How to Develop Optimism?

How to Develop Optimism?

A way to boost your self-esteem

Optimism is a term which means being positive about the outcomes going to happen in our future. Many theorists in psychology consider optimism as a personality trait. Research in psychology relates optimism with positive mental and physical health outcomes. Researchers show that optimistic people are less likely to have depression and other mental health problems. They have low chances of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and other medical diseases. They use effective coping strategies to deal with stressful life circumstances. They have better adaptability and high quality of life. They adopt a healthy lifestyle and protect themselves from engaging in harmful behaviours such as smoking and other risky outcomes (Conversano et. al. 2010).

If optimism is supposed to be such a useful factor in life, then the question arises here is: How to develop optimism in your personality. Here I’m giving you some tips which you will use and enjoy the positive outcomes in life.

  1. Think Positive: This is something easy to say than do it. How can you make it easy to do? You just need to get over your past (particularly those negative memories which could have been hurtful for you). Focus on your present life circumstances and you will find a way to make your future better than today.
  2. Every day, take some time for yourself when you do something creative or helpful. It can be listening to music, doing a relaxation exercise, helping someone, enjoying cycling/exercise or anything which you consider pleasurable.
  3. Keep eye on what’s going on in your life. There might be stressful times in your life but the effective tool here is, you understand your life stressors and find ways to come out of them. Don’t make you stuck on one point. Always push yourself to move ahead and work out problems.
  4. Take some time to show gratitude. Think of the blessings you have in life, the positive qualities you possess, and achievements you got in career/family/professional/social/community life.
  5. Take care of your self-talk: We all communicate to ourselves in the form of thoughts, images, or words. If your thoughts are positive, you will experience positive emotions, and then your behaviours and life outcomes will be positive because there is a link between thoughts-emotions-behaviours. An easy way to do this is: write down positive affirmations for yourself and refer them every day.
  6. Keep yourself in a company of positive people because you are a reflection of the people with whom you spend most of the time. You always have a choice to include and exclude people in your life. Positive people will leave a positive impact and the negative ones will affect you adversely. Therefore, plan ahead of the time what consequences do you want in your life. Make friends who are likeable, easy to get along, and match with your positive self.
  7. Develop problem-solving skills: problems and stress is a part of everyone’s life. What optimistic people do is plan ahead of the time before the problems take over them. There are always ups and downs in life. If you understand this fact, you will be able to take responsibility for your life and hence own your problems. You will find yourself in a better position to deal with problems and find solutions.
  8. Set your goals and priorities in life: this is the secret of how optimistic people get more success in life. How they look positively towards their future is through goal planning. They have a very clear idea where they want to go in life. They give themselves easy steps toward success. Such as, they make to-do-list of every day so, every day they spend becomes useful in some way. They also have long-term planning for their career, family, social, and professional life and “to-do-list” helps them every day to cover one step of stairs to success.

If you start developing above mentioned skills and practice each in real life circumstances, definitely you are making your way easy to optimism. And, now you know how optimism is going to make your life outcomes so positive and healthy just as you want.

Reference:

Conversano, C., Rotondo, A., Lensi, E., Vista, O.D., Arpone, F., & Reda, M.A. (2010). Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health, 6, pp: 25–29.

Doi:  10.2174/1745017901006010025

 

Written By:

Mehwish Mursaleen (PhD, Clinical Psychology)

