Lake Behavioral Hospital Launches New Virtual Evening Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Lake Behavioral Hospital now offers virtual evening intensive outpatient groups. The program is offered Monday through Thursday from 5:00pm to 8:00pm via a secure telehealth platform. The intensive outpatient program (IOP) at Lake Behavioral Hospital is designed to help individuals who require more support than traditional weekly outpatient therapy. Participants benefit from group therapy facilitated by a licensed mental health therapist. Therapeutic groups focus on identifying triggers, developing coping skills and self-awareness, and encouraging peer support.

Lake Behavioral Hospital continues to offer morning in-person IOP services as well. For more information about programs at Lake Behavioral Hospital or to schedule an assessment, please call our 24/7 assessment and referral team at (855) 990-1900.

Dealing with Holiday Stress

The holidays are, for many, a time of joy and excitement. But sometimes, this time of the year can be one of dread due to the amount of stress and anxiety it can produce. The reasons are many, and the outcome can be significant.

Causes for stress, anxiety, and depression during the holidays can range from past memories of happier times, personal loss, weather-related depression, lack of support through the season, unrealistic expectations, finances, and things like weight gain, substance use, and family conflict. All aspects of one’s life can be affected: work, activities of daily living, and relationships. Some of this may occur for a short duration, and other stresses or their impact may last long term.

As with anything, a little self-awareness can go a long way. Working to understand that we can’t do everything and please everybody (easier said than done!) might be the beginning of less stress. Accepting that we are not always in control of how things work out and how other people feel can be useful to release some holiday worries. Other tips for feeling better during the holidays include:

  1. Keep your normal routines. Do things that are comfortable and familiar.
  2. Accept some feelings of sadness and anxiety. Know that these are temporary, and you will probably feel better when the holidays are over.
  3. Spend time with people who are affirming and enjoyable.
  4. Manage your time and be ready to say no when things get to be too much.
  5. Try not to overdo food or drink.
  6. Do things that relax you during non-holiday times: read, listen to music, take walks, or engage in hobbies.
  7. Rely on your faith-based community.
  8. Volunteer and give back. Be grateful. Make a gratitude list.

Get ready for the holidays. Chances are that some of the same things create stress each year. Plan ahead and put things in place to reduce the stress and put your supports in place as early as possible. Set priorities and let others know what they are. This may mean things like having no-alcohol celebrations, pre-arranged budgets for gifts, or saying no to traveling. Reduce time on social media where everything is perfect and what is shared may only be a glimpse of what is real.

Pay attention, though. If feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety do not seem to subside after the holidays, seeking professional support may be in order. If you are living with mental illness, take care to maintain your health supports during the season. You already know that maintaining medication routines and attending support groups and meetings make a difference. Stay on track in your recovery. If you can’t seem to regroup, seek additional help. A free and confidential assessment may be what you need to understand if treatment for a mental health condition is needed. Call Lake Behavioral Hospital for some holiday or post-holiday help. We are waiting to help you. Our team is available 24/7 at 855-990-1900.

Teens and Mental Health

Never before has mental health had such a globally collective impact for all ages. The pandemic has proven that mental health is not something to be ignored, and, in fact we need to especially safeguard mental health in our kids.

Think about it, the pandemic caused an incredible amount of disarray in the way our kids receive support overall. Schools shut down and our kids lost the haven of protection and observation that schools are for kids. Supportive and trained professionals that “keep an eye” on our kids tried to help our kids via zoom or tele-school services. This is not the same as an in-person discussion about mental health or a face to face check-in to see how a child is doing. Kids also lost lots of peer connections during the pandemic and socializing is such an important part for this age group. In addition, parents who used the socialization techniques and peer connections to gauge health in their kids were not able to make comparisons and, thus, parents may have missed some issues of dishealth as their kids isolated more or kept to themselves during pandemic downtime.

Mental health is absolutely crucial for overall health. When kids understand mental health and their own special needs, kids are much more likely to be resilient and get through the tough times and milestones in life.

