What you need to know about Telemental Health

With folks being confined to their homes, unable to maintain their normal routines, there is a global heightening of anxiety and extreme isolation. Now more than ever, improving and/or maintaining our mental health is an urgent matter. I know firsthand how hard therapists all over the country are working to ensure that their current clients and new clients have access to these must needed services.

What is Telemental Health?

Telemental health is the provision of remote mental health services (typically done via video. but can also be provided through text, email, or telephone.)by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists. Historically, the platforms that services are provided on, had to be HIPAA compliant. Given the sudden halt to services due to the Covid-19 pandemic, associations and insurance panels have allowed more flexibility to the platforms that therapy can be provided on. What that means for you, is that sessions can be conducted on platforms such as FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Skype. Your therapist will provide you with an informed consent discussing the limits to confidentiality when sessions are conducted on a non- HIPPA compliant platform in addition to other logistics that will ensure a productive therapy session.

Who can receive Telemental Health Services?

The short answer to this is Everyone. You can be an existing client or a new client. You can be seen as an individual or as a couple or family. There can even be group sessions provided using this medium. In my own practice, I have used video sessions for individual therapy and couple’s therapy, and although it may take some getting used to, everyone adjusts a few minutes and the sessions deliver the same value as when they are face to face.

Why should you try out Telemental health?

The reality is the whole world stands in a place of uncertainty. Uncertainty about our health, our finances, and our futures. This level of uncertainty can spiral someone into a very unhealthy space. Additionally, there’s no playbook for surviving a pandemic so we are all novices at this. Having a space that is carved out to process feelings and learning healthy coping is essential. There is a multitude of positive coping strategies that can be implemented, resulting in emerging from this devastating time more resilient than when you entered it. There are equally a number of unhealthy and destructive ways to get through this Pandemic. We do not have control of much of our external world, which speaks to the importance of understanding and managing our internal world even more. Therapy is the space to learn how to do just that.

Signs that you may benefit from continuing or starting therapy via Telemental Health.

I believe that we all can use mental health services as I view therapy as another form of preventative health care, however, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or exhibiting these behaviors, I would recommend that you 1) not cancel your sessions with your current therapist or 2) Find a therapist now that is offering telehealth services.

  1. Extreme isolation
  2. Increased Anxiety
  3. Inability to manage negative thoughts
  4. Constantly checking the news.
  5. Soothing with unhealthy foods or alcohol
  6. Overwhelm
  7. Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  8. Irritability/anger outburst

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of video therapy, I would highly encourage you to try it out at least a couple of times before writing it off completely. Many people have been pleasantly surprised in the experience and appreciate the convenience of it. Imagine a couple’s therapy without having to find a babysitter! (Post kids’ bedtime of course). Just like traditional face to face sessions, you as a client have the right to try out as many therapists as needed until you find a good fit.

Lastly, keep in mind that most private practice therapists are also small business owners, they depend on their clients showing up to sustain their livelihood as well. Please keep that in mind before you cancel your session. In this season we all need to support each other.

How to find a Telehealth Therapist

Honestly, most therapists, like myself, have either exclusively gone to telemental health services or have it as an option. I would recommend looking at Psychology Today, entering your zip code, and finding a clinician in your area that matches your needs. Many have done a COVID-19 update that will let you know if they have taken sessions online. Also, if you think that you will continue with the telemental health post-Pandemic, you can use any therapist licensed in your state.

To navigate this tumultuous time we have to step up our mental, physical, and spiritual health. I encourage everyone to utilize all of the resources available to you. Sending you all so much love and light!

Saudia Turney, MA, LMFT- Supervisor is the co-owner of the Friendswood Center for Couples and Families. She has been in practice for 10 years and works with Adults, Couples, and older teens in Friendswood, Texas and the surrounding areas. She is currently accepting new telementalhelath clients in Texas.