How to Deal with Your Disturbed Sleep Schedule

How to Deal with Your Disturbed Sleep Schedule

To set your sleep timings, you need to understand the process working behind it. Your internal biological clock sets your sleep timing. Once the sleep cycle is regularized at a particular timing, it takes some time to change the already set sleep pattern. Initially, when you try to change this natural sleep cycle, you may face difficulty but once your biological clock gets harmonized and it is adjusted to your daily routine, you can re-schedule your sleep time.
A client with difficulty to set a routine sleep timing approached me who was unable to initiate sleep at night. At morning timing, he felt sleepy and hence needed to complete his sleep. This pattern was so disturbing for him because he couldn’t perform daily life activities. His schedule became so upset that his educational, family and social life was at stake. All day he remained worried about his sleep problem, his life going nowhere, and what will happen in the future if the same pattern continues. He was observing himself being tense, anxious and depressed.
Mr X was psycho-educated about the sleep cycle and how the biological clock sets a person’s sleep schedule. He applied this fact to his condition. For instance, he started waking up before 10 am (or whatever timing he felt suitable for him) by setting the alarm or telling someone to wake him up. He was committed to waking himself up whatever it takes him to do. Gradually he started feeling sleepy before 2 am to complete his sleeping hours. Initially, he felt difficulty, but with regular practice, it became his routine.
The case mentioned above was initially a simple sleep-wake cycle problem which then was about to convert into more severe problems like depression and anxiety. Generally, people who work at night shifts, face difficulty to initiate sleep at night when they are at vacations. Sleep-wake cycle issue is commonly seen among adolescents who prefer late night stays among friends’ gatherings and among those students who consistently prefer working or studying late night. When such a pattern is followed over a longer period, then it becomes automated in a person’s internal biological clock. Those who work in alternate shifts or those who have developed sleep-wake cycle issues may try some additional strategies to cater their difficulty to initiate sleep before it converts into depression/anxiety.

Here I’m advising you a few techniques to help you initiate sleep at a suitable time.

1. As you have trouble in initiating sleep, do relaxation exercise/ deep breathing to calm you down and initiate sleep. Do it in a sitting position just before you go to bed or you can do it while you are lying on the bed.

  • Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus on the air going in and out.
  • Correct breathing pattern: inhale through your nose, fill the air in your stomach just as you fill in a balloon, hold it for 5 sec in the belly, and then exhale the air slowly from your mouth
  • Focus on your head muscles and relax them, focus on facial muscles and relax, similarly relax every group of muscles in neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, legs, and foot. From the hairs of your head to the tip of your foot fingers you are relaxed now.
  • While focusing on your breathing and air going in and out, imagine something positive.
  • Do this exercise daily. You can also do it during the day time because it will help you relax and reduce your tension, so you can improve your focus/concentration over your work/daily tasks.

2. Everyone has positive experiences in life. Try to imagine those moments when you are having disturbing thoughts. (Don’t ruminate upon your negative past experiences or ponder on unseen future happening. It will do nothing positive to you but increase your anxiety/tension/depress feelings for sure which may be the reason behind your sleep problem).

3. When you are stressed, instead of overthinking, just do problem-solving to overcome life problems. Sit calmly and think about how you can solve the problem at hand. Find as many solutions as possible no matter small or big. Then pick up the best solution and start working on it to solve your problem gradually. If you can’t focus, take a piece of paper to write down problems and solutions.

4. Learn time management skills. Make a schedule and strictly follow it. Set your daily goals and set your priorities by focusing on what’s most urgent and what can you delay without bad consequences happening. Make a daily to-do-list and mark the tasks you have completed so that you stay focused on those tasks you are planning to do further.

5. Include some pleasurable activities in your daily schedule. It can be anything you enjoy. For example, listen to music, walk/exercise, read books, eat a favourite food, wear a favourite dress or aromas, go out with friends, etc.

Do seek professional help when things are not working on your own. It’s never too late. Getting help from a psychologist is no more stigma in an educated and sober society.

Written By:
Dr Mehwish Mursaleen
PhD in Clinical Psychology

Training The Brain

Training The Brain

Latest Research Regarding the Use of “Ignoring Strategies”

Up till now psychologists focused more on the emotional domain of person’s disturbed state and changing those disturbing factors to adopt new healthy ways. This is true for the cognitive behavioural approaches to psychotherapy which is a widely used approach in mental health treatments.

New research conducted by Doctor Noga Cohen showed intriguing findings. She conducted a study on a group of German participants in order to find out the effect of ignoring irrelevant information on the brain areas which deal with emotions. The researcher engaged participants in two kinds of tasks. One which involved emotional kind of activity in which they had to ignore negatively charged emotional pictures. Other task involved simply notifying the pointing of an arrow to either left or right side while ignoring its direction to any side. The participants were trained in this activity and while performing the tasks both groups of participants were tested through fMRI showing activity in different areas of the brain. The researcher found that participants who were trained in ignoring emotional stimuli exhibited less activity in their amygdala which is responsible for producing negative emotions like depression, anxiety and anger etc. compared to the other group which was trained in ignoring simple things like direction of the arrow. Moreover, the intense training group showed more activity in brain connections to frontal cortex which is responsible for effective handling of emotions.

