Happiness Set Point


There is an idea in psychology that we all have something called a happiness set point. A happiness set point is a term used to describe our general level of happiness, and it is unique to each of us. We all have different set points, and it is possible that some people, who seem to be happier than others, have naturally higher happiness set points.

Where does our happiness set point come from? 

Your happiness set point partly comes from your genes. It also comes from our upbringing and personality traits that we develop when we are young and stay with us throughout our lives. Continue reading Happiness Set Point

How Our Genes Are Not Set In Stone

One of the most interesting areas of mental health research is “epigenetics”—the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than changing the genetic code itself. In plain language, that means that we can inherit a predisposition to conditions like depression and anxiety—but there are also things we can do to change how our genes make themselves felt in our daily lives.

As Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., says:

We’re just starting to understand that just because you’re born with a certain set of genes, you’re not in a biologic prison as a result of those genes.

Changes can be made in our behaviors that then change the way the genes function. Our genes are not set in stone.

Yehuda_photo.14131706Yehuda is professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She talks about epigenetics and the kinds of changes we can make to our genetic expression in this episode of a super-helpful podcast called “On Being.”

Sometimes those changes, for example, have to do with diet—like if our kids inherit a predisposition toward cancer, they don’t inherit actual tumors, but they inherit a greater possibility that if they eat a diet high in animal fat and low in healthy carbohydrates, they increase their chances of their genes turning on the “switch” for cancer. Continue reading How Our Genes Are Not Set In Stone

Breathe2Relax – Stress Management

The SOVA Project is happy to feature this blog post written by a SOVA Ambassador. SOVA Ambassadors help create meaningful blog posts for us to share.

StressDo your stress levels increase as the holidays arrive? Mine certainly do. Although I personally love all things Christmas and holidays and family, I definitely experience a spike in stress as December harbors finals week, excessive family time, the pressure of buying the perfect gift for your loved ones, and the unrealistic expectation to be happy and full of spirit all the time.

Continue reading Breathe2Relax – Stress Management

Learning to say “No” like a pro!

The SOVA Project is happy to feature this blog post written by a SOVA Ambassador. SOVA Ambassadors help create meaningful blog posts for us to share.

I’m a people-pleaser all the way through. Not only do I have my own activities that I like to participate in, but whenever I am asked for help, I always say “Yes!” and “Of course!” I never really thought about it as a problem, as I always told myself that I worked better under stress. Plus, I made people happy by helping them out with their tasks! So isn’t it a win-win for everyone?


This year I started to pile on a lot of activities. Many of the things I said “Yes” to actually turned out to be long-term commitments, and now my plate is quite full! Then this fall, I started to feel burnt out. And that’s when it finally hit me:

I can say “No.”

Continue reading Learning to say “No” like a pro!

18 things I learned by the age of 18:

The SOVA Project is happy to feature this blog post written by a SOVA Ambassador. SOVA Ambassadors help create meaningful blog posts for us to share.

birthday cake

  1. It’s perfectly okay to say “no.” There are times where you have too much on your plate already, yet you continue to take on more  because you don’t know how to say no. Remember, your personal health and sanity is more important than pleasing others.
  2. Not everybody is always going to like what you say, or what you do, or how you dress, or your thoughts or ideas. THAT’S FINE! Chances are, you aren’t going to change their opinion anymore than you can change theirs.
  3. Live in the present. The past has passed, and it is no longer an issue. The future is never constant and even the slightest most insignificant alteration could change your path on the course of life.
  4. Give back when you can. While it may be fun to flaunt your accomplishments or possessions, remember there are always people worse off than yourself.
  5. Be organized. When you are disorganized, your work and life becomes cluttered and harder to navigate. Take time every once in a while to think, plan, initiate, and accomplish things that you set forth to do.
  6. Take responsibility for your mistakes and actions. If you mess something up, own up to it and be honest. It takes a lot of weight off of your shoulders in the long run.
  7. Success has different definitions to different people. Not everybody has the same goals as you do so try not to compare your victories to theirs. Act on your own impulses and make your own decisions.
  8. You are your biggest critic. When you look at yourself in a mirror, you can pick out every single little flaw that others might gaze over without even thinking twice. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
  9. Your opinions and abilities have value. If artists and designers just gave away their work for free, it would tarnish their value and their demand. Market yourself so that you are a player that everybody wants on your team.
  10. If you don’t understand something, PLEASE don’t be afraid to ask for help. The world is not out to get you and asking for help is okay. Everybody is raised to be pretty independent, but even the strongest people fall the hardest sometimes.
  11. “When they go low, we go high.” Don’t lower yourself to somebody else’s level. Play fair and use your own work ethic and determination get ahead.
  12. Work for what you want. It’s much more satisfying to use your own money to buy the  things that you want because it means that you set a goal, and achieved that goal.
  13. Be kind. In the grand scheme of things, will it really matter if they’re sold out of your favorite drink at Starbucks? If somebody finished the last of the milk and now you have dry cereal? If the person driving in front of you doesn’t like to use their turn signal?
  14. Sometimes you’re going to be upset for no logical reason. It happens. Don’t focus on it too much because it does get better and you will get past it.
  15. Challenge the status quo. Don’t just go with the current assuming that it will make you happy. Do things that aren’t normal. Do things that scare you. Act on impulse.
  16. Do not let anybody sidetrack you on your pathway to success. If you have a goal, think of what you need to do to get there. If others don’t understand or don’t care, then you’re better off without them.
  17. Follow your dreams and reach your goals. Although it might take years and years and years, the amount of satisfaction that comes in finding your passion is well worth it.
  18. Don’t ever lower your standards or expectations because of somebody else. Know your worth, know what you want, and never settle for less. Don’t compromise when you don’t have to.

