Blog Post Thursday

How To Know If You’re Depressed

We all go through periods of feeling down, sad, and unmotivated. But how do you know if you’re depressed or just going through a normal mood? Let’s talk about it. Here are 5 signs that may indicate you are experiencing depression:

How to know if you’re depressed?

According to the World Health Organization approximately 280 million people in the world have depression. Here are 5 signs you are depressed:

1. Low Mood:

When people are depressed, they often undergo a noticeable change in their mood. You may find that friends and family start to express concern, asking if you’re okay. They might even mention that you haven’t been quite yourself lately. If you’ve been grappling with persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability, it’s possible that you are dealing with depression.

2. Decreased Interest or Pleasure:

Depression frequently leads to a loss of interest in activities that were once a source of joy. If you find yourself no longer enthusiastic about your usual hobbies or are consistently turning down activities you would typically enjoy, it might be a sign of depression.

3. Sleep Changes:

When a person experiences depression there is often a noticeable change in their sleeping pattern. Sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep are a sign of depression. If you have been experiencing the previous signs of depression and notice your sleep pattern being disrupted you could be depressed.

4. Low Energy:

Depression can drain a person’s energy levels, making even basic daily tasks seem challenging. Something as routine as taking a shower or eating a meal can become difficult. If you’re finding it hard to muster the energy for normal activities, this could be a sign of depression.

5. Trouble Thinking Clearly

People who are depressed often experience difficulties with cognitive tasks. A decrease in their ability to think clearly and concentrate can make decision-making more complex. If you’ve been struggling with a foggy or distracted mind, it could be indicative of depression symptoms.

Depression takes a profound toll on a person, affecting them physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you resonate with these signs and suspect you may be depressed, it’s crucial to reach out for support and professional guidance to help you through this challenging period. Depression is a treatable condition, and seeking help is a significant step toward healing and recovery.

The professionals at Blue Elephant Counseling understand the profound challenges that come with struggling with depression, and they are here to provide a compassionate and supportive hand to guide you through this difficult journey. With a wealth of experience and expertise in mental health, they offer a safe and non-judgmental space for you to express your feelings and concerns. Through evidence-based therapeutic approaches, they can help you identify the underlying causes of your depression, develop coping strategies, and work towards a brighter, more emotionally balanced future. Through individual therapy and a tailored treatment plan, the team at Blue Elephant Counseling is dedicated to assisting you in your path to recovery and emotional well-being. You don’t have to face depression alone, and their caring professionals are ready to provide the guidance and support you need.


The Ripple Effect of Thankfulness: Transforming Lives in Nebraska

Kindness rock found at Eagle Scout Lake in Grand Island, Nebraska, with painted inspirational message.

As November unfurls, there’s more to this season than just falling leaves and shorter days. It’s a time for reflection and a perfect opportunity to dive into the profound theme of thankfulness, and discover its transformative power. Beyond a time-limited challenge, thankfulness has the potential to create a profound ripple effect in the lives of Nebraskans and beyond.

The Science of Thankfulness

Gratitude isn’t merely a fleeting emotion; it’s a complex psychological concept with tangible benefits. Studies have shown that thankfulness can profoundly impact our lives. So, what’s the science behind it?

Practicing gratitude isn’t just about feeling good; it’s about improving mental health. By shifting our focus from what’s lacking to the abundance in our lives, gratitude reduces stress, enhances mood, and combats anxiety and depression. It’s a mental and emotional reset button that can lead to increased happiness and a more positive outlook.

Gratitude’s impact doesn’t stop at mental well-being. It has been linked to a strengthened immune system, better sleep, and even reduced perception of pain. The physical benefits of gratitude are a reflection of the positive, balanced state of mind it fosters.

Cultivating a Grateful Heart

The beauty of thankfulness is that it requires no challenge, no time constraints, and no limits. It’s a lifelong practice available every day. Here’s how you can make it a part of your life:

  1. Daily Reflection: Dedicate a few moments each day to contemplate the things you’re thankful for. It could be the warmth of the sun on a chilly Nebraska morning or a comforting cup of coffee.
  2. Express Your Appreciation: Share your gratitude with those around you. Let the people in your life know how much you value them and the positive influence they’ve had on you.
  3. Gratitude Journal: Keeping a journal of daily gratitude can reinforce positivity and provide a record of your journey.
  4. Mindfulness and Meditation: Incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine. Heighten your awareness of the present moment and the countless reasons to be thankful.

