Addicted to Video Games?

Addicted to Video Games? Internet Gaming Disorder or “Video Game Addiction”

Today’s blog is about Internet Gaming Disorder, to shed some light on this issue from a professional perspective. If you recognize yourself in it, or if you think that a loved one might suffer from video game addiction, I recommend seeking a psychologist or mental health professional who is familiar with this topic!

As a researcher and psychologist in my own practice in Tennessee, I am very familiar with “internet addiction”, video game addiction or Internet gaming disorder for over ten years now. Several studies confirm that a high amount of time spent online playing games is connected with depression, loneliness, anxiety disorders or aggression. On the other hand, gamers have more fun with playing video games, and most of them report a greater number of friends they found online. Therefore, occasional gaming can definitely increase the quality of life!

I do not believe that everyone who plays video games is “addicted”; my own research suggests that we have to distinguish between a healthy and an unhealthy use of video games. In therapy, my stated goal is the achievement of a controlled use of video games because it can be part of a healthy lifestyle if it is used in moderation.

However, the question remains: What is a “healthy” use of video games, and when is it “addiction”?

Internet Gaming Disorder: Criteria

Millions of people play video games online without no serious effects at all. They have fun engaging with other players, collect items online, go on quests, and explore virtual worlds.

However, a small minority of them seems to have problems with an overuse of video games. These problems seem to be comparable to behavioral addiction; this is why the American Psychiatric Association introduced “Internet Gaming Disorder” (IGD) in their recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—5th Edition (DSM-5) as a condition that needs further research.

The DSM-5 proposes nine criteria for the assessment of IGD:

  • preoccupation,
  • withdrawal,
  • tolerance,
  • unsuccessful attempts to control the use of video games
  • loss of interests in other activities,
  • continued excessive use despite psychosocial problems (e.g., problems at work)
  • deceiving (lying about the use of video games)
  • escape, and
  • functional impairment.

An excessive use of the Internet (for either video games or for other purposes, such as sexual desires) seems to be linked to a variety of comorbid psychopathological and personality differences.

Studies suggest that users suffering from depression tend to spend significantly more time online compared to non-depressed users (mood disorders seem to be connected with a higher use of the Internet). It is interesting to note that users from massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs) suffer significantly more often from depression, compared to other game genres. Also, anxiety disorders (such as social anxiety disorder) seem to be another significant predictor of excessive or problematic Internet use.

However, it is important to note that correlation does not equal causation. Just because users from MMORPGs suffer more often from depression, that does not mean that MMORPGs lead to depression. It might be quite the opposite, that playing games can lead to a “self-medication” – this means that depressed people with a lack of external gratification might look into video games to seek gratification online. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and studies are needed to look into long-term effects of the use of online-games for purposes like this one.

Differences between engagement and addiction

As a practicing psychologist and as a researcher, I truly believe that we have to distinguish between a healthy use of video games and an unhealthy over-use of games. My research points two factors explaining an an over-use of video games:

A) Engagement is connected to variables like cognitive salience, tolerance, and euphoria (meaning, engaged players have fun playing the games, they report feelings of euphoria, and they need to play more to experience the same feeling of euphoria they had in the beginning of playing games)

B) Addiction is connected with conflicts, withdrawal symptoms, relapse and reinstatements, and behavioral symptoms. Just because someone spends a lot of time playing video games online, he or she cannot be labeled as addicted right away.

Warning signs of addiction

My research suggests that addicted players seem to spend more time online playing video games, compared to engaged players (for example, one study found that addicted players spent 32 hours on average per week online playing World of Warcraft, while engaged players only pay 21 hours per week, on average).

However, it is very important to note, that even in a large sample of high-level players, I was only able to classify 3% of them as addicted. 97% of high-level players are NOT addicted; therefore, I am against labeling any gamers as “addicted” just because they play a lot of games online or because they spend a lot of time per week online playing games.

While engagement might be just experiencing fun playing games, addiction is a more serious issue. Some of the warning signs of behavioral addiction to video games include:

  • Playing more and more, investing more and more time and money into video games
  • Escapism: using video games as a vehicle to avoid real life issues
  • Skipping meals, showers or important meetings because of video games
  • Deceive other people, lying to other people about the amount of time spent with video games
  • Problems at work or in school, the performance decreases

Assessment and treatment possibilities

If you think that you or a loved one might suffer from IGD or “video game addiction”, I recommend seeking a psychologist or mental health professional who is familiar with this topic.

In my own practice in Tennessee, I usually use several questionnaires to assess IGD and surrounding factors like mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and negative effects on one’s life. I also have a look into who else is affected by an over-use of games; for example, in many cases it’s marital problems because one partner spends too much time playing video games online. I also always have to rule out underlying problems like mood disorders or anxiety disorders before I make any IGD treatment recommendations.

I am trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and CBT seems to be the gold-standard for treating IGD. My therapy recommendations usually include the following steps:

  • Detect, explore and examine thoughts that lead to IGD
  • Explore behavioral triggers that lead to a use of video games
  • Replace irrational thoughts with healthier ones
  • Modify behavioral triggers
  • Modify thoughts, feelings and ultimately the behavior that lead to IGD

Each individual suffering from IGD might have different triggers; therefore, it is important to adjust any therapy individually.

My stated goal is the achievement of a controlled use of video games because it can be part of a healthy lifestyle if it is used in moderation!

Conclusion

While millions of people play video games online without no serious effects at all, a small minority of them seems to have problems with an overuse of video games. Some of the warning signs of behavioral addiction to video games include investing more and more time and money into video games despite negative consequences on one’s life (such as work or school problems), using video games to avoid real life issues, skipping meals, showers or important meetings because of video games, and lying to other people about the real amount of time spent with video games.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy seems to be the gold-standard for treating video game addiction. Therapy usually includes exploring and modifying behavioral triggers, thoughts and emotions. My stated goal of therapy is not to ban the use of the Internet or video games, but to achieve a controlled use of video games; after all, it can be part of a healthy lifestyle!

Please note: Parts of this blog come from my peer-reviewed publication: Lehenbauer-Baum, M. et al., (2015). Addiction and Engagement: An Explorative Study Toward Classification Criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(6), 343–349. http://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2015.0063

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Licensed Psychologist, and the founder and director of Thrive in Life Counseling and Therapy LLC, his private practice in Franklin/Nashville, Tennessee. He is a researcher as well as the author of several peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters about internet gaming disorder, internet addiction and anxiety disorders. He offers services in English and German. Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum diagnoses and treats individuals, couples and groups with a wide range of challenges in their lives, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, ADHD, shyness, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, phobias, diversity, relationship issues, mens issues, career and life challenges, marital and couple issues and other challenges. His research work focuses on “new” technologies, such as online-based social skills trainings as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as addiction.

