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Psychology Research Explains Panic Over Coronavirus and How You Can Calm Down

By now, we’ve all seen the pictures and read the headlines. Coronavirus is real and its impact is growing.

How concerned should we be about the chance of infection? That’s difficult to say, but one thing is for sure: panic is not the answer.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we tend to do in situations like these. Flawed judgment takes over. We overreact. We suspect that we might already be infected. We prepare for the worst. Irrational impulses drown out level-headed thinking.

In fact, there is a lot of psychological research to explain how and why this happens. Below are three cognitive biases that make us perceive the threat of Coronavirus as worse than it actually is.

#1: Things that are easily imagined are judged as more likely to happen.

Have you ever worried about being attacked by a shark? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. Almost everyone who swims in the ocean has, at some point, imagined the threat of a shark attack. Why? Not because the odds are high, but because we’ve seen the movie Jaws, we watch Shark Week every summer, and we hear about the occasional shark attack on the news. The idea of a shark attack is easy to imagine and we therefore think it could happen to us.

The same is true of Coronavirus. With hundreds of stories being published on Coronavirus every day, we are naturally led to believe that the epidemic is bigger, closer, and more dangerous than it actually is.

How can we combat this type of flawed reasoning? One way is to take a more passive interest in the news rather than being glued to the TV or reading every new Coronavirus headline that is published. This will make Coronavirus less top-of-mind, and therefore less threatening. Another is to engage in the following exercise. Ask yourself if you know anyone, personally, who has contracted the illness. If the answer is no (which it likely is), ask yourself if you know anyone who knows anyone who has been infected. If the answer to both of these questions is no, then rest assured that the threat of Coronavirus is less imminent than top-of-mind thinking might lead you to believe.

#2: Intuition is mostly a blessing. In cases like these, it can be a curse.

Our ability to make snap judgments is one of the wonders of the human mind. It allows us to navigate our complicated social environments with relative ease — akin to an airplane flying on autopilot. However, when it comes to math, probabilities, and rational decision making, our intuition can lead us astray. Consider the following brain teaser, popularized by the Nobel Laureate psychologist, Daniel Kahneman:

  • A baseball bat and a ball cost $1.10 together. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

Your answer? If you relied on intuition, you probably guessed 10 cents. Most people do. It takes a bit of deep thinking, however, to arrive at the correct answer, which is 5 cents.

Taking some time to do the math behind the Coronavirus might help to quell any hysteria you might be experiencing. And, it may be best to start with a simple calculation. There are about 7.5 billion people in the world. According to the New York Times, approximately 100,000 people have been infected as of yesterday. That means the current odds of anyone in the world contracting the virus is approximately 1 in 75,000. Combine that with the fact that few people who contract the virus actually become seriously ill and you can see how irrational the hysteria really is.

3#: Existential threats often receive more attention than they deserve.

Millions of years of evolution has endowed us with a cognitive architecture that is especially attuned to environmental threats. It’s how we were able to survive, and multiply, in dangerous environments such as the African Serengeti. While this phenomenon, known as the “negativity bias,” works wonders to keep us safe in threatening or unknown environments, it can also produce unnecessary worry. Be cognizant of the fact that your mind has this built-in survival mechanism. Be thankful for it, but give your rational mind the green light to turn it off when it is safe to do so.

Conclusion: Take a deep breath. Coronavirus is almost certainly not coming for you. And, even if it were, panic is not the answer. Wash your hands, continue enjoying your life, and leave the rest to chance. In this case, it’s on your side.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Mark Travers is a contributor for Forbes and Psychology Today, where he writes about psychology, human potential, and the science of success. Mark holds a B.A. in psychology, magna cum laude, from Cornell University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder. His academic research has been published in leading psychology journals and has been featured in the New York Times and The New Yorker, among other popular publications. Mark has worked in a variety of industries, including journalism, digital entrepreneurship, international education, and marketing research. Stay current with all of Mark’s articles, interviews, and insights by subscribing to his newsletter, the Weekly Top Three, here: tinyletter.com/markwtravers.

Source: Psychology Research Explains Panic Over Coronavirus – And How You Can Calm Down

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Understanding Depression

28201632 – woman suffering from stress or a headache grimacing in pain as she holds the back of her neck with her other hand to her temple, with copyspace

Margaret collapsed onto a couch after sending her kids to school. She could hardly make sense of her jumbled thoughts. “I’m exhausted.” “My husband is too busy to notice.” “The kids don’t help.” “I never get time for myself.” “I’m so lonely…but there’s no one to talk to.” After several minutes she looked at the clock and willed herself off the couch to head to her retail job, reminding herself that she had a pretty good life. “Then why am I so unhappy? Why does everything feel like such a chore?”

Here’s a sobering statistic. Major depression, the form that is severe and most debilitating, affects some 300 million people around the world and 21.4 million Americans (6.7% of the population) each year.  And studies show that between 15% to 25% of the population will experience major depression at some time during their lives. And I’m not even talking about more mild forms of depression that go undetected because so many sufferers continue to function and lead somewhat normal lives.

Depression can occur to anyone, at any age, gender, race or ethnic and socio-economic background. It affects more people and causes more suffering than any other illness—physical or mental—known to humankind. Not only does depression squeeze the joy of life out of us, but it decreases our ability to function and leads to a variety of other emotional and physical problems.

Depression and Shame

But here is the worst part. People who are depressed too often conclude that there is something wrong with them. They feel shame, like they are broken and unworthy which not only aggravates the depression but makes it hard to talk about or seek help.

However, the truth is that depression is not a sign of personal weakness but an illness (like kidney failure, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease) in which the brain lacks chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine that regulate happiness, motivation and self-esteem. Although the causes vary, there is something real going on in the mind and brain that needs to be treated.

And here is the good news. Depression is very treatable. Most people who take steps to overcome their depression will experience a full remission—whether on their own or with the help of a professional.

In this article, I want to help you understand depression, it’s symptoms and causes. In my next article, I’m going to teach you the actions you can take to both prevent and overcome this malady that wears you down and strangles your enjoyment of life.

 Symptoms of Depression

Depression revolves around a constellation of symptoms that have to do with how we think, feel and act. Brain physiology is altered and hormones surge, disrupting normal rhythms of mind and body and leading to disturbances in sleep, concentration, appetite, energy, self-esteem, emotional regulation and interest in life.

Although the symptoms will vary in severity, below is a checklist of the most common. Be aware that reading a list of symptoms does not really capture the totality of the anguish that a severely depressed person may feel.

  • Fatigue, low energy and motivation
  • Numb or dulled feelings and loss of pleasure or interest in anything
  • Sadness, feeling down in the dumps for long periods of time
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Low self-esteem and confidence; sense of failure and worthlessness
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Hopeless about future
  • Self-injuring, suicidal thoughts and sometimes actions

Male Pattern Depression

For years mental health professionals believed that women were more likely to be depressed than men. Perhaps this is because women are more likely to talk about their feelings and seek treatment. However, research from studies of thousands of men and reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that men are just as likely to experience depression although their symptoms often demonstrate:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Reactivity and blame
  • Aggression
  • Risk-taking
  • Substance abuse
  • Workaholism

So, don’t be fooled. Such aggressive forms of behavior often mask deeper feelings of hopelessness, isolation and loss of interest in life and may mean that men experience depression as much as women.

