Everybody wants to be happy. Yet few people know HOW to achieve this illusive goal. We think we will be happy if we get the right job, have the right people in our lives, get a new car, and so on. The problem is that if we only feel happiness when we have what we want, we will NEVER be happy. There will ALWAYS be something else we want or think we need.

Genuine happiness isn’t found in achievements or acquisition of stuff. Those things feel good for a time, but the newness eventually wears off and the happy feelings fade. Often you’re left with the cost of maintaining the thing you thought would make you happy (the house payment, the car payment, interest on the loan you took out to purchase the thing you just had to have, insurance premiums to protect it, and so on).

Real happiness isn’t tied to anything outside ourselves. When we allow our happiness to be contingent on other people or circumstances, we’re giving up our control. When we give up control, we live on a never-ending roller-coaster of emotions. When things go well, we’re happy. When they don’t, we’re frustrated or depressed. When people treat us well, we’re happy. When people are unfair or rude, we’re angry or sad. Putting the responsibility for our happiness on other people is far too much for anyone to have to bear. And putting the responsibility for our happiness on “things” is absurd because “things” are continually deteriorating. The minute you drive the car off the lot, it depreciates in value. The tires wear down with every mile they roll. The house will always been in need of some kind of repair or upkeep. The only person responsible for your happiness is YOU.

If you want to get happy, and stay happy, rather than just vaguely hoping that it’ll eventually happen someday, you must live deliberately. To do that, you can to do these five things:

  • do an honest assessment of where you are in life
  • decide what you want to change
  • determine how to best get from where you are now to where you want to be
  • assess what you’ll need in order to live the life you want to live
  • take a step every day to get closer to where you want to go
  • choose to be happy

You can do this on your own. But my book, 30 DAYS TO HAPPINESS, set to be released in December 2018, will lead you on an honest assessment of the 30 things that interfere with your happiness.

Your happiness assessment can be done any time of year, but year end, birthdays, and times of transition (like job loss, divorce, etc.) are ideal times to step back, take inventory, and prepare for your future.

After you’ve completed 30 days of deliberately creating your own happiness, you’ll find that you’ve embarked on a fresh beginning– “do-over” of sorts, only this time you have more experience and greater wisdom than ever before. With your new perspective, you’ll be better able to assess plans that didn’t work out, make adjustments, and try again with a focus on what really matters in your life–all without beating yourself up. Thomas Edison tried thousands of times before inventing the incandescent lightbulb. Adjusting the approach and trying again is what eventually leads to success. Giving up never does.

The important thing in all this is that instead of measuring “stuff,” measure what truly counts—the intangibles, such as relationships, love, and character traits. The true measure of success is in these five points:  Good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. One without the others is not real success.

rhonda-sciortinoAbout the author:  Rhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at rhonda@rhonda.org 

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Keys to Happiness #7: Manage Your Expectations

Do you want to be happy? Then learn to manage your expectations about people, circumstances, and your future. This is not to say that you should lower your expectations of the people in your life or curb your enthusiasm about your future, but it does mean that you may want to take a look at the how your expectations are controlling your happiness.

If you get disappointed, upset, frustrated, or angry when things don’t go the way you’d hoped they’d go (and who doesn’t), rather than automatically plunging into sadness or anger and directing your negative emotions toward whoever let you down (or worse, everyone in your vicinity), ask yourself if you could avoid some of that negativity by adjusting your expectations. For example, we could tell the friend who’s always late that in the future we’re going to go ahead and eat dinner while it’s still warm (with a smile, of course). We could tell the kids that if they’re not in the car when it’s time to leave for school, we’re going to leave and let them walk to school (hopefully it’ll only take one time). We could let the person who betrayed a confidence know that he or she has lost our trust, and will have to earn it back. Many of the issues that diminish or destroy our peace can be dealt with by clearly spelling out, directly to the people involved, our expectations. (Notice I said, “directly to the people involved.” I do not suggest speaking to others in the hopes that it’ll eventually get around to the person you hope will change. That doesn’t work, and often makes things worse.)

If you don’t like confrontation, you still have options.

  • You can simply distance yourself emotionally and/or physically from people who consistently let you down.
  • You can put the situation in the context of the rest of the other person’s life. Is the person burdened with overwhelming responsibility? Is the person not feeling well? Is the person struggling with something you have no idea about? Did the person understand what you expected of him or her? Does the person have the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) or EQ (Emotional Quotient) to fully understand and meet your expectations?

