Gifts of Gratitude

Gratitude - Cluff Counseling - Dallas Therapist

Gratitude - Cluff Counseling - Dallas TherapistIt’s easy to feel grateful when all is going well, but when your computer crashes, your car needs new brakes, or your to-do list is piled sky high, it is hard to notice what is going well. Ironically, these difficult times are exactly when we can practice gratitude and see the greatest results. Of all the personal attributes one can develop, gratitude is most strongly associated with mental health.

Simply put, gratitude is the emotion that relates to our ability to feel and express thankfulness and appreciation. November, and more particularly Thanksgiving, is when we tend to focus on gratitude, but the positive effects that accompany being grateful can inspire us to practice gratitude all twelve months of the year. Traditionally, the study of this emotion has been relegated to the fields of theology and philosophy, but in 2007, Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, began his research and quickly became the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He found scientific proof that when people regularly work on cultivating gratitude, they are benefited psychologically, physically, and socially. Emmons says, “I’ve concluded that gratitude is one of the few attitudes that can measurably change lives.”

Benefits of Gratitude

The benefits of gratitude are far-reaching, and affects us physically, emotionally, and socially. Expressing our gratitude enables us to be happier and more optimistic, improves emotional and academic intelligence, and will heighten energy levels. It will strengthen connection in times of crises or loss, and will decrease levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and headaches. Being grateful boosts self-esteem, improves self-care, expands our ability to forgive, and can heighten spirituality. Surprisingly enough, gratitude also strengthens the heart and immune system, and is credited for decreased blood pressure.

Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

Cultivating gratitude is a personal practice; you may find what works for someone else does not work for you. One of the most powerful ways to develop and practice gratitude, and my personal favorite, is to keep a gratitude journal. The premise is to write about what you have done well each day (got up on time, ate a delicious lunch, connected with a co-worker, stayed patient in traffic, etc). This is a slight twist on simply writing something you are grateful for because it requires you to look at what YOU DID that day. It is a more active practice, rather than the passive practice of naming things or people in your life that you may or may not have come into contact with that day. The important thing is not the number of items on your list, but rather your consistency in writing in the journal.

Here are 10 more easy ideas you can implement into your daily life and quickly see the fortifying effects of being grateful:

  1. Take a few deep breaths at the start of your day to be grounded, present, mindful, in order to notice the good all around you.
  2. Make a ritual of 2-5 minute “gratitude meditations” (this is standard meditation but with the sole purpose of achieving greater levels of gratitude).
  3. Notice and linger on thoughts of positive moments from the day.
  4. Say ‘thank you’ often–particularly to those who serve you!
  5. Write a letter of thanks to someone who has made a difference in your life and give it to them in person if possible.
  6. Express gratitude at meals alone or with loved ones.
  7. Start a gratitude journal where you write down something you love/appreciate/admire about your partner daily (hint, hint, this makes a great birthday or Christmas present!).
  8. Make a list of specific things you appreciate about yourself (noticing your strengths is not boasting or prideful, it is empowering and uplifting!)
  9. Practice not gossiping, complaining or judging others for a day.
  10. Set limits on your social media intake in order to be more present in your own life.

I encourage you to start exercising gratitude today! We all have bad days, but instead of focusing on the negative aspects of those days, let’s try shifting the focus and think of the things we can be thankful for during that bad day. Make practicing gratitude a regular habit and you will see a change in how you view your day, week, month and year!  And, as always, if you need help getting through those tough times, contact me today and I would be happy to set up a session with you.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.


ADHD At a Glance

ADHD - Cluff Counseling - Lewisville Therapist

ADHD - Cluff Counseling - Lewisville TherapistIn November of 2013, a report was released showing that up to 11 percent of children aged 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives–a 7.8 percent from 2003. In adults, the rate is much lower (about 4 percent), but experts caution that since adults who were not diagnosed in childhood are more likely to remain undiagnosed, the true prevalence of adult ADHD may be significantly higher than reported. If you or someone you know suffers from undiagnosed or untreated ADHD, now is the time to get help.

Many of you have likely heard of ADHD and may be familiar with some of its symptoms, but most people do not know that much about it… including what it stands for. Not only that, what causes it, how to treat it, how to recognize it in others, or how ADHD might impact the life of those it affects. This post will go over frequently asked questions to tell you what you need to know about ADHD

What does ADHD stand for?
ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

What is the difference between ADHD and ADHD?
ADHD includes the symptom of physical hyperactivity or excessive restlessness–this is the “H”. In ADD, the symptom of hyperactivity is absent. People with ADD can be calm and serene outwardly, yet struggle to focus and not get distracted.