What Causes Depression?

 It is natural for people to be curious about the causes of their depression. Some causes relate clearly to one’s situation and life events—loss or chronic stress. At other times depression seems to come out of the blue for unexplainable reasons. For most people, depression is caused by multiple factors, like those listed below:

  • Genetics. Science tells us that as much as 40% of depression is linked to genetics. If a parent or close family member has been depressed, it increases the likelihood that you’ll be depressed.
  • Hormones. The likelihood of a woman becoming depressed increases during the reproductive years and is associated with menstruation, child-birth or perimenopause. This risk declines following menopause.
  • Chronic stress. Depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Living with the ongoing stresses of modern life can wear us down and eventually lower serotonin and increase cortisol in the brain leading to depression.
  • Loss. Any type of loss may result in depression. Most obvious is loss of a loved one, but loss may also include job, health or status. More insidious is loss of one’s hopes and dreams—be it career, marriage, living situation, how kids turn out, etc. We either come to terms with such losses or slip, albeit imperceptibly, into the shadows of depression.
  • Social isolation. Feeling lonely is highly correlated with depression. When human connection is missing, even if around other people, we are far more likely to feel depressed. Unfortunately, our feelings of loneliness are increasing in our modern society with people withdrawing from active involvement in community organizations and turning inward. More Americans say they have no close friends in spite of our participation in social media.
  • Lack of meaningful work.  According to a massive study by the Gallop Organization in 2012, only 13% of people feel like they do meaningful work. Most people report that their work is monotonous, repetitive and unfulfilling which often leads to a sense of boredom and even depression.
  • Personality predisposition. Perfectionists are more likely to be depressed. Likewise, those who are accommodating, conscientious, worry-prone, and hard-working. These people set high standards for themselves and, if not careful, feel like they can never do/be enough, tell-tale signs of depression.
  • Unresolved traumas from the past. Upsetting childhood or earlier life events make us more susceptible to depression, especially when deep and unresolved emotions are involved. Painful feelings are often suppressed until into adulthood when they begin to resurface. Our attempts to avoid or resist them often lead to depression.
  • Poor health care. Poor nutrition and self-care can contribute to depression. Some studies have found that diets high in sugar or low in omega 3 fatty acids are associated with depression. Likewise, lack of exercise and abuse of substances contribute.
  • Superficial Values and Social Comparing. We live in a competitive society in which it is easy to judge ourselves based on how others are doing—whether it be material success, beauty, status, athletic fetes, popularity or what not. Social media certainly contributes to this phenomenon. Comparing means we look outside ourselves for validation and feelings of success which often results in self-criticism and not feeling good enough.

 Three Dynamics that Keep us Trapped in Depression

 Irrespective of the specific causes, there are three dynamics that not only contribute to depression but make it difficult to escape. Understanding these three factors will help you know what it is like to be depressed and also frame the most important work to loosen its grip.

First, is negative and distorted thinking. Depression is not so much a disorder of mood but of perception. People who are depressed view the world through a negative filter that influences everything they see, feel and do. This filter originates in the limbic system of the brain, which evolved to protect us from the threats and dangers of life but also robs us of hope, optimism and confidence. Negative thinking colors everything and makes it difficult to enjoy life. Challenging this distorted thinking is perhaps the most important and effective treatment of depression.

Second, the emotions of depression are addictive. Our bodies literally memorize such hormonal or feeling states as sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, and self-distain. Although we hate these feelings, they become so powerful that it is difficult for the conscious mind to override them. They become default emotional states which crowd out more pleasant emotions. Overcoming depression has much to do with putting ourselves in new feeling states, incompatible with the feelings of depression.

Third, people who are depressed are trapped in a catch 22. They need to take action to overcome their state and yet they lack motivation. They feel fatigued, low energy and a loss of interest in life and so have a difficult time mustering up the motivation to do what they need to do to feel better. And yet, doing something different is exactly what the doctor ordered. They must act in new ways to feel better.

So, notice the pattern that I’m describing. Distorted thinking, negative, memorized feelings and inaction not only characterize depression but make it difficult to overcome. So many people like Margaret (opening paragraph) feel burdened by life and yet quite powerless to free themselves from the clutches of depression.

But there is so much hope. In my next article, I’ll teach you some powerful strategies to both avoid and overcome depression. The strategies get at the heart of these three patterns and are essential to feeling and doing better.

By: Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

Source: Understanding Depression

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Everyone feels worried or anxious at some time and it’s not always easy to tell if you are experiencing anxiety or depression. Dr. Michael Marcus, psychiatrist for Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Ore., explains the symptoms and how to identify the differences between anxiety and depression.

Acting Like an Extrovert Has Benefits But Not for Introverts

A group of amateur figure skaters enjoying a day at a frozen lake together.

For decades, personality psychologists have noticed a striking, consistent pattern: extroverts are happier more of the time than introverts. For anyone interested in promoting wellbeing, this has raised the question of whether it might be beneficial to encourage people to act more extroverted. Evidence to date has suggested it might.

For example, regardless of their usual disposition, people tend to report feeling happier and more authentic whenever they are behaving more like an extrovert (that is, more sociable, active and assertive). That’s a mere correlation that could be interpreted in different ways. But lab studies have similarly found that prompting people, including introverts, to act more like an extrovert makes them feel happier and truer to themselves.

Before we all start doing our best extrovert impressions in pursuit of greater happiness, though, a team of researchers led by the psychologist Rowan Jacques-Hamilton at the University of Melbourne urge caution, writing in a paper at PsyArXiv: ‘Until we have a well-rounded understanding of both the positive and negative consequences of extroverted behaviour, advocating any real-world applications of acting extroverted could be premature and potentially hazardous.’

To get to the bottom of things, the team conducted the first ever randomised controlled trial of an ‘act more extroverted’ intervention but, unlike previous research, they looked beyond the lab at the positive and negative effects on people’s feelings in daily life.

Dozens of participants were allocated at random to either the ‘act like an extrovert’ condition or to an ‘act unassuming, sensitive, calm and modest’ control condition; the idea was that this control condition would encourage the adoption of behaviours representative of several of the other main personality traits, such as agreeableness and emotional stability.

There was also a second control group that completed some of the same measures but did not follow any instructions to change their behaviour from what it naturally was.

The true aims of the study were concealed from the participants and they didn’t know about the conditions they weren’t in. For the extrovert and first control groups, their challenge was to follow the behavioural instructions they’d been given for seven days straight whenever interacting with others in their daily lives (though not if doing so would be inappropriate for the situation they were in).

The participants completed baseline and follow-up surveys about their feelings and behaviour. Through the seven-day period of the study they also answered in-the-moment psychological surveys six times a day whenever prompted by their smartphones. Their phones also gave them periodic reminders to alter their behaviour according to the experimental group they were in.

For the average participant, being in the ‘act like an extrovert’ condition was associated with more positive emotions (excited, lively and enthusiastic) than those reported in the calmer control group – both in the moment, and in retrospect, when looking back on the week. Compared with the second control condition, in which participants behaved naturally, benefit from extroverted behaviour was seen only retrospectively. On average, participants in the ‘act extroverted’ condition also felt greater momentary and retrospective authenticity. These benefits came without any adverse effects in terms of levels of tiredness or experience of negative emotion.