As always, parents play a key role in every aspect of teen development and positive well-being. In the Illinois School Youth Survey, parents were documented by kids as the most important people in their lives when it came to supporting them during challenging times. Parents who are in the know about mental health and teens would naturally do the following to help kids become their happiest and healthiest:

  1. Get ready for tough talks. One of the toughest of talks is about substance use. Teens’ developing brains never need substances to offset stress. The earlier teens use drugs or alcohol, the more chances they take to have trouble using substances as a coping tool into their future. Sometimes when parents confront use and experimentation, teens turn things around and ask about parental use as teens. It’s probably best if you plan for this talk. Don’t get caught off guard. Decide how you plan to talk to your child. In the meantime, know that they may be offering this turn-the-tables tactic to avoid talking about what is real and in the moment. Stay on task, parents, stay in control of the conversation. Provide a message of abstinence and drive home the message of future health.
  2. Talk about responsibilities and expectations before they are broken. Consistent rules, discussed beforehand will make the challenging times easier.
  3. If there are behaviors that are worrying you with your teen, call it out. Be honest and clear. Here’s the caveat: watch how you do it. Talk that sounds blaming or angry isn’t going to create dialogue. Saying, “I’m concerned” is the best place to start.

If during your talk, your teen asks for help or admits to feeling worried about their health; know that you have clearly done your job as a parent. Now you have to kick it into “I can help” mode, stay calm and press forward. Here are some ways to let your teen know that they have brought a concern to the right place:

  • Listening means listening: not talking, not interrupting, not offering solutions. LISTENING! Stay focused; put away your phone and be in the moment.
  • Remember that, many experiences as a teen is a “first”. First love, first time to experience peer pressure, first job, first poor grade at school, first argument with a friend…. PHEW! Imagine going through your day with no base of experience to compare to what just happened to you. As an awesome parent, try hard not to trivialize what you know is a “first” reaction. Ask questions and show interest. No need to offer comparisons of when you were a teen, unless they ask.
  • Always ask what they think they might want to have happen; what are their ideas for solutions. Ask if you can offer a solution or idea you might have. If your solution causes your teen to bristle, step back. You can talk about what was upsetting or you can come back to your idea at another time. Stay parental. If your child is a danger to themselves or others, if you are worried, a visit to a professional may be just what is needed to help everyone feel better.

If your teen is struggling with anxiety, depression, anger, or substances, stay in it and get help when you need it. Make mental health a priority. Parents know their kids. If something seems off-kilter, it probably is.

Rely on your “gut” as a parent and rely on Lake Behavioral Hospital for any additional support you may need. The team at Lake Behavioral Hospital is a phone call away. We can provide a free, level of care assessment for a teen, or any family member in mental health distress. Call 855-990-1900.

Lake Behavioral Hospital Recognizes National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week

This week in September is dedicated as Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. It’s a time to pay attention to what you can do to make a difference. Everyone can help prevent suicide. First, let’s just look at what it means to be “suicidal”. Being suicidal means that someone has an idea or ideas about ending their life; hurting themselves in a way that will cause death. Many people who are suicidal have lost hope for finding solutions for the things that are causing them to consider ending their life.

You could be their solution.

There are some things you need to know and some things you can do to help. Here is some information and some ways you can take action.

Things to know:

  1. Take every threat of suicide seriously.
  2. If someone is giving their important and loved items away, this could be because they are considering suicide.
  3. Having a plan like time/date or clear ideas about how to end their life is a crisis.
  4. Any talk about suicide needs more discussion.
  5. Drugs and alcohol can make things seem worse than they are and can lead to thoughts that are suicidal.
  6. Depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions can lead to suicidal thinking.
  7. Someone who feels hopeless, helpless and worthless may also be considering suicide.
  8. Isolating and pulling away from friends and family may mean someone is feeling depressed and could be suicidal.
  9. Not everyone who is sad or depressed is suicidal, but everyone needs someone to talk to about their feelings.
  10. Talking to someone about suicide does not cause them to consider suicide. Most often they are relieved that someone is willing to listen.

