Self-Determination and Mental Health

Research has shown that self-determination is a powerful tool to decrease the risk of depression. A recent book by Linea and Cinda Johnson, Perfect Chaos, illustrates how important  self-determination is to navigate the mental health system and manage mental health conditions after diagnosis. Perfect Chaos tells the story of Linea’s struggle with bi-polar disorder and what she, her mother and family went through to triumph over the disease. 

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What can Autumn teach us about self-determination?

All of us have our own reactions to experiences of the season. What do I enjoy about Autumn? I love to hear the leaves crunch under my feet, I like to rake the leaves (yes I actually enjoy raking… provides such a feeling of accomplishment, but in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t hire out), I love the clear blue skies and, of course, looking at the leaves as they turn. I enjoy cider and hot doughnuts at our favorite cider mill. I don’t like the rain (even though I’m from Seattle) or when it gets too windy and cold. I don’t like the anticipation of the cold Midwestern Winter that is about to come when I find it becomes more difficult to get from here to there. So what does all of this have to do with self-determination? This type of reflection is one way we can learn about what we like, what we need and what our strengths and weaknesses are. My lesson is that I’m happier when I’m mindful (when I notice the leaves crunch, or I look up to see the blue sky or the changing leaves); I need to feel a sense of accomplishment (the big piles of leaves I rake up are exquisite!); creature comforts are important to me (hot cider and warmth); and sometimes I worry a little too much (snowy roads are hopefully a long ways off).

A simple reflection like this is easy to do and can do so much for us. If you’re working with others to promote their self-determination, or if you just want to try this out for yourself, you might try posing a few questions about the season. You can also support development of writing or speaking skills depending on how you ask people you’re working with to respond.

What are your favorite things to do in the Fall?

What do you like most about Fall?

What do you least like about the Fall season?

and then……

What do all of these things say about you, your likes and dislikes, your needs, your strengths and preferences?



Become emotionally intelligent and become more self-determined!

Understanding our moods and emotions helps us develop greater self-awareness. Regulating our emotions helps us make our emotions work for us, rather than against us, as we take action to reach our goals. These are both important keys to becoming more self-determined. Drs. Marc Brackett and Robin Stern at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence have developed an app for iphone that can help us become aware of, understand, and regulate our emotions. The app is evidence-based, visually appealing, user-friendly and, I can say from personal experience,  it’s fun! To learn more about the app, go to