What is something you (and your child) have learned as you’ve gotten older?  Are there any life lessons that your child has had to learn?  Do you find anything on this list to be particularly valuable?  We would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

I think I can I think I can I think I…

i think ican
Photo credit: SortOfNatural via: Flickr

Positive self-talk can be an effective tool to boost your mood. Be kind and gentle to yourself!

Instead of checking our phones at red lights or in grocery lines, we can choose to use that time to give ourselves positive thoughts. Here are some mantras to use for those meditative moments:

Continue reading I think I can I think I can I think I…

App Review: Calm.com

Have you heard of Calm.com? It’s a collection of relaxation and meditation tools, some of which are free and some of which are accessed through subscription.

Just landing on the homepage lets you listen to gorgeous sounds of running water and birds—designed to help you close your eyes and take a refreshing 10-minute break in your stressful day.

They have a free smartphone app, and it’s great! One of the things we really like about the app …

Continue reading App Review: Calm.com

Digital Self Harm

Earlier this week we wrote about traditional self-injury behaviors that adolescents engage in, such as burning and cutting. These behaviors are identifiable because they usually leave visible marks on the body. However, as technology advances and more teenagers engage in online activities, a new form of self-harm behavior has emerged: digital self-harm.

Digital self-harm can take on many forms similarly to traditional self-harm.

Adolescents compulsively send themselves hurtful digital messages and disclose demeaning information about themselves online. One result?—peers respond by posting negative comments/messages about the original posters.

A new study found that 6% of the teenagers aged 12-17 in the US engaged in digital self-harm.

Why are teens participating in digital self-harm? …

Continue reading Digital Self Harm

OCD Tendencies Found in Depression

This is a personal story of recovery written by a young SOVA blogging ambassador.

Does your depression ever make you feel overly motivated instead of unmotivated? If so, then you are not alone. When many people hear the word “depression,” an image comes to mind of a person by themselves—typically staying in bed and being inactive. The reality is, depression is multifaceted. If you are currently talking to a therapist and have not discussed the different ways in which your depression manifests, I highly encourage it because you may learn things about your depression that you did not know previously.

In my experience, I have had the types of days when I was not motivated to leave my room and felt depression actually weighing me down. However, I also would have other days that my therapist told me were fueled by “OCD-like tendencies”—my therapist said this also was an effect of my depression.

This came as a surprise to me. I was not diagnosed with OCD, but my therapist explained that she thought I did enter that mindset sometimes. During these days, I would spend hours cleaning my room, throwing out things I needed, making sure nothing was on the floor of the house, and feeling like I had unlimited energy. When I was in those moments, I would feel productive, but it was only after the spells ended that I realized it was an unhealthy compulsion.

If you can relate to this experience, your depression may also manifest itself as an OCD-tendency state. My therapist explained to me this was my mind’s way of distracting myself from my thoughts and sadness. Instead of lying down and letting the depression hit me, I was fighting it off obsessively through my actions. But it didn’t work: the more I fervently cleaned and threw away, the more depressed I was becoming.

How can you manage this compulsive behavior?

Continue reading OCD Tendencies Found in Depression

Self Injury

Trigger Warning: Self Harm 

This is a personal story of recovery that was shared with a SOVA team member.Self injuryHave you ever seen a classmate or friend walking around wearing a long sleeve shirt even on a hot summer day? Is there another student at your school who always seems hesitant to join swimming or gym class? Well, I have. One of my friends in middle school frequently displayed these behaviors at school, and she did not tell me the reason until years later.

When we met each other again last year, she confided in me on what was going on with her during those adolescent years. She was self-harming, and the marks on her arms made her feel ashamed.  She was scared to telling anyone what was happening because she was too worried and afraid that people might not understand.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.  One day, she suddenly realized she could use other healthier and effective coping mechanisms to soothe her when she was feeling overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. She confided in me that she only made it because of the genuine support and care she felt from the trusting adults in her life, as well as her love for rock-n-roll music.

Continue reading Self Injury