‘Thus,’ write the researchers, ‘the main effects of the intervention were wholly positive, and no costs of extroverted behaviour were detected for the average participant.’ The advantages were to a large extent mediated by participants acting more extroverted more often – though, interestingly, not by being in more social situations: ie, by changing the quality of their social interactions, not the quantity of them.

***

But the story does not end there, because the researchers also looked specifically at the introverts in their sample to see whether the apparently cost-free positive benefits of the ‘act extroverted’ intervention also manifested for them. Although previous research has suggested that both introverts and extroverts alike benefit just the same from acting more extroverted, this was not the case here.

First and unsurprisingly, introverts did not succeed in increasing their extroverted behaviour as much as other participants. And while the introverts in the ‘act like an extrovert’ condition did enjoy momentary gains in positive emotion, they did not report this benefit in retrospect at the end of the study. Unlike extroverts, they also did not show momentary gains in authenticity, and in retrospect they reported lower authenticity. The ‘act extroverted’ intervention also appeared to increase introverts’ retrospective fatigue levels and experience of negative emotions.

Jacques-Hamilton and his team said that these were perhaps their most important findings – ‘dispositional introverts may reap fewer wellbeing benefits, and perhaps even incur some wellbeing costs, from acting more extroverted’. They also made an important point that strong introverts might not desire to experience positive emotions as frequently as extroverts.

However, the idea that introverts could gain from learning to be more extroverted, more often, is not dead. Not only because this is just one study and more research is needed, but also because those acting more extroverted did, after all, still report more positive emotions in the moment than the control group asked to maintain calm. This group’s failure to report more pleasure in retrospect could, after all, reflect a memory bias – perhaps mirroring earlier research, which showed that introverts do not expect that acting extroverted would make them feel good.

Also consider this: the one-size-fits-all extroversion intervention provided little guidance on how exactly to achieve the aim of acting more extroverted. It’s possible that a less intense version, together with support and guidance to make any behavioural changes become habitual (and therefore less effortful), could help even strong introverts enjoy the benefits of acting more extroverted. ‘By allowing more freedom to return to an introverted “restorative niche”, a less intensive intervention might also result in fewer costs to negative affect, authenticity and tiredness,’ the researchers added.

By: Christian Jarrett

Christian Jarrett is a senior editor at Aeon, working on the forthcoming Psyche website that will take a multidisciplinary approach to the age-old question of how to live. A cognitive neuroscientist by training, his writing has appeared in BBC Future, WIRED and New York Magazine, among others. His books include The Rough Guide to Psychology (2011) and Great Myths of the Brain (2014). His next, on personality change, will be published in 2021.

Originally published in association with The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, an Aeon Partner.

Source: Acting Like an Extrovert Has Benefits, but Not for Introverts – Aeon – Pocket

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How do introverts compare to extroverts? How are the two different? SUBSCRIBE TO US -► http://bit.ly/TheInfographicsShow ————————————————————————– WEBSITE (SUGGEST A TOPIC): http://theinfographicsshow.com SUPPORT US: Patreon…….► https://www.patreon.com/theinfographi… CHAT WITH ME: DISCORD…..►https://discord.gg/theinfographicsshow SOCIAL: Twitter……..► https://twitter.com/TheInfoShow Subreddit…► http://reddit.com/r/TheInfographicsShow ————————————————————————– Sources for this episode: https://pastebin.com/VaTTyfXh

An 81-year Harvard Study Says Staying Happy and Mentally Sharp Boils Down to 1 Thing

The pursuit of happiness. So many voices in the chorus telling us how to master it. There are psychology-based tricks to happiness, watch-outs for what kills happiness, even equations for happiness.

Despite all the sources of inspiration on the topic, it’s hard not to take notice of an authoritative, 81-year-long study conducted by the big brains at Harvard University. Known as the Harvard Study of Adult Development, it is one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history.

Started in 1938, the Harvard study has been seeking to answer one question: What keeps us happiest as we go through life? The research started by tracking the lives of 724 men. Any original study participants left are now in their 90s, so now the study is examining the lives of 2,000 children of these men. This just might go on longer than The Simpsons.

As psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, the study’s fourth director, said in a recent TED Talk, the core conclusion of the study is breathtakingly simple: “The clearest message is this: good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Life is relationships.

The study also elaborates on the happy and healthy part. First, an unexpected health benefit of maintaining relationships throughout one’s life; it protects the brain and preserves memory longer. Knowing you have people you can count on when things get tough keeps the brain healthy and less anxiety-ridden, thus sharper.

And having social connections means you live a longer, happier life — but loneliness kills. People who are more isolated experience health declines sooner (including declines in brain functioning), are far less happy, and die sooner.

Waldinger points out that you can be lonely in a crowd or a marriage, so it’s also about the quality of relationships, not just the quantity.

But if maintaining relationships was easy, everyone would do it.

Here are some common things that get in the way of forging and fueling relationships, and how to overcome them.

The work of it never ends.

Relationships can be exhausting, but they have to be a priority. Period. Doubling down on the investment you make in those that matter to you will matter in the end. And as for those friends who do fade for whatever reason, it’s critical to keep plugging in new ones. Waldinger says, “Those happiest in retirement were people who’d actively worked to replace workmates with new playmates.”

Having left the corporate world for the life of an entrepreneur (where I’m no longer surrounded daily by friends), I can tell you that keeping up with friendships is some of my most important work now.

That thing not said.

My wife and I base the strength of our marriage on our communication. Nothing gets left unsaid. I have seen friendships, marriages, and all walks of relationships rot from the inside because of a lack of courage in communicating the hard things.

The hard things are hard. The easy things are easy. The former strengthens bonds, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. To overcome the fear of saying that hard thing, try this simple trick: think of it as a bee sting. It will hurt at the moment it’s happening. But it’s soothed immediately thereafter if you apply salve, in the form of empathy and deep listening. And then everyone can move on.

Family feuds.

Grudges do no one any good. Look in the dictionary under “Life’s too short” and you’ll find this. My dad was world-class at starting mystery fights with extended family members and holding grudges (and my mom even better at cleaning up behind him to keep the peace). It cost us a fair amount of potential family connectivity/joy.

Family-conflict expert Dr. Phil says the key to resolving family fights is to first recognize the impact the feud is having on the rest of the family, and then step up with a choice to forgive. Then get clear on what the disagreement is really about (sifting through emotions), seek to understand the others’ point of view, and extend an olive branch.

Work is only getting more intrusive.

Work-life integration has replaced work-life balance. We’ve never had more access to more distractions, devices, or demands. Integrating work into your life doesn’t mean it becomes your life. The integration part also means integrating with those you care about.

Strengthening relationships in the face of ever-increasing work demands involves redefining what success really is for you. In the end it’s a choice. I wish I had a more clever solve for you, but it really boils down to that. If success starts and ends with nurturing relationships, then everything else gets re-prioritized. You’ll find the things that go by the wayside to make room for relationships will soon seem trivial in comparison.

These researchers have been studying how to be happy for 81 years. Let’s learn from history to create a happier life, and one we can remember more clearly.

