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Kathy Marshack News

Happify – An App to Retrain Your Brain to be Happy

Thursday, August 20, 2015


phone app happify retrains your brain to be happyDo you wish there was a way to uplift your mood at the touch of a button? Well, there’s an App called Happify that is designed to do just that. Have you heard about it? It's designed by neuroscientists and psychologists like John Gottman. They claim it retrains the brain to shut off negative thoughts and reduce stress.

According to their website, “Happify has turned a decade’s worth of research into a series of activities and games that train your brain and build skills for lasting happiness. The program is designed to train people to disrupt patterns of negative thinking, manage stress and build skills to overcome life challenges.” Co-Founder & President of Happify, Ofer Leidner, got his idea from the book “Flourish” by Martin Seligman.

Once you start, you’ll answer a few thought-provoking questions about things such as your gender, age, work and relationship status, children, creativity, boredom, resiliency, and how comfortable you are with sharing your feelings. Then you sign up through your Facebook account or you can create an account with your email address. Then it reveals the recommended tracks you can follow based on the answers you provided. Leading experts in the science of happiness helped them create these specialized tracks.

If you try it, come over to my Facebook page and let me know what you think of it. I'd really like to know if it works for you.


Read more on my website: Article on Happiness.

10 Surprising Signs You May Need To See a Therapist

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


signs you may need therapy“I don’t need a therapist. I’m not crazy!” Have you ever hear someone say that? I’ve heard it many times. Often from people who are, for the most part, mentally sound and on the surface appear happy. But after conversing with them, I find that many of them want their lives to be better in one area or another. That’s a natural desire.

Did you realize that we turn to our friends and loved ones for therapy daily? Think about the last time you were really worried…didn’t you feel so much better after talking with a trusted friend? Or when you suffered a severe loss, like the death of a loved one. Didn’t their loving embraces, shared tears, and gentle words soothe you?

The difference between that kind of care and professional therapy is that psychologists and mental health professionals:

  • Can be more objective, since they see all sides of the story.
  • Have the freedom to tell you the truth, since they’re not worried about hurting your feelings.
  • Have greater experience, since they deal with issues like yours every day.
  • Have more insight, since they’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work.
  • Have professional training to help you make permanent change.

If there is a difference between what you would like your life to be and how your life actually is, then why not fix it so you can enjoy happiness and contentment right now?

But, you might say, “I’m not that bad off.” On the contrary, your body may be telling you that’s not strictly true. Whenever we sense a lack in our lives, we’re likely to react with the following responses:

  • Dramatic mood shifts
  • Constant fatigue
  • A drastic change in eating habits
  • Persistent guilt feelings
  • Insomnia
  • Recurring, irrational sense of panic
  • Persistent, overwhelming feeling of doom
  • Constant headaches, rashes, or backaches
  • Relationship problems
  • Excessive drinking or drug abuse

Do they sound familiar? Would your close family members or friends recognize any of these symptoms in you? Why not ask them? You might be surprised at their observations. Life is too precious to waste time on feeling less than your best.

When your emotional problems occupy your thoughts several hours a day, you should consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional will help you explore and assess your options. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Is it time to make some changes?

Learn more on my website: When to Seek Help and Therapy FAQs.

Should You Feel Guilty When You Get Angry at Someone You Love?

Friday, May 22, 2015


feeling guilty for being mad at each other“Urgggh! I can’t stand it when he does that…But he’s such a good guy…now I feel guilty for even thinking that way.” Love+Hate=Guilt. Doesn’t this describe the complex emotional problem that comes with some close relationships, whether it’s a parent-child relationship, marriage, or even best friends?

This kind of guilt, not being able to reconcile love and displeasure, is the natural byproducts of normal human development that hasn’t been allowed to progress to completion. Anger and love are healthy human emotions that emerge often in our daily lives. Learning methods to process these feelings constructively so that we can mature is the work of childhood. Guilt, on the other hand, is not a normal, nor healthy, human emotion (unless of course you have legitimately committed a serious offense).

To feel guilty for being angry at someone is a misunderstanding of the relationship. Nobody is perfect and so it’s likely that someone you love will do something that makes you mad, even if they don't mean to. You are under no obligation to stifle your anger or to feel guilty just because it’s a parent, husband, or life-long friend who has misbehaved.