The Ripple Effect of Thankfulness in Nebraska

One of the most remarkable qualities of gratitude is its potential to initiate a ripple effect that reaches far beyond our individual lives. Our expressions of thankfulness can extend to strengthen bonds, deepen connections, and build a sense of community. The impact of a single act of gratitude can reach far and wide. It will inspire others to practice gratitude and, in turn, influence more individuals.

Online Counseling and Coaching in Nebraska

As we journey into the depths of thankfulness, remember that your well-being is a priority. If you find that you need additional support or guidance in your pursuit of a more fulfilled life, Blue Elephant Counseling is here for you. Our team of compassionate professionals offers online counseling and coaching services to help Nebraskans navigate life’s challenges, cultivate gratitude, and find their inner resilience. Visit to explore ways to boost your mental well-being, achieve your goals, and maintain a balanced and grateful life.

This November, let’s embrace thankfulness as a year-round practice, not limited by challenges or timeframes. It’s a journey that not only transforms our lives but also spreads positivity, nurtures resilience, and fosters a culture of appreciation in the Cornhusker State and beyond. Start today, and let the ripples of thankfulness touch the lives of Nebraskans.

rear view of woman with arms raised at beach during sunset
Blog, Blog Post Thursday

The Science of Gratitude: How Thankfulness Can Transform Your Life

A joyful woman stands with her arms out wide, embodying the sense of freedom and happiness that practicing gratitude can bring into one's life
Photo by Oleksandr P on

Gratitude isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling—it’s a scientifically proven key to better mental and physical health. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the science of gratitude, the research behind gratitude, and explore how regularly expressing thankfulness can be a transformative force in your life. Get ready to discover the tangible benefits of practicing gratitude and why it’s more than just a November trend.

1. The Psychology of Gratitude Gratitude is Deeply Rooted in Science.

Gratitude is not merely a polite social gesture; it’s a profound psychological concept that has been extensively studied. Let’s explore the two psychological theories that explain why gratitude is so powerful: positive psychology and self-determination theory.

Positive Psychology and Gratitude:

Positive psychology is a field that focuses on the study of positive emotions, strengths, and factors that contribute to a fulfilling life. The Science of Gratitude plays a central role in positive psychology for several reasons:

  • Positive Emotions: Gratitude is inherently tied to positive emotions. When we express gratitude, we experience feelings of happiness, joy, and contentment. This is why practicing gratitude can lead to an overall improvement in one’s emotional well-being.
  • Strengths and Virtues: In positive psychology, gratitude is considered one of the 24 character strengths and virtues. It’s seen as a moral and social strength that contributes to the well-being of both individuals and society as a whole.
  • Resilience: Gratitude increases resilience in the face of adversity. When people practice gratitude, they are better equipped to cope with stress and challenging situations, making them more psychologically resilient.

Self-Determination Theory and Gratitude:

Self-determination theory is another psychological framework that sheds light on the importance of gratitude:

  • Basic Psychological Needs: This theory posits that individuals have three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Practicing gratitude satisfies the need for relatedness. When we express gratitude, we acknowledge and strengthen our social connections, fulfilling one of these fundamental needs.
  • Intrinsic Motivation: Gratitude can also enhance intrinsic motivation, which is the motivation to engage in activities for the inherent enjoyment rather than external rewards. Additionally, people who feel appreciated and valued through expressions of gratitude are more likely to engage in tasks willingly and wholeheartedly.

2. The Brain on Gratitude: Understanding the Neurological Impact of Gratitude

Release of “Feel-Good” Neurotransmitters:

When you express gratitude, whether through actions, thoughts, or words, your brain responds by releasing several “feel-good” neurotransmitters, including:

  • Dopamine: Dopamine is referred to as the “reward neurotransmitter.” It is released when you experience pleasure and reward. Expressing gratitude activates the brain’s reward center, leading to a surge in dopamine. This not only makes you feel happier but also motivates you to repeat the behavior that triggered the release of dopamine.
  • Serotonin: Gratitude is closely linked to an increase in serotonin production. This neurotransmitter plays a key role in regulating mood, contributing to feelings of well-being and happiness. Higher serotonin levels can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Oxytocin: Known as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone,” oxytocin is released when we connect with others through acts of kindness, gratitude, and social bonding. It strengthens social relationships and promotes trust, empathy, and connection with others.

