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10 Tips for Greater Happiness and Well-being

Estee Goren, M.A., MFT

What does it take to live a truly happy life?

Is it about having different experiences? Being in a relationship? Accomplishing certain goals? Reaching a specific size or weight? Having enough money?

Some may believe that happiness is something that we can only experience in the future, if and when we achieve a certain goal. And yet, the truth is that happiness is about the here and now and is available for us in every moment and every breath.

If you are looking for greater happiness and well-being, the following 10 tips can spark greater joy in your days:

1. Practice the art of balance. Balance involves dedicating enough time and undivided attention to a variety of activities, including work, recreation, relationships, social interactions and self-care. It involves setting priorities and making choices. It involves balancing want to and have to.

2. Spend your time wisely. How do you want to spend the valuable asset of your time? Think about how you spend your days and if you’d like to make any changes.

In your work, try to focus on activities that you are passionate about most of the time. Make sure you spend time doing things that are meaningful to you.

In your free time, engage in activities that are fulfilling and fun. It can be something that challenges you – such as a new sport or hobby, hanging out with a good friend, spending time in nature, or exercising, which relieves stress and bolsters your mental and physical health. Practicing meditation can also help you be more present and let go of worries and mind chatter.

In your relationships, spend time with those you love. This can be your partner, family, friends or pets – those who you really enjoy being with. Good relationships support a basic need to feel validated, loved and supported. When we create lifelong companionship with a spouse or best friend, we enjoy intimacy, authenticity and a sense of self-worth, all of which lead back to happiness. Make sure you make time for the most important people in your life.

And we must all learn to rest. It’s all about being versus doing. Growing up in a culture that values doing, many of us are excellent at multitasking, accomplishing our to-do list and running around all day long. To gain a true sense of clarity and peace, we sometimes need to practice just being. While focusing on goals and productivity, we also need to learn to relax, sit in the backyard, listen to the birds, read a book or simply enjoy some quiet music. Learning to enjoy solitude can become the best part of the day – and may surprisingly allow greater productivity during the rest of the day.

3. Simplify, simplify, simplify. The key step to creating a balanced life is to be willing to do less and spend more time on the things that matter most to us. How would you spend your time this week if you only had one year left to live? Are you currently living according to your life priorities?

Simply put, simplifying will lead to greater peace and happiness.

4. Focus your attention. As much as technology makes us more connected and more “efficient.” in many ways it adds pressure and distraction by preventing us from enjoying ourselves, our downtime or our time with others. Perhaps watching less TV, spending less time on the internet or putting the phone away will give you the time you need to focus on what really matters to you.

5. Slow down. There is truly no need to rush. While many of us learn from a young age that we need to get more done in less time in order to be successful, the real key to happiness is living a fulfilling life – not necessarily a busy life. If we rush through life not paying attention to the present moment, we will likely miss the good stuff and experience stress and anxiety. But if we slow down, do less and experience more, we may gain greater pleasure from simply enjoying each moment.

The key to slowing down is focusing on what is absolutely important, scheduling fewer activities and having more time and attention to connect with ourselves and our surroundings. Slowing down is a way of life. It is about eating slower, driving slower, walking slower, and, as a result, enhancing our awareness and enjoyment of the here and now.

6. Focus on the positive. When we are having a rough time, we tend to focus on what’s going wrong, which makes us feel distressed and depressed. However, when we take a few moments of gratitude – to think of people, things or experiences we are grateful for, we suddenly feel an instant boost in energy and joy.

The feeling of contentment comes from the way we think and interpret our experiences. We all have positive and negative aspects in our life, but it is our choice to focus on the positive and make the best of any situation. Take a few moments every day to pause and reflect on what you are grateful for - it will bring a smile to your face and your heart.

7. Live in the present. Many of us are busy living in the past – focusing on memories or what could have been – or the future – what if….? When we live in the past or future, we put our lives and happiness on hold. You may believe that you will only be happy when your goals are accomplished or when you gain control over the unknowable future. Or you may dwell on the past with a sense of loss or regret.

