7 Tiny Tips To Become More Environmentally Friendly

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like every morning I wake up to a new disaster on the news and an even scarier headline about the future of the earth. With everything going on, trying to do something good for the world can feel like an impossible uphill battle. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up because the problem feels too big to be solved.

That’s why I put together these 7 tiny tips to help you become more environmentally friendly. None of these tips alone will change the world, but when we all commit to making a small adjustment in our lives to help support the future, it can add up to something incredible.

  1. Invest In Reusable - Invest in reusable products like tumblers for your coffee, glass water bottles, and sustainable straws.
  2. Turn Off the Faucet While You Brush Your Teeth - This one really is a teeny tiny adjustment but all of that saved water really adds up over time.
  3. Try “Meatless Monday” - By cutting out meat from your diet for just one day per week you will end up reducing your carbon impact by over 1 ton of CO2e emissions per year.
  4. Ditch the Coffee Stirrer - Americans toss 138 billion straws and stirrers yearly. A clever alternative: Put your sugar and milk first, and then pour in the coffee— it’ll mix itself!
  5. Treat Yourself! - Shopping consciously doesn’t mean you have to buy second-hand all the time. Invest in that really nice bag, coat, or pair of shoes that will last you years as opposed to buying multiple cheap ones that you’ll toss over time.
  6. Shut off and Unplug - This one is easy and it saves you money! Simply shut off all the lights before you leave in the morning and unplug any electronics that you aren’t using during the day and while you sleep.
  7. Bring a Bag - Keep a few reusable tote bags rolled up in the glove compartment of your car so you’re always ready for any last-minute grocery run that may come up; plus it’ll save you money if you live in a state that charges for plastic bags. 

Making small changes in your daily routine can help you feel like you’re taking back control of your life while living in what often feels like an uncontrollable world. If you find yourself feeling anxious every time you turn on the news and hear updates on all that’s going on in the world, I’d love to take a moment to chat and help figure out a plan to get you back in control of your life and enjoying the world around you. You can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a time to connect.

4 Ways Traveling Can Improve Your Overall Health

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel
read only one page” - Saint Augustine

Travel is an important part of life for so many different reasons - it expands our individual worldviews, brings us all closer together as a human race, plus it’s downright fun to see new places! However, did you know that it can also be an important activity for your overall health?

Here are just a few ways traveling can improve your health overall:
  1. Stress relief - This one may seem obvious, of course vacations are great for stress relief. However, did you know that traveling can help reduce your stress even after you return home? A recent study found that 3 days after vacation, travelers felt less anxious and more well-rested. And, these improvements didn’t vanish after 3 days, they lasted for weeks afterward.

  2. Boosts your mood - This benefit of traveling begins even before your vacation does! Studies have shown that the anticipation that accompanies a vacation is oftentimes the leading factor in the happiness that comes with travel. That means that your mood can begin to improve the moment you decide to take a vacation, even if it’s months (or more) away.

  3. Good for your physical health - Travel exposes you to different environments that contain bacteria that your body may not be used to. This may sound like a bad thing, but in reality, it is actually very good for your immune system to be exposed to new bacteria. This exposure forces your body to adapt by creating stronger antibodies and the result is an overall stronger immune system.

  4. Mental Durability - Just like with our physical body, our brain becomes accustomed to our daily lives and routines, often lacking much-needed brain exercise. Exposure to new environments through travel helps your brain flex muscles that lay dormant during periods of relative monotony and new experiences increase cognitive flexibility, keeping your mind sharp. 

When most people think of traveling or planning vacations they oftentimes think of going to exotic far-off places. While, that can be very exciting and fun, just remember that you don’t have to go all the way across the globe to experience these same health benefits. Even booking a weekend getaway at a hotel in your own city and playing tourist for the day can elicit the same health benefits as a week away in Tahiti. 

The important thing to remember is to take time out of your busy schedules to focus on you.

If you have questions about any one of the topics discussed above or simply need to set up a time to talk with a healthcare professional, feel free to email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.

Write it Down: Benefits of Journaling and How to Start

There are a lot of different stereotypes that come up when someone mentions journaling. There’s the classic heart-shaped lock on a book filled with “dear diary” entries written in sparkly gel pen. Or, there’s a vision of an old man on his deathbed scribbling in a feather pen all of the things he wishes he’d done differently.

However, journaling is no longer only reserved for teenage girls with school crushes or wise old men writing down their secrets to life. It’s a great practice to integrate into your daily routine that brings more health benefits than you may think.

Here are just a few of the benefits of journaling daily and some tips on how to start.

Benefits of Journaling:
  1. Mindfulness - Journaling, by nature, requires you to live in the here and now. Because your hands forming the words on each page move much more slowly than words forming in your brain, it forces your mind to slow down and meditate on each moment.
  2. Improved Immune System - Did you know that writing is good for your physical health? Studies have shown that those who journal regularly experience benefits such as improved immune system functioning and shorter recovery time from injuries.
  3. Better Mood - Writing about your feelings can help your brain overcome emotional distress and leave you feeling happier and more calm. This is due to the fact that writing reduces the activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling the intensity of our emotions. 