This study showed that if we train our patients suffering from a psychiatric illness about how they can ignore irrelevant emotional situations, they can better manage their psychological problems. This study has developed new ways for cognitive behavior therapists who can modify new strategies to treat their patients.

Source:

PsychologyMatters.Asia

Problem Magnifiers: Why Your Problems Don’t Get Solved? (Descriptive)

Problem Magnifiers: Why Your Problems Don’t Get Solved? (Descriptive)

Every one of us has problems bigger or smaller. An interesting thing about “problem” is everyone thinks that his/her problem is the biggest one. For example, a person admitted to an orthopedic surgical ward with an ankle injured sees his problem bigger than a person who has injured his knee. We as an observer can see that problem is bigger for the person who injured his knee because he can’t move his leg and one side of his body would be paralyzed due to it. Whereas, the person on the next bed wouldn’t be able to recognize this thing because he would be so totally involved with his own sufferings. This will make him unable to see what is going around his surroundings.

We get entangled into problems on a daily basis and the problems increase when we don’t know the reason behind our problem. Most of us don’t get things solved because we are not consciously aware of what causes the problem. If we want to overcome our problems we need to understand the dynamics which exaggerate our problems. Here we discuss the factors which help your problems to get settled inside you.

1. Denial:

When a person denies the existence of a problem, how can he/she find any solution for the problem? Beware this denial is an unconscious process which drives a person to reduce his anxieties and thus, throws threatening facts into the unconscious to get safer on the surface level. The problem with denial lies in the fact that it actually doesn’t reduce anxiety but results in the form of psychological disturbance. For example, a girl who is a survivor of a rape may deny the fact but her unconscious processes would result in psychosis. Similarly, a woman who denies the existence of breast cancer would never seek help or even she wouldn’t go for a check-up and this would ultimately drive into last-stage where a tumour gets untreatable. These days we can observe many such cases who get examined at last stages of cancer. These people actually deny the warning signs of illness because it is threatening for a person to get such a terminal illness. Another example we must hear about smoking is that smokers deny the fact they can have cancer while watching or hearing many smokers dying of throat or lung cancer.

2. Wrong initial assumptions / false beliefs:

Another thing which doesn’t help in the solution of problems is; we make initial assumptions regarding things. For example, anyone of us can assume that he must not be betrayed, must not experience any corruption or must be dealt with respect. These initial assumptions will hurt the person whenever he suffers any experience of dishonesty or disrespect. Because the person has high expectations from people, he will be hurt on even minor immoral experiences, which every one of us experiences on a daily basis. This is the reason why keeping expectations from people or having high standards for yourself or others don’t always work.

Here I explain a scenario to get you a better understanding of how false initial assumptions work. A successful business woman gets attacked by conspirers and has a lawsuit on her. She gets deeply hurt by this fact because she had done nothing wrong and she had a belief that others should treat her with loyalty since she is loyal to everyone. While keeping this expectation, she became depressed and nothing worked out for her. When she consulted her psychologist and she was suggested to work on her initial assumptions. She developed more healthy beliefs e.g., every successful person gets hurdles and challenges in his/ her way to victory, and since she is a popular business woman, this is a challenge for her to face and overcome. After realizing the fact, she not only started working to overcome the lawsuits, but she learned more and more about the similar cases, gathered every useful info, presented herself in front of judges and then defeated her enemies who tried to let her down in the business world.