What Prince Harry and Meghan Markle can teach us about setting boundaries with family

BACKGROUND

On Wednesday January 9th 2020, their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, AKA Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their plans to step down as senior members of the Royal Family and move to North America.  While I am not an avid follower of the happenings of the Royal family, it was hard not to take notice of the impact of this decision.  The British Royal Family has been a symbol of pride and tradition for many, many years.  The pomp and circumstance around Royal weddings and royal births have become major news even here across the pond. 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex got married on May 18, 2018 and welcomed their first child into the world on May 9, 2019.  Since that time, there have been rumors of discord within the family and much discontent with Harry regarding the treatment of his wife.  We may never know what happened behind the scenes and whether some of the tension is related to the Duchess’s African American roots, but as of yesterday, we do know that Prince Harry had to make what was probably one of the most difficult decisions of his life.  He and his wife made a decision to walk away from the expectations of one of the richest, most powerful and most influential families in the world.

EXPERIENCE

As a Marriage and Family therapist for over a decade, I can say that a person’s inability to set healthy boundaries with family members is often a major source of anxiety and depression. So many people are living lives that were not designed by them, for the sake of making others feel good. We are raised to believe that family is everything and that blood is thicker than water.  That pretty much translates to, no matter how abusive, toxic, or dysfunctional a family may be, loyalty trumps personal wellbeing. Regardless of the type of family we come from, as adults we all seem to struggle with making decisions for our own best interest if we think those decisions will hurt, disappoint, or displease the people we care about.  It doesn’t matter if there was legitimate abuse or if you have a controlling mother or critical father, setting boundaries is hard!  

BOUNDARIES
Boundaries are the emotional or physical space that we create between ourselves and others.  This space is created as a way to show people how we expect to be treated within the relationship.  Setting boundaries can ensure that relationships are mutually respectful, caring and appropriate. On paper, boundaries sound amazing! The rub happens due to the fact that everyone has a different idea of what the boundaries of a relationship should be and a different viewpoint on how you should operate in your life.

The relationship between adult child and parent is a breeding ground for mix-matched expectations and boundary violations. Telling your family you aren’t going to Thanksgiving dinner because you want to spend time with the family of a close friend may seem unacceptable in some homes.  Asking your critical father to refrain from speaking negatively about your decision to leave a secure job and start your own business can be viewed as downright disrespectful, while telling your powerful traditional British grandmother that you are stepping down from the duties you have been groomed for since birth is world news! The journey to forge ahead in your life and make the decisions necessary for your own wellbeing are not always smiled upon, but it is the only way to live the life that was meant for you.

THE LESSON
Regardless of how you feel about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision, even if you don’t care at all, they are a real-life example of the courage that it takes to decide to live a life of your choosing.  They have verbalized love of their family and the monarchy as well as love for their newly created union and their freedom. Setting boundaries with families has the ability to end generational toxicity. I applaud the Duke and Duchess for answering their call to courage and doing the uncomfortable work of living in their truth. I urge you to self-reflect and see if there are areas in your own life where resentment is building because you haven’t been able to set the limits necessary for your own mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.  I acknowledge that for some this may seem like an impossible task, but I know with the right support that it can be done.  The freedom that is felt is most often worth the discomfort and in most cases the family members that you think will never speak to you again, in time learn to love you for the person you are, not the person they wanted you to be. 

Saudia Turney, MA, LMFT- Supervisor is the co owner of the Friendswood Center for Couples and Families. She has been in practice for 10 years and works with Adults, Couples, and older teens in Friendswood, Texas and the surrounding areas.

Forced Apologies by Carol Kim, MS, LAMFT

My four-year-old daughter placed herself in the middle of our living room to play with blocks. She was so engrossed with building a wooden castle that she didn’t notice her two-year-old sister walking towards her with her right arm stretched far back to slap her older sister across the head. When that slap came, my older daughter went from happy to surprise to anger and then lots of tears. She ran towards me seeking justice. “Mommy, she hit me!” My younger daughter remained still, looking innocent. I immediately walked over to her with my older daughter in hand and said, “Hands are not for hitting. Say sorry for hitting please.”  I’m sure many parents can relate to this scenario. Teaching our children the skills for making amends is an important life skill and is not so much about saying the words “I’m sorry”.  