Rewiring the Brain for Increased Happiness:

Gratitude doesn’t just stop at releasing these “feel-good” neurotransmitters; it also rewires your brain for increased happiness over time. Here’s how this rewiring process works:

  • Neuroplasticity: The brain has a remarkable ability to reorganize itself and create new neural pathways. When you regularly practice gratitude, you stimulate neuroplasticity, forging new connections in the brain associated with happiness and positive emotions.
  • Shifting Perspective: Gratitude encourages you to shift your perspective. Instead of focusing on what’s lacking or negative, you begin to pay more attention to the positive aspects of your life. This shift in mindset contributes to a more optimistic outlook on life.

Why This Matters for Your Mental Health:

Understanding the neurological effects of gratitude is crucial because it directly impacts your mental health and well-being:

  • Reduction in Stress: Gratitude helps regulate the stress response in the brain. As you experience increased levels of dopamine and serotonin, your body becomes better equipped to manage stress, reducing its harmful effects on your mental health.
  • Improved Mood: The release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters contributes to an improved mood. This can be especially beneficial for individuals experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, as it offers a natural way to enhance their emotional well-being.
  • Resilience and Coping: With a more resilient brain and a heightened sense of well-being, you’re better prepared to cope with life’s challenges and setbacks. Gratitude equips you with the mental fortitude to bounce back from adversity.

3. The Science of Gratitude on Physical Health Benefits

The Science of Gratitude shows far-reaching physical health benefits. Let’s delve into how gratitude can effectively lower stress, boost the immune system, and promote better sleep.

Lowering Stress:

  • Cortisol Reduction: Gratitude has been linked to a reduction in cortisol levels, which is the body’s primary stress hormone. Practicing gratitude lowers cortisol levels and reduces perceived stress.
  • Improved Stress Coping: Expressing gratitude fosters a more positive and optimistic outlook, helping individuals better cope with stressful situations. Gratitude can increase resilience and the ability to handle stress more effectively.

Boosting the Immune System:

  • Immune Response Enhancement: Gratitude can enhance the body’s immune response. People who regularly expressed gratitude exhibit stronger immune systems, with higher levels of antibodies and increased white blood cell counts.
  • Inflammatory Reduction: Chronic stress can lead to inflammation, which is linked to various health issues. Gratitude has been found to reduce inflammation. Some research indicates individuals who practiced gratitude had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers.

Promoting Better Sleep:

  • Sleep Quality Improvement: Gratitude has a positive impact on sleep quality. Studies show that individuals who kept a gratitude journal experienced better sleep, falling asleep more quickly, staying asleep longer, and feeling more refreshed upon waking.
  • Reduction in Sleep Disturbances: Gratitude practices have also been associated with a decrease in sleep disturbances.

Gratitude isn’t just a vague notion of being thankful; it’s a powerful tool with concrete, measurable benefits. By understanding the science behind gratitude, you can harness its potential to transform your life and well-being year-round, not just during the month of November. Start your journey toward a happier and healthier you today by signing up for online counselling or digital coaching from Blue Elephant Counseling

smiling woman holding orange sun hat
Blog Post Thursday

Embracing Change in October: A Journey of Personal Growth

As October unfolds, nature’s transformation is a vivid reminder that change is an intrinsic part of life. Let’s delve into the theme of embracing change and personal growth, inspired by the enchanting tapestry of October.

The Changing Seasons

October’s arrival brings forth a symphony of autumnal colors. Leaves transition from vibrant green to hues of red, orange, and gold before gracefully descending to the earth. This change mirrors the natural rhythm of life, urging us to let go of what no longer serves us and make room for new experiences and opportunities.

Personal Growth

In the face of changing landscapes, we can draw inspiration for our own personal growth. Much like trees that shed their leaves to prepare for winter, we too must shed old habits, negative thought patterns, or fears that hinder our progress. October encourages us to adapt and evolve, fostering our personal transformation.

