Cultivating true happiness? Here's how!

Many people find themselves struggling against external ideas about what should make them happy. What’s the one thing you’re pining for in your life that would make you happier, if only it would happen? A new job? Romance? More Instagram followers? There’s always something, that’s for sure.

There are so many conceptions out there that you have to have something by a certain age, you have to have everything in place. Research shows external factors have the power to make us happier in the moment, but cultivating a deep sense of happiness is a much different project that spans far beyond any promotion or number of likes.

Here are a few things, proven through research, to help you cultivate true happiness.

  1. Get more sleep Getting enough sleep is so important for our overall well-being, on so many levels! The vast majority of us need somewhere between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. 

    In addition, more than a decade ago, Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported chronic lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, make maintaining a healthy weight more difficult, contribute to high blood pressure, and interfere with learning and memory. It’s hard to believe something free has so many amazing benefits—or that we’re not all getting enough of it every night.

  2. Exercise Exercise, like sleep, is a quick ticket to happiness, with even more immediate effects on mood. A recent study by the Black Dog Institute in Australia found even just one to two hours a week of exercise, defined as an activity that raises the heart rate and gets you warm and slightly out of breath, has a whole host of physical and mental benefits.

  3. Spend time outdoors This may make you tweak your exercise routine to do double duty. While that candlelit spin experience is sure to boost your endorphins, a lower intensity jog or even a brisk walk outside gets you closer to something researchers are finding makes humans very happy: nature.

  4. Find meaning Here’s where things get a little trickier. Getting enough sleep, exercising, and spending time outdoors are all pretty much guaranteed to quickly improve your mood. They’re also simple to plan and execute. But what about your internal monologue and your overall satisfaction with your life and what it all means?

    A growing body of research is differentiating between two different types of happiness: hedonic and eudaimonic. Hedonic well-being is instant-gratification stuff like getting a present, collecting a record number of likes on your latest Instagram masterpiece, or going out on Friday night. Eudaimonic well-being stems from an overall sense of building a meaningful life. The two can dovetail—maybe you’re headed out on Friday night with an old and dear friend, for instance. The relationship is eudaimonic, while the activity itself may be hedonic.

    We all find meaning in different places: work, relationships, family, and volunteering. This kind of happiness can also be described as a sense of purpose—and cultivating these elements in your life can take years and a good amount of self-knowledge.

  5. Maintain relationships The Harvard Study of Adult Development is the longest running longitudinal study on happiness, and its main takeaways all have to do with relationships. The qualities that showed up time and time again in the happiest lives? Spending time with others regularly; long-term relationships; investing in the future by having children or establishing strong mentor-like bonds with younger people; and having social support systems. (There’s that eudaimonic well-being again!) Maybe call a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with and look into some volunteer opportunities, like spending time at a nursing home.

  6. Listen to yourself This one may require some self-examination and soul searching to figure out. I regularly work with clients to help them find clarity in terms of what they actually want to do with their lives versus external pressures telling them what they “should” be doing. I also advocate for self-compassion. Many patients who come to see me are very hard on themselves.

    recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that when we repress emotions we don’t perceive as correct—say, ambivalence over motherhood, or being angry when we think we should be happy—we end up less happy than if we would simply express our inconvenient emotions. Cultivating respect for your inner voice—whether it’s a fleeting weird emotion that you need to just sit with, or a change in career paths to something more meaningful to you—is a lot harder than going to bed earlier. But it may be the ultimate key to deep happiness.

  7. Spend money on experiences not things Whenever you go shopping, whether it’s in person or simply hitting the “place your order” button on Amazon, it’s not uncommon to feel an instant thrill and get excited about your new purchase. It happens to all of us. Unfortunately, that happiness doesn’t last. Past research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found the only way spending money is going to make you happy is if it’s on life-benefiting experiences—not more material objects that are only going to add clutter to your life.

    When you save up for a trip rather than spending your entire paycheck on new workout clothes, you’ll be able to go on an adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Ones that are so meaningful and profound you won’t even feel the need to share all of them on your Instagram Stories. 

  8. Unplug often Technology undoubtedly makes your life easier. You can buy your latte with a flash of your phone and tell Alexa to order your groceries. But with as many perks as it adds to your life, happiness isn’t always one of them. According to the World Happiness Report, activities related to smartphones and digital media, including the endless scrolling on your social media platforms, have been linked time and time again to decreased happiness. In fact, those who unplug often are typically happier overall. So, post your cute dog pics to Instagram, then take a break from the screen for the rest of the night and play with your pup without social media.

