals,” “Zentangle Horses,” “Beautiful Women Portraits,” and “Floral Fantasy” (among others) or print coloring pages (including color-by-number!) from a variety of categories (mammals, fruits, fantasy, stories, space, etc.)

14. Just Color

Printable free coloring pages for adults. Categories include: mandalas & art therapy, nature, travels, art, history & stories, and special events.

15. The Public Domain Review Coloring Book for Diversion, Entertainment, and Relaxation in Times of Self-Isolation, Vol. 1

Free downloadable coloring book (from the Public Domain Review site) with 20 images from a wide range of artists, including Hokusai, Albrecht Dürer, Harry Clarke, Virginia Frances Sterrett, Jessie M. King, and Aubrey Beardsley.


free coloring pages

For more free resources, visit Free Printables.


References

  • Babouchkina, A., & Robbins, S. J. (2015). Reducing negative mood through mandala creation: A randomized controlled trial. Art Therapy, 32(1), 34-39.
  • Bell, C. E., & Robbins, S. J. (2007). Effect of art production on negative mood: A randomized, controlled trial. Art Therapy24(2), 71-75.
  • Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? Art Therapy, 22(2), 81-85.
  • Eaton J., & Tieber, C. (2017). The effects of coloring on anxiety, mood, and perseverance. Art Therapy, 34(1), 42-46.
  • Henderson, P., Rosen, D., & Mascaro, N. (2007). Empirical study on the healing nature of mandalas. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 1(3), 148–154.
  • Muthard, C., & Gilbertson, R. (2016). Stress management in young adults: Implications of mandala coloring on self-reported negative affect and psychophysiological response. Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research21(1), 16-28.
  • Small, S. R. (2006). Anxiety reduction: Expanding previous research on mandala coloring. The Undergraduate Journal of Psychology19(1), 15-21.
  • van der Vennet, R., & Serice, S. (2012). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? A replication study. Art Therapy, 29(2), 87-92.

17 Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health Professionals

Prevent burnout and combat compassion fatigue with these 17 self-care ideas and strategies for therapists.

self-care ideas
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

A recent study found that many mental health professionals do not recognize their own burnout. For therapists and other mental health workers, self-care is essential for preventing burnout and compassion fatigue.

Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.

Parker Palmer

This is a list of self-care ideas and strategies for mental health professionals. Please share with anyone who might benefit!


For additional self-care ideas, see 11 Self-Care Ideas You May Not Have Considered and Self-Care Strategies When Your Loved One Has an Addiction.


Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health Professionals

1) Take small breaks throughout the day. Spend a few moments sitting in silence, browse funny memes, joke with a coworker, or take your lunch outside; by the end of your workday, you won’t feel as drained.

2) Meditate. Spend at least 5-10 minutes a day, in the morning or between sessions, meditating or listening to guided imagery recordings.

3) Schedule an appointment weeks in advance for a facial or massage. You’ll have something to look forward to!

4) Don’t neglect your basic needs. Drink water, choose healthy foods, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

Don’t take your health for granted. Don’t take your body for granted. Do something today that communicates to your body that you desire to care for it. Tomorrow is not promised.

Jada Pinkett Smith

5) Reach out to people in your support network. When experiencing burnout, we have a tendency to think we’re weak or less capable. We may struggle to admit what we’re going through. However, seeking support during these times is more important than ever.

6) Don’t bring your work home with you. It can be difficult to not think about the problems a client is experiencing or to check your email, but it’s crucial to have balance in your life. If you let your work consume you, you’ll soon find yourself depleted and with nothing to give.

7) Take the time to sincerely thank or praise your colleagues. Sometimes, it seems as though we’re in a thankless field. Spread positivity by expressing gratitude and giving compliments. (I also like to pass along the praise I hear for someone else!)

8) Be kind to yourself. Be realistic. Practice positive self-talk and forgive yourself for the mistakes you make. Acknowledge that you’re not always going to know the right thing to say, nor will you be able to help every client you see.

Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.

Brené Brown

9) Treat yourself to your favorite beverage at least once a week. Enjoy a Starbucks coffee or a kombucha tea during the workday. Consider surprising a coworker with one too!

10) If you work in a shared office space or residential setting, get up and communicate in-person instead of sending an email. (You can always follow-up with an email to recap the convo if needed.) Human interaction throughout the day is far more rewarding than staring at a screen.

11) Take a short “nature bath”! Multiple studies have found that being outdoors improves mood and reduces stress. If you work in an urban setting, nurture a potted plant or listen to nature sounds in your office to promote relaxation.

12. Bring your furry friend to work. Pets make us happy; one study found that having a dog in the office made a positive difference by reducing stress and making the job more satisfying for other employees.