Setting Goals

October marks the transition from the year’s midpoint to its final quarter. It’s an ideal time to revisit and reevaluate the goals and resolutions set earlier in the year. Reflect on your progress, celebrate your achievements, and adjust your goals if needed. Much like the changing leaves, this season reminds us that it’s never too late to make positive changes in life.

Practicing Mindfulness

The enchantment of October inspires us to live in the present moment. Take a break from life’s hustle and bustle. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and scents of this wonderful season. The practice of mindfulness, akin to admiring the autumn landscape, helps you remain grounded and appreciative of the here and now.

Building Resilience

Just as nature’s resilience allows it to endure the changing seasons, we too can build resilience to navigate life’s uncertainties. Embracing change may be challenging, but it offers growth opportunities. By developing resilience, we can bounce back from setbacks, adapt to new situations, and thrive in the face of change.

Embrace the change and personal growth opportunities presented by October. Discover that change is not to be feared but celebrated. This month encourages us to release the old, set new goals, practice mindfulness, and build resilience. The colors of October remind us of the beauty in change, and in the evolving chapters of our lives. Whether you’re sipping pumpkin spice lattes, strolling through falling leaves, or simply reflecting, October invites you to embrace the journey of change and personal growth.

As October’s vibrant change inspires your personal growth journey, remember that you don’t have to navigate it alone. If you’re seeking guidance and support to embrace change and build resilience, consider signing up for digital coaching or online counseling at Blue Elephant Counseling. Your path to a more fulfilling life begins with a single click.


PTSD: What is it? What do I do about it?

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Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that can occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. This can include events such as a natural disaster, a car accident, sexual or physical abuse, or military combat. It is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life and overall well-being. It is important for people to be able to recognize the symptoms of PTSD so that they can seek help and receive appropriate treatment.

PTSD can manifest in a variety of symptoms, including re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of triggers associated with the event, and changes in mood or cognition. A person with PTSD may also feel intense emotional distress or physical symptoms when they are reminded of the event, such as sweating or racing heart. An individual with PTSD may avoid certain places or activities that remind them of the traumatic event, or may have difficulty sleeping or concentrating. They may also try to numb their feelings or avoid thinking about the event altogether.

PTSD can have a significant impact on an individual’s daily life and relationships. It can lead to difficulty in work or school, and can cause strain on personal relationships. PTSD can also cause changes in a person’s mood and behavior. They may feel detached from others, have difficulty feeling positive emotions, or become more irritable or aggressive. They may also have difficulty concentrating or completing tasks. It is important for individuals with PTSD to seek treatment, which can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Therapy for PTSD often focuses on helping individuals process the traumatic event and learn coping mechanisms to manage their symptoms. This can include techniques such as exposure therapy, in which the individual gradually confronts their traumatic memories in a safe and controlled environment. Medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, can also be effective in managing symptoms of PTSD.

It is important for individuals with PTSD to seek support from friends, family, and healthcare professionals. It is also important for individuals to take care of their overall physical and mental health, as this can help improve symptoms of PTSD. This can include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in physical activity.

PTSD can be a challenging condition to live with, but with proper treatment and support, individuals with PTSD can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. It is important for individuals to remember that it is okay to ask for help, and that seeking treatment is a sign of strength. Healing is possible, help is available.


Personality Disorders of Various Kinds

Personality disorders are a type of mental health condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. These disorders are characterized by long-term, ingrained patterns of behavior that are inflexible and cause problems in a person’s relationships, work, and overall functioning. It is important to understand that personality disorders are not a choice or a weakness; they are a complex and often misunderstood condition that requires professional treatment and support.

