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. 

Back to School Tips

The kids are heading back to school and it can be quite challenging for parents and children to make the adjustment of school routines, worries about academics, fitting in with peers in school and bullying are some of the concerns. Here are some little reminders to get ready for the new academic year.

1. Ease into school routines

Parents, especially those with younger children, can help their kids prepare for school by getting them on sleep, meals, homework, play and extra curricular schedules that are in sync with the school day.

A rested child is generally in a better mood, more motivated and rest improves memory.

2. Academic refreshers

A couple weeks before school starts back give your child short school like assignments from some of their new books or even some revision from their old books. If you send kids to school without a little revision it is harder for them to get back into the groove of academics.

3.  Get to the root of back-to-school jitters

Most school-aged children look forward to the first day back, but for those who are anxious, figuring out why can help. If children are worried about seeing friends again, arrange some get-togethers with friends before school starts. If the child fears having a new teacher or being in a new classroom, schedule a classroom visit before the school year.

Look out for avoidance behaviors, like crying, clinging or complaining of feeling sick to their stomach and asking to stay home.

4.  Bullying

July/ August might have been a reprieve for children who have been bullied at school. Bullying tends to decrease in schools where adults are responsive. Parents should help their children identify trusted adults at school who can help, including teachers, administrators, janitors, counselors or other staff.

Cyberbullying usually happens when kids are at home. Parents must encourage children to say when something on Facebook or email hurts their feelings or causes embarrassment.

5.  Pressure to fit in

Parents of adolescents, especially those entering secondary school, might see some behavior changes as children try to fit in with peers.

Keep having conversations with adolescents about their values and who they are. Make time for family activities like riding bikes or playing football. Parents should have “check in” talks with their adolescents often to make sure everything is going well in school.

6.  Cell phones, computers

Before the school year begins is also a good time to remind kids of the lasting repercussions of sharing photos, video, texting and other forms of social media electronically. Parents also should get familiar with these tools since they will have to monitor their kids use of these tools.

Similarly, remind teens that email is not private and to think twice before firing off disgruntled emails about teachers from the school library computers.

Meditation: How to start?

One of my dear friends quizzed me the other day about mediating. He was interested in starting meditating so that he could keep focus on positivity and be focussed throughout his day. Some insight I gave was that meditation really does not require one to make big life changes. All that is really needed is a few minutes of your day and some quiet space indoors or outdoors.

1.Firstly view meditation as a simple relaxation technique.

Meditation is an opportunity to release the things that stresses you and irritates you about your day. This is time where you can find peace of mind.

Meditation is sitting with your eyes closed focussed on relaxing. You can start with three to five minutes a day and work yourself up to 20 minutes a day.
Even if you spend the first three or so minutes distracted and restless the fact that you are taking some time to relax is the important part of the exercise.

2.Take some time to find your style.

Some people like to use mantras like peace, love, God etc. repeating it as they close their eyes. 

Finding a comfortable place it sit and sitting up helps keep you alert. You can take several deep breaths, trying to intentionally relaxing your body by tensing and relaxing your muscles. After you feel relaxed, on your next inhalation, breathe normally and repeat the word “peace” either aloud or silently. Then repeat the word as you exhale.

If you’re a visual person, focus on an image as you’re meditating, such as watching ocean waves go in and out.

The goal is to pick a practice that makes you feel a sense of relaxation and peacefulness.

3. Schedule your meditation.

Schedule your meditation practice and commit to it. Some people think they might be too busy but three minutes can definitely make a big difference in a person’s life.
4. Do not resist and fight your thoughts.

Many people get upset when their thoughts wander to things they might not expect.

Acknowledge your busy brain and let your thoughts flow. The mission of meditation is to introduce a more positive way of thinking.

Starting with short mediations times are easier because it is a great deal harder to meditate for 15 minutes than it is for 5 minutes.

5. Reprogram your thoughts.
Negative thoughts can make it hard to mediate. In order to reprogramme your thoughts it is good practice to use positive and self affirming phrases. Repeating these phrases can help. These phrases can also be used any time one does not feel so positive.

Some of these might include;
  • I love who I am.
  • I love the people in my life.
  • I am strong.
  • I am healthy.
  • I am beautiful.
  • I am well.

