Being Happy All the Time Isn’t Normal

By: Dr. Anoosha Avni
Registered Psychologist

An important part of counselling is for clients to come up with a counselling goal that is meaningful to them. When I ask my clients what they’d like to work on during the course of their counselling treatment, the most common answer I get is:

“I want to be happy all the time.”

Who doesn’t want to be happy all the time? (Anyone?)

Yet being happy all the time isn’t normal.

If you followed your mom, dad, teacher, friend, colleague, dentist, or plumber over a 24 hour period, the first thing you’d notice is that they’re not happy all the time. Emotions tend to wax and wane. Good things, bad things, neutral things, annoying things, and unpleasant things can all happen in a 24 hour period.

To show you what I mean, consider Kelly, a fictional elementary school teacher. If I followed her for a day, this is what I would see:

Kelly wakes up feeling tired and groggy because she was up late writing report cards. After a latte and bagel with cream cheese, she feels more alert and content. As the morning goes on, her students entertain her with jokes and funny faces and she laughs and feels happier. One of her female students starts crying because she skinned her knee and it’s bleeding. Kelly starts feeling nauseous as she doesn’t like the sight of blood. She tries to clean up her student’s wound and put on the band-aid as fast as she can while trying to comfort her.

It’s lunch time and Kelly realizes she forgot to bring her lunch. Annoyed, she walks to the nearby deli for a sandwich. On the way there, she runs into a colleague whom she doesn’t like very much. Her colleague wants to gossip, but Kelly doesn’t want to hear any of it. She tells her colleague she needs to run some errands and doesn’t have time to chat. Her colleague rolls her eyes and Kelly feels taken aback by her colleague’s rudeness. She arrives at the deli, orders a roast beef sandwich, and sits down to eat. She walks back to the school feeling full and a bit annoyed at her colleague’s eye rolling.

Mid-afternoon, Kelly feels tired and has a hard time staying awake. After work, she’s excited to meet some friends for dinner at her favourite restaurant. When she arrives at the restaurant, she gets a great table. As she waits for her friends to show up, she starts feeling annoyed because they’re late. When they show up, Kelly feels angry. One of her friends buys her a martini so she feels less angry. Shortly after, Kelly feels annoyed when the server tells her that the butter chicken is no longer on the menu. She chooses the halibut with seasonal vegetables and loves it.

After dinner, Kelly goes home, unwinds, and turns on the t.v. and watches the news. She watches about half an hour and starts feeling sad hearing and seeing stories about famine and civil unrest. She decides to take a bath and starts feeling more relaxed. Kelly ends the night with a phone call to her brother to remind him to pick up their parents’ wedding anniversary gift tomorrow. He tells her he doesn’t have time. She’s frustrated with her brother’s response and tells him that she can’t do it tomorrow because she’s coaching track and field and that he’d better find the time to do it. Kelly goes to bed feeling annoyed and tries to put the thoughts about her brother not following through on his promises out of her mind as she tries to fall asleep.

Did you notice that Kelly wasn’t happy every minute of the day? How could she be? She dealt with some annoyances. She was treated rudely by a colleague. She was disappointed. Kelly’s emotional reactions to the events of her day were normal and to be expected.

The media wants you to believe that if you’re not happy all the time, there’s something wrong with you. Remember that it’s normal to experience both highs and lows during the course of your day. Good and bad things happen. Being sad, angry, or frustrated doesn’t mean you aren’t coping with a situation. In fact, embracing sadness for a short period of time can be a good thing because it helps you think about, and come to terms with, whatever has upset you so you can move on and feel good again.

If, however, your low mood starts to interfere with your regular routine and the way you normally function, talk to a mental health professional. Talking to someone about how you’re feeling can help determine whether you may need professional help dealing with your low mood.

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Valentine’s Day Is About Love, Not Lovers

By: Dr. Anoosha Avni
Registered Psychologist

Do you get so caught up with Valentine’s Day and wanting to make sure your spouse/partner shows you how special you are that you forget to demonstrate the same level of appreciation to your family and friends? Or are you single and dreading Valentine’s Day because it reminds you of what you don’t have?

Valentine’s Day is typically thought of as a day for lovers to adorn each other with gifts, compliments, affection, and a nice meal. Yet this narrow view of who is worthy of a Valentine’s Day celebration has left out the most important people in your life: your family and friends. They’re the ones who’ve been with you for a long time (usually longer than your spouse or partner), have seen you through the good times AND the bad, and gave you kindness, patience, support, companionship, laughter, and great memories.

Isn’t this what love is?

We know our family and friends are here for us (or, worse, we assume they always will be), but we don’t bother telling them or showing them how important they are to us, how they’ve helped us change and grow over the years, and how much our lives have been enhanced by their presence.

Don’t your friends and family deserve the same appreciation and thoughtfulness you’d show your spouse or partner?

