Name something that makes you feel good: cheesecake, working out at the gym, watching the playoffs with your crew, shopping for new shoes, or completing that challenging project at work. I know, there’s nothing better than cake – other than more cake. And speaking of the gym, you know what they say: When nothing goes right, go lift. Truthfully, I don’t mind leg day at the gym. It’s just the two days after that I can’t stand.

Sure, these activities may all increase your feel-good hormone dopamine, and without that magic chemical, we all become more sensitive to negative emotions. But is your indulgence a mere habit or has it morphed into an addiction?

We may all have cravings for something that we think will take away our pain. One thing we know for certain is that stress makes us much more prone to addiction of all sorts. Sometimes we try to numb ourselves from negative emotions, so we self-medicate with distractions without even realizing it. Of course, the fixation can ultimately make us feel emptier, more anxious, and even cranky.

How often do you feel angry, anxious, or stressed? Are you even aware? What do you do for comfort, or do you simply try to escape those feelings? You suppose that having that glass of wine, eating that chocolate cake, or buying a new outfit is the only way you can make it through the day. You may have made a subtle shift from doing what was voluntary to now doing it out of compulsion.

Do you “want” to do this, or do you now think you “need” to do this? We must learn to cope with uncomfortable feelings in our daily lives, sweet friends. What type of pressure do you feel? The need to do well academically, to succeed, or to look a certain way? What we must do is uncover the reasons for our obsessions and compulsions.

Working out or that yoga class may begin to feel like the most important part of your life. While it’s perfectly fine to use exercise as a coping strategy to manage your stress, do you become inordinately irritable, feeling deprived and distressed if you cannot? Do you feel the need to constantly up your game at the gym, and to do more and more reps to feel that same sense of satisfaction?

Of course, exercise is the ultimate stressbuster. However, if you get habituated to working out so much, but need to miss one day, it may actually upset your emotional stability. Have you become an adrenaline junkie? I said to the gym instructor, “Can you teach me to do the splits?”

She asked, “How flexible are you?” I said, “Well, I can’t make Tuesdays.”

But truly, many of us feel the need to conform to social norms. You may be sensation-seeking and find comfort in indulging your sweet tooth. You may very well be addicted to your five cups of coffee, to your social media, or even your favorite video game. Is your preoccupation harming or hurting you in some way? Be honest, please.

Perhaps some of your proclivities actually bring you closer to your dreams or goals. If you feel this habit helps you lead a potent and productive life, maybe you have kept it all in moderation. Observe if these behaviors help you start your day on a more optimistic note.

Instead of jumping on your tablet in the evening, consider reading instead. Unlike most of what you search online, reading can uplift your mood and induce calmness. To buy or not to buy? Does online shopping give you a reason to live for another 3-5 business days? I know. You’re not a shopaholic; you’re just helping the economy. Don’t you wish that one day you’ll be rich enough to sort by price: high to low?

Trying to feel a bit better about yourself so you go in for some retail therapy at the mall? Sure, getting that new bag or car may feel energizing or even soothing, but did it truly fill the internal void?

Compulsively refreshing your feed to check for new “likes”? Are you parked in front of a screen for hours on end? Researchers have estimated that many of us will have watched an accumulated ten years of television before we turn 70. Sure, you do marathons: on Netflix. TV: the ultimate weapon of mass distraction. You know what they say: Remote controls are quite handy; they let you see that there’s nothing worth watching on TV a lot faster.

We all know that when one door closes, another one opens, but man, these hallways are confusing. View yourself as a student in life, not simply a person. That way, you can keep a growth mindset in all you experience. You are constantly developing parts of yourself, so update yourself now and again. Stay on your journey of never-ending self-betterment.

Know when to stop. Too much of everything can be just as bad as too little. A little bit of everything, and small helpings, sweet friends. You know what they say: moderation in all things, including moderation.

Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at