Is Your Big House Hurting Your Mental Health?



I love houses. I love talking about them, thinking about them, working on them, decorating them…they provide endless amounts of entertainment and challenge.  Usually I indulge my loves of houses in my free time.  But recently I have found myself doing more talking and thinking about houses and space in my work hours as well.  Specifically, can our homes affect our mental health?  Yes.  There are many, many ways your home can affect your mental health.  Think of these situations:

People who are home-less

People who live in un-safe areas

People who live in un-clean, cluttered, and/or un-sanitary homes (think: Hoarders)

People who live in homes they cannot afford

Today I am going to talk about another group of people whose mental health is being affected by their homes: People whose homes are too darn big.  How can this be a problem?  Aren’t all of us pining to get into a house with more square footage, more rooms, more SPACE!?!?  Maybe, but I am beginning to see that too much space can be a problem as well.

Think of a how a “typical” suburban family might spend their evening: Dad in the basement watching basketball, teenager in his/her room playing video games, tween in the living room watching the Disney Channel, and mom in her bedroom reading stories on-line about Robert Pattinson.  Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

I’m afraid our homes have gotten so big (and so wired) that we often miss out on time that could be spent as a family.  Remember the old days when there was only one TV in the house and we had to take turns choosing what we wanted to watch?  Remember when we actually watched shows as a family (think: Cosby Show) and then talked about the funny parts all week?  While having our own spaces is neat and cool, I wonder if it is the best thing for our mental health, and for the health of our families?  Will we one day wake up and realize we barely know the other people living under our roof?  I hope not.

So before you buy a bigger home, or spread out to all corners of your existing house, think about what you are doing.  Share a TV, a couch, a bowl of popcorn.  Play Monopoly, or spend time just talking.  Enjoy your large spaces, but remember to spend time in close quarters with the ones you love, too.

This post originally appeared in April 2011

Hold the Judgment: An Easy Way To Improve Mental Health

Judging others: So easy, so entertaining, so widespread.  But sadly, also completely contradictory to good mental health.

The other day I did my own little experiment and noticed how many times in an hour I made a judgmental comment (in my head – I was on the treadmill) about either myself or others.  I lost count at 25. Yikes.  Now, I didn’t speak these judgments out loud, but they were there just the same.  Things like:

“Why did she choose that shirt, ick”


“She totally looks better than me!”


“Who chose this awful music on the loud speaker?”

Oh boy.

All those judgments flying every which way got me thinking: How does a judgmental attitude affect mental health?  Here are some thoughts:

Passing judgment (on ourselves and others) keeps us from being fully present in our lives.  Life is full of things to notice and be a part of.  If we spend the bulk of our time formulating judgments, what might we be missing? A quiet, peaceful hour on the treadmill? The joy of watching our kids play sports or act on stage? A entertaining conversation with a friend?

No one ever wins. Judging ourselves, judging others; comparing ourselves to others. All these things lead to the same end: a downward spiral to misery and disappointment.  When it comes to judgment – no one ever ends up feeling good.

Judging others can make us paranoid that others are judging us, too.  Judging others has the nasty side effect of making us feel that we, ourselves are being judged – even when we’re not.  As in: “What are the neighbors going to think when they see me driving this old, dented car?”  See? Not so good.

We all want to spend time with non-judgmental people.  Think about some of your favorite people to spend time with.  I’d be willing to bet that most of them steer clear of judging, or gossiping about others.  Sure, it’s fun for a minute, but this behind-the-back judgmental attitude has a pretty nasty aftertaste.  Supportive, interesting (and interested), funny friends are the ones that give us longer-lasting feelings of warmth and closeness.


Some Thoughts About Sex and Mental Health

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I recently participated in an event that included a talk about sex.  The speaker was a physician whose office is around the corner from mine, Dr. Gloria Oberbeck.  The audience was a group of women ranging in age from about 30 to about 75.  And boy did we have a lot of questions for the good doctor!

Sex is something that is all around us almost all the time, but paradoxically is something we almost never talk about in any kind of meaningful way.  Where are we to turn when we have questions like:

Why does sex hurt?

What can I do if I don’t have a partner, but still want to be a sexual person?

Why does my interest in sex wax and wane?

All are orgasms created equal?

These questions (and many more!) were asked during the talk and I took some notes.  Here are a few things I learned:

  • The vast majority of us like sex and chocolate.  The way they work on our brains is pretty similar.  And most of us don’t get enough of either one.
  • It’s a myth that men want sex more than women.
  • Regular sex helps us be more resilient to the stressors in our lives. As in: more sex = better able to cope with our annoying boss
  • Orgasms achieved by…um…machines might be fun, but they don’t result in the same overall health benefits as orgasms achieved through skin to skin contact.
  • Studies have shown us that most people want more sex than they are having
  • When sex isn’t possible (because of lack of partner, physical limitations, etc), skin to skin contact with another person can be the next best thing.  Holding hands, hugging, etc all have powerful effects on our bodies.

It was a fun, and very informative talk.  I’m already looking forward to Part 2!

Chores, Marriage, and Fairness

I hate doing chores.

So do my husband, kids, and just about everyone else in the world.

The bummer is that they have to be done – and they have to be done most everyday.

So how do marriages and families get chores done, and remain speaking at the same time?

I was recently interviewed for this really cool article about managing the “chore wars” every couple deals with.  I love how the family in the story talks about splitting up their domestic duties.  Check out this little gem of advice:

“Putting forth effort equals results,” Cary Schram, 42, said. “That’s pretty much my motto at work, and that’s what I think about a lot of times at home. You can have a great job. But if you come home and nobody’s happy, then you’re not happy, no matter how much money you make. We want to be happy.”