How To Get Started:

  1. Commit to a Time - Start by simply deciding what time of day you’ll journal. Some people like to wake up early and journal before their day begins while others prefer to write down their experiences at the end of the day before they go to bed. Choose whatever works best for you and your schedule then commit to trying it out for a week.
  2. Make it Easy - You don’t have to go from never writing to an avid journaler writing for an hour a day! Start simple and make it easy for yourself. Commit to writing for 5 minutes a day or simply start by writing until you fill one page of your journal then stop for the day.
  3. Start with a Prompt - There’s nothing more frustrating than staring at an empty page wondering where to even begin. Start by picking a prompt and writing from that each day for a full week. Your prompt doesn’t need to be complicated, it can be as simple as “3 things you are grateful for”, “a memory from your day”, or “2 words to describe how you’re feeling at that moment ”. If you’re having a hard time thinking of one, a quick google search for “daily journal prompts” should get you off to a great start. 

One thing you may experience as you continue to develop your new habit of journaling is as you begin to dive into your current emotions it may start to unlock memories or emotions in you that you didn’t know you had (or have pushed aside for many years). Journaling is a powerful way to explore the deeper parts of your psyche and is a tool that many therapists recommend. If you find yourself discovering new uncharted emotional territory as you journal and would like to talk with a professional, I would love to set up a time to connect; you can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.

New Year, New Everything: How to Deal with Change

Everyone knows the phrase “New Year, New You” and I’m sure you’ve been hearing it more often than you may like lately. It can be a great phrase that inspires us to take control of our lives and be the change we want to see in the world. However, some of you may be looking into 2020 and seeing a whole lot of change that you didn’t ask for and may not even want.

Whether it’s a relationship ending, job transition, moving cities, or any number of different shifts in your life, change can be uncomfortable, especially if it’s not you initiating it.

If you find yourself facing a sea of new things in the upcoming year and are feeling anxious about all the shifts in your life, here are a few tips to help you embrace change and move into the new year smoothly.

  1. Don’t stress out about stressing out - Did you know that your reaction to stress has a greater impact on your health than the stress itself? According to studies on the effects of stress in the body, the way we view stress is the real determining factor of your health. When you find yourself stressing about the upcoming change, don’t freak out. Ask yourself what positive impact these feelings can have on you. Try to lean into the feelings of stress and use them as a motivator to take action and take charge of the situation.
  2. Celebrate the positives and grieve the losses - Change is almost never fully good or fully bad. Just like everything else in life, it’s a mixture of it all. Take a moment to appreciate all of the positive things that accompany the change in your life but also take a moment to grieve the loss of what is no more. Maybe you’re in the midst of ending a long term relationship this year - embrace the positive change that is coming with this fresh start but don’t forget to allow yourself to mourn the loss of what was such an important part of your life.
  3. Determine what you can control and let go of the rest - There is a quote by Maya Angelou that I absolutely love: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”. I think that is such a great way to approach change. Determine what you can control and take charge to achieve the outcome you want. However, you must also realize that you can’t control everything and there will always be things that you simply need to let go of. Letting go of control doesn’t mean giving up - you can always work to view the situation through a new lens which may help you to organically change your attitude towards it as well. 

2020 is bound to have new and exciting adventures for all of us. Many of these adventures will be positive but some of them may be difficult. It is always good to have someone accompanying you on these adventures to help guide you through the ups and downs. If you would like to connect to reflect on your past year and establish a plan to support a successful year to come, you can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.

7 Holiday Conversation Starters To Go Below the Surface

Over the Holidays you tend to spend a lot more time as a family than you may be used to. After you run out of the tried and true questions about the weather and jobs you may find yourself just listening to crickets in the air. Keeping a conversation going can be a bit difficult sometimes, even with family.

Take this season as an opportunity to get to know your family on a deeper level by using these easy Holiday conversation starters to elicit more than just surface-level answers.
  1. What is one of your favorite childhood Holiday memories?
  2. Do you have a favorite Holiday tradition? If so, what do you love about it?
  3. Have you started any brand new Holiday traditions as an adult? If not, what would be a tradition you think you’d want to start?
  4. What is your favorite Holiday and what do you love about it?
  5. What was your favorite gift that you received as a child?
  6. What was your favorite Holiday movie growing up? Has it changed as an adult?
  7. If you were Santa Claus what country would you be most excited to visit on Christmas Eve?

Some of these questions may seem a bit surface-level at first, but each of them are crafted to elicit a deeper response if you follow it up correctly. Make sure you listen to their answers and find something specific to respond to. Use the phrase “I love that, tell me more” often. And, answer your own questions as well so as to make it feel more like a conversation as opposed to an interrogation.

No matter how close your family is, there’s always more to learn about one another. I’d encourage you to treat this Holiday season as an exciting opportunity to get to know your family members on a deeper level - this will not only bring you closer but may also help mend a family relationship that has a few bruises from the past.