  9. Grab a good book Speaking of unplugging, one of the best ways to do so is to grab a good book. In an online survey of 4,164 adults, researchers found regular readers not only had less feelings of stress and depression, but also felt happier about themselves and their lives overall. The best part is you only need 30 minutes a week to see improvements in your happiness levels, and there are so many options to choose from, whether you want to pick up one of the buzziest wellness reads of the year, hit up your local library, or download some free classics online.

Find the full article at Well+Good.



If you live in the Los Angeles/Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Check out my services to see which one might fit your needs. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment here!

Feeling Blue? It could be Seasonal Affective Disorder...

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is one of the few ailments that is on a clock: It usually begins in October, and people who suffer from it usually feel the full effects in January and February. We also know that it’s more common for people living in places that get less sunlight during the winter and it’s more common in women than men, according to psychologists and researchers.

Traditionally, SAD is treated with antidepressant medication or light therapy, but there has been recent piloting towards a new approach using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), looking at the effects of CBT method on reducing negative thought patterns for people with SAD, using the Socratic method to interrupt negative thought patterns and make way for more mood-neutral thoughts, while simultaneously focusing on behavior and helping people to make slight shifts in their habits.

Here are a few questions to consider.

Q

What is seasonal affective disorder?

A

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of clinical depression that commonly occurs in the fall and winter months and typically resolves in the spring and summer. While it can take any seasonal pattern, the fall/winter type is overwhelmingly the most common. The only thing that makes it different from garden-variety depression is the seasonal pattern that it follows.

Because of their similarities, SAD is often misdiagnosed as depression. It sometimes takes a few years for people who have this pattern to recognize that it’s a pattern, and that it’s tied to the seasons.

Q

What are the most common symptoms?

A

Because we’re diagnosing depression when diagnosing SAD, we look for at least five of the nine diagnostic symptoms of depression. We’re diagnosing a depression that follows a seasonal pattern, meaning we’re looking for depressive symptoms that are present much of the day, almost every day, for at least two weeks. The hallmark symptoms of depression are:

  1. Feeling consistently down for most of the day or nearly every day.

  2. A loss of interest in the things that would have otherwise been enjoyable, such as social activities that previously would have brought a sense of enjoyment or pleasure.

  3. Feeling overwhelmingly tired or experiencing low energy.

  4. Inability to hold attention and focus or experiencing difficulty in concentrating.

  5. Feeling worthless or hopeless.

  6. Issues with sleep. Either too little or too much. In winter depression, we tend to see hypersomnia or sleeping too much. In most cases, the individual sleeps for at least an extra hour a day compared to the spring or summer. Some patients may sleep ten to even fourteen hours a day and are still tired. It’s not restorative sleep that we’re seeing. A minority of patients, on the other hand, experience insomnia.

  7. Changes in appetite or weight. This could be either wanting to eat a lot more or a lot less than usual. In winter depression, it’s usually wanting to eat more, and it’s usually carbohydrate-rich foods. Either sugars, starches, or both. With this, we typically see weight gain with an increased appetite or weight loss with a decreased appetite.

  8. Agitation often accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame.

  9. In extreme cases, thoughts of death or suicide.

Individuals can be diagnosed with SAD when they’re experiencing five of these symptoms, which need to include the first and/or second symptom.

These are not momentary symptoms; rather, they are pervasive for at least a couple of weeks. On average, it’s estimated to be five months of the year in a major depressive episode. It’s a lot of time to spend in depression, in terms of the cumulative toll that it could take on a person’s life.

Q

Whom does it affect most?


A

Similar to depression, there is a pronounced gender difference for those affected by SAD. Depression in general is two times more common in women than in men, and data suggests seasonal depression is even more common in women than in men. When we look at its prevalence, we’re looking at a single snapshot in time. And we’ve found that most cases occur in young adults, typically in their twenties to thirties. We’re not entirely sure why it occurs in this age range, though, since these studies don’t follow people over time. One theory is that SAD becomes less prevalent as people age, because they learn how to cope with it or possibly move to places that don’t have winters that are as harsh.

Q

How does SAD differ from depression? For individuals who have been previously diagnosed with depression, does that put them at an increased risk of developing SAD?

A

It’s estimated that up to 10 to 20 percent of recurrent depression cases follow a seasonal pattern. This is generally the course of depression, in which a depressive episode tends to return over time, with periods of time without depression between the episodes.

