What Is Happiness, Anyway?

Person sitting by the ocean

If you Google the phrase “how to be happy,” you’ll be met with about 207 million answers.

There’s the recent study that examined how much money a person needs to make to lead the happiest and most satisfied life possible ($95,000/year for overall satisfaction, and $60-75,000 for day-to-day happiness). There’s a quiz on how to be happier at work, infinite mommy blogs detailing how to find personal happiness as a mom, wellness publications offering unconventional ways to boost happiness, religious content exploring what happiness looks like as a Christian … you get the point. Everyone has something to say about what it means to be happy. As a result, happiness feels almost like a myth.

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4 Signs You’re Self-Sabotaging (+ How to Stop)

Frustrated person at desk with writer's block

If you’re familiar with 1999 pop punk hit “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit, then you’re familiar with the phenomenon of self-sabotage. If you’re not, allow me to give you a modern rock lesson and an excellent example of a self-sabotaging protagonist…

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Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Dreams

Woman in field of flowers

Dreams have been viewed as a key to the unconscious mind ever since 1899, when Sigmund Freud wrote his canonical text The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud theorized that dreams act as a mental safety valve, allowing individuals to experiment with what it might feel like to act out negative emotions, fantasies, or impulses in a “safe” space, not the waking world.

While Freud’s dream theory has been an important contribution in the history of psychology and psychoanalysis, it has since been discredited as unscientific — along with his idea that analyzing dreams can uncover the root cause of a patient’s neurosis, usually a repressed traumatic event experienced as a child.

But the purpose of dreams, and their possible connection to both our subconscious and conscious minds, continues to fascinate neuroscientists and psychologists alike.

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Is Obsessing About Physical Health Undermining Our Mental Health?

Vitamins on plate

I was a 50-year-old woman who faithfully went to the gym, occasionally practiced yoga, ate my veggies, didn’t smoke, indulged in maybe one glass of wine a week, and doggedly logged my 10 thousand steps a day. Imagine my surprise when late last year I ended up in the ER with “classic signs of female heart attack.”

After EKG’s, X-Rays, and comprehensive blood work, the doctors found nothing wrong with my heart or lungs. Pronounced physically healthy, I was instructed to see my primary physician if my terrifying symptoms (sharp pains in my chest, back, and jaw) continued.

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The Surprising New Connection between Sleep and Mental Health

Woman with alarm clock

Sleep research is gradually establishing itself as an important field, and a recent study focusing on the relationship between insomnia and depression may have useful implications for mental health practitioners.

Insomnia is generally regarded as a core symptom of depression, but new research shows that it may actually be a cause of it. The study, which was conducted by sleep researchers at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, found that “sleep disruption is a driving factor in the occurrence of paranoia, hallucinatory experiences, and other mental health problems in young adults with an average age of 25.”

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Why Weight Loss Resolutions Are Dangerous to Mental Health

white scale in bathroom with sad face emoji on digital display

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they’re trying to get in shape is setting a specific goal of losing a certain number of pounds. The New Year is here (2018, yikes!), and people just love to set New Year’s resolutions involving weight loss. Oftentimes, the focus is primarily on a specific number of pounds to lose — or size to fit into — rather than a more holistic goal of increasing physical activity and fitness, which is more beneficial to overall health.

Around the start of the New Year, weight loss and fitness goals are in full force. Everyone seems to be in the “New year, new me!” mindset, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Gym membership sign ups are at their highest during the first quarter of the year. January accounts for about 12% of yearly sign ups, opposed to the average of 8% in other months. Continue reading Why Weight Loss Resolutions Are Dangerous to Mental Health

An Open Letter To My Catcallers On My Way To Work

street harassment mural brooklyn

An Open Letter to My Catcallers On My Way to Work” originally appeared on Fairygodboss, an online career community for women, by women.

Dear Catcallers On My Way to Work This Morning,

Like a stray hair that slinks down the skin of my back, I can feel your eyes. Like the Spanx under my skirt you strip away with your mind, your words suffocate me.

On my way to the office, I saunter through Manhattan’s Herald Square. It’s crawling with wide-eyed tourists, to whom you’re supposed to be passing flyers and ushering onto double-decker buses. You call me an, ahem, part of the female anatomy because I won’t smile for you. I grip my keys between my knuckles, and I flash you the finger. Continue reading An Open Letter To My Catcallers On My Way To Work

How I Learned to Love My Dark Side

demon in mirror cartoon image

How I Learned to Love My Dark Side originally appeared on Shine, a free daily text to help you thrive.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m sensitive. Like, we’re talking so sensitive that I can get stressed out from watching The Great British Bake Off because I see the stress in the competitors faces as they race to put a Victoria sponge cake in the oven.

I’ve had people in my life give me flack for being so sensitive, and often I’m self-conscious that I’ll come off as weak or unable to handle what obstacles come my way. That’s why I consider sensitivity my “dark side.” Continue reading How I Learned to Love My Dark Side

7 Self-Care Tips for When Stress Affects Your Body

stressed sore woman working on computer at cafe

Since I was a boy, my body has been extremely sensitive and reactive to both physical and emotional stress. When my parents announced we were moving away from my hometown, my muscles tensed up so much I could barely use the bathroom for many days. Eventually I learned these health issues were a combination of a rare muscle tension condition and psychosomatic symptoms from my depressive-anxiety disorder.

Because my body usually felt like a car that had driven hundreds of thousands of miles — parts constantly requiring maintenance, always creaking, sputtering, or breaking down — I became a master of self-care. I spent hours every week making a conscious effort to heal and recuperate. This lifestyle was the only way for me to survive and function well enough to graduate from college and find employment. Whenever I neglected proper rest or pushed myself too far, new symptoms arose. Continue reading 7 Self-Care Tips for When Stress Affects Your Body

Here’s How Street Harassment Affects Women’s Mental Health — and How We Heal

two men cat calling woman on street

I remember what I was wearing: A blue tank top with a picture of a peacock, jean short-shorts, and flip-flops. I remember the weather: High summer, sweet grass scenting the air and the sun just beginning its slow descent to the horizon. I was walking down a country road, lost in my thirteen-year-old daydreams, when suddenly —

Honk honk!

A car horn split the air with its grating clamor. A group of men in the car waved their hands and heads out the windows, hollering at me.

It felt like I jumped a mile. My body flooded with shock. Fear. Self-consciousness. The moment before, I was at ease in my space, my body, my summer daydreams. Now, my sense of peace was ripped away like a wax strip torn from the heart. Continue reading Here’s How Street Harassment Affects Women’s Mental Health — and How We Heal