I understand that extra time with your family may not always be a positive thing. Many of us have difficult family dynamics to deal with that oftentimes become inflamed around the Holiday season. If you find yourself thinking “Why would I want conversation starters that go deeper? I’m trying to avoid conversations all together!” then maybe take a moment to check out my recent article on navigating difficult family dynamics during the Holidays. Or, email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a time to talk.

Navigating Tough Family Dynamics Over the Holidays

If you start having cold sweats every time you hear the phrase “Holiday Season”, you’re not alone. Holidays can be stressful for a variety of reasons but the ones that I hear most often usually have to do with tough family dynamics.

As you prepare to head home to reunite with family this month, keep these easy tips in mind to alleviate any stress you may have and create an enjoyable holiday experience.

  1. Understand the “why” - It doesn’t matter if you 22 or 102, when you get around family it is easy to slip back into childhood roles. Maybe you’re the baby of the family and even though you’re a well-adjusted adult who reads therapy blogs to improve your inner being...you still feel like the baby as soon as you step through those doors.

    Instead of letting yourself fall back into that role, take this opportunity to observe how much you’ve grown and choose to react differently. The more you choose a different response the more you’ll help your whole family dynamic evolve.

  2. Differentiate - Fusion is what happens when you are so connected with another individual, or group of individuals, that you lose your own individuality. This can oftentimes happen with family members even after you’ve matured and individuated outside the home.

    When you base your sense of self on the approval of others, any differing opinion can feel like a threat to your wellbeing. If you find yourself slipping back into this dynamic, make a conscious decision to differentiate and remind yourself that your self worth is not tied to other people’s opinions, even loved ones.

  3. Set Boundaries - I’m sure I must sound like a broken record when it comes to setting boundaries - I wrote a 2 part blog series on the subject for goodness’ sake (if you haven’t read it yet you can find it here). However, I truly believe that setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is key to a healthier overall life.

    As you prepare for upcoming family time take a few moments to establish what your boundaries will be. This includes knowing how much family time you can handle, what topics you are comfortable discussing, and even physical boundaries (remember, you don’t “owe” anyone a hug just because you haven’t seen them in a while).

  4. Enjoy What You Can - Just because you may not love spending time with your family it does not mean that you are not a great family member. Allow yourself to dislike any aspect of the Holiday season without judging yourself for it. But, on those same lines, choose to enjoy what you can. Maybe the only redeeming part of family get-togethers is the great food that usually accompanies them - savor every bite and enjoy everything you can! 

Sometimes family dynamics can be so deeply rooted in pain that a few simple tips don’t even begin to scratch the surface. A serious aversion to family encounters can oftentimes serve as a window into deeply rooted childhood or family trauma. If you find yourself experiencing serious anxiety about the upcoming Holiday season, please email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 in order to set up a time to talk.

Am I Depressed or Just Sleepy?

Raise your hand if you’ve had days where you feel like your eyelids weigh 80 pounds and getting out of bed feels impossible! I’m sure many of you are raising your hand, I know I am.

Going through periods of fatigue is normal and can be caused by many things (including sleeping too much!). However, if you find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open consistently for more than a few days a week it may be a sign of something deeper.

Research shows that many people with depression and other mental health conditions experience both insomnia (trouble sleeping) and hypersomnia (excessive sleep).

So, how can you know whether or not your lethargy is just a period of fatigue or a symptom of depression? While I never recommend self-diagnosing, this quiz can help you get an idea of whether or not you should contact a professional. If you answer “yes” to 4 or more of these you may be dealing with more than just being sleepy.

  1. Do you experience insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day? (Y or N)
  2. Have you had significant weight loss or gain without any change in your diet? (Y or N)
  3. Do you have concentration problems? (Y or N)
  4. Are you having trouble remembering basic information? (Y or N)
  5. Have you noticed a dip in your libido? (Y or N)
  6. Are you experiencing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness? (Y or N)
  7. Have you lost interest in things that were once pleasurable? (Y or N)
  8. Have you had any symptoms that cause significant distress in social, occupational, or other areas fo functioning? (Y or N)
  9. Do you have a diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions often? (Y or N)
  10. Have you had recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, without making a plan? (Y or N)

Treatment for sleep deprivation is different than treatment for depression and will vary with each person. However, here are a few tips that can help with both:

  1. Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule, even on weekends.
  2. Get into bright light soon after waking in the morning - ideally in direct sunlight.
  3. Perform some form of exercise every day, even if it is just for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Avoid afternoon naps if you have nighttime insomnia.
  5. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
  6. Eat a balanced diet filled with leafy greens and vegetables.

In the end, you will not be able to really address either health issues of sleep deprivation or depression without first consulting with a healthcare professional. If you find yourself suffering from chronic fatigue and would like to talk about how to get to the root of the issue you can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323. Let’s figure out a way to get your energy back up and prepare you for an exciting holiday season!