But people who live and focus on the present are able to enjoy the small things that happen every day - little things like having a quiet cup of coffee in the morning, having lunch with the kids, taking the dog for a walk or welcoming our partner as she comes home from work. Living in the present and noticing all of the little things provides us with both pleasure and meaning and is the essence of a joyful and fulfilling life.

8. Find purpose. To truly enjoy the present moment, we also need to identify a few meaningful goals or gain clarity about our life purpose. Our life goals need to be really significant to us and have to be derived from our core values and passions. Pursuing your goals and living your life purpose creates a very satisfying journey. Enjoying the journey is one of the best ways of living in the present. Consequently, achieving goals can provide us with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Consider your own dreams. What makes your heart sing?

9. Learning something new. Kids are born with natural curiosity, which is why they keep asking “why?” They want to know more and learn more. As we grow up, many of us start to lose this innate sense of curiosity and are satisfied with what we already know. But by exploring, learning and expanding our knowledge and by passionately pursuing new interests, we can stay young at heart, bolster our brain power and increase our sense of contentment.

10. Practice acceptance. This is not easy, hence the word “practice.” It can be difficult to accept the behaviors or opinions of others and accept that what has happened has happened and there’s nothing we can do to change it. Yet, this mindset causes distress and anxiety. We become the prisoner of the situation. One of the biggest challenges in life is to learn to accept things that we cannot change or control as they are. It is helpful to recognize these situations and learn to let go. Likewise, when we accept others as they are, we open the door to better and stronger relationships.

It is up to us to decide how we want to live each day and each moment. It is about who we choose to be today, and how we think, behave and react to different people and situations. It is also our choice to commit time to the activities and people we value the most.

The way we lead our daily life directly affects our well-being. Practicing mindfulness, presence and gratitude is key to greater happiness in our life.

Eating Problem or Binge Eating Disorder?

Estee Goren, M.A., MFT

After a day of overeating, many people feel guilty and decide to eat less the next day. However, a person who has a binge eating disorder is usually anxious or depressed, and may feel comforted by the process of binge eating. But this is a temporary relief that is replaced by feelings of shame, guilt, and disgust. The two main characteristics of binge eating are eating a large amount of food in a limited amount of time, and experiencing a loss of control. This experience is accompanied by a sense of discouragement and hopelessness. In addition, individuals may be afraid of comparison, judgment, or rejection, and feel disliked and isolated.  Yet, they will continue their habits because they feel that they would not be able to manage their lives otherwise. When these behaviors interfere with one’s quality of life and well-being, it becomes a disorder.

Binge eating is prevalent in western societies and is usually triggered by negative self-image or a failure to meet unrealistic goals. These feelings usually draw people to a relentless cycle of dieting and binging. Some will try to control their weight by purging or using laxatives; however, these habits are ineffective and cause many health problems.

Many people keep their binging disorder secret and do not believe that there is a treatment to their problem. They accept their situation, and they adjust their life around it. But it is important to know that when treated properly, full recovery is possible. However, the path to full recovery can be extremely difficult and is impossible to walk alone.

The most effective psychotherapy treatment is cognitive behavior therapy which yields lasting change. The important questions to ask are: What is the purpose of your eating disorder in your life? What personal need does it serve? Eating disorder patients are under a tremendous amount of emotional and psychological pain, and they use their eating disorder to get relief from that pain.

A therapist can help the client identify these feelings and deal with life’s stressful situations in a constructive way. The therapist will provide tools to cope with the anxiety, and help the client adjust to life without eating disorders.

The Truth of ‘Happily Ever After’  

By Estee Goren, M.A.

They seemed to be getting along very well. They had a son and a daughter and always appeared to be a perfect happy family. I imagined them growing old together, their kids visiting them during the holidays; and eventually, babysitting their grandchildren. But this was not their reality, and life turned out to be different; they split up, left their house, and went separate ways. What went wrong?