3. Fear:

When fear is at a normal level, it can be helpful and work as a survival instinct e.g., if you see a snake creeping towards you, you must be fearful and then run away to find a safer place. This is a normal response but, if you are fearful enough that you can’t move from the place, your legs get paralyzed and you feel numb, this is the excessive level of fear which will not work for you to overcome the problem.
Imagine a scenario where a flight pilot gets emergency situation while far up in clouds; the engine stops working properly. Think about the possible solutions. If the pilot should freeze and do nothing in this situation because the ultimate is death? Should he deny the fact because it is too threatening? Should he make initial assumptions that this crisis is unlikely because he is an excellent pilot and has never been to such situation ever? Will such kind of solutions work? You are right! Nothing like this is a workable solution. Then what you suggest that pilot should think about? The pilot should realize the emergency case and keep confidence in his ability to handle the emergency. Now he got the right one. He will take a step to contact his flight station, consult with supervisor and take necessary precautions to protect the survival.

4. Deceptive masking:

Everyone wants to present himself in an acceptable way in order to get approval from others. This is actually right but when you hide your problems from others particularly the right ones, this is the case which worsens your problems. For instance, if you have a sexual problem and you feel shy to tell your doctor just because he/ she will think you are bad. When you don’t reveal your actual problem, is it possible that doctor will be able to suggest you an appropriate treatment? No way! When you don’t get treatment for your problems than it is inevitable that your problems will increase in intensity and then you will become helpless. When it will be observable to others they may take you to doctor but this will be quite late and you will miss an opportunity to get treated at an initial stage.

Similarly, if you are suffering from a headache and you instantly get a knock from a guest. You greet the guest who observes you being unfit and asks about your health. You reply that you are perfectly all right. You don’t want to tell the guest about your headache because she will not like it. You try to be polite with your guest but your gestures show unpleasant feeling. What will the guest think about this scenario? She might think that you don’t like her arrival or you are uncomfortable talking to her or anything else, but she can’t reach to the right guess until you tell about your actual feelings. She might become doubtful at you and may not like to meet you again. Thus, deceptive masking prevents you to get the right treatment you deserve from others. If you show your real feelings and the need for help, others will definitely offer you comfort at their best level.

5. Behavioural choices:

Sometimes our choice of behavior leads us to problematic situations. For example, everyone knows that aggression is destructive and it always leads to negative consequence either for yourself or for others. But still, we get into arguments and choose aggression as it will help us solve the problem. If you review your experiences of aggression and try to find out how many times it helped you to get things right in the long run? You will definitely reach to the conclusion that it always get you into a disadvantage. For example, if a mother being aggressive on a child gets short-term results from the child such as he acts obediently and gets his homework done because of fear of punishment. Mother thinks that this was beneficial therefore repeatedly uses aggression as a strategy to discipline her child. Do you know how this affects the long-term relationship of mother-child? The child will get distant from his mother, he will never share his feelings and might remain fearful from parents for the rest of his life. Is it beneficial in the long run? Now you can clearly understand how our choice of behavior mistakenly leads many of us to choose unhealthy relationships. If we chose behavior which actually works for healthy relationships, we will never get into relationship problems. If you learn communication skills, talk assertively but not aggressively, deal problems through effective decision making, and use problem-solving in your life, many of your daily hassles will get settled at very initial level instead of piling up inside you and then bursting out in the form of psychological problems.

If you find any of these problems affecting your life and thus your problems are increasing day by day instead of getting solved, then you just talk to your psychologist about these issues. You will be guided about handling denial, false beliefs, fear, deceptive masking, and wrong behavioral choices.

 

Written By:

Mehwish Mursaleen (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology)

Online Psychotherapist (Consult-a-psychologist.com & iCliniq.com)

Problem Magnifiers: Why Your Problems Don’t Get Solved?

Problem Magnifiers: Why Your Problems Don’t Get Solved?