For SAD patients, there are unfortunately very few studies that have tried to look at the long-term trajectory of the disorder. So we don’t have a coherent idea of its outlook. We’ve tried contacting people we knew who had SAD in the past to learn about their experience and see where they’re at today, and we’ve found mixed long-term courses. A lot of them continue to experience SAD episodes every winter. Others become more subclinical, where they used to have full-threshold SAD, and now they may just have the winter blues. Some develop a completely nonseasonal course where they still have depressive episodes but it’s not tied to the seasons. And others fully remit, where they don’t have depression, seasonal or otherwise, moving forward.

In terms of how SAD differs from depression, there is a strong correlation of SAD with latitude in the United States. The farther you are from the equator, the more cases you’ll find. It is estimated that 9 percent of those people who live in Alaska suffer from SAD, compared with 1 percent of those who live in Florida. For most people—at least in the northern United States—SAD slowly begins in October. People often report an increase in their symptoms after the end of daylight saving time and experience their symptoms in full effect in January and February. It is in these two months that we find the largest proportion of SAD patients in a full major depressive episode.

Another strong link is photo period, or length of daylight. Photo period is the strongest predictor of when symptoms start in any given year for someone who has seasonal affective disorder, as well as how severe the symptoms are on a given day. The number of hours from dawn to dusk determines your photo period. We believe that photo period is what explains the onset of this disorder and can determine how bad symptoms may be on any particular day.

Q

What is the traditional approach to treating SAD?

A

Light therapy was the first line of treatment developed specifically for SAD patients. It was developed at the National Institute of Mental Health under Norman Rosenthal. He was a psychiatrist who moved from South Africa to Bethesda, Maryland, to work at the National Institute of Mental Health, and he experienced SAD symptoms. He was interested in learning more about it, and seeing if others experienced similar symptoms. He put an ad in The Washington Post, asking whether anyone experienced depression in the fall and the winter, and the lab phone rang constantly for weeks at a time. They had a huge response from people who thought they had the symptoms. They brought them they seemed to follow. From this, they developed light therapy as a form of treatment.

With light therapy, the goal is to give people a very bright dose of light, first thing in the morning, to simulate an early dawn. In theory, we’re trying to jump-start a sluggish biological clock, so that circadian rhythms go back to a normal phase as if they’re in the summer, when these people are feeling good. The devices tested in clinical trials are 10,000 LUX, which is the same intensity of light from the sky at sunrise. We block out the UV rays since they’re not necessary for an antidepressant response. We’ve found that prescribing patients to sit in front of 10,000 LUX for at least thirty minutes a day is what it takes for the treatment to be effective in people who have SAD. That said, similar to finding the right antidepressant, it can be a bit of a trial-and-error process. We try to find that sweet spot of exactly how many minutes a day and at what time or times of the day it’s most effective for the patient. The optimal benefit from light therapy must be determined on an individual basis so we can balance any side effects they may experience in response to the light.

The same drugs that are effective in treating nonseasonal depression—particularly SSRIs like fluoxetine/Prozac—have been tested for SAD with a good outcome in placebo-controlled studies. There is one drug that’s FDA-approved specifically to prevent SAD, which is Wellbutrin Extended Release. There was a large multisite study—with the GlaxoSmithKlein drug—completed a few years ago with over 1,000 SAD patients. The study compared putting people on the Wellbutrin Extended Release versus a placebo, and the participants started the treatment early in the fall when they weren’t yet having their symptoms, and the study followed them into the winter. The researchers found fewer relapses on the drug than with the placebo, which led to the FDA approval of the medication. Either bright-light therapy or antidepressant medication are typically used in treating SAD.

Q

How can cognitive behavioral therapy be used to treat SAD?

A

There is an extensive body of research demonstrating that CBT is an effective talk therapy for people with depression. There have also been a lot of clinical trials showing that it worked as well as antidepressant medications for improving depression. Additionally, when you follow people over time, after they’re treated to remission using CBT versus treated to remission using antidepressant medications, there are fewer relapses and recurrences among those treated with CBT than those treated with antidepressant medication.

Q

Recommendations?

A

Resist the urge to self-diagnose and self-treat. Seek evaluation from a qualified person who can figure out once and for all if it’s SAD or if it might be something else, including a depression that’s not following a seasonal course. And know that there are treatment options out there that are effective, including light therapy, antidepressant medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy. So there are reasons to be optimistic that one of these interventions will be helpful in terms of improving your experience.



This article is for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. View the full article here: https://goop.com/wellness/how-to-treat-seasonal-affective-disorder/


If you live in the Los Angeles/Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment here!

This New Year, Get Back to Basics and Create Your Own Definition of Self Care

When your wellness routine—AKA the rituals and habits you embraced to make your life better—is stressing you out, things need to change. And for so many people this year, the line between constructive self-care and pure anxiety trigger (as in, just another thing on your already-jammed to-do list) became blurrier than ever before. In 2019, it’s time to simplify, simplify, simplify. And get that wellness-loving mojo back.

