5 Ways to a Happier You

5 Ways to a Happier You

Wouldn’t it be great if happiness was something that just happened?

Of course, that is what we all want. We want to wake up every morning with a smile on our face, ready to jump out of bed and see what the day has to offer. However, that isn’t reality. Too often, we get wrapped up in the everyday cycle of going through the motions. However, happiness is attainable! It might take some work, but you can find it.

Happiness is a state-of-mind. More importantly, it is a choice. You need to work at it at it just like anything else in your life.

Look at it like you are having a relationship or friendship with yourself. If you are married or in a relationship you work at loving that other person, you do things to show them you care and to see them smile, right? So why shouldn’t you do that for yourself. Show yourself that you care. By focusing on certain areas of your life that are meaningful to you, you can find happiness. Here are five ways to a happier you:

1. exercise right
Exercise is a natural source of energy. Simply exercising for twenty minutes a day, three days a week will dramatically improve a person’s vitality. Exercise releases dopamine and adrenaline, which help us to feel better. Remember you have to work at it! It takes six weeks to build a habit. Challenge yourself to find twenty minutes three days a week for six weeks.

2. enjoy now
Many of us always think about the future or get stuck in the past. Instead of always anticipating what is going to happen or ruminating on the past, we need to take time to be in the present. Practice the art of mindfulness. Take time to appreciate where you are and how far you have come.

3. make life fun
Too often we are caught up in the everyday life we forget what it is like to simply have fun. So what is fun for you? Take an opportunity each week to indulge in something you find fun. It simply may be going to the park and having lunch. You may want to join a recreational sports league or a book club. You can also try rewarding yourself in small ways daily. Treat yourself at the end of a long day! Whatever it is, it must be what YOU enjoy to do.

4. be generous
Giving and making other people happy increase our own happiness. By serving others, we get our minds off of ourselves and focused on those in need. Find time to volunteer or to help friends or family. Random acts of kindness are always good for the soul!

5. laugh out loud
Humor is the best medicine. Laughter has positive effects on the body. It boosts immunity and lowers blood pressure. It takes five positive thoughts to counteract one negative thought, so surround yourself with positive energy. Far too often, people take themselves too seriously. Take time to smile and laugh at yourself.

These are just five ways to begin finding your happy state-of-mind.

It takes time and a continual investment in yourself to be content. Investing in yourself is as important as investing in others. Take the time to exercise, enjoy the moment, have fun, give time to others, and laugh at yourself to begin finding YOUR happiness.

**For other resources on happiness, check out The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin as well as Shawn Achor’s TED talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M.


Step-Parenting: 7 Successful “Steps”

Step-Parenting: 7 Successful “Steps”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were just born with the innate ability to stepparent?

We would just know when to be the friend, the authority figure, or when not to be. We wouldn’t have insecurities about our actions or question whether we are doing things right. Of course life would be so much easier if we just were born with these abilities! The reality is you won’t have all the answers and you will make mistakes.

There isn’t a one a “one shoe fits all” solution. Here are a few steps to help you become a successful stepparent:

Demonstrate appreciation for the biological parents
One of the most important things for children is to have their parents be on good terms. As a stepparent, showing respect for the parent who is not a part of that core family any longer will help gain the admiration of the child/children.

Schedule time alone with stepchildren
One way to build the relationship with stepchildren is to spend time alone with them. Plan a weekly or monthly activity you can enjoy doing together. What is also important is encouraging them to spend time alone with their biological parents as well. This relieves any thoughts the child/children might have that you are trying to replace one of the biological parents.

Be patient
It is a natural instinct to want to form immediate bonds with stepchildren. However, this may not happen as quickly as you like. That’s ok. Be patient, but persistent. This will show the child/children you want have a relationship, but are willing to go at their pace.

Remember it may not always be you
Divorce is a difficult and emotional time for children. Take this and add the addition of a new person in the house. Children are naturally going to react to these changes. The idea of their biological parents getting back together is no longer a reality. This may be difficult for the child or children to accept. Understand a reaction of anger towards you may have nothing to do with you personally.

Help make the home transition easier
Children of blended families do a lot of back-and-forth between homes. This can be stressful on them. You can help this process by understanding their frustration. One way may be to not require them to carry too many things between homes. Make sure your home has all they need. This may require they have two of something because they need it at both homes, but this can help their stress level.

Children do come first
This can be a difficult task, but it is necessary to understand the children of your spouse do come before you.

