Create Your Own Happiness

How can we create our own happiness? People sometimes walk around so unhappy with themselves and what they do with their lives. I have been doing some reading and research and came up with five little ways to start finding happiness in your life.

1. Find meaning in your work.

We spend several hours working everyday yet we filled unfulfilled by these hours. To change this we must focus on how to make a difference and make sure our interactions with our co-works are meaningful. Many people are not passionate about what they do for work but only view it as a means of income.

Studies have shown“contributing to the health of patients and the smooth functioning of the hospital” — were happier than hospital workers who performed the very same tasks but didn’t see meaning. According to Ben-Shahar, there’s been similar findings with engineers, restaurant workers and hairdressers.

Therefore enjoy what you do choose the professions that interest you the most and you feel excited about, sometimes this may not start of with a great income but can build over time and at the end of the day makes you feel more fulfilled and happy.

2. Be positive.

Choose to find the positive out of a situation instead of the negative. As humans we tend to dwell on the negative aspects of situations and life. Even in a messed up situation looking for the positive aspect no matter how small can really help in your happy bank.

3. Use “pleasure boosters” in your day.

Taking some time to meditate for a few minutes on something that is positive. This can lift your mood and help you feel happier and energised and generally more creative. Some good “pleasure boosters” include closing your eyes listening to a Classical Music for 5 minutes, picturing the person your love, reading an uplifting piece of material, imagining a serene place that you might be planning to go on vacation. 

4. Embrace silence.

We are constantly moving in our day filling every moment with sound and business that we fail to take time off in silence. Silence can help us be more at one with our environment, find focus within ourselves and helps us be more creative. Find a way to embrace a little silence everyday.

5. Don’t dwell in difficult situations…See the challenge.

View difficult situations as challenges and opportunity rather than getting stressed out over difficult situations. Viewing challenges make us energized to find solutions and be creative in finding the solutions.
6. Work on more than one project at a time. At least three.

When we work on only one project and it does not turn out how we planned, it can cause us to become an emotional wreck. Our self-esteem would take a beating because things did not turn out how we planned. Working on more than one project really helps with keeping our emotions and self-esteem positive because if one fails there are others that are going well to make us still feel like we are doing a good job. A good way of doing this is by maintaining a hobby or doing something that you are passionate about along with other things going on in one’s life. 

The Chair

As a psychologist many times we forget what sitting in that “dreaded” chair feels like. There are some of us who never sat in the chair at all!! In my case, I had to experience this when I was studying for my masters. Though therapy was mandatory, I used the opportunity for my self development and growth and looked at my issues. I really tried to face them. I did my best to be honest about my emotional skeletons.

Recently I had the opportunity of being a client again. YES, YES i sat in the “dreaded” chair!!! It wasn’t fun!!! I know exactly how it feels sitting in front a therapist because here I was sitting in front of a stranger telling them the intimate details of my life. Then all of a sudden I was scared and uncomfortable…I wanted to look good for the therapist… I felt afraid to tell the person my business… I wanted to get far away from the room… I wanted to tell them my issues because I was seeking help… I was talking a lot and all over… I felt confused and talking confused… hard questions were being asked… I had to be truthful… the questions made me think… I don’t want to think… I knew the answers but I needed to hear them from someone else… I wanted coping skills but yet I thought I was coping well… but I wasn’t. Then I was crying and felt sad then I felt happy and somewhere in there angry. Sounds familiar?

At the end of it though I felt comfortable and settled and I was able to open up and be honest because I wanted the assistance for my self development. The session went wonderfully well and I felt good at the end of it. I had some home work and things to think long and hard about, but it was good.

Sitting in that chair reminded me of my clients and how hard it can be sometimes to start trusting and talking to a stranger about intimate details of their lives. Trusting that I will be able to help them cope and figure what to do, what is the next step, what they have to work on, their fears, weaknesses and more. Looking at ourselves sometimes is the hardest thing to do because we have to admit and face that we have fears and weaknesses. We are our own harshest critic. When you realise your weaknesses, you can work on them. Somehow people are afraid of this process because they are comfortable with how they are handling their weaknesses even though it might be very unhealthy. Humans we are creatures of habit even though change is inevitable.