There is a belief amongst some parents that enforcing premature apologies on children is not effective. Their reasoning is that premature apologies teach children to lie and encourage insincerity. It also creates shame and embarrassment. Other studies show that young children have the ability to be empathetic even before they can speak; therefore, parents should encourage apologies (Smith, Chen, Harris; 2010). As I reflected on my research and my knowledge as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I recognized several things we can do as parents to create productive apologies: 

  1. Keep yourself in check: It’s frustrating to see your children fight, especially when it happens at inconvenient times. However, it’s important to remain calm and model for your children how to handle frustration.   
  2. Be immediate when possible: When you see an incident occur between your children, address it. The best time for learning and growth is when the incident is still fresh in their minds. However, when there are time constraints and the issue cannot be addressed right away, it is important to tell your children when and where it will be addressed. Be consistent when using the alternative and follow through.  
  3. Ask instead of tell: Avoid lecturing. Ask questions instead. “Tell me what happened?” “What were you feeling when you hit your sister?” Validate the expressed emotion and help them to understand that it is okay to feel frustration and sadness; however, it is not okay to hit or throw things. Help them to also make the connection between emotion and action. “Look at her face, how do you think she’s feeling right now?” Asking these types of questions enhances empathy. 
  4. Problem Solve: Ask questions about what they think they should do when they feel frustrated or sad. Help them to come up with solutions.  Ask questions about how they can make things better with their sibling/s. 
  5. Have them practice a do-over: When your child identifies the solution, have them practice it with the other sibling/s. Praise them for their efforts at the end.    

What is more important than the phrase “I’m sorry” is what children take away from the experience. We can facilitate and enhance learning opportunities by not focusing on the phrase “I’m sorry” but instead more on what can be learned from this situation and how can we improve.  

About the Author: Carol is a therapist at the American Fork Center for Couples and Families. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has spent the past 6 years practicing in several cities across the United States, including Boston, San Francisco, and now, American Fork. She is passionate about applying the principles of therapy to improve lives and relationships, and is committed to creating a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment. Carol specializes in individual, couples, and family therapy, and has extensive clinical experience treating depression, anxiety, ADHD, addictions, domestic violence, trauma, children/adolescents and relationship issues.

Maintaining A Relationship That Is Juicy, Fun, Passionate and Loving by Dr. Matt Eschler, Ph.D

I am pretty certain that we all hope for a juicy, fun, passionate, loving relationship with our lovers! The relationships that maintains a spark over decades of being together are built carefully they most definitely are NOT accidents! You don’t connect with a “soul mate” and settle into mandatory bliss. If you are hoping, longing, reaching for a juicy fun passionate relationship then you will want to read the rest if this article!

Juicy fun passionate relationships are created. If you keep a few rules you can be certain your marriage is all you ever fantasized about! Keep these three incredibly simple rules of engagement and juicy, fun, passion will be yours!

 

Get to know each other every day.

By constantly developing connection and strengthening your relationship bond you breath new life into your marriage every chance you get. Sometimes you will be giving rescue breathes during crisis and struggle while other times you are giving extra oxygen creating a sense of peace and relaxation. Know your lovers top five or six needs to be happy. Many couples think they know each other and know what drives happiness only to find they have lost touch with change, growth, and each other. To keep on the razor edge front line of juicy passionate fun you have to meet together and talk. I suggest three meeting a week is the minimum. These three meetings each come with there distinct purpose. First have a date night. This is where couples flirt, tease, kiss, and talk about hopes and dreams with each other. Second meeting is couples council. In this meeting you discover the struggles you each face. You empathize with each other, grow through strife and strain while talking about hard topics trusting you will stand by each other for better or worse. Third meeting is family night. This is a time to organize your family share family activities, dreams, and structure the household as a unified front. All three of these meetings are really mandatory and refreshing if you engage weekly on purpose.