Scott MautzKeynote speaker and author, ‘Find the Fire’ and ‘Make It Matter’

Source: An 81-year Harvard Study Says Staying Happy and Mentally Sharp Boils Down to 1 Thing

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There are thousands of tips and psychological techniques to help you feel happy. But what if our own body had a say in the matter? Here are some findings from neuroscientists — the people who know exactly when and why your brain can give you the feeling of total satisfaction! Other videos you might like: 10 Facts About Brain Prove You’re Capable of Anything https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhnFL… 12 Smart Psychological Tips You’d Better Learn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szahr… 11 Military Hacks That’ll Make Your Life Easier https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frG12… TIMESTAMPS: Engage in pleasant expectations 0:42 Solve problems one at a time 1:17 Don’t keep things pent up: talk about what bothers you 1:50 Touch and embrace 2:29 Learn, learn, and, once again, learn! 3:12 Play sports 3:44 Always try to get a good sleep 4:40 Learn to say “Thank you” 5:16 SUMMARY: – The process of waiting for something nice, such as food or sex, is similar to the learned salivation response. Our brain experiences pleasure by simply anticipating the fun event. – For every right decision, our brain rewards itself with a dose of neurotransmitters that calm the limbic system and help us once again see the world in a better light. – Advisable not to keep your problems pent up. Whenever you talk about them, your brain triggers the production of serotonin and even manages to find some positive sides to the situation. – To us, humans, social interaction is important. Various forms of physical support, especially touch and embraces, can speed up a person’s recovery from an illness. – For the brain, acquiring new knowledge means permanent adaptation to a changing environment. Using this process, our brain develops, rewarding its own attempts to absorb and process new information with dopamine, the hormone of joy. – Physical activity is stress for the body. As soon as the stress ends, your body gets a reward: a dose of endorphins, released by the pituitary gland. – While we sleep in the dark, our body secretes the hormone melatonin. This hormone slows down all processes in the body, helping it to recover and increasing the level of serotonin in the hypothalamus. – When we say a person, or even fate, for something, we focus ourselves on the positive aspects of life. Pleasant memories trigger serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex. Subscribe to Bright Side : https://goo.gl/rQTJZz For copyright matters please contact us at: welcome@brightside.me —————————————————————————————- Our Social Media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brightside/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brightgram/ 5-Minute Crafts Youtube: https://www.goo.gl/8JVmuC  —————————————————————————————- For more videos and articles visit: http://www.brightside.me/

How to Overcome the Fear, Doubt, and Anxiety That Inhibit Growth

Perhaps you want to be a better coder, a better writer, or a better musician. Perhaps you want to start a new business or begin an exercise program. You are full of good intentions, but your efforts seem to sputter out. You’re not alone.

When you work towards a meaningful goal, expect to face “a repelling force.” Steven Pressfield calls it “Resistance.” In his journey of becoming a best-selling author, Pressfield came to know well the many faces of Resistance.

In his book The War of Art, he explains the aim of Resistance “is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.” Pressfield warns, Resistance arises whenever we attempt “any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower.”

Pressfield shares this insight:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

Pressfield spells out the mindset of a professional and that of an amateur. The amateur gives in to Resistance, placing blame for unmet goals on life circumstances—their upbringing, their partner or lack of one, their busy schedule, and on and on.

Using external circumstances to rationalize our lack of progress is self-defeating. Pressfield instructs,

Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated… Rationalization is Resistance’s spin doctor.

Did you procrastinate today? Again, you’re not alone. Pressfield writes,

Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead, we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

Resistance, Pressfield warns, “will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole.” Living with our self-deception, “we feel like hell,” there is constant low-grade unhappiness and misery.

Succumbing to Resistance, most of us have experienced the feelings Pressfield describes:

We’re bored, we’re restless. We can’t get no satisfaction. There’s guilt but we can’t put our finger on the source.

If you think your stars have to align to beat Resistance, you’re wrong. What happens after you get a new desk and new computer? What happens after you find a quiet apartment or house, live with a supportive partner, and find a great job with a supportive boss? Resistance won’t retreat merely because you have changed your circumstances. When you’re still not ready to do your work, notice how your excuses morph.

There is nothing wrong with you. Everyone faces Resistance. Fear, self-doubt, and anxiety never fully go away. Resistance is always there in full force when we entertain its bad advice. Professionals realize these thoughts will fade away if they turn toward their work.

Amateurs resist Resistance, which only tightens its grip. Pressfield writes,

Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it.

“The professional knows,” Pressfield counsels, “that Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you’re finished.” Heed his advice. Pressfield wrote The War of Art before smartphones were drawing our attention from our work. If you are constantly checking your phone while you are doing your work, Resistance will beat you. (Watch for my follow-up essay, “How to Break Your Digital Addiction”)

It took me years to learn a simple truth: To beat Resistance, show up and keep a regular schedule, whether or not you feel like it. The amateur thinks their feelings are providing important information; the professional knows they need to think about doing their work, not themselves. Pressfield shares this anecdote:

Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

According to Pressfield here are three clear signs of an amateur:

One, he doesn’t show up every day. Two, he doesn’t show up no matter what. Three, he doesn’t stay on the job all day. He is not committed over the long haul; the stakes for him are illusory and fake.

Amateurs cast themselves as victims. Pressfield pointedly observes those playing the victim role seek

to achieve gratification not by honest work or a contribution made out of one’s experience or insight or love, but by the manipulation of others through silent (and not-so-silent) threat.

Pressfield adds,

Resistance knows that the more psychic energy we expend dredging and re-dredging the tired, boring injustices of our personal lives, the less juice we have to do our work.

Have you had a bad break? Get back to work. Pressfield explains,

The professional conducts his business in the real world. Adversity, injustice, bad hops and rotten calls, even good breaks and lucky bounces all comprise the ground over which the campaign must be waged. The field is level, the professional understands, only in heaven.

Doing your work comes with no guarantees of success. Are you having “grandiose fantasies” of how the world will receive your work? That’s the sign of an amateur mindset. Pressfield observes,

Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and overterrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him.

I write almost every day. If I don’t show up, seeking to improve my technique, Resistance will kick my butt. Resistance will kick yours too, if you don’t practice. Be a professional; do your work.

Pressfield makes it clear, if you are seeking inspiration, begin by “mastering technique.” Toil “beside the front door of technique, [leave] room for genius to enter by the back.”

“Everything in life worth achieving requires practice,” writes Thomas Sterner in his book The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life. Sterner provides an excellent definition of practice:

When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal.

Sterner makes clear,

Good practice mechanics require deliberately and intentionally staying in the process of doing something and being aware of whether or not we are actually accomplishing that.

Here is the rub: The only way we can effectively practice is to suspend our attention to our goals. Sterner explains,

When you focus your mind on where you want to end up, you are never where you are, and you exhaust your energy with unrelated thoughts instead of putting it into what you are doing.

We torture ourselves by remembering past failures or dreams of future success. Our mind isn’t present, and our efforts are diluted. Sterner discerns, frustration results:

[W]hen your mind is only on the finished product, not only do you feel frustrated in every second that you have not met that goal, but you experience anxiety in every “mistake” you make while practicing. You view each mistake as a barrier, something delaying you from realizing your goal and experiencing the joy that reaching that goal is going to give you.

To a professional, the process they follow to reach their goal is not a nuisance. Process is a necessity that amateurs overlook. Amateurs are fixated on the goal, professionals

continue to use the final goal as a rudder to steer [their] practice session, but not as an indicator of how [they] are doing.