Things to do:

  1. Find a Mental Health First Aid, or QPR course in your area to learn more about how to help.
  2. Talk openly and honestly about what you think someone may be considering: Ask Directly: Are you thinking of killing yourself? Are you thinking of suicide?
  3. Ask more questions about their plans and things they may have considered.
  4. Stay with the person; don’t leave or ask them to promise to stay safe and end the meeting until another time or day.
  5. If drugs or alcohol are in the picture, things can get worse fast! Call 911.
  6. Ask if you can call another friend, family member, or counselor that they feel can help support them in the crisis.
  7. Just listen. Let the person know they are important. Try to get another person to work with you as you help. Two brains are always better than one!
  8. Pay attention. Check in on people you know. Ask how they are doing and feeling.
  9. Always remember there are people who can help you be a helper. You never have to be alone in offering support.
  10. Keep numbers for crisis hotlines like 1-800-273-TALK or text lines like texting HELP to 741741 available. These are trained professionals who can support you in helping someone be safe.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, look to Lake Behavioral Hospital for a free level of care assessment to help determine what kind of support you need to feel better. One call to 855-990-1900 at any time, 24/7/365, will get you moving in the right direction.

Back-to-School Advice for Parents: Dealing with Teens and Drugs

School is back in session. Teens are back with their friends after a year of isolation from peers and normal school routines. You may be worried that your teen will “cut loose” having missed so much social time. Maybe you have even forgotten how to talk about really difficult subjects because having them home more during COVID, it just didn’t seem like you had as much to worry about. Well, parents, it’s back to some of the tough talks. For some, any subject is a tough subject. Past experiences and blow-ups over touchy topics may be in your memory bank. You may have been surprised at your teens negative reaction to something, that seemed to you like no big deal. Enter the need to talk about drugs and alcohol: parental panic! Although these talks can be difficult, they are definitely necessary. Don’t dodge ‘em; talking it out will make a difference.

Talking to your children, even when they resist, according to research, has an impact. Groups like SAMSHA and NIMH tell us that talking with your kids can even mean that your kids will choose not to use. Here are some things to keep in mind about tough talks on drugs and alcohol:

Start talking and keep talking! Let your children know what is important to you and be a great role model. Share factual information. We are never too young or too old to learn. The earlier you start, the better.

Be Consistent. Connect with groups in your child’s school who know the ins and outs of social norming. This framework of drug and alcohol information helps remind kids that “not everybody is doing it”. Be adamant about a message that tells your kids that substances and a developing brain are not a good match.

Find Your Balance. Have fun with your kids: prank joke and tease, but when it comes to substance use there’s no joking around. If you have stories of your youth and substance use, maybe those stories can be put aside. Providing the right message at all times, is the best way to let your teens know that you care about their health and safety. Talk with your partner or spouse about how you might handle a situation where your child has experimented with a substance. Waiting until something happens and when you are upset will not be the time to make a decision about a consequence or how to manage it. Prepare yourself for questions about your own use or past behaviors.

Use the News! If you hear of an incident at school or in your local community related to substances you have the perfect opportunity to talk and, more importantly, listen to your child. We all appreciate having our opinions valued. Remember that your child will appreciate it, too.

Get involved. Many schools and community groups are invested in making sure kids are healthy. Find a group that focuses on substance use and abuse. You can learn a lot and show your child just how much this topic matters to you.

Be informed and pay attention! Being a teen can mean changing by the minute. Mood, relationships, and attitudes about what’s important in a teens life can be very volatile. Watch for changes that seem different for your child. There is nothing better than parent intuition; rely on your gut feeling. If something feels wrong or out of place, it probably is. Look for physical changes like: red eyes, slurred speech, or lack of coordination. Look for mood changes: lack of interest in things that they used to enjoy, anger, depression, or hyperactivity. Look for behaviors that worry you: grades slipping, friends changing, items in the child’s room that you haven’t seen before (strange wrappings, pipes, clothing with burn holes, or paraphernalia), missed curfews and any secret behaviors with phones, who they are spending time with, or where they are going.