In the age of social media, the pressure people feel to engage in performative wellness creates anxiety, self-doubt, and depression. The industry boom—and the staggering number of new fitness, food, and lifestyle options to choose from—is partly to blame. New data shows that since 2015, the global wellness industry has grown 12.8 percent, from $3.7 trillion to $4.2 trillion. That increase is reflected in myriad new and expanded companies, products, and trends—which means more decisions to make. And when people have more choices than they’ve ever had in history, and whenever you have a lot of choice, it can be overwhelming.

So, make 2019 the year when you get real about what’s doable on a daily basis. The indications are there already— “staying in is the new going out” has been a trend for a while, and bonding over the desire for a simpler life has become a national pastime.

Basically, this new wave of self-care involves reclaiming your time. While opting out of all social media likely isn’t going to happen for most of us in 2019, a back-to-basics wellness revamp is a chance to get back to what made you fall in love with self-care to begin with.

If you live in the Los Angeles/Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment now!

Enjoy Some Digital Downtime Over the Holidays

During the holidays, so many things compete for your attention: gift-buying errands, family obligations, work-related holiday parties, wrapping, baking, and so on, and so forth. Add a steady stream of iPhone notifications related to scary world events and the many unattainable things Instagram influencers are spending the season doing to that list, and you might just not feel awesome about yourself. In other words, it’s a great time to disconnect. Doing so lets you actually enjoy quality time with the great people in your life.

NOTE: THIS IS NOT A DIGITAL DETOX! Rather than shutting things off for two weeks and dealing with the anxiety of digital withdrawal, simply apply a little more consciousness to your tech habits so you can rein them in just enough. Think of it like making some healthy swaps rather than going on a full-blown cleanse.

Here are some tips:

  1. Turn off your notifications

    Between Christmas and New Year’s, if you’re not working and aren’t required to respond to your manager’s “urgent” requests, the only “ding!” that should interrupt your time is the sound of jingle bells. Go through your apps with push notifications, and ask yourself whether you really need to be getting them this week.

    Even if you can only silence or snooze a couple of apps, the change will be helpful. When you get a notification, you’re distracted from what you’re doing in real life.

  2. Set a tech schedule

    Another way to shift your tech habits from reactive to proactive is to have a plan for how you’ll engage with your phone and other devices during your downtime. For instance, maybe you need to check in on email a bit, so you set an hour each day for this task, then ignore your inbox the rest of the day.

    Apple’s new Downtime feature can help a lot with that: It grays out apps after you’ve reached a pre-set time limit.

  3. Shift your media go-to’s

    Buy a newspaper, a few magazines, and/or a new book. Doing so will cut down the time you’d normally spend engaging with tech each day and your eyes on a screen.

  4. Go old-school with your thoughts

    Instead of posting your thoughts on social media, write them down in a journal. No, you won’t get the same feedback from the online masses, but writing with a pen or a pencil actually feels really, really good. In fact, research shows that journaling can help to regulate emotions and make you happier.

  5. Do something where you can’t bring your phone

    Another smart, surefire way to build digital downtime into your holiday is to plan activities that won’t allow you to use your phone while you’re there. Schedule a yoga or meditation class, or even a spa or sauna session. Better yet, invite your family members to go with you, so you’re getting holiday bonding time, too.

If you live in the Los Angeles/Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment now!

Finding A Therapist Shouldn't Be Hard - Start Here:

  1. How to find a therapist: check out a few different websites designed to showcase the therapists in your area:

  2. What to look for in a therapist

    • State license and a minimum of a Master’s Degree

    • Specialization or training in your specific concern

    • Personality that makes you feel comfortable

  3. Contacting a therapist  

    • Send an email or call

    • Here are some great questions to ask during your first contact: 

      Have you worked with someone like me before?

      How would you start helping me with this issue?

      Do you take insurance or what are your fees?

      How often do you expect clients to see you and for how long?

      Is there anything I should know about your style of therapy?

      What times is your office open?

  4. Preparing for the first appointment

    • Ask the clinician if there is any paperwork to complete before the first session and how to find the office.

    • Confirm what payment is accepted or confirm your mental health benefits with your insurance company.

    • Arrive on time. No need to bring anything or make any plans for the session.

  5. Scheduling a second appointment

    • If you feel comfortable, go ahead and schedule that next appointment! How you feel with the therapist is the most important component of therapy.

Getting help doesn’t have to be scary. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

If you live in the Los Angeles/Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment now!