Transparency

Second of the three “must” for juicy fun passionate relationships is all about transparency. Share your whole self holding nothing back. If you only share what your lover approves of your holding them hostage. Allow your lover to see all of you and realize your love for each other grows with knowledge of what makes us tic. Sharing a deep sense of fondness and adorationfor each other! (Number one cause of divorce is contempt) is a major part of the intimacy you will Experience. Have you ever caught yourself thinking fond thoughts about your lover and not expressing these thoughts out loud because it feels way vulnerable? My challenge to you is be vulnerable every day! Dare to share all your fondness and admiration out loud and often! Pray with each other express gratitude to the God of your understanding for each other. Imagine the power you will have as Couple joining in prayer to begin each day unified! Celebrate victories, Support each other’s interests, and helping achieve each other’s dreams are all ways of generating juicy fun passionate marriages. I think you get the idea.

Positive Sentiment Override (Gottman Term)

Finally the third principle followed by juicy, passionate, fun couples is a constant positive sentiment override. You always have two choices in how you SEE your lover. You can think negative or you can see the good. You can interpret what is said through a filter of offense. Seeking to be offended will generally lead to you finding a way to actually be offended. The thousands of interactions will be filled with minor slights and errors that can be exploited and used to feel sad, hurt and bugged a each other. On the other hand you have every right to filter all those same interactions through a sieve that separates out all the warm juicy passionate sentiments and feel love and joy. It’s really fun p to you! No, your not burying your head in the sand your simply seeking the good gifts offered.

Think about all of this and have an incredible juicy fun valentines month in February.

About the Author:  Dr. Matt Eschler lives in St. George, Utah where he and his wife Chris are enjoying their life with each other. Since their kids have grown and moved out perusing their dreams Matt and Chris travel the world. They want to visit 200 countries before the are done. Matt and Chris are active in their community and enjoy working out, training for marathons, and spending time participating in numerous activities with their adult children.  Matt has received his PhD in Psychology. He is focused on the arena of resolving personal conflicts and improving interpersonal relationships. In addition to his Doctorate Degree Matt has earned a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, studied Criminal Justice and received a category I licensure with Peace Officer Standard of Training along with a degree in the Arts of Business Management. Matt is a professor at Dixie State University and hopes to be part of the positive growth of Southern Utah.

Hidden Signs of Depression by Alberto Souza, MSN, APRN, FNP-C

Studies show about 1 out of every 6 adults will have depression at some time in their life. This means that you probably know someone who is depressed or may become depressed at some point. We often think of a depressed person as someone who is sad or melancholy. However, there are other signs of depression that can be a little more difficult to detect.

 

Trouble Sleeping

If you notice a change in a loved one’s sleeping habits pay close attention as this could be a sign of depression. Oftentimes depression leads to trouble sleeping and lack of sleep can also lead to depression.

Quick to Anger
When a person is depressed even everyday challenges can seem more difficult or even impossible to manage which often leads to increased anger and irritability. This can be especially true for adolescents and children.


Losing Interest
When someone is suffering from depression you may notice a lack of interest in past times he or she typically enjoys. “People suffering from clinical depression lose interest in favorite hobbies, friends, work — even food. It’s as if the brain’s pleasure circuits shut down or short out.”


Appetite Changes
Gary Kennedy, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York cautions that a loss of appetite can be a sign of depression or even a sign of relapse back into depression. Dr. Kennedy also points out that others have trouble with overeating when they are depressed.


Low Self-Esteem

Depression often leaves people feeling down about themselves. Depression can lead to feelings of self-doubt and a negative attitude.

 

What to do
If you suspect you or someone you love may be suffering from depression talk about it, encourage him or her to get professional help and once he or she does be supportive. Remember that at times symptoms of depression need to be treated just like any other medical condition.