What causes ADHD?
While the cause is not entirely known, there are certain factors that play a part. For instance, ADHD seems to run in families; anywhere from 33 to 50 percent of parents with ADHD will have a child with the disorder. There are genetic characteristics that are passed down. Children whose mothers had difficult pregnancies, or children who are born either premature or with low birth weight run the risk of having ADHD. When the frontal lobe of the brain is affected (which controls impulses/emotions), the chance for ADHD is even greater.

Who can get ADHD and when does it show up?
Anyone is susceptible–children, teens, and adults from all socio-economic backgrounds can develop ADHD; although, studies show that the disorder occurs at least twice as often in boys than in girls, aged 3 to 17 years. Boys are nearly three times more likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD (13.2 percent) than girls (5.6 percent)! ADHD often begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood.

How does ADHD manifest itself?
Symptoms vary greatly depending on the individual but include limited attention and hyperactivity, low self-esteem, troubled relationships; difficulty with school or work; being easily distracted; difficulty paying attention or focusing; “zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation; struggling to complete tasks; the tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work; poor listening skills like having a hard time remembering conversations and following directions.

Can ADHD be treated?
These disorders are chronic, meaning they can last for years or be lifelong. There are, however, several options for effective treatment, including medication and therapy. Patients often find great success coupling the two in order to achieve a refreshing level of normalcy. When ADHD is diagnosed in children, teachers and other school staff can be a great resource in educating child and parent on ways to cope with ADHD in the classroom. Look out for my upcoming post on strategies to deal with this disorder.

ADHD deeply affects the lives of those who have it. I have counseled with many clients who feel misunderstood, or as though something is fundamentally wrong with them because ADHD holds place in their lives. This disorder is real, but help and hope are available. Remember, I am your advocate and your cheerleader, and will help you find control and stability in your life. If you would like help learning how to thrive with ADHD, contact me today to set up your first session.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

ADDitude: “How Many People Have ADHD?”
ADHD Center: “What is ADHD?”
Cluff Counseling: “Choosing the Right Therapist for You”
Dr. Hallowell: “Top 10 Questions on ADHD”
Healthline: “What’s the Difference Between ADHD and ADD?”
Healthy Place: “How Do You Get ADHD? Cause of ADD and ADHD”, “ADHD in Adults”
WebMD: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Causes of ADHD”

How to Stay Connected During Conflict

How to Stay Connected During Conflict - Cluff Counseling - Denton Marriage Therapist

How to Stay Connected During Conflict - Cluff Counseling - Denton Marriage TherapistSome degree of conflict is unavoidable in lasting relationships. Whether it is your partner, sister, roommate, classmate, coworker, family member, or friend, you are bound to disagree with those with whom you associate closely. The good news is there are ways to both hear and be heard in these tense moments!  Read on to learn more.

The majority of my couples tell me all they really want is to be heard and understood by their partner. When we are in a conversation, with someone we care about, and do not feel heard or understood, we often escalate by raising our voices, repeating ourselves, blaming or even name-calling. These behaviors can inevitably leave both people feeling disconnected and alone, instead of connected and loved. A simple disagreement can easily get out of control if a couple does not have a strategy to de-escalate and reconnect. I am going to present a strategy to you that will partners to stay connected when there is conflict, ultimately saving your relationship.

The idea of Time Out is not anything new, but I find it to be incredibly effective in my practice with my clients, as well as useful in my own personal life. The premise of Time Out is this: “I love you. Because I love you, I do not want to say or do anything that could hurt you. When I recognize that I am getting close to that point, I am going to call a Time Out.”  Time Out is essentially a way to regroup when you recognize that you are growing increasingly hot and bothered and could potentially do some damage to your relationship. Here is how it works:

  • Time Out is called by you, for you. This is not intended to be a way to punish your partner!
  • Call Time Out before it is too late. Tell your partner you need a time-out (for yourself) before you say or do anything that may hurt the relationship. Know your own warning signs so that you can call a time-out early in the process; you may feel flushed, begin crying, notice your voice rising, or begin crying. The longer you wait to call a time-out, the longer it will take to soothe and be ready to come back.
  • Your Time Out should be a pause… but not too long! Your partner may feel like you are walking out on him/her, so agree to reconnect in 30 minutes after a Time Out is called. If you find yourself needing more time after a half hour, communicate that need to your partner, and set a specific time when you will reconnect.
  • Use Time Out to soothe.  Calm yourself down and try to clear your mind so you can come back and communicate clearly and effectively. Ways to soothe include: focusing on deep breaths, going on a run, listening to peaceful music, taking a drive, cuddling a pet, or a participating in a creative outlet.
  • Write during Time Out. Some of us are able to work through our feelings by writing them down, which also enables us to convey said feelings to our significant others. Try using “I” statement to take ownership of your feelings to help you understand why you felt those feelings and needed a Time Out. “I” statements look like this: “I feel ______ because of _______”; or, “When you did ______, I felt _____.”
  • Come back! Come back to your partner once you have soothed, written down your feelings and have a plan on how to stay grounded when reconnecting with your partner. You each should then take turns reading your written-out feelings with your partner, while the other simply listens and then repeats back what they have heard. This is not a time for a rebuttal or to defend yourself!