You have to work hard to be happy at home.  Love it.

Here’s part of my advice:

“Just remember to give yourself and your partner a break because it’s never going to be fifty-fifty,” she said. “Some days, it’s going to ninety-ten. If your expectation is that it’s going to be fifty-fifty, you’ll always be disappointed.”

Check out the entire article here:

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Who Are Your People?

We all want to belong. It’s an innate human desire.  And for most of us it’s a need – something essential to mental health.  And when we don’t feel like we belong – when we aren’t among “Our People” – it can feel pretty crappy.

When we are among Our People, we feel:

  • Like we can be ourselves
  • Understood
  • Relaxed
  • Like we don’t have to explain ourselves very often
  • Accepted
  • Known
  • Appreciated

Who doesn’t want to feel those things?  Luckily Our People can be found in lots of places.  And can include just one or two other people.  Here are some places where I have found My People, now and in the past:

  • Family
  • High school reunions
  • Dance classes
  • Church
  • Psychology organizations
  • On the streets where I live and work

Here are some places I have watched others find Their People:

  • Soccer teams
  • Running clubs
  • Choirs
  • Knitting circles
  • Moms groups
  • Jobs
  • Community service organizations
  • Art clubs
  • Brownie troops
  • School
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Book groups
  • Home Depot

So, who are Your People?  How do you know you’ve found them?







Snow and Mental Health

I guess not everyone dislikes winter!

I guess not everyone dislikes winter!

This has been a tough winter for much of the country.  Feet upon feet of snow and bitter cold temperatures, it’s enough to make even the hardiest of souls crave pool weather.  And if you live in a part of the country where (like Northern Colorado) spring is still at least a couple of months away, you might notice the weather taking a toll on your mood.

Many of us have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by low mood, problems sleeping, changes in attention and irritability during the winter months.  SAD is a real, serious mental health diagnosis that can be successfully treated using a variety of strategies.  These include psychotherapy, light therapy, and psychiatric medication.

But what about those of us who don’t meet the criteria for SAD but,


What are we to do?  How do we keep our moods up and irritability down?

What do you do to make these winter months bearable?


Imagine: You Want to Change Nothing About Yourself

I was in my favorite class dance class the other day when the instructor said something like this:

“Do the best you can with the body you brought in the room today.”

This statement really hit me.  It was just what I needed to hear, and got me thinking:

What if there was nothing I wanted to change about myself or my life?

What would life be like for all of us if we accepted ourselves, our homes, our bodies, our bank accounts, our jobs, our partners for what they actually are – instead of wishing they were something different.  How many times a day do you find yourself saying:

I wish my paycheck were just a little bit more…


I wish my boobs/hips/biceps were just a little bit bigger/smaller


If only I lived in that neighborhood over there…

Now imagine that these thoughts never came to mind.  What would you do differently? Are there things you would try that you don’t have the courage to now? Are there groups you would join, jobs you would take, clothes you would wear if the “what if” and “if only” thoughts weren’t continually popping up?

In a world where we are bombarded with self-improvement tips and tricks, it can feel almost impossible to enjoy the space and the bodies we occupy RIGHT NOW.  But none of us can improve all the time, and in fact a little self-acceptance might be the one improvement many of us most need.

Creating Happiness – Cookies!

Last month was the Picture of Happiness month here on Dr. Stephanie.  I celebrated various ways to find happiness with lots of guest authors who shared photos and stories of finding happiness.  One of the authors, Megan, shared a picture of a delicious dessert as the source of happiness! Here it is:

Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 5.48.29 AMI asked Megan to share her recipe for this deliciousness, here it is:

I use the recipe on the back of the Nestle bag of chocolate chips and vanilla bean ice cream.  I use a metal cake pan (any size will do, really) and grease it with a little butter, spread in some dough and bake at 500 degrees for 3-4 minutes 🙂

Happy Baking!

The Picture of Happiness – The Jersey Shore

We’re into June, but the Pictures of Happiness keep coming!

Today’s guest is Dr. Jen Harned Adams, she says:

Ocean City, NJ is my happy place! Although I moved away from the east coast almost 20 years ago, “the shore” has always had a special place in my heart and I have many happy memories of spending part of my summers there as a child. Now that I am a mom, we travel as a family back to OCNJ each summer, creating new memories every year.


Jen is a clinical psychologist specializing in women's health, who works in private practice and consults for Presbyterian/ St Luke's Hospital in Denver, CO. She loves spending time with her kiddos and husband, and one wild yellow lab. Always interested in learning something new, she's decided to learn to play tennis this summer!

Jen is a clinical psychologist specializing in women’s health, who works in private practice and consults for Presbyterian/ St Luke’s Hospital in Denver, CO. She loves spending time with her kiddos and husband, and one wild yellow lab. Always interested in learning something new, she’s decided to learn to play tennis this summer!

The Picture of Happiness – Jogging

It’s the Picture of Happiness Month!

Today’s guest is accountant Thuy Le, she says:

An early morning jog outdoors makes me happy!!…At home in beautiful Colorado, and especially in a new place while on vacation!  I get to breathe in the fresh air, look up and enjoy all the natural beauty around me, and I think to myself, how lucky I am to be here and in this moment!  This picture was taken during a jog in Kona, Hawaii. 


I'm a mom of two: Son 14, daughter, 10.  I am an accountant, working full-time from home, for an insurance premium audit company in Connecticut.  I enjoy spending time with my family, jogging, baking/cooking, shopping, and traveling.

I’m a mom of two: Son 14, daughter, 10. I am an accountant, working
full-time from home, for an insurance premium audit company in
Connecticut. I enjoy spending time with my family, jogging,
baking/cooking, shopping, and traveling.