Sources

Healthtalk.org

helpguide.org

Psychology Today

About the Author:  Alberto has worked in healthcare for over 10 years. He began as a CNA and then worked as a registered nurse until completing his Master’s Degree in Nursing.  Alberto has been been working as a Nurse Practitioner since April of 2013.  In addition to his work as a Nurse Practitioner, he also teaches online classes for the Dixie State University Nursing Program.  He is currently working at the St. George Center For Couples & Families.

A New Start. A New Journey. A New You. How the right therapy, and the right therapist can help get you there by David Nutter, MA, LAMFT

New starts in life often happen when people decide to engage therapy. Whenever I meet new clients as individuals, couples, or even families, I ask them what their goals are in therapy. For some, they have not been asked about what they need, want, or even prefer in their lives for a long time. For others, it often feels that they have never been heard at all, let alone asked. What happens when you go to therapy? What type of model and style of therapy will the person you see provide? What is their level of formal training, how well attuned are they to meet your needs and do they rely on any other resources other than their self-perceived competency? Understanding how much someone knows about your particular issue(s) is a critical step in selecting the type of therapist and style of therapy you will engage.

For example, as I write this article I am thinking of the many different styles of therapy available. I can immediately think of 11 different styles: structural family therapy, strategic therapy, the Milan systemic approach, the Mental Research Institute (MRI) approach, Satir’s communication approach, symbolic-experiential family therapy, intergenerational family therapy, collaborative therapy, narrative therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and solution-focused therapy. That’s a lot of different styles of therapy, all with empirical research associated with their model and experts in each field.

Added to this list of styles of therapy are the therapists themselves. Who are you going to see and what you are likely to experience is largely dependent on the type of education they have and the experience they have with others. There is a vast difference in the education requirements to become a life coach, mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist (MFT). There are differences in approaches and emphasis, even within the same style/model of therapy. You and the particular issues you bring to therapy may be weighing on you. The therapist fortunate enough to have you as a client should work as hard on your issues as you do.

There are resources such as books, workbooks, films, music and other sources that might resonate with you that are not particularly useful or preferred by others. You have decided to make a new start and that new start needs the support of the developing relationship of trust you are building with your therapist of choice. That relationship is essential for discussing what you want to achieve and the ways you plan to address the changes or goals you want for yourself and your relationships. Your new journey starts with a decision about what you want to experience in the future. Often this gets accomplished by a review of the past and current life experiences you have survived or thrived from. The therapist caring deeply about your experiences and your strengths will celebrate what you have achieved and where you are going. Aspects that you bring to the therapy effort are elements of the way you might describe yourself—the many facets of who you are. When people describe their experiences in therapy, I hope they include feeling heard, challenged, respected, validated, encouraged and celebrated. Their experience should feel welcomed like a friend, with a serious focus in a nurturing manner. Sometimes people cry, reflect and reconsider critical directions or attitudes they have adopted. Sometimes they laugh and release tension in a light-hearted way. New beginnings are often encouraged by a therapist going the extra mile along side of you, so you can keep going more miles, confidently forward. Welcome to your new start.

About the Author:

David Nutter is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist at the St. George Center For Couples & Families. His career experience includes military service, management and executive positions and international business consulting. He received his undergraduate degree from BYU and his Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northcentral University, a COAMFTE approved program. David was inducted into two honor societies for academic and clinical excellence and is enrolled in NCU’s PhD/ MFT program. During his Master’s program he was mentored by Steve Allred, with a broad range of client ages and issues. He served as the SGPD Chaplain (board certified) to reduce the impact to personnel and citizens from significant trauma experiences. He is adjunct faculty at DSU. He has lived in every U.S. time zone and abroad, and appreciates diversity. David is married to his “girlfriend” Diane. Together, they call their 7 children, their spouses/partners and 5 grandchildren their immediate family.