Sterner advises us to avoid comparisons. Using the metaphor of a flower’s development, Sterner asks, “At what point in a flower’s life, from seed to full bloom, does it reach perfection?” We can’t proceed to “full bloom” and skip the process. Comparing our lives to “ideal images” will create unhappiness:

Do you think that a flower seed sits in the ground and says, “This is going to take forever. I have to push all this dirt out of my way just to get to the surface and see the sun. Every time it rains or somebody waters me, I’m soaking wet and surrounded by mud. When do I get to bloom? That’s when I’ll be happy; that’s when everybody will be impressed with me. I hope I’m an orchid and not some wildflower nobody notices. Orchids have it all . . . no, wait; I want to be an oak tree. They are bigger than anybody else in the forest and live longer, too.”

Seeking perfection is an amateur’s false goal, steering us away from our process. Sterner writes, “Our impatience to reach some false goal that will not make us any happier than we are right now.” Absorbed in what we are doing, impatience “fades away.”

Go pro, face Resistance; watch your commitment to a process pay compound interest.

You know when you are not in process mode. Your mind is flitting all over the place. Should haves, could haves, would haves come and go. Resisting the process, you are sure—like everyone else in the grip of an amateur mindset—the world is to blame for your lack of focus and progress.

You won’t find more than fleeting happiness by reaching a goal. Instead, go pro, face Resistance; watch your commitment to a process pay compound interest. You’re may be in the valley today but progress up the side of the mountain occurs one step at a time.

 

Source: How to Overcome the Fear, Doubt, and Anxiety That Inhibit Growth

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This video will show you how to deal with anxiety at work by addressing the #1 cause of all your anxiety at work. Get relief. — Want help? I do 1-on-1 Counseling on Skype: http://www.liveinthemoment.org/session/ — Get my FREE 40 page e-book: http://www.liveinthemoment.org/free-e… — Check out my #1 Amazon Bestseller: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A… — Use my FREE web app “The 5 Steps”: http://www.liveinthemoment.org/the-5-… Noah Elkrief This video is about how to deal with anxiety at work, and how to handle anxiety at work. If you have been dealing with anxiety at work, it most likely seems as though the anxiety is created by your job, your co-workers, or your boss. But, in any moment that you don’t think about any of these, you will experience no anxiety at work. If your anxiety at work was caused by the facts of your situation, then you would feel anxiety in every moment at work. If you want to know how to deal with anxiety at work, or get anxiety relief, you first have to recognize that your anxiety is created by your thoughts and not by the facts. The next step for how to deal with anxiety at work is to recognize that your actions at work are not who you are.

 

Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid

For all the time executives spend concerned about physical strength and health, when it comes down to it, mental strength can mean even more. Particularly for entrepreneurs, numerous articles talk about critical characteristics of mental strength—tenacity, “grit,” optimism, and an unfailing ability as Forbes contributor David Williams says, to “fail up.”

However, we can also define mental strength by identifying the things mentally strong individuals don’t do. Over the weekend, I was impressed by this list compiled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker,  that she shared in LifeHack. It impressed me enough I’d also like to share her list here along with my thoughts on how each of these items is particularly applicable to entrepreneurs.

1.    Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.

3.    Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

7. Dwell on the Past. There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.

8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

11. Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.

12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of? With thanks to Amy Morin, I would like to reinforce my own abilities further in each of these areas today. How about you?

Cheryl Snapp Conner is a frequent speaker and author on reputation and thought leadership. You can subscribe to her team’s bi-weekly newsletter, The Snappington Post, here.

 

Source: Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid

Everyone has the ability to build mental strength, but most people don’t know how. We spend a lot of time talking about physical strength and physical health, but much less time on mental strength and mental health. We can choose to perform exercises that will help us learn to regulate our thoughts, manage our emotions, and behave productively despite our circumstances – the 3 basic factors of mental strength. No matter what your goals are, building mental strength is the key to reaching your greatest potential. Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. Since 2002, she has been counseling children, teens, and adults. She also works as an adjunct psychology instructor.   Amy’s expertise in mental strength has attracted international attention. Her bestselling book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, is being translated into more than 20 languages.   Amy’s advice has been featured by a number of media outlets, including: Time, Fast Company, Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Success, Glamour, Oprah.com, TheBlaze TV, and Fox News. She has also been a guest on dozens of radio shows.   She is a regular contributor to Forbes, Inc., and Psychology Today. She serves as About.com’s Parenting Teens Expert and Discipline Expert.   As a frequent keynote speaker, Amy loves to share the latest research on resilience and the best strategies for overcoming adversity and building mental muscle. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

Growth Mindset is a Habit You Want

In Carol Dweck’s famous study on growth mindset, Dweck taught high school students about brain plasticity and about how the characteristics of intelligence are not fixed. The idea was to convince students that they had control over improving their academic ability. Years later, these students scored higher on standardized tests.

It’s tempting to think of the Dweck study as a near instant fix. You teach students, or yourself, the details of growth mindset. This takes about an hour. And then afterward your performance magically improves.

Although Dweck’s study has been supported by future studies, for example this one, I suspect there is a crucial missing element to the story. What behaviors did the students change after the lesson? Knowing this is the key to understanding how you can improve your own life.


My story is about my mom, now a retired 3rd grade teacher. She took that same concept of teaching growth mindset and reworked it for 3rd graders. The reworked lesson plan came down to three YouTube videos. I’ll share those below and then share what happened in the class room after the lesson was over. In my observations of my mom’s classroom, all of the magic was in the behaviors that the students built afterward. In other words, it’s not knowledge that transformed the students, it was new habits.


#1. Success Is Not an Accident

First, my mom inspired her class with someone who embodies self-improvement. Steph Curry came into the NBA too short, too small, and too slow to be a star. Now he’s an MVP and World Champion. And it was all because of his practice habits.

I don’t think you need to be a third grader to be inspired by this.


#2. Your Brain Changes!

Then she threw a two minute video on neuroplasticity at the class.

This is a classic self-improvement tactic — practically all self-improvement books are written to start with an inspirational story and then to immediately pivot into an explanation of why anyone could achieve the same thing.

So my mom was hitting her kids with Curry for inspiration and then brain science for plausibility.

Here’s where I’m hoping you are finding your own future growth plausible: your brain can change. That’s what brain plasticity is. So no matter how bad you are at something right now, you can change that so that future you becomes very good at it. That’s basically what the concept of Growth Mindset is about.


#3. The Power of Yet

After the first two videos, my mom’s class was sold on growth mindset, but they didn’t know how to put it into practice.

Thankfully, Jannelle Monet was a guest on Sesame Street and gave the simplest behavioral pattern for practicing growth mindset: use the word Yet.

The Growth Mindset Habit

The three videos above are not enough to change a child’s life. They have to be followed up by a change in behavior.

That’s the entire misunderstanding with Carol Dweck’s study. The focus is on the initial lecture, not the follow on behavior.

One of my mom’s strengths as a teacher was that she brought a consistency to classroom management. And one of the changes she made to her classroom was that she started insisting that the class adopt the word yet.

Every time a kid says yet, they are representing that they are open to learning something new.

The lesson that my mom put together was the launchpad for a new habit. And that new habit was then reinforced hundreds of times over the school year.