In the daily life of being a mental health professional it is necessary to sit in that “dreaded” chair if you really want to be emotionally stable and mentally healthy to deal with clients. Personally, I think it is really important for us mental health professionals to be in a mentally healthy place before assisting our clients. If we are a mess how can we EVER help clients?

The journey to self discovery is ongoing and never over. Sometimes a case might hit on issues we have bottled up within ourselves. Therefore it is always good to go back to that “dreaded” chair and be the client. Not only to remind us of how a client feels, but to also remind us that we too need to talk and sort out our issues no matter how small.

Don’t think this is just limited to mental health professionals. If the shoe fits you wear it! Are you giving advice to others clients, team members etc. and then not taking that advice? Worse yet are u getting frustrated with others and forgetting what it is like to be in that “dreaded” chair?

Self development and discovery…this is my journey now and I am very happy to be doing it so that when I sit in front of my clients they are getting the best of me and what I have to offer in the mental health profession….So I encourage my colleagues to take a seat in the chair and be reminded of what the clients feel in our sessions….and for the clients out there some of us understand how scary going into therapy can be but we also understand how tremendously beneficial it can be…

2012 Here it is…

I have spent some time reflecting on the last year of my professional life and I really marvel at how much it has changed. Professionally I am in the process of building my name, my practice, my profession. One of the greatest things I have learnt in the last year though is patience.

Being a mental health professional means that I should be able to practice what I preach…but that is the one thing that is the hardest to do! Patience…patience to know that some of the ventures I am involved in is in the stage of evolution therefore things do not happen as fast as we want them to…Patience to know that the supreme being has a plan that we do not always see or understand…Patience to believe that the best is yet to come…Patience to know and believe when it comes there will be great rewards….My lesson for last year and in this year to come is and will continue to be patience.
Another big aspect that I struggled with in the last year is finding balance. Sometimes as mental health professionals we give of ourselves so much that we forget to take the time to take care of ourselves. This is certainly something I struggle with and have been taking the time to ensure that I am mentally healthy. For me being mentally healthy is also taking the journey to find and understand myself, my strengths and weaknesses, and letting others help me when I am struggling.
Over the years of studying and practicing psychology, I have always tried to use what I learn on me first. I have always tried to find balance. It still is a difficult process because facing my weaknesses is one of the hardest things to do, because I have to admit that I need help when I want to just help everyone.
I took a different perspective at writing this blog because sometimes psychologist forget to let others know that we are human and go through the same process like everyone else and we too have to admit when we need assistance, sometimes our inability to ask for help causes us more distress and makes us even more unhealthy than others. I certainly have areas of my life that I need to work on so my famous line “I’m no guru” is even more interestingly true. The only difference is that on a daily basis I try to handle all my problems, obstacles, challenges etc. in a healthy balanced way. Cheers to 2012, and for me the lesson is Patience! What is your lesson for 2012?

Parental Control on the Internet

I had the opportunity over the course of the last few weeks to set up Internet parental controls. This was a very interesting experience for me. I had to set up the controls because I have 8 to 12 teenage boys using the internet. I marvelled at how parenting has changed over the years.

Children these days are growing up with more exposure to everything at a younger and younger age. These days 3 and 4 year olds know how to navigate the pc and internet. When I was 3 or 4 years I was now learning to play with my dolls or build blocks.

This exposure comes because over the years access to information good and bad is generally more available. There is the internet, music, tv, cell phones, peers and so much more that influences our youths. And everything is so accessible because the advancement in technology is making to world smaller and smaller everyday.

