It’s Spring & Explore What’s Next Is Growing!



IMG_2238Explore What’s Next has new offices at 1231 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo! The ‘before’ photo here is of the front entrance to our new suite. The building is a two story converted apartment building so it will have a homey feel just like our Sweet Home, Amherst offices. The Delaware office officially open for business in May 2015!

I am so excited about this next big step for EWN!!!

Ever since Explore What’s Next was a twinkle in my eye I have dreamt of having a second site, the better to serve the good people of Western New York. The choice of opening office space in downtown Buffalo is a reflection of the exciting growth that is happening here, culturally, in the arts, in business and in education though the expanding medical campus.

Anyone who has more than one kid knows that the impact on you and your family when your second child arrives is more than just 1+1=2. It’s more like 1+1=27! Of course that includes the terror, the joy, the good and the not-so-good stress. For months I’ve been going a little nuts. First looking for the right place, then negotiating with the landlord and contractors… Which finally leads to the more fun stuff like choosing paint colors, new furniture, lining up utilities and services! All while nurturing the first child, our lovely offices in Amherst.

In addition, new office space equals more room to bring in new therapists, psychologists and LCSW-Rs, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners! If you or someone you know believes in the highest standard of clinical care and is interested learning more about establishing their practice with Explore What’s Next, do not hesitate to contact me, Dr. Aletta, at 716.308.6683 or draletta@explorewhatsnext.com. You can also learn more about joining the EWN team by clicking here.

You can follow the progress as the new offices shape up, before and after pics, color choices, etc, on Instagram, the EWN Facebook page and, just for fun, on Pinterest, too!

12 Ways To Break Through Loneliness & Make Friends



“There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t yet met.” ~William Butler Yeats

Friendships are a big factor in health and happiness. People with active friend circles apparently live longer and report higher levels of life satisfaction. Sure, that makes sense.

But as we get older the usual routes to making friends peter out. How hard is it to make friends when your kids no longer need you to help out with school field trips or to accompany them on play dates where you could bond with the other moms?

Really, really hard!

How does a person no longer in college make friends?

Last year this was a big thing on my radar. With my youngest in her first year of college I was officially an empty nester. Without my daughter’s presence available as an easy distraction, the absence of a solid girlfriend circle was obvious. I wanted to actively do something about it. This is what I came up with:

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3 Steps To Self-Care



IMG_1977Self-care is essential for any care-giver. Vacation is wonderful but it’s usually only a once in a while thing. We all need time to float, by ourselves, on a daily basis. Whether it’s simply time to take a nice long, hot shower, which for the new mother is nothing short of heaven, take a walk or finding respite care for aging parents so that you can take a day to go to a spa or just sleep-in. These are not selfish indulgences. Self-care is essential like food or oxygen.

What it boils down to is giving ourselves permission to be alone to do what is meaningful for us alone, permission to drink from the well by ourselves. Permission to take care of ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us.

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Our Warmest Christmas Wishes for You….



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Peace of mind and heart,

Prosperity throughout the year,

Happiness that multiplies,

Health for you and yours,

Fun around every corner,

Energy to chase your dreams,

Time to rest and savor,

and

Joy to fill your holidays!

May all your Christmas wishes come true!

Inspired by d.m. dellinger

This Holiday Season Give Yourself A Break!



08HOUSEWORK-popupSometimes we stress ourselves out for no good reason! The holidays are filled with such “voluntary stress” opportunities. I don’t know about you but often my stress has to do with I think I “ought” to be doing for the holidays because of the standards others (a grandmother, mother or aunt, even so-called friends) have set up. Some of my “ought to-s” include:

1. Bake a ton of Christmas cookies, package them beautifully and give them away to neighbors and friends.

2. Find, purchase and wrap (beautifully) the perfect gift for everyone on my list before December 24, even if they live half a world away!

3. Decorate the house with Christmas cheer in every room! Is one tree enough?

4. Clean and scrub the house from top to bottom so that guests will not judge.

5. Lose ten pounds.

Ha! If even one of those five things happens it will be a Christmas miracle! Do you feel the same? Do you have your own list of ‘Shouldas’ that’s making you grumpy?

This year I am more of the mindset to just be honest with myself and brutally prioritize. You can do this, too. Ask yourself if you could only do one thing on the list, what would it be? So I took a deep breath and decided to focus on #2, revising it to read: “Find a good-enough gift that will make your loved one smile.” It doesn’t have to be the Best gift or the Perfect gift. For me the rest of the list is not essential for a happy holiday. In fact trying to squeeze in the rest in the next few days may take away form the holiday spirit.