If you’re not sure about any of these questions, do yourself a favor and give the person the benefit of your doubt. Let it go. And determine to clearly communicate your expectations in the future.

  • Or you can lower your expectations or eliminate them entirely! Yes, YOU can decide that you’re not going to give anyone the power to steal your peace and happiness. By losing your peace, you’ve given the other person control over your happiness. Don’t give anyone that much control over your attitude, words, behaviors, peace, and joy. This doesn’t mean that you’re condoning bad behavior. It simply means that regardless of what anyone else says or does, you are determined not to allow anyone or any situation to steal your peace and joy. In this life, suffering is optional.

Guard your peace and joy

Check back for more happiness tips.

About the author:  Rhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at rhonda@rhonda.org

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Keys To Happiness #6–Disable The Labels

Do you want to be happy? Then stop putting labels on yourself and others. For example, we label ourselves by the color of our skin, our gender, our hair color, eye color, political affiliation, highest educational level achieved, our faith (or lack thereof), job title, zip code, as survivors of whatever trauma or disease we’ve experienced (like “cancer survivor,” “rape victim,”), and so on. The labels are the virtually countless variables with which we distinguish ourselves from others or align ourselves with others.  The problem is that labels create separation, and separation diminishes relationships.

It can be convenient, or in some cases, necessary, to label ourselves. It can be helpful to provide medical professionals with identifiers they need to make recommendations about medications and treatment. We need identifiers on our driver’s licenses to prove our identities and to obtain professional licenses and the like. Beyond that, labels may do more harm than good. If you doubt that this is true, just walk into a room full of people you don’t know and announce that you are a conservative Republican. You will immediately see the division begin. One person will announce that he or she loves President Trump. Others will defiantly make statements like, “he stole the election from Hillary!” You may not have to say another word because the dividing lines will have been drawn, and the division takes on a life of it’s own.

Many labels aren’t as obviously divisive as politics, religion, or nationality but regardless of the labels, they all can have the effect of shutting down conversation and superimposing stereotypes. When we use labels, we are effectively announcing the filter through which we see the world, the consequence of which is that people who seethings differently, and who wish to avoid conflict, will keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves. When that happens, we miss opportunities to learn about and from each other.

When we talk to people who think, feel, and believe differently than we do, we learn who they are and why they think and feel the ways they do.  Although we may not agree, we may have a better understanding of the other person. We can respect the opinions and beliefs of others without agreeing or trying to persuade them to share our views. Some of the most rewarding relationships can be found between people who disable their labels and just share honestly without fear of judgement or criticism. We’ll all be happier to the degree we can do that.

Value relationship over labels

Check back for more happiness tips.


rhonda-sciortinoAbout the author:  Rhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors , used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at rhonda@rhonda.org.  

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Connecting The Dots Between Drugs And Child Trafficking

Where there is the buying and selling of children for sex, there are drugs. Period. It’s not difficult to understand that traffickers give kids drugs to get them addicted so they can lure them into being bought and sold for sex. Then they incapacitate them with drugs so that they won’t try to run and so they’re incapable of fighting.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the parents often become complicit in the trafficking of their own children. After selling everything they have for a hit of the drugs that have destroyed their ability to think and behave logically, addicted parents barter with the only thing they have left— sex with their children. In fact, some parents sell their children to traffickers in exchange for the drugs that have destroyed their lives and the lives of their children.

This isn’t just in the dangerous neighborhoods you’ve seen portrayed in episodes of Law & Order. This is happening in places you might never have imagined—the upper and middle class neighborhoods where parents addicted to pain killers have exhausted their refills and have ventured into the unknown territory of drug dealers and traffickers for which they are woefully ill prepared. These are amateur drug addicts are dealing with professional drug dealers, the results of which are tragic.

The huge issue that many people haven’t considered is that the opioid epidemic throughout the US means that parents who use drugs aren’t watching after and protecting their children.  Incapacitated parents are oblivious to what’s happening to their children, so their children are at greater risk of being groomed and lured into trafficking right before their glassy eyes.

So what’s the answer? What in the world can we do about such an enormous, pervasive problem?

We can explore the question: What can we do to protect children who are living in an addiction environment?