Don’t be an island. If you are concerned about your child or have suspicions of substance use, turn to a professional for support. You never have to be alone. There are professionals waiting for your call at Lake Behavioral Hospital. One call to 855-990-1900 can create an appointment for a free assessment which will determine the best course of action for what may be troubling your child. Serving kids 13 years old and up, our evidence-based programs may be just what your child needs.

Empathy is Key at Lake Behavioral Hospital

Empathy is life changing. Even more, empathy and empathic behaviors are as life-changing for the giver as they are for the receiver.

Empathy is the ability to recognize and share the feelings of another person. It is walking in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is the deepest possible understanding and acknowledgement of how someone is feeling and experiencing a moment in time. There can be no judgment. There can be no hurried response. There can only be compassion.

Compassion is empathy put into play; it is the action element of empathy.

At Lake Behavioral Hospital, empathy is our key to our patients finding health. Our daily philosophy of care means that patient experience comes first. Our goal is to serve our patients with gratitude. To do this, we need to build empathy bridges between ourselves and our patients — to directly engage and identify with what it means to be a person living with mental illness.

At Lake Behavioral Hospital, we want to serve adults and adolescents with the most caring perspective; helping them heal and then leave our programs more connected, more connecting, and certainly, more empathic.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Observed since 1949!

One in 5 adults experience mental illness in any given year in the United States; most often including disorders such as depression and anxiety.

This statistic is repeated often in this section of BOI magazine and also in programs and articles across our country; but we cannot remind ourselves enough that mental health disorders are common. Mental illness is so common; you might even say that mental illness is just part of what it means to be human.

Mental illness is a disorder of our brain, the most important organ in the human body. With every body, everybody being so different, the causes are many. Some causes are oriented to genetics, some are linked to social, cultural or biological factors and some causes are situational and recurrent or a one-time experience leading to a lifetime of trauma-related thoughts and behaviors. Regardless of cause, mental illnesses are not an issue of fault.

Although treatable through talk therapies and sometimes medication, there is a barrier, overall, for improved mental health. It is actually one word that stands in the way of positive mental health: STIGMA. How people view mental illness has, historically, meant that not everyone will receive the mental health support that they need. Out of fear and anxiety for perception in the workforce, with family and in school settings, many of us will not seek help. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), only 40% of adults and 50% of our youth will get the necessary help they need to be productive and satisfied with their lives. People will sometimes wait up to 10 years to seek assistance. Stigma is what creates reluctance to get help and shame for contracting an illness that you simply cannot “catch” like the common cold.

During mental health month, let’s take a look at some common illnesses:

