April 2014
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Welcome to the re-launch of my newsletter. The new name, "Flourish," reflects my goal to provide you with ideas and information to help you make the most of every day. I hope you find something of value in every issue.

This month, we are starting out with a topic I am sure speaks to all of us: happiness. We all want more happiness in our lives but sometimes wonder what else we could be doing to reach that goal. The feature article discusses some ways we can increase our capacity for happiness, such as learning to be optimistic. There are several books mentioned that can help you on your way. Also don't forget to have a look at our Top Ten list for ideas to make it a great day, starting now.


From Hopelessness To Happiness -- A Learnable Life Skill

If life could be graded, Anthony would give his an F. His new job is stressful, his teenage daughter is struggling with depression, he and his wife are fighting a lot lately, and he hates the extra 50 pounds he's carrying.

Anthony feels hopeless and his life seems depressing and dark. Every setback reinforces his feelings of pessimism and grim certainty that nothing will ever get better.

Carol's struggles seem just as daunting. Her husband just lost his job two months after the birth of their first child. She is struggling to pay the bills, and she is responsible for her ailing mother. To make things worse, her best friend and main support is moving to another state. Despite all this, Carol gives her life a strong B+ and knows there are some A+ days ahead.

Unlike Anthony, Carol sees her setbacks as temporary obstacles to be overcome. To her, crises are part of life, opportunities for her to gain in wisdom and courage.

Put simply, some people tend to be optimistic and others pessimistic. However, optimism isn't an accident -- it's a skill that can be learned, one that can help us feel better, resist depression and greatly improve our lives.

Psychologist, clinical researcher and bestselling author Martin Seligman has spent 25 years studying optimism and pessimism. In his book, Learned Optimism, he states that pessimistic thinking can undermine not just our behavior but our success in all areas of our lives.

"Pessimism is escapable," he writes. "Pessimists can learn to be optimists."

By altering our view of our lives, we can actually alter our lives. First, we must recognize our "explanatory style," which is what we tell ourselves when we experience a setback. By breaking the "I give up" pattern of thinking and changing our interior negative dialogue, we can encourage what he calls "flexible optimism." He believes that focusing on our innate character strengths (wisdom, courage, compassion), rather than our perceived failures boosts not just our moods, but our immune system. Research has shown that optimistic people tend to be healthier and experience more success in life; therefore, he encourages parents to develop the patterns of optimism in their children.

Practicing "spiritual optimism" is another way to improve the quality of our lives, writes Joan Borysenko, psychologist, speaker and author of several books, including Fire in the Soul. She encourages people who experience feelings of despair and hopelessness in times of crises to remember it takes courage to live, and that we can find that courage by facing our fears, finding support and using prayer or meditation.

Similar techniques outlined by Dr. David Burns in his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, have been effective in treating depression. He believes that changing our thinking has a profound effect on our moods, including cases of severe depression. It's not our lives that depress us, he writes, but our thinking about our lives.

So unless Anthony begins to change his thinking, his life's outlook may remain bleak and dismal. Carol, however, is likely to graduate to even more satisfying and fulfilling years ahead because she believes her life is filled with challenges and opportunities.

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications
Top 10 Ways To Have A Great Day

Along about the advent of the happy face, people began saying to one another, "Have a nice day." And nice is, well, nice. But what about having a Great Day? One of those days when we accomplish something that makes us feel really good about ourselves and we connect with people in meaningful ways. A day we experience joy.

Of course, not every day can be a great day, but the following 10 tips can transform what might be an ordinary day into something that verges on great.

1. Start off with gratitude. Before reviewing your To Do list, review a list of things for which you are grateful.

2. Be mindful. Throughout the day be present in all that you do.

3. Do first things first. Give priority to what really matters.

4. Spend time with those you love. If you can't be together in person: call, write or text. Connect.

5. Lighten up! Find time to play and enjoy yourself.

6. Give yourself something nice. Eat something you love for lunch. Gift yourself with a bunch of flowers or a massage. Take a walk in the sun or rain.

7. Learn something new.

8. Complete one thing. Do something you've been meaning to do, finish a project or a task.

9. Do something good, or give something to someone, anonymously.

10. Be, instead of Do. Allow yourself time without needing to fill it. Be a human Be-ing, rather than a human Do-ing.

Have a Great Day!

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications
Barbara is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and couples to achieve happier, more fulfilling lives. She assists clients to better understand themselves, improve their relationships and develop more effective responses to life's problems. Barbara works with adults confronting all types of challenges but is especially skilled at helping survivors of trauma.

Barbara always welcomes the opportunity to work with new clients.
Barbara Hill, LCSW-C
6236 Montrose Road
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: (301) 340-3050

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Barbara Hill, LCSW-C · 6236 Montrose Road · Rockville, MD 20852 · USA

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