When we get married, most of us believe that we will live happily ever after with our spouse. But sadly, more than 50% of couples divorce. Why? Can it be prevented? Can we do anything to preserve and strengthen our marriage.

When considering our values and priorities in life, most of us will claim that our relationships with our partners are a top priority. Unfortunately, we rarely live by this principle. We allow ourselves to become so occupied with our daily activities that we fail to invest in one of the most valuable aspects of our life – our marriage. Frequently, we take our relationships for granted and fail to realize that we have to invest time, effort, and attention in order to sustain them. If we fail to make this effort, our relationships are no longer positive and fulfilling parts of our marriages.

Moreover, we often refuse to accept our spouse for who he or she is. This is the cause of many heated arguments and bitter conflicts. Eventually, some will admit that they fall “out” of love and no longer wish to stay together. Others may stay together and try to just ‘get along’.
But marriage is not about getting along; it is about staying in love. Marion Woodman said wisely, "I see love as two mature people walking parallel paths, profoundly respecting the essence of the other, honoring the differences in each other and giving each other space to develop their own uniqueness."

The higher our emotional intelligence, the more we are able to be attentive, understand, respect, honor, and support our partners’ hopes and aspirations. We are intimately familiar with our partners’ world; no matter how busy we are, we make each other a priority and therefore make the time to listen to each other daily. This is a friendship that involves taking care and looking after one another. Our partner is the one with whom we share our secrets and our dreams, and whose thoughts and feelings are of great interest to us. We are passionate about each other, and when we think about our partner we feel immersed in positive sentiments. This is the path to a thriving relationship where we feel loved and appreciated. This is the key to living ‘happily ever after.’

Can we learn how to repair our marriages and create lasting and fulfilling relationships? Yes we can. We can identify the areas in which we need to grow, strengthen the weak parts of our relationships, and practice simple techniques to restore, develop, and maintain a deeply satisfying marriage.

Estee Goren, M.A., is a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFC 50146) working with teens, adults and couples. She is specializing in relationship, life transitions, illnesses, grief, and personal growth. Her goal is to help others gain a new perspective, overcome personal challenges, improve their overall wellbeing, and pursue personal development.

Suicide among Young Adults

Estee Goren, MA, MFT


At one time or another, many teens feel overwhelmed, distressed, and helpless in a difficult life situation. Most suicidal thoughts and feelings emerge from an unresolved problem, intense anxiety, and intolerable pain. When one is in great distress, it is hard to think about anything other than the need to end the pain.  The inability to think clearly and realistically may lead to the horrific conclusion that suicide is the only option. Teens may not be able to grasp the fact that usually time weakens the pain, that the difficulty may be temporary, and that eventually the situation will change. Moreover, some adolescents are unable to comprehend the finality of death.

Although many teens feel that they cannot talk to their parents about their difficulties, most will share their suicidal thoughts with friends. Fortunately, this allows someone to be aware of the situation and seek the professional help needed to save a life. Suicide is preventable, and suicidal behavior is temporary; research shows that most teens are a serious threat to themselves for only a short period of time.

It is important to realize that people who talk about committing suicide may eventually act on their impulses. Individuals contemplating suicide may give away their possessions, lose interest in upholding their appearance, and abandon activities they once found fulfilling. Additionally, they may show signs of depression and aggression. It is imperative that a parent or a friend who notices these signs seeks the help needed to overcome the situation and prevent a tragedy.

 It is evident that those who survive suicide attempts are grateful to be alive, and in most cases, do not attempt it again. It is vital for young adults to recognize that their life is much more valuable than any temporary challenges they may be facing. For this reason, it is crucial that adolescents and teens discuss their situation with a parent, friend, counselor, or anyone else before they make the extreme decision of ending their life. They can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk to a professional who is there to help. We all need to watch for the warning signs and take immediate action to keep our dear kids and friends safe.

Alone for the Holidays

By Estee Goren, M.A.

