Friday, July 21, 2017 This Week's Paper


// Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues

Question: Since my divorce I have a difficult time focusing and having fun. I have no energy and even when I am with my friends I secretly feel alone. Why do I feel this way?

A: Keeping company with friends who notice what's RIGHT with things more often than what's wrong is extremely important, especially when you're dealing with hard times. Happiness is an attitude! It literally is a thought pattern we practice. Many times when we are dealing with everything wrong in our life for an extended period of time it becomes normal to our brain. We are now conditioned to that mind pattern of feeling down. Don't we all know someone who can only focus on the negative? The result of divorce can leave even the strongest with feelings of loneliness and isolation, which will make you more vulnerable to depression and other temptations for "feel good fixes." So stay connected with quality friends.
Did you know that by simply holding a pencil in your mouth sideways and bringing your lips up and around the pencil making you smile? It actually releases dopamine to your brain instantly. Smiling on purpose at others or when you wake up each morning could give you that shot of happiness you may need. And, starting a personal journal writing mostly good things that occur in your life has shown to relax your brain as well. My motto: "What you think…you become!"

Question: I have let myself go in many ways since I have become so busy with such a rigorous schedule. I am angry at myself for how I have allowed my eating to become out of control. This affects my relationship with my husband as well as my family. How can I regain some balance in my life?

A: Let's acknowledge that we are all adjusting to lots of changes. Technology, emails, Facebook, children or grandkids to watch or aging parents to care for and so much more; all while we are working. I use the technique of drawing a pie of life for my counseling sessions to see how you are structuring your life. Drawing a circle on a piece of paper and dividing it similar to pizza slices for each activity depending on the percentage of time allotment puts it clearly in perspective. Creating a plan and not winging it keeps you in control. Generally, people who plan things and have goals suffer less depression, are less likely to be suicidal and are happier people. They also have fewer car crashes, better credit and better self control. Planning is key! Plan your meals and stick to it. Plan your daily routine, and if needed, vary it with a plan B but remember YOU drive the bus!

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of "Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50." Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at