This Valentine’s Day, make sure you celebrate all of your relationships, no matter what your relationship status is.

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Who Are You Trying To Impress?

By: Dr. Anoosha Avni
Registered Psychologist

Do you find yourself exhausted most of the time, yet feel that you’re not doing enough?

Do you resolve to do things differently every year, but then fall back into the same habits?

Do people tell you that you take on too much or that you need to slow down?

Stop and ask yourself why you’re doing so much. Is it because you want to do it all? Or do you feel obligated to do it all? If you truly enjoy doing it all – making nutritious home cooked meals every day, keeping an immaculate home, making sure you buy the perfect gifts for the people in your life and truly feel satisfied, then keep doing it.

If you find yourself feeling more tired and resentful at the myriad of things you have committed to, then stop and ask yourself the following questions: Who is telling you to “do it all”? Do you feel like a failure if everything isn’t perfect? Do you think others will think you’re a failure if you haven’t done something “just so” or according to what you think are their standards?

Read no further if you truly enjoy doing everything for everybody and don’t feel an ounce of resentment when being pulled in many different directions by different people (and still enjoy making a ten course meal).

If, on the other hand, you find yourself doing things for others hoping to impress them, one-up them, seek their love or approval, or otherwise distract yourself from pain and hurt in other areas of your life, then it’s time to seriously re-evaluate why you are catering to the needs to others while neglecting your own health and well-being.

You’re not doing anybody any good by being unkind to yourself. If anything, you’re showing others how to treat you. And you’re probably not setting a very good example, right?

When you don’t treat yourself kindly, then why should others?

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Ten Tips for Living your Best Life

By: Dr. Anoosha Avni
Registered Psychologist

What does living your best life mean? It means honouring your most important values, needs, and complexities. It means living a life you are proud of. If you’re ready to live your best life, follow these ten tips:

1) Know what is truly important to you and why.

Take the time to write down what’s important to you and what’s not. Some questions to ask yourself: What makes you feel alive? What gives you purpose and meaning? What type of person would you loathe to become? What are you planning for and why? Your values are your compass, which help to draw the map of your life and guide you in your daily decision making.

2) Make your health a priority.

The time to make your health a priority is all the time. When life gets hectic, our health is often the first thing we compromise. Make sure you eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water. Exercise regularly and consistently. Be emotionally healthy. Find a faith or spiritual community if this is important to you. When you don’t have your health, what do you really have?

3) Throw away the people-pleasing scripts.

Take charge of your life by making your own decisions. Learn to recognize and throw away the people-pleasing scripts that have been holding you back. Write your own script and make it your mission to live your life for yourself and not others. Create a life you feel good about.

4) Make mistakes.

It’s easy to feel the pressure to excel in a society where our worth is largely dependent on how others evaluate us. Yet if you wish to learn and grow, you need to allow yourself to not only make mistakes, but to also learn how to handle the inevitable disappointment that comes with making them.

5) Take responsibility for your life.

Your actions cause your rewards and consequences. Take control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Change the way you think. Take control of your feelings. Stop blaming your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, etc., for your problems. Don’t rely on anybody for your happiness, self-esteem, and financial security. Start taking control of your life.

6) Give back to your community.

Part of living your best life is sharing the lessons and gifts you were given with others. Volunteer. Be a mentor. Care about your community and the environment. Get involved in a cause that you’re passionate about. Think about the legacy you want to leave.

7) Re-think how you view romantic relationships.

A lot of people place too many expectations on their partner. Ask yourself why it is you expect your partner to meet all of your needs when you can have some of these needs met in other ways (e.g., through friends, family, hobbies, yourself). Don’t make someone your everything because when they’re emotionally or physically gone, you’ll have nothing.

8) Be kind and compassionate to yourself and others.

Treat yourself and others with the kindness, compassion, and respect that you wish to be treated with. Set and maintain healthy boundaries. Learn to give and accept compliments. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may appear. Give yourself permission to live the life you want.

9) Surround yourself with supportive people.

Surround yourself with people who love and support you and accept you for who you are. Let go of negative, toxic, and dishonest people. How do you know which relationships need to be reconsidered? One sure fire way to know is to monitor how you feel before, during, and after a get together with someone. If you dread seeing that person, feel like your time with them is forced, and are relieved when it’s time to say good-bye, chances are, this relationship has run its course.

10) Learn to forgive.

Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a different past. While it’s important not to deny your past, it’s also vital not to let it define your future. Reframe the trials and tribulations you went through by learning from them and forgiving yourself for what you did or did not do, as well as the person who hurt you. Forgiveness is not for the person who hurt you; it’s for you.

Take a good look at how you’re living your life: Are you surviving or thriving? If you’re surviving, you’re settling. When you’re thriving, you’re living a life that fills your soul with vitality and energy. Make it your mission to live the life you truly want: your best life.

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