Sadness and Depression

Over the course of the last few months I have found that there are a number of people and specifically young people who have been displaying signs and symptoms of depression and sadness.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself to help determine if your sadness could be depression. If you have any concern about your mental health, always check with a professional.

  1. Do you have unexpected, intense sadness that lasts longer than a few days at a time?
  2. Are you experiencing thoughts of suicide? 
  3. Are you fatigued or lacking in energy?
  4. Do you have feelings of hopelessness? 
  5. Are you using alcohol or drugs to manage your mood?
  6. Have your eating patterns changed? 
  7. Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy? 
  8. Do you feel worthless or guilty? 
  9. Are you losing your temper or fighting more than you used to?
  10. Are you becoming more irritable? 

Please note that these questions do not give a diagnosis of depression but can raise a red flag for you to see a mental health professional to determine if the sadness you feel is usual for you life circumstance at this time.

Adapted from

Spotting Sexual Abuse

Last week I had the pleasure of doing a workshop designed at spotting sexual abuse and abusers. This workshop was entitled Protecting God’s Children and was put on by the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission.

Facts About Sexual Abuse

  • Most abuse takes place by people the child knows and trusts and is seldom done by strangers.
  • Most sexual abusers are heterosexuals.
  • Children seldom lie about sexual abuse.
  • Priests abuse children for the same reasons as any other sexual abusers and not because of celibacy.

Warning Signs of a sexual abuse in children;

  • Changes in behaviour, child becomes withdrawn, mood swings, anxiety.
  • Child may become aggressive for no reason.
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss or weight gain.
  • Stop taking time for proper hygiene practices.
  • Sudden decline in school performance.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Unusual interest in sexual matters that are not age appropriate. Regressive behaviour, bed wetting, thumb sucking, etc.

Signs of sexual abusers;

  • They use grooming process to earn the child’s trust. Giving of inappropriate gifts, using a “good guy” approach.
  • They use physical contact. The abuser may touch the child often and inappropriately, each time testing the boundaries of the child.
  • The use of psychology. Befriending the child, giving pro villages the parents may not give.
  • Community – many time abusers are very integrated into the community and is well known by everyone including parents.

Why Don’t Children Tell?

  • They were threatened or bribed by the abuser to keep the abuse a secret.
  • Fear that they will be taken away from their family.
  • Are afraid no one will believe them.
  • The abuser promised gifts or rewards for keeping the secret.
  • Blame themselves or believe the abuse is punishment for being “bad”.
  • Feel too ashamed or embarrassed to tell.
  • Worry about getting into trouble or getting a loved one into trouble.

How do we protect our children?

  • Controlled access – be very careful who has access to the child and for how long.
  • Monitor all programmes – even programmes put on by the church. Drop in unannounced, make sure the events are not in secluded areas and do background checks on persons carrying out programmes with your children.
  • Be aware – listen to what your children tell you, believe what they tell you, be alert to changes in their behaviour.
  • Communicate your concerns – Talk to the person involved and highlight behaviours you are uncomfortable with, talk to a direct supervisor.

These tips are very handy and is the start of the process for recognising sexual abusers but I feel that we as a Caribbean people have to develop our own check-list. Our culture is different from the American culture therefore the classification for detecting a sexual abuser may be somewhat different for our unique society. Although this is a very good start for parents who are unaware we will have to do more research into the Caribbean profile of a sexual abuser.

Caribbean Psychology Association

I had the pleasure of attending the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologist retreat this weekend. Many points stood out to me and started my own thought process as to the future and development of psychology in the Caribbean.
The perennial problem continues to be that we as a Caribbean people cannot unite. We fail to see that united we will be more of a force in the world.  United we would just be better.

 The unfortunate result of this disunity for the discipline of Psychology in the Caribbean is quite sad since we have to rely on the instruments for testing, literature and research from the U.S., U. K. and every other first world country. The literature etc. from these places have little cultural relevance to our unique and dynamic society yet we still rely on all their material. 

We have many bright, intellectual and hard working Psychologist all over the Caribbean so doesn’t it make sense for us to have a Caribbean Psychological Association where we can work on literature, research and testing instruments that are our own and relevant to our culture? What are my colleagues in the Caribbean thoughts on this matter?

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?

Communication Self Assessment

How well do you communicate with other? Do you think you are doing your best at communicating?