How to thrive as a highly sensitive person

Do you know someone who reflects on things more than everyone else, is very “hangry” (hungry when angry), and who avoids parties and noisy environments as often as possible? Chances are you might know someone with a “highly sensitive personality” (HSP). In 1996, Dr. Elaine Aron, the author of the book “The Highly Sensitive Person” stated that 15-20% of the population are highly sensitive. While it seems to be a quite common personality trait, it was not until recently that psychologists examined this new and unique trait.

As a psychologist, I get to meet individuals with different personality traits in my practice. Some of them state that they have always felt different from other peers, and it was difficult for them to be in certain busy environments. They may have HSP and they did not have a name for it to help them understand why they felt different growing up. Having a highly sensitive personality can make life challenging, but not impossible if you know how to deal with it.

What is a highly sensitive personality?

HSP means that individuals react hypersensitive to stimuli, ranging from emotions, people, noise to food and caffeine consumption. Dr. Aron says that people with HSP have an increased sensitivity to stimulation and that they are more aware of subtleties and process information in a deeper, more reflective way.

If you are an individual with HSP, you probably heard it before: “Toughen up”, “Just get over it” or “You’re too sensitive”; especially men with HSP have to deal with statements like that and it can be quite hurtful. However, it is important to note that HSP is not a mental disorder! It has to be distinguished from shyness, sensation-seeking, sensory processing disorder and autism. HSP’s can be found in both introverts and extraverts; HSP can be related to introversion, but it is not the same as being introverted. According to Dr. Aron, about a third of individuals with HSP are extroverts.

On a biological level, HSP seems to be connected with a deeper sensory data processing. Individuals with HSP may have a hypersensitivity to external stimuli, combined with a greater depth of cognitive processing and a higher emotional reactivity – they process sensory on a deeper level which explains the higher probability of feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments. A lower perceptual threshold also means that an overstimulation by external stimuli can happen faster.

However, there seems to be an increased responsiveness to not only negative, but also positive influences. Many individuals with HSP are great to be in a relationship with. They pay close attention to details and what their partner wants. They figure out quickly what other people want and act on it; this behavior not only makes them good partners, but also good friends. They figure out quickly if other people are feeling overwhelmed. When fighting with partners, people with HSP usually tend to see the other person’s perspective. A high level of empathy allows them to put themselves in other people’s shoes. If you know that you or your partner have HSP, you can act on it to give HSP the time and space to deal with other people and noisy environments.

Therefore, it is important to note that HSP does not mean anything bad, quite the opposite – being highly sensitive carries a lot of positive characteristics. Highly sensitive people may frequently cry or become emotional in another way which is good – they are able to show their emotions (and not to swallow them) and be authentic. If you have HSP, you are emotionally more reactive (showing a higher level of empathy), you’re more intuitive, you take your time to make decisions (because you’re weighing every possible outcome), and you are used to being a deep thinker. It makes you an excellent colleague to go to before making decisions because you are used to weighing pros and cons. Being highly conscientious also makes individuals with HSP more likely to be considerate and show good manners.

How to deal with HSP

How to deal with feeling overwhelmed: If you have HSP, you probably know the feeling: you feel overwhelmed when you have too much stuff to do. It can be a struggle to stay on task when there are multiple things going on at the same time. Stress can lead to anxiety, and a high level of anxiety can make people with HSP feel even more overwhelmed. I recommend to learn body relaxation methods. Then, it is easier for individuals with HSP to step back, breathe, and get things done slowly, one after the other.

Avoidance of noisy environments: Due to the hyperactivity to external stimuli, individuals with HSP usually try to avoid noisy environments (like busy restaurants, mass concerts or parades, …). If you know that you have HSP, give yourself the right to decline initiations to crowded restaurants or concerts. It is totally fine if you want to see people at home or in quiet environments only! If you know someone with HSP, try to invite them to your home or quiet restaurants.

Get enough sleep: A lack of sleep can be damaging for everyone. However, for individuals with HSP it can be even more irritable, and they are more likely to be cranky in the morning; it is harder to deal with sensory overflow. Getting enough sleep helps to process thoughts and deal with emotions.

Plan your meals: Do you know people who get “hangry” (hungry and angry at the same time)? Individuals with HSP tend to get hangry more than other people. They may feel cranky and irritated, especially during morning hours. Therefore, if you have HSP and you feel cranky and you’re taking it out on your partner, make sure you eat regularly throughout the day to keep your blood sugar level steady (especially nuts, fruits and veggies).

Give yourself time: Adjusting to changes is not easy for anybody, e.g., a new work place, new colleagues, a new place to live, a new relationship. For individuals with HSP it can be even more difficult to deal with changes. Also, if you have HSP and you know that you have a busy day ahead with a lot of meetings or meetings in busy and noisy restaurants, schedule time to decompress. Accept the fact that you need more time to adapt to changes, and allow yourself to take the time you need to adapt to changes.

Create your personal quiet space: If you know you have HSP, you can make sure that you create your own quiet place with low lighting, just for yourself. For example, a dark bedroom can be the perfect place to recharge after being exposed to a lot of people and noise. It is important to have a safe space where you can retreat to, to get away from noise and people.

How are counseling and therapy different for people with HSP?

Counseling and therapy are not different for HSP; however, if I as a psychologist am aware that an individual might have HSP, I discuss it with him or her, and adapt counseling sessions and/or the treatment plan accordingly. It is important to keep in mind that individuals with HSP’s can have a hypersensitivity to external stimuli, combined with a greater depth of cognitive processing and a higher emotional reactivity; certain life events or even daily hassles can have a greater impact on them. It can make life challenging, but not impossible; I recommend clients with HSP decompress in quiet places as often as possible and schedule time to do plenty of mental and physical self-care.

