Women and the Happiness Gap

Today I read an interesting story in the NY Times about the growing happiness gap between men and women. There have been a bunch of these out lately, piggybacking on a volume of research that suggests that men and women are not equally happy. In fact, women are decidedly more glum, exhausted and frazzled than our male counterparts. According to the newest stuff out, this gap is already apparent as early as high school. Thus, it is not simply a matter of more housework or childcare duties than our husbands or partners. Though, later on, those sorts of issues do play a big part.

I am interested in this because I am in the business of helping people be happy. And, we live in times in which people are under relentless pressure to be happy, with little room to actually revel in a sense of well-being once we actually stumble upon it. Because, being happy is often called complacency. And, who wants to appear unmotivated? Women, it appears are unhappy not just because they are juggling more kinds of responsibilities than our grandmothers, but because we’re supposed to look so darn good while doing it. College girls report that they are miserable because while they are busy gettings A’s on their physics exams and dominating the field at Lacrosse, they are supposed to be doing it with 10 layers of MAC makeup and a size 2 rear end. I worry deeply about the young women in my office overwhelmed by pressure to be good enough on so many levels, mostly because the “good enough” bar for women has moved so much and in so many directions the past few decades.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and out of step with your goals, counseling may be of great help to you. Come join me for a women’s group dedicated to improving self-esteem and relationship skills. Call or email me for more details.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

twitter ID: HollyCoxLMFT

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see how I can help you have your best year yet, please call me at 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com

Spring Cleaning for your Brain

I am having a very good week.

Several of the clients I am most concerned about are doing much better, I got the thumbs up from my doctor to begin planning for a new pregnancy in the fall, and my house is reasonably clean. There are many weeks when I reach Friday by crawling across the finish line rather than sailing over it. But this is one of those rosy-hued swaths of time when everything seems to be going mostly as it should.

Pretty soon now, my practice will being slowing down for the summer, and I will start to make plans for warm weather trips to the beach up to North Carolina to see my folks. I’m already attempting to drag my friends out for a pre-pregnancy trip to Las Vegas. Last time I was there I took my one-year-old munchkin. Not as much fun as one would imagine. Don’t get me wrong, chasing him through the neon jungle of smoke and leather-skinned lounge lizards from Omaha with one shoe on was fun. But, I think I’ll pass on it for next time.

What are your plans for the spring and summer? Will you be using this time as a detox for something big you’re planning? Have you hit your stride and are planning on keeping it that way? Here are a few tips for making this time of the year a real oasis of awesomeness.

1. Be Friendly: I know you guys must think I come up with the hokiest stuff. But, I have started to really take stock of what my clients say when they tally up their happiness quotient. They have told me that when they get their heads out of their own lives and tune into others (not in a codependent way, mind you) they feel better. They are able to clear the air mentally. They feel less bogged down.

2. Practice what you Preach: I have noticed over the years that the speeches people give best to others are the ones that most reflect their own personal areas of challenge. I know that I am consistently giving people the “slow down and smell the roses” talk from my soapbox. I have perfected it because I know of what I speak, and have come up with some pretty good advice for myself about it. As a journal exercise, write down the advice you seem to give most often or most eloquently to others. Reflect deeply on how that wisdom could be used lovingly in your own life to break some nasty emotional habits that are just waiting to be conquered.

3) Roses have Thorns: I am repeating this particular pearl of wisdom that was passed on to me by one of my most insightful and wonderful clients. She told me once that she has realized that boundaries are a good thing because even the most beautiful roses have thorns just to slow the world down from picking them off willy nilly. She’s right about that. Where do you need more boundaries in your life? Do you need them with work or your family? Do you need to develop boundaries with food to address overeating, anorexia, or bulimia? Maybe you need to make a boundary with worry, and set a few moments aside in which worry will not be allowed to intrude.

Good luck with all the big things you’re planning for the upcoming season. I’d love to hear what they are!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

twitter ID: HollyCoxLMFT

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see how I can help you have your best year yet, please call me at 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com

A New Year's Resolution for your Brain

Add this tidbit to the ‘news you can use’ column I know you all have percolating in that grey matter of yours. It may require shifting a bit of the info you’re hanging onto about fantasy football or how to make the perfect pot of beef stew. But, I think you’ll be glad to add this to your roster of go-to factoids.