Take Time for Self-Care
This is most important! We all get frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed with everyday life. When this happens we tend to take this frustration out on those around us. Be aware of yourself when you begin to have these feelings and take of yourself.

Being a stepparent takes work, but through this work you can build relationships more special than you could have ever imagined!


Calm Down! 5 Techniques to Reduce Anxiety

Calm Down! 5 Techniques to Reduce Anxiety

Worry, fear, panic, insomnia, and fatigue.

These are all common symptoms of anxiety. Other symptoms people may experience include irrational thoughts, muscle tension and nausea. While anxiety is a natural reaction and we cannot eliminate it, there are techniques you can learn to reduce the symptoms and live a less anxious life.

Exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to manage your anxiety. Not only does it help work out the stress, but it naturally increases the levels serotonin and dopamine in our brains. Try exercising for 30 minutes a day.

Deep Breathing
Deep breathing techniques can help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations. It can also help slow down the racing thoughts in your brain. Try inhaling for a count of 5, holding for a count of 5, and exhaling for a count of 5.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Meditation
This technique helps slow your body down. You will want to find a quiet place where you can either lie down or sit comfortably. A good way to start learning this technique is through a guide either in person or through a recording. If you would like to try this I suggest downloading an application on your phone such as Insight Timer – https://insighttimer.com/.

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Both of these are mood-altering substances and can increase levels of anxiety as well as depression.

Get Adequate Sleep
While insomnia is common for people who have anxiety, it is important to try to get the recommended amount of sleep. Lack of sleep will also increase anxiety. Try a deep breathing or muscle relaxation exercise to help you relax before trying to go to bed.

Coloring
Adult coloring books have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Give them a try and have a little fun and make something beautiful. Here is a link to an affordable and popular coloring book for adults – http://www.amazon.com/Adult-Coloring-Book-Relieving-Patterns/dp/1941325122/ref=zg_bs_books_9.

Acceptance
Adverse feelings such as anxiety are normal. You’re not alone. The goal is not to eliminate the feelings rather to learn how to manage them.

These techniques done in conjunction with therapy can help you learn your best practices for coping with your anxiety. You may also want to consider talking with your doctor about medications that can help with the physical symptoms.


Curbing Chronic Pain: 3 Steps You Can Begin Today

Curbing Chronic Pain: 3 Steps You Can Begin Today

Those suffering with chronic pain often get the feeling that medical professionals start to think their pain is in their head.

Pain is a sensation created by the brain in order to protect us from things the brain thinks may harm us. But, all pain is real.

Learning to get better control over how much pain the brain perceives at particular times can allow those enduring pain to live a more fulfilling life.

1. know how your body works
Dealing with chronic pain is oftentimes overwhelming. Current research has revealed that our bodies have a lot more say in pain management than we thought. When our bodies send us pain messages, the signals must pass through our spinal cord up to our brains. There are times when our spinal cords are more and less receptive to receiving these pain signals. There appear to be “gateways” in the process and there are times when these gateways are more open than others permitting the signal to increase our pain level. Though these gateways may never be fully closed, there are things those suffering with chronic pain can do to reduce the frequency and intensity of the pain signals.

2. watch for the triggers
Some factors that open the pain gateways are anxiety, stress, depression, mental focus on the injury, loss of sense of personal control, negative thoughts, social isolation, and lack of exercise. We can learn some tools to combat these states like relaxation techniques, mindfulness, sense of personal control, acceptance strategies, positive self-talk, pacing, and helpful exercise. Working toward closing the pain gateways helps us to begin to reengage in enjoyable activities to further reduce the symptoms of pain.

3. track your progress
A good way to identify patterns in our pain experience is to keep a pain journal. Through monitoring our experience of pain, we can better learn to cope with it and find ways to build meaningful, important activities back into our daily lives. A pain journal can also help identify any emotions and thought patterns that contribute to the worsening of the pain experience. Realizing how our pain experience affects us can assist us in taking the most important step, which is to start implementing some of these tools to begin to figure out what works best. If you would like to learn to use some of these pain reduction strategies, give us a call!


Fire and Ice - Holiday Date Night Ideas in Denver

Fire and Ice - Holiday Date Night Ideas in Denver

With the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season upon us, it is easy to neglect sharing the magic of the season with the one you love.