That is the question that is the subject of the upcoming Ensure Justice Conference at Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice on March 2-3, 2018. Professionals from law enforcement, education, mental health, child welfare, the faith-based community, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and concerned individuals will collaborate to seek solutions for protecting children who aren’t adequately protected at home.

Children at risk of being trafficked right here in our own neighborhoods (please don’t think that this can’t happen in your sweet little community), are seen by many different people, and yet are lured in right before our eyes.  Teachers who see kids regularly see changes in behavior, school performance, energy, attitude, and appearance. Coaches, tutors, carpool moms and dads, pediatricians and other medical people, and neighbors see kids, but more often than not miss the subtle (and not-so-subtle) clues that indicate that a young person within their influence is in danger. Even when they do notice something that’s different or “off” about a child, they don’t know what to do. No one wants to make an allegation that can’t be un-made, that can tear apart a family or a friendship.

Although it is a huge issue, it is possible to do something about it. One idea is to launch the LOVE IS ACTION Community Initiative, which gives everyone in the community an opportunity to engage with others in ways that are safe and that utilize their “no big deal,” meaning, each person can do whatever is no big deal for them. One of example would be a person who likes to bake could bake birthday cakes for neighborhood kids. There are as many ideas as there are people who care about kids.

We’re going to talk about some of the simple, free ideas for averting tragedy for the children of addicted parents at COMPASSION NIGHT on March 2-3 at 6 p.m. at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California. Bring a friend and share with everyone you know. It only takes one person to save a kid. Come learn how to be the one.

If you’re interested in hearing a cutting edge update on the fight against child trafficking, register here to attend the entire Ensure Justice Conference on March 2-3.

Originally published in Foster Focus Magazine January 2018

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Did you know that kids can hide apps you’d never want them to have on their phones or tablets behind apps that look like calculators or other mundane looking icons? If you want to know more about that, take a look at this article.

Did you know that kids often have “Finsta” accounts to share with friends what they would never want their family members to see. Finsta stands for fake Instagram account. If you want to know more about this, take a look at this article.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “I’m not a techie person. By the time I figure out this, there’ll be other ways for kids to hide what they’re doing. There’s no way I can possibly stay a step ahead of them on technology.” If you are thinking that taking their electronics away is the answer, think again. They’ll just use a friend’s phone, tablet, or laptop to set up an account you know nothing about.

Two ways you can approach the conundrum of trying to grow kids into decent human beings are (1) to try to install good character in them; and (2) try to teach them the rewards of good choices and the consequences of poor choices. [If you have other ideas, please share them with us!]

To instill good character, you must model it. If the phone rings, and you ask someone else to answer it and say you’re not there, you’re teaching your kids that it’s ok to be deceitful. If you text and drive, you’re showing your kids that it’s ok to risk your life and the lives of others. I you talk about people behind their backs, you’re teaching your kids that gossip is an acceptable topic for conversation.

To teach rewards of good choices, share with your kids what other young people have accomplished. It doesn’t take long to do an online search to find a kid who launched a drive for backpacks for disadvantaged kids, suitcases for foster kids, a penny collection for a good cause, and so on. You could ask your kids to find a news story of a kid who has done something that your kid would like to do. Some big, historical accomplishments of kids can be found in articles like this one in the Huffington Post. Another idea is to encourage your kids to enter a contest. Do an online search using the words “contest teens,” and you’ll find contests involving everything from poetry and other creative writing, to photography, to travel and sports, and more. If you don’t find anything your kids are interested in, consider setting up a contest in your community.

To teach the consequences of poor choices, you can start with the videos that are available free of charge from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. You can find age-appropriate training videos that show online behaviors and their possibly outcomes at www.netsmartz.org.

If just having conversations with your kids is a challenge, take a look at these short videos that provide some great tips for having effective conversations with kids: GET RESULTS WITH EFFECTIVE CONVERSATIONS.

Perhaps if we encourage our kids to engage with others using their skills and talents, they’ll be less likely to make poor choices (think doing things that give them a sense of fitting in, like eating Tide pods or other wrong behavior and posting it online), and be more likely to fit into groups of kids who are striving to doing good.