When you use time-outs effectively, you will be amazed at how recurring arguments you and your partner seem to have suddenly disappear. You will find that you not only have deeper understanding of your partner, but you are also practicing healthy communication tools that will apply to and improve all aspects of any relationship. Remember that this kind of success is possible but will take time; if you do not succeed at first…keep trying!  I have helped innumerable couples with couple resolution, and am confident in my ability to help you and your partner communicate more effectively and peacefully. Should you find you need more immediate attention, please contact me today or schedule your first session for help tailored specifically to your situation.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.


Dear Partner of a Sex Addict, I See You. Keep Going!

Partner of a Sex Addict - Cluff Counseling

Partner of a Sex Addict - Cluff CounselingEvery second 28,258 users are watching pornography on the Internet. And for every person in a relationship that is addicted to pornography, there is a devastated and betrayed partner. If this is you, and you feel powerless to help your partner, here are some things you can do to be supportive through your partner’s addiction recovery.

Scores of people are falling prey to the readily available and easily accessible pornography that floods our media. Understandably, pornography can be a gateway to sex addiction, which can consume and control the thoughts, actions, and eventually the life of its host. I see countless couples and individuals who are either seeking refuge from their own sex addiction or that of their partner. While I advocate for the addict, I also have a very tender place in my heart for the secondary survivor, or the partner of the addict.

First of all, I want you to know that I see you. I imagine you feel like this is somehow your fault, and that you caused your partner to look elsewhere. That you are not pretty/handsome/skinny/successful/etc enough, and shame yourself to fit the perfect mold seen on magazine covers, tv screens or newspapers. You think that if you just sacrifice a little bit more of yourself, your partner will find what he/she is looking for… in you.

The most important thing I hope you get from this blog post is for you to know that this is not your fault. If your partner is an addict, that was his or her choice–not yours. Oftentimes partners feel helpless as they stand on the sidelines watching their partner struggle with addiction; if this is you, I want to give you six specific ways you can help your struggling partner:

  1. DO YOUR OWN WORK.The best thing you can do to help your partner will be to take care of yourself first. I understand that this sounds counter-intuitive, but only then will you be able to assist your partner as he/she undergoes the healing process to overcome addiction. And when you feel like throwing in the towel, apply what you have learned from my posts on self-care (links included below). Take care of yourself by getting adequate rest, eating well, exercising, and finding an outlet for your stress.
  2. BE PATIENT. This is a hard one. Addiction recovery takes time. Slips and relapses are part of the process. Be patient. Remember that it is possible for you and your partner to recover and heal!
  3. BE HONEST. Being dishonest and not openly communicating is what fed your partner’s addiction and brought you hurt. Model the honesty you want from your partner by being honest with him/her with your feelings, fears, struggles, as well as, improvements you see (or hope to see) in him/her.
  4. WORK AT IT. This goes hand in hand with being patient and honest. Consistently work towards healing. You can support your partner while they are in group and counseling sessions, but remember number one: do your own work. If you are in a healthy, safe, stable emotional place from doing your own work, you will be better prepared to help your partner fight and overcome addiction!
  5. OWN YOUR FAULTS.  Working at it means you must own your part of the equation in order to move forward toward a healthy relationship together with your partner. Although the responsibility for the addiction lays 100% on the addict, the responsibility for your relationship is shared. Accepting the things you need to work on to better the relationship is not saying that you condone or are to blame for the addiction; it says that the relationship with your partner is important to you.
  6. REFRAIN FROM MUD-SLINGING. Refrain from mud-slinging; it will be so easy to want to tell everyone how you have been wronged and demean your partner. Be careful how you speak of him/her and allow others to come to their own conclusions.
  7. LOVE…EVEN FROM A DISTANCE.  You may not feel comfortable expressing your love, in certain ways, for your partner in the early stages of recovery and that is understandable. I encourage you to find ways that you can show your partner that you do care for them, whether it is through texts, funny memes or youtube videos, buying their favorite snack, a hand on their shoulder or simply by asking them how their day went.

Being on the journey alongside a sex addict is challenging and may alter your perspective on relationships and life. Although your situation may, at times, seem very bleak, please remember that recovery is absolutely possible. There are infinite resources available to help you and your partner, the greatest of which being a licensed, trained therapist to aid you along the way. I personally have counseled many individuals and couples and I want to help you find healing and happiness. Please do not hesitate to contact me today with questions, or please click here now to schedule your first session.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.


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