  1. Anxiety Disorders: Age of onset in the United States for anxiety disorders, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health, is 11 years old. This disorder is characterized by difficulty in certain situations and responding with panic or fear. People can be affected both physically and mentally by anxiety disorders and, in panic attack situations, the signs and symptoms can mimic a heart attack. If the anxiety response lasts for more than a couple of weeks and affects work or school, relationships, and daily activities, then it is definitely time to take a closer look at what is happening and find some support.
  2. Mood Disorders: Mood disorders are just that: disorders related to how one is feeling. This can include depression at all levels. Some mood disorders are extreme in nature and can fluctuate rapidly or keep one hyperactively “up” or depressingly “down” for extended periods of time. Bipolar disorder is often the best known and often most misunderstood disorder. People inappropriately say things like, “You are so bipolar”, when really all is meant is “moody” or having an “off” day. Mood disorders can be debilitating and the impulsivity and potential lows can create dangerous and self-injurious behaviors. Suicide is a frequent risk of mood disorders. Diagnosis and medication are important with mood disorders and seeking help is a must to move toward recovery.
  3. Addiction Disorders: Alcohol and drugs are among the most common addiction-related disorders, but these can include things like compulsive gambling and other impulse control disorders. Addictions without treatment can last a lifetime and cause severe isolation and a retreat from health into the dangers of use and abuse of a physically and mentally damaging substance or behavior.
  4. Eating Disorders: Food, exercise and weight are at the focus of this sometimes life-threatening disorder for men, women and youth. Common among these conditions are binging behaviors, anorexia, bulimia, and any unhealthy preoccupation with any combination of food, exercise, and weight. The physiological impact of eating disorders is of grave concern to the treatment professional. Due to this, many specialized programs are needed to help those living with eating disorders find a path to recovery and positive physical and mental health.
  5. Psychosis: Distortions in thinking and how one’s environment is perceived is the basis for psychotic disorders. Psychotic disorders are the most puzzling and are often misunderstood mental health conditions. People often fear these disorders and it is misconstrued that people with psychosis are dangerous. In most cases, people with this form of mental illness are more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators of crime and assault (NAMI). When these disorders are discussed the words “hallucinations” and “delusions” come to mind. Hallucinations involve an experience that is real only to the person having the change in perception and may involve alterations in hearing, sight, sound, touch or smell; any of our 5 sensory experiences. Delusions are distortions in thinking.
  6. Dual Diagnosis: A person with this disorder has both a mental health disorder and an alcohol or drug problem. It is not unusual for these conditions to occur together. According to Medline, nearly “half of people who have a mental disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa”.
  7. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Trauma is at the core of many mental health conditions and PTSD is recognized as a disorder characterized by frightening and worrisome memories or thoughts about an event(s) which has occurred in someone’s life.

All in all, positive mental health is essential. Being emotionally and mentally healthy is more than just being absent of the disorders listed above. It involves attention to self-care and self-monitoring of one’s moods and thoughts. The goal, of course, is to “live, laugh and love”; have good relationships, manage school and work well and to attend to daily living activities. Resilience in stress-filled situations is key and resilience is a developed skill driven by a sense of purpose for staying healthy and happy. Tell your story; this often helps both the teller and listener, and reminds both that no one is alone when it comes to mental health. Be empathic: be a good listener and work to understand others. Confront stigma; don’t be silent! As you go day by day through the month of May, work at being adaptable and flexible, nurture relationships, and pay attention and prioritize your mental health! Call Lake Behavioral Hospital for a free assessment if your mental health is a worry for you. You are one call away from the help that you need 24/7/365. Call Lake Behavioral Hospital at 855-990-1900.

Blue is Blue: Winter can have an impact on your health. Watch for the winter blues.

As the snow piles higher and higher this winter, do you ever say to yourself, “I just can’t take it anymore”? Lots of us feel that way; too many days bundling up and wearing boots, too few days with gray skies vs sunshine and more than enough days where driving is treacherous and walking the dog requires snowshoes and you worry about yourself, elderly family and neighbors and teenagers who are driving for the first time in winter weather. PHEW! Then there is being cooped up in the house, furnaces that go out on the coldest of days, cars that won’t start and the incessant shoveling. In addition, there’s a pandemic! Get the picture? Too much already! And if this isn’t enough, you may be one of the 10 million people who live with Seasonal Affective Disorder; a step above the winter blues, in fact, a winter-pervasive depression reducing motivation, concentration, and making people feel moody or manic.

You are probably wondering if your winter blues are more than “just tired of the winter weather”. You may recognize SAD when many elements of your life are off kilter and the season is the reason. So, you may be able to think of other wintery seasons when your mood, thinking, and behavior just seemed stuck. “Stuck” may mean you are really suffering and the pervasiveness and length of time for the depressive feelings is absolutely debilitating.

The reasons for SAD really are linked to the sun and our body’s reaction to a reduction in serotonin levels, the change in daylight hours and alterations in the body’s melatonin levels. All of these can cause moodiness, sleep changes, and emotional roller coaster reactions to work and relationships. Pleasurable activities and hobbies fall by the wayside and a cycle of sadness and unhappiness ensue.