Many people balk at the idea of blaming the other party. They feel guilty for being angry at the person they love and admire. They haven't learned how to reconcile those feelings of love and hate. They either feel guilty about their anger or more often they deny it altogether. Blame isn't really necessary, but holding others (even your parents) accountable for their mistakes is important. Just as you give others credit for their successes, it’s important to note the failures, the misunderstandings, and the faulty choices.

By holding others accountable you accomplish two important goals.

1. You’re actually treating the other person with respect. You are offering them the opportunity to correct their error. In other words, you are treating them as if they are capable. By stuffing your anger, you feel helpless and like a victim with nowhere to go with these feelings except to build up resentment (i.e. Love/Hate).

2. By holding others accountable, you’re able to view your own flaws more objectively. Not only can you learn from your mistakes but from theirs as well.

Many have found that talking with an objective professional helps to sort out feelings such as these. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Two Keys to Unlocking More Romance in Your NT-AS Marriage

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


helping your asperger husband be more romanticLove and romance are basic human needs yet they are so very complex. Movies, TV and books raise our expectations to “happy ever after”. But no relationship thrives without both parties working at it. Especially is this so when one partner has Asperger Syndrome.

Recently, I wrote an article for PsychCentral that discussed the challenges that NT-AS partners face and what can be done to create a greater sense of connection. (NT refers to the partner without Asperger’s Syndrome. It stands for neurotypical.) Let me share some highlights…

Firstly, it’s important to remember that Aspies do love. They just love in a different way. What are some things you can do to increase romance in your AS-NT marriage?

1. Non-Aspie partners – don’t take your Aspie partner’s actions (or lack of actions) as a slight or personal affront. See it as an area for further communication. Not being romantic isn’t a hurtful decision they make. When the neurotypical more accurately understands the actions, or inactions, of their Aspie loved one, feelings get hurt less often.

2. Help your Aspie create his/her own rules of engagement in order to act in ways that really matter to you. This personalized list tells the Aspie what to do and when – without them needing to understand the incomprehensible “why.”

Does this really work? One Aspie husband explained it to me like this, “I just can’t say or do the first thing that pops into my mind. It might be all wrong. It’s like I need a ‘politeness checker’ running in the back of my mind to remind me to be a gentleman.” This marriage was strengthened when he and his wife wrote down rules about appropriate engagement in a notebook. He keeps it with him and refers to it frequently for guidance. Without that tool, he says he’d be lost.

Aspies may not understand why something is important to their loved one, but learning to make the effort, the gesture, represents good intention and love, just a different kind.

If you want to make sure your ASP/NT marriage fills the needs of each spouse, you have to frankly talk about what those needs are. Many have found that consulting with a mental health care professional can facilitate this conversation. Are you ready to take that step? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Even if your Aspie mate doesn’t want to come with you, we can still find ways to improve your situation.

Does Your Gut Health Really Affect Your Mental Health?

Thursday, April 23, 2015


good gut health promotes good mental healthYou’ve heard the expression “it’s a gut-feeling.” Is it merely a coincidence that the gut has been associated with our feelings and our mental health?? Science is revealing some fascinating insights into this question.

Scientific American reports that when a person’s digestion is impaired or leaky gut is present, the symptoms of depression worsen. This may be due to increased autoimmune responses and inflammation. A more recent article explores the connections between gut health and autism.

A NPR story about Dr Emeran Mayer, a profession of medicine and psychiatry at U.C.L.A. reports that gut bacteria influences our minds. He’s researching MRI scans to see how the brain structure compares to the type of bacteria found in the gut. He’s already found some interesting connections. This same story talks about a study on mice and how their brain chemistry and behavior changed when gut microbes were introduced.

Nature reported on a study that found that feeding mice the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis can reverse autism-like symptoms. They found that mice born by caesarean section had significantly more symptoms of depression since they didn’t pick up their mother’s microbes, which they would have done during a vaginal birth.

A recent Huffington Post article reports that treating participants with probiotics lessens negative thinking and depression.

Will all of these findings translate into real treatments for humans? Time will tell. I find these studies fascinating because of their impact on the world of Autistics. They often suffer from gut problems and learning new treatments for them is always exciting.

Improving a person’s physical health will improve their mental health. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like assistance in reaching your optimal physical and mental health through holistic methods, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

The Search for Happiness Begins with You

Friday, March 20, 2015


happiness begins with youAre you a happy person by nature? The real answer may surprise you. Your general disposition may tend toward happiness, yet science is discovering that people aren’t hardwired to be happy or not.

