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Why is Laughter so Important?

August 8, 2020

Living life, paying bills, raising kids, navigating work issues, and so much more are the things that make our lives challenging and stressful. When faced with all this, it becomes clear why we need a break from time to time. Taking time to indulge our hobbies or activities to reduce our stress is wonderful, but also requires a chunk of time that we may only be able to carve out once a day or even less. The drudgery of life would become virtually unbearable if we didn’t have some quick fixes along the way. One of the best and easiest is laughter. Our amazing brains have evolved to see and appreciate all the ironies, foibles, and follies that make us human. Whether it is recognizing the absurd, appreciating the silly, or enjoying the hyperbole; these are the things that bring smiles to our faces and cause us to expel joyous laughter. It’s important that we do not take ourselves or life too seriously. We need only to watch a few old episodes of Star Trek and watch Mr. Spock to see how sterile, bland, and joyless life is when we are too pragmatic and logical. Laughter is part of what brings color and brightness to our life experiences. Laughter also has countless positive health benefits. Laughter has been found to boost our immune system, relax muscles, improve circulation, and prevent heart disease. Laughter is also great for our mental health in that it can reduce anxiety, re read more

July 26, 2020

Don’t we all want to be in charge?

Everyone wants to feel like they have control over things in their life. Having some power and control helps us accomplish tasks and orchestrate things in our life the way we want or need. Even small children want power to be able to control their environment suggesting this is an innate human desire and need. Not everyone wields power and control very fairly or effectively; children being a good case in point. When it comes to relationships most people want a sense of power and control just like they do over other things in their life. In healthy and mature relationships people are able to discuss and negotiate the sharing of power and control so that there is a mutual meeting of needs. Unfortunately, many people are not real good at navigating this balancing act. Additionally, a lot of people are not even consciously aware that some of their actions and words are driven by their unconscious need for power and control. Needless to say, this can create issues, conflicts, arguments, or even the demise of relationships.

When power and control turn abusive

In extreme situations some relationships become abusive. For a long time, people in physically abusive relationships, and those people outside, have been able to see that the person who becomes abusive is driven by an intense need for power and need to control things and peo read more

July 24, 2020

Fulfilling relationships are an important component of individual happiness. This is true whether it applies to professional, platonic, or romantic relationships. read more

Posted in Relationships by Brian Swanson
July 18, 2020

In part one of our article on friendships, we discussed a number of surprising benefits that come with having friends and how many friends you actually need. In part two we will now discuss how to best choose your friends, and how to nurture and maintain friendships.

Choosing and Meeting Friends

If your friendships and social network is not quite up to your standards and expectations, then this section can help guide you on how to go about meeting potential friends and increasing your support system. The reality is that many friendships are often selected in the same way that mates are selected. There is an assortative process that tends to yield the selection of friends or mates that are similar to ourselves on a number of attributes and characteristics such as personality, beliefs, background, and upbringing, or even appearance. Whether you stick with what you are familiar with or reach for greater diversity, you still need to find potential friends somewhere. Many people feel there are at a loss for where to begin looking, but perhaps you needn’t look too far. Often there are potential people that may have been overlooked in your existing social circles. These may be casual acquaintances or even friends of friends. Think about people you may have met even only briefly that perhaps left you with a positive impression. Similarly, you might consider people you encoun read more

July 11, 2020

A study done by Harvard analyzed dozens of variables over a long-term study of people of all ages to determine which variables have the greatest impact on people’s overall happiness. As it turns out, the number one variable that creates the most happiness in people’s lives are friendships. If you are looking for more happiness in your life, a great investment will be in building strong and lasting friendships. In this two part article, we are going to discuss a number of surprising benefits that come with having friends and how many friends you actually need. In part two we will discuss how to best choose your friends, and how to nurture and maintain friendships.

Benefits of Friendships

Human beings are a naturally social species which comes with all sorts of benefits. Friendships help prevent loneliness, create a sense of belonging and help with our sense of identity, self-worth, and friends often function as a source of support. We use them as sounding boards to vent about stressors, bounce around ideas and brainstorm solutions, and possibly help you tackle tasks and projects. One of the great benefits of friends is having people to hang out with, have fun with, joke, laugh, and build memories with. Our friends make us smile and accept us for who we are and allow us to be ourselves. Good friends help us build confidence, give our lives purpose, and provide compan read more

