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]

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]

Reducing self-injury behaviours: Identify and address the motives

In this article, I discuss ways to reduce non-suicidal self-injury behaviours by identifying and addressing the motives for these behaviours. In my practice as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, among the most challenging issues I encounter is clients engaged in self-injury behaviours such as cutting or burning oneself.  Referred to as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), these behaviours are not engaged in for the purpose of taking one’s life. However, they are often precursors to later suicide attempts and are most commonly displayed by adolescents. To help these clients, my strategy is first to identify the reasons they are engaging in self-injury behaviours...[more]

Habits for good self-esteem: It’s how you behave and what you think

In this article, I discuss habits to help build self-esteem which stem from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In my continuing series on habits, I now turn to habits to help you have good emotional health. In this article, I discuss habits which help you to have good self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to how well you value yourself. Having good self-esteem is associated with better emotional health and being less prone to emotional health issues. The most notable of these issues is depression, of which low self-esteem is a key symptom. Having good self-esteem is also predictive of better relationships and success in various endeavours including academics and career. Fostering good self-esteem to help you achieve these benefits can be accomplished by incorporating habits into your routine. These habits focus on cognitive and behavioural strategies which have been demonstrated help you to think positively about yourself on a regular basis. In the following sections, I will describe these habits and how to make them part of your self-esteem-building routine...[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]

Setting boundaries: Short-term pain, long-term gain

In this article, I discuss why it is beneficial to set boundaries even though it may sometimes be unpleasant to do so. Situations requiring us to set boundaries are those in which we need to send a message to others that they have not treated us properly. Examples include not being given good customer service, not being paid back the money you are owed by someone or any situation in which a friend, family member, relationship partner or anyone else has not treated you with respect. Setting boundaries involves letting the offending party know with your words and/or your actions that it is not acceptable for them to treat you in this manner...[more]

How to change your negative core beliefs

In this article, I discuss how to change thought patterns called negative core beliefs which often play a role in many psychological issues. In my last article, I discussed how to identify negative core beliefs--long-standing negative views people may have about themselves, other people in their lives or the world. These negative views usually originate from people’s difficult experiences and predispose them to think negatively about themselves, other people or the world in the present. They also play a major role in causing and maintaining various psychological issues including depression, the anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and eating disorders. In the following sections, I will discuss how to change negative core beliefs once they have been identified so that their negative influence on current thinking and mood can be reduced...[more]

The many benefits of writing letters of complaint

In this article, I discuss the multiple ways in which you can feel better by writing a letter of complaint to an individual, company or organization when you have not received good service. Over the years, I’ve written many letters to individuals, companies and organizations who I feel have fallen short of a reasonable standard of service. I have been pleasantly surprised on the minority of occasions in which I’ve received an excellent response in the form of an apology, taking responsibility and attempting to atone for the bad service. However, even in the majority of instances in which the response has been inadequate, I have benefitted in many ways from writing such letters...[more]

Psych up for the holidays: Lessons from Christmas movies and television specials

In this article, I discuss some important lessons Christmas movies and television specials offer to enhance your life. The Christmas holiday season has long been one of my favourite times of the year. Having some time off to relax and spend time with family and friends sharing good food and drink makes this a special time of year for many people. An additional reason I enjoy this season is that I get to watch my favourite Christmas movies and television specials...[more]

Three options to choose from when you’re in a difficult situation: Two good, one bad

In this article, I discuss the importance of being mindful of three options to choose from when you’re in the midst of difficult work and relationship situations as well as which of these options are preferred. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I often have clients dealing with ongoing difficult and stressful situations involving their work or their relationships. In my experience with these clients, I’ve concluded that it can be very helpful to be aware of three options in dealing with these difficult situations. I refer to these as Options A, B and C...[more]