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Everyone has their own unique way of showing kindness. Some are the obvious things we think of when we think of acts of kindness, like opening the door for someone, letting someone go ahead of you in line, and saying please and thank you. Some acts of kindness are more subtle, like taking a chance on someone by giving that person a job for which he or she isn’t qualified.  Some acts of kindness even rise to the profound, like becoming a foster parent to a child who’s been mistreated, starting a non profit organization to help others, or working in a very difficult line of work because what you’re able to do helps people who are unable to do it themselves.

Your unique brand of kindness may not even be obvious to you. We tend to dismiss the things that come easily to us. We don’t give ourselves credit for many of the good things we do because there is no fanfare, no news crews covering the events, and often, no gratitude from the recipient of the kindness. Think about every time you’ve helped someone, especially those times when you didn’t feel like it. Consider the times you’ve gone to work or a committee meeting or to visit a friend when you didn’t feel like it. Every time you follow through when you don’t feel like it, it’s an act of kindness. You’ve put others before yourself.

You have probably given many acts of kindness that you never gave yourself credit for. Connect with me at www.facebook.com/rhondasciortino and share some of your acts of kindness. You’ll inspire others and be setting an excellent example for others. I’m eager to hear about your ACTS OF KINDNESS.

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Sometimes Kindness is Disguised

I’ll never forget the day my friend called to say that she had been accused of abusing one of her foster children. She was crying so hard I could hardly understand what she was saying. She finally calmed down enough to tell me that the little five year old had bolted out the front door and had headed straight into the busy street in front of their house.

She had to put the baby down in a safe spot before she could run after the 5 year old, and in that few short seconds the one that got away was just a couple steps from running right in front of a car that was barreling down the street. She was screaming for the child to stop while watching that car out of the corner of her eye. Her longer legs helped her make up the distance, and she grabbed the child hard by the shoulder and jerked her back just as the car drove by far over the speed limit for their street.

The child fell back and hit hard on the sidewalk. My friend’s fingernails were tangled in the little girl’s hair, and the child shrieked as my friend pulled her hair as she tried to pull her hand out the child’s mess of a head of hair. My friend described the scene as something that would’ve been an opportunity for a “teaching moment” had it not drawn the attention of a neighbor who had complained before about the noise that came from her very large, loud family. Evidently the neighbor called the police because my friend was still in the yard trying to calm the child and explain the dangers of running out into the street when the black and white patrol car pulled up.

The child instantly began screaming when she saw the car. It hadn’t been that long ago that the same kind of car came to take her away from her Mommy. She cried herself to sleep every night because she missed her Mommy. She wasn’t old enough to understand that her mother was addicted and unable to care for her and her baby brother. All she knew was that she was with a strange lady who just jerked her by the shoulder and pulled her hair when all she was trying to do was go find her Mommy.

When the officer pulled up, he saw a woman crouched down, holding both shoulders of a crying child, with her face just inches from the child’s face. As he began to walk toward them, the child erupted in screams and started hysterically struggling to get away.  The officer couldn’t have known that he and his vehicle were the cause of the child’s anxiety. Based on his observations, the report from the neighbor, and the child screaming about the strange lady pulling her hair, the officer had probable cause for a charge of child abuse.

Ultimately, my friend was cleared, but her story, and the many others like it, illustrate the truth that sometimes acts of kindness, like pulling a child out of a dangerous situation, can hurt both the giver and the receiver of the kindness.

Even when it hurts, do the kind thing.

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Letter to me ten years from now

January 1, 2018

A reminder at the Vatican that the sand in the hourglass of our lives is running out.

Me ten years from now

Dear Rhonda,

You always have two choices–you either choose in favor of fulfilling the purpose for which you were born, or you choose to squander the precious time you have left in this life. Any choice that doesn’t move you toward fulfillment of your unique purpose is a waste of the priceless time you’ve been granted.

Every one of us has a purpose unlike any other. If any one of us fails to find and fulfill his or her purpose, the world is not quite right. When we focus on fully self actualizing, to the exclusion of all else, everything falls into place.

It it not selfish and self-centered to focus solely on the work of finding and fulfilling the good plan for your life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The good plan for your life always involves helping others in a way that you are uniquely qualified to do.

There are myriad good things that you can do, but there is one thing for which you were uniquely and perfectly designed to accomplish. Once you find that one thing, do it to the exclusion of all else. There are those who will criticize you. Some may leave you. But in the end, the main thing that will count when you stand before The Creator on judgement day will be to what extent you did what you were sent here to do.