Take this self assessment and see how well you communicate.

Communication Skills Self-Assessment Exercise

In each of the following, read items A, B, and C, then mark the one that best describes your communication style. (24 total)

1. ___ A. When conversing with others, I usually do most of the talking.

___ B. When conversing with others, I usually let the other person do most of the talking.

___ C. When conversing with others, I try to equalize my participation in the conversation.

2. ___ A. When I first meet someone, I wait for the other person to make the introduction first.

___ B. When I first meet someone, I introduce myself with a smile and offer a handshake.

___ C. When I first meet someone, I hug the person.

3. ___ A. I usually “warm-up” new conversations with small talk.

___ B. I usually avoid small talk and jump into more important matters.

___ C. I usually avoid starting conversations.

4. ___ A. I make an effort to remember and use peoples’ names.

___ B. I don’t pay attention to names as I tend to forget them.

___ C. I only learn the names of important people.

5. ___ A. I frequently use courtesy words and phrases – “Please,” “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” “I’m sorry.”

___ B. I occasionally use these courtesy words and phrases.

___ C. I never use these courtesy words and phrases.

6. ___ A. I tend to be serious and don’t smile often while conversing.

___ B. I smile all the time while conversing.

___ C. I smile at appropriate times while conversing.

7. ___ A. I make eye contact while conversing.

___ B. I sometimes make eye contact while conversing.

___ C. I never make eye contact while conversing.

8. ___ A. While conversing, I hold my head still at all times.

___ B. While conversing, I nod my head at appropriate times.

___ C. While conversing, I nod my head constantly.

9. ___ A. While conversing, I stand one-foot away from the person.

___ B. While conversing, I stand two- to three-feet away from the person.

___ C. While conversing, I stand five- to six-feet away from the person.

10. ___ A. I often stand while talking to a person who is sitting.

___ B. I often sit while talking to a person who is sitting.

___ C. I often lean down while talking to a person who is sitting.

11. ___ A. To end a conversation, I often just leave.

___ B. To end a conversation, I begin to look impatient hoping the person

will get the hint.

___ C. To end a conversation, I wrap up with a closing statement.

12. ___ A. If a co-worker has put on weight, I say nothing about it.

___ B. If a co-worker has put on weight, I tell the person that he or she has

changed in appearance.

___ C. If a co-worker has put on weight, I honestly tell the person that he

or she looks fat.

13. ___ A. When I’m listening to the speaker, I often cross my arms over my chest.

___ B. When I’m listening to the speaker, I often lean back and turn my body

away from the speaker.

___ C. When I’m listening to the speaker, I often lean slightly forward and face

my body toward the speaker.

14. ___ A. When I cross my leg, I cross my leg facing the speaker.

___ B. When I cross my leg, I cross my leg away from the speaker.

___ C. When I cross my leg, I bob my foot.

15. ___ A. While listening, I tend to be distracted by things going on around me.

___ B. While listening, I listen for meaning and ask questions.

___ C. While listening, I watch the person speak, but I don’t “hear” a word.

16. ___ A. When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I don’t comment about it.

___ B. When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I try to change the subject.

___ C. When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I try to relate to the person’s feelings and show sensitivity to his or her misfortune.

17. ___ A. When I discuss a topic, I tend to talk about and focus on positive (good) aspects.

___ B. When I discuss a topic, I tend to talk about and focus on the negative (bad) aspects.

___ C. When I discuss a topic, I tend to complain.

18. ___ A. When I have a negative opinion or comment, I just say it.

___ B. When I have a negative opinion or comment, I lead in with a positive comment first.

___ C. When I have a negative opinion or comment, I say nothing.

19. ___ A. When I receive unfavorable feedback, I note where I need to improve.

___ B. When I receive unfavorable feedback, I get angry and defensive.

___ C. When I receive unfavorable feedback, I deny the problem, make excuses, or plead ignorance.

20. ___ A. When I give a person negative feedback, I focus on the person’s observable work or behavior and offer suggestions.

___ B. When I give a person negative feedback, I focus on what I don’t like about the person.

___ C. When I give a person negative feedback, I simply tell the person what to do right.

21. ___ A. When I give a person negative feedback, I do it around others so everyone can hear.