The winter holidays are traditionally a celebration with family and friends. They represent a period of excitement and enjoyment, and embody a time when people look forward to reuniting with their loved ones and sharing the holiday spirit in happiness and delight. But for others, the holiday season may be stressful and depressing. This time of year may bring up memories of happier days with loved ones who are no longer around. Some may feel very lonely with no place to go and no one to spend time with. Others may want to be alone, but feel obligated to participate in social gatherings they don’t really want to attend.

This loneliness may trigger depression, despair, and self-destructive behavior. One way to cope with the situation and reduce the stress is to plan how to spend the time during the holidays. Some find it meaningful to volunteer; others prefer to reach out and make plans with friends who may be in a similar situation. Many will find it helpful to include a ritual that symbolizes the memory of their loved one. Being proactive and engaging in activities that bring pleasure can make it easier to get through this holiday season.

Estee Goren, M.A., is a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFC 50146) working with teens, adults and couples. She is specializing in relationship, life transitions, illnesses, grief, and personal development. Her goal is to help others gain a new perspective, overcome personal challenges, and improve their overall well-being.

New Year’s Resolution?

By Estee Goren, M.A.

As the New Year is here, many of us are planning to change our lifestyles. We set goals to work out more, lose weight, eat healthier, find a companion, and more. But we often end up keeping our commitments only for a short while, and soon fall back into our usual routine. Why is it that we can’t keep our commitments? Is it lack of willpower? Resistance to change? Or is it our unconscious mind that controls our feelings, thoughts, and behavior?

To make a lasting change in our life, we need to be fully aware of our beliefs, emotions, and habits, and the effects they have on our lives. We need to have a clear vision of our desired lifestyle, and we need to understand our actions and reactions to certain events. We also must discover our underlying motives, and the true reasons we pursue those goals and dreams. Only then we will truly create and follow a roadmap that promotes meaningful and lasting results.

Estee Goren, M.A., is a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFC 50146) working with teens, adults and couples. She is specializing in relationship, life transitions, illnesses, grief, and personal development. Her goal is to help others gain a new perspective, overcome personal challenges, and improve their overall well-being.

The Big Rocks in Our Lives

By Estee Goren, MFT, M.A.

There is an old fable about a teacher who was trying to make a point to his class. He picked up a large empty jar and filled it up with rocks. He asked the students if the jar was full. They all agreed that it was. So the teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. The pebbles filled up the space between the big rocks. He then asked his students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The teacher then poured sand into the jar, and of course, the sand filled up all remaining space.

Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it.” “No!” the teacher said, “That’s not the point. This jar symbolizes your life, and the big rocks represent the things that are most important to you. And if you don’t put your “big rocks” in first, you will never be able to add them later.”

So what are the big rocks in your life? Your family? Your integrity? Your contribution to others? Your faith? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all. Sometimes when we get very busy with everyday life, we forget about the things that really matter to us. Or we may mistakenly assume that we will have time for them later. But many times, “later” never arrives, or it turns out to be too late. Those, who faced a crisis such as a major loss or a life threatening experience, are usually the ones who are driven by their “wake up call” to re-evaluate their priorities and focus on the things that are of great personal importance to them.

How can those of us, who didn’t get a “wake up call,” be sure that we live our lives in harmony with our values, passions and inner truth? Imagine that you are at the end of your life. Look back and identify the main things that you wish you had done or that you had done more often. Now write those wishes in the present tense, as if you have already achieved them. These affirmations are your "big rocks." Live by them daily!

Estee Goren, M.A., is a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFC 50146). She specializes in life-threatening illnesses, grief & loss, relationship issues, life transitions, and growth. Her goal is to help others gain a new perspective, improve their quality of life, overcome difficulties, and pursue personal development.

Coping with Cancer – The Emotional Effects

By Estee Goren, MFT , M.A.