Rhonda, you know that your purpose is to help others find and fulfill the good plans for their lives.  The sand in the hourglass of your life is running out quickly. Don’t waste a single moment doing anything that doesn’t move you toward what you know you are here to do.

Lastly, remember that fulfilling your purpose isn’t always “work.” Simply making right choices and treating others well serves as a shining example of kindness, mercy, patience, and all the other aspects of fulfilling the good plans for our lives.

May God bless and protect you and everyone within your influence with everything necessary to fulfill His good plans for your lives.


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How To Actively Fight Depression Part 2

The first step in actively fighting depression is to identify your personal “triggers.” Typical triggers include birthdays and holidays; exhaustion; the crash after eating sugar; illness and pain; interaction with people who push your buttons; and sad events, such as the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one. You may find that a certain song or a familiar perfume can trigger sadness. Some people discover allergies to certain foods cause their depression. You may already know some of your triggers, but journaling or creating a spreadsheet to keep track of your activities and feelings can help you connect the dots between your triggers and times when you feel sadness or despair. This kind of record can also help you to find the connections between your “good triggers” and the feelings of joy or contentedness that follow. Once you know your triggers, you are better able to avoid or diminish the triggers to negative emotions, and take intentional steps to choose the triggers that result in positive emotions.

Actively fighting depression is one of the 8 character traits of successful survivors of trauma

Many victims of trauma spend years fighting depression. They have what seems like hundreds of triggers. They feel like puppets being manipulated by an evil puppeteer. I know, because I used to be one of them; for years before I learned that I could proactively fight depression, I was subject to a seemingly endless series of negative triggers. For example, if I had contact with someone who happened to have the same name as my mother, I would plunge into a funk, wondering what she was doing, whom she was with, if there was any chance she ever thought about me, and if she cared at all about what was going on in my life. Another trigger was my birthday; a full month before my birthday, I’d start hoping that this would be the year I’d get cards from my mother or father. I’d build myself up so much that the inevitably empty mailbox on my birthday would have the power to destroy the good wishes that came from anyone else.

Like a pilot who sees a potential mid-air collision and takes corrective action to avert disaster, successful survivors pay attention to what precedes their feelings of depression, so that they can take precautionary, proactive measures in the future. They avoid people and places that they know lead to sadness. Because I knew that my birthday was a trigger for depression, rather than waiting to see who remembered my birthday and being disappointed by those who hadn’t, I learned to make my own plans for lunches with friends, for trips, and for other enjoyable activities on that day. I chose not to gauge my happiness by those who didn’t remember my birthday, but by those precious people who did.

Another common trigger for depression is the feeling of being overwhelmed that comes from facing multiple challenges at the same time. For example, if you don’t have enough money to make it through the month and don’t know how you are going to pay bills and put food on the table, having the extra expense of a flat tire can throw you into a feeling of being overwhelmed. And that overwhelmed feeling is easily exacerbated by the demands of your job, family, or otherwise manageable challenges.

It’s even easier to become overwhelmed when there is physical pain involved. Pain can make it difficult to think clearly and to accomplish the unfinished tasks before you. Financial issues compound other challenges, because it’s difficult to find solutions to problems if you’re hungry and homeless, or if you don’t have the money to rectify those huge issues. It’s not as though successful survivors never feel overwhelmed. They do. But they’ve learned that in order to successfully navigate through multiple challenges, they must break them down, prioritize them, and deal with one issue at a time.

To avoid the feelings of depression brought on by being overwhelmed, it is especially important not to exaggerate the facts, and to not speculate on what tomorrow may bring. Take each problem individually and try to think dispassionately about all the possible solutions, regardless of how implausible or even ridiculous they may sound. Try to be objective: Imagine that you are giving advice to a friend who is faced with your circumstances. Focusing on how to find possible solutions shifts your mind from pessimism to cautious optimism, from feeling hopeless to hopeful. This shift in attitude is integral to finding the resolutions you seek.

Once you’ve written out as many possible solutions as you can think of, give yourself a break. Resist the temptation to give in to the sense of being overwhelmed or depressed by taking some simple steps to control something that is within your control, like taking a shower and putting on clean clothes. Do your hair; ladies, put on make-up. It will make you feel better. Taking control of even the most mundane thing can help you move toward a more hopeful feeling. It will also help you become prepared for a break—what some call luck. But successful survivors create their own luck by being prepared and looking for opportunities. Optimistic successful survivors know that successful outcomes are the result of preparation, hard work, and expectation that good things are in their future.

