Depression

How to make habits out of enjoyable and fulfilling activities: Take the path of least resistance.

In this article, I discuss how you can use the concept of activation energy to make habits of activities which will bring you the most enjoyment and fulfillment. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, one of the challenges my clients often face is making habits out of activities which will bring them the most enjoyment and fulfillment. These activities typically fall into the category of ‘active leisure’ and include examples such as participating in a hobby or interest, socializing, and exercising individually or with a group or team. Although research indicates that active leisure activities bring the most enjoyment and fulfillment, many people have difficulty making habits of such activities even when they schedule them. Instead, they typically will engage in passive leisure activities such as watching television, playing a video game or surfing the internet on their computers or smartphones...[more]

Choosing a good hot thought: Situation-specific or general

In this article, I discuss how to choose a good hot thought which you can check and change to feel better in difficult situations. Much of my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist entails helping my clients to change how they feel by changing the way they think, a key process in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In this process, clients use a tool known as a thought record to track the negative thoughts which come into their minds in everyday difficult situations they encounter. These negative thoughts are known in CBT as ‘hot thoughts’ and are largely responsible for the person experiencing undue distress in response to these situations in the form of emotions like anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt and sadness.  Fortunately, these hot thoughts are typically beliefs which are not completely accurate and, with the help of a thought record, can be changed to more accurate ‘balanced thoughts’ which reduce emotional distress to a more manageable level. An important consideration in deciding which hot thought to work on is whether it is a thought which is specific to the upsetting situation or one which is ‘underneath’ the situation-specific thought and is more general in scope...[more]

Pleasure and mastery: Two kinds of activities are better than one

In this article, I discuss why it is important to include both pleasure and mastery activities in your routine. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I encourage my clients to have two types of activities in their spare-time routines--pleasure and mastery. Pleasure activities are enjoyable and relaxing ones which help you to de-stress and typically do not involve performing or being evaluated. These can be individual pleasure activities like meditation, listening to music, watching a movie or reading a novel. Pleasure activities can also include social interaction such as having coffee with a friend or going to a movie with a group. Mastery activities are those which entail performance of a task which requires use of your skills and talents.,,[more]

Habits for preventing and overcoming depression: It’s how you behave and what you think

In this article, I discuss habits to prevent and overcome depression which stem from cognitive behavioural therapy. In my continuing series on habits, I now turn to habits to help you prevent and overcome depression. These habits are rooted in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Using CBT as a framework, in the following sections I will discuss behavioural habits followed by cognitive habits...[more]

The holiday season: A time for cheer, a time for psychological skills

In this article, I discuss how you can practice using psychological skills over the Christmas holidays. The Christmas holiday season is a great time to relax and enjoy good times with family and friends. It also offers many opportunities to practice psychological skills which sometimes get neglected during the rest of the year. In the following sections, I will discuss how you can practice several psychological skills this holiday season...[more]

Expressing gratitude: It’s the right thing to do…in more ways than one

In this article, I discuss how expressing gratitude regularly can be good for your mood. As Thanksgiving Day approaches, we are reminded to be grateful for the blessings in our lives. While expressing gratitude has value in and of itself, there are additional benefits for the person doing the thanking. In the following sections, I will discuss these benefits and indicate how expressing gratitude regularly can bring these benefits throughout the year...[more]

Genetic and cognitive risk factors for depression: What you’re born with and how you think

In this article, I discuss ways to protect yourself from depression when you are at risk because of genetics and negative thinking patterns. As is the case with many negative conditions, depression is not an equal opportunity issue. Through the luck of the draw, some people are more vulnerable to depression because they possess certain risk favors for the issue. In the following sections, I will discuss two such risk factors—genetics and negative thinking patterns. My focus will be on how to help protect yourself from depression if you have one or both of these risk factors...[more]

How to get back on track when you fail to achieve a goal: A cognitive behavioural approach

In this article, I discuss ways to rebound from the adversity of falling short in achieving a goal using skills from cognitive behavioural therapy. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I encourage my clients to pursue challenging goals as a way to enhance their lives. Pursuing challenging goals fosters ongoing excitement, energy and passion in your life. It also exerts a consistent positive influence on your self-esteem as you regularly demonstrate your abilities and efforts in taking the steps toward conquering a challenge. If your hard work pays off in achieving your goal, the good feelings you experience can last for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, the downside of pursuing challenging goals is that there are times when you may not achieve them...[more]

Chronic depression: How you think about it is a key to addressing it

In this article, I discuss the often-misunderstood notion of chronic depression along with suggestions for how to think about it in a manner conducive to addressing it. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I often encounter clients in depression counselling who tell me they have been suffering from chronic depression. This typically means that the individual has regularly met the diagnostic criteria for depression as a disorder. That is, they have experienced symptoms such as depressed mood and lack of interest and pleasure in their life for an extended period of time. In helping clients address their chronic depression, as a psychologist specializing in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) I take a two-pronged approach...[more]

Strategies for easier and effective boundary-setting

In this article, I discuss ways to make boundary-setting easier and effective. In my last article, I discussed the importance of setting boundaries to achieve long-term positive effects on mood and self-esteem. In this article, I provide strategies on how to make it easier to deal with the ‘short-term pain’ which often accompanies setting boundaries. These strategies will also help to make your boundary-setting effective...[more]