I often tell both clients and myself that the day to be happy is now. Don’t wait until you’ve won the lottery of lost 50 pounds. Don’t even wait until your relationship is better or you feel more inner peace. As I secretly always thought, this advice is more than philosophical feel-goodism. Turns out the folks in the white coats are discovering concrete evidence that living this way does more than make you feel better–it may physiologically increase your capacity for happiness.

Science is now telling us that we have a sort of biological set point for the levels of happiness we feel. By that I mean that no matter how poor or great your circumstances, we all have a pretty consistent emotional range that we motor through on a daily basis–and it’s different for everyone. Imagine your emotional range as the speedometer on your car. No matter what may be chasing you, that car is only going to do what’s on that dial to do. This explains in part why it’s possible for a guy who wins the lottery to still be sort of ‘ho-hum’ about it and another guy who is suddenly a quadriplegic to demonstrate amazing resiliency. It’s literally genetic and hardwired.

But here’s the clincher to that rather sobering bit of news: you can change it.

That’s right, you can take what mama nature and the circumstances of your early life gave to you and mold it into something different. This is due to a fancy concept called brain plasticity. In the vernacular, that means that your brain can continue to change, and that by extension, you can change the direction in which it changes. In fact, the adult brain continues to make about 5,000 new cells a day. Whoa.

Though the research is still preliminary stuff, scientists are studying the brains of trained meditators to get a glimpse into how they are able to regulate their emotions and develop the parts of their brains responsible for happiness and compassion. And, combining this research with studies on identical twins who were raised in different households (but would have the same genetic capacity for happiness) they have found that a full 40 percent of how happy we are is fully in our control. Buddhist monks who spend hours meditating on love and kindness–literally forcing love and kindness into their brain–shape their brain and therefore their outlook in a very literal way.

This is lovely news, right? I think it is. But, it means that just as we must work out our bodies to get them to a position of optimum health, we must also exercise our minds regularly to promote happiness, kindness, and contentment. Good therapy can serve as a personal trainer for your mental and emotional systems. So why not give yourself the gift of a fit brain this new year? Give me a call and let’s make it happen!

Your Partner in Wellness,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

For a FREE 30-minute consultation and to see if I might be a good fit for your goals and needs, call (407) 913-4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com

In praise of Thanksgiving

I am the only person I know who has had swine flu.

I knew it was out there, marauding and claming victims left and right, but one tends to have a sort of personal mythology about one’s own immune system. Nonetheless, I found myself grimly slumped over in the doctor’s office not long after my son’s first birthday with a horrific Q-tip on a filament stuck deep into my left nostril to get a sample of snot. I squirmed, and  yes, cried a little, as a too-happy medical cowboy of a Texan doctor proceeded to blithely ask me questions about my weight, height, and family history of high blood pressure. With a chortle, Tex unceremoniously yanked said instrument of hell out, sent it to the lab, and declared me at one with the oinks.

To make a long story short, two months-worth of antibiotics and steroids later, I ended up in the hospital with what the admitting ER physician believed to be a mini stroke or TIA. Fortunately, the cardiologists who later examined me decided that my “TIA” was really a terrifying reaction to the long courses of powerful medications. But, that didn’t happen until after I had spent 24 long hours believing that I was going to have, as the ER doc coined it, “the big one” that might cut short my life as a wife, mother, sister, friend, daughter and therapist. It was the most deeply terrifying, horrific night of my life. There are no further words I can add to editorialize the bleak possibility that you might never see your son graduate from preschool, much less highschool.

The point of my sharing this bit of personal trivia with you is to bring up a discussion about gratitude. It seems almost cinematically appropriate that all this should happen in the few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. In fact, I wonder sometimes about the cosmic timing of stuff like this, and I am assuming that there is not only a reason for it, but something to be gained by the experince. Existential pontificating aside, I am darn lucky to be here. And, I am very grateful to be alive.

Studies (yep, scientific ones) have demonstrated that those who practice daily gratitude, even in the form of keeping a simple journal of stuff that you are thankful for, are healthier. Think about that. I’ll wait. Not just happier, but healthier. Think about that some more.

So, poor schmuckos like you and I can not only give ourselves a case of the smiles by practicing gratitude, we can spend fewer nights with the good people over at ORMC. I, for one think that is a big deal. Clients often tell me that I have a “glass half-full sort of mentality.” And, they’re not wrong about that. I deeply believe that the individuals who do best are those who decide to focus on what is working in their lives and do more of that. That is not to say that it is not helpful or appropriate to do some life archaeology to see how we got off track. But, ultimately, it is the things that we have, do, and notice that are empowering that will get our behinds out of the sling and in a forward-thinking place.

