Welcome to Create Meaningful Change, a Website for people who want to improve their mental health, live a more contented life, or better themselves. Since I was a teenager, I have been an avid reader of self-improvement and, despite have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, I still secretly enjoy the stuff (I have a copy of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff hidden in my office). Self-improvement is more popular than ever and who needs another blog about that. But most of these sites have adopted a get-happy-fast mentality. How many more listicles can you read about three ways to conquer depression or five stress-busting techniques? Below is a description of the manifesto for this blog.
Quick Fixes Don’t Work
What my experience as a psychotherapist and my degree have taught me is that quick fixes just don’t work. And that’s why I created this website – as an anti-listicle, quick-fix, get-happy-in-3-simple-steps blog. Instead, I want to have an honest discussion about how to cope with the adversities of life, the emotional struggles that we all go through, and the opportunities to improve ourselves. Changing old habits, giving up vices, learning to see ourselves and others in a healthier way is hard work and time consuming. In all likelihood we’ve been this way for years and it’s not going to change overnight. But by knowing the challenges of changing we can plan more effective, persist through struggles, and appreciate the significance of every small step we take.
Life is the Best Therapy
This site will help you to realize that life is the best therapy. As a therapist, I have been taught to treat people’s symptoms, but what I see over and over is that people don’t want to be cured of symptoms, for example, anhedonia (loss of pleasure in life) or amotivation (lack of motivation); they want to enjoy their time with children or have enough ambition to do their daily routine and keep responsibilities from pilling up. People want to just get back to life as normal or learn to live a better life. The advice in this site will help you create meaningful change in your life. Of course, it will also address mental health problems. I’m therapist.
Happiness Is Overrated
Being happy is a great thing. Who doesn’t want to be happy? But there is such an emphasis on being happy in the popular press and in American in general that it has in itself become a problem. If we’re not happy all the time then we’re dissatisfied with life and we feel a sense of longing. One of the major causes of this is thinking about our happiness all the time. On top of it there’s lot of research that says that people who put too much value on happiness end up having much less of it. Because of this, the goal of this website isn’t to make people happy. Yes, I hope you have some greater measure of happiness after you’ve visited here and taken my advice but happiness is more of a natural consequence of living healthier and finding meaning.
Psychology isn’t Physics
There has been a movement in the popular press and in academics itself to present psychology as if it were physics. What I mean is that psychology has been presented as a field as law-like and scientific as physics. This happens when researchers are quoted in the popular press as finding a definitive answer to a complex problems – like the gene that causes bipolar disorder or areas of the brain that explain why we veterans develop PTSD from combat. Beside biological explanations, this comes up in describing people as if they were as predictable as particles in an observation chamber, e.g., three reasons for divorce or people with social anxiety always act like this . . . When you think you’ve solved a problem, you fail to see the limitations of your own solutions and the complex mitigating factors.
People aren’t that simple and the influences on our behaviors aren’t that simple either. You won’t find answers in this site because life is too wonderful and complex for that. Instead, I’ll offer insights, explore the pros and cons of various decisions, and present challenges without always providing solution (I really may not have one). But I hope this honesty will provide you more accurate information, help you to recognize that there are many considerations, allow you to make a more informed decision, and actually make change that matters.
Research But Don’t Exaggerate
There are a lot of crazy ideas out there. Research is one way to sort out fantasy from fact. We can learn a great deal about people’s behaviors and motives, often contrary to common sense, from well-conducted studies. These findings have to be interpreted carefully, however. The popular press often latches onto a research finding because it is controversial or surprising and they present it in a polarized or exaggerated way, ignoring the limitations of the study or the applicability of the results. Because of this, research is presented as definitive and lacking in nuance.
What you’ll find on this site is a more balanced view. I love research and I’ll share it where possible but I also won’t oversell the ideas to make readers think I’ve found the next holy grail of mental health. I’m lucky in that I can read the original studies (at least psychological ones) and draw my own conclusions.
What About Me?
As for me, I don’t have all the answers nor have I conquered life. I know a lot about self-improvement through working with hundreds of patients, my training, and my own personal struggles. You won’t find me claiming to have an instant cure or having the answers to all of life’s problems. I think we as helping professionals (self-appointed or academically trained) take ourselves far too seriously. Really, if we (and I mean the field of mental health) have more humility about the limits of our knowledge we would serve our science and the public better.
Outside of my formal job as a clinical psychologist and this blog, I am the proud parent of a handsome and overly energetic son, soon-to-be-father of a beautiful daughter, incurable reader of self-help, an avid and overly health conscious cook, an Food Network addict (but in denial about this problem), professional coffee snob, and avid but uncompetitive runner. I wish you well in your journey and I hope this site will help you along the way.