You can’t A/B test my mother because she is retired. But I can share that her kids had one of the highest test score improvements of any class in her district.

Regardless of the merits of standardized testing, something about her teaching that year worked especially well. And anecdotally, that something revolved around the word Yet.

And for that reason, the word Yet has become a big part of my own self-talk. I hope you adopt it too.

Coach Tony By: Coach Tony

 

Source: Growth Mindset is a Habit You Want – Better Humans – Medium

Watch, learn and connect:

https://stanfordconnects.stanford.edu/

Should you tell your kids they are smart or talented? Professor Carol Dweck answers this question and more, as she talks about her groundbreaking work on developing mindsets.

Memory & Attention Difficulties are Often Part of a Normal Life

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From young adults to people in their 60s, everyday functioning in today’s world can place high demands on our attention and memory skills.

Memory lapses such as forgetting an appointment, losing our keys, forgetting a distant relative’s name or not remembering why you opened the fridge can leave us believing our thinking skills are impaired.

But you might be too hard on yourself. Tiredness, stress and worry, and feeling down or depressed are all common reasons adults experience attention and memory difficulties.


Read more: What is ‘cognitive reserve’? How we can protect our brains from memory loss and dementia


Attention and memory systems

Attention and memory skills are closely connected. Whether we can learn and remember something partly depends on our ability to concentrate on the information at the time.

It also depends on our ability to focus our attention on retrieving that information when it’s being recalled at a later time.

This attention system, which is so important for successful memory function, has a limited capacity – we can only make sense of, and learn, a limited amount of information in any given moment.

Being able to learn, and later successfully remember something, also depends on our memory system, which stores the information.

Changes in attention and memory skills

In people who are ageing normally, both attention and memory systems gradually decline. This decline starts in our early 20s and continues slowly until our 60s, when it tends to speed up.

During normal ageing, the number of connections between brain cells slowly reduce and some areas of the brain progressively work less efficiently. These changes particularly occur in the areas of the brain that are important for memory and attention systems.

This normal ageing decline is different from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which cause progressive changes in thinking skills, emotions and behaviour that are not typical of the normal ageing process. Dementia comes from a group of diseases that affect brain tissue and cause abnormal changes in the way the brain works.


Read more: Why people with dementia don’t all behave the same


If you’re concerned your memory difficulties may be a symptom of dementia, talk to your GP, who can refer you to a specialist, if needed, to determine whether these changes are due to normal ageing, dementia or some other cause.

If you experience persistent changes in your thinking skills, which are clearly greater than your friends and acquaintances who are of a similar age and in similar life circumstances, see your GP.

Normal attention and memory difficulties

Broadly, there are two main reasons healthy adults experience difficulties with their memory and/or attention: highly demanding lives and normal age-related changes.

A person can be consistently using their attention and memory skills at high levels without sufficient mental relaxation time and/or sleep to keep their brain working at its best.

Young adults who are working, studying and then consistently using attention-demanding devices as “relaxation” techniques, such as computer games and social media interaction, fall into this group.

Adults juggling the demands of work or study, family and social requirements also fall into this group.

Most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep per night for their brain to work at its best, with older adults needing seven to eight hours.

Most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

The second common reason is a combination of ageing-related brain changes and highly demanding work requirements.

For people in jobs that place a high load on thinking skills, the thinking changes that occur with normal ageing can become noticeable at some point around 55 to 70 years of age. It’s around this time age-related changes in the ability to carry out complex thinking tasks become large enough to be noticeable. People who are retired or don’t have the same mentally demanding jobs generally experience the same changes, but may not notice them as much.

This is also the age many people become more aware of the potential risk of dementia. Consequently, these normal changes can result in high levels of stress and concern, which can result in a person experiencing even greater difficulties day to day.

Emotional distress can take its toll

Feeling down and sad can affect memory and concentration. When a person is feeling worried and/or down regularly, they may become consumed by their thoughts.

It’s important to recognise how you’re feeling, to make changes or seek help if needed. But thinking a lot about how you’re feeling can also take a person’s attention away from the task at hand and make it difficult for them to concentrate on what is happening, or remember it clearly in the future.

So feeling worried or down can make it seem there is something wrong with their memory and concentration.

Boosting your attention and memory skills

There are a number of things that can be done to help your day-to-day memory and attention skills.

First, it’s important to properly rest your mind on a regular basis. This involves routinely doing something you enjoy that doesn’t demand high levels of attention or memory, such as exercising, reading for pleasure, walking the dog, listening to music, relaxed socialising with friends, and so on.

Playing computer games, or having a lengthy and focused session on social media, requires high levels of attention and other thinking skills, so these are not good mental relaxation techniques when you are already mentally tired.


Read more: Why two people see the same thing but have different memories


It’s also important to get enough sleep, so you are not consistently tired – undertaking exercise on a regular basis often helps with getting good quality sleep, as does keeping alcohol consumption within recommended limits.

Looking after your mental health is also important. Noticing how you are feeling and getting support (social and/or professional) during longer periods of high stress or lowered mood will help ensure these things are not affecting your memory or concentration.

Finally, be fair to yourself if you notice difficulties with your thinking. Are the changes you notice any different to those of other people your own age and in similar circumstances, or are you comparing yourself to someone younger or with less demands in their life?

If you have ongoing concerns about your attention and memory, speak with your GP, who can refer you to a specialist, such as a clinical neuropsychologist, if needed.

Senior Lecturer in Clinical Neuropsychology, University of Melbourne

 

Source: Memory and attention difficulties are often part of a normal life

Three Ways To Fight The Stigma Of Mental Illness

People struggling with mental illness, from the mildest and most routine to the intractable and utterly devastating, are also burdened by the stereotypes and prejudices of stigmatization. The stigma of mental illness interferes with getting needed care and causes social isolation and alienation. This is not how things should be. Instead, people with emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems, regardless of whether the causes are external traumas or circumstances, internal events, or some combination, should be given the same respect and access to treatment as someone dealing with a mild sprain, a flu, or a life-threatening cancer. Healthcare should be healthcare. But it’s not. And stigmatization is largely to blame.

Everyone has a stake in fighting stigmatization. With around 1 in 5 Americans suffering from a mental illness over the course of a year, chances are pretty good you either are, have been, or are close to someone bearing the burden by stigma. The fight to reduce that burden really should involve everyone. So, after some context, I want to talk about three ways anyone can join the fight.

The context of stigma

Regardless of good intentions, people tend to perceive anyone whose psychological problems are worse than one’s own as “them” and not “us.” They are “other.” For the really serious problems there tends to be a perception of people as dangerous and deserving social isolation; we should “lock ‘em up!” People with milder conditions often confront a “weak-not-sick” attitude; they should “just get over it.”

These stereotypes help create social and emotional distance between the stigmatizing and the stigmatized. By creating this distance people can nurture the comforting fiction that instead of a fine line there’s a large gap between the mentally ill (them!) and the mentally well (us, whew!!). But that’s a myth. The line is very fine. They is us.

Sure, people differ in how psychologically resilient they may be, just like how people differ in how physically resilient they may be. But the fundamental reality about mental illness is that it can, and often does, happen to anyone. The social and emotional distance people create is just a way to avoid the anxious-making reality that things like depression, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, behavioral disorders, and the rest can strike anyone. Just like with physical illnesses where a wayward cell or pathogen can strike anyone, mental illness can strike anyone anywhere. We take illusory comfort from the distance stigma creates.