Why Should Couples Consistently Set New Year’s Resolutions Together? By Dr. Matt Eschler, Ph.D, LMFT

I have counseled couples for twenty-five years. Panicking, anxiously pacing, wringing hands, couples have wandered into my office, hoping to find some peace in their relationships. In the counseling arena we explore some very principled foundation ingredients that, when mixed together, produce peaceful, passionate relationships.

There are three fundamental ingredients that all of us need to exercise for a shot at a sound relationship. My challenge to you is to sit with your lover and assess the following three principles, and set specific goals to learn a little more, stand a little more firm, and increase your skills in these three areas:

The first foundation principle is friendship. Friendship is unilateral. Increase your friendship with your lover every couple of hours. You do this by sharing information, being trustworthy, and being transparent—without conditions.

The second principle that relationships will not survive without is influence. You must accept your lover’s influence. Men seem to have a slightly more difficult time with this, but both partners will benefit from allowing influence. Think about a time when there was disagreement in direction of relationship or activity. Did you allow your lover to have influence? Did you argue until one of you gave in? Was their healthy negotiation until a mutually satisfying result occurred? The hope is always influence and no competition. Get a little better at this in 2018!

Finally, the third principle is generating a governing purpose for your marriage. This is the North Star that holds you both accountable to a result that is desirable and cherished. If you are seeking the same purpose, you won’t go after hostile results. For example, my wife and I want to travel the world. If I sneak out and spend our travel money on a new truck and lots of clothes, we won’t have resources available to travel. That causes issues. If I save and we put our travel fund together and watch it grow together, we will eventually accomplish our common goal.

I invite you all to accept this challenge: In 2018 be a little bit better in all three of these areas. Sit with your lover and map out a specific strategy to accomplish these three goals to improve your relationship.

 

About the Author: Matt lives in St. George, Utah where he and his wife Chris are enjoying their life with each other. Since their kids have grown and moved out perusing their dreams Matt and Chris travel the world. They want to visit 200 countries before the are done. Matt and Chris are active in their community and enjoy working out, training for marathons, and spending time participating in numerous activities with their adult children.  Matt has received his PhD in Psychology. He is focused on the arena of resolving personal conflicts and improving interpersonal relationships. In addition to his Doctorate Degree Matt has earned a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, studied Criminal Justice and received a category I licensure with Peace Officer Standard of Training along with a degree in the Arts of Business Management. Matt is a professor at Dixie State University and hopes to be part of the positive growth of Southern Utah.

Choosing “Right” over “Good”

The idea that everything “good” is not “right” is probably not a new concept to anyone. However, even with awareness there is a tendency to overwhelm and overcomplicate our lives with really good things. What do I mean by this? Take for example the woman in a relationship with a great guy who is focused on building his career.  At first glance there is nothing wrong with this, except that this woman has been divorced for four years, is the mother of two teenagers and has spent the larger part of her adult years supporting her ex-husband’s career and raising their children. Although she holds no regrets for those decisions, her desire at this stage of life is to be in a relationship with a partner that can support her dreams as much as she can support theirs.  Someone who is in the season of their life where they can invest in a relationship, relax and travel.  So yes, this may be a good guy, but not the right guy for this particular women and what she needs and desires in this stage of life. We can also look at the father of three small children, that was presented with a job opportunity that would require more travel than his current job.  At present he carries a great deal of guilt for not being able to spend enough time with his children and be the supportive partner that his wife needs.  He noticed that he’s becoming irritable with his family and drinking more to cope with the stress and guilt.  Although this new job would offer good money and career advancement, it wouldn’t necessarily be the right decision for his current situation.  Lastly we have the over scheduled family that is actively involved with their church, have demanding careers, and a mix of sports and performing art activities for their children.  Although taken individually these activities enrich their lives, at the end of the day, they are tired, anxious, and rarely have any downtime to spend together as a family. Do they continue to run from obligation to obligation? Do they volunteer to bake for the upcoming church picnic, or do they opt out of those good things to do what is right for their family and their wellbeing?