Now the whole guarding the internet thing became more apparent to me after I installed the parental controls. I used a free service on xp called k9 from Blue Coat. This service has been working really well. I was also quite impressed with windows Vista parental controls. There two sets of controls help to limit certain sites the boys go on like porn sites, gambling, violence, gaming sites and more. You can also block certain sites you do not want them to go on like Facebook, Youtube etc. I have not placed very strict rules on these sites because I think its good for the boys to have exposure to social networking.

These two sets of parental controls offer an activity report, so I was able to find out on Vista that the boys were trying to look at porn, break my password, programmes opened and more. K9 just gives an activity report for the internet. Xp does not have parental controls built in.

There is one other cool feature that allows me to have remote access to the computers the boys are on from home, so I can see what is going on at any point. The programme I used is Log Me In.

Now all this appears to be like a great deal of controlling or trying to control, but as parents or guardians we have to be aware and move with the times.Teenager will find opportunities to sneak to do things parents disapprove of, but as parents we must not encourage these things to be too easily accessible. So I know the boys will try to look at porn they may get videos and dvd’s from their friends but it cannot be said that I know it is easily accessible online and i did nothing to prevent this easy access. I am trying to be a responsible parent/guardian to the young budding men in my care, so I am taking precautions not to encourage certain types of behaviours to be normalised at home. I am not naive they will find means and ways of getting around accessing whatever illicit material they desire.

This whole parental control on the internet has been an eye opening experience for me. A great deal of the morals and values of the institution I work for, as well as my own values came up again and again. I also did not realise the amount of risks and threats, are just as much as the well, good and wonderful areas of the internet. Our children will be exposed to lots of information we must talk to them, let them know right from wrong. We must be informed ourselves and move with the times. We must learn what things our children are being exposed to and not be naive into thinking the times have not changed from when we were growing up. It is only then we can be effective parents.

Jenna Samaroo

Anger Management for Everyone…

People just seem to be very angry all the time these days. Trinidad has become an angry and aggressive society. This anger and aggression, I have noticed stems from the busy lifestyles we are now living. There are demands all the time, the workplace, the family, the friends, school, and the list goes on.

Children in schools are no different. Sometimes, especially the teenagers, tend to be even more angry and aggressive towards their peers, their families, their teachers and those in authority. This anger and aggression from our youths, most times, come from what is going on in the home or their relationship with those in authority. This is just my experience I am sharing…
The other day I was asked to make a presentation on anger management because I cover this topic all the time with mostly youths.
One of the first things I ask young people is when you angry what is body response to anger. All of us need to know the signs that indicate when we are getting angry. These signs come firstly from our bodies. I have found that many people do not know the first physical signs that they are getting angry. Signs vary from person to person and its important for each one of us to be aware of this. There is a list of things that can happen and you need to pay attention.
You can;
start sweating,
get red or go pale,
get a headache,
eyes hurt,
eyes get larger,
breath faster,
muscles tighten in body, face arms,
veins pop out,
grind your teeth,
fist your hands,
creased forehead,
and the list goes on and varies from person to person. Understanding the physical signs that you are getting angry is the first step in anger management and effective control.

The second step to anger management is identifying the triggers. Triggers are the events, persons, situation, memories etc. that makes us angry. Usually it is the same exact things that make us angry over and over again. Sometimes we really have to choose and ask ourselves important questions like do I really need to be angry at this today. Knowing what triggers our anger and maybe choosing a different strategy beside getting angry, can be helpful in problem solving and curbing anger.

The third vital step is to know what works at calming yourself down. There are various ways each person calm themselves down. The calming down process can only take place when we are now becoming aware that we are angry. Therefore the indicator to calm down will come from the initial body responses that says to us “hey I am getting angry”. All of us have varying degrees of anger. So our anger can range from irritated, to annoyed, to vexed, to angry, to ranging angry and out of control. The calming down process has to start at the first signs of anger, so that will be the annoyed and vexed period. Here is where we want to at this stage;
take 3 or 4 deep breaths and let them out slowly,
we can count from 1-20 slowly in our minds,
we can walk away,
take a walk,
take a cold drink,
listen to music,
do an physical activity like exercising,
take a cold shower
and the list goes on.

