Tag: mental health

The Power of Gratitude

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The Power of Gratitude

Blog by Ashley Simpson, LCSW at Agape Therapy Institute

If you enter into a Google search “science behind gratitude” you will get 96,500,000 articles. Obviously, there is something to gratitude. What is gratitude? How is it beneficial? How can I build a gratitude practice?

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is the practice of feeling and acknowledging appreciation. It is focusing, intentionally, on the things that we have, instead of thinking of the things we do not have. It can be focusing on things in your life (your health, your home, your relationship, your kids, etc.), it can be broader things (the sunshine, a sweet smell in the air from spring flowers), or it can be concrete things (a phone call from a friend, a gift, words of encouragement from a coworker). It can be anything that you feel thankful for. Gratitude is noticing those feelings and what you are thankful for.

How is it beneficial?

There are studies about the impact of gratitude on the brain. Practicing gratitude has shown to increase levels of dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter), serotonin (the happiness neurotransmitter) and oxytocin (the love/cuddle neurotransmitter) in the brain. Gratitude stimulates areas of the brain that make us feel connected to the world and others, feel heard and seen, and feel happy. It can reduce physical pain, help with sleep, and reduce stress.

Practicing gratitude can literally change your frame of mind. The more you increase your practice of gratitude, the easier it will be to find things to be grateful for, even in tough situations, therefore increasing your resilience. This enables us to better see the “sunshine through the clouds” - that little silver lining that some may see, while others may not. We can see the positives and focus on those things, and that positive frame of mind can help alleviate these mental and emotional symptoms of depression. 

How can I build a gratitude practice?

  • Building Intention
    Start noticing things that you feel grateful for. One practice idea is to notice three things from the day before that you feel grateful for. Start thinking about these in the morning when you wake up, when you lay down to go to sleep, when you’re in the shower, or while you are driving; whatever time works where you give yourself a few moments to really notice your thoughts.

  • Journaling
    Another form of gratitude practice is writing down the things you are grateful for. This builds your intention by giving yourself a goal and a place to write down your thoughts. An idea that can be effective is to leave the journal on your nightstand so it is there when you lay down to go to sleep, or when you wake up in the morning, and you can have your journaling time at the same time and place every day. One practice could be to write down those three things that you started noticing daily, and make that your practice for 21 days.

  • Write a Gratitude Letter
    Write a thank you letter to a friend, family member, coworker, etc. thanking them for something they have done or given to you.
    Write a letter that you do not intend to send. This could be a letter to a loved one who has passed away, or a letter to someone you are not speaking to. Take some time to write to them about the things you are thankful for about them. Then do what you wish with the letter.

  • Loving Kindness Meditation
    There is a specific type of meditation called a “Loving Kindness Meditation.” In this scripted meditation we sit with loving, kind thoughts towards others and towards ourselves. This is a practice you can do while you are having a few quiet moments to yourself. There is a meditation hereand here that you could try. 

For more information on gratitude, check out the articles here, here, and here.

Book an appointment with Ashley by clicking here.


Photo by Marcus Wöckel from Pexels

Tags:

  • community
  • counseling
  • couples therapy
  • depression
  • existential therapy
  • flow
  • gratitude
  • healing
  • holidays
  • inner child
  • joy
  • mental health
  • mindfulness
  • parenting
  • partnership
  • positive psychology
  • psychotherapy
  • relationships
  • resilience
  • self help
  • self-care
  • solution focused
  • somatic experiencing
  • stress
  • substance abuse
  • suicide
  • telehealth
  • trauma

Mental Health and the Bisexual Community

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Mental Health and the Bisexual Community

Blog by Tanya Scuccimarra, GSCI at Agape Therapy Institute

Did you know that the largest population within the LGBTQ+ community are those who self-identity as Bisexual? 

Robyn Ochs, known bisexual activist and author, defines bisexuality as, “the potential to be attracted—romantically and/or sexually—to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.” 

The nuances highlighted in this definition are important because stigma & misconception and discrimination about bisexuality can have a profound impact on the mental health of bisexual individuals.