Success = (preparation + hard work) x positive expectations

Optimistic successful survivors intentionally look for someone to help, even when they themselves feel down. Although it may sound counterintuitive to reach out to help someone else when you’re struggling, it can be the most helpful thing you can do for yourself. Once you’ve done all you can do to resolve the challenges you face, the process of helping someone else serves to get your focus off yourself and your problems and onto someone else. This helps you gain perspective. It engages your assets—the strengths, talents, and abilities in you that can be helpful to others. Finding someone to help rather than trying to find someone to help you is a powerful way to proactively fight depression.

I am not suggesting that you never seek help; by all means, do. Find a mentor, attend a 12-step program, exercise, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat healthy foods. But when you are in the midst of a potentially overwhelming situation, helping someone else can be extremely valuable in getting your mind off your own situation for a time. It’s also often true that in the process of helping someone else, you stumble upon a solution or resource for improving your own circumstances.

Whether you tend toward feelings of depression or not, one sure-fire way to feel sad is to think about what you don’t have, dwelling on times when you have been mistreated, or when you knew you weren’t wanted or loved. As simplistic as it may sound, optimistic successful survivors learn to avoid these thoughts and the depression that usually accompanies them.

Some people are naturally able to deliberately choose what they are going to think about. When a negative thought comes to mind, they are able to immediately notice it and replace it with a positive thought. Others find themselves prisoners of their negative thoughts. Their imagination runs wild with all the terrible things that could happen. They are sadly unaware that they can “change the channel” of their minds, and choose what they think about.

Every single one of us can train our minds to take negative thoughts “captive,” replacing them with positive thoughts. We can intentionally do the work that cultivates a positive attitude. One way to train yourself to avoid negative thinking is to wear a rubber band around your wrist, snapping it every time you catch yourself having a negative thought. It’s a free, simple, and effective tool to begin the process of reprogramming your mind to avoid negativity.

Once negative thoughts are arrested, the next step is to intentionally replace them with positive, optimistic and hopeful thoughts; it really is like changing the channel on the television. To do this effectively, collect thoughts, pictures, jokes, or whatever it is that makes you smile or laugh. These can be photographs that remind you of good times, pictures cut out of magazines of places you’d like to go or things you’d like to have, funny or inspiring videos, or stories. Intentionally positive survivors have these things ready, so that when a negative thought comes to mind, they can instantly replace it with a thought that lifts their spirits.

Successful survivors focus on what they have (their good qualities and characteristics), what they are striving for (their goals), and how they are going to reach their goals (their plans). They replace thoughts of people who have harmed them with thoughts of good, safe people in their future who can be trusted. Successful survivors replace ugly scenes in their mind with a picture of a beautiful place they hope to see, a home they plan to have, or images of the lives they want to live.

This visualization of lifestyles and places is even easier now than ever before, thanks to the Internet. You can search for images of places you want to visit, homes you would like to live in, and the things you would like to have or do. When you look at images and imagine yourself in the picture, you are planting these pictures firmly in your mind so that you can easily recall them to replace negative thoughts and ugly images. The more you recall these images, the more likely you are to recognize them when they show up in your life!

It’s important to note that, during this process of visualizing a happier future, you do not allow yourself to negatively compare your goals and dreams to everything you currently lack. Don’t let your inspirations for the future turn into criticisms of your present—these are more than empty goals, these are things that you can and will have in the future. Let these hope-filled, positive visualizations lift you upward and onward.

To be continued… check back. I want to help you actively fight depression.

Connect with other successful survivors at https://www.facebook.com/successfulsurvivorsfoundation/

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Learn How To Actively Fight Depression

Optimism and positive thinking often don’t come naturally to survivors of trauma. Victims of violent crimes, for example, often lose their optimistic outlook and sense of safety, along with everything else their perpetrator took from them. But survivors can intentionally choose to have hope for their future. They can carefully rebuild their optimism, adopting a positive outlook on life and having favorable expectations for the future—which, while it may require more effort for some than for others, can be done.