So, as you devor the last of those turkey drumsticks, hoist high a big cheer of thanks. Better yet, not it down for yourself in your blog, notebook, journal, or fancy cellphone. Your health will thank you for it.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

If  you would like a FREE 30-Minute Consultation to determine if I might be a good fit for your needs, please call (407) 913-4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

Organization 911

All the rain we have had lately has given me a few days to stay indoors and take a look around at the things in my home and office that need my attention. I have been taking the time to do this in a purposeful way so that I can clear out the old clutter (literally and metaphorically) and invite new blessings and opportunities in my life. Though this may be more difficult for some of us than others since the process of letting go can bring up feelings of anxiety or compulsion, even a small step towards organizing your space can have a big impact on your outlook, business, and emotional state.

Here are a few tips for getting started:

1) Find your moment of Zen: Getting organized is not about simply finding a measure of simplicity. It’s about finding a balance and harmony to your life that leaves you free to think about the things on which you would like to focus. These things may be your next novel, spending more quality time with your family, or taking your business to the next level. Before you start, take a moment to visualize how your space will look and feel when you have completed your organizational journey. What will be different? What will be the same? How will you know that you have done enough work for now?

2)Multitasking is your enemy: These days, the ability to do many things at one time is praised as a virtue and a path to greater efficiency. However, it can also reduce the amount of pure, clean energy you have to devote to a task. There are some things in life we should give ourselves permission to do methodically and with focused intention. If you want your newly-organized life to reflect a more single-minded  devotion to harmony, take the time to focus on just that.

3) Learn to Let Go: I have written in my posts before about the pervasive influence that marketers and big companies have on our ideas about consumption and hoarding. What can you delete, repurpose, donate to charity, or give away as a gift. If your cup is already full, how can you hope to receive more?

If you have your own ideas about organizing your life and clearing a path towards the future, I would love to hear them!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see if I might be a good fit for your concerns and goals, please contact me at 407-913-4988 or holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Study This: College Students and Good Mental Health

When I first went to undergrad, I had the world’s greatest roommate. Her name was Valerie, and she had more than a few quirks. The strangest of which was her deep belief that my appearance and social comportment would reflect on her as well. Now, Valerie and I hadn’t chosen one another. We were simply assigned by the good people down at student housing. But nonetheless, she did her best to make sure that I passed muster on campus. This included ironing my clothes and teaching me how to dance. If you have ever seen me attempt to dance (attempt being the operative word), you’ll know that Valerie had her work cut out for her.

Anyway, the point of the matter is that attending college is a big deal. Even if you attend school in your hometown and stay right in your parents’ home, you’re still in for some big life changes. That’s OK–this is a really interesting time in your social, intellecutal, and spiritual development. How can you be prepared when it’s time to grab your books and hit the door?

1) Expect the unexpected: Things will inevitably be different then you thought they would both at home and away at school. Classes may be more challenging than high school, and you might need to be prepared to take advantage of those lab tutors. Or, mom and dad could turn your room into their billiard parlor. Whatever the case, it’s OK to feel overwhelmed by all the shiny newness. Just make sure you utilize your support network and blow off steam in constructive ways like exercise, art, or music.

2) Stick to a schedule: Despite common wisdom these days, staying up for three nights straight on a mixture of Red Bull and Twinkies does not mean that you are becoming more flexible in your time utilization. Rather, it is a recipe for social and academic disaster. You owe it to yourself to take calculus on a fresh brain that has been riding around in a body that is well-rested, fed, and exercised.

3) Get Yourself Connected: Everyone knows college is more fun if you have someone with whom to complain about last night’s chemistry lab. If there isn’t anyone in your classes or dorm who strikes your fancy, get out there and join a club or apply for a job on campus. Isolation leads to anxiety and unhappiness.

Got any other tips that have worked for you? I would love to hear them. Remember I offer HALF OFF TO COLLEGE STUDENTS. Happy new school year!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see if I might be a fit for your goals and concerns, please contact me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com or 407-913-4988

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Follow Me on Twitter!

Those of you who know me in any regard will remember that I have been fervently against capitulating to twitter juggernaut. Oh sure, everybody and their mamas are letting the world have a blow-by-blow of each and every waking moment. But I haven’t been sure that I want to participate in something like this simply because of the fact that I think producing a “tweet” sounds undignified. For some reason, it strikes me as a noise I would have been forbidden to make at the dinner table growing up.