 

 

About the author: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Franklin, Tennessee-based clinical psychologist, and the founder and director of Thrive in Life Counseling and Therapy LLC. He earned his PhD in Clinical Psychology in Vienna, Austria, the birth place of psychotherapy. He completed several pre- and postdoctoral fellowships in Austria and the US, and is the author of several peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters about internet gaming disorder, internet addiction and anxiety disorders. He is able to offer services in English as well in German. Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum diagnoses and treats individuals, couples and groups with a wide range of challenges in their lifes, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, ADHD, shyness, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, phobias, diversity, relationship issues, men’s issues, career and life challenges, marital and couple issues and other challenges. He offers psychological assessment services for children, adolescents and adults.

Rumination – when you can’t let go of your past

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one”

Anonymous quote from the Internet

 

We all may know someone who seems to live in the past. Someone who is always talking about past experiences. Someone who claims they learned a lesson from past experiences, but somehow they cannot stop talking about it – or maybe it is even you, and you recognize some of the patterns in your own behavior. It is called rumination, and today’s blog talks about people who cannot let go of the past, the reasons for it and – if you are affected by it – what you can do against it.

What is rumination?

Imagine you are sitting at home and your thoughts keep circling around some negative experiences. It can be a conflict with someone, bad experiences in your childhood, or the end of a relationship or divorce that happened months or even years ago. For some reason, you keep reviewing what has happened to you, over and over. You talk to your friends about it, maybe you even write about it to get it out of your head. Congratulations, you did the first step to take on negative thoughts! But what happens if you think (or talk) about the same old stuff over and over again? Then you might suffer from something called “rumination“.

Did you ever see a cow in real life? They appear to be constantly chewing on something. That’s because they’re ruminating. Technically speaking, the cow regurgitates previously consumed food and masticates it a second time. It’s literally chewing on the same thing over and over again. Luckily for the cow, the food is digested at some point. Humans however, do not need to ruminate food, but some people have a similar process going on with thoughts in their head. Some people dwell on negative thoughts because their mind is literally STUCK. If you are a ruminator, you keep repeating and re-living the same negative experiences in your head over and over, but you can’t do anything to change it.

The problem with ruminating people is that they truly believe they are “doing something”; however, they are not pursuing any goals, there is no progress happening in their life, they are literally stuck in the same train of thoughts – it like writing your own autobiography over and over again but nothing is changing for years.

Examples of rumination

Imagine if you broke up with someone or had a divorce one or two (or even more!) years ago. Usually, the healing process is done, and people move on. Ruminators have a problem with moving on. If you are a ruminator, you can’t stop talking about these things, even if it was years ago. You talk about how it affected you, how bad it was or maybe even how unfair it was. Instead of focusing on your future, you focus on your past, and that would keep you from finding real happiness with a new partner – that would be sad!

Examples of rumination include replaying conversations that you had in your head, dwelling on a divorce or the end of a relationship that happened a long time ago, talking to your friends about the same things over and over, about all the “injustices” or “injuries” that happened to you, and how you were able to rise from it and move on. But did you really? Is it really moving on when you still think and talk about the same old stuff that happened a long time ago?

In my home country Austria, we have a saying: you either HAVE something or you TALK about it. If you’re self-confident you don’t need to talk about it all the time. If you’re really happy, you don’t need to post it on social media over and over. And if you really moved on from something, you don’t need to remind yourself all the time. If you need to talk about it all the time, then you are stuck. You are a ruminator.

What is rumination doing with you and why are people doing it?

There seems to be a correlation between ruminating and patterns of depressions (according to some recent studies). This makes sense, because how can someone feel good or happy if he or she is always thinking about negative past experiences? That’s like scratching on a wound over and over again (instead of letting it go and heal).

Psychological studies state that rumination seems to be correlated to “cognitive incompetence” and “cognitive consciousness“. It means that ruminating individuals are very well aware and conscious of their negative thoughts. They think about past experiences over and over again – up to a point where the thoughts create their own reality, sometimes exaggerating or even differing from what really happened. Ruminators often believe that their rumination will lead to solving a problem, but it really creates a loop where they are stuck in their own thoughts. Cognitive incompetence means that they cannot find they way out of the loop.

What can you do against rumination?

There is a quick and easy way to find out if you are a ruminator. If friends and family are telling you that you always complain about the same things, or if they even withdraw from you because you seem to be telling the same stories over and over again, you might be ruminating.

The first step would be to think about your “needs”. Very often, people cannot let go of their past because they need something to be “solved”. If you need “clarity”, “certainty”, “resolution” or “fairness” for something that happened a long time ago in your life, then these needs are holding you back. The key is accepting the past and truly move on (and not talk about it excessively anymore).

Sometimes we live in a world that isn’t fair. There will always be someone who is prettier or more handsome than you. There will always be someone who makes more money than you do. You cannot change it. Bad things happen. Breakups happen. Divorces happen. It is painful and sometimes it is unfair. For example, it might seem unfair when you suffered a painful divorce six months ago, and your ex-wife or ex-husband is already married again and so much happier than you. It might seem unfair, but who said that life is fair? You are only hurting yourself if you cannot let go of the past; the truth is that we are all responsible for our own good.

The sooner we accept that life can be unfair, the sooner we can accept to take our own fate in our own hands and embrace the present moment. The past already happened, we cannot change it. What we are able to change is the future – and that is truly yours.

So stop ruminating and blaming other people for your misery, and start living your own life – you deserve it.

Summary

We all may know someone who seems to live in the past; someone who is always talking about past experiences or someone who claims they learned a lesson from past experiences, but somehow they cannot stop talking about it – this is called rumination. The problem with ruminating people is that they truly believe they are “doing something”; however, they are not pursuing any goals, there is no progress happening in their life, they are literally stuck in the same train of thoughts – it like writing your own autobiography over and over again but nothing is changing for years. The first step would be to think about your “needs”. Very often, people cannot let go of their past because they need something to be “solved”. However, the sooner we accept that life can sometimes be unfair, the sooner we are able to let go because we simply cannot change it. The past already happened, we cannot change it. What we are able to change is the future – and that is truly yours.

It is time… to connect with yourself

“I think somehow we learn who we really are and then we live with that decision.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

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I really like this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. It basically says that who we really are is a matter of our decisions. It is not something god-given and unchangeable, it is something we decide for ourselves. Therefore it is important to know what we want and to connect with ourselves to know who we want to be!

I had the idea for today’s blog today. I was sick for almost two weeks; it started with a minor bug, a minor cold, it got better, then it got worse. Long story short, it was “only” a severe cold. On the bright side, I had a lot of time to do something I didn’t do in a long time – connect with myself.

