Looking to Improve Your Life? Here Are Things to Stop Doing Today

We spend a lot of time thinking about things we can do to make our lives better, but in reality, there are a number of things we can STOP doing – right now, today – that will improve our lives for good! Daphne Stevens, Ph.D., LSCW, provides life coaching, psychotherapy, and a range of other mental health services designed to help you live your best, most fulfilling life.

Stop the Negative Thinking

Negative thoughts have a tendency to sneak up and overwhelm our minds before we even realize it, leading to a spiraling thought pattern that can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. It takes a concentrated effort to identify this pattern when it first appears and be proactive in shutting it down. Have a mental image and mantra to replace whatever pops into your head before it gets out of control – a literal stop sign or even a blank white sheet of paper can do the trick. Find a word or phrase that’s positive and soothing as you’re envisioning your image. Words to consider: love, peace, grace.

Stop Ignoring Your Mental Health

Mental health care is becoming more and more talked about, accepted, and normalized, which means it’s time to stop pushing it off as a non-essential form of personal health care. While you might be able to head off disruptive negative thinking on your own, if there are underlying issues you need to address, consider employing the help of a mental health counselor or therapist. These trained professionals can provide you with insights, guidance, and tools to help you let go of past trauma, bad experiences, and stressors that might feel beyond your control. Start with a visit to your primary care provider for a referral.

Stop Eating Junk

It’s so easy, and even comforting, to grab a greasy fast food snack and your favorite bag of cookies and veg on the couch at the end of a long, hard day. While this might make you feel better in the moment – and is a perfectly acceptable occasional indulgence – according to Prevention, in the big picture, fueling yourself with junk will only make you feel run down, bloated, and unhealthy. Feed yourself well by learning new recipes, shopping at farmer’s markets and health food stores, and nourishing yourself with whole foods, fresh produce, and plenty of water. Consume caffeine and alcohol sparingly, and strive for good quality, regenerative sleep.

Stop Working at a Job You Hate

According to Psychology Today, work stress is one of the biggest causes of depression and anxiety, especially when you’re in a role that doesn’t feel like a good fit, or where you aren’t using your skills and talents. Consider going back to school and earning an online degree that will allow you to advance your professional aspirations in a new direction. An online program in a field like business, IT management, or health care can put you into an in-demand and fulfilling role. Studying online also gives you flexibility, in that you can usually work on your own schedule from the location of your choice. This ensures a healthy work-life-school balance.

Stop Putting Off Self Care

When time and money are at a premium, many people move their personal needs to the back burner and prioritize others. The simple truth is, you need to care for yourself in order to effectively be there for others. Stop saying no to lunch dates with friends, or to taking a personal day from work to hike or go to a spa. Prepare meals that suit your tastes, get into a regular exercise routine, speak up when you need help, and assert your opinion at home and at work. It doesn’t have to be an adversarial process – just a self-respecting one. Once you get into the habit, it will begin to feel like second nature, and you’ll start to feel a greater sense of confidence.

Ask just about anyone what they’d like to change in their life, and you’re likely to get a long reply. Rather than looking for ways to start making positive life changes, look for ways to stop negative ones. It’s a practice you can put into action today!

Daphne Stevens, Ph.D., LSCW offers therapeutic telehealth services including hypnotherapy and dreamwork. Her site is a wealth of information on mental health topics, and Dr. Stevens can be reached by email or phone for consultations.

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Dorothy Watson

Art Work: Saying Yes to a Larger Love

No Clue, but Lots of Curiosity….

A few splashes of paint, and images show up.  Together, they create new language.

Saying Yes to Psyche’s Longing to Play

Ask a question here, then answer in the next paragraph

My 65th birthday was a day of discovery.  For one thing, I realized that 65 wasn’t nearly as old as I’d thought.

Well, yeah, there were the wrinkles.  And the gray hair.   And the realization that, after a lifetime of yoga and fitness training, stair rails were suddenly important.  When had I even begun to notice stair rails?