May 9, 2020

In the fight against COVID-19 and its rapid spread, the human race is going to great lengths to ensure the safety and survival of ourselves and the ones we love. It seems that until we have an effective treatment or eventual vaccine, the best precaution and tool we have at our disposal is social distancing. Washing our hand and keeping a social distance is good common sense and pretty easy to implement in the name of safety. Because these measures are pretty simplistic, most of us have been dutifully complying. The worst we get from all the handwashing is some dry skin, which can be remedied with lotion. Social distancing, on the other hand, maybe having a negative cumulative impact that we are unaware of. Our species has evolved over a couple hundred thousand years to be a highly cooperative and social creature just like our primate cousins. We have an innate and hard-wired need to be with each other and engage in physical touch. An interesting experiment by Harlow done in 1965 drives this point home (Harlow, 1965). In the study, a rhesus monkey baby was presented with the choice of two artificial surrogate mothers in its cage. The first was a wire monkey mother that had a bottle that would supply milk to the baby. The other surrogate mother provided no nourishment but was designed to be soft and comfortable having been made from terry cloth. Researchers were amazed that the b read more

April 4, 2020

What is Burn Out?

Burn out is no longer a trendy descriptor for how you might feel, it has now been classified as a legitimate condition by the World Health Organization (WHO). Burn out is categorically different than the usual stress that we all feel. Stress produces feelings of frustration and anxiety but is often short-lived and tied to a specific event or circumstance that resolves in a short period of time. Burn out, on the other hand, is a longer-term state of mental, emotional and sometimes physical exhaustion. This often evolves from prolonged or repeated stressors. People are often left feeling overwhelmed and struggle to meet life’s demands and can develop a negative or cynical outlook toward their stressors. There are three types of burn out:

  • Organizational Burn Out: This occurs when there is a mismatch between the person and their job or work environment. For some people, this could be hours that are too long, work that is monotonous, or work that is not aligned with your sense of purpose.
  • Interpersonal Burn Out: This can evolve from difficult relationships at work, with family, or a romantic partner. Burn out could manifest from dealing with a difficult coworker, a strained and dysfunctional marriage, unhealthy family relations, or even the taxing impact of caring for others such as elderly parents, oft

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March 29, 2020

In our first article on selecting a therapist, we talked about all the variables you need to be aware of before you even begin your search. Now that you have a good idea of what to inquire about, we will talk about how to conduct your search, what to expect in a first session, and red flags to watch for in evaluating if a therapist will be a good fit for you.

Performing the Search

Now that you know a bunch of the factors to be considering when scheduling, you should be ready to start the search. As noted, you can always contact your insurance carrier and they can filter a number of the things detailed above and provide you with a short list of counselors to try. Many people want something more than a random name, so they seek the suggestion of trusted people. This is typically their physician, a friend, or family member. If you know friends or family who may have had services in the past, you can certainly see if they liked their provider. Most physicians have a handful of trusted therapists that they refer to and have had experience with. New in the last 5-8 years are a variety of online provider search sites. Similar to an insurance carrier, you can put in a variety of search criteria for what you are looking for and the site will produce a list of providers for you. Keep in mind that this list is likely generated from counselors who are paying to advertise on that s read more

February 29, 2020

This is a handout used in therapy around acceptance and talks about why so many people have trouble with acceptance when it comes to upsetting events that occur in our interactions with others.

  • Upsetting Events: The first thing we need to examine in this model, is the validity of the upsetting event. Many events that are upsetting are a direct result of our perceptions and interpretations. Our thinking can often distort reality to fit our established beliefs and are accordingly upsetting. We may find that we can diffuse many upsetting events by examining our beliefs about the events or circumstances and no further action is needed beyond modifying our beliefs to be more rational and logical. If we conclude that the event is legitimately upsetting, then we can proceed through the model. For example, let’s say a friend stands you up for a lunch date because they didn’t feel like going. This is a situation that would be upsetting to most people, considering that a friend could have called and canceled.
  • Fairness is a Human Value: We find many people get hung up on the issue of fairness. This can be seen in children as early as two years old. We often hear them saying, “It’s not fair!” As humans, we seem to have this imbedded sense of what is just and fair. Many people dwell and ruminate on events

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January 29, 2020

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Parental Alienation Syndrome is the process by which one parent uses a set of strategies intended to foster the child’s rejection of the other parent. In time the child comes to fear and hate the one parent and reject any contact with them. This most often occurs during a divorce situation but can happen with intact families too. The prototypical scenario is a bitter ex-wife who turns the children against the father, but the process is not exclusive to mothers. Often the alienating parent is less emotionally stable and is often motivated by anger and revenge.

There are several signs that a child may have been subjected to parental alienation syndrome. These children often deny any positive past experiences with the alienated parent and reject all contact and communication. These kids also have vague or unclear rationales for the intense dislike. Conversely, the other parent is idealized and perceived as perfect, and the child often insists that the rejection of the targeted parent was solely their own idea. When children do interact with the alienated parent, they are cold, rude, disrespectful and appear to have no guilt whatsoever for their harsh treatment toward the targeted parent. Sadly, the rejection often spreads to the alienated parent’s whole s

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