This is just one fascination fact you’ll learn from WebMD’s Happiness Quiz. Here are some other things you’ll learn:

  • What’s the happiest country in the world based on life satisfaction and work-life balance? (Hint: It’s not the U.S.)
  • Which has more power – negative or positive emotions?
  • What personality traits contribute toward more happiness?
  • What age group is the happiest?
  • What brain chemicals affect your happiness level and how do you activate them?
  • Should you always keep a stiff upper lip in order to become a happy person?
  • Which creates longer lasting happiness – pleasure or gratitude?
  • Is your health and happiness affected by the movies you watch?

I encourage you to have some fun today and take this quiz. If you want more information on happiness, I’ve compiled a list of some of my past articles for your convenience.

Happiness Is Up To YOU!
The Two Types of Happiness and How They Affect You
What 40 Years of Science Reveals About Happiness
In a Bad Mood? It Could Be Coming from Reading Social Media
If You Want to Be Happy Take a Risk
Are You Happy with the Money You Earn?
How to Be a Happier Person - Watch Less Television
How to Create an Inner Joy that Lasts Despite Upsetting Circumstances
Tips to Experiencing Happiness on a Daily Basis
Three Ways to Avoid Toxic Life Choices

Everyone wants happiness, yet it’s so elusive for many in the U.S. Here in Oregon and Washington, we have dreary, rainy days that contribute towards depression. Economic struggles, family strife, and other external factors add to unhappiness. Yet you can learn techniques to successfully deal with all of these challenges as you remain hopeful and positive. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. It’s time to feel happy again.

Take the WebMD Happiness Quiz. It will stretch your understanding of happiness. I didn’t even get 100%. When you’re done, come over to my Facebook page and tell us how you did.

How to Create an Inner Joy that Lasts Despite Upsetting Circumstances

Thursday, March 05, 2015


how to create an inner joy that lasts despite upsetting circumstances“He makes me so happy!” Or “She makes me soooo mad!”

Have you ever heard someone say something like that? Have you said it yourself? Of course, our emotions are affected by those around us. However, when you really think about this…can someone make you feel a certain way? If that’s the case, wouldn’t we in reality be saying we have little control over our emotions?

Wouldn’t it be better to create an inner joy, that no matter what’s happening around you, you could draw from this resource to maintain happiness and peace? Yet, many ask, “How can an inner joy like that be developed?

Let’s first answer the question: Is there any truth in the statement, “Fake it till you make it?” According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Simulation studies on emotion have shown that facial actions can initiate and modulate particular emotions.” What does that mean? Even if you don’t feel like smiling, when you paste a smile on your face and hold it, this will change the way that you’re feeling emotionally.

Their study also showed that specific areas of the brain were activated by facial manipulation – “the inferior parietal lobule, left supplementary motor area, superior parietal lobule, precuneus, and bilateral middle cingulum – which influenced the recognition of emotional facial expressions”. So yes, it’s true. Smile and you will become happier.

The same institution found that we are hardwired to respond to emotional cues from others. When we become aware of this, we can consciously choose how we’ll react to situations that we’re confronted with daily. At the same time, we become more aware of how our emotions affect others. In this way, we can intentionally create a positive shift in all of our relationships.

Are you ready to reclaim the power that inner joy can give you? A NET Practitioner can help you learn to control your responses to the emotional triggers in your life. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

Read more on my website: What Is a NET Practitioner? and How Does Neuro Emotional Technique Work?

Unhappy Marriage? Research Shows It Can Literally Damage Your Heart

Friday, November 28, 2014


unhappy marriage can literally damage your heartLove and marriage makes for very complex relationships. They are not static, but are ever changing as each person matures and grows. Many marriages unhappily end in divorce. According to Oregon.Gov, there have already been 9,693 divorces in Oregon from January to September 2014. There were 25,395 recorded divorces in Washington for 2013.

A recent CNN article, written by Lisa Respers France, reports on an eye-opening study led by a Michigan State University sociologist. This study examined how the quality of a marriage relates to heart disease specifically. They focused on people with ages ranging from 57 to 85. They found that bad marriages causes stress that harms cardiovascular health and since the immune system declines with age, this becomes more critical, especially for women since they tend to internalize their feelings more than men.

A strong marriage requires constant and loving attention, which can be fun but is also hard work. This is because marriage changes as each partner grows and changes. For most people to be happy in their marriage they need to feel respected and cherished. For many, passion, trust, friendship and safety are other essential aspects of the relationship with their spouse.