But, after much pressure from friends and clients alike I am finally making the leap. If you would like to follow me, my twitter ID is HollyCoxLMFT. I’ll do my best to create some original content that will lead legions of followers to know more about good mental health, life balance, and healthy relationships. That, or you’ll know what I had for breakfast.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to discuss how I can be helpful to you, please call me at (407) 913-4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Postpartum Depression

Parenthood teaches you many things. For instance, this morning my son taught me that one can reach a certain level of exhaustion at which she will wear a shirt covered in baby vomit to her hair appointment. Then, he taught me that when babies with wet hands grab a hand full of said expensively coifed hair, it does indeed lose its curl. As the saying goes, “Yay, memories!” All joking aside, the post partum period is hard ladies– and not just on your freshly-done blowout.

 

Pregnancy and the first year postpartum are without question two of the most vulnerable times of a woman’s life. We are different physically, emotionally, and spiritually in ways that are difficult to explain to our family and friends. In fact, it is one of the few times in our lives (except perhaps puberty) when our worlds are rocked to their very foundations by such far-reaching changes. This is compounded by the fact that we are responsible for a new life at a time when we may still be experiencing pain and discomfort associated with the pregnancy or delivery. Experts report that symptoms of anxiety or depression occur in 10-20 percent of new mothers. Unfortunately, these symptoms may go largely untreated because of shame or self-blaming. Though women with a personal or family history of depression or abuse are most at risk, postpartum depression is a physical response to the cascade of biochemical and hormonal changes that take place in every pregnant woman’s body. Lack of support and other social and emotional factors can complicate the picture further. Even women who have no history of anxiety or depression can develop sadness and anxiety that is more than just the baby blues. These feelings are treatable with therapy and/or medication, and you can get help. You can speak to your OBGYN, psychiatrist, or therapist about how to get started. Here are a few tips in the meantime.

 

1)      Examine your Mothering Myths: There is an idea out there (or perhaps just an ideal) that all new mothers immediately greet their infant bundles of joy with fresh-faced glee and joy. Mothers who are ambivalent or scared about their new responsibilities often feel inadequate, different, or ashamed. Women can be pressured to express disinterest in things they used to value like work, social activities, or alone time. In truth, many women report that they did not bond instantaneously with their infants, but rather built a loving relationship as they got to know one another. And, there is no more perfect recipe for a good mom than one is engaged with her world in a variety of ways.

2)      Make time for Yourself: The superwoman our culture holds up spends all day working or caring for her children and never needs time to recharge. One of the fastest routes to feeling very overwhelmed is constant immersion with no reprieve. Even if your “me” time is walking the dog, ask for other adults in your life to help you carve out time to nurture your health, individuality and personal growth.

3)      Make room for Daddy: If he or she is available, let the baby’s other parent take an active role in the child’s life. You’re not the only parent who can change a diaper, quiet a fretting baby, or wipe a stuffy nose. In fact, do your relationship the favor of creating the expectation for balanced childrearing responsibilities from the start.

Carversity

I really love books on CD. I mean, I super-duper sundae with fudge on top love them. But the ones I love most are the inspirational titles about creating the life you want, becoming more spiritual, and in general liking yourself and your life. A short trip to the local library will find you nearly any topic your heart desires. But why should you bother? Read on.

I write a lot on this blog about taking responsibility for the way your thoughts shape your life. And, if I were you I would be thinking to myself, “Yeah lady, easier said than done.” I happen to agree with you on that count. It is difficult to reroute automatic impressions and patterns of thinking. But for those of you who are in the remotest way auditory learners, priming the pump by listening to positive materials is a quick shortcut to accomplishing a lot more.

I didn’t come up with the term “carversity” but I wish I had. It came from a CD I was listening to (name of author unfortunately forgotten) who stressed that the time you have in your car can become a laboratory or “university” for the concepts you want to incorporate in your life. When I am doing research, I almost always listen to Cd’s about time management and tenacity. When I am starting new business ventures I go for the selections that emphasize reaching a receptive audience. And, when I am worried I listen to stuff that helps me remember not to sweat the small stuff.

Anything you listen to over and over again will have an impact on your thinking. Why not take the time to put good stuff in so you can get the good stuff out?

Your Partner in Healing,   Holly

If you would like to schedule an appointment or a free, 15-minute phone consultation please call 407.913.4988 or email me at holly@nova.edu.