The real trick here is not to care so much about the stuff that doesn’t get done. That’s not easy is it? But the truth is even the most sparkling floor does not replace the warm welcome of an open loving heart. A good guest won’t notice the dust bunnies in the corner and won’t care if they do notice them. A good friend will be just as happy with a little box of cookies after the New Year as a huge one before January 1st. I know I would! Wouldn’t you?

Life lived well is messy. Revel in it!

Photo via NYT Golden Cosmos

Relax! We are Awesome Just the Way We Are!



That’s the message for today. I want to have a day that is guilt-free, agitation-free, restless-free and anger-free. If I have trouble with any of those I will stop whatever it is I’m doing and sit or lie down and focus on ONE THING  like maybe how awesome I am just because I’m trying! And Goddamn it, trying does count! I don’t care what Yoda says.

Ok, that sounded sort of pathetic but I think a lot of you know what I’m talking about.

I am going to the barn to see my horse because she makes me happy. She recharges my battery. The smell of the barn, the hay, the tack, the horsey smells, the sound of their nickering and chewing, stomping and blowing. If I can allow myself this pleasure for just an hour instead of feeling like I really should be doing something else, like writing a more meaningful article here on the blog that will change your life, then maybe, just maybe, I can do a little of that tomorrow. But that’s fortune telling.

For today: More simple relaxing things I can do…

Read a book just for fun!

Pet my dog because he is so soft.

Ride my new stationary bike while watching Tabitha Takes Over. Something about exercises I can do while sitting tickles the hell out of me.

Take a large garbage bag, go through the house and throw out stuff that so obviously needs to go there is no “can this be useful later?” argument. Yes, I find this relaxing!

Pretend I’m Nigella Lawson and experiment with a new recipe for dinner. I might have to speak with a British accent as I clean the leeks!

What will you do today just for fun or just to relax or just to recharge the YOU ARE AWESOME  neon sign in your spirit today?

Photo courtesy of MarcelGermain via Flickr

Happiness vs Pleasure



 Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Dylan Broggio, LCSW, EWN therapist.

Courtesy of jellywatson via Flickr

In revisiting a favorite book of mine, “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” , I am rediscovering  a theme that is interwoven in so many aspects of our lives… the idea of pleasure versus happiness.

The Dalai Lama says our main purpose in life is to seek happiness.  Though pleasure and happiness are clearly separate, it appears we can get these two confused from time to time. The idea of pleasure in our lives is fairly easy to conjure up;  the embrace of a loved one, a sunny Saturday afternoon, a beach vacation, a bowl of ice cream, the thrill of buying a new car or house, sex, getting a promotion!  The idea of happiness in our lives… a little more complicated… Love, affection, closeness, compassion, and gratitude.

Pleasure comes from external stimuli, things outside of us, that are short lived. The Dalai Lama states, “Happiness that depends mainly on physical pleasure is unstable, one day it’s there, the next day it may not be”.  Whereas true happiness comes from an internal source, and it remains constant despite the ups and downs of daily life.

Most of us do not always choose what is “good” for us- that is, what leads us toward happiness. Instead we decide to indulge in those short lived pleasures of life, expecting long term happiness.

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A Lesson in Intimacy from Stephen King



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There was a moment during the interview when one of the King children was talking about a book, and Stephen turned toward his wife and took her hand. He grasped it, tightly, and they both closed their eyes and leaned in toward each other, as if in prayer. Later, when asked about that moment, Stephen could not remember what inspired that moment — maybe nothing at all. “Sometimes I just take her hand,” he said. “We’ve always been close, Tab and me. I love her.”

via The New York Times Magazine Stephen King’s Family Business

Why “I will be happy when…” Doesn’t Make You Happy



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Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, EWN psychotherapist.

Today I looked in the mirror with 153 pounds of sadness. I had reached my “so called” ideal weight that I had set for myself five months ago. I told myself I would truly be happy and content when I reached that number. I convinced myself that all I had to do was watch what I ate and exercise. While it was true that exercise was more beneficial than I once believed, it was also true that happiness was not at the end of the rainbow waiting there for me.