A patient who is first diagnosed with cancer is usually overwhelmed and frightened. He may experience feelings of sadness, confusion, worry and anger. There are different psychological and social impacts on the patient such as work, family, and self-image. These challenges may lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Therefore, it is important to find ways to cope and address those feelings. Some patients will hesitate to talk to their oncologist because they worry that they distract her from his physical care. However, it is imperative that the patient finds ways to express his thoughts and concerns. Some ways to do so are keeping a journal, joining a support group, meditating, or talking to a friend or a family member. Yet, sometimes the patient will be reluctant to doing so because he worries that he complains too much. Consequently, at times, it is beneficial to seek the professional help of a therapist who specializes in working with cancer patients. Psychotherapy can assist the patient to better cope with the side effects and the pain that evolves from treatment. It may also help the patient and his family better deal with and express these common feelings, as well as provide them with a safe place to communicate their concerns, improve their coping skills, and get relief.

Most patients have to grieve the loss of their previous lifestyle, learn to accept their new reality, and make the most of the new situation. Many will gain new perception and re-assess their priorities in life. The process of living with cancer is a life-changing experience that carries the patient to re-examine his core values and passions and motivates him to pursue goals of great personal importance.

Estee Goren, M.A., is a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFC 50146). She specializes in life-threatening illnesses, grief & loss, relationship issues, life transitions, and growth. Her goal is to help others gain a new perspective, improve their quality of life, overcome difficulties, and pursue personal development.

The Freedom in Forgiveness

By Estee Goren, M.A., MFT

Forgiveness is the only way to free ourselves from the pain, disappointment, and anger that we develop when we get hurt. By taking the path of forgiveness, we gradually let go of our resentment, lift heavy weight from our heart, and initiate the process of healing. The course of forgiveness is a continuous and long journey. However, full recovery may never be achieved, and we will most likely remain emotionally sensitive to the pain we have experienced. Our need for revenge keeps us stuck in the past, but forgiveness frees us to live in the present and move forward into the future. Yet, it is important that we remember the lessons we have learned from our painful experience. We must not hold back our feelings and emotions from ourselves or others. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily imply reconciliation. It only means that we allow ourselves not to be haunted by the suffering of the past.

Lily Tomlin phrased it well: “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Because we must accept the past, it is difficult to forgive. Even if the person towards whom we feel resentment is no longer around, we can still find a way to forgive and free us from the hard feelings. Sometimes it is easier to talk about the distressing situation with an unrelated person in a safe environment and explore our true feelings and deepest thoughts. Only then will we be able to resolve our pain.

Therefore, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. It enables us to gain peace of mind and contentment, makes room for positive feelings, and opens the door for new possibilities.

Estee Goren, M.A., is a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFC 50146) working with teens, adults and couples. She is specializing in relationships issues, life transitions, serious illnesses, and grief. Her goal is to help others gain a new perspective, overcome personal challenges, improve their overall well-being, and pursue personal development.

Chronic Pain – The Emotional Effects

By Estee Goren, MFT, M.A.

Unlike temporary pain, chronic pain is an intense and constant companion. The longer we suffer, the higher the chance that we will feel helpless, lonely, and angry. Some patients become depressed and anxious. They may also experience insomnia, and cognitive impairment. Frequently, the patients’ thought process will change and become negative. They may become easily irritated, impatient, and frustrated. As a result, in addition to the physical pain, chronic pain will also affect the patients’ sense of self and their relationships with family, friends and coworkers. Psychotherapy can help patients to better understand the emotional impact of the pain and gain insight into their natural response. In Cognitive Behavior Therapy patients learn to identify negative thought patterns and reframe them into more realistic ones. In supportive counseling, the patients can learn how to better communicate their feelings, and practice mindfulness and relaxation skills. Consequently, patients will gain sense of safety and control, experience less emotional distress, and improve their overall well-being.

Estee Goren, M.A., is a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFC 50146). She specializes in life-threatening illnesses, grief & loss, relationship issues, life transitions, and growth. Her goal is to help others gain a new perspective, improve their quality of life, overcome difficulties, and pursue personal development.

Estee Goren, MA, MFT
MFC 50146

425 El Pintado Road, Suite 150
Danville, CA 94526

(925) 399-1177