Stigma & Misconception:

  • “they are just confused about their attractions” 
  • “they are just experimenting”
  • “they are secretly homosexual or lesbian and too afraid to ‘come out’”
  • “they are more likely to cheat on a partner because they are attracted to everyone”

Discrimination

Many who identify as bisexual feel unaccepted by both the heterosexual and lesbian and gay communities. Bisexual individuals often hide their identity from family, friends, and peers, especially if they are in a relationship with someone of the ‘opposite’ gender. This is called bi-erasure or the dismissal of the existence of bisexuality. Being unable to express your identity for fear of rejection and/or discrimination, having a sense of un-belonging, and feeling invisible within communities can produce anxiety, stress, depression and result in isolation. 

Healthful Steps  

So, what are some of the healthful steps that you can take as a bisexual person that will improve your mental health outlook and empower your identity? 

  • Take charge of your mental health. Therapy can be an important step in living your truth.
  • Read articles and books by authors who identify as bisexual. 
  • Watch documentaries about bisexuality and television shows with bisexual characters. 
  • Learn bisexual history. You are never alone—many have come before you.
  • Follow bisexual activists and other members of the “B” community on social media.
  • Contact local LGBTQ+ orgs as they have meetups, peer support groups, and other ways to become involved and feel supported by your community.

Book an appointment with Tanya by clicking here.


Photo by Marcelo Chagas from Pexels.

Tags:

  • LGBTQ+
  • community
  • compassion
  • counseling
  • couples therapy
  • diversity
  • healing
  • mental health
  • mindfulness
  • multiculturalism
  • partnership
  • psychotherapy
  • relationships
  • resilience
  • self help
  • self-care
  • solution focused
  • telehealth

Compassion Fatigue

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Compassion Fatigue

Blog by Ashley Simpson, LCSW at Agape Therapy Institute

Are you a caregiver? Are you the primary caregiver of small children, have a child or other family member with special needs, have someone in the home who is ill, or have an elderly parent you care for? Do you work in a field where you are constantly taking care of others? Do you feel exhausted by negative news stories and find yourself thinking “why bother?” It is common for caregivers, and empaths, to experience something called “compassion fatigue.” 

What is Compassion Fatigue?

There are two definitions of “compassion fatigue” in the dictionary. One is: “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time”. The other is “apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as the result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance.”

Signs of Compassion Fatigue

Essentially, your body, mind, and heart say “I can’t care about this anymore” and you shut down. You may be experiencing this syndrome if you feel annoyed, keyed up, or irritated by the person you are caring for, and/or others around you. You may not want to be touched. You may crave alone time, feel exhausted, and shut down to others around you. You may experience irritability in your everyday life and not know where it is coming from. You may experience feelings of anger, resentment, or sadness and not have an explanation for them.

Coping with Compassion Fatigue

  • Take a break.

This can look like scheduling time for your own self-care, hiring respite care to take a few days or weekend off, or shifting responsibilities around to take some of the load off of your shoulders. If you work in a caregiving profession, you may need to access resources on “burnout” and may need some time away from work. You may need to take a break from the news and/or social media for a little while. 

  • Do something to take care of you.

You have been taking care of others, and that often comes at the expense of your own self-care. What is something that feeds your soul? Is it art? Cooking? Music? Dance? Gardening? Exercise? Start scheduling regular times to “fill your cup” and do something for yourself. Schedule these things for yourself and stick to that schedule. 

  • Talk about it.

Sometimes telling another person how you feel can “lift the load”. Letting someone in on your sacrifices, frustrations, grief, etc. can be healing. This can be a trusted family member, friend, or therapist.

Book an appointment with Ashley by clicking here.


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

Tags:

  • anxiety
  • caregiver
  • community
  • compassion
  • compassion fatigue
  • counseling
  • healing
  • mental health
  • mindfulness
  • psychotherapy
  • relationships
  • resilience
  • self help
  • self-care
  • stress
  • telehealth

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