When we feel angry going into raging angry some of the things we can do is;
beat up on a pillow or cushion,
tear paper like newspapers,
jump up and down,
go outside and scream,
scream into a pillow,

These are the vital steps to anger management. This process obviously has to be altered from person to person. Some triggers are harder to control than others, because the roots go deeper and usually require therapy to overcome this deep rooted source of anger. But in a nutshell this is the skeleton of the process to anger management.

So the next time you get angry take a deep breath and decide if this situation is really worth you getting angry today…..

Jenna Samaroo

Bullying an ever increasing problem…

In recent times I have realised that bullying is an ever increasing problems in our nation’s schools and homes. The problem of bullying stems from many deep rooted issues.

Bullying is different from aggression. An aggressive child will be aggressive anywhere, with anyone and this behaviour is usual equal. Bullying on the other hand is an abuse of power, where one child overpowers another and deliberately hurts them (verbally, emotionally or physically). Usually the child being bullied has not done anything to deserve such treatment but has been targeted by the bully to show off his/her power on a continuous basis.
Generally, boys are more outright with bullying behaviour, therefore it appears more common amongst them. Girls on the other hand bully in less direct ways, for example they might deliberately leave out another girl from play, or activities. Bullying can be more effectively prevented and managed when work is started with younger children, rather than teenagers. The work that is usually done is through education, positive talk sessions, and strong policies in schools against bullying.
Teachers play a vital role in the prevention and management of bullying, since this behaviour occurs mostly in the school setting. Adults need to help the children become assertive, avoid certain situations, and actively help children who are being bullied. This can also be done through education.
Children who are bullied suffer from many different psychological issues. Bullying can cause loss of self esteem, depression, increased isolation, family problems, poor school performance and some children might even start thinking about suicide or revenge.
Children who bully are often unhappy and dissatisfied with aspect of their lives. More times that not bullies have been bullied themselves at one point. They have felt deprived and may have suffered the same imbalance of power, usually from a loved one. Therefore bullies themselves often have low self esteem. In order to feel good about themselves they bring others down. If this behaviour is not checked, the child can go on to delinquent behaviour in adulthood because they would not have learnt how to be responsible and work well with others.
As parents, teachers and adults one of the main ways we can help with the bullying behaviour is by modelling the correct behaviour for our young people. We also need to treat then with respect and love, giving them autonomy. We should not dominate them, demand and tell them what to do at all times, but to talk to our children and treat them with respect and love. We have to do more, educate more, role model more, be more vigilant to prevent the rising incidences of bullying…
Jenna Samaroo

Children’s Questions About Sex…..

If your 8 year old ask you what is a condom? what will be your answer?

