Monday, October 20, 2008

How To Become Happy, Part 1

Are you happy? I mean really happy. Or, are you just faking it? Are you trying to look happy so others won’t know you are down, depressed or sad? The first step to getting honestly happy is to acknowledge how you are really feeling.

When you are alone with just your own thoughts, do you recognize what you are feeling? Is it happiness or is it sadness, loneliness, anxiety, resentment, anger or some other negative emotion? These negative emotions eat away at your being able to be truly happy.

If you don’t know where you are or what you are feeling, give yourself permission to get in touch with your real self. It may be scary but it is the first step toward becoming a happy, healthy individual.

Work on getting to know how you are really feeling about the different things that are happening in your life. That will start you moving toward being happy.

There are at least six qualities that are common to most people who are happy. I’m going to discuss them as separate characteristics but, in reality, they are interrelated with each other.

The first characteristic of a happy person is that they live in the here and now – in the present. If you get up in the morning and focus your attention on what you have to do to make today a wonderful day you will be happier than if you focus your attention and energy on the bad things that happened in the past or all the possible things that could go wrong in the future. Strive to make each moment good, as happy as possible and your life will turn out happier than anything you could ever imagine. I’m not saying not to make plans for the future or not to work on future projects. As you work on them, keep the current moment happy by focusing on the good that is coming out of whatever it is that you are doing.

Yes, I know, it does seem that bad things do happen to us. The key is to deal with them in the here and now and then let them go. We can then go back to making our present moment as happy as we can. When we hold on to the negative thoughts and feelings, we are guaranteeing that we will be making ourselves unhappy. We do control how we think and feel so we are in control over how we deal with negative situations.

Hold on to the negative and make yourself unhappy or deal with it, let it go and move on to making yourself happy. It’s your choice. You are in control.

Come back often and watch for Part 2 coming soon.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Teenage Depression

I’ve had many emails asking about how a parent or teacher can tell if their teen or student is depressed.

Here are some signs you can look for. If they last more than two weeks you should take them seriously and consider seeking professional help.

1. Loss of appetite or sudden increase in the amount the child eats. This is only a symptom if the teen was a regular eater before.

2. Change in sleep behavior. Insomnia or wanting to sleep all the time may indicate depression. Nightmares and restless sleep can also be symptoms.

3. Sudden bad grades when the teen had been doing better.

4. Withdrawal. The teen withdraws from friends and family for no apparent reason.

5. Talk of death or dying. This is serious even if it’s done in a joking manner.

6. Change for the worse in personal habits. Wearing dirty clothes when used to be concerned with appearance. Quits brushing teeth or combing hair.

7. Teen suddenly starts giving away possessions that they consider important. This sign is very high on the suicidal indicator list and must be taken seriously.

Signs of depression are only signs if they cannot be explained by other reasonable events. For example, a sudden loss of appetite is not a sign of depression when the person is trying to lose five pounds so she can fit into her prom dress. Suddenly giving away possessions may not be a sign of depression or suicidal thoughts if the reason is to send them to others who have lost everything to a flood, hurricane or other type of disaster. Evaluate what else may be causing the behavior. If there are realistic explanations then you may not be dealing with depression.

If you are concerned about your teen, talk it over with the school counselor or seek private professional help for your teen.

Two sources for immediate help are:

National Depression and Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433
Teen & Parent Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-3000