With decisions, the answers aren’t always clear, and sometimes you have to set boundaries and say no to really good things. Walking away from something good is never easy, but walking towards what’s right keeps us in line with our purpose and focused on what really matters. Knowing what your goals, values, and overall path are for whatever season of life you are in, helps makes some of these difficult decisions easier. With every tough decision you should ask:

1) What season of life am I in?

2) What is the vision for my family, career, relationships, etc.?

3) How will I feel if I make the decision to move forward or away from this?

If any of those answers are coming from a place of fear, i.e. “I’m afraid I won’t meet anyone else”, “I’m afraid my kids will fall behind”, “I’m afraid I’ll never have this opportunity again”, then chances are the decision is not the right one.  Fear based decisions keep us on the hamster wheel of life, repeating the same patterns and staying stuck in overwhelm and frustration. Having an abundance mindset allows us to have faith that there are always more good things for us on the road ahead.

Testing

Testing

3 Steps to New Habits by Joan R. Landes, M.A., AMHC

A wise person once said, “We make our habits, then our habits make us.” So we set goals and make resolutions, but our good intentions and resolutions often end in disappointment. Isn’t there an easier way to create a good habits? The answer is “Yes!”

In three simple steps, a new habit can be formed in just a few days.
1. Anchor your goal to an existing habit
2. Start small with an easy behavior
3. Validate your efforts

First, use an existing behavior as an anchor for your new habit. For instance, if you wish to develop a habit of doing daily push-ups, and you already brush your teeth every morning, use brushing your teeth as your prompt for your new habit. After you finish brushing your teeth, begin to do the pushups.

Second, start with something ridiculously easy like one push-up. Or, if your goal is flossing your teeth, start with flossing just one tooth. While you do the behavior consciously tell yourself that you enjoy the activity: “I like the way my muscles feel alive when I do push-ups!” or “My teeth feel great when I floss!”

Third, after you complete your small goal, validate your efforts aloud. It can be as simple as saying “Great job!” or “Awesome!” Saying it aloud is more powerful than just thinking the words, so don’t be shy. Throughout the day make sure to keep telling yourself you did great when you think of your goal. The great thing about this type of self-validation is that it doesn’t cost anything, it’s legal, non-fattening and immediate.

That’s it! After a few days, you will find yourself looking forward to engaging in the new behavior. Gradually, you can increase your small goal into a bigger one.

Since I try to practice what I preach to my clients, I have used this technique in my own life. My goal: Develop more upper body strength through morning push-ups. First, I thought of my existing morning habits and the first thing that came to mind was simple – opening my eyes! It’s hard to do push-ups while lying on a mattress, however, so I had to come up with another anchor habit. I chose to anchor my goal to my current habit of making my bed.

After tucking in the blankets and tossing the pillows on the duvet I dropped to the floor on my hands and toes for three standard push-ups followed by three modified push-ups (knee style!). I told myself, “This is very cool!” Easy, right?

Afterwards I said, “Awesome!” My sleeping husband pulled the bedspread and pillows off his face and called out, “What’s awesome down there?”
“I’m doing my morning push-ups, honey,” I told him.
“Good grief, all that grunting woke me up.”
“Wait till you feel my biceps,” I bragged.
“Keep working on it, Sweetie,” he said. “Someday you’ll find them.”

But it was too late. I couldn’t be discouraged because I had already validated myself and was looking forward to the next session! I haven’t missed a day since before Christmas, and the really cool part is that I don’t dread exercising. Hey, don’t mess with success, right? As my son who is a cadet at the military academy at West Point said, “Not bad for a 50-year old, Mom.”

“Fifty-one,” I said. I want every kudo I can get!

About the Author: Joan Landes is a therapist at the Center for Couples and Families. She feels that therapy should be an adventure for her clients and (gasp!) actually fun. Joan loves learning the latest neuroscience underpinning human resilience and is enthusiastic about skill development in her clients. She has been married for 32 years and is the mother of 7 children who make this world a better place.