True to our foundation for believing that people can and do recover from mental illnesses and that there is always hope, your team at Lake Behavioral Hospital reminds you that there are some things you can do to not be “SAD”.

  1. Know yourself
    Keep a journal; year to year and you may see similar dips in mood and activity. These patterns are letting you know that you may have SAD. If you are adding poor sleep patterns and isolation to the mix you are getting much closer to the reality that you’re not just lazy and unmotivated, you are struggling with a real health disorder. Remember this is not just an “off day”; look for daily feelings of sadness or feeling down. If your work/school, relationships, and interest in pleasurable activities is affected for two weeks, and beyond, take it seriously and don’t blame yourself! SAD can be a serious illness making one feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless, three feelings factors that can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.
  2. Do something
    You can start with your doctor. Many primary care physicians are skilled in mental health concerns and will recognize SAD symptoms. He/she will help you identify the best mode of treatments and those can include talk therapies, light therapy, or medication.
  3. What works
    Seek the light; make every effort to be outside if the weather permits; even grayer days give some light that is beneficial to those with SAD. If natural light is unavailable or the weather is too brisk to enjoy, ask about light therapy and specialized lamps that can brighten your mood by increasing the release of melatonin in your body.Walk it out! Getting exercise has been known to improve both mood and outlook and may reduce the potential for winter weight gain which also has an impact on mood and overall health.

    Talk it out! Talk therapies are proven ways to help work through the feelings connected with SAD and alleviate some of the guilt that goes with a disorder that can make one feel so “off”, unmotivated and disconnected.

    Meditate your way through SAD: Meditation might not be the only answer to getting through the myriad SAD symptoms, but it can ease the stress of this common disorder.

    Let medication help: If a combination of the above doesn’t seem to provide relief, maybe medication will create an improved regulation of mood, behaviors and emotions.

At Lake Behavioral Hospital, positive mental health is our business. We can help in any season and specialize in the spectrum of mood and anxiety disorders, among other mental health conditions. It looks like winter will be around for a while longer. Don’t let SAD get you down. Please call us for a free, confidential mental health assessment at: 855-990-1900, 24/7/365. We are always here and ready to help. Walk-ins and appointments are accepted and we are in network with most insurances, including managed Medicaid plans, Medicare, Tri-Care and Wisconsin BadgerCare.

Lake Behavioral Hospital Celebrates Mental Health Pioneers in Black History

Culture is sustaining. Where we come from and the social mores of those who raised us creates a history for us. In America, and important to the time we live in now, is the idea that the culture and history each of us brings into our families, our places of work, and our communities is a beautiful blend of the best of all of us. Black History Month is an amazing celebration of the black culture and contributions of a broad base of people of color. From the Caribbean to the UK, to Africa, and the United States, Black History Month, the month of February, was so designated because it coincides with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. Both men, in their own way, worked to abolish slavery.

At Lake Behavioral, Chicago Behavioral and Silver Oaks, the deep traditions of our hospital system lies in healing and offering hope to those who are challenged with mental illness. The field of mental health has been enhanced and is yet another arena where history is rich with African American men and women who contributed to healing and hope for all people. Their advancements shine through the darkness of the stigma they lived to reduce a stigma associated with diseases of the brain-mental illness.