Today’s blog is about the one person, the one most important person in your life, that is yourself. How can you expect that somebody loves you if you’re not able to love yourself? How can you expect that anybody treats you with respect and takes care of you, if you can’t take care of yourself or if you can’t respect yourself?

Connect with yourself

Are you connected with yourself? When somebody asked me this question for the first time, I was a little bit surprised. My first reaction was “Yes, of course!”. On second thought, I hesitated. I mean, I lived with myself every day, but it didn’t mean that I knew me (it sounds silly, doesn’t it). But do you know yourself? Do you check with yourself often?

To get to know what I want, I learned to check in with myself regularly. So, every once in a while, I have a little hiatus, a break from every-day life, a few hours just for myself. I am not online, I am not checking the phone, I am not listening to music, I am just there. Existing, breathing, practicing mindfulness; I watch my train of thoughts, my mind wanders around, and it is the best feedback I can get about myself, my thoughts, my desires, and what is going on with my life.

Start with little steps

To connect with yourself, start with little steps, baby steps. Practice mindfulness, and try to sit quietly in a room for 5 minutes. No Internet, no mobile phone, disconnected from the world, but connected with your inner self. Now, watch your train of thoughts. Don’t judge, just let it flow, let it go. Whatever comes into your mind, observe it, but don’t judge. It won’t be easy, but it will get easier every time you do it. The next time, try to do it for 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, until you have the amount of time you are comfortable with.

Something I can not repeat often enough – get a journal! Write down anything that came into your mind. Psychological studies state that once you write something down, it is out of your mind (i.e. “taken care of”). Over time, you will see a pattern, your desires will become more clear, and you will get a feeling and an idea for your goals in life. This is truly important because once you know your goals, you can take care of your goals to connect with yourself.

Take care of your goals – and reward yourself

If you don’t know what you want, how can you ever expect to get what you want? An important step in connecting with yourself is to think about your goals. What do you want? Write down some of your main goals, either short-term or bigger long-term goals. When you write down bigger long-term goals, I recommend breaking it down into smaller easily achievable goals; it is always helpful to think of small steps towards something big. Do not forget to congratulate yourself when you achieve your goals. For example, when your goal is to go to the gym regularly, and you made it through week 1, reward yourself!

Once you have set goals, you need to think about your next steps. Be as clear as possible why you set a certain goal and how your life will be different once you achieved your goal. Think about help, support and resources you need to achieve your goal. Be not afraid to ask for help!

I have to repeat it one more time – get a journal! All my clients who started a journal stated that their life changed significantly after a while. Backed up by science, daily logging into a journal helps us shape our mind and focus on our goals. There is nothing that you can’t do today to take the first step towards your goal (and if it is just buying a journal for logging your progress)!

So what?

Of course you know about eating healthy and going to the gym, of course you know about how exercise helps you to feel better. My question is – why aren’t you doing it? The problem is, we probably aren’t doing enough of it, we don’t feel connected with ourselves.

Our life, our day is filled with our decisions we make. Instead of sitting in front of the TV, we could make the choice to meet with somebody. Instead of playing the game in front of the computer, we can cook a nice dinner for our partner and cuddle afterwards. Instead of eating chocolate as a snack, we can choose to eat an apple. It sounds simple because it IS simple. Life is about our decisions. It is not the big decisions that change our life permanently, it is the small decisions we make every day. Changing these small decisions, one by one, towards our goal, we will find ourself in a better place after some time.

I hope you have an interesting and insightful time with connecting with yourself! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life with greater happiness and authenticity. Currently, he is a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville/Tennessee, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna/Austria. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by Austria and the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technology frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the Internet, games or smart phones.

 

 

Mindfulness in everyday life

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“Mindfulness helps you communicating. Especially with yourself!”

Thich Nhat Hanh

I get up every day, the same routine almost every day. Breakfast, shower, work, meetings, traffic, gym, dinner with friends or the best spouse of all, chores…. and all of a sudden I am caught up in a routine; I lost my mindfulness, it happens to me too. Today’s blog is about the little things you can do for yourself, for your mindfulness and for your happiness. Little exercises you can include in your daily routine.

What is Mindfulness?

Coming from Asian philosophy, mindfulness is a mental state where we focus our awareness on things that are going on right now. Mindfulness helps us to become more aware of our thoughts and what is going on inside and outside of us.

Find some exercises here, they can help to raise your awareness. Psychological studies showed that mindfulness exercises help a lot of people to calm down, collect their thoughts, acknowledge their feelings and physical sensations. If you practice these techniques regularly, you will see some changes in your life and your mental state over the next few weeks.

  1. Sensory exercise: Usually all of our senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, etc.) are activated all the time, subconsciously. The next time when you have your breakfast or dinner, try to observe how it interacts with your senses: How does it smell? What components can you taste? How does it feel? What memories do you have with certain smells? What are you feeling? During the day, what experiences do you have? What smells and tastes do you have, and what are you feeling? Why is that?
  2. Gratitude exercise: All too often we rush through life without acknowledging the things we take for granted. Before you get up in the morning tomorrow, still lying in bed, try to think of three things you are grateful for, things, situations, experiences, or other people.
  3. Filter exercise: We all have this filter in our head, filtering all the information we get from other people. All too often this filter doesn’t work very well, clouded by our negative beliefs. Whenever an action from someone causes a certain re-action, try to think about this filter. What is happening right now, why are you feeling this way? Monitor and challenge your filter, your beliefs, check his accuracy, and be ready to modify your filter if needed. Sometimes, a filter was beneficiary once, but may be counterproductive as time moves on. Mindfulness allows you to observe your reactions, your thoughts and your feelings, and enables you to challenge your filter to change your beliefs.
  4. Focus exercise: Mindfulness means you are able to focus on something. Whether it is this article, a book, a talk with someone – being mindful means you are completely in the present and aware what is going on at the moment. The next time you are doing something, try to focus on it for at least 30 seconds; try to focus without judging or evaluating. What is going on at the moment? What are you feeling? Why are you feeling it?
  5. Quiet exercise: In our world it became almost impossible to be experience real silence; the phone is ringing, the computer is beeping, the TV is on, etc. Silence is needed for practicing mindfulness when we want to observe our mind and our thoughts. Try to spend at least one hour in complete silence during a week, e.g., going for a walk, sitting in your living room, etc. It is a hard exercise, but very rewarding; you are able to (re)collect your thoughts.