Here are seven psychological tasks that must be cared for to maintain a happy and healthy relationship:

  • Build togetherness by creating the intimacy that supports it, while maintaining each partner’s autonomy.
  • Master the inevitable crises of life together.
  • Create a safe haven for the expression of differences.
  • Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship.
  • Use laughter and humor to keep things in perspective, and to avoid boredom by sharing fun, interests and friends.
  • Provide nurturance and comfort for each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.
  • Keep the romance alive while facing the sober realities of life.

There may be one or more of these tasks that you’re struggling with. A marriage counselor can help you develop the tools you need to cope and succeed. And don’t make the mistake of thinking marriage counseling is just for those starting out. As people get older, there are unique challenges you face. You may have grown apart and are not able to communicate as you once did. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to create a happy and healthy life. You deserve it after all these years.

Learn more on my website: Marriage Counseling.


Are You Happy with the Money You Earn?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


how much money do you need to earn to be happyWe all need money to live. But when is enough, enough? In a recent CNN article, "How much do you need to earn to be happy?", the results of the CNN Money's American Dream poll is very revealing. This poll, conducted by ORC International, asked these two questions:

How much do you need to make in order to be happy? They discovered that…

  • “23% said they'd need between $100,000 and $199,999.
  • Over half of people said it would take less than $100,000 to make them happy.
  • Almost a quarter of the people said between $50,000 and $74,999 would work.
  • 10% said $30,000 would be their minimum requirement.”

How much does it take to consider yourself rich? They discovered that…

  • “11% said they'd need to make $1 million or more.
  • The most typical answers fell between $100,000 and $199,999.
  • 60% thought incomes below $250,000 would be enough.”

The article refers to a Princeton study, which found that “high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.”

Maybe some follow up questions should be – what do you do with your money? Do you spend it as fast as it comes in? Do you spend more than what’s coming in? Do you save? Are you using your money to achieve specific goals, or is it flying out the window with nothing to show for it?

As a psychologist in private practice I see clients who struggle to find happiness even when they’ve achieved their financial goals. Join us on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and let’s talk about this question – Do you define your riches in terms of monetary wealth or life experiences?

In a Bad Mood? It Could Be Coming from Reading Social Media

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


social media influences our moodThe brain/body connection is truly amazing. Your brain has the power to influence your body in either a negative or positive way. Studies have proven that maintaining an optimistic mood improves health. And our mood is greatly influenced by the people we let into our lives. Does this also apply to the short little tweets or posts we daily read on Social Media?

According to a fascinating new study, the answer is “YES”. An article written by Mike Bundrant, a retired psychotherapist and regular contributor to PsychCentral, discusses how the study was conducted and the discoveries it made.

Researches from the University of California, Yale and Facebook examined Facebook posts created between January 2009 and March 2012. They especially focused on how the weather influenced the posts. They found that the mood reflected in the post generated similar postings. For example, negative comments generated negative posts. However, they found that the positive comments generated more positive posting. Either way, the study shows that the mood has the capability of going viral around the globe.

That’s a lot of power! People have, at times, exploited this power to generate political and social unrest. Since Facebook has 1.23 billion users as of January 2014 and Twitter has 243 million active users, it’s very likely that you are using one of these or a similar Social Media site to stay connected with your friends, family and community. So how can you protect yourself from being infected by the negative posts? Here are some suggestions:

  • Consciously monitor your own mood, before logging onto your Social Media.
  • Be proactive and share your happy mood.
  • Before you get agitated over a comment, make sure you have all the facts. Check the source and verify “facts”.
  • Feeling down? Re-read your post, and make it more positive before you hit the send button. You’ll be helping yourself and others.
  • If someone consistently posts things that alter your mood in a negative way, don’t hesitate to unfollow them.
  • Start your day with positive thoughts, rather than reading Social Media first thing every morning.
  • Increase your face-to-face contact with people who help you stay positive.
  • Log off and go do something you really enjoy – walking, playing with your pet, gardening, and so forth.

This study’s findings are hardly surprising since we’ve known that journaling and reading positive affirmations can empower the subconscious to believe the stated affirmation. It only makes sense that what you read in Social Media will affect your mind and body, too.

Do you have any experiences with this that you’d like to share? Join me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D ). Yes, I’m on Facebook. It’s one way of reaching and helping more people through support and education. But let’s keep it helpful and positive!



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