We are proud to celebrate Black History Month by featuring African American pioneers in mental health. Here are just a few:

  1. Solomon Fuller (1872-1953): Dr. Fuller was the very first African American psychiatrist recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. His work explored and changed the very foundation of knowledge relative to neurodegenerative brain diseases; specifically, Alzheimer’s. His work also included studies on schizophrenia and manic depression.
  2. Francis Sumner is referred to as the Father of Black Psychology. He was the first African American to be conferred with a PhD in psychology.
  3. Inez Beverly Prosser (1897-1934): She found her passion as a PhD in psychology, and studied self-esteem among African American middle school children.
  4. Herman George Canady (1901-1970): He explored social bias in IQ testing and in a multitude of segregation and employment discrimination cases he served as an expert witness for the NAACP.
  5. Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983) and Kenneth Bancroft Clark (1914-2008): They were most recognized for the “Doll Test” whereby the psychological toll of segregation on African American children became evident. This groundbreaking study lead to the declaration of segregation of schools to be unconstitutional.
  6. Moxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr. (1932-2016): He is the founder of Rational Behavior Therapy.
  7. Joseph L. White (1932-2017): This African American challenged mainstream psychology by identifying discriminatory practices and finalized the important and deserved representation of black clinicians in the American Psychological Association.
  8. Robert Lee Williams (1930-2020): His work included the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity and he penned the term ”Ebonics”.
  9. Beverly Daniel Tatum (1954-present): President of Spellman College until 2015, Ms. Tatum studied racial identity and race in education.

The efforts of the African American men and women listed here is just a sampling of the contributions made in our society to end stigma for a culture and for those with mental health conditions. The month of February marks Black History Month. It is a testament for how the richness of culture has created a meaningful impact and a strengthening for all people through the exploration of mental illness.

Article written with information about these pioneers in African American History from Alexis Anderson and Barry Wallace, Jr.

Striving for Feelings of Gratitude

By Dr. Charla Waxman BS, MBA, EdD

During this tumultuous year, it may be difficult to think about feelings of thankfulness and gratitude. There is no question; it has been a rough year. A year filled with many anxiety-producing situations, many of them that directly affected us, yet were seemingly out of our control.

There is a solution to feelings, but not always to the things that cause them; but feelings can be managed. There is real science behind striving for feelings of gratitude. Research at Harvard, Yale, and even the US Army among countless other medical and psychiatric settings, all point to how being thankful and finding gratitude, especially during tough times, offers improved thinking, focus, and physical health.

Gratitude on a daily basis, not just occasionally or if something great happens, is the key. Look for the little things: be thankful for a bird feeder full of birds to watch, a great tasting treat, or even having a short drive-thru line at your local coffee shop. Taking the time to journal gratitude moments and to get in the gratitude habit can significantly increase physical and mental well-being and overall life satisfaction.

Tap into gratitude and make it work for you. Start the practice of gratitude now and keep it going! Encourage others to do the same. It works!

  1. Go back in time. Remember the things in the past that made you smile. Think about old friends, holidays, activities, jokes and conversations.
  2. Be gratitude specific. Look for things in the present that make you feel grateful. Bring as much detail into your thought or writing as you can. “I am grateful for my friends” is great, but who and why are the extended questions that you should answer for yourself.
  3. Look around you. Are there things that you have not recognized as gratitude-producing? Be thankful for those things: things in your home, your neighborhood, your community and globally. Stretch your gratitude muscles.
  4. Schedule time for your new habit. Just like with any new habit or process, it can fall apart quickly without consistency. Maybe while your head is still on the pillow and before you put your feet on the floor, you can connect with a gratitude moment. Find other times in your day when you can add in gratitude.
  5. Tell someone else. Invite a friend, family member, or coworker to join in. The more the merrier! Listening to others will generate excitement about being grateful and help identify new things that define gratitude.

Many other ideas for gratitude habits are out there! Googling gratitude will provide a host of fun journals and many books to get started making gratitude work for you. Consider writing letters of gratitude to those who have made a difference to you. Start a gratitude box and put your written thoughts there once a day. Review them from time to time.

Whatever you are willing to do, make it happen. There really is science behind it. Being grateful; walking in gratitude can absolutely be life enhancing.

We know you are grateful for the times in your life when you have felt supported and cared for. At Lake Behavioral Hospital, it is our mission to provide care and support for those living with mental illness just when it is needed most. If you or a loved one need help 24/7/365, we are available to take your call. Contact us at 855-990-1900 for a free and confidential, level of care assessment.