There are ten different types of personality disorders recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). These include:

  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a lack of empathy and disregard for the rights of others. People with this disorder may engage in criminal behavior, manipulate others for personal gain, and have a lack of remorse for their actions.
  2. Avoidant Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by feelings of inadequacy and a fear of rejection or criticism. People with this disorder may have a difficult time forming close relationships and may avoid social situations due to their low self-esteem.
  3. Borderline Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by unstable relationships, mood swings, and impulsive behavior. People with this disorder may have difficulty regulating their emotions and may engage in self-harming behaviors.
  4. Dependent Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by an excessive need for reassurance and support from others. People with this disorder may have a difficult time making decisions and may rely on others to make decisions for them.
  5. Histrionic Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a need for attention and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. People with this disorder may be overly dramatic and attention-seeking in their behavior.
  6. Narcissistic Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy for others. People with this disorder may be overly confident and may have a grandiose sense of their own abilities.
  7. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a rigid adherence to rules and a preoccupation with perfectionism. People with this disorder may have a difficult time completing tasks due to their high standards and may have trouble relaxing or being spontaneous.
  8. Paranoid Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a pervasive mistrust of others and a belief that others are out to harm or deceive them. People with this disorder may have a difficult time trusting others and may be overly suspicious.
  9. Schizoid Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships and a preference for solitude. People with this disorder may have a limited range of emotional expression and may have difficulty forming close relationships.
  10. Schizotypal Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by odd thinking and behavior, including magical thinking and a difficulty with social interactions. People with this disorder may have difficulty interpreting social cues and may be seen as eccentric or strange by others.

It is important to note that these disorders do not exist in isolation; individuals may exhibit traits from multiple personality disorders. Additionally, the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person and may change over time.

The exact cause of personality disorders is not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors may contribute to their development. Genetics may play a role in an individual’s risk for developing a personality disorder, but environmental influences, such as childhood trauma or a lack of supportive relationships, may also increase the risk.

Personality disorders can have a significant impact on an individual’s daily life and can cause problems in their relationships, work, and overall functioning. These disorders can cause major challenges throughout the person’s life. Help is available. If you or a loved one are living with a personality disorder and finding it difficult to cope please reach out to a professional today.


Borderline What?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by a pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and emotions. It is a complex and often misunderstood disorder that can have severe consequences for those who suffer from it and those around them.

The term “borderline” was originally used to describe individuals who were thought to be on the “borderline” between neurosis and psychosis. While this term is no longer used in the psychiatric community, the name has stuck and is still commonly used to describe the disorder.

Symptoms of BPD typically begin in adolescence or early adulthood and can include intense and unstable relationships, difficulty with self-identity, impulsivity, intense mood swings, and a tendency to self-harm or engage in risky behaviors. These symptoms can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to function in daily life, leading to social and occupational problems.

One of the primary features of BPD is a pattern of unstable relationships. Those with BPD may have difficulty maintaining healthy and stable relationships with others, often vacillating between idealization and devaluation of others. They may become overly attached to someone, viewing them as perfect, and then quickly shift to seeing them as a threat or enemy. This instability can lead to problems in romantic relationships, friendships, and even with family members.

BPD is also characterized by a lack of a clear and stable sense of self. Those with BPD may have difficulty determining who they are and what they want, leading to confusion about their goals, values, and even their identity. This can lead to problems with self-esteem and can make it difficult for them to make decisions or set boundaries in their relationships.

Impulsivity is another common symptom of BPD. Those with the disorder may engage in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, reckless driving, or unprotected sex, without considering the consequences. They may also have a tendency to self-harm, engaging in behaviors such as cutting or burning themselves.

Intense mood swings are another hallmark of BPD. Those with the disorder may experience rapid shifts in mood, going from happiness to sadness or anger in a short period of time. These mood swings can be triggered by seemingly minor events and can be difficult for those with BPD to control.

While the exact cause of BPD is not fully understood, it is thought to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors. Research suggests that BPD may be more common in those with a family history of the disorder, as well as those who have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect during childhood.

The treatment of BPD typically involves a combination of therapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in helping those with BPD learn to manage their emotions and behaviors. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is another form of therapy that has been specifically designed to treat BPD and focuses on teaching skills such as emotion regulation and mindfulness.

Medications, such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers, may also be used to help manage symptoms of BPD. It is important to note that treatment for BPD is often a long-term process and may involve multiple rounds of therapy and adjustments to medication.

Living with BPD can be challenging for those affected by the disorder, as well as for their loved ones. It is important for those with BPD to seek help and treatment as soon as possible, as early intervention can lead to better outcomes. It is also important for those with BPD to have a support system in place, as well as to educate themselves about the disorder and learn coping skills. Help is available. Reach out today if you or a loved one is living with BPD.