The Tree Illusion: Individuality is a Myth


For many of us, one of the biggest myths we are told is that true strength comes from self-reliance. That we as people are most successful when we can show that we achieved success with the help of no one but ourselves. This is something that’s ingrained into our values and beliefs from an early age – we tell children to be self-reliant; we encourage people to value their own success over others.

The problem with this belief is two-fold: First, no one achieves success on their own – we all rely on the systems that surround us and the people who support us on our journeys, even if we still make our own, significant contributions. Secondly, the myth perpetuates the idea that asking for help is a weakness – that by reaching out to others, it is akin to admitting defeat. This creates a huge problem for those experiencing crisis or trouble coping – instead of believing in the power of reaching out, we feel shame in doing so, which perpetuates the other negative feelings we may be experiencing and can result in a much more difficult and painful time than if we felt comfort in seeking guidance and support.

In the following video, we see this comparison made beautifully. Take a look at how our perception of trees as individual systems is just as flawed as believing that we are alone in our own lives:

So if individuality is a myth, if we recognize that we need other people in our lives in order to be our best selves, what can we do to move past our old beliefs and embrace the role of others in supporting us throughout our lives?

  • Map your support network: Our first step should be to figure out who already exists within our support network – those people or systems that we can turn to for help should we need it. These are the people we trust, the people we can call if needed. We may have never or rarely used our support network, but it is there.
  • Identify the gaps: Once we’ve mapped our support network, we need to pay attention to those areas in our life where we don’t have the interconnection we wish for. Our support network should include people from a variety of domains – familial, social, spiritual, intimate. Who exists in your support network for each of these? What steps can you take to start filling the gaps if they exist?
  • Share gratitude: For those who are in our support network, we should prioritize valuing and maintaining those relationships as well. This can be done by simply taking the time to connect with those in our network, thanking them for what they do for us, and being there for them when needed.
  • Accept vulnerability and reach out for help: Finally, when we do experience times in our life where we need to “activate” our support network, we need to accept that it is okay to do so and actually do it. There is a strength in being vulnerable and taking this step, otherwise it would be much easier. This means actively confronting our ingrained beliefs and accepting that our reliance on others isn’t a weakness, but a gift.

Realizing our interconnection and using it to boost ourselves and others is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. By doing so, we can finally shed off the layers that keep us from truly connecting with others and finding the grace that resides in being part of something greater than ourselves.

Why We Need The Happiness Advantage


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

We all go through points in our lives where we feel a bit stagnant. This might come just a few times for some people; for others, it may feel like a permanent state – always looking ahead, wondering what’s over the horizon, and hoping that the next change in our lives will bring about a feeling that often escapes us: happiness.

In this Ted Talk, Shawn Achor explains with humor and well-researched data the problem that happens when we fall into the habit of romanticizing the “happiness horizon.” Take a look – when you come back, we’ll talk about the key points from this speech and how we can use this information to improve our own moods and productivity.

In this talk, Shawn emphasizes the importance of embracing happiness in the moment – not allowing a promise of happiness to motivate us, but using this feeling in the present. He backs up this assertion not just with the reassurance that being happy feels better, but with facts supporting the notion that our brain is more effective when we are happy. Instead of treating happiness like something we must strive for, a feeling that is contingent on our success, we can achieve success more readily by feeling happy now and using that feeling to empower our own triumphs in life.

As with most things, it isn’t enough for us to say, “Okay, so if happiness is better for me, that’s what I will choose to feel today.” (Actually, while this shouldn’t be the only thing we do, this kind of verbalization CAN be effective in helping us to feel more happy). But what else should we keep in mind if we want to start living with the happiness advantage versus seeking out the happiness horizon?

  • Build daily rituals that support happiness: These involve spending just a few minutes engaging in activity each day that boosts our mood and encourages happier thinking, like exercise, meditation, and acts of kindness. How often do you do these things? How can you work their presence into your daily activities?
  • Share gratitudes: This might seem like a small thing, but it’s -one of the most effective techniques for “looking on the bright side,” boosting your mood, and connecting with others in a positive way. Every day, as often as you can, share with others the things that make you grateful for them. Tell your partner how grateful you are for their support, your co-workers for their assistance on projects, your children for how hard they try in school. This doesn’t just leave others with a positive impact on their own day, but it begins to switch your own thinking as well – instead of looking for what others are doing wrong, we instead see the ways that others leave a positive impact on our lives.
  • Shift to positive thinking: While this is a difficult task, it isn’t that complicated. It means catching our thoughts when we engage in negative thinking, and switching our brains to processing events in a positive light. It means seeing the joy in our daily lives and focusing less on what could or has gone wrong. If you are living in a cycle of negative thinking, start by journaling each day – record your thoughts and feelings, without judging or filtering as you write. After a few days, look back at your entries – for those that emanate negativity, challenge yourself to see the positive and reframe. Once you’ve had some practice, try doing this in the moment – catching yourself with a negative thought and reframing as you experience it.