13) Update the lighting in your office. Natural light exposure in the office is linked to a better quality of life. If possible, take advantage of sunlight during the day by keeping the blinds open.

14. Find self-care ideas online. I recommend the Self-Care Starter Kit from University at Buffalo School of Social Work and Dr. Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion site.

I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.

Kristen Neff

15. Stretch! Yoga is known to reduce stress and improve mood. Take a class or simply practice stretching exercises throughout the workday.

16. Listen to music while typing your notes. I love paperwork… Said no therapist ever. Play your favorite tunes to motivate you and make the time pass quickly.

17. Immerse yourself in quiet with a silent commute. After listening to talk all day long, it’s soothing to listen to absolutely nothing on your way home. Recharge with silence.


Post your favorite self-care strategies in a comment!

self-care ideas

For more self-care ideas, visit 11 Self-Care Ideas You May Not Have Considered.


References

8 Easy Strategies for Stress Relief

Feel happy and relaxed with these 8 simple evidence-based strategies for reducing stress and improving mood

stress
Image by Davidqr from Pixabay

Stress is the body’s reaction to an event or situation. Primarily a physiological response, stress is also experienced psychologically (i.e. worry). Too much stress is associated with mental health issues and chronic health problems.

Because we often have no control over stressors in our lives, it’s important to effectively manage stress.


Here are eight fast-acting stress relievers for short-term relief. (Click here for additional mood boosters.)

8 Fast-Acting Strategies for Stress Relief

1. Swap out sitting with sleep or light activity.

Less time sitting = Better mood and stress relief. A recent study found that replacing sedentary behavior with sleep or light exercise (i.e. walking, gardening, etc.) improved mood. Substituting sleep was associated with decreased stress levels in addition to enhanced mood.

2. Take a 10-minute nature break.

“Nature therapy” is 100% free and highly effective. Research indicates that spending as little as 10 minutes outdoors can improve mood.

3. Become a plant parent.

Keep a plant in your office and place it where it’s easy to see for stress relief. Tending for and gazing at a small indoor plant may reduce stress during the workday.

4. Get a 10-minute massage.

You’ll feel more relaxed and less stressed after receiving a head-and-neck or neck-and-shoulder massage. One study found that participants experienced reduced rates of both physiological and psychological stress after 10 minutes of massage.

5. Flirt!

Casual flirting and light-hearted banter at work may alleviate stress. Research indicates that engaging in flirtatious behaviors can lead to positive feelings about self while enhancing mood.

6. Have a Matcha latte.

Drinking Matcha green tea may lead to feeling less stressed. Researchers found that mice who consumed Matcha powder or extract experienced reductions in anxiety.

7. Stress less with your romantic partner.

When faced with a stressful situation, have your significant other present to ease your anxiety. If your partner is unavailable, visualize him/her; simply thinking of a significant other has comparable positive effects on blood pressure and stress reactivity.

8. LOLOLOL!

Frequent laughter seems to be a buffer for stress; people who laugh a lot experience fewer stress-related symptoms. Researchers found that the more someone laughed, the less likely they were to feel stressed.


stress relief

5 Quick & Easy Mood Boosters

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Need a boost? Here are five evidence-based, instant mood boosters for when you’re feeling down.


5 INSTANT MOOD BOOSTERS

Click here for additional tips to improve mood and reduce stress.

Listen to music

Turn on the radio or search for your favorite song on YouTube. Music can evoke a powerful emotional response. Listen to something upbeat with a positive message to boost your mood. Music activates areas in the brain that are responsible for processing emotions.

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” 

Confucius

In one study, participants who listened to upbeat music while actively trying to feel happier experienced improved mood as well as increased happiness over the next two weeks.

A 2017 study indicated that listening to your favorite songs impacts the brain circuit involved in internally focused thought, empathy, and self-awareness. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of music you choose; the mood-boosting effect is consistent across genres.

Music may also play a role in restoring neuroplasticity or as a therapeutic intervention. In 2013, researchers found that listening to uplifting concertos from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was linked to enhanced cognitive functioning. An additional benefit to listening to music is improved mental alertness; memory and attention in particular may be enhanced.

Find a green space

Go hiking, find a sunny spot to sit outside, or simply open the window and listen to the sound of the rain falling. According the U.S. Forest Service, spending time in nature can reduce stress, improve mood, reduce anger/aggressiveness, and increase overall happiness. If you’re upset or frustrated, you’ll recover more quickly in a natural setting, such as a forest. Nature is a highly effective mood booster!

Alternatively, consider a stroll in the park for a boost. Researchers found that individuals with depression who took an hour-long nature walk experienced significant increases in attention and working memory when compared to individuals who walked in urban areas. Interestingly, both groups of participants experienced similar boosts in mood; walking in an urban area can be just as effective!

