Those who were stigmatized were assigned the most undesirable category in the community.2 Though modern use of the word stigma no longer involves physical markings, a person with mental illness carries an indelible mark of shame nonetheless. This happens because society views mental illness as menacing, deviant, and unpredictable, and as such, categorizes people with mental illness as undesirable. The fallout from these stigmatizing beliefs causes children and adults with psychological disorders to be "tagged and labeled, set apart, connected to undesirable characteristics and broadly discriminated against as a result."3 Studies show that an individual with mental illness is more likely to be unemployed, have less income, experience a diminished sense of self, and have fewer support systems. Stigma is a very complex phenomenon that can feature strongly in the life of a person with mental illness. In order to fully understand its breadth and depth, we need to start with the subject of diagnosis. Putting a name to a set of experiences can be an empowering moment. For instance, a family I'd been working with reported a sense of relief when the diagnosis of "auditory processing disorder" resulted from an evaluation of their child. Discovering that there was a neurological basis for their son's academic difficulties put everything into perspective. "I knew it was something," says another patient who learned that her daughter has Asperger's disorder. Receiving the diagnosis validated her instincts as a mother, which had been previously minimized by various professionals and teachers before she sought evaluation. The first time I saw a written diagnosis of my major depressive disorder on paper, it confirmed what I had thought and, consequently, comforted me. Being informed of a diagnosis can swing to the other extreme, one of shock and trauma. When my sister heard the word "sarcoma" from the oncologist, she fell to the ground in the doctor's office, nearly passing out. A referred patient told me that it took her years to acknowledge that she had bipolar disorder, and even longer to seek treatment because she refused to accept the diagnosis. Another example of diagnostic trauma, due to how a professional delivers the news, happens all too often. The attitude and manner in which a specialist informs a patient of a diagnosis can cause significant distress, especially if the tone of speech, words spoken, and emotional support are devoid of sensitivity.5 Read a romance or watch a movie about gorgeous people falling in love. Idealizing relationships is likely to strengthen your own. As we said, idealization is healthy. A longitudinal study of 200 couples recruited when they obtained marriage licenses found that those who maintain heightened views about their partners' positive qualities tended to remain happier longer. The couples who participated in the study were surveyed twice a year for three years to assess their relationship qualities and marriage satisfaction; they were also asked questions about their own positive traits.

Researchers determined who idealized their partner by comparing partner responses about themselves and each other. They found that couples in which one person indicated that their partner possessed positive, idealistic qualities and the other person did not indicate seeing those qualities within themselves--what the researchers called "illusions"--maintained higher levels of marital satisfaction longer. Don't be afraid to put your partner on a pedestal and idealize the things you most admire about him or her. "How'd you guys meet?" might not seem like a complicated question, but it holds a great deal of insight into the strength of a couple's relationship. That was among the findings in a classic study of fifty-two couples in which each pair discussed the history of their relationship including their first impressions of one another. The researchers rated each for positive and negative elements and were able to predict--with 94 percent accuracy--whether the couple would stay together or divorce. In telling their story, the couples who were more reserved or negative were more likely to break up within three years, while the couples who were more passionate and expansive were more likely to stay together. (They were also more likely to display marital satisfaction and better problem solving.) This extended beyond just the "how we met" story, and also covered questions such as "What types of things did you do together [when you were first dating]?" and "Tell me about your wedding." Couples with strong, positive, energizing memories of these early years are able to draw on these memories when the relationship hits a rough patch. Discuss early memories with your partner and the way that you met. Establish a passionate baseline for your relationship and shared story. Many married people describe their spouse as their best friend. That's wonderful--as long as they're not your only friend. A number of studies back up the fact that a relationship is healthier when the partners maintain friendships and hobbies outside of it. One study of 123 couples by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Social Work found that healthy couple friendships can add to a marriage in a number of ways: Couple friends increase partners' attraction to each other, give individuals the opportunity to see how other couples interact, and provide a greater understanding of men and women more broadly. Keeping a relationship fresh goes a long way toward keeping it happy. A researcher at the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that participating in novel activities enhanced the quality of a relationship. One experiment instructed a group of middle-aged couples to spend ninety minutes per week doing "exciting" activities--such as hiking, dancing, or attending a show--unlike what they typically did. After ten weeks, these participants were compared to a group of couples who had been instructed to just do pleasant and familiar activities, like going to a movie or out to dinner. The "exciting" couples exhibited a much higher level of marital satisfaction. These effects may be rooted in chemistry--specifically the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which pop into a person's brain as they enjoy these new "self-expanding activities." We should be making the effort to become better 24/7/365 - not only when everyone is making "New Year's Resolutions".