I had a parent who asked me this question sometime ago and I thought this was very interesting because many parents do not know where to begin when their children start asking questions pertaining to sex.
First of all I tell parents do not lie. Long gone are the days that parents are able to lie to their kids about sex. Our children have access to so much more information than we had when we were their age. In my time there was no cell phone, and the Internet was now becoming accessible. The televisions shows and advertisements were still a great deal more G rated than they are now. Things are very different now, because our kids have access to much more information, therefore if parents do not answer their questions then who will?
The answer of who will is the scary part. Many time when parents do not answer their children’s questions they go to their peers for these answers. Their peers may be misinformed and give wrong information. Peers may give too much information to the child causing confusion, more curiosity and sometimes experimentation.
We have to realise that the times have drastically changed from when we were children or teenagers therefore our parenting styles need to change to suit the times. Our children are being exposed to information, especially about sex, at younger and younger ages. Therefore as parents we MUST be the one give the information when they ask. Giving the information means that we ourselves must have the information. As parents we need to do the research in order to answer our children’s questions. There are many books in the library or information from the internet that can be used to give pointers and help parents talk to their children about questions pertaining to sex.
So when an 8 year old asks what is a condom we must have an age appropriate answer. Our child is not a teenager and at 8 years old sometimes there is only so much understanding that takes place. Therefore we do not want to lie but at the same time we must not go too in depth to cause confusion. We must also know our children, because if we know them and we are aware of their thought process we will be able to know what will confuse them, what will make sense to them and how in depth we can take our discussion.
So an ideal answer might be something a man uses to prevent a woman and himself from getting HIV/Sexually transmitted diseases/ and pregnancy. Some children may ask more questions accordingly and we continue to keep the answers age appropriate. At 8 years old we should use the correct biological names when having discussions and keep checking to see if they understand what we are talking about, because sometimes we may be making them more confused.
Let us not get scared when our children start asking questions about sex at a young age. As parents we should get out there and make sure we are informed and answer the questions. Make sure our kids get the information they seek from us first. Keep the communication channel open, we must never tell our children questions pertaining to sex is inappropriate. Let them come and talk to us about it rather than talk to their peers and others who will give them wrong information and misguide our children.
Jenna Samaroo

Turtle Trip

Recently I had the pleasure of going turtle watching in Grand Riviere for the first time in my life. The experience was really wonderful. I was able to learn so much about leatherback turtles and the wonders of nature. I like doing nature things, and taking pictures of nature. At the moment I have been fooling around a little more with the camera understand setting, lighting etc. So for me this even was an opportunity not only to see something wonderful, but to also continue to play with my camera. 

The beginning of the trip was quite an event, we got off to a late start for a long journey. The drive was tough we had to go through lots of dark winding roads. One of the thing to be very prepared for is motion sickness if you are susceptible to that. After about two and a half hours of driving we finally arrived at Grand Riviere.
Initially when we arrived, everyone was glad to stretch and also excited to see what was happening. There was a proper tour office with bathroom facilities which pleasantly surprised us, since we were not expecting facilities at all. The fee was a mere $15 tt for the tour. 

We started by firstly getting the ground rules of the tour. No bright lights or torches, no flash pictures and no loud noise. All of these things will deter the turtles from coming ashore or it will 
disorient them. After getting the rules for the tour we were able to view and hold some baby turtles. The baby turtles were no more 
than two inches long and felt really like leather!!! They were rough little creatures and they were ready to to swim with their little
 flappers gearing to swim. Our group also had the pleasure of releasing eight baby turtles into the water. 

After releasing the hatchlings to my amazement there were many turtles laying theirs eggs that night. For most of the night turtle after turtle was coming up looking for their places to nest. Nesting season is from March to August every year. The leatherback turtles are an endangered species so the beaches they nest on are usually cut off from public access and wardens guard them day and night. The only access to the beaches are through certified tour guides and one has to buy a licence to go on the beach as
 stated before. 

These turtles come all the way from Africa to nest on out shores. The guides informed us that turtles can reach up to nine feet in length and span from 500 – 2000 pounds!!!
The actual laying off the eggs takes 5-9 minutes but the

 camouflaging of the nest site takes up to 30 minutes. The communication between the turtles is absolutely wonderful, when some go back into the water others immediately come up and start looking for a spot to lay their eggs. 
These reptiles have been dated back to the dinosaur age and it is quite sad that they are now

Our group stayed the night because the guides told us we could take pictures of the turtles in the morning and collect hatchlings. We camped in our bus, which I must say was fun and interesting then at 5:30 am we went out to see the turtles. We were fortunate enough to see two female turtles still on the beach laying their eggs and we got some fantastic pictures. Unfortunately we did not see any hatchlings that were alive. Early predators, vultures and dogs, came out to dig up eggs and eat the hatchlings. 
The experience was a fantastic one, the turtles were amazing creatures. The group of us laughed, chatted, shared and bonded with each other in a meaningful way. I will recommend a trip like this to any nature lover or persons wanting a bonding experience especially families with kids.
Jenna Samaroo

Time of Reflection

During the last couple months I learnt many valuable lessons about life and about the fragility of life through my own experiences. Many of these lessons gave me great insight into interacting with my clients in a more meaningful way. Not only was the interaction with my clients changed but how I view things generally in life.