Spending quality time together is an important part of a lasting relationship. Make weekly or monthly date nights a priority. Make this time about the two of you. Leave work at work and the stress of what is at home at the house. Embrace the charm of the season and add some spark to your relationship! Here are some local date ideas for this 2015 holiday season:

Unplug from the world! Lace up your ice skates at Skyline Park downtown Denver. Afterwards grab a hot chocolate and take in the holiday lights in a horse drawn carriage from Irish Horse Carriages(http://irishrosecarriages.com/holidaytours/)

Bundle up! For the animal lovers out there, head to the Denver Zoo for their annual holiday lights. Keep your eyes open for some of the local “residents” of the zoo. Visit www.denverzoo.org for dates and tickets.

Dress to impress! If you love the performing arts, why not take in a holiday show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Watch a performance of A Christmas Carol (Nov. 27-Dec.27) or if you want something with a little more humor check out A Christmas Story (Dec. 16- Dec. 27). Why not make a reservation at a new restaurant downtown and enjoy a nice meal together.

Grab your blankets! Don’t miss the Denver Parade of Lights on December 4th & 5th. Find a cozy spot along the two-mile route for free or upgrade to the grandstand. For parade route and tickets visit http://www.denverparadeoflights.com/.

End the year with flare! Ring in the New Year downtown at the 16th Street Mall with fireworks! Check into your hotel and enjoy a romantic dinner before watching the fireworks. For information visit http://www.denver.org/includes/calendar-of-events/New-Year-s-Eve-Fireworks/24839/.

Take a walk through the Brown Palace Hotel and enjoy their beautiful holiday décor. If you haven’t checked out the new Union Station, the holidays are a great time to enjoy an afternoon or evening there.

Whatever your plans this holiday season, make sure to take a moment, enjoy the local festivities, while spending that needed quality time together.


Denver Counseling Solutions | Premarital Counseling

When Your Past Sneaks up on You

When Your Past Sneaks up on You

Do you ever feel like your past is sneaking up on you when you least expect it?

Sometimes, no matter how hard we’ve tried to get over something, it still haunts us. Our brains may have tried to work through it, but it is like car tires spinning on ice. For example, if you’ve ever been talking about an event and found yourself feeling anxious because of it, maybe your heart is racing or your hands start shaking. It could also occur when you are getting ready to give a speech or performance, or in situations where you can feel your tension start to rise but you are not sure why.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR for short, is a relatively new therapy that is designed to help with just these types of situations.

EMDR can nudge our minds into overcoming upsetting memories or events so that they are a part of our past rather than an intrusion into our daily lives. EMDR is useful for processing difficult memories or events, panic, performance anxiety, and pain management, to name a few.

EMDR is somewhat out of the ordinary, as it uses bilateral stimulation such as tapping, eye movements, or even tones to achieve the goal of neutralizing the impact of the negative emotions and thoughts on a memory.

Once complete, the goal of EMDR is to be able to describe an experience, once considered upsetting, as just an event that happened in the past. The bilateral stimulation assists the brain in healing itself from these stressful reminders. Contact us to schedule an appointment with an EMDR trained counselor or therapist.


Exercise Your Stress Away

Exercise Your Stress Away

The benefits of exercise are widely known.

They include improved physical health, reduced risk of certain diseases, and increased strength capacity. However, not as much attention is paid to the benefits that exercise can have on anxiety and stress management. It has even been reported that physical activity is sometimes as effective as medication for these conditions (talk to your doctor before making any changes!).

It might sound overwhelming to begin an exercise regimen; sometimes we envision large goals like training for a marathon or spending hours in the gym each week. But studies show that it doesn’t require a major overhaul in someone’s lifestyle to achieve quality benefits.

Something as simple as a five-minute walk around the block can provide a few hours of relief. And a consistent commitment to easily manageable daily activities can provide more long-term relief for anxiety and stress.

It has been found that doing a little bit of exercise each day is more effective than a long period of exercise one day a week for symptom reduction.

A key element of building a lasting program of exercise to relieve symptoms is to make it enjoyable!

Think of the things you like to do and incorporate them into a workout program. Many fun activities can be combined with walking such as listening to music, a podcast to learn something new, or an audiobook. If you like to dance, turn on the tunes and dance in your living room. Do you love dogs? Take yours or a friend’s dog for a walk. Meet up with a buddy and enjoy a stroll or try something new like a yoga video. You can go with your kids on a bike ride or take a swimming class with your spouse. The opportunities are endless; just remember it doesn’t need to be painful or boring to be effective!