 

As always, practice makes greatness. The more you practice and include these exercises in your daily routine, the more possible it is to see rewarding outcomes. If you have any questions about mindfulness, don’t hesitate to ask me!

 

About me: I am a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist (certified by the Austrian Ministry of Health), proud husband of “the best human being there is”, and stepfather of two teens. I work as a motivational speaker and coach; I am passionate about helping people to live a better life and to be able to find happiness and authenticity. I studied Clinical Psychology in Austria (with an emphasis on cognitive-behavioral techniques), and I finished my doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2013. Furthermore, I authored several scientific papers and book chapters. Currently, I am a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville/Tennessee, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna/Austria. I am a gamer and always excited to use new technology; my research focuses on “(Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology”, such as games or “side effects” of new technologies (internet addiction, etc.).

New year’s resolution- be authentic!

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Three years ago, an incredible journey started for me. I was not unhappy, but I was not happy either. I wanted to change things in life, but I did not know how. So one of the first things I did, I made the resolution to be more authentic, to be more my “real” self, no matter what other people think. Over that following year, I watched amazing things happen… I built new relationships, got a new job, found new friends, and even found myself getting married to an incredible human being – something I would have never even imagined happen to me three or even two years ago. With my post today I want to tell you why it is so important to be the REAL you, to be authentic. Once you start being authentic and take care of your needs and your real self, everything will change, and I will tell you why.

How we lost track of our real self

When we were little kids, we had flaws, we had a personality, we had qualities that defined us as human beings. However, while growing up, society influenced you and molded you into your today’s self. However, very often we ended up flexing our behavior; when we grew up, we learned to flex our personality to fit what we think others expect from us. This is a very natural thing. Think of ancient tribes – it was important to be good with everybody, it was vital for your survival; the more people like you, the more they help you survive. However, being grown-up, this can lead to serious issues. When you fake your personality or do not have the courage to stand up for yourself, you only hurt yourself.

Once you are aware of who you are, what you want and what you deserve, and start being yourself, it will be an amazing journey for you!

You will attract the right partner!

Something that happened to me too… When you are able to show your real personality, your flaws, your worst and your best sides, you will attract certain people. Sure, when you fake your personality and are not able to face your fears, you may attract someone… But I can guarantee you that it won’t make you happy. It is exhausting to fake a personality 24/7, to be not able to just be yourself. You might feel unhappy, exhausted, resentful or even guilty when your needs are not met. When you are authentic, you automatically create a consistend experience for other people; just be authentic and real, and you will attract someone who is truly meant for you.

Relationships change – you will find your right clan!

I had different relationships and friendships three or even two years ago. I was not surrounded by people who really supported me, who wanted to see me succeed. Quite the opposite, they projected their fears onto me, and tried to hold me back. However, the minute I focused on myself and started to be authentic, I lost some of these “friends”. It was a painful process, but trust me: once you are your real self and not subconsciously faking your personality like others want you to be, you will find other friends and colleagues.

You will find people who inspire you, who want to help you; you will attract other authentic people who are in line with your flaws and strenghts.

You will be healthier

Faking your personality (even if it happens subconsciously) is extremely exhausting. Subconsciously, you are always worried about other people’s thoughts, you try to impress almost everybody. It takes a lot of energy, and of course all these worrying can affect your immune system and your health.

Once you stop faking and start being authentic, all the worrying stops. You will have a lot more energy for authentic positive things, and you will gain confidence by just being present and yourself. It feels good! Being with the right people will boost endorphins. You will feel good, you look good, and you attract good. Over time, it creates major positive energy in your life!

You will be more successful

It is true – people do not want to buy fake experiences. When you are authentic, people can trust you, that you’re always you. It will be painful for some, and you should not be afraid to hurt some people with your opinion; however, you will be respected when you are able to speak your truth in a polite way.

When you’re not faking something, you are able to connect to people on a deeper level and you are able to build real relationships. Once people feel secure in your relationship, they will trust you and your opinion. You will attract people who want to spend time with you, and you will attract customers and clients who respect you.

Summary

Faking personalities is vital during adolescence; you experience and try different roles. However, as an adult, it is truly exhausting to fake a personality 24/7, at work and at home. You don’t attract the right partner or the right circumstances at work. Once you start to listen to yourself, to who you really are and your needs, you will be authentic. Being authentic creates real happiness, because you will find yourself surrounded by completely different people: Colleagues and friends who will want to see you suceed, who support you and uplift you. Most important “side effect” – you might find your real love, the one partner that is meant for your and who fits your flaws and your strenghts! You experience real and authentic happiness – just like you deserve!

Feel free to talk to me when you need assistance or coaching in finding your real inner needs and live an authentic life.

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum works as a Life Coach in Tennessee; he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life with greater happiness and authenticity. Furthermore, he currently is a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville/Tennessee, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna/Austria. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by Austria and the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technology frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the Internet, games or smart phones.

 

When you should kick somebody out of your life

Human beings are usually social. Social means, we get together with a lot of people, at work as well as in our private lives. Happiness comes and goes with the people we spend time with!

Did you ever have the feeling that after meeting certain people, you feel exhausted, with almost no energy at all? And it is always the same people? That shouldn’t be this way – after all, people should acknowledge you and lift you up.

While sometimes we just have to BE with some people, there are other times were we can actually choose whom we spend our time with. Today’s blog is about why you should choose your people wisely and whom you should kick out of your life; after all, your happiness comes and goes with the people you let into your life.

People influence you – choose them wisely

“We often are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” This means, you – and only you – are responsible whom you are with, and only you choose who is influencing you.

This is something you probably already noticed. When you spend time with someone who doesn’t like their body, you will probably start to notice your weaknesses too. If you spend most time with people who can only have fun while they are drinking, you probably start to drink too. If you spend most time with people who count their calories, you probably start to count calories too. If you spend most of your time with people who like to gossip and are very judgmental, you will probably feel self-conscious. Finally, if you spend a lot of time with people who do not respect boundaries, you will find it hard to have a healthy relationship with them and yourself.

This all makes sense, doesn’t it? Look at your current friends – what kind of people do you attract into your life? Is it someone who is friendly, caring, loving and passionate? Is it someone who loves his or her life? Or is it people who are miserable, and don’t like their body?

It all starts with you. If you spend the most time with people who are confident, who love to laugh, listen to somebody, you will probably feel energized and respected; you are inspired to do the same.

