Psychological Self-Help

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The environment can change feelings as well as behavior. Some
situations make us happy, other situations stress us. We can change
our environment, getting into a happier situation, or change our
emotional reaction to the environment. Suppose you hate to
study. By reinforcing studying with rewards, self-encouragement, self-
praise, and reduced anxiety about exams and class participation, the
self-helping student will enjoy studying more and more. His/her
reaction to the learning environment becomes more pleasant. An
environment containing reinforcement can change emotions and
Practice, practice, practice
We get better with practice. We feel better with practice
(Leitenberg, et al, 1970). Example: we overcome stage fright by
speaking. We overcome shyness by socializing. We come to like to
study by studying successfully. This is essentially in vivo
desensitization. William James said to feel a certain way, e.g. happy,
act that way. It is called the "as if" technique. Virgil Thomson
recommended practicing some desired trait over and over, at first to
"get over the fear" of doing it, later to really "learn how to do it" well,
and, finally, to "figure out if you like it." 
Pleasant activities help us enjoy ourselves
People plan fun activities to spice up their life. Therapists cheer up
depressed patients by increasing their pleasant activities, especially
being with other people but avoiding dwelling on their problems (see
chapter 6). 
Massage is one of the more relaxing activities two people can do
together. It takes no special skills, only gentleness, affection and time.
Several books are helpful (e.g. Downing, 1972, 1992 ). Relaxing in a
warm bath while reading a good book is another wonderful method.
Field, T., et al, (1992) found that depressed and behavior-disordered
adolescents benefited more from 10-minute massages each day for
five days than from relaxing videotapes. It may be that relaxation and
touching together are especially soothing. 
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