___ B. When I give a person negative feedback, I do it in front of the supervisor.

___ C. When I give a person negative feedback, I talk with the person alone in a private place.

22. ___ A. When I disagree with a person, I listen first, ask questions for clarification then disagree non-judgmentally.

___ B. When I disagree with a person, I quickly point out the person is wrong and why.

___ C. When I disagree with a person, I say little or nothing.

23. ___ A. When I’m in a group, I tend to frown a lot.

___ B. When I’m in a group, I tend to smile and use humor at appropriate times.

___ C. When I’m in a group I tend to be serious.

24. ___ A. I’m a “hands-on” person. I tend to: prefer hands-on experiences and activities; focus on tasks to be done; refrain from discussions; think in a logical and organized way; do things in an orderly way; have difficulty adjusting to change.

___ B. I’m a “thinker.” I tend to: enjoy listening to a logical presentation of ideas; enjoy analyzing problems and finding systematic ways try to solve problems; enjoy creating models based on theory and information; like structure and organization; act slowly in making decisions; show more interest in ideas than people.

___ C. I’m an “explorer.” I tend to: try things by trial and error; explore practical uses for ideas and theories; make decisions that provide quick solutions; decide quickly; take risks; enjoy change; rely more on people for information.

___ D. I’m a “free thinker.” I tend to: base views and opinions on feelings; enjoy tossing around ideas (brainstorming); approach and view problems and experience; from different perspectives; rely on intuition, not logic, for making decisions; dislike structure.

Healing the Fatherhood Wounds

I had the pleasure over the course of the last weekend to attend the Healing the Fatherhood Wounds Workshop for women at the John Paul II Centre on Fatherhood. The workshop took place for the entire weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening.
The weekend started with the powerful movie “Akeelah and the Bee”. It was my first time watching this movie in its entirety. The movie had a number of valuable life lessons about the dynamics of the father and daughter relationship.
The second day was where the real work started. There were many fruitful sessions where some real groundbreaking epiphanies were made with all of the women present including myself. I would like to share some if the tid bits that stuck out for me.
I always knew that the father had a great impact on a daughter’s life but this impact was made even more apparent by the material covered. The father is literally a daughter’s first love. She is taught about the good and the bad in the male figure from her father. During the years 0-9 the father teaches his daughter how to interact and be loved by a man. A father during this vital stage teaches a daughter what she will want and will not want in a man in her life in the future.
There are also a number of attributes that fathers are responsible for teaching women that are considered “adult life skills”. These include; to manage, contain, the value of boundaries, to defend, to protect, to compete, to hold onto, to provide, to conquer and to exclude.
During the weekend I also was able to learn some of my father’s healthy and unhealthy characteristics and how these are present in the men in my life. The material was profound because as women we often chose men that are just like our fathers. This action is very unconscious and we tend not to even notice sometimes the similarity.
I also learnt the vital building blocks of self-esteem that only a parent can pass to a child. These building blocks are;
  • Identity – who am I? – This is usually done by the same sex parent. Therefore women would form their identity from their Mother’s.
  • Individuality – What do I love? What do I hate? – This is usually instilled by the opposite sex parent so in this case a Father would be the one instilling Individuality in a daughter.
  • Intimacy – In-to-me-u-see – This is taught by both parents through their relationship with each other.
Another point of interest that stood out for me is the question “why do women tell their stories?” and when I mean tell their stories I mean talk all the time! Answer: Women talk to HEAL.
  • H – Heal tell stories to heal.
  • E – Encourage, especially others.
  • A – Awareness, of the answers.
  • L – Legacy – stories tell our legacy and leaves legacies behind.
So this really explained why we women always chattering!
The last point I would like to share are some unhealthy father/daughter relationship styles that were pointed out to us.
  1. Less than father – father abandons daughter and leaves her yearning.
  2. Abusive father – father is verbally, emotionally or sexually abusive.
  3. Pampering father – this father spoils the daughter.
  4. Pygmalion father – the daughter becomes the father’s companion.
  5. Ruined father – the daughter has to rescue the father.
These were some of the main points of the wonderful weekend dealing with some of my fatherhood issues. I learnt a great deal about how my father has impacted my life both positively and negatively. I encourage everyone to do something like this because it really helps us understand who we are, where we came from and how our primary caregivers, our parents has impacted upon our lives…