Questions you may ask about people

To find out if somebody’s good for you, take some time with yourself, and ask yourself some questions…

  • How do I feel after meeting him or her (or them)? Do they make me feel good?
  • Can I trust these people?
  • Can I listen to them, and do they listen to me?
  • Do they acknowledge my presence and include me in conversations?

Of course, life is complex, and sometimes it is hard when good friends or even family members do not treat us with respect and certain boundaries. You just do not feel nourished by them, rather depleted. By unraveling layers of relationships you will learn a lot about yourself, and your needs. And sometimes – as hard as it may sound – we just have to kick some people out of our lives.

Kick someone out of your life?

As social human beings, we just want to get along with everyone. Sometimes it is hard for us to understand that this is not possible. Instead of getting along with us, some people tend to criticize, take advantage of us or even do not acknowledge our presence when we are with them.

These signs may help you to choose if you should start to think about kicking someone out of your life, or at least minimize your time you choose to spend with them:

  1. They exhaust you: From every meeting with them you walk away unhappy and exhausted. Usually, meeting friends should energize you and give you a boost; sometimes this is not the case. If this happens too much, you probably spent time with a negative person. Somebody who is always complaining, or gossiping, or cursing at life, will leave you eventually in a negative mood.
  2. They do not acknowledge your presence: So you ask them about their work, what is new with them, and you show interest in their life. The moment you stop asking them – awkward silence. This is a very good sign to kick someone out of your life. After all, we are all capable of showing interest in somebody’s life – if somebody does not show any interest in you, you may evaluate if this person is still worth being around. You deserve true friends, and you should spend time with people who are truly interested in your life as well.
  3. You do not like someone: This is an easy decision. Sometimes the world is just black and white, and not liking someone is human nature. Do not blame yourself for it; people either make us feel better or worse. Our feelings and our well-being should come first; therefore, if you do not like somebody who is constantly dragging your down, you might consider kicking him or her out of your life.
  4. They just need you for their own purposes: Sometimes you will meet people in your life who are solely obsessed with what you can do for them. They expect a lot from you but are not willing to put any effort into the relationship. Whenever you say “No” to them, and you start hearing from them less often, that is a clear sign that they just needed you.

Live a happier life without some certain people

Yes, sometimes life is easier if some people are not in it. There are people in your life, you give you something, which you simply cannot live without – you would miss them if they would walk away. However, the thought of living without somebody makes your life seem easier and happier – then you have your answer if somebody should stay or go.

Sometimes, something is holding us back from living the best and happy life possible – do yourself a favor and start surrounding yourself with happy people; kick the negative ones out of your life. Watch out for the warning signs and ask yourself the questions from this blog – then you have an answer if somebody should stay or if you are better off alone. After all, life is too short and precious to spend it with the wrong ones – you will definitely notice a difference!

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville/Tennessee, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna/Austria. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technology frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the Internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

My grandfather’s golden watch

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

My favorite day!” said Pooh.

A.A.Milne

Have you ever thought about not wearing a special shirt or not putting on that cologne in the morning, because it was too expensive? You wanted to “save it for later, for a special occasion”? You shouldn’t. You should feel special every day, and it is in your hands to accomplish this feeling. My article today is about my grandfather’s golden watch and how it can teach us a lesson to embrace and welcome every day. Many of us save things for later and forget to live today.

My grandparents’ “war” generation

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents at their house. As a kid, I never wondered about the fact that my grandmother had “good silverware” and “every-day silverware”. She also had the “good cups” and the normal cups for everyday use. All the good silverware and dishes were stored in another room and only taken out for special occasions. I grew up with this, and it was not until later that I realized that this was a special way of thinking, inherent to the old war generation.

My grandparents grew up during World War II; my great grandmother even survived both world wars. They had to learn how to survive with a minimum of resources. After World War II, there was an economic boom in Austria. People were able to buy stuff they never had before, such as TV’s, special silverware or dishes – luxury. My grandparents grew up with almost nothing, so they had to learn how to plan ahead. They wanted to save the “good stuff” for later, for special occasions. However, with all the “saving up for later” my grandparents forgot something important – to live in and embrace the moment.

My grandfather’s 60th birthday – the golden watch

I remember my grandfather’s 60th birthday, I was 13 or 14 years old. We celebrated my grandfather’s birthday with the whole family, and he got a lot of presents. One of these presents was a golden watch, from my grandmother and my great-grandmother. They didn’t have a lot of money, so they had to save some money for it. It was a nice watch, with a golden clock-face and a fine leather band. When he got it, my grandfather opened the case with the watch in it, looked at it, said “This is nice, thank you” and put the watch back in the case.

He probably never opened it again until the day he died.

My grandfathers death – the good-bye

My grandfather died a year ago, three weeks after I went to the United States. He was sick for a long time; his death wasn’t a surprise. But even if it was the end of a long suffering, the whole family was devastated.

However, I am glad that I had the opportunity to say good-bye before I went to the U.S. He suffered from several strokes; he was not able to move his hands anymore. He also was not able to speak anymore, and was almost blind. But you could still see some light in his eyes when he recognized something.

Saying good-bye was hard for me. I knew that I would never be able to see him again. I went to his room, he was in his bed. I took his hand and I said goodbye. His eyes were always closed, but as I gave him my last kiss on his cheeks, he opened his eyes. He saw and he recognized me. I told him that I have to go now. He looked at me, I saw it in his eyes that he heard what I said. He stared at the ceiling. I saw a tear in his eye, and I am sure he knew that this was the final good-bye. I didn’t want him to see me cry, so I swallowed my tears; I cried a lot after that.

The golden watch

A couple months after his death, I spoke to my grandmother. I totally forgot about the golden watch; when she told me about it, I remembered it. She took care of my grandfather’s belongings after his passing, and she found the watch. She wanted me to have it, to have something from him when I am in the U.S., something to remember him. My grandmother told me that he was never wearing this watch, always waiting for a special day.

The next time my mother visited she brought me that watch. And there it was – the golden watch in a case; it looked like a brand-new watch. I had to get a new battery, but still – after almost 25 years it looked like a completely new watch.

Live and embrace the moment

I love the golden watch. It reminds me of my grandfather and where I come from. And it is a reminder to live every day. My grandfather waited for a long time to wear his golden watch, but he never did – until it was too late.