We are all capable of taking small actions to rewire our brains into thinking within a positive framework. By understanding the benefits and importance of this, we can commit ourselves to taking action that helps us feel better in the moment and more productive in the long-term.

Self-Growth and Self Improvement by  Jennifer Novak.

The Negative Impacts of Stress… and What We Can Do About Them


While there really isn’t a lot of debate on this issue – most people know and understand that high levels of chronic stress are bad for them – this knowledge doesn’t seem to have much impact on our day to day behavior. Despite knowing that stress isn’t a healthy thing to live with, and that there are concrete actions we can take to reduce our stress levels and improve our mental well-being, many of us continue to avoid doing so.

In this article, we feature a video from Bill Cunningham that we hope will help push those who continue to live with chronic stress into a deeper understanding of the long-term health impacts this can have. Go ahead and take a look below – when you return, we’ll be talking about what we can do with this knowledge.

To reiterate the key point of this video, we need to remember that the negative impacts of stress aren’t just limited to feeling uncomfortable and less productive in the short-term. In fact, brain research has shown us that stress has chronic and lasting impacts on our mental functioning, including an increased inability to manage stress, increased fear, decreased mental functioning, and higher risk of mental impairments. While it may be easy to put off dealing with stress (after all, we’re so busy, right?), the truth is that we must start taking steps NOW to make a change. Let’s take a look below at some basic keys to stress management that you can easily work into your schedule and start reducing your stress levels today:

  • Pay attention to your body as you live your day: What are some of the mental and physical cues that indicate you are feeling stress? What are you thinking? How does your body react?
  • Once you know your cues, apply to those to thinking actively about what is causing you stress: When you notice a stress reaction in yourself, take the time to think about what caused it. Is it something in your control? Something that isn’t? Try to pick apart what is creating the stress response and let go of what you can’t change.
  • Use basic stress management techniques: While the video suggests exercise and meditation for these, there are a number of other things you can do, especially when feeling an “in-the-moment” stressor. These include things like deep breathing, writing down your thoughts, or simply walking away from the stressful event (if possible) to give yourself space. The important thing about stress management is that once you know what causes you stress, that you have a technique for each of those things that is effective in lowering your stress response.

Our final tip: Make stress management a priority. It’s a lot easier to say you’ll start doing things differently tomorrow, or next week. But this issue is so detrimental, so embedded in our day-today lives, that unless we commit to change and start immediately, we won’t break our stress habit. Take the time to understand and deal with your stress – your health, and your ability to cope, will thank you

Self-Growth and Self Improvement by  Jennifer Novak.

Commitment in Modern Relationships


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

With all of the benefits of technology, the ways in which we can meet others and remain connected to those we care about, we still face the negatives – the instant gratification, the temptation of considering what else might be out there in terms of romantic partnerships. In this video, we see this negative in action and what it means in terms of commitment when we have so much access to what might be on the other side of the fence.

When we use technology to build relationships with others, we need to understand that it empowers us to find and meet people for as long as we continue to use it. In terms of commitment, it means that once we’ve started developing a relationship with a partner, we will never really be able to fully dedicate ourselves to investing in that relationship until we set boundaries around our use of technology. In practical terms, it means we need to assess the commitment we want and that our partner wants and come to agreement around how we should or should not continue to use social media.

For yourself, consider the following questions for your own relationship, whether or not this partnership started through social media or otherwise:

  • How much time do both of you spend using social media? Have you discussed together the boundaries you should set around this usage, especially for apps or sites specifically dedicated to matching people for romantic partnerships? Both partners need to agree to and abide by these boundaries, or there won’t be any real way to build trust.
  • How much time and energy do you spend investing in your current partnership? When you start to see the imperfections of your partner, are you at a place where you are committed to working through these? Or do you turn back to “grass is always greener” thinking? How can you force yourself to remember that no one is perfect, especially those we might match with on social media?
  • When you and your partner have committed to a dedicated and monogamous relationship, how do you hold yourself accountable to avoiding the temptation of social media? Have you deleted or frozen your accounts on these websites and apps? If not, what is holding you back from doing so? The answer is often that we’ve still left one foot out the door, holding onto the desire to keep ourselves available should a “better” match appear. If this is the case, how can we really be present in our own partnership if we are still on the look-out for someone who comes along and appears to be a better potential partner?

Without stepping back from social media and stepping into commitment, it’s impossible to truly develop the lasting connection needed for a meaningful partnership. As you look at your own circumstances, reflect deeply on your reasons for continuing to use social media. And remember this key point from the video – the other fish in the sea? They’re only showing their best selves. Once we get to know someone, imperfections become clear. Unless we accept this truth and the reality of who our partner is, we will always be on the search for a perfection that simply does not exist.