More recently, researchers found that people who regularly commute through natural environments (i.e. passing by trees, bodies of water, parks, etc.) reported better mental health compared to those who don’t. This association was even stronger among active commuters (walking or biking to work). If you commute through congested or urban areas, consider an alternate route, especially when you’re feeling down.

Spending time outside does more than just improve your mood. A 2018 report established a link between nature and overall wellness. Living close to nature and spending time outside reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Exposure to green space may also benefit the immune system, reduce inflammation, and increase sleep duration.

Read/view something inspiring or humorous

Do you have a favorite inspirational book or collection of poems? Do you like viewing motivational TED Talks? Do you enjoy comedy shows? Maybe you like watching videos of baby goats or flash mobs on Facebook. (I do!)

One study found that viewing cat videos boosted energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings (such as anxiety, annoyance, and sadness). Internet cats = Instant mood boost. However, if cyber cats are not your thing, search around to find something enjoyable to read or watch for your happiness quick-fix.

Plan your next adventure

I’m happiest when I’m traveling the world. Unfortunately, I have limited vacation days (as well as limited funds), which means I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like. Happily, planning a trip may produce the same mood-boosting effects as going on a trip.

In 2010, researchers found that before taking a trip, vacationers were happier compared to those not planning a trip. A 2002 study indicated that people anticipating a vacation were happier with life in general and experienced more positive/pleasant feelings compared to people who weren’t. In both studies, researchers attributed happiness levels to anticipation. (The brain releases dopamine during certain activities, causing us to feel pleasure. Dopamine is also released in anticipation of a pleasurable activity.) For a mood boost, start planning!

Cuddle a pet

Spending time with your fur baby will instantly boost your mood. According to research, pets are good for your mental health. Teens undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol abuse experienced improved mood, positive affect, attentiveness, and serenity after brushing, feeding, and playing with dogs.

A 2018 study indicated that dog therapy sessions reduced stress and increased happiness and energy in college students. Earlier this year, researchers found that just 10 minutes of interaction with a pet reduced stress by significantly decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.

Other studies suggest that animal-assisted therapy reduces anxiety and loneliness and combats homesickness.

Research also indicates that pets help seniors and older adults cope with physical and mental health concerns. Dog ownership is also linked to better cardiovascular health and a longer life.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Shultz

The next time you’re having a bad day, listen to your favorite song, go hiking in the woods, watch a TED Talks, start planning your next vacation, or spend some quality time with a furry friend… you’ll feel better!

mood

The Remarkable Link Between Diet & Mental Health

What foods are associated with increased psychiatric symptoms? What should you eat if you want to boost your mood? Learn what researchers have found when it comes to diet and mental well-being.

diet

You may have heard of the “food-mood connection.” Research indicates that our food choices greatly impact not only physical health, but mental well-being. Some foods seem to boost mood and reduce psychiatric symptoms while others are linked to depression and anxiety.


Mood Thugs

Sugar negatively impacts mood and slows memory and learning. High-sugar diets are associated with smaller brain volume. Furthermore, sugar will make you less alert and more tired. A recent study found that the idea of a “sugar rush” is myth.

Sugar is not the only villain; fat can be just as harmful. One study found that a high-fat diet may lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, trans fat may lead to poor memory function.

If you have bipolar disorder, avoid processed meats such as jerky, hot dogs, etc. Researchers found that nitrates in processed meats are associated with mania.

Mood Champions

A diet high in fiber and vegetables (with limited added sugar) has been linked to improved mood and a reduction in depressive symptoms. Interestingly, women seem to benefit more than men, and the effect is even greater when exercise is added. A vegan or plant-based diet is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Fruits and vegetables are good for mood, but raw fruits and veggies are better. A raw diet is associated with higher levels of mental wellbeing and lower levels of psychiatric symptoms. According to a recent study, the top raw foods associated with mental wellness are apples, bananas, berries, carrots, citrus fruits, cucumbers, grapefruit, kiwi, lettuce, and dark, leafy greens.

diet

So how many servings of fruit/veggies should you eat per day for optimal mental health? At least 8, according to one study that found happiness benefits were evident for each portion for up to 8 servings per day.

What nutrients should you include in your diet for improved mental health? Research indicates the following are important for mental wellbeing:  Omega-3 fatty acids (fish, flaxseed, walnuts), phospholipids (egg yolk, soybeans), niacin (liver, avocado, brown rice), folate (legumes, beets, broccoli), vitamin B6 (chickpeas, tuna), and vitamin B12 (sardines, fortified nutritional yeast).


In sum, skip the fast food and soda; head to the salad bar instead to feed your mood and your belly!

diet