New Year's Resolutions are jokes - jokes that aren't funny - and 92% of them fail because we aren't serious about it. It's pitiful that we're doing it just to follow traditions, be trendy, and feel like we're actually making progress. Those who are winning, living the life we all want, and have their act together are shaking their heads at every single person who talks about and posts about "New Year's Resolutions". Those who only "try" once a year are the ones spending their entire lives "hoping" and "wishing" to get their act together - but never will. New Year's Resolutions are for lazy people who aren't willing to get up every single day and do what's necessary to change their life. You should be making a New Day's Resolution every night you go to sleep and every morning you wake up and throughout the day, you should be making New Hour's resolutions to keep yourself on track, keep your habits in order, and keep moving forward in the right direction. You don't have to wait to improve. You don't have to wait until a certain date to improve. You can start anytime you want. You can start right now. Most of us say, "I know I have to stop doing this or start doing that, but I'm going to be lazy and start or stop doing it on this particular date. That way it isn't hard, I'm not feeling stressed, and it's not a burden. I don't want there to be any actual work involved." This attitude is the reason we're broke, in debt, and full of problems. Unexpected and unavoidable things do happen and come up from time to time, but of all the problems we have right now, 95% are avoidable. 95% of the problems we have, we create on our own because we fail to control ourselves and think before we make decisions. Those who have their act together have the habit of stopping and asking themselves, "If I make this decision, is it going to be a problem? Is it going to come back and bite me in the ass? Is it going to put me in a bad position?" They go into every situation with a contingency plan. They look at all the possible outcomes and what could go wrong and base their decisions on what would produce the best result. The rest of us are failing to have contingency plans.

We're failing to look ahead and figure out the possible negative consequences of our actions and decisions. We're not making an effort to avoid things going downhill. We're all putting ourselves through the pointless cycle of creating problems, getting upset about those problems, and then getting, even more, upset about having to fix them when it was all completely avoidable in the first place! Being broke is avoidable if we're disciplined and smart enough to put ourselves on a budget. Being unhealthy is avoidable if we're disciplined enough to not smoke or do drugs and to prioritize the healthiest foods over the tastiest. Being in dysfunctional relationships is avoidable if you take the red flags seriously and are smart enough to distance yourself from certain people and situations. Drinking can be a problem for many people. You never really know what emotions it will drum up. Sometimes you might turn into the life of the party while other times you might get sleepy or depressed. In either case, you're going to put yourself out there the moment you put a drink to your lips and that makes it far harder to control the impression people gain of you. So, if you decide not to drink in a social situation where alcohol is a part of the interaction, you should be ready for things to become occasionally awkward. People who do drink are a lot less funny when you're sober, but that's not necessarily a big deal if you make the conscious decision not to let it bother you too much. There are some situations where I deem it necessary to remain sober. These are times when alcohol will clearly put you at a disadvantage in the interaction with other people. Trust me - these are times when you simply need to back up and get a soda instead. The chances for making mistakes or creating an unlikable impression are too high. Work Functions - Your boss, the people you work next to every day and possibly members of other departments you've never met before all converging in one place. Not only are they the most likely to judge you negatively, they will see you the next day and five days a week every week after that, so stupid things while drinking will make your life a lot harder. With In Laws or Family - Family is extremely judgmental and for most people their opinion is most important. You not only want to avoid doing anything silly or letting anything slip that you're not supposed to talk about, but you want to be sure that you don't upset anyone with excessive behaviours.

It's a lot less funny when your mother-in-law sees you swinging on a chandelier. Holidays - This is up for interpretation, but drinking on the holidays can make a lot of things more complicated. Usually there is a lot of travel and logistical decisions involved in visiting people, buying gifts and making dinner. If you're drunk, all of those things are much harder to control. On Planes or Trains - Imagine being stuck for five or six hours next to a stranger who is drunk and not very courteous in regards to your personal space. Now imagine you're the drunk person. Drinking on a plane or train may take the edge off, but it can also ruin a perfectly good opportunity to meet a stranger if you get carried away with the mini-bottles. On a Date - Drinking on a date is almost always a big no-no. Not only does it make a negative impression on your date, it can lead to you saying things you'd rather not. To top it off, having sex on an early date doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, but if it happens when you're drinking, it can ruin a perfectly good early relationship. In Public - Obviously, drinking in public can have bad side effects. The last thing you want to do is to make a fool of yourself when there are random strangers around you. If you're going to drink, make sure you're inside or at least in a controlled environment. This is just a partial list too. Really, you should just use your best judgment. The test I use is whether or not I can comfortably exit a situation without it causing any problems. An airplane, a work party, and a date are all situations you can't just get up and walk away from. So, you should stay sober to make sure you don't overdo things. Leaving a Lasting Impression on Those You Meet It's all fine and good to be likeable and for someone to actively enjoy spending time talking to you, but what happens the next day or two or three days after that. If you run into that same person on the street in a week, will they remember you?