When We Blame First: How Do We Let Go of This?


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

When we experience a negative event in our lives, how many of us find ourselves reacting immediately with placing blame on others? Why do we do this and what are the negative impacts of this on ourselves and our relationships? In this post, we’ll be exploring the blame process and why this reaction comes so easily for people, the detrimental impacts of this, and what we can do to shut this reaction down more readily over time.

To understand why we blame others, let’s take a look at this brief video featuring Brene Brown. Here, she openly shares her own struggles with blaming and provides valuable insight as to why we do this.

From this, we see two important points about why we blame:

1.It is a way that we attempt to find some reason for why something unexpected happens; therefore, we are creating a semblance of control for our minds in uncontrollable circumstances.

2.It is a projection of our anger and pain, a quick way of expressing these emotions without the trouble of holding ourselves or someone else accountable.

There are a few problems with the “quick-to-blame” mentality. First, we aren’t addressing the root of our problem – by first blaming others when something bad happens, we are putting a stopper on reasonable and effective communication. Second, we put others in the position of dealing with the mental hurdles that we’ve navigated to place blame on them, hurdles that may not make sense to anyone but ourselves. When we don’t clearly explain why we are upset about something, and instead point fingers at our loved ones for things seemingly out of their control, we further reinforce the walls we have in our relationships. Both of these things have the potential to contribute to more and more relationship problems, such as stonewalling, anger, and a refusal to hear our partner’s side of things.

If you find yourself jumping to blame first, consider the following strategies to prevent this reaction:

  • Stop and breathe: When something unexpected happens, take a moment to process before saying anything. Analyze your thoughts. Are you already starting to place blame? Is the blame process logical or rooted in a place of anger and frustration?
  • Consider the source: If blame is coming from a place of anger, what caused this anger in the first place? For example, in Brene’s scenario, it wasn’t the spilled coffee – it was that her partner was late to return home. What might be happening in your relationship that’s causing negative feelings that you haven’t shared?
  • Discuss how you feel: While it may not be productive or enjoyable to feel the need to blame, it is a sign that there is something bothering you that you haven’t communicated. When this happens, take the time to engage in self-reflection and figure out what you need to communicate; then, do it without placing blame. Try to hold yourself accountable to holding others accountable in a respectful and empathetic way.

Through the need to blame, we are given the opportunity to peek into the issues facing our relationship – while letting go of blame, let’s commit to working towards more effective ways of communicating out needs and feelings with our partners.

The Gifts of Self-Discipline


We’re ready to make a change. We’ve set a goal, or at least have thought deeply about what our goal might look like. So what’s holding us back? Why does the barrier of taking the steps needed to achieve our goals seem so impenetrable at times?

The answer is self-discipline, the key to taking what we know about goal attainment and making change in our lives and activating it for ourselves. It’s the idea that we are capable of doing what we should do, even when we don’t feel like doing it. For example, if you have a goal of exercising every morning, but wake up and can’t seem to get the energy to go for your daily walk, you aren’t working to achieve your goal. But if you make yourself do what you don’t want to do, you are showing enormous self-discipline – you’ve looked past your current feelings on the matter and are making a choice to forego what you want to do with respect for what you must do.

Now, self-discipline isn’t something we develop overnight. It’s a skill that’s cultivated over years with lots of trial and error. To learn more about developing this skill, take a moment to look at this video from Daily Discipline to learn how some of the most preeminent motivational speakers from around the country developed their own capacities for self-discipline.

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Daily Disciplines


This video has some wonderful points about things we can actually do each day to build up our self-discipline. Let’s review and reflect on some of the main takeaways from this below:

Are you giving yourself at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted time each morning (or night) to meditate and reflect? If so, what do you spend this time thinking about? Tony Robbins describes a 3-step process towards more effective meditation: Thinking about gratitude, “3 to Thrive” (the three goals most important to you over the next 6 – 12 months), and loving more effectively. Try this during your own morning meditation – does this leave you feeling more energized and empowered to focus your actions of the day on the things that are most important to you?

Brian Tracy describes some of the best habits to have in order to achieve self-discipline. How well do you think you focus your daily thoughts on the following? Goals, results, people, health, honesty, and evaluation of your own self-discipline. When you feel yourself wandering away from these priorities throughout your day, how do you realign back? If these themes aren’t something you currently focus on, what could you do to hold yourself accountable to thinking about them?

How do you give back each day? What sort of returns do you hope for from this intelligent self-interest? How do you orient yourself to the “give first” mentality?

When we achieve self-discipline, we find ourselves at a tipping point in which we see how the goals we have set actually become achievable. This doesn’t just have an impact on our own self-actualization – through meeting the goals we have set, if we do so through the lens of positivity and giving, we are capable of making not just our own life better, but leaving a wonderful impact on the world and those we care about.

Self-Growth and Self Improvement by  Jennifer Novak.

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