Every one of us has problems bigger or smaller. An interesting thing about “problem” is everyone thinks that his/her problem is the biggest one. We get entangled into problems on a daily basis and the problems increase when we don’t know the reason behind our problem. Most of us don’t get things solved because we are not consciously aware of what causes the problem. If we want to overcome our problems we need to understand the dynamics which exaggerate our problems.
Denial:
When a person denies the existence of a problem, how can he/she find any solution for the problem? Beware this denial is an unconscious process which drives a person to reduce his anxieties and thus, throws threatening facts into the unconscious to get safer on the surface level. The problem with denial lies in the fact that it actually doesn’t reduce anxiety but results in the form of psychological disturbance.
Wrong initial assumptions / false beliefs:
Another thing which doesn’t help in the solution of problems is; we make initial assumptions regarding things. For example, anyone of us can assume that he must not be betrayed, must not experience any corruption or must be dealt with respect. These initial assumptions will hurt the person whenever he suffers any experience of dishonesty or disrespect. Because the person has high expectations from people, he will be hurt on even minor immoral experiences, which every one of us experiences on a daily basis.
Fear:
When fear is at a normal level, it can be helpful and work as a survival instinct e.g., if you see a snake creeping towards you, you must be fearful and then run away to find a safer place. This is a normal response but, if you are fearful enough that you can’t move from the place, your legs get paralysed and you feel numb, this is the excessive level of fear which will not work for you to overcome the problem.
Deceptive masking:
Everyone wants to present himself in an acceptable way in order to get approval from others. This is actually right but when you hide your problems from others particularly the right ones, this is the case which worsens your problems. For instance, if you have a sexual problem and you feel shy to tell your doctor just because he/ she will think you are bad. When you don’t reveal your actual problem, is it possible that doctor will be able to suggest you an appropriate treatment? No way! When you don’t get treatment for your problems than it is inevitable that your problems will increase in intensity and then you will become helpless.
Behavioural choices:
Sometimes our choice of behaviour leads us to problematic situations. For example, everyone knows that aggression is destructive and it always leads to negative consequence either for yourself or for others. But still, we get into arguments and choose aggression as it will help us solve the problem. If you review your experiences of aggression and try to find out how many times it helped you to get things right in the long run? You will definitely reach to the conclusion that it always get you into a disadvantage.
If you find any of these problems affecting your life and thus your problems are increasing day by day instead of getting solved, then you just talk to your psychologist about these issues.

Written By:

Mehwish Mursaleen (PhD Clinical Psychology)

Online Psychotherapist (Consult-a-psychologist.com & iCliniq.com)

How to Identify Low Self-esteem

How to Identify Low Self-esteem

People think that those who appear over-confident are really getting the best of their lives. Just as the low self-esteem hurts personality, the over-confidence shakes the balance of an individual. We call this an inflated self-esteem. This is not the reality of people with over-confidence. Infect, they over-estimate themselves because there is an underline inferiority complex and actually the person has low self-esteem deep inside.
Similarly, a term is used in psychology literature i.e. Unstable self-esteem. This is a more threatening thing which underlies many personality disorders. You can understand the matter by simply assuming that anything other than a stable self-image is harmful to the psychological well-being of the person.
Here are some points which are characteristics of either unstable or low self-esteem. Reading this will help you to identify if you have a self-esteem issue.
People with low self-esteem:
1. Always try to impress others
2. Constantly compare self with others
3. Always think people are jealous of them or from their luxuries
4. Always need to be center of attention
5. Always want attention through attention seeking behaviors or statements e.g. “I am not feeling well”, “I am not being hungry”, “I am not eating proper meals” etc.
6. Always try to big head their related people’s designation, luxuries they have, and lifestyles
7. Always boost about themselves, show off, praise their self e.g., “I am so pretty”, “the outfit I’m wearing is so awesome” etc.
8. Easily impressed by the glamor or by the media fields
9. Always thinks they are right and others are wrong
10. The last but not the least, they don’t listen to others and can’t tolerate if someone criticizes them.
After you identify or suspect that you may possess low self-esteem, you can think to seek help from a professional psychologist to reshape your personality….

Written By:
Sana Mehboob (MS. Clinical Psychology)
Clinical Psychologist (Karachi psychiatric hospital)
Associate Clinical Psychologist (Institute of Professional Psychology-BUMDC & S. Abdur Razzak Medical Center)

Editor:
Mehwish Mursaleen (Ph.D., Clinical Psychology)
Clinical /Organizational Psychologist (Overtop Consultants),
Online Psychotherapist (iCliniq & Consult-a-psychologist.com)

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