But the day offered new questions.  I’d been a wife.  A mother.  A friend.  A writer.  But mostly I’d been a therapist.

I’d wandered into a community mental health clinic in my early 20s when funds were flowing freely to meet public health needs.  I’d been hired on the spot as a social work technician.  My life’s path opened, and I fell in love with listening.  I learned to hear subtext, nuance, and patterns.  I heard hidden wisdom within the stories themselves, and I wondered as insights and images appeared within the therapy hour.  I respected the courage that it took for my clients to do their inner work, and was humbling and gratifying to be entrusted with their care.

Then I found myself at 65, 40+ years, and two graduate degrees later.  I loved my life–well, most of it.  Being a shrink meant a lifetime of facing my own shadows, of examining unexpected blind spots, and of settling into pain and discomfort until I could say Thank You to all of it.

Ask a question here, then answer in the next paragraph

I was also curious.  Who was I when I wasn’t a therapist?  The elderly woman in the mirror was relentless in the way that she held the question in front of me.

I’d mostly lived in a world of language, ethereal, cerebral, intuitive, and analytic.  I wanted to experience color and texture, to venture into a realm where I had no skills and no sense of rightness or wrongness.  Yet, as a person who had mostly colored within the lines, it was hard to imagine being that free.

I wandered into art journaling like I’d wandered into that mental health clinic.  No clue, but lots of curiosity.  I started with a discarded journal, collected a few paints and stamps and old photos and cards–and a few generous YouTube instructors.

One of the key things I’d learned as a therapist is that health shows up first in the ability to play.  The emergence of a sense of humor is a turning point,  like when a fever breaks after a serious illness and we’re filled with a sense of weak hope and well- being and a voracious appetite.

Our reptilian brains don’t know much about that.  They’re at the core of survival,  yet fight/flight/freeze is a pretty limited repertoire.   People who are stuck there show up in my office, paralyzed by anxiety or depression or addiction, or caught in toxic relationships.  The reptilian nature of those primitive patterns have to be recognized and respected before anything can happen, and the suspension of self-judgment is a key first step.

Reptiles don’t play.  You can play with your cat or your dog or your horse.  But your snake or your turtle?  Not so much.  And if you happen to have a dinosaur–well, call me.  (Actually don’t call me.  You’re beyond my kind of help.)   Reptilian people are characterized by a humorlessness–a deadly seriousness– blind to vulnerability or connection or empathy, or the absurdities and joys of being human.

Mammals are different.  We bond.  We tend our young.   In a marriage or close friendship, we share mutual appreciation, a sense of goodwill, and an ability to play.  A good belly laugh can wash away angst.  Our sense of ensemble is palpable, and we know that we truly are greater than the sum of our parts. I recently attended a political rally that chanted quietly: “We all need ALL of us to make it.”

Ask a question here, then answer in the next paragraph

So, at 65, I realized that play had become a true calling.

The pages showed up, it seemed on their own.  Images from old books, magazines, greeting cards or letters.  Ticket stubs.  Grocery lists.  Words from great writers.  My own splashes of poetry.  Anything and everything can–and did– come together to create an art journal.

I’m sharing the page I created on that birthday.  It’s fun to look back and rediscover what the pages have revealed, but the main source of wisdom came in one of those tutorials:  “It’s YOUR art journal.  You can’t do this wrong!”

It’s a freedom that I want to share widely.

65 today. What mysteries are yet to be revealed?


Holy Commerce

Holy Commerce
Daphne Stevens, Ph.D.
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I shopped like a madwoman last month.  Why is it easier to fit new clothes into a suitcase than to drag out the season’s old favorites and wear them again?  I was preparing for a business trip to Santa Fe.  First I hit some tried-and-true catalogues for basics—good fitting pants in several neutral colors, and a simple packable dress that could be accessorized easily. Then I hit the mall.
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