I had locked myself into a faulty hope. I obtained my goal but I quickly realized that 153 was not a magic number. How could it be that I didn’t feel happy? According to Dr. Sherry Pagoto, in her article ‘I will be happy when…’, happiness cannot be fully dependent on a goal. Not that you should not set them, but that one goal cannot be what makes or breaks your happiness. Dr. Pagoto says that setting your happiness on One Goal can lead you to not experience the happiness that is around you on a daily basis.

While I personally believe that goals are what gets people where they want to go, it is important to remember not to set your goals too high. Not to say that you cannot achieve large goals, but smaller, more attainable ones allow for continued motivation, satisfaction and perseverance.

In addition to goal setting, I also believe in stopping and smelling the roses. If you do not stop and realize the little things that make you happy on the daily road to their goal, then you may be missing true happiness. Like Dr. Pagoto says:

“A contended life is an accumulation of moments. It (happiness) doesn’t burst out everyday, it simmers.”

Stop and ask yourself what makes you happy? Does coming home and seeing your child’s pasta smeared smile make you happy? Or is it simply sitting down after a long hard day at work and knowing that you did a good job?

These are what Dr. Pagoto calls little stars and she recommends trying to fill your day with as many little stars as you can. Positive Psychology can help play a role in this new starry sky.

In her Psychology Today blog article ‘Put Positive Psychology to Work for You’, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne said there are three steps you can take to achieve long-term fulfillment at any age. Before we look at these steps, it is important to distinguish between happiness and fulfillment.

According Dr. Krauss Whitbourne:

“Happiness is a fleeting state that reflects your enjoyment of the moment in the present. After the moment, you return to your previous state of mind.”

Fulfillment on the other hand, “persists over time and in the long run will contribute to your mental health.”

Fulfillment for me was to keep those healthier lifestyles going and to continue feeling better physically and mentally. Now understanding the difference between the two, here are the three steps that Dr. Krauss Whitbourne recommends:

1. Distinguish between what you think will bring you happiness and what will bring you fulfillment: make a list of what makes you happy and another list of what makes you fulfilled. Now compare and contrast.

2. Determine your reality: Take a notepad or sticky note with you throughout the day and jot down things that made you happy and things that made you fulfilled. Make sure to distinguish between the two.

3. Make a difference: Think about your interests, skills and talents. Are you providing service to your community through those interests or skills? Make a commitment to find at least one worthy cause that you can devote at least an hour of your time to once a week or once a month.

According to Dr. Krauss Whitbourne and Dr. Pagoto, happiness has to come from within. Even though I achieved my 153 lb goal, I had to stop and look at the little successes along the way. My little stars came in the form of spending more time with a friend during our runs, choosing healthier eating habits, feeling accomplishment with every pound that came off and feeling physically healthier. So many little stars that came from only One Goal. Imagine how many little stars can come from a few positive goals you set for yourself.

Photo courtesy of Miroslav Petrasko via Flickr 

Snow in March?! 10 Ways to Fight Springtime SAD!



In the Deep North where I live, Spring can be a bitch. There’s really no other word for it. A friend of mine said she heard this on a local radio station: “What is December without the Holidays? It’s March!”

Yes, it’s known that Seasonal Affect Disorder strikes in the late fall/early winter but I believe there’s an SAD II. It occurs with the vernal equinox and the return of Daylight Savings Time when you live above the Mason-Dixon line or anywhere where it’s snowing (for crying out loud) after March 21! I have no proof of this, just strong anecdotal evidence and my own experience which is hard to deny.

Are you…

  • Close to tears when your kids, the organization you volunteer for  or the people you work for ask you to do one more little thing for them?
  • Biting your husband’s head off because he innocently asked what’s for dinner?
  • Waking up stiff and in pain because the cold, wet weather invades your bones?
  • Worrying constantly?
  • Hating on all your friends who are on Caribbean cruises right now?
  • Having trouble remembering to smile?
  • Looking around and see only piles of laundry, where the paint’s chipped and the dust bunnies lurk?
  • Feeling a lot like the Snow White dwarves, Grumpy, Sleepy and Dopey?

Then the sun comes out and the temperature rises above freezing to a searing 40 degrees F/4C!!! Suddenly it’s like that scene from The Wizard of Oz when the wildly saturated technicolor is let loose! Oh the relief! The joy! The ridiculous desire to break into song or dance to anything with a Latin beat!

But it’s just a tease because your iPhone weather app shows five incoming days of little clouds with flakes coming out of them. And once more the blanket of dread descends. I, for one, cannot take this anymore! Neither am I in a position to jump in a plane and head to the Virgin Islands. So what’s a SAD person to do?

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