Actively fighting depression is one of the 8 character traits of successful survivors of trauma

When I was in my early 20s, living paycheck to paycheck while trying to earn enough money to pay rent and buy food for my little girl and myself, I fought against depression every day. There were a million reasons for me to be depressed: I had no family, no money, and no safety net. I wore the same two outfits to work day after day. My little girl seemed to continually need things that I could not provide. We couldn’t afford to go anywhere, or do anything. We lived on beans and rice, ramen noodles, peanut butter, and macaroni and cheese. I was driving an unreliable car, and seemed to always be just one breakdown away from not having a way to get to and from work. To make matters worse, I was working in a male-dominated office (and industry) where I was paid less than men who did the same job. Because I had gone from customer service to sales, and knew how to do my own service work, I was also expected to do all my own clerical work, while my male counterparts had secretaries.

It would have been easy to be depressed, and to let that depression slide into despair. I fought depression by writing notes to myself that encouraged me to keep trying, to work harder than my competition, and to refuse to give up. I taped notes to my bathroom mirror and pinned them on the walls of my office cubicle. In fact, I still have the paper that hung in my cubicle for six and a half years, until the day I took it down and packed it up as I left that job to open my own company. That note included the following quotes:

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” —Jesus

Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” —Napoleon Hill

Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.” —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

There is nothing capricious in nature, and the implanting of a desire indicates that its gratification is in the constitution of the creature that feels it.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right!” —Henry Ford

The paper that hung on my bathroom mirror said:

Whenever I have a thought of limitation, I replace it with a vision of my achievement!

In addition to the little written notes I used to encourage myself, I would cut pictures out of magazines of the things we needed or that I hoped to have one day and tape them to my bathroom mirror. Sometimes, it would seem to take forever to reach a goal. But with every little success, I’d be more willing to drag myself out of bed rather than sleep my way through a bout of depression. With my little girl depending on me, I knew I didn’t have the luxury of indulging those feelings of depression.

People who choose to have a positive attitude decide not to blame others, even when their current circumstances are the direct result of someone else’s actions or failure to act. Decidedly optimistic survivors (those who decide to be optimistic) know that their circumstances don’t improve by placing blame on someone else. Placing blame implies that someone else is in charge of our lives. In fact, the very act of blaming others for the circumstances we face puts us in the position of being seemingly helpless victims, which opens the door to self-pity and depression. Seeing oneself that way influences the choices we make, the risks we take (or avoid), and the outcomes we get in our lives.

Decidedly optimistic people, on the other hand, take charge of their circumstances, however dire those circumstances may be. People who deliberately choose a positive outlook see problems as challenges to overcome and opportunities to grow. They see themselves as conquering the challenges they face; they are victors who have overcome (or are in the process of overcoming) ugly circumstances, and who will thrive because of the coping mechanisms forged through adversity. And this is a choice that anyone can make: choosing to think and act like an optimist means not focusing on the adversities endured, or what’s missing, or what others are doing to you or not doing for you. It’s a choice to live in the present, press toward the future, and let go of the past.

Opening the door to depression is dangerous. Depression grows like mold, thriving in cold, dark places. It soon permeates every aspect of life until it destroys positivity and optimism. Optimistic successful survivors resist the temptation to entertain feelings of depression—even for a few moments. Notice that I do not say that they don’t ever feel sad, depressed, oppressed, frustrated, or pessimistic; they do. In fact, if anyone ever earned the right to throw a full-blown pity party, it’s someone who has suffered at a time when they were unable or too vulnerable to prevent it. But just because they have earned the right to indulge in self-pity, doesn’t mean they should. Self-pity results in pessimism and depression, which only exacerbates the problems they’re facing. Self-pity and “woe-is-me” thinking should be avoided at all costs: indulging, even briefly, in self-pity is like taking a taste of poison; it will make you feel worse, and it may even kill you. 

Successful survivors learn how to proactively fight depression. Although this sounds like an over-simplification of a complicated issue, successful survivors know that if they give in to depression and fail to take care of themselves, there is no one who can rescue them. They know that indulging thoughts of depression for even a few moments can lead to a half hour, a half hour can lead to a day, and days can turn into weeks. Life can be too good, and is too short, to give in to depression; to spend time wishing things were different or thinking about how things used to be or should be now is to waste time that you can never get back. You get the same amount of time every day as everyone else does; what you do with yours is the only thing that will determine your success. Using time wisely is an investment that will reap a return in your future.

To be continued… check back. I want to help you actively fight depression. 

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