I got very ill and for a while the doctors did not seem to know what was wrong with me. I felt really scared not knowing what could possibly be wrong in a matter of one week. The doctors were talking about things like leukemia, lymphoma and lupus. Chronic diseases that could change my life forever. The thing is though, thankfully I had none of these things, but the thought that I could have, changed my life forever!
Some of the lessons I learnt. One never take life, especially health for granted. All of us, but especially mental health professionals need to take care of ourselves first sometimes. I was working hard, not taking vitamins, running myself on low to empty to try to meet and greet every one’s demands. The funny thing about it is that when you do something you love, even if you are running on empty it does not feel that way. Therefore I realised it is important for me to schedule some rest and relaxation in between despite not feeling like if I need it.
I also have a greater appreciation for clients with chronic illnesses. It certainly is an experience on its own to be diagnose with a life changing health issue. Therefore to actually go through the changes that has to take place day to day is another experience altogether. I definitely think I am better equipped to help clients overcome these life changing experiences. Not only do I have a greater appreciation for helping clients with chronic illnesses but also I can help them cope in a better way with loved ones who have these health issues.
Another emotional experience for me was being hospitalized. The hospital experience reminded me not only of our country’s failing health system, but also how some people have to live. Many patients at the hospital was in pain, many of them needed tests done but could not afford to go to a private doctor, many of them were humble people trying to get healthy and continue with life.
These experiences were a wake up call for me not because I am not aware ofwhat is going on around me but I think to keep me on my toes. Because sometimes in life things can change in an instant. Not only can they change but it could turn things literally upside down. I also learnt that people have to tolerate certain conditions because better really cannot be done. I learnt how badly our health care system is at this point. I learnt what it felt like to be sick and not know why and have the worst case scenario placed before my eyes. I had time to reflect and redirect my approach on life and on my career. I believe in the saying everything happens for a reason and maybe I needed to take my sick period to reflect and redirect my life and to be a better mental health professional to my clients…..

Future Young Men

I have the pleasure of interacting with many pre-adolescent, adolescent and young adult males. Many times these interactions give a clear indication of the impact of fathers not being in the household on our young males. Many times these young men are confused about their roles. They have little respect for females and persons around them. Their notions of being a man, manliness or plane masculinity is jaded. They perceive that being a man entails many things that are not really true. Drugs, machoism, breadwinners, cursing, drinking, little respect for authority, stealing, lying are just some of the negative characteristics many young men think they should follow.

But my faith in young men have been restored from time to time. Not all young men are bad obviously but sometimes it may seem that way because of bad press, because we mainly only hear the horror stories. The good or better stories are buried below the badness of some young men. There are many young men with the dream of being more. They are many young men with so much potential. We as a society have to help guide and channel the potential of these young men. Especially those who are not fortunate to have good guidance from parents or family. We cannot only look at the bad but for our future and the future of our young people on a whole we must look at the good and offer guidance and support to our young men.

When I say guidance that is essentially what I mean. As a society it is out responsibility to guide and support our young men. Many of them do not have a father figure or the father figure that is available is simply not good enough. Fathers need to start stepping up to their responsibilities. Our young men have so much potential so why are we letting all this potential be lost to drugs, womanizing and so much more. The male species has to start saving their own. And we can start this with fathers who are willing to accept their responsibilities.

Young men have the world in their hands and with guidance and support they can achieve anything. I think it is time start trusting our young men for they our future. The young people are the ones who will be running our companies and our country in years to come. We need to believe in our young men and guide them so that they can be the true leaders of tomorrow.