Stigma is insidious. A recent experience from my clinical practice illustrates the burden of stigmatization people with a mental illness must carry. A young man shows up at the ER complaining of an unusual set of symptoms: nausea, trembling, tingling in his legs, numbness around his mouth, and weakness in his hands. He also had an extensive history of mental illness, although he was psychiatrically asymptomatic at the time of this visit and doing very well.

But after the ER doc learned of this history, he quickly sent the patient home with a vague reassurance not worry since it was probably just a panic attack. Of course, it wasn’t. Happily he’s now under the care of an excellent neurologist and making progress. But this episode shows stigma’s insidious influence in stark relief.

Stigmatization is also pervasive. It has a broad social reach. Just consider the marketing campaigns of companies like Talkspace and Betterhelp who broke into the mental health marketplace with promises of anonymous therapy. Leaving aside the problem that anonymous therapy violates various codes of professional ethics, the promise of anonymity as an initial marketing ploy both builds on and enhances the stigmatization against which we should all be fighting.

It cynically trades on the pervasiveness of stigmatization, otherwise it wouldn’t work. What they did is like confronting racial bigotry by saying people should just try to pass or telling a gay person they should stay in the closet. Anonymity validates the prejudice that one should keep secret one’s struggles with mental health.

The fact that this marketing ploy appealed to so many, and it did, also highlights what’s called in the literature “self-stigma.” That’s the term used to refer to the fact that people internalize stigmatization so that it functions as an obstacle to seeking help and therefore as a magnifier of suffering. For example, one study of college students showed that the more people perceive stigma operating in the world the more they blame themselves for having problems and the more they resist seeking care. Other people’s prejudices about mental illness became their attitudes toward their own suffering and towards seeking help.

There’s actually lots more to say about stigma. There’s even an official APA journal specifically on the topic: Stigma and Health. But hopefully this has been enough to activate interest and maybe motivate at last some action. At least I hope you agree the fight against stigma is worth some attention. Here are three things anyone can do to join the fight.

Support an organization

There are lots of organizations taking the fight to stigma, both generally and for specific communities, like groups fighting the stigma on mental health care that exists in Asian American communities.. A great way to lessen the burden stigma imposes is by finding an organization that resonates with you and then supporting it.

But be careful, you don’t want to get caught in the paradox of choice so you end up doing nothing. Don’t over think. Instead, dive in and be helpful. Whether you donate money or time, or express support in some way, find an organization that speaks to you and support it.

Here are two stigma-fighting organizations I support.

The first is a group called “Phd Balance.” Graduate student mental health is their focus. Their mission is to show that students pursuing advanced academic degrees who are, quoting their mission statement, “dealing with mental health issues are NOT less capable, are NOT less intelligent, are NOT less creative, are NOT failures … [they] might just need support and a different set of tools.”

They pursue this mission by creating spaces where mental health issues can be openly and safely discussed and by curating resources that can be useful for those pursing both an advanced degree and a healthy balance in their lives. As a former graduate student myself, and someone who now treats and works with several people pursuing doctorates, this groups resonates with my interests and values. So, I want to help them achieve their goals. They have my support.

The other organization is The Ride for Mental Health. Started by an attorney, Malcom (“Mac”) Dorris who lost his son to an intractable and ultimately fatal mental illness, this event is a two day bike-ride through the Hudson Valley in New York. Its mission is both to raise funds for research (McLean Hospital’s research programs being the current beneficiary) and, quoting their mission statement, “to end the stigma surrounding mental illness through education and awareness.” I’ve ridden all three years of this growing event and am already looking forward, and spreading the work, about next year’s ride. Not only is it a wonderful ride on gorgeous roads, participation is a way to do good by having fun.

Tell your story

Stigma lives in darkness, in shame. Bringing stories of struggle into the light weakens it. The social distance and self-stigma that comes from the “them not us” myth can’t survive people telling the story of how they, or their loved ones, experienced emotional suffering. Truth destroys stigma.

Truth telling is actually how Phd Balance began. Its efforts to “increase visibility and awareness for students and to let those struggling know they are not alone” began with Susanna Harris, the founder and a graduate student in microbiology, telling her story of depression and anxiety in a moving video monologue. Sinking into a depression after an academic setback, she spoke up about the experience rather than hiding in silence. Phd Balance grew out of her courage and she has inspired many more to do the same.

I also had an email exchange with Mac Dorris from The Ride for Mental Health about this. He told me that after his son Eric died he “suddenly had a key to everyone else’s story or stories about mental illness.” He recounted being at a business dinner and telling Eric’s story to a new business associate who “responded by telling me that he lost his brother years earlier under very similar circumstances.”

He also shared a story about a colleague of his who had previously lost a son to what was called an unusual heart aliment. When he called Mac to express condolences for Eric’s death “I told him that I was sorry I had joined the club of having a kid pre-decease us. He then explained that his son didn’t die from the heart ailment but from an accidental overdose and that he suffered with mental illness.”

Stories brought to light reduce shame. And one person’s story really can be the key to unlock someone else’s story from the shackles of shame and stigma.

Stop perpetuating it

This one is simple; don’t make things worse. If you insult someone by saying they’re “crazy” or “nuts” you’re inadvertently perpetuating stigma. Same when you judge someone to be “less than” because you found out they’ve been in therapy of years and years. There’s even research showing that even benign, diagnostically accurate labels result in harsher, more negative judgements.

Unfortunately, mental illness is frequently used to explain bad behavior. Instead of describing a mass shooter as a murderer with too easy access to weapons of war, we make them into mental patients as though the illness explains the evil. It doesn’t, any more than one could say someone became a mass murderer because of their diabetes.

We have a particularly pernicious version of this these days. During the Trump presidency mental health professionals have unfortunately fallen into the stigma-supporting trap of explaining his bad behavior with a diagnosis. I firmly believe there are many things that make him unfit for the office such as his racism, history of sexual predation, constant dishonesty, science denial, invitations for Russian election interference and subsequent obstruction, family separations, and historical ignorance, especially about immigration, to name a few.

Just this week he stood in front of an audience of 9/11 first responders and lied about his participation. Of course, your politics may be such that you do not think such reasons disqualify him. OK, difference of opinion. But saying those qualities are symptoms of a mental illness will not convince anyone of his unfitness. I believe the reality is that a mental illness is not what is making him unfit for the office, anymore than someone with a mental illness is unfit to be a lawyer, a plumber, a teacher or any other job or profession. What makes him unfit is how he does what he does, a constellation of evil actions that spells the end of the American experiment. I believe we should not insult people with mental illness by implying it is illness rather than his dishonorable actions that make him unfit for his office. Doing so merely supports the stigma.

And always remember, they is us.

Follow me on Twitter.

I’m a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. For 20 plus years I’ve been practicing on 12th Street, around the corner from what used to be the Forbes Building and right in the middle of New York’s digital revolutions. Having written for professional audiences and become a not infrequent source (e.g., Wired, New York, NY Times, The Today Show) I decided to put my ideas out there myself. First at True/Slant, then Psychology Today, and now at Forbes, my “beat” includes clinical insights and research developments useful for building an authentically good life in our increasingly complex and technologically-mediated world, along with identifying those choices that promise more than they can deliver. Along with my full-time private practice I’m a Training and Supervising Psychoanalyst at the William Alanson White Institute.