Unlike my grandfather, I do not want to wait for special days to wear my watch. I also do not wear for any special occasion; I wear it every day if I choose to. And this is the important lesson this watch teaches me: When I wait to for a special day, I will probably never wear it. The same goes for “expensive” clothes or “special” shoes or “fine” fragrances – I wear it every day I can. Every day is special, because it is YOUR life! You are still alive, and you should feel worth it – wear your best cologne, your best clothes, eat that special dinner, because you deserve it! Celebrate and embrace your life in this very moment!

Take away message from my grandfather’s golden watch

We never know how long we live; we never know what tomorrow brings. Of course, it is good to save some money for later! However, it shouldn’t stop us from living, enjoying our life today. Think about yourself: What are the things you don’t wear, don’t do, or don’t eat because you want to wait for a special day? Why can’t you do it today? You can wear your best clothes, order  that special dinner just for you, have a bath with that special bath salt, nourish your skin with that special body lotion, wear that special cologne when you go shopping… it is your list. Feel special and don’t wait for a day in the future far ahead because it might be too late some day!

 

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum wants to help people to thrive in life. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist, a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

Facebook: an unethical experiment?

I am a Clinical Psychologist and a Researcher. As a Researcher, I strive to uphold ethical principles in my research studies. In my area of expertise (implementing new technology to provide psychological interventions) I have to follow certain ethical standards. It should be without a question, that any experiment involving human subjects should be conducted respecting ethical principles.

However, over the last few days I read a lot of comments and blog posts about Facebook’s experiment (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science). As a professional researcher, it’s my opinion that this study probably has bent ethical guidelines too far, and I want to explain why.

The history about ethical principles and Code of Conduct

From 1932 to 1972 the Tuskegee syphilis experiment took place. It was an infamous study about the progression of syphilis in rural African American men. The participants were given the information that they are receiving free health care from the government, however they were not aware that they were participating in a study. Most of the participants suffered from syphilis but were never told they had syphilis, nor were they ever treated for it.

This experiment caused a big scandal, resulting in certain regulations governing studies involving human participants, such as the Belmont Report about the ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of Human Subjects of Research. It states that “Respect for persons requires that subjects, to the degree that they are capable, be given the opportunity to choose what shall or shall not happen to them. This opportunity is provided when adequate standards for informed consent are satisfied“. The importance of informed consent is unquestioned (providing information, comprehension and voluntariness). This is why we need ethical standards!

Similarly, the American Psychologic Association published “The ethical principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct” online http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx. These guidelines should be respected by researchers in any study, no matter who is funding the study.

These guidelines urge psychologists to take reasonable steps to ensure the competence of their work and to protect participants from harm. According to these guidelines, when we as social scientists conduct research, we obtain the informed consent of the individual or individuals using a language that is reasonably understandable to that person or persons. We inform participants about (1) the purpose of our research, the expected duration, and procedures, (2) their right to decline to participate and to withdraw from the research once participation has begun, (3) the foreseeable consequences of declining or withdrawing, (4) reasonably foreseeable factors that may be expected to influence their willingness to participate such as potential risks, discomfort, or adverse effects, (5) any prospective research benefits, (6) limits of confidentiality, (7) incentives for participation, and (8) whom to contact for questions about the research and research participants’ rights. Furthermore, we inform about (1) the experimental nature of the treatment, (2) the services that will or will not be available to the control group(s) if appropriate, (3) the means by which assignment to treatment and control groups will be made, (4) available treatment alternatives if an individual does not wish to participate in the research or wishes to withdraw once a study has begun.

And then comes Facebook’s experiment

A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science revealed that Facebook was experimenting with the mood of almost 700,000 users. The purpose of the experiment was to study “emotional contagion through social networks”.

As a researcher, I was excited to read about it! Think about it, the data of 700,000 participants, a study in my area of expertise (psychology and new media), so I read the study with a great interest. Generally on Facebook, people express their emotions in posts and comments, which are later seen by other friends in their News Feed. The News Feed filters these posts by a ranking algorithm developed by Facebook. This algorithm is continually “developed and tested in the interest of showing viewers the content they will find most relevant and engaging”.

This is nothing new as we all know Facebook is experimenting with the News Feed for years. But when I read the study, I struggled with the following sentence: “One such test [of developing and testing an algorithm] is reported in this study: A test of whether posts with emotional content are more engaging”. When did people agree to participate in a study like this?

These tests involved experiments that measured the effects of an algorithm addressing a change of moods of almost 700,000 participants, conducted by researchers who are affiliated with the University of California and Cornell University.

They tested a hypothesis to determine if reducing the number of positive messages shown to people in their News Feed made those people less likely to post positive content themselves, and tested the same hypothesis for negative messages. The procedure involved tweaking an algorithm so that textual snippets in posts were analyzed to determine whether they contained positive or negative words. One part of the group was fed neutral to happy information, another part neutral to sad information. After that, the comments and posts of the participants were scanned for affective meanings. The outcomes indicate that Facebook can propagate positive feelings as well as negative feelings.

Bending ethical research standards?

The ethical principles and Code of Conduct for Psychologists clearly indicate the necessity of an informed consent. Facebook and the researchers’ only argument addressing ethics in the paper is that the research “was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.”

Here is the critical part. Do we, Facebook Users, know that the News Feed is constantly changing and tested for new algorithms? Most probably yes. Do we, Facebook Users, agree with Facebook’s intent to tweak the News Feed algorithm to show us “important” content first? Probably yes. Would I ever agree to experiments addressing a change of my mood and I do not know when and where? Probably not without any information about the risks and consequences. Would I ever agree to an experiment that might probably make me sad deliberately and I don’t even know why I feel sad? No. I never agreed to any study like this, and I will never agree to any study like this as a participant. Whenever researchers try to change the mood of people , it is an experiment, and it requires informed consent.

This is why, in my opinion, this study probably goes beyond ethical standards. Furthermore, it is disappointing to see a study like this accepted in a highly ranged peer reviewed journal like the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Can Facebook conduct any experiment without informing participants?

A relevant section of Facebook’s data use policy says: “… We receive data about you whenever you use or are running Facebook, such as when you look at another person’s timeline, send or receive a message, search for a friend or a Page, click on, view or otherwise interact with things, use a Facebook mobile app, or make purchases through Facebook… We use the information we receive about you in connection with the services and features we provide to you and other users … we may use the information we receive about you .. for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement”.

Here, we have this unclear statement of “research” everyone who uses Facebook agreed to. It means every Facebook user has signed up for ANY and ALL experiments that they chose to conduct, including those that assess a change of our mood for the worse, without informed consent.

As a Clinical Psychologist and a professional researcher with ethical standards I struggle with this point and I think that this study is probably bending ethical standards and regulations too far. I would not operate with any data collected this way nor would I, as a reviewer, accept a study like this for a publication.

Who is liable for any consequences?

I want to explain why I struggle with it from a clinical-psychological perspective.

Imagine it: An estimated 5-10% of the adult population are suffering from depression, there are (conservatively estimated) at least 3,500 people suffering from depression, who participated in Facebook’s study. The experiment lasted seven days. At least 50% of the 3,500 people suffering from depression were part of an experiment. Facebook reduced the number of positive posts, resulting in a more negative mood for at least 50% of 3,500 depressive users. They experienced an even deeper depression for at least a week (or even longer, given the impact of experiments like this). What happened to these people? Furthermore, what happened to all other people, e.g. users with suicidal tendencies?

How can any scientist with a serious reputation a) agree to participate as an author or co-author in a study like this and b) handle data collected like this? Even more, how is it possible that a journal like the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science accept a study like this?

Conclusion

I am really happy that this experiment caused a huge uproar in social media as well as in the scientific community. It shows that there might be something fishy about Facebook’s experiment, and it provoked a big discussion about ethical standards in science.

As for the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science: I hope the editors think twice the next time they receive a paper like this. Even another colleague, Susan Fiske (a psychologist), who was editing the story for the journal, admitted serious qualms about the study. This leaves me questioning the quality of the study and the journal’s practice of accepting these studies in general.

As a Psychologist, I can only hope that it paves the way for better research in future with not bending ethical standards and respecting the rights of participants…

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.

Be your own best friend, for happiness’ sake!

“Happiness Is When You Feel Good About Yourself Without Feeling The Need For Anyone Else’s Approval”

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IMG_839420140519-194405-71045750.jpg

As a Psychologist and Coach, I meet a lot of people; furthermore, even after meeting with clients, I can’t help to see some things with my psychological eye. Some people are really talented with overthinking situations, dwelling on the past, and be their own enemy. They just can’t help themselves.

However, you – with reading my blog – can help yourself! Therefore, I’d like to introduce you to your worst enemy in today’s post – yourself. Right, yourself… I try to outline some rules for happiness, so you can stop being your own enemy, dwelling on the past, and start designing your own brilliant future!

Overthinking and second guessing

Yes, we all made mistakes, we all said things we wish we didn’t say, and we all made decisions we regret. Nevertheless, we also had situations where we helped somebody, wrote kind words to someone, made a phone call to encourage somebody. Instead of dwelling on negative situations, why don’t we dwell on the positive ones, where we helped somebody?

It is amazing how some people are able to focus on negative things, and overthink it how they reacted, should’ve reacted differently etc. Life is full with ups and downs. As I said before, we all make mistakes. How can you expect that somebody forgives you if you can’t forgive yourself? Make the first step and forgive yourself.

Mistakes made you the person you are now, they shaped you. You would react differently today – so the past was an excellent teacher, and you learned from your mistake. Just hold your head up, live through the mess of your past, and keep focusing on the present and designing your fantastic future.

Let your past be a teacher – and nothing else

We all made mistakes. We all made decisions we regret. Nobody is perfect. We all have good days, and we all have bad days where we dwell on the past, full with feelings of regret or remorse. And this is okay – it is okay as long as you do not let it stop you from designing a better future, beginning in this very moment.

Every mistake can inspire you towards success, every decision you made, made you the person you are today. You cannot change the past, but you can change your future.There were reasons you made a decision, there were reasons why you made a mistake, you just didn’t know it better that time.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, let the past be a teacher instead of a weapon to hurt yourself. Ask yourself what this situation taught you, and take it with you into a better future. Yesterday is gone, the future not here yet – all you have is your present.

Allow every past moment to be an investment in designing a better future, your future!

Don’t be your own enemy and listen to lies in your head

I am pretty sure we all have this voices in our head. This nagging voice “You could’ve done better”, “You don’t deserve it”, “How can people love you”, “You’re ugly”, “You’re a failure”, and so on.

This is the part that amazes me a lot – instead of being your own friend, most people are their own enemy and let these voices guide their life. Yes, we all have lazy days where we don’t feel like we are up to do what needs to be done.

However, feeling guilty because you didn’t do something, or because you didn’t do it well enough doesn’t serve you. Guilt is a strong feeling, nagging deep inside your soul, petrifies you until you’re not able to do anything else anymore.

Just don’t listen to your inside voice that tells you that it doesn’t matter if you skip a day at gym, drink that one more cocktail or smoke that one cigarette. It’s the voice of laziness that keeps you from flourishing.

Try to be your best friend, your best coach and motivator. Replace old, disempowering thoughts with uplifting and encouraging thoughts. You can do it! And what keeps you from doing it right now?

Thoughts of encouragement

It was Gandhi who said that “your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”

If you want to start shaping your future and your destiny, you will have to start with your beliefs and thoughts. Your words have power, not only for you but also your environment. Therefore, be very careful what you think and what you speak; are your words encouraging? Do they help you or anybody else in fulfilling their dreams? Happiness comes with words of encouragement; happy people speak words of encouragement not only to other people but also to themselves.

I strongly believe in the law of attraction. If you start speaking words of kindness and encouragement, it will attract other helpful, encouraging and kind people into your life. Just be careful – very often you are surrounded by negative people who want to drag you down.

Don’t listen to them, and seek out for encouraging people. You will see that you will awaken in others the thoughts and beliefs you hold in yourself. Always be your best friend, and live your life always aware of the fact that your beliefs and thoughts are your future and your destiny. If you want a better world for yourself and others around you, you have to start inside.

I sincerely hope that you find yourself in my words, and you find something you can include in your own life. Just remember, that most people are their own enemy – no one else is to blame but themselves. Therefore, instead of heading into the direction of a future with happiness, they dwell on the past, with overthinking and second guessing situations. Let your past be a teacher for you!

Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is not here yet – all you have is the present, and it is a present. Thoughts of encouragement will help you to shape your beliefs, your actions, your habits, and in the end – your fantastic future!

About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technologies frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the internet, games or smart phones. In his coaching and therapy work he focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life.