Source: Three Ways To Fight The Stigma Of Mental Illness

Five Ways to Help Teens Build a Sense of Self-Worth – Mindful

No one wants to hang out with me. I’m a failure at school. All my other friends seem happy. What’s wrong with me?

These kinds of negative thoughts are becoming more common in our homes and schools. Teens are experiencing increased anxiety, and studies indicate that college students in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States are becoming more perfectionistic over time, measuring themselves against unrealistic standards.

Why is this happening? We can’t say for sure—but we do know there are steps teens can take to improve their mental health.

2018 study of early adolescents suggests that self-concept (your perception of self) plays a central role in emotional well-being. According to the study, a supportive classroom environment and positive social relationships also affect teen well-being—but the impact is indirect. Positive self-concept seems to be the key variable in the well-being equation. If a student feels good about herself, then she may be more likely to connect with others and benefit from the supports provided at school.

So, how can we influence how students think about themselves? This may feel like a very tall order; yet there is a lot of research out there that provides some clues for supporting the teens in your life. Here are five ways to help tweens and teens move toward a more positive self-concept.

1. Get physical

Although you may have heard this before, kids really can benefit from regular exercise (especially when their tendency is to sit in front of a screen). A recent review of 38 international studies indicates that physical activity alone can improve self-esteem and self-concept in children and adolescents.

Apparently, the exercise setting also matters. Students who participated in supervised activities in schools or gymnasiums reported more significant growth in self-esteem than those who exercised at home and in other settings.

Adolescents’ self-concept is most strongly linked to their sense of physical attractiveness and body image, an area where many people struggle. So, encourage more regular exercise programs during and after school, and support team sports, strength training, running, yoga, and swimming—not just for their effects on the body but on the mind, as well. Getting out and engaging in some form of exercise can make us feel stronger, healthier, and more empowered.

2. Focus on self-compassion (not self-esteem)

Because self-esteem is a global evaluation of your overall worth, it has its dangers. What am I achieving? Am I good enough? How do I compare with my peers?

What would happen if we could stop judging ourselves? Researcher Kristen Neff claims that self-compassion—treating yourself with kindness, openness, and acceptance—is a healthy alternative to the incessant striving and performance orientation often tied up with self-esteem.

In her study of adolescents and young adults, she found that participants with higher self-compassion demonstrated greater well-being. Why? They were okay with their flaws, acknowledged that they struggled just like those around them (“Everybody makes mistakes; you are not alone”), and treated themselves with the same kindness they would extend to a friend (“It’s okay; you did your best”).

Participants with higher self-compassion demonstrated greater well-being. Why? They were okay with their flaws, acknowledged that they struggled just like those around them (“Everybody makes mistakes; you are not alone”), and treated themselves with the same kindness they would extend to a friend

If you are interested in specific techniques and strategies for enhancing self-compassion in teens, take a look at the work of psychologist Karen Bluth. She recently developed a program called Making Friends with Yourself. Youth participating in this eight-week program reported greater resilience, less depression, and less stress at the end of it. However, if there isn’t a program near you, consider sharing this self-compassion workbook with the teens in your life.

3. Avoid social comparison

When we focus on self-esteem, we tend to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others. Teens, in particular, often sense an “imaginary audience” (i.e., “Everyone is looking at me!”) and can become highly sensitized to who they are relative to everyone around them.

Instagram and other social media platforms don’t necessarily help. Some research suggests an association between social media and depression, anxiety, loneliness, and FoMO (fear of missing out) among teens. Their posts may not rack up the number of “likes” that their friends’ posts do, or they may feel excluded when they see pictures of classmates happily spending time together without them.

A new app for teen girls called Maverick may be a healthier option than Snapchat or Instagram. On this social media platform, teens can connect with role models (called “Catalysts”) and explore their creativity (such as designing their own superhero or choosing a personal mantra). Of course, there is always the option of taking a break from social media, as well.

Regardless of what teens choose to do online, many of our schools are also structured for social comparison. Grading, labeling, and tracking practices (grouping students based on their academic performance) don’t necessarily honor the stops, starts, and inevitable mistakes that are a natural part of the learning process.

Here are some school-based alternatives designed to reduce social comparison:

  • Don’t make grades public.
  • Provide opportunities to revise and redo assignments.
  • Avoid ability grouping as much as possible.
  • Focus on individual growth and improvement.
  • Acknowledge students’ small successes.

4. Capitalize on specific skills

If you keep your eye out for teens’ talents and interests, you can support them in cultivating their strengths. Your son may think he is a terrible athlete, but he lights up when he works on school science projects. Then there’s that quiet, disheveled ninth-grade girl who sits in the back of your class. She may feel socially awkward, but she wows you with her poetry.

Researcher Susan Harter has studied adolescent self-esteem and self-concept for years. She claims that self-concept is domain-specific. Our overall self-esteem or sense of worth tends to be rooted in eight distinct areas: athletic competence, scholastic competence, behavioral conduct, social acceptance, close friendship, romantic appeal, job satisfaction, and physical attractiveness.

Talk to the teens in your life. What are their personal values and priorities? Share surveys with them like the VIA (which identifies character strengths like bravery, honesty, and leadership) or have them take a multiple intelligences quiz. Celebrate their talents and tailor activities and instruction around their abilities as much as possible.

It may not be easy to shift teens’ global sense of self-worth, but we can certainly highlight and encourage areas of interest and particular skill sets so that they feel more confident, capable, and inspired.

5. Help others (especially strangers)

Finally, when teens reach out to others, they are more likely to feel better about themselves. A 2017 study of 681 U.S. adolescents (ages 11-14) examined their kind and helpful behavior over a four-year period. Researchers found that adolescents who were kind and helpful in general had higher self-esteem, but those who directed their generosity toward strangers (not friends and family) tended to grow in self-esteem.

Last Friday, I joined my daughter and her peers during the “action” phase of their “Change the World” project. Their social studies teacher, Tim Owens, tasked the eighth graders with choosing a sustainability issue, researching the problem and possible solutions, planning action, and implementing the action.

These middle schoolers spent a full day canvasing their neighborhoods to advocate for policies that protected people they don’t know, like local refugees and homeless youth—as well as animals used for product testing. I’ve never seen my daughter and her friends more energized, confident, and engaged with their community.

As adults, we can actively support service learning projects in our schools and our teens’ interests in advocacy and civil engagement. Adolescents around the world can also work remotely with non-profit organizations like DoSomething, “a digital platform promoting offline action” in 131 countries. On this site, young people can choose a cause, the amount of time they want to commit to it, and the type of help they would like to provide (e.g., face-to-face, improving a space, making something, sharing something, etc.)

When teens regularly contribute to a larger cause, they learn to think beyond themselves, which may ultimately help them to be more positive, empowered, and purposeful.

As many teens struggle with anxiety and perfectionism, our urge may be to jump in and fix their problems, whatever we perceive them to be. But a better approach, one that will hopefully help reverse these worrying trends, is to cheer them on as they develop the mental habits and strengths that will support them throughout their lives.

This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, one of Mindful’s partners. View the original article.

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Source: Five Ways to Help Teens Build a Sense of Self-Worth – Mindful

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